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„Halle 116“ - A History of Building 116

 

 

In the process of the NS-preparations for war, the Luftgaukommando VII, then located in Munich, constructed in 1936/37 the “Luftgaunachrichtenkaserne 7” in Pfersee, mostly just called Luftnachrichtenkaserne. A basic design component was to construct five elongated motor pools with 10 big folding steel doors per building, plus offices and stairways at both ends of the buildings. Together with two lateral barracks, situated at right angles, they formed so called “Gehöfte” (farmsteads). Until the beginning of the war, mostly enlisted men for communications training were accommodated here.

 

Soldiers of the Luftnachrichtenkaserne in front of Bldg. 116 doors before the war (Photos. Private estate, AiA archives).

 

The Gehöft II in the Northwest corner near Stadtbergen gained an ignominious reputation in the final year of the war. Due to an Allied air raid on the Messerschmitt plant in Haunstetten on April 13, 1944, also the local hard labor camp (KZ-Außenlager Dachau) was destroyed by bombs. For a makeshift relocation of the surviving convicts, the huge motor-pool of the Luftnachrichtenkaserne Pfersee’s Gehöft II was used immediately. Until the end of the war in April 1945, imprisonment, mistreatment and, per testimony, also executions took place there, which in the later judicial process showed outstanding local points. Per several sources 1.500 to 2.000 prisoners were forced to live on the ground floor motor pool area. They had to work shifts at the Messerschmitt aircraft plant. The forecourt as well as the Northern grounds were fenced in. Per the registry office’s records there were 74 casualties, sickness and undernourishment playing a leading role.

Since then, numerous depictions and publications about this area can be found. However, obviously, no photos and hardly any documents of these events are existing. In 2014, a former Wehrmacht soldier as contemporary witness noted the following memories: “On 12 June 1944, we were drafted into the Luftnachrichtenregiment 302 in Augsburg Pfersee. Our accommodations were above a KZ in a building designed as a motor pool. On the 2nd floor, accessible from the right and left side via stairwells, were our beds and lockers. Partitions were made of wire mesh. In front of the left stairwell, a sentinel in Luftnachrichten-Uniform was on guard with a machine gun on a tripod. The KZ-convicts, held captive in the hall below us, slept on wooden bunks… The convicts were transported on trucks to their work detachments”.

While on a death march, the convicts of the block (later U.S. Army Building 116) were liberated near Klimmach near Schwabmünchen by troops of the 12th U.S. Armored Division on April 26, 1945. Reports of contemporaries relating to this occasion were later, however, not disseminated in the media (but see: Gernot Römer: ”Für die Vergessenen” and Wolfgang Kutschera: „Fremdarbeiter und KZ-Häftlinge in der Augsburger Rüstungsindustrie”, several pages).

 

The photo is showing a unit of the 12th Armored Division in a forest near Schwabmünchen, where they liberated the death march convicts from the Pfersee camp (Photo: National Archives / 12th Armored Division).

 

A drawing with a three-dimensional contemporary history: Drafted on 09.06.1943 as plot plan of the Luftnachrichtenkaserne, with later, U.S. added still provisional two-digit building numbers (here .16, later becoming 116) and the marked KZ-fence of April 1944 to the end of the war in 1945 (see above, left). Noteworthy are the marked building damages due to bomb hits of the last year of the war (Photo: Fold3-Archiv).

 

With the entrance of the U.S. Forces in the various Augsburg kasernes in 1945, a different history began also for the Luftnachrichtengehöft II, enduring for more than 50 years: Building 116 of the American Sheridan Kaserne. Today, no substantial information is available in regard to the building utilization during the very early years, because the occupancy of the kasernes was permanently altering due to the continuous changing of (war) military units. A considerable attendance in the immediate post-war years was that of the 71st and the 9th Infantry Division. After the deployment of the Constabulary in 1951, photos of 1953-1954 already show the presence of the 43rd Infantry Division. Already at that time a Service Company of the 102nd Infantry had utilized building 116 (see later: CMC).

On 1959 drawings the building is defined as vehicle repair shop with troop accommodation (probably cutely in the attic - were the Wehrmacht’s wire mesh partitions still existing?). In the 24th Infantry Division’s 1960s, the Personnel Service Division (PSD), the Data Service and the 105th Finance Section were utilizing the offices of Bldg.116. The 2nd Recon Squadron, 9th Cavalry, used the building from the beginning of 1960 until1962 as motor-pool, its headquarters were on the 2nd floor. From 1963 until the beginning of 1971, components of the 2nd Battalion, 70th Armor utilized Bldg.116 for tank repairs. In 1976, the U.S. Army Library moved from Bldg. 33, Reese Barracks, into the Eastern attic area of Bldg.116, setting up Europe’s second biggest U.S. Army Library. Already around 1976 existed a Snack Bar with street sale via two windows in the building’s Western gable wall.

 

A 1953 winter scenery with vehicles of the 102nd Infantry Regiment, 43rd Infantry Division (Photo: AiA archives).

 

1975. U.S. Army Bicentennial parade on the meadow of the former “Gehöft 2”, in the background Bldg.116 (Photo: John Seely).

 

Stadtbergen Gate in the 1970s on the West side of Bldg.116. You can recognize the Snack Bar in the middle of the building (Photo: J. Volstadt).

 

                              A current elevation of the former Library area (Photo: AiA archives).


                                    Library entrance in the Eastern head (Photo: AiA archives)

 

                           A view of the abandoned library area in the attic (Photo: AiA archives).

 

Very important was the era of the Consolidated Maintenance Center (CMC), then deployed from Dachau to Augsburg, that began in 1971 after the tanks were moved elsewhere. VII Corps’ maintenance organization Regional Support Elements (RSE) with the CMC service centers in Augsburg and Garmisch was responsible for all U.S. Military Communities in the South Bavaria district. CMC personnel consisted predominantly of Local Nationals, but also Third Country Nationals, with branches at Sheridan, Reese and Quartermaster Kaserne. The approximately 200 CMC civilians with only three servicemen took appropriate professional and high quality care of equipment of all kinds.

 

Left: Sign at the entrance of the CMC office in Bldg.116. Right: stairwell talk between German employees (Photo: Estate Tyroller).

 

                             CMC entrance at the Western office area (Photos: Estate Tyroller).

                             

                Augsburg’s American Chief/CMC, Captain Kerns, at his desk (Photo: Estate Tyroller).


                 Augsburg’s German Chief/CMC, Hans Tyroller, at his desk (Photo: Estate Tyroller).


Both Chiefs/CMC, Captain Kerns and Hans Tyroller, in front of a field service vehicle (Photo: Estate Tyroller).

 

Official scene in front of the office entrance. Evidently the reenlistment of a U.S. soldier of the CMC (Photo: Estate Tyroller).

 

“CAN DO” was the CMC motto. Besides of government furnished furniture, they took care of e.g. office equipment, all kinds of electrical appliances, lawn mowers, photo and movie equipment and much more. Mattress repair, comforter cleaning as well as piano tuning show the tremendous diversity of professional activities. There was a special manual, showing their range of repairs. In the bays of Bldg.116 were, among others, a big carpenter’s shop, where furniture was also spray-varnished. The spray-booth in Bay 7 was equipped with a CO2 fire extinguisher and an air filtering system for solvent vapors - the external ducts still existing in 2018. Repair of non-tactical (military or civilian) motor vehicles was mainly made in Bldg.125. In the 1980s, approximately about 2.500 work orders of most different kinds were carried out monthly (CMC occupying besides Bldg.116 also Bldgs.111, 125, 159, 177 and 178 as well as vast areas in the South of Sheridan Kaserne). The employees were always highly satisfied with their “military jobs” and formed a homogenous association with great cooperativeness. They really took care of the American forces in South Bavaria and their combat readiness in the Cold War for decades.

 

                                       At the CMC reception in Bldg.116 (Photo: Estate Tyroller).


In the carpenter’s shop: left: lumber mill; right: spray booth for wood processing (Photo: Estate Tyroller).

 

Hans Reifgerste, then Chief/Communication and Electronic Branch (COMMEL), who worked already soon after the end of the war as LN for the U.S. Army (Photo: Estate Tyroller).


Neither radio station or bugging system nor interrogation room – the repair shop for electrical and electronic appliances in the attic of Bldg.116 (Photo: Estate Tyroller).

 

Administration and technical know-how were lasting components of the building utilization in “116” (Photo: Estate Tyroller).

 

            Discipline and motivation distinguished work in American charge (Photo: Estate Tyroller).


Even the safety labeling reflected a vast era from current English to typical “Reich”-typography (Photo: Estate Tyroller).

 

On site, mobile Contact Teams handled tasks like cleaning of carpets and upholstery as well as hanging curtains and repair of installed household appliances in the Housing Areas, even their curtains were sewn at the CMC. Finally, maintenance, cleaning and repair of field equipment took place. Numerous awards were won by the CMC. In 1987, the CMC management team from Bldg.116 was invited to Washington’s Pentagon for the presentation ceremony of the “Best European Maintenance Unit Award”. The RSE Maintenance Division once stated that the capabilities of the basically (ca. 70 percent) German CMC work force were phenomenal. The CMC had their own vehicle flotilla which later was parked in the again fenced in forecourt of Bldg.116. This security fence was to a large extent identical with the long since dismantled fence of the former KZ-Außenlager. 1988 papers show clearly that then several military chaplains with their adjutants had their rooms in Bldg.116.

 

             One of the few American CMC co-workers at the later “Halle 116” (Photo: Estate Tyroller).

 

Awards and recognitions were basic elements of the American employer culture (Photos: Estate Tyroller).

 

Left: Tractor units of Mannheim’s 28th Transportation Battalion (TB), 37th Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) paying Augsburg a visit. Right: The CMC flotilla in front of Bldg.116 (Photo of the 1990s: AiA archives).

 

Even in 1990 an elevator for the visitors of the Library in Bldg.116, Sheridan Kaserne, was constructed (Photo: AiA archives).

 

With the return of Reese Barracks to the Federal Republic (“Bund”), reduced but essential Divisions of the Directorate of Engineering and Housing (DEH) moved into Bldg.116, Sheridan Kaserne. These were shops with tradesmen e.g. plumbers, electricians and painters (Bays 9 and 10). In the Western office area, the Directorate and the Director of Engineering and Housing, a major, as well as the Buildings & Grounds Div., Utilities Div., Construction Inspection Br., Engineer Resources Mgmt., and the Environmental & Energy Conservation Office moved in. The CMC activities came to a halt due to the step by step reduction in forces until the middle of 1998 – base closure.


                            Guide signs in the Western stairwell of Bldg.116 after the DEH’s move.


The utilization history of this building was therefore diverse: After the end of WW II, the usage of the building was at first in favor of the military, but in later years more or less civilian only. This reflected (by pure chance?) in due form the tragic background of the last year of the war. The U.S. soldiers that were stationed here had, for a long time, no idea of the history of ”their” Bldg.116, Sheridan Kaserne. Now, 20 years after base closure, memory activities on both sides of the historic fence push the idea of a museum-like preservation of “Halle (Building) 116”. In which way, if at all, will this be viable? This article is intended to reflect the history of the building in the perspective of the post-war era.

 

A final look at the Northern backside of Bldg.116 with the outgoing air ducts of the spray booth in Bay 7. By now, the Conversion has changed the area considerably (Photo: AiA archives).

 

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