hawkeye (hawkeye7) wrote,

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Book Review - The US Army in the Occupation of Germany

Found this wonderful book in a secondhand bookstore in Auburn, Washington for twenty bucks but it is also available online here at the Centre for Military History.

Military Government, or Civil Affairs as it is known when conducted in a friendly country - the two terms mean the same thing but Civil Affairs sounds warmer and fuzzier - is a topic which evidently deserves a good deal more study.

Military government, the administration by military officers of civil government in occupied enemy territory, is a virtually inevitable concomitant of modern warfare. The US Army conducted military government in Mexico in 1847 and 1848; in the Confederate states during and after the Civil War; in the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Cuba after the Spanish American War; and in the German Rhineland after World War I. In each instance, neither the Army nor the 'government accepted it as a legitimate military function. Consequently, its imposition invariably came as a somewhat disquieting experience for both, and the means devised for accomplishing it ranged from inadequate to near disastrous. (p. 3)

This book, published in 1974, attempted to distill the lessons of the World War II experience in Germany. Sadly, far too many of these lessons do not seem to have been learned. In the recent conflict in Iraq, considerable criticism of the effort has been directed against flaws and failures in carrying out the Civil Affairs. All of the incidents that have occurred (and I do mean all) also occurred in World War II and therefore were forseeable and therefore preventable.

One major criticism, though, flies in the face of the experience of almost every war ever fought: the notion that Civil Affairs would have been better carried out by civilians. This seems to have its roots deep in American tradition and was debated at length in World War II.

This book is written in a straightforward but is occasionally sardonic style, covering the big issues and small:
There followed passages from the handbook pertaining to economic rehabilitation that Morgenthau had singled out as particularly objectionable. "It gives the impression," the memorandum continued, "that Germany is to be restored as much as the Netherlands or Belgium, and the people of Germany brought back as quickly to their prewar estate." The President said he had no such intention. It was of "the utmost importance" that every person in Germany should recognize that "this time" Germany was a defeated nation. He did not want them to starve. If they needed food "to keep body and soul together," they could be fed "a bowl of soup" three times a day from Army soup kitchens. (The first version reportedly read, "a bowl of soup per day.") He saw no reason, however, for starting "a WPA, PWA, or CCC for Germany." The German people had to have it driven home to them that "the whole nation has been engaged in a lawless conspiracy against the decencies of modern civilization.

The President's idea of what the coming defeat would mean for Germany was not very clear. A year hence most Germans would have been happy to have three meals a day from Army soup kitchens, had the Army been able to provide them. In fact, his concept of the German postwar condition was probably no more austere than the authors of the handbook had assumed it would be and vastly brighter than it actually was.(pp. 86-87)

The biggest flaw in this book is that it concludes in 1946, less than halfway through the occupation, which lasted until 1949.
Tags: books

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