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Flak Kaserne

 

Beginning with the construction of the Kriegshaber military installation Flak Kaserne in February of 1937, Augsburg’s footprint of military posts expanded into the northwest part of the city. Besides Infanterie (Infantry) Kaserne in Hochfeld, the American’s preserved the original name of the Wehrmacht’s „Flak“.

To accommodate a large anti-aircraft unit, the Wehrmacht established a noticeable different layout for the compound compared to what had been the norm for army garrisons that included a parade ground IAW the Heeresbaunorm. In the post-war era, this gave Flak Kaserne a distinctive different character, drawn from a strict Nazi design background yet simultaneously with traditional, American military utilization.

According to historical documents and descriptions, the Kaserne´s construction was never completed (it was halted around 1940/41). Aerial photographs taken by the U.S. Air Force on April 20, 1945 captured the entire complex as it looked in the post-war years. They even show a smaller firing range in the northeastern corner of the garrison. Up until this time, there was no obvious damage caused by air raids other than a few dubious pock marks on the eastern slope of the camp. The aerial photographs also reveal a few small, peripheral buildings (maybe shacks used during the construction of the Kaserne), which were quickly demolished by the U.S. Forces. At any rate, these structures were no longer visible in aerial photographs taken at the beginning of the 1950s.

The aerial photographs show little in terms of the effects of the air raids during the last weeks of the war. The attacks on the 21st, 22nd, and 24th of April, 1945 affected primarily the train central station and the suburb of Oberhausen. American photos of the Kaserne during the 1950s partially show the buildings - still camouflaged with dark paint - with small holes, caused by firing, in the facades of Bldgs 211 to 213. A bombardment of the Kaserne is not readily apparent.

With the end of the war, refugees and Displaced Persons of the UNRRA respectively IRO obtained several of the buildings along with units of the Industrial Police and the Labor Service. As for military units, the presence of the 5th Regiment of the 71st Infantry Division is verified up until 1946 and followed by the 169th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion, who were present into the 1950s. New construction by the Americans did not happen right away. Under the initial occupation rules, building needs were met using/modifying existing structures from 1949 until 1952. In the southeastern part of the compound, an Army hospital was equipped. Next came two emergency service buildings for helicopter pilots and two gas stations in the middle of open space near Kobelweg were set up. Additionally a chapel was constructed.

 

The victors place their symbols: US Flags at the parade field in the summer of 1945. In the back was the headquarters. (Photo: Mason H. Dorsey).

 

                                         Site map of the post at the beginning of the U.S. utilization

 

                                 The main entrance with guard post on Neusässer Straße (1980s)

 

Distinctive feature of Flak Kaserne: the the willow tree at the installation entrance. In the background, the Flak Club and the mess hall

 

                                                           The guard building at the main gate

 

                                                   Typical colonnade architecture in Flak Kaserne

 

                                                                  Building 208 (Headquarters)

 

Left: the Augsburg „Kasernenriegel“, the „Flak“ on top

Right: Invitation brochure to Thanksgiving Day in 1959 (24th Infantry Division)

 

The distinguishing features of the installation were not only the 200 meter long barracks building on Neusässer Straße, but also the massive five-section building complex on Dr. Dürrwanger Straße (Bldgs 211 thru 215). An approximately 300 meter long motor pool (Bldg 220) stood out as unusually lavish in the middle of the compound. Guard buildings, headquarters buildings, and the commandant’s building (Bldgs 208 thru 210) left the impression of the „Flak“ with the unmistakable ideological representation of the Nazi architecture. The construction quality of the installation’s building amazed many GIs in the post-war time as reflected in their letters of their experiences. They knew only of the simple wooden barracks back home at their military camps.

While a glimpse into installation life was practically impossible (blocked by the building complex and the high perimeter wall) from the south and west, the view of military activities from the northern Kobelweg was also considerably limited. The large open spaces often times filled with countless vehicles and trailers as well as the double motor pool structure also limited those on the outside from viewing what was going on in the compound: in earlier years a disappointment for the school aged boys who lived there, who were always very interested in the activities of the GIs.

 

     View from the roof of the hospital at the hardstands on Kobelweg, in front of the motor pool area

 

Left: Motor pool Bldg 220 at the large hardstand behind the gas stations

Right: Grounds on the rear side of the motor pool with the typical U.S. fire hydrants

 

                                                       Building 222 with movie theater and shops

 

At the beginning of the 1950s, the 43rd, converted later to the 5th Infantry Division, among others, also occupied Flak Kaserne (home to the Headquarters Company) until their departure from Augsburg in October of 1955. The division was well known by its soldier’s choir named Red Diamond Chorus. In February of 1956, the headquarters of the 11th Airbone was established which in two years was reconstituted as the 24th Infantry Division that remained for a long period of time. In the middle of the 1960’s, the 24th Division´s artillery was equipped with two nuclear-capable battalions each with three batteries (155mm howitzers/M109). During this time, approximately 7,000 atomic weapons stood at the ready in Western Europe during the height of the Cold War.*

A benefit afforded the headquarters was the single salute firing and the sounding of „Retreat“ every day at exactly 1700 hours by the Honor Guard. While the colors were being lowered, a bugle sounded until the colors were removed from the flagpole. In 1959, the garrison headquarters of the 24th Infantry Division (HQ and HQ CO, 24th Inf Div, „Victory Division“ was home to one two-star and two one-star generals.

At the end of the 1960s, the golden age of military intelligence began in Augsburg with the construction and the commencement of operations of the Gablingen listening post and the stationing of various intelligence units. At Flak Kaserne, this included the 415th Army Security Agency Company (415th ASA Co), the 328th ASA Co und the 502nd ASA (which became the 507th) Group. Beginning in 1972, members of the Air Force’s 6910th Electronic Security Squadron (mob) also called Flak Kaserne home. The 6910th was subsequently renamed the 6913th ESS MOB in 1974. Beginning in the 1980’s, the 502 ASA Group became the 502nd Military Intelligence Battallion (502nd MI Bn). In 1990, the headquarters of the 204th MI Bn was formed.

 

Left: Around 1990

Right: Military Intelligence soldiers pose for the camera, around 1990 (Photo: Bill Goodin)

 

                                            An interior view of the lengthy troop barracks, Bldg 207

 

                                             Viewpoint of the barracks along Kobelweg to Bldg 207

 

                Idyllic photo of the northwest corner of Flak Kaserne (Bldg 206) with the Officer’s Club

 

              A partial view of the troop barracks on Dr.-Dürrwanger-Straße, to the left is the mess hall

 

                                     One of the five fingers of the building on Dr.-Dürrwanger-Straße

 

Left: View of the street to the barracks

Right: One of the interior courtyards of the multiple barracks complexes

 

A considerable portion of Flak Kaserne was always occupied by the US Military Hospital**, which was expanded beginning in 1988 with the longer view of an extended stay given the political circumstances and expectations. The situation changed considerably only a few short years later, a politically and militarily unnecessary and expensive $27M dollar investment. Planning for the hospital began as early as 1981 by the Dorsch International Consultants.

After the alteration and the start of operations in 1952, the first Army hospital had over 200 beds, as well as seven wards, two operating rooms, a separate dental clinic with 15 dentist chairs as well as a women’s and maternity ward at its disposal. Upon completion of the 1988 expansion, Flak Hospital was outfitted with nearly all medical specialties and four operating rooms with all the latest amenities of a modern infrastructure. Along with the new construction, many of the existing buildings on Dr.-Dürrwanger-Straße were modified to accommodate related medical needs (e.g. a medical library, a veterinarian administration). The entire complex of both old and new clinic consumed about 18,000 square meters. Beginning in 1973, everyone could see the helipad of the 236th Medical Detachment (Air Ambulance), always at the ready with its rescue helicopters, as well as the hospital motor pool with its numerous ambulances.

 

                                 A patient ward in the hospital’s attic, 1952. (Photo via Reise House)

 

                                              The old hospital buidling number 216 around 1952

 

                                                               The new hospital of the 1980s

 

                                                 Connecting corridor from the old to the new hospital

 

                                          A Bell UH-1D Rescue Helicopter on the lawn at Kobelweg

 

                   Both billets buildings for helicopter personnel, in the foreground the landing cross

 

Besides the howitzers and the intelligence services, Flak Kaserne was also home to something special: next to the three brick barracks on Kobelweg, there was a small building (Nr. 288), which was built in the 1980’s to provide temporary housing for soldier’s pets. Known as the "Pet Palace" (Dog Hotel), it was said to even have been equipped with a comfortable floor heating system. As far as one can determine, the construction costs were considerable.

During the 1950s, the Mess Hall (Bldg 210, also the NCO and EM Club) served time and again as a showplace during Christmastime, to which needy Augsburg children were invited. As was the case at Sheridan or Gablingen Kasernes, here memories and encounters were made which sometimes lasted a lifetime for the small guests. As early as November 23, 1947, a work detail company invited 124 children of the Catholic Orphanage to Flak Kaserne for Thanksgiving Day.

 

                                                        View over the parade field to the mess hall

 

                 The colonnade of the mess hall is among the typical characteristics of Flak Kaserne

 

           Left: Walkway to the mess hall; Right: A small quiet area behind the mess hall, around 1990

 

                                         An aerial view of the mess hall complex and Flak Club (left)

 

                                                               Life in the Flak Club, early 1980s

 

                                                        The Flak Club (Bldg 210) at the mess hall

 

From living „way out at Flak“, a little known piece of American-Augsburg memories developed. It was politically called forth, whether military or personally experienced and those affected both inside and outside. Whoever came into contact with Flak would simply never be able to forget it. In the spring of 1994, the Americans ended their use of the compound. The taxis outside the main gate had lost what had been for many years their most important fares. With the conversion (to civilian use), allmost all vestiges of a military installation were wiped out.


* usarmygermany: 59th Ordnance Brigade, Page 4 - NATO Nuclear Artillery System


**Also flagged as the 11th and 30th Field Hospital, 11th Military Hospital, 21st Evacuation Hospital, U.S. Army Hospital, 34th General Hospital and the 34th Medical Hospital.

 

Please also look under „Location Augsburg (Facilities and Constructions, Barracks Life)“:

> Honor Guard Flak Kaserne (1955)

> Flak Kaserne mess hall

> Ceremonies and Parades

> Flak Kaserne 1956 (Airborne)/ 2008

> The Air Ambulance

 

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