Subscribe
German dancing girls march in a parade Saturday that mixed local clubs and officials with soldiers of the 1st Squadron, 1st U.S. Cavalry Regiment.

German dancing girls march in a parade Saturday that mixed local clubs and officials with soldiers of the 1st Squadron, 1st U.S. Cavalry Regiment. (Matt Millham / S&S)

German dancing girls march in a parade Saturday that mixed local clubs and officials with soldiers of the 1st Squadron, 1st U.S. Cavalry Regiment.

German dancing girls march in a parade Saturday that mixed local clubs and officials with soldiers of the 1st Squadron, 1st U.S. Cavalry Regiment. (Matt Millham / S&S)

Budingen residents laugh after participating in the cavalry yell at a party the city threw Saturday for the soldiers of 1st Squadron, 1st U.S. Cavalry Regiment.

Budingen residents laugh after participating in the cavalry yell at a party the city threw Saturday for the soldiers of 1st Squadron, 1st U.S. Cavalry Regiment. (Matt Millham / S&S)

Soldiers march in a parade Saturday that mixed local clubs and officials with troopers of the 1st Squadron, 1st U.S. Cavalry Regiment.

Soldiers march in a parade Saturday that mixed local clubs and officials with troopers of the 1st Squadron, 1st U.S. Cavalry Regiment. (Matt Millham / S&S)

BüDINGEN, Germany — The difference between goodbye and auf Wiedersehen is measured in liters.

Make that liters of beer.

This city, a home to U.S. forces for 62 years, threw a German-style going-away gala Saturday for the troopers of 1st Squadron, 1st U.S. Cavalry Regiment, which recently inactivated as part of the Army’s force restructuring. The inactivation also marked the end of the U.S. stay in the city.

The party, paid for by the city, answered the question of how to say goodbye to American cavalry troops.

“You can’t go wrong with 10,000 liters of beer,” said Spc. Ryan Smith, who, five beers in, was also celebrating his birthday at the bash.

Thousands of local residents and virtually the entire squadron and its family members showed up to see the American troops parade along with German officials and local clubs through the city’s cobbled streets and medieval gate, and to enjoy the feast that followed.

The jubilant mood was a far cry from the apprehension the townsfolk felt as U.S. troops entered the city near the end of World War II.

When the Americans arrived here in March 1945 “the townspeople were not sure who or what to expect — was it foe or friend,” Erich Spamer, the city’s burgermeister, or mayor, told the Americans and Germans crowding the main square. “It turned out to be friend, and what a friend you all turned out to be.”

American troops rolled into the town without harming the people or the city, and there are quite a few Büdingers alive today who remember that, Spamer said.

The Americans brought with them an eagerness to help the Germans, “and also bubblegum, cigarettes, Hershey bars and, most important of all, they brought with them an immense amount of friendship,” he said, getting choked up.

Spamer and the people of his scenic city have reciprocated that friendship over the years, making Büdingen “the best-kept secret in the Army,” Lt. Col. Matthew McKenna, the squadron’s commander, told the crowd.

Saturday’s celebration was a final “thank you” for U.S. troops, who officials here say freed them from the fascist Nazi regime and protected them from the Soviet Union until it collapsed in 1991.

“On one side, it’s a good thing because we don’t need them anymore” said Sabine Driver, a local girl whose sister married an American soldier. “But on the other side, it’s sad.” She said she’ll miss mixing with another culture because of the fun she had with the Americans.

As his soldiers began to dig into the beer and bratwurst, McKenna presented Spamer with a saber and Stetson — symbols of the U.S. cavalry units that had been stationed in the city over the years.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up