This article contains news about the rapid closing of the garrison in Mannheim, Germany, and was written by Prof. Dr. Christian Führer, who is writing a book about the influence of the garrison on over three generations of civilians living in Mannheim.
Mannheim is closing down much faster than anticipated with people moving out of the main housing area (Benjamin Franklin Village) at a breathtaking pace. April, May, and June were packed with numerous inactivation, farewell and “moving on” ceremonies, and now all that is really happening: units and agencies are inactivating, closing down and moving away.
But the community is still there and maintains a wonderful photo page on Facebook that will help you all stay in touch with Mannheim as it gradually disappears. Called “Keeping up with Mannheim”, it contains hundreds of photos on the drawdown process and other events that you will surely enjoy. Here’s the photo page with photos from the last few months:
Probably the most interesting albums are:
- High School Class of 2011 (11 June; our last High School graduation ceremony at the Mannheim Rosengarten; a festive moment that I had the privilege to attend; 200 photos
- Moving on Ceremony (9 June; the official closure ceremony for our High School and Middle School; two albums with 81 and 200 photos, respectively)
- USAG Garrison New Year’s Reception (14 Jan. at Top Hat Club)
Right now, only a few units remain in town:
- Two transportation companies (one of which is deployed)
- A few aviation companies (1/214th Aviation Rgt. on Coleman Bks.)
- The helicopter repair facility on Coleman Bks.
- AFN Europe
- USAREUR’s only Confinement Facility
- Very few MPs and signal folks
All other units have by and large moved away so that our soldier total has already fallen below 1,000. After the summer, no more than 200 families will remain on Benjamin Franklin Village which – given its 2,000 housing units – is rapidly turning into a ghost town. Very sad!
In the meantime, my Mannheim history project is making huge advances. I’ve already started writing the first chapter on how Americans came here at the end of WWII and was very touched when my research brought me in touch with two veritable American WWII veterans who took part in the amphibious engineer operations across the Rhine river in late March of 1945. The next three weeks (my summer vacation this year) will see me again at the City of Mannheim archives where I hope to find more information on these tumultuous times. Weaving it all together is very exciting indeed.
An important episode of the immediate postwar period is, of course, General George S. Patton’s fatal car accident on 9 Dec. 1945 which occurred right here in Mannheim (he died twelve days later in nearby Heidelberg). An interesting account on this accident can be found on pages 13-16 of this document (pages 11-14 of the text itself), an article that appeared in ARMOR Magazine back in 1995:
Needless to say, there’ll be more than one page on this accident in my book.
In closing, let me once again thank you all for your support. I’ll keep you posted on my book’s progress.
Greetings from Mannheim, Germany,