The last planes have taken off from the Rhein-Main Base in Frankfurt as the U.S. Air Force prepares for the official closing.
The base opened next to Frankfurt’s airport immediately after World War II. Officials say that the combination of the need for expensive repairs, Frankfurt’s plans to expand its airport and the downsizing of U.S. operations in Europe made its closing inevitable.
Deutsche Welle reports that the base was part of a lot of history. In 1948, it was the main staging area for the Berlin Airlift, when U.S. planes supplied the city for 11 months. A few years later, a young GI named Elvis Presley landed there to begin a tour of duty in West Germany.
Locals also say that the base helped make the Frankfurt area “cool” by introducing residents to jazz and hamburgers.
“The base was part of Frankfurt life for 60 years, and that’s reflected in the close ties between the city and the U.S.,” Frankfurt Mayor Petra Roth said.
Closing ceremonies are scheduled later this month, although the base officially remains U.S. military property through Dec. 31.
So much of Old Europe’s enormous welfare state (and its painful drag on Europe’s economy) hinges on their lack of need for military defense over the last 50 years. It will be interesting to see how that changes, now that, as Frank Martin put it last year, “Ich Bin Ein Outta Here” (beginning the process, at least).