August 6, 2017

1949. Occupation Powers Stage Spring Maneuvers in West Germany

Operation Showers
Soldiers from the U.S. Army Berlin Command face off against police from the former East Germany during one of several standoffs at Checkpoint Charlie in 1961 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

April 18, 1949

As yet no one, not even the geopoliticians, can find any significance in the coincidence that baseball season in America opens on the same day that the United States occupation forces in Germany start their spring maneuvers.

It is a very un-military fact that, for the most part, the GIs with whom I have talked are much more interested in the Dodgers, Senators, and Yanks than they are in the "unnamed aggressor" against which the army is supposed to be defending itself this week.

Seventy-thousand American troops will participate in the military practice which has the code name of "Operation Showers." It is the largest training maneuver ever held by US forces in Europe and will include ground troops supported by air force and naval units. Most of the action will take place in northeast Bavaria in the Czech border region, although Navy units will make practice landings of supplies in Bremerhaven and patrol the Rhine.

The idea is that the so-called aggressor will strike from the east along the 95-mile front. The American troops are ordered to dig in and then fight delaying actions for three days, after which they are to counterattack.

The Air Force will give fighters cover with jet and Thunderbolt aircraft. Military observers from Britain, France, Holland, and Norway will be present.

It is all part of the business of soldiering, this playing at war. But it is awfully hard to concentrate when there is such beautiful spring weather here in Germany, and when the major leagues go into action for the season.

In Berlin's back gardens and in the bombed-out lots all over the blockaded parts of the city, the people are digging and putting in vegetable gardens. No one is taking any chances that this city might not still be cut off next winter.

To aid these siege gardens, the airlift has turned part of its tonnage to vegetable seeds and gardening tools. More than four hundred pounds of seed has been flown in, as well as three tons of assorted fruit trees. The more gardens, the less food needed to be flown in.

The disturbing thing is that the airlift fruit trees won't blossom until next May—a year from now.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.