• Berlin Wall sculpture a Cold War reminder

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  • Quentin Schillare | Special to the Fort Leavenworth Lamp
    Fort Leavenworth has several sculptures — works of art in bronze or stone. Most sculptures on post are in bronze. The oldest is the Ulysses S. Grant statue at the northern end of Grant Avenue dedicated in 1889 in honor of the recently deceased Civil War hero and two-term president.
    The next oldest bronze sculpture and probably the most famous sculpture on post is the equestrian statue of an African-American cavalry sergeant formally unveiled at the Buffalo Soldier Monument dedication in July 1992. The trooper is accompanied in the nearby Circle of Firsts Memorial Park by a platoon of busts of famous noncommissioned officers, officers and generals. Most are depicted life size, but the recent addition of former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Gen. Colin L. Powell is carved larger than life size —probably because he was present at the September 2014 dedication and the artist and organizers wanted to remain on his good side.
    There are several works of carved stone in the Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery, including the grave marker of Brig. Gen. Henry Leavenworth. It depicts an eagle with partially spread wings. Another sculpture is an eagle with fully spread wings carved in high relief above the keystone on the west side of the Grant Hall sally port.
    These sculptures are intended to be easily recognizable representations of their subjects in heroic or dignified poses. There is another sculpture on post that is more of an abstraction. The Berlin Wall Monument on the south shore of Smith Lake, composed of three slabs of reinforced concrete together with a pile of smaller pieces of broken concrete, signify the universal human need for self-determination.
    Mirroring the rest of the conquered Third Reich after World War II, the former German capital was divided into American, British, French and Soviet sectors. In practical terms, the three western sectors formed one western zone.
    The Berlin Wall construction began more than 15 years after the start of the Cold War. It was in response to a brain drain of more than two million people from the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) to the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) by way of the city of Berlin from 1946 to 1961. On Aug. 13, 1961, to stem the tide of defectors, barbed wire was strung to separate the western sectors from the Soviet sector. Days later a wall of concrete sections began to replace the wire with what was eventually a 27-mile double-walled barrier. Over the years, the surface of the wall facing West Berlin was covered with graffiti. The east facing side was not.
    Checkpoints enabled passage through the wall. American service members could take tours of East Berlin passing through the Friedrichstrasse crossing point, better known as Checkpoint Charlie. Veterans of a certain age tell stories of sitting on a U.S. Army bus in uniform while border guards randomly inspected the credentials of family members. They did not verify the identity of those in uniform. By the Four Powers agreements on the occupation of Germany, the American Armed Forces Class A uniform was identity enough.
    Page 2 of 2 - East German political, economic and social conditions did not keep pace with those in the West and on Nov. 9, 1989, the East German government permitted its citizens to travel beyond its borders. People started to chip away at the wall to collect mementos. However, border controls existed until June 13, 1990, when demolition of the wall began. Demolition of the wall led to a cottage industry. The Berlin Wall became one big souvenir and the wall was auctioned off piece by piece. Parts of the Berlin Wall exist in 36 nations. Pieces of the wall are found in 59 locations across the United States, including seven on Army installations. Fort Leavenworth has three panels.
    After the wall came down, the last American commander in Berlin, Maj. Gen. Raymond E. Haddock, gave the three concrete segments covered with graffiti to President Ronald Reagan on Sept. 10, 1990. Reagan later gave them to the Command and General Staff College. The slabs are arranged as a sculpture to tell the story of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. The upright segment has the graffito of the Statue of Liberty painted by an unknown artist.
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