Die Geschichte der Rhein-Main Air Base
Quelle: Markus Lenz
Nach 60 Jahren als „Tor zu Europa“ bzw. “Gateway to Europe” hat die Rhein-Main Air Base ihren Betrieb am 30. September 2005 eingestellt. Die einzigartige Geschichte dieses Luftwaffenstützpunktes der US-amerikanischen Streitkräfte in Deutschland hat über 170 humanitäre Lufttransporte unterstützt, darunter die berühmte Berliner Luftbrücke. Seit 1945 sind etwa acht Millionen Soldaten auf der Frankfurter Air Base angekommen, um ihren Dienst in Europa anzutreten oder im Transit zur Unterstützung militärischer Operationen im Irak und in Afghanistan.
Die Rhein-Main Air Base unterstützte auch die medizinischen Evakuierungsflüge und die militärische Versorgungsflüge, ganz zu schweigen von den zahllosen Militärübungen, die stattfanden. Kein Stützpunkt in der Geschichte der United States Air Force hat über so viele Jahre hinweg unter oft schwierigsten Bedingungen so viel geleistet. Dieses Engagement wurde stets durch den internationalen Flughafen Frankfurt am Main unterstützt. Gerade diese Kombination aus internationalem Verkehrsflughafen und Luftwaffenbasis machte den Standort Rhein-Main zu etwas Besonderem.
Weil die Frankfurter Air Base etwas Besonderes war, hat sich der US-amerikanische Historiker John Provan mit der Geschichte des Frankfurter Flughafens vor dem Zweiten Weltkrieg und intensiv mit der Entwicklung der Rhein-Main Air Base von 1945 bis 2005 beschäftigt. Seine Dokumentation mit dem Titel „The History of Rhein-Main Air Base“ ist ausschließlich in englischer Sprache verfügbar und wird nachstehend auszugsweise vorgestellt.
Provan, John (Autor)
64 Seiten, Englisch
Verfügbar im Buchhandel
The first years 1945 to 1946 as Y-73 Rhein-Main Air Field
On March 26, 1945, elements of the 10 th Infantry Regiment, 5 th Infantry Division, arrived at Rhein- Main, meeting little to no resistance. These units probably entered the Rhein-Main area via the South-West, swinging in an Easterly direction, past the Northern portion in direction Frankfurt. The 362 nd Fighter Group, 379 th Fighter Squadron was the first unit assigned to Rhein-Main, although it seems as if no written orders exist. Most of the unit arrived by truck on the 8 th, 12 th and 13 th of April 1945, and soon began the job of cleaning up the airfield. The other two Squadrons from the Group,, the 377 th and 378 th Fighter Squadrons arrived a short time later. “Shortly after our arrival five truckloads of men and a jeep or two departed early in the morning for the newly liberated horror camp at Buchenwald near Weimar. The trip was much longer than expected and most of them did not come back till the next day.” These squadrons flew P-47’s from Rhein-Main until May 8, 1945.
The only wartime action still recorded by the 362 nd Fighter Group, was the single-handed capture by MAJ Cline of a German FW-190. The German airplane was running out of fuel and attempting to land on Rhein-Main. MAJ Cline opened the anti-aircraft fire, but the plane came down without being hit and the German pilot captured. “The pilot had been given enough gas for a last mission on the Eastern Front; since he had been told that there would be no more gas, and he would be transferred to the infantry, he decided to fly west and surrender.
“Special attention was given to the men from a nearby ‘displaced personnel’ camp (probably the former POW camp- what today is LSG)) that helped clean up the bombed-out areas and were also used as occasional KPs.” By December 1945, this camp was composed of 3 rows of 12 barracks (each for 20 men), with the CO office and living quarters to the right and a visitors barracks to the left of the entrance. Apparently, this compound housed (or later housed) the 8050 th (or 1846 th records are unclear) German Labor Service Company (APO 633), which was composed of 225 men. The camp was given the name “Camp Philip Morris”. These German workers were involved in the construction work at Rhein-Main and were under the command of Warrant Officer Utsch. This Company assisted in cutting down trees, removing rubble, or cement work. Former German SS soldiers were quickly discovered during regular medical check-ups, removed from the camp and taken to a POW camp. By April 1946, this work force was dissolved with each man being processed in Babenhausen, under the Disarmed Enemy Forces- Enclosure Nr. 12. Anton Huhn, Paul Müller and others escaped from the camp before this date. It seems as if the nutriment provided decreased rapidly and although not hungry, the men were dissatisfied, but the situation was even worse amongst the general German population. Each man was paid between 1,000 and 1,200 Reichs Mark for the serves rendered, or approximately 80 U.S. cents per day. Many of these workers moved to a camp in Walldorf and began working for Philipp Holzmann AG, where they continued to receive food from the military kitchen and a payment of $20.00 per month. By August 1, 1946, all POW camps within the American Zone were closed.
A & B Company, 826 th Engineering Aviation Battalion assumed maintenance duties for reconstruction and repair of Y-73, Rhein-Main on April 26, 1945. One platoon of B Co. was assigned to Y-74, Frankfurt / Eschborn (where the sod runway was moved back to its original position. Frankfurt/Eschborn was turned over to the 923 rd Engineering Aviation Battalion on May 16, 1945. The platoon of B Co. then moved to Rhein-Main, although they continued to work at Eschborn twice a week, filling craters.) and one platoon went to Y-75 Frankfurt / Rebstock. 1LT Herschel A. Elsrth (O-920358) and 1LT Vitole T. Phillips (O-1100732) arrived on April 26 were ordered to leave the 826 th Battalion and manage the supervision of new labor companies (probably those mentioned earlier, the 8050 th GLSC). One company with approximately 50 civilians employed was located at Y-75 Frankfurt / Rebstock, the other location is unknown. For a short period, the 831 st , 847 th and 859 th Engineer Battalions also worked on the reconstruction of Rhein-Main.
On May 12, 1945, radio orders were sent, commanding that construction work begin, to include a central mixing plant, cement ramps, water system and a narrow gauge railroad for transporting materials to pouring sites to be installed. The narrow gauge railroad was probably standing when U.S. soldiers arrived. It had been built and used by the German Luftwaffe to transport ammunition and/or construction material for the south runway. The railroad my have been damaged by the allied bombing, but was still operational. A-Company was assigned the task of repairing and operating the narrow gauge railway. TE/5 Gordan M. Fields, formerly with a railroad in Illinois was the first rail master. He was later replaced by PFC Howard A. Craft, who had worked on the Texas & Pacific R.R. as a brakeman. SSG Beswell, SGTs Langford, Clark and McAlrey using German civilian laborers, repaired and operated approximately 20 miles of track running 7 engines and 100 cement dump cars on the base.
C-Company, operated a Class IV Construction supply dump at Uhlerborn until May 27, when the site was closed and the unit moved to Rhein-Main. The cement used at Rhein-Main, was acquired from plants in Darmstadt, Walldorf, Leuggen and Karlstadt, rocks came from Kasselbach. The 141 st Truck Company and the 1520 th Truck Company provided the transportation of supplies. The number of civilian workers on Rhein-Main increased to 300. The 250 wooden barracks prefabricated by three Swiss firms, arrived by train and were assembled by laborers from six different nationalities. Several of these buildings remained standing until the late 1980's, early 1990's.
The Air Transport Command; ATC, relocated from Hanau to Rhein-Main on May 19, 1945. Planes from the ATC were the only aircraft allowed to land at the base and Rhein-Main soon became the main Army airport in Germany. By June 1945, the 826 th Engineering Aviation Battalion had grown in strength to 54 Officers and 675 Enlisted men, with their compound of Quonset huts, located in direction Kelsterbach, in what is today the Industrial Park. On June 5, 1945, the 851 st Engineering Aviation Battalion took control of Y-75 Frankfurt / Rebstock. A prisoner stockade was completed by A-Company by June 11, (probably rebuilding and/or expanding the German labor camp, situated on the North/Eastern edge of the base). Also in June, the 1585 th and 4259 th Quartermaster Truck Company, joined the 141 st providing transportation of supplies. C-Company established a rock crushing plant, with approximately 200 civilians employed. By the end of the month, three Labor Supervision Companies, the 1844 th , 1845 th and 1846 th were furnishing approximately 550 labors per day, in support of construction operations at Rhein-Main. The majority of German labors were trucked from the displaced persons camp in Eschborn. Approximately 950 POWs were also working at Rhein-Main once the camp (in the North-Eastern edge of the base) was expanded and completed.
By July, A-Company was responsible for guarding the prison stockade. A small detachment from B- Company was assigned to supervise the maintenance work of Y-76 Darmstadt / Griesheim. By then, 85% of the runway surface had been completed, 75% of the taxiway and 55% of the hardstands had been built. Little work had been started on repairing the existing technical and office facilities. On August 4, 1945, the runway and perimeter tracks were completed, to include 22 hardstands for aircraft. Work on the foundations for the four hangers begun between August 8–11 and a wooden, 22 feet high, control tower was then erected on Rhein-Main. The repairs were completed in the northern part of the base and the 826th Engineering Aviation Battalion set up approximately 50 temporary buildings, to include a Mess Hall and a small hospital. These buildings were connected to a sewer line from Kelsterbach and would become the home of these units for the next years.
Officially, the first phase of repair construction on Y-73 was completed by September 24, 1945. It appears that the unit on base, was downsized to only 9 officers and 57 enlisted men by October. In response to Yugoslavian attacks on a USAAF C-47, which occurred on August 9 and 19, 1946, the Strategic Air Command deployed six B-29’s to Rhein-Main. By March 1946, the old terminal building on the northern portion of the base (today the site of Terminal 2) was repaired, in spite of the shortage of material and manpower.