Geoff Walden

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Cold War Sites

   Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany in 1989, sites associated with the 40-year-long Cold War and the division of the country into West and East Germany have become relics. In most places, there is no trace of the old border between East and West, once the scene of elaborate fences, anti-tank ditches, machinegun nests, and guard towers. However, the border remains have been preserved at a few sites.

 

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This rather simple guard tower overlooked the East German side of the border along Highway B19, near the southern Thuringian village of Henneberg.  (MapQuest Map Link)

This view from the tower shows the East German military complex behind it  ...  these buildings were overwatched by the U.S. Army 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at Observation Point (OP) Sierra..

 

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The complex included a large barracks for the guards, and buildings for vehicle storage and maintenance.

Since Reunification in 1989, the guards barracks has been stripped down to the bare brick and concrete.

 

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In the valley below the guard tower was the actual border crossing. The East German side of the crossing featured this iron I-beam vehicle obstacle, and a tri-level camouflaged concrete machinegun position.

This view shows a single-level machinegun nest, some of the original metal fencing, and (in the background), a concrete post painted in the East German national colors. These posts appeared along the East German side of the border at irregular intervals (see below).

 

This border site, near the area where the borders of Bavaria, Hessen, and Thüringen come together (near Fladungen) was also overwatched by the 2nd Squadron 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. The DDR tower, bunker, and sections of the fence have been preserved. For an explanation of the various border marking posts, see below.  (MapQuest Map Link)

 

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This is the site of Camp Lee (previously called Camp Wollbach), the U.S. Army border post for the troops of the 2nd Squadron 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, who watched the border above from OP Sierra (later called OP Tennessee). The 2/11ACR was stationed in Bad Kissingen, and their border guards took turns manning Camp Lee, OP Sierra/Tennessee, and other observation posts. These photos show, left-right - view looking down the main street from the main gate, with the headquarters building in the center; one of the original 2/11ACR metal buildings - the Learning Center; the communications center and vehicle washrack. When the 11th ACR left Germany ca. 1992, Camp Lee became a housing area for refugees from the Balkans (several buildings now exhibit graffiti in Albanian). No reminders of the U.S. presence remain at OP Sierra/Tennessee itself.  (MapQuest Map Link2007 note - The Camp Lee site is for sale, and its future is unclear.

 

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East German border guards and Soviet troops were housed in this post in the Thuringian city of Meiningen, north of the border area shown above. In common with their American opponents, the Soviets often occupied old Wehrmacht barracks, as in this case - note the similarity of these buildings to those at Manteuffel Kaserne in Bad Kissingen, which became Daley Barracks under the U.S. 2/11th ACR. (Note - this particular building was torn down ca. 2002, and the destruction of this site will apparently continue.)

 

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This post was built in 1935-36, and was originally called the Artillerie-Kaserne or Barbara-Kaserne (St. Barbara being the patron saint of artillerymen). Artillery units of the 2nd and 4th Panzer Divisions were stationed here prior to World War II, then the post was used as a hospital. Since the pullout of Soviet troops in 1994, these buildings have become derelict, although they retain some interesting reminders of their previous occupants, such as flag holders above the doors with Red Star insignia.   (MapQuest Map Link)

 


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This view of the inner-German border near Bad Hersfeld was taken in 1980, with a comparison from 2006. They show the East German border devices as seen from the U.S. guard tower at Observation Point I, or "OP India." This area of the border was guarded by the U.S. 3rd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. When the 1980 photo was taken, the anti-vehicle ditch on the East German side of the fence was under construction. Today only the vehicle access trail remains.

 

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The East German guard tower seen in this 1980 photo is now gone - only its American counterpart at OP India remains.

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Probably the most famous U.S. Army border post was "OP Alpha," near Fulda. OP Alpha was guarded by the 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment.  The OP Alpha site has been preserved as a memorial and museum. This was the American guard tower. This elaborate concrete and metal tower was the final version on the site, replacing earlier simple wooden towers.

This view shows the East German guard tower and fence as seen from the American guard tower. This was one of the points where the Cold War enemies were face-to-face every day.

MapQuest Map Link

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View from the East German side of the border. The East German watch tower is on the right, and the U.S. tower can be seen in the left distance.  (Alpha Point Memorial)

This display at OP Alpha shows the various types of border markers. The white post on the left, with the red top, was all that marked the actual border trace. All of the East German signs, markers, and fences were actually on their side of the border, not right at the border. The next stone to the right was an old Prussian border marker. Next was an East German border "barber pole." These appeared at irregular intervals, some twenty feet inside East Germany. The last stone was another type of East German border marker (DDR = Deutsche Democratische Republik, German Democratic Republic).

 

Anyone who served on the Border in Germany during the Cold War will enjoy reading "Recollections of the Watch on Freedom's Frontier"  --  it will sure bring back a lot of memories!

 


Cold War in Berlin

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One of the most famous Cold War sites to be preserved is "Checkpoint Charlie" in Berlin. The Checkpoint Charlie U.S. guard house, which once stood in the middle of the street, has recently been returned to its original site. The adjacent museum "Haus am Checkpoint Charlie" is well worth a visit. The photo on the left shows the stand-off between U.S. Army M48 tanks and Soviet T55 tanks during the border dispute of late October 1961. The U.S. guardhouse is visible at the lower left corner (AP).

 

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Another view of the border confrontation in October 1961. (AP photo)

This guard tower was just on the East German side of the border (in the center distance of the photo to the left; this tower had not yet been erected in 1961). The location of the previous border is marked today by the line of bricks that crosses the street and sidewalk.

 

For many more Cold War era photos of the Communist border, visit Rich Cordon's Border Site.

"Point Alpha" memorial site and museum  -- www.pointalpha.com

"History of the Border Region Today" - 14th ACR / 11th ACR - Bad Hersfeld, Fulda, Bad Kissingen  --  http://www.14cav.org/a570-today.html

Guided tours of the former East-West German border area  --  www.bordertours.com

 

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All contents copyright © 2000-2014, Geoffrey R. Walden; all rights reserved.  All photos taken by or 
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This page is intended for historical research only, and no political or philosophical aims should be assumed. 
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This page initially uploaded on 20 July 2000.


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