186. Telegram From the Mission at Berlin to the Department of State1

801. Paris for Embassy, USRO, Stoessel and McGuire. When entering Sov Sector at Friedrichstrasse on evening October 22 at 7:15 pm in my own car with my wife to join other Mission members at theater, Vopos stopped me and requested identification. (Other members of theater party who had proceeded us by a few minutes entered Sov Sector without hindrance.) I refused show ID and demanded right enter. When this was denied I requested Sov officer. After wait of three-quarters of an hour I informed Vopos I was proceeding as was my right and did so. I got through “maze” and was held up by second line of Vopos; they demanded identification; I refused and demanded Sov officer and waited nearly an hour until arrival Berlin Command Provost Marshal and two MP vehicles. Vopos insisted no civilians permitted enter without showing identification; indicated I could return or proceed with military driver. At this point my wife left car and walked back to check point. I then proceeded with military escort. We proceeded slowly, passed third Vopo check point and into sector about two blocks and returned to West Sector without incident.

We immediately repeated performance with same escort, reentered sector, turned around and returned.

On return I was informed Sov officer was en route to scene. When he arrived at eastern side Friedrichstrasse check point around 10 pm Provost Marshal went over to protest Vopo interference. Sov officer (POLAD Lazarev) admitted action was mistake and would be corrected. On receipt of this information I entered the check point followed by another member of Mission in his privately-owned vehicle. Both cars entered sector, made brief tour and returned without hindrance. Subsequently, another Mission car and French car similarly entered and returned. In meantime U.S. POLAD arrived and also went over to protest to Sov POLAD who apologized for his delay in providing Vopos with facsimiles of U.S. licenses which he said had just been done today. In his turn he protested military escort as armed incursion into their territory.

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During course of incident which lasted nearly four hours numerous members press assembled Friedrichstrasse and observed much of what happened including movement of tanks nearby.2

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 123-Lightner, Edwin Allan. Confidential; Priority. Also sent to Bonn and repeated to London, Paris, Moscow, and POLADUSAREUR.
  2. At 3 p.m. on October 23 the Mission delivered a letter from General Watson to his Soviet counterpart, Colonel Solovyev, protesting the treatment of Lightner and the Soviet failure to ensure the free movement of U.S. personnel within the four sectors of Berlin. (Telegram 805 from Berlin, October 23; ibid.)