American Forces in Coblenz

Ehrenbreitstein 1919
Ehrenbreitstein 1919

The AFG arrive at Coblenz. Chiara travels over to join her husband and contribute.

[Rhineland, autumn 1919] Chiara in America was relieved that the war was finally over. But still her husband John and his comrades were in Europe. Finally, she received another letter from him, posted in Coblenz.

Before July 3, 1919, the American forces in Germany had consisted of the Third American Army of the American Expeditionary Forces under the command  first of Major-General Joseph T. Dickman and then of Lieutenant-General Hunter Liggett.

A letter from Coblenz

“About 7,000 men are stationed in Coblenz. We have already seen some places along the Rhine, due to meetings with the French, the British in Bonn and Cologne and the Belgians in Aachen.” It felt like her heart had been stabbed. The American Forces in Germany, her fellow Americans, were now occupying the homeland of their beloved German grandfather Lorenz. She read on.

“General Pershing has appointed Major General Henry T. Allen as the commander of the AFG, a good choice. It is a small zone of occupation, no major military challenge to it, but a delicate political and diplomatic mission that requires a high-ranking and experienced officer. Who knows what awaits us? They have signed the peace treaty in Versailles, but we have no real peace, and many of our comrades think that Germany had deserved a much harder defeat. We want peace, we want to trade again. Europe needs to be rebuilt and Germany needs to be enabled as soon as possible to pay the reparations imposed on it. Our troops should return home as soon as possible. That is why the general is interested in reaching an understanding with the Germans.

I’m sorry, I cannot tell you anything about Lottie and Matthias. Fraternization with the Germans is prohibited, but it will not last forever. My darling, I miss you all so much, and more than anything I want to hold you in my arms. My orders keep me here, there is so much for us to do, and above all we have to ensure the supply of our troops. That is why I beg you, come here! Our children are in the best hands with their grandparents, and for the school holidays they can come over. You speak German and you are an outstanding logistics expert. And perhaps we as a family can help to make the world a bit safer and better.”

Surprised, Chiara put down the letter. Her heart was pounding, and her thoughts started to run. John would not return home soon, but he needed her support, and she could see her German relatives and her grandfather’s home. And knowing her children as she did, they would certainly be disappointed if she let their Dad down.
A few weeks later, Chiara was on her way across the Atlantic.


At the beginning of October, Chiara arrived in Koblenz, longingly expected by her husband John. She had traveled on one of the ships that brought supplies to the U.S. troops. So she had crossed the Atlantic Ocean and got on a train to Coblenz, passing the many cities along the Rhine – Düsseldorf, Cologne, Bonn, Königswinter and Bad Honnef with the Siebengebirge. Then her train got to Coblenz. Already from afar she saw the American flag waving over the fortress Ehrenbreitstein.

Besides himself with joy, John embraced his wife. They were granted a few days off together, then John showed her around. He was proud of their work. Major General Allen wanted his men to be well-prepared for their mission, so both field exercises and classes were scheduled. They learned German, driving all kinds of vehicles, repairing automobiles and motorcycles, blacksmithing, welding, maintaining weapons and equipment, operating and repairing radios, cartography and technical drawing. The Cavalry taught repairing saddles and barn management, the quartermasters taught cooking, baking and shoe repair. Even a small farm came into being.

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