runway: 08/26 - 3000x45m/9100x..feet - concrete (CLOSED)
runway: 08/26 - 2195x30m/7200x..feet - concrete
Giebelstadt airfield is an airfield 16 kilometers/10 miles south of Wurzburg in Bavaria, Germany.
Over its past is was known as Fliegerhorst Giebelstadt, "ALG Y-90 Giebelstadt", Army Air Force Station Giebelstadt, Giebelstadt Air Base, Giebelstadt Army Air Field and Giebelstadt Airport.
It had the following ICAO codes: EDAG/EDEU(pre1995), ETEU(Mil, between 1995-2006)/EDQG (civilian, since 2001).
Without a doubt Giebelstadt is one of the airfields in Germany with the richest traditions. Construction of the airfield began in the summer of 1934 as the Höhenflugzentrale Deutsche Verkehrsfliegerschule (High Flight Center German Airline Pilot School). The official name was a camouflage, as Germany was not permitted to have an air force under the Versailles Treaty.
Besides the airfield, the construction also encompassed construction in the town of Giebelstadt, to house officers and enlisted men. The unmasking of the Luftwaffe took place on 3 January 1935, and at the same time the airfield became an official Luftwaffe station, called Fliegerhorst Giebelstadt.
Initially the airfield consisted of a sod circular runway with two paved launch pads. The first operational flying unit assigned to Giebelstadt was "Kampfgruppe Florian Geyer" (named after a Knight from the area), activated at the base on 10 January 1935. Construction advanced fast enough to allow the founding celebrations to take place on 2 May 1935. In January 1936 enough of the airfield had been completed to begin flight operations.
The base was officially opened by Adolf Hitler after a review of the troops on 11 September 1936. After an inspection of the base Major General Albert Kesselring presented the unit with its colors. Later that year the airfield served as the location of the 1100 year anniversary of the town of Giebelstadt.
Hitler (r) during the official opening ceremonies of Fliegerhorst Giebelstadt in 1936
The Fliegergruppe was redesignated Kampfgeschwader 155 (Fighter Wing or KG155) and equipped with early model He111s. KG155 moved out of the base in 1938 when Austria was merged with Germany during the 'Anschluss'. They were replaced by KG53 Legion Condor (initially numbered as KG355), also flying He111s. KG53 left the airfield for Ansbach just before the attack on Poland. KG2 took up residence at the airfield during the "Phoney War" with England and France, flying Dornier Do17s.
At the beginning of World War II Giebelstadt aircraft flew suppport missions for the Blitzkrieg in France. As the fronts moved east and west however the base became a training facility for pilots and aircrew. I.KG76 used the airfield to convert from Dornier 17s to Ju 88As between October 1940 and April 1941. III./KG76 was stationed at the airfield for rest and rearmament in August/September 1941. They returned again in April/May1942 during their operations in the Soviet Union, as did KG77 'Holzhammer' in December 9141 and January 1942. KG100 moved in for the same reason in 1943, whilst converting from He111H to Dornier Do217E/K bombers.
Initially the airfield was of circular shape, allowing the aircraft to always start into the wind. In 1944 Giebelstadt, in a plan to upgrade several airfields to Silberplatz ("Silver field") received a long (3000meter/9100feet) paved runway. It was located slightly south and east of the original airfield. Additionally it received upgrades in its facilities to support jet interceptor operations, which included dispersals and a larger fuel dump. All these upgrades meant an significant upgrade to the original airfield, which increased in size to about 250 hectares.
As the airfield and its location were a closely held secret the town was banned from all maps. To hide it from allied reconnaissance aircraft, workers painted the runway to resemble a grassy field with white sheep. In April 1944 KG54 brought the jet-era to Geibelstadt with their Me262A fighters. This made the airfield an even more secret location. Giebelstadt was placed "off-limits" to all personnel, except those specifically authorized by the Reichluftfahrtministerium (Air Ministry). Additionally the Me163A 'Komet' rocket powered fighter was tested at the airfield. In March 1945 KG54 was replaced by KG51 with newer model Me262s. They remained until the end of the month, when operations from the airfield became unsustainable.
Obviously the early jet operations drew the attention of the Allied air forces, especially the planners of the USAAFs 8th Air Force. They launched several heavy attacks onto the airfield between September 1944 and March 1945. The secrecy surrounding the base was successful however, many missions were flown against the base only two ever found their mark. Legend has it the airfield was only discovered when an airman, who was comparing aerial photos, discovered sheep (painted on the runway) had not moved over time.
Additionally the airfield came under attack of USAAFs 9th Air Force medium bombers and attack aircraft form the moment they could hit the airfield from their dispersed bases in France. Attacks on the airfield by these tactical units with 500-pound General-Purpose bombs, unguided rockets and .50 caliber machine gun sweeps were frequent. They took place when Eighth Air Force heavy bombers (B-17s, B-24s) would come within interception range of the Luftwaffe jets assigned to the base. The attacks were timed to have the maximum effect possible to keep the interceptors pinned down on the ground and be unable to attack the heavy bombers.
Airstrike at Giebelstadt (486th.org).
Me-262 of I./KG54 at Giebelstadt (ww2incolor.com).
After having been heavily bombed, soldiers of the United States Army's 12th Armored Division rolled into Giebelstadt at the end of March, capturing it unopposed. In the fields surrounding the base, they found the burned out hulks of numerous bombers destroyed by the fleeing German forces. They also discovered the presence of a secret escape railway line intended for use by Hitler.
On 5 April the 819th Engineer Aviation Battalion (IX Engineer Command) moved in and began patching the bomb craters of the airfield's concrete runway. Within a day they had patched up enough to allow the airfield to be used by C-47 Skytrains for combat resupply and CasEvac mission. The airfield was then designated as Advanced Landing Ground "Y-90 Giebelstadt".
Combat units arrived two weeks later (on 20 April) when the P-47 Thunderbolt-equipped 50th Fighter Group began using the airfield.
The 417th Night Fighter Squadron arrived for night fighter defensive interceptor missions against any rogue Luftwaffe aircraft that were still active in the skies.
Aerial photo of Giebelstadt around the date of its capture by American forces in April 1945
Bird's eye view of Giebelstadt around the date of its capture by American forces in April 1945 (7th PRG Scans).
When combat ended on 7 May 1945 the combat units were withdrawn and Giebelstadt became a garrison for the Army of Occupation, designated Army Air Force Station Giebelstadt. Repair of the damage at the airfield and its support area was largely done by German Prisoners of War. The repairs lasted into 1946, and turned the airfield into a usable long term facility to be used by the US Air Force. The final POW was released from Giebelstadt on 20 August 1946.
While the base was still under repair the USAF sent 55FG to Giebelstadt in April 1946 from Kaufbeuren Air Base. 55FG, because it had the long runway available, soon upgraded their P-47s to the brand new P-80 Shooting Star jet fighter, which were reviewed by General Spatz in July 1946. The next month the unit was deactivated, transferring all its aircraft to 31FG.
Due to budget restrictions Giebelstadt was placed on standby in September and the 31st moved to nearby Kitzingen Air Base. During the airfields inactivity in 1947, the war damaged and repaired German jet runway was replaced with a new, 7,200feet/2195meter runway. Additional facilities were upgraded and brought into service. New hangars were constructed along with a large concrete parking apron and in late 1947 it was redesignated Giebelstadt Air Base.
The newly formed Strategic Air Command dispatched nine B-29 Superfortress very heavy bombers of the 97th Bombardment Group to Giebelstadt to conduct training during temporary deployments to Europe. When the final SAC personnel left for the United States in January 1948 the base was closed again and placed on standby due to postwar budget restrictions.
The US Air Force returned in April 1950, when the 603rd Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron, stationed at Hof, arrived at Giebelstadt AB as part of an Operational Readiness Test. In May they were placed at the airfield on temporary status and finally in August 1950, Giebelstadt was made the home of the 603rd. The main mission of Giebelstadt became an Air Defense Radar Station, equipped with the General Electric AN/MPS-5 mobile search radar (the mobile version of the AN/CPS-1). The radar was set up on a purpose built concrete ramp built in 1951, to extend the coverage of the radar.
With the breakout of the Cold War, the usefulness of the airfield by the Air Force was limited, as Giebelstadt was too close to the East German border to station tactical aircraft. The flight time for jet aircraft from the border was less than 15 minutes, which meant little or no time was available to launch aircraft from the field before it coming under attack. The airfield did remain active however, as various MATS C-54 Skymaster transport units used the base during 1951-1952. In addition, it was used by various transient transport aircraft throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
Ben Bajorek was stationed at Giebelstadt with 603 ACWS and recalls: "While I was there in the 1950s, there still existed pyramid-shaped angle iron structures on wheels that were used in the camouflage of the field during the war. They were stacked with hay and became movable haystacks that were placed to break up the hard straight line of the runway."
The 603ACWS search radar on its purpose built platform at Giebelstadt, with its two back-to-back antennae with transmitter/modulator and receiver cabinets mounted on the trailer under it (photo by Ben Bajorek from Dearborn, Michigan).
In July 1956 603ACW moved to Langerkopf Air Station and the radar station was taken over by 602 ACW from Birkenfeld Air Station. When the 602nd Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron was permanently assigned to Giebelstadt in 1956, it started the longest stay of any of the U.S. forces ever to be assigned to the base. What started as a temporary affair was made permanent in August 1956. The unit remained active on the base until the German Control and Reporting Centre Lauda became operational. The radar squadron disbanded in 1968 after lasting 12 years. During the change Giebelstadt was upgraded to the AN/FPS-20 General Surveillance Radar and the AN/FPS-6 Long-Range Height Finder Radar.
That same year the Central Intelligence Agency began flying Lockheed U-2 reconnaissance aircraft from the airfield. Detachment "A" with four U-2 aircraft, arrived at Giebelstadt from Wiesbaden Air Base in October 1956. The reason was that U-2 operations from the relatively isolated Giebelstadt would draw much less attention than from Wiesbaden. Among the pilots was Gary Powers, who was later shot down over the Soviet Union. Towards the end of the year, Detachment "A" flew U-2s three times over Albania, Bulgaria, Romania and Yugoslavia. Around the same time RAF Canberra photoreconnaissance bombers had alledgedly also used the airfield for espionage missions over eastern Europe. They were operational at Giebelstadt until 15 November 1957, when the detachment was closed down, and U-2 operations were moved to Pakistan.
During the 1960s, F-102 Delta Dagger interceptors of the 86th Air Division used the base frequently as a forward base from their home bases west of the Rhine. The departure of the F-102 from USAFE and budget reductions in the Air Force led to the departure of the 602nd ACW in July 1968. Giebelstadt Air Base and all of its facilities were transferred to United States Army control in August 1968.
Base entrance of Giebelstadt in 1962 (Wikipedia).
According to Ed Robertson, stationed at Giebelstadt as a radar technician in the sixties, it was common practice to use the taxi tracks at Giebelstadt as roads.
He wrote: "There was a sign warning anyone who wanted to drive out there to take caution and yield to any airplanes that might be out there. This person did not yield and crashed into a German plane taxying at the site.As the driver of the car was a German too, he probably was not aware of the sharing of the road with airplanes and pulled out without looking good.I do not remember if the German police had access to our site, but assume that since both vehicles were German owned, it gave them access to the incident."
(RonaldV: There are German military and civil police (the green VW Beetle behind the wing) cars in the picture.)
It really blew my mind to see that the propeller had cut up through the drivers door and what I remember was it missed the man in the car!" (photo courtesy of Ed Robertson).
602ACWS Ops site at Giebelstadt in 1966 showing left to right: radio antennas, Search Radar dome, Heigth Finder Radar, Heigth Finder Radar dome, radio antennas (photo courtesy of Ed Robertson).
When 602ACW deactivated in 1968, the base remained empty except for Battery C, 6th Battalion (HAWK), 52nd Air Defense Artillery, until March 1970. Then the 7th Battalion (Chaparral-Vulcan), 67th ADA and 218th Ordnance Detachment moved in and began its stay as the major unit at Giebelstadt. The 7th Battalion, 67th ADA was redesignated Sept. 14. 1972 as the 3rd Battalion, 67th ADA.
The 235th Aviation Company, later redesignated Co B, 3rd Aviation Battalion Combat, was assigned to Giebelstadt in June 1976. It was the first element of the battalion to occupy the base.
Ben Bajorek, working at the base as a member of 603ACWS, tried to revisit the airfield during the 1970s, but he was not allowed in. He recalls: "All that was visible from the road was a multitude of yellow communication vans sporting fancy antennae. I met a U.S. Army lieutenant and sergeant in a Gasthaus in town and they wouldn't talk to me."
In April 1981, the Battalion Headquarters Company, along with Alpha and Delta companies, restationed from Kitzingen to Giebelstadt. At the same time a similar move was accomplished by elements of the 3rd Bn, 67th ADA from Giebelstadt to Kitzingen.
On June 19 1982, the 121st Aviation Company from Fort Benning, Ga., with their UH-60A (Black Hawk) helicopters relocated to the air base, designated as Co E, 3rd Avn Bn.
On 2 November 1984, USAF C-130E Hercules 68-10946 was written off in a landing accident at the airfield, fortunately without casualties.
In the late 1980s the airfield hosted the 4th Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) flying mostly AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters and UH-60 Blackhawk transport helicopters. 2/3 Avn Bn and 3/3 Avn Bn were Cobra battalions with OH-50 Scouts and UH-1H's for support. The UH-60's were part of TF-23 who also had UH-1's.
Boeing-Vertol CH-47C Chinooks fly over the "Reforger" assembly area at Giebelstadt airfield. On the ground are
Bell AH-1G HueyCobras and OH-58A Kiowas (undated, via crimso.msk.ru).
UH-60 Blackhawk of 3rd Avn Bn parked in front of a hangar on Giebelstadt AAF, 1983.
Giebelstadt AAF airport sketch (DoD VFR Routes, 1984, via usarmygermany.com).
Giebelstadt AAF enroute map (DoD VFR Routes, 1984, via usarmygermany.com).
4th Brigade left Giebelstadt in early 1992, and was replaced by AH-64 Apache attack helicopters of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, and UH-60 Blackhawk and OH-58 Kiowas of the 12th Aviation Brigade. Air Defense Artillery (ADA) continued to play a major role on the airfield with the presence of the 6th Battalion, 52nd ADA Regiment, with its Hawk missile batteries and the senior officer on post commanding the 69th ADA Brigade. In 1993, the Apache helicopter and Hawk ADA units deactivated and a CH-47 Chinook company arrived from Schwaebisch Hall Army Airfield. In 1994, the OH-58 Kiowa units disbanded as the aircraft returned to the United States for conversion to armed OH-58D Kiowa Warriors.
In 1995, the primary units on Giebelstadt Army Airfield were:
69th ADA Brigade (Patriot)
5th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment(UH-60's)
A Company, 5th Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment (CH-47s)
B Company, 7th Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment (Third Corps Support Command aircraft maintenance).
US Air Force units on Giebelstadt AAF were
Det. 10, 617th Weather Squadron, providing weather support for the airfield and to the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) headquartered in Wuerzburg
OL-C, 617th Comm Squadron, providing maintenance support for meteorological and navigation equipment in the area.
In 1994 Ben Bajorek paid another visit to Giebelstadt, and -contrary to his experience in the 1970s- he was allowed on base without a challenge this time. "An airman gave me a grand tour of the base. I think all of the buildings that were there in the 1950s were still there even though they served different functions. The Army aircraft were attack helicopters, Apaches, I think. There was a memorial across the street from headquarters building to the crew of the helicopters that were shot down and killed by friendly fire in Iraq (Ben is referring to the notorious Black Hawk incident in 1994 - RonaldV). The choppers shot down had been on detached service from Giebelstadt. (...) the end of the field nearest the town was used for civilian sport aviation. There were a number of aircraft tied down."
On 29 July 2005 the Department of Defense announced plans for the return of eleven Army bases to Germany in fiscal year 2007. These installation returns were scheduled as part of plans for the 1st Infantry Division headquarters' return to the United States with its divisional flag in the summer of 2006. As part of this redeployment, Giebelstadt Army Airfield was closed by the United States Army on 23 June 2006.
Overview of Giebelstadt AAF in September 2001. CH-47, UH-60 and AH-64 helicopters were still active and visible at the airfield.
After being turned over to the German government in 2006, Giebelstadt Airfield has become a commercial airport used by general aviation aircraft. After the closure of the airfield it was found that there were more than 200 unexploded ordinances within the range of the unmarried barracks and its surrounding grounds.
What remains of the airfields historical buildings is varied. Due to the frequent wartime bombing attacks, much of the wartime airfield was destroyed. This means that almost all of the buildings on the airfield are of postwar vintage, although the modern buildings are constructed in a traditional German style.
In the town of Giebelstadt, many of the buildings used for personnel barracks and housing still exist and still are being used. The original circular airfield still exists, in part, and some wartime concrete hardstands remain. A pre-war Luftwaffe hangar which was repaired remains to the west side of the original airfield, connected to an enclosing taxiway and some aircraft parking hardstands.
The 1944 extension with the extended length jet runway remains, with the taxiways and hardstands for Me 262 use also remaining. The runway, which was reduced in length in 1947, still has part of its wartime concrete remaining between the Bundesstraße 19 (B-19) highway and the current runway 20 (west) end. Remains of the original B-19 highway, which was cut in 1944 when the jet runway was built, still remain to the south of the airfield. Today it is a single lane farm road running north-south that intersects the airfield about midway between the runway ends. In the neighboring town of Wolkshausen, south of the airfield, the old B-19 is still known as "Giebelstadter Straße".
In 2012 the airfield was in the process of being sold in plots by the Bundesanstalt für Immobilienaufgaben (Federal Real Estate Agency)
By that time a large solar power array had been built on the northeren taxitracks and dispersals
Giebelstadt after the departure of US forces in 2007 (Google Earth).
Airpark Giebelstadt, ca. 2010 (Bundesanstalt für Immobilienaufgaben).
Airpark Giebelstadt, with the solar power array on the northern parkings (Bundesanstalt für Immobilienaufgaben).
Thanks to Bob Ferguson, dependent son (now, Col, USAF Ret), who lived at the airfield 1958-60, for pointing out this airfield.