75. Memorandum of Meeting on Berlin1


  • The President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Generals Lemnitzer, Eddleman, LeMay and Shoup, and Admiral Russell)
The President stated he was considering a further supplement to the Defense Department’s budget. He discussed the political and economic considerations affecting the declaration of a National Emergency, and stated he believed it would be wise to postpone the declaration of such an emergency until it was required as a foundation for the mobilization of our reserve forces. The Chiefs agreed such action was not required now, and stated that it could be postponed until at least September 1.
The President asked if consideration had been given to the action which should be taken by our allies to complement the force increases proposed in the Defense Department budget supplement.2 The Secretary and the Chiefs stated a list of actions to be recommended to the NATO nations had been prepared. Further, they stated that if the allies followed the recommended program, and if the United States acted in accordance with the proposed budget supplement, by January 1, 1962, NATO would be prepared to launch non-nuclear warfare on a scale which would indicate our determination and which would provide some additional time for negotiation before resorting to nuclear warfare.
The President asked if the NATO air forces would be sufficiently strong to follow the ground probe with non-nuclear air action. General LeMay replied that USAFE was outnumbered by the Soviets 10 or 13 to 1 [this is not true, but I did not dispute the point at the meeting],3 but that if USAFE were supported by its allies, and if the NATO forces took the initiative, they could effectively meet the Soviet in non-nuclear air combat.
In response to a question from the President as to how we proposed to strengthen our ground forces, General Eddleman replied that he and I were agreed we should add personnel to the three STRAF divisions to make them combat ready by approximately December 1.
The President asked if the additional U.S. combat-ready divisions could be effectively employed if our allies took no action to strengthen their forces. General Lemnitzer stated, “No”. However, Lemnitzer added that when combined with the increases in forces which we can expect from our allies, the additional U.S. forces will provide NATO with an expanded capability for non-nuclear ground action.
The President asked what the Navy could do in the Baltic and Mediterranean to harass Soviet shipping. Admiral Russell replied the Navy had prepared plans for such harassing actions, and, with the force increase provided by the budget supplement, the Navy would be prepared to implement those plans. A copy of the Chiefs’ paper, dated July 18, listing the proposed harassing actions was left with the President.4
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, President’s Office Files, Germany. Top Secret. Drafted by McNamara on July 19. The time of the meeting is from the JFK Log. (Ibid.)
  2. A copy of the Budget Supplement dated 7-18-61 was left with the President. [Footnote in the source text.]
  3. Brackets in the source text.
  4. JCSM-486-61, “Berlin,” July 18. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 218,JCS Records)