20. Memorandum From David Klein of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1



  • McGhee’s Proposals on Landing Signals for Intruding Aircraft

On the sound assumption that the RB–66 will not be our last airplane incident, George McGhee’s proposal for reaching some understanding with the Soviets on “landing signals” might not be a bad idea (Bonn’s 3311, attached).2

We, of course, would have to check this out with the Pentagon and the Department to make sure that we are not biting off a lot more than we intended. It is also clear that we cannot rush into this kind of thing so long as the RB–66 case is around. For that matter, I don’t really think we can do much more about the US–USSR Air Agreement3 while the RB–66 men remain in Soviet hands.4

But, on the assumption that the RB–66 case will be cleared up, and that we will be going through with the Air Agreement, it would seem to make sense to talk with the Soviets about landing signals, unless there are substantial objections. (I will test this with Tommy this afternoon.)

Incidentally, from my reading of the RB–66 case, it seems fairly clear that the Soviets still have the problem in hand and have not turned it over to the East Germans. I base this on the fact that the injured airman is being treated at a Soviet hospital rather than an East German institution. This makes me suspect that the Soviets may be waiting a respectable period before proposing that our “spies” be exchanged for theirs—the Ivanov whom they wanted to trade for Barghoorn last November. This clearly may not be the best route for us, but it may be the most practicable one.

In this connection, I think it is most important that we keep the pressures on the Soviets—in a non-hysterical way—to return the RB–66 men.5 Congressional inquiries are starting to come in and the families [Page 41] are beginning to write the President. If nothing else is accomplished, it is necessary to have a record of seeking the men’s return, rather than one indicating non-action on our part.6

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Germany, RB–66. Secret.
  2. Not printed.
  3. For text of the air transport agreement, initialed at Moscow on August 21, 1961, signed at Washington and entered into force on November 4, 1966, see 17 UST 1909.
  4. A marginal handwritten notation by McGeorge Bundy reads: “I agree strongly and this point should be made to Sovs.”
  5. One of the three fliers, who had been injured in the crash, was returned on March 20. The other two were released on March 27.
  6. A handwritten notation by McGeorge Bundy reads: “Be sure we do.”