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  We Command the Sun, the Earth and the Winds

In mid summer 1945, two generals walked through American run Bad Kissingen following a private lunch. Military police, staff officers and aids keep a respectful distance as the pair briefly enjoyed the promenade along the Saale River, down the former Adolf Hitler Strasse, newly re - named as Roosevelt Strasse and past the elegant Kur Hotels occupied by the victorious Americans. This was not just another shot out Kraut town - everything was frozen in time, intact - little hint of the war beyond the one blown bridge.

Rain the previous night, but the sky had cleared and there was a distant but growing rumble coursing through the valley; storms again? The pair reached the reviewing stand in the park area, climbed to the podium and brief remarks were made to hundreds of assembled Army Air Corps personnel. They were in loose formation and there were no invited German guests. This was victory and this was a part of the American celebration.

Binoculars were handed to the generals; one turned to the other and made a sweeping gesture with his arm across the blue sky as the rumble grew louder. Both men put in cotton ear plugs, the noise was now so loud that normal speech was almost impossible. First through parting clouds, a single P51 fighter, following the river from the south. It cork screwed a barrel roll maneuver just hundreds of feet above the crowd and its shadow flashed, specter like across the streets, along the walls and over red tiled roofs of the town. The growing roar of approaching aircraft engines was now deafening, the leafs trembled, the enormous sound reverberated through the bodies of the assembled men, the sky was clear and then the town sank into shadow, the sun was blocked out.

Look to the Sky, We Darken the Sun!

Here are four brief New York Times articles and then the associated stories that help illustrate the American experience in Bad Kissingen during the first days of peace in Germany. While most of us recall the town as an Army garrison of cavalry and artillery units, in the immediate post war period, the full power of the American Army Air Corps was everywhere, they could darken the sun, they could cover the ground and even predict the weather.

( I ) 40 Mile Air Parade to Mark Anniversary - New York Times - July 30 1945

London, July 29 - an aerial parade forty miles long will fly over the major European cities on Wednesday to mark the United States Army Air Forces thirty - eighth anniversary.

Aerial exhibitions will be held over Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, with a special review over Bad Kissingen, the German headquarters of the Ninth Air Force, to be reviewed by Major General O. P. Weyland. Approximately 900 planes will participate in the aerial demonstration including 600 Ninth Air Force Thunderbolts and Mustangs and Marauders of the Ninth, Twelfth and Twenty - Ninth Tactical Air Commands. The planes will fly low over a number of former air targets and other places in Germany.

The article concluded by recalling the plans for an air power parade and exposition in Paris that same week.

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As reported in the Times, the guest of honor at Bad Kissingen, at what must have been a overwhelming and frightening display of American air power, was Army Air Corps Major General Otto Paul Wayland. He was being honored by his former boss, the soon to depart commander of the Ninth US Air Force, Lieutenant General Hoyt S. Vandenberg. Both men were visionaries who made remarkable contributions to the Army Air Corps, the victory in Europe and formation of the early American Air Force. At Bad Kissingen, they met to say farewell, toast their victory, celebrate American air power and enjoy the show.

O. P. Wayland had an interesting career in pre war Army aviation that featured varied flying and staff assignments. Because of the comparatively small pool of aviation officers, promotions were slow. Once the US entered World War II, however, his career path suddenly blossomed and he quickly rose to Brigadier General in command of a fighter wing. In 1944, he took command of the XIX Tactical Air Command in England, consisting of two fighter groups, the 100th and the 303rd with the primary mission of escorting heavy bomber groups in raids over Germany and France.

While flying from England, the XIX began to receive new, light and medium bombers as well as specially developed fighter - bomber aircraft. The command was directed to explore what was necessary, both in terms of training and equipment, to more closely integrate aircraft support to combat operations of ground units in the planned invasion. Tentative plans were made and in mid 1944, with the invasion of France, the XIX TAC was tasked with the direct tactical air support of General Patton’s Third Army. To accomplish this, Weyland now had 25 separate squadrons of fighter, light bomber and reconnaissance aircraft supported by battalions of ground personnel building airfields, repairing aircraft and integrated into forward units as controllers.

The mission and tactics of the XIX Tac Air evolved once the battle was joined in France. While air supremacy was still a major concern, the grand experiment of close tactical air missions flown in direct support of forward ground echelons began in earnest. What had been discussed and experimented on in England, became a standing mission for the command, although surprisingly, the idea of close air support was not immediately embraced by all senior air or ground officers.

The idea of using aircraft to attack targets that earlier doctrine said should be engaged with field artillery took some getting used to by commanders throughout the Army. Wayland and the general officers who supported the doctrine, knew that the most effective sales pitch was success and when the break - out from Normandy was spearheaded with close air support, detractors were silenced once and for all. It was said that Wayland’s planes could “ be called in a minute and then turn on a dime “.

In reality, it would not be until Korea that fighter - bomber missions would actually have the capability to loiter in an area waiting for a mission from ground controllers but the XIX Tac Air, and its Army Air Corps companion units, IX Tac Air and XII Tac Air supporting the balance of US forces in the France - Belgium - Germany campaign, did much to explore and advance the doctrine of close air support. Success was a matter of intelligence, intense planning, innovation and very close coordination with the ground forces extending down to regimental and battalion commanders. It took a while for the radios, doctrine and training to catch up with what Wayland and his staff realized could be a possibility.

To support the emerging close air support doctrine, American industry produced vast fleets of aircraft designed specifically for precision bombing at low altitudes. Specialized medium bombers, the B 26 Marauder, a good example, modified fighters, P 51 D Mustang and the ultimate World War II US fighter - bomber, the P 47 Thunderbolt were rolled out in fast fashion to meet what commanders demanded . As new aircraft were approved for production and deployment, pilot training at dozens of stateside bases specialized in the specific skills of close tactical air support flying. What they did not learn in Texas or Tennessee, was quickly picked up in the field. It was, nevertheless, dangerous flying, attacking at low speed, often against well defended targets in almost all types of weather. Causality rates among crews were high.

Of almost equal importance to the aircraft and trained flyers was the need to have Army Air Force radio teams with the lead echelons of combat forces who were thoroughly familiar with aircraft capabilities, the language of pilots and the ground commander’s plan of attack. O. P. Weyland helped design and test what would become ground based forward air controllers as well as the mobile staffs that approved, routed and, on occasion, redirected the attacking flights. Often times message traffic for critical missions still had to pass through various levels of headquarters for approval but the radios, dedicated telephone networks and trained staffs made the system surprisingly responsive in terms of World War II expectations. From the fight across France to the Battle of the Bulge to the final victory in Germany, division and corps commanders from General Patton down consistently singled out Wayland, his aircrews and staffs for specific praise.

That mid summer day in Bad Kissingen, Major General Wayland was the guest of Lieutenant General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, commander of the Ninth US Air Force with his headquarters at the Kurstadt. This was the link that brought the air parade seen over London, Paris and Berlin and a dozen now bombed out cities in Germany to the otherwise sleepy town on the Saale. With the war over, Wayland was to return to Fort Leavenworth as the new Assistant Commandant of all Army schools there. Vandenburg was slated for the position of Assistant Chief of Staff of the Army Air Force in Washington and he took the opportunity to honor his old friend and former subordinate. At the air parade, both generals would, at least symbolically, say farewell to their combat commands. From the reviewing stand, eighteen months of intense work flashed overhead in a terrible parade.

Less than a month later, Vandenberg relinquished command to Major General Bill E. Kepner, former commander of the Eighth Air Force in Germany. With the war over and Army of Occupation plans moving forward, the only major Army Air Force command slated to remain in Germany was the Ninth and in many ways, it was being dramatically reconfigured for a new mission. While some air assets would remain, the men of the Ninth were to become part of the force policing post war Germany and of particular note, they were tasked with the search for secret Luftwaffe technology.

In later years, O. P. Wayland’s career continued with a variety of significant staff and command positions to include overall command of Tactical Air Operations in support of US forces in the Korean war. He was responsible for the building of the modern Japanese Air Force in the mid 1950s and received his fourth star. Weyland retired from active duty in 1959 and died in 1979. He is acknowledged as one of the founding fathers of American modern tactical air support.

Hoyt Vandenberg left Germany and returned to Washington. In rapid succession, he was assigned as the director of the newly formed Central Intelligence Agency, the Vice Chief of Staff and then Chief of Staff of the new, separate Air Force. He died in 1953 after cancer forced a premature retirement, however his name is forever recalled with the military space and defense program located at Vandenberg Air Force Base Rocket Missile Launch Facility in southern costal California.

In Bad Kissingen, there are no official recollections of this spectacular air parade although the memory of a sky darkened by hundreds of low flying aircraft and the accompanying engine roar must have lived on for some time. The Saale Zeitung and other local newspapers were out of print and would not resume publication until the late 1940s; reporters may have made notes but there was nowhere to deliver the story. With day to day needs of food and shelter very much concerns even in the Rhoen, apparently even the ever present German amateur photographers did not reach for their Leicas. Likewise, official Army Air Corp photographers also seem to have missed the event as there were no surviving photos from the day. The shadows of hundreds of over head aircraft soon left Bad Kissingen but interesting shadows gathered for many months on near by valley floors throughout Bavaria.

Look to the Valley, We Cover the Ground!

(II) Big Plane Reserve Rests in Germany - New York Times - 7 August 1945

Munich, Germany, 6 August - Kathleen McLaughlin -

Hundreds of Fortresses to Be Joined by Other Bombers, Many Fighter Aircraft

Aligned wingtip to wingtip and nose to tail in precise geometrical formations, a sea of B 17s unfold in an impressive panorama around a bend in the highway that stretches from Munich to Salzburg.

Hundreds of Flying Fortresses are concentrated on this former Luftwaffe center and another 100 arrived yesterday. More are to arrive within the next few weeks.

This is the largest reserve pool of heavy bombers in United States occupied territory and it is an object lesson that needs no interpretation to the tens of thousand of Germans who pass here daily.

The lengthy article went on to explain that many of these aircraft were delivered directly from other holding areas and had in fact, never participated in actual combat, they were reserve aircraft. Once that group was pooled, then the combat aircraft units would likewise add their aircraft to this area and others fields and lots nearby. A small group of Army personnel were responsible for guarding the assembly areas and the fate of the air armada was currently under review. There was some speculation that the area would become a training center for future pilots and crews.

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The victory air parades held by the Americans in the Summer of 1945 had a secondary function beyond impressing war weary Germans and saluting departing general officers. The parades were used to help funnel US aircraft to central locations in southern Germany for final disposition. Within days of the end of the war in Germany, the War Department cancelled thousands of defense contacts across the United States, staffs worked over time to identify which troops were needed in the Pacific, who might be released from active duty and what to do with all that equipment that had just won the war against the Fascists.

Manufactures who had been staffing factories at three full shifts building aircraft for use in Europe were, upon receipt of a single telegraph message, ordered to immediately cease production and plan for a rapid return to consumer oriented products. While the war against Japan was yet to be decided, Washington had no further need for B17s, P47s or dozens of other aircraft seen as not suitable for the Pacific theater. Production lines stopped all over America with a frightening efficiency. One shift left the plant - no further shifts were called. In the Army Air Corps, crews and support personnel not needed elsewhere, were discharged as soon as possible; all of the aircraft posed a particular problem.

The fate of thousands of aircraft that carried the best American technology available at the time into European skies is indicative of just how dramatic the shift to a peacetime economy was planned to be. The same planes that saluted dignitaries at a few select European locations in the air parades, once landed, were pooled at huge collection points in the American occupied zone in deep southern Germany by men who reported to BG Frank Camm and his Office of Liquidation, part of the War Assets Administration. Camm would be the cutter and crusher.

Camouflaged or silvered wings gleaming in the late Summer sun, they were parked wing tip to wing tip until heavy and medium bombers, fighters of every type plus light aircraft and transports paved entire valley floors in Bavaria stretching to Austria as far as one could see. At the beginning of the collection program, the Army considered “ moth balling “ the fleet for storage but under review, this was deemed impractical - south German weather is not friendly to outside warehousing plus, clear eyed planners noted that the prop driven aircraft that won a European war in 1945 were probably not in their thinking with the dawn of the jet age. That left only one real alternative.

In most cases, the engines were first stripped out first, to recycle the high grade steel and aluminum. The remaining airframes were then torn apart, blown up, run over by bull dozers or burnt in massive fire pits. What was left was scooped up and sent to the regional smelters. A few months later, similar bonfires burned across the Pacific consuming a second American air war fleet.

Local Germans observing these activities in the late Summer of 1945 must have looked on with a sense of disbelief mixed with war weary irony. First, the Americans had driven the Luftwaffe from the sky and bombed Germany virtually at will for months on end. Then, peace came yet they filled the skies one last time with aircraft. Flying in massed formations at low altitude, the sound was as though a thousand locomotives were screaming past. A few allied generals and politicians looked up and smiled; at least this time, the Americans dropped no bombs. Finally, the conquerors clogged roads, fields and valleys with miles and miles of parked aircraft until the countryside could hold no more and then … they burned their planes.

Hitler and Goering had promised that Germany would witness the destruction of the attacking American air armada. For southern Bavarians looking on from hill top wood lines in September and October 1945, this prediction had very much come to pass.

Look to your fields, We Predict the Weather!

(III) U.S. Weatherman to Aid Reich - New York Times - 26 July 1945 -
Drew Middleton

Bad Kissingen - Germany - 25 July - Reuters

One of the first moves to help Germany feed herself has been taken by the Ninth Army Air Force, which is making its continental weather service available to German farmers, it was revealed today.

The Germans own service collapsed with the defeat of the Reich, and this new measure will enable them to get long range forecasts to assist their crop planting.

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In immediate post war Germany, for local agriculture to resume feeding the German population, a lot of things needed to go right. A fast release of POWs was necessary to work the fields, seed and brood stock were required to jump start production; the harvest of 1945 was a disaster and the Allies were squabbling over who owned what, the amount of war reparations to be paid and where the meager harvest might go. It seemed as though the Winter of 1945 would be one of politics and privation.

What to do about starving Germans was a vexing question in Washington. Some argued that whether 10,000 starved or 100,000, it made little difference, they were all Nazis or supporters and a harsh peace was the dividend of the war they waged. On the other hand, the occupying forces saw nothing but trouble. Lack of food led to an explosion of black market activity and general lawlessness. In the French and British zones, already feeding programs were underway and in America, even though the horrors of the holocaust were being publicized, there was no wide spread demand for revenge once the European war was finished.

After some political debate, it was determined that the American zone of occupation would not become a zone of starvation, food supplies would be made available in true emergency situations and a major effort was announced to reestablish German agriculture by the Spring of 1946.

Of all aspects of German society that Americans explored and assisted in during the immediate post war period, one of the more important efforts yet seldom recalled activity was the resurrection of the German Weather Service. It needed to be rebuilt and from the Summer of 1945 thru 1947, the center for these efforts was Bad Kissingen. In Washington, where some senior officials said, “ let them starve “ … in Germany, the Army Air Corps said, “ let’s reconstitute the Weather Service so that the farmers can resume work . “

(IV) Germans in Weather Unit - New York Times - 11 January 1947

450 Now Employed in Stations U. S. Official Reports

Berlin - Col. Don McNeal, head of the United States meteorology section here, reported today that German meteorological services in the United States zone now operated two forecasting centers, five secondary forecasting centers, thirty - five synoptic observing stations, eight mountain observing stations, fifty - five climatological stations of higher order and 1056 rain and snow stations.

The organization, with headquarters in Bad Kissingen, has 450 full time German employees supervised by United States officers. It has been built up in accordance with an Allied Control Council agreement to set up zonal meteorological agencies which later will be merged into one national governmental service.

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In the pre war years, Germany had a highly sophisticated National Weather Service and with a central location in Europe, it played a key role in collecting, processing and passing on vital weather data to bordering countries. With the coming of the Nazi state, much of this operation was brought into the military with data collection and analysis preformed by the Luftwaffe, Navy and the Army. From Berlin, the information necessary for civilian activities, from the weekend weather report to detailed farm related projections, was then parceled out by appropriate government ministries. Only the archives of the old weather service and certain laboratory functions remained in civil hands. Some private metrological research and data collection was performed at schools and universities across the country and then shared through academic circles.
Much of this was undone with the loss of the war.

Weather stations, records and equipment were lost or damaged, trained observers, technicians and weather scientists had been drafted, served on all fronts, and their ranks were thinned by the war. In mid Summer 1945, Eisenhower declared that efforts needed to be made to locate as many trained German metrological personnel as possible in the Allied PW camps. If there was to be a Fall planting in 1945, the crops needed to go in fast with agriculture supported by accurate weather data. In the interim period, the Army Air Corps would provide observations and predications within its capability but a new German Weather Service needed to be reconstituted.

In Berlin, the man tasked with the job in the American zone was Army Air Corps Colonel Don McNeal working with the US 5th Weather Group. He had distinguished himself during the war by creating the schools necessary to find and train thousands of servicemen who would become the weather observers, analysts and technicians supporting the global American war effort. He was a 1934 graduate of Cornell with a masters degree in geo and planetary sciences from Cal Tech; he was the Army’s weatherman.

Under McNeal’s command were a pair of names that would appear prominently in Air Force weather circles well into the 1990s, Lt. Paul J Bodenhofer and CPT Richard M. Gill as well as two German scientists, the Weickmann brothers, Helmet and Karl. Gill had a particularly interesting task in the immediate post war period. With a team of Signal Corps personnel, he dashed across what would become the Soviet zone in Germany looking for German weather stations and stripping them of key instruments that were packed and rushed back to the American zone. Bodenhofer, after graduation from UCLA in 1938 with a degree in geo science and atmospheric studies, had done graduate work in Germany prior to the war and had met many of the top German weather scientists of the day. His knowledge of both the language and the personalities proved key in the early days of reorganizing the weather service.

Helmet and Karl Weickmann were geo science university professors who had spent the war in Germany and for the most part, were not associated with the Nazi period of the German Weather Service. They were on the “ Paper Clip “ list of key scientists the Americans were rounding up and shipping back to the United States but for about four months at the end of 1945 and into 1946, they were prominent in putting a “ German face “ on the rebuilding effort.

From the first stages of the project, McNeal knew he was rebuilding an organization that should become a German responsibility as soon as possible. His orders required intense cooperation with the British and French zones of occupation, represented respectively by a Captain Darking and Lt Valade and technically, with the Soviet zone as well. His counterpart there was Major Trupikow. An indicator of things to come, coordination went fairly smoothly in the West, it was another matter with the Russians.

Among demands from the Trupikow was that the new service headquarters be located in Berlin, a reasonable request in 1945, that it be in the Soviet portion of the divided city and ultimately, come fully under Russian jurisdiction - these latter demands were totally unacceptable to McNeal and his bosses.

The Americans at the Office of Military Government in Berlin proposed that as the framework for the new German Weather Service, seven regional data collection and analysis hubs would be established. The English and French zones each would have one major weather center and a corresponding reporting network. The large Soviet zone likewise received only one center, in Dresden. Four weather reporting centers were to be in the American zone to include one in Bad Kissingen.

As a compromise on the Berlin question, the Americans proposed a significant German weather laboratory would be established at Templehof airport in Berlin located in the American zone of the divided city. The final location of the new weather service headquarters was not specified but at the time, the Americans did not foresee a permanently divided Germany so Berlin was not officially ruled out. A specified goal of the Allies was that as soon as practical, the rebuilt German Weather Service hubs under the supervision of the French, English and Russians, would be merged with the American effort to create one of the very first large post war German national bureaucratic organizations. This was to be one, small but important early step to a rebuilt German nation.

A Ninth Air Force Lieutenant named Peters was the chief of the Bad Kissingen weather office. He was soon joined by a former senior Luftwaffe weather specialist, Kurt Burger, plucked from one of the camps along with a cadre of other former PWs to work with Ninth Air Force counterparts. As more local Germans with weather analysis experience were found or trained, gradually the observation and analysis network spread from the hub across the countryside.

Because the Americans were taking overall responsibility for reestablishing the service and personnel from the Ninth Air Force were very much involved, by the Fall of 1945, Kissingen was named as the defacto headquarters for all weather data collection in the American zone.

Just how much data came in from the British and French zones is not clear, but these allies were eager to hand off many post war requirements in their sectors to the Americans, if for no other reason than to cut administrative costs and responsibilities. It seems safe to conclude that in both North Germany, the British zone, and the French occupied Eiffel region of far western Germany, the reestablishment of the hub and observer system using German personnel as much as possible, followed the familiar American pattern.

In one of the many ways that early fracture lines of the Cold War were slowly becoming evident, the weather data in the Russian occupied zone was reported to Dresden and only occasionally and in summary fashion, did Dresden bother to report to Kissingen.

As more weather and climate trained German technicians were located, the American presence in the weather service steadily diminished with many of the Army Air Corps personnel in Germany being released from active duty or transferred to the 8th Weather Group being built up in the Arctic. Records report that as early as the Fall of 1945, Peters already had a staff of twenty experienced Germans including several staff members with university level training.

By the middle of 1946, with the exception of senior staff members at Kissingen, an all German weather service had been largely rebuilt in the American zone, with its offices on several floors of a local Kurhotel pressed into service as office space. The following year, the weather reporting hubs and networks under English and French control were fully integrated into the American zone network and US supervision of day to day activities of the German weather service began to close down.

In the Eastern Zone, the Russians had built their own weather observation and analysis network, declared Dresden the headquarters with little interest in sharing information or further integration into a larger network. Even the very air and clouds had taken on a decidedly East and West German nature.

By 1954, the Central Office of the German Weather Service was free of American supervision and relocated from Bad Kissingen to Frankfurt once a sufficient headquarters was built. Two years later, as the Federal Republic of Germany came into being as a sovereign nation, the Central Office relocated again to their current home in Offenbach.

During the 1950s and 1960s, coordination between the East German Weather Service and its West German counterpart increased in the interest of overall German safety. With the reunification of the two Germanys in 1991, the Dresden hub and its full network of reporting and observing stations was finally fully integrated into the modern unified German Weather Service..

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Returning to Bad Kissingen and the days of Daley Barracks in the early 1980s, although the West German weathermen had long left the town, Cold War politics was still very much in the air and on the shelf.

Prominently displayed in the Eaglehorse Squadron S2 office was a pile of black plastic and aluminum bits and pieces in a partially crushed cardboard box. These were the remains of a Radiosonde, an East German weather observation instrument that once had been carried aloft by helium balloon, then drifted into squadron border area and crashed hard by a road.

As I recall the story, these semi disposable devices were launched by the weather services of almost all nations to take simple measurements at altitudes in excess of 100,000 feet. What goes up, sooner or later, comes down and one or two East German models per year were found by cavalry troopers. By agreement, whatever was plucked from a tree or found in a field was to be turned over to the BGS for formal repatriation to the East, however, this one seemed to never quite leave the office.

We used to joke that it was the perfect Trojan horse, silently listening to all of our conversations and then reporting back to Meiningen each night: the level of pressure in the cavalry headquarters was high with extreme amounts of hot air present in the conference room and that regardless of the season, it was currently snowing at Wildflecken.


September 2012
 
 
 
 

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