Europe installations contain unique layers of history
Members of the German Police Academy stand in formation in front of Building 7104, near Gate 1 where the Recycling center was formerly located. The academy was located in the building from 1929 to 1934 and is part of Warner Barracks 3.

BAMBERG, Germany - A bottle sits on a desk in the main office of U.S. Army Garrison Bamberg's Environment Division. Although unremarkable looking, the filmy green glass, faded over time but totally intact, bears the insignia of the 5th Royal Bavarian Infantry Regiment of the German Imperial Army.

The regiment was located on what was, in the late 1800s, Infantry Kaserne. The bottle, like many other artifacts from that time period, serves as an example of the unique time periods preserved on Warner Barracks here.

Following World War II, U.S. military forces took over many German installations and also built new sites. The presence remained strong during the Cold War, but as tensions cooled, U.S. Army Europe began to scale down.

With more than 10 active installations in Germany today and a historical military presence in the country, the U.S. Army inhabits many historic areas.

Konrad Albert and Helmut Weis are environmental specialists at USAG Bamberg's Environmental Division. Albert has lived in Bamberg for 15 years and Weis for 29 years.

Though both men have done extensive research with the City of Bamberg to unearth and catalogue artifacts on the area Warner Barracks now inhabits, new discoveries keep coming to light.

This past spring, based on historical documents and accounts, the division broke ground on a bunker behind the garrison headquarters, Building 7089. Constructed in 1944, the cement tunnel contained few relics from the time it was built. American Soldiers who had taken over the post in 1945 though, left some artifacts.

"We found Budweiser cans and Pepsi bottles," Weis said.

The casings of common American beverages could have been left in the bunker anytime between the end of the war and 1970 when, according to Weis, the bunker was closed up. Other bunkers around post have yet to be uncovered. According to findings one is located under the dental clinic.

"We've found things from the Royal Bavarian Army to the U.S. Army, every era," Albert said.

GrafenwAfAPhr's use as a military site also dates back to the early 1900s, when it became a training are for the Royal Bavarian Army.

On Warner Barracks, the oldest find dates back far before the Royal Bavarian Army built a military installation in Bamberg. A Celtic burial site, dating from 1250-700 B.C., was discovered in the Local Training Area in 1920 and is now marked off in the forest there.

"The burial site is about seven small hills and a height of one meter," Albert said. "The general opinion is the best conservation is to leave them in the ground. Not far from here, near Geisfeld, they have reconstructed old Celtic graves that people can go and see."

Reese Range dates back to 1860 and examiners discovered a Late Bonze Age relic there. MUNA and the Bamberg Airfield also contain unique histories in train and aviation progression.

The historical significance of Warner Barracks is recognized in three time frames other than the present period. From those times, 33 buildings are recognized as having historical worth, including the Basics Building, the commissary and the Postal Service Center.

Warner Barracks 3, the oldest section of post, dates back to 1891 when the construction of a new military complex for the 5th Royal Bavarian Infantry Regiment was completed. In the years following, a Cavalry Brigade and Ulan Regiment were stationed here and further expansion projects occurred during World War I. Today, this section of the post is located at Hauptsmoorwald and includes Building 7110 which was built in 1890 and used as a cavalry training and parade hall, and Buildings 7104 and 7107, used as offices and work spaces. The garrison headquarters building was constructed in 1915 as soldiers' quarters and contained two wine rooms in the basement, one for red and one for white.

Many of the buildings on Warner Barracks today date back to the 1930s- prior to the outbreak of WWII. Weis explained the reason for this time period of expansion.

Warner Barracks 1 and 2 were built within one year, from October 1936-1937, when the Soldiers moved on, he said. During the Nazi regime, Hitler attempted to boost Germany's ailing economy by starting a series of building projects. This created an increase in construction and other related work and extended to the installation.

Warner Barracks' historical status is maintained through preservation laws, protecting even those buildings constructed in more recent years.

"The buildings of Warner Barracks 3 are protected by law," Albert said. "Not only the old buildings; all the ones built by the U.S. are protected because we have many different types and because they're part of the local heritage."

Though road construction projects may seem a nuisance to most community members, for Albert and Weis, they present golden opportunities for research. Though it is very difficult to get excavations approved without the direct involvement of state authorities, during street construction, Albert said emergency excavations are allowed. Those excavations have led to a plethora of findings on Warner Barracks.

"When construction work starts we go to the supervisor and say let us know if you find anything and we look at the soil," Weis said.

The Environmental Division now boasts three cases full of artifacts, which community members are welcome to stop by and see, Weis said.

Though the Celtic site will remain untouched for now, the Environmental Division continues to work with the city to expand the catalogue of findings and convert that information into an accurate historical picture of the installation. To add to the anthropology of that picture, Weis has spent the past 20 years accumulating personal accounts, photos and maps through extensive research of the units and soldiers present on the post.

"I'm working on an old post, so I wanted to know what was going on in the buildings," Weis said. "I started the history 20 years ago; I started talking to people who were here... It was an interest that became my job."

Through diligence and connections, Weis has amassed gigabytes of photographs and information. He has also been in touch with many former German and U.S. Soldiers and Army employees. One had been employed in the Environmental Division building before WWII.

"We had an eyewitness who worked in this building as a blacksmith who was 90 years old visit around three years ago," Weis said. "He was a living history."

Employees at the division are working on several projects to instill in community members a sense of pride and respect for their environment.

"What's ongoing is at Engineer Lake, the Nature Trail," Albert said. "We have a project to update it with posters about nature conservation and the history of Warner Barracks."

"We're also working together with the City of Bamberg's City Heritage Council to make a historical tour," Weis said.

Employees have also worked with Bamberg Elementary School and the City Heritage Counsel to teach children about Bamberg's status as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

"We're also working together with the City of Bamberg's City Heritage Council to make a historical tour," Weis said.

Page last updated Fri October 1st, 2010 at 04:23