West Berlin - 1990
Back in 1990, I spent nearly a month in 'West Berlin'. I was still in the Air Force, and I was lucky enough to snag a primo TDY. I was doing really well at my job; winning numerous awards and accolades, impressing my commander and supervisors. As a reward for my performance, my unit - the 6917th ESG (of San Vito, Italy) sent me on a TDY (Temporary Duty) to West Berlin. From the end of July, through most of August (returning on the 25th), I spent nearly 30 days in the divided city. The wall was officially 'down', but the city was still 'divided' in a very real sense. Psychologically, the citizens of East and West Germany were two different peoples. Much prejudice, uncertainty and trepidation remained. The military (on all sides) was still treating East Berlin as an enclave of Soviet power, and travel was still restricted to military members. It was an amazing time for this young Airman (I was 27 years old). The Berlin wall had fallen, and freedom was breaking out all over Eastern Europe. The Soviet stranglehold on millions across Europe was finally broken, and it wouldn't be long before the Soviet Union itself would fall. Germans were celebrating, and many Americans were proud of the changes sweeping across the continent. The Cold War was coming to an end, and as an American military member, I was glad to have played some small role in that victory.
While I was there, I did my best to see as much of the city as possible. Every day, after my classes ended, I would change out of my uniform and head for the bus stop. While the city was still an 'Occupied City', all the public transportation was free to service members, and I took advantage of that benefit. I took the bus to U-Bahn (subway station), and rode the subway into the center of town. I started walking the length of the wall when I got there, and saw much of the drama unfold over the course of that month. The sights I saw will live forever in my memory, and thankfully I managed to take a few photos which I can share with others. It took some time, but I've finally made those photos available for everyone to see. I can still remember the details of that month quite vividly, and I share them with other military members whenever I get the chance.
Germany re-united soon after I left (in June of 1991), and I returned to my unit with a new outlook on things. Proud to serve, quite pleased with the hard-won freedoms we helped secure for millions of Eastern Europeans and Asians (Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Albania, Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan). Imagine a war, where the United States had less than 50 casualties (not counting appx 100,000 losses in Korea and Vietnam). A war that spanned 44 years, a war that cost nearly $8 trillion dollars (in military expenditures), a war with no declaration, no cease-fire or surrender. Despite the ephermerous nature of this 'Cold War', the results were undeniable. Ask any of the several million people liberated by the collapse of Communism; the Cold War was real - A palpable constant that defined an entire generation of humans. A political struggle, a military struggle, an economic struggle. A struggle of two systems - Democracy and Communism. The end of this conflict brought freedom, social liberation, economic development, and a feeling of renewed possibilities for all mankind. I hope you enjoy these few photos I managed to take while TDY to West Berlin in the summer of 1990.
Author: Robert L. Vaessen e-mail: