The 165th Infantry Regiment passing through Wallendorf, Germany on its way to the Rhine on December 3, 1918.
The march through Germany for the Third Army had a different vibe to it than its march through Luxembourg. The first week of December 1918 was defined mostly by a cold, consistent rainfall that froze roads and depleted terrain conditions. Major General Joseph Dickman, the Third Army’s first commanding general, wrote, “[It] remains cloudy, damp, and foggy, and when we start in the morning we are...buried far down in our overcoats.” He continued, saying, “...the difficulties of the march of so large a force through devastated or partly exhausted territory, the scarcity of food and forage, and the bad conditions of the roads, called for staff work of the highest order.” As American troops crossed into Germany, waving victory flags and cheering civilians were abruptly replaced by shuttered windows and seemingly deserted towns. Despite this uncomfortable welcoming, “the average soldier looked forward with curiosity to seeing Germany”, as noted by the Third Army’s civil affairs officer.
For General Dickman, the task of entering Germany was far more difficult than it seemed. Though remote, the possibility of Germany renewing hostilities on the Western Front loomed, and Dickman had to ensure that every unit in the Third Army maintained a constant state of full combat readiness throughout the entire process of occupation. It took two weeks for the Third Army to march from Commercy, France to Coblenz, a distance of 188.6 miles (Dickman claimed it was anywhere between 225-250 miles, so the starting location may have varied), and that strenuous hike, sometimes averaging 30 miles a day, had taken its mental and physical toll on many soldiers.
Nevertheless, the Third Army trained heavily for the possibility of renewed hostilities throughout the start of 1919. According to an unknown historian, “the new enemies of the American troops were stiffening Army regulations, the continued training and maneuvering (with live ammunition), boredom, restlessness, and the growing desire to go home.” On April 20, 1919 Lt. Gen. Hunter Liggett assumed command from Dickman.