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 from “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)
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.
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.
…Probably all gone now….