The time is the 1950s, the place is Berlin
Voices Under Berlin

From The Official Army Information Digest, U.S. Army Magazine, May 1959

Army Digest May 1959

Cover: A symbol of Free World steadfastness and determination that international agreements shall be honored and sustained—that is the significance of Berlin as a pivot point in the East-West struggle. The Army's key role in this "Outpost of Democracy" is described by the U.S. Commander, Berlin in this issue.

Outpost of Democracy
by Major General Barksdale Hamlett [1]

Outpost of Democracy

Any account of the United States Army's mission in Berlin should begin with a short review of our reasons for coming here. Briefly, we came as troops of an occupying power. Our right to occupy was the right of conquest and it was ours because of the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. Thus our status as occupiers remains unchanged and still provides the legal basis for our presence in the city.

The arrival of U.S. Army occupation troops in Berlin on 1 July 1945 found the German capital in a state of complete economic, political, and social chaos. Two years of intense bombing and a fanatical last-ditch struggle between defending SS troops and the attacking Red Army lad left the city in ruins. The dazed inhabitants were just beginning to attempt to provide themselves with the bare necessities of life.

Today, scarcely 14 years later, West Berlin has made a phenomenal recovery and is a brilliant showcase of the Western World located more than a hundred miles within Communist territory. Much of the eastern half of Berlin—for Berlin is a divided city—still lies in the rubble of World War II. The story of the recovery of West Berlin is a tribute to the courage and determination of the West Berliner in the face of strong Communist attempts to break his Spirit. The U.S. Army has played, and is continuing to play, an important part in this story.

Berlin city map


Drawing caption: Map at left shows position of Berlin well within Soviet zone of occupation, while at right is map detailing the various sectors of the city.

Late in World War II the European Advisory Council (EAC), with United States, British and Russian memberships, recommended the division the division of conquered Germany into national zones of occupation, and division of Berlin, as the former German capital, into three national sectors to be occupied by the United States, Great Briton and Russia. The French Sector was created later by subdividing the British Sector. It was further agreed that the city as a whole would be administered quadripartitely by an Allied Kommandatura. This system was adopted upon the capitulation of Germany and proved to be reasonably effective in Berlin until 1948.

It now appears that the Soviets agreed to quadripartite administration of the Berlin City Council in the expectation that there would be a substantial Communist representation on that council. The fact that the Communists did not subsequently achieve a strong representation led to a change in Soviet tactics, to the Soviet Blockade of Berlin and the famous Allied airlift, the disruption of the Berlin City Council by Communist hoodlums, the walkout of the Soviet Commandant from the Allied Kommandatura and the establishment of a Communist city administration in the Soviet Sector.

Although the city's quadripartite status still exists in theory, and although the Soviet Commandant is at liberty to return to his chair in the Allied Kommandatura at any time, he has not returned. His departure in June 1948 served to complete the division of the city.

The withdrawal of the Soviets from the Kommandatura left on a few areas in Berlin in which vestiges of quadripartite cooperation continue on a regular basis. Most notable of these is the Berlin Air Safety Center where United States, British, French and Soviet representatives exchange information on the flight of military and civilian aircraft in the Berlin area and through the three air corridors used by Allied aircraft to and from Berlin to facilitate positive separation of planes in flight: and Spandau Prison, where three remaining Nazi war criminals sentenced at the Nurenberg war crimes trails are guarded by United States, British, French and Soviet troops. This duty is rotated among the four powers with each nation providing the military guards for one month at a time.

Berlin is a large city. The entire city—both East and East sectors—covers a total of 340 square miles and has a population of 3,340,000. The eastern portion, or Soviet Sector, comprises 155 square miles with a population of 1,140,000. The United States, British, and French Sectors, which make up West Berlin, have a total of 185 square miles, 81 of which are in the U.S. Sector, and a total population of 2,200,000. The border between the Soviet Sector and the three West Sectors is 28 miles long. Surrounding Berlin and bordering on West Berlin for 75 miles is the Soviet Zone of Occupation, the so-called German Democratic Republic, a puppet regime of the Soviets which has never been endorsed by the people of the Soviet Zone in any manner that can be described as a free expression of choice.

Because of the quadripartite status of the city, free movement is possible between all of the various sectors of Berlin. Entry of Allied personnel into the Soviet Zone, however, is strictly prohibited except with proper documentation, through designated checkpoints and over prescribed routes.

The three ways by which Allied occupation personnel can enter and leave the city are: by automobile over the 105-mile autobahn between Berlin and Helmstedt in the Federal Republic of Germany; by one of the two military passenger trains which leave Berlin daily for Frankfurt am Main and Bremerhaven; and by either military or civil aircraft flying through designated air corridors. There are three of these 20-mile-wide corridors which are used by all Allied military aircraft and by planes of the three civil airlines which service West Berlin.

Upon entering and leaving the Soviet Zone, both train and automobile passengers must halt at established Soviet Checkpoints and submit their orders to Soviet personnel for stamping. Aircraft are not subjected to any Soviet Controls except the requirement to use one of the designated air corridors.

Wesst Berlin military commanders

Photo caption: Maj. Gem Barksdale Hamlett, U. S. Commander, Berlin, pauses on steps of Allied Kommandatura with General de Brigade Jean La Comme, French Commander, and Major Gen. F. D. Rome, British Commander.

As might be expected, the unusual situation has required the development of a unique United States military-diplomatic organization. The organization of the Office of the United Sates Commander, Berlin was proposed by General Maxwell D. Taylor. These recommendations were approved by the United States High Commissioner for Germany and by the Commander-in-chief, United States Army, Europe, and General Taylor was appointed the first United Sates Commander, Berlin.

As the United States Commander, Berlin—or USCOB—I am the senior U.S. official in the city, responsible for the preservation of the interests of the United States in Berlin and the coordination of United States agencies in the city.

As the representative of Ambassador David K.E. Bruce, who is the Chief of the United States Diplomatic Mission to the Federal Republic of Germany in Bonn, and also Chief of' the United States Mission, Berlin, I am responsible for the exercise of all United States governmental functions in the United States Sector, and I sit as tile United States member of the Allied Kommandatura.

As the Berlin Deputy of General Henry I. Hodes, Commander-in-Chief, United States Army, Europe, I exercise the authority of CINC-USAREUR within the United States Sector of Berlin. I am responsible to General Hodes for the security of the United States Sector of the city, for supervising the preparation of plans involving the security of our sector and for the coordination of those plans with our Allies in Berlin.

Berlin Airlift Memorial

Photo caption: Memorial to victims of 1948 Berlin Airlift serves as a reminder of the swift reaction of Western powers to Soviet attempts to strangle city.

Under my supervision the United States Mission, Berlin, headed by Mr. Bernard Gufler, the Assistant Chief of Mission, is charged with the performance of United States civil responsibilities and duties, United States governmental functions in the United States Sector. The mission includes a full range of State Department activities and a wide variety of United States Information Agency activities.

Of particular interest in Berlin are RIAS (Radio in the American Sector) and the Amerika Haus. RIAS broadcasts twenty-four hours a day over nine frequencies. Its broadcasts range from music to radio plays to news reports and commentaries, and despite Soviet Zone jamming, are beamed to an estimated six to ten million regular listeners in the Soviet Zone alone.

Amerika Haus, conveniently located for visitors from East Berlin, provides an opportunity for both East and West Berliners to read Free-World books and periodicals, to see American newsreels and documentary films, to hear lectures and to participate in discussion groups and English language classes. During 1958 Amerika Haus had approximately 1,500,000 visitors, one third of whom were from the Soviet Sector of Berlin, or from East Germany.

Brig. Gen. Charles S. D'Orsa, the commanding General, Berlin, is the commander of the U.S. Army occupation troops in the city. This well-rounded force consists of combat and service troops, and includes the 2d and 3d Battle Groups of the 6th Infantry Regiment. These troops share with the British and French forces in the responsibility for maintaining security, protecting Allied interests and insuring freedom of movement.

Known as "Guardians of the Outpost of Democracy," these two Groups undergo a year-round program of intensive training in an 11,000 acre wooded area along the western borders of the city. High spots of their training include joint exercises with British and French troops in Berlin, and Battle-Group exercises conducted annually during the six weeks that each spends a at one of the large maneuver areas in the Federal Republic of Germany.

Contacts of our soldiers with members of the French and British garrisons in Berlin are not limited to field exercises. In addition to cooperation at the Allied autobahn checkpoints where United States, British and French soldiers work side by side, the Battle Groups of the 6th Infantry Regiment have developed exchange programs which enable their company grade officers to trade jobs with their opposite numbers in British and French troop units and staff sections. In this way they acquire a better understanding of our Allies in Berlin.

Excellent relations also prevail between United States occupation troops and the West Berliners. Many of the troop units in the city have adopted orphanages which they help to support, and the overall excellent bearing and conduct of our soldiers has won for them the Berliners' respect and admiration. The West Berliners have a warm place in their hearts for the men who are here guarding against Communist encroachment, and their attitude toward our troops is never more in evidence than during the Christmas season when many soldiers are invited to German homes.

Brandenburg Gate

Photo caption: Famed Brandenburg Gate now marks beginning of Soviet sector, with sign warning "You are now leaving West Berlin."

The Allied Staff, Berlin—a tripartite staff composed of United States, British and French officers and enlisted personnel—is the medium through which the three Allied Commandants coordinate military matters. The Chief of Staff and the G-2 of the Allied Staff are provided by the United States Commander, Berlin. Joint CPXs are conducted from time to time and provide another example of the smooth-working relationship which exists among the Allied forces in Berlin.

The Allied Kommandatura remains, legally the supreme authority in Berlin, just as each Commandant is the supreme authority in his sector. Although the Kommandatura retains its authority in such fields as the security of Berlin, powers of the Berlin police, satisfaction of occupation costs and Berlin official relations with authorities aboard, the Allies have each year returned more and more power to the Berlin civil authorities.

Basic changes in Allied-German relationships have reduced to a minimum the participation of the Allied Kommandatura in the actual governing of Berlin. Today the Kommandatura is the medium through which the Allied Commandants tripartitely exercise their civil responsibilities for the government of Berlin just as the Allied Staff is the organ through which they coordinate tripartite military matters. Chairmanship of the Kommandatura revolves monthly among the three Allied Commandants.

Within this framework the actual government of West Berlin consists of the Governing Mayor, the Mayor and the Senate, who are responsible to Berlin's House of Representatives. The twelve West Berlin Boroughs have autonomous administration headed by District Mayors responsible to the District Assemblies. The elected officials of West Berlin are voted into office by an electorate of approximately 1,760,000 eligible voters from two major and four minor political parties.

Headwaurters U.S. Army, Berlin

Photo caption: From these headquarters of the U. S. Army in West Berlin, military and civilian interests of the United States are supervised and administered.

U.S. Soldiers adopt orphanages

Photo caption: U.S. soldiers adopt orphanages or play hosts to refugees.

Amerika Haus, Berlin

Photo caption, page 8c: Some 1,500,000 visitors, many from behind Iron Curtain, visit Amerika Haus yearly.


The special problems with which Berlin is confronted as a result of its location and its division do not exist anywhere else in the world. There are, for example, in the whole of Berlin two separate telephone systems, two power and light systems, two public transportation networks, and two fire and police departments.

Another unique West Berlin problem is created by the fact that the city must absorb a large percentage of the constant stream of refugees flowing into it from East Berlin and the Soviet Zone. Since 1949 more than a million and a quarter East Germans have sought refuge in West Berlin. During 1958 alone 120,000 refugees came into the city. Most of these people are resettled in West Germany but many of them remain in West Berlin where the housing shortage is a constant problem.

West Berlin is almost completely dependent upon West Germany for all food, consumer goods, machinery and raw materials. The West Berliners also market almost all of their products in the West. The city's lifelines are the canal, highway, rail and air connections Between Berlin and the Federal Republic of Germany.

McNair Barracks, Berlin

Photo caption: McNair Barracks, home of the 6th Infantry Regiment units acting as "Guardians of the Outpost of Democracy,'' typifies modern housing provided for U. S. troops.

U.S. Army Chapel, Berlin

Photo caption: Modernistic chapel serves U. S. troops religious needs.

Swimming pool at Andrews Barracks, Berlin

Photo caption: Indoor pool at Andrews Barracks is one of the many recreational facilities provided.

Each month roughly 600 barges and 14,000 trucks deliver cargos from West Germany to Berlin. In addition, thirteen freight trains arrive in Berlin daily with cargos originating in West Germany. All of these cargos must through territory controlled by a regime hostile to  both the West Berlin Government and the Allied powers in Berlin. Manufacturers and shippers have been subjected to such harassing tactics as the delay or, seizure of cargos, and the levying of prohibitive tolls, or the imposition of exorbitant fines for infractions of constantly changing Soviet Zone regulations.

These tactics are designed to emphasize the isolated situation of West Berlin and thus to discourage the placing of orders by West German firms and the investment of West German capital in Berlin industry. However, they have not and do not constitute a direct limitation on the volume of trade, partly because of concessions granted by the Federal Republic in order to make it more attractive for  West German
firms to invest and to do business in Berlin, and partly because of political and economic advantages accruing to the Soviet Zone regime from this trade.

Personal and corporate taxes in Berlin are 20 percent below the West German level: Berlin firms are exempted from certain taxes and, in some cases, are granted attractive freight differentials on shipments to West Germany. Despite Communist harassment, Berlin industry has grown and prospered and, despite the fact that Berlin remains a deficit area, most of its economic handicaps are being overcome.

6th Infantry Regiment soldiers in the field

Photo caption: Troops maintain constant state of alert readiness, staging frequent maneuvers. Here 6th Infantry soldiers engage in a test of mobility preparedness.

6th Infantry Regiment soldiers in the field

Photo caption: Rigorous, realistic field exercises are staged.

Armed Forces Day Review, Berlin

Photo caption, page 10c: Commanders troop the line in Armed Forces Day review at famed Tempelhof Air Base.

The problems which have been highlighted by the recent Soviet proposals with regard to Berlin are not essentially new ones. West Berlin, with it many concrete examples of the advantages of the free, Democratic West, has long been a source of embarrassment to the Communists. For the peoples of the nations of Eastern Europe, West Berlin has become a symbol of freedom and of the steadfastness of the Allied powers; it has become a magnet for those who cannot live under a Communist regime; it has also become a beacon of hope.

The current Soviet objective—to force the Allies our of Berlin—has long been apparent. It is clear that all of the Soviet attempts to pressure the Allies into recognizing the East German Communist regime, all of their harassing of Allied Berlin traffic, and all of their recent proposals for the establishment of a "Free City" of West Berlin are merely intermediate objectives along a route of march, the ultimate objective of which is the elimination of the Allies from West Berlin and the incorporation of the city into Communist East Germany.

The Berlin problem is inextricably bound together with the problem of the reunification of Germany. Until that problem is solved, the presence in free West Berlin of U.S. Army Occupation Forces is clearly in the national interests of the United States, providing the best guarantee of the continued freedom of the city.

Marksmanship Competition, Berlin

Photo caption: Cooperation and keen competition exist side by side among Allied troops. Here French, British and U. S. soldiers engage in marksmanship contest.

Mortar Training, Berlin

Photo caption: U. S. soldiers in Berlin observe training and equipment of their allies.

Autobahn Checkpoint, Berlin

Photo caption, page 11c: Troops of three powers aid travelers at autobahn checkpoint.

Doughboy Statue, Berlin

Standing proudly at the entrance of the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning Georgia, is the Doughboy Statue, a symbol of the U.S. Army Infantryman. The monument is a duplicate of the bronze statue in Headquarters, Berlin Command.

Footnote 1: MAJOR GENERAL BARKSDALE HAMLETT is U.S. Commander, Berlin. The author wishes to acknowledge with appreciation the background research for this article which was performed by Captain Guy H. McCarey, Jr., of Berlin Command.

This page is a supplement to Berlin in Early Cold-War Army Booklets, a reprint of a series of six army booklets on Berlin, covering the period from 1946 to 1958. The booklets are written from a single institutional viewpoint, that of the United States Military Command in Berlin. When read in parallel, the booklets create a sense of living history, because, while they cover the same topics of interest about Berlin, their coverage of these topics changes as the series progresses, and you can see the political relationships of the time change before your eyes.

While you are here, check out these other interesting links:

The OFFICE OF THE U. S. HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR GERMANY, BERLIN published a booklet entitled A Survey of Berlin on JULY 1, 1950.

Berlin in Early Berlin-Wall Era CIA, State Department, and Army Booklets. This is a reprint of three booklets that the historical context of The Day Before the Berlin Wall. They cover the period from 1958 to 1966, spanning  the critical year in which the Wall was built: 1961.

The November 1961 issue of Army Digest carried a photo montage of the U.S. Army responding to the Communist challenge on the front lines of freedom in Berlin.

The August 1969 issue of Army Digest ran an article on the Berlin Duty train.

Also by this author: three award-winning Berlin novels:

Voices Under Berlin: The Tale of a Monterey Mary

The Day Before the Berlin Wall: Could We Have Stopped It?

Reunification: A Monterey Mary Returns to Berlin

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