First-Rate History of Post-World War II U.S. Occupation Experience in Austria

By Kinnard, Douglas | Army, January 2003 | Go to article overview

First-Rate History of Post-World War II U.S. Occupation Experience in Austria


Kinnard, Douglas, Army


Waltzing Into the Cold War: The Struggle for Occupied Austria.

James Jay Carafano. Texas A&M University Press. 249 pages; photographs; notes; bibliography; index; $44.95.

Historically, when military forces occupied belligerent territory, little how-to guidance existed. Priority naturally went to defeating the enemy, with little advance thought on what should follow in victory's wake. This was especially true of Austria after World War II, where the occupation was judged to be of minor significance compared to those of Germany and Japan. As circumstances evolved in the decade following the Allied victory, however, Austria (like Germany, occupied by American, British, French and Soviet forces) moved from a strategic backwater into a frontline position in the rapidly developing Cold War.

James Jay Carafano, a Washington-- based policy analyst, has filled a gap in the history of our post-World War II occupation experiences with this book. His thesis is that in the Austrian case, "American policy was, in effect, militarized. Security concerns, as interpreted and expressed by professional military officers, played an inordinately significant role in determining the course of affairs. This militarization represented a shift in the role of the occupation force from rehabilitating and reconstructing Austria to enlisting the state as a partner in NATO's defense." The author concludes that this approach, while prolonging the occupation, resulted in support vital to rebuilding the country.

Early in the occupation, U.S. Forces Austria (USFA) was faced with the same concerns as our forces in Germany, caring for and repatriating displaced persons, identifying and returning enemy soldiers to civilian life, providing food supplies to the population and maintaining law and order in the shadow of a rampant black market. These tasks and others had to be accomplished while our forces were being demobilized-or more appropriately, were disintegrating. Graham Greene's novel The Third Man and Carol Reed's later film version aptly symbolize the period.

The author notes that the Army's lack of advance preparation for winning the peace resulted in setbacks during the occupation's early period. Despite this, Carafano concludes, "The Army's achievement was laudable given the tremendous tasks it faced ... disarming enemy forces, caring for displaced persons, establishing order and security, and preventing starvation. Even more remarkable was that USFA accomplished this feat while redeploying the bulk of its forces."

As relations with the Soviet Union worsened in 1946 and 1947, USFA gradually began transforming its mission from occupier to participant in what became the Cold War. One needs only to recall a few of the time's events and personalities to get a feel for the zeitgeist of the period-Churchill's 1946 Iron Curtain speech and the spring 1947 announcement of the Truman Doctrine initiating the containment policy, followed by George Marshall's Harvard speech calling for a European recovery program. Soon after came the Soviet rejection of that program, in effect dividing Europe into two competing camps. The Cold War was on.

Carafano is particularly effective in characterizing senior personalities and in weaving them into the narrative. Most important in the Austrian occupation, according to the author, was the second high commissioner and commander of USFA, Lt. Gen. Geoffrey Keyes, who served from the spring of 1947 until he was replaced by a career diplomat in the fall of 1950. Keyes, a 1913 West Point graduate, had commanded II Corps in the Italian campaigns, and the Seventh and Third armies in the occupation of Germany.

Although his predecessor as high commissioner, Gen. Mark Clark, is better known, the author provides convincing evidence that "time would prove that Keyes, not Clark, was without question the single most influential individual shaping U. …

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