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Behind America's Battle Line

( Originally Published 1918 )


IT is important that a general summary of America's military preparations, a detailed description of the operations behind the battle line and a detailed chronology of America's principal military operations in France during the year 1918 should be presented to the reader. Such a summary is afforded by the report of General Peyton C. March, 'Chief of Staff, United States Army, for the last year of the war. Addressing the Secretary of War, General March wrote : -

The signing of the armistice on November 11, 1918, has brought to a successful conclusion the most remarkable achievement in the history of all warfare.

The entry of the United States into the war on April 6, 1917, found the Nation about as thoroughly unprepared for the great task which was confronting it as any great nation which had ever engaged in war. Starting from a minimum of organized strength, within this short period of sixteen months the entire resources of the country in men, money, and munitions have been placed under central control, and at the end of this period the Nation was in its full stride and had accomplished, from a military standpoint, what our enemy regarded as the impossible. The most important single thing, perhaps, in this record of accomplishment, was the immediate passage by Congress of the, draft law, without which it would have been impossible to have raised the men necessary for victory. In organizing, training, and supplying the vast numbers of men made available by the draft law very many changes have been made necessary in the organization of the War Department and in the methods existing therein which were inherited from the times of profound peace.

Shortly after my installation as Chief of Staff I adopted the principle of interchange of the personnel of the various staff corps of the War Department with men who had training in France, and in the application of this principle placed as the heads of various bureaus officers selected on account of their ability and experience in the system of warfare as conducted in France.

At this time, also, I found that the divisions organized in our armies were still regarded as separate units, designated by different titles in accordance with their origin. This made three different, kinds of divisions in the United States army—the Regular Army, the National Guard, and National army divisions. All these distinctions were abolished and the entire army consolidated into a United States army, without regard to the source from which drawn. The source of supply, of all replacements for the various elements of the army, with-out regard to their origin, was drafted men; and the titles had no significance whatever and were a source of possible disturbance from the standpoint of military efficiency. There was, in fact, no actual difference between these divisions with respect to efficiency—all have done high-grade work from whatever source drawn. All have shown courage and capacity for quick absorption of the fundamentals of modern military training and irresistible dash and force in actual fighting.

When I returned from France on March I, 1918, I came back with the belief that the most fundamental necessity, both for the American Expeditionary Force and for the success of the allies, was that the shipment of troops to France should, be vastly increased and should have priority over everything else; and as this policy became effective a study was instituted looking to our putting in France, if that was possible, enough men to bring the war to a conclusion in the shortest period possible. After a study of the entire situation, including as accurate an estimate of the potential strength of our allies on the western front and of the probable German strength as was possible, I came to the conclusion that the war might be brought to an end in 1919, provided we were able to land in France by June 30th of that year eighty American divisions of a strength of 8,860,000 men. On July 18, 1918, I submitted to you a formal memorandum, accompanied by a study of methods by which the men could be obtained, the supplies procured, and an analysis of the shipping which must be obtained in order to accomplish this very large military program. This was accompanied by an estimate of the cost of the proposed program.

In this study I recommended to you the adoption, as the American program, of eighty divisions in France and eighteen at home by June 80, 1919, based on a total strength of the American army of 4,850,000 men. This was approved by you and by the President of the United States and was adopted as our formal military program. To carry this program into effect required the adoption by Congress of a change in the draft ages so as to include men between the ages of eighteen and forty-five years, and also created a deficiency over the enormous appropriations already made by Congress of some $7,000,000,000. The presentation of the program to Congress, accompanied by the statement that this increase in the army, if laws were passed by Congress which would make it effective, would lead to success in 1919, produced prompt and favorable consideration by that body. Up to the signing of the armistice troops were being transported to France monthly in accordance with that program. The results speak for themselves.

During the year, the most important in the history of the country both from a military and civil stand-point, there have been four heads of the General Staff: Major-General Hugh L. Scott, from the outbreak of the war until his retirement, September 22, 1917; General Tasker H. Bliss, from that date until May 19, 1918; Major-General John Biddle, Acting Chief of Staff at periods during the absence of General Bliss in France, from October 29, 1917, to December 16, 1917, and from January 9, 1918„ to March 8, 1918. I assumed the duties of Acting Chief of Staff on March 4, 1918, be-came Chief of Staff May 20, 1918, and have continued on that duty since.

It was evident, as the war progressed, that the General Staff was acting under an organization and in accordance with regulations which were not only unsuited to the duties and responsibilities confronting it, but were wholly out of date and were not suited to any General Staff organization. Successive revisions of the orders under which the General Staff was acting were made as events demanded, until the experience of the year crystallized the organization of the General Staff into that set forth in General Order No. 80 of the War Department. This order divides the work of the General Staff into four primary divisions: I. Operations; 2. Purchase, Storage, and Traffic; 3. Military Intelligence; 4. War Plans. Each of these divisions is under the direction of a director; who is Assistant Chief of Staff and is a general officer.


The Operations Division is under the charge of Major. General Henry Jervey, United States army, as Director of Operations and Assistant Chief of Staff. This division is a consolidation of the former Operations Committee and Equipment Committee, which pertained to the War College under the previous organization. The Operations Division has bad charge of the increase in the personnel of the army during the year. On June 80, 1917, the Regular army consisted of 250,357 officers and enlisted men. On August 5, 1917, 379,323 officers and men of the National Guard were drafted into the Federal service. There were a few special drafts of small numbers of National Guardsmen into the Federal service after August 5, 1917. During the period covered by this report this division handled the calls into service of men obtained under the draft, the organization of these men into divisions and units necessary for the army, and turned over for shipment overseas up to November 8, 1918, 2,047,667 men. The grand total of men in the army from returns for the period ending October 15th is 3,624,774. This force was organized into divisions, the proper proportion of corps, army, and service of supply troops, 'and of replacement camps and training centers for Infantry, Field Artillery, and Machine Guns in the United States. Central officers' training schools were organized at each of the replacement camps. Replacement camps and training centers for the various staff deparements were also organized. Development battalions were organized at all division camps and large posts and camps for the purpose of developing men of poor physique and the instruction of illiterates and non-English-speaking men of the draft. During the fiscal year 5,377,468 officers and men were moved by railroad to and from the camps.

The Operations Division has during the year also handled all matters connected with the adoption of new types of equipment, fixing allowances for various units, the preparation of tables of equipment for them, and the distribution and issue of equipment, and the determination of priorities of such issue.

It has supervised and studied the needs of camps and construction work therein, and this work in general has been characterized by marked ability and devotion to duty.


The Division of Purchase, Storage and Traffic is under the charge of Major-General George W. Goethals, United States army, as Assistant Chief of Staff and Director of Purchase, Storage and Traffic. This division was organized by merging divisions previously created, and which had been called "Storage and Traffic" and "Purchase and Supply." The new division thus organized was subdivided into Embarkation Service, Storage, Inland Traffic Service, and Purchase and Supply Branch.

Embarkation.—At the outbreak of the war the Quartermaster's Department had charge of the transportation of troops and supplies and continued to exercise these functions until` August 4, 1917, when they were transferred to a separate division of the General Staff, specially created for the purpose, and designated as the Embarkation Service. As already noted, this was subsequently merged with the Storage and Traffic Division.

Two primary ports of embarkation were established, one with headquarters at Hoboken, N. J., and the other at Newport News, Va., each under the command of a general officer.

The Quartermaster's Department was operating a service to Panama from New York, but with the shipment of troops to France a new condition arose which was met only in part by taking over the Hoboken piers, formerly owned by the Hamburg-American and North German Lloyd steamship companies, and the magnitude of the undertaking necessitated additional facilities. The situation at New York is complicated by the large amount of general shipping using the port, the diversified interests, even those of the government, and the complicated jurisdiction. An effort was made to bring about such a consolidation and unification as to secure greater cooperation with increased efficiency. To this end the War Board for the Port of New York was established in November, 1917. It was vested with full power and authority to make rules and regulations for operating the facilities of the port, to determine priorities, and to do what was necessary to provide for the prompt and economical dispatch of the business of the government in and about the port. Mr. Irving T. Bush was selected as the board's representative, with the title of chief executive officer. In addition to representing the board he was to arrange for the co-operative use of piers, warehouses, lighterage, terminals, railroads, trucking, and all other transportation facilities in and about the port.

In addition the need was felt for having a shipping expert closely associated with the Embarkation Service, familiar with the facilities at various ports, so that he could properly assign ships, select ships for the cargo to he moved, and arrange for their loading. Mr. Joseph T. Lilly was selected for this work and appointed director of embarkation.

In February, 198, the available cargo ships were not sufficient to carry the supplies 'needed for maintaining the troops overseas. To secure the requisite additional tonnage necessitated taking ships from the existing trade routes and determining from what imports and exports they could best be spared without interference with those which were absolutely necessary. This brought about a new situation which could be handled only by those having a knowledge of the trades as well as the characteristics of the various ships serving them, since some of them were suitable for War Department needs and some were not. It had happened that an advantageous exchange of ships could have been made with the Allies by which valuable time could have been saved in getting over cargo, but there was lack of knowledge as well as lack of authority. The whole situation was gone over at a conference between the Secretary of War and the chairman of the Shipping Board, as a result of which the Shipping Control Committee was created, consisting of Mr. P. A. S. Franklin, chairman; Mr. H. H. Raymond; and Sir Connop Guthrie, representative of the Allies' shipping interests. The allocation and distribution of available tonnage, as well as questions of exchange of ships, was vested in this committee. So far as the work of the War Department was concerned the committee was charged with the loading and unloading cargo, coaling, supplies, repairs, and, except where vessels are commanded by the navy, of inspection and manning. They also have charge of the management and operation of docks, piers, slips, loading and discharging facilities under the control of the department, or of any board, officers, or agency operating such facilities, together with the direction and management of minor craft to be used in connection with the handling of steamers and their cargoes in port. The amount of cargo shipped overseas, the efficiency of the loading, and the reduction of the time of stay in the ports attest to the efficient manner in which the committee has operated, and it is not too much to say that they are to be largely credited with the results that have been accomplished.

Expeditionary depots were operated at Boston, Mass.; Philadelphia, Pa., and Baltimore, Md., primarily for the movement of freight. When cargo ships having accommodations for troops were loaded at these ports troops for the available space were sent from the camps under the direction of the commanding general at Hoboken; similarly shipments of troops were made from Montreal, Canada, and Halifax, Nova Scotia, when practicable. Cargo shipments were also made from other ports on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

On May 25, 198, the water transport branch of the Quartermaster's Department was transferred and made a part of the Embarkation Service.

In April conditions abroad necessitated the speeding up shipments of troops, and brought to the service such transports as the British Government could spare for the purpose, which have been continued in use. The army transports are officered and manned by the navy, as is the greater number of the cargo ships. The arrangements for transferring ships to naval control as well as for convoys for troop and cargo ships are handled through the Chief of Operations of the navy, who has given every assistance. The way in which the work has been handled by the navy is shown by the loss of no troop ships which were under their protection on the eastbound trips.

Inland Traffie.--The inland traffic service was established on January 10, 1918. As the government had taken over all of the railroads, the necessity for working in harmony with the organization that was placed in charge was apparent, and the Railroad Administration was requested to recommend a competent traffic man to handle the work. This resulted in the selection and assignment of Mr. H. M. Adams as chief of the section. He in turn secured his expert assistants through the Railroad Administration.

At the time the section was formed approximately 115,000 carloads of War Department property held in cars were congesting various Atlantic ports. Steps were taken which relieved this condition and brought about an orderly movement of the traffic when and in the quantities desired. The value of the inland traffic service was soon demonstrated and led to a reorganization, with authority to take over the transportation organizations of the various bureaus of the War Department, both at Washington and throughout the country, so that as now organized the chief of the inland traffic service exercises direct control of the transportation of troops, of the supplies of and for the various bureaus of the War Department, and for the contractors working for the several bureaus. This control extends over the entire country through the medium of representatives stationed at various traffic centers.

Working in conjunction with the Railroad Administration has resulted in minimizing the burdens of the carriers. The work has been performed most efficiently. More than 5,000,000 troops have been moved from their homes, from one camp to another, and from camps to the points of embarkation within the period covered by this report.

Arrangements have been made by which this branch will take charge of all express movements for the War Department, as well as the tracing of the movements of all War Department property, including the contractors and others for the various bureaus.

Purchase and Supply.—The Purchase and Supply Branch is organized into the following subsections: Supply Program, Purchase, Production, Finance, and Emergency.


The Military Intelligence Division has as director Brigadier-General Marlborough Churchill, United States army, Assistant Chief of Staff. This division, which had been a branch; first of the War PIans Division and then of the Executive Division of the General Staff, was separated completely and made an independent division by general orders which reorganized the General Staff, thus putting the Military Intelligence Division on a par with similar services of general staffs of other nations of the world.

The duties of the Military Intelligence Division consist, in general, in the organization of the intelligence service, positive and negative, including the collection and co-ordination of military information; the supervision of the department intelligence officers and intelligence officers at posts, stations, camps, and with commands in the field, in matters relating to military intelligence; the direction of counter-espionage work; the preparation of instruction in military intelligence work for the use of our forces; the consideration of questions of policy promulgated by the General Staff in all matters of military intelligence; the co-operation with intelligence branches

Plans Division has supervision of training in general and has kept in touch by inspections by its officers with methods used and progress made.

The Legislative, Regulations, and Rules Branch of the War Plans Division has handled numerous changes in Army Regulations and War Department orders made necessary by the present emergency, and has considered bills before Congress pertaining to the army.

The Historical Branch of the General Staff was organized March 5, 1918, to collect and compile the records pertaining to the war under the approved policy, and satisfactory progress is being made. To June 30, 1918, 67,022 photographs and 2,590 feet of motion-picture film had been received.

The Inventions Sections was organized April 16, 1918. This section has taken over from the different agencies of the government the preliminary consideration of inventions and ideas of inventions of a military nature, with a view to placing before the proper bureaus of the War Department those having sufficient military value to warrant test and development at the expense of the government. From April 16, 1918, to June 30, 1918, 4,645 cases were handled, a number of which were of exceptional merit and have already been put to use.

The work of the Inventions Section is not the development of ideas or inventions, but is to give them such preliminary study and consideration as to determine whether or not development should be pursued, and to forward them, if the consideration has been favorable, to such agencies as are particularly interested in the development and have the necessary funds for the purpose.

The Chief of Staff has as his principal assistant Major-General Frank McIntyre, United States army, who acts as executive officer for the General Staff and also for the Chief of Staff in his absence.

Beside the General Staff divisions which have been referred to in the foregoing, there has been established in the General Staff a Morale Section, under charge of Brigadier-General E. L. Munson, United States army, which has for its object primarily the stimulation of morale throughout the army, and maintaining a close connection and liaison with similar activities in civil life. This section had only gotten fairly into operation before the signing of the armistice, but had already shown its value as a military asset.

Another important addition to the organization of the General Staff has been the establishment of a Personnel Section, under charge of Brigadier-General P. P. Bishop, United States army. In this section has been consolidated the handling of appointments, promotions, and commissions of the entire official personnel of the United States army. This section has proved to be of the greatest value and has come to stay... .

The signing of the armistice has interrupted the conclusion of the organization now under way for the consolidation of Procurement and Storage under the Di-rector of Purchase, Storage, and Traffic, but the principle is sound from the standpoint of organization and extremely economical in its results.

In addition to the changes indicated in the foregoing, a number of entirely new organizations have been created in the War Department. The handling of production and personnel pertaining to the Gas Service, which I found was scattered among four different staff bureaus, was consolidated in the Chemical Warfare Service and placed under the charge of Major-General William L. Sibert, United States army, with a resulting marked in-crease in efficiency of the service itself.

A similar consolidation of all the motor-transport facilities, which were scattered throughout the various sup-ply bureaus of the government, into a Motor Transport Corps, under Brigadier-General Charles B. Drake, United States army, has placed this important development of modern warfare under a sound organization.

The organization of these services in the United States was accompanied by similiar organizations in the American Expeditionary Force in France.

The supply of officers for the very large military program has been throughout one of the most important problems which confronted the General Staff. I have already indicated in the statement of the functions of the Operations Division of the General Staff the organization of central training camps for officers throughout the United States. When, however, we embarked upon the final program of placing eighty divisions. in France and eighteen at home by June 30, 1919, which involved an army of approximately 4,800,000, the problem of the supply of officers became so serious that an understanding was obtained with the great mass of educational institutions throughout the United States, resulting in the development of the Student Army Training Corps. This scheme absorbed for military purposes the academic plants of some 518 colleges and universities throughout the country, and for vocational training in the army-embraced some eighty more. This corps was put under the charge of Brigadier-General Robert I. Rees, United States army, and in its development we have had the energetic co-operation of college presidents and responsible college authorities throughout the entire United States. At the same time, in order to increase the sup-ply of officers, the course at West Point was cut down to one year's intensive training, with the idea of placing at the disposal of the government I,000 officers a year graduated from that extremely efficient plant rather than the graduation of about 200, which had been the case previously throughout the war.

The separation of the Air Service from the Signal Corps, under the provisions of the Overman bill, and the establishment of a Bureau of Military Aeronautics, under Major-General William L. Kenly, United States army, and of a Bureau of Aircraft Production, under Mr. John D. Ryan, marked an extremely important step forward in the development of this portion of the Military Establishment. The armistice closes out this mat-ter with the two branches of the Air Service in a state of marked efficiency and establishes unquestionably the necessity for the permanent separation of the Air Service from the Signal Corps in the reorganization of the army.

During this period another new agency created in the War Department by Executive order was the office of the Chief of Field Artillery. This office has been filled by Major-General William J. Snow, United States army. This establishment was accompanied by the creation in the American Expeditionary Force in France of the office of Chief of Artillery on General Pershing's staff, having similar relation to all the artillery of the Expeditionary Force which the Chief of Field Artillery has toward the mobile artillery at home. The work of this office has been accompanied by a marked increase in the efficiency of the training system in the various Field Artillery camps, and the office itself has proved to be of distinct value.

I have directed the divisions of the General Staff concerned to study and submit for your consideration a plan for the reorganization of our army, which will take ad-vantage of our experience in this war, which has brought about many changes in organization of all arms of the service, and has developed new arms not known when the war started. The Air Service, the Tank Corps, the development of heavy mobile artillery, the proper organization of divisions, corps, and armies, all will be set forth in the scheme which will be submitted to you with the recommendation that it be transmitted for the consideration of Congress.

The conduct of the American troops in France, their progressive development in military experience and ability, the fine staff work, and the modesty and gallantry of the individual soldier is a matter of pride to all Americans. General Pershing and his command have earned the thanks of the American people.

The work of General Tasker H. Bliss as military representative of the War Department with the American Section of the Supreme War Council at Versailles has been of the greatest value to the War Department.

I can not close this report without making of record the appreciation of the War Department of the work of the many trained and patriotic officers of the army whom the destiny of war did not call to France. These officers, forced to remain behind in the United States by the imperative necessity of having trained men to keep the machine moving, have kept up their work with such intelligence, zeal, and devotion to duty as to show a high order of patriotism. The officers and men who have not been able on account of the armistice to be transported to France deserve also, with their comrades in France, the thanks of the Amercian people.

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