Erster Weltkrieg und
    Besatzung 1918-1930
    in Rheinland-Pfalz

    Withdrawal 1922–1923

    As early as mid-1919, troop contingents had been repeatedly transferred back to the States. Departure at Koblenz train station in March 1922. (Collection Dr. John Provan, Kelkheim).

    Due to the isolationist foreign policy of President Harding (1865–1923) combined with improved German-American relations, support for a continued occupation dwindled among American politicians and public opinion.

    In March 1922, the American government decided to withdraw all of its troops from the Rhineland by July 1, 1922, although General Allen believed that this decision came too early. After some discussions within the U.S. government, the decision was revoked in June 1922. The American troops were to remain with a reduced force of only some 1,200 men in the Rhineland.

    The relocation of the enormous quantities of vehicles and materials was a logistical challenge. Here: Loading of a military vehicle in Koblenz. Most of the horses and mules had already been sold by the Americans to Poland and France (Collection Armin Bode-Kessler).

    The French had always attempted to gain influence in Koblenz, which Allen and Pershing had managed to prevent until that point. Having only some 1,200 American soldiers left, however, Allen was forced to accept the stationing of additional French troops in the American Zone to ensure public order and control. However, the French units were put under Allen’s command.

    The end of the American Forces’ presence in Germany on the Rhine came with the occupation of the Ruhr: Despite all the warnings from the British and the American government, French and Belgian forces invaded the German Ruhr area on January 11, 1923. As a result, the American government decided to end its Rhineland occupation. General Allen received orders to bring home all remaining Doughboys.

    Caricature of the withdrawal of the Americans and the mourning German “Fräuleins,” from: Powter McGinness: When I was in Germany. Coblenz 1919 (Smithsonian Libraries, Public Domain).

    At Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, the Stars and Stripes were lowered. Three days later, the French officially took control of the American occupation zone. They quickly demonstrated their unquestionable authority to the Germans, making the life of the locals much more difficult. 

    Back of a commemorative medal donated on 21 November 1941 to the American soldiers who served in Germany between 1918–1923. (Courtesy of Alison Hutton / Alexander Barnes, Colonial Heights, VA).

    For many Germans, this constituted a significant change to their daily lives. The Doughboys, who had only recently accustomed themselves to the region, now had to go back home. Reichskommissar Hermann von Hatzfeldt-Wildenburg (1867–1941) met General Allen a last time during the farewell ceremonies. He said to Allen that the beginning of a political friendship between Germany and America had been made. The Americans had arrived as enemies, but they departed in friendship, hoping that the Germans would continue to respect humanity and a sense of justice. In retrospect, he was right, as the short period between 1918 and 1923 represented in part the model for the character of the future American Occupation of Germany after World War II.

    Texts and editing: Marc Holzheimer M.A., Hauke Petersen M.A., Benjamin Pfannes B.A., Dr. Kai-Michael Sprenger