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223 “The deserted village of Reussendorf is starting to disappear,” wrote the Commanding Officer of the Wildflecken Detachment in 1953. Civilian trucksdoing business onthe postleft loadedwithhiddenbuildingmaterial destined for resale on the outside. In the future, gate guards were to search trucks for “any parts resembling a building” and report offenders to headquarters.1 For the second time in twenty years, the grasses of the Rhön began to reclaim the streets of the small farming village. Once again, Reussendorfer abandoned their homes in the face of confiscation by an army. This time, the experience of dispossession was all the more bitterbecausealloftheinhabitants,whetherexpelleesorformerinhabitants who returned in the late 1940s, had already lost their homes at least once before. The expellee settlements, which held so much promise in the dark days of the postwar period, now vanished once again as unscrupulous or opportunistic truckers supplemented their income with free construction material. Today there is virtually nothing left of Reussendorf , Werberg, or any of the tiny towns that once dotted the grounds of the maneuver area. The base, once again the property of the German military, is littered with the remnants of seventy years of military use. For forty years, the American presence in Wildflecken transformed the land and wiped away many of the traces of what came before. The smallesttrainingareainWestGermany,Wildfleckennonethelesshosted more than 300,000 American and NATO troops each year. By 1958, 320 American families lived in post housing. Lieutenant Colonel Wayne Moe, commander of the 3rd Armored Rifle Battalion, 20th Infantry, ordered the old DP barracks painted green, blue, and yellow. As he told Conclusion 224 Conclusion Stars and Stripes, “It’s amazing what a few coats of bright paint can do.” Eventually, the post proudly included a ski lift and one of the first Burger King restaurants in Europe. Just a few years before the end of the Cold War, the Americans built new apartments for troops and their families in the north of the town. As many locals delight in pointing out, Elvis Presley spent part of his time in Germany stationed at Wildflecken. The future NBA star Shaquille O’Neal lived at Wildflecken as a young teenager . He tried working at the base McDonalds, but was clearly destined for other things. “It snowed a lot and it was cold,” he wrote in his autobiography .“ThisiswhenImadeareallydramaticchangeinmylifebecause there was nothing to do but play basketball.”2 Much like the Germans who came before, the weather was perhaps the dominant memory of the place for its American visitors. “At Wildflecken it’s 50–50 whether you will see any sun,” an American military magazine wrote in 1988. “You can start your day at main post in cold, gray fog and later, sweat your way through a squad assault course on the other side of the mountains under blazing sun and blinding blue skies. After sweltering through the day at the range, you might find yourself shivering through a snow squall on your way back to a cold tent.”3 Justlikethosewhocamebeforethem,theAmericansfounditnecessarytorenamethespaceinruralFranconiawheretheyfoundthemselves . Twentyyears before, the Wehrmacht called the place “Hohe Rhön.”Polish DPs emphasized that they had a right to live in a Polish town, which they called “Durzyń.” The Americans would develop several nicknames forthenewbase.Inhonorofitsvertiginouslandscape,theycalledit“Top oftheRock.”Thetownbelow,whosenamewasdifficultforAnglophones to render, was renamed the far more prosaic “Wild Chicken.” There can be little question that the American base benefitted the local community in a way that none of the other competing visions of Wildflecken ever had.Inthe mid-1980s,the post employedmore thansix hundred Germans and ran a training program that prepared local youth for administrative jobs. The small town boasted a range of bars, restaurants , car dealerships, and small shops to cater to soldiers, dependents and townspeople. As one American noted, the town and it surroundings had been shaped by the American presence. “Housing construction by German firms, local teams digging cable trenches, road repairs Conclusion 225 and upgrading by civilian contractors, soldiers using the public German telephone,aclerkmakinghotelreservationsforagroupofinspectors,an architect-engineer presenting a construction design.”4 Life along the inter-German border changed dramatically once more when that militarized frontier collapsed after 1989. Locals tell stories of that extraordinary night in November when many learned about events taking place in Berlin as a few Trabants hesitantly pushed their way down Sonnenstrasse. For the town, the end of the Cold War order was a pyrrhic victory at best. It marked the beginning of the end for the American base and the closely integrated local economy. A...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780253007070
Related ISBN
9780253006776
MARC Record
OCLC
828743769
Pages
304
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-20
Language
English
Open Access
No
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