The end of an era, the return of an artifact
Posted or updated 10.28.12 by Bill Lamb
The following articles detail, through German newspaper accounts, the razing of the last American structures on “The Hill” in October 2012. Though bringing an end to the physical presence of Cold War Rimbach-Americans, it by no means erases either their memories or the memories of our many German friends. If anything, it makes those memories even more clear, leading to the return to The Hill of an “artifact” from the past.
Thanks to Charlie “Ami Charlie” Hess and Jim Menzie for make these available, and to Bill Blaisdell for the translations.
Ripped apart and bulldozed back to nature, the Det K presence on Eckstein is put to rest. A similar occurrence, but much less violent, was the return to nature which happened early 1969 in the depth of winter when the “site” on Ami Platz was deserted for the higher relms of Eckstein, and the beloved Schönblick and it’s World famous “Schnitzel sandwich” became a legend, except for a few adventurous Ridgerunners. (Yeah a sandwich in a crispy roll. Times were tough.)
In this time of renewal fate sent karma to defend the memory of those who served and relived the tales of the mobile ASA on the Hohenbogen.
Thanks to the vigilance of our resident Ridgerunner “Ami Charlie” and his generosity in receiving visitors from the past, a heirloom of historic importance found its way home.
- Jim Menzie
I guess like everything else in this world certain periods of time, moments of history, come to a end.
These moments can be minutes and seconds or years and months. The years of “Det. K” on Mount Hohenbogen were such moments. I don’t think any of us thought about it back then, but we were all part of this expanded but distinct moment in time. Not just us, but the people of Rimbach and the whole area.
When today there is an article in the newspaper or elsewhere about the U.S. forces that were on “The Hill,” the Rimbachers still say, “Oh yeah, that was our Americans!”
Maybe a school kid takes a long look at an inscription on a rock near the school with crossed German and American flags that speaks in remembrance of the U.S. military forces that were stationed here. Or maybe people after taking a walk on the Hohenbogen stop in at Gasthaus Schönblick will take a look at the wall of rememberance with its ASA insignia and some pictures that say, “Det. K Company A 16th USASA Field Station.”
Maybe they realize it, maybe not, but with their thoughts about our moment in time become unforgettable.
Jim DePouw had a great idea, back in 1969, to save our “Coat of Arms” by granting it asylum in his garage for 45 years. This piece of memorabilia, a historic relic, makes people think about old friendships, about some bad times, a lot of good times, a wonderful place on a hill in the heart of the Bavarian forest in some country called Germany.
Wow, what an old sign can do!
- Ami Charlie
U.S. Army Security Agency “Returns”: Old coat of arms of the U.S. mobile unit now hangs in the Schönblick Inn.
Article dated 17 October 2012:
Photo: Charlie Hess (left) and the host of the Schönblick Inn, Thomas Schmidberger, with the crest of the former U.S. unit which was stationed at the Ami Platzl. (Our gratitude to the source: Volkner.)
To many locals from the area of Hohenbogen there is on the mountain, not far from Schönblick Inn, an open space known as “Ami-Platz,” where a chapel has stood for some years now. The explanation for the name of this place is, at least to the younger folks, hardly known anymore.
A few days ago a sign bearing the crest of an American military unit was put on display at the Schönblick Inn. The sign explains the reference to the Ami-Platz. It is a relic of the “Cold War,” when the American forces had set up a mobile listening post on Hohenbogen to observe what was happening behind the Iron Curtain. From 1957 to 1969 the American soldiers and their vehicles and equipment were stationed at the open space below the Schwarzriegel peak of Hohenbogen, until more permanent buildings were erected on another high point known as Eckstein.
It may be a coincidence that these solid buildings were recently demolished and now there nothing remains to remind one of the listening station of the American forces any more than at Ami-Platz. It was certainly a coincidence that on the very day when the shield of the former unit went on display in the Schönblick the 50-year anniversary of the beginning of the Cuban missile crisis was noted. Even at the time of that crisis, which nearly caused a third world war, the radio antennas of the American unit were oriented to the east, as they also were in 1968 during the invasion of the Russian army into Czechoslovakia which ended of the Prague Spring.
But now back to the crest of the American mobile unit and its history. After many years the Coat of Arms of the ASA Det. K is back on Hohenbogen. In the summer months from 1957 to 1969 near the Schönblick a special unit of the U.S. military was in action. One of the soldiers who served a large part of their terms of enlistment there is Charlie Hess, who, after completion of his enlistment remained in Rimbach where he had met his wife.
When the mobile unit moved in 1969 from the Ami Platz and resettled in the permanent buildings on Eckstein, a soldier who shortly thereafter returned home “borrowed” the Det. K sign and brought it to the United States, where he stored it for over 40 years.
This year, for the first time since the completion of his service in 1969, he returned to Rimbach with his family in order to visit the location of the former station and the Schönblick Inn, where the soldiers back then enjoyed visiting the hosts of the inn, the Wartner family.
At a meeting with his former comrade, Charlie Hess, he told Charlie of the coat of arms, which he had taken back to the United States and since then had kept in his garage. After short consideration, the two former soldiers agreed that the sign should return to Germany and be placed on Hohenbogen.
The owners of the Schönblick were willing to provide a place in their restaurant. There the coat of arms was mounted this past weekend along with two pictures showing the U.S. unit at Ami Platz and a tablet with a brief explanation in English and German. Since many of the former American soldiers still have fond memories of the Schönblick, there is probably no better place for the emblem of their unit.
Plaque on Memorial Wall in the Schöblick, Det. K (Translation)
From 1957 till 1968, in the summer months, just a short distance from the Gasthaus Schönblick, ca. 500 m., was a unit of the Army Security Agency, i.e. ASA, deployed each year.
Its purpose was to electronically gather information about military installations and troop movements, etc., of the Cold War Warsaw Pact countries. This information was then translated and passed on to higher command, the CIA and others.
In 1969 “Det. K” moved to a new location on Mount Hohenbogen, but to this day the Schönblick remains a fond memory for the U.S. soldiers that served on Mount Hohenbogen.
Hohenbogen American military history will disappear from Hohenbogen
Article from 07 September 2012 Kötztinger Zeitung:
Photo: There is not much left of the buildings at the former U.S. military base on Hohenbogen. The days of the antenna support system are numbered. (Our gratitude to the source: Sterr.)
For decades during the Cold War American, French and German soldiers (and airmen) carried out communications and electronic reconnaissance from Hohenbogen in order to gather intelligence about the armed forces of the Warsaw Pact. After the collapse of the Communist military alliance and the rapid accession into NATO of former East Bloc states the basis for the original reconnaissance mission was removed. Consequently, the mission was ended in the early 1990s.
The American soldiers left Hohenbogen at the end of 1992. The French followed in 1994. After the German soldiers were the last to abandon the mountain and vacate the towers in December 2003, many were eager to see what would become of these military areas. The German position with the two towers has been in private ownership for several years; however, the project for civilian reuse that was announced on the Internet seems to be faltering.
The parcel of land on which the American facility stands is owned by the Bavarian State Forests and falls under the responsibility of the forest management offices in Roding. The site had been transferred to the federal government for military purposes, but now that there is no longer a military use for the area, it will be returned to nature. This means that the above-ground facilities such as buildings, steel antenna supports and the double fence surrounding the property will be demolished. The remaining foundations in the ground will be filled in. After a few years there will be nothing left to remind one of the decades long military use of this area.
Decommissioning at Eckstein nearly complete: Former military site was razed
Article dated 08 October 2012:
An antenna support with the striking white protective cover, the asphalt pathways on the property and two large containers - that is all that is left over from the former station of the U.S. Army at Eckstein on Hohenbogen.
Leaves covered the still bare land on which the abandoned operations buildings of the American soldiers still stood only a few weeks ago. The demolition company Plannerer GmbH & Co KG, which has been at Eckstein since the 20th of August, has done a great job and has leveled the site.
It was in August 1957 that the Warsaw Pact carried out maneuvers in the former Czechoslovakia and the Army Security Agency Battalion 318 from Herzogenaurach desired a better understanding of the events. The Americans began the search for a suitable location from where they could monitor the radio traffic of the Eastern Bloc and found what they were looking for at Eckstein, the eastern peak of the Hohenbogen ridge. At first there were only mobile troops who listened to the East. However, in 1967 the site was enclosed with a fence with a length of 130 meters.
The costs for this mobile force, however, were too expensive for the American government over the long run, so in 1974 they began to build a permanent station that could be remotely monitored from Augsburg. The ledges of Eckstein serve as the base for the foundations of the antenna supports.
In 1975, the new facility was in operation and was supervised by technicians and security personnel on site. The Army Securtiy Agency was disbanded in 1977 and was absorbed by INSCOM (United States Army Intelligence and Security Command) which continued operation of the site until April 1993. With the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989/90 and the changes in the Czech Republic, the tasks of the Americans became unnecessary. The soldiers withdrew, leaving the buildings and antenna supports.
Two significant events in world history validated the raison d’etre of the military installations on Hohenbogen. The first was the suppression of the Prague Spring of 1968. “Socialism with a human face” was what Alexander Dubcek wanted to establish in Czechoslovakia, but the Warsaw Pact troops marched into Prague on 21 August 1968, turning the page of history. Half a million soldiers from the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries came into the former CSSR. The radio traffic was surely correspondingly enormous, as well as the workload for the soldiers on Hohenbogen.
The second event was the 1973 Yom Kippur War. As Egypt invaded Israel on 6 October 1973 the Egyptian soldiers were using Soviet military technology. Although the Soviet Union had more interest in ending the conflict, the supply of weapons was handled through Prague.
The opening of the border in 1990 entered the history books 22 years ago, as did the deployment of the Americans to the position on Eckstein.
A most sincere thank you to the providers of documents and pictures: The Körtztinger Zeitung; Körtztinger Umschau written Volkner & Hess (Ami Charlie). Photos by Sterr, Volkner & Hess. Extensive translations by Bill Blaisdell (Blaze).