In the recent past, when browsing the internet satellite photos of landscapes in South Bavaria, you often could discover strange diamond shaped areas in the cities. These diamonds were unmistakable signs of the presence of U.S. Forces – the large grass and brick colored dirt fields of base- and softball fields in kasernes and housing areas. Already before, or at least at the beginning of the 1950s, U.S. troops constructed those sports fields in their kasernes - in Augsburg as well. Other sports fields and structures of German origin were usually nearby. For the most part, these were existing installations of former Wehrmacht kasernes that were occupied by the Allied Forces after WW II.
Sports were a basic component for military fitness, but also of school culture (‘Augsburg Apaches’) and private leisure amusement in and out of the housing areas – .stimulatingat least three areas within the USMCA.
Although there was no difference between most disciplines that were practiced by Germans as well as Americans, there were some typical U.S. disciplines that were completely different from those of the host nation. Often, American sports were an ostentatious spectacle for all Germans who were approaching or living in the neighborhood of the U.S. installations. They could detect how different races were living and working together, as American sports promoted the feeling of “one nation” amid a foreign cultural environment. The membership in a German sports Verein (club) also helped international understanding in a very apolitical way.
As in most garrisons, Augsburg sports installations were almost completely located within the kasernes and, as a rule, not accessible for the German public. The extensive stretch of lawn of the Athletic Field (also called Dawson Field) in the southern area of Sheridan Kaserne could be utilized for a number of different sports and other events. There were gymnasiums in Reese Barracks, Flak, and Gablingen Kaserne. ID card holders could rent skis and canoes at the north wing of the Recreation Center, Bldg 33 Reese Barracks IAW their individual preferences.
As everywhere, the frequent rotation of garrisons and personnel made a long-term establishment of teams for tournaments difficult. Regardless, the ‘Augsburg Bulls’ (Football), ‘Mustangs’ (basketball), ‘Augsburg Gators’ (baseball) ‘Lions’ (rugby) or ‘The Falcons’ (football) were established, the latter already in 1956 during the Airborne era. Well known sports stars of popular disciplines lured thousands of spectators e.g. to Sheridan Kaserne.
The list of practiced sports is diverse. Pre-eminent were typical American sports like American football and base- respectively softball. But there were also basketball, volleyball, tennis, golf, wrestling, boxing, gymnastics, track and field, marathon (‘Augburg Wandering Club’), and even rodeo events. After the construction of the huge Bowling Alley at Sheridan Kaserne, the original Bowling Alley in the northern area of Reese Barracks was altered to a Roller Skating Rink with snack bar (1983). Not forgotten should be the ‘Rod & Gun Club’ and the Half Pipe at Reese Barracks as well as the ‘Cross-Country Club’ with its early races at the ‘Panzerkessel’ of Deuringen Training Area.
In the 1970/80s, Corps of Engineers (EUD) constructed racquetball court annexes to the gymnasiums. There were tennis courts in Reese Barracks, Flak Kaserne, Sheridan Kaserne (at the Athletic Field and at the Officers Club), and in Gablingen Kaserne at the western hangars.
s an independent sports activity, ‘pumping up the crowds’ for their football team, young cheergirls always delighted the spectators. Now, at the latest, the local nationals realized that with cheerleading, American sports showed an entertainment element that was unknown in German sports. A focal point of sports in Augsburg were the late 1960 and 70s.
It is said that the differing emphasis laid on sports was also depending on the respective generals that were in the USMCA during their tour of duty. Public appearance and competitions with German teams were recognized up to the final years of U.S. presence. Around 1990, a boxing match of Military Intelligence vs. an Augsburg company team took place at the Rathausplatz, evidently initiated by a nearby sports shop.
On the social level, dancing sports, e.g. square dance (‘Bavarian Stompers’) or rock ’n’ roll, developed, conveying the variety of the influence of American culture at the time of stationing. The anteroom of the Recreation Center Theater (Bldg 33, Reese Barracks) served as a ballet training room with barres and mirrors.
For a long time, several American sports clubs with passionately authentically practicing German members became established - virtually unnoticed - in and around Augsburg. The transfer of American way of life has left colorful, still visible, marks even after the end of the Cold War and some anti-American atmosphere– until today.
Please see also: Location Augsburg > Culture and Leisure > Golf Club Bavarian Hill
Translation: Heinz Strüber, 09.09.2013