The Season of Despair
From the first sight in the spring of unplowed fields, shutdown coal mines, and ruined cities, the winter to come had loomed ominously in the minds of those who would be responsible for administering the occupied country. In June, predicting a barren winter for Europe, the Potter-Hyndley Mission contemplated a possible need "to preserve order by shooting" in Germany.1 When he talked to the Germans in August, Eisenhower warned them of the hardships in the months to come. By early autumn, the U.S. and British newspapers were printing stories about the approaching "Battle of the Winter," a battle against sickness, starvation, and cold. The occupation forces figured in some accounts as semiallies, in others as dispassionate observers of a people enduring the consequences of aggression, and not infrequently as the potential target of the unregenerate and the desperate. The third possibility occurred also to the US command, and in October Eisenhower and Smith decided there was "a strong likelihood of incidents . . . in the winter" that would require "strong retaliation." At the end of the month, they instructed military government to warn German officials, from the minister presidents on down, that they and their communities would be held accountable for acts against the occupation forces.2
At first the Germans seemed too stunned and, as the summer wore on, too preoccupied with day-to-day existence to think about the future. When the harvest was in and the daily ration barely above 1,200 calories, when the weather turned cold and there was no coal, when the farmers and other producers became increasingly unwilling to part with their products for money, the people, as the Wuerttemberg-Baden Office of Military Government reported, sank "deeper and deeper into despair as they saw a cruel, cold, hungry winter ahead." 3 The harvest, all things considered, had been a good one but could not under any circumstances have been good enough to feed the zone population throughout the winter. Coal output in the British and French zones had increased, but the rail and water transport systems were only able to move about 60 percent of the coal away from the mines. The US zone received half a million tons in August but only 150,000 tons more in December, just enough to run the railroads and essential public utilities. When cold weather came, military government in Stuttgart and other places requisitioned all coal supplies over a quarter ton, and throughout the zone children were required to bring a piece of firewood with them to school each day to heat the classrooms. To the excessive
GATHERING FIREWOOD, February 1946.
amounts of paper Reichsmarks already in circulation the Allied military marks had added billions more and raised the fear of an uncontrollable inflation like that of 1923. Hardly able to buy with money anything that was not rationed, some people were investing in postage stamps; and in the cities, many workers reported for work only often enough to get their ration cards.
The news in November that the US zone would receive two and a quarter million Germans expelled from eastern Europe between December 1945 and July 1946 deepened the despair. On instructions from the Potsdam Conference, the Control Council had worked out procedures for taking into the occupied territory 6,650,000 racial Germans who were to be expelled from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Austria.4 The US zone's share was 1,750,000 from the Sudetenland and 500,000 from Hungary. They were scheduled to come at a rate of a quarter million a month in December, January, and February and in larger numbers in the spring.5
An agreement to exchange refugees between the zones plunged the refugees into gloom without raising the spirits of the native residents of the US zone. The latter expected that relatively few refugees, particularly from the east, would go home-an opinion which later turned out to be correct. 6 Housing and feeding those Germans expelled from other countries was going to be entirely a German affair (with military government making sure this responsibility was being carried out), and no one denied that the Germans had reason to be worried. As the Chief of Staff, Third Army, Brig. Gen. Don E. Carleton, said: "I can't see with a couple more million coming in, how there is going to be room. Even stacking them on top of one another, the facilities are going to be really busting." 7
It appeared for a time that USFET might also have to discharge upwards of 80,000 prisoners of war a month into the zone during the winter. The shipping schedule called for 80,000 to be returned from the United States in December and 85,000 each month in January and February. They were to have been part of the 1.3 million allotted to France for rehabilitation work, but in late September, the International Red Cross reported that 200,000 of the prisoners already in French hands were so undernourished as to be unfit for labor and likely to die over the winter. Eisenhower immediately ordered that food, clothing, and medical supplies be provided for the most needy prisoners and stopped all transfers of prisoners to French custody until the French were able to maintain them in accordance with the Geneva Convention. Since the US forces were by then finding the 350,000 prisoners that they still held in labor service units to be more expensive than hired civilian labor, the shipments from the United States would probably have to be discharged as soon as they arrived, and the three-quarters of a million prisoners in France might also have to be brought back and either be discharged or otherwise made a German responsibility.8
By the first week in October, Clay knew almost for certain that he was not going to get enough food imports to raise the ration for the winter to 2,000 calories per day.9 In the 28-day ration period beginning on 15 October, the scale would barely reach 1,250 calories; and he knew that in
unheated dwellings this ration level would not be enough to sustain life through the winter. In the middle of the month, probably more to raise the Germans' spirits than in the belief that the few hundred extra calories would make any real difference, and not at all certain yet that he would have the imports to support the increase, he announced a zonewide 1,500-calorie ration to begin on 12 November, with 50 calories more to be added after 10 December.10 A 1,500-calorie ration worked out daily to 5 1/2 slices of bread, 3 medium-size potatoes, 3 tablespoons of oatmeal or other cereal, 1 teaspoon of fat, and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Of the total 1,500 calories, 1,200 were in the bread and potatoes. USFET authorized adding, when available-which no one expected to happen very often-a piece of meat or fish "one half the size of an egg" and three tablespoons of vegetables other than potatoes.11 To conserve precious calories and provide hot meals for those who would be without fuel to cook their own, the offices of military government, sometimes using Army equipment, began setting up community kitchens. The kitchens in Bavaria alone were able to serve 4 1/2 million meals a month. Except in Berlin, where the school children received 190 calorie hot noon meals, recipients were required to turn in ration coupons and, if they were not on relief, pay for the meals.12 In the first week of December, the State Department authorized private US agencies to ship relief supplies to Germany, provided the supplies were distributed impartially in the areas of greatest need.13
The first postwar Christmas, dismal though it was, was not quite as bad as it might have been. The worst specimen of a goose for the holiday dinner cost at least a thousand Reichsmarks, when one could be had at all; and one black marketeer made a huge profit selling cans of old Wehrmacht sauerkraut relabeled goulash. The Frankfurter Rundschau described the scene in that city:
A few stalls stand on the wet pavement of the main square in the midst of the ruins. Cards are for sale, also a few red and blue pencils, some cardboard toys, a few pitiful things made out of wood, and lots of trashy and expensive ornaments. The old Frankfurter Santa Claus and his arks full of wooden animals is distant as a dream. 14
In Stuttgart, the Christmas selection consisted mostly of small and expensive wooden toys and small quantities of powder, lipstick, and oilless face creams. A lighted Christmas tree atop the Stuttgarter Zeitung building, the first seen in the city since 1938, stood out painfully amidst the dark ruins.15 The weather, however, was warm and springlike. The Frankfurter Rundschau reminded its readers what such weather meant in terms of survival and recalled also that the previous year had been
FAMILY MEAL, mostly of potatoes.
different in two respects: the weather on 24 December had been cold and the sky clear, and a hail of bombs had fallen on the city. This year at least "no mother needs to pick up her child in haste and run to the cellar with it." 16
The holiday was, in fact, not completely barren. Third Army reported "a certain aura of good feeling" associated with the season, and the food offices released extra rations of sugar and flour. Throughout the zone, the troops gave Christmas parties for children. In Landkreis Wetzlar, for example, the local detachment and the occupation troops gave a bag of cookies and a candy bar to each of the several thousand school children. In Bad Aibling the officers and men of the guard for Prisoner of War Enclosure No. 26 distributed chocolate and candy in the town schools. In Heilbronn, the US soldiers furnished candy, the prisoners of war in the local stockade contributed handmade toys, and the military government detachment recorded with satisfaction "the presence of a traditional Christmas tree in even the humblest cellar
home." Some detachments noted, however, that the Germans who came around to them with holiday greetings were often small-time Nazis hoping to ingratiate themselves, while those who had nothing to fear or nothing to gain stayed away.17
Three days after Christmas, damp warm winds swept across the zone. In Frankfurt they reached gale force, blowing off roofing paper and temporary roofs and blowing down walls of damaged buildings. The next morning some streets were covered with as much rubble as if there had been an air raid. The weather stayed warm into the new year, however; and because it did and military government was able to maintain a 1,550-calorie ration, the Germans began to recover their spirit. The Frankfurter Rundschau reported on "a milliner who bathes in the kitchen serially, as, of course, everyone now does." The report concluded that several such baths taken in various standing, sitting, and reclining positions were in all respects as effective as one "general" bath.18 The Rhein-Neckar Zeitung gave its readers directions for making briquettes out of industrial ash and clay, which when soaked in pitch or tar could be burned to give off "a noticeable amount of heat, approximately equivalent to not quite dry wood." The drawback was, the paper admitted, that the briquettes did not lose volume in burning, so the stove had to be emptied after each charge. In Stuttgart, students in the audience threw little potatoes at the actors in Georg Buechner's Woyzeck. The theater manager said they would have thrown rotten eggs, but they did not have any.19
In its most crucial aspects, the battle of the winter never quite materialized. Because the US command insisted on heated trains for cold-weather transport of Germans expelled from other countries, the expected flood of people from eastern Europe was held to a trickle. The first trainload from Hungary did not arrive until 10 January, and the first load from Czechoslovakia was delayed until the 25th.20 During January, USFET discharged almost a hundred thousand prisoners of war but, at the end of the month, having secured assurances the prisoners would be adequately cared for, resumed prisoner of war transfers to the French.21 Above all, the winter was one of the mildest on record and the 1,550 calorie ration held firm. The quality of the ration even improved somewhat after rye flour ran low and had to be mixed half and half with wheat for baking bread. The best fed were the DPs, who averaged 2,600 calories a day, and the interned Nazis, who were getting 2,200. Both groups were somewhat overweight. The normal German consumers, who with black market purchases were thought to be actually getting about 1,900 calories a day, were underweight by as much as 20 percent and showing signs of malnutrition; however, they were not in such bad shape as they would have beer! had the weather been colder. In Berlin, where the food and fuel shortages had been expected to be the most severe, the death rate of children under one year dropped
to 100 per 1,000 in December. It had been 660 in July and 162 in December 1944. 22
Probably, the rise in the food ration was more responsible than anything else for dispelling the fear of what the winter would bring. What the average German did not know was that the increase bore no relationship to the actual adequacy of the food supply in the zone. Supplies were obtained by drawing heavily on US imports and could only be sustained by continued and increased imports. Fundamentally the food situation had grown worse, not better. By early March, the imported stocks were depleted to the point where, used at the rate required to support a 1,550-calorie diet, they would barely last another sixty days.23
DPs, The Resurgent Problem
When General Wood declared the DP problem substantially solved at the end of September, the Army expected that the 600,000 or so DPs left in the US zone would also be off its hands within the next few months. Some DPs, Poles chiefly, would want to return home; the others, the so-called stateless non-repatriables, Balts, Hungarians, some Poles, and some Jews, could be turned over to UNRR A. As a result of several trips to Warsaw and Prague, Wood had arranged to move as many as 6,000 Poles a day by train across Czechoslovakia to Poland beginning on 1 October. The US forces would supply the cars, locomotives, and coal as far as Pilsen,
where Czech locomotives running on Polish coal would take over and make the haul the rest of the way to the Polish border. Wood had observed however, that there was "no love lost" between the Czechs and the Poles. The Czechs were not happy to have Poles on their territory even temporarily; and the Polish government, while propagandizing for a quick return of all its citizens, was actually not capable of receiving the numbers it claimed it wanted. The fifty-seven trains that made the run in October carried far less than 6,000 persons a day, and at the end of the month the Czechs stopped the movement entirely because Poland failed to supply the coal.24 The Poles were not going to be sent home as fast as had been expected, nor was the Army going to be relieved of its responsibility for them and the other DPs as had also been expected. When the UNRRA council in London failed to assume supply, equipment, and transportation obligations for the DPs in October as had been projected, the JCS directed USFET to continue its over-all responsibility for them.25
The Soviet DPs, because of their special status under the Yalta Agreement, would have remained Army charges in any case. In number, they were an insignificant minority; USFET at the end of August reported the repatriation of Soviet citizens 99 percent completed.26 Politically and psychologically, however, they were almost as
much a burden as they had been when their numbers ran into the millions. Virtually everything about them was in dispute, including how many there were. Eisenhower said there were about 15,000 "self-styled Ukrainians," 400 Kalmuks, and 4,000 former members of the German forces, none of whom wanted to be repatriated. Gen. A. N. Davidov, chief of the Soviet repatriation group, said he had uncovered another 22,000 Soviet citizens in the US zone living outside camps.27 USFET itself did not attempt to track down Soviet citizens in the zone but did check the persons whom the Soviet repatriation group claimed and eventually put the total at just under 38,900. 28
The end of the mass repatriation brought USFET face to face with the possibility of having to use force to send the remaining Russians home. Considering what probably awaited them on the other side of the demarkation line, a surprisingly large number--even of those who had served in the German forces-went, if not cheerfully, at least without overt resistance. No doubt, the preferential treatment the Soviet government secured for them at US expense influenced some. Probably the extensive authority the Americans allowed the Soviet repatriation officers to exercise also convinced many more that resistance was useless. USFET had not granted police powers to the Soviet officers, however. The DPs who were left after August were mostly those who had already demonstrated that they were not open to persuasion or ordinary intimidation. They believed their fate in Soviet hands would "be worse than death," and they declared they would resist repatriation "by all means including suicide." 29 The Soviet representatives, Eisenhower informed the JCS, were "most disturbed by the situation and claimed "this headquarters is violating Yalta." 30 At the time, while enlisting Soviet co-operation in the larger affairs of the occupation still seemed possible, resisting the Soviet demands to have all their people back by any means was as difficult as contemplating the human consequences of forced repatriation. Legally the US command regarded itself as obliged to return the Soviet citizens, and on political grounds it did not see how the eventual use of force could be avoided; but as men and soldiers, Eisenhower and his officers found the business more than they could stomach. Moreover, in the minor disturbances that had already occurred, US troops had sympathized with the demonstrators; and forced repatriation was likely to provoke downright refusals to carry out orders.31
On 9 August, slightly anticipating the problem, USFET had issued a policy for forcible repatriation. All persons who were or could be proven, before boards of US officers, to be Soviet citizens were to be transferred to camps under Soviet administration. In the camps, Soviet officials would be responsible for putting the repatriates aboard trucks and trains. Outside the camps, the US forces would guard the transports. The extent to which the troops would be expected to use force was left unclear as was the time at which the policy
would be put into action. In the first week of September, before any DPs had been shipped under it, USFET suspended the policy and referred the whole question of forced repatriation to the JCS. Seventh Army had asked how much actual force was Army be used. The USFET policy had stated only that the US troops would prevent riots and guard the transports and that military government would arrest and transfer to Soviet-administered camps persons whom the Soviet representatives could prove were their citizens. USFET asked the JCS to review the question of forced repatriation "in its entirety . . . since injuries and loss of life on both sides are inevitable." 32
The War Department had more direct experience with the consequences of forced repatriation than USFET did but was equally uncertain as to what course to take. In late 1944, the Army had discovered some 5,000 Soviet nationals among German prisoners of war in camps in the United States.33 Moscow had promptly charged that its citizens were being illegally imprisoned and deliberately mistreated in the United States. Many of the prisoners, however, insisted that restoring them to Soviet control was equivalent to a death sentence. Mindful of the probable consequences for the men lout convinced that the United States should not give refuge to persons who might be guilty of treason to an ally, the JCS had ruled in December 1944 that all prisoners of war in the United States who claimed Soviet citizenship should be returned on request of the Soviet authorities "whether they want to go or not." 34 For a time those who did not claim Soviet citizenship were not affected, but after Yalta an effort was made to send back all who were known to be Soviet citizens.
By June 1045, all prisoners had been repatriated except 154 men who had delayed their departure by protests and appeals. They were being held at Fort Dix, New Jersey. On 29 June, knowing they would soon be put aboard ship, they barricaded themselves in their barracks. Three committed suicide. The others, being driven out of the barracks with tear gas, attacked the guards with mess kit knives and with clubs; nine prisoners and three US soldiers were injured.35 The Russians were finally put aboard ship for Germany at the end of August, but by then over a hundred more who had concealed their nationality thus far had been identified in prisoner of war camps in the United States.36 Concerning what to do about these prisoners and about the USFET request for a ruling on forced repatriation in Germany, the SWNCC, which had to make the decision, was divided. McCloy, the chief War Department member, believed "that something ought to be done to make clear that US troops will no longer be used to repatriate by force all Soviet citizens." Other members, how-
ever, felt that the Yalta Agreement compelled forced repatriation.37
Still awaiting a decision on 1 October, Eisenhower reported that "for humanitarian reasons and because of danger to the troops" no Soviet citizens had been repatriated by force. "If the decision is made," he added, "to forcibly transfer, there undoubtedly will be casualties and perhaps loss of life among our troops. We do not favor the use of force but prefer to have these people considered non-repatriable and arrange for their peaceable resettlement in other areas." 38 When Davidov, in mid-October, submitted as a test case a demand that K. G. Konopelko, a displaced person who had signed a deposition stating he did not wish to be repatriated, be returned to the Soviet Union under the terms of Yalta, USFET placed Konopelko "under protective and benevolent arrest" and asked the JCS for a decision on him.39
Before the JCS decided the question of the Soviet DPs, another completely unanticipated issue arose. General Wood noticed the first sign of it while he was in Prague in September. The Czechs told him that large numbers of DPs were coming into Czechoslovakia from Poland. The Czechs did not want them and did not feed them but neither did they try to keep them out because if they did the DPs "would be killed at the border." 40 That the DPs themselves did not want to stay in Czechoslovakia became apparent during the succeeding weeks. By November 300 to 400 DPs a day were coming into the US zone and another 150 to 250 a day were entering the US sector in Berlin. Some were Poles who had been repatriated and were coming back, sometimes bringing friends and relatives with them. The great majority were Polish Jews. On 15 November, Third Army had 16,000 Jews registered in its camps and Jewish centers; by the fourth week of December it had 26,000 registered but did not know how many more had come in and not registered. At the rate of influx in November and December, USFET expected the zone's total Jewish population (of all nationalities), which had been about 35,000, to reach 100,000 before the end of winter.41
Suddenly the DP problem, which had seemed to be diminishing, was growing in its most troublesome aspect, the category of non-repatriables. How many would come was impossible to guess, but USFET expected the US reputation "for humanitarian benevolence" to attract large numbers.42 What made the proportions of the new DP wave most difficult to gauge was that the people in it were not victims of nazism but refugees from the postwar political systems of eastern Europe. A USFET cable informed the War Department that they were "persons who are or may claim to be persecuted because of race, religion, or politics and those seeking less severe economic conditions as well as those desiring a political-economic climate conducive to private enterprise." Accepting them as DPs
on the same terms as the victims of nazism, the cable added, threatened to "raise delicate international questions." 43
The Jews aroused particular concern, because of their large numbers and because existing US policy granted exceptional treatment to Jews. In the wake of the Harrison report, the War Department had appointed judge Simon H. Rifkind as USFET adviser on Jewish affairs. On his advice and that of US labor union and Jewish Joint Distributing Committee representatives and in response to newspaper and governmental opinion, USFET was providing the Jews with rations and accommodations that were superior to those accorded the other DPs and had begun a training and rehabilitation program for which it was importing textbooks and instructors by air from Palestine. However, what USFET could do for its original Jewish DP contingent, Smith told Hilldring on 22 November, it did not believe it could do for three or four times as many. He explained:
Six weeks ago . . . our prospects for coping with the Jewish
problem seemed very bright. We knew how many indigenous Jews we
had. We had, as Rifkind puts it, completed the rescue phase and
were embarking on what he called the "domiciliary stage," during
which on his recommendation we planned to inaugurate a rather
ambitious program of moral and vocational training to equip these
people for life in Palestine or elsewhere . . . . This exceeded our
directives but because of pressures at home, we thought it ought to
Under the present conditions we are doing the best we can to provide additional shelter and supplies.
In the meantime, you can expect more trouble from the press, since conditions are forcing us back to the rescue phase.44
Judge Rifkind, nonetheless, was quite frank about wanting to create a refuge for all European Jews in Germany "to rescue the remnants of a race." He maintained that "Jews would merely lie staged in the US zone for movement to Palestine or elsewhere"; but other Jewish representatives, some of whom talked about establishing a permanent Jewish enclave in Bavaria, predicted that the staging period would last three to five years, and Smith doubted whether many Jews except the young would want to go to Palestine at all.45
The simplest solution to the problem of the new DP wave -though possibly not practical- was to enforce Military Government Law No. 161, which prohibited civilians from crossing the borders of the US zone without military government permission. In December, USFET proposed to close the border when those who had infiltrated and the Germans expelled from eastern Europe under the Potsdam Agreement raised the zone's population to 16,650,000 or by about a million. But the idea aroused misgivings in Frankfurt and in Washington, as Hilldring indicated when he wrote to Smith:
In general the attitude is that you are right in your position that the US Army now has no obligation to furnish safe haven to any person who is not the victim of Nazi persecution. However, there is also agreement with you that the US Army should not refuse to offer safe haven to persecutees simply because their persecution has been at the hands of other than Nazi oppressors.46
Smith said his chief desire was to get the Army "out of being a nursemaid on a gi-
gantic scale"; his hope was that the UNRRA organization could be improved "to where it can assume entire responsibility for the DPs." He added, "I am really very much worried . . . . We are going to need help from the War Department." 47 Hilldring agreed to present the matter to the State Department with a request for "a broader policy" and for a civilian agency to take over the DP problem.48
The War Department request went to the State Department on 19 December and the answer came back, with what turned out to be dismaying speed, on the 22d in the form of a presidential directive ordering the State Department to establish consulates at or near DP camps and to begin issuing visas for emigration to the United States. The spirit of the directive was humanitarian; its effect in Headquarters, USFET, was just short of devastating. On Christmas day, General McNarney, recently appointed Commanding General, USFET, cabled: 49
Expect announcement will abruptly halt present repatriation movements. Present
holdings 515,000. Prospects are 350,000 will be repatriated by 1 July 1946.
If these learn of prospects for going to US, it is strongly believed they will
not accept repatriation.
Largely as result of unauthorized entry, population of DPs has been increasing about 10,000 per month. Announcement of emigration will greatly increase this.
Recommend announcement be delayed six months.50
The War Department reply read, "Presidential directive has been issued 22 December and press announcement made." 51
The President said he was acting to relieve human misery and to set an example for the other countries that were able to receive DPs. He was limited, however, by the immigration quotas, which fixed the number of people admitted to the United States in one year at 39,000, at a rate of only 10 percent of the quota per month. 52 Although the immigration program was not effective to make a perceptible dent in USFET's DP population, especially since the quotas for the eastern European countries from which most DPs came barely totaled 13,000, neither did it attract the flood of DPs McNarney had feared. During the succeeding months, as USFET continued its repatriation program, some DPs infiltrated across the borders. Between 1 January and 30 June 1946, the population of camps and centers increased from 308,426 to 368,410, but the total of registered DPs, which included those living outside camps, was down slightly to 483,000 on 30 June.53 The War Department did
not return again to its proposal for putting the DPs under a civilian agency.
The decision whether or not to forcibly repatriate Soviet citizens had meanwhile rested with Washington from September to December. In late October, after Eisenhower asked for an answer, the response from Washington read, "In view of the delicacy of the general situation it has not been possible yet to reply to the 4 September cable, although it has been the subject of continued consideration at high level." 54
On 15 November, on demands from Davidov, USFET prohibited the employment of Soviet citizens in German factories or on farms and ordered that Soviet citizens be denied care after 1 December in any but Soviet-administered DP camps. USFET had previously dismissed Soviet DPs from Army employment.55
On 20 December, a directive from the SWNCG established the policy on forced repatriation. It instructed USFET to repa-
triate "without regard to their personal wishes and by force if necessary" persons who were Soviet citizens on 1 September 1939 and were captured in German uniforms, were members of the Soviet Armed Forces on or after 22 June 1941 and were not discharged, or could be demonstrated "in each case with reasonable particularity" to have "voluntarily rendered aid and comfort to the enemy." In all other cases USFET was to make every effort to assure voluntary return to the Soviet Union but was "not authorized to compel involuntary repatriation." 56
For most of the Soviet DPs-those who had not been German prisoners of war, served in the German forces, or been collaborators-the SWNCC directive ended the threat of forced repatriation. It probably did the same for those whom the Soviet representatives had charged with collaboration, since the directive specifically excluded employment in German industry or agriculture as evidence of collaboration.57 On USFET instructions, those charged as collaborators were to be held in US custody and given hearings before boards of US officers. If the Soviet charges were not proven the DPs were to be "returned to the original location of apprehension by American troops and resume their previous status." 58 On 31 December, USFET suspended its earlier order denying Soviet DPs care in other than Soviet-administered camps.59
Finally, most of the Soviet citizens and possibly all, forcibly repatriated from Germany by US troops appear to have been men who had been captured in German uniform. On 19 January 1946, a detail of Third Army troops -men and officers far from pleased with their assignment- undertook to put 399 former Soviet soldiers aboard a train at Dachau. The Russians refused to leave their quarters and, after tear gas was used to force them out, 9 were found to have hanged themselves, 2 had stabbed themselves to death, and 20 others had to be hospitalized for self-inflicted wounds. Of the 368 Russians eventually put aboard the train, 11 were found at the last minute not to be Soviet citizens and six escaped en route. In a dismal final scene in the Soviet zone, Russian soldiers threatened to shoot the American guards if they attempted to leave the train. Hoping to avoid another such series of events, Third Army postponed further shipments while it reworked its procedures and awaited the results of appeals from the Russian Orthodox clergy to the President and the Pope.60
Third Army resumed forced repatriation on 24 February when its troops put 1,590 Russians captured in German uniform aboard trains at Prisoner or War Enclosure 431 near Plattling, Bavaria. Five of the Russians committed suicide and others attempted it. After that shipment, 1,630 men whom both the Soviet and US authorities
considered potentially eligible for forced repatriation remained in custody in the US zone. In April USFET reviewed the cases and reduced the number of Russians it regarded as eligible to 794. Third Army moved out 222 of these men on 13 May. The rest were subsequently judged ineligible and were released.61
The Army in Disarray
Three days before he departed to assume his appointment as Army Chief of Staff, Eisenhower had to tell the troops that the conduct of a "relatively small minority" among them could give the US forces "a lead reputation that will take our country a long time to overcome." He cited reckless driving, poor uniform discipline, and low standards of military and civilian courtesy as the chief shortcomings.62 Two weeks later, Seventh Army's CIC reported, "The general, opinion of the Germans is that ..American soldiers are men who drink to excess; have no respect for the uniform they wear; are prone to rowdyism and to heat civilians with no regard for human rights; and benefit themselves through the black market." 63 While Eisenhower was no doubt right that the troops involved were a minority, reports from Seventh Army CIC and other investigations showed the nature of the misconduct to be more serious than he implied. After V-J Day, what appeared to be almost an epidemic of unprovoked attacks on German civilians and robberies by US soldiers had spread across the zone. The Stuttgart police recorded fourteen acts of unprovoked violence against civilians in the last week of October. During one night in Landkreis Eschwege in the Western Military District, five drunken soldiers heat a local German official, and another civilian had his jaw broken when lie tried to reason with a soldier molesting a woman. In one small town, Boblingen, within five days in November soldiers beat up two civilians, tried to stab another, broke windows, tried to steal dogs, and robbed four civilians of watches and money.64 The Office of Military Government for Bavaria described the death of a German boy in a hunting accident involving soldiers as "a result of such carelessness as to be almost criminal. In Landkreis Burgen, also in Bavaria, three soldiers hunting illegally shot and killed an 18 year-old girl, and in the same Kreis the chief of police told investigators that soldiers had emptied several clips of ammunition at him at various times.65 Nearly all incidents involved liquor or women, often both. The population of vagrant women -which the Army inadvertently increased after November when it released penicillin for treating venereal diseases in German women, thereby shortening for some the "turn around time" from jail or hospital and attracting others who had been deterred by the fear of infection- was often
at the root of soldier attacks on German officials and police. By December, these attacks had grown so alarmingly frequent that Truscott had to issue what the Office of Military Government for Bavaria called "a public plea" for troop cooperation with the U.S.-appointed German officials.66 Misbehavior was not confined exclusively to the enlisted ranks. In one instance an American officer took an Austrian girl from Linz to Stuttgart, raped her three times, and then transported her to Ulm, where he turned her over to the military police on a charge of having improper papers.67
The troop incidents seemed to be associated, on the one hand, with the urge of some soldiers who knew they were soon going to be redeployed and discharged to have a last fling and, on the other hand, with the inexperience and inadequate training of the low-score men, who were fast becoming the majority in the occupation force. What went unnoticed, or at least unmentioned, was the coincidence of the rise in troop incidents with the hardening of official attitudes toward the Germans that accompanied the Patton affair. One of General Truscott's first acts as Commanding General, Third Army, was to order all his subordinate commanders to schedule frequent instruction periods for their units to counteract the tendency of the soldiers, in his view, to lose sight "of the reasons for which we fought the war" and to become "more and more sympathetic toward the German people." 68 While Truscott was only trying to inculcate in the troops a more disciplined and aloof attitude toward the German people, some soldiers were bound to feel encouraged to ruffianism particularly when they were drunk. Those who had this tendency also had before them the example of the DPs, for whom public sympathy in the United States secured an almost completely free rein from September to December, which did not begin to tighten again until the early months of 1946 when the Army quietly reinstituted controls and put guards back in the camps.
At the year's end trouble arose from another direction. By the time the big redeployment lifts of November and December had reduced the theater strength to 614,000 troops, another 22,3,000 (enlisted men with 50 points, officers with 70, enlisted WACS with 32, and WAC officers with 37) had become eligible for redeployment and discharge. What this contingent, and the nearly 100,000 who would become eligible after them, were not told-because the information had been classified secret in Washington-was that the freewheeling redeployment was to end on 1 January 1946. The number of troops scheduled to lie shipped home for discharge would drop to 47,700 in January (from 303,000 in December and 400,000 in November) and thereafter level off at about 53,500 a month for the next five months. The rates would be somewhat dependent, too, do the inflow of replacements, and as of mid-December, USFET was over 16,000 short on the replacements it had been scheduled to receive in November.69
The troops saw no reason why the
monthly redeployment flow could not continue in the hundreds of thousands, and they were given no reason when Stars and Stripes announced at the turn of the year that 50-pointers would have at least another three months to serve in the theater. An announcement at the same time that the Army would begin shipping war brides to the United States in January raised a dark suspicion that the women were being given priority over the troops. In Paris, on 7 January, 1,000 50-pointers staged a protest meeting, and two days later 4,000 marched on the USFET headquarters in Frankfurt to take their grievance to McNarney, whom they did not get to see because he was in Berlin attending a Control Council meeting. On the 12th, soldiers in England carried their complaints to Sen. Tom Connally and Sen. Arthur Vandenberg who were then in London. The protests were orderly, and they ended on the 13th when Stars and Stripes reported that McNarney had said they "had served their purpose." 70
These protests, and others that were somewhat less orderly in Manila and other locations in the Pacific, had indeed served their purpose. On 15 January the War Department announced a new demobilization schedule geared to getting all 45-pointers home and discharged by April 1946. To meet the schedule, USFET doubled its shipping quotas for the first four months of 1946. In response to an appeal from Eisenhower, who said he had not realized how critical the Army's manpower situation was before he left Europe, McNarney had earlier reduced the Occupation Troop Basis to 300,000. 71 By the first week of February it was clear that the 300,000 figure would only be a point on the scale of USFET's declining troop strength, which would sink to 230,000 by 1 September and 200,000 before the year's end.72
The replacements coming to Europe were not only unskilled but, in increasing numbers, untrained. In November and December 1945, 95 percent of USFET's requisitions were for men with technical service specialties. Of those who arrived only 13 percent had such qualifications, and not in any high degree. Beginning in January, replacements were shipped after eight weeks of branch immaterial training, which did not attempt to go beyond qualification with the M-1 rifle, personal hygiene and sanitation, and "orientation for occupation duty with emphasis on discipline." 73 In the first week of March, the theater inspector general made inspections in Paris, Metz, and several areas of Germany and reported the following
Discipline is generally poor and at this time is below desirable
Definite responsibility for maintaining discipline where troops of various arms and services are stationed has not been satisfactorily established.
Incident to the shortage of personnel, the majority of replacements are not receiving
additional disciplinary basic training as expected.
Many young officers command important installations and units. Numbers of these have not had sufficient training to carry out their administrative responsibility. Similarly, there are many untrained noncommissioned officers.74
At the same time, military government detachments and the Headquarters, US Constabulary, were reporting US troops as the chief source of disturbances in the zone.75 In the first week of April, when the theater's weekly intelligence summary showed 101 troop incidents in a four-day period, McNarney ordered that all such cases be reported individually to him with the names of the units involved and the specifics of disciplinary actions taken.76
Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Return to the Table of Contents
Return to CMH Online