A City Destroyed: Berlin in July of 1945

Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally to the Allied Powers and the Soviet Union on 8/9 May 1945. Berlin itself was surrendered by its garrison commander on 2 May 1945. It’s hard for us to imagine destruction of the magnitude of Berlin in WW II. There had been no close combat fighting in a Western European capital since the Napoleonic era of the early 1800s prior to the Battle of Berlin.

The first three photographs taken for Life Magazine in July of 1945, give a sense of the utter collapse of the city. These women would have had an armed escort of US Military Police. The Fourth photograph shows the author in the same spot fifty-seven years later.

American WACs examining the anti-aircraft guns atop the Flakturm am Zoo or Zoo Flak Tower tower in the Tiergarten. The tower took up an entire city block and was located at the present day entrance of the Berlin Zoo. The British dynamited the giant structure over a period of months in 1947/48.


Female Russian MP being saluted by American WACs who are passing the Brandenburg Gate. Most Russian military police assigned to traffic duty were women. It doesn’t seem like a big job until one realizes that one Soviet armored division, for example, had thousands of vehicles and dozens of these divisions would be on the move at the same time. Traffic control was a major element in WW II offensive planning on all sides.


American WACs at the Victory Column originally constructed to mark the Prussian victory over Denmark 1864 when the Prussians seized the Danish provinces of Schleswig and Holstein in a dynastic dispute. The provinces remain part of Germany today. Who should govern the provinces was a diplomatic question which dogged European governments for decades. British Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston once said, “Only three people have ever understood the Schleswig- Holstein Question. The Prince Regent, who is dead. A German clergyman, who has gone insane. And I, who have forgotten all about it.”


Charles McCain at the Victory Column which survived the war relatively undamaged and remains in the exact same place.

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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