GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - “Grafenwoehr and the training area only make up 17 percent of the town’s history, but for the generation that lives here, it amounts to 100 percent,” said Olaf Meiler, historian and curator of the Grafenwoehr Cultural and Military Museum as he spoke to more than 75 attendees at the opening of the 100th Anniversary of the Grafenwoehr Training Area exhibit at the museum, June 27.
The mood was jovial as German and American dignitaries alike politely listened to speeches between updates on the Germany versus England FIFA World Cup Soccer match. And no one seemed to mind the loud hollers or honking cars which erupted citywide after Germany won the match 4-1.
“The City of Grafenwoehr and the training area have lived in a tight symbiosis for almost 100 years,” said Meiler. “Regardless of whether we citizens of Grafenwoehr work inside or outside of the training area, we all live with the training area because it has a direct or indirect impact on our lives.”
“As we reminisce about the past 100 years at the Grafenwoehr Training Area, what resonates is the spirit of cooperation and commitment to making this community a better place,” said Brig. Gen. Steven L. Salazar, commanding general, Joint Multinational Training Command.
That cooperation was evident throughout the exhibit, which included historical documents and objects provided by the German and U.S. armies.
“This exhibition, which is intended to allow you to take a virtual peek over the fence, is definitely not a miss, like the first shot that was fired in 1910,” said Willi Buchfelder, chairman of the Grafenwoehr City Club.
The exhibit is a wide-ranging documentation of the history of both the training area and the community itself. Not only did the Historic Society maintain the museum’s original displays, it added several special pieces to acknowledge the joint nature of the anniversary.
A replica of the largest cannon ever made, Dora, was loaned to the museum for this exhibit by Kirchenthumbach resident Gerhard Seemann. The 80-cm cannon, commissioned by Adolf Hitler, weighed 1,350 tons and shot 7.1 tons of armor-piercing grenades over a distance of 38 kilometers. History shows that larger caliber cannons have been built, but no gun had the mass of the Dora cannon.
Other displays include the first cannon shot at GTA along with a pictorial representation of the cannoneer who made that first shot, photo essays and timelines of the training area history.
A special exhibit on the second floor is dedicated to forest administration and the protection of native species and habitats. Coordinated with the assistance of the German Federal Forest Office Grafenwoehr and the environmental office of U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr, it is a testament to the benefits of working together to preserve the environment of the training area and beyond.
“The years of the U.S. military not being concerned about the impact of their training on the environment are long gone,” said Forest Director Ulrich Maushake. “We are more than happy to support the 100th year anniversary of the training area.”
After the official exhibit ribbon cutting attendees ate and drank in the city park to the sounds of the U.S. Army in Europe Dixieland Band.