By: Bruce Christman
Hawk Kaserne/ Re-named
"Gerszewski Barracks"/ Occupation
and Rebuilding/ Occupation
to Defense/ Cold
War Missile Site/ Triple-A
to Medical Units/ A
Decade of Darkness/ Rebirth
of the US Army/ End Days and Final Chapter/
Black Hawk KaserneJune 5, 1945: In the agreements of the
allied USA, Soviet Union, Great Britain and France, Germany is
divided by zones of occupation. Karlsruhe lies in the American
Rhein Kaserne was codenamed "Blackhawk" kaserne by the
Americans because a tank battalion known as the Blackhawks moved in
from Italy to occupy it.
The Black Hawks were eventually
redesignated as Troop A, 1st Constabulary Squadron, an element of
the 15th Constabulary Regiment. They were responsible for policing a
large sector around Karlsruhe.
In the middle of June:
Renaming of roads, places and schools begins.
Americans seize 2000 dwellings for the accommodation of the officer
corps and their staffs.
7 July: The French pull out of
Karlsruhe. It is handed over to the Americans.
8 July: In
accordance with the allied zone agreement US armed forces occupy the
22 July: In Blackhawk Kaserne (Rhein Kaserne) the first
refugees, 360 Danube swabia from Yugoslavia, arrive.
Gerszewski BarracksSeptember 1945: Blackhawk Kaserne was
renamed for Sgt Gerszewski and became known from then on as
THE LEGEND OF SGT GERSZEWSKIBy CPT M.K. MAUFFRAY, AIC
Gerszewski Kaserne (249th Engineer
Awarded the Silver Star
April 1945, Sergeant Adolph C. Gerszewski was posthumously
awarded the Silver Star Medal for gallantry in
SGT. Gerszewski, cognizant of the great danger
to his men when the enemy had infiltrated their position, made
a reconnaissance, discovered the enemy’s positions, and
engaged in a firefight. He killed five Germans, wounded three,
and the remainder were driven from their entrenchments. He was
killed later, attempting to aid a casualty.
Platoon & Regiment They received the meritorious unit
citation for battle honors for outstanding accomplishment in
combat during the period 5 April 1945 to 11 April 1945, in the
vicinity of Heilbronn, Germany.
The unit citation
Crossing the Neckar River by assault boat under heavy
fire, the battalion secured a bridgehead in the face of
unyielding resistance and inaugurated its block-by-block,
house-by-house, and even room-by-room conquest of the key
rail city of Heilbronn.
Deadly cross-fire from
automatic weapons emplaced in rubble heaps and cellars of
ruined buildings slowed the attack; snipers in countless
vantage points constantly harassed our troops; and thickly
wooded hills on three sides afforded the enemy perfect
observation for the direction of all types of artillery
Yet despite fanatical resistance, the Battalion
continued its implacable advance, repulsing repeated
tank-infantry counter attacks and destroying group after
group of infiltrating enemy infantry. Supporting armor and
tank destroyers were sped across the river by a hastily
installed pontoon bridge, which was as quickly demolished by
artillery fire; casualties were evacuated and supplies
brought forward by ferry under continuous shelling; and on
11 April, after seven days of the most savagely-prosecuted
fighting on the entire Western front, the Battalion
virtually completed the capture of the city, thus by the
individual bravery of its members and the esprit de corps of
the organization reflecting the highest tradition of the
Gerszewski Barracks Named To
Honor SGT Gerszewski
SGT. Gerszewski's individual
bravery in the battle for Heilbronn earned him the Silver Star
During the Post-World War II period, his
Commander named the major installations in central Germany
after the Silver Star Medal Awardees from his unit. Thus the
former Rhein Kaserne, initially constructed as three separate
Kasernes in 1936 and occupied by the 35th Pioneer Battalion of
the German Wehrmacht from 1939 to 1945, was renamed to
Dedication And Research
Credit Thanks to the dedication and research of Dr. John
Hoffman, D.C., a close relative of SGT. Gerszewski, the legend
lives on of SGT. Gerszewski's individual bravery in World War
The photographs of Sergeant Gerszewski's Platoon
Behind the Front Lines, in March 1945.
Occupation and RebuildingOn July 22, the first refugees
were moved to the kaserne from Danube-Swabia and Yugoslavia.
Apparently they worked as laborers for rebuilding the
An Anti Aircraft Artillery unit was also at the kaserne
in 1945. A German named Herb Dinkle was stationed there and operated
the AAA that protected the bridge over the Rhein River.
1946 the Black Hawks were reorganized and redesignated as Troop A,
1st Constabulary Squadron. They were part of the 15th Constabulary
Regiment also located on the kaserne. They were responsible for
policing a large area around Karlsruhe. The Black Hawks remained at
Gerszewski Barracks until 1948.
The 72nd Heavy Tank Battalion
was also stationed at Gerszewski Barracks. In 1949 the 72nd was
moved from Gerszewski Barracks to Fort Lewis, Washington.
evidence shows that Gerszewski Barracks was very involved in the
early occupation and rebuilding activities in Karlsruhe after World
The Cold War:
Transition from Occupation to DefenseIn the 1950s there was
a transition from occupation of western Germany to the defense of
Western Europe as the Cold War began. What happened at Gerszewski in
the 1950s reflected the changes.
The 12th AAA (AW) Group
arrived in Bremerhaven on November 25, 1950. They were stationed at
Gerszewski Barracks until at least 1953.
The 73rd AAA
Battalion was apparently part of the 12th AAA Group. The 73rd
occupied the southwest corner of the kaserne.
Labor Service occupied at least one barracks in the southeast corner
of the kaserne.
In the early 1950s, troop morale was becoming
a problem because of the Korean War, racial integration, and the
emerging Cold War. For the first time black and white soldiers had
to live together and work together in the same units. The racial
integration caused tension between black and white soldiers, and not
winning a decisive victory in Korea added to the low morale of the
After the Korean War hostilities ended, a new
program called "Operation Gyroscope" began as part of a worldwide
restructuring of the army. One of the battalions that moved from
Korea to Germany during that time was the 79th Engineer
Battalion; once called the "Best Engineer Battalion in the Far
East" by General Mark Clark.
When the 79th Engineer
Battalion got to Neureut Kaserne in February 1955, the kaserne
had been newly renovated. One of the soldiers named Bruce Gearhart
said he could "Smell the new paint and stucco". He said the 79th
would go from Neureut Kaserne to Gerszewski Barracks to participate
in large parades.
Gearhart said he did not know specifically
what went on at Gerszewski Barracks, but he remembered hearing a
rumor that it was a headquarters for "Engineer" units. His
recollection of the rumor is consistent with the evolution of labor
service units becoming engineer units like the 6970th Engineers.
However, the rumor might also have been in reference to the German
Pioneers of Rhein Kaserne in World War II.
For the entire
decade of the 1950s, Gerszewski Barracks was the home of Anti
Aircraft Artillery units and Labor Service "Engineers" for the
rebuilding and defense of the area.
Cold War Missile SiteThe next important change was in 1956
with a weapon upgrade to the Nike-Ajax Missile.
In 1957 a
missile site was constructed at Gerszewski Barracks and operated by
the 73rd AAA. The 79th Engineer Battalion probably built the
site at Gerszewski Barracks. They had three companies building Nike
missile sites. The History of the 79th Engineer Battalion
says that Company-A completed a Nike missile site in "Karlsruhe"
probably meaning Gerszewski Barracks.
In 1960, the army was
upgrading missiles again. This time the upgrade was from Nike-Ajax
missiles to Nike-Herc missiles.
In 1961 the missile base at
Gerszewski Barracks was deactivated and a new Nike-Herc base was
opened in Pforzheim.
Triple-A to Medical UnitsFrom 1961 to 1963 the AAA units
stationed at the kaserne were replaced by several medical units in
the south end of the kaserne.
There was also a major finance
detachment in the south end building with a giant safe containing
millions of dollars. Dr. Don Morton recalls that he had to certify
the burning of 8-million dollars in US Script that had been shipped
to Gerszewski Barracks from Lybia.
Floris Wood was stationed
at the kaserne with the 556th Medical Company. He recalls that from
1961-63 Gerszewski Barracks was home to Headquarters Company of the
56th Medical Battalion along with two ambulance battalions and a
"It seems that some of the units of the 56th were brought in
from other units that were disbanded or sent home. Our own company
was nearly empty when I arrived.
All the guys that trained
as medics with me in Ft. Sam Houston came to Europe with me and
80% came to the 56th Med Bn.
So you can see that the unit
was nearly empty when we came.
There were so many new guys
that I do not even remember any of the old guys except a few
mechanics." - Floris Wood
Floris said that the 56th
Medical Battalion had been stationed at Wiley Barracks in 1958-59.
Therefore, apparently they had been moved from there to Gerszewski
Floris recalls a signal unit in the north end of
the kaserne near the front gate with some engineers. He also recalls
German Labor Service living in barracks along the west wall who he
says were East Europeans that were mostly middle aged and had lived
at the kaserne since the end of World War II.
" I don't know what other outfits were experiencing at the
time but the 56th was badly undermanned and badly equipped. Moral
was low and guys were getting into a lot of trouble.
get new ambulances sometime when I was over there but they were
exactly like the WWII vintage vehicles we had been driving . . .
Some of our old ones had patches on them where
there had been bullet holes from WWII." - Floris Wood
The dispensary at Gerszewski Barracks was operated by the
761st Medical Detachment.
Eugene Vuillemot was stationed with
the engineer unit in the north end of the kaserne. It was the 557th
Engineer Company. He recalls that their work consisted of mostly
German-American relation jobs, and building roads and a
tank-training course in Grafenwoehr.
A Decade of DarknessOn November 22, 1963 President Kennedy
was assassinated and America descended into a period of darkness
that lasted for more than a decade. The soldiers at Gerszewski
Barracks reflected how the social unrest in America affected the
military in Germany.
In 1965, the 249th Engineer Battalion
(Construction) moved to Gerszewski Barracks from France. For the
next 26 years they remained at Gerszewski Barracks in the north end
of the kaserne.
By 1967 the kaserne also became a major
ammunition storage base run by the Combat Equipment Battalion East,
In 1968, veterans of the 249th recall a place they
called "Moms" where the soldiers went to get breakfast. "Moms" was
operated by a German woman in her house. She lived in the
neighborhood across from the front gate. There was also a Schnell
Imbiss (Roadside Snackbar) inside the kaserne near the front gate
that was operated by another German woman who married an American
In 1968 the Finance Detachment had over 100-million
dollars in the vault. They shipped money all over Europe and to the
Middle East. Major George Hunsaker (retired) recalls the story of a
night when 35-million dollars was flown to the kaserne from
Frankfurt in five helicopters.
Drug use and racial tension
among the soldiers began to become a serious problem.
two white brothers got in a fight with some black soldiers in a
local Knielingen bar. After chasing one of the black soldiers back
to the kaserne the white brothers finally caught him and killed him
with a knife in the Parade Field. Here is the recollection from a
"The twin brothers both were UPs (unit police) they were gate
guards at the front gate. They had been giving a lot of crap to
these black guys when they tried to leave or return.
a knife that the one brother used. It belonged to a member of the
77th HEM co. that I belonged to. I used to keep it for him when
the Co. had an inspection since I didn't have to stand for
inspection. It was a flip blade that looked like a switch blade.
The blade was about six inches long.
It all happened at the
A-Bar (I was only there once, not the place I liked to be) The
black guys had razor blades sewn in to the bills of there caps,
and they started by cutting the one brother.
brother went nuts and started stabbing the blacks. I think on in
the building and the 2nd one just outside. Then he chased the
other one up the street along side the parade grounds and stabbed
him in the back.
Melvin Beli used my office to interview
witnesses. The brother was tried in Mannheim and Beli got him off.
I have an article from our local paper somewhere that my uncle
sent to me about the case.
Sgt. Eckhardt was right about
the brothers. They were in trouble most of the time. Back in 67-70
the UPs and the fire brigade was were those people were sent." -
A veteran of the 249th Engineer Battalion
recalls an old German bunker and tunnels between the
"I remember the morning sweep of the long halls while roll
call was just outside in those calm summer mornings; third floor;
I see my windows from those air shots; right next to the
stairwell. I used to go across the hall to Fussy's room and look
down to see the unlucky stiff doing pots-and-pans in the mess
hall; I used to pay 10 bucks so it wasn't me. I don't remember
those large white warehouses in the motorpool because they were
not there; but, I do remember the heavy huge blasted bunker in the
middle of the park. If you should remember "KOO-KOO" you are most
One of the first things that really lites up my
wonder is about the very large concrete bunker in the motor park.
Right past the 249th mess hall, all the Gerszewski battalion's
motors were lined up in order of there units; the 249th being last
and farthest away. From looking at the Aerial shots one of the
first things I noticed was no trucks in the lot. And right in the
middle of the parking lot was this huge bunker, blasted with, I
could tell, placed charges and a lot of them, that basicly, just
brought the roof down. The half inch rebar was sticking up out of
the concrete all over the broken side walls with 70% of the joint
of wall and roof still intact. Looking at the aerial photo I'm
sure that the building shown in the motorpark was not there; the
best I can tell that is where the bunker was.
And yes there
were tunnels. Right at the bottom of the steps; turn right through
the door; CO-D orderly room, second office, was a diamond plate
square plate door that led to the second floor sub-basement welded
shut. It supposed to lead to the bunker. If anyone went out the
rear gate, across and through the houses and in the field they
would have seen four smaller pillboxs with zig-zag walling that
led to the fighting positions; steel plate fixed in the inner wall
right under the gun slits with the clamps still in place to hold
the footplates of the tripod. And the entrenchments of the
And my favorite,"KOO-KOO" -- AAHHH ALL
MY faithfuls. We could and would identify one another by chimming
the little koo-koo from "Time Has Come Today" by the Chamber
Brothers. If you don't know it, you just don't know??? " -
By the early 1970s drug use and racism
was almost out of control. The period from 1968-1974 was the lowest
point for morale in the history of the American military. The
leadership was corrupted by self-interest, distrust for each other,
and embedded relationships with congress.
"In April, 1970, an organization of racist lifers burned a
KKK-style cross at an army base in Karlsruhe, Germany (Rheinland
Kaserne, Ettlingen). On April 11, rebellious anti-racist soldiers
took the offensive. Black and white GI's of the 78th Engineers
Battalion launched a coordinated, pre-planned attack on the highly
sensitive Atomic Demolition Maintenance Section. Using Molotiv
cocktails and pickaxes, they decommissioned 23 trucks and burnt
the headquarters of the commanding and executive officers to the
ground." - http://www.plp.org/vietnam/vietsuppl1200.html
1971 the state of the Army reached a distressingly low level. The
entire army was wracked by widespread drug use, racial violence,
desertion, AWOL, and outright refusal to follow orders, punctuated
in some cases by troops assaulting officers. Gerszewski Barracks was
Perhaps the Army's greatest problem during that
time was the negative civilian reaction to the inability to gain a
military victory in Vietnam. The strain that the war placed on the
nation led to increasing hostility toward the military, particularly
toward the Army.
In 1971 the medical units in the south end
of Gerszewski Barracks were relocated.
" I think the 56th (Medical Battalion) or parts of it went to
Crailsheim after leaving Knielingen. Later on to Fort Dix. Later
to Fort Ord, then to Fort Bragg. I saw somewhere a reference
recently to the 56th near Basra in Iraq." - Floris
The 79th Engineer Battalion moved to the south end
of Gerszewski barracks from Wiley Barracks in Neu Ulm. The battalion
was feeling the strain of the Vietnam draw-down.
My platoon in Berchtesgaden had an average age of 19; at one
point, none of the NCO's had a construction background. I had
thought the chronic shortage of experienced NCO's was the biggest
problem faced by the 79th. - LT Johnathan Ridgeway
those days, when soldiers got out of the army they just threw their
uniforms in the first dumpster they saw, instead of proudly wearing
the uniform home. One soldier from the 79th Engineer Battalion
recalls that the dumpsters at Fort Dix, New Jersey, overflowed with
the uniforms of disillusioned soldiers.
The former commanding
officer of the 79th Engineer Battalion has the following
"It's been just about 30 years since I relinquished command of
the 79th Engr Bn but many of my memories of that period are quite
clear. In June 1970, I assumed command of a sister battalion, the
94th in Nelligen. There we experienced severe racial discord which
led to some riots (not dissimilar to events occurring widely in
the civilian sector in the US) and ultimately led to my
re-assignment to the 79th Bn and the former CO of the 79th going
to the 94th. This switch in commanders occurred in Sept 1970 and I
remained with the 79th until rotation to CONUS in Dec
The 79th was then based at Neu Ulm and we enjoyed
constructing a wide variety of small projects throughout Germany.
I can recall some of them, like a tank range at Grafenwohr, a
pre-fab school classroom in Bonn, a ski lift at Berchtesgarten,
the clean-up of the famous Casa Carioca Night Club-on-Ice in
Garmisch after it had been destoyed by fire, a paving project at
an airbase outside of Ankara, Turkey (we airlifted a platoon-sized
unit with all equipment for that one). We squeezed in some field
manuever training but mainly were very busy building things. The
troops were reasonably happy, I guess, because they were busy but
there was a strong under-current of unrest throughout the Army due
to racial and drug problems and the strong anti-war,
anti-government attitudes which were prevalent amongst most of the
younger (18-25) US population.
In about June 1971, the 79th
was ordered to relocate from Neu Ulm to Karlsruhe. This was a
major task, not in moving the TO&E Bn but because of all the
families which had to be up-rooted from their quarters at one time
and get them re-settled in Karlsruhe. It caused a lot of
disruption in normal activities but in a couple of months we were
back in the groove at Karlsruhe.
I look back upon my time
with the 79thBn with great fondness because of the fine officers
and NCO's who performed so very well. However, it was a time of
great upheaval in the Army. Time-tested concepts of
chain-of-command were strained as we sought to deal with problems
of race relations and drug abuse. We, the unit leaders, had
virtually no real in-sights how to deal with these twin scourges;
we simply adapted as best we could. It was a difficult time for
the Army and the USA." - LTC Eugene Stokes
next 24 years the 79th Engineer Battalion and the 249th Engineer
Battalion were the dominant units at Gerszewski Barracks. The 249th
was located in the north end of the kaserne. The 79th was located in
the south end of the kaserne. The facility also continued to be a
major storage facility for ammunition and equipment for
Both engineer battalions from Gerszewski Barracks
had construction projects all over Germany. Some jobs lasted for
several months. From 1972-1974 the 79th Engineer Battalion's big
projects were located in Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels.
In response to the observation that the NCOs were not very
visible on the jobsite, I can only recall that there were not many
there in the first place.
In the post-Vietnam draw-down,
the Army was having a hard time convincing career soldiers that
they should stay in, especially after twenty years. Europe came
lower in priority than Asian assignments, or apparently than
stateside duty for that matter.
B Company had First
Sergeant Givens, a number of earthmoving NCOs, and several
experienced vertical construction leaders like 1st Platoon's SFC
Crawford out on the line. They were good NCOs, but they were
spread plenty thin.
In general, things got done because
some special young fellows like Mike Bridge and Gary Burdett got
picked to be acting NCOs.
They took the challenge, and
stepped up and got more done with fewer resources than anyone
could reasonably have expected of them. - LT John
In 1973 the 79th Engineer's B-Company had a
race riot on the 4th of July in Grafenwoehr. Here is a funny
recollection of the 79th in Grafenwoehr that reveals some of the
sobering realities of life in the army in those days; like smoking
dope with officers. This only touches the hard truth of those times.
I know because I was there and much of the following is talking
|1. You drove the 3/4-ton truck over the cliff after
narrowly missing the old man and destroying his apple cart. I
only had 21 days left in the army and you almost killed Mark
2. You showed up the first day in the 79th with
lumps on your head from the incident with the German Police
the night before. (I recall something about you and your
friends moving VWs into the middle of the street);
Tompkins lost the tire with Mark and I and I smashed his head
against the door of my bus. Mark wanted me to hit him, but I
thought it would be more humanitarian to smash his head
against the door;
4. Tompkins drove the Captain's jeep,
with the Captain in the jeep, off the road and into a ditch.
The Captain then drove him to a hospital where they concluded
that Tompkins had to be on drugs. We knew that was not true,
he was just a idiot;
5. Mark and I rescued Tompkins
when he let a 2 1/2 ton truck, which he had been driving, roll
on his foot and the front tire was resting on his
6. Your incident with the knife robbery happened
in the Graf Disco and we went out to get the machetes in the
van to even the score, but those guys were gone when we got
7. Were you there in Graf when we destroyed the
office furniture and blamed it on the medics, Nord and Kerry?
As I recall, we had a moped and tried to drive it through the
doorways, but our coordination was impaired by wine and
Mandrax. That led to the officers barring all of us from the
office. However, Shelly was too smart for them and he made the
wall partition flexible so we could get into the office to use
8. Remember the huge bonfire that you and
Mark set and the MPs came and watched it burn? (That was the
bar we operated in our barracks. The battalion XO, Major
Thomas, personally stopped by, had a few beers with us, and
then told us to rip it out. So the next day we ripped it out
and burned it. I guess the fire got too big.)
there was my classic move of attempting to get justice for the
American Indian from Sgt. Laidlaw's platoon by going into a
barracks of black guys, with Laidlaw, while drunk, to demand
that they produce the black guy, I think his name was Bailey.
I received a black eye, broken molar, and lost my front tooth
cap for my effort. Why didn't Mark go with me on that move?
Maybe he wasn't as drunk as me;
10. Another classic on
the Tompkins' saga was the time when he got lost in the woods
and he was not more than 30 yards away from us. That was the
time we used the cigars to ward off those damn horse
11. Shelly was a classic. They gave him to us
because he was always getting drunk on the Karlsruhe base
(Gerszewski) and he was too loud and he believed he knew
everything. Sgt Rewis sent him with us to get him off the
12. Were you with us the night we took the West
Pointer out into the woods to get stoned? (Yes, and after
Earle left he tried to buy dope from me at Gerszewski. I said
I didn't know anybody who had it.)
13. Do you remember
Sgt Ashbaugh? He looked like Captain Kangeroo and he always us
up in the formation until he had his clerk type up the piss
test requests for our room;
14. Were you involved with
the Christmas tree caper? We were stopped by the German Police
after we cut down some trees in Graf for Sgt Rewis and the HHC
Barracks, but the van was so dirty, they could not see
15. Then there were the trips into France for
the wine and meals and the German searches on the way
16.In Amsterdam we had the bar experience where
we thought they were females and they were guys, we beat it
out of there pretty damn quick; the good part was the free
bikes and jazz clubs;
17. Were you with us in Graf when
we almose got blown up by the ordinance guys who set charges
on unexploded shells and did not tell us? I came within 50
feet of getting blown up;
18. One of the best stories
(happened in Hohenfels) is when we almost accidently killed
Mark while trying to tow a 3/4 ton truck with a six foot chain
attached to a 290 bobtail (earthmover). That was crazy. I
elected to ride on the top of the 290. Bruce Cornish from
B-Company was the driver and Mark elected to "drive" the 3/4
ton truck. Needless to say, the truck was thrown all over the
place and Mark was getting thrown all over in the cab. He even
tried to jump out but was thrown back into the truck. It was
snowing, the road was gravel and mud was flying and there was
no way to see and the 3/4 ton truck kept hitting the back of
the 290 bobtail. Mark did survive, as you know;
Mark had a sword fight with Kaup. Mark had a machete, Kaup had
a broom stick. kaup wound up with a hand wound and fainted and
had to be taken to the hospital. - James C Earle
craziness of the early 70s, the engineers of Gerszewski Barracks did
their jobs well, despite all of the internal problems with racism
and out of control alcohol and drug abuse.
Beginning in 1974
those problems would start changing for the better.
that: Things began to turn around.
At the lowest point
in American military history, and when America was in a political
turmoil, todays neo-conservatives in the George W Bush
administration began to infiltrate the government and particularly
the defense department.
Rebirth of the US ArmyBy 1974 the absolute bottom had been
|Watergate Casualties and Convictions |
40 government officials indicted or
H.R. Haldeman & John Erlichman (White House
staff) resigned 30 April 1973, subsequently jailed
Dean (White House legal counsel) sacked 30 April 1973,
John Mitchell, Attorney-General and
Chairman of the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP)
Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy (ex-White House
staff), planned the Watergate break-in, both jailed
Colson, special counsel to the President jailed
McCord (Security Director of CREEP)
Gerszewski Barracks began to undergo another transition. This time
the change did not come by replacing entire units, but by replacing
the type of soldier in the units. I guess you could say that it all
started at the top. Fruit from the old diseased tree would start to
become less and less, and the new tree would start to grow and
develop fruit of it's kind. In other words, the army we have now
began with the changes made then. Maybe a better analogy could be
made by calling it "curative pest control". The old tree was
weakened by disease and pests and the fruit was all rotten; so the
army cut the diseased branches out, sprayed it, and fertilized it.
Then it began to be fruitful again.
Women soldiers began
appearing at Gerszewski Barracks in 1974. The WACs of Gerszewski
from every unit lived together on the third floor of a building near
the front gate known as the "Wac Shack".
But the biggest
change the army made was with the new "All Volunteer" army. The
draft was done away with and the rotation to a new type of soldier
began. From 1974 onward, everybody who was in the military "wanted"
to be in the military. It made a big difference.
tensions began to improve as well. It was mandatory for soldiers to
go to Race Relations classes.
Life at Gerszewski Barracks was
like living in a small city on 215 acres.
There were 1737
soldiers, 75 US civilians, and 352 German civilians working and
living there every day, except when the engineers were away on a
Gerszewski Barracks had something for everybody and
everything a soldier needed to live a comfortable life.
were several Mess Halls, a Snack Bar, a Commissary, and a Tailor
Shop. There was a Courtroom for military trials and a guarded vault
with millions of dollars in it. There was a Swimming Pool, a Movie
Theater, a Bowling Alley, a Library, an Art and Craft Shop, and a
Chapel for Church services. There were Automotive Shops. There was a
Gymnasium for Volleyball and Basketball; and there was a big Parade
Field with a running track and a baseball field and an occasional
company Bar-B-Q. There was an Infirmary with Doctors and Dentists.
And at night, there was a NCO Club with live entertainment on the
In 1975 NATO funded large warehouses which were
built on the kaserne for equipment storage.
In 1975 both the
79th and 249th Engineer Battalions were redesignated from
"Construction" to "Combat Heavy".
The problems at Gerszewski
Barracks didn't clear up overnight. There was another murder on post
in 1976. The following account of the murder is from two
eyewitnesses. It come from a e-mail correspondence they had through
Gerszewski Barracks Yahoo!Group. The names are withheld:
|Former Smiley MP:|
It has been very strange to see photos from this area
again. And to find out that the area is being taken down. I
was an Military Policeman in the 66th MP Co, 95th MP Bn on
Smiley. 1976 to 1979. I had to spend a lot of time on
Gerszewski. A lot of it at the 517 Maints. But I did my time
at the Engr Bn. 249th had a darn good 1st sgt. I liked him a
lot. Need help with the troops and he would jump in. Short
E-8 black man, wish I could remember his name. Darn good
My first dead person I ever had anything to do
with was at the NCO club on that post, OCT 1976. It was only
the first of a whole lot as, after 6 yrs in the Army MP's. I
went into Civ. Police work for 17 yrs total and was also a
vol. Firefighter EMT for 10 yrs at the same time.
in all I do have to say the 3 yrs in Germany was fun. Has
any one seen or read what has happened to Smiley. After a
bit I did become the Traffic Accident Investigator for the
area. Long hours and more DEATH.
I saw your message posted on the Yahoo! Gerszewski site
and it has prompted me to inquire about you comment
regarding the first dead person you had anything to do
I remember one night when, as I was entering
the double-door airlock at the NCO Club, I had to step over
a guy who was laying face-down on the floor. While it didn't
seem unusual to see someone passed out in the front door
(considering how much and how cheap the beer was inside) I
mentioned it to an employee who went to check on the
As I stood in the doorway the employee turned
the guy over and we saw that his throat had been cut and he
was no longer alive. He had soaked the rug with his
That shook me quite badly and I had to down a
couple of hard drinks while waiting for the M.P's to arrive.
I don't remember if I was required to fill out a statement
but I was interviewed about what I had seen.
a rumor later that 2 soldiers, one a black NCO and the other
a white enlisted man, had been arrested for his murder. I
understand that they had been robbing drunken soldiers as
they left the club and this one they cut badly, He managed
to crawl into the vestibule before death.
Is this the
same incident you mentioned?
If the body you stepped over was in the month of Oct.
1976 yes I was the first MP on the Scene and I was 19 at the
time. Had only been in Germany less than a month. If you
remember that night I was the tallest MP there. The two that
did it were from 517th Maints. Yes we did get them. The guy
was still alive when we got there and able to tell us some
things before he died.
correspondence talks about a soldier committing suicide from the
79th Engineer Battalion, and the drug related murders of three
soldiers one night outside the Piccadilli Bar in downtown
In 1977 both Gerszewski engineer battalions were
assigned to the 18th Engineer Brigade. Construction projects
suddenly became mostly field training and bridge training for
Gerszewski's engineers to prepare them for a new role coming in the
In the early 1980s, with the election of Ronald
Reagan the military underwent a Renaissance. The US Army grew from
13 Divisions to 18, new equipment such as the M1 Abrams tank, M2
Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle, Multiple Launch Rocket System,
and the AH-64 Apache were but a few of the systems integrated into
the force structure.
For the individual soldier, new
uniforms, kevlar helmets, better pay and realistic training had much
improved the situation. All this along with determined leadership
created an entirely new image for the US Army.
No longer was
the Army a haven for drugs and alcohol. A new breed of soldier was
emerging and with it the pride and esprit de corps that had been so
long neglected. This was one of many legacies of the 1980's, the
re-birth of the US Army.
In 1987 Gerszewski Barracks
completed a facilities modernization program, and the 18th Engineer
Brigade served as the principle construction brigade for the United
States Army Europe and the 7th Army. During this period, the Brigade
performed numerous construction, rehabilitation and renovation
missions in military communities and training areas throughout
Most noteworthy were the massive range upgrade of
the Grafenwohr Major Training Area in the early 80's and the
construction of the Range 23 complex at the Wildflecken Major
Training Area in 1989 and 1990. Both the 79th and 249th Engineer
Battalions from Gerszewski Barracks were heavily involved.
The End Days and Final ChapterIn 1988, something quite
unusual happened at the kaserne. For decades the soldiers of
Gerszewski Barracks had come and gone without giving any thought
about Sgt Adolph C. Gerszewski. His heroism had fallen to the level
of a urban legend. I remember hearing that he had jumped on a hand
grenade to save his buddies. That's not what happened.
many people knew anything about Sgt Gerszewski at all. The name
wasn't even pronounced correctly. It was supposed to be pronounced
Gar-schev-ski, but for decades everybody called it Ger-zoo-ski, or
simply the zoo. The soldiers stationed at Gerszewski Barracks were
often jokingly called the "animals at the zoo".
But then, one
day in 1988, a portrait of Sgt Gerszewski was hung in the ballroom
of the former German Officer's Club on the kaserne during a
ceremony. John Hoffman, a distant cousin of the Gerszewski family,
donated it to the army.
And all of the sudden there he was -
the likeness of Sgt Gerszewski himself - after all those years.
Almost as if he somehow knew it would all be over soon and he was
giving his approval for a job well done like a team owner
congratulating his team after winning a big game. The things he had
fought and died for had been actually achieved.
The Cold War EndsThen suddenly the Cold War ended.
Gerszewski Barracks had played a vital role. Former enemies had
worked together with the hope of making the world a better place.
And the Germans tore the wall down.
When the Cold War ended
in 1989 Gerszewski Barracks consisted of Gerszewski Barracks
Kaserne, Stag Kaserne, 3rd CEC POMCUS site, and the "Back 40" local
training area. What happened to the soldiers?
In 1990, the
249th Engineers took the best soldiers of the 79th Engineers and
went to Southwest Asia in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm
where they received the Meritorious Unit Commendation.
April 29th 1991 they returned to Gerszewski Barracks.
October the army inactivated the 249th Engineer Battalion.
1993 the 79th Engineer Battalion was redesignated as the 94th
Engineer Battalion (Combat Heavy). Companies A and B moved from
Gerszewski Barracks to Hohenfels and Wildflecken; and, Headquarters
and Support Company along with Company C moved to
The new 94th Engineer Battalion - born at Gerszewski
Barracks - is the only Combat Heavy Engineer Battalion in Europe.
They fought in the Bosnian War, they have been to Kosovo, Africa,
and they recently fought in the Iraq War.
Slowly the life at
Gerszewski Barracks just withered away, and in 1995 the kaserne was
given back to the German Government.
The portrait of Sgt
Gerszewski was given to the Knielingen Museum.
In 2000, the
movie "Buffalo Soldiers" by Mirimax was filmed at Gerszewski
Barracks in the south end of the kaserne.
In 2003 the
demolishion of Gerszewski Barracks started.
By 2004, the
former Rhein Kaserne, Black Hawk Kaserne, and Gerszewski Barracks
was a pile of rubble.
back to top ^