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.

Reflections of my Service at Camp King in Oberursel, Germany

This post has been contributed by Greg Cochran, who was stationed at Camp King in Oberursel, Germany during the period of 9 June 1971 through 17 August 1973 in Detachment A, The United States Army Reception Group, Europe (USARGE).

I was a Specialist Four in the U.S. Army assigned to Detachment A, USARGE. I lived in the barracks #1010, it was the barracks for soldiers in USARGE. Later some of us moved next door to barrack #1011 as we got more people in the unit. We lived at Camp King and the soldiers in Detachment A mainly worked out of a building at Rhein-Main Air Base during the day close to the flight line, when we weren’t processing soldiers for exercises in Germany, or some national guard units or on military exercises in Norway, Turkey, Greece and Italy.

When I was there, I missed out on going to Greece with Detachment A, because I was assigned to help with boarding U.S. military personnel going to the 1972 Olympic at the town of Dachau, W. Germany outside of Munich. The army base was closed, but several buildings were open to house military people going to the 1972 Olympic. These buildings were located in the old German army base three-story brick barrack (beside the concentration camp of Dachau), where they could sleep for two dollars a night and also could eat in the mess hall in the three-story barrack.

The German Eagles were still over the main doors of the three-story barrack from World War II, without the Nazis symbol below the eagles feet. Officers and female military personnel stayed overnight in the old military housing apartments. The base theater was also open to show movies at night for the people staying there.
The commanding officer of USARGE, when I ended my service in Germany, was LTC Edward R. Shore, JR., LTC, TC, Commanding.

I still have a picture of the arm band that we wore, when directing the soldiers off the planes onto the buses, which would take them to the area from where they would deploy for their military exercise.
Later, after the military exercise was finished, we would process them through customs, and put them on the planes for their trip back to their military bases in the U.S.

USARGE arm band

Below is a picture of Detachment A, USARGE, getting an award for a military exercise in Norway. I’m in the back row on the left * on the end and the award was given in the USARGE building on Camp King.

This is building #1005B, the same building that had the bowling alley upstairs on the end and the post exchange laundry under the bowling alley in the basement. The unit supply room were armory also were in the basement.

USARGE award ceremony

The commanding officer of USARGE, when I ended my service in Germany, was LTC Edward R. Shore, JR., LTC, TC, Commanding.

I have been back to Germany three times (for three weeks at a time) with the Ohio Army National Guard between 1992 and 1993, when they had the draw down of the army. The Ohio maintenance company I was in helped bring equipment up to standard for turn in. We worked long hours, so the equipment could be turned in on time, and units could be deactivated in Germany.

We were there to work and not to see the sites… I was sorry that I never got to see Camp King, while I was in Germany with the Ohio National Guard helping to turn in the military equipment. We were lucky to have any time off during the weekends.

I retired from the Ohio Army National Guard as a Master Sergeant and I really enjoyed my time in Germany, when I was stationed there at Camp King.
Camp King was a military base, where you could feel safe walking alone at night. My army friends and I enjoyed walking the trails in the woods on the weekends, in the old parts of the city in the narrow streets, and we also enjoyed the open restaurants with seating outside on the sidewalks along the streets of the town.
We also had our favorite German restaurants in Oberursel, that we would go to on the weekends as a group.

* The names of the guys, if available, will be added later.

Thanks, Greg, for sharing your experience of your service time in Germany.

Steam Engines at the Motorenfabrik in Oberursel, Germany in the 1950s

This photo has been contributed by Jack S., who had worked for the 42nd Ordnance (DAS) in Oberursel from January 1954 until January 1955.

Dampflok Motorpool Oberursel 1950s

Jack says, “The engine was used to deliver parts. It was left, and picked up later.”

Their barracks were in the large main building on the second floor, to the right of the main entrance. In front of the building, there was a street car stop. Across the street, there was a taxi stand. Also, across the street was a large open field used as a sheep pasture.

The 42nd Ordnance (DAS) were stationed in the Motorenfabrik, a short distance from Camp King. The difference: Camp King was military intelligence,  but they were the mechanics, who kept the vehicles running.

History Depot for Camp King Oberursel

Today’s opening ceremonies are still in full swing and are due to last for another three hours (at the time of writing).

This morning, I attended the first part of the Grand Opening with Mayor Blum giving a welcome speech. Mr. Kopp, the Camp King historian, gave an informative and witty presentation of the depot’s purpose. A U.S. American diplomat was also in attendance.

16 March Opening Ceremony

16 March Opening Ceremony

A close-up of Mr. Kopp during his presentation.

 Manfred Kopp during his talk

Manfred Kopp during his talk

The depot is now open and can be viewed. Here are some photos of the archived material.

Camp King 1956/57

Camp King 1956/57

Camp King Depot

Camp King entrance

Camp King entrance

 

Camp King cooler

Camp King cooler

I walked up to the Mountain Lodge which was advertised as Open Doors (with permission from the new owner) for the public in the afternoon.  While I was there around noon, the doors were still closed and did not even look like they would open up any time soon…

Mountain Lodge, Camp King

The Chapel

The Chapel

 

Door to the Mountain Lodge

Door to the Mountain Lodge

 

Door to the Mountain Lodge

Door to the Mountain Lodge

With one entrance overgrown by bushes and layered in snow, and the other one boarded up, I wonder what’s in store for the public to see.

 

 

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