“ He was applauded by dignitaries including German defense minister Volker Ruehe who late spoke at a reception at the Harnack House, and by Central Intelligence Agency Director James Woolsey and Adm. William Owens, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Also in attendance were many former US commanders, Berlin, and former Berlin Brigade commanders and a host of Allied military officers and German government officials.
The vintage World War II howitzers of Echo Company, 320th Field Artillery blasted out a 50-gun salute as soldiers bearing the state flags took center stages as the dates of admission into statehood were read. The pass in review was led by Col. Jimmy Banks, Berlin Brigade commander and the event’s commander of troops. Near the end of the pass in review there was a flyover by three Huey helicopters of the Berlin Aviation Detachment which trailed red, white and blue smoke and featured lone soldiers standing at salute on each of the landing skids.
With the temperature hitting a high of 95 degrees Fahrenheit, the soldiers put their extensive physical training to good use. About 18 soldiers sought medical attention during the hour-long ceremony; one soldier fainted and left on a stretcher.
Many in the crowd of 5,000 used the colorful parade brochures as makeshift fans. About two thirds of the audience was in the bleachers that spread clear down to Goerzallee. Fortunately warm feelings for their American friends were as strong as the heat.
“We had the best life with our Allies here especially the Americans,” exclaimed Ingrid Tismer, who carried US flags in both hands. “Thank you from all our hearts for freedom, liberty and security which are very precious.”
Thomas Kwiatkowski has become a fixture at the Allies’ farewell ceremonies toting a large sign that says, “Thank you, we love you, goodbye.” Said Kwiatkowski, “We cannot forget the great contributions you Americans made in giving us back a united city.”
At a huge garden party after the parade, Germany’s Federal Minister of Defense spoke of the “unbreakable bond of friendship” linking Berliners and the three generations of soldiers who lived among them. “Celebrating the Independence Day in Berlin is more than a social event,” said Volker Ruehe. “It shows that we are sharing the same values. And this gathering shows that we are all united in mutual confidence and the spirit of old and new friendship.”
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