A Short Cold War Story

During my time in the Army, I had 2 stations. The first, I was assigned to and the 2nd, I requested a transfer.

My first station was a radar station on a hill overlooking Ramstein AFB, near Landstuhl. You have probably heard of Landstuhl from time to time, as it contains the Army’s – if not main hospital in Europe, certainly one of the top hospitals.

The seriously wounded from the Middle East many times would be flown into Ramstein and then take the short (10 miles or less) drive to the Landstuhl hospital. Then once stabilized flown to Walter Read. My barracks were at Landstuhl – like many Army German bases, former casserns from the German military from WW2 and even WW1. The Headquarters of my group in Kaiserlautern had a building with the old Nazi Eagle still above the door, with the swastika and head removed.

5205KaiserlauternKleberKaserneProcessingOut

In any event my barracks there was an old German Luftwaffe barracks with a crumbling foundation such that the floor “listed” ever so slightly. Certainly didn’t last the thousand year Reich.

We were told that while the Air Force condemned it, or at least determined that it wasn’t fit to house their Airmen and Sergeants, to the Army it was perfectly fine ;-).

It was a big building designed to house 100s, and there must have been 30 of us Army people there.

So at the start of our shift, a deuce and a half would come to pick us up and take us up the hill to the radar station.

A Short Cold War Story

An Army “Deuce And A Half”

On our hill, we could look down on Ramstein – we were perpendicular to the main runway – and the Air Force could put on a show for us. The massive C5As seemed to just float to the runway. Wasn’t that they were really slow. They were just so big and we were far enough way to have the illusion of just “floating”.

I remember the F-15 just being introduced, and McDonnell Douglas flew a powder blue Eagle around Europe to get crews acquainted with it.

While I was at Landstuhl, I went to nearby Ramstein to the PX and I spotted…..some suspicious looking characters right on the tarmac. I would say that pick your stereotype Soviet spook – then I realized there are a whole group of people for whom the Berlin Wall is simply old history.

OK, picture 2 characters with ill-fitting and cheap-looking black suits. With Fedoras. With a camera, tripod, and telephoto lens.

Photographing the then-new C5A as they were taxiing in.

I mean, these guys looked the part.

Naturally, I called base security.

I thought I had just exposed Rudolf Abel and they seemed unperturbed, but said that they would look into it.

I couldn’t understand their nonchalance, but figured I did all I could.

A few months later, I saw what I thought was a strange looking car. It was a black Wartburg – an East German car – with some military types in it. The “DDR” national sticker on the back confirmed it, and I thought, “What the….?”

I tried finding a picture of it – it was bigger than the Wartburgs Google pulled up, and in an effort to go to the Wartburg Museum in Eisenach – yes, they have a museum in the  city where they were built – Bitdefender warned me of a malware virus I might get.

It’s still dangerous to go to the East, it seems 😉

But it looked like a 46 Ford gone a bit wild.

Anyway I find out later that we had a treaty with the Soviet Union allowing them (and their allies) and us to have military liaison missions, inspecting each other’s bases.

I mention this because in my post about the Berlin Wall falling, and Major Arthur Nicholson‘s being shot murdered by a Soviet sentry, I wasn’t clear as to why Nicholson was in East Germany.  He and his team were there by treaty. He is considered to be the last casualty of the Cold War.

Oh – and as to my wanting to go to the second station? I soon learned that this station – a bunker like a mini NORAD – needed people and was a serious place. I wanted to be there.

During my visit to Germany in 1992 I stopped there – and a young German guard said that it was slated to be closed soon.

Without the Wall, it had no purpose.

2 Comments

Filed under Air Force, Army

2 responses to “A Short Cold War Story

  1. While open, the USAFE hospital at Wiesbaden was the first stop when you were flown to Germany as a medical casualty. Later, Ramstein then Landstuhl. landstuhl was the hospital for the K-town community as Bad Canstadt was for Stuttgart. I saw both during my father’s second tour. It’s been much too long (left in ’69) and can’t recall the history of each.

    My youngest brother saw the inside of Landstuhl as a patient. The Army carryall he was riding in stopped suddenly and he was thrown into the base of the passenger seat in front with the point of the frame hitting him in the knee. It made a mess and left a terrible scar. It took most of the remaining time in Germany for him to fully recover.

    I wonder how may of the old cold war installations survive from the US’s time in the FRG. The old missile silos at Gruenstadt survived when we went back to the FRG in ’66, although the old Mace/Matador site had been closed for years. Klaber and Flak Kasernes in Ludwigsburg were closed, with Klaber being totally demolished and housing was built on the old site. Flak was closed and overgrown. Echterdingen Airfield, the plane patch for EUCOM HQ at Patch is completely gone. Old chow hall my father ran, along with the snack bar and mini-PX are now just bare ground.

    • I know when I was there-and this is 45 years ago-diplomats would go to Landstuhl for just regular check ups

      And at the time Landstuhl was just this ramshackle one-story stucco building. I think the army built these in the 50s having no idea he would still be used in the 70s.

      When I went back in 92 it had been replaced by modern multi story facility

      And my old barracks in the back, condemned before 1973-was long gone

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