My usually trusty VFW calendar says for today: ”Germany reunited; Cold War nears end.”
My usually trusty VFW calendar says for today: "Germany reunited; Cold War nears end." Sounded good enough for a column to me. A neat point about the date is that tonight I'm pleased to be going to German Reunification Day at the Riverfront Community Center, hosted by the German liaison office at Fort Leavenworth.
When a country loses a war it usually loses territory as well. That happened at the end of WW II when Germany was forced to give up lands it had conquered in the early months of the war. But unlike at the end of WW I, this time Germany itself was divided.
The four victorious powers, the U.S., Great Britain, Soviet Union, and France, each took over a portion of the former German nation. The capital, Berlin, was in the middle of the Soviet section, so it too was divided into four sectors.
Things got a bit tense in the after-war years. The Soviets decided to try and force the other three Allies out of Berlin by closing highway and rail access to Berlin. That brought about the Berlin Airlift, during which aircraft flew into the city everything the people there needed to survive. When the airlift failed to force the three countries out, land access was restored.
In the mid-1980s life began to be intolerable for most people living under communism in Eastern Europe. President Ronald Reagan made a famous speech in West Berlin in which he said "Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall."
It didn't happen immediately, but in 1989 the Berlin Wall was indeed torn down. Other occupied countries in Eastern Europe were freed from Soviet occupation, and it wasn't long before the Soviet Union itself dissolved and became known as the Russian Federation, or just Russia. The Evil Empire, as Reagan had called it, was no more.
While stationed in West Germany in the 1970s my wife and I spent a three-day weekend in East Berlin. You could take a bus tour of the east sector, which I did. One American on the bus had a newspaper to read, but the female East German guide made him give it to her as outside news media were not allowed in the east.
We got off the bus at a couple of stops, and at one some children were playing. As I passed the group I waved and said hello in German. When we got back on the bus I sat by a window, and before we left there was a knock on it.
I looked out to see a blond boy about 10 years old. He said nothing, but pulled out his billfold and held up a cloth cutout of Churchill's famous WW II "V" for victory, made of red, white, and blue cloth. That was in 1977, and I thought to myself that the end of communism might not be so far off.
It took years of coordination for East and West Germany to be reunited as one country again. A German friend who was an Army reserve officer visited a military barracks in the former East Germany and said the place looked as if it had been bombed.
A former Soviet dining hall was in such terrible condition he said it appeared a hand grenade had gone off inside it. On my brief visit we did not see any military buildings and, come to think about it, we never saw any Soviet or East German soldiers.
One effect of the reunification was that the West German capital of Bonn was again moved back to Berlin, the capital since Germany became a nation.
So I wish a "happy reunification day" to my friends in the German Liaison office. The current members, Col. Werner Albl and Sgt. Maj. Matthias Lueck, along with other German families in the area, will be at tonight's "packed house" party which their many American friends look forward to attending.
John Reichley is a retired Army officer and retired Department of the Army civilian employee.