|Producer Greg Johnson, Oliver North, and "War Stories" executive producer Pamela Browne|
FOXFan.com: What got you interested in this particular story?
I’m interested in Cold War history in general, and the story of a divided Berlin is sort of a microcosm of the Cold War overall, and the division of Europe between the democratic free West and the communist East. This is a compelling story because the city of West Berlin was over 100 miles behind the Iron Curtain, and for almost 50 years we had American, as well as British and French soldiers stationed there, defending the city from communist takeover.
FOXFan.com: What surprised you when you took a closer look at the events in Berlin during this time?
The Soviets and German communists considered Berlin the capital of communist East Germany. Half that capital was occupied by Western forces, and was a democratic city. The people who lived there, as well as the people who served there, were located in a very small territory deep behind the Iron Curtain. Imagine if you cut Manhattan in half, and one half is a free neighborhood inside a large communist dictatorship.
Literally millions of people came to Berlin to try to get to the West and to try to reach freedom. It was a lighthouse of sorts. You had all these people taking trains, driving, flying – trying any way they could to get to East Berlin so that they could somehow try to get across the line, over the wall, to the neighborhoods of West Berlin. So it wasn’t just a symbol. It represented a very real possibility of freedom for millions and millions of people. And over two million people did make it.
In August of 1961 when they suddenly built The Wall, if a mother was visiting relatives on one side and spent the night, she woke up and was unable to get home and never saw her family again. There was a story of a young guy who went to a dormitory to hang out with friends of his and decided to spend the night. That was the night the wall went up, and he never saw his mother again. He could never get home. There were children with their grandparents who could never get home. I mean, they literally just sealed off this city. It's just mind boggling to think about.
FOXFan.com: How did forces handle being in such close proximity to the enemy?
Well, it was ground zero for Cold War espionage. There were thousands of spies working in the city for about 15 years after World War II ended. American soldiers and spies worked right alongside the Soviets. In our show, you’ll see the Americans built a spy tunnel underneath their sector into the Soviet sector to listen to Soviet cables. And a portion of that tunnel still exists. Oliver North goes into that tunnel to show you what it looks like.
Berlin was really a dangerous place during that time. People were kidnapped day and night – just taken off the streets of the city. It was very tense. When the Cold War heated up, it heated up like nowhere else then on the streets of Berlin.
FOXFan.com: What were some of the most important lessons that came out of this era?
What the United States did in West Berlin for all those years showed the Soviets, the Germans, Europe and the rest of the world, that we would not abandon anyone to communism. West Berlin was a very small piece of territory: around one million people. It wasn’t important strategically. We didn’t need it to defend Western Europe against communism. But we said we would spend the money and the effort, and risk American lives to defend this small territory, because we would not give anyone up to communism. And we did that for 50 years. I think the communists were taken aback, and thought we were strange, and didn’t understand it. The Germans were incredibly thankful, and understood the United States and democracy much better because of our actions there. And I think Western Europe and the world saw that America was very committed to democracy and using its military to defend it.