Kennedy and the Berlin Wall

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The Berlin Wall crisis dominated the presidency of John F. Kennedy from his inauguration in 1961 until his historic trip to Berlin in June 1963. W. R. Smyser's Kennedy and the Berlin Wall offers new insights into the Berlin events that riveted global attention, especially as Soviet and American tanks faced each other at point-blank range over "Checkpoint Charlie." Drawing on his experience as an American diplomat in Berlin at the time; personal interviews; memoirs; and Soviet, East German, and American documents, Smyser ties together the full story of what actually happened on the ground and in world capitals.

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Editorial Reviews

The Tampa Tribune
This detail-rich account of that success in Berlin makes an important contribution to any analysis of Kennedy's short-lived presidency. History lovers will love this book.
A revealing, surprising, and riveting account of this prolonged crisis under the Kennedy administration. Smyser excels particularly in his portrayals of the key political figures. . . . An excellent addition to our understanding of a critical episode of the cold war.
Wisconsin Bookwatch
Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the events shaping its creation have strong historical lessons to impart to posterity—making Kennedy and the Berlin Wall a worthy addition to both public and college library history shelves.
A major contribution to understanding Cold War history. Highly recommended.
Henry A. Kissinger
The most comprehensive description of the Berlin Crisis of 1961. Well written and thoughtful, [Smyser's book] describes how Kennedy and Krushchev maneuvered at the edge of an abyss.
The Washington Times
This is a good read on a crisis even more dangerous than the Cuban missiles.
Daniel Schorr
Smyser illuminates the crisis over the Berlin wall and the way an untried President Kennedy maneuvered to avert an armed collision with the Soviets. I covered that crisis on the ground in Berlin in 1961. From this prodigiously researched book I now better understand the wider context of the crisis.
Garrick Utley
As a diplomat, Richard Smyser advised Gen. Lucius Clay. As a young German-speaking American he heard and faced the fears of the Berliners. Now, as a scholar, he tells the gripping story of the events that led to the Wall and the debate within the Kennedy administration over how to respond. He also describes how Kennedy found his 'voice' when he went to West Berlin and saw the Wall.
Horst Teltschik
Deeply impressive, this book recalls Kennedy's historic statement 'ich bin ein Berliner' and General Clay's cooperation with Kennedy to save Berlin. It should be read by all who want to know how Germany and Berlin are now free and united.
Egon Bahr
A friend of Berlin expertly pulls together new insights about the building of the Wall, the Checkpoint Charlie confrontation, and the tensions between Kennedy and Clay. He also shows the key Berlin connection to the Cuba crisis and describes the preparation for Kennedy's 'ich bin ein Berliner' speech.
Karl Kaiser
A superbly written study of John F. Kennedy's policies on Berlin . . . with fascinating new insights into the motives and statesmanship of [those] policies. This book provides new evidence how the survival of this enclave of the democratic world inside the Communist empire contributed to the West's victory in the Cold War.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742560918
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/16/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

W. R. Smyser served at the U.S. Mission in Berlin from 1960 to 1964 and was assistant to General Lucius Clay during the Berlin Wall Crisis. He then served at the White House as senior staff and later at the United Nations as assistant secretary-general. He has been a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Henry Alfred Kissinger Scholar at the Library of Congress. He has written numerous books and articles on Germany and Europe.
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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Introduction xiii

Chapter 1 "Ich bin ein Berliner" 1

Chapter 2 "A Bone in My Throat" 7

Chapter 3 "Let the Word Go Forth" 23

Chapter 4 "Alas, Mr. Ambassador, We Shall Die Together" 43

Chapter 5 "I Never Met a Man Like That" 57

Chapter 6 "This Is the Answer!" 81

Chapter 7 "The East Germans Have Done Us a Favor" 101

Chapter 8 "I Am Not Afraid of Escalation" 125

Chapter 9 "The Game Continues" 147

Chapter 10 "We'll Talk the Problem to Death" 167

Chapter 11 "This May End in a Big War" 187

Chapter 12 "Treaties Are Like Maidens and Roses" 205

Chapter 13 "We'll Never Have Another Day Like This" 217

Chapter 14 "Our Hope Is the Ami" 231

Chapter 15 "We Are the People" 245

Notes 253

Bibliographic Essay 283

Index 289

About the Author 295

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