234. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Germany0

1344. Paris also pass USRO. Subject: US Autobahn Convoy.

1. Secretary called in Soviet Charge (Kornienko) at 11:30 am Washington time. He said that he wanted to see Kornienko on a serious matter which involved a US convoy which was being held up on the autobahn.1 [Page 621] The Secretary said he was astonished by this in view of the background of the past few weeks. Following October 10 convoy incident Gromyko phoned Secretary in Cincinnati2 and assured him Soviets were not trying to change existing procedures and that it was important that both followed existing procedures. In order to avoid any misunderstanding we had informed local Soviet military authorities in Germany last Tuesday of procedures which in substance were those we had followed for years.3 Present convoy was well within non-dismount limits set forth in our procedures. Secretary then recounted discussion at checkpoint regarding dismounting and lowering tailgates. Latter request had been rejected because tailgates of vehicles in question were under height established by our procedures. Procedures in question were for convenience of both US and Soviets. US convoy commander had in fact first (in 1961) ordered his troops to dismount in order to facilitate processing. This problem did not arise with small convoys. Since we are not trying to change procedures and Gromyko and Yakubovsky had said they were not trying to change them we are puzzled as to why incident arose. Secretary said he need not remind Kornienko of why we attached importance to question of convoy procedures. In addition, these incidents hamper effort to reach agreement on one or another matter since incident of this sort attracts world-wide attention.

Kornienko said that he had no information on this incident. He understood that Soviet military authorities had made no change in their requirements. If these are complied with there will be no trouble. Kornienko also suggested that there had been an agreement to dismount from convoys of more than five vehicles. The Secretary said that the five vehicle figure was related to advance notification.

Thompson reminded Kornienko of the information he had given Dobrynin regarding previous small convoys.4

Secretary asked Kornienko to inform Moscow promptly. He also asked Kornienko to inform Dobrynin since Secretary may wish to speak to him in near future.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 38–10. Secret; Flash. Drafted and initialed by Ausland and approved and initialed by Thompson. Repeated to Berlin, Paris, London, Moscow, SHAPE, U.S. Element Live Oak, CINCEUR, USAREUR, and USAFE.
  2. On November 4 the Embassy in Bonn had, in a Flash telegram received in the Department of State at 5:02 a.m. that day, reported that U.S. Convoy T–1 was being detained at Marienborn due to Soviet insistence that the men in the back of the trucks dismount. (Telegram 1651; ibid.)
  3. See Document 227.
  4. On October 19 General Lemnitzer had transmitted his recommendations for harmonizing Western procedures for convoys on the Autobahn. (SHLO 9–00085; Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Germany, Berlin, Autobahn Crisis) These recommendations were discussed by the Washington Ambassadorial Group and approved by the four Western governments, subject to a few changes, on October 24. (Telegram 1233 to Bonn, October 14; Department of State, Central Files, POL 38–10) The new procedures were explained to Soviet authorities on October 29; see TheNew York Times, November 7, 1963.
  5. See Document 225.