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Forces Network, Europe
US Army, Europe
Looking for more information from military/civilian
personnel assigned to or associated with the U.S. Army
in Germany from 1945 to 1989. If you have any
stories or thoughts on the subject, please email me (webmaster).
With the passing of Bob Stoffel on January 18, 2012, the AFN-AFRTS community and anyone interested in the history of the Armed Forces Network in Europe suffered the loss of a good friend.
Bob was the creator and long-time moderator of the very active and successful AFN-Europe Yahoo Group and an untiring champion for keeping the wonderful memories of AFN-Europe alive. His passion and dedication to the AFN family and friends are an inspiration for all of us.
From a long-time AFN listener and fan and one who can appreciate the herculean effort required to maintain such an active website, may Bob's memory and legacy continue to guide the group in keeping alive the history and memories of AFN in Europe.
Von Brüning Castle, Hoechst, former AFN Headquarters, 1950s (Bing maps)
AFN Headquarters, 1959 (Frank da Cruz)
Anniversary, AFN", AFN TV-Guide, July 1983)
following persons provided original materials incorporated in the
History of AFN as it appeared in the July 1983 issue of the TY-Guide:
COL Ted Shoemaker; Mr. Robeut J. Harlan; Mr Don Brewer; LTC Robert
P. Bubmak; AFN was thanked for the use of its historical archives;
as were numerous staff members of AFN for their generosity, in sharing
their memories; and several unknown but highly appreciated authors
who compiled earlier versions of the AFN history; AFN Commander LTC
Charles R. Crescioni was thanked for his support; as well as Mr Trent
Christman who tried to separate the wheat from the chaff and pull
the whole thing together but mostly, and all AFNers-pastand present
- who by their very presence had contributed so much to this history.
AFN Europe Patch
is AFN ..."
By Trent Christman
The Fourth of July, 1944, was anything but a "slow news day."
Allied troops were completing mopping-up operations in Sicily
and getting ready to invade Italy. The British Royal Air Force
lost 32 bombers over Cologne and the American Eighth Air Force
lost eight in raids on Le Mans and submarine pens in France.
The first battalion of WAACs to arrive in the United Kingdom
was still aboard ship in the harbor but excitement ashore
was running high. (Several weeks later the women lost an "A"
for "auxiliary" and became the Women's Army Corps).
Heavy fighting raged in Russia and in the Pacific on this
date, and all of it was reported on one of Stars & Stripes'
mere four pages that day.
In spite of a glut of news to fit into the few pages available,
editors featured three-fourths of a column on the front page
headlining the start of a new radio service for United Kingdom-based
troops. There can be no doubt that it was a start, but looking
back from the perspective of forty years it can be debated
that it was a service. Not, at least, for the first few faltering
weeks when the broadcast day consisted of less than five hours
of recorded shows, a BBC newscast and a sportscast read by
an AFN announcer but supplied and written by Stars &
The mere fact that the broadcast infant was squalling on the
airwaves for even five hours a day is a miracle, almost as
great a miracle as the fact it continued to thrive and grow
in size and importance for the next forty years.
understand the beginnings, it's necessary to go back to those
early war years of 1941 and 1942. There were a few primitive
military broadcast operations already in existence. Kodiak,
Alaska, had started the whole thing because gung-ho Signal
Corps troops built a transmitter and began playing records.
Thule, Greenland, had a home-made station also - called KRIC
which, the staff explained, stood for "Kee-Rist It's Cold."
It soon became obvious that there had to be some sort of order
to military broadcasting, particularly supplying music and
programming from home to be played for the troops overseas.
The need was filled by the formation of AFRS, the Armed Forces
Radio Service, in 1942. AFRS added a "T" for television
many years later and to this day continues to do the job for
which it was designated on a scale never dreamed of in those
early World War II days.
As America mobilized its forces for worldwide conflict, troops
poured ashore in Britain and Northern Ireland for training
and eventual invasion of the continent. So many troosp and
so much equipment came ashore, in fact, that the British claimed
the only thing keeping the islands from sinking into the sea
were the barrage balloons.
The troops were eager and ready to fight. They were also lonely and homesick. The idea of a GI radio operation first saw the light of day in an early-1943 meeting between Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall and Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. They decided a voice from home featuring the radio programs the troops were used to, news and U.S. sports would help fight loneliness and homesickness. When two men with eight stars decide something should be done, something is done. AFN sprang into existence.
Perhaps "sprang" isn't exactly the word. "Crawled quickly" might more accurately describe what happened.
Lieutenant General Jacob Devers, Ike's chief of staff, took the
ball handed him by his boss and passed it on to the best man he
could find to get the job done, a young captain named John S Hayes.
Hayes, who had a background in civilian radio, suddenly found himself
the first AFNer although at this point the network not only didn't
have a name, it didn't have a studio, a transmitter, a microphone,
a turntable, a staff, a filing cabinet, or a listener. It had a
targeted completion date, though: 4 July 1943. Now there were eleven
stars pushing for completion; powerful motivation for a young captain.
Somehow, in the chaos of wartime London, he wheedled office space
and a secretary. For clout he turned to the Office of War Information.
Brewster Morgan, radio chief of the OWI and Richard Condon, OWI's
chief engineer, offered to help. Between them they got the BBC to
waive its monopolistic rights to broadcasting in the United Kingdom.
When they got Britain's Wireless Telegraphy Board to give its blessing,
AFN, though certainly a small child, was suddenly legitimate.
The BBC offered its own cramped emergency facilities at 11 Carlos
Place, London, just off Grosvenor Square. It was from these studios
that Edward R. Murrow was making his famed "This is London" shortwave
reports to America each night and from which the BBC itself occasionally
broadcast during the height of the blitz.
There were no computerized personnel records in those days and it
took Captain Hayes and Army personnel clerks three weeks of combing
records before they came up with twelve experienced radio people.
Finally it was 5:45 p.m. July 4, 1943. Hayes no doubt breathed a
sigh of relief as the network signed on to the strains of "The Star
Listeners on that first evening heard the Bing Crosby Music Hall,
the Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy Show and the Dinah
Shore Show crackling through the air from five 50-watt transmitters
located in troop concentrations throughout the British Isles.
This was a period of explosive growth. D-Day was 11 months away,
but troops were pouring in by the shipload. AFN grew, too. The broadcast
day was gradually lengthened to 19 hours daily. More than 50 transmitters
were installed, including six in Northern Ireland, all linked to
the temporary London studios at 11 Carlos Place. Personnel were
added to handle the additional air time and engineering duties including
Corporal Johnny Vrotsos who stayed around (later as Mr. Vrotsos)
to become over the next twenty years AFN's best known personality.
Many longtime AFN listeners still fondly remember Johnny Vee.
Preparations for the invasion of mainland Europe had reached a crescendo
by May of 1944 - and so had the V-1 rocket bombs. AFN staffers didn't
particularly like being knocked off the air by buzz bombs landing
near Carlos Place, so as May rolled around no one was sorry to move
to 80 Portland Place. Besides, it also gave everyone a little more
room. The D-Day preparations included plans for a combined broadcast
operation to include AFN, the BBC and the Canadian Broadcasting
Corporation. The mobile broadcast vans were prepared, and AFN staffers
accompanied the allied troops as they stormed ashore in France on
the 6th of June, 1944.
combined allied broadcasters covered the initial phases of
the invasion and, shortly thereafter, went their separate
ways. AFN continued to maintain its headquarters back in London,
but the broadcasting was done from near the rapidly moving
front. Each of the First, Third and Ninth Armies was assigned
a mobile station complete with people and platters. As the
armies moved forward, so did AFN.
This was hardly the much-touted glamour of show business.
Bombings and shellings were a daily occurrence for long periods.
The Seventh Army mobile unit was strafed regularly and Sergeant
Jim McNally became AFN's first fatality when he was killed
while operating it. Shortly thereafter Sergeant Pete Parrish,
an AFN news correspondent, was killed while accompanying a
paratroop unit into France.
Although the shooting has long stopped, this kind of dedication to the job continues after 40 years. As recently as 1982, two AFN staff members - Airman Mike Sutton and Private Bruce Scott - lost their lives in a helicopter crash near Mannheim, Germany, while covering a story for AFN Television.
mobile units broadcast music and news to the frontline troops and
fed news reports back to studio locations as well. The First Army
unit scored a newsbeat on the whole world when First Army Commander
LTG Courtney H. Hodges dropped in to announce the capture of Cologne.
While the armies were moving into Germany, troops were being stationed
in liberated France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. It
was necessary to provide radio service to these men and women as
well and the now rapidly expanding AFN began putting more and more
stations on the air.
Radio people have never been particularly noted for their modesty
and the predecessors of today's AFNers were no exception. War may,
as General Sherman said, be hell, but its hellishness was lessened
somewhat when AFN studios were opened in Paris. No cramped basement
quarters this time. They were in for mer Emperor Napoleon III's
Parisian palace. These elegant digs became the operating headquarters
for the network although the administrative headquarters remained
With Paris as a hub, other stations were opened in such hard-to-take
locations as Nice, Cannes, Biarritz, Marseilles and Le Havre.
And Reims. The guys that chose Reims weren't modest either. They
opened the station in the De Polignac castle which happens to be
the home of Pommery champagne - nine million bottles of which were
stored in the basement. At least there were that many when they
moved in. No record exists of the inventory when they moved out.
The good life in France ended in 1946 when all these stations closed.
It would not be until 1958 that AFN would return to broadcast again
from French soil although never again from such lavish surroundings.
The wartime period saw some of the finest entertainment - and entertainers
visiting or working in front of the AFN microphones. Just a few
to visit the London studios were Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Jerry Colonna,
Marlene Dietrich, Edward G. Robinson and Major Glenn Miller who,
with his entire band, had joined the Air Corps and played frequent
concerts for AFN from English bases.
Actor Broderick Crawford was on the staff. Actor David Niven was
on the staff of the combined AFN-BBC-CBC operation. Roy Neal, now
NBC news chief in Los Angeles, was there too.
Although AFN today prides itself on its objectivity, it wasn't always
that way. John Hayes recalls being ordered to play some totally
obscure and totally terrible song such as "Lily From Laguna" at
a precise time of day such as 1:06 p.m. "Once," he recalls, "we
had to play Sur le Pont d'Auignon fourteen times in a single
day." No one on the staff ever found out why, but it was obvious
they were sending signals to the underground in France or some other
By May 1945, shortly before AFN's second birthday, the Russian offensive
in the east and the allied offensive in the west led to the surrender
of Germany. AFN had grown into a mammoth operation. John Hayes,
the young captain who
start it all, was now a lieutenant colonel. The network had
grown to 63 stations scattered from Biarritz to Czechoslovakia;
from London to Marseilles. The initial staff of eleven had
grown to more than 700 who boasted their own airplane, vehicles
and even their own shoulder patch which was, according to
Hayes, "designed and approved by ourselves."
The end of the war found the Seventh Army mobile unit in Munich
where it quickly put down roots into a permanent home. With
typical modesty the permanent home was the mansion of famed
German artist Kaulbach, used before AFN moved in as headquarters
of the Nazi Gauleiter. Neither he nor his evicted staff could
have dreamed that his no doubt unwelcome houseguests would
stay until 1983 when they planned to move several blocks down
Although the war was finished, AFN's job wasn't. The first
phase of AFN's history was over. A new one was about to begin.
It was obvious the Americans were going to be around for a while. Those that had fought their way into Germany from the Normandy beachheads were soon heading home. They were being replaced by new troops arriving overseas for the first time. Like AFN's original audience in the U.K., they were lonely and homesick. A voice from home was every bit as important to them as it was to the earlier audiences.
AFN took on the challenge and began to dig in.
first station on the air in Germany was AFN Munich.
Its debut was not exactly auspicious, according to its first commander,
Major Bob Light.
Light, now a prominent Southern California broadcaster, moved his
Seventh Army AFN mobile van into Munich on June 10, 1945 and began
broadcasting June 11th. He signed on the station the
very first morning with a cheerful "This is AFN Munich, the voice
of the Seventh Army."
Unfortunately there were a couple of details about which Major Light
was unaware. One was that the Seventh Army had moved out and General
George Patton's Third Army had moved in.
Another was that Patton was listening while he shaved. Still another
small detail was that the short-fused general lost control of both
his temper and his straight razor when he heard that he was listening
to the "Voice of the Seventh Army." He lived up to his nickname
"Blood & Guts" that morning as the blood streamed down his face
and he screamed to his aide that he wanted "that blankety-blank
Within a few weeks AFN Stuttgart went on the air although initially
it was fed from the Munich studios. The combined power totalled
200,000 watts and because the radio band was much less crowded and
average power much lower in those days, this giant voice was heard
throughout Europe with ease.
AFN Frankfurt, then just another station, began operation on July
15,1945 from a requisitioned house on Kaiser Sigmund Strasse, only
a few blocks away from today's headquarters. The staff sound-proofed
it by lining the walls with blue-grey Wehrmacht uniform cloth. Before
the job was done, the Glenn Miller band showed up to do a concert.
It had to be held outdoors on the lawn to the delight of the neighbors
In August 1945 both AFN Berlin and AFN Bremen began broadcasting.
Berlin is now still very much in operation and still located in
the suburb of Dahlem although in a brand-new building especially
designed for its combined radio-television program center. AFN Bremen
moved slightly north to Bremerhaven in 1949 and continues today
to serve the Port City area.
AFN Headquarters remained in London at this time, 1945, but when
General Eisenhower announced he was moving his headquarters from
London to Frankfurt, it didn't take any particular genius on Colonel
Hayes' part to know he didn't have much choice but to follow suit.
Hayes sent First Lieutenant Jim Lewis to Frankfurt to search for
a home for AFN Headquarters. Lewis quickly
decided the already overcrowded AFN Frankfurt radio station wouldn't
do. By now this facility had moved from its poorly soundproofed
house on Kaiser Sigmund Strasse to the Frankfurt Military Compound.
Lieutenant Lewis quickly decided this was too close to the flagpole
for his rather free-wheeling broadcasters. He realized that it might
make the then restrictive non-fraternization and curfew regulations
a bit easierto take if the staff could be moved out of the shadow
of the highest headquarters in Europe.
Besides, he reasoned correctly, being located in a more isolated
location might make "drop-in" inspections by the brass somewhat
In 1945, Hoechst was a comparatively small, quiet village perched
on the banks of the Main a few miles downstream from Frankfurt.
Dominating the skyline of the village, as it had since medieval
days, was the Hoechst Castle. Construction was first begun on the
castle in 1356 when Charles IV declared Hoechst a fortified town.
It was destroyed by fire in 1396 and rebuilt between 1397 and 1404.
In the late 16th century a Renaissance addition was added. It was
damaged again by fighting during the Thirty Years War in 1622 and
again during a siege in 1635. Perhaps its most famous guest was
Napoleon who stopped in on his way home from Russia after his chilly
It passed through many hands over the centuries and in 1908 was
purchased by the Count von Bruening from the Prince of Nassau-Usingen.
The von Bruenings were still living there in 1945.
At least they were until Lieutenant Lewis dropped by in August 1945
on the pretext of a "fire inspection."
AFN had found a home and the "castle era," which was to last until
1966, had begun.
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.
To this day the eyes of old-timers on the AFN staff and former
staffers cloud with nostalgia as they invariably think back
to the peaceful gardens, the winding river beneath the walls
and the elegant statuary gracing the grounds.
And it is inevitable that they will retell the stories of
the castle era which by now have become enduring legends of
the wild and wonderful days when they lived and worked in
a romantic castle on the Main.
Perhaps they will remember the overly realistic Halloween
broadcast called "The Thing in the Tower" in which a terrible
Teutonic monster took over the tower with intent to do unimaginable
things to the staff. The choking gasps of the cast were so
realistic a contingent from the 793rd MPs showed up, sirens
screaming, to rescue the beleaguered AFNers.
They will talk about the lovely tradition which continues to this day and started with a vow by a local village family that they would offer music from the top of the tower each Christmas in exchange for the safe return of their sons from the war of 1870.
They'll remember the long string of anniversary parties held in the castle gardens each Fourth of July.
Some remember the memorable interview with King Hussein of Jordan which began "How about telling us, King..."Or the newly assigned officer who met the Beach Boys coming down the stairs after an interview and ordered them to get their hair cut immediately. Memories of Yehudi Menuhin playing his violin in Studio A, of Senator Styles Bridges writing his report on his European visit in a borrowed office and of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Arsmtrong dropping by for a visit, all are fresh.
Celebrities were a common sight during the early occupation days. The war was over, the boys overseas wanted to see shows and the celebrities were anxious to oblige. And, it seemed, they all visited the castle for an interview, a performance or just a short libation in the AFN Club located in the former castle stables. A few of them included Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, Leopold Stokowski and Lily Pons, Eddy Arnold, Les Paul and Mary Ford, Hank Williams and Hank Snow. The list is endless.
Mickey Rooney was assigned to AFN for a period shortly after the War. Later Gary Crosby, Bing's boy, joined the staff. The military personnel system failed to assign Vic Damone - instead it had him counting sequins in a Special Services Depot - but he found AFN more fulfilling and managed to spend much of his tour in Europe as an AFN volunteer. Rosemary Clooney's brother Nick and Johnny Cash's brother Tommy both served their military time with AFN.
Raymond Burr often dropped in and appeared on the frequent dramatic presentations produced by AFN. So did Vincent Price and even Buster Keaton. Visitors might run across Bill Holden or Jayne Mansfield or General Curtis LeMay or Lowell Thomas or Paul Anka. Mostly though, they would see the staff rushing frantically to meet deadlines.
AFN London signed off for the last time on December 31,1945 and, as 1946 began, Germany became the focus of operations. It was necessary to shut down some of AFN's sprawling operations and Colonel Hayes handed the job to a captain named Robert Cranston, his deputy. Soon shut down were stations in Nancy, Dijon, and the Riviera. A few years later, Cranston would reappear.
The period between the end of the war in Europe and in the Pacific saw AFN feeding a super-powerful captured transmitter in Munich which served an audience in, of all places, China-Burma-India. Someone then got the idea that China was a little outside the area of AFN's area of responsibility and the transmitter was turned over to the Voice of America.
Lieutenant Colonel Oren Swain became AFN commander in 1946 and it fell to him to shape up the "civilians in uniform" who had manned the network during the free-wheeling wartime days. As former staff member Ted Shoemaker says, "They had run a great network but militarily they gave a new meaning to the term "sad sack."
Colonel Swain also did some "civilianizing" while he was doing his "militarizing." Talented military personnel were encouraged to take overseas discharges and stay with the network in a civilian capacity.
Swain says at that time he was by no means certain AFN would continue to operate for long into the post-war era. Money with which to operate was based on no solid foundation and the military now ran by firm rules, not the "let's do it and worry about regulations later" wartime attitude.
Then history stepped in.
Munich Hqs, AFN-Germany, early 1960s |
||AFN proved its worth by its complete coverage of the Nuremberg War Crime Trials. Then came the Russian blockade of Berlin and the biggest news challenge of the post-war years.
During the bleak days of the Berlin airlift, AFN Berlin went on the air 24 hours a day as an audible reminder to Berliners of the American presence in the city. It became proof to many that the Americans intended to stay. (And it also provided an entertaining homing signal to the American airlift pilots because the transmitter lay right on the flight path into Tempelhof.)
PHOTO: AFN Munich was located for many years at 15 Kaulbachstrasse in Munich.
With the end of the blockade, the thinking of the Western occupying powers changed; Germany, they soon realized, was an ally. The NATO treaty was drawn up and ratified and, with it, AFN was assured it would be around to play its part in continuing to serve the Americans assigned to the NATO alliance in Northern Europe.
Network newsmen continued to cover the major events of the day. AFN microphones were in Bonn for the live coverage of the formation of the West German Government although not much in evidence. Newsman Tom Weriu had neglected to wear the formal clothing protocol demanded and found himself describing events while peering out through a potted palm behind which officials had hidden him.
AFN covered the Berlin riots in 1953 and the construction of the wall in 1961. When President John Kennedy made his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech, AFN was there.
Big Picture Report #5: AFN Frankfurt Station, c. 1953 (starts at 17:55 - YouTube)
The network, which had been shrinking in size, began to grow again with the signing of the NATO treaty. As large troop concentrations were developed, AFN installed stations and transmitters to serve these audiences. AFN Nuernberg went on the air in 1950. AFN Kaiserslautern signed on from a van in an open field in February 1953 and moved into its present permanent home in April 1954. Because so many Americans were stationed in France, which was then a member of the military arm of NATO, negotiations were started with the French government to begin broadcasting from there once again. The negotiations proved to be a nightmare. In those pre-de Gaulle days, French governments came and went with persistent regularity. Negotiations dragged on and it was 1958 before AFN once again broadcast from French soil with small 50-watt FM transmitters at most bases and studios in Verdun, Orleans, and Poitiers.
French sensitivity to the predilection of American comics to poke fun at a nation which, at the time, seemed unable to govern itself resulted in an agreement in the final negotiations that AFN would not broadcast such material. This included a restriction on commentary about France of any kind, even if rebroadcast from an American commercial network. To insure compliance, a French government official was assigned to the network.
AFN's return to France was to last only nine years. In 1967 de Gaulle withdrew French forces from NATO control and forbid foreign troops to be stationed inside France. Once again AFN sadly signed off. The final record played over AFN France, according to legend, "accidentally" happened to be titled "Goodbye, Charlie."
The equipment in France was packed and moved out, much of it right along with NATO and SHAPE headquarters who moved to Belgium, closely followed by AFN.
& STRIPES article
1950's and early 1960's were probably AFN's glory days. The
draft was catching large numbers of experienced radio broadcasters
who were anxious to hone their skills while on active duty.
Funding allowed full-time news bureaus in Paris, London, Bonn,
and at most affiliates. Television was beginning to boom in
the States, but was just a dream for AFN. U.S. television,
however, was causing many old favorite radio programs to disappear
and it became necessary for AFN to increase production of
programs. For a time the network was churning out a phenomenal
75 hours of live programing each week including live drama,
band pickups, play-by-play sports, and specially prepared
extended news and special events programs.
If ever there was a "Mister Military Broadcaster" it would
have to be Robert S. Cranston who, as a lieutenant colonel,
was AFN commander from 1960-1964. His entire career, military
and civilian, spanned the history of military broadcasting.
During World War II he served as executive officer to AFN
Commander John Hayes. After the war he commanded the "Blue
Danube Network" headquartered in Austria. Back in the U.S.
he was the Army's first television officer and technical advisor
on Phil Silver's "Sergeant Bilko" shows. He was a combat correspondent
in Korea before coming to AFN as Commander. This was the period
the network under his direction reached its productive peak
in radio including such still-remembered programs as Weekend
World, Tempo and many others.
On leaving AFN, Cranston was promoted to Colonel and became Commander of the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) in Los Angeles. Following his military retirement in 1973, he returned to Washington where he became head of the Armed Forces Information Service (AFIS) and continued to direct the activities of military broadcasters world-wide.
On the occasion of his retirement from Federal Service effective
April 1, 1983, AFN's Commander LTC Charles R. Crescioni, sent a
message telling Cranston he "would always be on active duty with
AFN." Cranston replied: "Thank you for your kind message... AFN
is my alma mater and I appreciate your offer, which I accept, to
always be on active duty... my special thanks to all the staff,
especially those who are my personal friends, for the magnificent
accomplishments of the network during my time here at AFIS. Bigger
things are yet to come... I know that all of you are more than equal
to the challenge..."
It was during the last year of Colonel Cranston's command that AFN
faced the kind of nightmare situation that every broadcaster dreads.
November 22, 1963 was a slow news day. At the castle, news editor
David Mynatt was getting ready to broadcast "Report from Europe," a roundup of events from around the continent.
The regular quarterly program meetings had just concluded and Program
Director Don Brewer was hosting the affiliate program chiefs at
a cocktail party in the Frankfurt Officers' Club. Also attending
was V Corps Commanding General Creighton Abrams.
Colonel Cranston was stuck in a traffic jam on the autobahn trying
to return to Frankfurt from a meeting with USAREUR Headquarters
in Heidelberg. The biggest challenge in AFN's broadcasting history
began at 7:34 p.m. when the teletype in the castle newsroom typed
out a message:
DALLAS, NOV 22 (UPI) - THREE SHOTS WERE FIRED AT PRESIDENT KENNEDY'S
MOTORCADE TODAY IN DOWNTOWN DALLAS.
"Music in the Air," then one of AFN's most popular programs, was
on the air hosted by Sergeant Lloyd Eyre. Specialist Four John Grimaldi,
in the newsroom, noticed the wire immediately but because there
was no indication of injuries to members of the motorcade, refused
to panic and decided to stand by for further developments. They
weren't long in coming. At 7:39 the machines typed out:
KENNEDY SERIOUSLY WOUNDED PERHAPS FATALLY BY ASSASSIN'S BULLET.
Grimaldi ripped the copy from the machine and ran it in to Mynatt.
AFN policies have always been extremely conservative about breaking
into programming for news flashes. Although completely aware of
policies and knowing that there would be a regular newscast in 20
minutes, Mynatt didn't hesitate. He grabbed the copy and burst into
the "Music in the Air" studio, telling Eyre to put him
on the air.
At 7:41 AFN listeners heard Mynatt, his voice quivering with emotion,
say "Ladies and Gentlemen, we interrupt this program for a special
news bulletin. President Kennedy... on a visit to Dallas, Texas...
has been reportedly seriously wounded - perhaps fatally." His voice
broke as he continued, "We'll have more as it is received here at
It would be days before broadcasting would get back to normal. Newsmen
taking their dinner break in the AFN club heard the announcement
on the house speaker and rushed back to the newsroom. The Charge
of Quarters was trying frantically to reach Brewer and the program
staff at the Frankfurt Officers' Club. Cranston heard the news and
continued fighting traffic to get back to Frankfurt. A second update
came over the wire and Mynatt again pre-empted the airwaves and
read a report that both President Kennedy and Texas Governor Connally
had been hit.
Inexorably the clock continued to move to 8 p.m. when "Report from
Europe" was due to begin. No further news came over the wire by
8 o'clock so Mynatt, having no choice, began the regularly scheduled
program. As short bulletins came across the wires, Grimaldi ran
them in to Mynatt for airing and he interspersed them into the show.
When he went off the air at 8:15, AFN had cancelled all its regularly
scheduled programming and was not to resume it until after the President
had been buried in Arlington Cemetery.
Colonel Cranston managed to get through on the telephone which was
being blocked by the hundreds of listeners who wanted a personal
report on the situation. He ordered up the Atlantic Cable for direct
reports from the U.S. and, because in those days the stations normally
signed off at midnight, ordered continuous broadcasting.
Brewer and his program staff were reached and en masse rushed back
to the studios in the Hoechst Castle.
At 8:25 a flash came from CBS Radio that Kennedy was dead.
Wilhelm Loehr, then as now an AFN music librarian, rushed back to
the castle to begin preparing special music programming. AFN newspeople
fanned out to gather European reactions for insertion into the continuous
news coverage. It was four days of high drama. The arrest of Lee
Harvey Oswald. Oswald's death at the hands of Jack Ruby. The funeral.
Reports to the public by new President Lyndon B. Johnson.
AFN's reputation for fast, accurate and objective news coverage
took a quantum leap because of its total coverage of the tragic
events of November 1963. Several German newspapers criticized the
penny-pinching coverage of the German radio as compared to AFN's.
(Nobody could accuse AFN of penny-pinching. The cost of the Atlantic
cable was four dollars a minute, a large sum in those days, and
AFN stayed with it four days.) The network's days in the romantic
Von Bruening castle were numbered. The Farbwerke Hoechst, Germanys
giant chemical combine, bought the castle from the Von Bruening
family in 1962 and told the Bonn Government it would like to reclaim
it for its own use to include a city and company museum.
Bonn quickly agreed, as did AFN. While most staff members appreciated
the beauty and charm of the castle, no one was so romantic that
they would not have preferred a building without creaking floors
in the studios, no wintery drafts on the back of the neck and -
hallelujah! enough lavatories so no one had to queue up in the hallway
waiting for a vacancy. Bonn selected a site next door to the extensive
Hessischer Rundfunk facilities in Frankfurt. The choice couldn't
have been more fortuitous, at least for AFN. Socially, personally
and professionally, the contacts between the two broadcasting organizations
have grown steadily, to the benefit of both staffs and audiences
through the years. The first set of plans were turned down flatly
by the U.S. authorities because there were no outside fire escapes.
This was a bit of American quaintness as far as the German designers
were concerned. They preferred fireproof construction and fire stairs.
Finally plans were approved by both governments which incorporated
the latest ideas in broadcast engineering. Costs, to be borne by
the German government in return for the right to reclaim the castle,
were about $2.3 million. The plans included highly sophisticated
soundproofing including burying the studios deep inside the core
of the building and mounting them on gigantic springs. Air conditioning
for the highly heat sensitive equipment was provided. All metal
used in construction was bonded together and completely grounded.
Ground was broken in 1964 and in 1966 AFN moved out of its 14th
century home and into the 20th century. What the new building lacked
in esthetics and romance, it more than made up for in convenience
All the speeches at the dedication ceremonies made note of the wonderfully
adequate space and the numerous large radio studios-facilities,
everyone pointed out, that would be more than adequate for as long
as AFN existed.
The speakers were partly right. The facilities were perfectly adequate
for seven years. Then came television!
American television in Europe had actually begun on an extremely
limited scale in 1957 when the Air Force installed small black and
white transmitters in Spangdahlem, Wiesbaden, Rhein-Main, and Vogelweh
which were fed from a studio at Ramstein Air Force Base. It took
until 1971 before the first Army installation (at Bad Kreuznach)
was able to tie in to the system. From then on things moved quickly.
Robert Froehlke, then Secretary of the Army, visited Europe in 1971
and declared that "... the one biggest boost to morale in Germany
would be to give our troops and their families American television."
This statement set Army wheels in motion and Project J7 (Scope Picture),
with the object of expanding television to U.S. Forces in Germany,
was energized. Involved in the planning and execution were such
disparate bedfellows as USAREUR, USAFE, U.S. Army Communications
Command, 5th Signal Command, U.S. Army Television Audio Support
Activity, AFN and others.
Then Commander in Chief, USAREUR, General Michael S. Davison, gave
first priority to the troops in more isolated, forward areas. Next
to get television, he instructed, would be non-headquarters units
away from major population areas. Headquarters in large cities would
be the last to receive it. The first two of these three phases would
be handled by the Air Force. Then, as the Army became the numerically
dominant recipient of the service, it would assume responsibility
for phase three and the operation of the completed network.
Transfer of control of television to the U.S. Army - to be operated
by AFN was made in July of 1973 as the network celebrated its thirtieth
birthday. By then the Air Force had completed Phase II of the Scope
Picture expansion with the completion of 46 television transmitters
and 64 microwave links. Black and white service was now available
to 41 per cent of the U.S. Forces in Germany.
Planning and engineering the Phase III installations was complicated
by the need to limit signals, as much as technically possible, to
troop and dependent audiences only. This had to be done to avoid
interference with German TV transmissions and to restrict wide dissemination
of programs which are supplied at low cost by the owners for reception
by DoD personnel only.
In August 1973 it was directed that by 1976 all AFN television facilities
would be color-capable. Since Phase III was already designed to
accept a color signal, it was necessary to up-grade the earlier
While expansion of the television distribution system was going
on, the programs originated from rather primitive studios at Ramstein
Air Force Base near Kaiserslautern. Programing was in black and
white only and transmitted in the European PAL system. This caused
numerous problems, not the least of which was the restriction to
AFN of more than twenty hours weekly of program material by the
owners. They feared the availability of their programs to the general
public would work against possible commercial sale in Germany. Broadcasting
in PAL also meant persons who had brought their American sets with
them from home could not receive the TV picture without set modification.
Finally the system was completed. The Frankfurt radio studios had
undergone more than a year of reconstruction and modification to
accommodate the brand new color television complex.
At midnight October 27, 1976, the last reel of black and white film
ran through the antiquated projector at Ramstein. Fifth Signal Command
crews began the job of reversing the microwave paths so the network
could feed FROM Frankfurt instead of TO it.
At noon October 28, not without a lot of crossed fingers and eyes
raised toward heaven, a camera was symbolically uncapped by AFN
Commander LTC Floyd A. McBride, assisted by the USAREUR Deputy Chief
of Staff, MG Dean Tice. And, as planned, there was AFN - in blazing,
The new color signal was in the American NTSC standard and very
quickly programing restrictions were dropped. Within the first color
season, AFN was telecasting virtually all of the most popular programs
then being seen in the U.S. The assumption of the television mission
in 1973 marked the beginning of a period of unparalleled activity
for AFN. Succeeding commanders challenged the staff to accept more
and more responsibility and provide better and more professional
service to the radio and television audiences. It seems self-evident
that the staff rose to the challenge.
Under the present Commander, LTC Charles R. Crescioni, the staff
numbers about one-half of what it was on AFN's twentieth anniversary.
In spite of this dramatic drop in numbers, his staff
... provides a 24-hour radio service instead of 19-hours as in 1963.
... broadcasts a 24-hour FM service in a number of locations, a
service which did not exist 20 years ago.
... provides extended television broadcasting from four locations
(about 120 hours a month from Frankfurt and in Berlin; slightly
less in Bremerhaven and SHAPE, Belgium.)
... provides around the clock news, 24 hours a day, seven days a
... produces daily, award-winning radio and television newscasts
(with a news staff slightly more than half the size of the 1963
... has added a full time radio station (AFN Wuerzburg) to the family
of AFN affiliates - without any increase in authorized personnel.
... copes with the greatly increased technical requirements such
as maintenance, installation and procurement made necessary by these
... has assumed responsibility for training an increasingly younger
staff on more advanced techniques and equipment.
... provides more live radio air time devoted to broadcasting information
more needed by the listener than ever before in AFN history.
... attempts to cover activities of interest to the television audience
- and does it darn well considering only two, three or (if very
lucky) four special events teams daily cover an area larger than
the state of Oregon.
How does AFN cope with a constantly expanding mission and a constantly
decreasing staff? Just like the rest of the military establishment
- better planning, better leadership, a sense of dedication, and
damn long hours.
On the occasion of the network's 40th Anniversary, the staff can
look back with pride at the thousands of dedicated men and women
who preceded them in providing four decades of uninterrupted information
and entertainment to Americans and their families. By turning their
eyes to the future, they can see increasingly complicated technology,
a continuing need for the services historically provided so well
and, more than likely, a mission which will continue to grow.
With 40 years of organizational pride behind them and with a half-million
viewers and listeners figuratively looking over their shoulders
as they work, they wouldn't want it any other way.
AFN Headquarters building and Schlossgarten, 1959 (Frank da Cruz)
(Source: Email from Frank da Cruz, dependent, Frankfurt, 1958-61)
| I actually "worked" at AFN Frankfurt in Höchst for two years on the "Teen Twenty" show and learned all about radio. I also had my own show in the 97th General Hospital closed-circuit radio station. The decorative motif in the
hospital was swastikas, millions of them.
Click here to see additional Frankfurt fotos and comments by Frank.
(Source: Invitation to Castle Garden Party, 18th Anniversary of AFN in Europe, 3 July 1961)
|(Source: Livestream website)
Big Picture show on Livestream website
"On the air ..." on Livestream website
|| An episode of the Big Picture TV show from 1962: AFN Europe (link).
The Big Picture was a US Army weekly public affairs program that covered a wide range of subjects, telling the Army's story in history and in current events.
This particular epsiode is awesome! Available on the Livestream website.
Another wonderful video on AFN and its history is the four-part series "On the Air ...Over There"
(also available on Livestream):
Part 1 - The Road to Berlin / 1943 - 1945 (28 min)
Part 2 - The Castle Years / 1946 - 1966 (29 min)
Part 3 - The Cold War / 1961 - 1989 (29 min)
Part 4 - The Desert to the Digital Age / 1990 to Present (29 min)
And there is more .... Check out the AFN Europe Video Library Page on Livestream.
(Source: YouTube website)
YouTube video |
||A special AFN-Europe report that provides a detailed look (45 min video) how the American broadcast service works in Germany - from the mid-1980s.
(Source: YouTube website)
YouTube video |
||A very nice tribute to Bob Harlan who worked at AFN from 1945 to 1986, serving as programn director in Frankfurt for many years.
|1945 - 1993
|(Source: "50th Anniversary, AFN", AFN TV-Guide, July 1993)
Affiliate Stations in Germany
AFN Berlin signed on the air August 4, 1945, sixty percent
of the city lay in ruins and the station consisted of an improvised
hut on the back of a truck with a transmitting antenna strung
between two trees.
Today the ruins are gone and the Berlin affiliate is a modern
broadcasting showplace. The story of AFN Berlin is also the
story of the post-war history of this exciting city.
By 1948 when the Soviets drew a blockade around the city,
AFN Berlin was established in modern studios, broadcasting
from a 400-foot antenna. Normal broadcast times were only
19 hours a day, but because Air Force pilots requested the
station stay on around the clock so they could home on the
signal, the station began a 24-hour operation.
When the airlift ended in 1949, AFN resumed its 19-hour schedule.
Then, in the 60s, the East Germans began broadcasting an English
language propaganda program called "Berlin International" which
they put on AFN's frequency the instant the station signed off.
Visiting officials from Washington heard tapes of this anti-American
propaganda effort and ordered AFN Berlin to stay on the air around
The station has reported history in the making. Stories covered
in depth include the East German uprisings in 1953, the construction
of the infamous Berlin wall in 1961, President Kennedy's "Ich bin
ein Berliner" speech in 1963 and subsequent visits by Presidents
Nixon, Carter and Reagan. Almost every world figure to visit Berlin
faces an AFN microphone or camera.
Today AFN Berlin is located in one of the most modern radio/television
facilities in the world. Located across from U.S. Army Headquarters,
Berlin, at 28 Saargemunderstrasse, the AM-FM radio portion of the
facility has two stereo studios, two mono studios and a news studio.
The TV studio can accommodate six separate sets and is equipped
with three color cameras and the latest video control equipment.
AFN Berlin serves a community of about 15-thousand U.S. military
members and their families. Major units include the Berlin Brigade,
Field Station, Berlin and the 7350th Air Base Group at Tempelhof
BREMERHAVEN (and Bremen )
AFN Bremerhaven building mid-1980s (Mike Thompson)
the day AFN Bremerhaven signed on the air (from Bremen in
those days) on 28 July 1945, the station has always shown
a certain amount of inventiveness. For example, soon after
going on the air the station lost its First Sergeant due to
rotation home. Who could now sign passes, morning reports
and other vital documents? Being good broadcasters, the staff
advertised for a new First Sergeant on the air. They got one!
Initially the station operated out of a mobile van located
on Gabriel-Seidl Strasse in Bremen. In those days Bremen,
in the British Zone, had the majority of the troops although
more and more were moving in to Bremerhaven. Suddenly "by
command direction" it was announced that the station in Bremen
would be closed. Once more inventiveness took over and Major
General Harry Vaughn, the local commander, (and who was to
be heard from again soon as President Truman's aide in Washington)
received a petition signed by 10-thousand listeners - and
the station remained in Bremen for three more years.
October 1948 the majority of the listeners were in Bremerhaven and
the station moved to Building 2, Carl Schutz Kaserne. A 1-thousand
watt transmitter occupied the basement. This was soon moved to the
dock area where it remains. In 1962 the station moved to Building
1 where it still is but the power of the transmitter was increased
to 5-thousand watts. On 21 August 1979 the station began transmitting
to troops in Osterholz-Sharmbeck on FM 92.9 MHZ.
One month after its 30th birthday in 1975, AFN Bremerhaven became
the first of AFN's color television stations. The AFN Headquarters
in Frankfurt was still converting its building to accommodate color.
Bremerhaven signed on with color TV on 25 August 1975.
Once again staff inventiveness paid off. Although not designed to
do "live" television, they wanted to produce local interviews. Unfortunately
there was no room big enough for guests AND a camera. The inventive
solution? Put the guests in the studio and the camera in the latrine
across the hall. Things have improved considerably since that primitive
beginning but AFN Bremerhaven continues to serve well its radio
and TV audience in Norddeutschland.
TV Master Control, AFN Bremerhaven (Mike Thompson)
|Mike Thompson, a former AFN'er stationed in Bremerhaven, was a Radio/Television engineer at the AFN station from 1985 to 1987.
Mike has created a web page with a nice collection of photos from that time. To view his page click here.
(Source: Email from Glen "Glee" Duff)
|I served on AFN Bremerhaven during the hight of the Cold War (1955-6). As Specialist Glen Duff, I had two network shows (Sunday Syncopation and Off the Top Shelf) as well as the local 5 o'clock club.
Program Director was a great guy and friend by the name of MSGT Hal Tattle. We had a really good staff including a DA Civilian News Director by the name of Dick Knowles, as well as some great and fun on air talent. Wish I could remember all their names. Bob Ramsdell, Ralph Crane, Al Woods.
The station had a first lieutenant as OIC, but was really run by another great guy by the name of MSGT Tom Dolbow. While there a new announcer was sent up to us from Frankfurt, who brought a German girlfriend with him. They lived off base. She was super inquisitive about the mechanics of the station and it's hard-line phone connections to all the other stations on the network
that I became suspicious. I mentioned some of her actions to an OSI friend of mine and she was gone within a week.
A spy? We'll never know.
Anyway, it was an interesting two years which I'll never forget. Retired now, living in the Fort Myers area. I spent the rest of my working life in the field of communications. Couple of large ad agencies - owned my own station once - owned my own agency - but all the time a worked off and on on radio, even down here in Florida.
(Source: Email from Alan Herbert, AFN Bremen 1946-1948)
||I went through Announcer's School at the Castle (December 1946 - June 1947) and then spent 18 months as the Morning Man on AFN Bremen. I married the station CO's secretary and returned to the States on Dec 7, 1948.
What follows are my experiences in an autobiography I'm writing:
| Bread, Butter and Coffee
(Originally, Herbert was assigned to a unit in Stuttgart) In June, 1946 we were located in a small compound, which also contained an Army coffee roaster and bakery. The delicious smells would reach a point where we couldn’t stand it. We'd go down and get some fresh coffee, a loaf of bread and a pound of butter and have a feast in the office. The loaves were round, as big as a wheelbarrow wheel with a half inch thick crust. My mouth waters every time I think of that bread, but it was only good when it was still hot.
The Red Cross Does me a Favor
In my spare time in the Fall of 1946 I started going to the Red Cross facility. They had taken over the Stuttgart Opera house and made it a recreation center for the GIs. One night the Red Cross girls needed someone to be the Master of Ceremonies for the show they were putting on. I volunteered, and although I didn't know it at the time, it was leading up to be the start of a 27 year career in radio and TV. I've had a guardian angel looking over my shoulder all my life, keeping me aimed in the right direction.
I had made friends with one of the Red Cross girls and she kept on urging me to announce the shows and one evening I even became the drummer in a small band that played for dancing. She remarked several times on my voice, saying I ought to be on the radio. After a few weeks of this I decided to see what could be done. My tour of duty was nearly over and I knew if I wanted to stay in Germany that I would have to find something better.
To the rest of the world it's the Army's Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS). Uniquely in Germany it was called the American Forces Network. The AFN stations broadcast to their local areas, operating much like a radio network in the States. I remember earlier listening to AFN but nothing stood out in my memory.
Do Something - or Get Sent Home
One evening I decided to take the Red Cross girl’s advice. A return trip to the States loomed closer. Finally I took the bull by the horns and hopped on a German train and rode to Munich, arriving in fog that limited vision to about 10 feet. I somehow found the AFN studios and “announced” myself.
The station manager gave me an audition. After listening to me read some news copy he came back and told me that he would like very much to have me on his staff, but that the AFN Headquarters in Frankfurt would have to make the decision and request the transfer.
They drove me back to the train station and I promptly fulfilled a childhood dream. With a pack of cigarettes I bribed the engineer to allow me to ride in the cab of the locomotive. I had to stay out of the fireman's way as he shoveled coal and tended the boiler, but I was in seventh heaven. I had always had a love for trains, impressed by the thrill of watching that Boston and Maine steam engine chug into the station in Littleton, New
Hampshire when I was a young boy. It was eight miles to Littleton, but on a cold, below zero night I could lie in bed and hear the whistle clearly.
When I got back to Stuttgart it was about 1:30 a.m. I managed to get the Motor Pool Sergeant half awake and he grunted approval when I asked for a vehicle. I got a three-quarter ton truck full of gas and headed for Frankfurt.
The Wheels Start Turning
In November, 1946, as I got to the outskirts of Frankfurt, just as dawn was breaking, the clutch went out. The pedal would go clear to the floor without activating the clutch, I managed to shift gears by getting the motor speed just right. Fortunately there was little traffic and the traffic lights were all on yellow.
The AFN studios are in the Frankfurt suburb of Hoechst, in an old castle. I found my way there and parked the truck and went up to the program director's office. There was a big comfortable couch that I crashed on, trying to catch up on my sleep. The program director came into his office about 8:30 and woke me, wanting to know what I was doing on his couch. I spent a few minutes explaining and then he took me down to have breakfast.
After some much needed coffee I was ready to audition. I sailed through the news and a pronunciation list of foreign composers. When I was through he told me that I would have a job if they could get my transfer worked out in time. In the meantime the Motor Pool had repaired my truck. The problem had been caused by a missing cotter pin, which allowed the clutch pedal to slip off the pivot. I was jubilant to say the least as I headed back to Stuttgart.
We had quite a celebration at the Red Cross. The girls dug out some champaign and toasted my new job. I don’t remember the specific time or place, but I believe it was while I was still the company clerk that my MOS (Military Operations Specialty) was changed from Infantry to Signal Corp in my 201 file. I will draw a veil over that event, but I think it helped when I went to Korea.
I had to sweat it out for a month. Staying in Germany was a real problem as the Army was clearing out all the draftees and sending them home, leaving the occupation to the regular army members. My shipment orders came down for me to report to Bremerhaven to be put on a ship for home. One day before I had to leave my transfer was approved and I reported the next day to AFN headquarters.
My troubles weren't over. The AFN Personnel Officer made no bones about it. "You will have 30 days to make up your mind whether you want to stay. I can't hold you after that." He went on to explain that the Army had just announced a one year enlistment plan for draftees who wanted to become regular army. Apparently there were a lot of draftees like me that wanted to stay in Europe, so this was one of the very few times that the Army did anything to please its soldiers.
I told him that I would undoubtedly take advantage of the offer. He looked at me rather strangely but didn't comment, other than to offer to handle the paperwork if I decided to enlist.
Somewhere in the conversation at Frankfurt headquarters I mentioned that I had auditioned at Munich and that they wanted me down there. The program director nodded, but that was the last time Munich was mentioned. I would learn that there was a certain amount of rivalry between the stations. Frankfurt got the best announcers, which made the outlying stations upset.
There were two other trainees. We started immediately in December 1946 in what was billed as an announcer's school. Most of the training was informal. We were each assigned an experienced announcer and worked with them, practicing various vocal cords before we were allowed on the air. We spent hours in the record library, both to familiarize ourselves with the music available and to learn how to choose music for a particular show.
It took about 10 days for me to decide that I liked the work
and the perks and give the go ahead for my enlistment. Just
before Christmas 1946 I changed my dog tags with ER to ones that read RA for regular army. My serial number didn't change. I still remember the number today, thanks to the multi-thousands of times that I wrote it or said it in response to a question.
The training went on for six busy, but relaxed months. I had now found the best job in the Army. The studios and the billets for both the officers and enlisted men were all in the castle. We had a recreation room with a bar and lots of scrip to use to buy
drinks. It was as close to a civilian job as you could get in the
In June 1947 I was sent to AFN Bremen as the Morning
Man, opening the station at 6 a.m. This was obviously the job
they were grooming me for, explaining why I didn't get to go to
Munich. This would be a good time “not” to discuss the relative merits of Bremen and Munich beer.
In Bremen we were housed in a mansion that had been
requisitioned by the Army. We each had private rooms on the second floor - with maid service - and the studios and offices were on the main floor. By coincidence it was only a couple of blocks from where Lisa and her parents had lived.
It was here that I saw my first tape recorders. We were using
wire recorders - which recorded on a thin wire - until the Germans invented the tape recorder. Two of the monsters - almost as big as a refrigerator - graced our master control room.
The staff was something else. One of the announcers was a
mortician. Another could have given Hugh Heffner lessons. The
Sgt. Major was a completely bald, permanently drunk man
who carried a live parrot on his shoulder wherever he went. The
program director was a civilian and we had one other civilian as
an announcer. The Commanding Officer of the station was a
We had several Germans working for us. The chief engineer,
the cleaning staff and the switchboard operators were all
Germans. One of the switchboard girls caught my eye. Well
actually she caught my ear because of her deep voice on the
phone. In any event, after she moved to a job as the Captain's
secretary I began courting her and on the 8th of October 1948 I
married Liselotte Schellenberger.
This was perhaps a throwback to my roots. My original
family name had been Masslich on my father's side and mother's
maiden name was also German.
Red Tape - Army Red Tape
Getting married was no small task. By the time we said our
vows in October, 1948 we had a stack of paperwork about four inches thick. The Army was not at all thrilled with the idea of our troops marrying German girls and put every possible obstacle in our path. At the end of the war we had been forbidden to fraternize with the Germans, especially the girls, but the authorities finally relented to a limited degree, since the decree was virtually impossible to enforce.
In the course of dotting all the I's and crossing all the T's we
were confronted by a Chaplain, a Catholic Priest, who told Lisa
bluntly that she should turn away from me (raised a Baptist) and find someone of her own faith to marry.
I was upset, fearing that he might actually throw a monkey
wrench into the process and prevent us from marrying. Lisa was
downright mad, angry if you will. She was only intermittently a
practicing Catholic most of her life, although her mother was a devout church goer. Lisa stormed out of the Chaplain's office and to the best of my knowledge, never set foot again in a Catholic Church. Over the years I would have two more experiences with church authority that had a direct influence on my life.
Lisa and I were married in a civil ceremony in the Bremen Marriage Bureau in City Hall. Besides all the Army papers we had a double handful of German documents covering Lisa's past history, army service and work records.
For our honeymoon we went to a small rented apartment in
Bad Pyrmont, a lovely health resort that Lisa had visited many
times before the War and where I had gone with her several
times. We returned to Bremen to find that we were not married!
At least not in the Army's eyes. Dutifully we went through a
second marriage by an Army Chaplain (Thankfully not the
Catholic Priest) to make it official.
Lisa had quite a history, as I learned over the years as she
told me from time to time of her adventures. For some time she had been going by the name of Monica but I got used to using her real first name, calling her Lisa, short for Liselotte. She had been an interpreter in the German court system in France, spending most of her time in Paris. Later, she was a Lieutenant in the aircraft spotting service in Wilhelmshaven, on the German North Sea coast, northwest of Bremen.
She described a wild night when she was hitchhiking home
from Wilhelmshaven. A truck driver saw her uniform and
stopped for her. As soon as she got in the truck he told her that
if they were attacked she should run as far away as possible.
"Why" was her natural question. "I'm carrying a load of
torpedoes!" She stuck with the truck, there was no attack and
she got safely to Bremen, but with one or two grey hairs to show
for her ride.
As the war neared an end, Lisa, like thousands of other
German army personnel, deserted her post in Wilhelmshaven
and went back to Bremen. She and her mother spent a week in a
bunker as the war raged around them, the Canadians finally
Half starved, they discovered that some foragers had found a
nearby bunker reserved for the Nazi bigwigs. It was piled to the ceiling with ham, butter, sausage and other goodies that they
hadn't seen since the beginning of the war. They were able to
get enough food to live on for several weeks.
Lisa's father was a prominent architect who designed many
of the big buildings in Bremen and was noted for designing one
of the large airplane manufacturing plants there. Early
in the war he was denounced as a Jew, in a full page ad in the
Bremen paper. Despite ample proof that he was not a Jew, the
stigma stuck and the uproar shattered an already weakened
heart. He died of a heart attack in 1942.
Mother Rose had always led a sheltered life, but she was
tough and took on the job of keeping the family home intact.
Tragically, because of the constant threat of bombing she had
the entire household goods shipped to Munich for storage. A
month later the Munich warehouse was destroyed in a bombing
raid and they lost everything. Later they lost the palatial home
(not far from the AFN studios) and she and Lisa had to make do
with a tiny apartment. I never did get an explanation of why they lost their home, but I suspect that they were unable to afford the taxes and maintenance on the luxury dwelling.
Lisa had no brothers, but she did have a sister, Gertrude, who
was 10 years younger. Neither Lisa nor her mother spoke much
about Gertrude, who moved to England with her lesbian
lover before the war. Gertrude died in the 1980s, an event which
we only found out about several months later.
Most of Lisa's relatives were - in a word - money hungry. She had one rich aunt, an exception, who was her favorite, and who had traveled extensively all over the world. An uncle and his family lived in Bremen, barely surviving on a meager pension. They were the ones we were most often in contact with. The branch of the family in Leer in northwestern Germany owned the ferry line to the island of Borkum off the north coast, a highly lucrative business as the island was both a tourist mecca and a health resort.
One of the family was a lawyer, who used his knowledge to
take over the rich aunt's estate, rather than it going to Lisa as
intended. While we were in Germany Lisa broke with most
of the family members and never contacted them again. I have
never had any contact with them even when Lisa died, respecting her wishes.
Prior to working at AFN, Lisa had spent several months in a
German hospital after breast reduction surgery. Without
medicines the surgery became infected and it seemed impossible
to stop. She survived, after several months in the hospital, with
massive scarring that she bore for the rest of her life.
Prior to that she had worked for the U.S. Army's Criminal
Investigation Division, again as an interpreter. She spoke both
fluent French and fluent English, besides her native "High"
German, and even a bit of Plattdeutsch, the language of the German north coast.
one of the most common misconceptions about AFN is the thought
in many listeners' minds that AFN Headquarters and AFN Frankfurt
are one and the same. -- Not so.
Although the Frankfurt station shares office and studio space
with Headquarters, the station operations are - like those
of its eight sister stations - geared exclusively to the local
audience it serves.
AFN Frankfurt has a giant voice. Its 150-thousand watt transmitter
is three times more powerful than any commercial radio station
in the U.S. It also transmits from lower powered transmitters
in Fulda, Bad Hersfeld, Wildflecken, Bonn and Giessen.
Although the story of AFN Frankfurt parallels that of the network,
the station started out as just one more outlet. At the end of the
Spring offensive in 1945, AFN moved into Germany with the troops
and set up radio operations in Frankfurt, Munich, Stuttgart, Berlin
Opening day for the Frankfurt station was July 15, 1945 and the
first studios were in a residence located only a few blocks from
its present home. When General Eisenhower selected Frankfurt to
be his headquarters, AFN did the same and the Frankfurt station
took on a new importance. When the network headquarters moved into
what was to be its home for twenty-one years, AFN Frankfurt moved
right along with it, into the von Bruening castle in Hoechst. In
1966 the Castle era came to a close. The new headquarters was completed
at Bertramstrasse 6, next door to the German radio and television
studios of Hessischer Rundfunk and across the street from
the Frankfurt Exchange. Once again, as the headquarters moved, so
did the Frankfurt affiliate - this time to an ultra-modern facility
with eight, count 'em, eight studios. This idyllic state lasted
until 1976 when television moved in to share space. Four of the
original radio studios are now dedicated to television operations.
The remaining studios still serve as mono- and stereo-recording,
production and broadcasting studios. FM became a reality on November
12, 1973 and this second stereo service is now heard from a powerful
transmitter located on top of the Feldberg, Hesse's highest mountain.
was in its tenth year when the Kaiserslautern studios joined
the family. As a station, it was great. As a studio, it wasn't
much. In fact, it was a van parked in the middle of a muddy
field on Kleber Casern with a transmitter radiating a measly
Power soon was increased to 10,000 watts and construction began
on a building to house the station on 5th Avenue, Vogelweh.
The on-the-air light went on from the new building for the first
time on October 21, 1954 after Major General Miles Reber, Commanding
General, Western Area Command, cut the ribbon. The Western Area
Command no longer exists but AFN Kaiserslautern does and so
does the building, the first in the AFN system constructed specifically
as a radio station. It is still home to the staff of twelve
who serve what is said to be the largest concentration of Americans
outside the Continental United States.
| The station
also feeds its programming to audiences in Bitburg, Pruem and Pirmasens.
It is also heard, on a limited scale, in AFN's ancestral home in the
United Kingdom. The signal is transmitted to a number of American
air bases in England by way of tactical circuits and put on closed
circuits there to various clubs, shops and messes.
Service originally was only on the AM radio band. But in recent years,
26-year veteran engineer Johann Huber and his engineering staff have
installed 24-hour, fully-automated FM stereo with transmitter at Pulaski
Barracks. This offers alternative programming to the giant audience
in the AFN Kaiserslautern listening area, which also includes USAFE
Headquarters at Ramstein Air Base.
Munich enjoys the distinction of being the first American
radio station in Germany. It first took to the air 8 June
1945. AIthough today it serves Southern Germany 24 hours a
day with a total staff of eleven, it wasn't always thus. By
1948, the station had grown to include a staff of ten announcers,
five music librarians, forty German nationals, two musical
groups including a salon orchestra and a special group to
provide music for dramatic shows, thirty-five enlisted men
and five GI musicians on detached service. AND it was the
only station in AFRTS history, as far as can be determined,
to have its own symphony orchestra - sixty-five musicians
led by the former conductor of the Sophia, Bulgaria, City
The stations programs must have been good. In 1947 the local
area commander asked the station to sign off the air at midnight
because he felt his troops weren't getting enough sleep.
In those early years, the military's problem was what to do
with its excess personnel and the many talented displaced
persons for whom it was responsible. By the early 1950's,
this was no longer the case and AFN Munich was down to a more
realistic staff of eighteen.
When AFN reopened stations in France in 1958, the network
Headquarters remained in Frankfurt, AFN France Headquarters
opened in Orleans, France and AFN Munich became Headquarters
for Germany. During this period Munich originated about eight
hours daily of programming for the Germany portions of the
network. After the French stations closed in 1967, all Headquarters
were again consolidated in Frankfurt but AFN Munich continued
to be an active contributor of programs to the network.
The station has been housed from its very beginnings in the former
mansion of famed German artist Kaulbach. As the station entered
its thirty-eighth year, AFN Munich was getting ready to move to
a new home just up the street.
The new facility will have everything the original home had, except
thirty-eight years of memories ... memories of daily programs like
"Bouncin' in Bavaria" and the noon show with the title that always
gave local German listeners a chuckle "Luncheon in Munchen."
Nuernberg may well set the standard for the most colorful -
though confusing - history of any AFN station.
Radio stations tend to take on a distinct personality, and Nuernberg
has always prided itself on being slightly off-beat. Little
wonder, considering that buried in its past are an upside-down
antenna and an under-water transmission system. Not to mention
the fact it was born twice.
Today AFN Nuernberg seems perfectly normal. Located "under the
eaves" of the Bavarian- American Hotel across from the Hauptbahnhof
the station feeds its local programs to eleven transmitters.
Its audience includes the 1st Armored Division, the 2nd Armored
Cavalry and the 7th Army Training Center.
| That's today.
But back in 1949 there was no studio in Nuernberg - only a transmitter
fed from the Munich station. For reasons lost in the mists of time,
the transmitter was in the tower of the Faber Castle and the antenna
was a wire running down to a water faucet in the yard. It worked fine,
although it shouldn't have. The station's first birth was January
28, 1950, when studios were opened in the prestigious Grand Hotel.
(When the local Commanding General threw the switch, he didn't know
the switch had been purchased on the black market for two pounds of
coffee. Neither did the AFN management until 1983, when the perpetrator
admitted his "crime" as he retired.) Again, for reasons not quite
clear, the upside-down antenna was moved in late 1949. This time the
ground system was a metal web on the bed of the nearby Pegnitz River.
But by mid 1956. the owners of the fancy hotel which then housed the
station indicated they'd prefer a quieter tenant, and again the station
became a satellite of AFN Munich.
It was reborn a second time when the sergeant in charge of the underwater
transmission system discovered the unused space on the top floor of
the Bavarian American Hotel. Permission to build studios was granted,
money secured, construction completed and the station reopened May
18,1960. It is still on the air from the same location, staffed by
totally dedicated broadcasters.
AFN Stuttgart top floor of the Graf Zeppelin Hotel, downtown Stuttgart, 1950s (German postcard)
AFN Stuttgart (on second floor of the Stuttgart Elementary/Junior High School), 1984 (Ed Ewing)
Stuttgart is one of AFN's "old timers," having signed on the
air from its own studios on March 17, 1948.
Actually AFN broadcast from Stuttgart from the very beginning
of its Germany operation, but originally the Stuttgart transmitter
was fed from AFN Munich. Because so many American troops were
moving into the Stuttgart and surrounding areas, it became necessary
to construct studios in order to serve them.
The station's first home was on the top floor of the Graf Zeppelin
hotel in downtown Stuttgart. In the autumn of 1953, the station
was relocated to the Mittnachtbau on Koenigstrasse. This building
was later returned to the host government and in March 1959
AFN Stuttgart moved to its present location in the American
Elementary School at Robinson Barracks.
| The facility
consists of two on-air studios, one of which is stereo. There is also
a stereo production studio, a master control, FM automation area and
a large record library as well as administrative and technical offices.
In October 1970 FM became a reality in Stuttgart, first in mono and,
in 1972, 24-hour stereo. FM is on 102.4 Mhz, and AM is transmitted
on 1142 Khz with 10,000 watts. AFN Stuttgart also feeds transmitters
in Mannheim, Heidelberg, Karlsruhe, Goeppingen and Ulm.
Although television is not originated from Stuttgart, the station
is a part of the AFN TV system. The staff has been trained to produce
television stories and has its own Electronic News Gathering (ENG)
unit which it uses frequently to cover important events in the area
which are sent to Frankfurt for telecasting throughout Germany.
Important organizations served by the Stuttgart station include EUCOM
and VII Corps Headquarters, USAREUR Headquarters, numerous units of
the 1st Armored Division and VII Corps Artillery plus the many support
units in the Baden-Wuerttemberg Support District.
|(Source: STARS & STRIPES, March 18, 1964)
|AFN Stuttgart recently celebrated its 16th anniversary of broadcasting service.
Originally set up with a skeleton staff and a room in the downtown Graf Zeppelin Hotel as its only studio, the AFN outlet now occupies spacious studios in Robinson Barracks and broadcasts an average of four hours daily of locally originated programs.
The present staff numbers 19 and is headed by Capt George Kaso.
AFN-Stuttgart programs are broadcast from three AM transmitters (Hirschlanden, Ulm and Goeppingen) and one FM transmitter (Frauenkopf).
|(Source: STARS & STRIPES, Dec 2, 1969)
|AFN Stuttgart is located on the second floor of the American Elementary & Junior High School building at Robinson Barracks. The studio is normally off limits to the students except for once a year when the staff give a tour of the facility to students curious about the AFN operations.
The AFN station provides about 70 hours of local programming a week for both AM and FM outlets. The station recently launched a schedule of double programming to give listeners a choice between regular shows (on AM) and more refined music on FM.
Capt Richard A. Ost has been the Station manager since February. Thomas B. Smith is civilian director. Other members of the staff include SSgt Tom Tucker (chief announcer and host of "The 1605 to Nashville" program, country & western music); Spec 5 Patrick Brown (news, jazz, and the "Noon-Day Shopper" program); SSgt Roy Cooler (chief engineer); Spec 4 Gary Thompson ("Dawn Patrol," the wake-up program in the mornings); Ms Margret Reich (works the radio control board); and Jo Chen (production technician).
children who arrive late in their parents' lives are particularly
cherished. That might well be the case of AFN Wuerzburg. When
Mamma AFN reached 40, Baby Wuerzburg was barely three. Although
just a toddler compared to its eight older brothers and sisters,
AFN Wuerzburg has shown a precocity during its short life that
belies its age.
During its second year of operation in 1982, the baby of the
network picked up three Keith L. Ware Awards in competition
with Army radio and television stations around the world. It
then proceeded in the same year to pick off a Thomas Jefferson
Award in competition with all-services stations.
| Within the network,
a monthly competition for the best spot announcement was won three
times in 1982 by Wuerzburg, including Spot-of-the-Year.
All of this was done by a station so young it still has one of its
original enlisted members on the staff.
For many years Marneland - Wuerzburg, Kitzingen, Wertheim, Giebelstadt,
Schweinfurt and Bad Kissingen - was served from the AFN studios in
Nuernberg. Because of the distances involved, it was a difficult situation
both for AFN and the 3rd Infantry Division.
It took a lot of coordination - and cooperation - between the Division,
the AFN Headquarters and USAREUR Public Affairs officials but without
adding a single person to the network, it was possible by borrowing
a Sergeant here and an SP4 there to get a staff together. Other affiliates
and the Headquarters in Frankfurt were able to find enough equipment
to get started and - on 1 May 1980 - there was a new baby in the AFN
SSG Clark Taylor transferred to Wuerzburg from the affiliate in SHAPE,
Belgium, and became one of AFN's first enlisted station managers.
Today this slot is filled by SFC Mike Pervel, back with AFN after
a tour earlier at AFN Munich.
The old-timer on the staff is SGT Mike Anthony who was there the day
the doors opened for the first time. Today he is broadcast supervisor.
AFN Wuerzburg is still too new to have built up legends such as the
other stations have - but it's working on them. Already the staff
is looking back on the time they had an official leprechaun appointed
for a "Luck of the Irish" contest. And the time the staff delivered
singing Valentines. Or the "DJ for a Day" contest.
The baby looks like it's going to grow up to be a pretty good kid!
is AFN ... a quick tour in 1983
Anniversary, AFN", AFN TV-Guide, July 1983)
AFN Moves to Mannheim
-- After six decades of broadcast service to troops in Europe and beyond, HQ American Forces Network moved its operations from Frankfurt to Mannheim in October 2004. (See related Stars & Stripes article)
||AFN-Europe Yahoo Group - a Yahoo group for those who served at AFN
or in military broadcasting in Europe for the past 60+ years; all
the old AFNers visit this site and participate in the message board.
||Steve Craig Radio History Page - a web page featuring articles and papers written by Steve Craig, a Professor at the University of North Texas. Mr Craig has written several articles on AFN in Europe that are well worth reading:
"The American Forces Network in the Cold War: Military Broadcasting in Postwar Germany." Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Vol. 32, No. 3, Summer, 1988, pp. 307-321. Full Text (pdf) (link)
"The American Forces Network, Europe: A Case Study in Military Broadcasting." Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Vol. 30, No. 1, Winter, 1986, pp. 33-46. Full Text (pdf) (link)
"American Broadcasting Invades Europe: AFNE's First 25 Years: 1943-1968." A paper presented at the Broadcast Education Association Meeting, Las Vesgas, April, 2008. Full Text (pdf) (link)
||AFRTS Archives - a tribute page (blog) to the Armed Forces Radio & Television Service by Thom Whetston. Lots and lots of recordings of many of the radio shows we used to listen to while overseas. Turn back the clock and listen once again to Wolfman Jack; Charlie Tuna; Command Performance; Golden Days of Radio; and MANY more shows.
||AFN K-town mid-1970s - sound bytes from AFN Kaiserslatern in the mid 1970s. Also includes some photos from the AFN studios at Frrankfurt.