Magazine article American Heritage

What Germans Said about the Americans: After the War, Army Intelligence Officers Collected Statements from German Soldiers and Citizens

Magazine article American Heritage

What Germans Said about the Americans: After the War, Army Intelligence Officers Collected Statements from German Soldiers and Citizens

Article excerpt

After the War, American intelligence officers combed through interrogation records and intercepted letters to compiled a report about what Germans thought of their former enemies.

The document, titled "Candid Comment on The American Soldier of 1917-1918 and Kindred Topics by The Germans," included comments from soldiers, priests, women, village notables, politicians and statesmen. Here are some highlights from the report.

"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

"Americans are good fighters with nerve and recklessness."

--Arunlf Oster, Lieut. of Reserve

"The accuracy of American artillery fire ... could have been considerably improved upon."

--Karl Diehl of Selters

"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 von Einem, commander of the Third German Army

"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

"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

"The Americans [prisoners] were the chief complainers when the food was bad, which was always."

--Pietro D'Paris

"[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

"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 do not stand out from the men in appearance as they do in any European army. …

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