World War II history buried in Kindsbach

Story and photos by A.L. Shaff
Contributing writer

In the quiet village of Kindsbach, between Kaiserslautern and Landstuhl, Air Defense Operations Center–Kindsbach, nicknamed the “Kindsbach Cave,” existed during the Cold War as a massive underground U.S. Air Force operations complex. Dedicated to preventing air attacks from the Communist Bloc countries and possible nuclear holocaust, the site vigilantly guarded the European skies against air enemy attacks.

Dug 82 feet under a hillside in 1938, the site began as a sand pit to provide for building the nearby autobahn and then was as an ammo storage depot for the Wehrmacht.

Near the end of World War II, it was renovated into a German Western Front Command Headquarters. After the war, the French took control, then handed it off to U.S. Air Forces in Europe in 1953, who began enlarging it into what became ADOC, one of the most important tools for preventing a nuclear war. The center once contained a sophisticated 67-room, 37,000-square-foot facility where USAFE could prevent and, if necessary, direct an air war against the Soviet Union.

The complex boasted a rudimentary computer to plot bombing strategies, cryptographic equipment for code traffic and a photo lab to process reconnaissance photos.  But, not a single window!

Responsible for scanning air space even deep behind the Iron Curtain, the center interacted directly with the Pentagon, NATO, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe and all USAFE bases.

With its massive telephone switchboard and 80 teletype machines, the cave maintained contact with the outside world by handling more than
1,000 calls every day.

Almost invulnerable, the complex remained fully self-contained with its own water supply, electric generators, climate controls, and dining facilities for 125-man crews. Visitors seldom received passes to enter or to inspect.

Within the Air Operations Center, the largest room in the complex, a three-story map plotted every movement by friendly and unidentified aircraft.
But, time makes technology obsolete. By 1984, the Kindsbach Cave had become too small and, with renovations impossible, USAFE closed the facility. In 1993, the site returned to the German government which, in turn, handed it back to the original land owners.

Today, the Kindsbach Cave remains only as a sealed Cold War monument to an air war that America and its Allies won without fighting deadly air battles or suffering horrific bombings.

However, nothing says visitors can’t enter these days. In fact, ADOC complex owner Wolfgang Wuermell, grandson of the original owner, will open the giant steel doors for a one-hour informative tour in English for groups of 10 or more, which costs only €5 per person.

So, gather a bunch of friends then call Mr. Wuermell at 06371-17792 to book a fascinating step back into history.

However, because the entrance is somewhat grown over and a bit difficult to find, it’s best to set a meeting place in Kindsbach with Mr. Wuermell beforehand, then let him lead the way.

The street address is Am Wingertshuebel in 66862 Kindsbach.