“I had lain on the beach many times, but never before with a white girl [...] No one stared as we lay on the beach together, our skins contrasting but our hearts beating identically and both with noses on the center of our faces. Odd, it seemed to me, that here, in the land of hate, I should find this all-important phase of democracy. And suddenly I felt bitter.“
William Gardner Smith about the experience of black GIs in Germany, from The Last of the Conquerors (1948)
"Ein Hauch von Freiheit" (Breath of Freedom)
December 16, 10:05pm CET on Arte
"Breath of Freedom: Black Soldiers and the Battle for Civil Rights" (narrated by Cuba Gooding, Jr.)
Premiers February 17, 8pm ET/PT on Smithsonian Channel
"Freed's enduring photos of march part of exhibit"
„Heldin des anderen Amerikas“
für Angela Davis, 1970–1973.
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.
US Military bases in Germany, 1990 and 1996 (by Meg Stewart)
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.
After the collapse of Communism, many of the large German bases were converted, and troops substantially reduced. By 1995, troops in Germany had been reduced to 94,000, and their number has now stabilized at 71,000 soldiers, 97,500 dependents and 10,488 civilian employees. The end of the Cold War also changed Germany’s strategic assignment in the Pentagon’s larger vision. Since 1994, Germany has been defined as a “forward presence,” meaning that Germany has become a staging site for military action in other regions, rather than a place to defend against possible Soviet aggression. In the four years after Operation Desert Storm, 49 out-of-area deployments were conducted from German soil. A 1995 U.S. military publication reiterated the new strategic logic of troops in Germany, when it stated that the troops’ unique forward deployed “presence an ocean closer to Europe, Africa or the Middle East makes [the United States Army in Europe] the first choice for defending American interest in those regions.”
For a comparative statistic of US troops in Asia and Europe in 1957 and 2005, please see here.
LIST OF US MILITARY BASES (in alphabetical order)
Ansbach | Aschaffenburg | Augsburg | Bad Kreuznach | Bad Tölz | Bamberg | Baumholder | Berlin | Bremerhaven | Büdingen | Darmstadt | Dexheim | Frankfurt | Fulda | Garmisch | Germersheim | Giessen | Göppingen | Grafenwöhr | Hanau | Heidelberg | Heilbronn | Hohenfels | Illesheim | Kaiserslautern | Karlsruhe | Kassel | Landshut | Mainz | Mannheim | Miesau | München | Neu Ulm | Nürnberg | Pirmasens | Ramstein | Regensburg | Rheinberg | Sandhofen | Schweinfurt | Schwetzingen | Seckenheim | Stuttgart | Ulm | Vilseck | Wiesbaden | Wildflecken | Worms | Würzburg | Zweibrücken
US AIR FORCE
US MARINE CORPS FORCES
US SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND
For a diagram of the structure of the US Army Europe (USEUCOM), please see here.
For an overview of US Military bases worldwide, please see here.
For the Department of Defense's Base Structure Report 2009, please see here.
For a complete list of past and present US military facilities in Germany, please see here.
- 12th Combat Aviation Brigade (12th CAB)
- USAG Ansbach
Bad Kreuznach, Germany
Bad Tölz, Germany
- 16th Sustainment Brigade (16th Sustainment)
- USAG Bamberg
- 170th Infantry Brigade (170th IBCT)
- USAG Baumholder
- 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment
- 123rd Main Support Bn
- 501st Military Intelligence Bn
- USAG Garmisch
- Germersheim Army Depot
- 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command (7th JMTC)
- 172nd Infantry Brigade (172nd IBCT)
- USAG Grafenwöhr
- Europe Regional Dental Command (ERDC)
- Europe Regional Medical Command (ERMC)
- Installation Management Command - Europe (IMCOM-E)
- USAG Baden-Württemberg
- V Corps
- Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC)
- USAG Hohenfels
- 7th Civil Support Command (7th CSC)
- 21st Theater Sustainment Command (21st TSC)
- 357th Air and Missile Defense Detachment (357th AMD-D)
- USAG Kaiserslautern
- Landstuhl Regional Medical Center
- 5th Signal Command (5th SIG)
- USAG Mannheim
- Miesau Army Depot
Neu Ulm, Germany
- Ramstein Air Base
- 18th Military Police Brigade (18th MP)
- USAG Schweinfurt
- 18th Engineer Brigade (18th Engineers)
- United States Army NATO
- 202nd Military Police Group (Criminal Investigation Division CID)
- United States Army Expeditionary Contracting Command, Europe (ECC-E)
- USAG Stuttgart
- 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment (2SCR)
- 1st Armored Division (1AD)
- 66th Military Intelligence Group (66th MI)
- USAG Wiesbaden
US AIR FORCE
> Bitburg Air Base
> Rhein-Main Air Base
- NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force E-3A Component
US MARINE CORPS FORCES
- United States Marine Corps Forces Europe (MARFOREUR)
US SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND
- Special Operations Command Europe