United States Army Europe


Beginning 1942

The history of the US Army Europe (USAREUR) involves many reorganizations, numerous restructurings, but throughout its forty plus years, it has remained as the "keeper of the peace" that it fought to gain in World War Two. The command was founded on 8 June 1942 in London as the American forces massed in Great Britain to begin training for the assault the continent of Europe that would take place two years later on the beaches of Normandy. The Command, first designated as the Headquarters, European Theater of Operations, U. S. Army (ETOUSA), was initially under the command of Major General James E. Chaney, an Army Air Corps officer. Major General, later General, Dwight D. Eisenhower, replaced Chaney in late June. The following month, Eisenhower departed the command of all Allied military forces in Europe.

The following month, Eisenhower was officially designated as the Supreme Allied Commander Europe. He also maintained his leadership of ETOUSA, thus providing him with a dual role which he maintained until the end of hostilities in Europe in May 1945.

When the war ended in Europe in 8 May 1945, the Headquarters for ETOUSA was located in Versailles, France, just outside of Paris. As Eisenhower and his staff began to prepare for the occupation of Germany, the Supreme Headquarters Allied occupation of Germany, the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF) moved to the I.G. Farbenindustrie Building in Frankfurt. This large structure, later re-named the Abrams Building, served as the Headquarters for the V Corps until late in 1944 when the Corps Headquarters began to relocate to Heidelberg. Despite the size of this building, the number of personnel assigned or attached to the Headquarters reached 16,000 with another 14,000 assigned to other supporting agencies. The leadership rapidly realized that the size of the command had overwhelmed the size of the facilities available on post-war Germany. For this reason and for security purposes, the command was decentralized into the towns of Hanau and Offinbach. Eventually, the organization covered six Landkreis or counties.

As the war ended, Eisenhower redesignated ETOUSA as U.S. Forces European Theater (USFET). The Headquarters was also assigned to Frankfurt in the Farben Building and co-located with SHAEF. The Communications Zone, that provided logistical and administrative support, remained in Paris. In mid-July 1945, General Eisenhower departed and SHAEF was officially dissolved with most if the staff members assuming parallel positions in the newly created USFET. Eisenhower continued as the Commander if USFEET until he departed in late November and General Joseph T. McNarney became the Commander in Chief, a position he held until the Spring of 1947 when General Lucius D. Clay replaced him. Clay also assumed the position of U.S. Military Governor of Germany with staff and offices in Berlin. During this period, USFET was redesignated as the European Command (EUCOM).

With the merger of the British and American Zones of Occupation in 1948, EUCOM Headquarters moved from Frankfurt to Heidelberg. The U.S. Constabulary, a modified Corps Headquarters, relocated from its previous location in Heidelberg to Stuttgart, with both moves completed in early 1949. At this point, the Command consisted of a theater headquarters and staff (EUCOM), and two tactical units: 1st Infantry Division and the constabulary. which was about the size of an armored division.

Several significant events caused U. S. forces to move their emphasis from occupational duties to the defense of Germany and western Europe. These included the Soviet blockade of land routes to Berlin that caused the initiation of the Berlin Airlift during the 1948-1949 period; the Communist coup in Czechoslovakia in 1948; the successful detonation of the first Soviet nuclear device in 1949; the invasion of South Korea in 1950, and numerous hostile actions along the long border between the Allied and Soviet forces in Europe. Largely as a result of these factors, the Seventh U. S. Army was activated at Stuttgart in late November 1950 and U.S. Constabulary assigned to it. As tensions increased and the Korean War ground on, two corps headquarters were organized and four divisions arrived in the summer and fall of 1951.




           With the rapid deployment of these units and their associated personnel, there was a serious lack of adequate facilities. To work on this and other related problems, a new unified United States European Command (USEUCOM) was established on August 1, 1952 and its Headquarters placed in Frankfurt. On the same date, the Headquarters EUCOM at Heidelberg was redesignated as the Headquarters, USAREUR. This action gave USAREUR, for the first time since the World War II period, a separate operational staff of its own. General Matthew B. Ridgeway commanded the new Headquarters with General Thomas Handy serving as the Deputy and the Chief of Staff. In the Fall of 1952, USEUCOM moved from Frankfurt to the suburbs of Paris, only to return to Germany (Stuttgart) in 1967 when France withdrew from all of its NATO military commitments.

In 1953, the Korean War Armistice was signed and tensions began to decrease in Europe. USAREUR divisions, using the new Pentomic structure, consisted of about 13,500 personnel. Their equipment was being upgraded with the introduction of the M-48 tank, the M-59 armored personnel carrier, and tactical nuclear weapons. This all changed in June 1961 when the Soviet Premier Khrushchev announced that the USSR was planning to conclude a peace treaty with the East German government. By late summer, the flow of refugees from East Germany to Berlin reached 3,000 per day. Suddenly on the night of August 12, the Soviets closed all the border crossing points and began to construct the Berlin Wall. In response to this action, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment deployed to Europe along with additional support units. USAREUR strength reached an all-time high of 277,342 in June of 1962 as the crisis deepened.

The Command dispatched the 1st Battle Group, 18th Infantry (Reinforced) to Berlin to support the previously deployed troops. This unit was personally greeted by the Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was in Berlin to dramatize the American response to the Berlin Wall. As the crisis in Berlin "cooled," USAREUR attempted to improve its abilities with newer equipment and systems. It received the M-113 armored personnel carrier, the M-14 rifle, the M-60 machine gun, the OV-1 fixed wing observation aircraft, the UH-1B Huey helicopter, the M-151 truck and the M-60 tank.

Because of economic problems, the number of dependents allowed in Europe was decreased in 1961 and for the first time since the end of World War Tow, the currency was revalued. The DM, previously at 4.2 /1.00 was lowered to 4.0 /1.00. To further reduce costs, a program of rotating battle groups and battalions was instituted in 1962 and 1963. In a related move, the first prepositioning of equipment for an infantry division, an armored division, and ten supporting units took place. The concept, a predecessor to the more recent POMCUS, allowed units to "fall in" on their equipment when they arrived from CONUS locations.

Because of the French military withdrawal from NATO, US forces were given one year to leave all French posts. USEUCON moved on 1967 to Stuttgart, where it remains today. Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) to a new location near Mons, Belgium. Headquarters for Allied Forces Central Europe (AFCENT) to Brunssum in the Netherlands. And in December 1967, USAREUR and the Seventh Army headquarters merged on Heidelberg. These commands remain in the same locations today, except for AFCENT which moved to Heidelberg on 1 July 1993.

The first Redeployment of Forces FROM Germany (REFORGER) took place on 1968 with the removal of about 28,000 spaces from Germany. This realignment was accomplished for both political and economies reasons. The units and personnel withdrawn remained committed to NATO and during REFORGER I, renamed RETURN of Forces TO Germany, conducted on January 1969, over 12,000 soldiers returned to Germany for the exercise and used pre-positioned equipment.

The demands for personnel for the Vietnam War in Southeast Asia Began to draw trained soldiers from USAREUR. In many cases, experienced NCOs, junior and field grade officers were sent to SEA with younger and less experienced troops sent to USAREUR to replace them, if there were any sent at all.






In 1970, USAREUR continued to improve its firepower when it received the new M-16A1 rifle, the TOW anti-tank weapon, the OH-58 observation helicopter and the AH-1G Cobra helicopter.

As the war in SEA drew down, forces began to return to USAREUR. In January 1973, the 3rd Battalion of the 509th Infantry was activated. At the same time, the existing 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 509th Infantry were designated as dual-capable, mechanized and airborne. They were later discontinued and replaced with two battalions (2d/28th Infantry and 2d/87th Infantry) which brought the 8th Infantry Division to fully mechanized status and provided it with the ability to defend Central Europe, its primary task. To provide greater mobility to the Mediterranean area, the 3rd Battalion of the 509th Infantry was redesignated as the 1st Battalion of the 509th Infantry (Airborne Battalion Combat Team) and assigned to Italy.

After a detailed study on how to support all of the units within the command, USAREUR adopted a new system that was based upon the community commander concept. It simplified lines of authority and gave the commander needed authority that matched his responsibilities. In 1974, mergers of and transfers of functions to streamline the headquarters resulted in the termination of the U.S. Theater Army Support Command. This agency, later replaced by a smaller organization called the 21st Theater Army Area Command (TAACOM), consisted of almost 70,000 U.S. and local national civilians.

Also in the late-70’s, one Brigade of the 2d Armored Division deployed to USAREUR which marked the first significant increase to combat forces since the original buildup in the 1950s. Sent to northern Germany to the newly-constructed Clay Casern, this unit added strength to NATOs northern flank. In 1976, the 4th Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division moved to the command and was sent to the Wiesbaden area. The process to centralize the elements of NATO Headquarters began in the late 1970s with Campbell Barracks selected as the site. The 4th Allied Tactical Air Force (ATAF) became operational in 1980. Later the same year, the Central Army Group (CENTAG) and the Allied Command Europe (ACE) Mobile Force (Land) were also located at Campbell Barracks.

With the combat and support components in place, the command undertook a wide-ranging modernization in the decade of the 1980s. More than 400 new systems were introduced that included individual weapons, new field rations, the M1A1 Abrams tank, the M2 and M3 series of infantry and cavalry fighting vehicles, the multiple launch rocket system (MLRS), the Patriot air defense system, the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter and the AH-64A Apache scout helicopter.

1980-1990s "Cold Wars end"

The unexpected political events of the late 1980s that included the demise of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union and a variety of weapons treaties combined to change USAREUR again. Intermediate nuclear weapons were withdrawn, chemical weapons were moved out of Europe and sent for destruction to the Pacific. and units began to depart the European continent for CONUS locations while many others were inactivated. Planning for the drawdown of Army forces in Europe began in the Spring of 1990 and was about to be implemented when another unexpected development occurred on Southwest Asia (SWA). Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 and the subsequent rapid deployment of personnel and equipment put all of the drawdown plans "on hold."

USAREUR answered the request for assistance and rapidly dispatched medical [personnel and MEDEVAC helicopters to the Operations Desert Shield/Storm. These were quickly followed by intelligence specialists, chemical warfare experts, logistical personnel, many individual replacements, and finally almost the entire VII Corps. The Command eventually deployed over 75,000 personnel plus 1,200 tanks, 1,700armored combat vehicles, over 650 pieces of artillery, and over 325 aircraft. When the Hundred Hour war ended, many of the members of the USAREUR team remained to complete the logistical cleanup while others were deployed to northern Iraq or Turkey to aid refugees. When many returned to Europe, they found that their units were in the process or were about to begin the process of either relocating to CONUS or inactivating.

New missions appeared for the Command after Desert Shield/Storm that were different than the standard "defense of central Europe," the most important mission since the late 1940s. These new missions involved humanitarian activities, military to military exchanges, often with former enemies, joint and combined was a "shadow of its former self" on the early 1990s. Gone were the VII Corps, the 3d Armored Division, the 8th Infantry Division (Mechanized), the 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment, and the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. Many smaller supporting units also disappeared. In 1992 alone, about 70,000 soldiers were deployed back to CONUS with about 90,000 dependents and most of these were not replaced. The Command went from a strength of 213,000 soldiers in 1990 to 122,000 in 1992 with a target of 65,000 by 1995. From 858 installations in 1990, USAREUR "owned" only 415 in 1993 with more scheduled to close in the years ahead.

       Throughout its over 50 years as a major element in the U.S. Army and the defense community, USAREUR has always met the difficult challenges placed before it in both wartime and in times of peace. Its missions have been demanding, its personnel have been dedicated, and its successes have not always come easily. It has been able to adapt to many different riles, operate in varied regions, in many cultures, and still prevail. The fact that the Berlin Wall cane down and that the Communist system collapsed are directly related to the presence of the trained, ready, and motivated force of military and civilians that have been a part of USAREUR for the last 52 years. And their military missions and successes did not interfere with their ability to live with and mingle with the peoples of western Europe who now grow concerned as they watch their American friends prepare to depart western Europe in ever increasing numbers.

    Perhaps the best representation of the accomplishments of USAREUR over its lifetime can be seen in the symbolism of the shoulder patch. The blue color behind the crusader’s flaming sword represents peace and the lifting of the oppressive darkness from Europe. Few can doubt that USAREUR played the major role in bringing and then maintaining peace, prosperity, and stability to western Europe.

(Source: https://www.eur.army.mil/Mission-History/

Berlin Brigade

The Berlin Brigade formed at the height of the Berlin Wall crisis from units already in Berlin by General Orders from the Commander-in-Chief, United States Army, Europe. General Bruce Clarke ordered that from 1 December 1961, the core of the United States military presence in Berlin, the living symbol of America's protection for the people of free Berlin, would be known as the United States Army Berlin Brigade.


July, 1945—Germany was divided into four sectors, each controlled by one of the victorious Allied countries (the U.S., Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union). The great city of Berlin lay devastated.  Two years of intense bombing and a fanatical struggle between the last-ditch defenders and the attacking Soviet Army had left the city in ruins.

Berliners struggled to obtain the bare necessities of life.  Fighting ended on May 2, 1945 and Soviet troops occupied the city.  Turned loose by their government, the Red Army looted Berlin in the name of reparations. They dismantled entire refrigeration plants, mills, whole factories, generator equipment, lathes and precision tools, and other spoils of war, loaded the items on rail cars and shipped them off to the Soviet Union.

The Americans arrived on July 1, but the Soviets did not relinquish control of the American sector for 12 days and finally left after considerable urging.  U.S.-Soviet relations over Germany went downhill from there.  Although all sides agreed that Germany should eventually be reunited as one nation, the Soviets wanted to make sure it was a communist state.  The Soviets had used their two months in Berlin to fill key positions in the city with communist sympathizers. Every effort of the Allies to restore order and a semblance of normalcy to Berlin was met with some degree of Soviet opposition.

In 1948 the Soviets attempted to assert full control over Berlin by blocking all road and rail access to the city.  Berliners received the bulk of their food and other supplies by rail from the Western Zones, and the Soviets apparently believed that it could starve the Berliners into submission and force the Western Allies to withdraw from Berlin. 
In response, the Allies began the Berlin Airlift to supply the city by air, a feat many thought impossible due to the large amount of supplies needed and the limited cargo capacity of the available aircraft.  Yet, against the odds, the airlift succeeded in supplying the city for 324 days until the Soviets admitted failure and lifted the blockade.  Rather than push the Americans out of Berlin, the blockade strengthened U.S. resolve and led to a new bond of sympathy and mutual respect between the German and American people.

By 1948-49 observers began referring to the relationship between the U.S. and USSR as a "cold war." By 1950 the Berlin Brigade's mission had changed from occupation to the mission that would define the Brigade for the next 40 years—to deter Soviet aggression, counter wide-spread civil unrest, and defend the city from the Soviet threat.  Berlin, thus, became a central battlefield in the Cold War.


Beginning in November 1958 U.S.-Soviet relations in Berlin once again grew tense.  Soviet demands and ultimatums prevented any forward movement on German reunification and posed a serious threat to the future status of the city.  With hopes of reunification weakening and international tensions over Berlin running high, East Germans began "voting with their feet."  West Berlin became the escape hatch for East German refugees. In July, 1961 as many as 3,000 escaped in a single day. The daily average for July and early August was about 1,800 per day. In terms of manpower, East Germany was bleeding to death. The Communist leadership solved the problem with brutal simplicity.

Before dawn on August 13, 1961, the East Germans sealed all but seven of the crossing points between the Soviet Sector and West Berlin. Twenty-eight miles of barbed-wire and barriers went up across the city and construction of the Berlin Wall began.  President Kennedy ordered reinforcements to Berlin.  On Sunday August 20th, 1,500 Soldiers of the 1st Battle Group, 18th Infantry (reinforced), moved by road from West Germany to Berlin and paraded through the city in full battle gear in front of Vice President Lyndon Johnson. For the next 3½ years, a different infantry battle group rotated through Berlin every 90 days, asserting U.S. access rights by moving over the autobahn through communist-controlled territory. 

The Berlin Wall Crisis was the most serious in the city's post-war history.  Frequent confrontations with the Soviets at the autobahn and rail checkpoints and in East Berlin continued from 1958 to 1965.  Soviet armored personnel carriers attempted to enter West Berlin, Soviet jet fighters buzzed the city intentionally creating sonic booms, and U.S. and Allied personnel experienced lengthy detentions.  Throughout this period, the Berlin Brigade showed the flag and reassured the people of West Berlin that they would not be forced to live under communist rule. The strength of American resolve was reflected in the presence of American families, the spouses and children of American Soldiers assigned to the Berlin Brigade in the city.  At the height of the Berlin Wall Crisis, an American reporter asked a calm Berliner if he was worried that the Allies might be forced out of the city.  The Berliner shrugged. Yes, he was worried. But, he said, “Your families are still here."
By the end of 1962, the crisis eased, but East-West tensions remained high. Soviet harassment of NATO personnel on the access routes also eased gradually. By the spring of 1967, the severe harassment of Allied military traffic had virtually ended.


Yet the wall remained, running through store fronts, through woods and along waterways, an inescapable reminder of the Brigade's mission and the true nature of Communist government.  Speaking at the wall, President John Kennedy stated, “Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in.”  Decades later in 1987 President Ronald Regan stood in Berlin and challenged the Soviets to prove their good intentions, saying, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

The Berlin Brigade’s mission ended peacefully with the end of the Cold War in 1989.  On November 8, 1989, the East German government bowed to pressure, opened the border crossing, and thousands of East Germans flocked to West Berlin.  The Wall had fallen.  The final chapter of the Cold War concluded with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. 

Mission complete, the Berlin Brigade was finally inactivated in 1994.  For almost 50 years the Brigade had stood as a symbol of U.S. resolve in a city that, more than any other place on earth, symbolized the stakes in the Cold War.  The thousands of Soldiers who served in the Berlin Brigade proved that the Army can help win a war without ever firing a shot.

Military Liaison Mission

The Military Liaison Missions arose from reciprocal agreements formed immediately after the Second World War between the Western allied nations (U.S., UK and France) and the USSR. The missions were active from 1946 until 1990.

The agreements between the allied nations and the Soviet Union permitted the deployment of small numbers of military intelligence personnel — together with associated support staff — in each other's territory in Germany, ostensibly for the purposes of monitoring and furthering better relationships between the Soviet and Western occupation forces. The British, French and American missions matched the size of the counterpart Soviet missions into West Germany (the nominal post-war British, French and American zones of occupations). The MLMs also played an intelligence-gathering role. The MLM teams were based in West Berlin but started their "tours" from the national mission houses in Potsdam in matte-olive-drab heavy cars. The Mission teams on a tour frequently comprised one officer accompanied by an NCO and a driver. The missions persisted throughout the Cold War period and ended in 1990 just prior to German reunification. The missions were

  • British Commanders'-in-Chief Mission to the Soviet Forces in Germany (BRIXMIS)

  • La Mission Militaire Francaise de Liaison (FMLM, more properly MMFL in French)

  • U.S. Military Liaison Mission (USMLM)

and their reciprocal Soviet missions (SOXMIS/SMLM).

The British-Soviet missions were the first to be established (16 September 1946) under the terms of the Robertson-Malinin Agreement (the respective commanders-in-chief). It also had the largest contingent of personnel with 31 accredited team members. Later agreements with the US (Huebner-Malinin, March 1947) and France (April 1947) had significantly fewer permitted personnel, possibly because those Allied powers did not want large Soviet missions operating in their zones and vice versa.

United States Air Force in Europe

Since the defeat of Germany on 7 May 1945 the United States military has maintained numerous air bases across western Germany initially beginning as postwar occupation forces. During the Cold War period, the number of bases was expanded as commitments increased in support of the NATO alliance.


At the end of the Second World War, the United States Army Air Force bases in the U.S. Zone of Occupation in Germany were selected at a time when there were no requirements for tactical or defensive planning. Army Air Force planners simply selected suitable facilities which were left intact from the air campaign during the war. Many of these facilities were former Luftwaffe bases in the American occupation territory which were in turn repaired and used for accommodating increasing transport and occupation duties.

The initial airbases and units in the American Occupation Zone in 1947 at the time of establishment of the separate United States Air Force were:


  • Erding also known as Fliegerhorst Air Depot home of the 7485th Air Depot Group

  • Fürstenfeldbruck Air Base home to the 36th Fighter Group

  • Landsberg Air Base home of the 7280th Air Base Group

  • Kaufbeuren Air Base home of the 7320th Air Force Group

  • Neubiberg Air Base home of the 33rd Fighter Group

  • Frankfurt am Main Airport home of the 469th Air Base Group

  • Tempelhof Airport in the American Zone Berlin home of the 7350th Air Base Group


With the exception of Frankfurt am Main Airport and Tempelhof Central Airport, these bases were all located across southern Bavaria.


With the Berlin Blockade and the rapid chilling of relations with the Soviet Union by mid 1948 it became obvious to USAF planners that these bases were tactically unsuitable due to their close proximity to the East German and Czechoslovakian borders. A surprise attack on West Germany would leave these facilities in the direct path of advancing Warsaw Pact forces.


With the creation of NATO in response to Cold War tensions in Europe, United States Air Force Europe wanted its vulnerable fighter units in West Germany relocated west of the Rhine River to provide greater air defense warning time. France quickly agreed to provide air base sites within their zone of occupation in the Rheinland-Palatinate as part of the NATO expansion program. These new sites would all be positioned fifty miles or more west of the Rhein River and most were positioned on rolling hilltops in rural settings.

Land acquisition in the Rheinland-Palatinate region was rapid, and during 1951 construction began on six new air bases. These bases were not funded by NATO, but by USAF funds partially offset by German war reparation payments. Construction was performed primarily by West German contractors as a result completion was on time and the quality of these new facilities were high. Bases at Pferdsfeld and Zweibrücken were built with USAF funds, but were ironically assigned to the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1952.


In 1968 the RCAF moved its forces south to Lahr and Söllingen in Baden-Württemberg and facilities such as Pferdsfeld Air Base were turned over to the West German Luftwaffe, and Zweibrücken Air Base was returned to United States Air Force Europe command.


Major USAFE Air Bases and units in West Germany during the Cold War were:


  • Rhein-Main Air Base home of the 469th Air Base Group

  • Sembach Air Base home of the 601st Tactical Air Control Wing

  • Hahn Air Base home to the 50th Tactical Fighter Wing

  • Bitburg Air Base home of the 36th Tactical Fighter Wing

  • Ramstein Air Base home of the 86th Tactical Fighter Wing

  • Spangdahlem Air Base home of the 52rd Tactical Fighter Wing

  •  Tempelhof Central Airport in West Berlin home of the 7350th Air Base Group

  •  Wiesbaden Air Base home of the 7100 Air Base Group

  •  Zweibrücken Air Base home of the 26th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing


HQ USAFE was at Wiesbaden Air Base until 1973, when it was then relocated to Ramstein Air Base. Wiesbaden Air Base was turned over to the Army in 1975 in exchange for Army facilities in the Ramstein-Kaiserslautern area. The USAF, however, remained at Lindsey Air Station in Wiesbaden until 1993.


These bases served the USAF well for over 40 years, keeping the peace in Western Europe.


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