“Not a Fan of Wine but a Soldier”

– Harry Truman

Before taking the presidential office of the United States, President Henry Truman served as an army captain during the First World War in France. He commanded the ill-disciplined Battery D of the artillery and remained victorious on many fronts. While at war, Truman regularly exchanged letters with his wife. In those letters, he frequently narrated the hostile battles experiences and the less active times of the war.

One of the famous letters was written on January 21, 1919, in which he expressed his desire for peace and signed The Treaty of Versailles. He showed a soldier’s will to return home victorious, expressed his views on the French wine and what he anticipated to do during the coming time of alcohol prohibition in the United States.

As a solder, familiar with the coming proposed prohibition, Truman wished to return home before the enforcement of the law so that he could store sufficient wine for the dry period. The desire showed a firm relationship between the wine and the emergence of modern American society. Solders at war fight for their country’s sovereignty and to protect their people and heritage. Wine, as part of the American culture, was also part of the WWI soldiers.

The Final Glass at the Treaty of Versailles

Truman was stationed in France for three more months after sending the letter in which he wished to return home and enjoy wine in his homeland. However, the Treaty of Versailles remained unsigned till June 28th 1919 . When he wrote of “Woodie’s pet peace plans” Truman was pointing out the 14 points by President Woodrow .

The treaty’s so-called “war guilt” clause forced Germany and other Central Powers to take all the blame for World War I.

The entire Treaty was quite different from Truman’s expectations, as the negotiators from France and Britain played a key role in influencing the negotiations as well as the final results, including the controversies that helped set WWII. Amid all these disagreements and conflicts, wine toasting remained in order. Negotiators from all parties posed to toast in happy moments, which clearly showed the power of wine as a source of unity and happiness.


Conquest of the Eagle’s Nest to drink Hitler’s Finest Wine

One of the most referenced events of WWII is the struggle by the American and French soldiers to capture the Eagle’s nest to confiscate Hitler’s wine. Most soldiers in the allied forces were experiencing a long-term thirst for wine. They desired to enjoy some of the finest wine at the place.

Finally, under the command of the American army, 3rd Infantry Division of the American army and 2nd Armored Division of the French army competed to capture the resort town of Berchtesgaden. The town was believed to have a large storage of the finest wines belonging to the elite Nazi officials.

In a turn of the events, the French captured the Eagle Nest. They also confiscated nearly 500,000 bottles of wine, including some of the finest wines including Burgundy and Bordeaux. They also captured a large quantity of Champagne that France had dumbed to Germans in the 1930s.

The quest to put hands on the wines created a new chapter in war history and targets. The image shown above pictures the victorious and relaxed allied soldiers. They are enjoying their drinks, disconnected from the previous experiences of terrors and pains.

Besides having a rich history in world wars and conflict, wine has proved to be a uniting factor that should be part of society forever. 

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  • Dino Kritsiotis, ‘Fourteen ways of looking back at the Treaty of Versailles,’ London Review of International Law Vol. 8, no. 1 (2020); pp. 43-88.
Categories: Wine and War, Wine History In-DepthTags: , By Published On: May 30, 2022Last Updated: October 24, 2023

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