90. Record of Meeting of the Berlin Steering Group1


  • Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, The Attorney General, Chairman JCS, Director CIA, Mr. Sullivan of the Treasury Department, Mr. Wilson of USIA, General Taylor and Mr. Bundy

The Secretary opened the meeting by circulating a memorandum from the operations center describing the progress of the working group sessions in Paris.2 The Secretary described his own itinerary for the week of his absence.

He then turned to the question of the timing and form of discussions with the USSR. He expressed his view that Ambassador Thompson, perhaps with associates, might meet with Khrushchev later in August in an attempt to get him to talk and to clarify certain aspects of the Soviet position. The Secretary also expected that there would be discussion in Paris of a four-power meeting of the Foreign Ministers, and that such a possibility and our favorable view of it should be known before the General Assembly opens. It would not be to our advantage to have early discussion of Berlin in the UN, partly because of the Tunisian affair. The Secretary believed that a Western summit would be needed before the Foreign Ministers’ meeting.

The immediate and urgent problem was propaganda, and there followed an extensive discussion of ways and means of making our case [Page 260] more strongly all around the world. Mr. Wilson presented a number of ideas which are best summarized in his supplementary memorandum (attached)3 of the following day. The Attorney General emphasized the need for a simple slogan or idea or thought which could be continuously emphasized. In response, it was suggested that the main ideas are those already stated in the President’s speech; that we should keep the peace and keep Berlin free. A third strong idea is that of self-determination. It was agreed that coordinating and executive responsibility within the Administration would be centered in USIA under the policy guidance of the Secretary of State.

The discussion then turned to military questions, and it was agreed that the Defense Ministers should meet shortly after the Foreign Ministers’ meeting and that this should be arranged in Paris. The first urgency on the military side is to get agreement among the major Governments on the basic policy of a strong military build-up. The Secretary of Defense asked for further consideration of the political value of certain military actions that might not be immediately necessary for their own sake. He specifically mentioned the possibility of cutting down on the number of dependents in Europe and the possibility of large-scale temporary troop movements of one or two divisions now based in the U.S. It was agreed, in this context, that the NORAD exercise now planned for the beginning of October would be politically valuable. In response to a question from the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense stated that the program for increases in military production is going forward satisfactorily.

McGeorge Bundy
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Germany, Berlin, Steering Group. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Prepared by Bundy on August 7.
  2. A copy of this memorandum is in Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/8-261. Regarding the sessions of the Four-Power Working Group July 28-August 4, see Document 93.
  3. Not printed.