75 years in Europe

75 years of serving America's military

During the past 75 years, through stories, photographs and videos, the Stars and Stripes staff has chronicled the history of America’s military in Europe. Below are some of the moments staff writers have covered, from the mundane to the shocking.

By Max Lederer
Publisher, Stars and Stripes

When United States forces arrived in England in 1942 and when its allies celebrated V-E day in May 1945, it was not envisioned how the world would change, and that the United States and others would be military partners in Europe today.

American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines — along with civilian employees and their families from the U.S., as well as allies from Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, Turkey, France, Spain and other nations — have spent 75 years living and working to support the peace and development of Europe as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. That former allies would become enemies, and enemies would become allies and good friends, was unthinkable.

During those 75 years, through stories, photographs and videos, Stars and Stripes has chronicled this partnership never before undertaken in world history. The Stars and Stripes staff has embraced the mission, with honor and privilege, to record this history. The good, the bad, the happy, the sad, the shocking and the routine are part of the story.

Arguments about the need for the United States in the region, the size of the force, the location and purpose of military stationing matter little to the men and women who commit themselves to live and work in support of U.S. military objectives. The individuals who have stepped forward to be part of the 75-year history have left the comfort of their lives, a decision accepted valiantly by their loved ones, to protect all of us and create an environment of peace and security.

The spirit of sacrifice is the mark of all parts of the military community and its families.

Stars and Stripes is commemorating the U.S. participation in the alliance of nations, serving to protect and maintain peace in Europe. The words and the images collected here are intended to illustrate the past and provide context for the future. The European region bears a special significance for the U.S. and its role as a global power. Relations are centuries old, and the bonds are not only political, military and economic but historical and social. We share many of the same values regarding human rights, freedom, democracy and a civil society.

The violent period of World War II saw as many as 3 million U.S. military personnel in Europe. After the war, an urgency to bring the troops home or send them to the Pacific war zone dropped forces in Europe to about 100,000. There were still important tasks to complete — the rebuilding of Germany and other war-ravaged areas as well as participation in the trials of war criminals, such as those at Nuremberg. The rise of Communism changed this perspective.

The threat of the U.S.S.R. created a need to grow the U.S. military presence, reaching a zenith of more than 450,000 U.S. personnel spread over 100 communities in the early 1960s. The patrolling of the Berlin Wall, guarding the Fulda Gap, and holding the annual REFORGER exercises were part of the fabric of the Cold War and of the education of the children of the United States. U.S. personnel holding the line in Europe helped to deter a nuclear attack that children prepared for across America by learning to “duck and cover” under their desks at the sound of a warning.

When the Wall came down in 1989 and later Germany was reunified, a sigh of relief was exhaled around the world. This allowed military strength in Europe to be diverted to fight other enemies. The war against Iraq and Saddam Hussein — to respond to Iraq’s aggression against its neighbor Kuwait -- is a primary example of the massive movement of forces from Europe to other areas. But when these troops returned to their Europe stations, they were confronted with new challenges created by the crumbling stability of the former Soviet bloc. Conflicts in the former Yugoslavian nations of Bosnia and Kosovo occupied the focus of the European command for much of the later part of the 1990s.

The U.S. was not prepared for the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the resulting conflicts and the hatred directed at the American way of life by Osama bin Laden and his followers. Once again, the well-trained and skilled forces in Europe were diverted to conflicts in the Middle East. And again, the infrastructure of the European command was essential to the forward-operating activities in the Middle East. The logistic bases in Europe, troop transport and medical care provided by Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and in other areas have been integral to sustaining operations and saving lives.

Always ready for the next challenge, European-based forces deployed in support of humanitarian missions including providing earthquake relief in Turkey and combating the Ebola virus in Africa. In parallel to these humanitarian efforts and involvement in the Middle East, U.S. troop strength in Europe continued to decline during the first two decades of this century. Today, the U.S. force in Europe is much smaller at 62,000 personnel across 28 communities and 14 countries. Despite a much smaller presence, the need for forward-deployed troops in Europe is as essential as it has been at any time. The resurgence of Russia in Crimea and other actions again have U.S. military men and women serving at the tip of the spear.

Through all these transitions, Stars and Stripes has chronicled what has occurred: the pain and suffering, the successes and failures, the heroic and the dishonest actions of members of the force. Reporters and photographers have traveled the roads and trails of the military community. The staff lives with the troops and families as members of their communities. No matter the weather or the conflict, the Stars and Stripes team delivered a newspaper on the “most dangerous paper routes in the world,” including the early days of Bosnia and Kosovo conflicts, to Afghanistan, Iraq and to Africa, where service personnel risked their lives to fight Ebola.

Recognizing a need, Stars and Stripes has also brought events to the military community to improve the quality of life — sponsoring runs, commissary food contests, trip giveaways and more. Our storytellers have sought to be the voice of everyday servicemembers, to make sense of where they live and work, and to explain the messages of the leadership. Stars and Stripes has changed as you, our reader, have changed.

Today, how the story is delivered is different — now digital and print — but the content goal is the same. To tell the story of the military to the military — a goal no other news organization seeks to accomplish. After our first 75 years, it is still with awe of the sacrifice of the U.S. military community that Stars and Stripes proudly seeks to chronicle your lives.


World War II and Stripes returns

Stars and Stripes is launched in London for the first time since World War I. The first U.S. troops arrive in Europe — specifically in Northern Ireland — on Jan. 25, 1942.

From there, the paper followed the American GI as the Allies fought across the European theater. Stories large and small, from coverage of battles that have become legendary, to simple moments between soldiers, have been the purview of Stars and Stripes ever since.

Follow the timeline to learn more about Stripes' European history.

April 18, 1942

Stars and Stripes is launched in London for the first time since World War I. The first U.S. troops arrived in Europe – specifically in Northern Ireland — on Jan. 25, 1942.

Stripes launches regional editions, following the troops as fighting moves through North Africa, Sicily/Italy, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and later, Germany.


June 6, 1944

U.S. and Allied troops launch the largest invasion in history on the beaches of Normandy. Stars and Stripes follows.



Bill Mauldin: two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and WWII legend

Mauldin's unsentimental work — teetering on the line between funny and tragic, unafraid to mock authority — spoke to and for front-line soldiers. They loved him for it. It's difficult to overstate how much.


Dec. 1944 - Jan. 1945

A half-million German troops launch a major attack along an 85-mile front in what became known as the Battle of the Bulge. About 75,000 Americans are killed, wounded or captured before the German offensive collapses, opening the door to the German heartland.

April 25, 1945

Stars and Stripes is there as U.S. and Soviet forces link up in the German town of Torgau. Over the next two weeks, Hitler commits suicide, Berlin falls to the Soviets and Germany surrenders. The war in Europe is over.



Lore Lizabeth Back: photographer, war refugee, trailblazer

Lore Lizabeth Back was a war refugee when she arrived at Stars and Stripes in Germany in 1947, found a home of sorts and became the newspaper's first female photographer.


June 24, 1948

Soviets block all land routes to Berlin, which is under Four-Power occupation. U.S. and its allies begin a massive airlift — Operation Vittles — flying food, fuel and essential supplies into Berlin. Unable to force the Allies out of Berlin, Moscow lifts the blockade May 12, 1949.


April 4, 1949

The U.S. and 11 allies sign a treaty establishing the NATO alliance for common defense against the Soviet threat.


Francis J. 'Red' Grandy: covered celebs, presidents and wars

A mix of canniness, charm and chutzpah, combined with technical skill, made Red Grandy — Stars and Stripes' chief photographer for more than three decades – a certified legend.


Aug. 1, 1952

After a buildup of U.S. forces in Europe, the U.S. military establishes the U.S. European Command in Frankfurt, Germany. By the end of the year, U.S. troop strength in Europe reaches 252,000.

Aug. 13, 1961

East Germans begin construction of the Berlin Wall around the Communist eastern sector of the city.



Andy Rooney: famed personality got his start covering WWII

Andy Rooney was best-known as the curmudgeonly commentator who for three decades of Sunday nights opined briefly on the annoyances of everyday life for an audience of millions for "60 Minutes" on CBS.


Oct. 27, 1961

After Communist harassment of U.S. officials trying to enter East Berlin, Soviet and American tanks face off at Checkpoint Charlie as the two superpowers come close to war. The standoff ends 16 hours later after frantic negotiations between Washington and Moscow.


January 1969

U.S. and NATO allies hold their largest exercise in Europe, known as REFORGER. The exercise is held annually with one exception (1989) until 1993 as a demonstration of the U.S. commitment to Europe’s defense.



Jack Foisie: infantryman turned respected war reporter

Jack Foisie was a sports and local news reporter on the West Coast when war broke out in 1941. Foisie, 22, quit his newspaper job, joined the Army and went into combat with the 1st Armored Division.


May 11, 1972

The German radical left-wing Red Army Faction, also known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang, detonates a bomb at a U.S. Army barracks in Frankfurt, killing one and injuring 13.

  • • Bombings May 24, 1972, in Heidelberg and Campbell barracks that left three dead, five injured
  • • A Jan. 4, 1977, attack on the 42nd Field Artillery Brigade HQ in Giessen
  • • A car bombing Aug. 31, 1981, at Ramstein Air Base
  • • A June 25, 1979, assassination attempt against SACEUR commander Gen. Alexander Haig in Mons, Belgium
  • • An RPG attack Sept, 15, 1981, against USAREUR commander Gen. Frederick Kroesen in Heidelberg
  • • A bombing at Rhein-Main Air Base that killed two Americans and wounded 20
  • • The Nov. 24, 1985, bombing outside a U.S. military shopping complex in Frankfurt that wounded 34 people


April 5, 1986

Three people, including two American servicemembers, are killed when a bomb explodes at the La Belle disco in West Berlin. Ten days later U.S. jets attack the Libyan cities of Tripoli and Benghazi because the U.S. believes Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi sponsored the disco bombing.


Allan Morrison; barrier breaker, civil rights hero

Allan Morrison was Stars and Stripes’ first and only black reporter in World War II, when the services were segregated and African-American units for the most part were consigned to support duties in the rear.


Nov. 9, 1989

East Germany opens the Berlin Wall, allowing free movement of East Germans to the West for the first time in a generation. The two German states reunite the next October.


November 1990

Major U.S. Army Europe units including VII Corps Headquarters, 3rd Armored Division and 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment deploy from Germany to the Middle East to take part in the February 1991 ground attack that drove Iraqi forces from Kuwait.



Dick Wingert: Syndicated cartoonist chronicled plight of common soldier

Dick Wingert went to art school to become an illustrator. The Army turned him into a cartoonist.


April 1992

With the breakup of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the Army’s VII Corps is inactivated, beginning a multiyear reduction that closes many U.S. installations in Europe and sharply reduces American troop levels.

August 1994

U.S. Army’s Berlin Brigade is deactivated and American, French and British troops leave the city.

December 1995

U.S. Army units deploy to Bosnia to enforce the Dayton Agreement, which ended the three-year war. USAREUR passes the mission to the European Union in November 2004.



Julia Edwards: fierce advocate for female war correspondents

Soon after Julia Edwards landed her first reporting job in 1946 at Stars and Stripes, she learned female journalists had a hard road to walk. She persevered anyway.


March 24, 1999

U.S. aircraft – many from bases in Germany – launch airstrikes to force Serb troops to withdraw from the contested province of Kosovo. The air campaign lasts for 78 days until the Serbs withdraw. NATO deploys peacekeepers to Kosovo with USAREUR troops in the lead.

Sept. 11, 2001

Coordinated terrorist attacks by militants associated with al-Qaida involving hijacked airliners killed 2,977 people at the World Trade Center towers in New York, the Pentagon and an empty field in rural Pennsylvania. It is the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil in history and triggers a huge U.S. effort to combat terrorists.



Nancy 'Nan' Robertson: first-hand account of illness led to Pulitzer

Robertson occupied a peculiar time for ambitious women. When she graduated from Northwestern University with a journalism degree in 1948, the war was over. Stars and Stripes Europe offered her a chance to report.


October 2001

U.S launches attacks against al-Qaida and Taliban forces in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks. EUCOM elements deploy in support of the mission.


Oct. 10, 2005

Rhein-Main Air Base, once the gateway to Europe, closes.



Laura Rauch: award-winning photojournalist

Laura Rauch, a Mideast reporter for Stars and Stripes, won a 2011 Sigma Delta Chi Award for excellence in journalism for her photograph of the wounded soldier being transported in a medevac helicopter at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan.


June 2010

U.S. announces final stage of “transformation” and downsizing in Europe. USAREUR headquarters moves from Heidelberg to Wiesbaden.


May 2011

1st Armored Division cases its colors and moves from Germany to Fort Bliss in Texas.


March 2015

The U.S. Army's 2nd Cavalry Regiment begins a large-scale convoy operation across the Eastern European flank in a show of force to a newly-belligerent Russia. The operation, dubbed Dragoon Ride, is one of several exercises designed to deter Russian aggression and to assuage American allies in the region.


Jan. 30, 2017

U.S. soldiers from the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, take part in a combined live-fire demonstration with Poland’s 11th Armored Cavalry Division at Karliki range near Zagan, a small town in western Poland.



Gus Schuettler: an icon's journey from Germany to America

Gus Schuettler's often veered into areas that most people would have given anything to experience. He spent time with Salvador Dali, Elvis Presley and President John F. Kennedy. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.


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