281. Memorandum for the Record1

General Clay called the Secretary at approximately 5 p.m. today on the KY-9 phone. He informed him that the Soviets had announced that the south air corridor would be closed to traffic tomorrow, February 8, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. between levels 3-7000 ft. The French had filed a commercial aircraft flight plan at 7000 ft for these hours. The Soviet controller at Basc struck 7000 and inserted 8000. The French refiled at 7000. General Clay did not know whether the French would go through with the flight but seemed to feel it inadvisable that they do so with a commercial aircraft. However he proposed to file flight plans for 2 unarmed military aircraft during the period of the announced closure to fly at 5-6000 ft. He requested authorization to do so. The Secretary agreed that these flights should be made, undertook to have appropriate instructions issued through military channels and requested General Clay to keep in touch with the French and British on this matter.

The Secretary then called Secretary of Defense McNamara and explained the matter to him. Secretary McNamara also agreed in principle.

The Secretary then went to the White House accompanied by Messrs. Kohler and Hillenbrand and discussed the question with the President. Mr. McGeorge Bundy was also present. After some discussion of the lack of precedent for the kind of complete closure reported by General Clay, the importance of the air traffic, the desirable number and altitude of flights, the President approved the 2 flights for tomorrow as recommended by General Clay.2

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 962.72/2-762. Secret. Prepared by Kohler.
  2. The President’s authorization was transmitted to Berlin in telegram 1008, February 7 at 7:16 p.m. (Ibid.) A similar authorization was transmitted to Norstad by the JCS in JCS 3198, February 7 at 9:20 p.m. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Germany, Berlin, Cables)