INT: This is an interview with General Andrew Goodpaster for a programme 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 a... an ultimatum, because it had a... a date in it and as I recall, he said that there unless agreement... some other agreement were reached, that er Berlin would be turned over to the East Germans within six months. But we regarded that as... as an ultimatum and er one to which we were simply not prepared to er... to accept.
INT: So what strategy did you adopt in dealing with the ultimatum?
AG: The er... course Eisenhower followed was to begin discussions with his er allies, Britain and France in particular, but also maintaining very close er contact with er the er West Germans and er to approach the Russians, the... the Soviets, letting them know that this was simply not acceptable to us.
INT: How did er...
AG: (Interrupts) Then there was a background of er... of possible military clash, if er 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 er this could result in a military clash, that we had er troops in Berlin and we simply would not er submit to er 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 er system er was er having laid down a line of policy, er which had been developed through his National Security Council, structured, er then to deal with specific issues or a specific er threat, such as this, he had er repeated er ad hoc meetings in his office and er these normally would be called at the initiative of the State Department, Secretary Herter at that time. Er part of my duty was to set up these meetings and make sure that everybody who had responsibility or a er responsible input to make would be present. Er the... whatever event or next step or initiative was under consideration would be very thoroughly vetted at this er meeting and then either at the end of the meeting or in a private meeting with er 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 er to the er... to the Soviets. And to... he called on the various departments to study er very thoroughly just what opportunities, what openings were available to us to er try to find some resolution to this er 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. Er he wasn't er certain as to er how much pressure there was on er Khrushchev to take this er stand, but he er... he understood that the Soviets were er deeply concerned about the damage that was occurring to East Germany through the flight of their... many of their very best people er to the West and that er Berlin had a major role er in... in this event that was going on and it was er more than embarrassing, it was er... it was humiliating to the Communists er to see people voting with their feet, as the saying er 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, ander... I think that had to be recognised. It was one the residues of the War and had not really... it had... it had been put together, but it was er far from a normal situation to have this enclave er deep in the area of er... of people who were quite hostile and that's East... the East Germans and the attitude of the Soviets at that time. Er but Eisenhower did not feel that it would be in the interests of the er Soviet Union er to er enter into hostilities, to take the cost of losses and sacrifices that would be involved and he felt that er if there was any reason at all on their side, that some resolution could be found. Er, also he was aware that... that there were differing views as to stiffness er among his allies and er perhaps the stiffest view of all was er 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 er... the work with our allies very much into account. That er 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: The er... I think if... if memory serves, we were represented by Secretary Herter at that... at that Geneva Conference in 1959. Er his feeling was that the situation was still very dangerous, that it was er open, er and er no... no solution was in sight. It was er out of that that er we had a visit from er... Koslov of the Soviet Union and I think er the visit of Mikoyan had been prior to that and there was interest in the State Department in the possibility of inviting Khrushchev 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 er any initiative to destroy equilibrium in Berlin and to invoke the danger of hostilities would be quite unnecessary and quite unwise. So we had in discussion... 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 er issued the invitation to Khrushchev without the proviso and Eisenhower then, he was... he reacted quite furious... er furiously about this, but he felt that the invitation had been made, it had been accepted in good faith and that er he... 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, er to absorb what would be called the way of life of er Americans. Er he was greatly impressed with the er... with the er 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 er Russian people, with the people of the Soviet Union. There was of course a complete difference as to the nature of their government, er but er he was er... he was treated courteously, he certainly was treated with civility and er... consideration by President Eisenhower. One little er anecdote. Eisenhower offered Khrushchev a helicopter flight over Washington DC to just take a look at the er city. And Khrushchev turned it down and Eisenhower said, well it's very... 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 he was er... that was that much suspicion er initially, but as he went through the country and particularly after er Cabot Lodge... Ambassador Cabot Lodge er joined with him, after some quarrelling out in er California, Eisenhower sent Lodge out to accompany er Khrushchev the rest of the way. And at Camp David, they really entered into quite profound and serious er discussions and negotiations, out of which came the agreement er to lift the er 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, er I can't do it until I have been back in the Soviet Union for at least twenty four hours. And Eisenhower was er... he wondered then whether all of this had been a charade, but er 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.