On the road…again!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
The old Fliegerhorst Kaserne of World War II is becoming a modern housing complex. Based on the construction activity seen on the most recent Google Earth satellite photos, the old military barracks building that the Footloose Forester occupied in 1962-63 is undergoing a major facelift.
Stickpin marks location of bunk on 2nd floor in old Google Earth photo
When the Footloose Forester was a young soldier stationed at the field headquarters of the Ist Missile Battalion, 39th Field Artillery some 60 years ago, we actually had very pleasant living conditions. Ours was an old Luftwaffe base known as Fliegerhorst, or the flyer’s nest. It was originally designed as a training base for Luftwaffe glider pilots but from time to time housed He-111 bombers and late in the war it also hosted Ju-88 bombers. The US military took it over in 1945 during the post-war occupation.
Besides being a part of his own Army nostalgic history, Fliegerhorst was the place where President John F. Kennedy shared lunch with about 200 soldiers the day after his famous Ich bin ein Berliner speech on June 25th in the summer of 1963. Footloose Forester was honored to be selected to represent his unit at the luncheon that was hosted at Headquarters Mess, 212th Artillery Group.
Google Earth is still the place to look for before-after satellite photos but even Google has to make room in their archives for satellite scenes of modern realities. Thus the Google Earth screen capture shown below barely resembles what it looked like in the 1960s, but at least documents the accurate latitude and longitude of the place where Footloose Forester shared a memorable lunch with JFK.
stickpin on the left is where JFK had lunch
In the 1960s there were plenty of trees shading Fliegerhorst Kaserne and the surrounding area of farmland was much more extensive. Langendiebach was a picturesque small town, and in his mind it always will be. But this chronicle had to be updated beyond its first draft and a distant memory, simply because life goes on and with it the passage of time brings changes. The town of Langendiebach was even renamed to Erlensee.
The fairly extensive military history of Fliegerhorst can be stitched together by diligent reading into military archives and the personal accounts of soldiers who served there. Thanks to the various social sites embedded in the Internet and video files such as one finds on YouTube, the Footloose Forester now has something to add to the ongoing saga of Fliegerhorst. Searched out, referenced, and appended as desired, are more recent accounts of some things Fliegerhorst. The live videos of sweeping vistas obtained by drones and live-action videos of a major fire that took place there in 2015 complement the story line in such a way that a plain chronicle devoid of pictures, sound effects, and action videos seems quaint by comparison.
The first item in making my personal chronicle seem relevant was to verify the date when JFK came to lunch at Headquarters Mess, 212th Arty Group. It was on 25 June 1963. Thanks to computer archives, there is even a black and white film of his arrival. And thanks to the people who posted a video taken from a drone, my updated chronicle could show clear overhead and stationary shots of the remains of the Officers’ Club that burned down on 30 July 2015. The sound of firetrucks, the swirling dark smoke and the sharp crackle of flames are all captured on yet another video taken by a local resident. Großbrand auf dem ehemaligen Fliegerhorst in Erlensee am 30. Juli 2015 is the title of that dramatic video, and it is available on YouTube.
Ah, the Officers’ Club and the attached PX that everybody remembers! There are more stories and some specific people associated with those burned out places. But those chronicles are for another time. In the meantime, Footloose Forester will be checking back with Google Earth to monitor when the charred remains of the Officers' Club are removed,