Army Diplomacy: American Military Occupation and Foreign Policy after World War II

By Sherry, Michael | The Historian, Winter 2017 | Go to article overview

Army Diplomacy: American Military Occupation and Foreign Policy after World War II


Sherry, Michael, The Historian


Army Diplomacy: American Military Occupation and Foreign Policy After World War II. By Walter M. Hudson. (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2015. Pp. 395. $50.00.)

Army Diplomacy is not an exciting title, and this book goes deeply into the weeds of army bureaucracy and field manuals. But it is an important study of the US Army occupations of Germany, Austria, and Korea (the author excludes Japan because Soviet troops were absent). To be sure, Walter Hudson, an army judge advocate, missed the social and cultural history turns that reshaped scholarship in military history. There is no mention here of Billy Wilder's film A Foreign Affair [1948], a classic about occupied Berlin, and there is little about occupation's messy everyday encounters, often framed by race and gender. This is old-fashioned institutional history, enlivened by Hudson's engagement with recent historiography and theory.

The army took on occupation duties reluctantly, neither welcoming them nor wanting anyone else to do them. "The Army is specialized in destroying enemy armies," not occupying countries, complained a 1943 Harper's article (2). Its earlier experiences with occupation had hardly all been happy. And occupation began even as the army was still gearing up for war--on 8 December 1941, in the Hawaiian Territory and in North Africa in late 1942. The army's exhaustion by 1945 was another burden (Hudson barely notes it): Occupation fell to burnt-out forces resentful that their demobilization was delayed and by new, ill-trained personnel. Yet Hudson shows that only the army had the institutional culture, grasp of legal issues, bureaucratic systems, internal discipline, manpower, and seasoned leadership to claim primacy in occupation. Although "prominent civilian leaders" regarded army plans "as aggrandizing and overreaching," they "lost in every case" (92, 102). …

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