55. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Meeting of the Interdepartmental Coordinating Group on Germany and Berlin

[Here follows an extensive list of participants. Secretary Rusk chaired the meeting.]

The Secretary of State opened the meeting explaining that he thought it would be useful to bring the principals who would be working on the Inter-Departmental Coordinating Group (ICG) together and discuss in a rough outline the actions to arrive at the necessary recommendations to the President. The principals of the group should be the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Treasury, Directors of CIA and USIA and Mr. Bundy from the White House. Ad hoc members would be invited as necessary, such as, for example, the Secretary of Commerce whose participation will be required quite frequently.

A working group under the chairmanship of Mr. Kohler will give full time attention to the problem of Berlin which, undoubtedly, will occupy us all more seriously than any other problem during the next few months. The Secretary then asked his colleagues for comments and whether they envisaged difficulties.

The Secretary of Defense felt that the recommendations requested from his Department would be tentative until coordinated with those of other Departments, particularly State. Defense had a preliminary listing of the necessary actions on the mobilization of men and industrial resources. These, however, must go together with governmental action as a whole.

The Secretary of State suggested that the Interdepartmental working group meet afterwards for a discussion of the problems and for preparation of a briefing of the principals.

The Secretary of Defense said that he thought it would not be wise to submit his recommendations by July 6 without the coordinated views of the Department of State. By July 15, however, the recommendations for action could probably be integrated. Defense felt the buildup of airlift capability by October 15 could be accomplished, as could the capability for naval action by November 15; however, buildup of the capability for ground action four months subsequent to October 15 required decisions shortly although not necessarily before July 15.

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Mr. Hillenbrand stated that possible economic counter-measures had been under intensive study for over a year on a tripartite basis, quadripartitely when sanctions against the GDR were involved. NATO was being apprised and asked to cooperate in general sanctions. The member countries are studying the required legislative actions for the effectuation of sanctions. Eventually quadripartite and tripartite groups would merge and the recommendations be shifted to NATO. The legislative problem varied from country to country. The U.K. had fewer problems than anticipated but, nevertheless, it had problems. The French Government had sufficient power; the U.S. had few problems due to Korean War Emergency legislation still on the books. The whole business was a problem of will and policy more than of legislation.

The Secretary then inquired about the various working groups acting on implementation of the instructions and he was informed by Mr. Hillenbrand that they were actively engaged in their tasks. The Secretary then asked that the various Departments turn on the full manpower flow to speed up action.

The Secretary said that he would work out with Mr. Bundy arrangements for a meeting of the principals shortly before the NSC meeting scheduled for July 13 in order to facilitate action at the meeting.

Mr. Bundy said that he and General Taylor had just talked with the President2 and that a meeting of the full NSC was less important than agreement by the principals upon the program to be presented to the President.

The Secretary then invited all the principals to come to his office,3 turning over the meeting to the working group under the Chairmanship of Deputy Under Secretary Johnson. He pointed out that the meeting would, no doubt, attract press attention and that contents of the meeting must be strictly withheld from the press, but that the press could know that this was one in a series of meetings which had gone on for some time and that Berlin was the subject of the discussion.

The Secretary, before retiring to his office, gave a brief summary of the developments of the Ambassadorial group’s drafting effort of the aide-mémoire in answer to Mr. Khrushchev’s aide-mémoire of June 4.4

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After the principals left with the Secretary, Mr. Johnson took the Chair. He said that Assistant Secretary Kohler, who was absent for a few days, would regularly chair the working group. Mr. Hillenbrand, Director of GER, was Secretary of the group and its focal point. It was now the principal task of the working group to get the mechanics of completing the assignments worked out. Mr. Sullivan stated that Treasury’s problem was, of course, its dependence in estimates on the magnitude of the requirement and the general position of the economy. Mr. Nitze said he could give the magnitude estimates to Treasury soon in the form of successive approximations. Mr. Johnson thought the matter could be handled in a form similar to the Laos Contingency Planning. It would be necessary to clarify where decisions were required and then to produce an integrated paper.

Mr. Hillenbrand said that State would hope to receive from the other agencies involved at least a rough outline of their final plans by July 10. These could then be drawn together into a coordinated single paper by July 13, with the individual contributions as attachments. He asked that each paper contain a meaty short summary. He would distribute a model format. State would be prepared to assist in reproduction, typing and so on, if required.

Mr. Hillenbrand suggested anyone call on him if there were questions on form or problems of complete understanding of the instructions.

Mr. Nitze brought up the question of the allied stance and thought this was the State Department’s responsibility to judge and shepherd. Mr. Hillenbrand said it was necessary to run on two tracks; one maximizing the deterrent effect on the Soviets and one maximizing the convincing of our Allies. The military contribution to be made by our Allies was an obvious planning gap which would have to be filled but at this stage it was still a unilateral exercise.

In conclusion, Mr. Johnson stated that Mr. Kohler would devote himself exclusively to the Berlin problem. All his other duties had been assigned to Mr. Tyler, his Deputy, for the time being.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/7-561. Secret. Drafted by Mautner (S/O).
  2. No other record of this meeting, which took place from 3:15 to 4 p.m., has been found. (Kennedy Library, JFK Log)
  3. No record of the meeting in the Secretary’s office has been found, but Rusk’s Appointment Book shows that it began at 4:30 p.m. and was attended by Rusk, McNamara, Acheson, Murrow, Fowler, Taylor, and Cabell. (Ibid.)
  4. At the meeting of the Four-Power Working Group at 2:35 p.m. on July 5 Rusk explained that the meeting scheduled for July 3 had been cancelled because of consultations with the President about the U.S. draft reply. Rusk went on to explain that the United States now considered it better to couple the reply with a Presidential statement. The Working Group then undertook a further review of the Western texts. (Memorandum of conversation, July 5; Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/7-561)