We’re honored to have Michael D. Mahler as a guest author today. Mahler commanded an armored cavalry squadron on the interzonal border between East and West Germany. He now lives in Montana and is the author of Tales from the Cold War: The U.S. Army in West Germany, 1960—1975 (UNG Press, 2021) and Ringed in Steel: Armored Cavalry, Vietnam 1967—68 (Presidio Press, 1998).
My name is Michael D. Mahler, and I want to tell you how delighted I am to have the University of North Georgia Press’s support in telling the story of the U.S. Army in Europe during the Cold War through the publication of my book, Tales from the Cold War: The U.S. Army in West Germany, 1960—1975.
I was a career officer in what used to be called the Regular Army, commissioned from the U.S. Military Academy in 1958 into the Armor branch of the Army. I spent ten of my almost twenty-five years of commissioned service in Germany, starting in 1960 as a first lieutenant tank platoon leader and ending as a colonel on the headquarters staff of the U.S. Army in Europe in 1980. The book stops in 1975 because my last three years in Germany, though affording me a great overview of where that Army was, did not allow me to be involved in day-to-day interaction with the soldiers, training, or small-post life that is the heart of this story.
Some years ago, it occurred to me that nothing had been written about the U.S. Army in Germany, though its tenure there stretches from the end of World War II through the occupation to the standing force of 190,000 men and women, including many family members, stationed in some 150 small posts throughout Germany with their own small post exchanges, commissaries (the Army’s grocery stores), and rudimentary medical clinics. In that regard, it was a modern version of the old frontier Army of our own Wild West, with its isolated, self-contained posts.
This is a history that I believe needs to be told so that the era is better understood and so that it is more generally known what the U.S. Army did to prevent a Soviet takeover of Western Europe.
Though it is mostly now forgotten, that was a real possibility back then and it added a sense of urgency to the mission and put significant pressure on the soldiers stationed in Germany. It was never certain that an alert to move out of a home station would not turn into the real thing, a concern that was heightened the morning that the Berlin Wall was erected. There is, by the way, an included backstory to the move of an Army battle group to Berlin to assert our treaty rights that has never before been told.
And so, I have written the story of fifteen years of the Cold War for the U.S. Army in Europe, through good times and bad times, so that the story will be available as the institution is downsized and withdrawn and the men and women who manned the U.S. Army in Europe pass from the scene. I hope you will find the story, untold before now, both interesting and enjoyable. It certainly was an interesting and enjoyable life (for the most part) for those of us who were privileged to be a part of it.