WERE the Germans right in thinking because of our unpreparedness we would be too late in bringing to the hard-pressed Allies a sufficient reenforcement of fighting troops?
This was the great question as the doubt and anxiety of the winter of 1917-18 gave place to the black depression of the spring and early summer of 1918.
As Russia first signed a truce with the Central Powers late in 1917, and then a peace treaty in the spring, the Allies saw defeat staring them in the face as the consequence of the disappearance from their ranks of her 3,000,000 soldiers.
Could unprepared America get enough of her 105,000,000 civilians into her army, into France, and into battle in time to make good this tremendous Allied loss of man-power?
General von Hindenburg, delivering smashing blow after blow against the Allies, expected to crumple them up before it could be done.
America, straining every nerve, worked to get an army on the battle-fields of France before it was too late.
Nowhere were the fears and hopes engendered by this race more openly expressed than in the secret conferences of the Allies at the Supreme War Council in Versailles.
Therefore, recently I sought out our representative on that Council, General Tasker H. Bliss.
In the fall of 1917 he was appointed chief of staff of our army. A short while later he was made a full general. President Wilson considered his services to be of such value that though General Bliss reached the age of retirement December 31, 1917, the President continued him on active duty. He was sent abroad by the President as his military representative on special missions to London and Paris.
When finally, faced with defeat, the Allies put aside their mutual jealousies and organized for the first time a central coordinating body, the Supreme War Council, the President appointed General Bliss to represent him on it.
I asked him:
"General, how far were the Allied leaders convinced that unless we got troops on French battle-fields we would be too late to stop the Germans?"
"Both the Allies and the Central Powers knew that victory would come to the side whose people had the best and most obstinate morale and whose armies had the most man-power and the equipment which must go with it.
"Eleven years ago at the time we entered the war many men here and in Europe thought it both possible and probable that the war would last at least through 1919.
"Then in October, 1917, came the second Russian Revolution and the Soviet government which began to negotiate peace with the Central Powers. They knew as everyone did that the war would be decided on the western front between the North Sea and the Alps."
"Then, general, you have no sympathy with those who thought they could find an easier way than fighting it out on French battle-fields by whipping Turkey or invading Austria from Greece? You don't believe get-rich-quick schemes will work in war any more than they do in peace?"
"Of course not! You have to pay with real fighting for success in war, just as you do with real work for success in peace.
"To go back, Russia's dropping out now gave Germany the chance to transfer a large force of comparatively fresh troops from the Russian to the French front.
"Therefore victory was to be decided by relative man-power.
"Everything pointed to the necessity for Germany to carry out her plans for attacking the Allies as quickly as possible.
"Had a strong American army been in France by the end of 1917 it could have stopped the Germans from even starting their attacks. However, it was not there, with the result that Germany in March began the first of her great attacks with a startling success.
"From then on it was clear that America's primary business was to as quickly as possible restore the balance of man-power to the Allied side by rapidly increasing her army in France.
"This was the general view of the Allied governments as early as October, 1917. It was made clear by them to the American mission sent by President Wilson to Europe, of which I was the military member. Before we left the United States Allied representatives had suggested that we stop for the time being sending troops and send food and other supplies instead. But when we reached Europe the British and French authorities responsible for fighting the war always said it would be disastrous. They wanted soldiers and more and more soldiers, not food."
"Despite all the slogans about 'Food will win the war,' 'Ships will win the war,' the whole thing came down to what it has in every other war: the only way to win is to whip your enemy's army on the battlefield."
"Why, of course! How can there be any other way when you are at war with an enemy who really fights?"
Then continuing, he said:
"I was told both in England and in France that the plans for sending over our troops as then laid down needed to be changed to bring over at least twice as many by the end of the spring of 1918 or a grave military crisis could be expected. The British and French laid great stress on the disaster to the Italians in the Caporetto battle and the fact that Russia had practically withdrawn from the war.
"They said that the number of their divisions had been reduced and also the number of men in each division. They believed their reserve of man-power was practically exhausted.
"At a conference in London in November the British prime minister, Mr. Lloyd George, said: 'After a good deal of consultation with my colleagues and our military and naval advisers, I should put man-power and shipping as the two first demands for your consideration.' "
I interrupted by saying:
"After all we had more troops ready than we could get ships to carry them."
The general said:
"Yes. Shipping was the neck of the bottle.
"But to continue, when the Supreme War Council at Versailles took up the question of the general policy for 1918, the four heads of the United States, French, British, and Italian governments adopted one based on the assumption that success could be obtained only by enough American troops arriving to restore to the Allies the balance of man-power and keep it restored.
"In short, it was the Allied conviction as early as the month of November, 1917, that the Germans were about to begin the transfer of a minimum (and more could be made available) of fifty divisions from their eastern to the western front in France, which would more than give them the balance hitherto held by the Allies. They had no hope of meeting this, and on every occasion frankly so stated, except in a prompt and rapid increase in the arrival of American man-power.
"So convinced were they of this as the crisis approached that they made available a large amount of tonnage believed to be almost vital for other uses, solely for the purpose of the rapid transportation of our troops. And then began that speeding up which resulted at its maximum in the arrival of Americans at the rate of approximately 300,000 men in one month and which enabled General Pershing to meet the crisis and turn the tide of war the summer of 1918."
Just after the second great successful Hindenburg-Ludendorff attack in 1918, when the discouragement among the Allies was profound, Mr. Lloyd George, the premier of Great Britain, spoke in Edinburgh. He described the position of affairs as "a race between General Hindenburg and President Wilson," in which "the Germans were straining every nerve to reach the goal ere American help should be available for the Allies."
From about the time we entered the war in the spring of 1917 until spring of 1918, when Russia made peace with the Central Powers, the Allies watched Russia's army gradually disintegrate. The 140 infantry divisions and 33 cavalry divisions, a total of about 3,500,000 men, with their immense number of guns which had faced the Germans and Austro-Hungarians, gradually dwindled away. The men simply went home without permission. Every railway from the front was crowded with them. Up to 10,000 a day passed through some of the railway junctions.
As the Russian army dwindled, the Germans were free to move their divisions from the Russian front to the western front in France, while the Austro-Hungarians moved many of theirs to the Italian front.
In January, 1917, there were 135 German divisions in France. A year later, by January, 1918, there were 174 divisions, an increase of 500,000 men.
On the Italian front the number of enemy divisions in the two weeks preceding the highly successful enemy attack at Caporetto increased from 43 to 53, a re-, enforcement of approximately 150,000 men.
The 1,750,000 Germans and Austro-Hungarians who had been on the Russian front were moving west.
As Russia first signed an armistice and then peace practically the whole armed strength of Germany appeared on the western front in France.
There could be no doubt that as soon as their preparations were complete Hindenburg and Ludendorff would use it to strike the hardest blow the world had seen in its military history.
What had the Allies to meet this mounting tide of enemy troops? When it had reached its maximum, it was certain to put a pressure on the western front which it was extremely doubtful if that front would stand.
When Russia was still in the war, the Allies had outnumbered the Central Powers on every front. The Russian and Roumanian armies alone outnumbered the whole German army on every front. On the western front, the French, British, and Belgians outnumbered the Germans almost 6 to 4. The Italians outnumbered the Austro-Hungarians 13 to 8. In the Balkans the proportion of Allied troops to Central Powers troops was 4 to 3, and in Turkey 6 to 5. In light field guns the Allies outnumbered the Central Powers 6 to 5 and in heavy guns 7 to 6.
The total British and French forces in all theaters of war by the end of 1917 was 3,700,000 combatants, not including all the services of supply and their auxiliaries so essential to a modern army. (These are included in the ration strength, or number of men who have to be fed. Therefore, the ration strength of an army is always considerably above its combatant strength.)
Against this the German combatant strength, not including the other Central Powers, was 3,400,000 combatants. Thus, the French and British armies were stronger than the German. As a matter of fact this had been true for two years.
However, despite their great strength when Russia was still in, the Allies had been unable to whip Germany! What was worse, they had not been able to prevent her striking them practically always when and where she chose!
The first battle of the Marne, the first battle of Ypres, the Verdun defensive, were all Allied successes. However, in each the Allies were on the defensive. They were Allied successes only because in each a German blow had been stopped. In each it was the Germans, not the Allies, who had decided when and where the blow would be struck. The wiping out of Serbia, of Roumania, the staggering blows which sent Russia reeling into revolution and out of the war, were all successful blows struck by Germany where she chose.
Far greater efficiency in military and political leadership was the reason why the Germans with inferior numbers had been able on the whole to get the better of the Allies up to the time we entered the war and Russia dropped out. If this were true with Russia in the war, what was going to happen with her out?
This, even though the Allies, with approximately 5,400,000 combatant French, British, Italian, Belgian, Portuguese, Serbian, and Greek soldiers, slightly outnumbered the approximately 5,200,000 combatant German, Austro-Hungarian, Bulgarian, and Turkish soldiers.
More soldiers to be put on the battle-field had to be gotten from somewhere. First, enough more must be had to stop the Germans when they attacked with the additional strength of their troops brought from Russia, fully expecting victory to perch definitely on their banner. Secondly, enough beyond this additional number must be gotten, once the German attacks had been stopped, to definitely turn the tide of victory away from Germany by attacking and never ceasing until, beaten, she was ready to make peace on Allied terms.
Where were these additional soldiers to come from?
With the French man-power drained to its last dregs in a vain effort to keep the French army from falling off in its strength; with the British government unwilling to enforce real conscription, and with the Italians certain that their safety depended upon keeping their troops along their own front, there was only one source of supply: America.
The German General Staff knew this as well as the Allies. They knew that after more than two years of war every European country engaged was full of war-weary people ready to make peace.
They counted on the smashing blows they were preparing to deliver the Allies, to send up the morale of their own people and more and more depress that of the Allied peoples.
With a series of successes on the battle-field and a growing conviction among the Allied peoples that they were beaten, only one result was possible---Victory.
They could see but one possible interference with this plan---the arrival of sufficient American troops on the battle-fields of France to give the Allies that reenforcement which was essential if the German offensives were to be stopped.
The yardstick with which they measured the time which must elapse before an American army could arrive (presuming unprepared America really intended to put an army in Europe) was the two years lacking one month between unprepared Britain's declaration of war in August, 1914, and her first attack on a large scale on the Somme, July, 1916.
Also, they counted on the immense difference between transportation of an army twenty miles across the Channel and 2,500 miles across the Atlantic.
The short twenty miles of shallow water between, England and France could be denied to the German submarine with comparative ease.
The vast reaches of the 2,500 miles of the deep Atlantic Ocean between America and Europe could not. The freedom with which the submarines were then roaming its breadth and depth, sinking their prey where they found it, was the best proof.
However, the Germans had not foreseen, nor had the Allies for that matter, the immense and united energy, with which America would immediately throw the whole of its man-power and material resources into the waging of the war.
Had we been prepared, the force of our immense resources could have been used during the fall of 1917 in a blow, which, as General Bliss points out, might have been decisive, against the German army then concentrating its full strength in France in preparation for its smashing attacks in 1918.
However, as has been true at the outbreak of each of our wars, we were unprepared. We had no war army of millions. We lacked the ships to carry such an army to Europe.
Outside of our small regular army and our national guard we had no troops. It is true that for the first time in our history we had a general staff; also, it was composed of fully competent officers. However, outside of this directing, coordinating body, we lacked everything necessary to expand our small forces to the war army of millions we needed.
We lacked the camps to shelter the men; the uniforms to clothe them; the personal equipment for each man; the wagons, rolling kitchens, and infinite variety of heavy equipment for each unit; the arms and ammunition.
If we sent all our 300,000 regulars and national guard, our only trained troops, to Europe immediately, there would be no one left to train and lead the millions of untrained called to arms.
If we kept most of them at home to prepare our millions for the battle-field, we could send only a few troops to help the Allies during the long period before these millions would be ready.
Why were we caught like this, thus giving Hindenburg his chance?
Even though our public did not know the truth about the danger to the Allies resulting from Britain's unpreparedness when she entered the War in 1914, why did not our War Department know?
There was no excuse for its being fooled by propaganda. Why had it not done something?
It did know the truth! It did its best to have us prepared!
Its plans were blocked by President Wilson, by his supporters in Congress, and by the peace propaganda thickly spread all over the country by our pacifists.
The war had been going on less than a year before it was evident that both sides were violating our rights at sea. This, coupled with the steadily increasing feeling against Germany, made it evident we should overhaul our national defense and make it ready for the immense expansion which war would demand.
Societies sprang up to preach the necessity for this. The National Defense League, the Army League, and the Navy League were the most prominent. General Wood organized the Plattsburg camps.
Finally, the movement reached such proportions that President Wilson in 1916 instructed the War College section of the General Staff to prepare a bill for Congress.
It did so. When he saw what the bill called for he not only did not send it to Congress, but forbade the War Department to give out its details. He had always shunned the War Department's desire to show him how unprepared we were. When public opinion forced him to act, apparently, he was horrified at what was needed.
What we had to do later shows that the general staff in its fear of shocking the statesmen did not go nearly far enough in this bill to create and maintain the 4,000,000 men we put under arms once war was declared.
Senator Chamberlain of Oregon, chairman of the Senate military affairs committee, introduced a bill in the Senate which called for about what the general staff had asked for.
Led by Senator Wadsworth of New York, the Senate passed it by a large majority. When it came to the House it was supported by such men as Kahn of California, Tilson of Connecticut, Olney of Massachusetts, Green of Vermont, and Morin of Pennsylvania.
However, the administration defeated the purpose of the bill by amalgamating it with one named after Mr. Hay, a congressman from Virginia.
Mr. Hay of Virginia, Mr. Dent of Alabama, and Mr. Anthony of Kansas were the leaders in this.
The resultant so-called Hay-Chamberlain Bill, touted to the country as preparing us for war, did nothing of the kind. The confusion and delay which took place once we declared war proved this.
Jane Addams of Chicago, Oswald Garrison Villard, and the rest of our leading pacifists appeared before Congress and did their best to prevent our making any preparations.
The Church Peace Union, which works hand in hand with the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ, worked against preparedness.
To quote a report prepared on the answers received from a questionnaire by Dr. Sidney L. Gulick and Dr. C. S. Macfarland, which was published for the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ: ---"The answers to these letters were very satisfactory, and in the abstracts given out through the daily press of the nation furnish much encouragement for those opposing demands for excessive armament."
We had the men. Our population of 105,000,000 assured that.
They were ready to go. Even before war was declared they flocked to enlist in the regulars and the national guard, the navy and marine corps. From the day it was declared, there was an overwhelming rush of volunteers, which swamped the arrangements made to receive them.
While Mr. Wilson's administration had refused, prior to the declaration of war, to prepare for our entry, once war was declared nothing could have excelled the energy displayed by Mr. Wilson, the President, and Mr. Baker, his secretary of war, in rushing our preparations to put a fighting army on the battlefields of France, the only way of bringing victory.
The General Staff, shortly before the war, had had its strength in Washington seriously reduced, as the result of an attack made on it through Congress. However, it for some time had made the arrangements by which all the different staff corps of the army had plans for immediate expansion, once war came. These plans included not only the purchase of supplies and equipment, but also their transportation. The only thing that was needed was the money necessary.
Immediately war was declared, Major-General Hugh L. Scott, then chief of staff, took to the secretary of war, Mr. Baker, the estimates for the $50,000,000 necessary to carry out these plans. He wr!tes:
"I explained to him that to expend public money unappropriated by Congress was a penitentiary offense, but that these things must be done at once. Within five minutes I was back in my office among a council of the chiefs of bureaus with the signature of the secretary, and said, 'There it is, gentlemen. The secretary has touched the button and the wheels must begin to move, not this afternoon, but now. Go to it.'" (15)
General Scott had made up his mind that when war came, if he could bring it about, the army was going to be expanded the many times necessary to bring it to war strength without repeating the errors of our past history. He had settled upon three major points:
First, that the man-power should be raised, from the beginning, by conscription.
Second, that no political but only military considerations should govern in the character of the troops raised and in the issuing of commissions to new officers.
Our General Staff and trained officers, like those of every other country, had no illusions as to the quickest, most economical, and fairest way to raise a new army of the numbers needed for a long period of a war in which the nation really fights with its whole strength.
It is to be doubted if in the history of the world there was ever raised by the volunteer system a larger army in proportion to the male population than the Union army of our Civil War, prior to the adoption of conscription. Out of a population of 10,795,422 of the Union states, as shown by the 1860 census, 1,356,593 volunteered.
However, this number was not sufficient to bring the Union armies to, and maintain them at, the strength necessary for victory.
General Scott's 1916 annual report as chief of staff contained a dissertation on the benefits of compulsory service. He tells how favorable newspaper comments flowed in from every section of the country throughout the winter of 1916-17.(17)
When the time came it was found that both the President and the secretary of war were in favor of universal compulsory service, or conscription.
As a consequence of this, and public opinion, a conscription law was passed and came into operation on May 18, 1917, within six weeks from our declaration of war.
Some members of the executive branch of the government, while believing such a law a correct measure from a military point of view, doubted its practicability from a political point of view, fearing the country would not like it. Some congressmen, opposing it, spoke against it, using the customary, threadbare arguments about "one volunteer being better than three pressed men," etc. etc. However, the overwhelming sentiment in the country for it made itself felt.
The case with which it was put in operation, and the smoothness with which it worked, are the best proofs of the fact that the country considered it the most businesslike, most efficient, and fairest way of raising an army.
There was no opposition from labor, as such.
Finding that men were being taken from employment useful for war purposes, while others---not by any means all of the labor class---were idle, the provost marshal general's office wished to issue a "Work or Fight" order. By this order men who were unemployed ---rich or poor---were to be drafted immediately, without waiting for their turn.
Some of Mr. Wilson's advisers were afraid that labor would be insulted at such an order, so it was not immediately issued. However, shortly afterward, these facts leaked out. The press of the country eagerly seized upon them, and strongly supported the issuance of such an order. It was issued without even causing a ripple among the ranks of labor.
Registrations under the compulsory service act, plus the large number of men who had already enlisted, prior to its passage, came to 26,000,000 men, between the ages of eighteen and forty-five. Of this number, 4,800,000 served in the armed forces of the nation; 4,000,000 of them were in the army.
The cost of recruiting the 4,000,000 was one-twentieth of that of recruiting the 2,000,000 in the Union army during the Civil War.(18)
The attitude of labor throughout the war was patriotic.
One of the important steps taken, among the inadequate defense plans passed by Congress in 1916 as the result of the nation-wide cry for preparedness, was the creation of a council of national defense. One of the first acts of the council of national defense was to create a labor committee. Samuel Gompers, long the head of labor in this country, was appointed to this committee.
As early as February, 1917, he called a preliminary meeting of the representatives of a large number of labor unions to bring about a general agreement as to the attitude of labor toward the approaching war and the problems of labor which would come into existence when war was declared. As the result of this conference, there was a meeting of more than 150 executive officers of labor organizations. They passed a formal declaration promising the unqualified support of the war by union labor, and asking that the government curb profiteering and give labor adequate representation in all business dealing with industrial matters.
At a subsequent conference, shortly thereafter, of both labor and employers, also called by Mr. Gompers, a general agreement was reached that, "Neither employers nor employees shall endeavor to take advantage of the country's necessities to change existing standards."(19)
There were strikes at various times. However, the only labor trouble which can be directly charged to opposition to the war was that stimulated shortly after our entry by the Industrial Workers of the World on parts of our Pacific Coast. This was easily dealt with. Such other strikes as occurred were not due to hostility to the war or to conscription, but were caused by the vicious circle, perhaps unavoidable in war, where the price of necessities soon jumps ahead of each increase in wages. Various boards dealt with these.
Perhaps no one had more dealings with labor under the most difficult circumstances during the war than Mr. Edward N. Hurley. It was his job to teach 350,000 men and 130 new managements how to build ships.
In summing up the labor question, he says, "I am convinced, however, that our publicity work, our reserve of shipyard volunteers, our persistent and systematic appeals to the patriotism of the workers, and our word pictures of the consequences which must ensue if ships were not forthcoming at top speed, averted more strikes than did the wage increases of the Macy Board [one of the labor adjustment boards]."(20)
The employers were not behind their employees. To quote Mr. Bernard M. Baruch, chairman of the war industries board, "There was not a slacker to be found among the industries. No one had to be coerced."(21) He sums up our industrial mobilization as follows: "In insuring our victory, the importance of the battle line at home must ever be a strong factor. The mobilization of America's industrial forces and their conversion from. peace and construction to war and destruction was a gigantic task and responded to in a gigantic manner." (22)
The nation had not dawdled. It immediately took the necessary steps to put its man-power under arms ---not a few hundred thousand at a time, dragged over a period of years, but at once. In the same way its industry was mobilized for war purposes at once, and without regard to those who, thinking of "Business as usual," wished to make such mobilization secondary to the interests of private business.
However, despite this energy, determination, and patriotism, which produced results far beyond those thought possible by either the Germans or the Allies, there was danger that we should be unable to use this tremendous force in time to stop Hindenburg and Ludendorff from smashing their way through to victory.
This because of the lack of means to transport our millions of soldiers, and the supplies necessary to maintain them, across the Atlantic Ocean to the battlefields of France.
When our Civil War broke out, our flag, carried by our merchant vessels, was a familiar sight in every port of the world. The record for speed in crossing the seven oceans belonged to our clipper ships. Our total tonnage was far beyond that of any other nation except Great Britain, to which it was a close second.
During our Civil War, this great overseas merchant marine was destroyed by Confederate cruisers, most of which were built in British yards and outfitted in British ports. The crushing burden of debt resulting from the more than four years of that war was one of the primary reasons why our merchant marine was not immediately rebuilt.
As time passed and the standard of living increased in this country, that part of our merchant marine which operated along our coasts thrived because it was protected from the competition of foreign ships built and manned by cheap foreign labor. Our overseas merchant marine, however, received no such protection, and therefore, unable to compete with foreign merchant marines, did not revive.
The German General Staff had estimated that it would take us at least a year to put a maximum of 500,000 troops on the western front. This, of course, provided the transports carrying them escaped the submarines, which the Germans were quite certain would not happen.
After we had been in the war something over six months, the Allies made the same estimate as regards numbers, but thought it would take somewhat more time. The Allied conference which began sitting in Paris the last of November, 1917, and which created the Allied maritime transport council, was of the belief that a continuance of the plans we then had under way would enable us to land an army of 500,000 in Europe, and maintain it there, by the early summer of 1918.
General Pershing's clear vision of what was essential if victory was to be obtained, had made him insist that European ports and land transportation should be immediately prepared---as a first step in the arrival of the American Expeditionary Force in Europe---to receive and handle a minimum of 1,000,000 troops and the supplies necessary to maintain them. He was scoffed at on the ground that he was wasting time, money, men, and material in an effort to provide something which would never be useful.
Even our ambassador to London, Mr. Walter Hines Page, joined in this. In a note he said, "It is becoming apparent that the bulk of tonnage assigned to transport the army is being used to bring over material to create the facilities for handling and supplying a projected army so large that it can probably never be landed in France---at least not in time to get into the game."(23)
When General Peyton C. March came home from Europe in March, 1918, to be chief of staff, he, like General Pershing, was impregnated with the idea that above every other consideration American troops must be got to Europe if the war was to be won. He was thoroughly in accord with General Pershing's idea that a million men was the smallest unit which could be considered.
Mr. Hurley tells that General March wished to transport 250,000 men a month, but that the best estimate be could submit at the time for the transport of men, and sufficient supplies to keep them going, was 125,000 per month. This resulted in the conversation in which the President said, "Hurley, we must go the limit." (24)
Mr. Hurley had accepted the chairmanship of the United States Shipping Board and the presidency of the Emergency Fleet Corporation in July, 1917, at the personal request of President Wilson. He and General March promptly got to work to overcome the wide discrepancy which existed between their figures of demand and supply.
General March made the transport service a separate arm and put at its head General Frank T. Hines.
The troop capacity of the transports was increased forty percent by packing the men in tighter. The total number carried was also increased by decreasing the number of days necessary for a troop-ship to make a round trip. In November, and December of 1917, this time, called a "turn-around," was averaging over sixty days. This was brought down to an average of thirty-five days.(25) The fastest ships averaged under thirty days. In the time of the greatest emergency, the Leviathan, the Mount Vernon, and the Kronprinzessin Cecilie averaged twenty-seven days; the Great Northern and the Northern Pacific, twenty-five and twenty six days, respectively, and the last two on several occasions, nineteen days.(26)
Also, the requirements for cargo tonnage were decreased by reducing to the minimum the number of pounds needed to maintain each man and each horse at the front. The soldiers of the horsed artillery and supply trains will never forget the difficulties experienced in keeping their animals going, as a result of the short rations they received.
The tremendous work done by Mr. Hurley in speeding up the construction of new ships with an organization the greater part of which had not only come into existence, but received its training, since the declaration of war, is shown by the fact that by July 1, 1918, he had turned over to army uses, in round numbers, 1,125,000 dead-weight tons of ships.
Nothing shows better how much the putting of an American army on French battle-fields depended upon shipping than the fact that the size of this army had to be limited by the amount of shipping available.
The War Department had prepared three programs.
The minimum army considered essential was one of 60 divisions. Sixty American divisions were the equivalent of 140 British, not quite that many French, and something over 160 German ones. This force, with the proportional strength in army corps, army, and service of supply troops, would total 2,500,000.
The War Department would have preferred to put 100 divisions in France. This would have been the equivalent of 233 British divisions, something less than that number of French ones, and something over 266 German ones. With auxiliary troops these 100 divisions would have totaled 4,260,000 men.
Between the two was an 80-division program, totaling 3,355,000 troops, and necessary supplies.
Each of these programs was to be completed by July 31, 1919. Taking into account the shipping already afloat, and that which Mr. Hurley's unexampled work was producing, it was necessary to adopt the 80-division program.
Besides building ships, we reached out for them in every direction. Nineteen German ships and one Austrian, which had been interned in our ports, were seized. How valuable they were is shown by the fact that they transported more than 550,000 American troops overseas.
We chartered neutral ships. We traded steel and food to belligerent nations like Japan and neutral ones like Holland, in exchange for ships. We used every conceivable method to obtain ships. The Germans brought such pressure to bear on the Dutch that they were unable to carry out their agreement with us. Therefore, we exercised under international law "right of angaria." The President issued a proclamation and we seized 87 Dutch vessels, totaling more than half a million tons, which happened to be in different ports of the United States. The Dutch crews and owners were fully compensated.
We chartered ships from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, and France. The winter of 1917-18 the British chartered to us the Olympic, Aquitania, and Mauretania, three of their ships with the greatest troop-carrying capacity, which had been laid up in their ports. While they were operated by their owners, the United States assumed all risks.
We combed the world for ships. We established a tremendous shipbuilding industry, and launched ships on a scale such as the world had never seen, or probably dreamed of. Despite this, had it not been for the possession of our coastwise merchant marine, we could not have avoided failure.
Had we, in the period between the Civil War and the Great War, neglected it in the same way that we did our overseas shipping, and, as a consequence, been dependent upon foreign ships, we could not possibly have got a large force of American troops on French battle-fields in time.
If we had been able to keep Hindenburg and Ludendorff from attacking until our program of shipbuilding had progressed far enough to take over our 80 divisions, this overwhelming force, added to that of the Allies, not only would have prevented any further attacks by the Germans, but would have meant their decisive defeat, with complete victory for our side.
However, not allowing us to do this was the very basis of the Hindenburg-Ludendorff plans for German victory.
Thus, when they made the first of their great attacks on the front in France in March, 1918, practically destroying the Fifth British Army and threatening to separate entirely the British from the French, we did not have the shipping available to move the troops immediately needed.
Britain had the ships. However, up to this time she had not realized the necessity to organize shipping "so. as to serve military rather than economic purposes." Also, she was possibly influenced by the fear "that any sacrifice of shipping to serve an inter-Allied purpose might, after the war, lead to the loss of some previously long enjoyed national economic advantages." (27)
The British offered to supply the ships, provided we allowed one American battalion of infantry to be incorporated in each British brigade of infantry, thus raising it from its strength at that time of three battalions to its former strength of four.
This effort on their part to use our troops for replacements in their army led to the famous conference in London, in which they sprang on General Pershing a cable from their Washington ambassador, Lord Reading, saying that the American government had agreed to this plan.
However, President Wilson backed General Pershing in his refusal to agree to any such scheme, inevitably delaying, if not entirely preventing, the formation of an American army. The result was an agreement by which British ships were furnished to bring over the infantry and machine gunners of seven divisions in May and six divisions in June, with the understanding that these troops would go immediately to the help of the British, but that General Pershing could withdraw them when he believed them necessary to form the American army. We were to, and subsequently did, pay for the use of these ships as transports.
As a result, the number of our troops transported in May was practically double that in April. By the first of July, 1,000,000 American soldiers had been embarked. The number for July exceeded all previous monthly totals, being more than 306,000 Before the end of October, the second million of our troops had sailed from our shores. During many summer weeks the number carried was more than 10,000 a day. During July, the total landed every day of the month averaged more than 10,000.
No such movement of troops had ever before been planned, much less taken place. In fact, no such transportation by water, for such a distance, and in such a period of time, of such a large number of human beings had ever before occurred.(28)
Of all soldiers sent overseas, forty-nine percent were transported in British ships, forty-five percent in American, three percent in Italian, two percent in French, and one percent in Russian ships. Of over 900,000 transported in the American troop-ships safeguarded by our own navy not a single man was lost by an enemy act.
The part of our navy in this war was not a spectacular one. This was due to the fact that our battle fleet and that of Britain together were so much stronger than Germany's that it was hopeless for the latter to engage them in battle.
However, our navy played a decisive rôle.
At the time we entered the war, the submarines had sunk a total tonnage to date and were rapidly increasing their monthly totals to an extent that justified the German General Staff in its belief that, even if we raised an army, we could never get it to European battle-fields.
From January to April, 1917, inclusive, they sank 2,000,000 tons. During the month of April, 1917, alone, they sank 800,000 tons. This was twice as much as the total sunk by them from the beginning of the war until January 1, 1917.
The 25,000 officers and men sent abroad by the navy, outside of one of our battleship divisions with the British grand fleet, devoted themselves primarily to the suppression of submarines.
To our navy belongs the credit for a number of moves which were the primary factor in overcoming this submarine menace. They themselves used, and also persuaded the British to use, a convoy system for troop and cargo ships. By this system, instead of single ships attempting to pass through the submarine zone, as had been the case, groups of ships were assembled at ports and sailed together, being escorted through submarine zones by navy vessels.
Our navy brought into use an American device which enabled surface vessels to determine the position of submarines by listening under water to sounds made by them.
They proposed, though the British at first considered it impractical, to put a barrage of mines from Scotland to Norway, all the way across the northern part of the North Sea. The British had practically denied the English Channel to submarines coming out of German ports to seek their prey. They, therefore, had to take the northern route between Norway and Scotland, and thence around Scotland into the Atlantic. The thing to do was to block this second opening.
The Americans persuaded the British it could be done. Sixty-nine thousand submarine mines were laid in several lines across the 240-miles-wide northern entrance to the North Sea. The British laid 13,000 Of these, our navy laid 56,000.
The success of these new methods, in addition to the British efforts, was shown by a steady falling off in the number of ships sunk by the submarines. They also brought about a constantly increasing loss among the submarines. There is reason to believe that at least 200 German submarines---with their crews of 5,000--- sunk.
This decrease in sinkings by submarines, plus the steady increase in the number of new ships built by this country, made the output of new tonnage equal the loss of old by the beginning of July, 1918.
Thus, by the middle of that same July, when Hindenburg and Ludendorff launched their last great assault---the one from Château-Thierry in the west almost to the Argonne Forest in the east---the opening act of the second battle of the Marne, one of the decisive battles of the world because it changed forever the tide of German victory to defeat---there was a reenforcement of more than 1,000,000 American troops in France. Of these, 700,000 were in the line or in local reserve.
The dusty white chalk plains of the Champagne glowing in the hot July sun, the rolling poppy-sprinkled grain fields interspersed with deep green woods of the watersheds and valleys of the historic Marne, Ourcq, Vesle, and Aisne rivers, liberally scattered with the dead of far-off America among the blue-clad dead, natives of the soil on which they lay, showed America had won its race with Hindenburg.
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