Fliegerhorst – The Flying Horse Kaserne

 

Fliegerhorst Kaserne – Just So You Know I’m Not Joking

 

“Depants! Depants!” The cries echoed through the ruined bunker. I was only slightly annoyed; this whole game bothered me. Why would some kid want to ‘depants’ another kid? I didn’t understand it. And they never tried to depants me. I would’ve whipped their asses for doing it – even threatening to try was enough to get a hard warning look at my buddies, my fists balled. I wouldn’t run anywhere when it came to a fight though I didn’t like fighting anymore.

The lights where scattered and yellow, hidden behind glass domes protected by armor shields which were supposed to keep them protected in case of a blast. Loose rubble lay here and there in the corridors; this was the ‘abandoned’ side of the bunker complex we were in – there was a firing gallery somewhere, complete with sand banks and lots of bullets us kids would dig out some of the time. However on the ‘other’ side the Army was still using things . . .

It extended 7 levels down, though only three of them were useful. It was said the other ones were flooded by the Germans when the Americans took over the base during the final days of WWII. It was rumored there were German airplanes down there; Junker bombers, Stukkas and tanks. Maybe some of it was usable being underwater for so long, for as the Allies were coming the Germans had stored all their equipment down ‘there’, down in the deepest levels, booby trapped the place, then opened the valves between them and the river – allowing water to rush in. It filled the bunkers up to level with the river sometimes. Which was about three stories down.

You see, supposedly the Germans had this plan. They’d built this base in the basin of a shallow field, digging down (again, supposedly 7 stories down) – and putting an airfield there. When the Allies would send over their bombers, the Germans would flood the base, making it appear as a lake – and the Allies would just fly on, hopefully missing it that way. As the Allies would fly on, they would drain the ‘lake’ (apparently it was just a few feet deep), roll out some fighters to chase the American planes while sending some bombers out on their own. That way they could surprise the Allied pilots on both ends – as they were approaching their targets they could come up from behind – while the bomber had his sight laid on and couldn’t move anything. The bombardier would be the one driving – locked on his path, not straying – not one fraction of a degree one way or another, sighting those bombs in (using the Norton sight, I suppose) – and the fighters could rake them on the way there, or on the way back (when their guns were empty from fighting some fighters over the target area) – and then arriving at their home bases to find that their airports had gotten bombed – depriving them of a place to land, and (hopefully) causing many of them to crash . . . or at least wrecking some landing gear and propellors (no quick turn-around time for them guys!) . . .

Anyway, I’m reckoning that was ‘the plan’, based on what’s been told to me, history lessons that I’ve read, stategic training (as in “what I would do if I was them” – and the Germans always said I’d make a damn fine German as well . . .)

Didn’t matter in the end anyway: their bases got found out; they got bombed to Hellenbach*, and then the Allies just kept going, seizing what assets they could (ever hear of one called “Operation Paperclip”? It was a good one . . . but kinda makes me sick . . .)

 

However, the Allies couldn’t shake the secret from the last man alive who knew about those booby traps and things, and he wouldn’t reveal the intake on the pipe. Pump as they might, the mighty Army (supposedly; this was the tale that was told) – couldn’t pump those lower levels dry. So they sealed them up and left them alone . . .

And they made it a base of their own, complete with spy planes and the like – mostly Mohawks, which were an ugly twin turboprop that looked somewhat similar to the Warthogs of today – flying these big old mothballs (or meatballs, depending on how you were looking at them) – over the paths of our enemy, doing some electronic snooping on them and lots of photographs. (I know; I got to look at quite a lot of them, but for different reasons in a different way.)

The truth of it was, several somebodies probably knew quite a lot about what was ‘down there’ in that hidden darkness, and the military was still using several of the underground bunkers while I was there. This was right underneath the airfield and the hanger wings – a maze of light bubbles, gas tight doors, concrete walls, and an endlessly oppressive atmosphere that seemed to weigh down on you and make you feel safe, both at the same time . . .

It was there that we met some of the time, us kids and some of ‘the guys’. The guys were a couple of G.I.’s.

That’s all I’m going to say for this about now . . .

except that we played in them and they were dark sometimes.

 

The Fliegerhorst Airfield Kaserne (“flying horse” in German, “kaserne” means ‘base’) was important to me. That is where I had my best friend, Donald; and ‘most’ of my memories are from there. “Things” happened there; some of them I am really not quite sure about . . .

We seemed to stay there the ‘longest time’ though we were in “Old Argonner” nearby. (Argonner Kaserne, Hanau (closed in 2008). There was “New Argonner” as well. However we got moved a couple of times, though we all went to the same school. It was the last base we lived on – away from the cluster of other military bases in the area, separated and alone. It was a ‘secret’ military base in some ways – they stored nuclear missiles there, as well as being a base for the Mohawks and spy planes. Us kids were allowed to roam freely and mix around; however, you had to take a shuttle bus away from ‘camp’ to get to the outside world, or else you could ride your bicycle. Riding your bike meant going through Krautland for a long long ways. It was five miles to the nearest base – a long way in German terms, especially for some young kid on a bicycle.

There was public transport – if you had the money. The German buses and trains ran on time – and frequently, I might add. Clean and efficient transportation – if you were going somewhere in Germantown. However, getting onto an American base might be an entirely different matter.

You had to have your I.D. with you at all times – something new to me as a kid: carrying an identification card that said who I was and who I belonged to. (The US Army – it said so right there across the top and with the great big seal they had on it.)

I spent a lot of time alone rambling around by myself at first. For a long time, actually – those first two years, maybe even. It’s hard to grasp. So many of the memories are gone. Flashes of bases and kids . . . a young lover . . . a very deep swimming pool I was in; a merry-go-round (where I met my young lover) . . . cloudy skies and dark bases, endless airports and planes; helicopters thundering overhead . . .

I remember I spent a lot of time out over at (and on) the airport, learning some things. I don’t know what all . . . just ‘things’. I remember walking into the hangers and locker room areas; equipment rooms, storage rooms, G.I.’s taking me by the hand and showing me something or other. These are all ‘recovered’ memories for the most part; I can’t really be sure of them.

But some things I am certain of . . .

For instance, sitting in the co-pilot’s cockpit on a Huey, having a Captain show me ‘the ropes’ – how to engage the machine gun (the little minigun that hangs down in front); explaining to me the purposes of the switches, gyros and things – putting the helmet on me and talking about the Heads Up display (HUD) – how the machine gun would be tracking your movements, and you used the helmet to aim – basically firing wherever you looked or wanted to by simply looking at the object, flipping the cover, and pressing down . . .

It was also explained to me that this was the “co-captian’s” seat; that the pilot would be doing the driving – I might be required to keep my eyes on the dials and things and read some numbers out to him – but other than that I would be shooting the gun . . . if it ever came down to it . . .

I think it was him who explained to me their greatest fear: that us kids would be unarmed, or the Americans so under-armed, undeveloped, and ill prepared that the Soviet forces would be sweeping over us like a crimson wave; a tide of blood, and that any “American” should fight for his republic . . . that that was the reason why we were there . . .

And somewhere down the line it was explained to me that we wouldn’t have time to make an attack. The “Soviets” (actually, the East Germans – but it didn’t matter because they were using Soviet made MIGs) – could be over our base in a matter of minutes; there probably wouldn’t be any kind of warning until the bombs started to go off. If you heard them in time. Chances were you weren’t going to hear anything. The world would end in a great big flash and that would be the end of it – and you – and everybody you had ever known, and everything American made . . .

Atomic bombs were what we had to watch out for, we were told (this was somewhere in survival class). “Look out for the big flash in the sky!” the instructor said over again. “Be ready to duck and hide! At ALL times!” And so I spent a lot of time surreptitiously looking over my shoulder, looking on the horizon – watching for that great big flash that would mean I had to duck and hide if I wanted to stay alive. . .

The rules were rather simple: dive towards a ditch, a low wall; a bank of dirt – put anything you possibly can between you and the oncoming blast. Then get ready to get out of there – but be aware! The wind’s gonna blow in both ways . . . first it’s gonna come with smoke and fire – a virtual blast furnace (and hopefully passing over you . . . meanwhile you are hoping and praying like hell that it doesn’t suck all the oxygen out of the atmosphere – and YOU – if you wanna stay alive) . . . and then the wind is going to reverse, throwing things AT you if you haven’t gotten on the other side of the wall . . . or deeper down into your hiding place. The only thing is: they are going to be burning things and humans on fire. Half of them if not all are going to go blind. The rest may suffer from radiation burns, sickness, death . . maiming, mutilation . . .

Real good kind of trick to play on a 12 year old kid. Get him ready for a war that’s never coming. One in which he’s supposed to be a ‘leader’ of some kind; getting the other kids to gather ’round him – using him like a general would, and him using those kids for . . . whatever. And binding them to him in all kinds of ways; emotionally, rationally, through loyalty, fakery, or betrayal – all in order to “do this mission” of killing some Russians and keeping them (the kids and any Americans we’d find) alive.

To this day I don’t know how or what happened at that time; those times. So much is ‘gone’ out of my mind – a complete blank in some cases, lasting for months and months it seems. Flashes like still photographs; scenes that play out in my head; some of them are unjointed, disconnected – don’t correspond to anything “I” was doing . . . maybe their parts of a dream? If so, it was a dream that went on for a mighty long time – and there again, it’s so disjointed and spread out through time – a little bit took place ‘here’ and a little bit over ‘there’ . . . little hints of something every once and awhile . . .

I have my own theories, of course. One of them (and the simplest, easiest, by Occam’s Razor) is that I simply ‘made it up’ in my mind. That there simply was nothing going on. That I read some facts and made it all up in my mind. But on the other hand there are certain things that I do remember quite well – for I’ve never quite ‘forgotten’ them. The levels beneath the base – why can’t I find anything on the Internet about them? They were there – there’s no doubt about that! And the German’s dug them; of that I’m quite sure. But why no mention in (most**) of “it” (the nukes, the missions, the planes.) Was the Army doing something ‘down there’ that those bunkers – because they were using some of them (for storage if nothing else; I found a comment a former G.I. made about nuclear warheads being stored there) . . . and the CIA was around – I found another document on the Internet that makes mention of Fliegerhorst . . .

Who knows? It was the Cold War and they had a lot of secrets to hide – and a lot of fear on each side – so who knows? Maybe ‘they’ were teaching us kids somewhat how to survive . . . maybe it was an official program; probably not; maybe so . . .

I only recall a few kids ever being there, where I was sometimes. Six or seven at the most; sometimes down to as few as five. (Kids were always rotating out of my ‘group’ of friends, just like I was in their lives due to the military constantly moving families around . . . and I think my dad had a hand in it, too – especially that move from the ‘regular’ kaserne (Old Argonner) over to this new ‘neighborhood’ on this so-called “American Spy Base” of ours . . .

 

Anyway . . . there’s more to come on ‘this base’ and place, one of several I was on. But of all of them . . . this was the hardest in some ways, the best, the worst, and (in some ways) led to the culmination of all my nightmares in the end . . .

 

 

*Helenbach – a wry sounding play on the name of the Georgia made to look like a German village, and “bach” which in German often means “river” and hence was the suffix of many towns . . . and the American slang term: “To hell and back” – which in many senses of the word they were bombed back to.)

**I have found a few references indicating that there were underground facilities there; perhaps more extensive than I thought – including references to the ME jet plane that Hitler was developing . . . as well as a website comment by a G.I. about some nukes that were stored in there; and some data that suggests the CIA had some folks stationed there – perhaps because it was a reconnaissance base on the forward lines of Cold War Europe . . . or who knows? Perhaps it was something more.

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