NATO - North Atlantic Treaty Organization

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Military Planning for Berlin Emergency (1961-1968)

Administrative history/Scope and content:

Following the Soviet note of 27 November 1958 which challenged the status quo established by the Potsdam Agreement, the Three Western Powers (UK, US and France) decided on 4th April 1959 to set up a Planning Group, named Live Oak, to prepare plans on land and in the air which would guarantee West Berlin’s access and would help assess Soviet’s intentions.

On 2nd April 1959 and 21st September 1960 respectively, the French and UK Representatives to the North Atlantic Council presented the Three Powers’ view on the measures to be taken in case of a crisis and on the need for coordination between NATO and Live Oak.

The crisis of 13 August 1961 and the erection of the Berlin wall, resulted in an acceleration of NATO’s plans for Berlin Emergency and the adoption of temporary measures to strengthen the Alliance’s military machinery.

On 22 September 1961, the Secretary General briefed the Council in private session on his discussions in Washington with the Tripartite Working Group and on 25 October 1961 in a Private Meeting of the Council it was decided that instructions would be given to NATO Commanders for the preparation of military plans to ensure cooperation with the Three Powers Contingency plans and allow for a closer link between LIVE OAK and NATO plans.

Coordination of responsibilities between SACEUR’s role in implementing NATO’s contingency plans and his responsibilities in implementing LIVE OAK plans was laid out in a tripartite document of January 1962 (revised in February 1962) (BQD-M-22).

In October 1962 the North Atlantic Council approved the BERCON and MARCON plans prepared by the Major NATO Commanders, representing a catalogue of military measures in support of the Three Powers plans of LIVE OAK to maintain free access to Berlin. [Council Record C-R(62)53].

The juridical implications of the application of the plans were studied by NATO’s Legal Adviser; his comments formed the basis for Private Office Memorandum  PO(62)637.

The files consist of formal documents created by the NATO Council, the Military Authorities, SHAPE and the three Western Powers as well as informal notes from the Private Office, the Economic and Finance Division, the Defence and Planning Division and correspondence from delegations.