The M1 Carbines
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Berlin surrendered to the Russians on 02 May 1945. The Occupation of Berlin by the Allies had been worked out by the Yalta conference in February 1945, but travel through the Russian Zone and entry into Berlin was not immediately allowed by the Russians. By the time the Americans and British entered Berlin to take control of their zones on 03 July 1945, the Russians had already installed a government dominated completely by communists. This included the administration and rank and file of the Berlin Police. The French zone of occupation in Germany was established 26 Jul 1945, the French sector in Berlin was established 30 Jul 1945, and the French forces moved into their sector in Berlin 08 Aug 1945.
U.S. Forces Berlin
Within the American sector of Berlin the military command of U.S. forces became known as the Berlin District. It's commanding general was designated as U.S. Commandant Berlin. In October 1945 when the military government in Germany was officially established, the U.S. Commandant Berlin also became the U.S. Military Governor of the American Sector of Berlin. The military commander of each of the four sectors/zones in Berlin formed the military government for all of Berlin, known as the Kommandatura.
The military commander of each of the four occupation zones throughout Germany formed the military government for all of Germany, known as the Allied Control Council. The Allied Control Council was based in Berlin.
The Soviet blockade that began 23 Jun 1948, with the Berlin Airlift following 26 Jun 1948, had an unanticipated effect by the time the blockade ended 12 May 1949. The Russians lost their gamble to take control of all of Berlin, but they succeeded in providing the Berliners and Americans with the powerful bond created by friendship born from facing, cooperating, and overcoming a serious threat to the lives of everyone in Berlin. This bond was the foundation supporting the stage for many things that would happen in Berlin for the next forty years, and beyond.
The Soviet Blockade of Berlin was a pivotal point of many events that led to the creation of a divided Germany. Within several months of the beginning of the blockade the Soviets left the Allied Control Council, walked out and never returned to the Kommandatura in Berlin. The head of the Berlin police was sacked by the Berlin civilian government, who ordered the police headquarters moved to the American Sector. The headquarters left in the Soviet Sector became the headquarters of the East German Police (Volkspolizei & Staatssicherheitsdienst aka STASI). By the end of 1949 West Germany and East Germany had been officially established.
With the establishment of the government in West Germany in 1949, the U.S. Military Government (OMGUS) was relieved of it's government duties and replaced by the U.S. Dept. of State, Office of the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany. The British and French followed suit, and the Allied Control Council (Western Allies) became the Allied High Commission. A new occupation statute was drafted by the Western Allies giving internal control of the western occupied territories to the West German government, with certain exceptions. The occupation was officially still in effect, with the Allied High Commission maintaining oversight.
West Berlin was one of those certain exceptions not included in the new occupation statute. Berlin was certainly divided between east and west like the rest of the country, but Berlin was located well within the borders of East Germany, with the Russians and East Germany fully prepared to annex West Berlin, by force if necessary. In response to continued threats from the east, in 1952 the United States, United Kingdom, and France pledged to maintain their armed forces in West Berlin as long as required and treat any attack on West Berlin as an attack on their forces and their countries and the response would be worldwide. The original occupation statutes formed at the end of the war, remained in effect in Berlin.
U.S. Forces Berlin
The Western Allied occupation of West Germany officially ended 05 May 1955, when the Allied High Commission for Germany terminated the occupation statute. The Soviet Union established diplomatic relations with West Germany (Federal Republic of Germany), but the Western Allies refused to recognize the government of East Germany (German Democratic Republic). The initial Allied occupation agreements required reestablishment of a united Germany by means of free elections. There could be no West and East, only one, and that one must be decided by free elections. Therefore, Berlin remained divided, occupied, and surrounded by the hostile forces of East Germany and the Soviet Union (approx. 250,000 troops vs. Berlin Allied Forces of approx. 12,000). [U.S. Army in Berlin 1945-1961 Part I, HQ U.S. Army Europe, Operations Division 1962; AG TS 16-92]
Events in Germany between 1945 and 1960 caused the infamous mass exodus from East to West. West Berlin's location made it the destination for a large percentage of this mass of people. Concurrently, East Germany had been increasing it's efforts to control this exodus and its borders with more guards, more dogs, more fences, and immigration control. In 1961 when it became apparent the Soviet Union intended to declare East Germany and East Berlin free of the occupation statutes, the number of people fleeing became far too many for the East to control. A large number of people that had been fleeing East Berlin and East Germany were those with technical and professional skills. More than one out of every eight citizens of East Germany had already fled to the west. This was referred to as the bleeding of East Germany and East Berlin. After this Soviet announcement, the number of skilled workers fleeing caused East Berlin a very real fear of being bled out. On 13 Aug 1961 East Germany began building the Berlin Wall.
The Western Allies were well aware of their situation should East Germany and Russia decide to invade Berlin. What the Eastern Allies (Eastern Bloc) needed to be made to realize was, invading West Berlin was going to unleash armed conflict on all fronts from the Western Allies, and start World War III in a nuclear age. This was true for any invasion anywhere in Europe, but no other place in Europe would start that battle completely surrounded by enemy forces at a strength greater than 20:1. Between 1948 and the mid 1980's, West Berlin and everyone there lived day to day knowing the outcome, when and if the time came.
Over time, debriefings of soldiers who had fled the East revealed the Eastern Allies planned and secretly practiced, many times, a fast attack to over run the Western Allies in West Berlin. What prevented this from happening was fear of the response when the Western Allies learned their forces and the West Berlin police had all been killed in about two hours, which was an intentional part of the plan.
The plan of Western Allied Forces was one of organized retreat using delaying tactics, with diversions by Special Forces planning to attack the enemy from the rear.
By 1949 the Berlin police had been rearmed with pistols (initially issued with only one round). In the French sector with semi-automatic pistols manufactured by FN in Belgium (Browning Model 1922) or Manhurin in France. In the British sector, Webley revolvers. In the American sector with the Smith & Wesson Victory revolver or the 1911A1 semi-automatic pistol. In the Russian sector, with Russian semi-automatic pistols.
The Allied Control Council order in October 1945 that controlled the rearming of German police, remained in effect in Berlin. This allowed for the Border Police and rural police to be armed with carbines. West Berlin's border was initially patrolled by the allied forces within their assigned sector. When the West German Federal Border Guard was formed in 1951, their existance was prohibited by the original occupation statutes, so they were prohibited in West Berlin. When the West German Bundeswehr (security forces aka military) was formed in 1956, their existance was prohibited by the original occupation statutes, so they were prohibited in West Berlin.
As border tensions and incidents increased in Berlin in the 1950's, the West Berlin police began assigning more and more officers to work the borders and border crossings. Between 1951 and 1961 the officers working the border were armed with a variety of different weapons, none American.
01 Feb 1952 the Berlin Police were expanded to include "Force B" (Bereitschaftspolizei, aka BEPO). Force "A" was the regular West Berlin police. Force B was formed by using all of the new police officers while they were in training and during their first seven years on the job (this later changed to four years). They were not allowed to marry while assigned to Force B. Force B was organized into companies, platoons, and squads, training with U.S. forces as paramilitary units. Force B was also trained and used for crowd control, special events, civil disturbances, and major catastrophes.
In 1957 the West Berlin police changed their deployment by assigning their officers to small precincts covering approximately 2 square miles each. Each precinct was called a Revier and staffed by approximately 15 officers per shift, in three shifts. They attempted to field two or three patrol cars and two or three foot patrols each shift. One of the plans was to draw from these Reviere to form an element of 100 officers, known as a Revierhundertschaften, should they be needed for crowd control or emergency situations. In operation, the Reviere often did not have enough personnel to conduct routine police operations, let alone send personnel for the Revierhundertschaften, when and if they were needed. The Revier were also responsible for policing and manning any portion of the border with East Berlin or East Germany that ran through their precinct. These units would eventually be the first units to be issued M1 carbines (see below).
Due to the unavailability of Reviere personnel to respond to civil disturbances or emergencies when needed, later in 1957 the Berlin police formed a smaller special emergency response unit (alert police), the Einsatzkommandos (E-Kommandos). These units worked 24 hour shifts and were specifically dedicated to being available at a moment's notice 24 hours a day. In the mid 1970s the E-Kommandos were replaced by the Einsatzbereitschaft (EB).
Effective 25 May 1961 West Berlin civilians capable and interested in defending Berlin were trained as a police reserve, the Freiwillige Polizeireserve (FPR).
The U.S. Army in Berlin 1945-1961, HQ U.S. Army, Europe, published in 1962 indicates the order was for 10,000 rifles & carbines, which had arrived in West Berlin by the end of 1960, with 6000 pistols on the way, for a total of 16,000 weapons for the West Berliners. These 16,000 weapons were likely in addition to the weapons the Army already had on hand for the Berlin police.
At Andrews Barracks in the American Sector, Berlin police officers who were assigned as a squad or a platoon leader with a rank equivalent to a sergeant, attended four week courses taught by U.S. Army personnel on the operation and use of the American weapons they were given. Range training took place at Rose Range in the Zehlendorf district of the American Sector, to the rear of Checkpoint BRAVO with it's main gate facing the East German border and the Potsdam district witin East Germany. These officers then returned to their jobs and became the instructors responsible for training BEPO, E-Kommando's, and Berlin officers.
When construction of the Berlin Wall started in August 1961, American forces began distributing weapons.
The first M1/M2 carbines to be issued went to the Berlin police (Force A) Revier in the American Sector. A typical post was given seven carbines. Each post had approximately 15 officers per shift, with three shifts. In the six districts of the American Sector, each district had between five and seven Reviere, for a total of approximately 36 Reviere and approximately 250 M1/M2 carbines. How many carbines were the semi-automatic M1 version is not known. The West Berlin police called all of the carbines M2's, the selective fire versions. Photographs of officers carrying carbines show many appear to be the M1 carbine version, however, an unknown quantity of the M1's were converted to the M2 selective fire version by U.S. Ordnance post WWII. These would appear to be the M1 carbine unless examined closer for the selective fire switch on the left side of the receiver to the left of the bolt.
A typical BEPO squad consisted of a squad leader armed with an M2 carbine or SMG, six riflemen armed with M1 Garands, and three two man machine gun crews with a French machinegun, that was fed ammo from a top mounted magazine. "Heavy Weapons" platoons were armed with mortars, and bazookas, and the U.S. .30 caliber Browning machine guns (three man crew consisting of a gunner, loader, and security rifleman). During War Games the the BEPO and American forces were often adversaries. BEPO forces would quickly run out of ammunition in these exercises and the Americans would always win. For every blank cartridge BEPO was issued, the U.S. forces were issued ten. BEPO forces training with the American troops frequently.
For West Berlin, the Berlin Wall became a symbol of everything between East and West. It became a focal point for anger.
As you watch the following video, pay close attention when the Berlin Police appear, and what they are armed with.
If you examine the photographs on this page you will notice the only officer wearing a
carbine magazine pouch is the BEPO officer in the color photograph (left). This does not mean there were magazines in the pouches. Ammunition was
issued very sparingly. It was common for an officer carrying a carbine to only have whatever ammo was in the magazine in the carbine, and frequently it was not
a full magazine.
Carbines used by the police were stored in the police armory when not in use. They were primarily used only by those officers assigned to the border, and most often appear in photographs of officers along the Berlin Wall.
The U.S. M1 and M2 carbines used by the Berlin Police were phased out in 1966 and 1967. Retired Berlin officers and command staff I communicated with, all indicated all of the the carbines were returned to the American forces in Berlin. These sources include Detlef Behrendt, curator of the weapons at the Berlin police museum, Horst von Domarus, a BEPO armorer who physically returned BEPO carbines to the Americans, and a command level officer who served on the Public Safety Committee with the American Public Safety Officers (PSO) assigned to the Department of Civil Affairs. Not even the police museum has a carbine, or any other American weapon, with Berlin markings for their historical display. For the display they use an original U.S. M1 carbine, and other American weapons, that were possessed illegally and confiscated.
Berlin Bereitschaftspolizei being inspected by U.S. Army military
police assigned to the Berlin Brigade October 1963
Berlin Police Museum Display
Photo courtesy Reinhard von Bronewski
The carbines were replaced by the H&K G3 rifle, the American pistols eventually by the Walther P1. The Allied Control Council order in October 1945 that armed the German police, mandated the use of weapons not manufactured in Germany. In keeping with this order, West Germany shipped the G3's, MG MR-A3 machine guns (previously known as the MG42), and P1's for West Berlin to Manurhin in France, where they were proofed (mostly at the St. Etienne Proof House), and marked "Manurhin", "Made in France", or simply "France." They were then shipped to West Berlin.
Horst von Domarus is a retired Berlin police officer who served with BEPO as an armorer. He recalls the weapons were received in September 1961 and all weapons were marked with the police star at the main police maintenance arms room in the police department on Friesenstrase, in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin adjacent Tempelhof airport.
The Berlin star has often been referred to as the Berlin sunburst or Berlin flower, based on it's appearance. The Berlin star appears on the Berlin police belt buckle, helmet insignia, and shoulder patches.
|According to a document from the Berlin police museum, weapons provided by the Allies in 1946 |
were marked with the first letter of the sector they served (A=American), the Roman
Numerals of the city district in which they were used, followed by the Berlin star.
French Sector district III (Wedding) Berlin Police
|This changed in the late 1940's to a three letter designation followed by the Berlin star.|
The first letter stood for Berlin, the second letter for the Occupation Sector,
the third indicating the first letter of the district within Berlin
Berlin police American Sector Kreuzberg
The final mark used starting sometime in the 1950's was simply the Berlin star. The first weapons had the letter P in the center circle of the star. It's not known when the use of the P was discontinued, Horst recalled the P was used only on the early weapons.
Berlin Polizei Walther P1 w/ Berlin star containing small P in the center
Berlin Polizei Walther P1 w/ Manurhin markings & Berlin star
Berlin Polizei FN-Browning Model 1922 with Berlin star
Horst von Domarus indicated the M1/M2 carbines received in 1961 received a single stamp of the Berlin star on the rear sight platform just forward of the carbine's rear sight. The first carbines had the letter P in the center circle of the star. It's not known when the use of the P was discontinued, Horst recalled the P was used only on the early carbines.
digital example of Berlin P star on an M1 carbine
digital example of Berlin star on an M1 carbine
In late 1966 or early 1967 Horst von Domarus and others assigned to BEPO cleaned the American weapons and drove them to Andrews Barracks, where they returned all of them to the U.S. Army. Other police units in Berlin returned their carbines to the Army at Andrews barracks during the same time period. When the carbines and other weapons were returned to the U.S. Army, the Berlin star was still on them. One Smith & Wesson Victory revolver bearing the Berlin star was observed for sale on Gunbroker in 2007. The FN-Browning Model 1922, above, was for sale on Auction Arms in 2007.
Officer Reinhard von Bronewski POK (ret.) served with the West Berlin Police (1965, 1974-1999). He was assigned to the Berlin Brigade and for many years patrolled the Berlin Wall partnered with U.S. Military Police of the Berlin Brigade. As a youngster, he spent many days and years interacting with the U.S. Army forces training in the Grunewald. Without his assistance, the specifics pertinent to the U.S. M1 carbine in Berlin would have remained a mystery. Reinhard maintains a website devoted to the American soldiers of the Berlin Brigade at www.Berlin-Brigade.de. I highly recommend spending time examining his website, if nothing else for the great photographs he has of the facilities of the Berlin Brigade and the Berlin Wall. Reinhard still spends time in the Grunewald, occasionally searching for items left by the troops that trained there for many years.
"Hearts & Minds"14 yr old Reinhard von Bronewski with an M60 machinegun
U.S. Army Berlin Brigade Training Grounds
Grunewald Forest, American Sector, West Berlin