Editor, Times-Union:
The 9th of November 2013 marks another anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. A concrete barrier constructed on Aug. 13, 1961, by the German Democratic Republic of East Germany that divided a city and separated families and friends while preventing massive defection and immigration.
Early in my military career, I volunteered and was subsequently assigned for duty in the City of West Berlin during the “Cold War” era with the headquarters, Berlin-Brigade Command Element, S1 Section, located on the General Lucius D. Clay Compound. The mission of the compound was to provide administrative capabilities for the Offices of the Commandant U.S. Army, Berlin, the Commander, Berlin Brigade, and the U.S. Minister, Department of State. My duties were to maintain 100 percent accountability and job placement of all incoming U.S. Army assets for further reassignment to various U.S. Army military units strategically located throughout the city of West Berlin.
Andrews Barracks served as my home during my stay in the city of West Berlin. Andrews Barracks was also home to several other U.S. Army components comprised of an MP Company, Communications Signal Corps, Engineers, Army Intelligence personnel as well as other support elements. Andrews Barracks was once the military compound utilized by Hitler’s SS Troops and served as the execution arena for enemies of the Third Reich.
Markers and memorials are displayed throughout the city of Berlin today that identifies those who paid the ultimate price in the pursuit of freedom. I observed on a daily basis the citizens of West Berlin standing on wooden platforms constructed near the Berlin Wall shaking their fists and screaming obscenities as the armed East German border guards patrolled along the wall on motorcycles and military vehicles in the Eastern Sector. The windows of the buildings located near the wall in East Berlin were sealed shut with plywood to prevent the East German nationals from looking into the free sector of West Berlin in hopes of seeing a loved one separated by the political quagmire imposed by the Russian and East German governments.
Near the end of my tour of duty, I was allowed to re-enlist at the Brandenburg Gate to continue my military career stateside. During the re-enlistment ceremony, three busloads of French and British tourists stopped to watch the ceremony unfold cheering wildly while the East German border guards in the two guard towers located near the Brandenburg Gate looked on helplessly from a distance behind the Berlin Wall. It was a proud moment standing in front of the Brandenburg Gate with our nation’s colors waving proudly in the October breeze in a display of what some might suggest was an act of defiance to those hiding in the towers in the distance who in my opinion represented the tyranny of two rogue governments watching and waiting for the opportunity to silence those desperate in their pursuit of freedom.
Today, the scars and destruction of war have since been replaced with modern buildings and beautiful landscaping while the story of those who survived the oppression of communism and socialism as well as the invasion of a foreign army and the occupation of others remain an endless story.
Rick Bradley