Chronicle of a Generation
Training Camps in World War I
Raymond Blaine Fosdick
THOSE of us who crowded into the Capitol on the evening of April z, 1917—and few of us are left—to hear Woodrow Wilson deliver his great war address before the joint session of Congress will never forget the impact of his moving eloquence.
We shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts—for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free.
Forty years later it is difficult to recapture the mood of dedication and crusade which his words inspired. The nation was united behind a compelling ideal. Before us stretched a shining prospect, and it seemed as if our generation by some divine providence had been specially chosen for great and determining events.
A few days later I ran into Lillian Wald in the railroad station in Washington. With Jane Addams she had gone to the White House on a hopeless mission, and there were tears in her eyes and she looked distraught. Placing her hands on my arms in a
(143) characteristic gesture she said: "Raymond, this is wicked, wicked. It must somehow be stopped." She was thinking of the long future and saw it in a different and perhaps truer perspective; and I have always regretted the impatience and exasperation with which I shook her off. But at the moment I had little time for such thoughts, for Baker had sent for me, and I was on my way to make a study of military training camps in Canada.
Back again in Washington, a few weeks later, I reported to the Secretary, and we drew up a plan, which we discussed with the President, for the creation of a Commission on Training Camp Activities. In later years, with his characteristic generosity, Baker was inclined to give me the credit for the genesis of the idea, but while I may have contributed to his thinking by my reports on Canada and the Mexican border, it was his grasp and creative imagination which put the plan together. He had been mayor of a large city, and as a result of a lifetime of work with social agencies he had a sympathetic understanding of the problems of youth. "We will accept as the fundamental concept of our work," he wrote me, "the fact which every social worker knows to be true, that young men spontaneously prefer to be decent, and that opportunities for wholesome recreation are the best possible cure for irregularities in conduct which arise from idleness and the baser temptations."
The Commission on Training Camp Activities on which I served as chairman was launched, therefore, with the single purpose—and again I use Baker's words—"of rationalizing as far as it can be done the bewildering environments of a war camp." It was a commission of nine members representing different interests or specialties which we thought might prove useful: Lee F. Hanmer, Thomas J. Howells, Joseph Lee, Malcolm McBride, John R. Mott, Charles P. Neill, Lt. Col. Palmer E. Pierce, and Joseph E. Raycroft. Shortly thereafter, at the suggestion of the President, the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus
(144) Daniels, appointed a Commission on Training Camp Activities to serve the Navy, and I became the chairman of this commission also, although there were some variations in personnel between the two bodies. However for all practical purposes the two organizations were one, and they turned out to be the most completely harmonious and certainly the most devoted and hard working groups with which I was ever associated. Around their efforts in the next two years was built what the Survey Magazine later called "the most stupendous piece of social work in modern times."
We were organized before the Military Draft Act was passed and before the camps had been created for the reception of the troops. Starting in a small office in the State, War and Navy Building, with my secretary and myself as its only occupants, we shortly were moved to larger quarters in the old Patent Office Building, then to a four-story apartment house near the War Department, and finally to a building which the government erected for us on Virginia Avenue—a building which, alone of all the temporary structures of the First World War, is still standing today. Beginning with one secretary we ended with a staff numbering in the thousands, located not only in Washington, but across the country and in Europe.
The complexion of our early work was determined—unexpectedly for me—by two sections of the Military Draft Act: sections 12 and 13, which were to have far reaching and unforeseen consequences. They prohibited the sale of liquor to men in uniform, and they gave the President the power to establish, around all military camps, broad zones in which prostitution was outlawed. At the request of the Secretary of War I appeared before the committees that were framing the act and testified about the conditions I had found on the Mexican border. As a result of a directive by the President the responsibility for overseeing the enforcement of these two sections of the law was
(145) given to the twin Commissions on Training Camp Activities. I would have preferred to have the positive side of our work take precedence over the negative aspects, but there was no choice, and we were launched into a resounding battle.
Our first problem was personnel. Fortunately as head of our new Law Enforcement Division we secured the services of Bascom Johnson, attorney for the American Social Hygiene Association. With his advice we recruited a group of forty young men—mostly lawyers—who were given commissions as lieutenants in the Sanitary Corps of the Surgeon General's office. Johnson became a major, and our approach to the problem, therefore, was not through civilians, but through men in uniform who could speak effectively for the armed forces. We divided the country into ten districts, each in charge of an officer who directed the activities of our fixed-post agents in army and navy camps.
The first movement in the campaign was a vigorous letter which Secretary Baker sent to the governors of all the states.
Our responsibility in this matter is not open to question. We cannot allow these young men, most of whom will have been drafted to service, to be surrounded by a vicious and demoralizing environment; nor can we leave anything undone which will protect them from unhealthy influences.... From the standpoint of our duty and our determination to create an efficient army, we are bound, as a military necessity, to do everything in our power to promote the health and conserve the vitality of the men in the training camps. I am determined that these camps, as well as the surrounding zones within an effective radius, shall not be places of temptation and peril.
The War Department intends to do its full part in these matters, but we expect the cooperation and support of the local communities. If the desired end cannot otherwise be achieved, I
(146) propose to move the camps from those neighborhoods in which clean conditions cannot be secured.
Baker's letter had an electric effect, and under the pressure of local opinion some of the more sordid places began to disappear. But it was by no means a uniform movement, and our law enforcement officers whose primary job was "to prod the communities" reported the existence of considerable skepticism in regard to the serious intentions of the Federal government. Mayors and sheriffs were asking whether this was not an "idealistic program" put out for popular consumption. Even army and navy officers questioned it. A general in charge of a southern camp boldly wrote to the Board of Public Safety of a neighboring city to the effect that a segregated district was the best way to handle prostitution and the way most satisfactory to him.
It took sharp measures to bring home to the local communities and the armed forces that the War and Navy Departments were in earnest. Seattle, Washington, and Birmingham, Alabama, were put out of bounds for soldiers and sailors until the two cities cleaned up. Philadelphia, which perhaps gave us more trouble than any other city in the United States, was finally brought to terms only when Secretary Daniels put in a large squad of marines to patrol the streets. San Antonio, Texas, succumbed when Secretary Baker threatened to move the troops. New Orleans, whose notorious red light district, covering twenty-eight city blocks, had not been disturbed in more than half a century, put up a strenuous fight, and the mayor of the city made two trips to Washington to argue with us about "the God-given right of men to be men." It was not until November, 1917, that the district was ultimately closed, and the incident was noted throughout the country as a final and complete indication of the government's attitude. Never there-
(147) after was its sincerity in this matter questioned.
Once the tide began to turn, communities that were not included in military zones and were thus under no legal obligation to conform started cleaning house. Our argument had been not primarily one of morals, but of military necessity, for in those pre-penicillin days venereal disease was a far more crippling disability than it is now. We therefore hammered home, through the agency of a Social Hygiene Division which we created, the historic drag of this affliction on the efficiency of fighting forces. "Fit to fight" became a slogan which swept across the country, and by the end of 1917 I was able to report to the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy that every red light district in the United States had been closed —a hundred and ten of them; that the venereal disease rate was the lowest in our military history; and that drunkenness among the troops on leave no longer represented a serious situation.
Of course the problem was a constant one which required eternal vigilance, and our Law Enforcement Division was active throughout the war. We found that the so-called "charity girls" who haunted the fringes of the camps were often carriers of venereal disease; and to meet this problem we added a section on women and girls under the inspired direction of Mrs. Jane Deeter Rippin, whose organization included nine district supervisors and nearly 15o field workers, all of them trained women, stationed in the vicinity of the camps. This activity created another problem—the question of the custody and rehabilitation of the girls whose commitment to institutions was found necessary. The jails were full, and the local authorities were unable to handle those sent to them by the courts. I remember a personal inspection of a woman's prison in Newport News, Virginia, where every single inch of floor space on three floors was covered with mattresses in an attempt to provide for the
(148) inmates. At Baker's request, the President gave us $250,000 from his war emergency fund to add additional institutional facilities, and we set up in our Commission a new section on reformatories and detention houses, under Mrs. Martha Falconer, to guide us in this difficult field.
All this work was absorbing and at times spectacular, but my real concern was the positive part of the program which I had dreamed about on the Mexican border, and in which Secretary Baker so deeply believed. At the first meeting of our Commission in April, 1917, I brought forward a tentative plan to invite the cooperation of three organizations to help in providing an adequate leisure-time program for the troops in the training camps: the Y.M.C.A., the American Library Association, and the Playground and Recreation Association (afterward known as the War Camp Community Service). We had come firmly to the conclusion that we wanted to work through existing agencies, and that we would create additional machinery only when necessary. The Y.M.C.A., after its experience on the Mexican border, was ready with an extensive program to build and administer the club houses and recreation centers we wanted in the training areas. The American Library Association could supply the millions of books, magazines and newspapers that would be required. The War Camp Community Service could develop the social and recreational assets of the neighboring cities, towns and villages to which the soldiers would naturally go when on leave.
At this first meeting we made a miscalculation which in my opinion was to have unhappy consequences. Baker and I had assumed—and I think that most of my associates on the Commission shared the assumption—that the approach of the Y.M.C.A. to its work in the camps would be nonsectarian. We
(149) thought that it would represent an American contribution without relation to creed or any other divisive factor. Indeed its unique position was recognized by the President's executive order issued after our meeting in which he characterized the organization as "an adjunct to the Service." It was with dismay, therefore, that I learned that the Y.M.C.A. had no real Catholic representation on its newly-formed War Work Council. My reaction was that it was an inadvertence, but I was told that the omission was "a necessity." Secretary Baker, who was as disturbed about the development as I was, immediately called a conference in the War Department, and made a strong appeal to the Y.M.C.A. representatives to have the decision reversed. He pointed out that otherwise it would be necessary to admit to the training camps a Catholic organization, probably a Jewish organization, and perhaps, indeed, other branches of the Protestant faith, like the Unitarians, which were not affiliated with the Y.M.C.A. The result would be a sectarian emphasis out of keeping with the work to be done or with the spirit of unity and cohesion which the government desired above all else to inculcate in the new army.
But the Y.M.C.A. representatives could not be swayed. They said that however much they might themselves desire it, they could not carry their wide-flung constituency with them. Under the circumstances we seemed to have no choice, and we decided that the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization, whose application for admission to the camps was pending before our Commission, should be included in the program.
I have always believed that the decision was inevitable but unfortunate. This is not said in any disparagement of the work of the Knights of Columbus or of the Jewish Welfare Board, whose representatives came into the training camps to share the activities of the Y.M.C.A. But in later months when I saw the three emblems—"K of C," "JWB" and "YMCA" so con-
(150) -spicuously displayed on huts, stationery, and even boxes of candy, I felt that this stratification struck a discordant note in an army whose soldiers were fighting as Americans, not as Catholics, Jews or Protestants. Nevertheless these three organizations did a superb job in providing the clubs ( generally called huts) and other recreational centers and activities not only in the training camps of the United States but in the areas behind the lines in France.
Early in our work, another organization—the Y.W.C.A. came forward with the imaginative idea of building in each camp a "hostess house" where the soldiers and sailors could meet their families and their girls under normal homelike conditions. The idea was received by the General Staff with a hoot of derision, but I had seen the mothers, sisters, and sweethearts of the troops standing desolately around the windy corners of the camps, or sitting on planks or cracker-boxes in the rain, waiting to see their men. It seemed to me that a hostess house, located near the entrance of the camp, with its comfortable appointments, large fireplaces, and adequate cafeteria, would be a profoundly normalizing influence in the environment of the troops. In spite of considerable military opposition based on a general dislike of having women "cluttering up the army," we tried it out at the training camp at Plattsburg, where it was an immediate and dramatic success. "Someday you will wear a halo," said a gruff old general to the Y.W.C.A. hostess, as he admitted his conversion to the "newfangled feminism" which he had strongly opposed; and the news spread so rapidly that soon I began to receive indignant telegrams from commanding officers in the various camps, the general tenor of which was: "Where is my hostess house?"
Equally effective and almost as dramatic was the work of the American Library Association in building well-equipped libraries, with attractive reading rooms, in all the large army and
(151) navy camps in the United States. They were staffed with experienced librarians, and as I told the House Military Affairs Committee: "Here [in these libraries] any book that a man wants can be had, whether it's a particular detective story or a technical book on engineering. Or if a soldier just wants to browse through the shelves he can browse. Or he can read the magazines and newspapers. Or if he wants to, he can find a comfortable chair to go to sleep in."
The work of the War Camp Community Service in mobilizing the hospitality and recreational facilities of the towns in the neighborhood of military establishments was another spectacular performance. The soldier on leave—even if his time off is limited to an hour or two—has an instinctive desire to get out of camp and "go to town." I saw it on the Mexican border and we knew it would be true of the new cantonments. With a high degree of imagination, therefore, the chambers of commerce, boards of trade, Rotary Clubs, churches, and fraternal groups, were organized behind a far flung attempt to make the communities attractive to the troops. There were club houses where the soldiers and sailors could write letters, play cards or read, billiards and pool places, gymnasiums, shower-baths, informal dances, and, above all, an opportunity to visit in friendly homes. "Take a soldier home for dinner" became a national slogan, and on Sundays in a single community as many as five thousand men were thus entertained. The facilities of over "two hundred cities and towns were mobilized behind this multifarious program, with thousands of volunteer workers enlisted in the enterprise.
In all this work, carried on through private agencies both inside and outside the camps, the costs were borne by the agencies themselves, which raised millions of dollars for the purpose from private contributions. It took another generation and the outbreak of another war to obtain public support for
(152) the idea that club houses and books and many of the other factors that make for a rounded life within the limits of our military establishments are an essential part of the nation's direct responsibility toward its troops.
Meanwhile, apart from its task of coordinating the work of the private societies, the Commission on Training Camp Activities was engaged in pursuits which could not be farmed out to an existing agency, but which represented an essential supplementation of the total program. For one thing, we were asked by the War Department to run the post exchanges in the new camps—stores where the troops could buy anything from candy, cake, doughnuts and milk to razor blades, magazines, newspapers and stationery. Inasmuch as there were from eleven to sixteen of these post exchanges in each camp, the undertaking represented a gigantic business responsibility, requiring the services of men specially trained in merchandising. We chose these men with scrupulous care, and the enterprise, which involved many difficulties and headaches, was carried to a successful conclusion.
Another of the Commission's projects involved the building and operation of the forty-two Liberty theaters that were erected in the camps, seating from one thousand to three thousand people. For the physical construction including scenery, drop-curtains and special lighting apparatus, Congress appropriated $1,500,000, although it required several appearances before the congressional committees to break down resistance to what was regarded as an unnecessary "frill." Our main task, however, was to organize a circuit or booking office
(153) to keep the theaters in constant operation. For that purpose Secretary Baker appointed Marc Klaw, the theatrical manager, to membership on the Commission, and we selected a special committee to assist him made up of men like David Belasco, Lee Shubert, Arthur Hammerstein, George M. Cohan and Irving Berlin. A regular booking office was established, and theatrical companies were engaged and routed from camp to camp on a percentage basis of the gross box-office receipts. The cordial cooperation of the theatrical profession is shown by the fact that the leading actors and actresses of Broadway played at the Liberty theaters in such well-known current successes as Fair and Warmer, Turn to the Right, Here Comes the Bride, Her Soldier Boy and Furs and Frills. Vaudeville and movies were also included in the booking arrangements.
To raise funds to enable the theaters to start operations and to finance companies for the camp circuit, the Commission launched the so-called Smileage Book campaign, and booklets containing coupons exchangeable for tickets for the troops at the camp theaters were placed on sale to the public. It corresponded to the advance sale of theater tickets—good until used. Although I was somewhat skeptical about this last venture, it turned out to be enormously successful, bringing in around $3,000,000, and making the Liberty theaters one of the outstanding sources of entertainment in the military establishments.
Still another venture of our Commission was an idea we borrowed from the British army: the appointment of an athletic director in every training camp. Far more than we did, the British understood the relaxing and therapeutic effect of vigorous games, and only a month earlier, at the conclusion of the dreadful struggle for Vimy Ridge, they had had their men playing football almost before the battlefield was cleared. I had, myself, in the early days of the war, seen the invigorating
(154) effect of a baseball game on an exhausted squad of raw recruits returning to camp after a long hike. We came to the conclusion, therefore, not only that athletic supplies in quantity were necessary for the new army, but also that the administration of a carefully planned program should be in the hands of competent experts in each camp.
The program was in charge of Joseph E. Raycroft, a member of the Commission, and the results were beyond our expectations. "Never before in the history of this country," wrote a newspaper sports editor, "have so large a number of men engaged in athletics. Every kind of sport is involved—football, baseball, basket ball, volley ball, push ball, medicine ball, soccer, track and field athletics, and particularly boxing. Everybody's boxing, even the mountaineers and the boys from the farm who never saw a pair of boxing gloves in their lives. Men are learning to get bumped and not mind it. They eat it up." That was the spirit and the kind of army we wanted.
One final activity of our Commission deserves mention, and it was an activity in which I was especially interested. Four years earlier when I was in Europe—and this, of course, was before the war—I was fascinated by the singing of the German regiments as they swung along the country roads on their practice marches. There was a spontaneity and lift to it, and one got the impression that it brought a relief from tension and eased the long miles under heavy packs.
"Why shouldn't our army sing?" I said to Baker as I recounted my impressions.
"Let's give it a try," he replied, "although I warn you the suggestion will not be enthusiastically received by the General Staff."
With this encouragement we developed the idea of placing a carefully selected song leader in every army and navy camp
(155) in the country. As a matter of precaution we first tried it out in a small ambulance corps camp in Pennsylvania. I had already talked to the commanding officer about the proposal, and he had expressed an interest in it. "Magnificent success," he wired me after two weeks. "Nothing like it in my experience." And from General Leonard Wood, a few weeks later, came the message: "There isn't anything in the world, even letters from home, that will raise a soldier's spirits like a good catchy marching tune."
Not even the hostess houses caught on so rapidly. Under the spirited leadership of Lee Hanmer, a member of the Commission, we recruited our staff of song leaders, and within weeks they were assigned to the camps. The singing generally started in a barracks, a recreation hut or in one of the Liberty theaters, with the song coach on the platform; and often there would be an awkward beginning—a reluctance on the part of the soldiers to let themselves go. The leader generally began with Tipperary, the favorite British military song, which was popular here in America at the time. Then he would get the boys to singing Madelon, the French marching song ( with English words) . Then the old favorites would be called for—John Brown's Body ( they afterward often used the words of the Battle Hymn of the Republic to this tune), Old Black Joe, Swanee River and Roll Jordan Roll. And of course ultimately the army sang Over There, Keep the Home Fires Burning, There's a Long, Long, Trail, Keep Your Head Down Allemand, and Pack up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag. The stuttering song, K-K-K Katy, was another favorite and
Good morning, Mr. Zip, Zip, Zip,
With your haircut just as short as mine.
As one of the song leaders reported, "singing seemed to
(156) spread through the camp like a fire." It was soon discovered that a single song leader was not enough, and regimental and company leaders were selected from their own outfits and given a course of training. What the doughboy sang troubled him little. He had no need to relate his song to anything in the world but his own free-swinging soul, and he chose surely and well—sturdy old hymns for his more solemn moments, national anthems for ceremonial needs, old favorites for sentiment's sake, and for relaxed periods, gloriously bawdy songs like the extemporized verses of Mademoiselle from Armentières, which he sang in France. "The memory of those batteries," wrote an officer later, "singing as they hiked to drill each morning, noon, and before retreat, will be cherished as one of the most inspiring incidents of Camp Taylor."
My chief memory of this activity goes back to a night at Camp Meade when thousands of men, led by a song coach standing on a thirty-foot platform, and supported by massed military bands, sang:
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword.
His truth is marching on.
Tears were streaming down the cheeks of tough, old General Joseph E. Kuhn, the commanding officer. "Never in my life," he said to me, "have I heard anything like this." And I remember another scene—in France, east of Chateau-Thierry—when an American regiment came swinging down the road to reinforce a dangerously sagging position at the front. As a kind of stunt they had fastened to their helmets bunches of the poppies that grow wild in French fields, and the song they sang with
(157) joyous abandon as they marched was:
Hail, hail, the gang's all here;
What the hell do we care now!
It has always seemed odd that there was no such singing among our troops in the Second World War. But the mood had changed. For us World War I was a high adventure, a crusade with a compelling purpose. But World War II was a grim job that had to be done, and it enlisted nothing like the eagerness or the fervor of the earlier struggle. Moreover in the period between the two wars the weapons had become far more deadly. You don't sing when you toss block-busters on darkened cities or drop atomic bombs.
President Wilson described the function of the Commission on Training Camp Activities in better words than I can. "The Federal Government," he wrote, referring to the Commission, "has pledged its word that as far as care and vigilance can accomplish the result, the men committed to its charge will be returned to the homes and communities which so generously gave them with no scars except those won in honorable warfare."
From the start the President was deeply and personally interested in our work, and I was probably closer to him during this period than at any other time. He frequently wrote me letters about our activities and I often conferred with him at the White House. Although I was responsible directly to the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy, in this one respect, at least, the President never bothered about official channels. He would ask me to come to see him or he would write me personally with suggestions or complaints that had been brought to his
(158) attention. Often these letters he typed on his own typewriter at night. He was concerned, for example, about the problem of race discrimination in the armed forces at Newport News. At another time he thought that we were not giving sufficient attention to the new possibilities of moving pictures. One of his letters, I recall, had to do with an actress whom he had seen at Keith's theater the night before. The light touch of vaudeville always relaxed him, and he was a frequent attendant at Keith's. His suggestion was that this particular actress might be a successful addition to our theater program in the camps. I am sorry I cannot recall her name, and his letter to me has disappeared. We booked her, of course, and as I remember it she proved to be in great demand, although her artistic temperament involved us in endless difficulties. Perhaps I should add that her name was not Elsie Janis, who later in France endeared herself to the entire American Army.
The person who really gave zest and direction to our Commission was Secretary Baker. He was the most satisfactory man to work with whom I have ever known. Endowed with a crisp, incisive mind, he had a power of analysis and a capacity for lucid statement which shone through every letter he wrote and every speech he made. I remember sitting up all one night with Colonel Leonard Ayres, chief of the statistical division of the General Staff, working on a complicated statement that had to be ready for the Secretary's signature in the morning. I don't recall what it was about, but it was a complex tangle of facts that proved difficult to unravel and clarify. Tired out but feeling a bit triumphant we laid our product before Baker. It was a subject with which he was completely unfamiliar. "Well, boys," he said after he read it, "that's all right, but if you don't mind, as long as it's going out over my signature, I'll put it in my own words." Calling his stenographer, and never glancing at our draft again, he rapidly dictated a statement that was so
(159) much clearer and better organized than ours that comparison was odious. "What's the use?" Ayres whispered to me as we left the room. "Nobody can keep up with him."
Baker looked like a quiet type of student, but his looks were deceptive. Beneath a scholar's mien he had a will like iron and an ability to say "No" in a soft tone that left no doubt in the hearer's mind that the question was definitely settled. Perhaps the fact that he was the son of one of Jeb Stuart's tough old troopers had something to do with the matter. The spirit of decision was never ostentatious, but everybody knew that Baker's hand was on the rudder. They were no pigmy figures, those men with whom he was surrounded in the War Department. The Army does not turn out that type of man. There were Bliss and March, as Chiefs of Staff, both of them powerful characters—the latter, especially, endowed with dynamic energy and drive. There was Crowder who ran the draft act, and Crozier in charge of the Artillery. There was Pershing overseas who spoke from the shoulder and was accustomed to authority. And among them moved Baker, physically a little man, who never was ruffled and who never raised his voice, but who intellectually was the acknowledged master of them all.
It was indeed an amazing performance. Here was a little fellow who came from Cleveland, relatively unknown outside of Ohio. In his first interview with the press he was put down as a spineless pacifist who would last but a few months, and the nickname "Newty Cootie" was given to him in derision. By sheer force of character, by the incisiveness and clarity of his mind, he not only gained the support of the Army, but he mastered the administration of the largest collective enterprise in which this country up to that time had been involved.
We who were part of his official family and saw him at close range knew the stuff he was made of. He was the type of man
(160) who never wanted credit when things went right. On those occasions it was always somebody else who was responsible—it was Pershing, it was Bliss, it was March. But if things went wrong, as they frequently did in the conduct of so gigantic an enterprise, then as Secretary of War he insisted on assuming entire responsibility. The Leonard Wood incident is a case in point. Pershing did not want him overseas, and Baker, whose single policy was to support Pershing, issued an order detaching Wood from his division when it went to France. From one end of the country to the other condemnation rained down on Baker's head for keeping a gallant officer at home. A word from Baker that it was done at Pershing's request would have quieted the storm, for the country was anxious to support the commanding general in the field, and would have been inclined to forgive in him even what they might have believed was a mistaken policy. One night I said to Baker:
"Why on earth don't you give the country the truth about this business?"
"Pershing has troubles enough of his own," he replied, "and what's a Secretary of War for if it isn't to take the gaff?"
That was Baker. He was always serene, never excited, never harrassed. Even when things were blackest—when for example he was himself the target of cruel, baseless charges, and the speeches in Congress rang with abuse—he never lost his temper or his equanimity. He was entirely without cynicism. His spirit was cast in too large a mold for pettiness or vanity. In those midnight hours when what he laughingly called his "kitchen cabinet" foregathered in his office to discuss the events of the day, he was at his best. With his feet on the desk and a fresh load of tobacco in his pipe he would throw off administrative cares and take on the role that really suited him—a scholar interested in books and ideas, a philosopher who hated the pomp and circumstance of the task allotted him, and who had the
(161) rare capacity to sit back and contemplate himself and the world with quiet humor.
Always he avoided the limelight. He was one of those rare figures in public life who preferred anonymity. When with others of his official family I came back from France with him on the George Washington in May, 1919, the ship carried over 6000 troops, and we went aboard from a lighter in the harbor at Brest. The troops had preceded us and as we stood at attention at the head of the gangplank while the band played the national anthem, I was conscious of hundreds of faces peering down from the vast wall of the ship—the faces of doughboys eager to see the "Big Chief." It reminded me of that moment five years before, when Teddy Roosevelt, under identical circumstances, had evoked such spontaneous enthusiasm. But Baker never looked up and we were piped aboard without a gesture on his part.
"What's the matter with you?" I demanded. "Why didn't you wave your hat? Didn't you see they were itching to cheer you?"
"I was afraid they would," he replied.
My relations with the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels, were always cordial but never as intimate as with Baker. Daniels was a man of sterling qualities and high ideals, and there was such an affectionate, fatherly attitude about him that those of us who worked with him regarded him with genuine fondness. But he was an indifferent administrator and he lacked the crispness and decision of Baker. Often the same problem arose in relation to both the Army and the Navy commissions and it would be necessary for me personally to consult the two secretaries. From Baker I could always get an immediate and definite answer, framed in words that admitted of no
(162) misunderstanding. Crossing to Daniels' office on the other side of the State, War and Navy Building, I would be met affably and courteously, but more often than not with the reply: "Raymond, come in and see me about this tomorrow. I want to think it over." And inevitably tomorrow would lead to other tomorrows. Sometimes when the delay proved embarrassing I would take the matter up with the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt—Frank, we called him in those days. A young man of great personal charm, he seemed to have something of Baker's capacity for decision, without the maturity or the scholarly background of the Secretary of War. Certainly he was of genuine help to me in my relations with the Navy, and while at that time I did not know him as well as I knew him later, we occasionally played tennis together on the White House court.
I remember particularly my concern over the fact that the venereal disease rate of the Navy was considerably higher than that of the Army, and I was confident that the discrepancy was due to the Navy's failure to install the system of medical prophylaxis after exposure—a system which had been enforced in the Army for several years. My presentation of the case to Daniels, however, got me nowhere. He felt that prophylaxis was, as he expressed it, "an invitation to sin" which he could not countenance. My argument was that the "sin"—if there was any—lay in the Navy's neglect of a scientific weapon to check the incidence of venereal disease. One day Daniels said to me, as if in despair, for I was pressing him hard, and so were the Navy doctors: "I wish I didn't have to make the decision." A few days later he left on an inspection trip, and Roosevelt was Acting Secretary of the Navy. I immediately took the situation up with him and told him of Daniel's remark.
"In that case," he said, "I'll make the decision myself," and
(163) he signed the order. Its effect on the venereal disease rate was soon apparent.
As a matter of fact, Daniels, so far from resenting it, appeared greatly relieved by Roosevelt's action. He was always loyal to his young associate, and while Roosevelt, in his talks with me, was occasionally critical of his chief—for the same reasons that I was—it was obvious that the two men held each other in respect and affection.
Another man entered my life at this time—an engaging young chap, slightly younger than I, whom Daniels had appointed as a member of the Navy Commission on Training Camp Activities. His name was Richard E. Byrd and he was a lieutenant not long out of Annapolis. He had injured his leg in a gymnasium accident, and much to his chagrin had been disqualified for active service. Consequently he landed a "desk job" in our Commission and we made him Executive Secretary.
He turned out to be a ball of fire, full of ideas and energy, eager, tireless, and up to his ears in work. But always in the back of his mind was the consuming ambition to get back into active service—particularly into the recently developed aeronautical branch of the Navy. Finally by dint of persistence he got the doctors to pass him and joined up with the new air pilots training base at Pensacola. I let him go with genuine regret, for we had become close friends, a friendship that became firmer with the years and lasted until his death in 1957. Nobody could have foreseen in those early days that this slim, handsome, ambitious young lieutenant would write his name in immortal letters, and take an airplane to both ends of the planet where no airplane had ever been before.
General Peyton C. March, the Army Chief of Staff, was another arresting figure with whom I had considerable contact. Appointed to his position by Baker early in 1918, after
(164) the war was well under way, he brought to his task an almost incredible energy. He worked sixteen hours a day and he expected his associates to keep the same pace. He was tireless, ruthless and abrupt, and the conventional amenities did not occupy much of his time. Baker once laughingly remarked that his chief job was to go around with a cruse of oil and a bandage to fix up the wounds which the General had inflicted. On the margin of March's first despatch to Pershing, Baker scribbled: "A perfect example of how not to send a message to General Pershing."
My own relations with March got off to a stormy start. Shortly after he took office he sent for me and without any preliminaries demanded to know how many athletic coaches and song leaders we had in the camps. I told him and he snapped:
"We're not running a circus or a grand opera. Take them out."
Never did my civilian status prove more useful. I didn't even try to control my temper.
"Those men were put there by the authority of the Secretary of War," I told him, "and they'll be taken out by the same authority." And I left the room.
"From what zoo did you get him?" I growled at Baker. He smiled indulgently and said: "I'll handle it." And I never heard of the matter again.
Just the same, in spite of these rough edges, and perhaps in part because of them, March's contribution to the war effort was outstanding. Nobody who was in a position to see the inside working of the machinery could fail to appreciate the vitalizing effect of his indefatigable vigor and despatch. Probably he had few friends in the War Department, but he had the respect of everybody. After our first clash, my relations with him were amicable enough, and as I saw him during the relaxed midnight hours in Baker's office, I realized that in addi-
(165) -tion to his rapier-like glance, he had an engaging grin. I doubt if he ever cared much about the work of our Commission; at least it never interested him. He gave his sympathies to too great an extent—so it seemed to me—to the old school of "drill 'em till they drop," not realizing that the new army was quite different from the regular army with which he had been associated. He never understood or approved of my civilian status. As an old army man it bothered him, and indeed it was not until World War II that the place of civilians with the armed forces was definitely regularized. Baker felt—and I agreed with him—that the civilian status of our Commission was essential. Certainly in my trips to the training areas in the United States, and later in Europe, I found I could talk with complete freedom and frankness to privates and generals alike, a freedom and frankness that would have been impossible if I had had military rank.
March asked me teasingly one day whether I would like to be a colonel, and when I replied in the negative, he said: "How about the rank of brigadier general?"
"No," I responded, "I'm not interested."
"Well, for one thing," I said, "I would have to be polite to a major general."
He recognized the thrust and responded with his grin. "I never can figure out where you belong," he said. Later in France this point bothered even Pershing, but he handled it without too much difficulty.
In the spring of 1918, with our troops pouring into France by the thousands, Baker and Daniels thought that I ought to go to Europe to see the new conditions of environment and operation in army and navy installations. I therefore sailed
(166) early in May and immediately reported to General Pershing's headquarters at Chaumont. I had first met Pershing on the Mexican border, and had briefly seen him in Washington after his appointment as commander-in-chief. He always seemed like a grim, stern, preoccupied man, and certainly the burdens of responsibility which he carried would have crushed anyone whose inner strength was less than his. I used to wonder whether the personal tragedy which he had so recently suffered While on the Mexican border—the loss of his wife and three little daughters in a disastrous fire at the Presidio in San Francisco—had permanently cast a shadow over his spirit. There was no light touch about him, no escape into gaiety, no spark, no compelling personal magnetism. He always seemed taut, tense and restless—never relaxed—and as I wrote my wife at the time: "When he talks to you he walks around the room, never sitting still for a minute." One was immediately conscious in him of an iron streak, of a determination that bordered on stubbornness, of an impatience that was restrained with difficulty, and of a habit of command.
He was a rigid disciplinarian, given to rough words in inspecting a unit of troops, where he often seemed more like a top-sergeant than a commander-in-chief. If there was a button unbuttoned or a rifle that was not clean, he could spot it. "Do you call yourself a soldier?" This was his rasping question which he hurled at privates and officers alike. In consequence, the word that he was coming to inspect a division struck terror into the hearts of the entire outfit. Once when he inspected a military hospital the nurses and doctors flocked down to welcome him as he came in through the front door. "Attention!" he called out sharply. "Back to your posts! This is a military organization!" This rebuff was long remembered in the Medical Corps.
He had one fault conspicuously odd for a military com-
(167) -mander: a lack of a sense of time, so that he was habitually late at many of his appointments. As I watched him at work and talked with his frantic aides it seemed to me that his tardiness was due to a stubborn determination to finish the job on which he was engaged—whether it was a letter or a conference —before he went on to the next assignment in his crowded day. But the result was sometimes disastrous, and I knew of divisions of troops that stood in line for hours in the rain, waiting for Pershing's appearance.
That he was generally unpopular with the troops goes without saying, although few of them ever saw more than a rapidly moving profile. Joffre was idolized by the French army and was known affectionately as "Papa." If Pershing was ever characterized by a nickname other than "Black Jack," it was couched in short and ugly terms that rose from plodding columns of American troops. Once when he was quoted, erroneously, as saying that he would take Metz if it cost a hundred thousand lives, the unanimous comment of the army was: "Ain't he a generous guy!"
And yet when all the criticisms are totaled, the fact remains that he had the character and drive that whipped an army into shape and compelled his men to work to the limit of their strength—cursing him, perhaps, but respecting him. I always thought that his appearance had something to do with this feeling of respect. With the possible exception of Pétain he looked the part of a commander-in-chief more than any other general I saw in France. Foch resembled a college professor, deep in thought; Joffre was a roly-poly with an infectious smile; Haig was a gentleman of dignity and reticence. But Pershing from the standpoint of appearance was the ideal soldier—handsome, erect, physically tough, and with the mark of leadership written indelibly on his face and figure.
My own relations with him were from the beginning cordial,
(168) for in spite of his austerity he could be gracious and considerate. He gave affection to few and certainly he never gave it to me; but he was always frank and honest and appreciative of the work in which the Secretary of War was so interested. His loyalty to Baker and the administration in Washington was absolute and unequivocal. "You may be assured that you can count on every possible support from the American Expeditionary Force," he wrote me after our first interview, and he immediately followed it up with letters of introduction to commanding officers and by assigning a military car for my use and giving me the coveted "white pass" which took me to all parts of the allied operations. The only stipulation he made was that I must wear a uniform if I went into the front lines. "Otherwise," he said, "if the Germans should put over a raid and catch you in civilian clothes, they would give you short shrift." When I was at the front, therefore, I wore a private's uniform or a Red Cross uniform or whatever I could find or borrow.
It was, of course, my first contact with actual warfare, and in the three months that I was in France I saw it at first hand. I confess I was unprepared for its brutality and waste, and over the years I have tried, perhaps unconsciously, to forget it as far as I could; but the memory of the poison gas cases, the shell-shock hospitals, the scream of wounded men, and of the ghastly forms of human death is with me yet. "The thing that hits you between the eyes," I wrote to a friend at home, "is the utter stupidity of war as a method of settling anything. Even with victory running our way, a battle is at best a blundering, chaotic, stupid business. As you watch it your mind revolts against the idea that this is the accepted and time-honored technique by which homo sapiens, on the pinnacle of creation, settles his little differences."
The thing that seemed to redeem the business, at least in
(169) part, was the spirit of the boys—the doughboys. "You can't imagine what an impression they are making on the French," I wrote my family. "They are the greatest lot of sheer boys you ever saw. Every spare minute they stage a ball game or some athletic event, and the French are constantly gasping at their exuberance and tirelessness. When they are not throwing a baseball they are playing with children—the younger the better. They are the idols of all the mothers in the villages where they are quartered because of the attention they shower on the babies. You see a big, strapping six-footer marching along with a two-year old girl on his shoulders, or half a dozen fellows performing monkey stunts for the benefit of two or three small youngsters."
My main job overseas, as Baker and Daniels defined it, was to see how adequately in relation to need the Y.M.C.A., the Knights of Columbus, the Jewish Welfare Board, and the Salvation Army were handling their responsibilities; and I followed their activities from the army and navy bases both in England and France right up to the front-line trenches. I was also asked to check the activities of the Red Cross in relation to the troops—their canteens, hospitals, dressing stations and dugouts—although this society did not come within the jurisdiction of the Commission. As I reported to Washington, I found the work of the Red Cross superb—an excellent piece of planning and organization. Hardly less effective was the work of the Y.M.C.A., although at the request of General Pershing it had embarked on a project of doubtful wisdom—running the post exchanges for the army—a project which later brought it a considerable measure of embarrassment and misunderstanding.
Oddly enough, the Salvation Army was by far the most popular organization with the troops. "Night before last," I wrote home, "in a dugout just back of the first line, I found two Sal-
(170) -vation Army lassies serving hot coffee to the soldiers. The German shells were thundering over our heads with a noise like freight trains and exploding far in the rear of us, and our own batteries were replying all around us with crashes of sound that seemed to rip the air but down in the dugout the lassies were unperturbably dishing out the drinks. As a matter of fact they had no business to be there and were subsequently ordered to the rear, but the incident is typical of their work."
But the mistake we had made in allowing a multiplication of social agencies to serve the troops was glaringly apparent. As I told Baker: "Every new organization means additional transport space, a new set of contacts with the army, increased congestion in fighting areas, and another unit of non-combatant personnel that is necessarily acquainted with the movements of the troops." Moreover an unhealthy spirit of competition was beginning to creep into the work of the societies. They all wanted to get to the front, in part because of its spectacular and dramatic value, and in part, too, because the work there seemed more urgent. Consequently there was an uneven development of the field work, with many areas neglected. The army was fighting a war and failed to give the societies the benefit of its supervision and control. "I do not believe that the present policy of laissez faire can much longer be maintained," I reported to Baker. "The army, through trained representatives, will have to assume some responsibility for the coordination of all this work, and take some positive part in shaping its course. Otherwise we are headed for some unhappy consequences."
Before I left France I had a talk with Pershing about the matter, but although he agreed with my diagnosis, and regretted the multiplicity of agencies—for which of course he was not responsible—he felt that there was little that could
(171) be done in the way of army control during the progress of the fighting. I remember at this interview he was disturbed by a letter which he had received from Clemenceau, then prime minister of France, in which the Tiger had strongly objected to the policy of repression that the United States army command had adopted in relation to prostitution. "Total prohibition of all regulated prostitution in the vicinity of American troops," Clemenceau wrote, "has had for result, in spite of measures of prophylaxis and discipline taken by the American authorities, the increase of venereal diseases among the civilian population of the neighborhood." He went on to advocate the establishment of licensed houses of prostitution. "Should the American High Command see this question in the same light," he concluded, "I will put my services at its disposal, in providing, in concert with the Minister of the Interior, for the creation of special houses of this kind."
Pershing believed strongly that the allegations on which the letter was based were untrue.
"This is the work of some of his prejudiced army medical officers," he said. "They've fooled the old man. Just the same," he continued, "this is too hot for me to handle. It's above my head. You're going back to Washington. Give this to the Secretary of War."
Two weeks later I handed Clemenceau's letter to Baker. He read it through twice, and then said with a half smile:
"For God's sake, Raymond, don't show this to the President or he'll stop the war."
I do not recall just what steps Baker took, but the American policy of suppression remained unchanged both for the Army and the Navy. Neither Baker nor Daniels had any sympathy for the Continental position on prostitution; and when I was in France, after the Armistice, at Pershing's request I sent for Major Bascom Johnson and fifteen of his best officers in the
(174) Law Enforcement Division of the Commission on Training Camp Activities, who acted in an advisory capacity in some of the more troublesome spots at army and navy posts and stations, both in France and England.
In spite of my strong reaction to what seemed to me the stupidity and futility of war I came back from France with the feeling that I belonged to my generation and that my generation was in the trenches. However barbarous war might be I could not escape the responsibilities of my time. With all the sacrifice and heroism which I had seen at the front, I could not live easily with my conscience if I did not share in the challenge. I had just passed my thirty-fifth birthday, but I was still within the range of the draft act. When, therefore, a month later, my number was reached and I was called before my draft board, I refused to claim either exemption or deferred classification, and I was certified as physically fit. My idyllic dream was shattered by Baker who without my knowledge claimed exemption for me. "If the various phases of our war work are to be effectively developed," he wrote me, "some of us must sacrifice our ambitions to serve in the uniformed ranks, and the activity that you are carrying on is of a kind that will not admit of letting you go." At the bottom of his letter in his own handwriting he wrote the word Orders! And as the soldiers used to say: "That was that."
The army command in France was strongly of the opinion that the war would see its climax in 1919, and all plans were geared to that end. But in the late summer of 1918 Germany and Austria began to crack, and the armistice of November 11 was upon us almost before we could grasp what was happening. The fighting seemed to be over, but the big problem of delay and demobilization loomed ahead of us. Baker thought
(173) that my permanent headquarters should be with General Pershing, and by rare good fortune I was assigned, early in December, to the S.S. George Washington which was carrying President Wilson and his associates to the Peace Conference in Paris. Secretary of State Lansing and Henry D. White, two of the United States commissioners were aboard, together with John W. Davis on his way to his new ambassadorship at the Court of St. James, and the whole galaxy of experts who had been recruited by Colonel House to advise on the new treaty. Some of them I already knew; with many of them I formed an enduring friendship.
That trip, for me so completely accidental, was a memorable experience. For the only time in my life I kept a diary, and even today I read it with a feeling of excitement. History was in the process of being made. The curtain was rising on a new era in the human story. Wilson, accompanied by his attractive and charming wife, was thoroughly tired out when he came aboard, but the long, deliberate trip—we went by way of the Azores—seemed to rest him. I had a number of talks with him, and as usual he spoke with the utmost frankness. "Fosdick," he said slowly, as if thinking out loud, "if we can create a League of Nations, we will at last do something that the world has been dreaming about for generations." As he developed the idea it seemed to me that he was again the teacher and I was once more a student in his seminar at Princeton. And I felt myself deeply stirred, as I so often did in his classes, by his clarity, his vision, and his great moral power.
At another time, I found him concerned about the spread of Bolshevism—"a poison" he called it. Its absolutism repelled him, and he quoted Jefferson's pledge of "eternal hostility against any form of tyranny over the mind of man.₤ Wilson called himself a liberal, but liberalism must be more liberal
(174) than ever before, if civilization is to survive, he said. Conservatism he defined as the policy of "make no change and consult your grandmother when in doubt." "Those who argue for the status quo ante bellum," he added, "or for any other status quo, are like so many vain kings sitting by the sea and commanding the tide not to rise." In my diary I said, following one of these talks, "I think his mental processes function more easily and logically than in any other man I ever met, and the compelling power of his personality is tremendous."
My diary for the last night of the trip is in these words: "We had our last movie tonight—Geraldine Farrar in an excellent film. At the end, just before the lights went up, a group of fifty bluejackets who had gathered unseen in a corner of the dining room, sang 'God be with you till we meet again.' They sang it softly, in splendidly modulated voices, while we all stood. The President was visibly affected. His head was bowed and I could see tears in his eyes. At the end we all joined in `Auld Lang Syne.'
Wilson's welcome in Paris was accompanied by the most remarkable demonstration of enthusiasm and affection on the part of the Parisians that I have ever heard of, let alone seen. His train from Brest was purposely delayed and arrived at ten o'clock in the morning. The rest of us came through on a fast train that got in at six in the morning. The parade over a four-mile drive consisted merely of eight horse-drawn carriages, preceded by a handful of hussars of the guard. Wilson and Poincaré rode in the first carriage. Troops, cavalry and infantry, lined the entire route, and tens of thousands of persons fought for a glimpse of their hero. The streets were decorated with flags and bunting, and huge banners bearing the words Welcome to Wilson or Honor to Wilson the Just stretched across the roadways from house to house.
I was at a window in a building on the corner of Rue Royale
(175) and the Place de la Concorde. The carriages approached at a trot. We could hear the cheers across the Seine. Wilson was smiling and waving his hat. The noise was deafening. It was all over in a minute and we heard the cheers rolling up the Rue Royale to the Madeleine. The troops started to march, but the crowds broke through and for an hour the Place de la Concorde was a riot of color and enthusiasm. I noticed twenty or thirty British soldiers marching with the sign: "The British—vos Alliés de 1914-1918." "I hope this is not symbolic of trouble at the peace table," I said in my diary.
My diary ends on a somber note. "Tonight," I wrote, "the boulevards of Paris are still celebrating. An American can have anything he wants today; he owns the city. The girls even try to kiss him on the streets. I wonder—and the thought keeps coming back to me—what will be the greeting of the French when the Peace is finished and Wilson comes to go home. I wish it could be guaranteed that their affection for America and the Americans would be as real and as enthusiastic as it is today. Poor Wilson! A man with his responsibilities is to be pitied. The French think that with almost a magic touch he will bring about the day of political and industrial justice. Will he? Can he?"
Pershing greeted me cordially at his headquarters in Chaumont. He looked older and grayer than when I had seen him five months before, and the lines of care and anxiety were etched more deeply on his face.
"I think we'll have to give you a title," he said, reminiscent of General March's perplexity, "and I propose to appoint you as my civilian aide. I don't know exactly what it means," he added with a smile, "but it sounds all right."
He gave me offices at Chaumont and also at his Paris head-
(176) -quarters, 45 Avenue Montaigne, and suggested that I spend as much of my time as possible with the troops in the field. "I want to know exactly and in detail how their morale is standing up and what the weak spots are," he said. As I look back on it now after forty years I wonder at the temerity with which I undertook the assignment which to General Pershing must have seemed 'highly irregular. Of course any reports that I made to him were supplemented by those of his own inspectors attached to his staff; but my experience in the United States had been that either through timidity or inability to get the doughboy point of view the reports of army inspectors frequently failed to reflect the whole situation.
My first task was to find out what was happening in the field. With my old friend, Colonel Leonard Ayres, assigned as a military aide, I made a series of trips by car, covering hundreds of miles and ranging from Coblentz where our third army had its bridgehead on the Rhine, down through our second army area stationed north of Toul, and south and east of Paris where the widely flung units of our service of supply were stationed. Because I wanted to find out how our allies were handling their problem I visited the British sector centered in Cologne, the Canadian sector in Bonn, and the French sector in Metz and Mayence. The battle areas, especially north of Verdun and in the Argonne, with their hastily buried dead, and with guns, bayonets, helmets, cannon, and ammunition scattered in the wildest disorder, were scenes of indescribable destruction. East and west of the Hindenburg line, the ground had been so churned up and fought over that even the military graves and their occupants had long since disappeared. "It makes one think of the surface of the moon," I wrote home. "The only figure that comes to my mind is that of a gigantic spoon furiously stirring a liquid earth until it becomes frozen or rigid, and then sprinkling over the top of it bits of wood,
(177) steel, bones, rags, and other debris." And my letter continued with these words:
At nine o'clock in the evening, in absolute darkness, and with a slight rain falling, I climbed a sign post at what appeared to be a crossroads. To my surprise I found that we were in the city square of Noyon—where Charlemagne was crowned and Calvin was born. Around us on every hand lay the ruins—the cathedral, the city hall, all the houses, now just crumbling piles of brick and stone with no human being within miles. Even the dogs have left.
My reports to General Pershing were as precise and specific as I could make them, and the following paragraphs illustrate the topics with which I bombarded him.
Back pay. In spite of the efforts of the Army authorities it is still possible to find, particularly in the hospitals and among casual outfits, hundreds of cases of men who have not been paid for three or four months. Moreover, this matter is apparently not confined to casual groups. For example, on January 26th, Company B. of the 341st Labor Battalion, stationed at Varennes, consisting of approximately 250 men, had not been paid since September 30, 1918. Some units in the 3o8th Field Artillery, stationed near Dijon, within two weeks received back pay for three months. I heard of similar cases from men in the field, but I mention only those which were verified through responsible officers.
Lighting facilities, such as candles, etc. The importance of this point is, I believe, paramount. I have come across many outfits, both in the 2nd Army and in parts of the 3rd Army, that had a very limited supply of candles, or no candles at all. As it gets dark between half past four and five the men are unable to read or play games or have any entertainment. In some cases the last mess was served in the dark because of the lack of any light. To
(178) men living in dugouts, as many of the and Army are living, the supply or lack of candles may mean the difference between good and bad morale.
Wood. There seems to be a noticeable absence of wood for fire in parts of the and Army and elsewhere.
Mess. At many points, noticeably in the and Army and to some extent in the 3rd, mess is still served in a mess line out-of-doors. The men stand in a single line regardless of the weather and are served as their turn is reached. After being served they sit or stand where they can, sometimes in the rain. Many of the men attempt to take the food to their billets, but complaint is made that it is often cold before they get it there.
Uncertainty of plans for returning home. It is unnecessary to remark that the thing uppermost in the minds of the troops is the desire to return home. This question dwarfs all others and has apparently become in some parts of the Army almost a mania. Rumors, often of the wildest sort, fly from group to group, and the troops seem to vibrate between hope and despair according to the latest report which they can obtain. These rumors often have to do with the future use of the troops, and I have heard in various parts of the Army from the soldiers that they expected to be sent to Russia, that they expected to be sent to the West Coast of Africa, that they expected to be used to rebuild the devastated areas of France, that they expected to have to quell uprisings in the Balkan States, etc. In other words, it is the indefiniteness of their status that seems to worry the men almost as much as their enforced sojourn in France. I have been told many times by men in the Army that if they could only know authoritatively that they were going to return on approximately a certain date, the fact that the date was four or six months off would not be half so demoralizing as the recurrence of hope and despair that must inevitably accompany the present state of uncertainty.
Assuming that it is not possible to forecast with any degree of
(179) accuracy the probable date of sailing of specific units, would it not be possible to use every conceivable channel—general orders, chaplains, "Stars & Stripes," welfare agencies, etc.—in keeping the troops informed on the following points:
a) the policy of the Government with regard to the return and demobilization of the A.E.F.,
b) the varying amounts of shipping available for troop transport,
c) the actual progress of demobilization by number and organization,
d) the probable future rate of demobilization.
Conditions North of Toul. I doubt whether anything can permanently be accomplished to maintain the morale of parts of the and Army as long as this body of troops is located in its present desolate situation. Thousands of them are living under conditions of great hardship and discomfort in the area that was fought over north of Toul. They are billeted in villages that were destroyed during the war or in dugouts that were constructed during the fighting, surrounded on every hand by desolation and waste. I believe that the morale conditions in some of the smaller detached units of these troops are really serious. They live in the mud, they eat in the mud, they sleep in the mud. They are leagues from human habitations save those of soldiers, and the country for miles around consists of far-stretching seas of mud, crossed by water-filled trenches, fenced into long strips by endless wire, dotted with graves, littered with the debris of battle, and showing here and there the remains of dead horses. In one case I found a Commanding Officer of a small detached unit, a Lieutenant, in a mental state bordering on hysteria.
Obviously this suggestion is made in ignorance of military requirements, but it is apparent to a casual observer that to preserve the morale of the men in these parts they should be moved at the earliest possible moment.
I had expected that my frankness would startle General
(180) Pershing, but although, as he said, he had never before dealt with a civilian in army matters, he accepted my reports with every evidence of appreciation. He was indignant over the news that some of the units of the army had not been paid for months, and, as I afterwards learned, he rode his staff hard, not only on this item, but on other matters which I brought to his attention or which he learned from his own army inspectors. We had several long discussions about my recommendations, and he wrote me a personal letter expressing his satisfaction. "Your experience," he said, "will greatly strengthen me in my very sincere desire to improve and maintain the highest morale among our troops until the day of their discharge."
One of my recommendations inspired a degree of misgiving on his part. I had not realized when I went to France after the Armistice—and I am sure Baker knew nothing of it—that Pershing's staff, with an immense army at its disposal, was contemplating a program of extensive and intensive drill and tactical training, in order to profit by the errors of the Meuse-Argonne offensive. It was hard for the staff to close all the special schools that had been in full operation at the time of the Armistice, getting ready for the campaign of 1919. The fighting was over, and during the delay in sending the troops home, a golden opportunity was presented to make real soldiers out of civilian recruits.
Into this situation I stepped unwittingly. It seemed to me that the general order which had gone into effect on January 1, 1919, prescribing twenty-five hours of drill a week, was creating havoc among the men, and I so reported to General Pershing.
Most of the men in the Army are not looking forward to any career as soldiers, [I said]. They did not get into the Army because they had any special predilection for soldiering. They
(181) answered the nation's call in the time of crisis and gladly made themselves part of a great war machine. But now that the crisis is over they turn instinctively to their peace-time habits of mind and are impatient with any attempt to continue unrelieved the military tasks for which most of them have no natural fondness. In other words, the motive is gone out of the whole business, and the ideal of perfecting themselves in the profession of arms is not to them an acceptable substitute. To see a Battery that has fired 70,000 rounds in the Argonne fight going listlessly through the movements of ramming an empty shell into a gun for hours at a stretch, or training the sights on an enemy that does not exist, is depressing enough to watch, and its effect on the spirits of the men is apparent. They seem to wilt under it. The same is true of infantry drill in the muddy roads, up and down which columns of American soldiers trudge listlessly and without spirit. As one Lieutenant expressed it, it would only need a contagious word or two, and his whole outfit would throw down their guns and run like a pack of schoolboys .. .
Obviously the men of the American Expeditionary Force will submit cheerfully and gladly to any kind of hardship or any hours of labor during wartime, but when the deep and impelling motive for work and sacrifice—that of helping to win the war—is withdrawn, other motivating forces have to be substituted.
I am conscious of the impertinence of a suggestion of this kind coming from a civilian, and I would not venture t6 broach it except for my knowledge of what the British are doing in their Army of Occupation. Two hours a day, in the morning, is the maximum required. There is no formal tactical drill of any kind. "We only aim to keep our men physically fit," the Chief of Staff told me. The rest of the time is given up to mass athletics, sports and educational work, together with such details of military duties as may be necessary. In other words, the British aim to keep their men continually busy, but military drill forms only a small proportion of their duty.
I asked the Chief of Staff in Cologne what would happen if the schedule of drill were extended to cover perhaps five hours a day. "Why frankly we would have a mutiny," he said. "The soldiers would think that it was being done just to take up their time and would see the needlessness of it. These men are not professional soldiers,—they are citizens who have been turned into excellent fighters for the time being, but who are looking forward eagerly to their civil occupations. It would break the back of the Army to insist on more drill than we give them now."
Pershing was troubled about my recommendation, but two or three weeks later he withdrew the general order. However, I suspect that it was not my argument, but a quiet word from Baker, that effected the result.
Meanwhile the problem of which I had become aware five months earlier remained unsolved: the army exercised no control over the private societies, and the field was spottily developed. Whole units of troops were either inadequately served or not served at all, while in other places there was competition and duplication between the agencies, particularly between the Y.M.C.A. and the Knights of Columbus. "One can go through such villages as Grandpré, Marcq, or any of the points of the Northern Argonne Section," I wrote General Pershing, "and not find a single representative of any of the agencies, or even so much as a baseball, a bar of chocolate, or a magazine."
As a matter of fact this problem in the end proved insoluble. The whole basis of operation had been inadequately conceived; and while the army profited enormously by the services of the private societies, it was not until World War II that a really satisfactory arrangement for this aspect of the work was evolved.
But the American Expeditionary Force itself, under the prodding of Pershing, and through the drive and energy of General Avery D. Andrews, head of the G-1 section of the General Staff, eventually did a remarkable job of its own. Adopting the plan which we had devised in the United States of detailing inspectors or welfare officers to each of the areas into which the country was divided, the A.E.F. thoroughly and systematically covered the field. Its program involved educational, athletic, and entertainment features. A university was established at Beaune with ten thousand students; ten thousand more were attending French and British universities; and roughly 130,000 men were at Post Schools, corresponding to our elementary and high schools at home. In athletics the figures showed millions of individual participants. Under the heading of entertainment, moving pictures, professional talent, and particularly amateur shows were utilized in all parts of the army. "It represents a new emphasis in the management of an army," I wrote Secretary Baker, "at least, an organized emphasis, and the results are bound to show themselves in the future conduct of military affairs in the United States."
In my final report to the Secretary of War, written just before I left the service, I came back to the subject of the private agencies.
I have come increasingly to the belief, [I said] in two years of intimate association with this work, that the sectarian basis underlying much of it is fundamentally wrong. None of the societies, of course, works exclusively for its own constituency. Their facilities and privileges are open to all regardless of faith, but the auspices through which these privileges are extended are in some cases sectarian. The tendency of this arrangement is to stimulate rivalries and a jockeying for position that are disheartening to witness and discouraging to cope with. To see the representatives of these different agencies vying with each other in an
(184) attempt to make a last good impression upon the returning troops, bringing prominently into the foreground their respective emblems and insignia, is to despair of the whole system of social work in the war.
And I went on to say:
If we ever have another war to fight or another emergency of this kind to meet, I believe that far better results will be obtained not only by eliminating religious stratification of the sort just mentioned, but by reducing to the lowest possible minimum the number of organizations working directly with the troops in camp or in the field.
As a matter of fact, I am inclined to go a good deal further. I believe that we have reached a point in the development of much of this social work in the Army where it can safely be intrusted to the Government to operate. This might not apply to such specialized activities with women, as the Y.W.C.A. has been carrying on, for example, or to a program of hospitality outside the military reservations such as the War Camp Community Service has been conducting in the civil communities adjacent to camps. But it certainly applies to all the work which directly touches the troops within the training areas or on active service in the field. I am strongly of the opinion that the leisure time program of the Army of the future can best be carried on by the Army itself, whether it be in posts or cantonments. The successful experience of the Army officers at home and in France in handling complex entertainment and educational programs fully justifies this belief. There is no logical reason why all this work which the societies have been conducting and which is intimately related to the spirit and morale of the troops should be left to the discretion and ability of private agencies, collecting their funds from private sources. Morale is as important as ammunition and is just as legitimate a charge against the public treasury.
Secretary Baker had my report printed with the foreword that the Secretary of War was "substantially in accord" with my statement. It aroused considerable opposition among the societies, and thereafter it lay forgotten in the files of the War Department for twenty-one years. In 1940, with a new war threatening, it came into the hands of General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff, whom I had met as a young major on Pershing's staff in Chaumont. He christened it the "Fosdick Report," and as such it became one of the factors in the creation of the Special Services Division through which the Army assumed full responsibility for much of the work that in World War I had been left to private initiative. It was a pity that Baker did not live long enough to see the fruition of the ideas which he had set in motion and to which he had given such loyal support.
I said good-bye to General Pershing in France with some regret, for nobody could watch him at work without realizing what an unusually strong and sturdy character he was. He was so forthright, so stubbornly honest, so determined to make the army an implement worthy of the American tradition, that one was inclined to overlook his tough and stormy methods. In spite of the blinding light of publicity in which he lived, there was no vanity about him, no element of self-seeking, no Cromwellian complex. In an atmosphere that might have ruined a lesser man he kept his head and his sense of balance. And he mellowed with the years. During the twenties I occasionally used to call on him in the old State, War and Navy Building where as General of the Armies he had an office which in spite of its elaborateness seemed somehow empty and forlorn, for there were no papers on his desk demanding to be read, and no more important decisions to make. On one such visit he gave me his photograph which he had inscribed "To my war time comrade
(186) and friend." "Those were good days, weren't they?" he said, but his eyes were the sad eyes of an old man who looks back on a life that is closed.
My parting with Baker was a real wrench. "I am sorry to go," I wrote him from New York, "but principally I regret leaving you. We have been in intimate contact since 1916, and I guess I have seen you at all hours of day and night and under all sorts of conditions. I have worked with many men in my life, a few of whom I have admired immensely. I am sure you will think me guilty of no exaggeration when I say that my association with you has been a supreme experience."
There is a traditional belief that friendships are only made in youth. Those who defend this thesis do so on the ground that when men have come to mature years interest discolors acquaintance and makes friendships infrequent if not impossible. Those who write on this subject in the future, however, will have to admit the exception which arises when men of mature years are profoundly interested in the same thing, and that not a personal and selfish interest but a public interest. I am quite sure that deep friendships are engendered by that kind of service, and if I am called on for my proofs, I will confidently tell of the feeling I have for you, growing out of these splendid years of real service together.