MANNHEIM, Germany -The U.S. Army Garrison Mannheim is scheduled to close in the next few years, ending an American military presence that has spanned more than six decades.

To preserve the legacy and memories of the thousands of service members, civilians, and family members who made up Mannheim's American military community through the years, a local university professor has embarked on an extensive historical research project.

"An American overseas military community is much more than a mere cluster of tactical units temporarily stationed abroad," said Prof. (Dr.) Christian FAfA1/4hrer of the Duale Hochschule Baden-WAfA1/4rttemberg Mannheim. "It is in fact a social microcosm that develops its own culture, mentality, and way of life."

FAfA1/4hrer, whose first contact with Americans in Mannheim dates to the late 1980s when he volunteered at the local USO, said he hopes to summarize his findings in an illustrated volume tentatively titled "Americans in Mannheim 1945-2011."

So far, FAfA1/4hrer has confined most of his research to material available from the Mannheim Public Affairs Office and the Internet, but said he hopes to get in touch with current and former members of Mannheim's American garrison who have photographic material to share or interesting anecdotes to tell.

According to FAfA1/4hrer, "It is ultimately the people who shape a community's life, and so meeting eyewitnesses is an important part of my project."

"What was it like to be a Mannheim military brat in the 1950s' How did community life evolve after the military build-up in the wake of the Korean War right here on Benjamin-Franklin-Village' How did grand politics impact the lives of Americans in Mannheim' There are questions galore. And the deeper you dig, the more fascinating it becomes," the professor said.

Mannheim has been a temporary home to approximately 400,000 Americans, including a number of veritable celebrities.

"Actress Faye Dunaway attended Mannheim American High School in the late 1950s, and 1949 saw future Army of Chief of Staff Creighton W. Abrams serving as a tank battalion commander on Coleman Barracks. Also, the father of current Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey spent some time on Coleman Barracks as commander of 2/13th Infantry in the 1960s. And of course, the legendary Gen. George S. Patton had his fatal 1945 car accident in Mannheim," said FAfA1/4hrer. "Just a few years later, by the way, Patton's own son spent several months as a junior officer on Coleman Barracks, back then known as Camp Y-79."

The book project will keep FAfA1/4hrer busy well into 2011.

"There is much to do, but it is worth preserving this part of our local history. For me, it is also a personal way of saying 'Thanks & HooAh' for a job well done. Post-war Germany owes the American service member much more than simple words can ever impart," he said.

Fuehrer can be contacted at fuehrer@dhbw-mannheim.de.

Page last updated Fri November 12th, 2010 at 05:07