Patch Barracks, Germany
On 08 January 2015, the US Department of Defense announced the consolidation of some U.S. infrastructure in Europe, including the return of 15 sites to their host nations. As a result of this announcement, DoD is to close commissaries at Illesheim and Sembach, as well as the four commissaries in Stuttgart at Kelley Barracks, Patch Barracks, Panzer Barracks and Robinson Barracks, once a new replacement store on Panzer is constructed.
Patch was constructed near Vaihingen in 1936 and 1937 as a tank facility and used to be called Kurmaerker Kaserne. Today its primary tenant is the senior American military headquarters on this side of the Atlantic, the U.S. European Command. Other organizations located at Patch are Detachment C, 510th Personnel Service Battalion; the Air Force's Mission Support Squadron; the Navy Personnel Support Detachment and Defense Information Systems Agency, Europe.
Patch is the first stop for new service-members, who inprocess at the Central Processing Facility and check with the housing office to find a place to live. Many Army and Air Force Exchange Service stores are located at Patch, including the electronics store and sporting goods store. There is also a movie theater and - for a taste of home - Taco Bell, Anthony's Pizza, Burger King and Baskin Robbins. Army Community Service has its main office on Patch. The health and dental clinics on Patch serve the entire community. The same goes for Patch High School.
When the Post was New
More than a dozen military units -- both German and American-- had occupied Patch Barracks before Headquarters United States European Command became operational there in March 1967. The original name was Kurmärker Kaserne. Constructed during 1936 and 1937, the kaserne was brand new when light tanks of the German Panzer Regiment 7 rolled through the main gate on 7 May 1938. Arriving by train, the soldiers of Regiment 7 re-formed their ranks at the bahnhof and proceeded through Shiller Platz and Vaihingen's main street. Standing in the first tank, the regimental commander, Colonel Franz Landgraf, led the column as far as the brewery and then turned left to an open area at the edge of Vaihingen where the Burgermeister waited to extend the official welcome.
Constructed at approximately the same time, Panzer Kaserne, became the home of the 8th Panzer Regiment. Panzerstrasse, which connected the two kasernes, was paved with cobblestones that would not be damaged by the metal cleats on the tank tracks.
7th Panzer Regiments Campaign's
The 7th Panzer Regiment trained at its new Kaserne for 15 months. the companies maneuvered their tanks in areas near Panzer Kaserne, and practiced firing the tank guns at special ranges. The one for Kurmärker Kaserne, in the woods west of the Kaserne, is still used by both German and American soldiers as a small arms range. German tank crews also practiced shooting at three indoor ranges, one located where the Patch Playhouse now stands, one in a building now occupied by the NCO Candlelight Club, and a third that was located in the area of Weicht Village.
At the end of July 1939, the 7th Panzer Regiment (except for Companies 2 and 7 which remained in the Kaserne to form the Ersatz Abteilung that became responsible for training replacements for the regiment) moved by train to Hamburg, by ship to Koeningsburg in East Prussia, and then to an area near the Polish border where it participated in maneuvers until 1 September when it crossed the border near the town of Mlawa. After an 18 day campaign in Poland, the regiment returned to Vaihingen by mid-October. Garrison life came to an end six weeks later when the regiment was ordered to move north to the vicinity of Limburg and later to positions between Koblenz and Luxembourg.
On 10 May 1940, the regiment crossed Luxembourg, and the southern tip of Belgium, and spent the remainder of May in the Northeast portion of France. After ten months in France, the 7th Panzer Regiment, as part of the 10th Panzer Division, returned to Germany, but not to its Kaserne in Vaihingen.
Following the 7th Panzer Regiment's departure from the Kaserne, Companies 2 and 7 operated out of what we know as Patch Barracks until October of 1940 when they moved to Panzer Kaserne.
French Soldiers in Kurmärker Kaserne
Several more German regiments moved in and out of Kurmärker Kaserne until the closing days of World War II. As Allied Forces approached Stuttgart, the boundary separating the zone of General Patch's U.S. Seventh Army from that of General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny's First French Army ran along the north edge of the city, placing Stuttgart in the zone of the French Army's II Corps.
After difficult fighting for Heilbronn, the U.S. 100th Infantry Division met no organized resistance as it enveloped Stuttgart on the north and east edge of the city on the 20 and 21st of April 1945. At the same time, French Units pushed into Stuttgart also without resistance. The day before the arrival of the French in Stuttgart, the Allied Sixth Army Group commander, General Jacob L. Devers, shifted the army boundary slightly to the south to place Stuttgart in the zone of the Seventh Army, which needed the city to maintain supply routes to American units moving towards Ulm. At this point General de Gaulle intervened. Precipitating one of several disturbing incidents that challenged Allied authority, he directed his commander to ignore General Devers' orders and to remain in Stuttgart until the Allies had agreed upon a suitable occupation zone in Germany for France. General Eisenhower and President Truman became involved in the "Stuttgart Incident" before it was settled seven weeks later and French forces, mostly soldiers from Senegal, Tunisia, and Morocco, vacated Stuttgart, Vaihingen, and the Kurmärker Kaserne.
Arrival of the Americans
The first American unit, the 373rd Field Artillery Battalion (155mm howitzers) of the U.S. 100th Infantry Division, came to Vaihingen on 7 July 1945, the same day that French troops vacated the area.
In mid-summer 1945, Kurmärker Kaserne was littered with the rubble of combat, much of it left by American bombing and strafing attacks that occurred near the end of the war. Cleaning up the Kaserne was a slow process. The howitzer battery moved to the Kaserne as living space became available.
By early fall, the battalion commander undetook the rehabilitation of the officers' club, which was in good condition except for damage to the roof.
One of Stuttgart's better architects used a western motif to decorate the small room that is now adjacent to the bar, and carved the four corner posts and the Indian heads that still remain today. The wrought iron grill work over the two windows on both sides of the main club entrance remain today and bear the initials of Kurmärkerkische Dragoner Regiment 14 on the left window and of Panzer Regiment 7 on the right. The artillery battalion remained at Kurmärker Kaserne until 12 December 1945, when it left to return to the United States.
Other American Units
Early in 1946, the US. Army in Europe began forming the U.S. Constabulary by redesignating combat units as part of the constabulary force. On 1 April 1946, the 15th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron was redesignated as the 15th Constabulary Squadron and stationed at the Kurmärker Kaserne. Part of this unit was mounted on horses that were stabled in one of the former tank halls. From then until 1950 the Kaserne was the home of constabulary units, including the Headquarters U.S. Constabulary, which moved to Vaihingen during the spring of 1946. In 1950 the Korean War and the threat of communist expansion in Europe led to plans for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the U.S. agreement to return combat troops to Europe.
On 24 November 1950, Headquarters Seventh Army took over Kurmärker Kaserne and absorbed the Headquarters U.S. Constabulary. Headquarters Seventh Army stayed 16 years, longer than any other tenant and renamed the Kaserne on 20 August 1951 and left only after it was combined with Headquarters USAREUR in a Department of Defense move to reduce the numbers of U.S. Headquarters in Europe and to make a place for Headquarters European Command, then preparing to leave France. Headquarters USEUCOM commenced operations at Patch Barracks on 14 March 1967.
Changes and Construction
Of the 44 original buildings in Kurmarker Kaserne, 37 remain. Building 2303 and four of the tank halls have missing sections as a result of aerial attacks. Several other buildings, including the Community Services Building have undergone extensive repairs. Seven of the original buildings have been removed. Rehabilitation of the Kaserne buildings went slowly until after 1950.
The largest construction project at the Kaserne were concerned with family housing. The first housing areas that were completed were Craig and Kefurt Villages, which were constructed during 1950 and 1951. Construction of Weicht Village commenced in 1954, and of those building in New Craig Village in 1955. The individual houses along Florida Strasse, Van Steuben Village were erected in 1961 in an orchard that belonged to the City of Vaihingen. The three oldest projects were named for members of the Seventh Army who received the medal of honor for their actions during the war.
Monuments on Patch Barracks
Six monuments standing in Patch Barracks commemorate persons or ideals. the oldest of these monuments is a small stone tank of the 1st Panzer Company of the 1st Abteilung, 7th Panzer Regiment, made and erected between Buildings 2303 and 2304 in honor of their company commander, Captain Reinhart Walther. Former members of Panzer regiment 7 erected the red stone monument that stands near the Post Chapel to honor members of that regiment and of Panzer Regiment 21 who does or were missing during World War II. The monument was dedicated on 19 September 1959.
Another more recent German monument stands on Kurmärker Strasse at the south end of Building 2307 and honors members of the 715th Infantry Division who died during World War II.
Americans erected two monuments. On July 4, 1952 Mrs. A.M Patch unveiled the bronze plaque between the flagpoles, naming the post in memory of Lieutenant General Alexander M. Patch. The monument in the northwest corner of Husky Field honors the men who died in Seventh Army's first battle, the 1943 invasion of Sicily.
The newest monument, in front of the pine trees across from the flagpoles, explains that the tree stands for Friendship of the German and American people. Minister President Kiesinger of Baden-Wuerttemberg dedicated it in 1960.
There is also a cornerstone noting Seventh Army's occupancy of the Command Building 23141 from 1950-1966, and another on Building 2515 which marks the construction of Craig Village in 1950.
The 7th Panzer Regiment chose the buffalo, (actually the "wisent", a European Bison) as their regimental insignia, and painted it on their tanks and vehicles. they also commissioned a sculptor to chisel a seven foot high statue of a buffalo from white granite, and it was erected in late 1938 on a pedestal near the present flagpoles. The Statue survived the Allied air attacks with little damage. When the Americans arrived they found the buffalo in place, the last member of the 7th Panzer Regiment in the Kaserne.
Just what happened to the buffalo is covered with the dust of history. An officer of the 346th Engineer Regiment recalls that it was removed from the pedestal and pushed by a bulldozer into a nearby bomb crater, but he no longer remembers where the crater was. Mr. Heinrich Elsaesser, who worked in the Kaserne, clearly recalls seeing the buffalo daily during 1946 as it lay at the bottom if a trash dump in a ravine behind what is now Building 2401, Weicht Village.
Former members of the 7th Panzer Regiment would like to return the statue to the 363rd Panzer Battalion, near Wuerzburg, which now bears the colors of the old 7th. Meanwhile, the memory of the buffalo is kept alive at Patch Barracks by the Post Headquarters, which uses a buffalo silhouette as its symbol, and by several Patch athletic teams that bear its name.
Americans who have been stationed at Patch Barracks have passed along two storied that are without a basis in fact. One of these concerns an underground tank park located somewhere under the Kaserne. Actually, the only underground facilities are tunnels enclosing heating pipes that connect the boilers with some other buildings.
Another account describes Kurmärker Kaserne as Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's headquarters, and the Officer' Club as his former living quarters. Rommel had no connection with the kaserne and there is nothing to indicate that he even visited it. The rumor may have arisen from the fact that Rommel was once Commanding General of the 7th Panzer Division, of which the 7th Panzer Regiment was never a part.