King's College London
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Download this summary catalogue (PDF) ›BERLIN CRISIS, 1958-1962

Identity statement

Reference code(s)
1953-1988, 1991
Level of description
collection level
Extent and medium of the unit of description (quantity, bulk, or size)
460 microfiche


Name of creator(s)

The National Security Archive, from sources at US national security agencies, principal of which were the State Department, the Department of State, and the Central Intelligence Agency

Administrative / Biographical history

Documents included in the collection relate to the US government's internal decision making process during the Berlin Crisis, 1958-1962. The collection is primarily a record of executive decision making during the presidential administrations of Dwight David Eisenhower and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and includes material generated by a broad range of agencies within the US national security bureaucracy. Particularly significant are those materials that chronicle the actions of the primary decision making bodies in the US government during the Berlin Crisis, 1958-1962, the Office of the White House, the US Department of State, the US Department of Defense, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). During the Eisenhower administration the Department of State played a central role in policy making because of the president's close working relationship with Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his successor, Christian Archibald Herter. During the Kennedy administration, the State Department's role became more operational while the direction of Berlin and German policy shifted to the White House and the national security adviser, McGeorge Bundy. As the co-ordinating and policy making structure for the US military, the US Department of Defense was responsible for developing US nuclear and conventional force structures. During the Eisenhower administration, Secretaries of Defense Neil McElroy and Thomas S(overeign) Gates worked with the Joint Chiefs of Staff in providing recommendations on contingency planning which the President and the Secretary of State could synchronise with budget priorities. Under the Kennedy administration, Secretary of Defense Robert Strange McNamara worked to integrate conventional forces options into Allied military planning on Berlin as well as to ensure more centralised control over US nuclear weapons in Western Europe in order to prevent accidental use. After the US occupation of West Berlin, the Central Intelligence Agency used the city as a base for intelligence operations and covert activities aimed at the Soviet bloc. The CIA tasked its Office of National Estimates (ONE) and Office of Current Intelligence (OCI) with analysing and reporting on German and Berlin developments. ONE prepared National Intelligence Estimates and Special National Intelligence Estimates on the Berlin situation which were circulated among senior officials at the Departments of State and Defense and the White House. OCI prepared weekly intelligence reports that were less analytical and included reporting on recent Berlin-related developments.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The National Security Archive, Washington, DC, USA

Content & structure

Scope and content

The collection presents an integrated record of US decision making during the 1958-1962 confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States over the situation of Berlin specifically, and Germany generally. The collection includes primarily records of Eisenhower's telephone conversations with Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and Under Secretary of State Christian Archibald Herter and minutes of Eisenhower's discussions with Gen Andrew Jackson Goodpaster, Defense Liaison Officer and Staff Secretary to the President and, for the Kennedy administration, records mainly prepared by McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, and Laurence J Legere, Assistant to the Military Representative of the President, 1961-1962 and Senior National Security Council Staff Member, 1962-1963. The collection also includes records of East-West negotiations over Berlin and Germany, including US-Soviet 'exploratory discussions', 1958-1962; material relating to Allied efforts to develop a co-ordinated negotiating position during the first months of 1959 and the subsequent protracted talks in Geneva, Switzerland, May-Aug 1959; material relating to LIVE OAK, the tripartite American-British-French Berlin military contingency planning group under the direction of Gen Lauris Norstad, Commander- in-Chief US European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Apr 1959; papers relating to US and Soviet nuclear capabilities, 1959-1962; Berlin checkpoint crises, 1959-1961; a complete record of the summit meeting in Sep 1959 between Eisenhower and Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev at Camp David, Maryland, USA; papers relating to Western preparations for discussions on Berlin at the aborted summit of May 1960; papers relating to the 'Wall Crisis', including material relating to the refugee problem in the German Democratic Republic and US and Allied reactions to the construction of the Berlin Wall, Aug 1961; US and Soviet confrontations at US zone checkpoint, 'Checkpoint Charlie', Oct 1961; minutes of conversations between Soviet and US policy makers during the Kennedy administration, including a compete record of the talks between (David) Dean Rusk, US Secretary of State, and Andrei Andreevich Gromyko, Soviet Foreign Minister, Gromyko and Llewellyn E Thompson, US Ambassador to the Soviet Union, and Rusk and Anatoly Federovich Dobrynin, Soviet Ambassador to the US, 1962. It should be noted that papers of major Kennedy administration officials remain closed due to security processing delays at the John F Kennedy Library. Thus, files after Sep 1961 in the National Security Files remain largely sealed. Moreover, documents from files that have been reviewed continue to be withheld or heavily excised. Also, many of the Central Intelligence Agency and US Department of Defense files from 1961-1962 continue to be withheld or heavily excised.

System of arrangement

The collection is arranged in chronological order

Conditions of access & use

Conditions governing access

Open, subject to signature of Reader's undertaking form, and appropriate provision of two forms of identification, to include one photographic ID.

Conditions governing reproduction

Copies may be printed off the microfilm for research purposes and are charged at the cost to the Centre. Enquiries concerning the copyright of the original material should be addressed to The National Security Archive, 1755 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC, 20036, USA

Language/scripts of material


Finding aids

Summary guide entry online and published detailed catalogues available in hard copy in the Centre's reading room, Thomas S Blanton, Malcolm Byrne, Margarita S Studemeister, and Lisa Thompson (eds.), The Berlin Crisis, 1958-1962 (The National Security Archive and Chadwyck-Healey Inc, Washington, DC, 1991)

Allied materials

Existence and location of originals

US National Archives, Washington, DC; Dwight D Eisenhower Library, Abilene, KA; John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, Boston, MA; Public Record Office, London, UK; independent scholars.



Compiled Jul 1999

Description control

Rules or conventions

Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

This catalogue is made available under the Open Data Commons Attribution License. This catalogue may be updated from time to time in order to reflect additional material and/or new understandings of the material.

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  • Alliances
  • Berlin Wall
  • Boundaries
  • Central government
  • Collectivism
  • Communism
  • Decision making
  • Diplomacy
  • East West relations
  • Foreign policy
  • Foreign relations
  • Government
  • Government departments
  • International conflicts
  • International law
  • International relations
  • International tensions
  • Management operations
  • Military engineering
  • Military equipment
  • Military intelligence
  • Nuclear weapons
  • Political doctrines
  • Public administration
  • Rights of states
  • Territorial rights
  • Warfare
  • Weapons

Personal names

  • Dobrynin, Anatoly Fedorovich, b 1919, Soviet diplomat and statesman
  • Dulles, John Foster, 1888-1959, US Secretary of State
  • Eisenhower, Dwight David, 1890-1969, US President and General
  • Gates, Thomas Sovereign, 1906-1983, US Secretary of Defense
  • Goodpaster, Andrew Jackson, b 1915, US General
  • Gromyko, Andrei Andreevich, 1909-1989, Foreign Minister of the USSR
  • Herter, Christian Archibald, 1895-1966, US Secretary of State
  • Kennedy, John Fitzgerald, 1917-1963, US President
  • Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeyevich, 1894-1971, Prime Minister of the USSR
  • McElroy, Neil Hosler, 1904-1972, US Secretary of Defense
  • McNamara, Robert Strange, b 1916, US Secretary of Defense
  • Norstad, Lauris, 1907-1988, US General
  • Rusk, David Dean, 1909-1994, US Secretary of State
  • Thompson, Llewellyn E, 1904-1972, US diplomat

Corporate names

  • NATO, North Atlantic Treaty Organization
  • US Central Intelligence Agency
  • US National Security Council


  • Americas
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Geneva, Switzerland
  • USA, North America
  • USSR, Eastern Europe

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