Created 2 Feb 2002

The Way It Was: 1951 - 1954

A narrative historical synopsis of the USMLM for this period recorded by members serving in the unit at the time.  Includes an account of the East Berlin uprising of 1953.

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The majority of the material presented herein is based on personal accounts and documents furnished by SGM (Ret) Samuel Goldstein and COL (Ret) Adolf E. Shanze on their experiences when assigned to the US Military Liaison Mission (USMLM) between 1951-1954 and recounted in the 1979 USMLM official history.

SGM Goldstein was the Mission Senior NCO from early 1951 to mid-1953; COL Schanze was Chief of Mission during the period December 1952 -August 1954. In 1951, mission strength was much less than now: SGM Goldstein indicates that nine enlisted personnel, to include two members of the Women’s Army Corps, were assigned to the mission (in 1952, the two ladies were replaced by male soldiers; more than twenty years passed before, in 1973, three female soldiers were assigned to USMLM); eleven officers, to include one USAF Captain and two naval officers, were assigned when he arrived. Shortly thereafter, one naval officer departed. SGM Goldstein recalls his astonishment when he learned that he, in common with other enlisted members of the mission, was assigned for morning report purposes to the WAC Detachment. He hastens to add that the assignment did not include billeting; male troops were quartered in the “SS Kaserne” (now Andrews Barracks).

COL Schanze mentions a complement of 14 officers and 26 enlisted personnel during his tenure as Chief of Mission. USMLM’s Berlin base consisted of two rooms in the Headquarters Compound until 1952, when a transfer was effected to the former press club on Sven Hedin Strasse. The new USMLM Berlin Headquarters Building was large enough to house four enlisted men and a duty officer; the compound provided space for ten of the twelve vehicles which made up the USMLM fleet. The fleet included one box ambulance, which had seen heavy service during the airlift period; Chevrolets replaced Opels as tour vehicles in 1951. The presence in East Germany of brand new obviously American automobiles flying the US flag was a highly visible reminder of continuing US presence in Europe (the use of US-made vehicles had both advantages and disadvantages: the other two Missions felt that European vehicles were much better suited to the rather primitive road conditions prevailing in East Germany. While the visibility provided by the US vehicles undoubtedly served as a signal of our determination to abide by agreements with our allies and heartened opponents of the East German regime, this same visibility often made the tour vehicle a target for unwelcome attentions).

The working environment in East Germany was in many respects a contradictory one. Relationships with the Soviets benefited on the one hand from the surprisingly close cooperation which had characterized the airlift period; they suffered, however, from the impact of the ongoing Korean War (unsubstantiated information on file at USMLM indicates that credentials were withheld by GSFG for approximately one month at the start of the war). Relationships with East Germans exhibited the same dichotomy. Individuals who served at the Mission during this time period emphasized the friendly attitude of most East German citizens toward mission personnel. At the same time, feelings of national pride existed as a result of the establishment of their “independent” nation in 1949. The government made every effort to foster this sentiment of national pride, as well as emphasizing the debt owed to the Soviet Union and the need for continued close ties with their “deliverers). Signs in front of factories and along the autobahns appealed to the population for over-fulfillment of the first five year plan and to West German travelers for support of all-German elections.

At times, however, tour personnel would have been prepared to settle for simple art work on the tour vehicle. SGM Goldstein states that a minimum of three tour vehicles were fired upon and struck during his tour of duty, fortunately with no injuries to the occupants.

Other evidence of a changing environment included the establishment in 1951 of the first Permanent Restricted Areas and the first use of Mission Restriction Signs. The first PRA map seems curiously empty to present day Mission members: one small area east of Magdeburg, extending south to Halle, and almost the entire border area. The border PRA did not include Rugen, the island making up the most northerly portion of the GDR.

Rugen figured prominently in an incident in 1952 which made headlines. A USMLM tour made up of LTC Duin, CPT Croucher, and PFC Swenson, was detained there and subsequently accused of espionage.

Certain other problems of an operational nature proved more amenable to solution. During the first year of COL Schanze’ s incumbency, aggressive surveillance by East German security personnel seriously interfered with the unrestricted travel guaranteed USMLM by the Huebner-Malinin Agreement. When COL Schanze paid his first courtesy call on then COL GEN Grechko, who had replaced GEN Chuikov as Commander in Chief of the Soviet Occupation Force, he seized the opportunity to inform the General that: “Your friends from East Germany have been trailing my cars for over a year. I would greatly appreciate it if you would make them stop. They gain nothing and it makes Gen Hoge have your cars trailed in Frankfurt.” While no promises were made at the meeting, shortly thereafter the surveillance ceased.   Generals Grechko and Hogs subsequently exchanged visits to their respective headquarters.

COL Schanze’s initial visit to GEN Crechko’s predecessor, GEN Chuikov, was less productive in terms of doing business. It did, however, have considerable entertainment value. Incautiously admitting that his only previous experience with caviar was associated with the song ‘‘caviar comes from virgin surgeon”, the Colonel was forced to recite the numerous verses of the song, to GEN Chuikov’s delight. Later in the course of the conversation, GEN Chuikov replied ingenuously to COL Schanze’s question concerning the excesses of the Russians subsequent to the surrender of Berlin “Ah, the boys had a hard war. They deserved a little fun.”

Berlin Uprising 1953

The 17 June 1953 uprising in East Berlin was perhaps the most dramatic and affecting event to occur in this period in USMLM’s history. When the news reached the West that the residents of East Berlin had risen against their masters, USMLM dispatched all available tour personnel, to include the Chief of Mission, to East Berlin and to other major population centers in the GDR. Tour personnel encountered no harassment or interference while covering the uprising and the subsequent suppression. Opinion at the time was that the Soviets wanted complete coverage of the affair, confirming the limited nature of their operation. Comments of USMLM personnel involved included “...March discipline poor.. .wrecked vehicles at roadsides.. .“ and “frequently Soviet soldiers simply stood around, not knowing what to do.”



Tri-Mission access to East Berlin was terminated on 24 July; the city remained closed for approximately one month, presumably while the Soviet and East German authorities went about their task of crushing the last vestiges of resistance and restoring order to the city.
As before and as now, USMLM personnel enjoyed exceptionally good relationships with the people of West Berlin. SGM Goldstein supplied good evidence of this with the photo below, showing him and his “Waschechte Berlinerin” bride on their wedding day.

Source:  From the 1979 official USMLM history (acquired through FOIA).  Unfortunately, most of the photos were not identified.  Additional details will be added as research continues.
Thanks to M.H. for locating this document.

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