By Mr. Simon Hupfer (Franconian News)August 7, 2014
Bamberg. Cleaning up and emptying an entire garrison -- that's the current mission at U.S. Army Garrison Bamberg: Clearing buildings, loading trucks, packing boxes, hauling furniture. The site's recycling center is busy these days. Soldiers, Families and offices of the Bamberg garrison empty out their attics, basements and garages, and fill up the collecting containers for metal, plastic and paper. There's a lot of movement at the recycling center.
Helmut Weis coordinates the work at the recycling center. Since 1981 he has been employed at the installation. Weis has collected and secured many treasures of Bamberg military history over the years: Photos, signs, relics from the barracks. They tell the history of the Bamberg Barracks. Some of these artifacts could be seen in his office in glass display cases. They provide a glimpse back to a time when the German Empire was regarded as "the greatest parade ground of the world" and Bamberg was a part of it. There are "everyday objects" -- bottles and strap locks with print, dishes, horseshoe nails, as well as regimental insignia, rusty bayonets and cartridge cases that emerged during earthworks.
"We have found uniform parts of the 5th Royal Bavarian Infantry Regiment, from the early days of the Bamberg infantry casern, around 1890," said Weis. "In attics of the stables we have found boots, saddle racks and barn accessories of the 17th Cavalry Regiment, which was the successor regiment of the so-called 'Kaiserulanen,' stationed here starting 1920. In addition, [there are] tank parts of the 35th Tank regiment of the German Wehrmacht."
At times, 1500 horses were quartered in the Lagardekaserne, said Weis. Klaus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg, who tried to kill Adolf Hitler June 20, 1944 ("Operation Valkyrie"), started his military career at Bamberg's 17th Riders.
The Bamberg barracks had been a military site for 55 years before U.S. Soldiers of the 3rd and 45th Infantry Division approached Bamberg on April 13, 1945, from the south and east. After a short fight, they declared the city liberated a day later, April 14.
For more than 69 years it has been a U.S. Army installation. With the departure of Soldiers this summer, however, that era comes to an end for Bamberg . For the first time since the 16th Century Bamberg is then no longer a garrison town.
Who was Corporal Henry Warner?
Because of the long time they spent in Bamberg, the 1st Infantry Division, the legendary "Big Red One" or " Fighting First," is closely linked to Bamberg. The division was one of the first units on the beaches of Normandy and secured the bridgehead for the allied forces on D-Day, which led to the liberation of Europe. Also, in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, on the way to Germany, 1st ID went through severe battles and tough fights and had many losses.
Henry Warner, a 21-year-old corporal of 1st ID, was never in Bamberg. He died as a Soldier of the division's 26th Infantry Regiment, Dec. 21 1944 at Bütgenbach, near Malmedy, Belgium. Warner had prevented two German tanks from breaking through almost single-handedly with his anti-tank gun. He then shot the tank commander of a third chariot from the turret in a handgun fight and forced the tank to retreat. The battle line stood strong until the next morning. Then, the German tanks approached Warner's position again. And again, he shot a tank on fire before he was killed by two machine-gun salves. Posthumously the young corporal was awarded the Medal of Honor June 23, 1945, the highest military award bestowed by the U.S. Congress.
Henry Warner's grave is located in Troy, North Carolina. But the Bamberg post was named in his honor. The complex was named Warner Barracks June 15, 1950.
The command letter from the European U.S. Army headquarters, initiated by the chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Clarence R. Huebner, still mentions the Bamberg "Panzer, LaGarde and Artillerie Kasernes" -- three different caserns. All three comprise "Warner Barracks" complex. Huebner was commander of the 1st ID until December 1944.
After the 1st ID relocated to the U.S. in 1955, the unit returned to Bamberg again in 1990. They fought in the Iraq War in 1991. It later supported the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina , Macedonia and Kosovo from Bamberg. Many Bamberg citizens still remember the "Big Red One Band" with its numerous concerts downtown Bamberg. In 2006, the division was inactivated in all German installations, and was re-activated at Fort Riley, Kansas, the same year.
Just like the "United States Constabulary," a highly mobile U.S. Army police unit, which had its headquarters in Bamberg beginning in 1946, the 1st ID had security missions in the American sector and secured the border to Soviet zone. The constabulary (nicknamed Circle C Cowboys due to its yellow , round badge) was established by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower for police duties throughout the American zone of occupation.
They helped establish control among the many war refugees because they did not always fall under German law. The unit's task was to prevent widespread smuggling. Weis has pictures of the constabulary during military parades along the Regnitz River and at bottom of the Altenburg.
Hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers were 'funneled' through the Bamberg post
The 1st ID was followed by troops of the 10th Infantry Division and the 3rd Infantry Division, and by various logistics, communication and transport units, engineers, which were used mainly to clear Bamberg's ammunition depot (MUNA), Soldiers of the 2nd, 3rd and 7th Cavalry regiment, air defense and military intelligence units, artillery units and military police including canine units.
The soldiers served as a highly specialized radar technicians and telecommunications experts, as auto mechanics, cooks, drivers, officers, lawyers and police officers.
Hundreds of thousands of U.S. Soldiers have gone through the garrison since 1945. The historian at the U.S. Army Europe historical archive, Dr. Andrew Morris, couldn't give an exact number. "Various hundreds of thousands," he said, have called Bamberg their home for a while.
Bamberger units transported desperately needed goods from the seaports to the airfields of the Berlin Airlift, according to a documentary commissioned by the U.S. Army in 2010. The U.S. troops in Bamberg were on alert during the Cuban missile crisis and the building of the Berlin Wall. Their mission was to secure the eastern border to the GDR and Czechoslovakia.
In the 1970s, about 12,000 U.S. Soldiers were stationed in Bamberg, Weis said. Never again were there so many. The Army installation was one of the biggest employers in town. At this time, many of the Soldiers were drafted.
Since the end of the Cold War, the mission of the U.S. Army has changed. The Army has adapted to new challenges and has restructured. As part of this restructuring process, the European headquarters announced mid-February 2012 the drawdown of U.S. units from Bamberg and the end for the Bamberg Warner Barracks.
As a consequence, the 16th Sustainment Brigade moved from Bamberg to Baumholder (Rhineland-Palatinate) in the summer of 2013. Finally, the paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade returned to Vicenza, Italy, after taking an interim quarter at Bamberg. The Warner Barracks since then have not been refilled, it is quiet in the "Ami" housing area. The motorpools are almost all empty, most military equipment has been moved.
Many American soldiers and their families have made their way to other European U.S. Army bases, or back to the U.S. They are ambassadors of Bamberg. Many of them plan to come back to their "beautiful Bamberg" as tourists.
"Every single American I talk to is sad to leave Bamberg," said Weis. "No one likes to leave." The two remaining companies of the 54th Engineer Battalion cased their company colors in spring 2014. The last unit leaving Bamberg will be the 630th Military Police Company.
On Sept. 12, the garrison's flag will fly for the last time over Warner Barracks. The tradition that goes back to the 16th century, Bamberg being a garrison town, will then come to an end.