Observation Post Alpha

Observation Post Alpha, OP Alpha or Point Alpha (50°43′26.15″N 09°55′54.68″E / 50.7239306°N 9.9318556°E / 50.7239306; 9.9318556Coordinates: 50°43′26.15″N 09°55′54.68″E / 50.7239306°N 9.9318556°E / 50.7239306; 9.9318556) was a Cold War observation post between Rasdorf, Hesse, West Germany and Geisa, Thuringia, East Germany. The post overlooked the Fulda Gap, which would have been a prime invasion route had the Cold War erupted into actual warfare. The "Point Alpha" memorial commemorates its forty-year existence, and was dedicated to keep it and a section of East German wall as reminders of German division and the confrontation of NATO and the Warsaw Pact in the Cold War.

Observation Post Alpha

Observation Post Alpha was one of four US observation posts along the Hessian German domestic border. Today, "Point Alpha" is the name of a museum on the road between Geisa (Thuringia) and Rasdorf village (Hesse). OP Alpha fulfilled NATO defence reconnaissance with its view of Geisa, then the western-most city of the Eastern Bloc; the Warsaw Pact had counterpart observation posts on their side of the Iron Curtain.

The OP overlooked the Fulda Gap from atop a 411-meter hill, lying in the centre of the NATO defence line — from where NATO expected a Warsaw Pact invasion. The name OP Alpha dates to its being the first such point; geography also allowed monitoring Communist radio traffic. At the first sign of an invasion the OP Alpha crew would have withdrawn, as the actual planned battlefields to meet a Warsaw Pact invasion lay a couple of kilometers to the west.

  • 1962 A border incident occurred near the future location of OP Alpha. An East German border guard captain fired at a group of West German border policemen, and in turn was shot by one of the West German border policemen.
  • 1965 Responsibility for border surveillance in the area was turned over from the German BGS to the U.S. Army. In the years following, construction of observation structures was accomplished.
  • 1968 The first observation tower made of wood was established, replaced in 1982 with a steel tower and again in 1985 with the current concrete tower. It also became the base of the U.S. 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment.
  • 1972 The U.S. 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment ("Blackhorse Regiment") assumed the post. Under normal circumstances, approximately 40 soldiers were stationed for four weeks at OP Alpha. In crisis situations the garrison strength rose to 200 men.
  • 1991 The U.S. Army withdrew from the post following the fall of the German Democratic Republic ("East Germany").

Following reunification, the post was supposed to be removed along with the other remaining observation posts at the German border. However, a citizens initiative was formed to prevent its destruction. By the end of 1994, the camp was used as an accommodation for asylum-seekers and in 1995 it was placed under historical protection. That same year the border museum association Rhön Point Alpha was created and began the construction of the today's memorial with the support of the Thuringian state government.

The museum complex covers not only the NATO observation post on the Hessian side, but also a strip of the original border protection systems of East Germany, including a visitor's center on Thuringia side.


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