THE AUTOBAHN TO ARMAGEDDON
If the Russians want war over Berlin, they can have it.
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower, November 22, 19581
Comparison between the offshore islands situation and West Berlin was inevitable. Both were within the physical environs of major Communist powers, both had become symbols of American determination to resist Sino-Soviet aggression, and both were untenable militarily unless defended by nuclear weapons. But a fight over Berlin would prove much more dangerous than a ruckus in the Formosa Straits because any exchange of gunfire between Soviet and American forces could set off general war in a matter of hours. As the second offshore islands crisis developed, the Army augmented SACEUR's firepower with 8-inch howitzers capable of firing atomic shells.
The real Soviet concern was Norstad's plan to provide atomic weaponry for other NATO forces, especially the Bundeswehr. SACEUR wanted the West Germans armed with atomic missiles as well as F-84F and F-104 fighter- bombers. Although details of payment, delivery, training, and access to warheads needed to be worked out, by fall 1958 the Germans had ordered and were receiving three NIKE battalions armed with 60 non-nuclear Ajax and 40 atomic-capable Hercules missiles and two Honest John missile battalions. A Matador battalion and 225 F-84Fs were scheduled for delivery beginning in August 1959.2
Up to that point, the U.S. had stockpiled no atomic warheads or bombs on German soil for use by West German forces. A considerable number had been put into bunkers for British Corporal missile regiments and British Canberra squadrons, however, about which Norstad was not altogether pleased because the arrangement was a bilateral U.S.-U.K. affair and Norstad wanted all nuclear weapons systems on the continent under SACEUR command and within the NATO atomic stockpile structure. He therefore sought authority to deal directly with NATO ministries of defense on detailed arrangements for the delivery of