My Rhineland Journal

by General Henry T. Allen. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. 1923. Illustrated. 8vo. xx+593 pp. $6.00.
THERE are three ways of keeping a journal or diary. It can be made a mere chronicle of facts and events. Or it can be utilized as a repository of personal opinions, enabling the diarist to get things off his mind without fear of immediate contradiction. Or, best of all, a journal can be made a record of both events and opinions, in which case it becomes worth reading. General Allen’s Rhineland Journal is in this third category. It deals with things both great and small — some of them very small. But oven the trivial happenings are brought into focus with some general situation.
General Allen possessed very unusual qualifications both for commanding an Army of Occupation and for writing the story of his experiences. He has long enjoyed the reputation of being a rigid disciplinarian — but an exceedingly tactful one. He went into the Rhineland with no vœ victis ideas in his head. He managed to work in harmony with his French associates, although he had to talk to them in Rooseveltian fashion at times. He had to serve two masters across the seas, the War Department and the State Department; for in addition to his army command he was the ‘high observer’ on the Rhineland High Commission. And he succeeded in making the occupation of the Coblenz area no more restrictive to the German population than it had to be. Not many military administrators have ever had a harder job, and none have done it better.
General Allen tells his story in a modest way, but this does not mean that his journal is written in an impersonal or self-effacing strain. On the contrary he is himself the central figure on every page of it. But he writes so deftly, with so much enthusiasm for a great variety of things, and with such unfailing appreciation of the humor involved in each situation that the reader keeps his mind on the play rather than on the principal actor. The journal flits from one topic to another with astonishing smoothness and shows how versatile a Kentuckian can be. For those who want a pen-portraiture of life in the Rhineland during post-war days there is no better source than this book.
It is clear that General Allen’s personal sympathies were strongly with the French, but he did not always find it easy to get along with them. The French high command repeatedly asked for privileges in the American zone which he could nut and would not grant. He distrusted their Ruhr policy, and his journal contains much circumstantial evidence which does not square with the public professions of the French Government. There are some Gallophiles, indeed, who may discern in this journal certain passages with a pro-German ring; but General Allen has done no more than tell his countrymen what they want to know, which is the truth as he saw it. Certain it is, at any rate, that the French authorities had at times a very poor conception of how their proposals would strike an American mind. Otherwise they would never have urged the evacuation and demolition of Ehrenbreitstein. Nor would there have been ‘a movement in Paris’ (General Allen does not say by whom it was fathered) to have Marshal Foch appointed ‘a general with emoluments in the American army.’
The readers of this journal will find much that is informing, and much that is amusing thrown in for good measure.