Code Name - LIVE OAK
On 27 November 1958, the Soviet Union issued a note challenging the status of a divided Berlin, starting the second Berlin Crisis. Already, American convoys in East Germany were being detained. With tensions mounting, the Three Western Powers (France, the United Kingdom and the United States) formed a covert, tripartite planning group to prepare an eventual response to any incursion or aggression onto West Berlin. Code named LIVE OAK, staff prepared land and air plans to guarantee access to and from West Berlin.
The LIVE OAK planning group was moved from the US European Command (USEUCOM) near Paris, to join the SHAPE headquarters in Rocquencourt. Although SACEUR General Norstad commanded both NATO and the planning group, LIVE OAK existed as a distinct organization from SHAPE. It was staffed only with Americans, British, and French. West German planners were invited to join in 1961.
The move to the SHAPE compound aimed to ensure that LIVE OAK’s planning was synchronised with that of NATO’s own contingency planning. It was also intended to facilitate a transfer of command responsibility from LIVE OAK to NATO, should a crisis over Berlin escalate into a wider conflict in Central Europe. Following France’s withdrawal from NATO’s integrated military command in 1966, LIVE OAK and SHAPE moved to Mons in Belgium.
NATO would, in coordination with LIVE OAK, prepare contingency plans and adopt temporary measures to strengthen the Alliance’s military machinery. The Supreme Allied Commander Europe produced a BERCON focusing on ground and air access routes to Berlin, and the Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic produced a MARCON to pressure the Soviet bloc through worldwide maritime measures.
LIVE OAK remained operational for over forty years, throughout the entire Cold War. On 2 October 1990, the Washington Ambassadorial Group sent LIVE OAK’s final instructions: to cease all operations. Berlin and Germany had reunited, and the plans created by LIVE OAK were safely retired.