The world famous Rhein-Main Airport in Frankfurt is more active than ever, but like most other big cities, the Hessian banking metropolis had more than one airfield available when aviation was in its early days – the now abandoned Military Airport Frankfurt-Eschborn was one of them.
Built by Nazi Germany as part of the preparations for war, the Military Airbase Frankfurt-Sossenheim (later renamed after Frankfurt’s district Eschborn, or in German: Militärflugplatz Eschborn) was constructed at some time between 1935 and 1939; information varies due to the utmost secrecy of the project. The airport originally consisted of five hangars made of bricks while the rest of the buildings, including the commandant’s office, were made of wood. The runway was a simple patch of grass, kept short by a herd of sheep (hence the code name Schafsweide, sheep pasture) –concrete areas were in front and inside of the hangars to store and maintain the aircrafts. The main purpose of the airport: training pilots and getting military gliders behind enemy lines. The first flying units were stationed at the Military Airbase Frankfurt-Eschborn in 1941, the same year further construction was stopped in favor of the Rhein-Main Airport just some 10 kilometers away. The Nazis used the airfield till August 15th 1944, when it was severely damaged by an American airstrike.
Even before the official end of World War II the Americans took over and the Military Airbase Frankfurt-Eschborn became Camp Eschborn (Y-74). They had some of the damages repaired by German prisoners of war and used the facilities as an alternate airport until the destroyed Rhein-Main Airport was rebuilt. After that the area was used by sapper units with heavy equipment. Overall the Americans were rather secretive about Camp Eschborn, and rumors have it that atomic mines were stored there in case the Cold War would turn hot and the Russian would try to break through the Fulda Gap.
Camp Eschborn was used till October 15th 1991 (when the 317th Engineer Battalion left) and finally returned to the German State in 1992. At first some of the barracks were used to house asylum seekers, then most of the buildings were demolished, so the area could be turned into a nature reserve and a commercial zone. What finally will happen to the rest of the former flying field is still up in the air, and until then the one remaining hangar and a couple of partly demolished buildings are used by several groups for regular training sessions, including the Federal Agency for Technical Relief and the German Federal Police – both training with dogs, which is one of the reasons why you should be extra careful at this only partly abandoned place. Oh, and a bunch of minors (not miners!) use the area as a hangout!
It were those minors and my friend Torsten that made exploring the rather unspectacular remains of Camp Eschborn so memorable. As you can imagine, the remains of the hangar area were fenced off and we had to find a way in. As chance would have it, we saw a bunch of those kids, teenagers… age 14 to 17, probably… and while I would have avoided them completely, my old buddy was up for a little chat and waved them over. Torsten is the fatherly friend kind of guy, always mellow, always friendly; must be the social worker in him. So he talked to those kids for a while, gained their trust, and of course they told him how they got in and described to us how we could, too, maybe a 20 minute walk from where we were on the other side of the area. We thanked them and were about to leave or even already turned to go, when Torsten addressed them again with something like: “Uhm, guys, that stuff in your hands… that isn’t beer, is it? You look way too young to be of legal drinking age! That stuff really isn’t good for you at your age…” I know I probably should have been more loyal to my friend, but he totally cracked me up with that, so I bursted into laughter: “Dude, you just interrogated those kids for five minutes on how to commit trespass – and now you give them a lecture on legal drinking age?!” while at the same time the guy on the other side was like: “I am 16 already. I know I look younger, but I swear, I am already 16!” (And 16 is the legal drinking age for beer in Germany…) It was just hilarious! Everything calmed down immediately after that, of course. But for a second or two this was one of the funniest things ever to me. After the guy left with his bottle and I convinced Torsten that it really didn’t matter if he was 15 or 16 (though I barely ever drink alcohol myself and I wouldn’t mind if they’d change the legal drinking age to 20 or 21, like in many other countries), we continued on the road we would have continued on anyway… and found a hole in the fence just around the next corner.
The rest of the exploration was less entertaining and not exactly spectacular, though of course we met our teenage friends again, who were hanging out with more of their friends – and the second group clearly wasn’t happy at all that the leader of the first group turned into some kind of self-proclaimed guide for us. Neither were Torsten and I, because first of all it destroyed the atmosphere just a tiny little bit – and then there was the risk factor. The buildings, including the hangar, were in pretty bad condition and I have no problem taking responsibility for myself. But at the same time I was a bit worried that one of those slightly drunk youngsters would hurt themselves… and then what? I don’t need stuff like that, so after a while we managed to say goodbye when the second group left us with a little speech about how they planned on climbing the roof now. At that point we had seen most of the few leftovers anyway, despite the fact that most of the hangar windows were bricked up, so we went to the maintenance concrete area, where I shot the usual walkthrough video before we finally left the former Military Airport Frankfurt-Eschborn.
(*Like Abandoned Kansai on Facebook* if you don’t want to miss the latest articles and exclusive content – and subscribe to the *video channel on Youtube* to receive a message right after a new video is online…)