The Long Entanglement: NATO's First Fifty Years

By Lawrence S. Kaplan | Go to book overview

5
The Berlin Crisis, 1958-1962: Views from the Pentagon

"The Berlin Crisis, 1958-1962: Views from the Pentagon," was delivered in Washington in March 1994 at a conference on military history and archives sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the U.S. Army Center of Military History. It is a case study of Cold War history based primarily on records from military archives and was published as a chapter in William W. Epley, ed., International Cold War Military Records and History( Washington, DC: Office of the Secretary of Defense, 1996), 65-86.

Berlin served as a potential source of conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union in the first twenty-five years of the Cold War, but for almost a decade after the lifting of the Berlin blockade there was relative calm. During that brief period, the East Berlin uprising in 1953 or the admission of West Germany into NATO in 1955 might have sparked fire over the exposed Western position in West Berlin. But in none of the incipient crises did the Soviet Union specifically challenge Western rights in West Berlin or access routes to the city under the terms of the wartime agreements of 1945. In the absence of documentation, the historian can only speculate why the lull ended abruptly in 1958.

What is not speculative is the significant role the Department of Defense played in the unfolding of the crisis in the last years of the Eisenhower administration and the first years of the Kennedy administration. While the State Department had primary responsibility for negotiations over Soviet efforts to erode the Allied status in Berlin, it was the military on the scene

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