Return to Hidden Stories

  Trooper Art at Daley Barracks

There was a long tradition of trooper decorative art at Daley Barracks extending from the earliest days of the U.S. Army in Bad Kissingen. Great murals were done by unknown artists of the HQ 64th Fighter Wing, the 14th ACR and the Eaglehorse. Beyond the red and white traditional colors of the cavalry, the pure red of HOW Battery or green and yellow of H Company, soldiers found unique ways to express their lives and unit pride through barracks art.
  Trooper Art
A Sample Collection

[Click on the icon below to start the tour]


In the early days, a tank could carry an artistic motif and the squadron always seemed to find a skilled trooper for the S3 shop to add visual impact to briefings through graphic art and calligraphy for presentations and certificates. Not surprisingly, in Day Rooms and Orderly Rooms, a talented soldier and a First Sergeant could reach agreement to dress up a bare wall. During the American experience at Daley Barracks, inspiration, talent and opportunity occasionally intersected with some spectacular results.

As the site preparation to raze Daley began but before the buildings came down, the Saale Zeitung sent a photographer and reporter to record the wall art left behind by the Americans. A full page article was printed with the title: 'Naive Kitsch or Actual Art?' with large photos of three murals. The article speculated whether the art was worth saving and one expert stated the paintings were a great example of the " spirit of the times " as the soldiers viewed life. It was impractical to save the actual art work but the photographic record remains. Although the article did not give the specific building locations of the murals, they appear to have been projects of both the 2/11 ACR and 2 - 41 FA. If anyone recognizes the art work and can provide details, we would appreciate the help.

The donated images capture many great examples of trooper art at Daley. We are, however, missing one well remembered mural completely and a complete view of probably the most famous example of cavalry artwork. In the S2 shop, dating from 1966, was a large mural showing the combat map of the 14th ACR through Europe during WWII. Primarily hidden behind a large wall map, Sam Carlson reports that it escaped being painted over during one AGI prep as he intervened in behalf of cavalry history. I think it still existed through 81. We have no image of this work. Found, however are some partial views of the conference room mural showing the U.S. cavalry in the southwest, circa 1870.

  In the foreground, local German officials review maps and plans for a maneuver to insure that ' off limits areas ' are noted. To the rear, a nice view of the 'March of Armor' trooper art mural in the Conference Room.
--Rick Badal
  SSG Delbert Richardson puts the finishing touches on his border mural in this SSG Ric Badal image that appeared in the Sept 1978 edition of the Blackhorse Newspaper. The security door leads to the SBOC, to Delbert's right - rear is the door to the S2 shop, the photo is taken from where, at least as of 1978, the Squadron Staff Duty Officer had his desk.  

Col (Ret) Paul Palmer recalls when it was done, shortly after he took command in 1966. The trooper artist skillfully integrated several nude female forms into the landscape that the cavalry patrolled. The Colonel swears he " approved only the concept of the artwork " but couldn't bring himself to have the soldier change the painting once it was done.

CSM (Ret) Ernest C. Jeffries picks up the story:

I was in on that art thing from the beginning, 1966 or so. I was the squadron CSM and we had one trooper, a draftee I recall, and there were two things notable about him. He had no talent for soldiering and was a very good artist! This young man booted around a couple of the recon Troops and then I ended up with him, sort of one last chance before we put him on the train out of town. We were looking to dress up some of the squadron areas and I had seen the kid's sketch book so ... what the hell. One of the interesting things was that much of the work was done with an air brush and that provided a lot of entertainment by itself. He did the March of Armor mural, the US cavalry in the West mural and some scenes in the mess hall. I didn't notice the nudes until the work was well along but, like Col (Ret) Palmer said, we didn't have the heart to paint it over. The kid put a lot of work into the project and it really looked great when it was done. Can't recall his name, don't remember if he was a scout or a tanker or what ... do remember he was a soldier with a special talent and that was enough for me back in that time and place. When he finally got on the train out of BK, it was at the end of his regular tour.

  After all these years, we finally learn the name of the mural artist - R Evans Troop G 1966. Does anyone recall him?
- Deb Cawley
  Two views of the mural at the end of the Conference Room. The connecting door to the SCO’s office that was added in the early 1970s is visible.
- Deb Cawley

BG (Ret) Mike O’Connell

During the MOUSEF ( ? ) renovation of the Squadron area during my tour as SCO (71 - 73) we took great pains to protect the mural in the conference room. Both the Corps of Engineers and the German contractors wanted to paint it over for whatever reason. After a number of discussions, we finally reached agreement to preserve it. Since I had proposed moving the SCO’s office to a room adjacent to the conference room we did lose the fight over the construction of the doorway which ended up being punched through the middle of one of the murals.

The Squadron CSM had a detail cover the paintings in plastic to protect it during construction and - except for the doorway, it came out unscathed. We had the draftsman from the S3 shop touch it up a little and brighten a few faded colors but he left the nudes alone. I always maintained that you had to look pretty carefully to even find them and they certainly were not offensive. Years later, it was too bad to learn that one of the following SCOs had directed that the murals be painted over.

In the late 1970s, inspiration struck SSG Delbert Richardson.

Delbert Richardson:

In 1978, I was assigned as one of the Operations NCOs in the Squadron Border Operations Center. At the time, all that separated the Ops Center from the small office of the Staff Duty Officer and the entrance to the S 2 Shop was a half wall. This posed problems because we routinely had confidential and secret documents at our work table and the Border Operations Map was considered confidential when updated patrol data was posted. I think it was Captain Tartella who organized the building of a full wall to enclose our area complete with the heavy steel high security door. I used to think it was a little funny to have the huge door that was bullet proof and the surrounding construction was 2 x 4 framing, plywood and sheet rock.
  As soldier art goes, these murals lasted about eighteen years, a long run considering repainting projects were always popular in the Spring.
- Deb Cawley
  Part of the western cavalry scene that graced most of the long wall opposite the bank of windows in the conference room. Thanks very much to Deb Cawley for having the presence of mind to take the photos back in the mid 1980s and then dig them out of storage and sending them along!
- Deb Cawley

I had some artistic talent and asked it I could paint a mural on the side of the wall that faced out towards the main corridor that ran through the HQ building. I worked in my off shift hours and little by little, began to tell the story of the border complete with East German towers , US tanks and APCs, Soviet equipment and helicopters. Not sure that I really wanted it to be an accurate painting of the border but more of an impression of what the border really meant. I signed my name in the corner and SSG Ric Badal took a foto and wrote an article about the mural for the Blackhorse newspaper. Later, while out - processing, I felt really proud to have left something behind. New officers and NCOs who were in - processing and junior enlisted men who were getting security clearances would pass by the mural on the way into the S2 shop and for many, this would have been their first introduction to the border.

Details are fuzzy as to the fate of Delbert's mural, it probably was painted over in the mid 1980s during the same beige painting spree that claimed the murals in the Squadron Conference Room.

The trooper art at Daley Barracks now lives only in our memories and photographs, however, local German artists have taken the opportunity to use the exterior walls of the former EM Club as an outdoor space for large, public art. The initial theme is the modern generation considering the Nazi past. Newer art has also been added to display the skills of young artists working in a decidedly urban "tagging" theme.

As always, additional photos showing the American trooper art are welcomed even if they only show a portion of our missing murals.

Thanks to Erwin Ritter, Roland Ansorge / Sparkasse Bad Kissingen, Saale Zeitung, Bill McCaskill, BG (Ret) Mike O’Connell, Col (Ret) Paul Palmer, CSM (Ret) Ernest C. Jeffries, MSG (Ret) Helmut Grossinger, Delbert Richardson, Todd Stach, Richard Harrington and all the others who helped tell this story.

(Jan 2008)


Return to Hidden Stories