My Life in Nellingen Barracks

In 1976 I began to work as an maintenance repair man (Plumber) for the US Army in Nellingen Barracks. Soon I got to know the “American Way of Life”. I found out how the Americans live, what they do in their free time, what their customs are and learned about their traditions. Everything they did was fun for me. Since I got to know them I started to get interested in the life they lived.

The Americans loved to travel the country with their families. Baden Württemberg and Bavaria were their favourite destinations. Thus they learned about our way of life as well. We Facility Engeneers often heard them talk about their trips to Berchtesgaden, Füssen, Chiemsee and Neuschwanstein. They were enthusiastic about German restaurants where the ate Schnitzel, Onion Beef, Maultaschen (sort of huge raviolis), and of course drank the good strong German Beer.


In Nellngen Barracks the soldiers had everything they needed for their daily life. There was a taylor, a library, a barber’s shop, Burger King, a gas station, a cinema , a laundry, a PX, a commisary and of course an EM-NCO and Officer’s Club.

Nellingen Barracks Barber Shop 1992

Taylor Shop 1992 ( Schneiderei )
Besides that many Sportsfields. In the North Part of the Barracks was the notorious Rod & Gun Club with the skeet Range. Way on South within the Kaserne was the actually Heart. Here were all the Buildings for the People to go shopping and spend their Free Time. In this Area we Workers had our Maintenance Shop, called the R&U Shop Facility Engineers right across the German Canteen.

Entrance of R & U Shop 1983
My Friend and colleague Donato Arcaro

My colleagues on Shop-Trucks 1977

Me, Billy, Plumber, 1983

Our R&U Shop was located right across the German Canteen. The workshop had all the machines and tools to do the repairs on post. We were also equipped with all the instruments and mowers. There was a Self Help Service, too. We had a car pool in the backyard and the vehicles were filled with material and tools that there was hardly any space left. Each team had its own truck for the different tasks of carpentry, plumbing, lock smith and electrical jobs. It was always a great pleasure for me to work for the Americans and I enjoyed the human contact and the cultural experience.

In the German Canteen the soldiers ate their lunch and enjoyed the German guest house atmosphere.We, the Facility Engeneers often bought fish and chips and other meals there. Several civillian workers from American bases of Stuttgart came and even the people of the Labor Service .You could imagine that different languages mingled and sounded like an international confusion of voices.

Above the German Canteen there was the Recreation Center where in their free time soldiers played billiard, ping pong, piano and guitar. That’s where I learned to play brilliant pool billiard. But the best time of year in Nellingen Barracks was the Christmas season. The barracks were completely restored and cleaned up and prepared for Christmas. In the Housing Area all the windows and doors were wonderfully decorated. Santa Claus was on his way. Even the Mess Hall was put up according to what the Americans were used to in their home country far away. When we had to repair things in the Mess Hall, they offered us chicken and pies during Christmas time. Even in the bureaus in the General’s building on each desk a candle was lit and the computers had their Christmas decoration. Nellingen got used to Americans in their uniforms driving or walking the streets of the village to do their shopping. Somehow I miss the time, when the U.S. troops were here.
In the northern part of the barracks there was a big helicopter hangar. The pilots who were instructed to fly helicopters had a huge area several hectars in size to do their training. This area surprisingly housed many local wild animals because the area was secluded from the outside world and a little world in itself. Animals like hare, buzzards, foxes, hedgehogs and birds of all breeds reproduced well and had found their home there.
The GI’s also had an icecream parlor and a Rollerscater Rink with disco for the teenies. Right next to it was the gymnasium for the basketball enthusiastics. Of course the army owned a Fire Fighting Unit directly between Bowling Alley and Burger King. There German Fire Fighters who were employed by the USArmy did their service. Below you can see some photos from the 80ies.

Fotos:Johannes Ciolkowski

Firetruck in back of Generalsbuilding

Firetruck in front of the Burger King

The Facility Engeneers had good relations to the director of the basketball hall and frequently watched when the soldiers played. The eastern part of the barracks included a gigantic heating facility which had seen many years but still was functioning well. Only few days lay between the arrival of German coal delivery. The waggons dropped the coal into huge seemingly swallowing holes. Thus the whole American Barracks were heated. My mother owned a guest house in Esslingen in the 70ies, about 8 km from Nellingen in Esslingen Sirnau and called “Siedlerheim”.
I was just 15 (1972) when I made friends with the Americans who dropped in. The “Amis” were always welcome with us. The soldiers helped a lot by painting the rooms and doing repair work.
I was invited to trips in fat Cadillacs, Pontiacs and Chevrolets. We went swimming in lakes near Tübingen, visited towns like Karlsruhe, the hilly landscape of the Suebian Alb or other military posts. The German kids were always signed in at the gates. Many birthdays were celebrated with our American friends and of course all the season holidays.

One big attraction in the Stuttgart region is the annual Cannstatter Volksfest. There is also a Frühlingsfest in sping, but the Volksfest in fall is one of the biggest in Europe. The soldiers love the place for its good “Maß Bier” (one liter of beer served in a stoneware mug). Frequently the Military Police appeared to bring home the soldiers who had drunk much too much. The Americans were used to a different kind of beer in the States. For us Germans that beer is much too thin and dull in taste. Very often on the day of the arrival in Germany the Americans got severely drunk and had a bad hangover the next day. In the EM Club fights between soldiers occurred almost every night. So next day the Facility Engeneers had to replace the heavy windows with their wire netting. Our jobs were secure for sure.

It was a real cool time. I’ve been told that some of the soldiers were so in love with our beer, they took with them a whole case of “Stuttgarter Hofbräu” in their plane to America when their time was up in the army. The German American Friendship Club “KONTAKT” was also established on Nellingen Barracks. Of course I joined the club. The trips on the program were great because the Americans made available all means of transport, equipment and food. The organisation ran faboulos. The weekly meetings were used to talk and exchange customs.

In the yard of the R&U Shop 1979

In the yard of the R&U Shop 1979

But in the end of the 80ies after the fall of the wall rumors rose that the Base would be closed.That news hit us like a bomb. And surely we feared for our jobs.

Then, 1991 some of our workers lost their Jobs, the Contract cancelled. Others gone on Retirement. To the end were six workers left, also me, as the new Shop - Foreman. Our Task was from now on to empty our Maintenance Shop. I was responsible that all U.S. - Unit´s leave the houses clean, and every unnessessary thing we dumpted in the Trash.

Drei ehemalige Kollegen vor einem Werstattwagen 1984

After the first Gulf -War in 1991 all the Families left the Housing Area with the entire Household, loaded on Trucks and shipped back to the States. Within a short of time they complete Housing were emty. Like a Ghost Town. The procedure took from August to September 1992. The other buildings like Motorpools and Hangar´s were emptied by the Army too.


End of October 1992 we celebrated a big Fairwell Party in our Shop. The 30th October 1992 was the last Workingday in the Nellingen Barracks. All of us had Tears in our Eyes when we left the Shop Door and I locked it the last Time. I turned back the Keys. Some of my Comrads worked from now on at Kelley Barracks. I worked there too till December 1992. From January 1st 1993 till today I work as an Hausmeister.


Demolition of Nellingen Barracks 1996

In 1996 the Department of Ostfildern pulled down the Barracks, except the Housing Area and the old, historical Wehrmacht Houses of the Year 1937. Those Buildings been listed under Monument.
That was the Command Section since 1951 for every U.S. Army General.

Blick auf Gardhouse 1988, by Marsha Christian

Zugang zum Generalsgebäude, by

Every other Houses got pulled down like Motorpools-Troop Biletts-Heating Plant-Gym-Hangars. All the Rocks and Stones were smashed and has been recycled to build new Streets. The Housing Area Buildings were renovated by the Facility Office of the City Ostfildern. The same Procedure happened to the historical Command Buildings. Since 1996 a complet new Part of our Town grew up, the "Scharnhauser Park". Then after a short Time many other Houses got constructed there like Apartments, Schools, Guesthouses, Factories, Kindergarten, Playground, Shoppingcenters, Townhall. I think that an Army Veteran can hardly remember and recognize to see where the old Barracks was.