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The Raise of the Berlin Wall

Vern Pike
BOLDtalks 2012

Vern Pike shares a fascinating story of the incidents that have taken place that resulted the creation of the Berlin Wall, and his role as the first officer in charge of Checkpoint Charlie.

When Vern Pike chose a two-year stay as an officer in Berlin in 1958, he had no idea that the occupied city and its infamous Wall would become part of his life forever. His most memorable duty was as a lieutenant in the 287th MP Company stationed at Checkpoint Charlie. His experiences there at a critical period during the Cold War have made him uniquely qualified to tell the story of the Berlin Wall and the gallant men who secured West Berlin against the Soviets.

After World War II, Germany became a divided country. The Western Allies merged their occupied zones to produce a West German state that, with the help of America's Marshall Plan, rose from the ashes of the war and developed a stable democracy. In the Soviet sector, meanwhile, life was dramatically different under the heel of communism. Seeking a better life, East Germans began a mass exodus into West Berlin. In August 1961, intent on keeping their citizens in and the Allied forces out, East German authorities began sealing off the Soviet sector of the city, setting off a shock wave across the western world. The East Germans were now prisoners in their own city, and West Berlin an island of freedom separated by an ugly monstrosity known as The Berlin Wall.

Vern Pike was stationed in Berlin when the initial barricades began going up. The East Germans expected the Americans to cross the border and destroy the wall, but despite warnings from the MPs and West German authorities, U.S. officials did nothing. The barbed-wire fences and concrete barriers eventually became a wall thirteen feet high, guarded by a "death strip" on its Eastern side and soldiers who shot to kill. It was at this border where many dramatic escapes would take place during the stormy history of the Cold War.

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