Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with George F. Muller
Obviously, the commercial airline companies were kind of nervous about this thing. We felt that we had to challenge these reservations with military transport aircraft, while the commercial schedules were somehow arranged so that they would not directly fly in defiance of these “reservations.” In this case I think it was a little difficult to get the British and French to go along with us, but we flew military transport aircraft (that is, unarmed aircraft, I'm not talking about fighter planes) in “violation” of these Soviet “reservations.” Pretty soon our two Allies joined us and we flew these challenge flights without Soviet approval—and without incident.
Thereby hangs the story of my trip to Rome. The Attorney General, the President's younger brother, Robert Kennedy and his wife Ethel, were due to come to Berlin in the course of a trip around the world. General Clay sent me to Rome where the Kennedys had been received by the Pope, to brief the Attorney General on the air situation because he knew that Mrs. Ethel Kennedy's parents had died in an airplane crash. We felt that the Attorney General and his wife should know what was going on.
So I went to Rome to the famous Hassler Hotel, atop the Spanish steps, where the Attorney General was staying. The Kennedys were to fly in on the command aircraft of Gen. Landon, Chief of U.S. Air Forces, Europe. I told the Attorney General that if the Soviets made a corridor “reservation,” we would nevertheless fly, unless he directed otherwise. He asked me what Gen. Clay recommended. I said “to fly; the chance of Soviet interference was minimal.” The Attorney General said, of course, we will fly as General Clay recommends. We flew into Berlin without interference. The Soviets, I'm sure knew whose aircraft it was and, I suspect, also who was on board.
Along with the party was Arthur Schlesinger Jr., and a number of people of the press corps. One of them came to me and said, are you the fellow who wrote this report from Berlin? He had just read a confidential report of mine, an assessment of the Berlin situation prior to the Attorney General's visit, the sort of thing every post sends out when a VIP is coming in. The fact that he was complimenting me on it didn't diminish my surprise that our telegram, along with other confidential papers, was lying around on one of the tables.
Mr. Kennedy then told me that he wanted to make a very short arrival statement on landing at Tempelhof airport and that he wanted to make it in German, but didn't speak any German. He, and principally Arthur Schlesinger, and somebody else on Kennedy's staff and I sat together and we drafted a 10-line statement.
It was then my task to turn this into phonetic German. If you know German and you've never done this before, it is a very difficult thing to put yourself into the mind of somebody who cannot pronounce, or cannot speak German at all, and put this into phonetic language.