INT: OK. Now, Kennedy's twenty fifth of July speech in 1961, why did he only refeto West Berlin and did this reference only to West Berlin actually signify a change of policy on behalf of those who'd drafted it?
WR: I don't remember that he changed... I don't remember that as a speech that changed policy and I think that's all I have to say, because you're telling me something that I don't remember.
INT: Fine, it's not worth talking about in that case. What message did Kennedy want to convey to Khrushchev? Do you remember anything of that speech aall? What do you think the message was that he was trying to give Khrushchev?
WR: I think he wanted to convey to Khrushchev that at the end... that the Americans were not about to leave Berlin, not (unintelligible) out of Berlin. Remember that the Vice President went down that road and went to Berlin and I remember I wrote a speech quickly and it went through the President's hands and General Clay's hands and given to the Vice President and he spoke it very much as I wrote it. But... and I was denounced by (unintelligible) very naturally, because the speech said - and this was probably as a result of the lunch I had with Minchikov, the Soviet ambassador, who repeated what Khrushchev had said, that you have no way of defending Berlin. These men are all hostages to us and I put it in the phrase, we will stake our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor, that's the most solemn oath that any American can take, 'cos that's the phrase which talks of the war against Britain for independence. And they stared at this and the Americans are crazy, but... this is mystical we can't understand, but we go on.
INT: OK. Did Kennedy ever think that there was a possibility that the United States might go to war over Berlin?
WR: Well, I can only say this that of all the Presidents in the Cold War period, I think the nuclear issue bore hardest on Kennedy. He took it very seriously and he was sometimes afraid that the good Lord had put him on earth to start a nuclear war really and he was not about to get out of Berlin, no matter what it took. But he didn't want it. He knew all about nuclear weapons, he didn't want to have them used again in anger by anyone, but he wasn't going to back away, if Khrushchev made faces at him. So it was the same thing in the Bay of Pigs, of which I was a planner and there was always the possibility of someone making a mistake and Kennedy was conscious of that possibility of error... which would result in the shooting off of these weapons and but he didn't back away, but it was a terrible burden, terrible burden for a man to have to carry, for just an ordinary, mortal human being, it really was.
INT: Did you see anything which showed he was troubling?
WR: No, the only time that I ever remember him showing emotion was we were, I remember, driven off the first pages of the... (unintelligible), which I got drawn into, 'cos I was not in the planning of it, so I didn't feel guilty at all, but then he... driven off the front pages by de Gaulle - you probably forget that the colonels were about to land, so ran the story, in Paris, and he called on the women of Paris to block the airport and so on, so that made the headlines that day. The next day when it was discovered that this was a false alarm, again we were back in the front pages and I guess the last man was captured by Castro and the newspaper, I can remember him crumbling the newspaper, and this was the view of a man who, as I say, a small unit commander. He commanded a handful of PT boats, I mean, he was a general who... who looked at the map and thought abstractly about war, but he felt terrible about these fellows who'd landed in a good cause and were captured and he worked very hard and we were blackmailed by Castro, but that was all right. The blackmail took the form of our giving them some food and some tractors and we had negotiations and we got every man back by the end of the year and Kennedy was very, very much relieved as a human being by the return of those men.
INT: OK. Now this is the story that I mentioned to you before, that we were so keen to get on tape. Can you describe for me your conversation with Kennedy at the beginning of August, regarding the possibility of a war as a solution to the Berlin-East German...
WR: Well, we were walking together back to his office along the corridor with pillars that looked one side of the rose garden and inside to the swimming pool, which has now been boarded up, to my horror. And we were... on that, suddenly he said, you know Khrushchev has no option except to put up a wall or something like that and I cannot make... I can barely hold together this alliance against attack by the Soviet, I cannot hold this alliance together if we are going to keep that wall... that door open for (unintelligible) from the West and o the West and these are people who come to the West and they will bleed the Soviet empire to death if they do it and we cannot go to war for that reason. And therefore he probably will put up a wall or something and I can do nothing about it. So he had made up his mind ten days before what Khrushchev would do and that he would be passive in that circumstances.
INT: Can you tell me that story again.
WR: Well, we were walking back from his house along the colonnade on one side of his rose garden, on the other side was the swimming pool, which I miss to this day. And suddenly the President said that Khrushchev cannot stand this for long, he'll have to put up a wall or something like that and I can't hold this alliance together, I can barely hold it together if there's a Soviet attack to the West, but I cannot hold it together to knock down that wall and have East bleed to death by coming to the West and therefore he'll get away with this wall and there's nothing I can do about it. And Kennedy said that, well... about a week before the wall was put up.
INT: How do you think he felt?
WR: Just that, that there was nobody actually who was about to be a Hawk in such circumstances. The defense of Berlin was on everyone's mind and that was redoubtable. We all remembered what we'd been told by Khrushchev and Malinkov and Minchikov, namely that they could pick off our soldiers in Berlin any time they wanted to and therefore there was nothing holding them there except the wartime agreements. And that is why we put into Vice President Johnson's speech... we pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor to these men.
INT: ...about his conversation with Khrushchev on July thirty first. Were there any hints there about closing the border section?
WR: I don't remember.
INT: You don't remember, OK. Did the border closing with barbed wire come as a complete surprise and then the wall?
WR: No. That was not a surprise, that was one of the options which Kennedy had long ago thought that Khrushchev had.
INT: OK. And why do you think it took Kennedy and the administration quite so long to react?
WR: I'll tell you that very well, because that was very much a planner's job. We had to figure out how to make Berlin viable in the face of the wall. Now you've got to remember that the mission that West Berlin had was to be a display point of the West against the East in open city. Now it was closed, it was closed off to the West and we had to think of things that could be done in Berlin asides from subsidizing the wages of the people. Things that could be done which would have some meaning and we started to plan for that in the Planning Section at the State Department and I put (unintelligible) William Jordan on to that, who was later ambassador to Panama and who's written a very good book about that negotiation. And William Jordan, after... working on this plan with my colleagues in EUR went to Germany and the fellow was later Minister of Finance, Schiller, who was mayor of... Bremen perhaps, one of those cities along the coast there. Any case, he went to Berlin and worked on this viability program which Berlin was the home for... various people came from Africa and Asia and a whole set of functions which it had which took the place of its being a display point for the West against the East. And Khrushchev's view was that West Bwould fall like a ripe apple from a tree and it never did.
INT: OK. One last question on this subject. What was your main concern when drafting Vice President Johnson's Berlin speech?
WR: My main concern was to reply to Smiling Mike Minchikov, the Soviet ambassador. All that held us in Berlin was the United States was there and don't bother moving us because you'll run into a war.
INT: So, the three Cold War questions. Was the Cold War necessary?
WR: Yes. Andthe only thing I'd add to that was given the personality of (unintelligible) who (unintelligible) total control over what he had to dilute power in the West. He could have had it a lot of dilute power and been a partner in the West, but he preferred what I have I hold and I don't want anything except what abuts upon my territory.
INT: OK. What was the worst moment of the Cold War?
WR: I guess the obvious answer is the question of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the use of nuclear weapons. Not that I myself was terribly worried, I never took a sleeping pill during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but I knew that it bore terribly hard on the President and he was very conscious of this nuclear possibility. He was surprised that the Soviets took such risks, and, you know, that it was all very well for me to have an opinion, but it was quite different to see the crowds near the Treasury and sitting around the Cabinet table and say those people don't know, there might be a nuclear weapon used. So it was an anxious moment.
INT: And the effect of the Cold War? What was the effect of the Cold War?
WR: Well, it galvanized the West. The West never had a period of growth equivalent to that of the forties, fifties, until the oil crisis hit us. And the inter-war years were terrible. I used to be in Britain, I was in Britain for three years, and it was a miracle to me the British showed the morale and the spirit they did in the War after having gone through and lost a generation in the First World War, had a very soggy inter-war period. I was a student in that period too and Europe as a whole went right on and it was a curious marriage of the grandparents to the grand-children. It was Monet and Schumann and Degaspari and Adenauer and Churchill and the people between the wars faded from the scene and it was the young people, Monet referred to them as the... the Resistance Generation, that pulled France and modernized France and started it off and a new group in Germany and a new group in Britain too. And so that I think that the main effect of it was to revive Europe.
INT: So the last question, this is going back again to the program about the wall. How far do you think the wall was a temporary solution to the Berlin crisis for the Americans?
WR: Well, I think there was an authentic dilemma which the American President faced. He couldn't use this as an occasion to go East and break up the Stalin's empire in Eastern Europe. He couldn't have his troops follow in that. It was a solution in the short run to persuade them to defend the West, he (unintelligible) NATO, but there was solid NATO for destroying Stalin's empire in Eastern Europe, so we had to rely on history and history was with us.
INT: OK. To what extent was the wall temporary solution to the Berlin crisis for the Soviets and the East Europeans, or the East Germans rather?
WR: I think it was a temporary solution, but it was one which clearly was a victory for the West in that we stayed in Berlin.
INT: But it endured, didn't it?
WR: It what?
INT: It endured, the wall endured and became a symbol of the Cold War?
WR: Eastern Europe was a pretty messy place, as Russia turned out to be.
(END OF INTERVIEW WITH WALT ROSTOW)