Galbraith, JK.



Nitze, Paul H

Tucker, R.


Interview with Martha Mautner


INT: Martha, can you describe how you felt personally to the slow response of the administration to what had happened in Berlin?

MM: It was total frustration. We wanted action, action, do something. Knowing you had to respond or otherwise you would have serious problems in Berlin. We recommended that they... that Mon... Tuesday meeting that we... one of the things I threw out was that we should increase our presence in East Berlin, sending more military patrols over there. That was when I discovered that some of our Soviet experts were unaware that we had ever had military patrols in East Berlin, they had assumed that that sector had been written off with the agreements at the end of the blockade in 1949 and that we therefore had nothing to do over there. That was rather startling, because I had not quite realised that this attitude was very prevalent at some of the top echelons. But we wanted something... some action, sending somebody that... During the early meetings on the subject, the idea of sending a prominent American came up immediately, even on Sunday. Maggie Higgins and Jim O'Donald, who were journalists involved in this business, were trying to persuade General Clay that he should take a stand and go back to Berlin to show American support and they raised this issue with the Kennedy brothers, both with Robert and and John. The idea of increasing the garrison, making some demonstrative military step, since we were already getting prepared to increase our conventional forces, was also one of the ideas that was thrown around, but we wanted a decision. But no decisions came out of the White House for the first couple of days, nothing was done, even the protests that the commandants were allowed to make and the ones we made to Moscow were pretty flat, they did not really say anything that would be encouraging to the Berliners. And it was only really on, I guess, probably Thursday, after Brandt's letter had arrived in Washington and that ... his letter protesting the lack of allied action and which infuriated Kennedy, as we all heard, very quickly was supported by telephone calls from Berlin, from Edward (Armureau), who happened to be visiting there and who was the head of the USIA programme and who was a personal friend of Kennedy, and pointed out to him that something had to be done and that we had to take a stand and that we were really in a very bad position there, that the administration began to realise that they had to take action and I think the decisions were then made probably about Thursday or so to call in er Vice President Johnson, send him to Berlin and also send General Clay with him and... to arrange for this battle group to go up the Autobahn demonstratively to arrive while he was there. And Friday morning the wheels began churning for all of the arrangements on this score and Friday evening the plane left.

INT: The decision to send troops up the Autobahn, was that one of several options, was that regarded as the best show of strength?

MM: Well, the question which we thought was the best show of strength, that was one... at least one we could get done a lot of the contingency planning of course had been for forcing a group, a military group, up the Autobahn to... if access was blocked. But access wasn't blocked and so that contingency was dropped by the wayside and sending a battle group up at least was a demonstrative gesture, it could be done, the troops were already there on the scene and they were prepared... they had been alerted several days before hand, so the Pentagon was prepared for this option very early on after the wall crisis.

INT: To what degree would you say the wall defused the crisis?

MM: The wall defused the crisis in the sense that Khruschev had gotten himself off the hook very skilfully and achieved something in the process. He achieved East Berlin. That very fact made him quite... much more willing then... politically willing, shall we say, and able to then begin making talks about negotiations, we could get together now, begin talking about this subject and of course the attitude of the administration had all along been we wanted negotiations to find some kind of a way to settle it. This was underscored also by the fact that he had then resumed nuclear testing also, just before the wall crisis, to underscore the military threat aspect, given this nice ambience behind which he could then deal with this from a position of strength, even though we knew, basically speaking, that his nuclear position was weaker than he had advertised.

INT: But from the American administration point of view, how much did they, regrettable as it was, there was a wall up a major city for which they had responsibility, how much did they feel a certain degree of relief that the situation had at least been temporarily resolved?

MM: Well, I think there was a very definite sense of relief that the crisis had passed without the necessity of going... escalating it towards a military confrontation and that Khruschev was now prepared to negotiate, prepared to discuss these things. One thing we have never mentioned in all of this was the fact that part of this backdrop and one of the things that bothered the Soviets no end was the fact that we were moving into the, shall we say, stationing of nuclear weapons on German territory, which was one of the things that the Soviets were very much opposed to and they saw that this was an opportunity perhaps that they might be able to negotiate on that as well and get us to scale down our plans on that score, because the last thing they wanted to see was nuclear weapons stationed on German territory, even though they were under American control. But that was just one more part of the background of this whole crisis that figured in Soviet calculations.

INT: Can I ask you for another personal reaction. Did you feel a certain sense of relief?

MM: No! By... by no means. I felt...

INT: (Interrupts) I'll ask you so you don't say no. How did you react, a degree of relief or how did you react when the barrier went up?

MM: When the barrier went up we felt in fact it was a disaster, in that it was a weakening of the Western position in Berlin and the very willingness of the administration to negotiate further on the subject brought up all, again, all of the spectres of a revival of all of the concessions that had been proposed at the time of the Geneva meetings the year before. And those we felt would be the death blow to the continued viability of a Western position, Western military position in Berlin. On top of that, there was spooking around in the background something which became more and more prominent as time goes on, that with the East Germans having been given control of East Berlin and the Soviets still threatening to sign a peace treaty with East Germany and turning over access control to the East Germans, how would you deal with this question of the East Germans instead of the Soviets being the one to process allied traffic? And the... starting with Dulles, the so-called agent theory had gotten more and more currency, that we were prepared... that the West would be prepared in the last analysis to accept East Germanin the control mechanism, if they were agents of the Soviets and not acting on thown sovereignty and this, shall we say, us hard-liners felt was a very, very big step down the slippery slope because the East Germans, we knew, would expand that role further and further until the point when they were... their sovereignty would be recognised. That in turn would mean that the Americans and the Western allies would have accepted the existence of two Germanys, which in turn would have meant undercutting our commitment to German reunification and the West German position as a spokesman for all of Germany. See, all of these things were connected, the head bone connected to the neck bone, connected to the knee bone, all the way down the line. And accepting the East Germans on that, we felt would have been a disastrous step. But that idea, the agents theory and the access authority for the connect... for the international access authority which we eventually proposed later on in the year in the negotiations that took place during the winter of '61, '62, included East German and West German and allied and neutral participation in an international access authority, which would then supervise this business and we felt that this was a disastrous course, but that was one which the administration was prepared to negotiate on and we made the offer to the Soviets. Again, [inaudible] came to the fore, because I think the Soviets felt that if they could get this far, they could keep up the pressure and they would get even more and that was where the Berlin crisis melded into the Cuban Missile Crisis and the pressure on Berlin eventually eased off while the Soviets were preparing for their next move on the international arena, which would then have changed their strategic posture in such a way that they would be in a better position to exert far more pressure on Berlin and force negotiations in their direction.

INT: They never let up?

MM: They let up.