91. Letter From Acting Secretary of Defense Quarles to Secretary of State Dulles0

Dear Mr. Secretary: The study drafted by the State-Defense ad hoc working group on Berlin1 has been reviewed by the Department of Defense in the light of the Soviet note of 27 November 1958. Although the announced Soviet “half year” delay in withdrawing from quadripartite obligations in Berlin presents new considerations, it does not preclude the Soviets from initiating the necessary steps in a surprise move at almost any time they wish to establish a pretext. Accordingly, the Department of Defense considers that positive action on the Berlin situation should be taken without delay in the following respects:

The United States should recommend to the U.K. and France the immediate revision of tripartite contingency plans for travel to and from Berlin to eliminate all dealing with GDR officials at highway and railway checkpoints.
The United States should instruct its official personnel traveling to and from Berlin not to accept control of their movements by East German personnel acting in functions previously performed by Soviet personnel. If any such attempts at control occur, U.S. personnel should return to point of departure.
Presidential approval should be obtained which will authorize action to test GDR and Soviet intentions and force the issue promptly by dispatching a convoy supported by appropriate force, if and when the checkpoints are turned over completely to GDR control.
As part of an early note to the USSR Government, preferably without public announcement, and with British, French and West German agreement, the Soviet Government should be informed simultaneously by the Western Allies that we do not intend to deal with the GDR in those functions involving the quadripartite occupation obligations of the USSR, that we will not allow the GDR to impede the exercise of any right we presently hold, that we will not accept any control by the GDR over our movements to and from Berlin, and that we will use force if necessary to enforce our rights.

The Department of Defense recognizes the possibility that the military garrisons in Berlin may have to be supplied by air in the event that it is not possible to maintain access over surface routes. However, the [Page 162] Department of Defense considers that this method of resupply should be undertaken only as a last resort, after all efforts to open ground access have failed. It is understood that contingency planning on the maintenance of access to Berlin through the air corridors and for air supply of military garrisons in Berlin is currently in progress in Europe.

Lastly, let me say that the Department of Defense is hopeful that the U.S. can early seize the initiative in the present situation. While we have supported the view that a four-power conference should be proposed at an early date on the entire German question, it is recognized that this is primarily a political matter and that you have alternative proposals under intensive study in the Department of State.

It is requested that the Department of Defense be advised of your reaction to the recommendations listed above.2

Sincerely yours,

Donald A. Quarles
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/12–958. Top Secret. The source text indicates that the Secretary saw this letter on December 10.
  2. Not further identified. The ad hoc working group on Berlin continued to meet on December 1, 5, and 9 and generated at least 13 position papers, which were designated with the series indicator BER, including a preliminary draft of telegram 1236 (Document 98), and the aide-mémoire given to the British and French on December 11 (see footnote 5, Document 98). Scattered records of the group are in Department of State, EUR/SOV Files: Lot 64 D 291, Germany.
  3. On December 19 Acting Secretary of State Herter replied that Quarles’ letter had been overtaken by events (see Documents 97 and 98), but that the Department of State agreed with him that the United States should seize the diplomatic initiative in its reply to the Soviet note. (Ibid., Central Files, 762.00/12–958)