A SHORT HISTORY OF THE BERLIN COMMAND

U.S. Army units first entered Berlin in the first week of July 1945 as part of an occupation force agreed upon by the Allied coalition fighting to defeat Nazi Germany. The initial unit into the city was the 2d Armored Division, later replaced by the 82d Airborne Division, then still later by the 78th Infantry Division. U.S. Army Air Corps units also took over Tempelhof Airfield in the same general time frame, with the 862d Engineer Aviation Battalion building a concrete runway where there had previously only been sod.

In 1946 the Berlin garrison force was organized as the Provisional Constabulary Squadron and was augmented by one infantry battalion of the 78th Division, an MP battalion and service troops. In November 1946, the garrison was again reorganized into the 16th Constabulary Squadron, the 759th MP Battalion and the 3d Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, plus service troops. With the formation of the U.S. Air Force in 1947, Tempelhof became a USAF base in the city.

During the Berlin Airlift, the organization remained basically the same, augmented by such units as were needed to assist in airlift operations, both Army and Air Force. In 1949, the Berlin Army garrison came under the overall command of US Army Europe. In October 1950, the garrison again reorganized and became the 1st, 2d and 3d battalions of the 6th U.S. Infantry Regiment, an association with Berlin that lasted until 1984.

As the Cold War intensified in the late 1950s and 1960s, access problems to the city, both land and air, continued to cause tension. USAF aircraft were harassed as they flew in and out of the city and ground convoys were disrupted en route to and from Berlin. In June 1958, Company F, 40th Armor Regiment came into the city with three platoons of M26 Pershing tanks.
In August 1961, the Berlin Wall brought the next great crisis to the city. The Wall went up early in the morning of 13 August 1961. On 20 August, 1st Battle Group (Reinforced), 18th Infantry Regiment entered the city as a show of Allied right of access into the now walled off city. On 25 October came the famous standoff at Checkpoint Charlie between the M48A1s of F Company, 40th Armor and the Red Army. The Soviets backed down.

On 1 December 1961 the Berlin garrison was again reorganized—this time into the U.S. Army Berlin Brigade. From 1961 through January 1966, battle groups and then battalions, after the Army reorganized away from the battle group concept, rotated into the city every ninety days. In September 1963, Battery C, 94th Artillery deployed into the city as part of the Berlin Brigade, the only artillery the Western Allies had in the city, and engineer units working in the city were organized into the 42d Engineer Company in the mid 1960s.

USAF units continued to support the city from Tempelhof Central Airport (TCA) throughout the period. Between 1946 and 1964 Soviet aircraft attacked twelve U.S. aircraft, causing the death of thirty-six crew and passengers. Pilots and aircraft were continually harassed as they flew in and out of Berlin. It was a dangerous place. Through it all the Berlin Air Traffic Control Center kept everything flying safely through all weather and conditions.

The “crisis” in Berlin abated, but the tensions remained through the years, easing somewhat after the Quadripartite Agreements of 1971. Berlin Command troops had to remain on a high state of alert at all times. The death of Major Arthur Nicholson, shot by a Soviet soldier in 1985, is stark testimony to the fact.

In 1984, the three battalions of the 6th Infantry Regiment were redesignated as the 4th, 5th and 6th battalions, 502d Infantry Regiment. In September 1990, 6th Battalion, 40th Armor became the command and control headquarters for the two tank companies, the artillery battery and the engineer company.

When the Berlin Wall opened in November 1989, it was a tribute to the dedication of the soldiers and airmen of the Berlin Command. On 29 January 1993 the USAF 7350th Air Base Group inactivated at TCA. On 12 July 1994 the Berlin Brigade furled its colors for the last time in a ceremony at the Four Ring at McNair Barracks. The Cold War was over. We could proudly say that we had done our part. Berlin remains free!


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