115. Report by the Military Sub-Group of the Washington Ambassadorial Group0

BQD–M–30 (Revised)



1. In its instructions to NATO military authorities, CM(61)104,1 the Council expressed several considerations that ought to underlie Berlin planning. One dealt with the need for military and other actions to fit [Page 316] together in an overall strategy. The Council has previously been informed concerning the tripartite Live Oak military plans, and the Council has before it a paper on the NATO-Tripartite relationship. SACEUR’s and SACLANT’s plans, along with the appraisal by the Standing Group in consultation with the Military Committee, have now come before the Council. It yet remains to be seen how these tripartite and NATO military actions might fit in relation to each other and to the various non-military activities that likewise would be part of the overall strategy seeking to preserve vital Alliance interests.

2. The Council may therefore wish to give attention to what would be my government’s conception of the preferred sequence of military actions in the event military force must be used in the Berlin situation. It cannot be too strongly emphasized that the account which follows will always be subject to the nature of Soviet action, and in this connection the Allies must be prepared at all times to use nuclear weapons if the nature of the Soviet response clearly requires their use in accordance with NATO guidelines on use agreed at Athens.2

3. In the account which follows, the extensive non-military actions which would be taken are broadly described merely to cross-reference their general timing relative to military actions. No attempt has been made to describe Western reaction if Soviet action should threaten NATO territory or integrity beyond the point of a Berlin blockade, since it is assumed that present NATO strategy would be applied in such event.

4. Any attempt to set out a preferred sequence of Western action has to remain rather general and cannot establish firmly separated categories and concepts for various phases. Soviet action against Western access to Berlin can be initiated in various ways whose differing natures would tend to influence Western reactions to a large degree.

5. Governmental decisions will be necessary for implementation of any of the military plans at the time. Several factors which bear decisively on such decisions will remain of uncertain nature and indeterminable relative weight. Such factors are, for example: Soviet reaction to prior military and non-military moves in a heightening crisis, the danger of stimulating uprising and revolt in East Germany or satellite areas, the state of world and home opinion, and the relative state of Western and Soviet mobilization.

6. Governments will also have to consider whether steps are necessary to ensure that the Soviet Union remains in no doubt as to the continued validity of the existing Western guarantees for West Berlin.

[Page 317]

7. The broad, general considerations relating to progress through the several phases are:

There is a compelling necessity for the Allies to succeed in protecting their vital interests relating to Berlin and to ensure that this success is recognized in the Free World. They should make clear to the Soviet Union the enormous risks involved in opposing Allied communications to Berlin by force. The purpose of Allied operations, however, should not be to overpower the Soviet Union or to disintegrate the satellite area, but to make the Soviet government change their policy on Berlin. Therefore, the Allies should give the Soviet Union opportunity to draw back and even—without creating the appearance of failure on our part—help them to cover up this retreat.
No military operations after the initial probes would appear convincing to the Soviet Union unless preceded or accompanied by urgent Western actions to increase their military strength and readiness for war. The most effective means of inducing the Soviet Union to change their policy may be intensive mobilization measures themselves.
The Allies should take all practicable advantage of the possibilities of measures which do not initiate offensive military action before taking stronger steps. Such measures on the military side might include, for example, mobilization, build-up and deployment of forces, certain alert measures, certain maritime and air measures, and, on the non-military side, economic embargo measures and diplomatic actions.
The Allies should take all practicable advantage of the possibilities of non-nuclear military action before proceeding to the use of nuclear weapons. This does not necessarily mean the implementation of all available non-nuclear plans.

Phase I

8. If Soviet/“GDR” administrative or other action interferes with Berlin access by ground or air the Allies will initiate action designed to deter Soviet/“GDR” continued or additional interference and, failing that, to establish the fact that the Soviet Union/“GDR” intends to use force to interfere with Berlin access.

9. Planning for the appropriate action to meet a variety of contingencies (interference with air access to Berlin, ranging from minor administrative harassment to a determined Soviet effort to interdict all Allied transport; interference with ground access to Berlin, Allied and/or German; harassments within Berlin) is being conducted among the four governments.

10. The purpose of such planning is to agree as far as possible in advance what in each contingency would be the appropriate response and countermeasures, with final decisions, however, being reserved for governments at the time, as is normally the case in contingency planning. This planning is continuous and continuing.

11. It is hoped that a quick and determined Allied response to the initial Soviet move will deter the Soviets from continued or additional [Page 318] interference. This proved to be the case in March 1962 when the Soviets initiated harassments in the air corridors.

12. If, however, this hope is falsified, and when the degree of interference reaches a point where continued access is in doubt, an Allied military probe of Soviet/“GDR” intentions will be launched without delay. Selected Live Oak plans, such as Jack Pine, Free Style, and Back Stroke3 (which is an operation identical with Free Style but conducted from the Berlin end of the autobahn) will be executed. Any unblocked mode of access would continue to be used.

13. Control of military operations will remain tripartite, but NATO military and political authorities will be kept informed and consulted if time permits, and NATO governments would be asked to undertake appropriate states of vigilance or alert (see OES TS CTS/62/1).4

14. Western action would either restore access or make it clear that force is being used by the Soviet Union/“GDR” to deny access to Berlin.

Phase II

15. If the actions under Phase I have shown that force is being used by the Soviet Union/“GDR” to deny access to Berlin, the Allies will bring increasing pressure, short of offensive combat, to bear on the Soviets in an effort to induce them to desist and re-open access.

16. This phase would be characterized by intense diplomatic activity (e.g. representations in Moscow, mobilization of world opinion against the USSR, and any other action which would seem relevant [,(French would delete) for instance, at the U.N.]5 conducted against the background of mounting Western pressures. These would include a growing military build-up; naval measures (national, tripartite, and/or NATO) and air measures; and economic countermeasures, including repressive measures against Bloc maritime and air traffic, of ascending intensity up to and including a full embargo, together with restrictions on the movement of Soviet Bloc nationals and officials, with the aim ultimately, in this or a later phase, of isolating the Bloc. The aim of all these measures would be to bring increasing pressure to bear on the Soviet Union to restore our rights and vital interests.

17. A major element of military action will be for NATO nations to mobilize and deploy jointly additional military forces, particularly into the Central Region, at an accelerating rate, while at the same time rapidly [Page 319] increasing the combat readiness of all M-Day forces, with the dual purpose of (1) achieving force levels and states of readiness necessary to the defense of NATO and the launching of BERCON/MARCON operations, and (2) displaying to the Soviets that armed conflict will be the consequence of continued infringement on vital Allied interests.

18. Any unblocked access to Berlin should continue to be used fully. In the event of partial or intermittent blockage of air access, the three Powers would if necessary use fighter escorts in an effort to keep flights going. Should the risks and loss of aircraft be too great to warrant further flights unless air operations were deliberately extended outside the corridors (i.e., beyond Jack Pine operations), NATO would have to face, in the light of the state of the military build-up and the general situation, the necessity for taking appropriate measures concerning air access.

19. The length of this phase cannot be forecast since it will depend on the development of events, notably in the air corridors and in Berlin itself. If the blockage of Berlin is total, and if the pressures applied by the Allies lead to violent Soviet response, the Allies may be compelled to move on the operations envisaged for Phase III. But in the absence of such compulsion, there are advantages for the Allies in not moving too early into Phase III, because the growing military build-up will be a firm demonstration of Allied determination to assert their rights in Berlin, and this and other Phase II measures need time to have their impact on the Soviets.

Phase III

20. If, despite Allied actions in Phase II, Berlin access has not been restored, the time will have come to draw on the catalog of plans “from which appropriate action would be selected by political authorities in the light of circumstances and with the aim of applying increasing pressure which would present with unmistakable clarity to the Soviets the enormous risks in continued denial of access” (para. 6 (b) of NAC Resolution 104).

21. At the present stage of the NATO deliberations, there is no question of approving the execution of any particular plan since it is laid down in para. 8 of the NAC Resolution that “the execution of approved plans will be the subject of decisions by governments at the time.” The Council may, however, wish at this stage, in the light of the Standing Group’s appraisal in consultation with the Military Committee, and in view of the fundamentally political purposes of the military operations planned, to consider the preferred sequence in which plans might be implemented.

22. If there is consensus on the general considerations set out in the introduction to this paper, it would seem to follow, in accordance with [Page 320] the concept that operations should be graduated but determined, that the initial operations to be executed by the Allies in this phase (possibly after a further appropriate tripartite probe) should be non-nuclear and should not be open to misinterpretation by the Russians as an attack directed at the stability of the Soviet satellite empire (notably East Germany) or on the Soviet nuclear strike capability. Accordingly, the choice would seem to lie among:

Air operations which, though extending outside the corridors, would be related to reopening air access.
Ground operations with limited objectives on one of the main access routes, with appropriate air support.
Intensified maritime control or blockage measures.
Some combination of the above.

23. If these operations fail to make the Soviets back down, the courses of action which might achieve NATO aims would be to increase conventionally the scope of the action, to add another action, or to take some form of nuclear action. Without knowledge of the actual circumstances that would exist in such a critical situation, it is hardly possible to judge which of these courses would be chosen at the time. Whichever course is adopted, general war would be imminent. If the course chosen were conventional action and this fails to make the Soviet Union back down and has not precipitated general war, the last remaining pressure to be exerted will be to resort to some form of nuclear action.

Phase VI

24. Whenever nuclear action were taken, and whether it were demonstrative, selective, or otherwise, events would have moved into a new phase, dominated by the nuclear equation.

  1. Source: Department of State, G/PM Files: Lot 59 D 258, NATO Military Plans. Top Secret. The source text bears no drafting information. A record of the discussion of this paper by the Military Sub-Group on September 12, Sub BQD-Military 33, is in the Washington National Records Center, RG 330, FRC 65 A 3501, 092 Berlin, Germany.
  2. Not found.
  3. For documentation on the North Atlantic Council meeting at Athens May 4–6, see volume XIII.
  4. Jack Pine was a tripartite plan to maintain air access to Berlin; Free Style and Back Stroke were tripartite platoon sized probes from Helmstedt and Berlin, respectively, to determine if the Soviet Union was prepared to use force to prevent passage of Allied convoys on the Autobahn. (Memorandum from Nitze to McNamara, I–25251/62, July 20; Washington National Records Center, RG 330, FRC 66 B 3542, 091 Germany)
  5. Not found.
  6. Brackets in the source text.