Background: This article from late December 1944 suggests that American soldiers are tired of fighting. However, it makes no claims that they are ready to give up, or that they are wrong in assuming that the war will soon be over. The point, I think, is to persuade Germans that the enemy is as weary of war as they are, and that all is not rosy there either.
The source: “Die Wirklichkeit ist anders. Ernüchterte USA-Soldaten,” Das Reich, 24 December 1944, p. 4.
It has been a year since a widely-read book in the United States complained that American soldiers had difficulty comprehending the seriousness of the war. With the exception of the elite Marines and colonial soldiers in the Pacific and flyers in Europe, the greater part of the American troops were then in barracks at home or in expeditionary camps in England and North Africa. They spent their time fighting with each other. According to British opinion, they were hopelessly spoiled and richly provided with the criminal elements of both skin colors. In the bloody battle at Casino and at the bridgehead at Anzio they began to gather bitter experience.
Since 5 June, the Americans are Eisenhower’s main force on the western front and have had to learn what it means to face an enemy with five years of experience in war, and that has a whole people willing to give its all. The Americans were disappointed to learn after the battle in France and the supply difficulties that followed that their enormous amount of supplies did not spare them long and bloody sacrifice. As a sergeant wrote from the western front to his home-town newspaper in distant Oklahoma: “Everything else fades into insignificance next to the dead and wounded. We soldiers here live more closely together than people back home in the States. Suddenly a comrade falls or is wounded. Or one hears that someone whom one has known for years is dead. Just yesterday you were talking about him. Today there was heavy fire. It was a long year.”
Politicians and generals told the American soldier that the way back to Texas, Detroit, Washington, and Chicago led through Paris and Berlin, but does he see that way? Eisenhower’s declarations appeal to the lowest instincts of hatred to hammer into him the purpose of the war against the German people, but either he is a brutal murderer like his Bolshevist allies, or he understands only the half of it. A British war correspondent for the Times, reporting from General Patton’s Mosel front, praised the “battle-steeled Americans,” but could not suppress this complaint: “These steel-helmeted imbeciles in their loose jackets must appear undisciplined to British officers and NCOs, since they imitate Churchill and smoke cigars while on duty. The French population is often astonished at their political ignorance and their inability to understand what the Nazis have done for Europe.” Has the Englishman who wrote this forgotten the reports of his comrades, who found no evidence along the road from Normandy and Brittany to Paris and Brussels that the Germans had enslaved occupied Europe or starved it? The front soldier, whether American or not, is observant enough to doubt the word of the partisan fighters, who today terrorize their own countrymen. Or will the American soldier learn something about his political education and the democratic “Crusade against Fascism” when he sees that the American occupation army has to defend with its bayonets the emigré governments it installed against the wrath of starving peoples, and against the vanguard of the Bolshevist dictatorship of the proletariat?
The American soldier had an unpleasant shock last summer when he heard not only from back home, but also from his own military leaders, that the enemy was on the run and that the war in Europe was as good as over. At that moment, the American soldier saw the chasm that separated him from the so-called war morale back home. The majority of them voted for Roosevelt because the president was their supreme commander and made fine demagogic promises about incorporating returning soldiers back into civilian life. But the soldier can also see the contradiction between these government promises and the unavoidable postwar crisis that causes panic for the American people back home.
The October issue of Fortune reported: “The American nation is concentrated on war production, and is not yet ready to absorb the victors of tomorrow back into the homeland.” Veterans’ legislation is incomplete and confusing. Above all, the necessary jobs are not available. With daily growing mistrust, American and British soldiers observe that their rapid return is not desired by their political and economic leaders. The occupation of Germany and the war against Japan provide ways to channel the masses of returning soldiers and postpone their demobilization into the future. The American Marine remains mobile. Plans for a standing army are being made.
The newspaper for the expeditionary troops, Stars and Stripes, was careless enough to report a private poll taken in the USA, according to which 45% of those surveyed said that the individual soldier should not be released until he had a job. 31% were even opposed to giving returning front soldiers preference for jobs. The resulting storm of protest from soldiers at the front, who by law remain unnamed, demonstrated that American soldiers feel more threatened by such things than by any outward enemy. “Who are these people,” one wrote, “who think that we like it over here? They probably don’t have any husbands, fathers, or brothers overseas. These are the people we are fighting and dying for? They are probably afraid they will lose their well-paid war jobs that they took from us.”
Another letter writer: “You people back home want to tell us when we can come back home and take up a normal life. But most of us are only civilians in uniform who are fighting for the right to be civilians again. As civilians we are also businessmen who have not forgotten what stands in black and white in the contract: our old job is guaranteed us within six months of the end of hostilities. What happened to democracy?” A third soldier, one of a dozen no less energetic and striking, has this to say: “Just as it begins to look as if we will return home in the foreseeable future, these dogs back home are squabbling and yapping again. I am 100% in favor that each of them should have the same chance — here at the front.”
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