As we have noted before in Military Trader articles, one of the great things about WWI-era photographs is the amount of detail that can often be seen. High-quality scans allow us to dig even more deeply into the photos and uncover interesting information that might otherwise go unnoticed. The subject of this photo-archeological dig is a photograph of some 1st Division soldiers serving in the occupation of Germany after WWI.
As part of the U.S. Third Army, the 1st Division was assigned to the U.S. III Corps along with the 2nd Division and the 32nd Division. These combat-experienced units led the march into Germany after the November 11, 1918 Armistice. On Dec. 13, the units of III Corps crossed the Rhine River to take up their assigned sectors on the west side of the Rhine. From that date, until late August 1919, the Big Red One served in the area around the German town of Montabaur and protected the “Neutral Zone” between the Allies and unoccupied Germany. For the most part it was pleasant duty and many of the 1st Division Doughboys developed a congenial relationship with the German population. Forbidden by Third Army regulations to drink “strong” alcohol, the soldiers were allowed to purchase and enjoy the locally made beer and wine.
The 13 U.S. soldiers appearing in the photograph, obviously taken at a local German “Gasthaus,” appear to be veterans of some long service in the division. There doesn’t appear to be any of the recent replacements who may have joined the outfit. Since there is no way all 13 could sit around the same small table, it can be surmised that some of the standing soldiers were seated elsewhere until the picture was taken. That belief is reinforced by the fact that there are only two bottles of wine and one bottle of beer on this table – certainly not enough to account for all the wine and beer seen in the glasses.
*Alexander F. Barnes is a former Marine and retired Army Warrant Officer. His most recent book “U.S. Army Depot Divisions in World War I.”, co-written with Pete Belmonte, was released November 2021. He currently serves as the Virginia National Guard Command Historian.
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