November 01, 2003

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE: We've already seen the 1946 Life Magazine coverage noted by Jessica's Well. Now reader Jack Callahan sends this picture from the Saturday Evening Post, and comments:

After reading the headline of the cover story of tomorrow's (11/2/03) New York Times Magazine ("Who Botched the Occupation") I happened to spot the attached Jan 26, 1946 Cover Page of the Saturday Evening Post (it was on the wall of a local barber shop).

Note the upper right hand corner (assuming the image makes it to you) - a feature story is entitled "How we botched the German Occupation".

My brief search did not locate the contents of the article, but I though you might find the cover amusing.

Indeed I do. Anybody have the article?

UPDATE: No copies yet. But reader Duffy Burdick has an interesting observation:

RE: The Saturday Evening Post cover---Note that it is a collective 'We' that "botched" the Occupation, not President Truman nor by extension, President Roosevelt. It suggests that there was still a sense that 'We' as a nation had been attacked and 'We' as a nation had responded.

Today, the media faults President Bush, e.g. , "Bush's War" , "Bush's Failure" , or his Administration without the slightest hint that we may all be in this together, regardless of our domestic partisan proclivities. Sad, really.

Yes, it is.

UPDATE: Reader Kathy Nelson has actually gotten the article and typed in the whole thing. I've read it and put some representative excerpts below (click "MORE"). I'd like to to put the whole thing up, but that's probably beyond fair use.


After reading your site this morning and knowing I had to go to the library this afternoon anyway, I wrote down the article title and looked it up just to see if I could still work a microfilm machine ten years after college graduation. I can, it seems, and I tracked down the article easily and made copies with the intention of scanning them to send to you. Alas, however, my neighbors who own said scanner were gone for the afternoon. So, I typed it out and attached is a copy of the article, "How We Botched the German Occupation," by Demaree Bess.

It's interesting, to say the least. Mr. or Ms. (I have no idea what sex someone named "Demaree" would be) Bess had a rather advanced understanding of the particulars of the occupation of Germany less than a year after the German surrender. It's fair to say the author takes a big picture approach. And, perhaps I'm naive to be surprised, but the writing is striking for its lack of severe criticism. The author actually takes the time to correct some common misconceptions held by people at the time regarding General Eisenhower. After reading so many "news" articles that are highly critical of the occupation of Iraq, it was almost shocking to read this article: the tone of this article, compared with ones being written today, is astonishing.

This was the first in a two-part series of articles by Bess. There was another in the February 2, 1946 issue of the Saturday Evening Post, titled "How Long Will We Stay in Germany" that I will type out later in the weekend.

I've read the whole thing. I hope that the excerpts that follow are representative:

Saturday Evening Post
January 26, 1946

How We Botched the German Occupation
By Demaree Bess


Everywhere I’ve traveled recently in Germany I’ve run into Americans, ranging from generals down to privates, who ask perplexedly, “What are we Americans supposed to be doing here? Are we going to take over this place and stay here forever?”

Judging by reports received here from the United States, this perplexity of Americans in Germany is matching by the perplexity of Americans at home. We have got into this German job without understanding what we were tackling or why. Imagine how incredulous we would have been if anybody had told us---even so recently as five years ago---that hundreds of thousands of Americans would be camped in the middle of Europe in 1946, completely responsible for the conduct and welfare of approximately 20,000,000 Germans?

How does it happened that even some of our topmost officials in Germany admit that they don’t know what they are doing here? The answer can be expressed, I believe, in one word---secrecy. . . .

Mr. Stimson probably has had more experience in international affairs than any other American. Before being appointed to head the War Department for the second time, he had also served as Secretary of State and had been Governor General of the Philippines. Thus he was familiar with the military requirements, the political implications and the practical problems involved in administering an alien and distant territory under wartime conditions. Mr. Hull, appreciating the value of Mr. Stimson’s experience in world affairs, was inclined to defer to his judgment in most of the matters under dispute. Mr. Morgenthau, on the other hand, gradually became the chief spokesman for the advocates of an American-imposed revolution in Germany.

His so-called Morgenthau plan, which has since been widely publicized, was not just the personal policy of the former Secretary of the Treasury. It combined the ideas of a sizable group of aggressive Americans which included some conservative big businessmen as well as left-wing theorists. The group supporting Mr. Morgenthau’s ideas included Americans of all races, creeds and political beliefs. It is doubtful whether Mr. Morgenthau could recall today the source of some of the most explosive ideas which he gradually adopted.

However that may be, the Cabinet committee soon found itself in disagreement, with Secretaries Stimson and Hull on one side and Mr. Morgenthau on the other. Hints of this disagreement leaked out at the time and the issue was represented as a “hard peace” versus a “soft peace,” but actually that was not the issue at all. In fact, the major disagreement then was over the question of procedure, and did not directly concern long-term economic and financial policies. The three Cabinet members were equally anxious to make sure that Germany should be deprived of the means for waging another war, nut Secretaries Stimson and Hull were determined not to bite off more than we could chew at one time. They wanted to reduce the original occupation plans to the simplest possible form, with three primary objectives in mind: (1) agreement by all the Allies upon a joint occupation; (2) provision of some hope for the German people that they might develop a decent life for themselves once they became completely demilitarized; and (3) the obligation not to burden the American people with more commitments than they might later prove willing to accept.

While these discussions were proceeding, however, Mr. Morgenthau became convinced that we should go into Germany with a complete blueprint, worked out in exhaustive detail, providing for an economic and industrial revolution so drastic that it would affect not only Germany but almost every other country in Europe. He wanted us to adopt this blueprint for ourselves and to use every conceivable means to pressure upon our Allies to get them to accept it. Whenever he was outvoted in the Cabinet committee, he had the immense advantage---as an intimate friend of Franklin D. Roosevelt---of being able to go through the side door of the White House and sell his ideas directly to the President. . . .

The French, unconvinced that the atomic bomb has opened an entirely new era, are insisting upon establishing buffer states between themselves and Germany. To this end, they’re trying to make a friend of the Germans in their zone and to encourage them to organize separatist movements.

The British, conscious, of the broader aspects of Western Europe’s economic situation, are devising schemes to revive German economic life in their zones, particularly in the Ruhr. In order to provide immediately for some of the things which Western Europeans so urgently require, they’re trying to establish some kind of international combine to operate Ruhr industries and coal mines---a proposal which they compare to the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The Russians, grappling with the enormous tasks of reconstructing their own war-wracked homeland, are carrying off from their zone all the machines and tools and animals which they can use in Russia. While the Russians reduce the labor surplus in their zone by sending skilled German workers to Russia, they also encourage the remaining Germans to revive political and economic life with due attention to Russian models.

It is only in the American zone that the “pastoral economy” is emerging, which some Americans had visioned for the whole of Germany. Although the Potsdam Declaration technically superseded the American directive JCS 1067, in practice this directive never has been superseded, so far as Americans are concerned. We still are committed to apply in our zone a blue print which was designed for the whole of Germany, but which was never accepted by any of our Allies. This directive is chiefly concerned with tearing things down rather than building things up, and in the absence of any common policy for the whole of Germany, our particular zone is threatened with “planned chaos.”

No wonder so many Americans are asking, “What are we doing in Germany?” They can see that the Russians and British and French are initiating projects which promise some direct benefits to them in their zones. But when they look at our zone they see only headaches. These peculiar problems of the American zone will be discussed in a subsequent article.

An interesting mixture of the familiar and the different. We are, at least, spared the paralysis of needing a consensus involving the French and the Russians, which paralyzed administration in postwar Germany for quite a while, and which is the subject of a lengthy part of this article that I have omitted.

Meanwhile reader Paul Donnelly notes this Allen Dulles article from Foreign Affairs, which I had linked a while back, with emphasis on this passage:

The defeat of Nazism has removed one of the obstacles to the democratization of Germany; but it has not created a democratic Germany. Nor is there much basis for the belief that democracy will develop in Germany under present conditions of defeat, hunger, idleness and despair. One way to help create the conditions in which democracy could take root is to give a hope of decent livelihood to the mass of Germans. This, of course, will not be enough alone, as the aggressiveness of a comparatively prosperous Germany under William II and Hitler proved. But it nevertheless is one essential step.

The effort of denazification should be directed from now on primarily against those who exercised authority in the fields of government, business or the professions -- the leaders of the masses rather than the masses themselves. The program to help the Germans reeducate themselves -- and they will have to do it themselves if it is to take hold -- should be vitalized. A first step is to open Germany more widely to the liberalizing influences of the west, for example, by removal of the restrictions on the entry of newspapers, periodicals and books in English, French and other languages, and in German translations.

From the outset of occupation, the United States has sought to introduce democracy at the "grass roots" -- that is, to train the German people in political responsibility at the local and state level. This policy should be pressed with every means at our disposal. Probably the best achievement of our occupation has been the development of local self-government, and the help given to Germans in the setting up of their own Laender Governments.

Question: Was the occupation of Germany a success, viewed with today's perspective? After all, we're still there. . . .

But considering the alternatives, it's not bad.