• Last updated: 30 May. 2011 12:45

Files On-line

Military Planning for Berlin Emergency (1961-1968)


When Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev threatened the rights of France, the United Kingdom and the United States in West Berlin at the end of 1958, the three Western Allies initially attempted to deal with the crisis on a trilateral basis, establishing the LIVE OAK tripartite staff in April 1959 to develop contingency plans for possible responses to a Soviet blockade without resorting to an airlift like in 1948. Tensions lessened in the autumn of 1959, only to return again in June 1961, when Khrushchev renewed his threats at a Summit with US President John F. Kennedy in Vienna.

NATO now began to play a much more active role in this crisis, and the Allies agreed to increase  the Alliance’s conventional forces and their readiness. NATO also developed a series of its own contingency plans for possible use in a Berlin access crisis if the LIVE OAK plans failed to achieve positive results. SACEUR’s BERCON (Berlin Contingency) Plans involved ground and air actions along the access routes and air corridors to Berlin, plus possible demonstrative use of nuclear weapons, while SACLANT’s MARCON (Maritime Contingency) Plans proposed putting pressure on the Soviet bloc through world-wide maritime measures.

This collection of documents illustrates NATO’s increasing involvement in the Second Berlin Crisis from 1961 onward, the coordination that proved necessary between the planning of the four LIVE OAK powers (the Federal Republic of Germany became a member in 1961) and that of NATO as a whole, and the tensions that sometimes arose from this duality during the political approval process.

Gregory Pedlow
SHAPE Historian