Return to Hidden Stories
 
  Partially Solved Mystery: Bunkers and Tunnels

Solved Mystery: The Really Big Binoculars

More than a few troopers have contacted the site asking about the German bunkers and tunnels at Daley Barracks / Manteuffel Kaserne and the US Navy binoculars at the border OP? Here is what we know ... can anyone help with additional detail?

What Lies Just Beneath

In the urban archeology classroom, the joke goes like this,

"In Russia, if you stick a shovel in the ground, in a minute or two, you will turn up human bone fragments. Never have so many people died: Swedes, Finns, Poles, Italians, Turks, French, British and Germans in such a distant land to possess such a far horizon. When not resisting invasion, the Russians slaughtered each other in astounding numbers. In Russia, what is not already a cemetery is just waiting its turn."

"In the USA, on the other hand, the same shovel and a few minutes of work will uncover pieces of rebar steel, broken concrete and brick. What was the ‘ new, bright and bold project of the 1950s ‘ was summarily leveled to make room for the ‘ massive, much needed and innovative project of the 1980s ‘ ... followed in due course in the year 2000 by the ‘ demanded and carefully visualized new project to accommodate a new business climate ...’ and so on. It’s the Full Employment Act for architects and laborers ... we build, we raze and we build again."

"... and in Germany, where the past is much protected and the present is an art form, stick a shovel in the ground and you will find a ... bunker! France had cathedrals, England has castles and Germany ... from World War II through both the Soviet and Allied sides of the Cold War ... there are bunkers .... thousands of them. It was as if by pulling a concrete blanket up, by digging deeper with more wooden forms and rebar steel, somehow, whatever catastrophe might happen would just go away ... or at least allow the bunker inhabitants a few more months, a few more days or a few more hours. In Germany, they have bunkers." .

The Bunkers of Daley Barracks / Manteuffel Kaserne

With the barracks area on a hill, clearly the builders had terraced the central part of the Kaserne to create a two tiered level. The fill material probably came from the excavations of the various foundations. The lower tier was the flag pole area immediately in front of the cavalry mess hall. With your back to this building, cut into the rising hill, ascending concrete steps led to the upper tier consisting of the Parade Field running towards the VII Corps units consolidated mess. On the perimeters, just adjacent to the streets running by the various barracks on both sides, were welded shut steel doors apparently leading to chambers under the Parade Field. A vast bunker in the center of the Kaserne ... what a surprise?! I recall the troops speculated on this endlessly and even planned expeditions but if anyone ever penetrated the doors, the story was not passed on.

This is what we remember, what we know and also where the story goes cold. We have yet to find a photo collection or a single image that recalls the 2 Krad or Recon Bn of the 2 Leichte Dv at Manteuffel that accounts for the "chamber"  beneath the Parade Field. There were several entrances and it seems plausible that there was either a single large bunker or, a series of several small scale chambers each with its own door.

Based on photos of similar Kasernen built during the pre war period, the evidence suggests the motorcycle sets of the Krad Bn were stored in long wooden sheds adjacent to the motor shops but gone by the time the US Army enters the scene. The Nazi trucks and field cars of this same era would have been parked on the cobblestone aprons in front of each motor shop. The earliest photographic evidence of Mantueffel from the photo albums assembled by medics in training during the war years indicate that construction was complete by 1940. Several images capture soldiers on the Parade Field, no images of bunkers or perimeter doors.

With some minor variations, the Germans barracks builders recycled their blueprints during the mid 1930s wave of construction. On post bunkers did not appear in Fulda or Hersfeld but interestingly, even in the 1970s and early 1980s, there were Stars and Strips reports of the "flooded German hangers at various Luftwaffe bases"  now in American hands. The areas were strictly off limits but well known and bunkers for aircraft involved in the defense of the Reich against air attack does make perfect sense. But why would there be bunkers or chambers under the Parade Field at Manteuffel / Daley?

Once the war began, there were massive German construction projects to move key industries and government functions into bomb resistant bunkers. With the army deployed and the various Kasernen in use as training bases, no readily available evidence points to a similar program to build shelters for recruits. Further, a bunker of any size would have required an extensive ventilation system; there is no evidence of this in any of the photos. Could the doors have led to small chambers only dug deep enough to conveniently store training ammunition for the German troops?

This seems a thoroughly plausible explanation and it is our best guess. During the 2000 cavalry reunion, a briefing for attendees was presented by the city of Bad Kissingen and this very question came up. The woman giving the presentation stated that no bunkers were found during the excavations associated with redevelopment and the newspaper photos indicate that the Parade Field area was significantly reworked. The size of the chambers and their use, beyond our speculation, remains a mystery. But what about those interconnecting tunnels running between the buildings?

Tunnels

As you may recall, in the basement of each building, at the corridor ends were heavy steel doors locked shut. Where did the sealed doors lead? We wondered about it in 1978 and have only a partial explanation in 2004.

I don’t know if the major building upgrade in 1985 addressed real property mechanical issues of the Kaserne but in the early 1980s, all eight buildings creating the large rectangle were heated by steam baseboard radiators. I suspect this dates back to at least the 1972 - 1973 upgrade, perhaps to the initial upgrade of the barracks just prior to the arrival of LTC Spurrier’s recon battalion.

The barracks buildings were interconnected by a series of tunnels, heavily padlocked steel doors at both corridor ends prevented eager scouts from exploring. The exception was the H Co and Trp F building that only had one set of doors, on the down hill side running towards Trp E and G building. This was all part of the heating system.

Steam was created at a coal fired heating plant behind the 2 - 41 FA barracks area; there was a silvered smoke stack with a scrubber on the end. Steam heat needs to run in a closed circuit, steam out and water return, the pipes appear to have run in two long loops servicing both sides of the barracks area. To move the needed volume of steam and water, the pipes had an industrial capacity and the maintenance "raceway"  for the pipes and valves ran from building basement to basement accessible though the steel doors in the basement corridor. One trooper wrote to recall that once, the road between the Trp F and H Co building and the Trp G and E Trp building was cut as the German Facility Engineers dug the entire steam tunnel up during repairs.

In a final note, at least up to the 1985 rehabilitation, the hot water for each barracks shower and laundry was created by oil fired boilers contained in each building and for the ever growing cavalry squadron, there was never sufficient hot water at the end of an FTX.

If you return to the Bad Kissingen area with an interest in history and bunkers, however, the remains of our ASP / CL V point are for the most part intact. A short drive to the north and in the former Soviet training areas at Dollmar - Meiningen, one may kick around the Soviet bunkers and not too far away are significant bunkers remaining from the Nazi period. A Google search will yield any number of links, this site is a good start particularly for Cold War related bunkers.

This is one of many websites discussing the Nazi bunker complex "Dora"  involved with the production of terror weapons using slave labor. It is located in central Germany, the former DDR, not too far from Bad Kissingen.

Any number of other web sites discuss various Nazi complexes from Berlin to East Prussia to the Eiffel region, happy hunting!!

Naval Binoculars at OP Sierra

At OP Sierra, through the late 1970s, mounted on a heavy US Navy stand, was a massive binocular set. Each front lenses measured at least four inches across; including the base, stamped as ‘ US Navy Shipyard - Brooklyn NY ‘ the entire device must have weighed at least 200 pounds. An odd item to turn up on the East - West German border. Dating from WWII, the US Navy employed binoculars up to 20 power by 120mm ocular width. I believe this is what was located at the OP.

Robert Stefanowicz

"In 1978, I recall the device was at the OP, in the bunker on the left side. Looking through, there were problems. A series of finger levers on each side of the binocular allowed the viewer to engage sliding colored lenses, gray, yellow and green to suite the lighting conditions. One side was hopelessly jammed with a pair of lenses in a engaged position. Looking towards Meiningen through the binocular, one side was sort of clear, the other had the half green - half yellow split and the entire device desperately needed to be purged and repaired. The NCO in charge of the OP that day flatly told me the binocular was "broke-dick"  and, for a new Lt, that pretty much ended the conversation. I certainly recall seeing the set at the OP on my first two border tours. A few years later, as the Border Officer, the binos were long gone and already fading from the active memory of the Eaglehorse."

Col (RET) Jack Tartella

"Here’s the story on those binos. The ‘naval binoculars‘ were placed at OP Sierra, as they were placed at every other US Army OP along the East/West German border during the mid to late 1960s. They were procured and provided to the Cavalry Regiments by what was then called US Army Electronics Command, Ft Monmouth, NJ (ECOM).  I was told that fact by Colonel Lyle Bowman, Director of Research, ECOM, in 1977.  I imagine that they had somehow come out of the US Navy inventory."

"The problem with the ‘naval binoculars‘ was they were subject to the weather, fogged up and proved to be useless when the temperature changed, and therefore needed consistent maintenance, in the form of ‘ purging ‘.  Neither Squadron Maintenance or the DSU unit had the proper fittings to really do the job. The 2d Squadron's  ‘naval  binoculars ‘  was the last set in use along the border when finally turned in for disposal  in 1978."

CPT (Ret) Sam Carlson

"Jack certainly has the detail well recalled. All I can add is that they were maintenance headaches and getting them turned in as unserviceable was not as easy as you would think. I guess they had existed as a special program, no known national stock number, and the guys in the Army optics supply and maintenance chain had to do a lot or research before they would accept them. Finally the issue was brought to the attention of the US Navy.  It turns out they were very interested in the big binos, they were considered historically significant."

9/1/2004 - Update - Rick Laws
 
I was the one who researched the item for turn in.  The Binos were mounted to a concrete pole outside the OP.  They were at a good vantage point for observation, much like what you would see at a tourist overlook.  Actually they had double optics/lenses much like a regular binocular, but so heavy you could not hold them up to look through without support.
 
Anyway, they had been at the OP a number of years and were on the Squadron property book.  The data plate still affixed to the binos but they were so old and handled so often that the stamped in numbers were rubbed smooth and no longer readable.  Because they remained out of doors during all sorts of weather, the focusing adjustments were frozen, and vapor had gotten to the inside and caused the tubes to fog.  Plus the lenses were pretty scratched up.  Nevertheless, there was an attachment to the binos and the S2 wanted to try to get them repaired.  The stock number that was on the property book didn't match anything on the Army Master Data File (AMDF) that was then on microfiche.  Mr Munster a German civilian at the 493rd Supply and Support) in Wurzburg helped research the stock number from some older hardcopy printed stock number references and discovered the item was actually Navy ship binos (duh).  The real issue for identifying the stock number was the source of supply to attempt to have them repaired.  The only place they could be sent to for repair or classification was at the Rota shipyard in Spain.  So the squadron had to turn the item in as unserviceable to the 493rd S&S, who probably junked it at the Property Disposal Office (PDO) now called DRMO (Defense Marketing and Reutilization Office).
 
 


Return to Hidden Stories