MANNHEIM, Germany-- The U.S. Army Garrison Mannheim cased its colors in a Relinquishment of Command and Deactivation Ceremony on Benjamin Franklin Village in Mannheim May 31.
The ceremony marks the end of the American presence in the Mannheim area for more than 66 years with troops having arrived there shortly after the end of World War II in 1945.
The city had been largely destroyed by bombs, but it would soon become a major military hub for the American forces in Germany.
“For more than 66 years Americans have called Mannheim home. Soldiers served here, raised families and built friendships that have spanned decades … Enabling this readiness undoubtedly is our strong and enduring friendship with the city of Mannheim and the surrounding communities of the metropolitan region Rhein-Neckar,” said relinquishing U.S. Army Garrison Mannheim Commander Elizabeth Griffin whose relinquishment of garrison command became official with the ceremony.
Shortly after arriving in the area in April 1945, five Soldiers " all privates first class " were killed in action near Heilbronn. These were the Soldiers for whom Mannheim installations were named: Robert Funari, Robert Hammonds, Dominic Spinelli, George Sullivan, Cecil Taylor. Taylor and Hammonds Barracks now stand empty. Spinelli Barracks will remain longer than Funari, Sullivan and their cohabitant Benjamin Franklin Village, but it, too, will eventually close as will Coleman Barracks.
“As we honor those fighting men of yesteryear, we also pay tribute to all those military men and women who have come through these grounds since then. Our Soldiers in formation and our Color Guard stand before you with a military bearing that is superb (and who) represent a long line of those who’ve come through Mannheim before,” said USAG Baden-Württemberg Commander Col. Bill Butcher.
During the past few months, the Mannheim community has seen its services reduced as they consolidated with those in Heidelberg. During the fall and winter seasons, residents knew events that had occurred for decades were being held for the last time.
“Closing an installation while Soldiers and Families still live, work and play on the installation is tough business,” Griffin said. “We worked together to find innovative solutions that caused the least amount of turbulence for Soldiers and families.”
Griffin mentioned the cooperation of the schools, the Pond security force, the Red Cross, the commissary and the Exchange as partners in the downsizing.
“I could not be more proud of the professionalism with which we executed mandated workforce shaping initiatives, the teamwork that was shown in transferring functions to USAG Baden-Württemberg, the support to deployed and returning units from our footprint and the delivery of day-to-day services like force protection, facility maintenance, childcare, fitness and recreation services, religious services, food service and logistics support,” Griffin said.
The ceremony for those gathered in the Sports Arena yesterday meant the end of a mission and of a historical presence in the area.
“Today is a special day for all gathered here to mark the deactivation of the U.S. Army Garrison Mannheim. It is in Mannheim, near where the Rhine meets the Neckar, that American forces arrived at the end of World War II to begin a history whose conclusion we mark now, 66 years later,” Butcher said.
“Lt. Col. Griffin and Sgt. Maj. Magee … and the entire workforce of the U.S. Army Garrison Mannheim have remained committed to the last day. Their passion for the Mannheim community and for their Soldiers, civilians and family members is both admirable and noteworthy,” Butcher said.