“Yanks Out…Except AFN”

The AFN Berlin station was especially popular at night, as it stayed on air as most other stations closed at 11pm.
The AFN Berlin station was especially popular at night, as it stayed on air as most other stations closed at 11pm.

FROM A leafy suburb in Dahlem, not too far from where Nazi Foreign Minister Von Ribbentrop once lived, a group of American soldiers, airmen, journalists and technicians operated one of the most influential pop-music radio stations in Europe.

AFN Berlin sprang to life at an Art Deco villa in Podbielskiallee 23 at noon on August 4, 1945.

It quickly became one of the best advertisements for the United States in Berlin with recorded shows from stars like Bob Hope, Fibber McGee and Fred Allen filling the airwaves.

By 1955 rock and roll arrived and  Berlin’s  teenage population  fell in love with the ultra-cool sound of  AFN; their parents gave it a wide birth.

By the mid 50s, AFN had become as staple a fare as bratwurst and beer.
By the mid 50s, AFN had become as staple a fare as bratwurst and beer.

The likes of Slim Whitman, Elvis Presley, Ruby Murray, Tony Bennett, Alma Cogan, Frankie Laine and Bill Haley could be heard wailing from speakers across the city 24-hours a day.

The station was a magnet for visiting stars. In 1960, Frank Sinatra arrived in the city – his first stop – AFN Berlin.

Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, Marlene Dietrich, Nat King Cole, Gregory Peck, the Everly Brothers and countless other celebrities  all stopped by the studios to talk on air.

By the mid 50s, AFN had become as staple a fare as bratwurst and beer.

AFN’s Mark White in action in 1952. He would enjoy a long career at AFN Berlin, eventually becoming station manager.
AFN’s Mark White in action in 1952. He would enjoy a long career at AFN Berlin, eventually becoming station manager.

Such was the love for the station that during anti-Vietnam war protests in the late 1960s, “Yanks Out…Except AFN” was sprayed by a protestor on the western side of the Berlin wall at Posdamer Platz.

Young US Disc Jockey’s made clichés come alive as the span the latest pop sounds all day and night.

Providing a mixture of sport, music and breaking news, AFN was the sound of the west in Berlin for its inception in 1945 till closure in 1994.

As one of the biggest radio networks in Europe, AFN operated mainly for 200,000 G.I.s and their dependents in Europe, whilst also reaching some 30 million other listeners across Germany, Belgium, Holland and the UK.

The station was especially popular at night, as it stayed on air as most other stations closed at 11pm.

The all night transmissions began during the Berlin blockade to entertain workers at Tempelhof Airport unloading the non-stop convoys of cargo planes arriving from West Germany.

Carlotta Anderson on AFN, with her “Germany Notebook” in 1956.
Carlotta Anderson on AFN, with her “Germany Notebook” in 1956.

In 1968 Time Magazine  summed up AFN correspondents as reporting on demonstrations, political rallies, border incidents, escapes or attempted escapes, “activities at the Wall,” access to Berlin, and operation of checkpoints.

In 1994, with the pullout of the US military from Berlin, AFN packed up its record boxes and pulled the plug. To their German fans, it was a crisis of the first order.

A closing interview was given to the station by the then President Bill Clinton.

 

War Life