September 16, 2017

1949. General Clay to Step Down as American Military Governor

Surprising News Draws Speculation Over Allied-Occupied Germany
General Lucius Clay prepares to depart West Germany after serving eight months as President Kennedy's personal representative to Berlin, May 9, 1962 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

April 28, 1949

The announcement that Washington is taking up General Lucius Clay's year-old request that he be relieved from duty in Germany comes as something of a surprise in Berlin. The American military governor has long felt that his four years in this difficult job has been too long. However, the surprising angle to this story is that the Department of the Defense, not Clay himself, made the announcement.

This move also has stirred speculation here that Clay's withdrawal from the scene as the man who originated the airlift and instituted the Western counter-blockade is further evidence to Russia of America's good faith in the proposed meeting of the foreign ministers on the German problem.

Meanwhile there has been no letup in the airlift into Berlin. The Russians created some confusion last night and again today when they stopped barge traffic on canals in the British zone. Canal shipping in these waters has been going on all throughout the past ten months of economic siege. The British this morning put military police on the docks and informed the Russians at the canal locks they would use force if necessary to keep their barges with airlift supplies running.

The most concrete evidence of the lifting of the blockade concerns the Stahnsdorf Express, a bus line running between Berlin and Hanover, 150 miles west of here in the British zone.

Since the blockade was imposed, the Russians stopped the bus at the Helmstedt border point, the passengers would then have to be carefully screened and walk across the border to another vehicle making the connection. But for the past two days the Soviet border guards have allowed the Stahnsdorf Express to make the complete trip, and it has been running regular Berlin-to-Hanover schedules ever since.

However, for all the kind words and optimism that are the keynote of the day, Western authorities are taking a "just in case" attitude. Work started today on a third runway at Gatow airport. It will be completed before next winter, just in case it is needed then.

Another interesting development in the Soviet zone was the formation a few days ago of an official "peace bureau" of the Communist-dominated government of East Germany. It is reported today that this "peace bureau" is working on a 24-point draft of a separate peace treaty between the Soviet Union and the East German government.

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