U.S. Air Force Radio Relay Site near Camp King in Oberursel, Germany

This afternoon, we drove for about 20 minuten to the Kolbenberg Mountain, which is part of the Taunus Mountain region and the Taunus Nature Park. It borders the towns of Oberursel to the southeast, Schmitten to the northwest, and Bad Homburg to the southeast.

Radio Relay Site Kolbenberg, Germany

The Kolbenberg is about 690m in height, compared to the Feldberg with 890m.

The reason for this trip was one of my blog readers, who had the following question: Could you tell me the name of the of the small U.S. Air Force station above Camp King. We would go up there to their enlisted club to watch the American (military) TV channel that we didn’t have on Camp King. I remember a few soldiers talking about using the Air Force station to call home using their radio system.

On the summit of the Kolbenberg, there is a large telecommunication system with a visible lattice mast, which was used  by the U.S. Air Force until 2007. Since the withdrawal of the U.S. military, the mast has been used by civilian radio services, including mobile radio.

Barbwire around the Kolbenberg Radio Relay Site

Far into the 1950s, there was also a ground radar station for the MGM-1 Matador (Matador Missile), which was a radio-controlled cruise missile stationed in West Germany during the Cold War. In the event of a launch, the missile was remote-controlled by ground-mounted radar stations, such as the one on the Kolbenberg.

The plant was rebuilt and expanded over the years. In 1962, the lattice mast was finished. At first it was painted red and white. The lattice mast is about 100 m high and can be seen clearly from far away. Since that time, the system was only used as a radio relay site. At peak times, 20 to 25 antennas were mounted on the lattice mast, often called “dishes” by the American soldiers because they looked like soup bowls.

From the station, signals were sent northwards to Obernkirchen / Schwarzenborn, east to the Wasserkuppe and southeast to Breitsol / Geiersberg. To the southwest, signals were sent to Wiesbaden, to the north-east in the direction of Stein. Those for Rhine-Main Airbase and Darmstadt were sent to the south. Towards the west, Donnersberg was signalled.

The plant was officially called the “Feldberg Radio Relay Site”. This often caused confusion because there was also a broadcasting system in the Black Forest on the Feldberg. In the local vernacular, the station is also called “Sandplacken” or “Kolbenberg”.

In the 1960s, a part of today’s existing station was enclosed by a simple wood fence. At that time about 20 employees of the U.S. Air Force were stationed there. Most of them worked in the “Telephone Switching Center”. In 1969, up to 150 personnel were on the ground, among them communication personnel, four cooks in the canteen, as well as five in the administrative section. The personnel lived in specially built barracks directly on the premises. At the beginning of the 1970s, soldiers set up a small club with a mini-cinema on the ground floor of the barracks. At the same time, the wooden fence was replaced by a wire one.

Guard-house at the Kolbenberg Site, Germany

In the mid-1980s, terrorist threat in Germany from groups like the Red Army Faction (RAF) rose sharply. As the largest radio relay site in Europe was located on the Kolbenberg, a wall about 5 m high was built around the station. The barrier did not allow any view into the station’s interior, and the access through the walls were built so that in the event of a breakthrough with vehicles, the station could not be damaged. At this time, the barracks on the site had to be given up, probably because of space limitations. The soldiers then resided at Camp King in Oberursel.

Kolbenberg

The last employee of the U.S. Air Force left the station in 1993. From then on, it ran self-sufficiently and was remote-controlled by the Rhein-Main Airbase. Maintenance work and monitoring took place at regular intervals. On the Kolbenberg, there were never any underground facilities or bunkers. This was often claimed because of a translation error on a site map published on different pages and forums in the Internet. Only the water tank was covered with grass.

Since 2007, a telecommunications service company has rented parts of the plant and installed antennas on the grating mast, connected to a separate cable line. Various cable thieves and vandals have already discovered the premises and left visible traces. The current owner is unknown.

The US soldiers stationed on Kolbenberg (at times, up to 150 soldiers) were popular among the locals. They also gave their technical support  in the construction of a number of facilities in the neighboring towns. For example, they helped build the bobsleigh track in Oberreifenberg, the Schutzhütte (mountain hut) called Kittelhütte (same name as the mountain pass), and the sports field in Niederreifenberg.

After the withdrawal of the U.S. troops, a memorial stone with a copper plate was erected about 200 meters west of the Kastell Old Hunting House near the Sandplacken mountain pass, with which the US soldiers express their gratitude.

The memorial plaque was stolen in August 2011. Thanks to the sponsoring by a local company, a new one was added in March 2012.

The memorial reads:

From all of the American military personnel who were stationed on this mountain top since World War II, we would like to express our gratitude to the citizens of the surrounding communities who so openly accepted us and made our stay in Germany so memorable and enjoyable. Thank you.

Comments

  1. William Troskey says:

    Quite accurate description of the history of Feldberg. I was stationed there with the U.S. Air Force from April 1979 – April 1981. The German telephone company (DBP) referred to us as “Schmitten”. In 1980, those of us who lived in the barracks at the site moved to Rhein-Main Air Base while the barracks was remodeled. The barracks housed up to about 80 men initially; after remodeling it also housed up to 16 female personnel. There were usually about 30-40 of us living in the barracks, everyone else lived either at Camp King or in the nearby towns. There were about 100 personnel stationed there during my time there.

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