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4 minutes

Decades before I started studying German in Munich, the city was my main “beat” as a reporter covering American service life in Bavaria.

After WWII, the Americans took over the still-intact buildings in the south of Munich on both sides of a highway and created a little America for the GIs and their families who lived and worked there. At the center was a military base named McGraw Kaserne (barracks).

During the years I was there, the area was a bustling city within a city, including a sprawling American apartment complex, Perlacher Forest, a mile farther south. The subdivision boasted a gas station, launderette, bowling alley, shopping center and even its own movie theater. 

While I was there, the major tenant of McGraw was the Army and Air Force Exchange Service in Europe (AAFES), and the building above was headquarters. AFEES operated grocery and department stores, banks, barber shops, gas stations, etc., on U.S. military bases practically wherever U.S. forces were stationed.

AAFES daily touched the lives of more than a million service members, diplomats and family members in Europe alone, and every time I was in Munich, I stopped in, looking for stories. 

During WWII, Building 7 (as it was officially called) was the Nazi headquarters of the Reichszeugsmeisterei, or quartermaster office, which seemed to provide everything from “jeeps” to uniforms. The main building is as long as a football field, 275 feet deep and nearly 60 feet high, one of the first buildings in Germany to be built on a steel frame. 

After the war, the eagle and swastika were removed from the front of the building, but for decades you could still see a faint outline of the eagle. Today, it looks as if some serious cleaning has removed the Nazi regalia.

The base and its facilities were given back to the Germans in the 1990s after the Berlin Wall fell. Since then, the huge building has been used by state police. I asked at the lobby window, but unsurprisingly, guards would not allow me to see the office areas I had visited regularly as a reporter.

University of Maryland

The McGraw area also was home to a University of Maryland campus that served American military and diplomatic families with college education (and a dark, often loud student Keller) for about 50 years. For decades, a lone building emblazoned near the top with a barely visible “University of Maryland” was a reminder.

Today, the building is one of the first elements of a 27-acre plot to be redeveloped. Plans call for almost 150 apartments on the site by the end of 2024. 

Photo: University of Maryland

A bearded journalist in his 20s talks the news business with communications majors and others at the University of Maryland in the 1970s.

McGraw Trench

When the Americans created their base, they closed off a highway connecting the heavily traveled ring road around Munich center and a wildly popular highway out of town to the Alps.

In 1970, to reconnect, the Germans built 300 yards of highway, open to the sky but below ground level, and it split the base. The base is gone now, but the so-called “McGraw trench” is still a major multi-lane thoroughfare.


The state (Bavaria) owns the land that used to be McGraw, and redevelopment of the trench area calls for police offices, state-employees’ dorm, child care and shops, and much of the planning is still undone. When completed, this area will be unrecognizable to people who lived and worked here.


Photo: U.S. Army

Back in the day, helicopter rides became routine. If memory serves, this was the first huge helicopter to fly over the Alps. Or maybe the pilot did it later. Tried to look it up but couldn’t find anything. Maybe a helicopter expert will weigh in: Does this cockpit look like that of a Boeing CH-47 “Chinook”?

Photo: U.S. Army

Clint with Caspar Weinberger, secretary of defense during the Reagan administrations.

Photo: Stephanie James, S&S

Ed Metzler with Mother Teresa, who ministered to the poor and sick in India for nearly 50 years.

Photo: U.S. Army

A clean-shaven young journalist punches tape on the teletypewriter, a serial medium severely unforgiving of mistakes. The teletypewriter sent the story to editorial offices.

In a small town outside Darmstadt in Hesse, the receiving machine cut an identical tape that could be attached to a teletypesetter. The teletypesetter could reproduce copy that, after editing, could be fashioned into molten lead destined for the presses.

Photo: Richard Otto Strawder

The overgrown Stars and Stripes headquarters in Griesheim bei Darmstadt looks gone to seed. That’s the guard shack on the right. We walked or drove past that literally hundreds of times. The presses were in one of the buildings on the left; editorial in the other.

Online, it says the main edition of S&S today is digital. The headquarters is shuttered. End of an era.

Next: Short takes


One response to “MUNICH: The Job”

  1. Ken Avatar

    So, who’s that bearded and un-bearded young journalist in his 20s? Must have impressed his editors to get the assignment of interviewing Caspar Weinberger … 

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