INT: You were working in an intelligence environment...
MM: (Interrupts) Researcher.
INT: ...how surprised were you at this particular form of solving the refugee problem had happened?
MM: It was not one I had personally expected. I had assumed that the city would be sealed off completely, that they wouldn't try to violate the four power status by sealing off East Berlin as well and turning it over to the East Germans. So, in that case, it was one of those miscalculations. But on the other hand, I had lots of company, nobody else assumed it either!
INT: Official reaction took some time. Why was it so slow?
MM: Chiefly because the focus had been on the threat of war...
INT: Let me ask you that again, so that you're making a complete statement. Can you describe why the official reaction to the sector closure was so slow?
MM: Because people were not clear what exactly was going on. It was almost twelve hours before it was... it really registered that this was going to be a total sealing of the inner sector borders. The comments... [inaudible] met that morning and we reviewed all of the information, command [inaudible] in Berlin met that morning, Willi Brandt attended that session, nobody was quite sure what to do about the subject, what exactly was the scope of it and it only began to emerge as the day ended and the next morning that what the Soviets were trying to do had... ... was a bigger threat than one had assumed. The point was that the focus of all of the planners had been on the threat, the military threat, the necessity of... possible necessity of having to take military action to block a Soviet move on Berlin and here suddenly everybody was relieved to find out that the Soviets had found a way to resolve their problem with the refugees in a way that did not affect allied rights. And since the focus was exclusively on allied rights in many quarters, there was a sense of relief that they had gotten off the hook on this one and while there would problem... propaganda problems and public relations problems, at least we weren't faced with the problem of going to war. And that took a long time before... two days, two, three days before the impact of the Soviet actions began to register and the effect that it would have on our alliance structure, the effect it would have on German morale, not to mention Berlin morale, and the shall we say, the cleverness with which the Soviets had dealt... shall we say, undercut us practically with our support!
INT: Could you describe the reaction of Dean Rusk...
MM: Well, Dean...
INT: (Interrupts) Just while we're adjusting the light, OK.
MM: Dean Rusk was responding very much to the signals he was getting from the White House. He was also... aware also of the dangers of the willingness... the fact that we were willing to go to military action to defend our position in Berlin and when he discovered that the position was not being threatened, the relief of that was very palpable and the fact that... and he did not want to create a crisis atmosphere by insisting that there was still a major threat that would revolve us taking military percussions. And so he specifically and deliberately down-played the seriousness of the situation by going out to the ball game. Kennedy came back from his sailing trip and got the message and demanded information, but then went back sailing again to underscore this point that war was not imminent, even though there was a crisis going on in Berlin. It took, as I say, a couple of days before the real impact began to seep through from all various channels and then again realising that he had... it was not a great victory as one individual pointed out, showing the failure of Communism, but that it was a Communist success to a very great extent. And if we didn't take counter-measures to cope with that action, we were really in a... really in a weak position.
MM: Well, a lot of people felt it was... well Communist failure really in the sense they said it was a Communist failure because they had to wall in their own people to prevent them from leaving, that this was no advertisement for the Communist paradise, and that we should make a big point of that. The point was that, and I think Brandt responded to it very pointedly when he said one more victory like that for the West and we'll have nothing left of the salami! But, no, that was a propaganda response in one respect and a lot of people actually believed it to a point, until they realised that the impact it had had on morale in Europe and the questioning then it began... that it spawned about the firmness of American willingness to stay committed to the situation in Berlin began to get very serious consideration.
INT: There was a very strong response from Willi Brandt. Can you...
MM: (Interrupts) Well, that didn't come for a day or two. Willi Brandt was, for the first day, as much perplexed as everybody else about the subject and very depressed about what had happened, but had no idea what to do about it. Then on, I think it was Tuesday following the wall, there was a big mass demonstration in Berlin of the population that demanded that something be done and what he was worried about, and the allies were very much worried about, was the fact that this closing of the barrier might lead to an uprising in East Germany and then you would have the situation where the alwould be called upon to act if the Soviets stepped in with milimight to put down an uprising and in Berlin it could have been very serious. And Brandt did not want to do anything to stimulate at the first. But with this vast demonstration in Berlin, he realised that something had to be done on the allied side to counter... some action had to be taken as a visible symbol that the West was not giving up and that, I think, was what stimulated him writing the letter to Kennedy, pointing out very strongly that something had to be done and outlining a couple of things that possibly could, like increasing the garrison and making a firm stand on the situation. But, it was not an easy position for him, because he was in a very vulnerable spot, he had nothing to suggest and was totally dependent on American action to remedy the crisis.
INT: How did the Americans react...
(END OF ROLL #10299)