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All photos are thumbnails - click on the thumbnail to view the full-sized picture


Ledward Barracks on the outskirts of Schweinfurt.


A few Kilometers out to the countryside, the entrance to Conn Barracks.


A very modern Conn Barracks as seen from the air.


From the Office of the Schweinfurt PAO, a clipping showing an A2 Company from Conn, the recipient of the 3rd Infantry Division Draper Award in 1978.


M60A2 at Conn in Fall / Winter paint scheme, 1978.


M60A2 and A1 set up at the Conn Barracks Officers Club for the Armor Ball 1978.


M65 Atomic Cannon on display showing gun, mount and dual turn tables.


Cannon set up with tow and tug, front and rear ready for road movement.


Nice detailed view of the fork mechanism that allowed the tow and tug to grip the cannon mount for movement.


M65 set up for firing at Graf, note the troops with powder bags at left.


Soldiers with shell cart, image gives a great impression of the size.


And here, the gantry crane has lifted the projectile and swung it over to the loading tray.


Road movement accompanied by prayer.


Well … these events were not uncommon.  Atomic Annie fotos courtesy of Steve Donohue.


Ledward Barrracks HQ Building recalled in happier days.

 


The wind, the fields and the silence at  Conn Barracks.
 

   

So Long – Schweinfurt

The closing of  Ledward and Conn Barracks in Schweinfurt early next month, marks the end of a long relationship between the Bavarians and the American Army.  Once, cities such as Munich, Aschaffenburg, Bayreuth, Erlangen and Furth all were major USAREUR troop centers and now the troops are gone, the barracks closed, the only tanks on the roads and trails are German and they seldom leave their training areas.  It took 55 years and four generations of young American soldiers to journey from occupation to partnership to final parting.

And in Schweinfurt, Americans certainly left their mark.  The two barracks facilities were among the most modern remaining in Germany - no doubt the wrecking ball will soon fly but when you fly over the area and the sun is at a low angle particularly after the hay has been cut in late summer, you can still see in the fields just outside of town, the shadows of bomb impact craters from the famous B17 bomber raids of 1944. They have long been filled but the soil so disturbed, has settled just a bit deeper than the surrounding areas; the stubble that remains after cutting is just a fraction of an inch longer and it casts a slightly deeper shadow of green in interlocking circles crossing rectangular fields.

Soldiers and family members with ties to Bad Kissingen will recall that Daley Barracks was under the administrative control of Ledward Barracks. This had no effect on the day to day of the cavalry but had everything to do with operating budgets, building maintenance and who you called to get things done, from spot painting to major facilities rehabilitations.  And this included Camp Wollbach / Lee.

Up they would motor from Schweinfurt, brief cases and file folders full of documents.  Over coffee at the Hale Dining Facility, budgets would be reviewed, remote site surveys completed and photos taken.  The Germans, with overall responsibility for the facilities shook their heads and noted that at OP Sierra, we now had porta - potties and by contract, they were emptied twice weekly; the road leading to the OP had been re - graded with fresh crushed stone set down. They asked if we wanted to rebuild the burned out OP 13 and seemed greatly relieved when we declined.

Back at Daley, even after the cavalry and the VII Corps combat units had departed Kissingen, the barracks and motor poll building pounded flat and then the area revitalized with German businesses, the Daley Barracks Housing Area continued as a satellite housing area for Schweinfurt MILCOM.  It was only a few years ago that the housing area was finally returned to German civil control.

Now, with the hand off of Ledward and Conn to German authorities, the very last echoes  of American voices tied to the border cavalry finally die away in the distance.  Consider that the first US Constabulary units involved in the border patrol missions along what would become the Eaglehorse sector, deployed from Ledward Barracks and it was here that the 2nd Battalion of the 14th Armored Reconnaissance Regiment refitted from Constabulary to combat unit sets prior to making the short road march from Schweinfurt to Kissingen and occupying Daley Barracks in 1952.  From Camp Harris at Coburg, for decades 3rd Infantry Division cavalry troopers stationed at Ledward watched the border on the southeastern flank of the Eaglehorse and it was from them that US Patrol, at the southeastern contact point, would get the movie package of 16mm films passed along from border camp to camp - beer hall to beer hall.

Kissingen and Schweinfurt were always linked when it came to the military.  Going back to the Nazi era, what would become Ledward Barracks was known as Panzer Kaserne and was home to an armored brigade of the 2nd Panzer Division. The divisional anti - tank battalion was located  at Adolf Hitler Kaserne, a barracks located just across the street.   This area was totally destroyed during the war.  Only 25 Kilometers distant was the home of the 2 Panzer motorcycle infantry battalion at Bad Kissingen.  No doubt the staff officers and senior commanders routinely made the drive between the two towns and something makes me think they chose to spend the night at the Kur Stadt.

At Conn Barracks, a former Luftwaffe training base, officer cadets and NCOs learning to fly Stuka dive bombers in the 1930s would see Kissingen as their first major visual checkpoint when flying north / northwest.  Through the clouds and through time, the towns were joined by a military heritage that will now scatter in the wind.

Memories may vary with Eaglehorse cavalry troopers when it comes to Schweinfurt.  On the one hand, a brigade’s worth of motor pools plus an ordnance general automotive support maintenance company all added up to one hell of a lot of places to beg for parts to keep cavalry vehicles running.  It’s not that the automotive supply parts system didn’t function properly, it’s just that hitting the road, hat -in -hand on the third day that a vehicle appeared on the dead line report was seen as such great fun and good sport.  The thing was, every now and again, with enough plaintive begging, you could score something you needed. Schweinfurt was the first stop for the Kissingen’s  cavalry XO mendicants.

Schweinfurt was also the “ land of the big PX “ or at least big in comparison to the sutler’s outpost at Daley.  The commissary was bigger and well stocked, the movie theater was about the same and the officer’s club - somehow I never found my way over.  But bigger was not always better -  trips to the city center of Schweinfurt at least made me appreciate Kissingen all the more with the possible exception of the Christmas Market running in December.  If our town was all about the tourist trade tolerating the Army, their town was industry, long streets of four story apartment buildings, a down town that had been fully restored after having been nearly totally destroyed and American soldiers everywhere bringing a certain vibe.  I do recall visiting Willi Sachs Stadium and noting that Kissingen had nothing like it and it would have been a great place for a cavalry track meet - I wonder if Schweinfurt’s merchants will miss the dollars or the troops?

When it comes to Schweinfurt, Conn and Ledward, the Army and the missions, and what might make an interesting history to recall, two specific units come to mind.  There were plenty of tanks and plenty of cannon in Schweinfurt through the years but here are two units out of the ordinary. There is no link to Bad Kissingen but the fun is in the recalling.

Star Ships

In the mid and late 1970s, two battalions of 3rd ID tanks, the  2/64 and 3/64 Armor at Conn, were the recipient of the M60A2 tank.  It featured the M162 main gun / missile launcher, basically the same cannon as found on the M551 Sheridan, mated to an even more complicated turret stuffed with electronic components, cables, ready lights and Oms meters all happily coexisting in a turret mechanic‘s nightmare.  The turret was then dropped into the generally reliable M60 tank hull creating a perfect mix of mobility and dysfunction.  Rather than consolidating the A2’s as a separate battalion that then could be task organized as necessary in the field, the A2s of Schweinfurt were arrayed in hybrid battalions, the 2nd and 3rd battalion of the 64th Armor each had one A2 company and two A1 companies.  There was also discussion at that time of moving towards select tank battalions consisting of four tank companies, two companies each of A1 and A2.  Luckily sanity and the M60A3  program came along and in 1979, the A2s of Schweinfurt and elsewhere in Germany were withdrawn from service and unceremoniously shipped back to US depots.  Next stop - hulls for the AVLB program and turrets as down range targets.

I can recall seeing the A2s now and again in Schweinfurt motor pools long after the Eaglehorse had turned in its Sheridans, and feeling that chill down my spine as I canvassed mech infantry units for those electric regulators that seemed to die so quickly in M113A1s.

Atomic Annie

The second interesting weapon system found at Schweinfurt takes us back to the mid 1950s,  the days of the 14th Cavalry at Kissingen and the largest cannon fielded by the US Army.

The M65 Atomic Cannon, “ Atomic Annie “ was the largest mobile field cannon ever deployed to Germany.  A total of 20 of these cannon were built in the early 1950s,  the majority deployed to Germany, six sent to Okinawa and some small number remaining in the US to support crew training.  Checking in with a barrel diameter of 280mm, the cannon was configured to fire both conventional and nuclear rounds, with a published range of over 20 miles and an unofficial range of 35 miles.  Accuracy was said to be +- twenty meters under optimal conditions. 

Engagement with the atomic round was the sole purpose behind this ponderous weapons system.  It was mobile, using a powered tow and tug system of dual tractors, front and back to maneuver the cannon through German city streets. It was remarkable that skilled driver teams could at all safely move the cannon but accidents were fairly common.  One common source of problems was simple road collapse under the weight, particularly if a tug got too close to the road edge.

Once at the firing point, the tugs disengaged and the cannon rested on its chassis which in turn rested on front and rear turn table bases.  Only one atomic round was ever fired, this in the United States as the final engineering proof that both the cannon and round were combat functional.  Conventional rounds were used in training.

Battery A of 1st of the 613th Field Artillery Battalion later re designated as the Alpha Btry,  3rd gun battalion, 82th FA was located at Schweinfurt, probably at Conn but that particular detail is unclear.  It appears as though the batteries were configured as four gun sets with  the complementary support, maintenance and FDC sections as necessary.  Accounts vary and it is surprising how little has been researched  on these giant cannons in Schweinfurt.  They were stationed from the mid 1950s thru the early 1960s although even the end date of that battery is in question.  What is clear is that when they went out the gate, pretty much everyone, German civilian and American serviceman, held their breath when it came to the first narrow turn and held their breath again until it was clear that this was only a practice alert.

Please Insure …

So all these things at Schweinfurt fade into darkness just like at Bad Kissingen some years earlier, gigantic cannon, marginal tanks, men and women, troopers at the border  and family members.  From Schweinfurt, soldiers set forth for Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.  So many days spent training in the familiar dark green forests, the winters of Germany and the back drop of the Cold War and all leading to fast deployments, arid, dusty lands and distant hot wars.  

Future US garrisoning of troops in Germany appear to be limited to one or two mega bases near Grafenwoehr.   With so much tension in the Ukraine, the idea of rotating battalions as unaccompanied six month tours to bases in Poland is back under discussion and at the same time, fifty thousand personnel slots are being eliminated from the active Army.  Looking in the rear view mirror, the Cold War doesn’t look that bad and it is rapidly fading from sight - years pass, fresh troops, new missions, new garrisons and ever dangerous foes.

Will the last American troopers at Conn and Ledward barracks please insure that as they depart, the lights are turned off, the heating is set to low, leave the keys on the table and insure the door is locked behind you.  We hope you enjoyed your stay and please come back in a few years as tourists, you’ll hardly recognize the place.

August 2014

Go here to see a huge selection of photos from the Schweinfurt Public Affairs Office that track the history of the US Army at Ledward and Conn Barracks.  I do not know how long this will be up so rip if you want to save an image. 

And here to see their You Tube movie efforts.

And here you will find the complete set of all historical images related to Conn and Ledward.  Check out the album that shows the removal of the Army Heritage Display Vehicles!

Go here to see a modern day five minute presentation on a M60A2 in a museum with plenty of  interior turret footage.

Go here to see a brief film recording the actually firing of the nuclear test shell from the Atomic Cannon.

Go here to see a great  selection of modern day images of the Atomic Cannon on display.

 


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