Cold War in a Small Town

Long before I was born, my hometown of Miesau lost its forest. In 1949, French occupation forces passed on the 1.000 Hektar (=2.471 acres) forest to the U.S. military. The first ammunition deliveries began in 1950. Needless to say, the entire depot is enclosed by a tall fence and I have never walked through our woods. For our Easter walk and egg hunt my family and I had to stroll through our neighboring town’s little forest.

During the height of the Cold War the army depot was the largest ammunition depot in the world. Talk about living on a powder keg! Needless to say, we followed the news very closely.

The upside was that the depot provided up to 1.600 Germans with jobs. Many of them were farmers whose farm did not support them anymore. Others were refugees from Eastern Europe. The military also offered office jobs and became a very important employer in my area. Compare that with today when all German workers were laid off by the depot and the town is nothing more than a bedroom community.

American soldiers and their families were – and still are – a daily sight in Miesau. They shopped at the bakery and rented apartments or even houses from the villagers. When my friends and I walked to school together we often encountered tanks and jeeps on their way to maneuvers. This image must have been taken close to my hometown. (Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army)


During my childhood few Germans owned a car and I was very impressed by the huge cars the Americans were driving. They must all be rich, I thought. On the narrow German roads, however, they might have been better off driving a VW Beetle!


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