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Daley Barracks: The Americans Came to Bad Kissingen

For forty years, soldiers of the US Army were stationed in Bad Kissingen at Daley Barracks. A wide variety of units, from battalions to special purpose squads and sections passed through this Kaserne on a hill by the edge of the Kurstadt. The story of the border cavalry squadron and the other units in many respects parallels the much larger story of the 7th Army in Germany during the Cold War. It started with an uneasy transition from the Constabulary days of the post World War II period to the first days of geopolitical high tension in Europe. It ends with the return of the Kaserne to German hands, the Cold War over, East Germany gone, the Russians departed. Three generations of Army troopers passed through Daley Barracks. Each trooper, from junior enlisted fresh from AIT to senior field grade officer played an important role in the grand story.

Families lived in the Housing Area, children were born and attended the American schools, men went to work as soldiers in the motor pools, training areas, the border and finally, Kuwait, each in their time and their day. The equipment evolved from scout jeeps to the M114s to M113s and finally the M3. The uniforms changed from baggy fatigues to starched cotton to "wash and wear" to camouflage to Nomex. If you play with words, there were M1s at both ends of the story. The M1 rifle in the hands of the infantry squads of LTC Spurrier's recon battalion in 1951 and the M1 tanks when the cavalry finally depart. The wives held the military community together as a small piece of America and a powerful military force coexisted with a German resort city. There were Boy Scouts and cavalry scouts. 

Daley Barracks was remodeled three times as funding and quality of life issues brought badly needed changes. First, in 1951, an upgrade converted the old Manteuffel Kaserne to a site capable of use by American forces. The Housing Area construction began, the lower Kaserne, with movie theater, PX, commissary and club systems came into existence. In 1973, major remodeling again, Eaglehorse troopers vacated complete barracks buildings to allow construction. Slow but steady smaller projects focused on the other buildings and Housing Area. Finally, in 1984-86, a complete community wide program costing over 4 million dollars, modernized each building at Daley Barracks. While the duty day may have been long and difficult, the days of the unheated motor shops, mud and gravel hardstands and barracks shortages of hot water and heat were over. And then, Daley Barracks only six years later, locked and empty. The carefully groomed lawns and shrubs overgrown and wild, silence where tanks and trucks once roared to life each day. Where the voices of sergeants once boomed, only the wind. 

The end of the Cold War and mandates to address troop basing and costs brought an end to the "tanks of Bad Kissingen". Following return from Kuwait, the VII Corps units sharing the post drew down and departed, across the parade field, the Eaglehorse road marched to Wildflecken only this time, there would be no return. The uneasy balance the Kur city had maintained with the culture and traditions of a resort town on one hand and the realities of hosting American combat units ended. Ask any German today over the age of 30 in Bad Kissingen and almost uniformly, they admit they liked the Americans … it was just all the tanks that created problems.

In the offices of bank managers, civil government officials and construction firm bosses, the new plans were laid out. It was a simple matter of pursuit of the bottom line, signatures on the dotted line and getting the workers to stay in line. Much of Manteuffel Kaserne - Daley Barracks would be leveled and redeveloped to reflect the new German economy. The last diesel tracked vehicles to prowl the hill top razed the barracks and motor shop buildings and then moved on to the next vacant installation. Across Germany, what the Nazis had built and Americans or Russians had rebuilt became prime real estate for new business. Over the course of a year the buildings came down, chapel, commissary, barracks and headquarters buildings were reduced to dust and debris, loaded into dump trucks and carted off as land fill. Once cleared, the new construction began and continues to this day. With the exception of the surviving buildings in the lower Kaserne area and a few other landmarks, you’d hardly recognize the place. A recent addition, a Kaufhaus similar in scale to a Sam’s Club. Where you once stood as part of the daily flag retreat ceremony, now a shopping aisle floor to ceiling with toilet paper and paper towels … the best savings is with the 12 pac.

Daley Village Housing Area lasted until mid 2005. Operated as a satellite of the Schweinfurt Military Community, American voices still echoed through the streets, troopers took the duty shuttle bus or POVs to Conn and Ledward Barracks and you could get a six pack of Bud at the Mini Mart, a remodeled 2 - 41 FA motor shop. Time passes bringing more changes. The blended conversations of English and German, once common in the cafés and parks of Bad Kissingen, are gone. Daley Village was returned to German civil control as troop reductions in Schweinfurt rendered the housing area surplus. The last American departing, truly turned out the lights. An accompanying German official noted the readings on the electric power meters and accepted a huge box of keys. A hand shake, a signature on a receipt, a stack of folders on a desk, the sound of a car heading back to Schweinfurt. An unceremonious end to a long partnership. The tentative plan is that the buildings will become mixed income apartments. No word yet as to the fate of the baseball field.

The Americans came to Bad Kissingen in 1945. Lt. Emil T. Burke led the patrol into the outskirts of the city to meet the German representatives ready to spare the Kurstadt by surrendering the Kurstadt. Sixty years later, the last American servicemen departed the area.

From retirees to troopers still on active duty to family members, across the nation and around the world, there are Americans with links to Daley Barracks and Bad Kissingen. If they choose to return, they come back as tourists, something the city is quite comfortable with. For those who soldiered at Daley Barracks, maybe with the cav, maybe with one of the VII Corps units, regardless of unit or year, the area will always hold a special place in our memories. A barracks on a hill, the old Kaserne, Hotel Sierra, the men and the mission … we were there. It was and is a part of our lives, growing distant now but still recalled. It was a shared experience in the Eaglehorse, when all of us were younger … when the mission was very clear … when the Americans came to Bad Kissingen.

Robert Stefanowicz