Monday, June 3, 2013

The Buggles Didn't Get It Right

For a long period of my life, upwards of seven and a half years in Germany, I was associated with American Forces Radio created on 26 May 1942 when the War Department established the Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS) for US military personnel in the United Kingdom and deserts of North Africa as part of the Allied War Effort in Europe.

In 1942 such an effort was scarcely more than brave talk when the allies, to include the exiled French and Polish governments stared across the English Channel and the Straits of Gibraltar at an Occupied Europe behind an Atlantic Wall.

From tiny acorns, mighty oaks grew. I have no idea (even roughly) how many US military personnel, Department of Defense civilians, government contractors and their family members lived and thrived in Central Europe (mostly in "West" Germany), in the course of the now next seventy (!) years that followed.
It was an awful lot-perhaps more than enough to finally and truly be that 51st State we often fantasized we really were while all of us were stationed there. From one radio station we spread out across the Continent at one time having stations in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany and then, as the world changed and we did as well, slowly shrinking until the radio stations serving US troop concentrations in Germany matched perfectly, nearly none.

A couple of weeks, TOB, the other Bill, shared a press release from the current American Forces Network about "The Big Blowtorch (a 150,000 watt (sort of) transmitter, large by US standards) in Weisskirchen and its announced closing on the last day of May.

A lot of who I was, and am, was shaped in radio studios serviced by that big transmitter, for better or for worse, and I wasn't alone. An ending was bound to happen, we all knew that. I would have hoped for a little (more) grace and (some) class but as it turns out, we cannot choose our final act.

"Where is justice now? I'm searching for Luxembourg, Luxembourg, Athlone, Budapest, AFN, Hilversum, Helvetia. In the days before rock 'n' roll."
-bill kenny

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