Even more memories of Sembach’s Tiger Stadium!

Did you know that the 38th TMW Missile Operations Center was under the football stands at Sembach’s Tiger Stadium? Read on…

In and email from Fred Horky (Site #3) dated 07 February 2008.


You mentioned having been back at Sembach recently and how things look now, and how much more the beer costs now. We didn’t know how good we had it then: we had hardly any money, but it didn’t TAKE much money to have a really good time!

In my earlier message I’d mentioned having spent my last year as a duty officer in the Missile Operations Center under the football stands at Sembach’s Tiger Stadium, and you commented that you’d never “gotten the tour” of the facility. I’m not surprised: nobody did while I was there! “Need to know”, etc. The whole place had the same classification as the Top Secret vault in headquarters.

You also sent me this picture of how the south (closed) end of the stadium (and its soccer field) appears today. I expect you saw the large concrete entrance portal which should still be there, out of the picture at left.

Sembach Football Field - 2007
Click on Thumbnails for larger images.

Sembach had been built for the USAF by French contractors in 1953, in the then French Zone of Occupation. The vintage picture below (found on the internet) shows a lot of dirt being pushed around to build an underground command post. Note the entrance portal at right.

Construction of under ground command post (photo courtesy of Fred Horky)

My closeup below shows the same entrance …it was as close a picture as I could take as a reminder of “where I worked”. Football field bleacher seats can barely seen on either side.

Sembach Missile Operations Center entrance (photo courtesy of Fred Horky)

I’ve always chuckled about the fact that when they were finished pushing all that dirt around, the result looked like a football stadium! Do you think maybe it was to camouflage it from the Russians? …Really, it only means that there is more than one way to fund a recreational athletic field. The command post entrance is in the stands at the right (but not visible) in these two pictures, both taken from the closed south end of the field now covered by trees in your picture.

Tiger Stadium - Sembach (photo courtesy of Fred Horky)

I just had a literal Pavlov’s Dogs reaction to these pictures: just looking at them started my mouth watering! It’s been almost fifty years, but I was suddenly reminded of watching a football game at Tiger Stadiums as the German vendors sold their hot wurst and French roll “hot dogs” with that good tangy mustard …and the beer, we can’t forget the beer!

Tiger Stadium - Sembach (photo courtesy of Fred Horky)

The mountain in the distance north of the base is named Donnersberg (Thunder Mountain). Some pilots called it “Bustyer Butte” because in bad weather (the usual case at Sembach!) it was a mental health issue (always on your mind!) in safe instrument approaches.

You’ll recall that American football was a very big deal in Europe back in those days, with the many major Army and Air Force bases fielding very high quality, almost semi-pro level teams. Anybody with any talent played, usually whether they wanted to or not. We had several launch officers who had been varsity players at the Naval Academy …this was back in the days before the Air Force Academy was fully cranked up, when West Point and Annapolis graduates could still chose the Air Force on graduation. They were “strongly encouraged” to go out for Sembach’s team.

During football season that meant crew and schedule changes for other launch officers to pull up the slack with extra alert shifts so the former academy men could reluctantly bang heads on Saturday.

Every year the championship Army vs. Air Force game was usually between the smallest bases, the two headquarters base teams: Heidelburg for the Army and Wiesbaden for the Air Force. That was because those bases could and did mercilessly “draft” players from their subordinate bases. The shenanigans of college football signings, etc. had nothing on the American forces in Europe!

Enough for today…

Fred Horky