A School History of the Great War - Chapter 13
The United States in the War
Part of the Navy Sent to Europe. - One of the first things done after our entrance into the war was to send a considerable part of our navy to Europe, not only battleships to augment the fleet that was holding the German navy in check, but also a number of swift torpedo boats and destroyers to aid in reducing the menace from submarines. Huge appropriations were made by Congress for the purpose of increasing the number of lighter craft in the navy. Particularly efficient submarine chasers were developed, called "Eagles," which, by being made all alike, could be quickly produced in great numbers.
Raising the Army. - Great numbers of young men at once enlisted in various branches of the service. Profiting, however, by the experience of Great Britain, the government determined on conscription as a more democratic method of raising an army. A draft law was passed providing for the enrollment of all men between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-one. These were examined and classified, and from time to time large groups were sent to camps to be trained. Each of these camps could take care of approximately fifty thousand soldiers. Under a later draft law passed in 1918, the age limits for enrolling men were extended to include those from eighteen to forty-five.
Officers' Training Camps. In order to provide officers for such an emergency as now confronted the nation, training camps for officers bad been established the previous year~ at several places in the country. These officers were now called upon to aid the regular army officers in training the recruits. The officers' training camps were continued and were increased in number iii order that a regular supply of properly trained officers might be available for the constantly increasing army.
Supplies and Munitions. - The industries of the country were compelled to turn their attention to the making of supplies and munitions for our fighters. The great plants that had been making powder, guns, shells, and other munitions for the Allies started to make these things for the United States. This was easy to arrange, since England and France had about reached a position where they were able to supply themselves. Besides, great quantities of food and clothing were also needed, and the meat packers and the manufacturers of textiles, shoes, and other articles turned their plants to the production of supplies for the army.
Aircraft. - The war in Europe bad shown the high usefulness of aircraft as part of the military forces. Recognizing this, Congress appropriated two thirds of a billion dollars for the purpose of constructing thousands of airplanes and for training thousands of pilots and other experts to use them. Unfortunately much time was lost in building manufacturing plants and in experimenting with various types of engines and other parts of airplanes. Only a small part of the twenty thousand it had been planned to send to France by June, 1918, were completed at that time. Meanwhile, however, engineers had developed, on the basis of the automobile engine, an improved engine known as the Liberty Motor, and the production of efficient airplanes was at last going ahead rapidly.
Food and Fuel Control. - So large a proportion of the population of the European countries was employed in carrying on the war that there was a constant decrease in the amount of food produced in Europe. Fortunately, up to 1917 this country had enough for itself and sufficient to spare for the Allies and the neutral nations. In 1917 there was an unusually short cereal crop all over the world. The result was that there was not enough food to go round, if every one in this country ate as much as usual.
In order that proper conservation of food might be brought about, a food commission was created, not only to prevent profiteering, but also to direct how the people should economize in order to help win the war. Shortages in various kinds of food were controlled at first through voluntary rationing under requests made by the Food Administrator. Later on, limits were placed on the amount of wheat, flour, and sugar that could be bought by large dealers and bakeries. A certain proportion of other cereals had to be purchased with each purchase of wheat. Bakers were required to make their bread with a proportion of other flours mixed with the wheat. These regulations were enforced by such punishments as fines, the closing of stores or bakeries or by depriving the offender of his supply for a given length of time. Kitchens were established in large communities where housewives could learn the best ways of making bread with the use of various substitutes for wheat.
Early in the fall of 1917 it was seen that, because of inadequate transportation facilities and of a tremendously increasing demand for coal by the war industries, there would be a shortage of fuel during the winter. Accordingly a Fuel Administrator was appointed who regulated the distribution of fuel. Industries essential to the war were supplied, while those that were not doing needful work had their supply reduced or cut off altogether. As it happened, the winter of 1917-1918 was exceedingly severe, freight congestion became worse and worse, and the shortage in the industrial centers was even greater than had been anticipated. The control of fuel saved the people of the northeastern section of our country from much distress, and assured a supply of fuel for war purposes.
Later in 1918 householders and mercantile establishments were allowed only a portion of their usual coal supply, the number of stops made by street railway cars was reduced, and window and other display lighting was forbidden on all but two nights in the week. An act of Congress directed that from the last Sunday in March till the last Sunday in October all clocks must be set one hour ahead of time. This regulation brings more of our activities into the daylight hours and so cuts down the use of artificial light. By these methods much coal was conserved for the use of factories engaged in war work.
Transportation Control. - Soon after war was declared, the railroads of the country put themselves at the disposal of the government in order to take care of the increase in transportation service required by the state of war. The nearly seven hundred railroads of the country Were organized and run as a single system under the direction of a Railroads' War Board, composed of some of the chief railroad officials.
Passenger train service was reduced, chiefly in order to provide for the transportation of several million soldiers to and from training camps. Freight cars and locomotives from one railroad were kept as long as they were needed in the service of another. The roads no longer competed with each other for freight, but goods were sent over the road that had, at the time of shipment, the most room for additional traffic. At the end of 1917, as a measure of economy and to secure even greater unity of organization, the government took over the control of the railroads for the period of the war. As Director General of Railroads, the President appointed William G. McAdoo, who was also the Secretary of the Treasury.
Half a year later, the government likewise took over,
for the duration of the war, the operation of telegraph and telephone lines, which were placed under the control of the Postmaster-General.
Shipbuilding. - Less than two weeks after the declaration of war the United States Shipping Board Emergency Fleet Corporation was organized with a capital of fifty million dollars all owned by the government. The Shipping Board had been formed some time before to increase the merchant shipping of the country. When war came, more and yet more ships were needed, not only to take our armies, and their food and fighting material, to Europe, but also to replace the shipping destroyed by submarines. In order that these ships might be built as speedily as possible it was desirable that the government should direct the work. Existing shipyards were taken over, and new shipyards were built by the government. In the building of ships the original program was more than doubled, and the United States became the greatest shipbuilding nation of the world. This was made possible largely through the construction of what are known as "fabricated ships"; that is, many ships built exactly alike, from parts made in quantities. Patterns are made for each special piece of steel and sent to steel plants in different parts of the country. There dozens of pieces are made exactly like the pattern. All the pieces for a ship are sent to the shipyard ready to be riveted in their proper places. Thus the shipyard can work much faster than if the pieces were prepared at the yard.
German Shipping Seized. - Immediately upon the declaration of war, the President ordered the seizure of ninety-nine German merchant ships which were in our ports. Most of them had been in harbor since August, 1914. They had been free to sail if they wished, but preferred not to risk capture by British or French warships.
When the United States officials took charge of' these vessels, it was found that important parts of their machinery had been destroyed or broken, under orders from Germany. Repairs were quickly and skillfully made, the German names of the ships were changed, and a few months later over six hundred thousand tons of German-built ships were taking American troops and supplies across the seas.
Paying for the War. - Wars nowadays cost enormous sums of money, on account of the highly technical material that is used as well as the great size of the armies. There are two ways by which the money can be raised. The government can borrow money, and it can raise money by taxation. It was found wise to pay for the war by depending on both of these methods.
In May and June our people were called upon to subscribe to an issue of two billion dollars' worth of Liberty
o bonds. Half as much more was offered to the government. A second loan for three billions in November was again oversubscribed by fifty per cent. In 1918 the third loan for three billion, and the fourth loan, for six billion, were also oversubscribed. Up to November,
1918, the government asked for fourteen billion dollars, the people offered to lend about eighteen billion dollars, and the government accepted about sixteen billion' dollars.
In addition to the above, the Treasury department authorized the sale of two billion dollars' worth of War Savings Stamps during the year 1918. These stamps represent short-time loans to the government which are so small that practically every person is able to' invest in them.
It was deemed important also that the people should pay a large percentage of the war bill through taxes.
Congress therefore passed a tax bill which not only .7 increased the income taxes to be paid by individuals ~ and companies, but also placed heavy taxes on many '~ things which were more or less in the nature of luxuries, ~ or at least were not essential to life. Railroad tickets, ~j admission tickets to amusements of all sorts, telephone ~ and telegraph messages, and hundreds of other things ~ above a certain low minimum cost were taxed. In
this way the government raised six or seven billion dollars in a single year, approximately one third of the current cost of the war.
Loans to the Allies. - Our government from time % to time advanced much money to the other nations
who were fighting Germany. Practically all of these loans were in the form of credits with which the Allies:~ paid for materials bought in the United States. Littlie if any of the money so loaned went out of the country.
Red Cross and Other Organizations. - The American Red Cross Society, formed for the relief of suffering through war or other disaster, was made ready for extensive work by the subscription of one hundred and fifty million dollars in June, 1917, by the people of the country. The work was organized on a national basis and in every community there was formed a Red Cross Chapter to make garments, sweaters, or woolen head coverings to keep the soldiers warm; to roll bandages; to open canteens or refreshment stations for soldiers while traveling or in camp; to train nurses to care for the sick and wounded; and to do other such work.
Other organizations such as the Young Men's Christian Association, the Knights of Columbus, the Young Men's Hebrew Association, and the Salvation Army took upon themselves the task of entertaining and making comfortable our soldiers and sailors, providing refreshments and places where they could read, write letters, play games, and otherwise relieve~ their minds from the terrib1~ strain of war.
If our army and navy that were fighting for us in Europe represent the strength of our country, we can also say that the work of the Red Cross and these other organizations represents the heart of our country.
The Work of Schools in the War. - School pupils are the largest and best-organized group of the population of the country. It was natural, therefore, for the government to turn to the school children when it wanted a national response. Boys and girls having the lessons of the war impressed upon them in school, carry the message home. Often in no other way can the parents be reached.
There are many ways in which the school children gave direct and valuable help to the nation. It is not possible to do more than merely hint at some of these.
The importance of saving and thrift was early impressed on the children, not only through the thrift _ stamp and Liberty loan campaigns, but also through 7 direct lessons on conserving food, clothing, and public and private property.
Many children planted and took care of war gardens adding a total of many million dollars' worth of food _ to the nation's supply. In connection with the gardens, a canning campaign was conducted which aimed at the~, conservation of perishable food that could not be con sumed at once.
The schools rendered valuable service in doing Red Cross work. Both boys and girls knit garments and comforts for our soldiers, and the girls made garments for the little children of France and Belgium who had been driven from their homes by the war.
Rise in Prices. - When a country is at war the government must have what it needs, quickly and at any price. The price situation is made worse if for any reason there happens to be a scarcity of a given article. When the government wants a great quantity of am munition for which it is willing to pay a high price
manufacturer, desiring to obtain an increased number
of workmen quickly, offers unusually high pay. This attracts workmen from other industries, and the latter offer still higher pay to retain their workmen. In this way, wages rapidly go up and things that have to be produced with labor, like coal, or houses, or ships, rise enormously in cost. The farmer, too, has to pay more for his help. In order to induce the farmers to plant more wheat, the government fixed a high price for it. This helped to make flour expensive. Many fisher-men went into the navy, or into factories where they could get high wages. If they kept on fishing, they thought they ought to make as much money as the men who had given up fishing and gone to make guns and build ships.
Perhaps the biggest reason for high prices was the actual scarcity of many things. Many of the men who bad done the work of producing were at war. And they were using food and clothing much faster than before. A soldier needs about twice as much food, and wears out eight times as many pairs of shoes, as a man at home. From these facts it is easy to see why prices were high during the war.
Our Achievements in 1917. - As a result of our unwillingness, before 1917, to lace the fact, that we
might sometime be involved in war, the tremendous -amount of preparation described in this chapter bad to be done in a few months, or even iii a few weeks. ~ When things have to be done in such a great hurry, missteps are often made and unfortunate delays result.
In spite of all difficulties, however, the United States had, at the end of 1917, two hundred and fifty thousand troops in France and a million and a half in training camps. Guns, rifles, clothing, shoes, food, and other necessary supplies were being produced in sufficient quantities. On the other side of the Atlantic, our engineers and railroad men were busy 'constructing docks, warehouses, and miles of railroad for the purpose of providing bases of supplies for our soldiers in France. Much of the equipment of these railroads and docks -cars, locomotives, and unloading machinery - had been brought from America.
More Soldiers Sent to France. - As the troops in the various camps and cantonments were trained they were sent to ports on the eastern coast and embarked for France, their places in camp being taken by new groups of drafted men. Beginning with fifty or sixty thousand each month, the number sent abroad was rapidly increased until by the fall of 1918 the troops were going over at the rate of more than three hundred thousand a month. By November11 there were over two million of our soldiers in France and another million and more under training in this country.
Decrease in Submarine Sinkings. - The Germans had boasted in vain that their submarines would prevent the transportation of American troops to Europe. Of the hundreds of transports engaged in this work, up to November, 1918, only two were sunk while on the eastward voyage, and less than 3oo American soldiers
were drowned. Moreover, during the year 1918 there was a notable decrease in the destruction of merchant -vessels by submarines. This was due probably to a _ variety of causes, but especially to the increased protection provided by the convoy system, and to the more -efficient methods of fighting the submarines.
It has been' found that it is possible to see a submarine at some distance below the surface if the observer is in a balloon or an airplane. Therefore the submarine hunters did not need to wait for the submarine to show itself. The sea was patrolled by balloons and airplanes in conjunction with fast destroyers. When the aircraft had located a submarine, the fact was signaled to a destroyer. When the destroyer arrived over the sub-marine, it dropped a depth bomb, which is a large bomb arranged to explode after it has sunk to any desired depth in the water.
By this time the submarines were being destroyed
faster than Germany could build them, and also it was _ increasingly difficult for Germany to obtain the highly
trained crews necessary to manage the complex machinery of a submarine. For it must be remembered -that the circumstances under which submarines were -. destroyed almost always involved the loss of the crew.
Submarines Raid the Atlantic Coast. - Unable to face the convoys of transports, several submarines paid visits to our coast in the summer of 1918, and destroyed a considerable number of unarmed vessels, mostly small craft. Many of the victims, indeed, were very small fishing1 boats, which are, by international agreement, exempt from capture or destruction.
German Propaganda. - Only a small part of the people in the United States were in sympathy with the Central Powers. 'While the United States was neutral, their attitude was perfectly legal, provided their sympathies did not lead them to commit crimes against the United States in their zeal to hinder the cause of the Allies. Unfortunately, when we entered the war some of these people, still keeping on the side of Germany, endeavored in every way to prevent the success of the American cause. They organized plots either to destroy property, or to spread rumors intended to interfere with the prosecution of the war and to undermine confidence in the government.
Munition factories were blown up, and information was secretly sent to German authorities concerning the movements of ships so that they could be attacked by submarines. Worse than all else, perhaps, was the circulation of groundless rumors such as those stating that the soldiers had insufficient food or clothing, or insinuating that officers of the government were guilty of outrageous offenses in their treatment of men and women who entered war service.
How the Government Controlled Propaganda. - Our country sought to control this treasonable work in three ways. First, all who were subjects of any enemy country, and who were above fourteen years of age, had to enroll, and carry a certificate with them wherever
they went. They were forbidden to live ~within a half mile of navy yards, arsenals, or other places where war work was going on, or to go within three hundred feet of any wharf or dock. Secondly, those whose conduct was suspicious, or who displayed active sympathy with the enemy in speech or act, as well as certain persons who were in official relationship with Germany, were interned for the duration of the war. In the third place, German sympathizers who committed or attempted to commit crimes interfering with the conduct of the war were sent to prison for long terms.
Suggestions for Study. - i. Define cantonment; camp; barracks; army post; internment. Describe the insignia of different grades of officers in the army and in the navy. Find some fact. about General Pershing; about Admiral Sims. 2. On a map of the United States locate the chief camps and cantonments; the chief shipbuilding centers. 3. Make a collection of Food Saving notices and of literature and posters about Liberty Loans and War Savings Stamps. Make copies of interesting letters from the front. 4. Collect pictures of shipbuilding and of transporting food to Europe. 5. How did the draft put a man into the army? 6. What factories near your home have done war work? 7. In what ways can a boy or girl save food? 8. Name five things on which you have to pay a war tax. 9. Why were some alien enemies put into prison or into detention camps?
References. - National Service Handbook (C. P. I.); President's Flag Day Address with Evidence of Germany's Plans (C. P. I); Pamphlets from National Food Administrator; Pamphlets from National Fuel Administrator; American Red Cross, Teachers
Manual; German Plots and Intrigues (C. P. I.); Conquest and Kultur (C. P. I.); the World Almanac.