Full Citation

  • Title Red Stars Concealed by Soviets
  • Author Wald, Richard C. Special to the Herald Tribune
  • Publication Title New York Herald Tribune (European Edition)
  • Collection New York Herald Tribune (European Edition)
  • Date Saturday-Sunday,  October 28-29, 1961
  • Issue Number 24505
  • Page Number [1]
  • Place of Publication Paris, France
  • Language English
  • Document Type Article
  • Publication Section News
  • Source Library The New York Times Company
Red Stars Concealed By Soviets American Units On Battle Alert By Richard C. Wald Special to the Herald Tribune BERLIN, Oct. 27.—Seven Soviet tanks, with their ' numbers painted over and their red stars covered, roared up to the Friedrich¬ strasse check point tonight in the sixth day of armed demonstrations at the border. With three 35-ton T54s in the front line, staring over the con¬ crete bunkers that cut the street in two, the other four arranged in pairs behind, they trained their guns 250 yards ahead where five American M48 tanks sat and waited. Five more tanks plus support equipment were placed in the rear. For the second time this week, the entire 6,500-man American garrison in Berlin was put on a battle alert. The general alert was called off nearly three hours later, but some American units were kept ready to move at a moment’s notice. Both the American and Soviet tanks were, however, still at the border late tonight. Both sides set up refueling sta¬ tions nearby with reserves of vehicles and field kitchens. Nobody knew how long the confrontation would last. The Soviet/ arrival on the border was expected ever since 30 of them were sighted in East Berlin last night. It was pointed out then that, as when they last ap¬ peared in the June, 1953, revolt, it takes Russian armor to bolster East German pretensions to sov¬ ereignty. Clay Statement An hour after the tanks pulled up at 4:50 p.m., in the first of two stands at the border, Gen. Lucius D. Clay, President Kennedy’s spe¬ cial representative here, said: “The fact that Soviet tanks have appeared on the scene proves that the harassments which were tak¬ ing place at Friedrichstrasse were not those of the self-styled East German regime, but ordered by its Soviet masters. The fiction of an East German stoppage is now de¬ stroyed.” The stoppage, in which East Ger¬ man guards have refused to allow (Continued on Page 2, Col. 3) ' United Press International. READY FOR ALERT—A British anti- tank crew in position facing East Berlin. U.S. and Russian Tanks in Berlin (Continued from Page 1) any civilian through unless he iden¬ tifies himself, was once again brusquely thrown aside this after¬ noon by the American military command, which refuses to let its personnel submit to such an ex¬ amination. At 4:30 p.m., in a drill that is now becoming familiar to Friedrich- strasse residents, ten 40-ton M48 tanks roared up, accompanied by five armored personnel carriers and several jeeploads of heavily armed military police. The East German border guards refused to let an Army-licensed private car containing civilians through their concrete barrier maze and the car came back. One minute later three jeeps escorted it through the maze. The men, with their guns at the ready, waited until it had gone a block further and then es¬ corted it out again. It was presumably this action that forced the hand of the Soviet tank group, quartered in the bomb¬ ed-out shell of the old Prinzessin Palace on Unter den Linden, once Berlin’s most gracious avenue. But satellite diplomats here have indicated that the tanks were mov¬ ed from the Russian ' Army depot at Orianenburg, in East Germany, for two reasons: First, they were necessary to bol¬ ster the morale of the border guards who were clearly frightened when the American tanks and military police pulled up for the first time Sunday night; Secondly, and perhaps more im¬ portant, it was to counter the im¬ pression of strength made on the East Berlin population by the American armor. The Soviet re¬ sponse was a none-too-subtle re¬ minder that the power which crush¬ ed their revolt in 1953 could easily do so again. 4,000 Soviet Tanks There are some 4,000 Soviet tanks in the East German zone now, dur¬ ing the war maneuvers behind the Iron Curtain. The Russians could probably muster 10,000 tanks if they wanted to. The entire Allied garrison here only numbers 11,500 men and about 50 tanks. During the period when the tanks first began facing each other, pedestrian traffic through the check point was occasionally inter¬ rupted. In other developments during the day, the British moved up three 50-ton Centurion tanks and four armored cars. They dug two heavy anti-tank guns into emplacements near the Brandenburg Gate. An American military police se¬ dan on one of the regular half- hourly runs through East Berlin, attempted to get out of the Soviet sector through a checkpoint other than Friedrichstrasse, the only one left open to non-Germans by the Communists. The MPs sat at Heinrich Heine Strasse, one of the 80 crossing points before the wall went up on Aug. 13, for 35 minutes before leav¬ ing under protest. A spokesman said later: “This has been taking place for some time and has been the subject of previous protests by the United States.” r R T f 14 Escape, One Killed Fourteen, persons escaped over¬ night from the Soviet sector. A 15th was shot dead as he made the at¬ tempt. The incident at the border began with the American test attempt —part of a new policy agreed on among the Berlin Command Allies. It lasted only 15 minutes. After the tanks drew off at about 4:45, the Soviet tanks could be heard dimly in the distance. There were crowds on both sides of the check point, at least 2.000 on the Western side, fewer on the Eastern. As the Russian tanks drew up, the size of the Eastern crowd in¬ creased. The T54s are smaller than the American tanks and al¬ though their heavy gun is a 100 millimeter weapon, the American 90-mm. gun has a higher muzzle velocity and shoots faster. At first, the crowd on the East side took the whole thing as laughable. The East Germans talk less in public than the West¬ erners, but one man could be heard saying: “It’s a joke, here in the 20th century, to be seeing all this again.” The Communist police, general¬ ly called “V*opos,’’ allowed a fairly close inspection of the tanks, but always kept spectators at least across the street and never allowed them to stop walking. No Markings The tanks wrere black in the dusk. No letters or markings showed. A border guard, asked if they were Russian, said: “We have no occupiers here.” But at the border itself, two Rus¬ sian officers were sitting in a baby blue sedan, smiling hugely at averyone. Behind the tanks two command cars filled with East German police and two Soviet com¬ mand cars filled with Soviet troops were deployed. No German officer approached the tanks. After they had sat still for 20 minutes with no sign of American tanks, a Russian major walked up to the last one in the line and talked to a crewman dressed in the shiny black Soviet tank smock, apparently giving the order to withdraw. Reds Pull Back The American side was still empty. In ten minutes the Soviet vehicles had pulled back several blocks to one of the lots with which the area abounds. They had all cleared out by 5:20. But then the American tanks, recalled because of the Soviet appearance, came back to the bor¬ der. They arrived at 5:25. The Russians returned at 6:05. Traffic was interrupted slightly. The Berlin command was put on alert from 5:10 until 8 p.m. A few groups were kept on alert after that, but nothing happened. A pretzel vendor did a roaring business among the West Berlin crowd. A dress factory moved out garments on roller racks à la 7th Ave. in New York. A sprinkle of rain fell. United States authorities tonight asked all Americans in civilian clothes except newsmen to stay out of East Berlin for the time being. Members of the American mis¬ sion and servicemen were already barred from going into the East in civilian clothes on private trips. The restriction was extended to include all Americans, which would bring into its scope non-official residents of the city, visitors and tourists. West Berlin police at Friedrich¬ strasse have orders to refer Amer¬ icans approaching the border to the check point manned by Amer¬ ican military police. Americans still could get into East Berlin by using the subway and elevated railways, which are not controlled by American MPs.