After the end of World War II, American troops soon left Germany, only to return in the late 1940s. When the Korean War broke out, a major military presence in my home state of Rheinland-Pfalz began.
Over the next few years, six air bases were established in the state: Bitburg, Spangdahlem, Hahn, Ramstein, Sembach, and Zweibrücken. The Army established more than 100 garrisons, mostly in the southern part – the Pfalz/Palatinate. The Kaiserslautern Military Community became the largest American community in Europe. At its peak, Americans accounted for 5 percent of the state’s population. In 1957, there were about 250.000 Americans stationed in the Federal Republic.
Housing units sprouted to accommodate the soldiers and their families. This resulted in a boom for the German economy, especially the construction industry. Thousands of Germans – including many women – found a variety jobs as secretaries, laborers, craftsmen, kitchen personnel or fire fighters on military installations. Unemployment dropped. Refugees and displaced persons from Eastern Europe worked as “Labor Service.” By the end of the 1950s, 30.000 Germans were employed with the U.S. military.
German-American marriages became common, between 5.000 and 7.000 a year during the second half of the 1950s. But even the GIs who did not marry a German Fräulein influenced especially the German youths through their music, clothing, and casual manners.
The Cold War changed the way of life in many German villages forever.
Source: Karl-Heinz Rothenberger: Die Amerikaner in der Pfalz und in Rheinhessen (1950-2010)
Image Courtesy of U.S. Air Force