EAST-WEST: The Great Balloon Escape

A dream of freedom was not just hot air

As searchlights swept menacingly over the heavily guarded border between East and West Germany, a raggedy patchwork balloon, traveling at a leisurely 10 to 15 knots, floated across the wall of fortifications, minefields, self-firing explosives and guard towers. Minutes later, the bizarre craft crash-landed on West German soil. East Germans were aboard: Mechanic Hans Peter Strelczyk, Bricklayer Gunter Wetzel, their wives and four children. Once again, human ingenuity and the will to freedom had prevailed over Communist East Germany's determination to immure its...

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