Central Intelligence Agency Marks 50th Anniversary of the Berlin Crisis of 1961 and the Building of the Berlin Wall

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The Central Intelligence Agency, in partnership with the National Declassification Center, hosted a symposium on 27 October 2011 at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., to discuss the Berlin Crisis of 1961 and the subsequent construction of the Berlin Wall. In conjunction with the event, more than 370 declassified documents – totaling more than 4800 pages of material about this crucial time period – were released from the records of multiple U.S. Government agencies. This collection marks the first time so many government entities have compiled their declassified documents on a single historic event in one place.

“Eleven U.S. Government organizations contributed to the material being presented today – from intelligence reports to contingency plans to photographs to maps – all of these revealing the tremendous challenges U.S. analysts faced in predicting Nikita Khrushchev’s intentions and actions during the Berlin Crisis,” said Joseph Lambert, CIA’s Director of Information Management Services (IMS). “These documents also afford a glimpse of the many differing opinions held by Kennedy Administration advisors and various military leaders about which tactics and strategies offered the most effective U.S. response.”

Historians, intelligence experts, retired CIA officers, and policymakers from the Berlin Crisis era participated in the event. The symposium featured a keynote address by Dr. William R. Smyser, the last person to cross the Potsdamer Platz in a car as the Berlin Wall was being erected. Dr. Smyser, who now teaches at Georgetown University, discussed his firsthand experiences serving as the special assistant to General Lucius Clay, President Kennedy’s personal representative to Berlin, and as a political counselor at the American Embassy in Bonn....

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