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Coleman Barracks/Coleman Army Airfield
Mannheim/Sandhofen Airfield (Y-79)

Baden-Württemberg, Germany

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Type Military airfield on foreign soil
Coordinates Latitude:
Longitude:
Built 1925
In use 1937–1945 (Luftwaffe)
Apr–July 1945 (USAAF)
Jul 1945–present (United States Army)

Coleman Barracks/Coleman Army Airfield (ICAO: ETOR) is a United States Army military installation located in the Sandhofen district of Mannheim, Germany. It is assigned to U.S. Army, Europe (USAREUR) and administered by the U.S. Army Installation Management Command-Europe (IMCOM-E). Coleman Barracks should not be confused with the former "Coleman Kaserne", located in Gelnhausen.

History[edit | edit source]

The first commercial airport in Mannheim was founded on 16 May 1925, as Flughafen Mannheim-Heidelberg-Ludwigshafen in the northern district of Sandhofen. With its opening Mannheim became part of an important air track, running from north to south and viceversa. In the late 1920s and early 1930s Deutsche Aero Lloyd operated cargo and passenger flights from Hamburg to Zürich stopping in Mannheim. Balair from Switzerland flew between Geneva and Amsterdam via Basel, Mannheim, Frankfurt, and Essen. Badisch-Pfälzische Luftverkehrs AG operated the black forest route to Konstanz, via Karlsruhe, Baden Baden and Villingen.

In 1926 the airfield was transferred to Mannheim-Neuostheim, now called Mannheim City Airport. The airfield in Sandhofen was closed to the public and rebuilt as the Fliegerhorst-Kaserne in 1937 as a Luftwaffe base. At the beginning of World War II, the III/JG 53 (3rd Group, Jagdgeschwader 53) fighter unit "Pik-As" (Ace of Spades) was based here, commanded by one of Germany's top combat pilots, Werner Mölders. This unit operated 43 new Bf109 E-1's fighter aircraft at the start of the war. Also stationed at the airbase on the first day of the war was one staffel (squadron) of JG 72 operating 16 of the older Ar68 biplane fighters then being used as a primitive night fighter. In September 1944 a concentration camp was installed on the site which was operated and guarded by the SS, holding 80 POWs from Poland, Luxembourg and Russia.

After World War II, the United States Army took over the barracks in the fall of 1945, giving it the temporary name of "Y-79". Until mid-1949 the area was used as a collecting point for unserviceable automobile material and for surplus storage. In 1951, a replacement depot was established at Coleman Barracks and served as the staging area for all troops arriving in Germany. Throughout its operation by the U.S. Army, rumors have circulated of an extensive set of tunnels beneath the airfield. Some of the rumors abound have been of tunnels under the base and a number of underground hangars behind the barracks of the Signal Corps units. The tunnels and other underground facilities were supposedly flooded after the war. There have been reports of an alley that ran behind a cluster of barracks located next to a pronounced slope where numerous bunker entrances were located, all of which were rumored to be locked. Despite any hard evidence, these rumors have persisted over the years and stories of hidden Nazi bunkers and underground tunnels are passed on from one generation of soldiers stationed at Coleman, to the next. Its current name commemorates Lieutenant Colonel Wilson D. Coleman.[1]

Location[edit | edit source]

The airport is located 8.5 km (5.28 mi) north of the Mannheim city center in the district of Sandhofen, 2.5 km (1.6 mi) east of the river Rhine and 3 km (1.86 mi) south of Lampertheim.

It is surrounded by the Autobahn 6 (A6) to the south and a state highway (Bundesstraße 44 (B44)) to the west; the Riedbahn train line (between Frankfurt and Mannheim) runs 1.6 km (1 mi) to the east.

Runways[edit | edit source]

The airport has one paved runway (900 m (2954 ft) x 20 m (67 ft)). The runway offers Precision Approach Path Indicator and illumination. There have been discussions about extending the runway to 1200 metres, but these plans were withdrawn due to severe protests by nearby residents. The airfield is in use from 06:30 – 23:59 daily. Radar approach has been available since June 2002.

Coleman is the only U.S. Army airfield in Germany that has its own approach control zone and provides approach control for several airports in the vicinity, both military and civilian, such as Mannheim City Airport (civilian), Speyer airfield (civilian), Worms airfield (civilian), and Heidelberg Army Airfield (military).

Buildings[edit | edit source]

US Army Correctional Facility-Europe

A new state of the art six-story control tower was built in 2004. Besides air-conditioned offices, briefing-rooms, restrooms and an elevator, the tower accommodates the Coleman radar approach control room. The only US-Army helicopter maintenance facility in Europe is located at Coleman Barracks. [2] The only US-Army military prison in Europe, the United States Army Corrections Facility – Europe, is located at Coleman Barracks.

Air Traffic[edit | edit source]

Being the only maintenance base for Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopters in Europe, Coleman Airfield has more take-offs and landings than any other US Army airfield in Germany. The Coleman Aero Club (CAC) is the only military non-profit flying organization in Europe. The CAC provides flight training to member forces of NATO, the United States Armed Forces, and civilians. It operates a fleet of several US-registered Cessna aircraft.

Tenant Activities[edit | edit source]

In 2004, the American Forces Network (AFN)- Europe consolidated its headquarters and Radio/TV studios from Frankfurt and Heidelberg to Coleman Barracks. Coleman Barracks also has a small post exchange (PX) and bowling alley.

Closure[edit | edit source]

As part of the ongoing realignment of US forces in Europe, the Army is closing all operations in Mannheim to include Coleman Barracks. Current Army plans require closure no later than 31 August 2013.[2] Following closure the facility will be returned to the German government.

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

  1. Lieutenant Colonel Wilson Dudley Coleman, 1935 graduate of the United States Military Academy, was killed in action on 30 July 1944, in Saint-Denis, France, after having single-handedly halted a German tank column with Bazooka fire. LTC Coleman was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and interred at Arlington National Cemetery on 25 January 1949. [1]
  2. http://www.army.mil/article/86674/Proactive_moves_key_to_garrison_s_updated_closure_timeline/

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