My Army Introduction To Germany

It’s funny – next year will mark the 40th year since I was discharged from Ft Jackson, SC.

And having the advantage (and, as I have grown older, a realization), the gift, of old age, I am putting things in perspective.

  At the time, I thought WW2 was ancient history. But it had ended only 28 years earlier from my arrival.

 During the Cold War, service in Germany was primarily an Army/Air Force thing – at the time, close to 400,000 served there. Now there is but a handful.

 The Army, after the war, took over the posts (caserns) that the Wehrmacht had.

 I don’t think anyone thought, in 1945, that they would have been there for as long as they were.

 While going into the Army wasn’t my initial idea (and like Busbob’s remembrance of of George Jones, this Command Sgt Major’s retirement kind of shook me up – he was drafted in the same group as me – Sep 72 – the 2nd to the last group – my Army time to me is one of the highlights of my life – even as a lowly Spec/4 (that is E4 to the rest of you).

 There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss the camaraderie.

 I thought you would like to see a few of these pictures.

By the way, the way I got to Germany was a bit odd – at my school at Ft Bliss, TX, all of the graduation class form “E”s to the “Z”‘s were sent to the DMZ in Korea, manning Army Air Defense facilities.

There were 5 of us in bureaucratic limbo.

Three of us didn’t care where we would be assigned, we just wanted an assignment. So we bugged this civilian bureaucrat on base every day.

On the 3rd visit, he said “Don’t come in any more – I’ll send you 3 to Germany.”

Which, I’ll admit, was a pretty nice assignment.

The remaining 2 stayed at Ft Bliss doing who-knows-what.

Anyway the first thing most incoming soldiers saw after landing at Rhein-Main was the Gutleut Kaserne – which was used by the Nazis to house allied POWs (or so I heard) 

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While I was in Army Air Defense, I didn’t know where I would be stationed until a couple of days later – Got on a chartered bus and headed down the Autobahn to Kaiserslatern (called K-Town by the GIs) – at the Kleber Kaserne

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Note the Nazi Eagle (without head) and the chipped out swastika above the entry…

My first station was at an old radar station overlooking Ramstein AFB – my barracks were up a hill in Landstuhl – 5-7 miles away – site of the premier military hospital – but the barracks were an old Luftwaffe barracks built to last the “1000 year Reich ” – only the designers didn’t expect the foundation to crumble 28 years later. 

You could roll a ball down the floor….Word was the Air Force turned it down but it was OK for the Army ;-) 

Built to house 100s, there were about 20-30 of us here. 

The real action as far as my MOS was concerned, was a mini-NORAD type bunker about 50-60  miles northwest. Code-named Lima, it was one of 3 such bunkers in Germany. It was staffed by an equal number of US Air Force and German Luftwaffe, and about 20 of us Army types. (The Air Force, for some strange reason, always wants to keep an eye on us Army Air Defense types in case the ground to air missiles go up ;-) ) I volunteered to go there a few months later. 

We would take an Air Force bus up at the start of a 24 hour shift and by the end – living in near darkness for 24 hours, I felt like a gopher coming back up – No pictures allowed there, but it was  perfectly camouflaged from the top – guarded by the Germans. (who, naturally, were amused by my last name which happened to be the same name as the then-chancellor). 

I went back there in 1992, and a young German guard said that it was scheduled to be closed. 

With the benefit of time I have realized that the war wasn’t that distant at the time – here’s a picture of the remnants of the Siegfried Line – Germany’s answer to France’s Maginot Line – during the closing months of the war, Patton just ran around it I believe. 

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…Probably all gone now….

 

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “My Army Introduction To Germany

  1. Buck

    A very nice reminiscence, Bill, with great photos.

    Apropos o’ not much…Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Mellinger has one helluva bio, doesn’t he?

    Apropos o’ not much, Part II… This year is the 50th anniversary of my enlistment in the USAF; the 28th anniversary o’ my retirement passed a couple o’ months ago. I NEVER thought I’d live to be this old. ;-).

    • Bill Brandt

      Yes he does Buck – and a funny thought I had – draftees were treated differently (by category) than regular Army – anyone who was a draftee was in the “Army of the US” – (although now I am wondering if that category disappeared when he re-enlisted). If the status didn’t change and was set at entry time, then for many years he was the only one in the “Army of the US”

  2. Hogday

    Bill, were you out in Germany when a Scottish regiment got pissed and trashed half a town?

    • Bill Brandt

      I don’t remember that Hogday – but the Bader-Meinhoff gang was big. Constant alerts that they might strike this base or that.

  3. My father was stationed at Sembach and Ramstein. I went to school right there in Vogelweh and we lived in Vogelweh for a year. Remember Kleber and Panzer Kasernes, and Kapaun Barracks, now Air Station for some reason. My brother got taken to the ER at Landstuhl from the ER at Vogelweh when the carry all used as a school bus stopped suddenly and he wrapped his knee around one of the seat frames. He got bumped in triage because an F-104 crashed and the Pilot was badly burned.

    I have fond memories of Germany. I imagine there are some in First Tanks who are wishing they were back at Baumholder.

  4. Dust

    Probably the best three years of my career were spent in 3-36 Mechanized 3rd Armored Div ’78-’81. Dad was career USAF NCO and also lived in Vogelweh 59-61. Lived Wiesbaden 66-68 in Heinerberg housing. Great memories.

  5. Bill Brandt

    I loved my time in Germany – to the point that when I was discharged, I got a bill from the payroll center in Indianapolis for $69 – excess leave taken (I thought what was TDY for something was charged to me).

    Most of the GIs over there just sat in their barracks and complained about being away from “The World”.

    At the time, the Army ran these wonderful hotels in Bavaria – rates paid according to rank – for $3-$4 I stayed in some of the best hotels in town..

    One of them was at Hitler’s old complex at Obersaltzburg – the General Walker.

    All these were taken over from the German military and have since (to my knowledge) been given back to the Bavarian government.

    In the case of the General Walker, it was destroyed by the Bavarians to keep a shrine way from the neo Nazis.

    But I remember, while there, if you asked the desk clerk nicely they would take you to the basement where you saw some passageways – air raid tunnels – all the Nazis used.

    I can post more pics if anyone’s interested…

    In fact I’d like to see some of your pictures – anywhere in the world.

    Hogday – if I remember correctly the British had bases in northern Germany – we were in the Rheinland (central) part and down by Stuttgart.

    One thing I remember at Baumholder – close to my second barracks at Neubruecke – the German artillery school was there – or the tank school – anyway – they had an old Tiger tank on their lawn. And it looked almost like our (then) main battle tank the M60. Shows you how long ago that was ;-)

  6. Woodward P. Dingus

    Bill, Go ahead an post more pics.

    I went thru 21st Replacement (Gutleut) in late May 1973. Got in on a Saturday morning on a charter out of Dix/MacGuire. Packed aboard a bus late Saturday afternoon with a box lunch down to Goeppingen – 1st ID, 3rd Brigade. Made a bunch of stops in between dropping off newbies. Signed in late that nite – told to report first thing Monday morning – which I did, and sent up to Stuttgart – was told that they (3rd Brigade) had plenty of 11-Bravos, they needed 73 Charlie’s (my secondary mos)-ended up at 106th Finance at Robinson Barracks, Stuttgart. Located on a hill with a million dollar panoramic view of Stuttgart. I hit the jackpot!

    bill, you were close on the Brits around Stuttgart – they were Canadians -based over in the Black Forest-Freiburg, as I recall.

    Just before the Yom Kippur war in October ’73, I managed to get down to Berchtesgarden. camped one night at the base of the mountain that had the Eagle’s Nest on top. Spent a few days at the Gen. Walker. nice.

    • Bob O'Neal

      Woodward, I don’t remember you, but I was part of the team located at the 21st responsible for assigning all E5s and below. I got there in May 1973 and left in oct 1974

  7. Most everything on Obersalzberg has been torn down. The Patterhof (Gen. Walker Hotel) was an historic hotel dating back to the 19th century that was taken over by the SS, then by us after the war as part of the Armed Force Rec Center of Berchtesgaden. Chiemsee, the Rec Center on Chiemsee, has been closed about 8 years now and I hear has been bought to be converted into a sanitorium. Much of the Garmisch center has been closed up now as well.

    On his second tour in Germany, my father spent 1 year at Ramstein then was sent TDY to Echterdingen at Stuttgart, then PCS. We lived in Pattonville, and got up to RB a lot (went through 8th and 9th grades there). I many times took the shuttle buses from Pattonville over to Patch playing Basketball or Baseball.

    Echterdingen Airfield was a strange place. The Air Force ran the base, but most of the aircraft based there were Army. It was the plane patch for EUCOM at Patch, and many of the “troops” at Patch were from the Navy and Marines as well. All the buildings I knew at Echterdingen are now gone. I don’t recognize the place from the buildings anymore, but can see where the DFAC, PX, Snack Bar and barracks used to be.

    • Incidentally, you can go to “Third Reich In Ruins” to see many of the places you prolly knew well in Germany. What was done on Obersalzberg is an atrocity. von Turkel is the only original hotel left since the Patterhof was torn down. Bavaria violated its own laws in tearing down the Patterhof and other historic structures. The “Eagle’s Nest” is still there and has been occupied by Gasthaus for many years.

    • Bill Brandt

      Quartermaster, I will have to take a look at that. What I find fascinating, looking back, is how much of the war was still around – if you looked a bit.

      My second barracks was at Neubruecke, by Baumholder (we would take an Air Force bus for about a 30 minute drive to Borfink, and the bunker).

      Nearby was a grass airstrip that had old German Stukas towing gliders.

      It is a crime what they tore down at Berchtesgaden – I’ll put some pictures up in the next few days .

      I had a good friend in the Army – never could get him to take some leave and see things – he wanted to be paid for it and get a motorcycle when he got out.

      I saw him about 15 years ago – he lives in Washington State – and first thing he said to me was how he regretted not going with me.

      Never did get his motorcycle, either.

      I had my routine,. Just throw a few shirts, socks, etc – 20 rolls of Agfa film (available at the PX – cheap) – into the AWOL bag and…go.

      Never did get to the Chiemsee but did stay at Garmisch and Munich (the hotel by the Rote Kreutz Plaz (Red Cross Square).

      Even in 1992, during my Dresden trip, I spent time in Berlin – what a fun city – was standing on a vacant piece of land near Potsdamer Platz – asked a passerby where the “Hitler Bunker” was, and he said ‘you’re standing over it”. Then I could see an old air vent coming out of the ground. During the time of the wall I think this place was a “no mans land” where people where shot trying to get over (it was on the East side I believe)

    • Richard D. Brower

      I was stationed at Echterdingen Army Airfield, 1975-1977. I loved that place. I repaired avionics for the OV-1D in the 73rd M.I.Co. during the day and was a bartender at the club at night. Weekends I’d pull a bus from the motor pool and take guys around germany for Volksmaches. I brought back dozens dozens of medals and plaques from those. All together, I spent 5-1/2 years in Germany from 1969-1972 and 1974-1977. I was stationed at Kitzingen with a hawk missile battery. Our site was in the middle of a golf course. I was also stationed at Fliegerhorst Kaserne in Hanau before going down to Echterdingen.

  8. David Whalen

    Bill Brandt. I was stationed in Landsthul in 1971- until late 1973. I worked up in the Hospital. I lived in Marceau Kaserne (spelling). I was in the building that was nearest to the Motor Pool. They told us that this was the Luftwaffa Barracks. I think I am a little confused as to which building was. I could look out my window (second floor) and look directly into the motor pool. Could you clarify which building was the old Luftwaffa Barracks?.

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