Welcome to DECODED, a blog site for those interested in the period of history between the end of the Second World War and the final reunification of Berlin, Germany. This site is maintained by a Cold War history enthusiast, for other Cold War history enthusiasts and will be a source of information from both sides of the Cold War for history enthusiasts, political science fans, researchers, military history collectors and military veterans alike. Please visit the site regularly for updates. This site by no means is to represent or endorse any political agenda or ideology, information contained within is strictly used for the purpose of education and preservation of history for future generations. Thank you for visiting my blog, and welcome to the brink...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Behind Enemy Lines Part I: The Berlin Brigade: America's Force in the Heart of East Germany

With the Allies declaring a victory in Europe with the surrender of the Nazis in May 1945, the stage was set for the post war occupation and rebuilding of Germany and Europe. World War II had proven devastating to the city of Berlin. Between 92,000 to 100,000 German soldiers were killed in the Battle of Berlin with some 125,000 civilian casualties inflicted on the population. In the initial days and weeks after the fall of the city and the capitulation of German forces, the Soviet Red Army enacted a dreadful period of reprisals and revenge against the German inhabitants of the city as they engaged in mass rapes against the female populous, pillaging and often murderering countless Germans. Soviet forces also went door to door arresting and imprisoning any German in uniform including non-military personnel such as firemen and railway workers. When military forces of the western Allies reached Berlin, they divided the city in a reflection of the division of Germany with each of the four victories allied nations maintaining a section of the city under its own jurisdiction. This was done in accordance with the Potsdam Agreement with the western nations occupying the western portion of the city and the Soviets occupying the eastern portion of the city. Under the Potsdam Agreement, the status of the city could not be changed without a quadripartite agreement. With the Allied controlled section lying so deep within the boundaries of Soviet controlled territory, the western Allies were guaranteed three air corridors for use flying into the city.

By 1948, relations between the western Allies and the Soviet Union began to rapidly deteriorate and came to a boiling point when the Soviet Union blockaded the city. The Soviet attempt to force the western Allies from Berlin was countered when the western Allies mounted a massive airborne relief effort by supplying the city from the air. The Berlin Airlift known accordingly as Operation Vittles and Operation Plainfare would prove largely successful and prove a psychological and physical defeat to the Soviets. By the end of 1949, the declaration of the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany in the West and German Democratic Republic in the East largely ended the occupational status of Germany. With the establishment of West Germany and East Germany respectively, Berlin remained occupied as it's status could only be changed with a quadripartite agreement. West Berlin, which was the Allied controlled section of Berlin consisted of 12 boroughs. The French would occupy the northern sector of the city administering the boroughs of Reinickendorf and Wedding. The British would occupy the central portion of the city with the boroughs of Charlottenburg, Tiergarten, Wilmersdorf and Spandau falling under their jurisdiction. The Americans would occupy the southern portion of the city with the boroughs of Neukölln, Kreuzberg, Schöneberg, Steglitz, Tempelhof and Zehlendorf falling under their jurisdiction. The Soviets would occupy the twelve boroughs that made up East Berlin which included Friedrichshain, Hellersdorf, Hohenschönhausen, Köpenick, Lichtenberg, Marzahn, Mitte, Pankow, Prenzlauer Berg, Treptow and Weißensee.

The first American units would enter Berlin in July 1945, when elements of the 2nd Armored Division followed by elements of the 82nd Airborne Division and 78th Infantry Division entered the city to begin postwar occupational duties. These units were replaced by the 3rd Battalion, 16th Infantry of the 1st Infantry Division along with the 16th Constabulary Squadron (Separate) which would remain in place in the American sector of West Berlin from 1946 until 1950. These units were replaced following the activation of the 6th Infantry Regiment. Following restructing and reorganization of Army units in 1958, the 6th Infantry Regiment was replaced with two other units the 2nd Battle Group, 6th Infantry Regiment and 3rd Battle Group, 6th Infantry Regiment respectively. When Soviet forces and East German units began tearing up roads and setting up barricades the Berlin Brigade, the United States Army's permanently assigned military contingent to West Berlin was placed on high alert in anticipation of a coming Soviet attack. As tensions rose with the construction of the Berlin Wall beginning on 13 August 1961, the Brigade reflected President Kennedy and the United States's resolve to defend West Berlin from aggression and stood firm during a period of Soviet threats demanding the Allied withdrawal from Berlin. Tensions came to a headway on 27 October 1961, when American tanks and armored vehicles took up positions at Checkpoint Charlie and faced down Soviet armored vehicles. Eventually, the Soviets would relent and the tank standoff would end with no shots fired.

The Berlin Brigade had been established in response to the Crisis in Berlin. Infantry units of the brigade were organized along the lines of the pentomic structure. One formation designated as a "battle group" consisted of five line rifle companies, a combat support company, and a headquarters & headquarters company. The newly established Berlin Brigade would consist of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 6th Infantry Regiment and the 4th Battalion of the 18th Infantry Regiment. The 4th Battalion, 18th Infantry was later redesignated as the 4th Battalion 6th Infantry Regiment. These battalions would later be reflagged to 4th, 5th and 6th Battalions of the 502nd Infantry Regiment. Additional units of the Berlin Brigade consisted of Battery C, 94th Field Artillery which would be replaced by Echo Battery, 320th Field Artillery. Company F of the 40th Armor, 42nd Engineer Company, 42nd Military Police Company (Customs), 287th Military Police Company (Separate), 43rd and 76th Chemical Detachments, 279th Station Hospital which was redesignated as US Army Hospital Berlin in 1976, 168th Medical Detachment (Veterinary Service), 592nd Signal Company, 298th Army Band. The 168th Medical Detachment and 298th Army Band would go on to share the distinction of being the longest serving United States Army units in Berlin.

The 4th Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment; 5th Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment and 6th Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiments would be positioned in West Berlin until the end of the Cold War and leave Berlin in 1994. U.S. Army Berlin would maintain four large military installations known as McNair Barracks, Andrews Barracks, Roosevelt Barracks and Turner Barracks in the West Berlin boroughs of Zehlendorf and Steglitz. In the borough of Tempelhof, the Tempelhof Airport which had been used as a Nazi airport and was later occupied by the Soviets during the Battle or Berlin before being turned over to the 2nd Armored Division on 2 July 1945 was expanded and used as a military terminal for military personnel arriving in West Berlin. United States Air Force operations were typically transportation and intelligence gathering in nature. The United States Army also maintained a small contingent of helicopters at Tempelhof to augment the capabilities of the Berlin Brigade. The Berlin Brigade Headquarters was located at the Clay Headquarters Compound, named after the American Military Governor of the American Zone during the Berlin Airlift. The Clay Headquarters Compound also contained the headquarters of U.S. Army Berlin and the headquarters of U.S. Command Berlin. Together the three units were typically referred to as the Berlin Command. This would function as an independent command separate from United States Army Europe (USAREUR) which former commanded American forces in West Berlin.

American troops in West Berlin had standard ammenties authorized to all American units including a branch of the American Forces Network Europe better known as AFN which provided radio and television broadcasts for American servicemembers stationed in West Berlin. AFN Berlin maintained a facility near Saargemünder Straße and became immensely popular among Americans and Germans alike. During the Berlin Airlift, American pilots flying their Douglas C-47 Skytrain and C-54 Skymasters loaded with supplies bound for the airfield at Tempelhof, tuned their radios in to AFN Berlin due to the transmitting towers proximity to the airfield. AFN Berlin also proved immensely popular with listeners on the other side of the Iron Curtain as it maintained a way for people in communist nations to maintain contact with the West and it was not jammed by the Soviets such as was the case with Radio Free Europe. Soldiers assigned to the Berlin Brigade also had their own BX/PX facilities operated by the Army Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) located at the Truman Plaza along with a Commissary, and several clubs and theaters. There was also an Army Post Office Facility located there along with a branch of the American Express bank, Stars & Stripes book store, a barber shop, florist, a branch of the Deutsche Bundespost along with the the Major Arthur D. Nicholson Memorial Library. For family members of servicemembers accommodations were located in the Düppel, Dahlem, and Lichterfelde boroughs along with educational facilities in the form of the Thomas A. Roberts Berlin American Elementary School (TAR) and Berlin-American High School (BAHS), were located in close proximity to the Truman Plaza shopping facilities.

 A close bond of friendship and appreciation was quickly forged between the residents of West Berlin and the American forces stationed in the city.

Soldiers of the Berlin Brigade had a unique duty of being assigned to pull guard duty in month long rotations at Spandau Prison located in the British Sector of the city. Beginning in 1947 through 1987 a period of forty years, elements of the Berlin Brigade took turns along with elements from the British Berlin Brigade, French Forces Françaises à Berlin and Soviet Forces in Berlin guarding prisoners at the prison. This mission would end when the last prisoner, Rudolf Hess the former  Deputy Führer of the Nazi Third Reich until his capture 12 May 1941 died in custody at Spandau on 17 August 1987 at the age of 93.

With the unit's position deep within the heart of communist East Germany, the unit often engaged in close cooperation with their Allied counterparts. American forces had a training facility in the West Berlin Grunewald borough which housed a shared training facility which was used by both the Americans and the British forces. The Americans designated their training facility here 'Doughboy City'. 

If they received authorization, soldiers could also travel into East Berlin often to see the Neue Wache, and the elite East Guard guard unit the Wachregiment Friedrich Engels as they stood guard around the SED communist parties important government facilities. Another common point of interest visited by American forces in East Berlin was the Soviet war memorial in Treptow Park. When visiting East Berlin, soldiers would travel in their Class A uniforms but were restricted from wearing nametags to prevent East German Stasi agents from gathering personal information regarding American personnel in the area.

With Berlin's unique legal status as an occupied territory left over from the days following the conclusion of the Second World War, members of the Berlin Brigade were authorized the Army of Occupation Medal with Germany clasp. The soldiers of the unit wore the standard patch of the United States Army Europe which maintained heraldic ties to the United States Seventh Army along with a special Berlin tab. The patch depicts a flaming sword and a arch of three colors representingthe three basic combat branches that make up a standing field army, these colors were blue for Infantry, red for Artillery, and yellow for Armor and Cavalry.

U.S. Army Berlin was commanded by a major general who was appointed the title of "Commandant; U.S. Commander Berlin and Commander, U.S. Army Berlin". In addition to this, a brigadier general would serve as the "Commander, Berlin Brigade (Infantry) along with receiving the titles "Deputy Commander, U.S. Army Berlin and Community Commander". There was also a specialized military liaison mission known as U.S. Military Liaison Mission (USMLM) positioned in West Berlin to serve as military intelligence services in the city and their support staff which often conducted their duties in Potsdam, East Germany. This was agreed to between the western Allies and the Soviets with each nation maintaining a small number of intelligence personnel in each others territory for the purposes of monitoring and improving relationships between the Soviet forces and Western occupation forces. The Mission teams were usually comprised of one officer accompanied by a non commissioned officer and a driver. The missions continued their operation throughout the Cold War period and ended in 1990 just prior to German reunification.

 Following the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the Berlin Brigade remained in West Berlin and elements of the Brigade would deploy in support of military operations in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Shield & Desert Storm. Elements of the unit would also participate in Operation Provide Comfort, a relief and protection mission for Iraqi Kurds following the cease of hostilities. Further elements of the unit would see service  as members of the United Nations Protectionary Forces designated UNPROFOR to Macedonia in July 1993. This mission was later renamed as Task Force Able Sentry. Others still would be deployed in July 1994, to Entebbe, Uganda as part of Joint Task Force Support Hope, to help prevent a humanitarian crisis resulting from a refugee situation as a result of the civil war in Rwanda.

With Germany reunified and the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, a quadripartite agreement was reached and all non-German military forces were required to leave Berlin. The Berlin Brigade was officially deactivated by President Bill Clinton on 6 July 1994 having completed their mission of maintaining peace and freedom for over 49 years. The final review of Berlin Brigade forces was conducted when a ceremony took place in Berlin's Lichterfelde borough on the '4th of July Platz' located adjacent to McNair Barracks. The unit would go down in history as the American unit that existed deep within the heart of East Germany, and survive and maintain completely isolated and cut off from friendly forces for nearly half a century. 

United States Army Units in West Berlin

2nd Armored Division 1945
82nd Airborne Division 1945
  •       325th Glider Infantry Regiment
  •       504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
  •       505th Parachute Infantry Regiment

78th Infantry Division 1945-1946
  •       309th Infantry Regiment
  •       310th Infantry Regiment
  •       311th Infantry Regiment

11th Traffic Regulation Group (TRC), Detachment C, 1945-1947
483rd Air Service Group 1945-1948
US Military Liasion Mission, Potsdam (MLM) 1945-1990
7771st Document Center 1946-1994
Armed Forces Network Europe-Berlin 1945-1994
298th US Army Band 1945-1994
822nd MP -Co. 1945
388th MP -Co. 1945
296th MP -Co. 1945
18th MP Service Detachment 1947 - 1949
388th MP Service Platoon (Hospital) 1947 - 1949
62nd MP Highway patrol unit section 1949 - 1953
553rd Quartermaster Group 1945-1946
95th Quartermaster Battalion 1946
279th Field Station Hospital 1945-1976
US Army Hospital 1976-1994
3110th Signal Service Battalion 1945-1948
168th Medical Detachment 1947-1994
Berlin Military District 1945-1950
6th InfantryRegiment 1950-1958
759th Military Police Battalion 1945-1953
Horse Platoon 287th MP Company (Separate) 1945-1958
540th MP Co, Co. B, 2nd Platoon, Railway Guards 1949-1956
570th MP Co. Railway Guards 1957-1979
42nd Military Police Group 1973-1994
272nd MP-Co. (since 1947 combined US / West German police duty) 1953-1958
287th MP-Co. (combined US / West German police duty) 1953-1994
MP Helmstedt Detachment 1946-1961
Helmstedt Support Detachment 1961-1990
16th Cavalry Group 1945
16th Constabulary Squadron 1946-1950
7782nd Special Troops Battalion 1947-1994
39th Special Forces Det A 1956 - 1958
7781st Army unit Det A 1958 - 1984
Physical Security Element Berlin (PSSE-B) 1984 - 1994
S2 HQ Berlin District Command 1945 - 1949
Intelligence Office - COB 1950 - 1961
DCSI Berlin Command 1961 - 1994
979th CIC Detachment 1945-1950
66th CIC Detachment, 66th CIC Group 1950-1961
66th MI Group -Field Station- 1961-1969
766th MID, 66th MI Group 1969-1994
JAROC-B (from18th MI Batt. & 66th MI Group) 1950-1992
7829th Military Intelligence Platoon 1946-1949
7880th Military Intelligence Detachment 1949-1957
513th Int. Collection Group ( Berlin Station) 1948-1975
US Army Evalutation Unit 1962-1994
168th Medical Detachment (Veterinary Service) 1947-1994
Field Station Berlin 1949-1994
280th ASA Company  1957-1961
9539th Technical Service Unit (Signal Corps) 1954
22nd ASA Detachment 1955-1957
260th ASA Detachment 1957
78th Special Operations Unit 1961-1966
54th USASA Special Operations Command 1966-1967
7350th US Air Base Group 1948-1993
C Battery 94th Field Artillery 1963-1986
Company F, 40th Armor Reg.(Turner Tankers) 1958-1990
6th Battalion, 40th Armor Reg 1990-1992
503rd ENG Company 1949
7762th ENG Battalion 1946 - 1952
579th ENG Company 1946 - 1952
581st ENG Company 1946 - 1952
20th ENG, A Company 1958 - 1963
42nd Engineer Company 1963-1994
592nd Signal Company (Support) 1959-1979
Berlin Aviation Detachment 1962-1994
16th Inf./3rd Battalion (1st Inf. Div.) 1946-1950
US Army Europe / Tech. Intel. Center, Field Team No. 3 1962-1994
1st B.G. (8th Inf Div) & 4th Battalion / 18th Inf. 1961, 1963-1972
2nd Battle Group / 47th Inf.(4th Inf. Div.) 1962
1st Battle Group / 8th Inf.(4th Inf. Div.) 1962
2nd Battle Group / 12th Inf.(1st Inf. Div.) 1962-1963
1st Battle Group / 13th Inf.(1st Inf. Div.) 1963
1st B.G., 2nd & 3rd Battalions/19th Inf. (24th Inf. Div.) 1961, 1964-1965
1st & 2nd Battalions / 34th Inf.(24th Inf. Div.) 1963-65
1st Battle Group / 28th Inf.(-the Black Lions-from 1st Inf. Div.) 1963
2nd Battle Group / 26th Inf. (1st Inf. Div.) 1963
1st & 2nd Battalions / 21st Inf. (24th Inf. Div) 1964, 1966
2nd Battle Group, 6th Infantry 1958-1963
3rd Battle Group, 6th Infantry 1958-1963
2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry 1963-1984
3rd Battalion, 6th Infantry 1963-1984
4th Battalion, 6th Infantry 1972-1984
US-Army Berlin-Brigade (BBDE) 1961-1994
8001st US Army Reserve 1980-1994
43rd Chemical Detachment 1982-1994
E Battery 320th Field Artillery 1986-1994
4th Battalions 502nd Infantry Regiment (STRIKE) 1984-1990
5th / 6th Battalions 502nd Infantry Regiment (STRIKE) 1984-1994

United States Air Force Units in West Berlin

Transportation Units:

301st Troop Carrier Squadron (1945-1946)
47th Troop Carrier Squadron (1946-1947)
12th Troop Carrier Squadron (1947-1948)
53rd Troop Carrier Squadron (1948-1949)

Military Police Units:

1119th MP Company AVN, TCA, (1945-1948)
100th Complement Squadron, Army Air Force (1945-1947)
7352nd Air Police Squadron (1949)
7350th Air Police Squadron (1965-1993)
7350th Security Police Squadron (1965-1993)

Signal Units:

788th AAF Base Unit (1947-1948)
1946th Air Com. Squadron (1948-1953)
1946th AACS SQ/Com. Squadron (1954-1993)

Headquarters & Support & Units:

473rd Air Service Group (1945-1946)
715th Air Material Group (1945-1946)
891st Air Engineer Squadron (1945-1946)
808th Air Engineer Squadron (1946-1947)
632nd Air Material Squadron (1947)
HQ & Base Service Squadron (1947)
Tempelhof Base Unit (1947)
7351st Maintenance & Support Squadron (1948-1949)
7350th Air Base Group (1948-1993)
-Air Traffic Control Operations (AT)
-6912th Electronic Security Group (ESG)
-7025th Air Postal
Detachment 2, 435th Operations Group (1993-1994)
Detachment 1, 435th Air Wings (1993-1994)

Army Units assigned to U.S. Army Berlin / U.S. Command Berlin

Headquarters, Berlin Brigade

4th Battalion, 502nd Infantry
5th Battalion, 502nd Infantry
6th Battalion, 502nd Infantry
Combat Support Battalion
  • Headquarters & Service Company
  • A Company (Provisional)
  • C Battery 94th Artillery (redesignated E Bty, 320th FAR in 1986)
  • 43rd Chemical Detachment
  • 42nd Engineer Company (3)
  • E-320th Field Artillery Battery
  • Company "F", 40th Armor Regiment
  • Helmstedt Support Detachment

US Military Community Activity (USMCA)
  • 298th Army Band 
  • Signal Support Company
  • 287th Military Police Company

Aviation Detachment
6941st Guard Battalion
U.S. Army Field Station Berlin
U.S. Military Liaison Mission to the Commander-in-Chief, Group of Soviet Forces in Germany
United States Army Europe Technical Intelligence Center, Field Team #3 w/Duty Station Berlin
Joint Allied Refugee Operations Center (J-ROC)
Allied Control Authority
Allied Kommandatura
168th Medical Detachment (Veterinary Services) 
Tempelhof Central Airport
766th MI Det, 66th MI Grp, Intel & Scrty
Naval Advisor
U.S. Army Special Security Det (Berlin)

U.S. Army EOD detachment

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed the history. God bless my fellow brothers from 35 years past. 6th. Infantry regiment, 2nd battalion . Held Untill Relieved. Ich Bein eine Berliner! ! Here is to us, and those like us. Miss y'all , pray god has been good to all