It shouldn’t come as a shock that rebuilding Iraq will be, as many are predicting, long and costly. The same was true when Americans led the massive reconstruction efforts of Germany and Japan after World War II and South Korea in the 1950s.
A half-century later, “We still have troops in Korea, and we still have a large presence in Germany,” said Blair Haworth, a historian with the U.S. Army Center of Military History.
Historians are unwilling to equate the level of violence and terrorism against U.S. troops in postwar Iraq today with conditions American soldiers encountered in Germany and Japan after World War II.
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice has compared the attacks on U.S. and British troops in Iraq to those carried out by Nazi fanatics known as “werewolves.”
“SS officers called werewolves engaged in sabotage and attacked both coalition forces and those locals cooperating with them, much like today’s Ba’athist and Fedayeen remnants” in post-Saddam Iraq, Miss Rice told a Veterans of Foreign Wars gathering in San Antonio last month.
Historians point out, however, that the Nazi Secret Service officially disbanded the werewolves shortly before Germany surrendered.
Nevertheless, other radicals who viewed Adolf Hitler as a martyr — many of them associated with the Hitler Youth — continued to call themselves “werewolves” and engaged in violence up to a year after the war ended.
The werewolves were blamed for the assassination of the mayor of Aachen, Germany, in May 1945.
“Aachen was the only city under U.S. administration. It was infiltrated by an SS hit squad who killed this guy,” said Tom Schlesinger, a retired Army major and political science professor at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, who served in Army intelligence in occupied Germany.
Jeffrey Herf, a professor of history at the University of Maryland, said Miss Rice’s assertions “were off the mark.”
He said American troops never faced guerrilla warfare in postwar Germany because Germans had accepted their defeat. That is not the case in Iraq, he said.
The U.S. occupations of Japan and Germany “took years,” said Richard Sommers, a historian with the Army War College Museum in Carlisle, Pa.
Mr. Schlesinger, in a telephone interview, said the Japanese offered little resistance to American occupation forces and “not a single American” soldier was killed by postwar hostility.
But U.S. troop deployment was mammoth — “probably as many as 400,000” in Japan shortly after the war ended in August 1945, said John W. Dower, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a specialist on postwar Japan. In Iraq, the United States has about 140,000 troops.