Tag Archives: Austin

A Piece of the Cold War in Austin


When WWII ended in Europe in May of 1945, Easter Europe, including part of Germany, was occupied by Soviet forces. Germany was divided into four occupation zones at the Potsdam Conference in the late summer of 1945. Each zone was under the control of one of the Allied powers: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union. With Berlin being well within the Soviet zone, it too was divided into four sectors. 

The Soviet Union worked to create communist governments in those countries they had occupied. In their zone in Eastern Germany, they worked with German socialists to create the German Democratic Republic (GDR). In addition to the GDR, they set up similar governments in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania. Along with Albania, these countries and the Soviet Union formed the Warsaw Pact to oppose NATO. These two became the opposing sides during the Cold War. The other three Allies joined their western zones into the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949. 

The oppressive GDR drove many Germans to escape into the West. It is estimated that as many as 3.5 million East Germans (20% of the East German population) had fled to the west by 1961. The GDR began closing the border at midnight on August 31, 1961. The border was manned by troop, roads were torn up, and barbed wire was installed (156 km or 97 miles) around the three western sectors of Berlin. The first concrete segments of a wall were erected on August 17. In addition, chain link fences, minefields, and other obstacles were put in place along the border between East and West German. 

For the GDR the wall solved some economic problems that stemmed from two German currencies and an active Black Market for western goods. It also stopped the flow of people to the west, particularly many of the more educated East Germans. This enabled the GDR government to assert tighter control over its citizens. On the downside the wall became a public relations problem. It was a symbol of the Communist East and border guards shooting those trying to escape did little to enhance this point of view. It is thought that nearly 200 people were killed trying to escape over the wall. 

The final Berlin Wall was some 140 km (87 miles) in length. The initial wall was repeatedly improved over the years. The  “fourth generation” wall was the most sophisticated and was completed in 1980. This version of the wall was constructed of 45,000 reinforced concrete panels, each 3.6 m (12 ft) high and 1.2 m (3.9 ft) wide. In the fall of 1989 there was growing unrest in East Berlin. The GDR government finally announced on November 9, 1989, that they would begin allowing citizens to visit the West. Demolition of the Berlin Wall officially began on June 13, 1990, and it was completed in November of that year. Removal of the wall opened up Germany for reunification, which was completed on October 3, 1990. 

In the aftermath of WWII, six new National Guard divisions were created. One of those was the 49th Armored Division and it was assigned to the Texas National Guard. It officially came into being on February 27, 1947, and was nicknamed the “Lone Star Division”. The 49th initially was equipped with WWII vintage equipment, but over the years as the Regular Army received updated armor, the 49th was updated with newer “hand-me-down” equipment. In 1961 when East Germany began building the Berlin Wall the 49th was one of the National Guard Divisions President Kennedy ordered to be mobilized. 

The members of the 49th were called to active duty on October 15, 1961. It moved to Fort Polk, Louisiana to train in preparation for deployment to Germany. The unit spent nearly a year in preparation and was eventually designated as a division in the Strategic Army Corps (STRAC). STRAC was created as a flexible strike force capable of worldwide deployment on short notice. Fortunately, the tension created by the construction of the Berlin Wall had diminished by the late summer of 1962 and the 49th was demobilized in August of that year. 

When the Berlin Wall came down in 1990 a section of it was presented to the Texas National Guard in recognition for their readiness for deployment to Germany. The segment of the wall is on display in the Texas Military Forces Museum in Austin, TX. It can be found in the Cold War/War on Terror room in the West Gallery. The plaque reads:

Dedicated to the soldiers of the Texas Army National Guard whose service during the Cold War helped bring the Berlin Wall down

The Long History of Texas Military Forces

Airtricin gore dth ithether ater tPrami & truringTexas has a long history of the military. Officially, Texas Military Forces came into being November 10, 1822. That is when the new country of Mexico authorized the organization of militia units in Texas after Mexico won its independence from Spain. 

The Mexican war for independence spanned a decade from September of 1810 until September 27, 1821. Subsequent to Mexico winning their bid to become an independent nation, Stephen F. Austin, was called to Mexico City. 

Stephen’s father, Moses Austin, had originally solicited and received an empresario grant from Spain to settle the area known as Texas. After Moses’ death in 1821, the empresario was officially passed on to his son Stephen by the new nation of Mexico. Before that transfer was granted, the Mexican government delegated Baron de Bastrop to integrate the Texas colony into the new Mexican nation. Earlier in 1820 de Bastrop had been appointed as commissioner of colonization for Stephen F. Austin’s colony. 

One of the tasks handed de Bastrop was the establishment of militia units and the selection of their commanding officers. The orders given to de Bastrop on November 10, 1822, was the foundation of Texas Military Forces. 

The image at the top of the article is a reproduction of those instructions given to de Bastrop. They are on display at the entrance to the 19th-century gallery of the Texas Military Forces Museum.

The Texas Military Forces Museum is open to the public Tues-Sun 10AM-4PM and located at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.

See “Close Assault 1944” this Veteran’s Day Weekend

Assault 44

(See my other Texas Military Forces Museum related posts) – This coming Monday is Veterans Day in the US. In celebration, the Texas Military Forces Museum in Austin, TX will present “Close Assault 1944”. The Museum will be open 10 AM until 4PM both Saturday and Sunday.

Come and visit the Museum and enjoy the reenactment presented by the Museum volunteers. The Museum is always FREE and open to the public on Tuesday thru Sundays.


Mabry Monster M*A*S*H & Jeepers Creepers Rally is Tomorrow!


(See my other Texas Military Forces Museum posts) – I’m a member of the Museum foundation and have been volunteering as a docent since July of 2019 at the Texas Military Forces Museum. I’ll be there helping tomorrow afternoon and hope to see some friends there too.

This is a fundraiser for the Texas Military Forces Museum foundation:

The day begins at Noon with the Jeepers Creepers Rally on the Camp Mabry parade field – come see Jeeps of all styles and vintages from around Central Texas and select your favorite to receive the People’s Choice Award. There will be vendors and music, funnel cakes, and Covert Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram will be showing off the new Jeep Gladiator! The Jeepers Creepers Rally is FREE to the public and any Jeep enthusiast who’d like to show off their wheels, though donations are greatly appreciated! If you’d like to register for award consideration, please go to www.tmfhf.org/monstermash and complete the registration form.

At 5 p.m., move just across the street to the Texas Military Forces Museum grounds for an evening of live music from bands Granville Automatic and Sterling Country, DJ Rick Giles spinning vintage tunes, beer tent, custom cocktails, food trucks, vendors, souvenir event t-shirts and more at the Mabry Monster M*A*S*H! Come dressed as your favorite M*A*S*H character or their zombie equivalent and enter the costume contest! Tickets may be purchased at the gate.

$15 for rally participants
$10 for TMD personnel with I.D.
All ticket purchases include a collectible dog tag and two beers!



USA, Texas, Austin – Tyson’s Tacos


(See my other Food related posts) – After working Austin Museum ay at the Texas Military Forces Museum my wife picked me up and we decided to try a local taco place that a friend of hers had recommended. Tyson’s Tacos is located at 4905 Airport Blvd, Austin, TX.

We shared the $11.99 ‘3 Taco Plate’ – This came with rice and beans and our choice of three tacos. We picked two Tasty Basterd (Surf and Turf, Shrimp and Fajita with Sriracha and Cheese) and a Chicken Fajita (sauteed onion and bell pepper). All on corn tortillas. They were very good. Tyson’s has also earned a 4/5 rating on Yelp and 4.5/5 on TripAdvisor. Tyson’s has an extensive menu with over two dozen different taco choices as well as provisions for creating your own concoction.

All tables are outdoors, but most are undercover with fans. It was comfortable there yesterday afternoon. One of the very nice things about Tyson’s is that it is open 24/7.

This location is a few miles from home for us so we won’t be dropping in too often. It is though certainly a place we will return to.

If you are in northern Austin and feel hungry, Tysons might just be the answer regardless of the time or day.

See my other Food & Location posts


Autonomous Vehicle Pilot Begins at Austin Airport

(See my other Robot related posts) – I saw today in the Community Impact News that a driverless shuttle program has begun a pilot evaluation at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. The Easy Mile EZ10 driverless shuttle provides service between the Terminal building and the rental car and ground transportation areas.

The EZ10 shuttle is an all-electric vehicle which was launched in 2015. The vendor claims that the EZ10 is the “most deployed driverless shuttle in the world.” Each shuttle can seat 6, with additional standing room for up to 15 passengers and operates in all weather conditions and will run up to 16 hours on a charge. While the shuttle is autonomous, an AUS attendant will be present to assist travelers and for safety purposes during the pilot phase.

Texas Military Forces Museum – Hands-on​ History Night 2019


(See my other Texas Military Forces Museum related posts) – Last Saturday I worked my first “Hands-on History” night at the Texas Military Forces Museum as a docent. I was really impressed by both the attendance and the wide array of weapons and equipment on display.


Tables were set up and manned by volunteer reenactors from various periods of Texas Military history.


Periods represented included: Texas Revolution, Civil War, World War I, World War II (German and US), Korea and Vietnam/Contemporary.


volunteer reenactors at each of the tables demonstrated the equipment and provided the visitors with details of how it was used.


Nearly 600 visitors explored the museum and were able to climb into several of the vehicles that are normally just on display.


The big hit of the night was the Sherman Tank. The line to climb inside filled quickly and during the peak of the evening was near an hour wait. Everyone was able to take their turn inside well before the evening ended.


I enjoyed the 5+ hours I spent helping visitors to the museum. After experiencing a “Hands-on History” night for myself, I am going to encourage a lot of my friends to take part next year. Many people are surprised to find this 45,000 sq. ft. free museum in the heart of Austin.

If you are interested in history, visit the Museum website to see when the next event takes place. The Museum is free (adults do need to show ID to enter Camp Mabry) and open Tuesday thru Sunday 10AM to 4PM. The living historians (reenactors) will present their Close Assault 1944 living history program on Veterans Day weekend in November.

If you are interested in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

The  World War II Sources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 330 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and other sources with information on the World War II-era in history.

The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.

The “About WWII” page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

Change the World

This is almost five years old now. The address was given in May of 2014 at the University of Texas Austin Commencement and published to YouTube that same month. My son sent me the link to this impressive speech.

These are the remarks by US Navy Admiral William H. McRaven a 1977 graduate of UT and the commander of U.S.Special Operations Command. He challenges the graduates to Change the World and relates aspects of his SEAL training to how we should approach the challenges of life.

It is five years old but is very much still appropriate. I encourage you to take the 20 minutes and listen to the talk.

Central Texas IEEE Life Members Visit ATX Hackerspace


IEEELocations – The Austin chapter of the IEEE (The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) Central Texas Section Life Members group (IEEE members who are at least 65 years old and who have been an active member of IEEE for at least 35 years) met last night at the ATX Hackerspace.

What is ATX Hackerspace? Per their website they are:

We are a collaborative industrial workshop full of people who love to learn and make things! ATX Hackerspace can be found at 9701 Dessau Road, Building 3, Suite 304, Austin TX 78754

We have over 8,000 square feet of space that is perfect for artists, designers, engineers, makers and hackers, fabbers, scientists, musicians, seminars and workshops, co-working, and a ton of other stuff. We’re the perfect place for any project that needs space, involves loud or messy equipment (woodworking, soldering, welding, painting), power (we have 120V, 240V, and 3-phase power), tools that are too expensive or large for your own workshop ( see our laser cutters, CNC mills, and 3D printers ) or meeting with collaborators.

More importantly, we are an established and ever-growing community. Imagine what we can do when we combine our skills, knowledge, ideas, tools, and materials… or see for yourself at our next Open House, every Tuesday evening from 6-10pm.

We’re hackers (thoroughly defined here), which means we create things and we put things together in new and innovative ways. ATX Hackerspace is dedicated to encouraging and promoting technical, scientific, and artistic skills through projects, collaboration, and education by all legal means.

After a brief meeting, we were led on a tour of the ATX Hackerspace facility.


The first stop was the room with their 3D printers. Unfortunately, some of the folks taking the tour blocked the larger printer in this photo. It is located against the back wall to the right. Smaller printers are on the table to my right out of the photo.


In addition to the 3D printers, they have a small electronics lab space.

They have two relatively large laser cutters.

Their largest ‘maker space’ is their wood shop. Not shown is their welding area and car shop. The auto area is near the yellow box in the larger of the images above. The welding area is behind the red-curtained portion of the space.

ATX Hackerspace has a number of tools available. You can see the complete list of their tools-resources.

For a $75 fee with 24/7 access to the building, this looks like an inexpensive and well-tooled facility to take your projects from design to reality.

See my other articles about Food & Locations