WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — From the end of World War II until 1994, Allied Forces occupied the city of West Berlin. The collective name given to the scores of American soldiers who served in West Berlin during this time was known as the Berlin Brigade.
In 1967, Larry Geilenfeldt was drafted in his home state of California. During basic training, most soldiers who trained in the infantry deployed to Vietnam. Instead, Geilenfeldt ended up on the front lines of the Cold War.
“I was very fortunate to have the company that I was in go to Germany,” Geilenfeldt said.
Geilenfeldt would serve as an Army Fire Control Specialist in the 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry, a unit in the Berlin Brigade.
“They would call in fire missions, and I would figure out the deflections, the charge, and send that information, radio it to my three 81 mortars that were out in front of me about 50 yards and then they would fire a fire mission,” Geilenfeldt said.
Geilenfeldt would also go out on guard duty on several occasions guarding the Berlin Wall.
“There was a 50-yard zone where if any East German tried to come through to get to the wall and get to the American side, the East Germans a couple of times would shoot the East Germans that were trying to escape,” Geilenfeldt said.
Geilenfeldt also guarded Spandau Prison, inside was Rudolf Hess, one of WWII’s most notorious war criminals was serving a life sentence.
“You could see him, but you couldn’t talk to him, you couldn’t interact with him. To me it’s more real when they talk about the Jewish people and how they were exterminated in Germany, it’s very sad to see and realize all that.” Geilenfeldt said.
At times, Geilenfeldt was permitted to cross into Russian-occupied East Germany. Each visit resulted in a heartbreaking scene.
“We would collect a group of East German citizens, who would, maybe 20 to 30 who would follow us around,” Geilenfeldt said.
Geilenfeldt would serve as part of the Berlin Brigade for two years. It would take another 20 before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
“It does make you feel like you were part of history. You were part of the U.S. freeing Germany and making it a wide-open free country again,” Geilenfeldt said.