The US Army
has been in Berlin since July 1945. During this period, the troop command
has been known by several different names, Berlin Military Post, Berlin
Command, US Army Garrison, Berlin and since 1961, the Berlin Brigade.
The US Military presence in Berlin had a modest enough beginning on 1
July 1945. Colonel Frank Howley led a contingent of military government
personnel into the city. The Russians until then, had full control of the
city and had not allowed the Americans to scout their sector before
entering. As a result, hundreds of officers and men had to find places to
stay in the ruins. Many wound up sleeping in tents in the Grunewald.
By the Fourth of July, Major General Floyd L. Parks, the first American
commandant, together with elements of the 2nd Armored Division, had moved
in to occupy the American Sector in the southwest areas of the city.
Ceremonies in several parts of the US sector marked the takeover. At the
Telefunken Electronic Factory, now McNair Barracks, Sherman tanks of the
"Hell on Wheels" Division lined up opposite two companies of the
The occupation structure was complex, General Clay's Headquarters
became the office of Military Government, United States Zone. A permanent
security force for the American Sector, the future Berlin Brigade, was not
formed until 1946. The troops of the 2nd Armored Division remained in the
city until relieved on 9 August 1945 by the 82d Airborne Division. Its
Commander, Major General James Gavin, became the second US Commandant.
By 1948, the coalitions that had defeated Hitler's Germany had broken
apart. Europe separated into democratic West and a totalitarian East with
a divided Germany in the middle. Within Germany, the western sectors of
Berlin became an outpost of freedom, a "thorn" the Soviet Union
desired to remove.
At the end of June, 1948, the Soviets cut Berlin's rail, road, and canal
lines of communication and commerce with West Germany. The ostensible reason was Soviet
displeasure over the western plan to carry out a currency reform in West
Germany that would extend to the western sectors of Berlin. In reality,
the Soviets hoped to prevent the formation of a West German government and
force the Western Allies out of Berlin. The Allies responded with General
Lucius D. Clay's famous Berlin Airlift. In the largest airlift in history,
the American and British planes transported 1,736,000 tons of coal,
industrial products, food and medicine into the city. When the Soviets
lifted the blockade in May 1949, they had reason to be dismayed instead of
preventing the establishment of a West German government, their action had
given added impetus to the adoption of a West German constitution.
The end of the Blockade was followed by a period of reorganization. The
Military Government in West Germany ended and in its place the Allied High
Commission, eventually located with the new Federal German Government in
Bonn, was established to supervise West Germany's transition to full
sovereignty. In Berlin, the remaining military government functions were
combined with those of the US Commandant in a new post, that of the US
Commander, Berlin (USCOB)
The next threat to West Berlin occurred in 1958, when Nikita Khrushchev
threatened to turn over Soviet responsibility for Allied access to the
city to the East Germans, if West Berlin was not declared a
free-demilitarized city. President John F. Kennedy responded firmly to
Khrushchev's 'ultimatum" by reinforcing our troops in Europe, calling
up reservists, and increasing draft calls. The threat eventually subsided,
but not before Berlin suffered a body blow. On 13 August 1961, the East
Germans sealed all but seven of the crossing points between the Soviet
Sector and West Berlin. Twenty-eight miles of barbed wire and barriers
went up across the city and East German militia began construction of the
Berlin Wall. The Berlin Brigade, as we know it today, was formed at the
height of the Berlin Wall crisis. It was organized from units already in
Berlin by General Orders from the Commander-in-Chief, US Army, Europe.
In October 1962, the crisis caused by Khrushchev's ultimatum to Berlin
was overshadowed by the Cuban Missile Crisis. When that crisis ended, the
threat to Berlin also came to an end. The US had demonstrated that we
would not be threatened or intimidated.
The size and structure of the Berlin Brigade has remained relatively
stable since 1950. Three infantry battalions form the heart of the
Brigade. They are supported by a tank company, an artillery battery, and
an engineer company organized since 1980 in a Combat Support Battalion.
From 1950 to 1984, the 6th US Infantry, that traces its lineage to 1812,
served in Berlin. In June 1984, as part of the implementation of the
American Regimental System, the Berlin Brigade's three infantry battalions
were re-designated the 4th, 5th, and 6th Battalion, 502nd Infantry.
The infantry, of course, is not the only branch of the US Army
represented in the Berlin Brigade. Artillery, Engineers, Chemical, Signal,
Military Police, Armor, Ordnance, Quartermaster, Military Intelligence,
and Service Support branches are also present. Working as a team, the
Brigade brings together the successors of the soldiers who first entered
Berlin over 50 years ago to establish the Berlin Military Post. As a unit
dedicated to excellence, the Berlin Brigade preserves the tradition of the
thousands of soldiers who have served in Berlin since 1945, and who faced
the challenges of the Berlin Blockade and Khrushchev's Ultimatum.
Throughout all those years, the mission remained constant: to preserve the
freedom and well-being of the people of Berlin, and in so doing, defend
the national interests of the United States by maintaining peace with
freedom in Europe
By November 1989, the political climate had changed throughout Europe.
East Germany was no exception with the lifting of travel restrictions.
Thus causing the Berlin Wall to fall on November 9, 1989. In 1990,
East and West Germany were united under one name: the Federal Republic of
In July 1994, with US President William
J. Clinton in attendance the Berlin Brigade
was deactivated in a ceremony on the infamous FOUR RING Parade field or,
now known as 4 des Juli Platz. The
Berlin Brigade had achieved its mission and goals by being at the tip of
the spear when the Cold War was won.
The Berlin Brigade had a brief, yet honored and unique history
and tradition. 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, those that ever
served in the Berlin Brigade continue to be faithful to it and all that it
stood for from 1945 to 1994.