Unofficial Ambassadors: American Military Families Overseas and the Cold War, 1946-1965

By Donna Alvah | Go to book overview

4
“Shoulder to Shoulder” with
West Germans

In 1946, Lelah Berry and her two young children left Louisville, Kentucky to accompany Army captain Elmer Berry on his tour of duty in Berlin. Before Elmer Berry joined the armed forces in World War II he had worked for the Louisville & Nashville railroad. Lelah Berry had never ventured outside Kentucky. For the first two years of Elmer Berry's service his family lived in military camps around the United States, setting up house in “cooped-up, ramshackle living quarters,” and living on a “careful budget.” But in Germany, declared Lelah Berry, “The Berrys really never had it so good.” The family resided in a spacious German house, enjoying fresh meat daily, yet put a large portion of Elmer Berry's salary into savings. Three domestic employees cooked and cleaned, and cared for the children. When Elmer Berry received a short leave he took his family on a ten-day “dream-come-true holiday” in Switzerland arranged by the Army Special Services Division for military personnel. While the Berrys reveled in this new standard of living, the elderly German couple who owned the house made their home in a nearby garage. Hundreds of thousands of Berliners suffered from hunger. Throughout the winter, Lelah Berry witnessed Germans trudging through the cold, shattered city and standing in long lines for their fuel rations.

The stark contrast between American ease and German hardship during the early occupation was not lost on Lelah Berry. “We enjoy this scale of living, as anyone would,” she admitted, “but compared to the lives of the Germans around us it is embarrassingly luxurious.” Berry tried to muster resentment of Germans to curb her pity: “I don't want to coddle or whitewash the Germans, and I tell myself over and over, 'After all, they started it, they asked for it.'” Still, even fresh memories of German aggression could not eradicate Berry's compassion for the Berliners: “I do not believe the German people yet accept any responsibility for the war or Nazi crimes. Just now, however, they are too hungry and too cold to think much beyond tomorrow's or next week's rations.”1

-131-

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Unofficial Ambassadors: American Military Families Overseas and the Cold War, 1946-1965
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: Going Overseas 14
  • 2: Unofficial Ambassadors 38
  • 3: A U.S. Lady's World 81
  • 4: “shoulder to Shoulder” with West Germans 131
  • 5: “dear Little Okinawa” 167
  • 6: Young Ambassadors 198
  • Conclusion 226
  • Notes 235
  • Bibliography 261
  • Index 273
  • About the Author 291
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