President Carter's four-hour visit to West Berlin on Saturday (15 July) has been hailed by American officials as a major morale-booster for the city.
President Carter's four-hour visit to West Berlin on Saturday (15 July) has been hailed by American officials as a major morale-booster for the city. Mr. Carter followed in the footsteps of former Presidents John Kennedy in 1963 and Richard Nixon in 1969.
SYNOPSIS: The President's day (15 July) started with a display of American and West German military power at the U.S. base at Erbenneim in West Germany. More than four thousand soldiers took part in the exercise.
Mr. Carter was accompanied by West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. In a speech after the display, he told the troops they were in West Germany in defence of freedom. Earlier, in Frankfurt, he had said that the United States prayed for the unification of Germany.
As Mr. Carter flew into West Berlin, the East Germans disrupted traffic on the roads to the city to protest Mr. Schmidt's accompanying the American President. The East Germans claim that West Berlin is not part of West Germany, but has a special status under the control of the four powers, the U.S. the Soviet Union, Britain and France. The President first visited the airport memorial for americans, Britons and Germans killed in the 1948 airlift, which beat the Soviet blockade. Mr. Carter said his country was still committed to keep West Berlin free.
West Berlin Mayor Dietrich Stobbe had urged a big turn-out by the city's two million population. Some seven thousand extra security police were drafted din to control crowds. However, the entire visit passed off without incident.
Standing beside the memorial, Mr. Carter said Berlin was an example to all people.
The President then travelled on to the Berlin Wall, freshly painted by East Germans during the night, Workers guarded by soldiers had obliterated anti-communist slogans written on the western side.
The East Germans built the wall in 1961 to stop refugees from fleeing to the West. Border guards on the other side watched and photographed the President. From the platform, in the British sector of West Berlin, Mr. Carter could see the remains of the bunker where Adolf Hitler took his life. It is now a grassy mound, in the middle of an East-West no-man's land.
Speaking later at a question-and-answer meeting at the Berlin Town Hall, he said the wall was an ugly spectacle, and that it was built not to protect a country against attack, but to make sure that its own citizens did not leave. Sunday's (16 July) West German newspaper said the visit was a great success. Mr. Carter's statement that an attack on the city or West Germany would be treated as an attack on American soil was greeted by 'Thanks, Jimmy' headlines.