Electronic Thesis/Dissertation


"Democracy's Best Ambassadors": American-German Encounters and U.S. Foreign Policy in Occupied Germany, 1945-1949 Open Access

A bottom-up social history of the U.S. occupation of Germany, this dissertation explores the impact of everyday social interactions between American occupation soldiers and German civilians on larger U.S. occupation and foreign policies. By examining the ways these relationships directly impacted U.S. occupation policies related to fraternization, venereal disease control, food policy, the black market and the broader nature of the emerging American-West German political alliance, this dissertation argues that the often intimate relationships between American soldiers and German civilians hastened Germany's transition from an enemy to a burgeoning ally of the United States. The dissertation traces how the casual interactions, daily economic exchanges, friendships and sexual relationships that developed between Germans and Americans working for the occupation government humanized their views of one another. As Americans and Germans began to view each other less as enemies and more as fellow humans with similar needs and desires, many soldiers, officers, and OMGUS employees became unwilling to follow or enforce the punitive policies laid out in the wartime and early post-war occupation plans. Through their rule-breaking, GIs pressured the Military Government to change these harsh policies and to become increasingly involved in providing Germans with humanitarian food and medical aid, reviving the German economy, and promoting the growth of democratic politics and social policies. These policy changes fundamentally changed the tenor of the U.S. occupation and paved the way for a greater emphasis on democratization, humanitarian aid, and the economic recovery of Germany. In contrast to scholars who see economics and politics as the sole drivers of U.S. policy, I argue that growing American-German personal rapprochements played a key role in forcing the occupation government and U.S. policymakers to gradually abandon punitive occupation policies in favor of new regulations aimed at strengthening Germany and solidifying a new friendship.

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