504th Signal Battalion

The Years in Germany: 1961 - 1965

Images and photos of the 504th Signal Battalion, Sullivan Barracks, BFV (Benjamin Franklin Village), and Mannheim, old and new. If you have any from the 1960s that I can add, please send them as .jpg file format e-mail attachments to neagle504@yahoo.com .

The 504th Signal Bn Patch and Unit Insignia. Insignia Symbolism: Orange and white are colors traditionally associated with the Signal Corps. The shield is divided into two parts to represent the dual functions of the unit, supply and maintenance. The four wavy barrulets refer to the four places of the unit's activation--Italy, Germany, Japan and the United States.

My corner of the world from Oct 1964 to April 1966. I was transferred to the newly formed 7th Inventory Control Center in Taylor Barracks under the 7th Army Support Command as the 7th Army Major Electronics Items Supply Officer when the 504th was deactivated in late 1965, then moved to the 7th Inventory Control Center HQ at Gerszewski Barracks in Karlsruhe in March, 1966. 

The Mannheim military community is comprised of several posts within a relatively small area in and around Mannheim. Sullivan, Taylor, and Funari Barracks, Benjamin Franklin Village housing and the military shopping area are all located within walking distance of one another in the Mannheim suburb of Kafertal. Spinelli Barracks is approximately 10 minutes by car circling southeast around Mannheim. Coleman Barracks is located off Autobahn A6 at the town of Sandhofen, approximately 20-30 minutes by car. Turley Barracks is approximately five miles toward the center of Mannheim. Thompkins Barracks and Friedsrichfeld depot are located just off Autobahn A565 toward Heidelberg.

 Present Mannheim Army Community Information

Sullivan Barracks, Mannheim-Kafertal Germany, Headquarters of the 504th Signal Battalion. View a larger image of the map.

A map of Sullivan Barracks and part of Benjamin Franklin Village. View an aerial photo of this area and a large Mannheim Area Map.

Sullivan Barracks Main Gate, circa 1965

Sullivan Barracks buildings in the early 1960s: Top- A typical Battalion HQ building (not the 504th). Center- 504th Signal Bn Co D Barracks (Building 222). Bottom- Sullivan Barracks Chapel (Building 239)

Military Electronics Superstore (1964 photos contributed by Ken Fugate)

 

 

 

The main (only) gate to the Seventh Army Signal Depot in Sullivan Barracks. (Larger photo)

 

 

 

 

My "office" was on the second floor of the main building. (Larger photo)

 

 

 

BFV Housing in 1964

 

 

Enlisted family apartments. 

 

 

 

 

Warrant and Company Grade Officers (WO, CWO, 2LT, 1LT, CPT) lived in BFV apartment buildings like this one that I lived in. Field Grade Officers (MAJ, LTC, COL) lived in much larger duplex units in the Grant Circle area

 

 

The Bachelor's Office Quarters (BOQ) on Further Strasse across the street from the Commissary and PX. (Larger photo) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My apartment floor plan

 

 

 

 

 

Current BFV housing info including photos and floor plans

The BOQ is now known as the Franklin Guest House. Here's some info about it:

26th ASG - Benjamin Franklin Village
Franklin Guesthouse
293rd BSB
Unit 29901
9086
Germany

Reservations: (49) 6217309218
Fax: (49) 621738607
E-Mail Reservations: frankling@cmtymail.26asg.army.mil

Army Lodging
Official Room Rate: $52, $63
Space A Rate:
Additional Person fee: $10

Accommodations: 42 Units
Amenities: Alarm Clock, AM/FM Radio, Cable TV, Coffee Maker, Color TV, Dataport on Phone, Hairdryer, Iron / Ironing Board, Personal Care Items

Main Gate Directions: Enter from Highway B38, turn right at first light, left at next light. Take 3rd right around circle and straight ahead, second building to the right is lodging across from AAFES gas station.

"Downtown" BFV in 1964 (photos contributed by Ken Fugate)

 

 

The Commissary and AAFES (PX) Gas / Service Station. The PX was next to the Commissary, and can be seen in the larger photo.

 

 

 

 

BFV Officers Club. (Larger photo) 

 

 

 

 

Sullivan Barracks main gate and Kafertal Stassenbahn Station. (Larger photo)

 

 

The BFV Commissary. No double coupons, "Buy 1, Get 1 Free" specials, competition, or even a big name sign at this US Army "Piggly Wiggly". Everyone in BFV did their grocery shopping at the BFV Commissary in the 60s (they had no other choice), and probably still does.

The US Military version of Wal Mart: the BFV PX. The old Commissary/PX building sustained over $1 million in  damages in an August 1984 fire. When the new Commissary was built a few years ago, a new PX mini-mall was created here. 

The BFV Officers Club Calendar of Events for January, 1966. Slot machines, 5 cent German beer at Happy Hour from 5:00 to 8:00 pm on Tuesdays & Fridays, FREE beer from Noon to 5:00 pm on Saturdays, and dinner and beer for a buck on German Nite. Ah, the good old days. Georgie Shaw, a British singer who had a few Top 40 records in England and the USA in the 50s, entertained at the Saturday night "Floor Show" on January 29th. Paul McCartney and John Lennon also supposedly had appeared at the Club a few times in the late 1950s prior to the formation of The Beatles, when they performed with The Quarrymen.

 

The traffic circle (now called "Friendship Circle") outside the main gate to Sullivan Barracks. Ben Franklin Village is across the Strassenbahn tracks to the left. The main gate to Sullivan Barracks is outside the photo at the right.

View an aerial color photo of Ben Franklin Village and Sullivan Barracks in the late 90s, and a close up aerial photo of BFV courtesy of Thomas Smailus. Thomas is an "Army Brat" who attended Mannheim American High School in the㻐s, and in December 2001he took a trip back there and took a video camera with him. Some clips of the tape he made while back on the old stomping grounds and photos of BFV can be seen at http://www.rsip.lsu.edu/tom/mannheim/video/ Unfortunately, as a result of 9/11/01, the entire area was locked down and one needed a valid ID card to get in, and so he was only able to film what he could see from the public roads. His description of the scenes on the clips:

Driving up the B-3 past BFV and taking the Vogelstang exit, looping over the B-3 and then turning left at the traffic light to enter BFV / Käfertal at the street-car stop at the traffic circle. This traffic circle now has a traffic light as well, so combine the traffic light with circle traffic and the ID checks at the security points installed by the Army and it was a traffic nightmare. The old outdoor clay tennis courts are now enclosed in a building. The pedestrian crossing from the middle school over the Birkenauer Straße and the OEG streetcar tracks into the high school, is now gone. In its place is a pedestrian bridge that goes over the road and strass tracks, connecting the two fenced in halves of the BFV community. The drive goes around the back past the elementary school heading toward the Käfertaler Wald.

On the return drive (after visiting the Käfertaler Wald), just after coming out of the woods, looking to the left, we see that the open fields and soccer fields that were the area behind BFV housing and Sullivan Barracks is now the home of a big, new Commissary. We drive past the Grant Circle section and the old store with the candy and Brötchen and the back checkpoint at the Wasserwerk Straße and Jackson Street. Proceeding past the elementary school again, driving past Funari Barracks on the Bensheimer Straße and back between the middle and high schools down Birkenauer Straße, you can see the large radio/communications tower. The courtyard of the high school no longer sports the tin temp buildings of the 80s, which then housed the supply office and JROTC - that open quad is now filled with basketball courts.

McDonald's and Burger King had not invaded Europe yet, so our only source for American fast food was the A&W Root Beer Drive-In in nearby Viernheim.

An OEG streetcar (strassenbahn) on the Mannheim - Kafertal route in 2002 (top) and two 1960s era Mannheim strassenbahns (bottom). Doesn't look like they've changed much.

Downtown Mannheim in 1965

The same location forty years later.

Mannheim scenes 35 years later

The US Army Hospital in Heidelberg (a rear view, the front looked much better). My two oldest daughters were born here in June 1965 and May 1967.

We didn't have any American TV, so we listened to the Armed Forces Network (AFN Europe) in Frankfurt for American radio programs. The most popular format with AFN’s audience was Rock and Roll/"Top 40". Portions of the AFN schedule were dedicated to Rhythm & Blues, Country & Western, Progressive and specialty music genres. Wolfman Jack, Casey Kasem, Barbara Randolph, Roger Carroll, Chris Noel, Gene Weed, Tony Pigg, Bob Kingsley, Jim Pewter, Charlie Williams and Herman Griffith were among stateside radio personalities who produced programs in Los Angeles. These 55-minute programs were flown to AFN Europe and other American Forces stations worldwide. Thirty minutes of Hymns From Home were broadcast nightly at 1830 hrs (6:30 pm).

 

AFN Frankfurt began operating on 15 July 1945 from a confiscated home in the city. On 1 October 1946 it moved into the Von Bruning castle, complete with moat and turret, in Hoechst. The oldest part of the castle, the tower which had loomed over Hoechst since the 14th century, was converted into billets for the unmarried staff. The renaissance addition, connected via a bridge across the moat, became offices and studios. Little did anyone know it would be exactly 20 years before German government pressure finally persuaded AFN to return the Hoechst Castle and seek a new home. AFN agreed and erected a new studio with offices near the Hessischer Rundfunk (Hessen, Germany State Radio) on Bertramstrasse in Frankfurt. AFN began broadcasting from the new location in August 1966.

 

We listened to Radio Luxembourg at night for "Top 40" music. Radio Luxembourg transmitted to all of Europe via the powerful transmitter site in Marnach on 208 metres (1440 AM) in the medium wave band. The transmitter pumped out 1300 kW and was Europe's most powerful. Listen to the "Great 208" Top 20 Show of August 1, 1965 with Barry Alldis "Your DJ, BA".

 

By today’s standards, the format of Radio Luxembourg’s English service seems strange. Variety of personality were the watchwords, with the whole of the evening broken down into a series of 15 and 30 minute segments, each with different presenters. The number of presenters required by these shows was so vast, that the company would have been faced with the prospect of flying planeloads of personalities over to Luxembourg on a weekly basis. This problem was solved by pre-recording around 80% of the output on tape in London, and flying a crate of open reel tapes out to the Grand Duchy each week. The company had a special express freight contract with British Eagle airlines for the purpose.

About 20% of the Luxembourg output was produced live, in the Grand Duchy, where a team of 5 “resident announcers” would live for a month at a time, before having a weeks leave back in the UK. It was a hard life for these ex-pat broadcasters, at a time when Luxembourg itself was not a sophisticated city in which to live.

This happy mixture of live and pre-recorded shows was so well blended, with continuity announcers between each segment doing station idents and spot ads, that most listeners assumed the whole output to be live. The London studios were assumed to have a landline to the foreign transmitters, though this was always a subtle hoax as far as the management were concerned.

Listener loyalty was so great, that no one seemed to mind.

  

 

Roughing it in Italy with mein frau in the summer of 1967. My POV was a 1965 Rambler American that I bought through the BFV PX for about $1800. It took about four weeks to get it shipped from the states, and we had to take a train to Bremerhaven on the North Sea coast to pick it up and drive it back to Mannheim.

 

  

      

We bought gas vouchers to use at Esso stations in Europe when we weren't near an AAFES gas station. We paid about 25 cents per gallon for Esso gas in 1966 when Germans were paying aboutف.20 DM per liter (equivalent to about $1.20 per gallon).  

 

Esso was into their famous "Put the Tiger in Your Tank" ("Pack den Tiger in den Tank") advertising throughout Europe then. Advertising included signs like this at their gas stations.

 

and "Ich Hab Den Tiger Im Tank" ("I Have The Tiger In The Tank") bumper stickers like this that I had on my car when I shipped it back to the states in 1967.

504th Signal Barracks Life Photos From The Larry Hood Archives

Photos From The Leigh Cheney Archives

 

The "nucleus" of the reactivated 504th Signal Battalion at Tobyhanna Signal Depot in Pennsylvania just prior to shipping out to Germany in 1961- Pat Brennan, Paul Tomes, William Buck, Chaplain Paterson, Luis Romeu, Leigh Cheney, Sam Jenkins. 

 

 

 

504th Signal Bn CO LTC William Gooley, Leigh Cheney, and Co E First Sgt Hansel Beane at an award ceremony at Company E in Giessen.

 

 

504th Signal Battalion At Work

Circa 1965 photos provided by Byron Christian

Karlsruhe US Military Installations Photos

(The photos have been moved to the new 7th ICC page) 


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