205. Memorandum Prepared in the Department of State1

The following subjects were discussed in a conversation at the White House on November 8 [7] between the President and General Norstad. Secretary McNamara and General Taylor were also present.


The President raised the problem of General Clay. He said everyone was well aware of the nature of the problem and of the difficulties it caused General Norstad. The President asked General Norstad if he thought he had control of his military forces in Berlin. General Norstad answered affirmatively, but commented that he was not sure that he was in control of situations which might develop which could lead up to the use of military force and, in effect, make it impossible to avoid the use of such force.

The President expressed considerable concern about recent newspaper articles and radio reports emanating from Berlin indicating General Clay’s dissatisfaction with our Berlin policy. General Norstad thought that the situation with regard to General Clay was quieter than it had been and that the newspaper reports probably were about two weeks behind the times.

The President said he hoped and thought General Clay would not make a dramatic resignation. General Norstad said he certainly would do nothing to provoke such action and thought the situation could be handled. Mr. McNamara commented that he had seen the various exchanges of messages between Clay and Norstad and that he felt General Norstad’s restraint under the circumstances had been remarkable.


The President raised the question of US action in the event the Friedrichstrasse gate is closed and the crossing point is removed to another point, perhaps a gate in the British sector. General Norstad said that, since we have accepted restriction to one gate and have felt that [Page 558] maintenance of this one gate fulfilled our right of access, could we reasonably resort to force if this particular gate were closed but we were given another gate instead? Although he did not specifically say that we should not contest with force a transfer from Friedrichstrasse to another crossing point, this was the thrust of his comments. The President appeared to accept this point of view, although he did not say so categorically.

General Norstad went on to say that, as the President was aware, his present instructions called for use of force in the event the Friedrichstrasse gate is sealed off and no other crossing point is offered. He also told the President that he had extended these instructions somewhat and had requested General Watson to be ready to knock down four or five other gates in addition to the Friedrichstrasse gate. The President made no comment but did not indicate any disagreement.


With regard to the question of US personnel showing identification, General Norstad said this whole matter should be clarified and discrepancies which presently exist not only between Allies but in our own practices as regards persons crossing by foot or in vehicles should be studied and harmonized. He deplored the fact that we had not moved faster on the original recommendation from Berlin sometime ago that US personnel in civilian clothes should show identification to the Vopos in the same manner as the British. The time which had been spent in considering this recommendation was over long and eventually we were caught in the disagreeable situation of being on the verge of using force to enforce a practice with which no one was really in sympathy.

The President commented that he had appreciated General Norstad’s recommendation regarding a possible compromise solution of the identification problem. Parts of it had been put into effect although it had not proved possible to implement all of it.

General Norstad said that there were a number of steps which the Communists might be expected to take in connection with the sector crossing question and he urged that we should be prepared, not only with a list of what the Communists might do, but with positive proposals on what our reaction might be to such actions.


[7 lines of source text not declassified]

General Norstad mentioned Adenauer’s forthcoming visit and said he thought it was important that Strauss be included in the German party. He thought Adenauer’s star had faded and that Strauss would be a leading figure, if not the leading figure in the new German administration. He mentioned that Strauss seemed to feel that “some people” in Washington wanted to prevent Strauss from seeing the President.

The President said he knew nothing of this and that he would be glad to see Strauss. He had not heard of Norstad’s recommendations [Page 559] that Strauss be included in the Adenauer party and he asked General Taylor to see that the State Department looked into this suggestion on an urgent basis.

The President wondered if it might not be well for General Norstad to come to Washington when Adenauer made his visit. General Norstad thought this would not be advisable since it would cast him in too much of a national role. The President agreed.

The President asked if General Norstad thought the Germans would agree to the plan of action outlined in the enclosure to the President’s letter to General Norstad of October 20.2 General Norstad said he did not think they would agree and that they would want no part of it. They are worried about losing Hamburg in a quick Soviet thrust and they would see this danger implicit in the course of action set forth in the enclosure.


On the subject of the President’s letter of October 20, General Norstad said he wished to speak very frankly. With specific reference to the enclosure to the letter, he said that it was replete with clichés and jargon which were probably clear to people in Washington but which were not clear to him. He thought the enclosure was poorly drafted, ambiguous, and contradictory. It needed to be clarified and simplified. In its present form, he could not use the enclosure as a basis for instruction to his planners.

General Norstad said he planned to send a brief letter to the President which would transmit three enclosures.3 Two of these enclosures would deal with the questions raised by the President in his letter of October 20 on command and control procedures for “selective nuclear attacks” and “limited tactical employment of nuclear weapons”. The third enclosure would be a paper which would set forth the guidance given by General Norstad to his planners to develop courses of action. General Norstad thought that this guidance would be in accord with the spirit of the President’s letter of October 20. Also, this guidance would contemplate a plan of action which in General Norstad’s firm opinion would be acceptable to the North Atlantic Council. General Norstad thought that the present course of action as set forth in the enclosure to the October 20 letter would not be acceptable.

(Note: General Norstad did not raise with the President his point regarding the propriety of transmitting instructions to SACEUR. However, [Page 560] he discussed this at length with Mr. McNamara earlier in the day and Mr. McNamara said that he understood the problem.)


There was considerable discussion of the course of action set forth in the enclosure to the October 20 letter. At several points, General Norstad noted the dangers of placing undue reliance on the idea of a graduated sequence of steps. He said we should plan for these things, but we cannot plan on them.

The President asked General Norstad what we should do if our access to Berlin is blocked on the autobahn. General Norstad replied that our reaction must be positive, direct, related to Berlin, and probably taken on the autobahn itself.

He would first move in one of the small probes foreseen under Live Oak planning as might seem appropriate under the circumstances. He said it would be important for him in issuing instructions to the commanders of the probe to know what the objective of the effort was to be; i.e., what is its political purpose? Obviously, we do not want the probe to lead directly to world war; we do not wish to force greater military involvement. In General Norstad’s opinion, the object of the first probe should be to establish clearly the fact that we are being denied an established right of access by force. If possible, we should so act that this denial is exercised by the other side’s use of military force. After the initial probe and clear denial of access, we could then go to the UN for a limited period. We should take care not to get bogged down in the UN, but consideration in the UN could be useful if it would reveal clearly that we had been denied access.

The President commented that the UN wouldn’t do anything. Why should we go to the UN? Mr. McNamara said that a delay caused by consideration in the UN would give us time to build up our military reserves in Europe for the next step. General Norstad questioned the latter remark. He asked if it was intended that we wait 30 days or so in order to get one or two additional divisions to Europe. He did not see what difference the addition of such forces would make in the actual situation. General Norstad thought that we should hold in the UN until we reach a critical point on the political curve. Then the next step should be taken. There is need for much political planning as to what steps might be undertaken. The President asked what he had in mind. General Norstad said that, for example, if we were getting nowhere in the UN and the Russians were still encroaching on our rights, the President might issue a public appeal to Khrushchev to meet him in Berlin on a specific day. The President could say that he would be in Berlin at 10 am on a certain day and that if Khrushchev were interested in peace, he would be there to meet him. The President should then go to Berlin.

General Norstad said this was simply one idea which might be considered; doubtless there were many other things which might be done, [Page 561] but all should be studied and plans should be readied to meet a series of successive objectives. The President asked General Taylor to make note of General Norstad’s comments and to see that the State Department considers them.

General Norstad referred briefly to mention in the enclosure to the President’s letter of economic embargo and naval blockade. He thought these were clearly steps which might be useful as collateral to other reactions; however, he did not feel they should be regarded as separate alternatives in themselves. The President seemed to agree.

The President said it would be very useful to him if General Norstad’s reply to the October 20 letter could be received before Adenauer visits Washington November 20. Norstad said that it would be submitted before that date.


The President said he wanted General Norstad to know that he appreciated the latter’s attitude about sending more divisions to Europe. The President knew that the easiest thing for Norstad to do would be to request these divisions; however, Norstad saw other factors in the situation and had not done so. The President said he was appreciative of this.

(Note: General Norstad’s impression is that the President has not yet taken a firm decision on sending additional divisions to Europe. Prepositioning of equipment for two divisions will go ahead, but the decision to send the men remains to be made.)

8. In closing, the President reminded General Norstad that he had asked him to communicate directly with him on any subject whenever General Norstad thought it would be useful to do so. He again urged General Norstad to do this at any time.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/11-961. Top Secret. The source text bears no drafting information, but it was attached to a letter from Stoessel to Kohler, November 9, which states that it is an account based on what Norstad told Stoessel about his conversation with the President on November 7. According to a shorter account of the meeting, drafted by Taylor, only Norstad, Taylor, McNamara, and the President attended the meeting. (National Defense University, Taylor Papers, Box 37, 109 Norstad) Attached to Taylor’s account are brief summaries of meetings that Norstad attended at the Pentagon on November 6 and 7.
  2. Document 185.
  3. In an interim reply on November 2, Norstad had apologized for not being able to answer the President’s letter in a more timely fashion and stated that he would be in Washington on November 6 and 7 to report on what had been accomplished up to that time. (Department of State, Central Files, 375/11-261) No other reply has been found.