INT: Just getting back to the conference. If the North Vietnamese would not talk to the South Vietnamese, how did the (unintelligible) happen? What were the mechanics? How did Chu get his voice in?
AG: Harriman of course would report back to Washington, to the State Department and the White House and the Pentagon, and they would then maintain contact with President Chu through our ambassador, by that time it was Elsworth Bunker, out in Saigon.
INT: Let's cut there...
INT: This is an interview with General Andrew Goodpaster for a program on the war, which is number 9 in the Cold War series. So could I start, General, by asking you what President Eisenhower's reaction was to Khrushchev's ultimatum of November 1958?
AG: We thought that it was an ultimatum, because it had a date in it and as I recall, he said that there unless some other agreement were reached, that Berlin would be turned over to the East Germans within six months. But we regarded that as an ultimatum and one to which we were simply not prepared to accept.
INT: So what strategy did you adopt in dealing with the ultimatum?
AG: The... course Eisenhower followed was to begin discussions with his allies, Britain and France in particular, but also maintaining very close contact with the West Germans and to approach the Russians, the Soviets, letting them know that this was simply not acceptable to us.
INT: How did...
AG: (Interrupts) Then there was a background of possible military clash, if some resolution were not found, if they went forward to do it.
INT: To what extent was there a feeling there could be an actual (unintelligible)?
AG: I think we were deeply concerned that this could result in a military clash, that we had troops in Berlin and we simply would not submit to East German control of Berlin.
INT: When Eisenhower was dealing with this issue, how did it go about it? Did he ask advice from military advisers, strategic advisers, or did he make up his own mind how to do it?
AG: Oh, his system was having laid down a line of policy, which had been developed through his National Security Council, structured, then to deal with specific issues or a specific threat, such as this, he had repeated ad hoc meetings in his office and these normally would be called at the initiative of the State Department, Secretary Herter at that time. part of my duty was to set up these meetings and make sure that everybody who had responsibility or a responsible input to make would be present. Whatever event or next step or initiative was under consideration would be very thoroughly vetted at this meeting and then either at the end of the meeting or in a private meeting with Herter, in particular, Eisenhower would give his decision as to what position we should take with our allies and then how to convey whatever the proposal was to the Soviets. And he called on the various departments to study very thoroughly just what opportunities, what openings were available to us to try to find some resolution to this threat.
INT: On a personal level, did he have anything in common with Khrushchev? They both come from rural type of backgrounds, any common ground there?
AG: I think Eisenhower felt that the Soviets were doing something that was not really in their interest. he wasn't certain as to how much pressure there was on Khrushchev to take this stand, but he understood that the Soviets were deeply concerned about the damage that was occurring to East Germany through the flight of many of their very best people to the West and that Berlin had a major role in this event that was going on and it was more than embarrassing, it was humiliating to the Communists to see people voting with their feet, as the saying went at that time.
INT: How far was he prepared to enter into negotiations, reasonable negotiations? He did describe the situation in Berlin once as abnormal.
AG: That's right, and... I think that had to be recognized. It was one of the residues of the War and it had been put together, but it was far from a normal situation to have this enclave deep in the area of people who were quite hostile and that's the East Germans and the attitude of the Soviets at that time. But Eisenhower did not feel that it would be in the interests of the Soviet Union to enter into hostilities, to take the cost of losses and sacrifices that would be involved and he felt that if there was any reason at all on their side, that some resolution could be found. also he was aware that there were differing views as to stiffness among his allies and perhaps the stiffest view of all was on the part of the West Germans, the Federal Republic of Germany, under Adenauer.
INT: How much did he take that into account?
AG: Oh, he took the work with our allies very much into account. That he felt that everything possible should be done, so that we would not find ourselves acting alone in this.
INT: When it got to the stage of the Geneva Conference in 1959, what were the expectations of what might come out that conference? It had actually postponed a six-month deadline.
AG: I think if memory serves, we were represented by Secretary Herter at that Geneva Conference in 1959. His feeling was that the situation was still very dangerous, that it was open, and no solution was in sight. It was out of that we had a visit from... Koslov of the Soviet Union and I think the visit of Mikoyan had been prior to that and there was interest in the State Department in the possibility of invitiKhrushchev to the United States with the hope that this would show that there really was no hostile intent on the part of the United States against the Soviet Union. Our people were going about their business and that any initiative to destroy equilibrium in Berlin and to invoke the danger of hostilities would be quite unnecessary and quite unwise. So we had under discussion, the idea of a visit from Khrushchev. There's a story there and that was that Eisenhower agreed to a visit from Khrushchev if the ultimatum were lifted. The State Department issued the invitation to Khrushchev without the proviso and Eisenhower then, he reacted quite furiously about this, but he felt that the invitation had been made, it had been accepted in good faith and that he was obliged to go forward with the invitation and indeed that's what happened.
INT: It was in fact late September of 1959 that that visit took place. What achieved do you think during Khrushchev's visit?
AG: Well, I think a tremendous amount was achieved. First of all, he had the opportunity to see the United States, to absorb what would be called the way of life of Americans. he was greatly impressed with the industrial and agricultural efficiency of our country. He was impressed also with the feeling on the part of our people that there was no inherent quarrel with the Russian people, with the people of the Soviet Union. There was of course a complete difference as to the nature of their government, but he was treated courteously, he certainly was treated with civility and... consideration by President Eisenhower. One little anecdote. Eisenhower offered Khrushchev a helicopter flight over Washington DC to just take a look at the city. And Khrushchev turned it down and Eisenhower said, well he was really very disappointed at that, because he had looked forward to the opportunity of pointing out all of the areas of interest. Khrushchev said, oh do you mean you intend to go with me? And Eisenhower said, of course, that's the purpose of it. And Khrushchev said, then I'll be delighted to go. And that was that much suspicion initially, but as he went through the country and particularly after Ambassador Cabot Lodge joined with him, after some quarrelling out in California, Eisenhower sent Lodge out to accompany Khrushchev the rest of the way. And at Camp David, they really entered into quite profound and serious discussions and negotiations, out of which came the agreement to lift the ultimatum. There's a little story there. As they were concluding, and they finally reached this agreement, Eisenhower said, well, we'll put that in the communiqué then that we have reached agreement. And Khrushchev said, oh no I can't do that. And then Eisenhower said, well, then the deal is off. And Khrushchev said no, I can't do it until I have been back in the Soviet Union for at least twenty-four hours. And Eisenhower, he wondered then whether all of this had been a charade, but finally said, well, fine, we won't make an announcement, we will wait until you're back there. And Khrushchev said, you may be sure I will let you know, but I must do that from Moscow. And indeed that's what happened. We saw that as evidence that his own position would be threatened if he made this change of position and policy while he was outside of the Soviet Union. The other thing we got out of this was really for the first time a sense of the difficulties and the tensions between China and the Soviet Union. Khrushchev said I must be very, very careful not to say anything that could be taken by the Chinese as dealing with their affairs.