Interviews:

Donnan,
Edloe

Halvorsen,
Gail

Heimlich,
William

Laker,
Sir Freddie

Lochner,
Robert

Reuter,
Etza



     
   


INTERVIEW WITH WILLIAM HEIMLICH

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A: A Spitzelsendung is a spy broadcast, or broadcast about spies.

Q: What could you gauge was the reaction of the population in the Eastern Sector listening to this?

A: The best gauge we had was the were the stories that appeared in the East German press, and the very large number of people who began pouring across the frontier and appearing at RIAS's door. Large numbers of people, asking for - help if they had been betrayed as spies because their own people were turning against them. We knew of riots that had occurred and people who had been beaten up in the street and that sort of thing.

Q: And what do you think was the reaction of the East German Communists and the Soviet authorities to all of this?

A: They protested it. There were protests registered with General Clay, despite the the breakdown of communications, this occurred, these broadcasts occurred during the Soviet blockade. - Sokolovsky, Marshall Sokolovsky, the Soviet Commandant, protested to General Clay. A protest was made to the America Ambassador in Moscow, and I believe there was a protest also in the United Nations, that it was unfair, an act of if not cruelty at least terribly unfair, etc., etc. But our President and our State Department simply said "Tit for tat, fellows."

Q: How did you meet your wife, who was then Christina Olsen?

A: Christina Olson. She was a guest of my British opposite, Colonel E A Hollard, at a tea to which I was invited. I saw her, I thought she was the loveliest thing I'd ever seen in my life and wanted to spend the rest of my life with her - on the spot. I - came to know her then when she was in RIAS, came to know her much better, and when she came to the United States as a guest of the State Department in 1950 - yes, 1950, we were married here.

Q: If you describe exactly what she was doing for RIAS?

A: InRIASshe was an actress of course and and a charming one, a very popular on, and - she didparticularly a role called the 'Das Botenkind' or the, 'The Little Messenger - The Newsboy, that's about the only way I can translate that. And she would sing song a pompous new story that appeared in let us say the Tgliche Rundschau, the Soviet Newspaper, and and then poke fun at it. Typical example: 'The meat ration this month will not be filled. Instead you will receive four hundred fifty five grams of sugar.' or 'The potato ration this week will not be filled. Instead you will get thirty- three hundred and fifty grammes of soya beans.', or 'The travel cards between Berlin and Dresden will no longer be honoured until further notice. There will be no German personnel allowed to leave the city of Magdeburg until further notice' These pompous things would appear constantly in the Soviet newspaper, and she would talk about it on the air and say, 'I don't understand it. But the big ones, they've got to understand it. All of these things which violated agreements between the Western and the Eastern allies.

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Q: What in your estimation was the importance of RIAS during the period of the Berlin blockade?

A: RIAS did two things. It sustained the morale of people, not only of West Berlin, but of all Germany: it guaranteed to them finally that the Americans were there to stay; the Western Allies were there to stay; that there was now a firm wall between them and the, the terror and the disaster of Soviet domination of their country. That was number one. Number two, I think that it was important for the Americans, particularly, to have a morale builder that they were finally standing up to the Soviet assaults and attacks. everybody was so aware of those assaults in the press, in the Kommandantur, and the insults of not having any kind of personal contact with the Soviet Union, or its representative. The Americans particularly resented this. The British were much more philosophical about, and I expect due to their political sophistication. The Americans were not that sophisticated: we liked people to like us and we were finally convinced that the Soviets were not going to like us, we come to like the Germans better than we did the Soviets, although we had just finished fighting them, and we liked the idea of taking up at least verbal arms in their defence.

Q: RIAS really marks the beginning of what you call the war of the air waves, that Radio Free Europe later took on....

A: It's quite true. The Radio Free Europe evolved out of RIAS. Radio Liberation evolved out of it. Let me tell you how that happened, if I may? I came back to the United States following the military occupation and following the end of the Soviet blockade, and was immediately collared to come to Washington, to talk to Congressional committees about RIAS, about it's role in furthering US foreign policy; about its role in co-operating with the Western Allies; and and in opposing the Soviet expansion aims. I was immediately introduced to Senator Burke Hickenlooper of Iowa who headed a committee of the Foreign Relations Committee of the United States Senate. Hickenlooper had introduced a Bill to establish a United States Information Agency. I worked with him in preparing that Bill, and in preparing the plans for it. At exactly the same moment I was contacted by other government agencies to go to New York and help to plan for Radio Free Europe. I became the first programme director for Radio Free Europe, and was briefly in that capacity. It seemed to me they were not getting off the ground so I went elsewhere. But RIAS was the genesis of all of these free radios. They - one of my associates at RIAS, Boris Schub, who was with me for four or five months in RIAS and a very strong right arm he was because he was an expert on the Soviet Union. Schub became later head of Radio Liberation. He was of Russian descent, spoke, wrote Russia, was very familiar with the Russians - and probably had more contact with the Russians in Berlin than any other Western ally, any other Western ally.

Q: In the history of the Cold War, how important was that aspect of it, the propaganda war?

A: I think it was of major importance. I think without a powerful propaganda effort, a shooting war might well have evolved. I think that without the propaganda effort, the late efforts of the administration of President Ronald Reagan might have failed. Reagan's decision to outdo them economically, to outspend them was a wise one, it was a, it was a crackerjack decision, but it would not have been possible if we had not been positioned by years of propaganda warfare. I think that the best description of it is this: that the propaganda war - - harmed the ability of the Soviet Union to make hot war; that it defeated their will to win in advance of foreseeable hostilities; that it convinced not only the people whom it was, to, at whom it was aimed in the subject countries, but it convinced Soviet diplomats that these people were indeed perhaps on the right track.

Q: When they blew up the transmitter towers for Radio Berlin at Tegel, what was your involvement in that little episode?

A: - Happily, very little. It was one of the one of the truly brave acts of the of that sorry period. The Commandant of the French forces in Berlin was a General Claude Gonneval. General Gonneval, a charming officer, brooked no nonsense from anyone. He was a true soldier. And one well - the allies needed a new airstrip. Radio, the telephone, Tempelhof aerodrome was totally inadequate to handle what we knew was going to be the heavy load of the blockade. Tegel, in the British sector, was not quite up to it, and it was not finished. It was a fighter base then. It was not the airport that it is now. and we had to have an airstrip. There was only one space available: it was in the district of Fronau in the French sector. Unfortunately it was a space occupied by Radio Berlin. It's transmitter, transmitters, there were several; it's towers, there were several - General Gonneval sent a letter to his - mind you the blockade was on, it had started - Gonneval sent a letter to his opposite, the Soviet Kommandant, General Kotikov, telling him that they, the French, must have this space and they were invited to get their transmitters and their antennas out of there, forthwith. Kotikov did not even bother to reply to the letter. So Gonneval called him, made an appointment, he could not make an appointment, but he told them that he was coming to Kotikov's headquarters. He did so, and Kotikov refused to see him. Gonneval was furious, aside from the fact that this was terribly rude, he had the orders from his fellow Commandants in the West to clear that space for an airstrip. So, he simply assembled a company of pioneers to who went out and - oh, first military police removed all of the Soviet and German personnel. Then a company of pioneers who went out, place explosive charges on the antennas, and the transmitters, and blew them up. on the morning this happened my former officer, Commandant du Tay called me and said, "Wouldn't you like to come along? We're going to have quite a show up here at ten o'clock?" I said, "Commandant Du Tay, if you're going to have the show that I think you're going to have, I want to be as far away as possible." But we did send a transmitter and a reporter team up there, and of course we covered the explosion. That afternoon well, all hell broke loose of course in the Western press: this was an act of war; the Radio Berlin was off the air; there was consternation in the Soviet press, in the Soviet controlled transmitters elsewhere, and so out of sympathy for the Communists I sent a note to radio Berlin, invited them to come over that afternoon and use RIAS for one hour. Again, no reply. Again the humour of the situation. It was exciting, infuriating day. (End of interview)