To the survival and to the creative future of this city ( Berlin) we Americans have pledged, in effect, what our ancestors pledged in forming the United States: "our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."
-- Lyndon B. Johnson, August 18, 19611
In the Kennedy administration, anyone who had an idea about military policy and strategy could pursue it. At least it sometimes seemed that way in the summer of 1961 as Khrushchev stormed over Berlin like a blast of turbulent air and American leaders hunched up their storm coats at the expected squall. The result was a hodgepodge of contingency plans, ever more outlandish and off-the- cuff as civilian officials interjected themselves in what had been the exclusive preserve of professional military men. Acheson indulged himself as much as anyone. He wanted to make crystal clear to the Soviets that the U.S. and its allies were willing to initiate nuclear war over Berlin and believed that the wilder the conception, the more likely Kremlin leaders were to believe it. However, the more daft the scheme, the less likely the allies would come along willingly. Strains within the NATO alliance grew worse.2
The Berlin contingency plan evolved into a more grandiose scenario due to the efforts of Army Colonel Dewitt Armstrong in the Pentagon's Office for International Security Affairs (ISA). He worked up a comprehensive scheme of escalating military moves to indicate to the Soviets that the U.S. would not under any circumstances be forced out of Berlin. Code-named HORSE BLANKET, the document was condensed in spring 1961 at Assistant Secretary of Defense for ISA Nitze's order to more manageable length--PONY BLANKET--before being brought to Acheson's and finally McNamara's attention.