Thursday, April 29, 2010

Clausen, Germany THE FORMER STORAGE SITE FOR CHEMICAL WEAPONS


Clausen, a sleepy little village in the rolling hills of
the Rhineland-Palatinate Forest in Germany. Population approximately 1,500.
Our home from 1996-2000.


We joined a choir when we moved to Clausen to help us with our German.  It didn't matter that most of the people were 30 years older than us. They took us under their wings and loved us.
They introduced us to their children and grandchildren and we became friends with generations of these families in the village.
In this picture the men of the choir welcomed me back a few weeks ago with a song which, always makes me cry. They put me in a circle and sang it to me,
"Why have you come back when you will leave again?  You have taken my heart and I will never be the same."

We would sit at these tables after choir practice and chat to learn German.
As we began to understand the language, there were recurring words in our conversations.  Something of great importance to them that they were desperate to communicate to us.
Giftgas
Lager
Wald
American base im Clausen
Russians

I went home and pulled out my dictionary. "MAC," I yelled, "They were trying to tell us that there was an American base in Clausen that stored chemical weapons."
"Those bases are top secret, "he replied.

We went to choir practice the next week with tons of questions.  One of the ladies said that she knew something was up when cars with Russian license plates used to cruise through the village. She knew it wasn't good if the Russians were looking around in Clausen.
We asked for them to show us what they were talking about.

They say it was the summer of 1961 when the base in Clausen was made for conventional ammunition stockpiles. Six years later, the Americans were storing deadly chemical weapons in this little village unbeknownst to them.
The entrance to this base was down a road in Clausen that I had never been on.  I thought it was a dead-end road.
I was shocked when I saw a well -maintained road at the edge of the forest.  Not the normal "wandering paths" I walked on.  We followed our friends 2 miles up the road through a little valley to the remains of this base. We saw control towers, dog kennels, and enormous igloo style sod-covered bunkers with giant ventilation shafts that stored the chemical weapons.
Our German friends explained they all knew there was a secret base in Clausen.  Afterall, there were no signposts for this base and that is unusual in itself.  There was a secret going on, but they were unaware of what was it was.
The chemical weapons were transported out of Clausen as secretly as they had been brought into the village.
From what I can find out, they were supposedly taken to  Johnston Atoll, 700 miles southwest of Hawaii in the Pacific, where toxins are burned. 
I was even more devastated to learn that these weapons were so dangerous that had an accident occured, the entire village of Clausen and surrounding thousands of villages would have been wiped out. What if the situation were reversed and weapons that could have destroyed most of Maine were stored in Morrill where I grew up? 
We used to be able to go right onto what was the base and look at the huge ventilation shafts, bunkers, etc. but, it is now owned by a private citizen and people are not permitted on what was the
Clausen Giftgas Lager anymore.

It says:
"In Rememberance
 Up until 1990 chemical weapons were stored in this forest, for a long time they threatened a million people.
Thank God they never were used  and in the summer of 1990 were transported to be destroyed.

God , friend of our life, we thank you.  Protect us from destroying  your creation." 


We have to find a way to bring peace to the world for the sake of our children and our grandchildren.
Let's reach out to other cultures and people who are different.
Learn about their cultures and history.
It is the beginning of understanding and it can start one person at a time.

For Mac and me we say,
"Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me."
song by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson

20 comments:

  1. I know I served at base. And yes, what is stated here is accurate. I worked in the bunkers every day for 2 1/5 years.

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  2. I also worked there in the early 80s. What is stated here is accurate.

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  3. My wife and I visited Clausen in April of 1990. We were not, at the time, aware of the storage of chemical weapons there.
    My Great Grandfather, and his wife from Leimen, was raised in Clausen. He served in the Army in 1866 and 1871 in Germany. He then went to America and settled in Pennsylvania.
    My wife and I loved the people and were surprised that the terrain was just like Pennsylvania. Frank G. Ankner

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  4. Frank G.Ankner e-mail.......frankner01@aol.com

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  5. I also served there. There were two separate locations, identified as Sites 59 and 67. The chemical munitions were at 59, and consisted of GB and VX nerve agent. The author is correct that the muntions were removed and transported to Johnston Island for disposal. However, the operation was hardly a secret, as the convoy routes, times, etc., were all published in advance and known to the public.

    As of 2009 when I went back to visit the area, the storage bunkers were being used as a commercial mushroom growing operations.

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  6. I still have my night time photo the gave us. We should start a facebook page. Or is there one?

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  7. 1982 to 1984 served there guarding the stuff. Place still gives me nightmares.

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  8. I served in a conventional ammunition unit close to Clausenin 1988-1990 but we knew what was going on Clausen. That area of Germany was chock full of ammunition depots, mostly due to its location far to the rear of the East/West border.I remember the removal operation and it was hardly a secret. The immense logistics of it made it impossible. I remember how the local population felt betrayed when the truth came out.

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  9. I was stationed there 87-89 before requesting transfer to Johnston Island. I helped to maintain those munitions and to ensure that an accident didn't happen. The bunker at the far end of the site ( "Oscar" ) held the containers where leaking munitions and dead animals were stored. I'll never forget that place & the strong friendships forged with those to whom I trusted my life.

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  10. I served at site 59 from 1981 to 1982. I was a Military Policeman assigned to guard the stuff. Women were given the option as to wether they wanted to serve at the site. They say it was because if they were exposed to the nerve agent it could cause birth defects if they became pregnant. I always found this funny. I guess us men would just brush it off like nothing happened if we were exposed. Ha! Ha!

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  11. I served there from Sept 89 all the way through the retrograde operation as an MP guarding the stuff. I was also the Sergeant of the Guard for the guard force tasked to handle security at the port in Nordenham during the operation that loaded the munitions on ships bound for Johnston Island. Interesting times.

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    1. 110th MP Co...
      Great times, Great friends!

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  12. I enjoyed The time I spent during My tour of duty 1980 _ 1981. Safety was a top priority at site 59. Thank God it is a mission safely accomplished By all who served and I have many great memories. I lived in Clausen for a few months during this time and loved The german people in that community

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  13. I enjoyed The time I spent during My tour of duty 1980 _ 1981. Safety was a top priority at site 59. Thank God it is a mission safely accomplished By all who served and I have many great memories. I lived in Clausen for a few months during this time and loved The german people in that community

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  14. I enjoyed The time I spent during My tour of duty 1980 _ 1981. Safety was a top priority at site 59. Thank God it is a mission safely accomplished By all who served and I have many great memories. I lived in Clausen for a few months during this time and loved The german people in that community

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  15. I enjoyed The time I spent during My tour of duty 1980 _ 1981. Safety was a top priority at site 59. Thank God it is a mission safely accomplished By all who served and I have many great memories. I lived in Clausen for a few months during this time and loved The german people in that community

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  16. Hi, my mother will be going to Germany in June and will be in the Clausen area around the 23rd, as her grandfather is listed on a NYC census as having been born there. Any help as to what to see & if there is a parish church or Town Hall nearby which would have records? She'll be staying in Saarbrucken but will get transport. Pirmasens seems to be a slightly bigger place than Clausen so maybe there is a place for info there? Many thanks and quick reply appreciated as she leaves June 13th!!

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    1. Primasens would have a hotel to stay in. I recommend Hotel Pfalzer Hof. One of the waitresses is Ruth Hauser my old next door neighbor. Clausen is a small village of only about 1200 people. Many generations of families lived there and there is a Parish Church. Does your mother speak German? If you speak to Ruth she may be able to tell you who to talk to in the village and she may know the surname of your grandfather and point you to some distant relatives who remain in Clausen. Good Luck!! It's a very special village!

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