Weekend Open Thread – “Die letzten Schwimmen in die Freiheit”

| March 15, 2019 | 93 Comments

As noted in a previous WOT article, over 5,600 are estimated to have tried escaping the GDR (East Germany) via the Baltic Sea. Less than 1,000 succeeded; at least 174 are believed to have died in the attempt. The remainder were caught and imprisoned in East Germany.

Here’s yet another example – one which happens to have been the last person to escape the GDR before the Berlin Wall fell.

. . .

Mario Wächtler was the last person to escape from East Germany. His escape by sea proved quite dramatic, though the distance he swam was possibly relatively short by Baltic Sea escape standards.

Wächtler had wanted to leave East Germany since he was a teenager. He’d tried at age 15 – but East German border guards had pulled him off a train heading West.

In his spare time, Wächtler was a lifeguard in Karl-Marx Stadt (the city’s name under Communist rule; previously and again today it’s called Chemnitz). This afforded him opportunity and reason to train for long-distance swimming.

Wächtler obtained a sleeveless neoprene swimsuit, then obtained black tights to cover his arms. He would wear a ski mask, and he obtained a snorkel.

Wächtler’s brother drove him to the Baltic coast near Wismar. From a bay east of there, one could see the West German Timmendorfer Strand beach resort.

At about 11PM, Wächtler entered the water. When he reached the area swept by East German spotlights, he used his snorkel to swim underwater.

At dawn, Wächtler was still swimming. Around mid-morning, an East German patrol boat approached approximately 400 meters away – so he grabbed his snorkel and dived.

The patrol boat’s crew didn’t see him.

By the late morning, Wächtler had reached shipping lanes. And he was spotted by a West German ferry returning from Sweden.

The West German ferry put out a boat to rescue him. However, this in turn attracted the attention of an East German patrol boat.

Both set a course towards Wächtler.

The race was on. Hundreds of West Germans were watching from the ferry, cheering for the escapee.

The West German rescue boat won the race. It took Wächtler on board.

He was taken to the West German ferry. The ferry’s passengers “passed the hat” and collected funds for him – some 6,000 DM – to support his making a fresh start in West Germany.

He did exactly that, joining an uncle in Hanover. And Wächtler did well for himself: as of 2014, Wächtler ran a private ambulance service with 40 employees.




. . .

Enjoy the WOT, everyone. And swim safely. (smile)

Category: Historical, Open thread

Comments (93)

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  1. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:


  2. ChipNASA says:

    First, You dirty rotten sum-bitches

    • Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

      missed it by that much!

    • ChipNASA says:


      You’re still dirty rotten sum-bitches.

      Good pull 5th/77th FA

      WAIT does 1st count vice “First”. (Probably…)

      • 5th/77th FA says:

        In his very best FIRST Elvis voice….ahhhh Thank ya, ahhh Thank ya very much. And YES… It has been said and WRITTEN. 1st is as good as FIRST, whomever posts a FIRST or a 1st is FIRST. Have not tried to see if oneth or 1th is the same.

        Don’t want to upset the Wide World of Sports TAH HQs on any type of ruling. That dog will bite you as hard as (GO) Army bit (BEAT) Navy on 8 Dec of 2018.

        I will now await all of the congrates and acculades as befitting the WINNING of the Coveted Friday Weekend Open Thread FIRST!

      • NHSparky says:

        It does if you don’t add a fucking diatribe to it.

        Had you merely said “First” you might have actually made it.

        Sucks for you.

  3. 5th/77th FA says:

    BAM, BAM, BAM!!!!Time on Target!!!!The King of Battle Reigns Supreme!!! Take that Dickweeds. GO ARMY BEAT NAVY….No doubt, no photo finish, no 3 pete for CW. FIRST of FIRST

    The Coveted Book of FIRST for the Friday Weekend Open Thread! Let it be said, Let it be Written.

    It is gloating/lording over time …. AGAIN!

    • aGrimm says:

      Army/Navy game tally: Navy 60, Army 52, ties 7. We’re still up on you mudders. Nanny, nanny, boo boo.

      • 5th/77th FA says:

        Absolutely nothing can take away the euphoria I have from winning the FIRST on the Coveted FIRST of the Friday TAH Weekend Open Thread….NOTHING….Not even Larsi Boi’s dribble drabble. The overall win/lose don’t mean nuthin…Drive on. Only score that matters is the next one. I loves me some Navy stuff that goes boom. If you take away Naval Aviation, The Navy is really just floating Artillery. And in the grand scheme of things, Naval Aviation is Flying Artillery. Submarines are submerged Artillery.

        Ergo, thusforth, henceto, and where upon all of this helps make Artillery…THE King of Battle.

        Excellent post on more escaping Brother Hondo. Wonder when you gonna have a post on all the people that escaped the over whelming Capitalism of West Germany to take advantage of the features, advantages, and benefits of the PDRofGermany? There must of been, what, as many as NONE?

        Keep ’em coming!

        • HMC Ret says:

          “The Navy is really just floating Artillery.”

          What a hoot. Don’t forget we’re pretty good at taking the USMC to places they don’t want to go and forces them to shore. We then move several miles further off shore and drink coffee until it’s time to pick up the Grunts.

      • Hondo says:

        Navy can give Army a call when it manages to come up with a 2nd season where they’re considered NCAA national champion by some organization.

        Army has at least 3 such seasons (1944-45-46). Army also has two earlier seasons in the early 20th century when they were rated as national champion by one of the then-multiple rating systems in use (1914, 1916) that Army’s athletic department doesn’t claim.

        Navy has precisely one such season (1926).


  4. Roh-Dog says:

    Congrats to the Cannoncocker in Chief.
    I kept reloading but somehow miss it!
    Have a great weekend y’all!
    Orientation for the new job on Wednesday for this guy!

  5. NHSparky says:

    Aloha Friday at the Casa de Sparky annex out west.

    Hurry the hell up, spring!

    • Roh-Dog says:

      Here in CT the crocus are starting to bud and the daffodils are pushing through.
      Birds are chirping, saw a robin.
      I think it’s here!
      Astronomical Spring starts on Wednesday btws.

  6. BlueCord Dad says:

    10th or maybe 12th I don’t kno. Have a good weekend ya apes😂

  7. It’s awfully hard to be first when work keeps you away at the wrong time. So my heartiest congratulations to 5th/77th FA as he takes the throne, which I’ve kept warm for him for the past two weeks.

    As Ahnold said, “I’ll be back.”

    In the meantime, check out this week’s expedition into the world of trivia. Enjoy, my friends!

    Was a Major League pitcher once hit by lightning during a game?
    By Commissioner Wretched

    And now it’s time for baseball.

    Regular readers of this column know that I am a confirmed, dyed-in-the-wool baseball fan, and all other sports place a distant second to the National Pastime. Well, except for ice hockey, maybe – once I went to a fight, and a hockey game broke out.

    Insert rimshot here.

    But down in Florida and in Arizona, all the boys of summer are getting themselves into shape for the 2019 baseball season. Will your team fare as well as you hope they do?

    As long as the Chicago Cubs do better, I hope they fare well also.

    (You can’t tell which team I really like, can you?)

    Though baseball – and, really, all other sports – have their seasons, one thing that goes year-round is trivia. The minutiae of life that make life so much more interesting and enjoyable, and add a bit to my weekly income as well.

    So sit back, grab a glass or cup of your favorite beverage, and enjoy this week’s serving of some real major-league trivia. Batter up!

    Did you know …

    … there is a weird custom in Wales that takes place every January? Called “Mari Lwyd,” the custom involves groups of carolers moving from house to house, accompanied by a man in a sheet carrying a horse’s skull. The custom dates back to the 1800s. (A horse’s skull? Really?)

    … Labrador retrievers do not come from Labrador? Originally called St. John’s Dogs, the breed was developed in Newfoundland, Canada, and were imported to England in the early 1800s as hunting dogs. (I guess they’re called Labradors now because they retrieved the island of … nah, that’s silly.)

    … a Major League Baseball pitcher was once hit by lightning during a game? It happened on August 24, 1919, when Ray Caldwell (1888-1967) was on the mound for the Cleveland Indians, pitching the bottom of the ninth inning with two out. The bolt knocked Caldwell unconscious, but the amazing part is what happened next – Caldwell regained consciousness, stood up, shook it off, and finished pitching the game. The Indians defeated the Philadelphia Athletics, 2-1. (I guess you could say Caldwell “sparked” his team to victory. You could say it. I won’t.)

    … Russian Tsar Ivan IV (1530-1584), known as “Ivan the Terrible,” really lived up to his name? One way in which he did was when he had the architect who designed the beautiful St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow blinded after the church was finished. Ivan said he ordered it done so that the architect could never design anything as beautiful again. (Imagine what Ivan would have done if he didn’t like the cathedral!)

    … only 71% of Americans can find the Pacific Ocean on a world map? (You have no idea how hard it is to resist a political joke right now.)

    … the world’s most expensive coffee costs more than $300 per pound? Kopi luwak is a special coffee, very special indeed. What makes it so special is that the beans are picked out of the droppings of civet cats. The cats eat the coffee cherries, among other things, but they can’t digest the beans, so they’re … um … well, you know. And afterward, someone comes along and picks the beans out of the … uh … well, you know. From those, the coffee is made. (If the price doesn’t make you avoid it, the source will.)

    … the main cause of depression in married people is being married? In single people, the main cause is being single. (You can’t win.)

    … ancient Egyptians used to buy jewelry for their pet crocodiles? (And you thought getting Rover a sweater was silly!)

    … movie previews are called “trailers” for a reason? While the trailer today plays before the movie, back in the day they were shown after the feature film. Because they “trailed” the feature, they were called “trailers.” (Placing them at the end of the movie guaranteed people would sit for the closing credits, anyway.)

    … every U.S. president with a beard has been a Republican? (Draw your own conclusions.)

    … the 15th-great grandson of the famous Portuguese explorer, Count Vasco da Gama (1460-1524), was a contestant on the game show “What’s My Line?” in 1958? Also named Vasco, the Count’s descendant was able to fool the panel with his occupation – he sold and repaired pool tables.

    … baseball great Lewis R. “Hack” Wilson (1900-1948) had very small feet? Wilson, holder of the single-season record for runs batted in – 191 in 1930 – had size 5 1/2 shoes. He also had an 18 1/2-inch neck size. Wilson, who stood five feet six inches tall, was a victim of fetal alcohol syndrome, due to his mother’s heavy drinking.

    … in July of 2017, the Earth was almost hit by an asteroid? The boulder – about the size of a 737 jet – came within 76,500 miles of slamming into our little blue marble. That’s about a third of the way to the Moon. The really amazing part is, scientists didn’t realize it until three days after the asteroid had passed. (Comforting, isn’t it?)

    … some famous advertising jingles of the 1970s was written by Barry Manilow? Manilow (born 1943) wrote the famous “I am stuck on Band-Aid, ‘cause Band-Aid’s stuck on me” jingle, and even sang it in a childish voice in one of the commercials. Manilow is also responsible for “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there,” and the old McDonald’s jingle, “You deserve a break today.”

    Now … you know!

  8. GDContractor says:

    Hey you guys remember this lying murderous fuck?


    I just accidentally watched a 20/20 episode about the murder that he sponsored. Get this. The dude made it known to everybody that he was a former Green Beret. His wife had a piece of artwork, a caricature, made for his 60th birthday. In the caricature, he had USMC tattooed on his bicep. Here is the interesting part though … according to the story as 20/20 presented it oh, the police aren’t the ones who discovered that he was lying about his military service. That was only uncovered bye the dead wife’s daughter when she took him to court in a civil suit for wrongful death. I’m no Einstein, but if I was investigating a dead woman laying face-down in the bedroom, perforated by Pistol rounds… and had a live husband claiming that he was special forces… I think I would research a few facts.

  9. Commissar says:

    Trump indisputably committed charity fraud AGAINST VETERANS.

    Allen Weisselberg is working with NY and Federal prosecutors.

    A civil lawsuit has already been filed and a criminal indictment is pending.

    Trump used his campaign to “raise funds for veterans” as a political tactic. While that technically violated campaign laws people generally gave him a pass because he was raising money for a good cause.

    However, he used the moment for personal and business debts and only after public attention focused on the lack of distribution to veterans that he tried to cover it by paying up.

    However, he never paid back the entire amount and prosecutors now know he was not intending to pay it back.

    It was just another con job. The same he has been doing since the 1980s at least. The financial record proof of these frauds is already public record.

    Last year the Trump foundation already acknowledged guilt in previous frauds and is being dissolved under court order.

    Most of the fraud was beyond the statute of limitations but Allen is providing evidence for more recent fraud. Within the statute of limitations.

    Including defrauding people under the guise of raising funds for veterans.

  10. aGrimm says:


    Thank you for your political ‘screed of the day’. When asked, I describe you as a political scatologist.

  11. Haywire Angel says:

    Happy weekend everyone! I will be watching the local boys and girls High School Rugby teams tomorrow, so it will be a long and fun day…

  12. A Proud Infidel®™️ says:

    Down and dirty in the top thirty and Honorary First once again.


  13. SFC D says:

    Present, late for the party again. It’s that lovely day when you get to spend your morning with a background investigator crawling over every facet of your life. Don’t worry dickweeds, I didn’t bring TAH into it.

  14. Bill M says:

    Present and unaccountable.

  15. MCPO NYC USN Ret. says:


    Going to Boston … Drop Kick Murphy’s

  16. Friend says:

    Beneath is still decomposing six feet under…

  17. Graybeard says:

    Not even close to first. Was off making Mrs. GB happy by visiting a quilt show, and spending time with her brother & sister-in-law.

    Beautiful weather in the GB AO. Y’all enjoy it.

  18. A Proud Infidel®™ says:

    Anyone for a Railcam? Here’s La Grange Kentucky, a cool little town with a Railroad RoW (Right of Way) through their downtown:

  19. HMCS(FMF) ret says:

    A guaranteed mind blowing essay for our resident socialist/SJW…


    The last paragraph says it all:

    “And the planners are always planning, trusting we will not notice what they are doing. It is therefore our solemn duty to call out socialism for what it is — a pseudo-religion posing as a pseudo-science enforced by political tyranny — a god that has failed each and every time it has been tried.”

  20. HMCS(FMF) ret says:

    The Donks newest candidate for POTUS has a very interesting past… “poet” that wrote about murdering children and computer hacker that may have committed fraud:


    Gotta love that cow poetry… set it to the beat of a bongo in a hipster soi-boi bar.

  21. Green Thumb says:

    Great post.

  22. Devtun says:

    Board Of Inquiry clears a Navy LT in the USS Fitzgerald collision. No basis is found to separate the LT.

    The LT will be retained but still has a lot to worry about – like not getting passed over for LCDR. The bureaucracy has it’s way of surreptitiously getting even.


  23. A Proud Infidel®™ says:

    Prayers ot to those in Nebraska, yesterday it looked like whatever part of the State that wasn’t buried in snow was flooded to include a dam that failed as well.

    • 5th/77th FA says:

      Tanks API. Been where this was. Got people in Pender, Jackson, Freemont, Nebraska City, Wakefield NE. Also in Faribault MN. Plus around Black Hawk SD. All are safe for now and hunkered down. NE folks can’t go too far in any direction. It’s a mess.

      • A Proud Infidel®™️ says:

        I looked at a map of NE highway closures and it looked like the whole State was pretty much closed off!

        • 5th/77th FA says:

          Yeah Buddy. Got off the phone with Sister coupla hours ago. It’s bad. May even get more critical for me on a personal note. She normally sends me a coupla 5 dozen homemade cookies for my birthday. (don’t tell anybody but it’s next Saturday the 23rd) No mail has come in or out of Pender since last Wednesday. The cookies are baked and packed in a box but if they can’t leave Pender it’s all mute. The mail goes to Omaha and right now there is no way to get there. The horror.

          She said it would take years to fix just the stuff that made the news. I may need to find me a surplus Huey.

          • Mason says:

            I’m in MN. We still have a couple feet of snow on the ground. So as long as it gradually warms up, it shouldn’t be too bad. Though I expect it’ll be like last week, which kicked this whole flooding off, and warm up quick and melt it all. Which means all the water runs down the mighty Mississip’, so I expect it to get worse before it gets better.

    • A Proud Infidel®™️ says:

      A dam was breached, both highway and railroad bridges are washed out along with roads, a big part of the population is stranded, but the snooze media stays silent on it showing just what a political whorehouse it is.

  24. 11B-Mailclerk says:

    Tired of half-assed regurgitated Marxism?

    Try it from an expert!

    You will laugh, comrades!

  25. Tallywhagger says:

    New, used, Ruger GP100 .357 with 4″ bbl.

    Came with original grip and Pachymayr. Had to adjust a shoulder holster to balance the weight, it is a great fit for concealed carry, at least in cold weather.

    Looking forward to taking it to the range and tweaking the sites. The double action trigger is delightfully smooth with a very definite sweet spot just before it releases.

    I have a good stash of Federal .38 Specials and some .357 JHPs from back in the early 90s to git’r lined up with. Thinking about some Hornady Critical Defense loads but am not sure on what weight to go with.

    Any recommendations for sure-kill loads in .357 Magnum?

    • 11B-Mailclerk says:

      Moderate velocity 158 grain semi-wadcutter hollowpoints.

      • Tallywhagger says:

        Thanks, I haven’t thought about wadcutters in a long time. I remember police officers who used to carry wadcutters in their service revolvers back in the 60s and 70s.

        I’m kind of stoked about getting back into revolvers, albeit, I did sell my .44 mags in 2018. Both of them were too heavy so I had not shot them in more than 10 years.

  26. 3/10/MED/b says:

    To all of you in storm/snow/flooded areas,
    I wish you peace and good luck.
    Here in dfw, we had our first bout of March madness.
    Strange how storms miss your house but find the one across the alley.
    Peace to all.

  27. AnotherPat says:

    Congrats to the King of Battle on his win again!

    In honor of St Patty’s Day and rtr,a News video about Leprechuans in Mobile, Alabama (yes, a real news video….Sheesh….)

    • 5th/77th FA says:

      Thanks AnotherPat. This may be the guy that approached us to hire on as a storage facility for the FGS winnings. I knew something wasn’t right. He had an Auburn shirt under his jacket.


    • Tallywhagger says:

      F’n Nwurds come up some of the funniest stuff.

      I was way deep into soul music in the 60s, particularly the Hammond sound, and would wander around certain neighborhoods with bars that offered such faire. I was too young and stupid to be afraid and walked into certain bars just to hear the music.

      No one ever gave me a bad time even though I was as out of place as a blue eyed teenage boy could be. Good Lawd, it was a blessing that my parents never really knew where I went on Friday or Saturday nights.

      Fifty years on, I still love it.

      • 5th/77th FA says:

        Been there and done that….GOOOOD Times. Saw Big O and Little Richard among many others waaaaay back when.

        Never had a problem. Coulda been that proper home training and respect for others we had.

  28. Roh-Dog says:

    Got a range report for anyone who cares.
    I’ve got a pair of CT compliant AR-style Others (not a rifle, not a pistol) made by New Frontier Armory with a 12.5 inch barrel and a Sig Romeo5 XDR on them both. The uppers and lowers aren’t the best but it was the right price.
    At 100 yards using Federal M855 I was dropping 1.2-1.5 inch groups.
    Considering the Romeo reticle is a 2 MOA dot I’d say the rifle system is serviceable and I still got it.
    Now if I could just find a 200 meter range with a 5” steel gong…

    • Roh-Dog says:

      Scratch ‘rifle system’, insert ‘weapon system’. It’s an ‘Other Weapon’ as defined by the ATF.
      And a FYI, I had a problem with a Lone Wolf Alpha barrel for a Glock 23 in 40 S&W. The rounds where coming off the feed ramp at a bad angle and the sharp opening to the chamber was catching the bullet causing a FTF. I did a little dremel fluff and buff (you kel-tec’ers know what I’m talking ‘bout) took the sharp edge off the chamber opening and polished the sh*t out of the ramp and the opening. Very, very, VERY conservatively. The 40 needs as much support as you can give it or else you get a case failure (see: Glock 40S&W kabooms). I seriously do not recommend doing what I did, but it worked for me and I saw no case bulging, YMMV/check your local laws/I’m not a gunsmith or a lawyer/sue me and you’ll get half of nothing.
      One FTFeed from the top of a mag, my fault, other than that, 100% now.

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