BAUMHOLDER, Germany – Like most relationships that last 70 years, they are guaranteed to have its ups and downs. This rings as true today as it was 70 years ago when the Americans took control of the Baumholder military community from the French army.
Normally, such an occasion would have been marked by gaiety; However, the ongoing pandemic has turned today’s commemoration into a quiet celebration.
“The relationship with the host country within the Baumholder military community is one of the strongest in Europe and it is unfortunate that we cannot celebrate such an important milestone with our German-American community,” said Jae Kim , deputy director of the BMC garrison. “We hope to recognize this historic opportunity and strengthen our strong partnership once it is safer to do so.”
Last night, during the annual Christmas tree lighting of the US Army Rheinland-Pfalz garrison at BMC, the mayor of the district of Baumholder, Bernd Alsfasser, expressed his gratitude for the German-American partnership and called on everyone to walk through the pandemic together.
“To all of you – soldiers, civilians, members of your family – we sincerely thank you for your efforts and for improving the safety and security of prosperity in the Baumholder community. Together we are strong. “
“As we celebrate 70 years of this close relationship, the future looks bright as never before for the community.”
On March 18, 1945, at around 3 p.m., American tanks rolled over Baumholder from Birkenfeld. In a 1945 agreement, the French occupied the post after World War II. The German Army built the post and the adjacent firing range as a training base in 1937.
At the end of 1951, the Americans took over the post and quickly began a massive construction program transforming the town of Baumholder into a thriving town.
Bernd Mai, public affairs specialist for the garrison in Baumholder, has lived in the area all his life.
He said his generation can only guess what it was 70 years ago, but he draws his historical knowledge from the book “50 Years of Americans at Baumholder” and from conversations with author Herbert Grimm, as well as other contemporary witnesses.
According to Mai, construction companies from all over Germany were bringing in thousands of workers every day.
From 1953 to 1954, the first residential areas north and west of the city border, known today as Smith Barracks Housing, were built. A 200-bed hospital, 524 apartments, a school and a gymnasium have been built at unimaginable speed, Mai said.
Also in 1954, the so-called “Tank trail” that leads around town was built, Mai said. The trail relieved the city of the traffic of military vehicles, especially tanks.
“Many visitors have come from far and wide to experience the unique atmosphere of Baumholder. Even though it was illegal, they brought cigarettes and whiskey with them, or visited American clubs on the facility to enjoy the high quality entertainment that was on offer, ”said Mai.
“Baumholder started to get a bad rap during this time, but the visitors kept coming. “
According to Mai, at its peak, Baumholder had more than 30 bars and taverns and more than 20 restaurants.
The BMC has played a role in most world events involving the United States since its inception, according to Mai. It evokes the post-war Cold War, when Baumholder’s tanks were said to have been among the first units in the Fulda Gap to stop a Russian advance. Other events like the Berlin Airlift, the Desert Storm, September 11, and Enduring Freedom resulted in the mobilization of troops and equipment and endangerment.
Mai said Baumholder changed dramatically after the September 11 terrorist attacks. He said the city was on the side of his American friends as spontaneous memorial services were held. However, after being an open post for decades – where local residents were used to walking the post at their leisure, Baumholder immediately closed its doors. Guards suddenly controlled access to the facilities, Mai said, and a fence was erected.
The return of the Baumholder military community is in preparation
BMC was due to close in 2009 and the money for infrastructure was cut. That decision was overturned in 2014, but those five years have taken their toll.
Now the US military is planning to move troops to Baumholder from other parts of Germany. Buildings are being renovated and prepared as the time for more soldiers and families draws closer.
“The strong partnership between the US military and communities in the Baumholder region directly contributes to the well-being of service members and their families, military readiness and regional financial health,” Kim said. “As we celebrate 70 years of this close relationship, the future looks bright as never before for the community.”