Much has been written about the Cuban Missile Crisis a year later, but the Berlin Crisis of 1961 was more decisive in shaping the Cold War-and more perilous. It was in that hot summer that the Berlin Wall was constructed, which would divide the world for another twenty-eight years. Then two months later, and for the first time in history, American and Soviet fighting men and tanks stood arrayed against each other, only yards apart. One mistake, one nervous soldier, one overzealous commander-and the tripwire would be sprung for a war that could go nuclear in a heartbeat.
On one side was a young, untested U.S. president still reeling from the Bay of Pigs disaster and a humiliating summit meeting that left him grasping for ways to respond. It would add up to be one of the worst first-year foreign policy performances of any modern president. On the other side, a Soviet premier hemmed in by the Chinese, East Germans, and hardliners in his own government. With an all-important Party Congress approaching, he knew Berlin meant the difference not only for the Kremlin's hold on its empire-but for his own hold on the Kremlin.
Neither man really understood the other, both tried cynically to manipulate events. And so, week by week, they crept closer to the brink.
Based on a wealth of new documents and interviews, filled with fresh-sometimes startling-insights, written with immediacy and drama, Berlin 1961 is an extraordinary look at key events of the twentieth century, with powerful applications to these early years of the twenty-first.
About Frederick KempeSee more books from this Author
In the end, Kennedy had to swallow his pride and accept the fact of the wall, which “had risen as he passively stood by.” That failure notwithstanding, Kempe concludes that, ultimately, Kennedy was able to regain advantage with his successful handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis the following year.| Read Full Review of Berlin 1961
These are some of the questions that Frederick Kempe, the president and chief executive of the Atlantic Council, broaches in “Berlin 1961.” Kempe, who was for a time The Wall Street Journal’s bureau chief in Germany, has performed prodigies of research, consulting American, German and Soviet arch...Jun 12 2011 | Read Full Review of Berlin 1961
Kennedy described that year as “a string of disasters” starting with the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, the failed Vienna Summit, the Berlin Wall put under his nose as well as a dangerous tank showdown in Checkpoint Charlie.May 09 2011 | Read Full Review of Berlin 1961
Khrushchev saw in Kennedy's weakness in Cuba an opportunity to correct this impression, solidify his leadership and advance Soviet prestige—by challenging Kennedy on the most dangerous and strategic ground of the Cold War.| Read Full Review of Berlin 1961
Khrushchev saw in Kennedy's weakness in Cuba an opportunity to correct this impression, solidify his leadership and advance Soviet prestige—by challenging Kennedy on the most dangerous and strategic ground of the Cold War.May 28 2011 | Read Full Review of Berlin 1961
Apparently eager to shove Berlin aside, Kennedy “expressed willingness to accept the existing division of Europe into spheres of influence … he would mortgage the future of those seeking freedom in Warsaw Pact countries if the Kremlin would abandon hopes of expanding communism elsewhere.” As the ...Jul 01 2011 | Read Full Review of Berlin 1961
At the conclusion ofBerlin 1961, his detailed chronicle of the events leading up to and following the construction of the Berlin Wall, Frederick Kempe describes the barrier as the “iconic image of what unfree systems can impose when free leaders fail to resist.” By 1961, the relatively fluidJun 03 2011 | Read Full Review of Berlin 1961
Americans, especially those born after the dramatic year of 1961, may not have a full appreciation for European grievance and fury over the building of the Berlin Wall.| Read Full Review of Berlin 1961
How Jack Buncher created an empire, and gave it away Super Bowl Showdown: The Brothers Harbaugh take the definition of sibling rivalry to another level ...May 08 2011 | Read Full Review of Berlin 1961
"The consistent message [Kennedy] had sent Khruschev was that the Soviet leader could do whatever he wished on the territory he controlled as long as he didn't touch West Berlin."May 18 2011 | Read Full Review of Berlin 1961
On the evening of Aug. 12, 1961, East German soldiers and East Berlin police began laying barbed wire and placing wooden sawhorses all along East Berlin's 96-mile perimeter.Jun 25 2011 | Read Full Review of Berlin 1961
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