The Hungarian government opens border for East German refugees More than 13,000 East Germans escape into Austria.
We are the couple hundred thousands (give or take a thousand) of United States, French, and British Forces that went to occupy Berlin after the end of World War II.
The World War II Allies (US, UK, USSR & France) agreed the only way to bring the war to a proper conclusion was to not just defeat the German military but to take the capital of the German Reich. Once completed, the nation was divided into four zones of occupation and the capital of Germany was divided into four sectors.
The Soviets took the largest portion of the city. Aside from being known as the Soviet sector it would become its own city, East Berlin and become the capital of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR) or East Germany.
The Cold War was the result of the political/ideological split between the Communist Soviet Union and the United States., the two major super powers, at the time.
The Soviets were seeking to expand their influence in all corners of the world. The United States and its western allies would not have any that. Thus the game of move and counter-move, cat and mouse, pawn versus pawn began.
Berlin became the focal point of the Cold War. It was the one place on the planet that two ideologies worked so close together that at times the lines between the two blurred.
From 4 July 1945 to 12 August 1961, the borders between East Berlin and West Berlin (made up of the US, UK & French sectors) were porous. For the most part they were an imaginary line on city maps. Sure there were signs here and there but nothing set in stone or granite or demarcated by the line of fire of a sentry post. People pretty much came and went.
This made it some what easy for those with Communist ideologies to travel to west and work the objective of expansion. Then again, it also made it easy for western agents to travel east to either collect data on activities aimed at the west or to disrupt those activities through overt or covert sabotage or better still, active recruitment of foreign agents to the other side.
However, the thing that also happened during this time was a brain drain. Highly educated individuals, individuals important to the cause of East German growth and development were leaving for the west. This was one of the several catalyst that set in motion the construction of the Berlin Wall.
Starting early in the morning of 13 August 1961 and like a snake, the Berlin Wall now physically divided the city in two. Soon, machine nests, dog runs, anti-tank traps, and anti-personnel mines followed the miles and miles of concrete and barbed wire as it worked its way across city streets. From North to South the Berlin Wall (or the Anti-Fascist Barrier as the East Germans called it) the wall divided families in two. Those in the East and those lucky to be in West Berlin early that morning.
From 1961 to 9 November 1989 the Berlin Wall stood as a symbol of what the post World War II world had become. Two ideologies divided the planet and yet people continued to live, grow, thrive, and survive. Over the 28 years the Berlin Wall stood there were countless (seriously the actual number may never be known) escape attempts either through, over, or under. However, ~239 people were killed in the attempt to breach the Berlin Wall during it’s existence.
Over the summer of 1989, the political climate was changing all along the Eastern Europe frontier with the main focus on being on Poland with its Solidarity movement and the DDR. East German citizens with tacit compliance of a couple of Warsaw Pact nations found a route through to the West and ultimately the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany).
Tensions were high all summer long. In West Berlin, the heat was on. Soon old refugee centers were re-opening. Yet, the Western Allies which included the forces in Berlin worked to ensure that not only the access to and from West Berlin remained open and unobstructed, they worked to ensure that any action taken against the west, the western allies of the citizens of West Berlin was dealt with swiftly and properly.
Then through an attempt to curtail the new brain drain that saw close to a million people leave East Germany in 1989, the East Berlin based government attempted to ease travel restrictions to the west. By a simple misinterpretation of the new travel rules, the East German Border Guards soon found themselves overwhelmed by a sea of humanity as they attempted to cross Checkpoint Charlie, Bornholmer strasse, Sonnenallee, and Oberbaumbrucke just to name a few.
When it was all said and done, the US Army Berlin Brigade along with the British Forces in Berlin, and French Forces worked together to maintain access to the city, protect the citizens, and ensure that agreements of a free Berlin remain. We did so until the day of German Unity on 3 October 1990 (less than a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall).
Lot too long after that the Soviet Union was disbanded, the Warsaw Pact ceased to exist, and for the most part Communism as a threat to our way of life also came to an end.
The dedication and commitment by the men and women that helped to support, defend, and protect West Berlin were key to ensure that those in the East had an Island of Freedom to reach when they began their journey to the west with their ultimate goal of to be free from oppression.
-David G. Guerra