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“So we must speak, even as we fight and die. We must say that the fight against Hitlerism begins in Washington, D.C., the capital of our nation, where black Americans have a status only slightly above that of Jews of Berlin. [...] If the ghettos in Poland are evil, so are the ghettos in America.“
New Article by
Film “The West Point -
Vassar College Initiative“
A Breath of Freedom
By Maria Höhn &
Palgrave Macmillan October 2010
US Military Bases in Germany
When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, the US presence in Germany was a stunning 250,000 soldiers with as many civilian employees and family members. The soldiers and their families worked and lived in one of 47 major military bases, which were made up by some 800 separate sites. The predominance of West Germany in US military planning can be glimpsed from the resources allocated to the bases there. During the Cold War, 70% of US troops in Europe were stationed in West Germany and the country was home to 60% of all U.S. overseas bases. Of the troops stationed in Germany, 45% were combat troops, 45% served as combat support troops, and 10% worked in administrative positions.
Throughout the Cold War, the 250,000 American troops and their family dependents (about the same number) as well as tens of thousands of civilian employees of the Department of Defense were for the most part located in the South and Southwest of Germany, where the American military had taken over existing German Wehrmacht installations. Unlike in the US, where military bases and military communities tend to be highly centralized and concentrated, each US military community in Germany was on average made up of about 17 discrete sites that were often also spread out over more than one German community. While many US military installations were located in larger cities such as West-Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt, the overwhelming number of soldiers were (and still are) stationed in more rural areas in the southwestern part of the country. While single soldiers at times lived in military barracks spread across the German host town, large-scale and autarkic “Little Americas” provided the families of married soldiers with all the amenities the US has to offer.
In Germany, military-civilian relations were actively fostered by both sides, and those relationships were strengthened by the fact that the U.S. military never provided enough housing for its married troops, let alone for low-rank soldiers who were not eligible for family housing on base. Because of that housing shortage, a good portion of US soldiers, who generally served a three-year tour of duty, lived on the “economy” meaning that they lived in German communities bordering on US military bases. For much of the US presence in West Germany, then, the US military personnel and their families became part of everyday German life, and this development affected German–American relations profoundly.
For a comparative statistic of US troops in Asia and Europe in 1957 and 2005, please see here.
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