My husband joined the Air Force when he was seventeen. After training he was assigned to the Air Force Security Service and posted to Berlin six months after the Wall went up in 1962 (and if I tell you any more I’ll have to kill you). At first he worked at Templehof, the obscenely-scaled airport designed by Albert Speer. The building was wired with high explosives. If, as the saying went at the time, the flag went up, meaning the Soviets had invaded, then they had less than 30 minutes to destroy what needed to be destroyed and get out. They didn’t actually expect to survive. Later he was at the Marienfelde Operations Site at the southern edge of the city. He served his hitch and came back in one piece.
While he was there he had time to wander about West Berlin, sometimes taking photos. He’s given me permission to share some, which I appreciate since it gives me a chance to honor his service to our country. He has an enlargement of the one at the top in his office. I call it “the Life magazine cover shot”.
The wall went up very fast and sloppy at first, which is what you see in the photos, and was later replaced with the taller, permanent one (so the Russians thought at the time) that we brought home pieces of when we were in Berlin two months after reunification in 1990 (we got together in 1983). He got to see all the familiar sights fr0m his time there and I saw them for the first time. Checkpoint Charlie was gone and there was already a United Colors of Benneton store on the corner on the east side. We drove south of the city and David saw Berlin from that direction for the first time. I did a blog post about that trip with photos I took. You can read it here.
But here’s what it was like in 1962 (photos were scanned but were not processed or retouched):
A few days ago it was the 25th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Like millions of people around the world back then, we were glued to the tv watching something we never thought would happen in our lifetime and then it seemed, in an eyeblink, it was gone, along with the Soviet Union.
I’ll always be kind of sorry that we didn’t whip out the credit card and hop a plane to go and be part of it. But in December of 1990, two months after Unification, we did travel to Germany for a business trip my husband had in Wiesbaden. Afterwards we got a rental car and headed east. That part of the trip is a story for another post, but we simply crossed the old border via a country road into the now-defunct East Germany and drove to Berlin. What follows is an album of photos I took on the day we explored the area around where the Wall had been. I thought it would be good not to just let these photos of an historic time sit in a photo album, but get them out there as one eyewitness record of a moment in time. They were taken with a Nikon N2000 film camera and the 4×6″ prints scanned on an Epson scanner into Photoshop. I only did a minimum of adjustments, preferring to leave them as I took them as much as possible.