This Week in EUCOM History: November 5-11, 1989

November 9, 1989 -- Fall of the Berlin Wall.

Communist-controlled East Germany opens checkpoints in the Berlin Wall allowing its citizens to travel to West Germany. This key event led to the eventual reunification of East and West Germany.

In a press conference on Nov. 9, 1989 GDR central committee spokesman Guenter Schabowski unintentionally announced that citizens could travel to West Germany immediately. Schabowski was asked just before 7 p.m. about when a new law permitting GDR citizens more freedom of travel would go into effect. Schabowski famously told the journalist: "As far as I know, that goes into effect now, immediately."

Immediately following the remark, GDR citizens rushed to the border separating East and West Berlin, wanting to visit the western part of the city. The GDR border guards were unaware of the press conference, and, taken aback by the crowds gathering in front of them, made repeated calls to their superiors asking for guidance. They successfully prevented citizens from crossing the border for three hours.

But later in the evening, the guards relented and opened the borders. People were able to cross freely from East to West for the first time since the wall was erected on August 21, 1961.

The fall of the Berlin Wall signaled the end of the Cold War. At this time he US began to reassess their military organizational structure in Europe. In the days following November 9, 1989 written proposals  were made to then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen Colin Powell that EUCOM be disestablished and brought under Atlantic Command as a subordinate unified command.

The end of the Cold War meant shrinking budgets and switching from a global to a regional strategy. When the next written change to the Unified Command Plan was published in May 1991, EUCOM remained as a Combatant Command due to the U.S.’s commitment to the defense of Europe.

Source: “The History of the Unified Command Plan 1946-1993” The Joint History Office, Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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Comments: 1

by Michael Pflanz on November 10, 2011 :

I was stationed at HQ USEUCOM in the Command Section during this very exciting period of time. As I look back over my 23 years in the US Army I will always treasure my time working with LTG Leland, Maj Carl Johnson, BG John Garrison and so many other professional officers of the US Armed Forces.

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