The Berlin Airlift Ends
The Berlin Airlift was one of the most important events of the Cold War. On September 30, 1949 the last plane of the Berlin Airlift unloaded supplies in the city. Over the 15 months of the Airlift, 278,228 relief flights were made. 2,326,404 tons of cargo were delivered.
In 1948, Berlin was the divided capital of a divided country. That June, the Soviet Union established a blockade around Berlin. By sealing off the roads linking Berlin to western Germany, the Soviets hoped they could force the Americans, British, and French to leave their sectors of the city.
Berlin’s two and a half million inhabitants faced the prospect of privation and even starvation as their food and other supplies ran out. President Truman’s choice was a stark one: either abandon the city to the Soviets or risk a military confrontation that could lead to World War III.
It seemed like an impossible task to keep the entire city functioning but the United States, Britain, and France worked together to airlift all necessary supplies into the city. Food, coal, and industrial supplies were flown into the city on a round-the-clock basis. Soldiers even parachuted chocolate bars into the city for Berlin children.
May 19, 1967. President Johnson sends a letter to Chairman Kosygin of the Soviet Union in an attempt to ease Cold War rising tensions. LBj later recalled:
“The spring of 1967 was an ominous season. I seemed to wake up almost every morning with a new crisis staring me in the face. Tensions were rising in the Middle East as a result of increased Syrian harassment of Israel. Castro’s illegal supply line of men and arms into Venezuela had been exposed to the world. The North Vietnamese were sending larger forces into South Vietnam.
I underlined these ‘situations’ in a letter to Kosygin on May 19, 1967. Each problem was dangerous in itself, I wrote, but taken together they ‘could seriously impair the interests of our two countries and the attempts which have been made on both sides to improve our relations.’ I urged that we act, together or separately, ‘to bring these situations under control.’”
Read the whole letter here. LBJ quote from Lyndon Baines Johnson, The Vantage Point: Perspectives on the Presidency 1963-1969. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971. P. 480. LBJ Presidential Library photo A2981-12 [8/11/66], public domain. Draft letter, LBJ to Kosygin, #30c, “Kosygin,” Files of Walt W. Rostow, NSF, Box 10, LBJ Presidential Library.
July 28, 1967. Rostow sends this memo to President Johnson regarding growing violence in China related to the Cultural Revolution. In a memo that Rostow received from Alfred Jenkins on July 21st, Jenkins reported:
“The pace of social disintegration in China at present is even greater than it was in January and February. Evidence from many sources gives a picture of turbulence and confusion, in varying degree, but in each of the 26 provinces of China!”
—memo, Jenkins to Rostow, 7/21/67, #49, “CHICOM - Cultural Revolution, July - December 1967,” Files of Alfred Jenkins, National Security File, Box 2, LBJ Presidential Library.
—scanned document memo, Rostow to LBJ, 7/28/67, #47, “CHICOM - Cultural Revolution, July - December 1967, Files of Alfred Jenkins, National Security File, Box 2, LBJ Presidential Library.
Churchill, Truman, and Stalin at Potsdam - Today in 1945.
Photo: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (left), President Harry S. Truman (center), and Soviet leader Josef Stalin (right) at Cecilienhof Palace during the Potsdam Conference in Germany. Mr. Churchill has just given a dinner for Mr. Truman and Mr. Stalin. July 23, 1945.
The Nixon White House Tapes Record the Soviet Summit
This week in 1973, Leonid Brezhnev visited Richard Nixon in the White House as part of a summit meeting between the United States and the Soviet Union.
The Oval Office conversation between Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and President Nixon is the only summit meeting ever recorded on an American Presidential taping system.
The recording of their meeting is part of the final installment of Nixon White House Tapes that were released. The tapes contain discussions of foreign policy issues including: implementation of the Vietnam peace settlement and the return of Prisoners of War (POWs); tensions over Most Favored Nation tariff status for the Soviet Union; and the historic 1972 “Soviet Summit” between the United States and the USSR.
Domestic conversations include presidential appointments and personnel management, energy policy, wage and price controls, campaign finance reform, Wounded Knee, and Watergate.
-from the Nixon Library
On this day, June 18, 1979, Presidents Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev signed the SALT II strategic arms limitation treaty between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. in Vienna.
The SALT II Treaty established clear rules and limits on nuclear weapons. Although SALT II did not end the arms race, the treaty and its protocol:
- Limited the number of strategic nuclear delivery systems (bombers and missile launchers) after January 1, 1981.
- Restricted the number of warheads that could be put on each ICBM and SLBM.
- Banned the deployment of mobile ICBMs or the flight testing of ICBMs from mobile launchers.
- Limited the range of land or sea-based cruise missiles, and
- Banned the testing or deployment of Air to Surface Ballistic Missiles.
Though the Treaty had been signed, it still had to be ratified by a 2/3 majority in the Senate. On June 22, the SALT II Treaty was submitted by the President to the Senate for debate. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved ratification of the Treaty, but the USSR invaded Afghanistan before it could be voted on by the full Senate.
In January 1980, President Carter asked the Senate to delay ratification until the US responded to the invasion. Although the treaty was never ratified, both sides agreed to honor its terms until it would have expired December 31, 1985.
Images: Presidents Carter and Brezhnev at the Vienna Summit. 6/15/79; Treaty Between the United States of American and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, page 1, 2.
Cold War Negotiations — Ronald Reagan writes to Leonid Brezhnev
The contents of this letter focus on Natan Sharansky, a former Jewish refusenik. The Soviet Union charged Sharansky with spying for the United States in 1977, and sentenced him to thirteen years of hard labor in Siberia.
President Reagan wrote this letter to General Secretary Brezhnev asking for the release of Sharansky. In 1986, he was released from the Gulag Soviet prison camp. Sharansky immigrated to Israel, where he served in the Knesset, and is currently a political analyst.
-from the Reagan Library
Today in History — Winston Churchill Delivers his “Iron Curtain” Speech
On March 5, 1946, Winston Churchill spoke at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. President Harry S. Truman introduced the former British Prime Minister who then delivered one of the most memorable speeches of the twentieth century.
Reporters were given advance copies; however, deliberately omitted from those copies was the part of the address where Churchill used the term “iron curtain.”
Churchill warned that Joseph Stalin was intent on cutting off all of Eastern Europe from the West in order to establish communist domination through the region. Read More
-from the Truman Library
Sometimes sharing a good meal is the best way to resolve the differences you may have with another. For the United States and China, this strategy helped normalize relations during the Cold War.
During President Nixon’s trip to China, chefs prepared items familiar to the American palette like shrimp, roast pork, and roast duck with pineapple. Menus also included native cuisine like shark’s fin soup, black mushrooms with mustard greens, and bamboo shoots.
President Nixon skillfully used chopsticks to sample each dish served to him, maintaining proper Chinese etiquette.
The main beverages that were served were boiled water, orange juice, wine, and, of course, mao-tai. Photographs of Nixon and Chou En-lai toasting each other with this staple Chinese liquor quickly appeared on newspapers all across the world, symbolizing a new day in relations between the two countries.
Images: Menu and table settings from dinner given during President Nixon’s visit to Peking, China. 2/25/72.
President Nixon and Premier Chou En-lai toast in the Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square. 2/25/72.
Nixon in China
Today in history, Nixon became the first U.S. President to visit the People’s Republic of China.
When Air Force One touched down at the airport in Peking, it ended 25 years of isolation between the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China. During the week of February 21-29, 1972, the President traveled to Beijing, Hangzhou, and Shanghai - thawing relations with a country that had long been closed to the West.
The historic trip was initially met with public opposition, but it yielded the establishment of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China in 1979. Read More
Photos: President and Mrs. Nixon’s arrival in Peking, China. Nixon reviews troops at the airport; Air Force One in Peking, 02/21/1972.
President and Mrs. Nixon visit the Great Wall of China and the Ming Tombs. 2/24/72.
-from the Nixon Library