America Transformed by War
( Originally Published 1918 )
WHEN Germany threw down the gauge of battle to the civilized world, the German High Command calculated that the long, rigorous and thorough military training to which every male German had submitted, would make a military force invincible in the field. The High Command believed that a nation so trained would carve out victory after victory and would end the World War before any nation could train its men sufficiently to check the Teutonic rush.
To that theory was opposed the democratic conception that the free nations of earth could train their young men intensively for six months and send these vigorous free men into the field to win the final decision over the hosts of autocracy.
These antagonistic theories were tried out to a finish in the World War and the theory of democracy, developed in the training camps of America, Canada, Australia, Britain, France and Italy, triumphed. Especially in the training camps of America was the German theory disproved. There within six months the best fighting troops on earth were developed and trained in the most modern of war-time practices. Everything that Germany could de-vise found its answer in American ingenuity, American endurance and American skill.
The entrance of America into the tremendous conflict on April 6, 1917, was followed immediately by the mobilization of the entire nation. Business and industry of every character were represented in the Council of National Defense which acted as a great central functioning organization for all industries and agencies connected with the prosecution of the war. Executives of rare talent commanding high salaries tendered their services freely to the government. These were the "dollar a year men" whose productive genius was to bear fruit in the clothing, arming, provisioning, munitioning and transportation of four million men and the conquest of Germany by a veritable avalanche of war material.
Out of the ranks of business and science came Hurley, Schwab, Piez, Coonley to drive forward a record-breaking shipbuilding program, Stettinus to speed up the manufacture of munitions, John W. Ryan to coordinate and accelerate the manufacture of airplanes, Vance C. McCormick and Dr. Alonzo E. Taylor to solve the problems of the War Trade Board, Hoover to multiply food production, to conserve food supplies and to place the army and citizenry of America upon food rations while maintaining the morale of the Allies through scientific food distribution and a host of other patriotic civilians who put the resources of the nation behind the military and naval forces opposed to Germany. Every available loom was put at work to make cloth for the army and the navy, the leather market was drained of its supplies to shoe our forces with wear adapted to the drastic requirements of mod-ern warfare.
German capital invested in American plants was placed under the jurisdiction of A. Mitchell Palmer as Alien Property Custodian. German ships were seized and transormed into Amercan transports. Physicians over military age set a glorious example of patriotic devotion by their enlistment in thousands. Lawyers and citizens generally in the same category as to age entered the office of the Judge Advocate General or the ranks of the Four Minute Men or the American Protective League which rendered great service to the country in exposing German propaganda and in placing would-be slackers in military service. Bankers led the mighty Liberty Loan and War Savings Stamp drives and un selfishly placed the resources of their institutions at the service of the government.
Women and children rallied to the flag with an intensity of purpose, sacrifice and effort that demonstrated how completely was the heart of America in the war. Work in shops, fields, hospitals, Red Cross work rooms and else-where was cheerfully and enthusiastically performed and the sacrifices of food rationing, higher prices, lightless nights, gasolineless Sundays, diminished steam railway and trolley service were accepted with a multitude of minor inconveniences without a murmur. Congress had a free hand in making appropriations, The country approved without a minute's hesitation bills for taxation that in other days would have brought ruin to the political party proposing them. Billions were voted to departments where hundreds of thousands had been the rule.
The true temper of the American people was carefully hidden from the German people by the German newspapers acting under instructions from the Imperial Government. Instead of the truth, false reports were printed in the newspapers of Berlin and elsewhere that the passage of the American conscription law had been followed by rioting and rebellion in many places and that fully fifty per cent of the American people was opposed to the declaration of war. The fact that the selective service act passed in May, 1917, was accepted by everybody in this country as a wholly equitable and satisfactory law did not permeate into Germany until the first American Expeditionary Force had actually landed in France.
America's fighting power was demonstrated conclusively to the Germanic intellect at Seicheprey, Bouresches Wood, Belleau Wood, Château-Thierry, and in the Forest of the Argonne. Especially was it demonstrated when it came to fighting in small units, or in individual fighting. The highly disciplined and highly trained German soldiers were absolutely unfitted to cope with Americans, Canadians and Australians when it came to matching individual against individual, or small group against small group.
This was shown in the wild reaches of the Forest of the Argonne. There the machine-gun nests of the Germans were isolated and demolished speedily. Small parties of Germans were stalked and run down by the relentless Americans. On the other hand, the Germans could make no headway against the American troops operating in the Forest.
The famous "Lost Battalion" of the 308th United States Infantry penetrated so far in advance of its supports that it was cut off for four days without food, water or supplies of munitions in the Argonne. The enemy had cut its line of communication and was enforced both in front and in the rear. Yet the lost battalion, comprising two companies armed with rifles and the French automatic rifle known as the Chauchat gun, called by the doughboys "Sho Sho," held out against the best the over-powering forces of the Germans could send against them, and were ultimately rescued from their dangerous position.
The training of the Americans was also in modern efficiency that made America prominent in the world of industry. The reduction of the German salient at St. Mihiel was an object lesson to the Germans in American methods. General Pershing commanding that operation in person, assembled the newspaper correspondents the day before the drive. Maps were shown, giving the extent and locale of the attack. The correspondents were invited to follow the American troops and a time schedule for the advance was given to the various corps commanders.
In that operation, 152 square miles of territory and 72 villages were captured outright. For the reduction of the German defenses and for the creeping barrage preceding the American advance, more than 1,500,000 shells were fired by the artillery. Approximately 100,000 detail maps and 40,000 photographs prepared largely from aerial observations, were issued for the guidance of the artillery and the infantry. These maps and photographs de-tailed all the natural and artificial defenses of the entire salient. More than 5,000 miles of telephone wire was laid by American engineers immediately preceding the attack, and as the Americans advanced on the morning of the battle, September 12, 1918, 6,000 telephone instruments were connected with this wire. Ten thousand men were engaged in operating the hastily constructed telephone system; 3,000 carrier pigeons supplemented this work.
During the battle American airplanes swept the skies clear of enemy air-craft and signalled instructions to the artillery, besides attacking the moving infantry, artillery and supply trains of the enemy. So sure were the Americans of their success that moving-picture operators took more than 10,000 feet of moving picture film showing the rout of the Germans. Four thousand eight hundred trucks carried food, men and munitions into the lines. Miles of American railroads, both of standard and narrow gauge, carrying American-made equipment, assisted in the transportation of men and supplies. Hospital facilities including 85 hospital trains, 16,000 beds in the advanced sector, and 55,000 other beds back of the fighting line, were prepared. Less than ten per cent of this hospital equipment was used.
As the direct consequence of this preparation, which far outstripped anything that any other nation had attempted in a similar offensive, the Americans with a remarkably small casualty list took 15,188 prisoners, 111 guns, many of them of large calibre, immense quantities of munitions and other supplies, and intided heavy death losses upon the fleeing Germans.
Two selective service laws operated as manhood conscription. The first of these took men between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-one years inclusive. June 5, 1917, was fixed as registration day. The total number enrolled was 9,586,508. The first selective army drawn from this number was 625,000 men.
The second selective service legislation em-braced all citizens between the ages of 18 and 45 inclusive, not included in the first draft. Over 13,000,000 men enrolled on September 12, 1918.
The grand total of registrants in both drafts was 23,456,021. Youths who had not completed their 19th year were set apart in a group to be called last and men between thirty-six and forty-five were also put in a deferred class. The government's plan was to have approximately 5,000,000 men under arms before the summer of 1919. The German armistice on November 11th found 4,000,000 men actually under arms and an assignment of 250,000 made to the training camps.
A most important factor in the training plans of the United States was that incorporated in the organization of the Students' Army Training Corps, by which 359 American colleges and universities were taken over by the Government and 150,000 young men entered these institutions for the purpose of becoming trained soldiers. The following are the conditions under which the S. A. T. C. was organized:
The War Department undertook to furnish officers, uniforms, rifles, and equipment, and to assign the student to military duty, after a few months, either at an officers' training camp or in some technical school, or in a regular army cantonment with troops as a private, according to the degree of aptitude shown on the college campus.
At the same time a circular letter to the Presidents of colleges arranged for a contract under which the Government became responsible for the expense of the housing, subsistence, and instruction of the students. The preliminary arrangement contained this provision, among others :
The per diem rate of $1 for subsistence and housing is to govern temporarily, pending examination of the conditions in the individual institution and a careful working out of the costs involved. The amount so fixed is calculated from the experience of this committee during the last five months in contracting with over 100 collegiate institutions for the housing and subsistence of over 100,000 soldiers in the National Army Training Detachment. This experience indicates that the average cost of housing is 15 to 20 cents per day; subsistence, (army ration or equivalent,) 70 to 80 cents per day. The tuition charge is based on the regular per diem tuition charge of the institution in the year 1917-18.
A permanent contract was arranged later under these governing principles :
The basis of payment will be reimbursement for actual and necessary costs to the institutions for the services rendered to the Government in the maintenance and instruction of the soldiers with the stated limitation as to cost of instruction. Contract price will be arrived at by agreement after careful study of the conditions in each case, in conference with authorities of the institution.
The War Department will have authority to specify and control the courses of instruction to be given by the institution.
The entity and power for usefulness of the institutions will be safeguarded so that when the contract ends the institutions shall be in condition to resume their functions of general education.
The teaching force will be preserved so far as practicable, and this matter so treated that its members shall feel that in changing to the special intensive work desired by the Government they are rendering a vital and greatly needed service.
The Government will ask from the institutions a specific service; that is, the housing, subsistence, and instruction along specified lines of a certain number of student soldiers. There will be no interference with the freedom of the institution in conducting other courses in the usual way.
The contract will be for a fixed term, probably nine months, subject to renewal for a further period on reasonable notice, on terms to be agreed upon and subject to cancellation on similar terms.
The story of the life of the American army behind the lines in France would fill a volume. The hospitality of the French people had something pathetic in it. They were expecting miracles of their new Allies. They were war sick. Nearly all of them had lost some father, or brother, or husband, and here came these big, hearty, joyous soldiers, full of ardor and confident of victory. It put a new spirit into all France. Their reception when they first landed was a scene of such fervor and enthusiasm as had never been known before and probably will not be known again. Soon the American soldier, in his khaki, with his wide-brimmed soft hat, became a common sight.
The villagers put up bunting, calico signs, flags and had stocks of American canned goods to show in their shop windows. The children, when bold, played with the American soldiers, and the children that were more shy ventured to go up and touch an American soldier's leg. Very old peasant ladies put on their Sunday black, and went out walking, and in some mysterious way talking with American soldiers. The village Mayors turned out and made speeches, utterly incomprehensible to the American soldiers.
The engineering, building and machinery works the Americans put up were astonishing. Gangs of workers went over in thousands; many of these were college men. They dug and toiled as efficiently as any laborer. One American Major told with glee how a party of these young workers arrived straight from America at 3.30 P. m. and started digging at 5 A. M. next morning, "and they liked it, it tickled them to death." Many of these draftees, in fact, were sick and tired of inaction in ports before their departure from America, and they welcomed work in France as if it were some great game,
Perhaps the biggest work of all the Americans performed was a certain aviation camp and school. In a few months it was completed, and it was the biggest of its kind in the world. The number of airplanes used merely for training was in itself remarkable. The flying men—or boys—who had, of course, al-ready been broken-in in America, did an additional course in France, and when they left the aviation camp they were absolutely ready for air-fighting at the front. This was the finishing school. The aviators went through eight distinct courses in the school. They were perfected in flying, in observation, in bombing, in machine-gun firing. On even a cloudy and windy day the air overhead buzzed with these young American flyers, all getting into the pink of condition to do their stunts at the front. They lived in the camp, and it required moving heaven and earth for one of them to get leave to go even to the nearest little quiet old town.
An impression of complete businesslike determination was what one got when visiting the Americans in France. A discipline even stricter than that which applied in British and French troops was in force. In towns, officers, for instance, were not allowed out after 9 P. M. Some towns where subalterns discovered the wine of the country were instantly put "out of bounds." No officer, on any pretext whatsoever, was allowed to go to Paris except on official business. From the camps they were not even allowed to go to the neighboring towns.
The postal censors who read the letters of the American Expeditionary Force were required to know forty-seven languages! Of these languages, the two least used were Chinese and German.
The announcement of the organization of the first American Field Army was contained in the following dispatch from France, August 11, 1918:
"The first American field army has been organized. It is under the direct command of General John J. Pershing, Commander-in-Chief of the American forces. The corps commanders thus far announced are Major Generals Liggett, Bullard, Bundy, Read, and Wright.
"The creation of the first field army is the first step toward the co-ordination of all the American forces in France. This does not mean the immediate withdrawal from the British and French commands of all American units, and it is probable that divisions will be used on the French and British fronts for weeks yet. It is understood, however, that the policy of organizing other armies will be carried out steadily."
This announcement marked a milestone in the military effort of the United States. When the American troops first arrived in France, they were associated in small units with the French to get primary training with the armies then in the field.
Gradually regiments began to function under French division commanders. Then American divisions were formed and trained under French corps commanders. Next, American corps began to operate under French army commanders. Finally, the first American army was created, because enough divisions and corps had been graduated from the school of experience.
An American division numbers 30,000 men, and a corps consists of six divisions, two of which play the part of reserves. With auxiliary troops, air squadrons, tank sections, heavy artillery, and other branches, a corps numbers from 225,000 to 250,000 men.
The following were the general officers temporarily assigned to command the first five corps:
First corps—Major General Hunter Liggett.
Second corps—Major General Robert L. Bullard.
Third corps—Major General William M. Wright.
Fourth corps—Major General George W. Read.
Fifth corps—Major General Omar Bundy.
Seven divisions and one separate regiment of American troops participated in the counter-offensive between Château-Thierry and Soissons and in resisting the German attack in the Champagne, it was officially stated on July 20. The 42nd, or "Rainbow" Division, composed of National Guard troops from twenty-six States and the District of Columbia, in eluding the New York 69th Infantry, now designated as the 165th Infantry, took part in the fighting in the Champagne east of Rheims. The six other divisions were associated with the French in the counter-offensive between Château-Thierry and Soissons. These divisions were the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th of the Regular Army, the 26th National Guard Di-vision, composed of troops from the six New England States, and the 28th, composed of the Pennsylvania National Guard. Marines were included in this number. The separate regiment that fought in the Champagne was a negro unit attached to the new 93rd Division, composed entirely of negro troops. It was also announced that the 77th Division was "in the line near Lunéville" and was "operating as a division, complete under its own commander."
The 42nd Division had the distinction, General March announced on August 3d, of defeating the 4th Division of the crack Prussian Guards, professional soldiers of the German standing army, who had never before failed. General March also disclosed the fact that an-other American division had been sent into that part of the Rheims salient where the Germans showed resistance. This was the 32nd Division. "The American divisions in the Rheims salient," General March said, "have now been put in contiguously and are actually getting together as an American force. Southeast of Fère-en-Tardenois our 1st Corps is operating, with General Liggett in actual command."
The organization of twelve new divisions was announced by General March, Chief of Staff, in statements made on July 24th and July 31st. These divisions were numerically designated from 9 to 20, and organized at Camps Devens, Meade, Sheridan, Custer, Funston, Lewis, Logan, Kearny, Beauregard, Travis, Dodge, and Sevier. Each division had two infantry regiments of the regular army as nucleus, the other elements being made up of drafted men. The new divisions moved into the designated camps as the divisions already trained there moved out.
The composition of an American division is as follows:
Two brigades of infantry, each consisting of two regiments of infantry and one machine-gun battalion.
One brigade of artillery, consisting of three regiments of field artillery, and one trench mortar battery.
One regiment of engineers.
One field signal battalion.
The following trains: Headquarters and military police, sanitary, supply, engineer, and ammunition.
The following division units: Headquarters troop and one machine-gun battalion.
A general order of the War Department providing for the consolidation of all branches of the army into one army to be known as the "United States Army" was promulgated by General March on August 7th. The text of the order read:
1. This country has but one army—the United States Army. It includes all the land forces in the service of the United States. Those forces, however raised, lose their identity in that of the United States Army. Distinctive appellations, such as the Regular Army, Re-serve Corps, National Army, and National Guard, heretofore employed in administration command, will be discontinued, and the single term, the United States Army, will be exclusively used.
2. Orders having reference to the United States Army as divided in separate and component forces of distinct origin, or assuming or contemplating such a division, are to that extent revoked.
3. The insignia now prescribed for the Regular Army shall hereafter be worn by the United States Army.
4. All effective commissions purporting to be, and described therein, as commissions in the Regular Army, National Guard, National Army, or the Reserve Corps, shall hereafter be held to be, and regarded as commissions in the United States Army—permanent, provisional, or temporary, as fixed by the conditions of their issue; and all such commissions are hereby amended accordingly. Hereafter during the period of the existing emergency all commissions of officers shall be in the United States Army and in staff corps, departments, and arms of the service thereof, and shall, as the law may provide, be permanent, for a term, or for the period of the emergency. And hereafter during the period of the existing emergency provisional and temporary appointments in the grade of Second Lieutenant and temporary promotions in the Regular Army and appointments in the Reserve Corps will be discontinued.
5. While the number of commissions in each grade and each staff corps, department, and arm of the service shall be kept within the limits fixed by law, officers shall be assigned without reference to the term of their commissions solely in the interest of the service; and officers and enlisted men will be transferred from one organization to another as the interests of the service may require.
6. Except as otherwise provided by law, promotion in the United States Army shall be by selection. Permanent promotions in the Regular Army will continue to be made as prescribed by law.