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They're Not Wanted Here

This is a view of a portion of the East-West German border at the Fulda Gap as it existed in 1975.

The Fulda Gap is a wide natural pass through the mountainous area of Germany that east AND west invading armies have traditionally used as part of their conquering plans. The near side of the fence is West Germany and the far side of the fence is East Germany. On the day we visited this spot, the US armored cavalry unit that patrols the West German side gave us a tour of the friendly side of the border and a briefing about the bad guys' side.

Politically and militarily speaking, the West Side had a lot more concerns about invading armies or defecting individuals than they had from us. In this picture you can see one of the many towers that the East German soldiers used to safeguard their side of the border. They also used other towers (not in view) that housed machine-guns and firing mechanisms for the different mine systems along their side of the fence line. If you look at the West German side of the fence you will notice there is nothing remarkable about the scenery. Other than a dirt path that leads to the fence, it looks like a typical field of grass. However, let's take a look at some of the security features of the communist side of the fence in case someone was thinking about defecting.

The first obstacles someone would have to avoid are the armed soldiers who patrol the areas along the fence. If they are able to avoid the patrols, there is a 20-foot wide strip of sand adjacent to the fence. The trucks you see along the fence contained a work crew who rakes the sand every day to keep the surface smooth and easy to identify footprints. The work crew came complete with shovels, rakes and guards armed with submachine guns in case they decided to make a break for the other side.

If a person should be able to jump across the sand without being detected, they now have to negotiate the 9-foot fence. First of all, it has strands of razor-sharp concertina wire ribboned along the top. If you get to the top, consider yourself lucky, because look what might slow you down as you begin your climb. Take a close look at the section of fence directly in front of the tower. You should be able to see two horizontal strips on the fence, one at a three-foot level, and one at the six-foot level. Spaced along the length of the fence at these two levels, as well as the ground and top of the fence were anti-personnel mines that were capable of being exploded by tripwires or command detonation.

Other than those few minor deterrents, crossing the border in this area was no problem. Although I haven't been back to the Fulda Gap since the Berlin Wall collapsed, I am sure the fence has been torn down, and the area has been landscaped as well.

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