The standoff at Checkpoint Charlie: Soviet tanks facing American tanks, 1961

In October 1961, border disputes led to a standoff and the world was on the brink of war for 16 hours, while Soviet and American tanks faced each other just 300 feet (100 m) away.

In August 1961, Washington and its British and French allies failed to prevent the Soviet Union from building the Berlin Wall. On 27 October, after several days of East German attempts to show identification documents to American authorities before entering East Berlin, ten American M-48 tanks took position (thus indirectly rather than the Soviet occupation authority). acknowledging East German sovereignty) at Checkpoint Charlie.

There they stood about 50 meters from the border, noisily racing their engines and sending plumes of black smoke into the night air. Alarmed by the apparent threat, Moscow, with the approval of the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, sent an equal number of Russian T55 tanks to confront the Americans with a rumble.

They also stop about 50 meters from East/West Berlin. It was the culmination of several days of escalation of actions on both sides and a face-off between Soviet and American tanks, with guns open, the U.S. And the first (and only) such direct confrontation of Soviet troops.

By now, US officials were deeply concerned by the possible consequences. General Clay, of the American troops, was reminded by Washington that Berlin was not such an "important" interest as to risk a conflict with Moscow.

President Kennedy approved the opening of a backchannel with the Kremlin to quell what had blown up. As a result, the Soviets withdrew one of their T55s from the eastern side of the border at Friedrichstrasse, and a few minutes later an American M48 also left the scene. The rest of the Soviet tanks were soon withdrawn, soon followed by the U.S. There was a mutual withdrawal of tanks.

Khrushchev was equally disinterested in risking a fight over Berlin. In return for Kennedy's assurances that the West had no plans on East Berlin, the Soviet leader quietly accepted that Allied officers and military personnel would have free access to the East German capital.

The Berlin Crisis arose in what one might call the "objective factor"—the fact that West Berlin was a heterogeneous Western enclave east of the Iron Curtain, caused a concrete conflict of interest between the Soviet Union and the West.

However, the clash of armed tanks at Checkpoint Charlie is a classic example of how "subjective factors" such as differing perceptions and beliefs on both sides also contributed to the tension – and even the war. could have been done.

What's interesting is that the sign on the right (the first picture) only has German as the fourth language on the list, and is in a smaller font than the others.

Until the construction of the Berlin Wall, the differences between the regions of Berlin did not mean much to German citizens. In the early years of the Cold War, they could travel freely throughout the city. For this reason, information about the boundaries of the area was printed in the languages ​​of the occupying armies, not those of the inhabitants.

American tanks are M48 Patton and Soviet tanks are T55. At this range, they can easily penetrate each other, so the advantage will be who can reload faster, which will probably be the 90 mm guns on the Patton rather than the 100 mm guns on the T55, but most importantly. The factor would probably be who shot first.

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