Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: North Bay Area, CA
Where were you 30 years ago?
I was thinking recently that 30 years ago, the Berlin Wall came down. That was on November 9th. 30 years ago today, December 2nd 1989 I was stationed at Spangdahlem AB, West Germany.
The Berlin Wall had fallen and we were witnessing a series of "velvet" revolutions all across the former Communist Bloc.Only Romania was turning violent. There was a steady stream of Trabants still pouring across the border and into what was then West Germany.
Those little crappy cars lined the Autobahn in the far right lane as pretty much everything on the road screamed by them. There were a fair number of them abandoned on the country lanes just off the Autobahn as they broke down to the point of being scrap.
There was a mood in Germany that I find difficult to describe to this day. It was like a darkness had lifted and everyone was happy and smiling. It seemed so at any rate. All the places we frequented as GIs were like that. I can't really put it into words that are effective enough to capture what I was seeing. It was an amazing time to be there.
I decided on that November 9th that I was going to Berlin. I had to. My buddy and I made a promise that if the Wall ever came down while we were there, we would go to Berlin.
That was an adventure in and of itself. Driving up to a Soviet check point in the middle of the night was like something straight out of the movies. Us standing there in our civvys, the Soviet guard in uniform and armed with an AK-47.
The Helmstedt Autobahn was still the controlled entry and exit for travel to Berlin. One had to have signed Flag Orders to be able to transit the Autobahn. You were given a time stamp on your Flag Orders and you had "X" amount of time to get from one check point to the next. If you were early, the guards new you were speeding (not that they cared at that point) but if you were late......the guards wanted to know where you stopped, why you stopped, who you talked to, what you did while stopped, etc...
It was no joke either. The MPs would send you to a holding room while Criminal Investigations were summoned to interrogate you. Once we made it to Berlin, after driving all night we went straight to Templhof Air Base and got a room at the base hotel.
We got one night and had to check out because the USO had reserved the entire hotel for the Bob Hope entourage. Even that was amazing to see in person. We bumped into Miss Universe outside the hotel. We both thought she was really cute, but she looked like a service members daughter and her parents were with her. We didn't even know who she was until some drunken GIs hanging out of their day room windows started hollering "MISS UNIVERSE!!!" and she turned and waved as she got into her car.
That was kinda cool.
We saw Latoya Jackson too (Templehof Air Base was just one huge building spread out along 5 or 6 city blocks) just walking from one side of the building to another. When we were in town, we saw the camera crews setting up in different places (made sure to avoid those) and ended up meeting a whole bunch of American, Canadian and Australian girls at the Irish Pub. That was waaaay cool too.
They were so happy to hear English being spoken. They'd been immersed in Germany with a German family and spoken only German for the past year. They were getting together on this trip before heading back home. It was really cool for us to be mobbed like rock stars for nothing more than being ourselves. We hit up Check Point Charlie before crossing into East Germany...just so happened the girls we'd met arrived on their bus as we were taking pictures at the Check Point Charlie sign.
We got mobbed again, as they all wanted their pictures with us while we were in uniform. (you could only cross into East Berlin in uniform then) The Army MP at Check Point Charlie was soooooo jealous!!! It was hilarious. He didn't know we'd met the girls the night before. He just thought they were treating us like rock stars and grumbled as much as we went through.
It was an amazing trip. West Berlin was so good to us as the citizens themselves never forgot the Berlin Airlift and all the aviators who perished trying to keep the city fed and free from the Soviets. We rode all over Berlin on public transportation for free. People were super friendly when they heard us speaking English. Then, like I wrote before, there was just a feeling in the air. Something different than I ever remembered from living there before.
I just can't find the words to impart how it felt to anyone reading this. Amazing just doesn't do it justice. It was greater than that, deeper and more heartfelt. I'd say it was the feeling of no more worry but it wasn't just in Berlin, it was everywhere in Germany. All I can say now is, I'm glad I was there then. It made a lasting impact on my life. Witnessing the fall of Communism in Europe was something I'd never thought I'd see in my lifetime, let alone while I was in Germany.
So, that's where I was 30 years ago, and little slice of my experience there. Like the title says, where were you in late 1989?.....sean
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My garage: 2000.5 Aprilia Mille R, 2000 Ducati 996, 1994 EX500 basket case, 1993 Ducati 900 SS, 2004 Suzuki GSXR600, 1992 GSXR750 oil boiler, 1983 Suzuki XN-85 Turbo