30 September 2005
FRANKFURT - Rhein-Main Air Base in Germany, for decades the U.S. military's
"Gateway to Europe", ceases operations on Friday, a U.S. Air Force spokesman
The last regular military flight took off on Monday but a number of special
flights will continue through the end of this week.
The storied base, near Frankfurt, played a key role in the Berlin Airlift in
1948-49 and has been the U.S. Air Force's main hub in Europe throughout the
U.S. and German authorities signed an agreement in 1999 to close and return
the base to Germany by the end of 2005. A formal closure ceremony is set for
The U.S. Air Force said it was shutting down the base because of operating
costs, necessary infrastructure improvements, and the planned expansion of
adjacent Frankfurt Airport - Germany's biggest commercial airport.
Rhein-Main's strategic U.S. airlift capability is being shifted to Ramstein
and Spangdahlem air bases in the western German state of
The cost of the move, nearly USD 500 million, is being covered by the German
government and NATO.
Matthew Summers, the public affairs spokesman at the base, said he would
shed a tear when it was time to go.
"As members of the military, we're used to moving. But the history of this
base...," his voice trailed off.
"It's the most significant air base in Europe. Nearly all the U.S. military
personnel stationed in Germany have passed through Rhein- Main Air Base. We
have touched more lives than any other air base in Europe," he said.
Rhein-Main's host unit, the 469th Air Base Group, supports more than 3,000
military, civilian, contractor and family members. The military personnel
will be reassigned to other locations in Europe and around the world.
A German air base before U.S. forces occupied it in the waning days of World
War II, Rhein-Main was the port of the dirigible Hindenburg, which exploded
over New Jersey in 1937.
It was the main western base for the U.S. airlift to Berlin from June 1948
to September 1949, when the city was starving because of a Soviet blockade.
Situated about midway between the U.S. East Coast and Southwest Asia,
Rhein-Main has been a major hub for U.S. forces and equipment headed to Iraq
and Afghanistan. It has also delivered large amounts of humanitarian aid.
There are currently about 68,000 U.S. troops stationed in Germany which
makes the country the main headquarters for a total of 102,000 American
troops based in Europe.
I used to pick up nurses at that O' Club.
Loved seeing the C-141 and C-5 pilots making dogfight motions with their hands while standing at the bar. I honestly believe that they got off duty, went home, showered, and put on a clean flight suit before going out.
Or at least changed their pretty ascots
We need another Cold War..... Just in the way the Military used to be. How in the coming climate with China and Korea and the need to fight terror around the globe can we be closing bases wholesale?? And THEN buying fewer and fewer of EVERYTHING we need, Fighters, bombers, helos, transports.....Hell, is there EVER going to be a plane built to do the workhorse load of birds like the B52?
Kind of funny. This came about back in the '90s, when there was a push in Germany for a US troop withdrawal. Now that Germany's economy is hurting so bad, the US leaving is going to be a hard financial hit.
I worked at V Corps headquarters in 1991 and 1992, and I went to many of the bases first closed during the post GW drawdown. Good German communities were actually competing for American Army units to be retained or moved into their towns. One town partnered with a local unit and built a very nice 9-hole golf course in order to keep the unit. Soldiers ran the bar (after hours) and the Germans ran the course. In the end, it kept some Arty and ADA units and gained a couple more. When we flew to "visit" the kaserne, we always loaded our clubs in the Blackhawk.
The only place in europe I have ever been and I wasn't even allowed off base.