111. Minutes of Meeting of the Berlin Steering Group1


  • Secretaries of State, Defense, Commerce, Agriculture, Under Secretary Fowler of Treasury, The Attorney General, The Director of CIA, Deputy Director Wilson of USIA, The Chairman, JCS, Mr. Foy Kohler, General Taylor, Mr. Bundy

[Here follows discussion of an unrelated subject.]

Turning to the immediate situation in Berlin, the Secretary of State asked Mr. Kohler to summarize recent developments. Mr. Kohler described [Page 334] the progress which had been made through the Secretary’s statement, the delivery of the protest of the three Western Commandants in Berlin, and preparation of a protest for delivery in Moscow. The Secretary of State noted that while the border closing was a most serious matter, the probability was that in realistic terms it would make a Berlin settlement easier. Our immediate problem is the sense of outrage in Berlin and Germany which carries with it a feeling that we should do more than merely protest. It was not easy to know just what else we should do.

In the following discussion it was generally agreed that economic countermeasures would be inappropriate; either they would be much too trivial to count, like withholding Western participation in the Leipzig Fair, or they might set in train a chain of challenges and responses which might affect our own deepest interest, and that of economic and human access to West Berlin.

Similar objections applied not only to such a course as general interruption of travel by East Germans to the West, but suspension of Temporary Travel documents. Moreover, it looks as if the new fence between East and West Berlin is there to stay, and we do not want to reply with temporary and incommensurate reprisals.

The one step for which there was substantial support in the group was the possibility of reinforcements of the West Berlin Garrison. There was no general agreement; and the Secretary of Defense indicated a specific reservation on the ground that such steps, taken as a gesture, were not desirable. His own inclination was to consider some reduction in U.S. military dependents abroad.

The discussion then turned to psychological measures and propaganda. Since it was agreed that, in the words of the Secretary of State, “we must keep shooting issues and non-shooting issues separate”, and since it was further agreed that the closing of the border was not a shooting issue, the problem was essentially one of propaganda. We should reap a large harvest on this front. The Attorney General particularly pressed for a new and stronger organization of our efforts in this area; and it was agreed that there would be a special meeting on this subject at 6 p.m., August 15.2 It was further agreed that Mr. Earl Newsom3 would be invited to come to Washington to discuss ways and means of improvement of our propaganda efforts on the Berlin crisis.

McG Bundy
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Germany, Berlin, Steering Group. Secret. Prepared by Bundy on August 16.
  2. No record of this meeting has been found.
  3. Edwin Earl Newsom, public relations counsel and senior partner of Earl Newsom & Co.