270. Telegram From the Mission at Berlin to the Department of State 1

1349. From Clay to Rusk. Request distribution to Secretary only. Ref JCS 0109 62.2 I realize hindsight criticism of 13 August cannot be stopped although its continuing agitation does not help us here.

While I feel immediate action on ground here might have succeeded in bringing up Soviet troops thus fixing responsibility such action to have been successful had to be undertaken immediately. It could not have awaited, even if it had been recommended, approval from Allied capitals. Thus, if taken here, it would have had to be unilateral in American Sector only. In my opinion, even if it had stopped wall at exact border in American Sector only it would not have stopped closing of border a few blocks further back. Ulbricht had to seal border to stop exodus which was bringing about collapse of his regime. To have stopped this we would have had to be prepared to move in force across the border unilaterally and indeed with probably complete Allied disapproval. Such a movement might indeed have had far-reaching consequences.

I believe criticism of President most unfair in this instance and if any investigations are instigated by Congress I would be glad to so testify.

However, for the future, I would like to point out this is why I continue to ask for greater discretionary power here in event of emergency. If we fail to exercise it properly, we here are at fault. If we exercise it improperly, almost any error of judgment here can be corrected immediately by the prompt removal of the responsible official. I can only say that as long as I am here and an emergency does develop I am prepared to fully accept instant responsibility for proper action and summary recall if it backfires. I feel strongly President is entitled to this protection if future emergency does develop.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/1-1762. Secret; Priority; Eyes Only.
  2. JCS 0109 62, January 17, reported that the President wanted from Generals Clarke and Watson a résumé of their statements regarding the Berlin wall and in particular any recommendations they might have made to knock it down. (Eisenhower Library, Norstad Papers, Berlin-Live Oak; published in Declassified Documents, 1989, 2458) The combined résumé was transmitted to the President by Lemnitzer on January 20 as CM-511-62. (Kennedy Library, President’s Office Files, Germany)