225. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Holdup of US Convoy on Autobahn


  • Ambassador Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, USSR
  • Llewellyn E. Thompson, Ambassador-at-Large, Department of State

I had the Soviet Ambassador come in at 7:00 p.m. and informed him of Ambassador Kohler’s conversations with Smirnovsky and Zorin1 on the holdup of our convoy on the autobahn. I said our position was that our right of free access to Berlin meant that we had no obligation to give notification or dismount troops in convoys, but that in order to facilitate the movement of convoys certain practices had grown up. I said Mr. Zorin seemed to be confused as he had mentioned that we dismounted whenever a convoy consisted of more than five vehicles. I said this had never been the case and he was apparently confused by the fact that we often gave the checkpoint prior notification when the convoy was larger than five vehicles. I explained what our actual practice was with regard to dismounting and gave him a factual account of what had happened in the last few days.

When the Ambassador asked what I wanted him to do, I urged that he explain the facts to Mr. Zorin and urge that our convoy be allowed to proceed. At first the Ambassador was very reluctant, and did not seem convinced by my arguments.

At this time, General Clay telephoned me and gave me a list of the dates of our convoys of similar size since May first, including number of vehicles and number of men involved. I pointed out that only two had been held up and these for short periodsof time.

The Ambassador seemed impressed by this list and particularly the fact that similar convoys had been passed on August twenty-sixth and September thirtieth.

I also pointed out that the Soviets now knew that the information we had given them concerning the number of men in the disputed convoy was accurate and there was, therefore, no longer any reason to hold it up.

[Page 606]

He said of course that the question of principle and procedure was now involved, but agreed to send a message to Zorin promptly. He indicated that he and Gromyko had been quiteupset over this incident and the attention being given to it inthe press.

I also referred to the difficulty which this caused us and the setback to our efforts toimprove relations.

As he was leaving, he said it was incomprehensible to him how this could have happened.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 38–10. Confidential. Drafted and initialed by Thompson.
  2. Regarding the conversation with Zorin, see Document 223; the conversation with Smirnovsky has not been further identified.