108. Berlin Wall Monument

This monument is part of the Buffalo Soldier Commemorative Area located at 290 Stimson Ave, Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027

The Berlin Wall divided Germany’s capital for almost three decades, its western and eastern halves reflecting the United States’ and Soviet Union’s respective spheres of influence during the Cold War. Although Berlin Wall was not as rigid a border for West Germans wishing to visit East Berlin, it was incredibly risky to cross the other way around. The Eastern Bloc, then rather separated from Western Europe and NATO countries by the Iron Curtain’s travel restrictions, confronted a variety of issues going into the 1980s including economic stagnation and corruption, which heightened citizens’ dissatisfaction with Soviet-style socialism and led to widespread protests. When the Wall finally “fell” on November 9th, 1989, many people viewed it at a sign of the imminent collapse of the repressive dictatorships in Eastern Europe and end of the Cold War. The Berlin Wall’s collapse was not the start nor the end of dissidence in the Eastern Bloc, but it has undoubtedly become one of the most iconic symbols of the period.

General Raymond Haddock, the final commander of U.S. forces in West Berlin, gifted these three segments of the Berlin Wall from Checkpoint Charlie to President Ronald Reagan in September 1990, nearly a year after the Wall’s dismantlement and just a month before Germany’s official unification in October 1990. The monument at Fort Leavenworth was unveiled in 1998, seven years after the Command and General Staff College received the fragments due to its history of training American officers who served in West Germany throughout the Cold War. The graffitied fragments are positioned to mimic the progression of the “fall” itself; the diagonal fragment with the Ronald Reagan quotes represents the crumbling of the Wall over time, the horizontal one reading “FREEDOM” represents the final collapse of the Iron Curtain and Cold War divisions, and the central piece with Statue of Liberty is left standing as a representation of democracy’s strength. Interestingly, even though the graffiti is in English, it uses the German transliteration of Gorbachev, “Gorbatschow.” Also, the Statue of Liberty, which mostly faded now, is holding up a fist engulfed in flames instead of a torch, which is quite representative of the triumphant feelings many people living in the Eastern Bloc held at the end of these 1989 “revolutions.”

Sources

“Cold War Monument Rises in Leavenworth.” Lawrence Journal, June 15, 1998. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2199&dat=19980615&id=TpEzAAAAIBAJ&sjid=NekFAAAAIBAJ&pg=6605,2548151&hl=en.

Fisher, Marc. “Allied Commanders Bid Farewell to Berlin.” The Washington Post, October 3, 1990. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1990/10/03/allied-military-commanders-bid-farewell-to-berlin/fa257cb6-f28c-4256-93c9-6b10af46f398/.

Hess, Anna J. “Fort Leavenworth Erects the ‘Wall.’” Fort Leavenworth Lamp, November 20, 1997.

Jarausch, Konrad H.. “Peaceful Revolution.” In Out of Ashes: A New History of Europe in the Twentieth Century, 666-693. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015.

Judt, Tony. "The Power of the Powerless." In Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, 559-584. New York, NY: Penguin, 2005.

Schillare, Quentin W. Fort Leavenworth: The People Behind the Names. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: Combat Studies Institute Press, 2014, 188. https://www.armyupress.army.mil/portals/7/educational-services/staff-rides/ftl_peoplebehindnames.pdf.

Ther, Philipp. “The Revolutions of 1989-91.” In Europe Since 1989: A History, 49-76. Translated by Charlotte Hughes-Kreutzmüller. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016.