In October 1952, the German Bundestag declared a large stretch of Rhineland-Palatinate—a poor, rural state in the southwest of Germany—to be a moral disaster area. The legislators resorted to this dramatic step because the buildup of American military personnel in West Germany in the wake of the Korean War had allegedly wrecked havoc in the provinces. The American troop deployment, they complained, instead of creating a bulwark against Soviet expansionism, had brought striptease parlors, prostitution, common-law marriages, and unprecedented levels of illegitimacy.
This is where I came as a young soldier in 1960. A farm community of 2000 (Baumholder) had become a G.I. playground for 30,000 soldiers, with dozens and dozens of bars along its main street. We were a small outfit of 100, isolated from the other soldiers. The "real soldiers" spent most of their time in the fields, practicing war (for Vietnam, it turned out), but when they came into town with a weekend pass, nonstop trains hauled in prostitutes from all over Germany to "serve" them. I can only describe the experience at the train station, watching the hundreds of girls parade in, as surreal. This is the setting of my Cold War story.