51. Telegram From the Mission at Berlin to the Department of State0

362. Bonn pass prity POLAD USAREUR 107. Paris pass prity Topol. This telegram describes trap mission believes is being laid for Allied occupation powers through Sov proposed action to “abolish” their remaining occupation responsibilities and transfer them to “sovereign” GDR (ourtel 313 to Bonn, 360 to Dept).1 Purpose of trap is to force Allied occupation powers recognize GDR. Spring of trap is turnover to GDR of control Allied access to Berlin.

On surface access Allies will, if trap sprung, be faced with three choices: (1) refuse to accept GDR control and employ force; (2) accept GDR control; (3) impose self-blockade.

First course of action might involve a considerable military operation and mission not in position to judge its feasibility. Even if first convoy gets through, it probable succeeding convoys will be faced with destroyed bridges, road blocks, mines, etc, thus rendering operation impossible short of stationing troops along entire length of autobahn and/or railroad (slightly over 100 miles each).

If second course of action adopted Allies will, mission believes, be faced with a series of crises, each more serious than the last, and at each step of the way the Communists will be in ever more advantageous position to apply pressure. Possible pattern of this series of crises given ourtel 273 to Bonn, 320 to Dept.2

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It is possible, of course, to draw the line at technical contact with GDR. However, mission sees following difficulties:

Even technical contact with GDR would tarnish our prestige with West Berliners and West Germans and would lessen their resolve to stand firm;
Mission judges, in light of Deptel 236 to Berlin, 1012 to Bonn,3 that it would be very difficult to persuade British to draw a line once they go so far as to have technical contacts;
If we should be successful in persuading British to draw the line at technical contacts, mission believes it unlikely GDR would be willing to accept such a line. Communists would surely put heavy pressure on Allies to yield on the line, and allied refusal would leave us with choice of courses of action (1) and (3).

If we do not adopt course of action (1), then we will have to adopt course of action (3). Under these circumstances, therefore, mission believes strongly that wisest course would be to adopt course of action (3) at the outset, and do so firmly and with forthrightness.

If decision in connection with course of action (1) that ultimately we would choose self-imposed blockade, then to impose this blockade on ourselves from the very beginning offers two distinct advantages:

We do not compromise ourselves in German eyes, East or West, as would be the case were we to have technical contacts with GDR, and then later have to impose self-blockade.
If there is any chance of shaking Communist resolve by local action once control of surface access is turned over to GDR, best chance of success lies in Allies making unmistakably clear from the beginning that they cannot be blackmailed into recognizing GDR (for this reason we earnestly recommend tripartite adoption in Bonn of suggestion that Allied travellers not release travel documents to GDRourtel 298 to Bonn, 345 to Dept).4

With Allied self-imposed blockade, Communists might not at first interfere with German surface transit between FedRep and Berlin. Self-imposed blockade might therefore at first require only small airlift to take care of Allied garrisons. Most supplies could be purchased locally in West Berlin. If we are vouchsafed such a “breather” we are afforded a last opportunity—through diplomatic channels and if need be by some more naked form of pressure at points where we have the advantage of position—to persuade the Communists to back down on Berlin.

If we should be unsuccessful at this point in forcing Communists to back down on Berlin we can assume that their next step would be total land blockade. This would require Allies to supply all West Berlin by airlift.

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In mission’s opinion, Communist interference with air corridors to be effective would require them to initiate action by force against our planes. Mission believes it most unlikely Communists would go this far in view of our security guarantee. If they do, mission feels we will just have to be prepared to counter force with force in air corridors.

Mission believes, therefore, that probable ultimate price we would have to pay locally to counter threatened Sov move against Berlin is fullscale airlift. Airlift will be expensive, and it may have to go on for months. Sooner Communists realize they may be [open?] to countermeasures which the West may have to take elsewhere in the world to force the Communists give up their designs against Berlin.

As far as local action is concerned, mission believes that anything short of Allied willingness to go the limit on airlift entails dangerous risk of ultimate degeneration Allied position in Berlin to point where it will be untenable.

Mission is aware of Herculean effort involved in selling this thesis to British, possibly to French, and to our own citizens. It will be difficult to explain why we may have to support an airlift, to say nothing of other countermeasures which may be necessary, because we are unwilling to accept visas from GDR. Sovs too must know how difficult this is to explain. That is what they may be counting on.

Gen Hamlett is in complete agreement with this message, including recommendations, and will follow with his own message.5

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/11–2058. Secret; Niact. Also sent to Bonn and repeated to Moscow, London, and Paris.
  2. Document 50.
  3. Document 27.
  4. Document 45.
  5. See footnote 2, Document 50.
  6. Document 52.