BAMBERG, Germany — As long as Sibille Krause has been alive, the American flag has flown in this old Bavarian city, where she was born 64 years ago.
A German, she worked nearly 10 years for the U.S. Army as an interpreter and has many fond memories of the times she’s had with her American friends.
From now on, though, when she looks to the flagpole at the Army’s Warner Barracks, the Stars and Stripes won’t be there. They were taken down for the last time Friday in a ceremony attended by hundreds of locals, as well as scores of current and former soldiers who used to be stationed here.
“This morning when I woke up, I almost broke out in tears, because I love the community, I love the Americans,” Krause said, tearing up. “Bamberg will not be the same as it was before.”
The German flag came down with Old Glory, and, unusually, the German color guard folded the black red and gold banner of the German Republic just as the Americans folded theirs — into a triangle. The tribute was a final show of unity before the Americans pull out of here for good.
That it was raining was the perfect symbol, said Greg Wallace, a former 1st Armored Division soldier who stayed in Bamberg after leaving the Army in 1992.
“It’s pretty depressing,” Wallace said.
A Medieval city with a beautiful downtown, American soldiers who were stationed here say that Bamberg is the type of fairy tale place that Americans envision when they think of Germany.
But soldiers who were in Bamberg Friday to watch as the Army closed a door on a piece of its history said the reason they love the place is because of the people.
About a year ago, Sgt. Cornelius Kettles, 26, of Alexandria, Va., said he went to get a crepe from a stand downtown.
“And this old woman was talking about how she remembers back in the day, 60-70 years ago, when the first American troops came and they were so nice,” Kettles said. The old woman told him “she’s going to be sad that we’re leaving. It’s like a part of Bamberg is going away.”
“I love this city, actually,” Kettles said. “Every chance I get, I always come back here.”
The Army moved in right after the end of World War II, basing a large constabulary force here.
Various combat and support units were stationed here over the next seven decades.
The Germans always made sure to include the Americans in their events, no matter how big or small, making them part of the community, said Col. Gary Rosenberg, who commanded the Bamberg garrison from 2007 to 2010.
In 2009, he faced off against the lord mayor’s brother in a water jousting competition before a crowd of some 70,000 people at the city’s big annual festival. Rosenberg smiles when recounting how the two faced off, each standing on the bow of a small boat, armed with a padded stick.
Douglas DeMaio, who worked as a public affairs officer for the garrison at the time, said, that moment “truly epitomized the relationship that took place in this city between the base here and the city itself and the people.”
Kettles, now based in Kaiserslautern, Germany, was a member of one of the last units to call Bamberg home – the 173rd Airborne Brigade’s Special Troops Battalion.
So was his friend, Sgt. Shawn Alexander, 28, from Baltimore. Alexander travelled to Bamberg from Vicenza, Italy, where the unit is now based, so he could see the colors come down one last time.
“I had to say farewell,” Alexander said. “The unit was good to me, the town was good to me. It seemed like it would be wrong for me not to come back and say bye.”