Germany 1962-1966

by Jennifer Trippeer

It seems like only yesterday that we traveled from Ft. Knox, Kentucky to Bremerhaven, Germany. Having the opportunity to travel by USNS troopship (the Patch), was a glorious adventure for almost 9 year old. The USNS Patch seemed so large as we boarded her. Leaving family and friends was always hard, but going to a new country across the ocean, was mysterious as well as exciting! Would the country look at all like the States? Or would it have different trees and landscapes unknown?

Docking in Bremerhaven on a very grey summers day, was met by grey roofs, grey docking area, and men and boys in grey lederhosen.  Was the whole country ‘Grey’?? Certainly not! Shortly we began our travel around the coastal town and there were familiar trees, people dressed in colorful clothing and buildings bright with color and greenery. I was immediately in love with our four-year homeland. In a couple of days we traveled to Stuttgart, where my father was assigned to 7th Army at Patch Barracks. The former Kaserne seemed immense with the center of the post flying US and German flags. 5:00pm was the ending of the day, marked by a canon shot and taps. Whenever the canon was fired, no matter where you were on post, you faced the area of the flags and stood in salute until taps was over.  A formative bit of training for all. The Barracks holds a host of great memories – from Girl Scout meetings that took place in a building adjacent to the parade area and the post chapel where worship took place.

It was November of ’63 and we were across Stuttgart at Robinson Barracks to see the film, ‘Airs Above the Ground’, when a young man came running in to announce, ‘the President has been shot.’ The waiting room emptied of men as they ran to car radios to listen to AFN and learn of the tragedy in Dallas.  No one was the same after that moment.

There were wonderful towns near Patch and we were fortunate to live in one prior to moving on post. Sindelfingen, hosted us in a small two-bedroom apartment, quite new and modern for the early ’60’s. My sister and I made friends with local children almost immediately.  They spoke no English and we no German, but that didn’t stop us from many play dates in the yards and dirt hills outside the apartment.  My mother reflects on how we played ‘sink the Bismarck’, with our newfound friends.  We had no idea of the Bismarck and our friends probably didn’t either. It was a fun game played near a mound of dirt and innocently played by children born post WWII.  My sister, two years junior, seemed not to feel the need to make a good impression of Americans on the German economy. This had been drilled into our heads from the moment my father received his orders. You are representing your country, so everything you say or do will reflect on America. I got that emblazoned on my being, for my sister it was an opportunity to show how weird Americans were. Such as convincing our German babysitter that all Americans drank Coke after placing pepper in it first.  I shake my head over this to this day.

The dependent buildings were outside the Kaserne and sat on a steep hill. At the top was the Officers Club. When beer was brought to the club it was brought by horse pulled wagons up the hill. The Clydesdale types of horses were so impressive and spoke of beauty and strength.  We benefited from top hat chimney sweeps and a kind coal man whose name was Boris. The thick woodlands of the Black forest region, all gave the notion we lived in an enchanted land. We attended elementary school at Boebligen where the school was painted a bright bubblegum pink. Such fun!

Then my father was transferred to Munich.  Living in Bavaria was like living in a Disney movie. My father who had been trained in mountain rescue at Pikes Peak, taught us all how to ski on the slopes of Berchtesgaden and Garmisch.

Berchtesgaden and nearby Salzburg were our favorite vacation spots. The schloss atop Salzburg was lit with bright lights and with snowflakes as big as a small child’s hand added mystery and wonder to this Army Brat.

In Munich we attended North Munich #2.  (I can still sing the alma mater) A grand old warehouse with large freight elevators only used for those with broken bones. In the recess yard was a large bombed out building, which we were forbidden to enter. It was quite tempting, though.  Miss Yakimoto was my seventh grade homeroom teacher and by far the finest and most important teacher in my life. She taught me to build confidence, to feel worthy and that contributing to the school was something I was capable of doing. Oh how I wish that I could tell her how important she was in my life. Great friends, great school and great home life made Munich the most important location in our world. There was the DZ (drop zone) behind our quarters. In the immense holes left by the firing of tanks, made great opportunities for ice-skating.

A magical time, time-framed by a return to Bremerhaven and the return voyage to the States via the USNS Darby.  All good things must come to an end.

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