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War Games in West Berlin

  • Name: Peter Jarmulowicz
  • Destination: Oldenburg-in-Holstein, West Germany
  • When: Year, 1986-87
  • Hometown: Colrain, Massachusetts
  • Organization:

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This image was taken in 1986 by Thierry Noir a...
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I would hang out with friends in town after school and drink beer, smoke cigarettes and chat, whether one day it would be the Cold War, or what we would do if the Warsaw Pact attacks.

We weren’t that far from the border of East Germany, and we had a military base just outside of town.

My first week there was quite an experience because we were having war games going off.  I was lying in bed and there was shaking and bombs exploding and flares going off in the distance, and I came flying downstairs.

Bomben?  Bombs?”

“Oh, we forgot to tell you, there’s a military base and they’re just having war games.”

I got to appreciate more of that whole interaction with the Cold War, that we would have war games in there.  The Brits would come –we were in the British Zone–and their tanks would every so often drive through town.  Americans would come up for NATO maneuvers every so often and drive their Abrams [tanks] through town.  Depending on the size and scope of the games, they would have the Air Forces come in and do dry bombing runs.  What they would do is, they would come in over the base, but turn and loop back around and just skirt the border and get everybody agitated over there, and every time they did that it was an inside joke on this side of the border that we would stir the pot a little bit and see what happens.

Signage at Checkpoint Charlie

Image by edwin.11 via Flickr

It was just a brinkmanship game being played.  The Cold War was much more real at that point there.  We would discuss it and what if it came to war would you fight with East Germans.  “Yeah, if they shoot at me I’ll shoot back.  They’re the enemy.  They’re Germans, yes we speak the same language, but we’re different countries,” and they seemed very accepting of that, very Westward looking.

The whole EC at that point was 20 years old but still developing, still in it’s infancy as far as pan-Western European understanding and cooperation.  Spain and Portugal had just gotten in and that was a big shock to European economy.  Just as big as letting the former Eastern Bloc countries in recent years.

There’s actually some excitement among some of my friends, they can go and work now anywhere from Spain to Sweden.  How cool is that? I don’t need a passport!  That whole concept of not needing these documents anymore.

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