September 6, 2017

1948. Western Allied Commanders Convene on the Eve of UN Meeting

General Clay Leaves for Paris
General Lucius Clay with former President Herbert Hoover in Berlin, February 1947 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

September 20, 1948

General Lucius Clay and Ambassador Robert Murphy leave Berlin this afternoon for Paris, where they will confer with Secretary of State George Marshall.

The British and French zone commanders for Berlin also will be there, and it is evident that the big and blue and important chips in this even hotter Cold War will be laid on the table in the French capital. With Ambassador Bedell Smith also due to pass through this blockaded city en route to Paris, the diplomatic and military high command for Europe will all be on hand to discuss the next steps taken, first on the problem of Berlin and next the problem of all Germany.

This meeting, coming as it does on the eve of the meeting of the United Nations, naturally has precipitated discussion of the possibility of putting the Berlin Blockade before that international tribunal. However, diplomats here refuse to discuss the matter. The official attitude here is that the problem of Germany and Berlin will not be brought before the UN as long as there is any chance of a quadripartite agreement—as long as there is any chance of progress in separate discussions.

However, if no progress was made in the recent Moscow talks, it should be revealed within the next few days in Paris. With the Berlin and Moscow representatives of all the Western Powers on hand, any action or agreement will undoubtedly be jointly between the three Western nations. It is generally accepted that if the Berlin Blockade problem is placed before the United Nations, the Moscow talks were an utter failure.

Meanwhile the Western Powers continue to pay the price of the airlift. A British York four-engine plane taking off for Berlin this morning crashed and burned. The four crew members were killed.

And yesterday afternoon, Allen C. Baum, an International News Service photographer from Chicago, was picked up on the American sector border in Western Berlin while taking pictures across the boundary line of a Russian roadblock.

Three Soviet soldiers took Baum into custody in the middle of a bridge dividing the zones. Thus far the Russians deny holding him.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

September 23, 1948

The leaders of the Western Powers in Berlin who have been dealing with the Russians here since the end of the war have a saying that almost has become a slogan. It goes: "You can get agreement in principle, but when you set down to work out the details, the principles disappear."

This obviously is what has been going on in the Moscow talks over the Berlin Blockade and the question of control of German currency. And it is equally obvious that the Moscow talks thus far have failed to produce agreement.

The decision of the three major Western Powers to try one final appeal to the Kremlin to resolve this ever deepening crisis is regarded here as a final step before putting the whole problem before the United Nations. But the question always boils down to "After that, what happens?"

No one seems to know the answer. Most certainly the Americans and the British and the French do not agree on the answer. The British and French, being essentially European nations, accuse the United States of being too bold and precipitous. "You are five thousand miles away from the problem," they say. And in this sense, any American attempt to really get tough is regarded with suspicion and fear not only by the Russians, but by our British and French allies as well.

The past several weeks we have been seeing an example of "secret diplomacy" being practiced in Moscow. There was hope that by negotiating with the Russians in secret—which is the way they like to do it—perhaps a deal could be made; that suddenly there would burst upon the world glad tidings of great agreement and all of us could breathe easier over this question of possible war.

So far, for all of its hush-hush, no agreement has come out of the diplomacy, secret or not.

And this morning the developments as viewed from Berlin seem to prove that there is no under-the-counter way of dealing with principle—that black market diplomacy is no more successful than Berlin's black market economy.

Maybe now we are seeing a return to open covenants openly arrived at.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.