Sir Freddie






Q: We come to Clay's departure from his position as military governor and C-in-C Germany. How did that happen?

A: That's quite clear, I think, historically. Since the Jessup-Malik agreement at the UN was the basis for the end of the blockade, and the Soviets really practically capitulated, they extracted as one minor concession that Truman promised to yank out the man who was the symbol of the airlift, General Clay. And the way it was done, all of us who were - I admit, emotional, admirers of Clay felt very bitter because it deprived him of any kind of ceremony ending in the victory of the end the blockade. What happened was that the day after the blockade ended he had to leave Germany. And it meant that on that day everybody, on his last day in Germany, was anxious to give him along as a farewell present the German constitution. Now, parallel to the famous One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich the Russian man, I'll describe you one day in the life of General Clay. I'd been on this first train after the end of the blockade because no Germans could get on the train. The American train, first one going to Berlin. With portable equipment, describing what happened at the checkpoints and so on. And we got to Berlin very early, 5.30 in the morning, and there was my first contact with RIAS. I first made a beeline for RIAS to deliver my tape to have transferred to the West German stations. And then I went up to General Clay's office, it was probably 6-6.15, something like that, and to my surprise I found him at his desk. He said, 'how did it go?' I said, 'well, surely you've received reports.' 'No,' he said, 'I put a pillow on my phone, I was so sure that nothing had happened.' So he hadn't received any report yet on how the first train had - of course there'd been no interference by the Soviets. So then he asked me to wait and go with him to the final farewell ceremony at city hall, which was, I don't know, 10 o'clock, whatever. And we rode down in his big Cadillac and Adenauer and all the top German officials had been flown in on an American plane and there was a very impressive farewell ceremony. And as so often, nobody had thought of providing a separate microphone for the interpreter. This happened to me time and again. So in front of the speaker's stand the microphones were in a half circle, which meant I had to lean over practically cheek to cheek to General Clay to speak into the microphones. And in the strong light I could see that there were tears of movement in his eyes when he said farewell to the Berliners. He had achieved a very emotional pro attitude toward the Berliners and the brilliant way in which they stood up to the hardships of the blockade. At the end of the ceremony Mayor Reuter and Adenaeur escorted him out and he got in his car and I knew I had nothing else to do with him till four in the afternoon when we were flying back to Frankfurt for the final meeting of the three military governors with the Parliamentary Council in the hope of giving him along the farewell present of the German constitution. And I was deeply touched when I came to the airport and he was standing up in the plane and he said, 'where were you, Bob, this morning? I knew you had no transportation.' I'd come with him from the headquarters and I was just stupified that on a day when he had so much on his mind that he would think of such a small detail as that I hadn't had a car. So then we flew back to the to Frankfurt, had the final meeting in the IG Farben building, the headquarters building, which had to be interrupted for hours because by that time, if I'm not mistake, Francois Poncet had replaced General Koenig. The French were again making some difficulties. It didn't come to my attention which ones, but the interruption was because Francois Poncet had to call Paris. And finally late in the afternoon, if not evening by that time, all the points were settled and the constitution was agreed upon. And then at 11 or later in the evening, Clay gave a big press conference. And then at one o'clock in the morning he flew b

Q: Was General Clay ordinarily an emotional man?

A: No, he kept his emotions very much under control. This outburst against the French was only because he knew with McClory ambassador Murphy and me present only that certainly nobody in his lifetime would carry - and I never did mention till only recent years, when I felt that was not doing any damage to his memory.

Q: And his tearful appearance in the Berlin City Hall, was that -

A: That nobody could see from on far, only because I had to lean over. It didn't show in his voice. I just could tell.


Q: How important do you think the airlift was, and - and Clay's part in that, in the history of the Cold War, looking back on it now?

A: Well, you can't exaggerate the importance. That was the turning point. Up until then we still tried to get along with the Soviets. We tried the currency reform together with them. And this was the - because they're almost simultaneous, the currency reform caused the blockade of course, so that was the big turning point. That was what really started the Cold War openly. Before that it was more or less under cover. But to give you one example of how early the wartime alliance broke apart, the negotiations for RIAS, the American radio station in Berlin, all through the fall of '45 we tried in vain to come to an agreement with the Soviets on the use of the one existing radio station in Berlin, which of course thehad occupied, although the radio building was the British sector, and I remember distinctly as control officer of Radio Frankfurt I was kept au courant what was going on in these negotiations. And in November of '45 Colonel Troponov the Soviet negotiator offered as the last offer from the Soviet side one hour a day for the three Western allies and 23 hours for the Soviets. And of course that was totally unacceptable, so that's why then in February '45 we created our own station. So to me this is very significant on the uncooperative attitude of the Soviets even in the early summer of '45.

Q: How inevitable therefore was the Cold War?

A: Absolutely inevitable. To me, another big turning point is the first and only free elections in Berlin late in '46. And from all I observed at the time and learned since, the Soviets, despite the behaviour of their occupation troops right after the war, had the illusion that they would do very well in these elections. And then when they only - I forget now the - say it was six per cent or something like that, maybe more, but nowhere near as much as they had apparently really expected - they decided that they could not try to win over all of Germany and that they would keep what they'd grabbed, namely their zone of occupation. And at that moment all further willingness to cooperate with the Western allies ceased, because they then could figure out that the elections in all of Germany they wouldn't do any better. So that's when they probably decided to create the GDR as a separate state, out of this feeling let's keep what we grabbed through the war and not be greedy and try to get all of Germany, which initially probably had been their aim. They probably figured the Americans particularly will withdraw, they'll get tired of it. But that was a big turning point, and so all these claims later on that they were seriously negotiating after all, when they found that we were setting up this independent West German government, of course they went through the motions of trying to sabotage it by suddenly - this alleged Stalin offer which a lot of Germans fell for and thought was a serious offer, all of a sudden they decided to negotiate again. It was all clearly just to gain time to sabotage the West German recovery. So with this - these early elections in Berlin, they are to me one of the big turning points in the '46, where they lost so disastrously.

Q: You were in Berlin at the time of the June 17th uprising.

A: No.

Q: - in '53, no?

A: I was stationed in Bonn as head of the press section of the High Commission.

Q: Ah right.

A: I only heard what others heard.