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Wildflecken Training Area (WTA)

 

Located 35 kilometers northwest of Bad Kissingen, Wildflecken Training Area seemed a second home for the Eaglehorse in the 1970's and early 80's. In a twist of history, it did become the home to the squadron in 1991. We were at this place long and often; vast fields of mud in Area H, hill 808, the micro climate of the area that allowed snow, rain and sun and fog at the same time and exchanging the German operator of the down range moving target at midnight are some lasting impressions of those times.
 

     
  This stone marker remembers the firing of the first round by the German Army at Wildflecken. The marker was located by one of the firing points used by the US Army decades later.
Burckhardt
  World War 2 era German post card of Wildflecken Kaserne.
Stefanowicz
 

 

Early History of WTA

 

The creation of Wildflecken Kaserne dates to the same wave of military expansion that built Manteuffel Kaserne. The planning and acquisition of 18,000 acres began in 1936. The area was viewed as an ideal site to support training for "low mountain" warfare.  Eight small towns and villages were emptied in site preparation. A large work force was brought to the area and working in three shifts, rapidly built a military base planned to support a troop population of 9, 000 men. An ammunition plant was also built on adjacent land. Ranges and maneuver space were built to make Wildflecken a 'second level' military training area. On 8 February 1938, General Dollmann, Commander of the IX German Corps and Inspector of Artillery units fired the first round down range and Wildflecken Training Area was inaugurated.
 

     
  Tent life at Area H; inside a GP medium tent, LT Sommerkamp, center, and First Sergeant Cameron, right, chase down a snack heated up on a coal burning stove.
Stefanowicz
  G Troop scouts on firing line at WTA, 81. The target array down range consisted of non mobile target forms. As of this period, the Saab target system only supported the tank ranges.
Stefanowicz
 

 

During the late 1930's and war years, a wide variety of units passed through Wildflecken Kaserne. It served as a training hub for SS units, notably the 5th SS Panzer Division "Viking" and the 33rd SS Infantry Division "Charlemagne" [French volunteers] as well as Heer divisions, 95, 82 and 345 among others. The ammunition plant was staffed with forced labor imported from the East.  As the war ended in 1945, there was no significant fighting at Wildflecken as American units swept through.
 

Of note, General Dollmann, who officiated at the opening of the military complex did not survive the war. As Commander of the 7th German Army in France in 1944, he faced the Allies in the initial days of the invasion. As German units were rolled back early that Summer, Hitler reprimanded and threatened his field commanders.  The circumstances of Dollmann's death are clouded between heart failure and suicide in the field during this period. He was replaced by General Paul Hauser.
 

     
  Scout live fire training at WTA. CPT Campbell, center, coaches SP/4 Dedge with M2 flex. SP/4 MacClendon observes.
Stefanowicz
  M551 Sheridans on the range at Wildflecken in the mid-1970s
Mowry
 

 

The Refugees Arrive, the American Stay, the Bundeswehr Leaves

 

During the same post war period that Daley Barracks was the European Central Office for the International Refugee Organization, Wildflecken Kaserne was one of the large collection points for displace persons.  Many refugees who found their way to the United States find "Lager (Camp) Wildflecken" stamped on their first official documents.

 

In 1951, the business of the IRO ended and the American Army re - activated Wildflecken as an active base and training area. It was then in continuous use in that capacity by the NATO allies until 1994. In 1967, Wildflecken was incorporated into the 7th Army Training Center Command. Through this period, a wide variety of US Army armor, infantry, engineer and air defense units called Wildflecken home. For V Corp units, this became one of the major training areas.  
 

     
  M551 Sheridans on the range at Wildflecken in the mid-1970s
Mowry
  Tent City in Wildflecken circa 1981
Cozzens
 

 

Hill 808, the dominant terrain feature down range and Area H, the concrete pad and GP medium area we occupied while training are well remembered. In conjunction with M1 and M3 fielding in USAREUR, the ranges and support areas of Wildflecken received a major upgrade. By the mid 1980's, the tents were gone, replaced with permanent barracks buildings similar to facilities found at Grafenwoehr. More realistic firing ranges supported the new generation of fighting vehicles.  Norbert Ruckel provided a number of shots of Wildflecken during the years 1984-1992.
 

The Eaglehorse squadron called Wildflecken home for a few years after the squadron departed Daley Barracks.  It was the last major Army unit assigned to Wildflecken. The post then became home to a variety of Bundeswehr units and a Computer Battle Simulator Center. In recent years, as Germany has drawn down force size, the number of active units at Wildflecken has decreased. It is at about 30% of troop carrying capacity and the future of the Kaserne is under active consideration.
 

What Was Left Behind

 

Norbert Ruckel recently took a trip to Wildflecken and visited the German run on-post museum.  It tells the  story of  the training area from 1936 with a sizable portion devoted to the American years.  Unit signs, photos and plaques make up much of that part of the display.  Interestingly, the Eaglehorse must have taken everything with them when they finally departed, there is no reference to the squadron. 

 

 

 

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