CLOSE
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

What Germans Said About American Troops Right After WWI

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

In 1919, the United States compiled a report on German attitudes towards American troops and their behavior during the war and subsequent occupation. The document, titled “Candid Comment on The American Soldier of 1917-1918 and Kindred Topics by The Germans,” included interrogation and interview transcripts and intercepted letters from citizens that contained insight on post-war attitudes of the defeated nation. Below are some highlights and excerpts from that report, which you can read in its entirety here.

On the Character and Ability of American Soldiers in Battle

1. “I fought in campaigns against the Russian Army, the Serbian Army, the Roumanian Army, the British Army, the French Army, and the American Army. All told in this war I have participated in more than 80 battles. I have found your American Army the most honorable of all our enemies. You have also been the bravest of our enemies and in fact the only ones who have attacked us seriously in this year’s battles. I therefore honor you, and, now that the war is over, I stand ready, for my part, to accept you as a friend.”

—Chief of Staff for General v. Einem, commander of the Third German Army

2. “Americans are good fighters with nerve and recklessness.”

—Arunlf Oster, Lieut. of Reserve

3. “The prevailing opinion in Germany before our entry into war, was, that American was a money hunting nation, too engrossed in the hunt of the dollar to produce a strong military force. But since our troops have been in action the opinion has changed, and he says that though Germany is at present a defeated nation, he believes that they would be victors in a war with any nation in the world with the exemption of the United States.”

—Karl Finkl of Bolingen

4. “There were only a handful of Americans there but they fought like wildmen."

—Antone Fuhrmann of Mayschoss

5. “[I] had been told by other soldiers that the American infantryman was reckless to the point of foolishness."

—Peter Bertram, shopkeeper of Dernau

6. “The accuracy of American artillery fire…could have been considerably improved upon.”

—Karl Diehl of Selters

On Americans as Prisoners of War

7. “The Americans were what might be called bad prisoners. A group of 14 were brought in one day and when asked about their units refused to talk. They refused to work and talked back to the officers, much to the annoyance of the officers and the concealed delight of the men.”

—Paul Heinman

8. “The Americans were the chief complainers when the food was bad which was always.”

—Pietro D’Paris

On Being a Prisoner of War Under the Americans

9. “Prisoners of war under American jurisdiction continue to send home glowing reports of good treatment. It is clearly deducible that they are more satisfied with their present condition, than they would be at home”

—Postal Censorship, April 12, 1919

On the Sartorial Charms of American Troops

10. "[American] officers are not well dressed….All officers in the German army even when in active field service have one or more trunks and from time to time are allowed to leave for the purpose of obtaining uniforms.”

—Michael Hoffman of Rech

11. “The American army seems to me as fine a collection of individual physical specimens as I have ever seen. But from the standpoint of military discipline it is a mob, pure and simple. The men appear slouchy, the officers to not stand out from the men in appearance and they do in any European army.”

—Dr. Otto Schranzkmuller, former Prussian Municipal Official

On the Relationship Between American Officers and their Subordinates

12. “[American] troops lack the snap and precision of the German soldiers but…the cordial relations between the officers and men more than make up for the lack of iron discipline.”

—Anton Liersch, Postal Agent in Dernau

13. “The attitude of the American officer towards enlisted men is very different than in our army in which officers have always treated their men as cattle.”

—M. Walter of Minderlittgen

On Americans Being Good Occupiers

14. “We were informed that your men were inclined to be rough, and the impression was left with us that we had a very serious time before us…but today, after living 24 hours with them, we have no longer andy apprehension. They are wonderfully mild mannered men and a great contrast to the domineering attitude of our own soldiers. Your troops, not even one, have spoken a single disagreeable word to anyone, and when we offered them wood for cooking and heating purposes they accepted with what seemed to be a certain shyness.”

—Statement of the Mayor of Kaschenbacm

15. “Children have constantly talked of the Americans’ arrival, and pictured them as a band of wild Indians, however, when they troops arrived, we were astonished at their behavior and pleasant attitude toward our people.”

--Michael Simon of Neuerburg

16. “Bolshevism is slowly spreading all over the world. I spoke to a Frenchman a few days ago, who stated that the working men in France demand 25 francs per day. I am glad and thankful we are having American troops occupying our town, otherwise we would have the same trouble as many of the larger cities.”

—Translation of a letter from Coblenz

17. "The American troops show much more consideration for the private rights of the inhabitants of the village than did the German troops."

—Karl Schramem, Landstrumer of Zermullen

18. "The Americans can very well serve as an example for our own troops whose behavior as they passed through here was none too good."

—M. Erasmi of Kylburg

19. “The people here hate the French more than they do the British. They much prefer the Americans as troops of occupation. Since the Americans have arrived the German people have learned to like them.”

—Karl Felder of Bieder Breisig

On Americans Being Bad Occupiers

20. “The citizens of Eich who were fined for having a dirty yard and premises claim that their trial was unfair, and that the fines were too heavy. One of them says that American soldiers were partly responsible for the condition of his yard.”

—U.S. Army report, April 17, 1919, in Trier

21. “The young girls complain of the requisitioning of all public buildings by the Americans thereby making any sort of recreation impossible for them. They begrudge our monopoly of the dance."

—Weekly Resume from the 3rd U.S. Army, Feb. 3 1919

22. “Complaints, coming especially from the smaller towns, accuse the Americans of immorality and drunkedness.”

—Weekly Resume from the 3rd U.S. Army, Feb. 3 1919

23. “All male persons from 12-60 years old must give up their beds to the troops of occupation. Children under 12 years certainly never had any claim to a bed. We are supposed to sleep on the floor.”

—Letter from Ehrenbreitstein

24. “Our Americans are very good. But the officers and General are boasting scoundrels…in our house 10 men and 2 officers are quartered. They slam the doors so hard that the whole building shakes.”

—Letter from Mia Clausen

25. “Since day before yesterday there has been crisis here too, among our workers; they all want to strike. But that is only because of the terribly high food prices, for the Americans eat up our little bit and pay outrageous prices…The roads are all rundown from the army autos, and people are being killed every day by crazy chauffeurs. Electricity plants are over burdened and the inhabitants get a feeble current so that the Herr Americans may burn 3 lamps in every latrine.”

—From a letter from Hans Rohrl, Neuwied

Americans as Voracious and Rash Consumers

26. “[I run] a store in Brohl, where among other things candy and cookies are sold to American soldiers…[I can] make a profit because the American soldiers will pay the price that I must ask, while the civil population would not.”

—Herr Stenzel

27. “They have lots of money and buy foolishly. Articles that just before our occupation were sold to the people and the German soldiers for 25 to 30 marks are now bought by the Americans for from 80 to 100 marks…a great many articles are being made expressly for the American souvenir hunters and in almost all cases these are made of cheap imitation material.”

—Fritz Ulman of Cologne

28. “The American Discipline is excellent, but the thirst for souvenirs appears to be growing.”

—A daily letter from Treves, Germany

29. “[I] cannot understand the general desire if the American soldier for the “Gott mit uns” belt buckles and the German Iron Crosses…[I] alone have sold more Iron Crosses to American soldiers than the Kaiser ever awarded to his subjects.”

—Fianale Fappen, novelty shop owner in Neuenahr

American Troops' Relationship With German Women

30. “Great activity here at present. We have a large aviation field. Seven out of ten of the population are Americans. Many of the girls have fallen deeply in love with them. A new song has already been composed, as follows:

Wo steht denn das geschriben.
Du sollst nur Deutsche lieben?
Man liebt doch auch America.

Translation:—“Where does one find it written, that one most love the Germans only? One can love America also.”

—Letter from H. Moeren Sinzig

31. “Many German girls go around with the Americans, I simply can’t understand it. If any American talks to me I am prepared to give him an answer.”

—Letter from Lani Schuster, Coblenz-Leutzel

32. “The girls are to blame, but one must not forget that the gentlemanly enemy are a decidedly forward people. Fresh beyond bounds.”

—Letter from Gertrude Bisseldt

33. “Many of our young girls have gone wrong since the A----- are [unclear] is almost hard to believe of some of them. Martha Strodter is engaged to an A-----. Isn’t she crazy?”

—Letter from P. Stanier of Grenzhausen

34. “They are like children and find their joy only in playing and eating which they do the whole livelong day…of course there are exceptions as in anything else, but some of these men are so far beneath, that their origin from the ape can be plainly seen upon their faces. How the censors will rave when they read this letter, but I am only writing the truth. They are the wildest when they are after the girls. But thank God that they can at once recognize the difference between a 'decent' and a 'common girl.'"

—Translation of a letter from Hote Koetter, Neuwied. In the report, this is under the headline: “BAITING THE CENSOR”

35. “Katchen Schroder was thrown into jail from Monday to Tuesday because she told a soldier to ---------. Another girl was unceremoniously spanked in broad daylight, and she is 23 years old too. And what can one do? However, it serves them right. Why don’t they leave the soldiers alone?”

—Letter from Frau Lemka of Wollstein

On American Motivation For Entering the War

36. “[I] like the American soldier individually but do not like the nation as a whole…America entered the war for what money she could get out of it.”

—Frau Frieda Fischer of Lohndorf

37. “A German officer said that the Americans came over here only to see the world and for the sake of adventure.”

—Mrs. Anton Bursch, shopkeeper in Echternach

38. “You Americans are not real the heart and soul in the war, are you? The French hate us because we took Alsace and Lerraine, but you only entered the war to make sure that England and France would be able to pay you the money you had lent them. For that reason we are glad that the country is being occupied by Americans instead of French or English. Row-boats were often used to deceive German U-boats, and when the letter came to render assistance concealed guns opened fire on the U-boats.”

—A German 12-year-old schoolboy

On American Politicians

39. “Schoreder has also written to me, did he not send you a clipping of Hoover’s speech in the Chicago Tribune? If not I will send you a copy. Hoover does not speak well of us.”

—Letter from Berlin to Trier

40. “[I will never] like the Americans because President Wilson had said that he would furnish food for Germany and has not done so.”

—Young teacher in Neuwied

On American Character and the Possibility of Moving to America

41. “I would like to go to America for a half year or so because it is certain that these people possess a secret method which raises the most common fellows into an individual who stands up boldly and moves about freely and unconcerned.”

—Letter from Frau Lisbette Schafer of Vallender to William Straube

42. “What are your Americans doing? Do you get as much chocolate as I do! I am tired of the stuff and also of the entire pack, although I have had many very pleasant hours with them. The Americans cannot grasp that we have so much work to do. Those lazy people. Things are better for them in America than for us here. I may yet go with them. Then you would indeed make eyes.”

—Translation of letter from Niederbreisig to Gondorf

All images courtesy Wikipedia Commons

arrow
Art
5 Things You Might Not Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—who was born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs. But there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.

1. AN EARTHQUAKE LED TO HIS DISTINCTIVE NOSE.

Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.

2. HE ALMOST BECAME A PIANIST.

Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.

3. HE HELPED CREATE A NATIONAL PARK.

If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.

4. HE WELCOMED COMMERCIAL ASSIGNMENTS.

While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams's mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.

5. HE AND GEORGIA O'KEEFFE WERE FRIENDS.

Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

arrow
presidents
George Washington’s Incredible Hair Routine

America's Founding Fathers had some truly defining locks, but we tend to think of those well-coiffed white curls—with their black ribbon hair ties and perfectly-managed frizz—as being wigs. Not so in the case of the main man himself, George Washington.

As Robert Krulwich reported at National Geographic, a 2010 biography on our first president—Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow—reveals that the man “never wore a wig.” In fact, his signature style was simply the result of an elaborately constructed coiffure that far surpasses most morning hair routines, and even some “fancy” hair routines.

The style Washington was sporting was actually a tough look for his day. In the late 18th century, such a hairdo would have been worn by military men.

While the hair itself was all real, the color was not. Washington’s true hue was a reddish brown color, which he powdered in a fashion that’s truly delightful to imagine. George would (likely) don a powdering robe, dip a puff made of silk strips into his powder of choice (there are a few options for what he might have used), bend his head over, and shake the puff out over his scalp in a big cloud.

To achieve the actual ‘do, Washington kept his hair long and would then pull it back into a tight braid or simply tie it at the back. This helped to showcase the forehead, which was very in vogue at the time. On occasion, he—or an attendant—would bunch the slack into a black silk bag at the nape of the neck, perhaps to help protect his clothing from the powder. Then he would fluff the hair on each side of his head to make “wings” and secure the look with pomade or good old natural oils.

To get a better sense of the play-by-play, check out the awesome illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton that accompany Krulwich’s post.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios