178. Telegram From the Mission at Berlin to the Department of State0

908. Paris also for USRO; USAREUR and CINCEUR for POLADs; SHAPE for US Element Live Oak and Stoessel. Berlintel 905.1 Reftel reports Feb 21 Yakubovsky to Freeman message re helicopter flights over East Berlin. This message received just as final steps taken in preparation for periodic flight Feb 24 or first good weather thereafter (last such flight Dec 19). Berlin brigade’s plan proposed several days ago approved Feb 21 by USCOB.

Yakubovsky letter now raises issue whether flight should proceed on schedule. In considering question, we have had following points in mind:


Letter appears fit into pattern of increased harassments by Soviets and East Germans we have noted recently. Apparent increase in GDR harassment of Allied traffic at Friedrichstrasse has been observed over past three months. Signs of Soviet activity commenced second week in February with their handling of minor train incident at Marienborn. Incident (dismounting of train commander on side away from station) was minor in itself but Soviets raised it with each successive train commander that night and ultimately called meeting with US checkpoint commander. Similarly, very minor case of mistaken identity at Helmstedt Autobahn checkpoint on Feb 16 also led to Soviets calling similar meeting, even after incident was closed. At this meeting, however, Soviets reraised train issue and proposed higher level discussion be held “in Berlin” on that subject. Finally, on Feb 19, Soviet duty officer at Babelsberg Autobahn checkpoint asked for minor change in our procedure for filling out movement orders and threatened to deny passage to the next convoy if this not done (we are protesting this behavior to checkpoint commander).

We are led to speculate that, having in a sense won their point on Autobahn convoys of six and seven vehicles, and seeking exploit aftermath of Cuba, Soviets may be renewing pressure at other points on periphery of Allied position here. They may reason that we will be reluctant contest their encroachments in atmosphere following Cuba [Page 492] and Soviet concessions there. Evidence is only fragmentary and preliminary, but something does seem to be afoot.

This is third letter on this subject between CINCs since Dec 26, 1962. It is not markedly more harsh in tone than other Soviet communications on subject, including long series of protests in BASC.
If we do not wish to abandon flights altogether, which would seem particularly undesirable if analysis in para no. 1 above is correct, best timing for another flight from purely political point of view would be soon as possible, and prior any US reply to today’s letter. After this flight, reply could be sent and several weeks or more pass before in normal course events next flight would be considered.

In light of these considerations it is present intention to proceed with flight as planned on first good weather after Feb 23.2

Gen Polk concurs.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, AV 13 GER. Secret; Priority. Repeated to Bonn, Paris, Moscow, London, USAREUR, CINCEUR, and SHAPE.
  2. Telegram 905, also dated February 21, transmitted the text of a letter from Yakubovsky to Freeman that stated that Soviet military authorities could not guarantee the safety of U.S. helicopter flights over East Berlin and advised Freeman to stop them. (Ibid.)
  3. On February 23, in a telegram approved by the White House, the Department of State advised the Mission at Berlin to postpone the next helicopter flight until February 27 to give policymakers in Washington time to decide whether to reply to the letter first. (Telegram 606 to Berlin; ibid.) On February 25 President Kennedy authorized making the next flight before replying. (Memorandum for the Record, February 25; Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Germany, Berlin)