48. Telegram From the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (Norstad) to the Joint Chiefs of Staff 1

ALO 565. Personal for Chairman JCS and Director Joint Staff from Gen Norstad.

I was very pleased to participate in the recent meeting with the JCS and Acheson when the subject of Berlin was discussed.2 Since you were not able to attend, I send herewith a brief summary of my views:

The present threat to the Allied position in Berlin is certainly more serious than other similar crises during the last five years, perhaps even more critical than the blockade in 1948-9; on the political side, this situation demands decisions, policies and plans; certainly the general direction of our course must be established now. Since this is too obvious to require further emphasis here, I will limit my comments to the field of military actions.

In the first place, any military measures should, in their nature and timing, be related directly to political decisions, actions or overtures, they must lead step by step to the establishment of a position, to the achievement of a purpose. They must: [Page 137]

Add, in fact, to our strength and improve our posture.
Contribute to the credibility of the deterrent by conveying to the Soviet the impression of calm, deliberate preparation for a serious response.
Enhance the chances of success of the political measures to which they are related.
Leave us at all times in a position of flexibility.

It seems to me that military measures may be divided into three broad categories:

The fundamental, including steps to improve national preparedness such as special reserve training, increased emphasis on civil defense, mobilization activity particularly in the logistics fields, etc.
The strategic, including movement of troops to Europe ostensibly for training purposes, improvement of supply position in the theater, etc.
The tactical, including movement of troops to positions from which actual military action could be launched.

Both the timing and the specific nature of actions must, of course, relate to political steps being considered. In principle, however, I believe certain fundamental actions should be undertaken now, to be followed in due time by activities in the other two categories in the order indicated, as the situation dictates.

It seems to me that we must retain flexibility, freedom of action, whatever we do. Rigid measures would call for opposite but greater reactions and thus quickly lead to hand-over-hand escalation which, even at an early stage could commit us to a road from which there could be no turning except by resort to all-out war or by the acceptance of defeat. To avoid this, I believe that if reserves are called up for training, the call-up should be for a stated period of time after which we would be free to exercise our judgement as to whether they should be retained for an additional period, whether others should be called up to take their place, or whether the whole project should be stopped.

In the strategic category, movement of troops should be conducted under the guise of training. For example, if three battle groups should come over at any given time, perhaps two could return to the U.S. and be replaced by another two or even more.

Similar illustrations could be developed within the tactical category.

At this time, I believe we should avoid announcing that we are taking actions on a “for the duration” basis, since this would quickly establish positions of the utmost rigidity on both sides and would lead to escalation at an accelerating rate.

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It seems to me that we must be absolutely firm in support of our rights in Berlin; we must make it absolutely clear that we intend to discharge our obligations to the people of that city.

However, the measures we employ to gain our objectives should, and I believe can, leave us with considerable freedom of action. In the military field our activities must clearly add to our effective strength and general preparedness and, at the same time, leave us in a position of flexibility. Such a position, if coordinated with appropriate political actions, would provide us with the best foundation from which to meet the threat of the next six months. Needless to say, the value of any actions which may be taken by us will be multiplied many times if, at the same time, equivalent or supporting measures are taken by our Allies.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/6-2761. Secret; Priority. Repeated eyes only to the Department of State, which copy is the source text.
  2. The meeting took place on June 14 and is mentioned in JCSM-431-61 (see Document 47); no other record of this meeting has been found.
  3. Later on June 27 Lemnitzer replied that he appreciated Norstad’s views, and in particular agreed with the need to retain flexibility of action. Lemnitzer reported that the JCS and Secretary of Defense McNamara had discussed Berlin at length on June 26 and 27 and on the latter date agreed that there must be military alternatives short of nuclear weapons following the rebuff of a probe and that a substantial expansion of U.S. forces was the required alternative. (JCS 998202; Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Germany, Berlin, Cables)