The moment when mankind was approaching total destruction for the first time, the incident at Checkpoint Charlie, the stories behind it

Translated from the Headlines (Toutiao 头条新闻)

Author: Keep it simple (活简单点)

Since mankind began to hold together for warmth, due to the natural exclusivity and self-interest in the biological genes of nature, wars have begun. With the multiplication and growth of human society, the scale of war has also continued to expand, and it has been throughout the entire human history.

Developed to modern times, with the development of science and technology, the slaughter function of war has increased geometrically. The First and Second World Wars have taught mankind the most painful lesson, but mankind does not seem to be awakened by it. . Not long after the smoke of World War II dissipated, the remaining warmth of the Elbe River meeting and shaking hands has not disappeared. The cold war has begun again. At this time, with the advent of nuclear weapons, a huge sword of Damocles has begun to hang high above human beings.

In this short period of more than 40 years, the world’s two largest armed groups confronted the world’s two largest armed groups, and mankind once again experienced countless huge crises. The third world war seems likely to break out at any time. Such as the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, in which people still have lingering fears.

At the peak of the conflict that year, all US strategic bombers had been carrying nuclear bombs on standby for 24 hours, and the fingers of the leaders of both sides had been hovering next to the nuclear launch button. The outbreak of an all-out nuclear war that would destroy mankind may be ignited at any time. In the process, even the B-59 submarine, which broke through the blockade by the Soviets, almost preempted to launch torpedoes with nuclear warheads under the pressure of US ships.

At that moment, the whole world was suffocating! All praying for fate!

Fortunately, the event ended with Soviet concessions. Although the entire process was only 13 days, this incident is still considered to be the most dangerous moment for mankind. Although the outcome of the incident is that the United States has won in this contest. However, I have always believed that although the Soviet Union finally made a compromise, it greatly lost face all over the world. However, judging from the performance of this incident, the attitude of this extremely strong country towards the destiny of mankind seems to be more responsible than the United States.

In the Cold War of that year, under the tense confrontation between the two sides, the fuse of the Third World War seemed to be ignited at any time. In fact, as early as a year ago, mankind also faced such a crisis of nuclear destruction. At that time, because the two sides had a conflict in Berlin, Germany, even four nuclear-powered submarines of the United States had surfaced in the process, and dozens of missiles with nuclear warheads were ready to be launched at any time. An all-out nuclear war that will destroy mankind is about to start. This is the Checkpoint Charlie incident.

Checkpoint Charlie, the English name is Checkpoint Charlie, which comes from NATO’s alphabetic letters Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie. It is located on Friedrichstraße in the center of Berlin. It was between East Germany and West Germany during the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union after the establishment of the Berlin Wall. One of several checkpoints in and out.

However, the checkpoint is mainly used by military personnel and diplomats of both sides. After the reunification of East and West Germany, the Berlin Wall disappeared and the checkpoint was demolished. Later, it was rebuilt because of the historical significance represented by this important event. Today it has become an important tourist attraction in Berlin, Germany.

Back to the story of the year. On August 14, 1961, when the Berlin Wall was established, the West expressed strong protests, but it was only a verbal condemnation, and no actual actions were taken to stop it. The establishment of the Berlin Wall also marked a new peak in the Cold War confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. Since then, small frictions about this wall have continued.

A well-known current affairs observer predicted that this wall would not be able to isolate conflicts. This was just the beginning of another kind of conflict. Sure enough, two months later, this incident occurred that caused countless people in the world to remember and fear.

Checkpoint Charlie in 1963

At that time, the Berlin Wall was hurriedly established, and many places had only barbed wire instead of the later high walls. Checkpoint Charlie was one of the few intersections in the Berlin Wall where both sides passed. The U.S. side just casually built a beige wooden shed about the size of the canteen. And compared to other checkpoints, because it is mainly a passage for diplomats, the barbed wire is not high and there are not many guards. At the same time, the design of the building is very simple. This made it attract many East Germans who wanted to escape to West Germany to take advantage of this gap.

Soon after the establishment, an Austrian named Heinz Meixner who lived in West Germany used a modified car and was covered by other vehicles at the checkpoint to secretly take his East German girlfriend and His mother took it. Soon afterward, another man also used this method to successfully escape to West Germany before the construction of the reinforced concrete wall.

And in September 1961, an East German photographer named Horst Baier pretended to be standing in a car to take pictures of the barbed wire in front of Checkpoint Charlie, and then jumped over the barbed wire in full view. Generally, for such situations, the American soldiers stationed on the opposite side either bluff or pretend to be blind, and some will take advantage of the conditions to provide some help.

In view of the frequent occurrence of escape incidents, the East German side became angrier and angrier. Under the strong protest from the Soviet side, under pressure, the high-level US military stationed in Berlin formally ordered that the US military personnel stationed in the United States be prohibited from helping East Germans to cross the barbed wire. It is forbidden to provide any assistance to these fugitives, but the order is only not to help, and the soldiers are not required to arrest these people.

With more and more escape incidents, the US’s uncooperative attitude. The anger of East Germany and the Soviet side became more and more fierce. Finally, they found an opportunity to retaliate, and this retaliation later became the fuse for the incident at Checkpoint Charlie.

Although the Berlin Wall was established at that time, for the convenience of exchanges between the occupying forces of the two sides, at the suggestion of the East German Interior Minister, Checkpoint Charlie was designated as the only crossing point for members of the Allied Armed Forces, that is to say, Checkpoint Charlie was both sides. The only free entrance, all American diplomats and soldiers can only enter East Berlin through this.

On the day of the incident, Alan Leitner, a US diplomat with a beautiful female companion, was passing through Checkpoint Charlie, preparing to go to East Berlin to watch an opera. At that time, the garrison in East Germany suddenly requested to check Leitner’s documents, but he refused. The reason was that as an occupied zone and a victorious country, only Soviet personnel had the right to check his documents.

Unexpectedly, the East German police were here to find faults, and they refused to give up. The quarrel became more and more intense. Finally, under his anger, Lightner drove through the barrier forcibly. This behavior aroused the anger of the East Germans, so he notified him. The Soviet side, under the direction of the Soviet side, quickly mobilized military vehicles to encircle Lightner and his female companions and was subsequently arrested and detained in the guard room. The incident escalated quickly.

In fact, the original intention of the Soviet side at that time was to establish a warning of “no example”, and also to test how the West would react to this. As a result, the answer appeared quickly.

The highest U.S. officer stationed in Berlin at the time was General Lucius Clay. This general was known for his toughness. He was a typical hawk in the U.S. military. He was known as the “Barton of the Cold War”. He was in Berlin in 1948. Showcased in the airlift incident. After he received the news, he immediately ordered a group of armed American soldiers to take a military jeep into the East German guardhouse and forcibly snatch Lightner out. Leitner returned to West Germany at nine o’clock in the evening, three hours away from the seizure.

At the same time, the White House also stiffly stated publicly that if a U.S. official enters East Germany and is required to show his credentials, he can use tanks and other weapons to forcibly break through the barrier. This statement made the anger of the Soviet people more and more raging. The Soviet leader Khrushchev declared that this was a shameless act of provocation by Western imperialism. We will never compromise.

Under such tit-for-tat and tense statements, two days later, the tension escalated again. When another US diplomat passed through Checkpoint Charlie, he was denied entry again because he refused to show his credentials. This time, General Clay, who had already held the sword of Shang Fang, thoroughly demonstrated his toughness and immediately ordered 10 M-48 tanks to be sent to checkpoint Charlie.

Ten tanks were parked only about ten meters away from the checkpoint, and a shovel was installed in front of the two tanks to knock down buildings. The diesel engine made a deafening roar, and the black smoke from the rear of the tank filled the air. All the muzzles pointed directly at the East German side, and they would forcibly pass through the barriers only after an order was given.

The Soviets didn’t expect to expand the situation, but in the face of such provocations, the Soviets really couldn’t bear it anymore. The Last Lightner incident caused the Soviets to suffocate their stomachs, and now the tanks are all hitting the door. coming. After Khrushchev learned of the news, he was very angry and immediately called Defense Minister Marshal Malinovsky to fight back with force. The order from the Kremlin at that time was: “Don’t create opportunities for provocation.”

Similarly, Marshal Konev, the Soviet Supreme Commander who was stationed in East Germany at the time, was also a typical hardliner. After receiving the order, the iron-blooded general who had experienced countless fierce battles in World War II, with a big wave of his hand, immediately ordered a tank unit to go to Checkpoint Charlie.

At 6 o’clock in the evening, the American soldiers waiting for orders at the entrance of Checkpoint Charlie suddenly heard a huge roar from the opposite side. Taking a closer look, ten huge Soviet T-55 tanks roared on the opposite street, and they drove quickly. Stopped across from the U.S. tank, the muzzles turned all together and pointed toward the U.S. army.

However, the principle of reciprocity has never been the style of a fighting nation. The Russians have always used a sledgehammer to kill chickens, but they like to be crushed by strength. Then there was a greater roar from a distance, and the Americans were stunned to find that 23 more Soviet tanks appeared in the night, and began to circle around the US tanks from both sides.

The U.S. commander suddenly felt very nervous. The U.S. army preparing to break through the barrier was the E Company of the 2nd Armored Battle Group of the 6th Infantry Regiment. The company commander was named John Kirk, who was only a captain at the time. The supreme commander of the entire force is a major named Tom Terry.

For these veterans who have heard of the bloody turmoil of World War II, they have always been very familiar with the bravery and sturdiness of the Soviets. Seeing that the situation is extremely bad, Tom Terry hurriedly reported to his superiors while nervously building a tank defense position. At the same time, all rocket launchers were ordered to open their insurance, and all tank turrets were also loaded with shells.

At the same time, he still felt that the current US firepower was still unable to fight the opposing Soviet tanks, and he let his troops go to civilian houses to collect bottles, gasoline, and alcohol. Due to the special period, there is still a shortage of civilian gasoline. Local residents can only provide more than 50 bottles of spirits to the US military, and the US military used these materials to make dozens of earthen Molotov cocktails on site.

U.S. anti-tank positions at the time

At this point in the incident, no one can retreat, because this is not just a matter of the face of the country, but whoever retreats means the loss of prestige in front of allies, resulting in a terrible political consequence of an overall collapse. . At this time, the two sides are already riding a tiger, and the huge political pressure is doomed to continue the confrontation.

At this moment, the whole world has held its breath. The eyes of the whole world are on this small checkpoint on this street in Berlin. Here, dozens of tanks on both sides have been lined up in battle formation, and their muzzles have been aimed. The other side stared at him, and only waited for the order from above, the war was about to start.

Objectively speaking, the US that provoked the incident did not expect that the Soviet side’s reaction would be so strong that many preparations were insufficient. Just as the high-level US officials were urgently discussing whether to send reinforcements, but were worried about the expansion of the situation, the night had completely fallen, and the Soviets played another trick. Suddenly, the Soviet front was completely white, and dozens of searchlights had been prepared. Swipe to the US military positions.

The U.S. soldiers were photographed so that they could not open their eyes, exposed, and were in chaos. However, due to lack of preparation, the U.S. military did not carry such equipment as searchlights. In the face of such demonstrations, Tom Terry was not to be outdone and immediately ordered his troops to go to the civilian houses. Look for high-wattage direct spotlights to fight back, but how can these kinds of things compare with military searchlights, and the Soviets are also lacking in morals. They shine on whoever comes up. Under the glare of searchlights, many American soldiers dare not look up at all. . In contrast, the US military lost another time in the contest.

Later, what made the American soldiers even more nervous was that the Soviet army suddenly sounded Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”, which was a famous song written by Tchaikovsky to commemorate the Russian invasion of Napoleon in 1812. , The work is sonorous and impassioned, and there is a rumble of gunfire in the song, which is extremely inspiring. In World War II, it was often used by the Soviet army as a combat song before the offensive.

Experienced US veterans of World War II are very familiar with this characteristic of the Soviet army. Many people think that the offensive is about to begin, and they are extremely nervous. John Kirk immediately issued the order to prepare for battle. At that time, the tank gunner’s attention had been all on the launch button, and the soldiers’ fingers had already clasped the trigger of the rocket launcher. Later, the soldiers involved in the incident admitted in the subsequent investigation that they were all ready to fire, only waiting for the company commander to give an order or a flash of gun muzzle on the opposite side.

Although from the scene, the Soviet army has already occupied the advantage, the Americans have been unable to retreat to this point, not only because they provoked the armed conflict, as the boss of the Western camp, they cannot afford to lose this person. If one retreats, then the image of the United States in the world will definitely collapse completely. Both Captain Kirk and Major Terry understood this, so they kept gritting their teeth.

As an army force, the Soviet Union at that time was undoubtedly the most powerful in the world. At that time, the Soviet army had more than 50,000 tanks alone, and the performance of these tanks was leading in the world at that time. Faced with such a huge conventional military force. Someone said at that time that if the Soviets wanted to attack, this torrent of armor could occupy entire Western Europe in a week. Therefore, there is no doubt that the US confrontation in this regard is completely at a disadvantage.

Under the urgency of the situation, the then-U.S. President Kennedy issued an order that the world’s heart palpitations so far: All U.S. military preparedness, the North Star nuclear submarine in the Bering Strait began to float, dozens of nuclear warheads on the boat began to lock. The major cities of the Soviet Union. He did not hesitate to threaten the Soviet Union with a full-scale nuclear war.

At that time, the nuclear weapons of the two countries were enough to destroy mankind several times. At that moment, if any soldier fires the first bullet or cannonball because of high tension, then the entire history of mankind may be rewritten. Fortunately, the commanders and soldiers on both sides have excellent resistance to pressure, and both are more rational. They all understand the seriousness of the fire because not only the follow-up of the incident will be unpredictable, but also because of the seriousness of the consequences. No one can afford it. It can be said that anyone who is not careful will become the sinner of human beings forever.

In this way, in the confrontation, both sides waited nervously for the other party to fire the first shot or the superior’s order. In the process of intense nerve tension, Marshal Konev, who had been watching the incident nervously, reported to Khrushchev on the phone that the tank engines on both sides had been running at high speed for several hours. In the tense confrontation and the huge noise, the nerves of the tank crews on both sides must be very tense. At this time, if either side has an impulse or an operation error, the consequences will be unimaginable…

After receiving the call, Khrushchev was silent for a while. Finally, I dialed Kennedy’s direct phone. This was the first and greatest test that humanity has experienced since the establishment of this so-called “red telephone line.” Great.

It is related to the performance of Khrushchev in the Cuban Missile Crisis. I have always believed that in these two incidents, Khrushchev did appear to be more responsible for the world than Kennedy.

In fact, like Kennedy, from the bottom of his heart, conventional military forces are not opponents of the other party. The main reason for clamoring nuclear strike deterrence is to lose face. He is also hard to beat, but he does not want this military confrontation to develop into a large-scale confrontation. Of war. After all, once a nuclear war breaks out, the United States will be in ruins, and it will also become the target of all sorts of people.

During the phone call, Kennedy assured the other party that the United States had no intentions in East Berlin. Then Kennedy asked Khrushchev whether the Soviets could retreat the tanks a bit, and if possible, he would order the U.S. tanks to retreat too. This way Neither side will lose face. Khrushchev’s answer is: totally agree. At the same time, in order to release goodwill, it also acquiesced that in the future Allied officials and military personnel can enter East Berlin unimpeded, and there is no need to check their documents.

As a result, the destiny of mankind was finally far away from a crisis under the giant hands of these two big men. First, the Soviet tanks, then the US tanks, they all retreated about 10 meters away and then stopped. At this moment, although their muzzles are still aiming at each other, the biggest crisis of mankind has finally been lifted.

However, in this incident, whether it was the West German government in Bonn or the East German government in Berlin, as the owners of this land, they were not eligible to participate in this event. All decisions during the event were made by the United States and the Soviet Union. These two great powers made the decision single-handedly. It fully embodies the sorrow of the occupied country.

I don’t know how Hitler, who once firmly believed that Germany was the best nation in the world, had brought serious disasters to this country if he knew about it. This is not only the shame a madman brought to a nation. And sorrow, but it is what we peace-loving people need to keep in mind and be vigilant today!

Many years after this incident, the dangers of the year were still unforgettable for a long time. In a documentary produced by German TV, an interview with General Gribokov, the Soviet on-site commander, was interviewed by the old man. The highest command of the army set the danger level of the situation at that time as “first-class”, and the Soviet army also began to prepare for full combat readiness. The danger of the situation at that time can be imagined.

Fortunately, the incident is finally over, neither has it developed out of control nor has the Americans lost face. The high-level U.S. military was very satisfied with the performance of the soldiers at the scene. The U.S. company commander John Kirk, because of this outstanding performance, rocketed up all the way, and later retired as a brigadier general. And the major Tom Terry was promoted to the high position of lieutenant general. And General Klein’s reputation has reached its peak, with a dazzling halo, but soon he was ordered to retire because of his age.

As this little Checkpoint Charlie, which has witnessed this important turning point in the destiny of mankind, it has existed for more than two decades, and it has continued to faithfully record the history of the Cold War throughout the long years.

In February 1962, Checkpoint Charlie played the leading role in one of the most famous prisoner exchanges during the Cold War. Here, the captured US military U-2 reconnaissance plane pilot Francis Gary Powers exchanged with the Soviet Rudolf Abel who was arrested in New York and convicted of espionage.

That day, the weather was clear. When Bowers and Abel passed by, the two in the sun smiled, stretched out their hands and shook each other, and then embraced each other in a friendly way. Think about it, at that moment, the joy of freedom has made them forget the country and hatred, and they only have the kindness that humans should have in their hearts.

Checkpoint Charlie later became a favorite scene in many Western spy novels and movies because it was often used for the exchange of prisoners from both sides. The most famous of these is the picture in the 1965 film “Spy from the Cold” by John Le Carré.

The scene of the removal of Checkpoint Charlie that year

On November 9, 1989, with the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, marking the end of an era, Checkpoint Charlie remained in operation until seven months later. At a grand ceremony attended, the iconic building was removed: the beige guardhouse. Since then, Checkpoint Charlie has finally come to an end and completed its historical mission.

At that time, politicians said in their speeches: “For 29 years, Checkpoint Charlie has recorded many important moments of the Cold War. We are here today to dismantle it to hope and bury the conflict.” But later, due to its too great significance, at the request of countless people, a copy of this guardhouse was built. As a tourist attraction, it stands quietly on this street. Today it has become an important tourist attraction in Berlin.

The Guardhouse at Checkpoint Charlie in the Allied Army Museum in Berlin today

The original guardhouse, which has appeared to be dilapidated and old, is now lying silently in a museum in Berlin for visitors. Silently telling posterity about that period of history that made people unable to calm for a long time! Perhaps, what it actually wants to say the most is: Humans, you are too dangerous! !!