Stories: Re-enlist!

From a brochure designed to attract soldiers to reenlist after the end of the draft (conscription / dienstpflichtig). This actually gives a fairly open description of the requirements and situation for those serving in Berlin Brigade. Read "between the lines" and you will see what was known as "the Berlin Screen" in which soldiers with behavior problems, criminal records or who had shown poor judgement were banned from service in Berlin.

The brochure was not telling an untruth when it said "...reassigned immediately." Even soldiers who passed through the Berlin Screen made mistakes, and people of all ranks found themselves being escorted onto the military train or a flight out of town.

In the saddest incident which I remember, I met a young soldier whose rumpled clothing and lack of insignia showed that he had been traveling from the U.S. to be assigned in Berlin. He had arrived that morning, and was told when the personnel office saw his papers that it was a mistake to send him to Berlin. He was being reassigned that same day to Italy. He had the day in Berlin, kept in our barracks and would depart on the night train. They did not tell him that he had failed the Berlin Screen-- I did not tell him that either, as I could not guess what the problem was. I just agreed that sometimes the Army made some awful mistakes.

In the largest incident during my time, in Winter '70-'71, as the Vietnam War ran down for the ground troops, an entire planeload of soldiers from Fort Lewis, Washington was diverted from Vietnam to Berlin. They were in their jungle fatigues, mentally prepared to go to a war zone, and now suddenly they were in Berlin. They had said their good-byes, boarded the plane, then sat for an hour or so on the ground, after word came to hold the plane. Then someone boarded with new orders sending them to ice cold Berlin. Some of them were actually angry that they were not in Vietnam. Little did they know, that the Berlin Screen would be put to work. Part of them ended up living in the Berlin U.S. Army Hospital for days as their paperwork was processed by Berlin's small personnel department. Some of them were then kicked out of Berlin for reasons which were not explained to them. Others were sent away because they were paratroopers, for whom we had no use. There was no place to jump out of an airplane in Berlin.

The good side of the Berlin Screen is that it made Berlin a far better place for all of us, with fewer problems than in the rest of the U.S. Army of that time. We also had more people with college degrees, or those who had good work experience in civilian life before they had been drafted as married men at an older age. This met the goal, of course, of having soldiers who were less likely to embarass the United States or who might hypothetically start World War III by showing poor judgement in a crisis.

Brochure courtesy of then SP5 Susan D. Rynerson.

 Midpoint of the Cold War

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