The Border


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The border trace between the two German states in the 2/11 ACR sector ran along the old German boundaries between the former principalities of Bavaria and Prussia until the very northern end of sector. Here, the border states changed to Hesse and Prussia. The Kingdom Stones, as they were called, were very visible, usually painted blue on the Bavaria side, this was the state distinctive color. In the northern reach of our sector, the stones were marked with yellow on the Hessian side. Deeply carved in these markers were the initials of the states, KB, Kingdom Bavaria and KP, Kingdom Prussia.

The modern state name for the former region of Prussia along our sector was Thuringia. This name was adopted after Germany was first unified into a modern state in 1871. During the Cold War years, to insure the exact location of the border, joint survey parties determined the true line and marked it with traditional stone reference point markers. German newspapers noted the few occasions when the actual modern survey moved the boundaries five or ten meters in either direction.

Border marking stone --Jack Tartella
Border Survey Stone --Jack Tartella
In the far northwest of our border sector, on the West German side, we crossed from Bavaria into  the state of Hesse.  Here, the  western border marking stones and other color coded markers were yellow and white.  Photo from 1974.      --John Capers

Border Signs


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There was an amazing array of signage and visual indicators associated with the border, almost all of which were designed to keep West German civilians and US military personnel from accidentally crossing into the east. Most signs were found along West German public roads running directly to the border and at vantage points look into the DDR that were popular with West German tourists. Over the years, the design and language of the signs became minor points of contention between East and West. Early signs noted East Germany as the "Soviet Occupied Zone ", as these signs were replaced, the language became less political.

Entry into the West German side of the border was completely open to all West German civilians and US civilian tourists. Military dependents and active duty personnel were restricted from the area unless on active border patrol or a sanctioned and accompanied tour. In the forests and fields, generally the survey stones and the Bavarian blue and white poles were the only western indicators prior to the East German barrier system.

These signs, placed by the West German Federal Border Police also were commonly found within inches of the border.
--Jack Tartella
This sign commonly could be found within inches of the actual border on the western side. Placed by the West German government it indicates the border and carries a graphic image reminding anyone that the actual border line lay at their feet, not at the East German fence line. The poster also displayed many features of the East German barrier system commonly visible from the west. Of note, the graphic shows the " second generation " of the barrier system with an old, wooden tower, double fence barrier and land mine strip.
--Jack Tartella
This sign was found on all West German public roads leading towards the border at the 1 kilometer point. All US forces were prohibited from going beyond this sign unless they were specifically assigned to a border unit and were on duty conducting the actual border surveillance mission. --Randy Mitchell

Black / Yellow / Red Concrete Markers


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The DDR [East Germany] as if to enforce the notion of national sovereignty, placed these concrete markers with aluminum crests of the national seal all along the border, back from the actual line by about two meters. Clearly visible but just out of reach, they were placed even in the deep woods or swamps.

DDR stone with crest
Detail of seal
Official East German spec sheet discussing the official dimensions and 
placement of the concrete markers. 

Needless to say, the national seal would have made a great souvenir. Within our sector, I can recall one marker, in the woods and otherwise not apparently under direct observation of the east, where the seal had been pried out with great effort.

Apparently, the back of the plaque had two very large bolts welded on that ran several inches into the concrete.


The Border Margin Strip


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The actual East German barrier system was built six to ten meters inside of the DDR. This allowed the Border Troops to come through the fence gates for maintenance and still be on East German soil. This small strip of land between the barrier and the actual border line was known as the margin strip. The East Germans routinely cut back vegetation, conducted maintenance and worked on fence upgrades from the margin area. When fence construction was underway, the elite East German GAKs heavily patrolled along the margin strip.

West Meets East ... As East German farm tractors cut the heavy grass in the margin area, members of the Eaglehorse Squadron and BGS, with green berets, watch. They in turn, are watched by East German Border Troops. --Erwin Ritter

Maintenance gate in barrier, looking across the margin strip.
--Erwin Ritter


The Fence


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The first generation was simple barbed wire strung along wooden then concrete poles. As the barrier evolved, the amount of wire increased.

First Generation Fence

The second generation showed the early evolution of the deep barrier system with towers,  Hinterland fence, bunkers and land mines. The actual barrier fence consisted of parallel fences of wire on concrete posts with a mined strip between them. As of 1978, about 35% of the Eaglehorse sector was still "second generation".

--John Capers

The third generation fence was a single barrier with land mines removed. The vast improvements in other security measures allowed the single fence method. The land mines were removed for a number of reasons; they were difficult to maintain and not fully reliable. The third generation fence carried anti-personnel mines on the eastern side of the fence. They were fused to go off on command or if the fence was touched. The photos show the evolution of the barrier system

-Erwin Ritter

There was near constant activity by Border Troop engineers and civilian contractors to make the system more secure. The third generation barrier fence was a single fence carried by concrete posts. The fence was about 3.2 meters high. The actual fence seemed to be die cut from sheet material rather than a woven wire pattern. This made it very strong and almost impossible to cut with wire or bolt cutters. This pattern also made it almost impossible find hand or foot holds to assist in climbing.


Gates in the Fence


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Along the barrier fence, gates had been built to allow access to the margin zone. Some gates corresponded to where previously existing roads once ran. Others were built at where Border Troop engineers felt necessary.






Anti-Vehicle Ditch


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The anti-vehicle ditch was designed to keep vehicles from trying to crash through the barrier fence system. Located between the plowed control strip and the barrier fence, it featured a deeply dug ditch, sloping gently towards the border. Opposite the slope were a series of pre-cast concrete slabs set at about a seventy degree angle. If a car attempted to crash through the barrier system, first it would be slowed by the soft soil of the plowed strip, then trapped in the anti-vehicle ditch. In this photo, one can see the construction of the ditch as the Border Troops continuously worked to improve security. The ditch has been dug and a group of slabs placed. Survey markers will guide the creation of the plowed strip and patrol road.



Control Strip


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The control strip featured deeply plowed soil that would slow any car trying to crash through the border fence going from East to West as well as indicate the footprints of unauthorized personnel. As shown here, the strip was constantly maintained. As the border barrier first began to evolve in the 1950s and early 1960s, these soft soil strips were one of the first features employed by the East Germans.

--Erwin Ritter


Concrete Slab Trail


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The concrete slab trail consisted of precast concrete pads laid in the soil to create the patrol road used by the East German Border Troop, foot and light vehicle patrols.





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Within our sector, the only major external lighting by the East Germans was at Eussenhaussen .  The legal crossing point on highway 19 was heavily illuminated both on the road and for several hundred meters to the left and right of the crossing check point. In the photo, we are looking through the fence into East Germany.  


--Erwin Ritter

-Erwin Ritter





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All of the towers and bunkers in the barrier system were wired into a telephone system.  In many ways this was more reliable, less expensive and more secure than FM radio.

Along the control road, at periodic intervals were telephone jack points through which a patrol could establish contact.  The Border Troops carried a special phone on their belt for this purpose



--Erwin Ritter

The report is received in the Command Tower.

When circumstances required, the Border Troops 
had  full access to  portable FM radios.



2nd Generation Tower


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The round observation towers represented the second generation of observation towers placed along the border. They replaced the wood frame and steel frame towers that were built when the barrier system first began. The round towers were constructed of modular concrete sections, brought in on flat bed trucks and assembled with the help of a large crane. It took only a few days to set a new tower in place, however, the minimal site preparation led, on occasion, to disaster with more than one toppling in high winds. The towers were linked together and to the command tower by a hard line telephone system. A white light search light was placed on the roof but could be aimed from inside. In general, towers were placed to insure that a high level of visible control could be maintained over the barrier system. If the terrain would not allow this, blind spots were covered by bunkers, dog runs and remote sensing systems. To avoid creating a pattern, not every tower was staffed every day. Rather, within a give East German sector, the daily patrol and observation plan was varied.

--Erwin Ritter

--Jack Tartella

Erwin Ritter had the chance to closely study the tower system after the border opened.  Shown here are details of a second generation round tower from our sector that had  a command bunker located at it's base.  Note the heavy doors and concrete parking pad next to the entrance.

These photos detail the interior space of the bunker and the ladder running into the tower.


3rd Generation Towers


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Although also built of modular sections, this new generation was larger, heavier and more care was taken to insure they were built on a firm footing.   Construction could take up to two weeks depending on the specific location.  Access to the roof was gained by a hatch, communication and overall living conditions were improved.  When they first appeared in the 2/11 sector, these towers seemed to be filling in gaps in the visual coverage; as time and funds allowed, perhaps the plan may have been to actually replace the round towers although this would have been expensive.


--Erwin Ritter

--Erwin Ritter



Command Tower


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As noted, the Border Troops divided the responsibility for their patrolling and control of the border into regiment -- then battalion -- and finally company areas of responsibility.  Not all towers were manned at all times to avoid creating a pattern, however, through the tower and bunker system assisted by vehicle and foot patrols, dog runs and remote sensors plus air coverage, a very tight control was maintained.  The command towers, shorter and wider than the standard observation towers were manned at all times and were the control center of each border company in their security efforts.  Some were closer to the actual border trace than others; they maintained a full array of both land line and fm communications plus the ability to react and marshal forces as necessary should a potential escape to the West be detected.


[All photos - Erwin Ritter]









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There were certainly more towers in our sector than bunkers.  I can only remember three or four locations with any certainty and they were staffed only periodically.  There was a joke it was more of a punishment to the troops than an actual method to control the border.  

Nevertheless, bunkers were another option for the  East  German border troop commander.   They appeared to have a fairly large underground space, based on the air vent pipes seen in the photos.   After the border opened, it was learned that several additional bunkers were located at controlling points associated with the Eussenhausen Crossing Point.


--Erwin Ritter


--Jack Tartella


--Jack Tartella


After the border opened,  Erwin Ritter had a closer
view of the Soviet bunker by Melpers. --Erwin Ritter




Dog Runs


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The dog on leash and cable system was a "point" defense / alert mechanism. The dog is tethered to a leash, the leash is then attached by a truck to the overhead wire that represented the limit of the dog run. This wire can only be suspended at the ends; anything intermediate would block the travel of the " truck ". At best, a 20 meter run before the sag effect of the overhead cable would set in. We had a few of these in the Eaglehorse sector. The East Germans provided a dog house to allow the animal an escape from the weather. In our sector, dog runs were seen but were not a key part of the security system. It appears as though they were used in areas outside the normal field of view from the towers. If a stranger approached, the barking of the dog would alert the guards.

A dog "runway" is a narrow, fenced on both sides, long course in which the dog is otherwise free to roam and bark. This is more of an "area" alert mechanism because the runway can be much longer than a wire run. In a runway, however, the dog can only alert by barking, the dog on tether system actually allowed for the possibility of an intercept if one tried to cross in his small area. The "dog runways" in our sector were located deep in the security zone, well back from the actual border. In other parts along the dividing line in Germany, dog runways were integrated into the barrier plan much closer to the actual border.

The border system used thousands of trained dogs, both for sentry work with a handler or alone on runs and run ways. The trained position of Dog Handler was highly sought after by the Border Troops. When the border collapsed in 1990, there was much concern over the fate of these animals. Active adoption programs found civilian homes for the vast majority.



Jack Walsh, Canadian Forces Photo.  These were taken at Hof, in the 2nd ACR sector.


BTs training with dogs --Erwin Ritter









Hinterland Fence


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The Hinterland Fence, also called the Signal Fence,  did not have land or fence mounted mines,  but there were a variety of measures to alert Border Troops to any attempted crossing.  The fence was wired with a variety of motion detecting sensors and  trip wires.  Some would signal  silent alarms at the Border Troop command towers, others would trigger flashing warning lights and loud horns at the point where motion was detected.


Warning lights mounted high on poles above the Hinterland Fence


Erwin Ritter took this photo after the barrier fence had opened.  Seen here is the Hinterland Fence from the East German side.  An electric wire system runs adjacent to the fence to keep livestock from triggering the sensors.   The red arrow indicates a stake carrying a trip wire run to a  flare system.  If the wire was tripped, a series of flares was automatically launched

Flood lamps tied to the sensor system.



Electricity for Fences


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The Hinterland fence, control zone, Border Troop installations and barrier fence with high voltage lights and  sensors all required a constant supply of  electricity.  The supporting power grid was built to insure that even in the harsh German winter, the supply would be uninterrupted, even at the expense of blacking out near by areas outside of the security zone.






Access Road


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Entry points at the Hinterland fence were closely controlled.  Seen here, an  open automated barrier in the lower right of the photo, on a road leading to the Hinterland fence.  The second photo is a detail of  an actual entry gate at the Hinterland / Signal  Fence.




Concrete Walls around Towns


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When either the Hinterland fence or the barrier fence passed through an East German town, rather than using the standard fence materials, a concrete wall reinforced with metal plates was used.  This was because the town streets and population were more difficult to observe and control by the Border Troops.  The wall was strong enough to withstand the impact of any civilian car or truck authorized in or near the security zone. 

--Erwin Ritter


Traffic Control Point


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Before one would even see the "Hinterland" fence, road control points began to carefully monitor traffic heading into the border region.  Anyone without correct credentials or a pass would be turned away.  Once past this check point,  monitoring continued to insure the stated destination was reached.

The East German civil police, Volkspolizei, had responsibility for control of access leading to the Hinterland fence.  Control points on the civil roads such as this one were located approximately five kilometers from the actual border.  Passage was granted only to people either living in the Hinterland area or having specific business in the area.   Once reaching the gates at Hinterland fence, the East German Border Troops would carefully check all traffic prior to allowing entry.



Grenztruppen der DDR - The East German Border Troops


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In the Eaglehorse border area, the East German barrier system was manned by personnel from two different border regiments.  The northern and central portion of our area was staffed by Border Troops of the 2nd battalion, Grenzregiment 3,  HQ located in the town of Kaltennordheim.  This regiment carried the honor title of " Florian Geyer ".  The southern portion of our sector was manned by Border Troops of Regiment 9, honor title " Konrad Blenkle ".  Regimental HQ and the 3rd battalion were at Drachenberg Kaserne in Meiningen.  The 3rd battalion, however, was responsible for the security at the Hinterland fence and the internal restricted area.  The barrier fence in the southern zone was staffed by men of the 1st battalion, HQ in Roemhild, a small town very close to our southern patrol boundary.

Typically, the line companies of the Border Troop battalions occupied their own separate barracks located inside the restricted zone in a village  within their patrol area.  The barracks consisted of billets for the soldiers, a motor pool and shop as  well as an administration building.  Married officers and higher level NCO's typically lived in private dwellings in or near the same village.  Each company consisted of about 120 men at full strength, three regular platoons and the GAK  (Grenzaufklarer) platoon.  The GAK's were those Border Troops seen at close range, on the western side of the barrier fence, either providing security during construction or observing the West.  The GAK's were the elite of the Border Troop units.

Although half of the Border Troops were conscripts and had a high replacement rate as their tour of duty ended, the career soldiers, NCO's and officers provided a stable and well trained cadre.  Much of their training was similar to the soldiers of the East German Army and in fact, they had heavy equipment to include tanks and artillery located outside of the border area.  Border Troop regiments were part of a command subordinate to the Ministry of Defense but outside of the command structure of the Army.  In the event of war, they had missions inside the border area extending into West Germany.

The pay and benefits for the Border Troops was comparable to that given to members of the East Germany Army.   Each pay grade had a salary rate, soldiers serving in technical or command positions received extra pay while serving in those capacities.  Longevity in pay grade led to an increase.  In 1980 East German Marks, a private in his second year of service would receive about 180 marks monthly.  A mid level NCO, about 350.  This same NCO, if serving as a squad leader could receive as much as a 100% increase.  If on "career status" he could also be entitled to up to 38 days of leave.  Small deductions were made for living in the barracks and for meals . 

Duty days were long and the six day work week common.  Off duty time was restricted to the immediate area of the company barracks or nearby village. When not on actual border duty, there were normal military and security training events as well as mandatory organized sports.   No civilian clothes were allowed for the junior enlisted men.  Any attempt at contact with the West or possession of Western media was a highly punishable offense.  Internal security in the barracks to include peer monitoring was stressed to insure anyone giving thought to an escape to the  West was identified.

Barracks friends were not assigned to the same duty patrols to prevent collusion.

There were extensive training programs to include schools and academies for both NCO's and officers. Both political education and on going security training were stressed at all levels; it was a professional organization with a sworn honor code to protect the security of the East German state.   In this capacity, they had " shoot to kill orders " to prevent escape from East Germany.  During the history of the barrier fence system, nearly 1000 deaths due to gun fire, mines or injuries received while attempting to escape were recorded.  

After  Germany  reunified, a long legal battle led to indictments of senior Border Troop commanders as well as rank and file soldiers as the new government in Berlin struggled with the legacy of the barrier system.  In certain cases, manslaughter convictions resulted with prision terms of  up to ten years for the guilty.

Within the Eaglehorse sector, the former regimental headquarters at Drachenberg in Meiningen is now a civilian police academy.  Of the company size barracks scattered along the former trace, some have been redeveloped into low income housing, others partially converted to industrial space and some are vacant and in decay.

Border Troop awards ceremony at Eishausen, 1989.
   --Erwin Ritter
The Frankenheim Border Troop company  barracks in our
northern patrol sector.  --Ritter
Company size barracks at town of Erbenhausen central
part of Eaglehorse patrol sector. 
Award being presented to departing Border Troop
company commander, 1979. 
--Stefanowicz / GT der DRR Heft 





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The companies of Border Troops, to secure the border barrier system, used a variety of mobile patrols.  Often seen on the control road were any number of light wheel vehicles and trucks.  Dismounted patrols carefully checking the plowed strip as well as motorcycle patrols were also common.  These images, both of actual events seen on our border and scans from Border Troop manuals and recruiting brochures reflect typical scenes.

Combat Trabant - Recruiting brochure --Stefanowicz
Grenz Trabant Kubel - The light vehicle we commonly called a Grenz Trabant went by the actual designation  of the Kubel P60A. --Ritter
BT's and Grenz Trabant --Tartella
The UAZ 469B was a more robust replacement for the " Trabi " --Stefanowicz .
Seen here, a UAZ and a LKW lo 2002 pause in operations. --Ritter
Motorcycle patrol from recruiting brochure. --Stefanowicz
Two man patrol with trained dog from brochure. --Stefanowicz
What appears to be a UAZ speeds along the control road. --Tartella 





Air Operations


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The East German Border Troops covered the barrier system from the air with military utility helicopters flying from an airfield near Meiningen.  At least in the late 1970's, flights did not appear to be a daily occurrence and, in comparison to the Cav flights which hugged the actual border trace at low altitude and high speed, the East German flights were higher and somewhat back from the border.  Normally seen were NATO named  ' Hoplites ' and less frequently, the larger 'Hip'.  Starting in the mid 1980's, even the very capable MI - 24 'Hind" was occasionally seen from the Eaglehorse sector.  As the border opened but before the DDR collapsed, Erwin Ritter had  the chance to get some close photographs.

--Erwin Ritter
--Pilots, 4/11 ACR

An MI - 24 Hind above a command tower
as seen from OP Tennessee.--Erwin Ritter




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The East Germans laid over 1.3  million  anti personnel mines along the border from 1961 until 1985.  Their only purpose was to prevent crossing from East to West.  Along the border, to include the Eaglehorse sector, the mines fell into two groups, the buried land mines found between the two close running  fence lines of the second generation barrier system and the fence mounted " shot gun " mines found on the single fence lines of the third generation barrier. 
The ground laid mines, in wooden, plastic and steel cases, were very unstable and prone to explosion in a quick thaw then freeze,  heavy rain or contact with wildlife.  Working with these mines was very dangerous and often, the mine pattern established by the engineers was useless in the recovery process as the mines had shifted position.  The East Germans hung " Danger Mines " signs on the second generation fences; these signs faced towards the West. 
As the engineer troops of the border guard units converted sections of the barrier system from second to third generation fence, the buried land mines were recovered or, more often, detonated in place, to clear the area for the construction of the new, single ply fence.  These operations were dangerous and carefully watched by the GAK's of the DDR, the Bundesgrenzschutz of the Federal Republic and the patrol members of the US cavalry.  Even after reunification, the former East German government admitted that it could not account for the location of almost 18 ,000 mines, the vast majority were ground mines.  These mines were probably exploded but not recorded in recovery operations or lost due to  weather and animals. 
Interestingly, as of 1985, the West German government was offering financial aid to the DDR linked specifically to the clearing of the ground mines.  Even after the reunification of the two Germanys with the great economic and technological assistance of the former West Germany, it was not until late 1995 that the Federal Government certified that the last areas of the former border region were free of land mines.   The final section cleared was by Hof, not too far to the southeast of the Eaglehorse sector.   In 1995 US dollars, the final cost of clearing the border region in Germany  of mines and barriers was put at over 142 million.  For more information on mines and East German engineer troop activities, please see the " Engineer Troops "  tab.
This sign, from the Eaglehorse sector in 1977, " Attention ... Mines .... Barrier .... Danger to Your Life "  found on a run of 2nd generation barrier fence.  The sign faces to the West, of no help to a potential escapee. --Tartella
Seen in the center of the frame, an anti personnel mine, pulled to the surface and rolled on it's side by the frost.  A common scene along the second generation fence lines.--Erwin Ritter
Border Troop engineers  on a dangerous hunt for mines in the area between the two fences of a second generation barrier run.  They wear padded uniforms, special helmets and carry wooden poles to prod for ground mines. --Erwin Ritter
Searching for mines  by hand, a group of engineer troops clears a run of second generation fence prior to upgrade.  Note ambulance in upper right corner of photo. --Tartella
In this photo, we are standing in West Germany but looking along the back of a run of third generation fence line.  Two SM 70 mines can be seen; they appear as small,  gray rectangular boxes attached to the fence.  Metal outriggers that maintain the position of the trip wires can clearly be seen. --Erwin Ritter
As the barrier evolved to the third generation, single fence, the East Germans retired the unreliable ground mines in favor of the SM 70 " hot gun" mine, mounted to the concrete support posts of the inside runs of the new style fence.  Clearly seen in this photo, the mine could be triggered by a trip wire or by signal  from a command tower.  On occasion, West German civilians would toss stones at the fences to try and trigger the mines. --Erwin Ritter

Grenze Aufklarers [Border Reconnaissance Troops]


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Although from the same Border Troop companies, there was a significant distinction between those BT's seen on the Eastern side of the fence, in the towers and on the roads, and those seen at close quarters on the Western side of the barrier ... usually providing security when the fence was being worked on.

This latter groups, called GAK's (Grenze Aufklarers) (border reconnaissance) represented a specific sub set of the Border Troops. They had received additional training in security and reconnaissance skills and gone through a very carefully screening and selection process. They were considered the elite of the Border Troop ranks. Nevertheless, over the history of the inner German border, well over 100 of these specialized troops defected to the West.

All photos courtesy of Erwin Ritter


Soviet / East German Signals Intelligence Operations


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Both East and West saw the border  as a rich area for signals intercept.  Within the Eaglehorse sector, just visible to the naked eye was the " Bee Hive " antenna array by Ellenbogen.  This was an East German state intelligence service signals intercept point.  Featured are four fotos showing the Ellenbogen complex at various distances.  Once the border opened and East Germany began to fall apart, Erwin Ritter drove to the site and took several close ups of the antennas. 

Also visible from the Eaglehorse sector was the Soviet Army radio intercept base at "Grosse Gleichberg",  near the East German town of Rhomhild.  This could be seen in the distance from the vicinity of Breitensee, in the southern portion of our responsibility.

 A standard US patrol area of concern were the temporary Soviet signals collection points established  a few kilometers back from the barriers during periods of large NATO maneuvers.  This image of Hill 805 shows just such a collection point. 

[All photos courtesy Erwin Ritter]

Mast and building cluster at Soviet Army signal intercept site at Grosse Gleichberg.

Engineer Operations


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Also stationed in Meiningen in support of Grenzregiment 9 was a separate engineer company.  They provided barrier related maintenance and construction support to include such tasks as third generation barrier transitions of both towers and fence systems.  The barrier fence evolution from the parallel fences to the new style single fence was a simple enough procedure.  The de- mining of the center strip posed many problems.  The mines shifted in position due to frost heaves and erosion; they were not always stable.  Although the  smallest anti - personnel mines  had been placed, recovery or detonation proved to be dangerous work for even highly trained soldiers.  A variety of methods were used to include mine rollers and flails built on T54 chassis.  On occasion, it was necessary for soldiers to search for mines  with wooden or fiberglass poles.  One tracked utility vehicle had a large screen built into the side to protect the engineers as they searched with long poles.  At certain times, it was necessary for the soldiers to dismount and rely on the protection afforded by special body armor and head - face shields. 

De - mining by hand along a second generation fence.
Tracked engineer vehicle with blast screen.     
Large work camp for third generation fence transition.   
Engineer work party at end of day.   
Work site 2nd to 3rd generation fence.   
Mine roller attached to T54 chassis during conversion from second
to third generation fence, Eaglehorse sector, 1977.
Truck mounted crane for lifting third generation
fence sections into place, Eaglehorse sector, 1977. 
Used to clear the center strip of mines,
this engineer vehicle has a plow
front and a plow / digger at rear. 
Engineer vehicle, Eaglehorse sector, plow on front and  mine roller on rear, elevated in travel position. 
A detail of a rear mounted mine
roller device as it pivots into position. 
Note the safety cage to trap
debris thrown by explosions. 
The vehicle would back through the mined
strip; the roller detonating the mines. 
An engineer company " cherry picker "  crane performs maintenance on a second generation tower, Eaglehorse sector.  Ritter
Border Troop engineers with detector and probe work a section of second generation fence. 
Mine explosion.   
Roland Ansorge
Dangerous duty; a wounded engineer is led to an ambulance, Eaglehorse sector. 

Eussenhausen Border Crossing Point


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The DDR devoted  enormous resources to build, staff  and upgrade the border barrier system.  There were, however, a few legal crossing points; one of which was located in the Eaglehorse sector, by the village of Eussenhausen,  just to the east of OP Sierra / OP Tennessee.   
This border feature  opened in 1972 where Highway 19 crossed into East Germany.  Before 72, the road stopped at the fence line.  To allow trade goods to cross back and forth between  the nations behind the Iron Curtain and the West, road and rail crossings needed to be developed.  These were negotiated in the early 1970's and opened in 1972.  Other crossing points included one at Coburg, to the south east in the 2nd ACR sector and  Herleshausen and Bebra elsewhere in the Blackhorse border area. 
 Travel from the DDR into West Germany was very tightly controlled for private citizens.  Access from the West was somewhat more open.  Eaglehorse troopers had no involvement in the crossing point beyond  casual observation from our OP.  The West German side was screened by members of the BGS and Federal Customs Police.  The East German side, with a full array of check points, inspection points, towers, bunkers and barracks buildings, was manned by their Customs Police and secured by members of a Border Troop company.
Today, at the former crossing point, Highway 19 passes seamlessly through the area, just off to the sides, however,  many former East German buildings remain as relics. 

Overhead view of the East German control and inspection point at the Eussenhausen Crossing point.  --Erwin Ritter


1st Generation Tower


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As the border evolved from a simple wire fence to a deeply echeloned barrier system, the East Germans began to add guard towers to more fully control the area.  The first generation towers were built of wood.  In the Eaglehorse sector, these had all been replaced by the second generation concrete towers by the early 1970's.


Soviet Bunkers


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Rules and agreements developed over the years help to partially defuse potential flash points along the East - West German border.  Members of the US Army, unless they were part of the border surveillance mission, were prohibited from being within one kilometer of the border.  The Bundeswehr was also prohibited from this region.  In East Germany, the Volks Armee, the regular military, and the Soviet Army likewise were not allowed  into the 1 kilometer zone. 
The Soviets maintained their own visual observation system along the border region through a series of bunkers  almost always set  behind the Hinterland / Signal fence.  They were located at points which could observe avenues of approach across the border as well as other areas of interest  in the border area.  Soviet troops from Meiningen, or higher levels of the Russian command from the cities of Erfurt and Gera, would occupy select bunkers during NATO / US maneuvers to observe. 
The bunkers themselves were unremarkable, however, they usually were located near a screening terrain feature which could hide a parking area and support building.  In the Eaglehorse sector, Russian observation bunkers were located (from North to South) by the towns of :  Melpers, Schwickershausen and Gompertshausen.
The Soviet bunker can be seen just above the added graphic blue line by the town of Melpers.   --Ritter
By the town of Schwickershausen,  just above the hack marks on the graphic blue line, the Soviet bunker may be seen.    --Ritter

Border Units and Barracks


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Border Troops as Deployed  Across  Eaglehorse Area
As with most  military organizations, units were redesignated and locations changed as years passed; this occurred on both sides of the border.  Rather than tracing the complete history of the Grenztruppen units, here is a snap shot of units deployed within the Eaglehorse area of border responsibility from mid Summer1985 thru September 1989.  We would like to thank Erwin Ritter for providing this information. 
Border Regiment 3
With regimental headquarters in Dermbach, this unit had border responsibility for much of the 1/11 ACR border area.  Three companies, however, part of the Second Battalion, had border responsibility in our northern run of sector.  Located in the towns of Frankenheim, Erbenhausen and Stedtlingen were, respectively, Border Company 6, 7 and 8.  Most border guard units were located in small towns very close to the trace in company size barracks.  The  compounds consisted of the living space and administrative area, motor shop,  parking area and kennels if authorized.  Of all border unit barracks located in the Eaglehorse sector,  the Frankenheim facility was by far the most visible, seemingly only a few hundred meters into the DDR. 
Border Regiment 9
In the central and southern sector, DDR Border Troop responsibilities shifted to Regiment 9, Headquarters in Meiningen.  The First Battalion Headquarters was located in Romhild with an Engineer Company.  Four line companies, located in the following towns, patrolled the central and " eastern " run extending past the Eussenhausen Crossing Point: Company1-Schwickertshausen, Company 2 - Behrungen, Company 3-Mendenhausen and Company 4- Gompertshausen.  Also at Schwickershausen was the security platoon assigned to the l HWY 19 Crossing Point.  The personnel conducting vehicle inspections and staffing the East German road control points at the legal crossing point came from a platoon located in Meiningen.  The East German Customs officers also were located in Meiningen but not under Border Troop command.
The Third Battalion, located in Meiningen, had responsibility for the rear security of the sector along the Signal Fence and approaches.  Company 10 was located in Hermannsfeld, easily visible from OP Sierra / Tennessee and Company 11 was in Hindfeld.
After September 1989, border command responsibilities were greatly rearranged but for the most part, the company size garrison towns remain unchanged.  As we have noted, in the years since reunification, the former Border Troop barracks areas have found new uses.  Some are low income housing, others either in part or entirely involved with industry and a few are abandoned or waiting redevelopment.

All photos courtesy Erwin Ritter

Border Regiment 3, Battalion 2, barracks home of Company 6 in Frankenheim, northern run of the Eaglehorse sector.
Border Company 7 barracks at Erbenhausen, part of 2 Battalion, Regiment
Company 2, Battalion 1 at Behrungen, long white building.
Continuing southeast through the border area, in the town of Romhild, Battalion 1,
part of Grenzregiment 9. In town, Bn HQ and an engineer company.
Located in Hermannsfeld, clearly visible from Sierra / Tennessee, barracks of Border Company 10, part of Battalion 3, Regiment 9. This company had responsibility for rear security along the signal fence and approaches to the control zone
Company 1, Battalion 1, located in Schwickertshausen, long white building to right.
Also responsible for rear security, Border Company 11 located at Hindfeld
Border Company 4 at Gompertshausen, building pair above small town.
Long white building in foreground, barracks of Company 8, part of Regiment 3.
Border Company 3 at Mendenhausen.