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Reviewed by:
  • Building for Peace: U.S. Army Engineers in Europe, 1945–1991
  • Adrian G. Traas
Building for Peace: U.S. Army Engineers in Europe, 1945–1991. By Robert P. Grathwol and Donita M. Moorhus . Washington: Center of Military History [CHM] and Corps of Engineers, 2006. CMH Pub 45-1-1. Maps. Illustrations. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xx, 483. $19.50.

Building for Peace, the first volume in the CMH's U.S. Army in the Cold War series, is an account of the successive U.S. Army Corps of Engineer construction organizations in Europe from the end of World War II to the early 1990s. When the U.S. Army and its wartime allies took up occupation duties, engineering support was urgently needed to rebuild Western Europe, especially a devastated Germany. Barracks, hospitals, airfields, and support facilities had to be found and maintained. Transportation systems—roads, railways, canals, bridges, rivers, and ports—choked by the destruction of war had to be cleared. Army engineers were naturally drawn to help carry out these tasks, mostly by contracting with indigenous construction firms. Within a few years and the onset of the Cold War the American military turned from occupier to protective force in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Military construction broadened to include building bases in France, Italy, and Turkey, all while the engineers juggled competing demands by Army and Air Force customers. As NATO expanded its military capabilities new demands included the installation of missile sites and construction of storage facilities to support atomic weaponry. But in 1966 the French government withdrew its forces from NATO, and the redeployment of American forces and NATO headquarters brought forth more construction projects in Belgium and West Germany. Also, most of the installations in West Germany were in poor condition, and the engineers embarked on a modernization program to improve troop training facilities, barracks, and dependent schools and housing. The changing situation in Europe over the following years mandated more construction and continued after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

At times U.S. Army engineer troop units were involved in construction to supplement the contractors, but for the most part this is the story of how the engineers organized and carried out building and maintaining the facilities needed to support the U.S. and NATO forces over a forty-five year period. Directly after World War II, Army engineers operated under two related but separate command structures. Engineer troops remained under [End Page 1309] Army field commands and supported the occupying army units in the American zones in Germany and Austria. The theater chief engineer under United States Forces, European Theater, later European Command, supervised area engineer offices. The Engineer Division's office in Frankfurt, and after 1955 the U.S. Army Construction Agency, Germany, gradually strengthened its role in projects in Germany utilizing a mix of German money and U.S. appropriated construction funds. In France, however, progress was not satisfactory, and in 1953 the Defense Department created the Joint Construction Agency to oversee all military construction in Europe outside Germany. For reasons of increasing efficiency and control, the Engineer Command, which included engineer troop units, was activated in 1966, but in 1974 engineer resources in Europe were reorganized, again leaving a U.S. Army Engineer Division, Europe, less the troop units, under the control of the Chief of Engineers in Washington.

Grathwol and Moorhus give an excellent account of the endeavors of Army engineer officers, civilians, and local national employees and local contractors to carry out the not so glamorous but critical missions to build and maintain a physical infrastructure in the face of a potential conflict in Europe. Examples of projects depict countless challenges faced by engineer planners, designers, and project officers including the complexities of funding construction projects using U.S., host nation, and NATO accounts. The succession of senior engineers, military and civilian, is addressed. Their management styles, personalities, and actions are explained, adding a human interest aspect to the narrative. Numerous maps, charts, tables, figures, and illustrations clearly depict the changing organizations, locations, expenditures, and facilities described in the book. The abundant sources are shown in endnotes and the bibliography. Some readers, however, may prefer...


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pp. 1309-1310
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2010
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