Lyndon B. Johnson was a cruel person

August 19-20, 1961: Lyndon B. Johnson, Vice President of the United States, visits Berlin

The reception of Vice-President Johnson and his company, under which General Clay was particularly fond of Berliners as the organizer of the Airlift in 1948 and 1949, took on triumphant forms. Vice President Johnson was able to speak to 250,000 Berliners on the square in front of the Schöneberg Town Hall. His journey to the sector border and through West Berlin was lined with around 500,000 jubilant and greeting Berliners, for whom the visit of the American Vice President visibly meant liberation from an oppressive burden and the reinvigorated certainty that the freedom of West Berlin, indeed the freedom of of the entire German people, the great basic concern not only of the United States of America but, under its leadership, of the entire free world has remained. The Senate and the House of Representatives welcomed the representative of President Kennedy in a special session in which the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, on behalf of the Federal Government, once again underlined that the German people had chosen their place at the side of the free peoples and would maintain this place once and for all . Vice President Johnson delivered an address to the assembled house, which was punctuated by strong applause.

The speech

The speech had the following wording:

Mr President, dear friends!

If I enter a parliamentary room in my own country at this hour, I could say with a clear conscience that I am returning to the place of memories of my childhood, for over a quarter of a century I have served in the House and Senate of my country and before me mine Father and grandfather too. It is therefore a great pleasure and honor for me to have the opportunity today to look you in the eye and, through the mere fact of my presence here in Berlin, to say more than a whole book of words, a speech of a whole Hour could do. I came here in a moment of tension and danger in your life, in the lives of my compatriots and in the life of the whole free world in general. We Americans have pledged, so to speak, to the survival and creative future of this city what our ancestors vowed when the United States was founded: our lives, our property, and our sacred honor.

A barbed wire barrier has been drawn across your city; for you, and more importantly, for your brothers in the East, she has broken vital bonds among people and within the community. Ties that go back in the history of generations, friends and relatives in the life of this great city. I understand the pain and outrage you feel, I understand the anger you feel when you see the communist authorities and their mercenaries congratulate themselves for having cut off the flow of men, women and children, who just couldn't take it any longer, and who came west even at the cost of giving up their home, all of what they are familiar with and what they had accomplished. What kind of victory do you claim to have won? What kind of failure are they really proving? I tell you: the communists congratulated themselves far too early.

Let us consider for a moment how this crisis came about. This crisis arose because of a massive historical fact. In the years since the end of the war, the free people in Germany, both here and in West Germany, have successfully carried out building work that has exceeded our most optimistic expectations. I'm not just referring to the economic success that the whole world knows and admires. These people have achieved great success in an even more important relationship. You have built a vigorous democracy. They have taken on constraints on their military equipment with admirable self-discipline, they have played a great constructive role in the creation of a united Europe, and they are now about to play a major role in the global arena from India to Bolivia.

In the meantime, a terrible and tragic failure has occurred in East Germany. Despite every available instrument of power and propaganda, despite all the pluses of German skill and sources of strength, the communists have not been able to create a life to which people could commit their talents, their beliefs and the future of their children. Let there be no mistake about it. This historical fact is well known in the Kremlin. What they are trying to do there now is to erect barbed wire, bayonets and tanks against the forces of history. In the short term, the barbed wire is there, and it won't go away with a wave of the hand. But in the long run this nonsensical attempt will fail. Lift your eyes from these barriers and ask yourself: Can anyone seriously believe that history will deny Germany and Berlin their national unity? Could anyone really believe that the German people would vote for communism after everything they saw on German soil?

We must understand that now is the time for faith, for faith in yourself. It is also the time for trust in your allies around the world. This island is not alone. They are a vital part of the wider community of free people. You, Berliners, not only have close ties with the people in Hamburg, Bonn and Frankfurt, but also with all people who live somewhere in Western Europe, in Canada, in the United States, and with those who live in freedom on every continent and both determined and prepared to fight for their freedom. I repeat: it is now the time for confidence, for attitude and for faith, qualities that have been associated with the concept of your city from one end of the world to the other since 1945.

Our President Kennedy has been in office for little more than six months. During this time he has substantially increased the United States budget for scientific research, for the army, for the navy, for the air force. He has put more ships into service at sea and below the surface, and more planes in the air. He has asked our young men to stay longer in the military. He called up the National Guard and reserves. Our President Kennedy does not want to and will not act provocatively, but he does want to be well prepared. We in the United States and our allies have no intention of acting bellicose, but neither are we being pushed around. Let me reiterate what President Kennedy said to his compatriots on July 25th: With your help and with the help of other free people, this crisis can be overcome. Freedom can prevail and peace can endure.

We have to move forward with courage, with confidence in ourselves, we have to stay cool and dedicate ourselves to common tasks and we have to remain determined. We do not want to show and have fear, but we always want to stand up for peace and be ready to fight for it if necessary. I flew across the ocean last night to tell your Chancellor and the Governing Mayor that we in America know our obligations and that we are determined to do all of our duties. At the hour that General Clay and Ambassador Bohlen and I meet with you, American taxpayers are being asked in Washington to make an additional five billion dollars available so that we have the resources to help people and peoples in need across the board To help the world and that we have the sources of strength to protect freedom everywhere. And all we ask is that you stand by us, that we all make sacrifices together, that your confidence and ours are equally great; and that we do not let up in this common endeavor to secure freedom together.

President Kennedy would love to see you remember our experiences in the United States in the early 1930s. Back then, our war veterans were hungry and marched on the Capitol in Washington. Back then there were so-called soup lines for a long time. Back then there were many closed farms. Poverty spread through the great country of the United States. And then a great young president came to power who led the people out of their difficulties, just as we have a new, young, energetic president today. And this then President uttered these words in this time of need, which are still valid today: The only thing we need to be afraid of is fear itself!

The Governing Mayor of Berlin, Willy Brandt, responded with a speech in which the thanks and satisfaction of the people of Berlin for the visit of the representative of the American people were expressed in a special way.

Before the troops - a final statement

Vice President Johnson had extended his visit to Berlin to greet 1,500 American soldiers who had arrived in Berlin to reinforce the Western Allied garrison after a six-hour drive through the Soviet zone from Mannheim. In addition to this reinforcement by American troops, Great Britain has also sent armored vehicles to Berlin; France also wants to reinforce its garrison in Berlin soon.

Speaking to the troops, Vice President Johnson stated: “Never in the past few years has the American armed forces had such a great responsibility as it is now in Berlin. I am sure that the new troops will help create new safeguards for peace and freedom. "The partnership between Berlin and the USA would not be disturbed; there would be no doubt about the strength of the West Sector Boundary said Vice President Johnson, "The events of the past few days are part of a chain of actions designed to attack, irritate and disrupt us, but which are being tackled with firmness." The alliance and partnership between Berlin, America and the other allies had never been as strong and close as it is now.

In front of the American headquarters in Berlin, Vice President Johnson held a parade of American units, which in turn were enthusiastically cheered by hundreds of thousands of Berliners. Before that he had visited the Marienfelde refugee camp. There were poignant scenes that were an expression of the happiness of the people who have found freedom.

At the end of his two-day visit to Berlin, Vice President Johnson made the following statement:

I will tell the President and the American people that the Western Powers, the United States, France and Great Britain have never had better and more loyal allies than the citizens of this city. For many years this city, which bore its ailments like a halo, has found our admiration. In this message of gratitude and farewell, let me tell you what will forever be linked to Berlin in my thoughts and what I want to convey to my fellow citizens in America.

When I looked into the faces and hearts of so many thousands of Berliners, I could only be deeply touched by the warmth and courage that I saw all around me. A city that shows such spirit in a time of distress can never be compelled to give up its freedom. Of course I also saw eyes with tears in them; but these were noble tears: for I noticed this expression of deep emotion whenever the Berliners spoke with gratitude of the American friendship with Germany or with indignation of the sufferings of their brothers in Central Germany. A city that can be of good heart in an hour of danger and that only complains of the worries of its brothers and neighbors can never be broken by the cruelty of communist violence.

I will tell the Americans that I saw the fruits of democracy in West Berlin and Bonn. Because I've seen the people, countless thousands, taking their toll on freedom, and I've spoken to freely elected members of a parliamentary assembly. In East Berlin, communism has led to suffering and servitude. In West Berlin, the power of freedom has given rise to great hope. Now I am returning to my own country with its liberal tradition and I greet the generous people of West Berlin, the city of invincible freedom, with respect and gratitude.

Vice President Johnson flew straight back to the USA at 4 a.m. on Monday morning from Berlin's Tegel airfield without a stopover on German soil. An American spokesman announced that Johnson would report to President Kennedy in Washington immediately on the talks in Bonn and Berlin. Kennedy surprisingly changed his weekend plans on Sunday and is now returning from Hyannisport to Washington on Monday. Kennedy had only started his weekend vacation after the American combat troops had arrived in Berlin without incident. He had kept himself informed about the progress of the transport. White House sources reported that Kennedy was delighted with the warm welcome West Germans and West Berliners Johnson received. Government officials in Washington believe that the Vice President's trip and the reinforcement of the West Berlin garrison have been very useful measures at this point.

Source: Bulletin of the Press and Information Office of the Federal Government No. 155 of August 22, 1961, pp. 1495f.