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Walt's Daughter

Americans in Mannheim 1945-2011

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Dear Ms Chard,

 

I am a professor at a German university college and currently in the midst of some research for a book called "Americans in Mannheim 1945-2011" that will serve as a comprehensive chronicle of everything that happened in and around Mannheim's bustling American military community between WWII and now, see this edition of the Stars and Stripes, America's no.1 military publication:

 

http://www.stripes.com/news/europe/germany/closing-of-bases-in-mannheim-ends-special-relationship-between-germans-u-s-troops-1.144258

 

My project has even made it onto the US Army's website, quite an honor for me:

 

http://www.army.mil/-news/2010/11/12/48017-german-professor-preserving-american-military-memories/_

 

A German national hailing from Mannheim myself, I have been involved in many German-American activities during the past thirty years, so the recent announcement of Mannheim's 2014/2015 closure nearly broke my heart, but also gave rise to this project. The project is non-profit endeavor with all proceeds (if any will be generated) going to the Fisher House Foundation - specifically, to the Fisher House in nearby Landstuhl that allows the relatives of wounded soldiers to be near their loved ones.

 

My book tries to cover as many aspects of American life in Mannheim as possible and will be richly illustrated which is why I'm constantly looking for historical photos showing American activities in Mannheim after 1945. While surfing the internet, I stumbled upon several great Mannheim-related photos on your website on VI Corps Combat Engineers in WWII (www.6thcorpscombatengineers.com <http://www.6thcorpscombatengineers.com>). Specifically, I'm refering to

 

photos no. 66-69 in Richard Ferry's collection (540th Eng.)

 

and

 

photo no. 22 in Harold Bare's collection (36th Eng.)

 

Would you give me permission to use these photos in my book? Or, since I probably need the contributors' explicit approval, could you give me their email-addresses? You and the contributors would, of course, be acknowledged as the source of these photos and be given due credit in my foreword and wherever the photos appear in the book. Thanks a lot for your support!

 

Greetings from Mannheim, Germany, and best wishes,

 

Christian Führer

 

_____________________________________

Prof. Dr. Christian Führer

Studiengangsleiter Dienstleistungsmarketing

Duale Hochschule Baden-Württemberg Mannheim

Coblitzallee 1-9

68163 Mannheim

Tel.: 0621 / 4105 - 2108

Fax.: 0621 / 4105 - 2100

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Of course I have already written to him and got in sent letters to Doug Ferry and veteran, Harold Bare.

 

Here's the letter I received from him last night:

 

 

Dear Marion,

thank you so much for going the extra mile to support my history project, I'm really touched. My gratitude also to Doug Ferry!

 

Thanks also for offering to post information about my project on your forum, that would be greatly appreciated. My focus is entirely on Mannheim and its American military community, so any information on those tumultuous closing days of WWII when many engineer units fought in the Mannheim area would be more than welcome.

 

By the way, AFN Europe recently aired a number of video clips on Mannheim's American history beginning with the end of WWII. They interviewed me for the purpose which was quite an honor for me. Here's the first clip that focuses on the end of WWII:

 

http://www.afneurope.net/Home/ArticleDisplayDD/tabid/649/Default.aspx?aid=18763

 

Part II deals with baseball and the major impact Americans had on Mannheim's sports life:

 

http://www.afneurope.net/Home/ArticleDisplayDD/tabid/649/Default.aspx?aid=18781

 

Part III is a general summary that brings together many people including the community commander and CSM, local national employees and others. I was very honored to be given the last word:

 

http://www.afneurope.net/Home/ArticleDisplayDD/tabid/649/Default.aspx?aid=18825

 

It's very sad that our American military community will be fading away in the next few months. Just yesterday, I was able to attend the closure ceremonies for our High School and Middle School. There were many teary eyes, especially among some of the teachers who had been here for more than 25 years.

 

Again, thanks for your kind support!

 

Greetings from Mannheim, Germany,

Christian

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Just read all the accompanying articles and watched the videos. Very fascinating. I can see why it would be so hard to let go. A steeped and rich association and heritage.

 

Thank you,

Marion

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The latest...

 

Dear friends,

it's been quite a while since you've last heard from my history project, so time for an update from Mannheim, Germany.

 

First of all, let me again express my gratitude for your continued support with photos, memories, and anecdotes. The wealth of material you all provided made this whole enterprise a truly worthwhile way of spending my spare time during these past two years. And I've learned so much . . . Now that the project gradually reaches its final stages, here are some statistics:

 

* I've been in touch with more than 300 people, mostly former Mannheim soldiers. There were also quiet a lot of former teachers and military brats who contributed material and memories.

 

* The text amounts to something like 100,000 words which is about five as much as originally intended. Reminds me of procurement projects in industry - if they claim it'll cost you a million dollars, better plan for 2-3 times as much.

 

* Thanks to your help, I have in excess of 2,500 photos to choose from. About 400 to 500 will make it into the book - anything else would hopelessly blow up the budget. The book will thus be both very textual and pictorial, and will hopefully succeed in preserving Mannheim's American legacy in both word and picture.

 

Meeting all of you has been the most valuable experience for me. It took me quiet a while to find some people's e-mail or postal addresses, but the internet didn't let me down. And every single person that I asked for permission to use a certain photo or anecdote agreed - I was very humbled. You all were my major motivation throughout these past two years. The book will therefore be dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have lived and worked in Mannheim since WWII.

 

The text is now with my publisher, the photos will follow within the next few weeks. By Christmas, the printing presses should be running hot. The enclosed photo will somehow be on the book's front cover, that much is for sure. It shows a 1950s G.I. as he draws a sketch of the Mannheim water tower, our no.1 landmark in town.

 

Mannheim as a garrison has almost completely disappeared in the meantime even though there's still life in some installations (mostly Coleman and Spinelli Bks.). I drove through Benjamin Franklin Village yesterday (our major housing area) and was greeted by a huge sign reading "Commissary and Burger King still open". Alas, there weren't too many customers for either facility left - I encountered a single person during my ten-minute ride. Very sad, this is really the end of an era. The chapel closed 6 May, followed by the elementary school on 8 June. By 30 September, the housing area will be all empty.

 

Nearby Heidelberg is also closing very fast even though there are still many units left, including USAREUR headquarters. By the summer of 2013, however, most of these units will have left, too, turning Heidelberg's American housing areas into ghost towns. An American friend of mine who works at USAREUR headquarters and I are already drafting plans for a history project on Heidelberg.

 

I'll keep you posted and will let you all know as soon as we're inching closer to the book release.

 

My salute to all of you.

 

Greetings from Mannheim, Germany,

Christian Führer

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Dear friends,

 

as we gradually conclude 2012 and enter the final phase of the Christmas Season, it is time for another update from Mannheim, Germany. I trust that you are all doing great and find some time for reflection and recreation during these busy pre-Christmas weeks.

 

The Mannheim book (title most likely: "Memories of Mannheim - Die Amerikaner in der Quadratestadt 1945 - 2012") is finally (Finally!) nearing completion. The publisher is currently busy with layout and coloring problems, but very confident that we will be done in a few weeks' time. In fact, there are plans to officially present the book to the public on 16 March 2013 when the City of Mannheim Archives will be celebrating their Open House called "Day of City History". Next year's event will be headlined "A Piece of America" and will feature Mannheim's American heritage. What better opportunity for presenting the book could you find? Anyway, I'll let you know when the book comes out, probably in late February/early March. After nearly three years of research, typing/retyping and proofreading, I can barely wait to hold the first copy in my hands.

 

The Mannheim Military Community, in the meantime, has almost completely disappeared. Here's what's currently left:

 

- the helicopter maintenance facility on Coleman Bks

- the military prison on Coleman Bks

- some 5th Signal Command folks (mostly Germans) on Funari Bks

- some (mostly German) depot activity on both Coleman and Spinelli Bks

 

There is still a club on Coleman Bks, where the last bank closed just a few days ago. On the whole, there are maybe 120 soldiers left in town, most of them living in nearby Heidelberg. 2013 will see most of Coleman Bks fade away as the activities mentioned above will move to either Ansbach/Illesheim or Kaiserslautern/Sembach. The depot activities may survive into 2014. Next June, the garrison in Heidelberg will also close.

 

Should you ever plan to return to Mannheim for a visit, please let me know. It would be my pleasure to show you around.

 

Have a great Christmas and a happy new year 2013, especially good health!

 

Greetings from Mannheim,

Christian Führer

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