Col. Tim Lawson the 32nd Infantry Brigade Commander of the Wisconsin National Guard, presented the Berlin Crisis ribbon to 37 area veterans Thursday, Aug. 23, at the Waupaca County Fair.
The following veterans received the ribbon:
Eugene K. Engebretson, John F. Penney, Arlin C. Barden, Russell Wiesen, Curtiss E. Sommer, Allen Abrahamson, Kenneth J. Tourville,
Leonard Haroldson, David Klatt, Leon Steenbock, Gary Thoe, Donald K. Whitney, Lee Poehlman, Kenneth G. Blom, James W. Ehlke, Arlen E. Sasse,
Roy W. Anderson, Harland H. Hansen, Roger L. Gensler, Dale W. Kluth, Knute T. Thompson, Donald J. Haws, Darrell G. Polzin, Gary Kisling,
Jim Stern, Armen Anderson, Robert Conroy, Robert Dailey, Eugene Adams, Donald Tautges, Robert Glocke, Joe Van Zummeren.
The following veterans were awarded the ribbon posthumously:
Gene E. Austin, Arlan Main, Clyde S. Wetherbee, William D. McFadden, Donald L. Vaughan. Nearly 100 veterans from Waupaca County have been identified as eligible for the award, according to Wayne Knutson, the Waupaca County veterans service officer.
Berlin becomes potential flashpoint in Cold War
During the presentation ceremony, Lawson delivered the following remarks about the history and significance of the Berlin Crisis:
The history leading up to the Berlin Crisis stretches all the way back to World War II. The war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945 and two months later the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union held the Potsdam Conference, which sought to decide how to handle post-war Germany. It was here that the Allied powers broke Germany up into four sectors, controlled by the Americans, British, French, and Soviets respectively.
So in August 1945, world affairs seemed in order. World War II was over, a coalition of powerful nations had broken the power of Germany and divided it into sectors with a plan to move toward reunification, and the United States was the sole possessor of nuclear weapons. Things seemed, if not peaceful, at least stable.
Beneath the surface, however, distrust and animosity were brewing among the Big Three Allies of the U.S., Great Britain, and the U.S.S.R. Each country had questions about the intentions of the others, with issues of defense, expansion, economics, and politics all coming into play.
In June 1948, the first major flare-up of the Cold War occurred in Berlin. The Soviet Union effectively cut off all ground and water transport into West Berlin, which kept the Western nations from being able to send supplies to the German citizens there.
Working with the British, the Americans began the Berlin Airlift.
The airlift operation was a risky move, as it in essence dared the Soviets to stop it, which likely would have led to war. Using C-47s and C-54s, food, supplies and coal were flown into West Berlin, keeping both German citizens and allied occupation troops fed and supplied. This operation was so effective that the Soviets dropped the blockade in May 1949.
The Berlin Airlift transported 2 million tons of supplies to West Berlin and, at its height, an airplane reached the city every 30 seconds.
In 1949 the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was created, with the U.S., Great Britain, France, and Canada among the more prominent members. NATO members agreed to come to the defense of any member nation that fell under attack, a clear reaction to the rising power of the Soviet Union. The stakes were rising.
In 1950, North Korean forces invaded South Korea, the beginning of the Korean War. The U.S. participated as part of U.N. forces to support the South Koreans. While the Soviet Union did not actively participate, they did contribute weapons and supplies to the North Koreans. The Korean War lasted three years and cost hundreds of thousands of lives.
In 1955, the Soviet Union and Eastern bloc countries formed the Warsaw Pact to counter NATO and the possibility of nuclear war seemed nearer.
After another unsuccessful attempt in 1958 to force the Allies out of West Berlin, the Soviet Union threatened to end Allied access to the city in 1961.
President Kennedy responded in July 1961 by stating, “We seek peace, but we shall not surrender.” He asked Congress for an additional $3 billion for military spending, increased the total authorized strength of the Army by almost 200,000 soldiers, doubled the draft calls, and increased infrastructure in this country such as fallout shelters, air-raid warnings, and fallout detection systems. The U.S. was gearing up for war.
The Soviets and East German government, in August 1961, shut down the border between East and West Berlin, and began building the Berlin Wall.
The Soviet Army maintained a presence at the wall, awhich led to a confrontation called Checkpoint Charlie, where American and Soviet tanks faced off about 100 yards apart for a week.
Responding to the construction of the Berlin Wall, President Kennedy ordered 148,000 National Guardsmen and Reservists to active duty, to train and be ready to reinforce regular Army troops if this escalation in tensions continued.
It was into this situation, with two nuclear powers squaring off around the world, with tensions rising, and with the threat of mutual assured destruction seeming very real, that the 32nd Division bravely marched.
They answered the nation’s call in a time of dire emergency and performed their duty admirably.