Memories of Berlin from 1952

Transit Pass through the Soviet SectorAuthor: Gus Myers

This was during, as he put it, “the bad old days”.  In 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic had been created and with it the enclave of West Berlin, which still fell under the governance of the British, French, and the Americans. The Soviets were still in a bad mood due to the success of the Berlin Airlift, which signaled the west’s determination not to cede Berlin to the Soviets.

In May of 1952, my father, then a 1st Lieutenant of Infantry, received orders that transferred him from teaching machine gunnery at Ft. Benning Georgia to duty with the Berlin Military Post (yet to become the Berlin Brigade), Berlin Germany. Soon assigned to the Brigade S3 (S-3 was Staff Operations) staff of the 6th Regiment of Infantry, he assumed many of the duties assigned to 1st Lts.: Staff Duty Officer, Inventory Officer for the Recreation Fund, counsel in Court Martial in addition to his primary duties.

My mother, then a Captain in the Medical Corps and soon to be married to my father, was stationed in Bad Cannstatt, a district of Stuttgart, after having met my father during his convalescence due to an errant bullet in Korea. Travel in these days was long and arduous between the West and Berlin. My mother during her visits to Berlin, would organize “Care Packages” for my Dad and his housekeeper. The packages included food and other things in short supply and not available to the civilians in Berlin, including coffee cans of bacon fat. Which my mother later admitted to hiding in the car so it would not be found at the border.

The Soviets had closed the border between their zone of occupation and the West, leaving only three road corridors for traffic going to and coming from the Federal Republic. One of which was the crossing at Helmstedt/Marienborn Germany (Checkpoint Alpha) along what is now the A2 Autobahn. When heading east to Berlin via automobile, allied personnel were given a time stamped ticket, to be turned in upon arrival in the Allied Sector. Should your travel time be under fours hours a speeding ticket was automatically issued. After six hours, the military began to get worried. People were going missing from Berlin and the Soviet occupied sector in those days.

A newly graduated Army Nurse had just been posted to the 279th Station Hospital of the Berlin Military Post. She had been given a new convertible for graduation from college by her parents, and as an officer, had her car shipped to Germany. Having picked up her new Ford convertible at the port of Bremerhaven, she was driving back to Berlin.

She cleared Checkpoint Alpha but was way over the six hour mark and the military command was getting worried. Was there an accident? Had she been snatched up by the Soviets? Eventually the Soviet’s contacted the Allied Government to let them know that they had this young nurse in their custody. It seems that in those days, and in the Soviet mind, only two kinds of women drove shiny new convertibles and she really didn’t appear to be the first kind, so she must be the second – a spy.

The 6th Regiment of Infantry, who was tasked with the security and defense of Berlin, was placed on alert and given orders to mount up with full combat loads to retrieve her from Soviet custody, using force if needed. My father’s reaction as he grabbed his combat gear was: “ Shit, here we go again, this is it”.

As the armor column was ready to roll out of the Allied Sector, and rescue the nurse, the Soviets communicated that “it’s OK, an unfortunate mis-understanding and she has been released and will be permitted to be on her way to Berlin.”

Fortunately the 6th was able to stand down, WW 3 was not ignited, and Berlin life resumed to what passed for normal. My parents were able to continue the visits between Stuttgart and Berlin and eventually got married.

It was unfortunate, that in those times, my mother had to resign her commission to get married. Additionally, Berlin may have been a post that dependents were not permitted, so my Dad was then posted to the 4th Infantry Division in Frankfurt. Which ironically, was the same division that my wife’s father served in.

 

[Editor’s note: Gus Myers spends his days helping developers at the Town of Marana. His avocation is photography; a field for which he has a great deal of talent. Click on the related link and check it out for yourself.]

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