190. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Kohler) to Secretary of State Rusk1

I telephoned Lightner at 3 p.m.EDT (8 o’clock Berlin time) about his telegram 8132 transmitting Clay’s message to you linking negotiations with the Friedrichstrasse crossing question. The conversation was almost entirely in doubletalk. However I made it clear to him that we had been very surprised at their action in suspending border crossings by personnel in civilian dress today and considered it a serious tactical mistake. I told him that judging by their own reports we had thought that local intervention with the Soviets had more or less settled this problem. Furthermore as we understood it from their own reporting the GDR Ministry of Interior statement was not a new edict at all but simply a new warning based on the regulations which they have had in effect but not enforced for some time.

Lightner indicated that he agreed with me but that he had been overruled by higher authority. He then inquired about our reaction to the suggestion of high level representations to the Russians linking the question of negotiations. I told him this was a matter which we would have to consider further. I pointed out that there were a lot of other factors possibly of greater importance connected with the negotiating question.

Lightner wanted to assure me that his involvement in the border crossing incident Sunday night was entirely unexpected and rather embarrassing. I told him not to worry about our reaction but that his name was today a household word in the US.

I asked Lightner to convey the import of the foregoing to General Clay and tell him that a reply would be forthcoming in due course.3 I added that he might stress our reaction to the suspension.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/10-2461. Secret. Drafted and initialed by Kohler. The source text bears Kohler’s handwritten notation: “Handed to & read by Sec 10/24-7 pm.”
  2. Document 189.
  3. The reply, which was sent in telegram 586 to Berlin, October 24 at 9:03 p.m., reiterated what Kohler had told Lightner, and added that if a protest at Berlin were unsuccessful in restoring the U.S. rights, then both armed and unarmed escorts of U.S. vehicles trying to enter the Soviet sector should be tried. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/10-2461)