WEST BERLIN, JULY 4 -- There were big mounds of corn on the cob, trays of cornbread, troughs of chili. The band played "God Bless America." A 25-foot-high Old Glory flapped in a crisp, dry wind.
This Fourth had it all: a real American picnic, a military parade complete with tanks and 1,200 troops -- and a huge cake covered with icing depicting Berlin's Brandenburg Gate and a crumbling Berlin Wall.
This Fourth was thousands of miles from the land that revolted against its repressive ruler 214 years ago. Thanks to another revolution against another hated government, today's holiday parade was almost certainly the last full-scale American independence celebration in a Berlin still under allied control.
By this time next year the 6,000 American, 4,000 British and 2,000 French troops stationed in Berlin as part of the four-power division of Germany after World War II will no longer have legal authority over the city.
Exactly when the soldiers will actually leave Berlin is still to be negotiated. But the day is coming, and there was little talk of anything else at today's last blast.
Harkening back to 1948, when allied forces foiled the Soviet blockade of Berlin by flying 277,569 supply flights into the western part of the city, Maj. Gen. Raymond Haddock, the U.S. commander here, said that "Berlin was not abandoned then and Berlin will not be abandoned now."
He told the 1,200 U.S. troops who paraded before him in battle fatigues that although they might sometimes feel slighted in current accounts, "history will do you justice. You will not be forgotten."
Americans stationed here tend to feel lucky that they did their stint during the dramatic events of last fall and winter.
"When we watched them lift the Checkpoint Charlie station off the ground -- boy, did that do it to me," said Sgt. Ed McCarthy. "Boy, that was moving."
But now that the Berlin Wall is largely torn down and German reunification has effectively already occurred, some soldiers at today's parade and garden party said they are ready to go home.
"We don't do much here," said a private from Florida. "The Germans don't want us, the wall's down, what are we waiting for?"
"This is surely the last of these big celebrations," said a British colonel who attended the garden party, held at Harnack House, an American officers' club that formerly was the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, a prestigious academic setting where Albert Einstein once delivered a scientific paper.
"We're in our final hours here," the British colonel said, "and really, if we are to be honest, the Germans have been running things in this city for 30 years. We are very expensive window dressing, I'm afraid."
The expense is largely West Germany's. Under occupation agreements, the Bonn government pays for many of the costs of stationing allied troops in Berlin.
The division of the city is dissolving even for the military. Allied soldiers are now free to travel to the East on their free time. Soviet soldiers soon will have PX privileges at the American shopping center here, now that the West Germans pay the Soviet troops in hard currency.
Still, many Germans are in no rush to see the Americans leave.
"The Americans must stay here to have Fourth of July parades -- at least as long as the Soviets are in East Germany," West Berlin Mayor Walter Momper said.
Several hundred Berliners turned out to watch the parade. Some just love parades, some came to snicker at the pomp, and some came because they will miss the "Amis," as many Germans call the American troops.
"It's sad that they will leave Germany," said Beate Braun, a bank clerk who has attended the U.S. parade for six straight years. "We like the Americans in our town. We have too many people from the East now in our city and it's good to have the Americans for protection in case things get bad again."