The American Interest

Redeployment of U.S. Forces Overseas: Long Overdue, Too Slow

Many Central Europeans who are now in their late middle age or older have fond memories of American soldiers in their midst.  In France in 1944, nylon stockings and chocolates were the tools of seduction, resented by men and welcomed by ladies.  In Germany in early 1945, the G.I. came to be seen as liberator, compared to the vengeful fury of the Red Army.  During the frosty blockade of 1948-49, American soldiers saved West Berlin from famine.  For four decades thereafter, their presence provided a welcome reassurance that any Soviet attempt to shift the Iron Curtain westward would entail the risk of a global nuclear war.  That reassurance was essential to Europe’s postwar recovery and, in particular, to Adenauer’s and Erhard’s “economic miracle.”

On my first tour of Germany, as a 16-year-old in 1970, I felt real warmth and relief at the sight of two youthful-looking G.I.’s at Checkpoint Charlie.  They were just a couple of regular military guys, but their Jeep, their informality, the gum they chewed were light years away from the Volkspolizei patrols, dogs, and searchlights on the other side.  My papers were in Ordnung, but I remember thinking that many Easterners would risk their lives to see that same sign: “You Are Entering the American Sector.”

For years thereafter, whenever driving through Bavaria and listening to the...

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