On the morning of 3 August, 1987, as dawn broke across the eastern sky, few residents of West Berlin were aware that a temporary ceasefire was now in place across Europe. NATO and Warsaw Pact military forces were no longer engaged in combat with one another. Or that US and Soviet governments had agreed to halt combat operations and allow their generals to meet and come to terms on a permanent ceasefire. Communications in and out of the city were severely degraded, owing to a combination of aftereffects from nuclear detonations in and around the GDR, and electronic warfare. Some comms links to the US, British and French garrisons in the city remained functional. Information received through these nodes was relayed to the West Berlin government. However, the speed with which events were moving and the fact that the city government struggled to keep its citizens up to date meant the majority of West Berliners were in the dark at first light on D+25.
Fallout had been a major concern after the Wunsdorf detonation. From that moment until the morning of D+25, a sizable fraction of Berliners either sheltered in their own homes or in rapidly established makeshift fallout shelters at various U-Bahn stations around the city. Radiological teams from the US and British garrisons, as well as from civil defense surveyed various points in the city at regular intervals. Except for slightly elevated numbers in Marienfelde and Lichtenrade, fallout was not affecting West Berlin significantly.
Within an hour of General Galvin and Marshal Snetkov’s meeting having ended, the US Army’s Berlin Brigade and its French and British counterparts received news that the ceasefire was now permanent. They were also informed of the plan to send relief convoys to the city with food, medical supplies and fuel to bolster West Berlin’s severely diminishing stocks. It wasn’t long before the US, British and French commanders presented themselves to West Berlin’s mayor and informed him of what was going on outside of the city limits. Shortly after, inspections were made of remaining supplies and the medical situation at city hospitals were assessed. With medical supplies now alarmingly low the most critical of patients were to be identified and prepared for imminent evacuation from West Berlin.
With a ceasefire now set, a major priority for the West Berlin NATO garrisons was recovery of special operations teams now operating inside of East Germany. By afternoon it remained unclear if word of the ceasefire was spreading across the GDR. Most of these mainly US Special Forces A-Teams, British SAS teams and their French counterparts were spread about the width and breadth of East Germany and in some cases western Poland. These highly trained soldiers had begun slipping out of West Berlin as war became imminent in the final days of peace. For the duration of the Third World War they provided reconnaissance and conducted dozens of successful missions. Now with hostilities over, commanders in West Berlin were deciding how to go about contacting and recovering the surviving troops.
By nightfall, activity inside of East Berlin seemed to be ramping up. A handful of demonstrations were going on around the city and GDR border guard units had tightened their cordon around the Berlin Wall. More fascinating, around 2200 Hours local time, a sizeable number of border guards abandoned their posts and crossing into West Berlin. They spoke of riots breaking out inside of East Berlin and rumors of the government now on the verge of collapse. If the government fell, these guards figured they would be safer in West Berlin as prisoners of war rather than at the mercy of their vengeful countrymen should the rumors be true.
4 Replies to “West Berlin D+25 (3 August, 1987)”
The matter-of-fact narrative nevertheless conveys a sense of the mood very well. Nicely done. I liked the touch about the East German border guards fleeing because they thought they’d be safer in West Berlin than facing their own people. Will Honecker (I believe still in power at this time and very ideologically aligned with the late G. Romanov) imitate Ceausescu?” Can’t wait to see.
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Thanks! And yes, Honecker is still alive but his grip on power is tenuous. The East German Defense Minister and head of State Security have been struggling for power. Honecker is little more than a puppet at this point
Someday, it would be interesting to read a history of Special Forces / SAS, etc in the Third World War of 1987. I think it wasn’t until well after Desert Storm that theater commanders began to really integrate special warfare into their overall warplan. Come to think of it, I think we’re still waiting for a general history of special warfare in Desert Storm. It seems that Special Forces and the Rangers did some missions that were worth writing about but not much written about it other than the Scud hunts.
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That’s definitely on the list for the future. Special Forces and SAS operations on the Central Front and Northern Flank, as well as other areas.
I think you’re right. There hasn’t been a full history of special warfare in Desert Storm written up yet. Too bad, because there’s certainly a lot of facts and details that have not seen the light of day yet