Schwäbisch Gmünd (until 1934: Gmünd) is a town in the eastern part of the German state of Baden-Württemberg. With a population of around 60,000, the town is the second largest in the Ostalb district and the whole East Württemberg region after Aalen. The town is a Große Kreisstadt since 1956, i.e. a chief town under district administration; it was the administrative capital of its own rural district until the local government reorganisation on 1 January 1973.
From about 85 AD, the Neckar-Odenwald line was part of the northern frontier of the Roman Empire. The Romans built the Limes Germanicus to secure this border, i.e. a line of fortifications in regular distances, which included a small castrum on the site of the present-day Schirenhof field in Schwäbisch Gmünd. A first major settlement in this area arose around the 2nd century AD, when Roman soldiers were deployed near the Upper Germanic Limes. From 223 onwards the border lines were assaulted and taken by the Alemanni, who settled down in the areas abandoned by the Romans.
In the 8th century a counterfeit document in the name of Charlemagne, prepared at the Abbey of St Denis near Paris mentioned a monk's cell called Gamundias built by Abbot Fulrad of St Denis. Whether or not this refers to Gmünd is uncertain. There are no archaeological indications for a cell of this type in Gmünd.
The town of Gmünd was first mentioned in a 1162 deed issued at nearby Lorch Abbey, then under the rule of the Hohenstaufen emperor Frederick Barbarossa. The self-proclaimed Stauferstadt achieved the status of an Imperial City in 1268, which it held until 1803, when it was mediatised to the Electorate of Württemberg.
By the end of the 14th century, the name "Etzel castle" was used for the remains of the Roman fort, which had been built to protect the Neckar-Odenwald border of the Roman Empire. In a Baroque chronicle of the city of Schwäbisch Gmünd, written by the councillor Friedrich Vogt (1623–1674), the "Castle" was mentioned in ancient writings as "Etzel castle". Even at the time of Vogt, the Roman remains were cheaper than stones from quarry, and these were thus removed to the ground. Only parts of the moat would still be visible.
The demesne officer, wine expert and archaeologist Carl Friedrich Christoph Gok (1776–1849), a half brother of the poet Friedrich Hölderlin, suspected in 1847, that the alleged castle on the Schirenhof manor had probably once been a Roman fort. The first modern and scientific excavations took place under the guidance of retired army chief of staff of the Württemberg army, General Eduard von Kallee and by Major Heinrich Steimle in the years 1886 to 1888, i.e. before the Empire-Limes-Commission (Reichslimeskommision) had been set up. The so-called Schirenhof Castrum is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Limes Germanicus.
From 1963 to November 1968, the United States Army's 56th Field Artillery Group, equipped with Pershing missiles, was headquartered at the Hardt Kaserne along with A and D batteries of the 4th Battalion, 41st Artillery. Headquarters & Headquarters Battery then moved down the hill to the Bismarck Kaserne in November 1968. Family housing and the commissary was across the street from the Hardt Kaserne and overlooked a hill above Bismarck Kaserne. The Hardt Kaserne, formerly Adolf Hitler Kaserne, which was finished in 1937 and used to train officers for the war, was later home to the 4th Battalion, 41st Field Artillery, Headquarters, B, C and Service Batteries, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery 56th Field Artillery Brigade, and A Company, 55th Support Battalion. The brigade command had four additional support units: an aviation company, a signal battalion, an infantry battalion, and a forward support battalion. In 1986 the name of the brigade was changed to 56th Field Artillery Command (Pershing).
The 3d Battalion, 17th Field Artillery was stationed at Hardt Kaserne, until late 1963. The units mission was reinforcing fires for the 7th Army Light and medium Artillery units. The 8", M-55 Howitzer (SP) was considered the most accurate weapon in the Army's arsenal.