Berlin Wall: Meet the American soldier whose portrait hangs over historic crossing Checkpoint Charlie – CBS Knowledge
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Berlin Wall: Meet the American soldier whose portrait hangs over historic crossing Checkpoint Charlie – CBS Knowledge

Journalist on Berlin Wall anniversary

Berlin – Every Berliner is conscious of him. And 1000’s and 1000’s of company accept as true with taken images with a portray of him. His used, elevated-than-existence-sized portrait has loomed for 25 years over Checkpoint Charlie, the historic U.S.-managed border crossing that stood for 3 decades between West Berlin and the communist East. 

The U.S. soldier has turn proper into a image of 1 in every of the biggest moments in contemporary history: the autumn of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago Saturday. 

The soldier, dilapidated U.S. Sergeant Jeff Harper, came to the German capital when he was as soon as 22 to play the tuba for departing troops. Whereas here, he was as soon as photographed by Frank Thiel, who took images of the final Allied troopers in Berlin in 1994. His portrait and a portray of a Soviet soldier were later chosen to dangle at Checkpoint Charlie to commemorate the border between the East and West. 

Harper retired in 2010 and now lives along with his family in the American Midwest. Nonetheless he hasn’t forgotten the fateful night the Berlin wall came down 30 years ago. On November 9, 1989, the crumple of the wall shy the sphere. It marked the muse of the high of the Chilly Battle and the autumn of the Communist dictatorship in East Germany – paving the attain for German reunification in 1990 and the crumple of the Soviet Union in 1991.   

“I was as soon as at work,” Harper recalled in an interview with CBS Knowledge. “It was as soon as a Thursday, I recount, and we’d heard that something was as soon as going on down by the Brandenburg Gate. So a bunch of us took the subway to town center, and it was as soon as very surreal.”

Gentle Set up Illuminates Broken-down Berlin Wall Route
 An portray of Jeff Harper is considered on the succor of two lamp posts on November 7, 2014 in Berlin, Germany.

Adam Berry/Getty Images


“There were folks starting up to climb up onto the wall,” he steered CBS Knowledge. “We idea that was as soon as uncommon on the time. Nonetheless then an increasing form of oldsters chanced on their attain up to the high, and so did we.”

A day later, Harper chanced on himself with a hammer on the Berlin Wall contributing to its demolition.

Now in his 50s, Harper said he feels proud and humbled to accept as true with accomplished a small part in the formation of history, and he has no query as to what message that momentous occasion holds in history. 

“I mediate humanity has a range of generous things when we work collectively,” he said. “And naturally this doesn’t happen the total time, nonetheless I set up feel for the German folks and a serious historic match did happen and it presents me hope for the long scamper — that no topic how complicated things would possibly presumably maybe additionally appear, the sphere can trade in a single night for the upper.”

Lessons from that generation would possibly presumably maybe additionally additionally be realized by up to the moment world leaders, Harper said. “I mediate that partitions never resolve the relaxation,” he says, regarding President Trump’s plans for the U.S.-Mexico border.

The dilapidated soldier was as soon as no stranger to ceremony. He had been despatched to Berlin to play in the 298th Navy Band, the longest-serving unit in the West German city. The band would play at farewells of fellow GI comrades and set up at declare receptions fancy the consult with of future U.S. President Bill Clinton. 

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Jeff Harper

Although a chum who was as soon as stationed in Germany despatched Harper a postcard that comprises his portray in 1998, he was as soon as happy it had been manipulated to possess his likeness. 

He was as soon as oblivious to the portrait’s prominence till he visited Berlin a year later. When he saw himself immortalized above the successfully-identified crossing level, he was as soon as “shy.”

“I was as soon as proud to be representative, or no no longer up to my portray, of the indispensable events that came about there,” Harper said. 

The dilapidated man in uniform final visited Berlin 13 years ago, nonetheless has one wish for the positioning of his unexpected standing: to radiate dignity. 

Final week, Berlin’s authorities decided to ban actors from posing as American GIs at Checkpoint Charlie, a resolution, Harper said is long behind.

“It diminished what came about there. And it diminished the importance for the Allied powers and the German folks. I’m cheerful to keep in mind them chase,” Harper said. 

He said it “feels very uncommon to me, nonetheless in a generous attain, a proud attain,” to recount his portrait inserting over the historic location. 

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Jeff Harper

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November 9, 2019

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