happy Independence Day 2022 / Andrews Barracks in Berlin

For readers of wwiiafterwwii in the United States, I would like to extend wishes for a happy July 4th, our nation’s 246th birthday.

Below is a quite unusual Independence Day scene, taken in Berlin on 4 July 1945 – the first Independence Day after the European part of WWII ended and while combat in the Pacific was still underway.

The damaged building which both the Stars & Stripes and Hammer & Sickle are flying above, was the WWII headquarters of the 1st Waffen-SS Panzer Division, the LSSAH  (Liebstandarte SS Adolf Hitler) as can be seen on the cornice of the building atop the four columns.

4july

The LSSAH’s GHQ had been overrun by the Soviet army in May 1945. As it lay in what would become the American sector of the now-divided city, the Soviets were set to vacate it several weeks later. As an act of goodwill, the Soviet commander handed it over a bit early on the USA’s national holiday. Gen. Omar Bradley took custody of the base from the Soviets.

The complex was rechristened as Andrews Barracks in 1947 when it was clear that the American military presence in the divided city would not be ending anytime soon.

This building, part of a complex in southwestern Berlin, was originally the Imperial Prussian officer’s academy from the 1880s onwards. In 1933 it was enlarged, modernized, and made the Liebstandarte division’s GHQ.

andrewsbarrackswwii

Above is the building during WWII when it was the headquarters of the LSSAH. Two statues of German soldiers stood on the main gate’s pylons. The metal reichsadler on the cornice was yanked off as a trophy by the Soviets after the city surrendered in May 1945, before the turnover to the Americans.

andrewsserviceclub

Above is Andrews Barracks during the Cold War, with the former Waffen-SS parade ground now a parking lot. The “LIEBSTANDARTE ADOLF HITLER” lettering on the cornice was removed shortly after the American military took over the base. This photo was taken after 1953 when the small church was built to serve the US Army chaplain. The original German WWII chapel, behind the main building, had been damaged during WWII and was torn down by the US Army.

1950sposter

Above is Korean War-era motivational material printed for US Army soldiers assigned to Andrews Barracks and other Berlin Brigade bases.

andrewspool1980s

The base had an Olympic-regulation swimming and diving pool which survived WWII. Built in Third Reich-style architecture, it was renovated by the US Army in 1971. The above photo was taken in 1980.

Of the actual Waffen-SS soldiers barracks which surrounded the main buildings, they were gradually demolished and replaced during the Cold War.

andrewsbarracks

(new US Army barracks buildings)

By 1979 only one remained. Upon a request from the West Berlin civilian authorities, it was not demolished and instead modernized internally by the US Army in 1986.

7800

The 7800th Separate Rifle Platoon was created in 1947 specifically for Andrews Barracks and was never based anywhere else. This was the final racially-segregated unit in the American military as President Truman ordered the military desegragated in 1948, a process largely completed by 1950. To have joined the 7800th in 1947 required a special 5-year reenlistment from the soldiers, so the unit remained all-black into the Korean War era. The 7800th was used for VIP reception and ceremonial duties in West Berlin for the three western allies of WWII, and was a highly-regarded honor guard across Europe. The platoon had a rigid code of personal honor and also remained a fully combat-capable infantry unit.

3574thQuartermaster

The 3574th Quartermaster Truck Company was stationed at Andrews Barracks for a short while. In 1946 it was still operating Mack NR trucks, a 10t design of WWII which came in various configurations and payload ratings. During WWII the 3574th had crossed half of Europe; starting at the D-Day landings in Normandy in 1944 and then up through France and western Germany, before ending in Berlin.

bar1959

The Berlin Brigade overall used WWII equipment well into the Cold War era. In this 1959 photo, soldiers in West Berlin are carrying M1 Garands and a M1918 BAR, entering a Cold War-era H-34 Choctaw helicopter.

1961

(photo via Life magazine)

This 1961 photo shows a MP near the boundary with the Soviet sector, by then East Berlin, wearing early Vietnam War-era uniform items but armed with a WWII M3 submachine gun.

One of the more interesting pieces of lore from Andrews Barracks was the two large statutes of Waffen-SS soldiers at the front gate. Carved by Bernhard Bleeker during the 1930s, both were still extant when Berlin capitulated in 1945.

statue

Above is one of the two statues during WWII.

According to longstanding Berlin Brigade lore, sometime between mid-1945 and late 1950, the two Waffen-SS statues were permanently entombed in concrete poured to match the height and width of the pylons behind them. This is at least partially true in the sense that new concrete was poured, as can still be seen today. However there are no photos of the event or work orders showing when it was done or by whom.

gate

(The gate during the Cold War. The differing concrete colors can be seen.) (photo via gmic.co.uk web forum)

andrewsgate

(The differing concretes can clearly be seen.)

However a rebutting opinion, less colorful and less popular amongst servicemen, was that the statues were demolished in 1945 and the new concrete was just a quick way to avoid the empty pedestals inviting questions as to what had once been there. Third Reich-era photographs of the statues seem to show the tops of the soldiers stahlhelms being taller than the pylons, so in that case it would be impossible to completely entomb them.

It is not a given that the US Army would have demolished the statues. Not only in West Berlin but across West Germany, the American military took over various former German military installations after WWII. As a rule, swastikas were removed but often reichsadlers, iron cross sculptures, generic soldier artwork, etc were just considered not worth the bother.

pond

As an example of the above, this reichsadler at US Army Pond Barracks in Amberg, West Germany had the reichsadler’s swastika removed in 1945 but the eagle left on the wall. During WWII this had been Ritter Von Möhl Kaserne, housing the Wehrmacht’s 41st Infantry Regiment.

Going back to the two statues at Andrews Barracks, a new wrinkle came from the Russian Federation in the late 1990s. A photo of two gigantic decapitated stone heads wearing stahlhelms with SS runes emerged. (The noses of the heads were also either shot off or broken off.) It was said that these were from the Liebstandarte Adolf Hitler barracks in Berlin; with the statues being decapitated by Soviet troops in 1945 before the base was handed over to the Americans, with a goal of using the heads in some sort of memorial in the USSR which in the end was never done.

In that case both versions of the fates could be true: perhaps beneath the concrete is headless statues.

andrewsbarracks1980s

On 9 November 1989 the Berlin Wall was opened and on 3 October 1990, West and East Germany reunited. There was no longer any point to Andrews Barracks and it was permanently closed by the US Army in 1994.

Today the site is used for a mixture of purposes. Bundesarchiv, the German state archives, uses some of it. A department sorting through the mountains of East German secret documents inherited in 1990 also makes use of some of the buildings. One of the post-WWII US Army barracks was remodeled into the Clipper Garden Home hotel. The 1930s swimming pool now belongs to a members-only health club. Several other of the buildings have been torn down for redevelopment of the area.

 

 

9 thoughts on “happy Independence Day 2022 / Andrews Barracks in Berlin

  1. Loved this, very interesting. I was in Berlin in 1985, but was limited in time, and ignorance of all of the vestiges of the Nazi Era that remained, and this was before the wall came down, so I saw what I could get to, and what I was aware of…thanks for this..

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Special Forces Berlin, covering the era from post WWII to the 1980s, written by James Stejskal, is a great book about the era and the teams that served there, by one of their own.

    Highly recommended, as is this site. Thanks for all your hard work; if you ever do a Patreon or Utreon account, let us know so we can chip in.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a fascinating read. If the information is out there, I’d love to read more about WWII bases/buildings and their post war lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have nothing relevant to add except that my grandfather (who retired from the US Army circa 1960) was in the Berlin Brigade and I have his Swiss Army knife with “Berlin Brigade – Safety Award” engraved upon it.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s