In last week’s paper, in honor of the 25 anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Titan Scroll published the story of German Exchange Teacher Michael Lein, who escaped Soviet oppression. Now, this is the story of Principal Dr. Sharp who served in the army at the time of the wall’s fall.
East Germany was a place of chaos and struggle following the fall of Soviet control. US troops were one of the many groups facilitating the transition and Principal Dr. David Sharp was one of the American soldiers there to help.
Sharp said his military career began right out of high school. “I graduated in May 1988 and was in Basic Training in June 1989. Then I went to army school then advanced infantry training. I had 15 days to visit my family then I went to Europe and my unit was deployed.”
On top of the college money as an incentive for joining, Sharp said he also needed the maturity because he “didn’t really have the pedigree to go to college at that time.”
“It was kind of unique as a 19 year-old kid to be a part of history and to see everything that was going on and everything had been so tense,” said Sharp.
Sharp said he found himself in the middle of the cold war as a gunner on an M1A1 tank from 1988 to 1990 as a member of the third army division.
Before deployment, however, Sharp said “I didn’t know anything about [the cold war]. I knew about WW2 and the Berlin Wall, but I learned a lot on the fly.”
Sharp said that he was given many other opportunities because of his service. “I saw Dachau (the concentration camp under the Nazi control). I got to train with soldiers from all over the world: France, Canada, Germany.”
“I trained with German infantry for 3 weeks. We utilized all their weaponry and they used ours and taught each other our tactics. They are terrific soldiers,” said Sharp.
Beyond the German soldiers, Sharp said “the German people tolerated us. I wouldn’t say they fancied us in any way. We were there in heavy force. It would be difficult in the US if another country’s military had a presence in our everyday lives.”
“A lot of german people are highly embarrassed by the Nazi regime. They’re not patriotic like we are. That country is not patriotic because they are embarrassed by their past. I feel bad for them,” said Sharp.
Sharp said his unit was responsible for patrolling the 1 K zone separating East and West until the wall came down. “The main mission was that if Russia was ever going to attack the West, that was the gap they were going to come through. We would play war games with them, they would play them with us.”
Sharp said his unit was not in the major cities, “we were on the outside. We didn’t get to see a whole lot because there were mines on both sides of it for one mile. We patrolled that all of the time. A lot of their guards tried to come over the wall.”
Once the wall came down, Sharp said Colin Powell, the Lieutenant Army General at the time, ordered that the enemy had shifted to the Middle East. Sharp said this prevented him from seeing Germany post-Soviet control.
“We didn’t get to see a whole lot of the pageantry that the Berlin units saw, the Checkpoint Charlie guys.”
Sharp said deployments were hard. “We would watch what Russia was doing and spend 37 days at a time out in the conditions.”