5. The Berlin Summit
One of the great coups of the Heydrich regency was Ambassador von Schirach's persuasion of President Kennedy to attend the Führer's seventy-fifth birthday celebrations in Berlin. This meeting between the leadership of Germany and the United States was the first of its kind, and indeed the first visit by an unaligned head of state to Germany since Munich in 1938. From the American side, it represented the first visit of an American President to Europe since Wilson's attendance of the Versailles Diktat. It represented therefore a generational shift in relations between the Reich and the United States, and indeed between the Reich and all of the powers outside of the various treaty arrangements.
Great care was therefore taken with the security arrangements for President Kennedy's attendance. During his trans-Atlantic flight, the United States insisted on providing air cover for him as far as the Azores, at which time the Reich would take responsibility for him. This gave the Reich valuable insight into the United States military's general state of affairs, generally prevented by the width of the Atlantic, and the German leadership were shocked by what they saw. From a position of manufacturing superiority in the 1930s, the United States had fallen incredibly far.
The base ship of the United States Navy, for instance, remained the Essex-class aircraft carrier, first laid down prior to the American-Japanese conflict. Refinements had been made to the class, but they were fundamentally the same vessels. Dönitz dismissed the American fleet with a disparaging comment that his submarines' missiles now could outreach the American carrier's aircraft, and indeed this was true to some extent. This was doubly true of the newly designed Guderian-class battlecruiser, the first surface warship in the Reichsmarine designed for an over-the-horizon engagement and primarily armed not with guns, but with missile batteries.
Figure 154: The Grumman F9F1 "Cougar" in its carrier role
The aircraft serving aboard the Essex-class were equally outdated, based on British emigre designers' early work with jet engines. They had generally served from the late 1940s, and no continuous update had been done as the Luftwaffe and Reichsmarine had done. The reason for the presence of multiple American carriers along the route was that the American fighters were both shorter-ranged, and less well-equipped to extend said range, than their European cousins by this point. Mid-air refueling had been a standard practice of all of Germany's various air arms; experiments had even been conducted refueling helicopters midair, to be abandoned as excessively difficult for the rewards involved. The Americans, while blessed with a number of excellent refueling platforms, had not followed through by developing them into tankers. Both Rudel and Dönitz considered the United States air presence, as a result of these close observations, to be a joke.
The Americans, for their part, were shocked by the seemingly eternal presence of fighters from SS-Jasta 2 "Reinhard Heydrich." The Jasta Heydrich fighters remained aloft thanks to a combination of mid-air refueling, extensive fuel-economy measures, and benzedrine tablets, resulting in four pilots providing the security that the Americans required five times that number to provide. When the President's Lockheed Constellation touched down at Göring-Tegel, the President was subdued, lost in thought at the apparently careless display on the Germans' part. Anecdotes from aides present at the time indicate that the President turned to his military aide and demanded to know "why the damned Germans only put up four planes, when we had to put up two dozen." The aide, Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Haig, replied, "Sir, they put up what they felt they had to to match us, and frankly, they were being kind."
Figure 155: "Liberty I," the personal aircraft of President Joseph Kennedy Jr., the first known as 'Air Force One.'
Heydrich continued to extend a level of courtesy carefully balanced between high honor and concealed insult; the honorary commander of the Führer-Begleitsdivision platoon assigned to the American President was the ailing Hauptgruppenführer Sepp Dietrich, called from his Bavarian retirement to conduct this purely ceremonial duty. The President was shocked at this, not at first recognizing Dietrich as one of the most respected soldiers in Germany, and one of the few Waffen-SS to receive a baton. It was fortunate that Haig was present to correct his chief, else an incident might have occurred before the official reception even began.
The two leaders, Heydrich and Kennedy, met at Heydrich's Wannsee estate on 18 April, two days before the Führer's birthday parade, for a series of talks. Kennedy was determined to keep this discussion focused on German intervention in South America; Heydrich was equally determined to keep the discussion focused on trans-Atlantic trade and the opening of American markets to German exports. The American position, baldly put, was that Argentine aggression in South America, backed by German advisors and aircraft, had produced what looked very much like a miniature version of Germany's hegemony from Flanders to the Urals. The South American members of Kennedy's own sphere, such as Brazil and Bolivia, believed they were the next targets.
Heydrich insisted this was nonsense: the Argentines had no interest in Brazil, a Portuguese-speaking country and friend of Heydrich's own friend Salazar in Portugal, and the Andes made communication so far north as Bolivia wildly impractical. It would be to everyone's advantage, he insinuated, if the powers would intead focus on industrial cooperation rather than conflict. If the Americans were to open their markets to South American raw materials, for instance, the Aluminum Company of the Americas would benefit tremendously, and Buenos Aires would certainly welcome an influx of American tourists denied by the Cold War. Kennedy responded to this with a flat refusal. "Opening America to German oil merely offers you the opportunity to put your boot on our throat without the dignity of a fight," he accused.
It was a very strained meeting. Kennedy went so far as to inquire indiscreetly about the German nuclear arsenal, and what guarantees Heydrich would give that it would not be used on the battlefield. Heydrich's response was recorded by the Völkischer Beobachter for all of Germany to read: "What use is a sword, forged at great expense, if the bearer will never draw it?" Further, the Reichsführer turned the argument against Kennedy. What of the Americans' own Chicago Program? Were they abandoning it? The emigre physicists of the 1930s and 1940s would certainly help them, and he knew for a fact from British archives that the so-called 'Tube Alloys' program had been partially evacuated to American hands. It was certainly within America's grasp to build their own bombs, should Germany demand that they forswear them, too? Kennedy reddened and declared that for his part, he should like nothing better, but America had to answer for her own defense, while Germany had waged aggressive wars, and wars by proxy, since the 1930s.
Heydrich maintained a level voice throughout this, inquiring mildly whether the American support of Chinese guerilla forces fighting the Communists was "for America's defense," and whether the so-called Monroe Doctrine did not require America to act aggressively in the Caribbean sphere. It was perhaps a too-apt barb, as Dönitz had finally acquired basing rights in Jamaica for the U-waffe, and Kennedy ended the day's discussions at that point.
The overall effect of the Wannsee meeting was one of two tremendous personalities in direct conflict. Heydrich was by this time used to an obliging sort of reception from all parties; Kennedy, however, was determined to show the American people that he was able to stand up to the man the American press still inaccurately called 'the hangman*.' After the posturing of the first day, the two of them met separately for a private breakfast the following day. The atmosphere was still tense, but without reporters, it was significantly less rhetorically charged. No records survive of that breakfast, but afterwards, Heydrich and Kennedy jointly appeared at the Chancellory to give a statement that "America and Germany have no essential conflict... between us, we are able to resolve the issue of American-German relations into well-defined spheres."
It is likely that Reichsmarschall Hausser, were he present, would have broken his old-Prussian reserve at this comment, as he knew quite well that the War Ministry was working on a coordinated plan at this very moment, 'Case Cincinnatus,' for the invasion of the American Eastern Seaboard, and Dönitz, who was present, later commented to an aide, "I haven't heard such a load of tripe since the 1920s!" To further emphasize the point, a blanket order was sent out to the at-sea U-waffe to continue shadowing American naval vessels and, wherever possible, develop passive firing solutions on American vessels, strictly as a training measure.
The actual birthday celebrations, on the 20th, were considerably more cordial. The Führer himself made his last public appearance at this time, standing on the reviewing stand with close support from a number of aides, most notably his longtime liaison with the SS, Oberstgruppenführer Hermann Fegelein. The festivities were as elaborate as could be expected; entire volumes have in fact been dedicated to this masterpiece of the Propaganda Ministry. It is beyond the scope of this work to discuss a single parade, no matter how magnificent, in great detail; interested parties are rather directed to Leni Riefenstahl's film The Colossus of Berlin, with its focus on the great bronze statue of the Führer atop the Victory Column in the Siegesallee.
The height of the celebration was the torchlight parade, ever a favorite of the Führer. He had the luxury, admittedly, of sleeping during his own parade; others on the reviewing stand, including Heydrich and Kennedy, had remained in this position for an astounding eighteen hours at this point. Nevertheless, more than a million German soldiers marched past the reviewing stand, roaring out their Heil salutes as they passed without disturbing the Führer's occasional naps. Spectators who attended described the parade as like a river of fire, flowing from the east to the west. It seems exceptionally unlikely that the symbolism was lost on such men as Haig, at least, who, according to Berlin embassy records, did not sleep until typing a complete report.
The American President returned to the United States by way first of London, where his father had been ambassador, then Dublin, where he was greeted in nothing short of total euphoria. His presence in both countries was carefully watched, first by Lord Protector Mosley's Special Branch forces, and by the Reich's own intelligence agencies. He returned to the United States on 1 May, 1964, to deliver his report to the United States Congress. At the same time, the Führer, Heydrich, and the service chiefs reviewed Kennedy's performance in Germany. "A nice enough man," the Führer declared, "but impetuous. He will bring his country to ruin if he insists on confrontation."
* The 'inaccurate' is technically true; archival evidence indicates that Heydrich's preferred methods of execution in his various viceroyal roles were firing squad and guillotine, depending on the budget available to him at the time. Hangings were reserved for so-called 'flying squads,' mostly in Russia. - Fredlund