69. Diary Entry by the Ambassador to Germany (Bruce)0

John Haskell left after lunch.

We spent most of the day talking about Berlin. In the Embassy we are unanimous, as are General Hamlett and members of the Berlin Mission, in favor of cancellation of existing contingency instructions for travel in case Soviet personnel is replaced by GDR officials at checkpoints. We have recommended replacing existing orders by a new set, [Page 128] part of which would provide for an immediate turn-back of trains or vehicles if any documents should be demanded of their conductors by GDR personnel.

Ambassador Grewe came to see me this afternoon. He said nothing interesting had transpired at the German Ambassador’s meeting yesterday. Today the Foreign Office is quiet for the Chancellor, von Brentano and others are with General de Gaulle and his troupe at Bad Kreuznach.

Just before he left Washington, Grewe talked to Bob Murphy2 and gained from him the impression we did not wish to resort to an airlift but would like to preserve our rights to surface access to Berlin, by force if necessary. I know there is considerable sentiment in this sense in high quarters of the Pentagon. The same idea is attributed to the President himself, although we have not been told here what may be contemplated in this regard. Obviously, the resources of our Berlin garrison are entirely insufficient for such a purpose if they were to be seriously challenged.

About 7 o’clock tonight a storm broke out over remarks attributed to the Secretary at his press conference in Washington this morning.3 Our first information on the subject came from UPI and indicated Dulles said the Four Western Powers were in agreement on dealing with GDR officials as agents of the Soviet Government if the Soviets wanted to turn over their existing responsibilities to the East Germans. Brandt and others in Berlin were seriously alarmed4 and there will be a big play tomorrow about this in the German papers.

Before the AP and Department Wireless Bulletin became available, I telephoned Livie Merchant to tell him how seriously we view the consequences of such a statement if indeed it had actually been made. He said he had read the transcript, and the UPI story as related by me was based on a serious misinterpretation of what had actually been said. He will shortly send us the authentic text.

Later in the evening I received the exact transcript. As regards its effect on German public opinion, I am thoroughly dissatisfied with it. The Secretary displayed his usual ability to state the alternatives clearly, but in recognizing the possibility of regarding GDR officials as agents of the Soviets he is certain to alarm governmental and private circles here [Page 129] to a high degree. In fact the excitement in Berlin is such that one of the Senators is flying down tonight to talk to Rebecca Wellington5 about it.

This is another instance of what has always seemed to me to be the folly of discussing publicly diplomatic crises and negotiations when, as almost any reputable newspaper correspondent will admit, an answer from an official that a response would not be in the public interest would be accepted. Moreover, if the Soviet proposal has not already been prepared, it might have some influence on its content. In a lesser degree, the Secretary’s utterances some time ago comparing Quemoy and Matsu to Berlin had disturbing repercussions.6

  1. Source: Department of State, Bruce Diaries: Lot 64 D 327. Secret.
  2. Presumably the entry was written in Bonn.
  3. See footnote 5, Document 59.
  4. See Document 68.
  5. On November 27 the mission in Berlin reported that Brandt was shocked and dismayed by the news reports on the press conference. (Telegram 412; Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/11–2758) In reporting press reaction, the mission stated that it ranged from “disbelief to dismay and downright anger.” (Telegram 416, November 27, 9 p.m.; ibid.) An account of General Hamlett’s recollection of the reaction to the press conference is included in his oral history interview at the U.S. Army Military History Institute.
  6. First Secretary at Bonn.
  7. Not further identified.