MEMORIES OF MANNHEIM–US Army in Germany

Being born a military brat was an amazing gift for me: I like people in general and having the opportunity to experience various world cultures was an education I’ll never forget. Home is where you are living at the moment, which makes relocating so much easier. When I recently received Christian Fuhrer’s brand new book MEMORIES OF MANNHEIM – Die Amerikaner in der Quadratestadt seit 1945, I was delighted. Even though it was written in German, I could still remember a few words (I spoke it fluently as a child), and there were plenty of wonderful photos that had been donated by Americans connected to the US military since 1945.  I contributed two photos of my dad, Col. A.D. Williams, who had commanded the 521st Engineer Group in Mannheim in the early 1960s. One of them depicted Dad and a few of his officers in the German woods practicing “war;” the other one shows him handing out certificates of appreciation to German and French employees who worked for the U.S. Army. This American practice of appreciation was new to the Germans and they later adopted it for business.

A German professor from Duale Hochschule Baden-Württemberg Mannheim,  Dr. Christian Fuhrer, contacted me in 2011 when he saw the photo I’d posted of the Officers Club at Benjamin Franklin Village in Mannheim.  He was in the midst of writing his “memorial” book then because the US was essentially closing the military facilities in the Mannheim area. “The book will be a tribute to the thousands upon thousands of Americans for whom Mannheim has served as a temporary home,” Dr. Fuhrer said and added, “It’s also a personal way of saying thanks for a job well done. Postwar Germany owes the American servicemen much more than simple words can ever impart.”

Wasserturm Landmark in Mannheim

Dr. Fuhrer’s interest in Americans started when he was sixteen and was curious about the odd license plates on American cars. He rode his bike into Benjamin Franklin Village (BFV) and ended up getting involved in the American community as: a translator at the USO, a member of the BFV church choir, and an attendee and volunteer at American events.

He knew about American generosity from his mother, who was three when World War II ended. “American soldiers shared their rations with my mother and her family. The mentality of Americans seems to be—‘We’ll weather through it all, as long as we stick together.’”

Some of the history he shares in his book includes the fact that Gen. George S. Patton had his fatal 1945 car accident in Mannheim. In 1982 an American soldier “borrowed” a tank from Sullivan Barracks and drove into downtown Mannheim. He destroyed a streetcar and several cars and injured a couple of people before he backed the tank into the Neckar River and drowned. It made headlines, needless to say.

Doctor Christian Fuhrer

Doctor Christian Fuhrer

 
The Mannheim American school system served my brother and sister in the 1960s; in the late 1950s, my ex-husband, Hans Giraud, and even actress Faye Dunaway attended Mannheim American High School. I recently discovered that Michael Strahan, former professional Giants football player and now co-host of ABC-TV’s “Kelly and Michael,” was an Army brat and his photo also appears in the book, a few pages from my dad’s photo. 
Dr. Fuhrer’s book is divided into sections that cover a wide range of topics, from WWII history, which brought the US military to Germany, to how Americans stationed there,  soldiers and dependents, lived their lives. The military took care of schooling, shopping, health care and religious worship of all kinds. There were always groups to join, classes to attend (like learning German, for instance), sightseeing excursions, sports clubs and competitions, and entertainment at clubs for both enlisted personnel and officers.
This photo of Dr. Fuhrer was taken of his recent interview on German TV. His book is perched on the floor. His face shows his enthusiasm for this book of remembrances and tributes.

Americans have left Mannheim, but they’ll always have their memories, and so will the German community, thanks to Dr. Fuhrer’s book.

14 Comments

  1. I’ve had some physical challenges – sorry about the delay but thanks for your comment. And that’s fascinating about Patton. My ex-huband had been stationed at Sullivan.
    Victoria

  2. Bill Hazelton says:

    I was stationed at Sullivan Barracks from Oct. 1966 to Dec. 1967. I can’t say enough about the wonderful people I met there, both military personnel and especially the civilian personnel I met there, most notable Cleopatra Frohnmuller, the Greek lady that ran the EES on post, and her family. I’ve often wondered where Gen. Patton had his accident, if it was near the Sullivan Barracks. I would like to hear from any of the troops that were stationed at Sullivan from the Hdqtrs and Co A of the 51st Maint. Battalion during the time I was there. I’ve gone on to Google Maps and found Sullivan, and have walked the virtual streets of the post. How sad to see it abandoned, so many fond memories of my time there.

  3. Jim Kidd says:

    Dr. Fuehrer reached out to me, as well. Several quotes of mine are in his book (and the book is a predominate fixture in my living room). I lived on BFV from 1978-1986 and my time there not only defined a large part of who I am today, but remains one of my fondest memories. It’s sad to see what it is as of today (first abandoned, then used temporarily to house displaced refugee-seekers, now slowly being torn down and converted). I can’t imagine how dark and eerie it must have been after the last resident departed. A village once so full of life and the sounds of laughter replaced with stillness amidst a blanket of black. Halloween was always special, as so many stairwells attempted to compete against each other for the best displays (and haunted houses that ran the basement!). I sold Christmas trees for the Boy Scouts at the Scout Hut just next to the Elementary School. My best friend lived next to the basketball courts of the Middle School, and I can still recall the joy and wonder when Burger King opened up on Lincoln Street (my street…Building 197, 56-E).
    Dr. Fuehrer’s book is a touching tribute to our legacy in Mannheim, bittersweet as it was to read. I’m glad he took the time to put down to paper the history of such a wonderful place. While we may never be able to go back, we can always remember. And once a Bison, always a Bison!

  4. What a handsome man your father was, Michael. It was great to read about his very active life.
    Victoria

  5. Hello Michael. I’m not sure that I answered your comments but I took the time today to read over your dad’s military career. Wow – I was quite impressed. Grass sure didn’t grow under his feet! How did your family like all that travel? I enjoyed my experiences, but they weren’t quite as active as your dad’s! We were in some of the same places but not at the same time in most cases – Germany after WWII, Sullivan Barracks (my ex-husband), Mannheim, Ft. Knox, Korea (my dad), Brooke Army Hospital (where my mother died). It’s a small world. Thanks for sharing.
    Victoria

  6. Michael James Morton says:

    Attn: Victoria Giraud

    Sorry Victoria…I’m old. I forgot to, in fact, also copy and paste the FindAGrave URLs in regard to my father, Major James D. Morton in my earlier email to you.
    They are copied herein below.

    http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=72199936

    http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=mr&GRid=72199936&MRid=47882303&

    Michael James Morton

  7. Michael James Morton says:

    Attn: Victoria Giraud

    Victoria…My father’s Ancestry.com Military Page URL (In re: the late Major James “Jimmie” D.Morton) was amended. I have pasted a copy of said amended URL, and, also, a copy of my FindAGrave.com Contributors Page URL herein below.

    http://trees.ancestry.com/view/Military.aspx?pid=-932823209&vid=867b93bb-c769-4378-88e7-323f83bf2d64&tid=8549410&pg=32768&pgpl=pid&msg=ui

    You have an outstanding web page.

    Thank you for the BFV Memories you have supplied.

    Best wishes.

    Michael James Morton
    [email protected]

  8. Christian Fuhrer wrote 2 books about Germany and the Americans. Find him on the Internet and get in touch with him to order it.

  9. Hello Richard, Yes, Christian is still alive and in middle age. He lives in Mannheim. Look him up on the Internet. He wrote a book about Americans in Mannheim and another one about Americans in Heidelberg. You can probably order them from him. He is a math professor. Victoria

  10. Richard Scott Freeman says:

    Is Christian Fuher still alive?

  11. Richard Scott Freeman says:

    Stationed in Sullivan Baracks from February 1960 until September 1962.

  12. Richard Scott Freeman says:

    Is this a book? I would like to order it.

  13. Enjoyed all the history, Michael. So similar to my own. My dad was in Murnau after WWII, Korea, Ft. Knox, Tripoli, Libya (Wheelus AFB – Corps of Engineers). My folks lived in BFV with my sister and brother a little later than you –1962-64. You had a very handsome father with a distinguished career. I was married in Mannheim and my husband (also an Army brat) had graduated from high school at Mannheim American High School. It’s a small world! Thanks for writing.
    Victoria

  14. Michael James Morton says:

    Attn: Victoria Giraud

    Victoria…My father, i.e., the late Major James “Jimmie” D. Morton (Buffalo Soldier), U. S. Army [Ret.] b: 1924 d: 2005 (enlisted on 29 Jan 1941 until Jan 1968) served in Mannhiem, Germany (1958 until 1961). I have copied the URL for his Ancestry.com Military Page herein below:

    http://trees.ancestry.com/view/Military.aspx?tid=8549410&pid=-932823209&usePUBJs=true

    I lived in Benjamin Franklin Village and attended 4th, 5th & 6th grade there.

    Michael James Morton (His son)
    [email protected]

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