Occupation Forces and Rabbits in Cold War Berlin

There was a track back behind Company A at Andrews Barracks. The oval had an all-weather surface and the field was grass. It could accommodate the standard field events so Berlin American High School had track meets there from time to time. The infield also accommodated the Army’s local flag football league that was in existence in the early and mid-1980s. And it was naturally the default location for PT and the occasional PT test for the Field Station troops. (Most of those troops preferred to take the PT test at T-Berg. The “2-mile” run course was anything but two miles. Although the record number of personal bests achieved each time the test was given raised suspicions, the results were just too good to mess with.) Recent views of the old Andrews Barracks through Google earth confirm that the track is no more. As they say, all that’s left are the memories.

My favorite moments on that track, back when running was a big part of my life, were on summer mornings. Given Berlin’s high latitude, the sun rises well before 5 a.m. during the summer and it’s not completely dark until after 10:00 p.m. In June and July of 1984, the only full summer I lived on post in Berlin, when I was working swings I’d routinely get up at about 4:45 to run on the track. Things were pretty quiet and I always had the track to myself. Well, almost to myself. While I was the only human there, there were usually three of four rabbits munching away at something growing in the infield. My sudden presence was an obvious intrusion and they’d pay attention to me for about four or five laps. Not exactly “Immer Wachsam,” but about the best you can expect from rabbits. After that, they’d let their guard down and resume whatever it was they were doing before I showed up.

For some reason, I couldn’t resist trying to take advantage of their relaxed posture. I just had to grab me a rabbit! On one of these early morning runs, a rabbit was sitting in the high-jump apron at the south end of the track. True to form, he kept a beady eye on me the first few times I glided past him and then began to relax. After about a mile and a half I decided to pounce! At about mid-turn on the south end of the track I slashed into the high jump area determined to catch a rabbit. My prey darted immediately for the infield, and began to zig and zag across the grass like Jim Brown at the end of The Dirty Dozen. The hare’s speed and agility were far superior to mine, but he must have gotten confused at some point because suddenly he was running right for me. Perhaps he was going on offense. At any rate, I saw my chance when he entered my A.O. and I dove!

I don’t know if rabbits laugh, but if they do I am certain that rabbit, after a leisurely hop back to his original position in the high-jump apron, laughed his ass off at the ridiculous sight of a diving idiot missing his target by more than 20 feet and landing face first in the infield of the now non-existent track at Andrews Barracks. At the very least I’m sure he was thinking, “Verrückt Ausländer!“