Historic Donnersberg signal site bids farewell
Story by Kristopher Joseph
DONNERSBERG, Germany (Oct. 14, 2011) – Donnersberg, or the “Thunder Mountain,” is the highest hill in Rheinland Palatinate at 2,200 feet high. After World War II, the U.S. constructed the largest radio station in Western Europe. This site was a primary hub of American military communications with its 153-foot tower.
As communications have transformed in Europe, the time has come to bid farewell to an important part of 5th Signal Command history.
Members of 5th Signal Command held a small ceremony that also included local German national colleagues to honor the closing of the Donnersberg site.
Back in the day when most communications were relayed through radio and line-of-site microwave relays, the Donnersberg site also housed the Automatic Voice Network (AUTOVON) switch (one of only two "Army" AUTOVON switches in Europe), 16 relay systems and a technical control facility.
Throughout its existence, Donnersberg has gone through many transitions as communications have improved and expanded. Various 5th Signal units served in Donnersberg to include Wiesbaden’s 102nd Signal Battalion.
Donnersberg and the several other towers throughout Europe were part of what was known as the Digital European Backbone or DEB. With the implementation of a new fiber-optic network backbone and the onset of Dense Wave Division Multiplexing, just to name a few, historic towers such as these have been slowly phased out.
“The Soldiers and civilians that worked at the site will go down as important contributors to the modern bandwidth infrastructure that we benefit from today,” said Keith Ingram, 5th Signal Command’s Global Information Grid program manager. “We learned lifelong lessons here while also learning, developing, polishing and evolving our technical skills. For this reason we are here at our Alma Mater to honor it for its service and say goodbye. We may no longer be stationed or work here but we’ll always have some special moments we shared here. The ‘Thunder Mountain’ will always have a special place in our hearts.”
DONNERSBERG, Germany (Oct. 14, 2011) - A 5th Signal Command color guard team out of 2nd Signal Brigade stands at the base of the Donnersberg facility and radio tower during a ceremony marking the closing of the site since its birth after World War II. Donnersberg is the largest U.S. Army radio tower in Western Europe and served as the main hub of radio and microwave communications for decades. (Photo by Darren Ward)