This Day In History: US Troops Are Withdrawn From Germany (1923)

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On this day in history over four years after the end of WWI, the American army is withdrawn from Germany. President Warren G. Harding orders U.S. occupation troops stationed in Germany to return to the United States. The soldiers were part of the force that was occupying Germany to make sure that it abided by the terms of the Versailles Treaty and that they did not resume hostilities against their neighbors. The Americans had entered the war on the side of the western allies in 1917. They had been provoked by the sinking of the Passenger Liner the Lusitania and a German conspiracy to incite Mexico to attack the US. The US President, Woodrow Wilson declared war on Germany and the other Central Powers on April the 6th. In June the first American troops had landed in Britain before they were transferred to the western front. The .American Expeditionary Force (AEF), was commanded by the celebrated General John J. Pershing. He was also known as ‘Black Jack’ and had led campaigns in the Philippines and Mexico. Just over 2 million Americans served on the Western Front and they helped to turn the tide of war.  The Germans were aware that by 1918 that the Americans could tilt the balance in favor of the allies. This persuaded the German High Command to They were especially important in the last offensives of the war that forced the Germans to sign the Armistice. In total some 50,000 men lost their lives fighting on the western front. The last combat troops left France in 1919.

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An American occupation force of 20,000 men was sent to Germany. This was be based in the town of Coblenz,  it was part of the allied force that occupied the Rhine as agreed by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. President Harding ordered the soldiers back home as he believed that they had served their purpose. There was a mood among many in America that it was best not to get too involved in the affairs of Europe. Those were supporters of the ‘isolationist’ position. Harding also wanted a return to normality and peace time conditions. The American troops were at once disliked by the Germans and also admired them. Many Germans disliked the fact that they were foreign troops in the Rhineland but they were also intrigued by American culture and values.  The withdrawal of the Americans from the Rhineland also allowed the President to downsize the army. No one at the time could have expected that American troops would return to Europe less than twenty years later and fight in an even bloodier war than the First World War.

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