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Henry Judd

A German Experience and Its Lesson

Cost of American Occupation

(9 September 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 36, 9 September 1946, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The American Army now numbers 1,550,000 men in uniform. Approximately one-half of the armed forces (704,000) remain in the United States. Over 800,000 American soldiers are still overseas:

  1. There are 346,000 men still in Europe, with 300,000 of them in the occupation of Germany.
  2. There are 438,000 men still in the Pacific areas, with most of them stationed in Japan.
  3. There are 40,000 men stationed in Caribbean bases, plus 22,000 up in Alaska.

Some 800,000-odd American boys, scattered over Europe and the Pacific; 1,550,000 soldiers altogether, to cost $8 billion for upkeep and expenses during 1946. Such are the basic facts of the American Army today, according to the United States News, May 1946. What is the story, in its smaller, more human terms? Here is the story of Erika Krebs and Robert E. Flannigan:


Her name is Erika Krebs, blond, rather plump and pretty, and 21. She comes from the completely flattened city of Nuremberg, Germany. Now she is living in an American-run German prison and will doubtless remain there the rest of her natural life.

His name was Robert E. Flannigan, a sergeant. He came from the quiet and conservative American city of Peoria, Ill. Now he is six feet underground, in an American cemetery in Germany, and will doubtless remain there for the rest of time.

Erika Krebs would undoubtedly also be resting underground today, with a garrotted neck or a few bullet holes through her body, were it not for the fact that she is pregnant. For Erika was found guilty of murdering Sergeant Flannigan of Peoria, with his .45 revolver. Within a few months she will give birth to a child, an offspring of German-American relations; a fruit of the occupation of one-third of Germany by 300,000 American youth.

Tragedies Bred by System

At first, the stupendous brains of our military leaders forbade fraternization in any form. GI’s, hardened and calloused in battle, “fraternized” in their own way, with the aid of pistols, bayonets and threats. The writer knows of men, tried and convicted for rape and criminal assault, who, among other counts, were indicted on the charge of “fraternization”! The military mind decided that rape likewise constituted a violation of the non-fraternization law! This system didn’t last long and met its finish a year ago.

But what system replaced it? Remember that hundreds of thousands of young American boys now live under this system, from one to two years, during part of the formative period of their lives. It isn’t exactly a minor matter. Their experiences and observations will have their effects upon them. It is a system of reactionary, imperialist occupation of a foreign country, based ultimately on superior force, and wrong in every respect. It is a system that the American people would surely oppose, provided they knew enough about it and had the opportunity to express their opinion. It is a system that breeds such tragedies as the one we have outlined, that creates cheap and sordid relationships between men and women, that spreads disease and vileness everywhere. It is the system forever associated with an unwanted occupation.

Whole Set-Up Is Poisoned

Amid the ruins and wreckage of one-third of Germany – an agricultural area of great beauty, with several large but destroyed cities – are living 300,000 American youth. Contrasted with the poverty of those about them, they form oases of wealth, security and comfort. They have all the symbols of wealth. Cigarettes, symbol of physical comfort; coffee and food, symbols of nourishment; chocolate bars, now symbol of sex. They have all the symbols of power. Tanks on the ground, airplanes in the air, carbine on the shoulder, pistol on the hip. They are masters over approximately 16,000,000 Germans – one GI for each 533 German men, women and children. What they do is the law; they cannot be arrested or tried by any German tribunal. Who believes that these 300,000 American boys – mostly just out of high school, green and inexperienced, unmarried kids who never even had the battle experience associated with war – who will believe that they are not affected by the situation? That is, that a process of moral and emotional corruption and, decay does not begin its work? It would be fantastic to expect otherwise.

What happens? Black markets, frauleins, “housekeeping,” arrogance and swaggering, sordid situations and, often, personal tragedies. It is inevitable. The whole set-up is poisoned to begin with and poisons everything related to it.

Is it difficult to imagine what happened in the case we have mentioned? Erika Krebs. 21 now, was eight years old when Hitler took control of her. Her middle class Munich family joined the Nazis out of expediency, and Erika learned a few simple, wrong “ideas” from her weekly meetings, as a member of the Hitlermaedel organization. Hitler died, Germany collapsed and Erika’s “ideas” went with them. A single idea came into her mind – to have a good time with the “Amis,” to make up for all the unpleasant war years. To smoke, eat chocolate and fool around. Robert Flannigan, American sergeant, came along and was agreeable. He was running this conquered country, and he enjoyed the servile willingness with which people listened to him and made way for him. He enjoyed being with his fraulein, but he wasn’t serious – he was also fooling around.

The time came for him to be shipped home and discharged, but Erika Krebs was pregnant. With everyone around him, particularly his officers, setting the example, that didn’t bother him. He prepared to leave. The rest we know about. So, a family in Munich lost its daughter; a family in Peoria lost its son; and the world will have another illegitimate child, born in a nation itself regarded as “illegitimate” by its occupiers.

This is how the imperialist occupation of Germany works out, not in political terms, but in simple personal terms. The sooner it is ended, the sooner the 300,000 American youth are brought home and withdrawn. the better for them and the better for the German people.

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