Berlin Brigade



Rodney C. Howell
6th Infantry Regiment
Company M

Korean War era veteran, Rodney Howell, served in Berlin with the 6th Infantry Regiment, the “Berlin Brigade”. He never received the awards he earned. His awards were researched and presented.

His awards include the National Defense Service Medal and the Army of the Occupation Medal.


July, 1945—Germany was divided into four sectors, each controlled by one of the victorious Allied countries (the U.S., Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union). The great city of Berlin lay devastated.  Two years of intense bombing and a fanatical struggle between the last-ditch defenders and the attacking Soviet Army had left the city in ruins.

Berliners struggled to obtain the bare necessities of life.  Fighting ended on May 2, 1945 and Soviet troops occupied the city.  Turned loose by their government, the Red Army looted Berlin in the name of reparations. They dismantled entire refrigeration plants, mills, whole factories, generator equipment, lathes and precision tools, and other spoils of war, loaded the items on rail cars and shipped them off to the Soviet Union.

The Americans arrived on July 1, but the Soviets did not relinquish control of the American sector for 12 days and finally left after considerable urging.  U.S.-Soviet relations over Germany went downhill from there.  Although all sides agreed that Germany should eventually be reunited as one nation, the Soviets wanted to make sure it was a communist state.  The Soviets had used their two months in Berlin to fill key positions in the city with communist sympathizers. Every effort of the Allies to restore order and a semblance of normalcy to Berlin was met with some degree of Soviet opposition.

In 1948 the Soviets attempted to assert full control over Berlin by blocking all road and rail access to the city.  Berliners received the bulk of their food and other supplies by rail from the Western Zones, and the Soviets apparently believed that it could starve the Berliners into submission and force the Western Allies to withdraw from Berlin.

In response, the Allies began the Berlin Airlift to supply the city by air, a feat many thought impossible due to the large amount of supplies needed and the limited cargo capacity of the available aircraft.  Yet, against the odds, the airlift succeeded in supplying the city for 324 days until the Soviets admitted failure and lifted the blockade.  Rather than push the Americans out of Berlin, the blockade strengthened U.S. resolve and led to a new bond of sympathy and mutual respect between the German and American people.

By 1948-49 observers began referring to the relationship between the U.S. and USSR as a “cold war.” By 1950 the Berlin Brigade’s mission had changed from occupation to the mission that would define the Brigade for the next 40 years—to deter Soviet aggression, counter wide-spread civil unrest, and defend the city from the Soviet threat.  Berlin, thus, became a central battlefield in the Cold War.

Lillington, N. Carolina (2013)