41. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Senator Mansfield’s Speech on Berlin


  • Chester Bowles, Under Secretary
  • Wilhelm G. Grewe, Ambassador, German Embassy
  • Alfred G. Vigderman, EUR/GER

Ambassador Grewe called at his request to discuss Senator Mansfield’s speech of June 14, 1961 on the Senate floor proposing a solution for Berlin.2 The Under Secretary pointed out that this was the third time in three years that Senator Mansfield had made a similar speech. He assured the Ambassador that neither he nor the Secretary, nor so far as he knew, the President, had been even aware of what Senator Mansfield intended to say. The Under Secretary remarked that he could understand that there might be some confusion abroad resulting from the fact of Senator Mansfield’s position as majority leader. Those who were familiar with the European parliamentary system and who were not as aware of the nature of the American system could easily fall into the misunderstanding of assuming that Senator Mansfield’s views necessarily reflected the views of the government in power. Finally, the Under Secretary pointed out that if any consideration were to be given to [Page 118] revision of our policy on Berlin and Germany, the Germans would be the first to be consulted.

Ambassador Grewe pointed out that Senator Mansfield was supported in his views by the remarks of Senators Humphrey and Kefauver. People in Germany were bound to think that a strong tendency seemed to be developing in the majority party in the United States to favor a solution along the lines of the one proposed by Senator Mansfield. It was in the German view necessary that an authoritative statement separating the Administration from the views of Senator Mansfield be issued.

The Under Secretary observed that a formal statement by the Department would only increase the attention being given to the remarks of Senator Mansfield and could only result in further headlines, which was perhaps not what was wanted. To this the Ambassador countered that the German concern was both for the reaction of the German press to the Mansfield statement and the danger of the incorrect assumptions which the Soviets might draw from that statement. Reading from the New York Times, Ambassador Grewe remarked on the isolationist character of the following quotation from the speech:

“The full meaning of the Western commitment, Mr. Mansfield said, carries the ‘ultimate implication’ of American willingness to pledge ‘the lives and fortunes of every man, woman and child in the nation to Berlin’s defense’.”

This, Ambassador Grewe said, was precisely what was implied in any military alliance. The Ambassador went on to say that White House Press Assistant Secretary Hatcher when queried about the Mansfield statement had refused any comment, thereby leaving the situation ambiguous. On the basis of the foregoing, Khrushchev could easily think something was in movement in the United States.

The Under Secretary then ascertained from Mr. Roger Tubby, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, that there had been no questions from the press on this subject addressed to the State Department, but told the Ambassador that perhaps his wishes could be accommodated by the State Department press spokesmen at the daily noon briefing tomorrow when comment might be requested by a correspondent on the Mansfield speech.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/6-1561. Confidential. Drafted and initialed by Vigderman and approved in U on June 22.
  2. For text of Mansfield’s address to the Senate proposing a free city of Berlin to include all four sectors, and the ensuing remarks by other Senators, see Congressional Record, 87th Congress, 1st Session, vol. 107, pp. 10328-10334.
  3. At 6:15 p.m. on June 15 Bowles telephoned Kohler and reported Grewe’s concern. Although Bowles was still skeptical, he told Kohler that the Department should issue a statement because Grewe was so insistent. Kohler agreed to draft a statement. (Memorandum of telephone conversation; Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330) On June 16 at the noon press briefing, the Department of State spokesman stated that Mansfield was speaking on his own and that the U.S. position on Berlin remained unchanged. This position was reiterated by Secretary Rusk later in the day. (Telegram 492 to Berlin, June 20; ibid., Central Files, 762.00/6-1961)