Wednesday, August 24, 2016


JFK+50:  Volume 6, No. 2048


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Fifty-five years ago today, August 24, 1961, the administration of President John F. Kennedy released a statement warning the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and East Germany that any threat to free access to West Berlin* would be considered an act of aggression.

The statement followed a Soviet note of August 23rd which included charges against the United States and her allies.  The White House described the note as "one more step in a deliberate campaign of deception and attempted intimidation designed to distract attention from (Soviet) failures and to heighten world tension."

According to Dr. Donald A. Carter of the United States Army Center of Military History, commanders of the three Allied garrisons in West Berlin (British, French and American) "placed their troops on alert, established checkpoints near border crossings sites and began extensive patrols" on August 23, 1961.
In addition, two American tanks were positioned at the Friedrichstrasse crossing point.

These actions were no doubt in response to the replacing the barbed wire with concrete blocks two meters high on August 16th.  The Berlin Wall was now up and its location on the East Berlin side of the border made the possibility of any attempt by the West to take it down unlikely.

If there was an attempt by the United States and her allies to take down the wall, they would be deemed the aggressor and the Cold War would immediately heat up with nuclear war a real possibility.

Nevertheless, in light of "the scarcely veiled threat of aggression against the Allied air routes to and from West Berlin," the Kennedy administration made it clear that we would not tolerate anything less than free access to West Berlin. 

The White House statement of August 24th concluded... 

"The United States must serve a solemn warning to the Soviet Union that any interference by the Soviet Government or its East German regime with free access to West Berlin would be an aggressive act for the consequences of which the Soviet government would bear full responsibility."


"Berlin Timeline: 1945-1990," The Cold War Museum,

"The U.S. Military Response to the 1960-1962 Berlin Crisis," by Dr. Donald A. Carter, United States Army Center of Military History,

"White House Statement Warning the Soviet Union Against Interference With Free Access to Berlin, August 24, 1961," The American Presidency Project,

Berlin Wall Exhibit
The Newseum
Washington, D.C.
Photos by John White (2016)