“Barbed Wire Sunday”


On August 13, 1961, the National People’s Army of the German Democratic Republic began constructing the Berlin Wall

“At midnight on this day in 1961, units of the East German army began to close the border between East and West Berlin. Troops and workers tore up streets running alongside the border to make them impassable to most vehicles while installing barbed wire entanglements and fences along the 97 miles around the three western sectors — American, British and French — and the 27 miles that divided West and East Berlin. The date became widely referred to as ‘Barbed Wire Sunday’ in Germany. The chief purpose of the wall was to keep East Germans from fleeing to the West. It was guarded by soldiers under orders to shoot anyone trying to escape. During the 28 years that the wall stood, some 5,000 people attempted to escape, of whom an estimated 600 were killed. President John F. Kennedy, who was vacationing on his yacht off Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, was not notified until noon. Furious, Kennedy summoned John A. McCone, the CIA director, to review the intelligence lapse. Kennedy denounced the wall even as American-Soviet relations continued to worsen. (On Sept. 1, the Soviets ran their first nuclear test since 1958, breaking an informal moratorium that had been in place since the middle of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s second term.) Still, in time, Kennedy realized that the wall that divided the prewar German capital meant that the Kremlin would be less likely to attempt to seize West Berlin, thus lowering the chances of war. ‘A wall is a hell of lot better than a war,’ the president said. (In June 1961, Kennedy had traveled to Vienna for a summit with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Not only was the summit unsuccessful in its goal of building trust, but it also increased tensions between the two nuclear superpowers — particularly over Berlin. During the summit, Khrushchev threatened to cut off Allied access to West Berlin. Kennedy was startled by Khrushchev’s combative style and tone and unsettled by the threat.) …”
Politico: Berlin Wall erected by communist East Germany, Aug. 13, 1961
W – Barbed Wire Sunday
W – Walter Ulbricht


An East German couple is turned away from the border, blocked by East German soldiers and barbed wire, after trying to cross into West Berlin on Aug. 13, 1961.

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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