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Copyright William Reidel 2022


East West German Border

Border Operations by the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment


Border Mission


Freedom ends at the East/West German border. Mile upon mile of fence centered in a wide, sterile strip of earth, and hundreds of slotted, ominous guard towers bring this fact home to the soldiers of the 11th ACR daily.
As guardians of this frontier, the Blackhorse Regiment is the first line of defense for the Fulda Gap, the traditional avenue of approach for many westward-bound armies throughout European history. Every moment of every day, Blackhorse soldiers are manning observation posts (OPs), providing security, and collecting vital information along the 368 kilometers of 11th ACR border responsibility.When troopers, especially newly-arrived personnel, arrive at the border, there is an inescapable feeling that they have entered a different world. There is a dismal, oppressed air in the border region that is as much real as imagined. It is true that the weather is usually worse than at home-station cities because of the higher elevation and different terrain along most of the border area.

The initial oppression one feels is quickly replaced by an exhilarating sense of mission. One never hears the protesting question: "What are we really doing here?" There is no doubt when a soldier is staring an armed East German soldier in the face, or watching a fully-loaded Russian attack helicopter passing him. The feel of the "Iron Curtain" has instilled spirit and an urgent sense of mission leading to true career dedication in more than one young soldier.

Although the overall border mission is the same for all squadrons, each has its own facilities and methods.of accomplishing the border mission.


11th ACR
OH-58A Kiowa

The First Squadron operates out of OP Alpha. The units rotate their combined arms elements through the OP every few weeks. OP Alpha has a dining facility, troop billets, and a dayroom equipped with games and a weightlifting machine.

Unlike First Squadron which uses its OP as a home station, Second Squadron operates its base out of Camp Lee and periodically mans three OPs at different locations. A fourth OP is manned on a twenty-four hour basis. Camp Lee becomes home for a troop-size element for about a month. The camp is a "mini-kaserne", complete with a motor pool, PX, billets, dining facility, and aid station.

Third Squadron's operations are much like those of First Squadron, except that they man two separate OPs at all times. Both OP Romeo and India are self-sufficient, with a dining facility, billets, and an aid station. 

Surveillance of the border is accomplished in many varied ways, including: air, foot and mounted patrols; reaction forces; radar; and annual training exercises on the actual border.

Mounted border patrols constantly cover the border "trace" using two 1/2-ton Mercedes jeeps. While on patrol, the soldiers carry weapons and ammunition, day and night vision devices, cameras, and flares for dire emergencies. This type of surveillance is complemented at times by armored OP using M-1 tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

If a patrol encounters a potentially dangerous situation, or the home station loses contact with them, a well-armed, armored reaction team can be dispatched from the OP or camp at a moment's notice. The reaction force has the ability and equipment to fight, but its mission is mainly to get the "friendlies" out of the area.

Troopers are tested on every aspect of the border mission and must pass the test before being allowed to perform any responsible mission on the border. Throughout the border tour, the soldiers are tested, evaluated, and inspected by both squadron and regiment level border operations center personnel.

At first glance, there is no doubt that the barrier fence and other border fortifications are not designed as defensive measures against a western force. The barrier is a nearly completely successful, and expensive, effort to keep the Soviet Zone in Germany from becoming completely depopulated, a situation that would have ruinous economic consequences for the Soviet Bloc.. 

The East German fence system is one of the most formidable barriers to human movement ever constructed. The system has been constantly upgraded to prevent the escape of East German citizens. Despite these precautions, the German Border Police (BGS) reported that there were seventeen successful escapes in the 11th ACR sector during 1987. The fence system begins anywhere from one meter to several kilometers behind the actual border, depending on the terrain.

The first defensive measure of the system begins well behind the fence. A wide area on the east side of the fence is commonly known as the "Restricted Zone", and provides East German border troops a clear view of potential escapees attempting to approach the border. The farthest eastern portion of the Restricted Zone is usually bordered by a small secondary fence. The next element is the high speed patrol road which runs the length of the border. The next part is an anti-vehicular ditch made of pre-formed concrete slabs set at an inward angle to stop vehicles from ramming the fence.

Just after the ditch is a ten meter plowed strip that is kept smooth so that soldiers can tell if anyone has been walking near the outer fence. The next element is the three-meter-high fence which is known throughout the world as the Iron Curtain. The fence is buried deeply to discourage tunneling and is made of diamond-shaped stamped steel mesh. The holes prevent scaling by painfully pinching bare fingers and by being too small for gloved fingers. The fence in the 11th ACR sector was formerly covered by anti-personnel mines, but after a trade agreement with West Germany, the East Germans conceded to removing the mines.

The border fortifications have gone through many phases of improvement since the tangled barbed wire of the fifties. Each upgrade has stemmed the tide of migration further.

Border tours are given to inprocessing 11th ACR soldiers and persons wishing to see the border. These tours can also be arranged for groups through the Regimental Border Operations Center.


View from OP Alpha over looking the East German border and the town of Geisa. Photo courtesy of Mark Gerrie

Source: Jan 1988 Welcome to the 11th ACR, Special Issue, BLACKHORSE

Border Operations Map

- The 3rd Squadron headquarters was located at Bad Hersfeld (McPheeters Barracks) and operated Observation Posts India (NB 802581) and Romeo (NB 694457) for the border sector between NB 647922 and NB 713416. Observation Post Oscar, mentioned in earlier lists of 11th ACR active observation posts, was phased out on 1 December 1976, but in 1983 the 11th ACR was considering opening another observation post in order to have better coverage of the squadron sector. This plan was subsequently shelved.


- The 2nd Squadron headquarters, located at Bad Kissingen (Daley Barracks) and in Camp Lee, operated Observation Post-Tennessee (NA 946939), which had formerly been named Sierra, for the sector between NA 739967 and PA 144671.

- The 1st Squadron headquarters, collocated with the regimental headquarters at Fulda (Downs Barracks), operated Observation Post Alpha (NB 658198) for the sector from NB 713416 to NA 739967.

- The 4th Squadron Aviation Squadron of the 11th ACR, operated out of Sickles Army Airfield in Fulda . Task of providing regimental aerial surveillance along the entire V Corps' sector.

US Border Signs


This sign was used to warn US Forces that they are closed to the border. Newer type , replaced the order Soviet Zone type. It was used from the late 70s till 1990.


This sign was used to warn US Forces that they are closed to the border. Older type sign, used from the late 50s up till the early 70s. Then the "Soviet Zone" was replaced with "German Democratic Republic"

GDR Border Barrier System



1. Border Trace w/border stones
2. Border Stones
3. Border Column
4. Control Strip, clear up to 100m wide
5. Double-Row Barbed Wire Fence (w/anti-personnel mines between rows)
6. Double-Row Metal Grid Fence (ca 2.5m high w/antipersonnel mines between rows)
7. Single-Row Metal Grid Fence (ca 3m high, may have SM-70 AP mines)
8. Anti-Vehicle Ditch (reinforced w/concrete slabs)
9. Six-Meter Control Strip (freshly graded)
10. Vehicle Patrol Strip (concrete or asphalt)
11: Wooden Observation Tower
12. Round or Square Concrete Observation Tower
13. Concrete Bunker
14. Arc Lamp Zone
15. Border Communications Network
16. Dog Run, w/shelter
17. Traffic Control Point
18. Concrete Wall/Blind (ca 3m high)
19. Hinterland Fence, or Electrical Warning Fence (visual and acoustical warning devices)

NOT SHOWN: Earth Bunkers, Listening Posts, and Road Barriers

Border marker of the DDR

***Pending Update***

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