"Lafayette, We Are Here"



It is with loving pride we drape the colors in tribute of respect to this citizen of your great republic. And here and now in the presence of the illustrious dead we pledge our hearts and our honor in carrying this war to a successful issue. Lafayette, we are here. - Colonel Charles E. Stanton in a speech at the tomb of American-Revolutionary War General Marquis de Lafayette, 4 July 1917.(1) We've paid off that old fart, Lafayette. What Frog son-of-a-bitch do we owe now? - An American Infantryman after the Battle of Soissons, 27 May 1918.(2)

 "If success beckons," said Theobald von Bethmann- Hollweg, "we must follow."(3) With this capitulation to the nation's army and naval leaders on 9 January 1917, Germany's Chancellor accepted the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare. The Chancellor's peace feelers directed toward President Woodrow Wilson in December 1916 had met with little favorable response, and his influence with the Kaiser had eroded.(4)

 Although this policy would surely pull the US into the war, Germany's military leaders -- including Field Marshall Paul von Hindenburg and General Erich Ludendorff -- felt certain that America posed little threat; a force across the Atlantic of only 110,000 soldiers which had done little more than irritate the Mexican government in its chase after Pancho Villa seemed hardly a formidable foe. America's navy, which had only ten percent of its manpower requirements and only one third of its vessels supplied to operational standards, also caused the German military little concern. While the US had committed itself to a naval building program in 1916, the resulting capital ships were hardly the type to conduct an anti-submarine campaign.(5)

 Germany's military had more respect for America's industrial potential. Perhaps most impressive, at least in terms of capacity for modern warfare, was the production of iron and steel. As early as 1899, the output of the Carnegie Steel Corporation exceeded Great Britain's total yearly production by 695,000 tons. Formed on 4 March 1901, the United States Steel Company soon became the first corporation in the world to be capitalized for $1 billion. At the turn of the century, American steel production was already ranked first in the world, outdistancing second- place Germany by thirty percent. In addition, iron production in the US had doubled between 1914 and 1917.(6)

 In spite of America's impressive output of such materials, Germany's leaders believed that their U-boats could starve Britain out of the war long before the US could adapt itself to full-scale mobilization. Admiral Henning von Holtzendorf, Chief of the German Naval Staff, estimated that the submarines would sink 600,000 tons per month for six months. Fearful of the submarines, neutral nations would cease shipping to England altogether, causing a loss of 1,200,000 of the 3,000,000 tons of neutral shipping. The total loss for Great Britain would equal thirty-nine percent of its available tonnage. By the time the US could amass a substantial force, there would be no bottoms left to ferry it across the ocean. Even if America could somehow find the required shipping, the Germans felt confident that they would control the Channel ports and therefore offer the Americans no place to land an expeditionary force. While this choice would doubtlessly add to her list of enemies, Germany's military minds believed that it would yield victory. They were wrong.(7)

 Although it would number more than four million by the time of the Armistice, the military force available to answer an American call to arms in April 1917 commanded little awe. The aging officer corps had no experience in modern war; in their education they had looked to the outdated models of mobility and maneuver from American Civil War battles instead of the more relevant Russo-Japanese War, which had demonstrated the destructive capacity of modern firepower.(8) Both the Chief of Staff, Major General Hugh L. Scott, and his Assistant, Major General Tasker H. Bliss, were within a year of mandatory retirement. The size of the army had fluctuated from a high of 210,000 during the Spanish-American War to a low of 64,000 in 1907--roughly equal to the number of British casualties on the first day of the Somme. By 1 April 1917 it was able to muster 5,791 officers and 121,797 enlisted men. No division or unit of comparable size existed which could serve as an expeditionary force, and from the entire army the War Department could immediately organize and ship only 24,000 troops and provide enough ammunition for only a day and a half of heavy fighting. The National Guard consisted of 181,620 officers and men, of whom 80,446 had already been called to federal service. Moreover, these poorly trained Guardsmen lacked a unified and centralized command. Essential supplies of a modern army, such as poison gas, flame-throwers, tanks, mortars, grenades, heavy field guns and modern aircraft, were non-existent, and the field artillery had sufficient rounds to sustain a bombardment for no more than a few minutes. The US Army ranked seventeenth in the world, keeping company with Denmark, Holland and Chile. Historian Robert H. Ferrell has labelled [sic] it "a home for old soldiers, a quiet, sleepy place where they killed time until they began drawing their pensions."(9)

The task of molding the diminutive American army into a fighting force and of developing the strategic plans for US participation fell upon the shoulders of the War Department General Staff. In April 1917 this immature body of military advisors consisted of fifty-one officers, only nineteen of whom were on duty in Washington. None of these men had commanded in action or had even seen a modern division of American soldiers. Of these nineteen, eight were occupied with routine business, leaving only eleven --comprising the War College Division, housed with the Army War College at Washington Barracks, away from the remainder of the War Department on the other side of the capital city --free to concentrate on the herculean task of creating from thin air a viable war plan against Germany. Contrasted with the huge British, French and German General Staffs at the outbreak of the war in 1914 -- 232, 644 and 650 respectively --this number was absurdly small but indicative of the distant, sometimes forcibly detached position from which America had viewed the struggle on the Continent.(10)

 Inefficient routines also hamstrung the General Staff's effectiveness. The serpentine paper trail required of every report wound almost all through the War Department. A proposal by the head of a bureau, such as the Chief of the Ordnance Department, would go first to the Adjutant General, who forwarded it to the War College, where it was assigned to one of the overworked committees of the War College Division. After these officers reached a conclusion, they presented it to the Division Chief for his approval. The paper was then returned to the Adjutant General who forwarded it to the Chief of Staff. If the issue was of grave importance, the Chief of Staff would send it to the Secretary of War. After the Chief of Staff or the Secretary of War had approved the proposal, it was returned to the Adjutant General and then finally to the office of origin. Mountains of papers backed up in this system. The Chief of Staff would have had to spend eight hours and forty-five minutes of each day reading memoranda if he were to devote a mere three minutes to each paper passing across his desk.(11)

An examination of the role of the War College Division in the formation of military strategy for World War I reveals two major threads in American preparation for the conflict. First, the United States found itself unmindful of and ill-prepared for the degree of involvement which its declaration of war in April 1917 would require. Neither the military planners nor the political leaders had adequately addressed the possibility of US participation in the war that had been raging in Europe for almost three years.

Fundamental strategic questions such as whether to send an army to Europe, and if so when and where to deploy it to support national goals, remained unanswered until after the Congress of the United States granted Wilson's request for a declaration of war on Germany.

The second major recognizable theme within the plans is the distinction between the approach of the military planners and that of the political leaders. Throughout the period of preparation for US involvement, the military leaders held a singular goal foremost -- victory over Imperial Germany. Many political leaders, especially Wilson himself, had other concerns which often put them at odds with the military recommendations at those rare times when they even knew of them. The desperate situation at sea demanded that the US cooperate closely with Great Britain's Royal Navy, so Wilson's only flexibility lay in how he employed the nation's land forces.(12)

The occasional harmony which sometimes existed between the military and political objectives, however, can be attributed more to coincidence than to cohesive planning. Historians Arthur S. Link and John Whiteclay Chambers, II, have argued that "Wilson's control and execution of military-diplomatic policy was personal and direct," and that he "insisted upon maintaining daily oversight of all military and naval operations, even down to particular strategies." They contend that the President enjoyed a close working relationship with his military advisers and that "in all matters of military-diplomatic policies and strategies, he required that there be a direct flow of information coming to the President." They further claim that "through daily meetings with Secretary [of War Newton D.] Baker, and members of the General Staff as necessary, the President maintained personal control of the activities of the military establishment, especially as they related to his larger goals."(13)

Wilson fully exercised his constitutional powers as Commander-in-Chief and maintained strict control of final military policy decisions, especially those relating to naval policy. The picture of close cooperation painted by Link and Chambers is inaccurate, however, during the formative period of American military planning for the war. An examination of the policy-making process illustrates that a gulf existed between the approach of the military planners in the General Staff and that of the President himself, especially as such planning related to the Continental Army Reserve, strategic planning on the eve of the war, the decision to raise the army's manpower through conscription, the decision to send an immediate expeditionary force to France, the decision to follow-up with more soldiers as rapidly as possible, and finally the decision to exercise American military power on the Western Front.

Woodrow Wilson fought heartily to keep the US out of World War I. Although his sentiments leaned toward the Allies in their struggle with the Central Powers, Wilson sought Congressional approval for war with much reluctance and only after he believed he had exhausted all attempts at peace and neutrality. Nevertheless, as gradual as America's entry into the Great War was, the strategic preparation for it still lagged behind.

1. Jay M. Shafritz, Words on War: Military Quotations from Ancient Times to the Present (New York: Prentice Hall, 1990), 488.

2. Henry Berry, Make the Kaiser Dance: The American Experience in World War I (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1978), 153.

3. [German] Reichstag Committee of Inquiry, "Report of the Conference at Pless, January 9, 1917," in Official German Documents Relating to the World War, 2 vols. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1923), 2:1320-21.

4. Ernest R. May, The World War and American Isolation, 1914-1917 (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1959), 387-415. May shows that Wilson's demand that all belligerents openly and explicitly state their war aims was unacceptable to Berlin. Similarly, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George's newly[-]formed War Cabinet strongly objected to the implication that Wilson publicly placed them on the same moral level as the Germans. For the texts of the almost identical notes sent to the Entente and to the Central Powers, see The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, gen. ed. Arthur S. Link, 63 vols. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966 - ), 40:222-29 (hereafter, PWW).

5. James L. Stokesbury, A Short History of World War I (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1981), 216-20; Barbara Tuchman, The Zimmermann Telegram (New York: Delta Books, 1963), 132-42. The classic critique of the Naval Act of 1916 can be found in Harold and Margaret Sprout, The Rise of American Naval Power, 1776-1918 (Princeton:

Princeton University Press, 1939). For a more recent but equally biting treatment see Paulo E. Coletta, Admiral Bradley A. Fiske and the American Navy (Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1979).

6. John M. Cooper, Jr., Pivotal Decades: The United States, 1900-1920 (New York: W. H. Norton, 1990), 11; Clark C. Spence, The Sinews of American Capitalism: American Economic History (New York: Hill & Wang, 1964), 244.

7. Holger H. Herwig and David F. Trask, "The Failure of Germany's Undersea Offensive Against World Shipping, February 1917 - October 1918," The Historian 33 (August 1971): 612-13; Trevor Wilson, The Myriad Faces of War: Britain and the Great War, 1914-1918 (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 1986), 427-28.

8. Harry P. Ball, Of Responsible Command: A History of the U.S. Army War College (Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, 1983), 141-2. There is some controversy, however, about whether the American World War I commanders' education was as useless as it might seem. Edward Coffman argues that the professional training that these leaders received was a significant improvement over the nineteenth century volunteer ideal and that it both adequately exposed these commanders to German tactical theory and trained them to lead in combat. The opportunity to prove the respectability of the AEF and its commanders in a major campaign against the Germans in 1919 was preempted. Coffman, "The AEF Leaders' Education for War," in The Great War, 1914-18: Essays on the Military, Political, and Social History of the First World War, ed. R.J.Q. Adams (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1990): 139-59. See also Joseph G. Dawson's comments on Coffman's article, ibid., 183-90.

9. Robert H. Ferrell, Woodrow Wilson and World War I, 1917-1921, The New American Nation Series, ed. Henry Steele Commager and Richard B. Morris (New York: Harper and Row, 1985), 14-15; Marvin A. Kreidberg and Morton G. Henry, History of Military Mobilization in the United States Army, 1775-1945 (Washington: Department of the Army, 1955), 216; US Army War College, Historical Section, The Genesis of the American First Army (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1938 [1929]), 1-3; Stokesbury, A Short History of World War I, 218-19.

10. James Hewes, "The United States Army General Staff, 1900-1917," Military Affairs 38 (April 1974): 68; "Report of the Chief of Staff," in War Department Annual Report, 1919, 4 vols. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1920), 1:248-49; Frederic L. Paxson, "The American War Government, 1917-1918," American Historical Review 26 (October 1920): 54. See also Edward M. Coffman, The War to End All Wars: The American Military Experience in World War I (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1986 [New York: Oxford, 1968]), 21-4; Marvin A. Kreidberg and Morton G. Henry, History of Military Mobilization in the United States Army, 215-16; James Hewes, From Root to McNamara: Army Organization and Administration, 1900-1963 (Washington: Center of Military History, 1975).

11. Edward M. Coffman, "The Battle Against Red Tape: Business Methods of the War Department General Staff, 1917-1918," Military Affairs 26 (Spring 1962): 1-3.

12. David F. Trask, "Woodrow Wilson and World War I, " in American Diplomacy in the Twentieth Century, ed. Warren F. Kimball, The Forum Series in American History (St. Louis, MO: Forum Press, 1980): 7-8.

13. Arthur S. Link and John W. Chambers, II, "Woodrow Wilson as Commander-in-Chief," in The United States Military Under the Constitution of the United States, 1789-1989, ed. Richard H. Kohn (New York: New York University Press, 1991), 319-24.



Although the General Staff would bear the responsibility for moving the nation to a war footing once the US had entered the fray, it was embarrassingly weak at the time of the American declaration of war. The intersection of several sentiments, ranging from honest fear of militarism to political infighting within the War Department, had conspired to thwart the creation of a modern and centralized coordinating and planning agency. The General Staff that existed on paper was woefully inadequate; the one that existed in Washington was a mere shadow of that.

The General Staff had faced an uphill battle since its inception around the turn of the century. The division of authority that existed at that time between the Secretary of War and the Commanding General of the Army hindered the efficient administration of the US military. The Secretary controlled the financial affairs of the army and supervised the various bureaus, such as the Adjutant General, the Ordnance Department, the Quartermaster General and others. The Commanding General, on the other hand, was charged with purely line matters including the discipline and efficiency of the troops. No one had specific responsibility for mobilization planning. The Secretary of War was often too busy and, with little military experience, inadequately trained to deal with the technical aspects of military policy. In addition, turnover was often too great in the various bureaus to facilitate cogent planning, and the Commanding General suffered from a lack of personnel to concentrate on the task.(1)

The Spanish-American War demonstrated the glaring weaknesses in the organization of the War Department. The beginning of that conflict found the US not only lacking a definite plan of campaign, but even missing accurate maps of enemy territory and reliable information about the military resources necessary to devise such a strategy. Instead of determining the requisite size and composition of an expeditionary force to meet its predetermined mission, the actual approach of the strategic planners was to see how many troops, ships and supplies could be gathered in Florida and from there decide what to do with them.(2)

Soldiers initially sent to Cuba were clad in winter woolen uniforms ill-suited to the tropical climate. General Nelson A. Miles, Commander of the United States Army, reported on 4 June 1898 that over 300 railroad cars loaded with war materials were sitting idly along the roads around Tampa, Florida. The invoices and bills of lading for these shipments had not been received, forcing officers to break open seals and hunt from car to car to determine their contents. The day after he was sworn in as lieutenant colonel of the volunteer cavalry, Theodore Roosevelt observed, "The delays and stupidity of . . . the Ordnance Department surpass belief. The Quartermaster Department is better but bad. The Commissary Department is good. There is no head, no management whatever in the War Department. Against a good nation we should be helpless."(3)

Although the rapid collapse of the Spanish defenses failed to provide a severe test for the army, some reform- minded military leaders recognized the need for change in the structure of the War Department. Had the United States fought a sturdier foe at the turn of the century, the weaknesses in high level military organization might have proven disastrous. At the close of the war, President William McKinley appointed Grenville M. Dodge, a Civil War veteran and railroad promoter, to conduct an investigation into the War Department's failures during the war. The Dodge Commission provided an eight-volume critique of the status of the military, concluding that "no well regulated . . . corporation could transact business satisfactorily" under the existing conditions. The recommendations of this review board, however, were hardly radical in scope. One of the strongest proposals suggested that the current responsibilities of the Quartermaster Corps should be divided, but the Commission could not decide on the proper manner of doing so. In retrospect it is clear that true, fundamental reform would have to await the appointment of a new Secretary of War.(4)

When the continued criticism of the War Department forced the resignation of Secretary of War R.A. Alger, the problems arising out of the occupation of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines motivated McKinley's choice of a successor. His selection, Elihu Root, later described the telephone call that he received from a member of President McKinley's staff: I answered, 'Thank the President for me but say that it is quite absurd, I know nothing about war, I know nothing about the Army.' There came back the reply, 'President Mckinley directs me to say that he is not looking for anyone who knows anything about the Army; he has got to have a lawyer to direct the government of these Spanish islands, and you are the lawyer he wants.'(5)

Ironically, this lawyer who knew nothing about the army would provide the spark that resulted in the formation of the War Department General Staff. The reforms instituted after the Spanish-American War were shaped as much by the political climate of the War Department as they were by Root's own vision. The heads of the bureaus enjoyed a great deal of sovereignty within their domains of responsibility and fought any changes that threatened to undermine their influence. Nonetheless, Root sought to create a coordinating body to solve some of the deficiencies made obvious by the "splendid little war." His analysis had revealed several deficiencies in army organization, including a lack of connection between the staff bureaus and the army, the absence of any central agency for the formation of a general military policy and a lack of coordination among the various bureaus.(6)

Realizing that a radical reconstruction of the War Department would meet fierce opposition from its various divisions, Root decided that as a first step he would create a War College with as many powers of a General Staff as was practical. In February 1900 he appointed a board of officers to consider this proposal under the direction of General William Ludlow. On 31 October 1900 this panel recommended the creation of a War College to digest and disseminate military data and information, develop means of military education and training, further the higher instruction of the army and serve as an agency at the disposal of the War Department for the coordination of military administration.(7)

The proposal of the Ludlow Board met with anticipated opposition. Many people outside of the military feared that a General Staff smacked of Prussian militarism and therefore was antithetical to the American tradition of a soldiery under civilian control. Within the military, opposition was often more self-interested. General Miles, still the Commanding General of the army, vehemently resisted these suggestions, believing that a General Staff would threaten the initiative of his command. In addition, the bureau chiefs opposed the panel's conclusion, correctly viewing it as a challenge to their independence. Root, with much justification, believed that these chiefs' permanent tenure in Washington had created a chasm between their concerns and those of the rest of the US Army. In Root's own words, the heads of the bureaus "had become entrenched in Washington armchairs."(8)

The Act of 2 February 1901 included Root's recommended War College. The Secretary of War also succeeded in a brilliant and subtle -- but in the end fruitless -- plan to defuse future antagonism to his reforms. Knowing that he would never gain the support of the current bureau chiefs, and knowing too that any future heads of these departments would be equally obstinate because of their permanent tenure of office, he substituted a four-year detail for the previously fixed appointments. He successfully implemented this change because he did nothing to affect the current holders of these positions. Root thus attempted to secure a tighter degree of control over the War Department bureaus for any future battles.(9)

Buoyed by his success with the 1901 Act, Root decided to seek the establishment of a complete General Staff. In early 1902, the Secretary of War submitted a measure that was to become House Resolution 11350 of the 57th Congress. Sections four through ten of this proposition created a General Staff charged with the consideration of military policy and the formation of comprehensive plans for national defense. In addition, this proposal created a Chief of Staff who would, under the direct authority of the President and the Secretary of War, supervise both the General Staff and the army as a whole. General Miles led the opposition in the difficult legislative battle, again fearing that a General Staff would rob the Commanding General of his independence. Root's proposal faced opposition among some legislators as well. During his questioning of the Secretary of War, Senator Joseph Hawley of Connecticut claimed that "Washington and Napoleon had no need for strategy boards," to which Root responded, "Well, they are dead; dead as our present system."(10) In spite of those who wished to block the reforms, Congress enacted the bill on 14 February 1903.(11)

The Act had its weaknesses, however. The Inspector General's Office remained a separate bureau, and without the power of inspection, the General Staff's supervisory authority was relatively meaningless. In addition, minor modifications of the law opened the possibility that any individual bureau chief with sufficient legislative influence could exempt himself from the bill's restrictions. Nevertheless, a coordinating and planning agency for the War Department now existed.(12)

Under the Act of 14 February 1903 and subsequent army regulations, the General Staff consisted of a Chief of Staff (Lieutenant General Samuel B.M. Young), two other general officers and forty-two junior officers. The Staff itself included three divisions. The First Division, led by Colonel Enoch H. Crowder, dealt with administrative matters. The Second Division, under the direction of Major W.D.Beach, oversaw military information and attachés. The Third Division, headed by Colonel A. MacKenzie, directed military planning and training. The predecessor of the General Staff, the Army War College, assisted the General Staff and its Chief in the preparation of plans for national defense.(13)

The Act of 1903 had established the framework for the General Staff, but it failed to guarantee its effectiveness. The traditional opposition continued, and the Act of 25 June 1906 exempted the Ordnance Department from the provisions of the four-year detail system, thus marking the beginning of the return to permanent tenure for the bureau chiefs. The small General Staff continued to drown in a sea of administrative matters and had little time to formulate plans during its early years. The scant planning that did occur was based on data from past wars; the US invasion of Cuba in 1906, therefore, suffered few of the problems of the Spanish-American War. Such an approach, however, lacked the foresight necessary for modern warfare.(14)

When Major General Leonard Wood became Chief of Staff on 22 April 1910, he was appalled by the mass of inconsequential matter occupying the General Staff's attention. Out of one hundred random studies, he found not a single one that bore any relation to war and only three that were of any consequence. One paper in particular illustrated the absurdity of some of the matters occupying the General Staff's time. After laying out seven pages of arguments, pro and con, it concluded that "it is therefore recommended that no toilet paper be issued." This paper was signed by the Chief of Staff and bore the approval of Robert Shaw Oliver, then Acting Secretary of War. These weaknesses indicted both the individual staff members and the fragmented structure of the General Staff itself. Wood reorganized the General Staff into three divisions: the Mobile Army, the Coast Artillery, and the War College Division, which combined the General Staff planners and the Army War College into one unit. This reorganization emphasized the General Staff's role as a coordinating agency and resulted in more integrated army planning and an end to the previous compilation of disparate studies.(15) In spite of these attempts, the inertia of inaction continued to hinder the General Staff's effectiveness. One Field Artillery Major who served on the General Staff during this time noted:

Most of the General Staff officers were then of the type whose conception of their job was to get to their desks at 9 A.M., pass papers from the "In" basket to the "Out" basket, read the Army and Navy Journal, and gossip about army politics. Their tendency was to concern themselves too much with administrative matters and too little with high planning and original thinking.(16)

Wood's reforms did not fail to step on some toes within the existing bureau structure. As part of his attempts to promote greater efficiency in governmental operations, President William Howard Taft created the War Department Board on Business Methods in March 1911. Major General Fred C. Ainsworth, Adjutant General, chaired the board. Under the direction of Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, Wood and the General Staff presented proposals for the board's consideration, including one suggestion for a change in paperwork methods within the Adjutant General's own office.(17)

The perceived audacity of the General Staff infuriated Ainsworth, who on 3 February 1912 sent a biting reply denigrating the experience and competence of its members: It is understood, perhaps incorrectly, that the plan now under consideration, was formulated by two relatively young officers, neither of whom has any practical knowledge of the purposes for which [this paperwork is] used in the War Department.

Neither of these officers, nor any other officer in or out of the General Staff, no matter how long he may have been in service, is qualified to prepare forms of any kind for use in the Adjutant General's Office, unless, through actual service in that office, he has acquired a practical knowledge of the manner in which and the purpose for which the information recorded on these forms is used.

Echoing the long-standing opposition of those within the traditional structure of the army, Ainsworth argued that "it is most inadvisable ever to intrust to incompetent amateurs the management of business that is of nation-wide importance, and that can only be managed prudently, safely, and efficiently by those whom long service has made experts with regard to it." In an ad hominem attack on Wood and by implication on the Secretary of War himself, Ainsworth added that if his objections to the General Staff proposal which "have been pointed out here are not sufficient to carry to the minds of those with whom the decision of this matter now rests . . . then it will be worse than useless to present further facts or arguments. . . ."(18)

Wood carried Ainsworth's reply to Stimson and President Taft. Stimson reprimanded the Adjutant General on 14 February. He enumerated several similar instances of defiance and concluded:

Your present action . . . is therefore but the culmination of a series of outbreaks evidencing such intolerance of subordination and such readiness to impugn either the motives or the intelligence of those with whom it is your duty to work in association as, if uncorrected, to destroy your usefulness in your present office. It is impossible that the business of the Government shall be properly conducted if official communications are made the occasion for contemptuous comments and aspersions upon fellow officers and for insolence to superiors.(19)

The President ordered Ainsworth to step down from his duties pending consideration of disciplinary actions. On the next day Taft granted the Adjutant General's request to be allowed to retire from the army.(20)

Thus by early 1912 one of the staunchest opponents of the General Staff had retired under threat of court-martial. Many of the other, older and more conservative elements had also been removed, and the Chief of Staff was now the recognized head of the army. Nonetheless, the General Staff itself had not yet reached maturity, and during the first part of the year the War Department remained preoccupied with trivial matters. A Leavenworth graduate sorrowfully noted that he found the cavalry officers in the War Department at this time concerned with a new style of saber while their infantry counterparts debated the color of the stripe on the dress-blue trouser.(21)

The General Staff's attempts at a comprehensive American military policy came to fruition in 1912 with Secretary of War Stimson's report, "The Organization of the Land Forces of the United States." This plan recommended that the United States organize its land forces into three distinct groups: a regular army organized in divisions and cavalry brigades ready for immediate use as an expeditionary force, an army of national citizen soldiers which would fill out the ranks of the regular army, and an army of volunteers to be organized if greater forces were needed.(22)

Woodrow Wilson's election in 1912, however, resulted in the shelving of the Stimson Plan. Unable to secure its comprehensive military policy, the General Staff was relegated again to a piecemeal approach to strategic planning.

Respect continued to wane for the General Staff. An investigation of Ainsworth's reprimand led by his supporters on the House Military Affairs Committee concluded that the General "had been guilty of no act which justified the letter of the Secretary of War and the action which resulted in the country's loss of his activities when they were most needed." Motivated in great part to avenge Ainsworth's treatment, Congress had by 1913 reduced the General Staff's number from forty-five to thirty-six.(23)

The beginning of the First World War in 1914 brought with it President Wilson's strong admonishment for neutrality. Military policy-making was anathema. The European conflict did, however, slowly reveal to some the inadequacy of the American military. In response to a request from Secretary of War Lindley M. Garrison, the General Staff devoted a large part of 1915 to the preparation of the "Statement of a Proper Military Policy for the United States," which recommended increasing the size of the regular army from 100,000 to 230,000, continuing support for the organized militia and establishing a reserve of trained citizens, officers and supplies. Garrison adopted much of the "Statement" in his Continental Army Plan, which sought to establish a standing army of 140,000 (well below the General Staff recommendation in the "Statement," but the maximum amount which current military housing could accommodate) and a national, volunteer reserve force of 400,000 men ready for instant call.(24)

Garrison's Continental Army idea suffered opposition both from those who thought it went too far and from those who thought it was insufficient. Faced with stiff opposition from his own party, Wilson withdrew his support, and on 10 February 1916 Secretary Garrison and Assistant Secretary Henry Breckinridge resigned in protest, throwing the already fickle support for military planning and preparedness into further confusion.(25)

In the absence of Executive initiative and in the face of the shortcomings revealed by intervention in Mexico, Congress seized the reigns of leadership in 1916. After extensive hearings, the National Defense Act of 1916 finally became law on 3 June. Based in part on the 1915 "Statement" and supplementary documents, the National Defense Act seemed on the surface to vindicate the General Staff. According to the Act, the army would consist of the regular army, the volunteer army, the Officers' Reserve Corps, the Enlisted Reserve Corps, the National Guard and any other forces that might be authorized by law. Finally, the General Staff's work and planning seemed to be recognized for its merits.(26)

Provisions deeper within the National Defense Act, however, boded ill for the General Staff. The law limited it to fifty-five officers, including a Chief of Staff, two general officers, ten colonels, ten lieutenant colonels, fifteen majors and seventeen captains, with the added restriction that no more than half of the junior officers could be on duty in or around Washington, DC. The statute abolished the Mobile Army and Coastal Artillery Divisions within the General Staff, and limited the jurisdiction of the organization to non-administrative matters, calling into question whether it still had supervisory control over the bureaus. Although Congress had adopted many of the General Staff's recommendations and had once again codified the concept of a central, coordinating agency, the limitations caused the General Staff to come dangerously close to withering away in 1916. Only the fortuitous combination of the perception that the United States was rapidly drifting into the European conflict and the arrival of a new Secretary of War saved it.(27)

 If anyone in 1916 was a less likely candidate for the position of Secretary of War than Elihu Root had been at the turn of the century, it was Newton D. Baker. Apart from a short stint as private secretary to the Postmaster General and two terms as mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, Baker had little administrative experience. Perhaps more worrisome to those who favored expanded military planning, the Martinsburg, West Virginia, native was an avowed pacifist, holding membership in three pacifist societies. It was precisely for this reason that Wilson dubbed him as the new Secretary of War; the President desired an administrator who could ameliorate the army's demands for military expansion. A New York Times article astutely observed that Wilson sought a "sympathetic and useful co-adjuter . . . in this time of trial." Baker himself viewed the appointment as temporary, agreeing to serve only until the preparedness controversy could be resolved. Nonetheless, Baker proved as strong a supporter of the General Staff idea as had Elihu Root at the turn of the century.(28)

Baker sought to settle the question of the General Staff's relationship with the various bureaus. Judge Advocate General Enoch H. Crowder had counseled the new Secretary of War to make a narrow reading of the National Defense Act, thereby limiting the role of the General Staff. He argued that:

duties performed by the General Staff of whatever nature must be general in character. So the statute expressly provides. If the matter be of special rather than of general interest and concern; if it be limited rather than general in its effect; if it be a matter falling within and confined to the special jurisdiction of a bureau and not reaching directly other bureaus or the Army as a whole; if it be routine rather than of far-reaching consequence and importance; if it deal with details and specifics rather than generalities, with particular performance rather than general policy, then it is entirely clear that it is not a subject for General Staff consideration and functions.

As for the duties of the Chief of Staff, Crowder concluded that "I do not believe that by virtue of any authority he has, either in his capacity as a member of the General Staff Corps or as chief of said corps, he can lawfully exercise his power so as to stand between a bureau head and the Secretary of War."(29)

Chief of Staff Hugh L. Scott viewed Crowder's opinion with much skepticism and concern. Vowing to "fight this till the end," he sent his own brief to Baker, adding, "Mr. Secretary: I am handing you a case that will be the most important decision that you will ever have to make in that chair. Your verdict may spell victory or defeat for our armies."(30)

On 13 September 1916 Baker rendered his decision. Basing his conclusion on an interpretation of the intent behind both Elihu Root's reforms and the resultant Act of 1903, Baker ruled that:

The Chief of Staff, speaking in the name of the Secretary of War, will coordinate and supervise the various bureaus, offices, and departments of the War Department; he will advise the Secretary of War; he will inform himself in as great detail as in his judgment seems necessary to qualify him adequately to advise the Secretary of War.

The Secretary of War found in the National Defense Act of 1916 a reiteration of the intentions of Congress in the Act of 1903 -- namely, that the duties of the General Staff, while not including daily administrative or executive powers within each individual bureau, clearly gave that body a supervisory role. Thus, less than seven months before the US declaration of war, a clear-cut decision on the General Staff's powers was finally issued. Even after this ruling, however, the Secretary of War usually dealt with the various bureau chiefs directly. Therefore, in spite of this belated recognition, and although it would be charged with formulating American strategy, the General Staff was still unprepared for the demands of the coming war.(31)


1. Kreidberg and Henry, History of Military Mobilization, 175; William R. Roberts, "Loyalty and Expertise: The Transformation of the Nineteenth-Century American General Staff and the Creation of the Modern Military Establishment" (Ph.D. dissertation, Johns Hopkins University, 1979), 210. Roberts points out that during the two-and-a-half years prior to the Spanish-American War, the army appointed four quartermasters general and six commissaries general.

2. Major General Otto L. Nelson, Jr., National Security and the General Staff (Washington: Infantry Journal Press, 1946), 28-34.

3. Correspondence, Relating to the War with Spain, April 15 to September 1, 1898 (Washington: U.S. Adjutant General's Office, 1902), 4, cited in ibid., 28; Walter Millis, The Martial Spirit (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1931), 217.

4. Report of the Commission Appointed by the President to Investigate the Conduct of the War Department in the War with Spain, by Grenville M. Dodge (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899), 44; Hewes, "The United States Army General Staff," 62.

5. Elihu Root, Addresses on Government and Citizenship (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1916), 503-04.

6. John Dickinson, The Building of an Army (New York: D. Appleton-Century Co., 1922), 255.

7. Nelson, National Security and the General Staff, 46-7.

8. Philip C. Jessup, Elihu Root, 2 vols. (New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company, 1938), 1:244; John L. Sutton, "The German General Staff in US Defense Policy," Military Affairs 25 (Winter 1961-62): 197.

9. Nelson, National Security and the General Staff, 48

10. US Congress, Senate, Committee on Military Affairs, Efficiency of the Army, 57th Congress, 1st Session, 1902, 13, 17-18.

11. James W. Pohl, "The General Staff and American Defense Policy: The Formative Period, 1898-1917" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1967), 62-93; Roberts, "Loyalty and Expertise," 247-50. Roberts emphasizes the significance of the word "supervise" rather than "command" in regards to the chief of staff's duties as being fundamental to the ultimate passage of the legislation.

12. Ibid.

13. Nelson, National Security and the General Staff, 60-71.

14. Pohl, "The General Staff and American Defense Policy," 93-4.

15. Johnson Hagood, The Services of Supply: A Memoir of the Great War (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1927), 21; Kreidberg and Henry, History of Military Mobilization in the U.S. Army, 179-82; Hewes, "The United States Army General Staff, 1900-1917," 69-70.

16. William Lassiter, "Memoir," US Military Academy Library, West Point, New York, quoted in Edward M. Coffman, "The American Military and Strategic Policy in World War I," in War Aims and Strategic Policy in the Great War, 1914-1918, ed. Barry Hart and Adrian Preston (London: Croom Helm, 1977), 67. Lassiter went on to become a major general and the chief of corps artillery during the war.

17. Nelson, National Security and the General Staff, 151-57.

18. Ainsworth to Wood, 3 February 1912, in US Congress, House, Report Number 508, 62nd Congress, 2nd Session, 1912, 6-13.

19. Stimson to Ainsworth, 14 February 1912, ibid.

20. Hermann Hagedorn, Leonard Wood: A Biography, 2 vols. (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1931), 2:112.

21. Nelson, National Security and the General Staff, 151-66; Kreidberg and Henry, History of Military Mobilization, 182; Hewes, "The United States Army General Staff," 68-9; Coffman, The War to End All Wars, 12-13.

22. "The Organization of the Land Forces of the United States," in "Report of the Secretary of War," in War Department Annual Reports, 1912, 4 vols. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1913), 1:69-128.

23. "Report Number 508," 2; "Report of the Chief of Staff," in War Department Annual Reports, 1912, 1:242-43; Pohl, "The General Staff and American Defense Policy," 355.

24. "The Statement of a Proper Military Policy for the United States," in "Report of the Secretary of War," in War Department Annual Reports, 1915, 3 vols. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1916), 1:113-35.

25. Garrison to Wilson, 9 February 1916, PWW, 36:143-44; Wilson to Garrison, ibid., 36:162-64. See Chapter 2 of this thesis for a more detailed discussion of the fate of the Continental Army Reserve Plan.

26. Kreidberg and Henry, History of Military Mobilization, 192-95; Nelson, National Security and the General Staff, 180-84. For a detailed discussion of the legislative history of the National Defense Act of 1916, see John Patrick Finnegan, Against the Specter of a Dragon: The Campaign for American Military Preparedness, 1914-1917, Contributions in Military History 7 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1974), 139-57.

27. Finnegan, Against the Specter of a Dragon, 139-57.

28. New York Times, 7 March 1916; Daniel R. Beaver, Newton D. Baker and the American War Effort, 1917-1919 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1966), 1-21.

29. Crowder to Scott, 24 July 1916, in "Report of the Secretary of War," in War Department Annual Reports, 1916 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1917), 80-9.

30. Scott to Frederick Palmer, quoted in Palmer, Newton D. Baker: America at War, 2 vols. (New York: Dodd & Mead, 1931), 1:65; Hugh L. Scott, Some Memoirs of a Soldier (New York: D. Appleton-Century Company, 1928), 546-47.

31. "Decision of the Secretary of War on the Effect of Section 5 of the National Defense Act," in "Report of the Secretary of War," in War Department Annual Reports, 1916, 70-80; Nelson, National Security and the General Staff, 198-223.



Two traits characterized American strategic planning for land warfare prior to --its rarity and its narrowly domestic scope. The military did make plans before the rupture of US-German diplomatic relations in early February 1917, and some of these plans recognized that the conflict in Europe might at least indirectly affect the United States. Nonetheless, those plans that did exist before 1917 largely ignored events across the Atlantic and thus formed a weak foundation for the eventual wartime mobilization and extra-continental commitment. The roots of American military planning for World War I, although notably shallow, do extend back prior to August 1914. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson initiated the War Department General Staff's first comprehensive military policy. He collected a series of articles concerning military planning in the Independent in the spring of 1912, and published them as the pamphlet, What is the Matter With Our Army? Answering the title question, Stimson wrote in the final article, "The trouble with the Army comes down, therefore, to our lack of an intelligent military policy in dealing with it." A few months later he ordered Captain John M. Palmer of the General Staff to draw up a plan for organizing all of the land forces in the US. To preempt a recalcitrant Congress from dismissing the study as the General Staff's isolated expression of opinion, Stimson ensured that the sixty page report on the "Organization of the Land Forces of the United States" was not approved until all general officers in the continental US had the chance to state their views.(1)

Although the report completely omitted the topic of economic mobilization and was to a large extent merely a restatement of the views held by various military Progressives that the army should be organized along more efficient, business-like models, it was significant in that it was a comprehensive collection of these sometimes fragmented ideas and that it was issued by the ostensible planning arm of the War Department. The topics covered in the report included: relations between the naval and land forces, relations between domestic forces and those abroad, land forces within the United States, the peacetime administration of the regular land forces, the importance of a reserve system, tactical organization of mobile troops, the relationship between promotion and organization, the organization and raising of national volunteer forces, considerations affecting the organization of the American land forces and a council of national defense.

The report highlighted the weakness of the traditional American reliance upon the citizen soldier--namely, the lack of adequate training, without which no soldier could be expected to face a modern foe. The report claimed that American history "is full of the success of the volunteer soldier after he has been trained for war, but it contains no record of the successful employment of raw levies for general military purposes." The General Staff's study thus focused in large part on the partial organization and training of militiamen in order to have a "means for preparing great armies of citizen soldiers to meet the emergency of modern war." The ultimate proposal included a provision for a six-year enlistment period for the regular army, consisting of three years on active duty followed by another three years in the reserve. Those soldiers in the reserves could quickly expand the regular army to a war footing without thinning its strength with raw recruits. The study also suggested the creation of a reserve officers' program consisting of those men who had received military training in college. To solve the problem of poor training for citizen soldiers and to bypass the highly politicized influence over the National Guard, the General Staff suggested a national militia based on Congressional districts instead of the traditional state control. Behind these layers of soldiers would stand the volunteers, ready for mobilization if the regular army and the National Guard together could not meet the situation. The combination of these three levels of the regular army plus its reserves, the national militia and the volunteers could yield the estimated requirements of 460,000 mobile troops and 42,000 static coastal defense troops in the event of war with a first-class power. The study concluded:

The complete organization of the mobile land forces of the United States will, therefore, include three distinct forces.

1. A Regular Army organized in divisions and cavalry brigades and ready for immediate use as an expeditionary force or for other purposes for which the citizen soldier is not available, or for employment in the first stages of war while the citizen soldiery is mobilizing and concentrating.

2. An Army of national citizen soldiers organized in peace in complete divisions and prepared to reenforce the Regular Army in time of war.

3. An army of volunteers to be organized under prearranged plans when greater forces are required than can be furnished by the Regular Army and the organized citizen soldiery.

The peace establishment of the Regular Army with the organized division districts of the National Guard should include the machinery for the recruiting, organization, and mobilization of this great third line of the national defense.

With the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson in January 1913, Stimson and the military planners lost all opportunity of seeing their proposals implemented immediately. Although shelved for the time being, this seminal work by the General Staff was to serve as the foundation for American military policy in the coming years.

The claim that military planning during the early part of Woodrow Wilson's administration did not exist or that it concentrated solely on the defense of the North American continent is only technically untrue. While marking significant advances in military policy, two of the great war plans, "Orange" in the event of a war with Japan and"Black" in case of hostilities with Germany, focused mainly on coastal defense and only tangentially on the defense of American territories abroad. In both of these plans the navy would serve as the first line of defense, with the army relegated to a supporting role. In spite of their seemingly global outlook, these plans emphasized almost exclusively the defense of the homeland.(2)

Formed to counter a possible attack by the German High Seas Fleet on either the West Indies or the American mainland, Black clearly illustrated America's introverted approach to defense. The US fleet, based in Guantánamo, Cuba, and Culebra, Puerto Rice, would confront the German ships approximately 500 miles out at sea and prevent the landing of any troops. No thought was given to the possibility of meeting the High Seas Fleet any farther away from the American continent, and little realistic evaluation was made of the strategic and logistical difficulties and slim likelihood of such a German invasion.(3)

On the surface, Orange seemed much more global in its approach. Completed in 1914 and focused on the defense of Manila in the event of a Japanese attack, this plan called for a naval battle within 1,200 miles of the Philippines. This strategy, however, was unrealistic. By way of the Panama Canal, Pearl Harbor, Midway and Guam, the first section of the US fleet would reach Manila in sixty-eight days. In comparison, the Japanese fleet and troop transports could arrive there in eight. The army detachment on the island would thus have to hold out for at least two months before the first American ships arrived. To compound the absurdity, this plan failed to consider the actual capability of the US Navy in 1914. While Congress had approved appropriations for a battleship fleet superior to that of the Japanese, the unbalanced US fleet lacked necessary auxiliary ships, including colliers and oil supply tankers. The battleships could hardly reach San Francisco without assistance, much less make a voyage of 10,000 miles from their Atlantic base to Manila.(4)American military planning thus continued to focus on the defense of American soil and continued to do so with little reference either to the nation's increasingly expansionist foreign policy or to its realistic capabilities.

One might have expected the events following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on 28 June 1914 to awaken America to its military weakness. The outbreak of war certainly exposed the nation's lack of preparation to some in the military, as evidenced by the request in August 1914 of the Chief of Staff of the Eastern Department at Governor's Island in New York: "we are without European maps and without funds to buy them at this headquarters. . . . You will probably have some maps at the War College from which you might send us a few. If so, please do so at once." Some in the military also took notice of the unprecedented, rapid manpower mobilization implemented by the European powers (except, of course, Britain, which rejected conscription until 1916), but the disintegration of the tenuous balance of power on the Continent did little to spark the development of a cogent military policy. The American public in late 1914 and early 1915 would simply not accept a change in America's detached posture towards both diplomacy and the military, especially if such a change might entangle the US in the problems of Europe. Even naval expansion, which might have been justified to protect America from the heat of the European fire, was repressed, since many believed that it was exactly this type of naval competition which had sparked the blaze in the first place. The dangers of a European war, even one of this magnitude, would have to seem far more immediate than the battlefields of France and Belgium before America would accept a greater emphasis on military planning.(5)

In the summer of 1915 America's isolationism and military complacency seemed to experience a shock as rude as the one felt on board the Lusitania at 2:10 pm on 7 May. The intervening years have perhaps blurred the view of just how startling the sinking of this sip was. People years after the war could remember exactly where they had been when they learned of the fate of the Lusitania. The acute, public outrage at the loss of American lives echoed within the halls of the White House. With his twin notes on 21 July to Secretary of War Lindley M. Garrison and Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, Wilson called for a defense program that he could submit to Congress in his next annual message.(6)

Wilson's call for preparedness clearly illustrates the gulf between the military's concerns and those of the President. Many reasons underlay Wilson's support for preparedness; viewed by some historians as chief among them was his desire to mediate a settlement among the belligerent powers.(7)

Arthur Link and John W. Chambers, II, contend that Wilson perceived the need for substantial military force in order for the US to command the respect of major military powers necessary to mediate among them. In support of this argument they cite Wilson's discussion with American pacifist leaders in May 1916, in which the President stated, "The peace of society is obtained by force. . . . And if you say we shall not have any war, you have got to have the force to make that 'shall' bite."(8)

One must carefully note, however, that this statement by Wilson came almost a full ten months after his memoranda to Daniels and Garrison, almost eight months after the sinking of the Arabic and two months after the sinking of the Sussex . Much time had passed between the President's call for preparedness and his May 1916 address during which his views toward the belligerents, and especially Germany, could have hardened. In addition, neither the policy initially suggested by the War Department nor the one eventually backed by the President would have done much to increase Allied and Entente respect for Wilson's attempts at mediation. European countries would have paid little attention to an army tethered to American shores, no matter what its size. If Wilson's reason to support preparedness came predominately from his desire to mediate a settlement--or even as Robert E. Osgood suggests, from a genuine fear that the US might find itself at war with Germany in the near future--then he surely misunderstood the capability of his military.(9) While his goals of mediation surely influenced his view toward preparedness and most definitely did not preclude such a policy, they probably did not provide the initial, or even the strongest roots for it. While the Presidential endorsement did give the General Staff planners a long awaited opportunity to consider a revision of American military policy, Wilson's decision was motivated in great part by domestic political interests and largely unrelated to a genuine concern for military preparation.

Public agitation for preparedness, which grew as Germany rebuffed Wilson's diplomatic protest notes over the Lusitania incident, threatened to undermine the President's support in the next election. Based on Hudson Maxim's best-selling book, Defenseless America , the motion picture Battle Cry of Peace (1915) served to sensationalize the issue as it portrayed a vulnerable United States cowering before an unnamed but easily identifiable foe's attack on New York City. Press polls showed overwhelming majorities in favor of increasing the army and navy. Joseph P. Tumulty, the President's personal secretary, suggested in August 1915 that the Republicans would have two potential campaign issues: "the tariff and the question of national defense." A strong plan for the latter would preempt half of the Republicans' strategy for the 1916 campaign. Tumulty further pointed out the elements of a sound defense policy:

In this matter we must have a sane, reasonable and workable programme. That programme must have in it, the ingredients that will call forth the hearty support of, first, the whole Cabinet (and particularly the Secretary of War); second, the leaders of the party in the Senate and the House; third, the rank and file of Democrats in both Houses; fourth, the Army and the Navy; and last but not least, the great body of the American people.(10)

While Tumulty realized that a workable plan for national defense clearly must have the support of the military, political and popular support seemed to him to be of greater concern. Tumulty's advice came after Wilson's requests in July for drafts of military policies and therefore was not the direct spark for preparedness, but Wilson had almost certainly realized that much political capital could be gained or lost through such an issue.

The evolution of this campaign for preparedness further illustrates that, as historian John Patrick Finnegan has noted, "the compartment between American foreign policy and American defense policy was watertight."(11) Wilson sometimes sacrificed rational military planning to political concerns. Such was the fate of the Continental Army Reserve Plan, which both came out of and formed a foundation for Wilson's decision for preparedness.

Secretary of War Garrison had taken a head start on Wilson's request for a revision of military policy. At the behest of the newly appointed Assistant Chief of Staff, Tasker H. Bliss, and with Wilson's consent, Garrison had on 11 March asked Brigadier General Montgomery M. Macomb, Chief of the War College Division, to submit by 15 June an update of the Stimson Plan of 1912, paying special attention to the recommended strength of the regular army and organized militia, the question of reserves, the problem of organizing and supplementing volunteer forces and the amount of reserve material and supplies that the army should keep in store.(12)

General Macomb or another member of the War College Division met with the Secretary of War every two or three days to keep him up-to-date on the planning. Nonetheless, progress was slow The War College Division planners had produced little of substance by the mid-June deadline. Garrison had received a vague, one-page memo which included a statement regarding the regular army and outlined the steps involved in both calling up the National Guard and in enlarging munitions productions. Garrison's concern, however, lay in the organization and nature of the reserves, since he accurately perceived that such formed the bulk of a modern army, or at least one that Americans might be willing to adopt at that time.(13)

Nearly a month after the deadline, the War College Division issued its product, the "Epitome of Military Policy." Although based on the Stimson Plan, the Epitome went beyond the recommendations of its 1912 predecessor. In that earlier proposal the General Staff had suggested a gradual increase of the army by annual increments to a goal of three complete infantry divisions in the continental US during peacetime. After these three were complete, the army would beseech Congress for a fourth. The Epitome, on the other hand, requested the four divisions and their auxiliary units immediately. All units would be kept at war strength, thus providing 281,000 soldiers. The mobile forces in the US alone would total 121,000 men, a number greater than the entire existing army. In addition, these mobile forces would be backed by a tremendous reserve. The Epitome also recommended that the term of enlistment be two years of active duty followed by a six-year stint in the reserves. Within eight years, according to the War College Division's calculations, 500,000 fully trained troops would be available for service.(14)

The War College Division's recommendations did not stop at raising a force of half-a-million. Conjuring up the threat of a possible German invasion of 435,000 soldiers, it suggested an additional line of defense numbering another half million to back up the regular army and its reserves. Astutely criticizing the tradition of a trained militia and civilian soldiers as inadequate for modern warfare, the War College Division extended a suggestion mad by the Secretary of War for a federally trained and controlled peacetime force. Under this plan volunteers would train three months out of the year for three years. If war erupted they would require only three more months of training to be ready for use. The General Staff labeled this plan the Continental Army, a name which was "appropriate, distinctive, and possessing grand historical associations." If fully adopted and implemented, the War College Division's plan would eventually be able to yield a force of one million soldiers within ninety days.(15)

There is no evidence that the General Staff had any hidden agendas in these recommendations. It was not surreptitiously trying to prepare for a war overseas, as many contemporary opponents of preparedness feared. There is no indication in the record of the military planners that they saw this proposal as the prelude to US action in the war. Also, to claim that the US leaders were preparing for such American participation is to claim that they had a firm idea of what exactly such involvement would entail, an assumption which crumbles in the light of the course of American planning once war appeared certain.(16)

In addition, this policy's strong similarities to Stimson's study of 1912--a proposal made prior to the outbreak of the war in Europe--suggest that this more recent plan also sought foremost to secure adequate protection of the United States. First, although the 1915 Epitome provided for a marked increase in the size of the nation's military, it still shared that earlier plan's goal of domestic defense. It lacked the provisions for naval cooperation which would have been necessary to send this force abroad. Second, both documents sought long range goals. The Continental Army would require three years to grow to its envisioned strength, hardly the type of plan that would have been made if involvement in Europe had been the goal. The large size of the force was admittedly alarming, especially in comparison to traditional American peacetime armies, but it was not to be a standing army and was to a great extent a recognition of some of the dangers of modern warfare. While the German invasion mentioned by the General Staff was clearly fanciful, and although the Atlantic Ocean did not provide the "easy avenues of approach" which the military planners feared, the US would not have the time for a sluggish approach to manpower mobilization if attacked by a modern ad powerful foe. Earlier plans for domestic defense had focused almost exclusively on coastal fortifications, but the Epitome recognized the need for orderly and rapid manpower expansion. The large army suggested by the War College Division was the honest, if misguided and inflated, assessment of the nation's needs for domestic protection; US participation on the battlefields of Europe was not the purpose of the General Staff's proposal.(17)

Regardless of how forthright the military planners might have been about their motivations, of course, the War College Division had seemingly confirmed anti-preparedness fears of militarism. Although incorrect in their accusations that the General Staff was forming plans to send a force to Europe, two August 1915 newspaper articles which claimed that the military was making plans to call 1,000,000 men were not completely off the mark. The President had surely not envisioned this type of military policy in his notes to Garrison and Daniels in July. The story that Wilson threatened to dismiss the entire General Staff if he learned that these allegations were true is most likely the stuff of legends.(18) Nonetheless, the War College Division felt compelled to issue an outright denial of the newspapers' charges:

The article in the Baltimore Sun of Tuesday morning, August 24, 1915, headed 'May Call 1,000,000 Men,' purporting to give an account of the plans for war with Germany, is made up out of whole cloth and does the General Staff and the Army War College great injustice in ascribing to them the preparation of plans based on the 'idea of sending an army to Europe.' No such plans have ever been prepared, nor even contemplated by the General Staff.

In addition, M.B. Mercer, Chief Clerk of the War College Division, sent a memorandum early in 1916 to the civilian employees of the Division, cautioning them "to engage in no discussion whatever concerning the progress of the European War and especially to refrain from the expression of any views of a partisan nature in connection therewith."(19)

The General Staff's plan met with opposition even within the military. Lieutenant Colonel W.H. Johnston, himself a General Staff officer, questioned whether the army could obtain enough men for this proposal. In the past fiscal year, the army had recruited only 35,941 men, far short of the General Staff's annual requirement of 320,000 for the regular army and Continental force. It was doubtful that the army could find almost ten times more interested recruits than it had the year before, Johnston argued, since able-bodied young men could hardly be expected to give up their jobs periodically "simply to receive [the regular army pay of] 50 cents a day. . . ." Volunteers would simply not suffice. Conscription was the only possible means by which such a force could be raised, but although many military planners privately favored such an idea, the United States in 1915 was hardly ready to accept a peacetime draft.(20)

Not surprisingly Garrison could not accept the General Staff's study. In addition to the flaws pointed out by Johnston, the $506 million first-year price tag--a four-fold increase in the army's current budget--would "chill, if not effectively destroy" any support for preparedness. On 2 August Garrison returned the study to the General Staff for revision, asking it to produce a plan that would have a chance of gaining Congressional approval. Since existing facilities could house no more than 140,000 troops, he instructed the military planners to use that figure for the regulars and to rely on the Continental Army for the remainder of the nation's defense needs.(21)

The War College Division's eventual proposal, the "Statement of Proper Military Policy for the United States," included a regular army of 140,000 and a Continental Army raised in annual increments of 133,000 until a reserve force of 400,000 was established. The regulars would enlist for a two-year tour of active duty followed by four years of reserve obligation. Those who volunteered under the Continental Army Plan would commit to periodic training over three years without obligation except that they return to the army "in the event of war or imminence thereof." Although it never explicitly determined the exact amount of training, the General Staff used a period of two months per year to figure the costs of the proposal.(22)

Although a bit more reasonable than its predecessor, the General Staff's revision still contained many of the political liabilities of the earlier "Epitome." It made no mention of how the army planned to raise the necessary numbers of recruits, so the specter of conscription still haunted the plan. More fatal to this policy, however, was that by looking to the Continental Army reserves to supplement the regulars, the General Staff completely abandoned the organized militia as a first-line defense. In addition to the military planners' disdain for the quality of the militia as a fighting force, there were other factors which weighed in this conclusion. First, the army wanted a unified force under a central and standard command; the fragmented nature of the existing state militias threatened America's security. Second, there was great concern that any attempt to federalize the militia would be struck down as unconstitutional, and the military planners were rightfully hesitant to base the national defense on contestable legislation. Although fully supported by the Secretary of War, his senior advisors and even the President himself, this aspect of the General Staff's policy would be its doom.(23)

Attempting to undermine the power of the National Guard through a volunteer reserve force did not sit well with the militia's powerful supporters in Congress, especially states' rights advocates from the South such as James Hay, Chair of the House Military Affairs Committee. Although a long-standing opponent of military expansion, Hay had initially relented and agreed to be "guided in large measure by the President's views" on national defense. This was only true until the War Department's proposed legislation so blatantly affronted the militia. Although Hay reiterated his support for a brief time after Garrison had submitted the Continental Army Plan, he soon retreated from this position as other Democrats in Congress reconsidered their own backing of the proposal.(24)

In addition to defending the National Guard in principle, some feared that any program of national training would put weapons into the hands of African-Americans. In October General Wilbur Fisk Sadler, Jr., a prominent Trenton banker and the Adjutant General of the New Jersey National Guard, warned Wilson that many adjutants general of the Guard, "especially those from the South," strongly opposed Garrison's plan and believed "that the Continental Army in their sections will be composed of negroes, the only men that can be gotten if the troops are apportioned as proposed."(25)

Realizing that his preparedness programs faced stiff opposition, Wilson took his case directly to the nation's people. With addresses to the New York Federation of Churches, the Railway Business Association and the Motion Picture Board of Trade on 27 January, the President kicked off a week-long campaign which took him through several major Midwestern cities, including Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Waukegan, Kenosha, Racine, Milwaukee, Chicago, Joliet, Rock Island, Davenport, Iowa City, Grinnell, Des Moines, Topeka and Kansas City. On 3 February Wilson delivered the final speech of the tour before an audience of 18,000 in the Saint Louis Coliseum. With the exception of the stop in Topeka, throngs of supporters warmly received him. An estimated one million Americans had turned out in frigid temperatures to greet him or hear him speak. Confident in his power of moral suasion, the President labeled the campaign "a most interesting and inspiring experience, much fuller of electrical thrills than I had expected."(26)

This apparent groundswell of support, however, was illusory. Pacifists were still pacifists; the President's speeches had done nothing to persuade them and had even alarmed some. William Jennings Bryan, in his magazine, The Commoner , wrote that Wilson was "actually considering a state of war in which the United States will be the aggressor." In addition, by speaking to city audiences in the Midwest, Wilson missed those in the rural areas who most staunchly opposed preparedness. More importantly, of course, Wilson's campaign did little to impress opponents of preparedness within Congress, including Percy E. Quinn of Mississippi and William Gordon of Ohio, two members of the House Military Affairs Committee who conducted a number of anti-preparedness rallies to rebut the President's tour.(27)

On 5 February 1916, Hay informed Wilson that the Continental Army did not meet with his Committee's approval. The Cleveland News had correctly prophesied at the beginning of the preparedness debate that "Mr. Hay will have what amounts to the deciding voice in any measure for national defense," and that voice opposed the War Department's plan. He instead suggested federalizing the militia, a proposal that could provide the numbers of men that the War Department sought, but one that Garrison would find unacceptable because it still failed to yield a force under a single authority.(28)

On 9 February, Garrison wrote Wilson, "If . . . we are not in agreement upon the fundamental principles, then I could not, with propriety, remain your seeming representative." In attempting to force Wilson to confront Congress, Garrison sealed his own fate. While committed to preparedness as a concept, much of the President's support stemmed from political opportunity, and he would not risk his relationship with his own party members in the legislature to secure any particular plan to which he was not dedicated. The President had even written to Garrison's strongest opponent that "I [do] not consider myself irrevocably or dogmatically committed to any one plan of providing the nation with [an adequate defense]." The President faced the option of having his plan killed in Congress or of accepting Hay's proposal. He quickly made his decision. Wilson responded to his Secretary of War the next day, warning Garrison "to draw very carefully the distinction between your own individual views and the views of the administration." Upon receipt of Wilson's letter, Garrison submitted his resignation and together with Assistant Secretary of War Henry C. Breckinridge walked down the halls of the War Department and out of the building.(29)

Following Garrison's departure, Wilson deferred to Congress, endorsing Hay's plan of a federalized militia. While dead in name, the idea of a national volunteer reserve force remained alive in concept. At Judge Advocate General Enoch Crowder's suggestion, George Chamberlain, Chair of the Senate Military Affairs Committee, included in his Army Reorganization Bill of March 1916 a proposal for a volunteer reserve plan more flexible than the Continental Army. This attempt at compromise met with the same objections as had Garrison's plan, and although it survived five weeks of committee hearings, it died on the floor of the House in May 1916. In the vacuum created by Wilson's withdrawal of support, the influence of the National Guard combined with America's reluctance to accept anything that hinted at peacetime conscription and again killed any thoughts of a national reserve force.(30)

The eventual National Defense Act of 3 June 1916 provided for an increase of the regular army to 175,000 over a five-year period. In addition to establishing the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, the Act enlarged the Military Academy. In recognition of the importance of industrial mobilization in modern warfare, the Act created the Council of National Defense composed of the Secretaries of War, Navy, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce and Labor, and gave the President the authority to appoint an advisory committee of experts from outside of the President's cabinet, "qualified by the possession of special knowledge of the industrial and commercial resources of the country," to work in conjunction with the Council. Finally, to meet the nation's potential manpower needs, the Act provided the means to bring the National Guard into federal service, enlarged the militia from its current strength of 100,000 to 400,000 over five years and permitted the Guard to operate outside the United States. The suggestions of a volunteer reserve force subject solely to federal training and control had been completely rejected.(31)

The Continental Army found both its birth and its demise in the context of Presidential politics. Perceiving an issue which might both further his diplomatic goals abroad and at the same time undermine a Republican challenge to his incumbency at home, Wilson latched onto and fostered the growing preparedness sentiment. When a major part of that very preparedness policy threatened to subvert his backing among his own party members in Congress, however, Wilson withdrew his tenuous support for his Secretary of War and acquiesced to the demands of the legislature. Although some of the General Staff's suggestions were largely unrealistic even in military terms, others--such as its rejection of the National Guard as the first line of defense--reflected perceptive realizations of America's needs and resources and were policies that the US would be forced to adopt when it finally committed itself to the fight in Europe. Political efficacy rather than strategic considerations guided Wilson's reaction to these General Staff proposals. While he had clearly demonstrated civilian authority over the nation's war-planning and war-waging machine, he had also foreshadowed that he would make many of his decisions on military policy with relatively little consideration given to the realistic considerations of the military means to support his increasingly interventionist diplomacy.(32)

Wilson's diplomacy continued to grow more global in its approach, even after Garrison's resignation. Signed on 17 February, the House-Grey Memorandum seemed to promise American intervention on the side of the British and French if Germany rejected calls for a conference to end the war. The exact nature of the President's proposed intervention was unclear, since less than two weeks earlier he had effectively killed the only existing, viable means of raising an army which might have had even a remote chance of influencing events in Europe. While the Continental Army would have had little immediate effect in strengthening the American armed forces, it was a step toward a more realistic, if distant, military policy. After its demise, Wilson offered no alternative which might have lent credence to his foreign policy, and therefore the gap between the plans of the military policy-makers and the desires of the President continued to grow. It would not be bridged in the immediate future.(33)

Although no doubt disheartened by Wilson's withdrawal of support both for Garrison and for the Continental Army, the General Staff did not give up on considering military policy in the context of an American confrontation with Germany. Such consideration, however, was still noticeably domestic in its focus and therefore still markedly distinct from the President's diplomatic efforts. In early 1916, in response to the Allied decision to arm merchant vessels, Germany adopted a policy of unrestricted U-boat warfare. Alarmed by conjecture in the public press concerning relations with Germany, General Hugh L. Scott, serving as interim Secretary of War, asked the War College Division on 24 February if any plans existed for action "in the event of a complete rupture" with Germany.(34)

Macomb's response came five days later. Alluding to the "Statement" of 1915, he explained that the existing plans assumed a German invasion of North America. Recognizing that Germany at that time posed little threat of immediate attack, he suggested to Scott that, in the event of the complete severance of diplomatic relations, the President be asked to take measures to safeguard against sabotage of munitions plants, arsenals and depots; to implement the listing by the Census Bureau of all aliens of the Central Powers; to establish national censorship; to issue a call for 400,000 volunteers to bring the regular army to war strength; and to summon the militia to provide for seacoast defense.(35)

Apparently Scott had acted independently when he made his request. No record exists in the Papers of Woodrow Wilson indicating that the President instructed Scott or that the Chief of Staff informed Wilson of the War College Division's response. Unfortunately, the cabinet diaries of Josephus Daniels are missing for the year 1916, so it is impossible to determine whether Scott made any mention of his request at Cabinet meetings. Therefore, no conclusions can be drawn about Wilson's reaction to these plans. This individualistic approach on the part of Scott, however, illustrates the frequent lack of communication that existed between the President and the military planners. Such a lack of coordination is almost understandable; surely Wilson would have hamstrung any such planning if he had learned about it, and certainly such plans, had they become public, would have created a political and diplomatic embarrassment for the President who had kept the nation "out of war." Even though the United States would begin to send an expeditionary force across the Atlantic in less than a year- and-a-half, military policy-making still existed in only a fragmented form.(36)

On 24 March 1916 a German U-boat torpedoed the French steamer Sussex , injuring several Americans. Greatly angered, Wilson sent a note to the German government demanding that they renounce their submarine policy. Germany finally acquiesced on 4 May, but not before this event had further tarnished that nation in Wilson's eyes. Meanwhile, the British Secretary of State for War, Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, was meeting with Lieutenant Colonel Charles O. Squire, the American Military Attaché in London. Kitchener suggested that a break in diplomatic relations between Germany and the United States would inevitably lead to war, either through a German declaration or through some overt act that would force Wilson's hand. The two discussed the possibility of committing an American expeditionary force to European soil. Kitchener claimed that American involvement would hasten the war's conclusion and, when pressed, even claimed that it would do so "at least by the end of the year." Either Kitchener's assessment of the American military was grossly unrealistic or, more likely, he was hoping to entice the Wilson administration into joining the fight through the promise of a hasty finish. Kitchener also suggested that American troops be trained in France instead of in the United States so that they could enter combat "in the shortest possible time."(37)

Newton D. Baker, easing into his new position as Secretary of War, received this memorandum with little interest. Again, no evidence exists that Baker briefed Wilson on this meeting between Kitchener and Squire, probably for the same reason that Scott had kept his questions to the War College Division hushed. In addition, Wilson was apparently kept ignorant of discussions to mobilize US shipping to carry an American army to Europe in the event of war. This proposal, prepared on 4 April by American naval and military attachés in London and Paris and by two American officers assigned with the British Expeditionary Forces, warned that "any system adopted at the moment and operated without previous study and experience is more than apt to bring discredit on the Navy, and useless danger to the army and the Nation." Even the military planners ignored this recommendation until November 1916.Again, coordinated military planning was forsaken and once more American military leaders neglected realistic contingencies, leaving the consideration of such ideas to the very eve of the American declaration.(38)

While the administration and the military leadership were doing their best to avoid any hint of war-planning, the American Military Attaché to Athens, Captain Edward Davis, sent a series of memoranda in November and December 1916 suggesting a strategy in the event that US forces were sent overseas. Fearing that the US might be forced to enter the war as the belligerent powers courted Japanese involvement to the detriment of American interests, his plan sought to avoid the bloody inertia of the Western Front and instead to concentrate the nation's forces for an offensive in Macedonia. Davis's plans had some serious strategic omissions which the War College Division would point out once they considered them in depth. On the other hand, he astutely observed the need for coordination of political and military ends, an approach that would unfortunately not be adopted any time soon. These proposals, had they become known, would surely have embarrassed the General Staff, which had repeatedly and earnestly denied that any such plans were being made to send troops to Europe. Although some in the War College Division probably welcomed the rational consideration of American involvement in the war, they were compelled to sweep these recommendations under the rug. Brigadier General Joseph E. Kuhn, then Chief of the War College Division, warned Davis: "Unless you can be absolutely certain that there is no risk of such reports coming to the attention of outside persons, it would be well to refrain from dispatching them." Although they would reemerge after the break in US-German diplomatic relations in early February 1917, Davis's plans met with little consideration at this time.(39)

This lack of American preparation had several causes. The military planners themselves were far from innocent, and the anachronistic view of the conjunction between American military and foreign policy formed the first hurdle to adequate planning. To claim that American military strategy before 1917 was wholly unrelated to the nation's diplomatic goals would be slightly incorrect. As a matter of fact, the nation's various military strategies meshed quite well with some foreign policy assumptions and objectives. The problem was that the traditional approach to American foreign relations which these military strategies best supported--the Monroe --had already been modified with no commensurate change in the military policy which backed it up.

By restricting the Western Hemisphere to US influence, the Monroe Doctrine was doubly limiting; not only did it proscribe European nations from involvement in the Americas, it also restrained the diplomatic and political objectives of the United States to that territory. American military policy through the turn of the century did much to support this foreign policy goal. The American military doctrine laid down under Secretary of War Elihu Root was founded on the opinion that until the US possessed a navy strong enough to be divided between the two oceans, the main portion of the fleet would be stationed in the Atlantic and would stand ready to enforce the Monroe Doctrine to prevent the possible encroachment of European powers.(40)

The easy victories against Spain in Cuba and the Philippines in the late nineteenth century lulled Americans into a sense of military complacency in which they believed they could enjoy all the fruits of world power with no commensurate commitment of military strength. As American eyes turned toward more distant foreign policy objectives, such as those in the Far East, the American military policy remained stagnantly rooted in defense of the North American continent. Consequently, John Hay, the American Secretary of State under President Theodore Roosevelt, was impotent to check Japanese expansionism in the Far East through his diplomatic efforts. America's military policy, more particularly its naval doctrine, allowed for no means of projecting her influence that far away from its shores.(41)

Neither was the army free from such myopia. Between 1911 and the spring of 1917, American military interests focused on the conflict with Mexico which resulted in invasions by American forces in 1914 and 1916. Historian Edward M. Coffman argues that even though there was no formal declaration of war with Mexico, the tension caused by these events and the possibility of an escalation of the conflict dominated military thinking in this period. This tunnel-visioned concern with exclusive defense of American soil precluded any serious consideration of the events in Europe even as the President was suggesting through the House-Grey Memorandum that the US might fight alongside the Allies against Germany.(42)

By the time of the First World War, the United States clearly had interests that exceeded its geographic boundaries. Military policy, however, had not kept pace with diplomatic expansion. The Naval Act of 116 had indeed launched a far-reaching buildup of the battle fleet with the eventual goal of sixty capital ships by 1925. To begin progress toward this goal it had authorized the expenditure of $315 million on ten battleships, six battle cruisers and support vessels. In spite of this expansion, such naval policy still created an unbalanced fleet, the very weakness that would have prevented adequate defense of the Philippines in the event of war with Japan: Construction Authorized by Naval Act of 1916.(43)


Ship Type        Number Authorized    First Year Appropriations

Battleships                    10                                4

Battle Cruisers              6                                  4

Light Cruisers              10                                4

Destroyers                    50                                20

Fleet Submarines          9                                  0

Coast Submarines        59                              30

Fuel Ships                    3                                  1

Repair Ships                 1                                  0

Transports                    1                                  0

Hospital Ships              1                                  1

Destroyer Tenders        1                                  0

Submarine Tenders      1                                  0

Ammunition Ships       2                                  1

Gunboats                     2                                  1


The US would be at war for more than three and a half months before it revised this Naval Act, and even then the resultant policy was rather ludicrous. The government spent $25 million on wooden submarine chasers, and although it contracted for $250 million worth of destroyers, only forty- four were completed during the war; the remaining 223 were built after the Armistice. Likewise, serious policy-making and strategic planning for the army would have to wait.(44)

Preparedness, of course, had ultimately been completely unrelated to realistic military policy. Support for this policy had been wide, but shallow and short-lived. Most proponents -- especially Wilson himself -- had viewed it not as a prelude to war, but rather as war's alternative. However strong public and political support might have seemed for sound military planning, preparedness did not mark a turning point in the American view toward the role and nature of the military, and it was inadequate in the final reckoning to overcome the major hurdles which stood in the way of such a goal.

A second hindrance to military planning, the nation's prevailing isolationist mood, cannot be discounted. Many segments of American society clearly expressed their desire to remain above the fray which had engulfed Europe. Wilson's admonishment to remain neutral in thought as well as action was as much a reflection of American opinion as it was a guidepost for US policy. Significant minorities of the American public, including the eight million German- Americans and four million Irish-Americans, had little desire to assist the Entente. Even though most "old-stock" Americans seemed to favor the British and French, they still believed that the wisest path for America was neutrality, either because they believed that the Allies would win as a matter of course, because they believed that the conflict involved little direct American interest or because, as was the case with many pro-Allied intellectuals, because they were idealistic pacifists. Even Wilson's Anglophile ambassador to Great Britain, Walter Hines Page, wrote on the eve of the war, "Again and ever I thank Heaven for the Atlantic Ocean."(45)

Not only did Americans feel geographically separated from the conflict, but they felt morally distant as well. Even some of Wilson's political rivals initially supported the desire for neutrality, with notable exceptions including Theodore Roosevelt and Augustus Peabody Gardner, the Massachusetts Republican who warned in October 1914 that "bullets cannot be stopped by bombast nor powder vanquished by platitudes." Wisconsin Senator Robert M. LaFollette's commitment to American non-intervention would outlast even Wilson's, and former President William Howard Taft wrote:

[The war] is a cataclysm. It is a retrograde step in Christian civilization.... All Europe is to be a battlefield....

While we can be sure that such a war as this, taking it by and large, will be a burden upon the United States and is a great misfortune, looked at solely from the standpoint of the United States, we have every reason to be happy that we are able to preserve strict neutrality in respect to it.(46)

Women activists in America also staunchly opposed US involvement. Within days of the outbreak of the war in 1914, women in New York began planning a peace parade for 29 August to protest the horrors of warfare. Decrying war's destructive effects on the protection, nurture, fulfillment, conservation, and ascent of human life, prominent social worker Jane Addams helped to form the Women's Peace Party, hoping that if "women in Europe -- in the very countries which are now at war -- receive a message from the women of America solemnly protesting against this sacrifice, they may take courage to formulate their own." Addams even persuaded the American business leader Henry Ford to finance an attempt to initiate a peace settlement, and on 4 December he sailed from Hoboken, New Jersey, in his chartered "peace ship," the Oscar II of the Scandinavian-American Line. In such a strong and homogenous climate of opinion, active military planning appeared at once useless, absurd and even dangerous, and therefore was to be avoided.(47)

The civilian-military relationship that existed before 1917 formed the third of the obstacles to a coordinated and realistic approach to military planning in the period before 1917. While the President clearly could have formed no military policy without the consent of Congress, and while the legislators had proven reluctant to fight the inertia of domestically focused planning, Wilson himself showed no inclination that he desired a significantly broader or more cohesive approach to policy-making than the lawmakers were willing to give. The President and some others in the Administration viewed the military as having little if any role in the formation of domestic policy. When tensions between America and Japan mounted in April and May 1913 following he California legislature's adoption of a measure prohibiting Japanese land ownership in that state, fears mounted among navy leaders that Japan might attempt an attack on the Philippines. The Joint Board of the Army and Navy recommended the dispatch of three American warships to defend those islands, but the President refused and ordered the Joint Board to hold no further meetings until ordered to do so. Wilson's first Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, was led by this incident to remark, "[military officers] could not be trusted to say what we should or should not do, till we actually got into war."(48)

Wilson himself staunchly defended the constitutional dictate of civilian command over the military. He was appalled in the summer of 1918 when he received an unsolicited etching that portrayed him in military uniform. He replied to the artist that 

Putting me in uniform violates a very fundamental principle of our institutions, namely, that the military power is subordinate to the civil. . . . The armed forces of the country must be the instruments of the authority by which policy [is]determined. . . . I do not think this is a mere formal scruple on my part. I believe that it goes to the root of things.(49)

Such an atmosphere proved harsh to any approaches to military policy, even in the most theoretical form, which exceeded Wilson's narrowly dictated restrictions.

In retrospect, then, sound, American military policy- making, despite the hoopla surrounding the preparedness campaign, seemed doomed from the beginning. The military planners were hardly inclined to pursue a policy suited to the realities of America's relationship with the European war, even had they operated under free reign. Such uninhibited planning, however, was impossible in the context of American isolationism and in light of Wilson's personal attitudes toward the military, especially during the election campaign in 1916. The German military leaders correctly assessed the condition of America's military at the end of 1916; even after wrangling with neutral rights and submarine warfare and after trumpeting the bugle of preparedness, the nation had no means at that time to wage war in Europe. Ironically, it was Germany's own decision which would spark change in American military planning. Fearing nothing from Wilson and the United States, the Germans themselves chose war. There seemed little indication that the US would have radically altered its military policy in the near future had events proceeded as they appeared at the close of 1916. The German resumption of submarine warfare, however, guaranteed that it would.


1. Henry L. Stimson, "What is the Matter with Our Army," Independent 72 (18 April 1912): 827-28. See also the other articles in the series: Major General Leonard Wood, 301-04; Brigadier General W.W. Wotherspoon, 338-44; Brigadier General Clarence R. Edwards, 408-11; Lieutenant Colonel Hunter Legget, 460-64; Major George H. Shelton, 619-23; and Brigadier General Robert K. Evans, 777-80. This and the following three paragraphs come from: John M. Palmer, America in Arms (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1941), 142-46; "The Organization of the Land Forces of the United States," 1:69-128.

2. Other war plans existed, including contingencies for hostilities with Great Britain and a plan for an invasion of Canada.

3. "War Plan Black," War Portfolios, General Board Records, Navy Department, Washington, cited in John A.S. Grenville and George Berkeley Young, Politics, Strategy, and American Diplomacy: Studies in Foreign Policy, 1873-1917 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966), 319.

4. "War Plan Orange," cited in ibid., 317-18.

5. William G. Haan to Charles Crawford, 1 August 1914, quoted in Coffman, "American Military and Strategic Policy in World War I," 70; Martin and Kreidberg, History of Military Mobilization , 189-90; John W. Adams, "The Influences Affecting Naval Shipbuilding Legislation, 1910-1916," Naval War College Review 22 (December 1969): 52.

6. Walter Millis, Road to War: America, 1914-1917 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1935), 164; John M. Cooper, Jr., "World War I: European Origins and American Intervention," Virginia Quarterly Review 56 (Winter 1980): 8-9; Wilson to Garrison and Wilson to Daniels, 21 July 1915, PWW , 34:4-5.

7. Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson: Revolution, War, and Peace (Arlington Heights, IL: Harlan Davidson, 1979), 21-46, updated edition of Link, Wilson, the Diplomatist: A Look at His Major Foreign Policies (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1963 [1957]); May, The First World War and American Isolation, 1914-1917 , 175-78.

8. Wilson, "A Colloquy with a Group of Antipreparedness Leaders," 8 May 1916, PWW , 36:645-46; Link and Chambers, "Woodrow Wilson as Commander-in-Chief," 321-22.

9. Robert E. Osgood, Ideals and Self-Interest in American Foreign Relations: The Great Transformation of the Twentieth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953), 206-07.

10. Ibid., 132-33; George C. Herring, Jr., "James Hay and the Preparedness Controversy," Journal of Southern History 30 (November 1964): 383; New York Times 26 May and 26 August 1915; Joseph P. Tumulty, Woodrow Wilson As I Know Him (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1921), 240-41.

11. Finnegan, Against the Specter of a Dragon , 40.

12. Bliss to Garrison, 15 February 1915, Bliss Papers, Box 189, Library of Congress Manuscript Division, cited in Ball, Of Responsible Command , 133. Garrison to Macomb, 11 March 1915, and Bliss to Macomb, 17 March 1915, Record Group 165 (Records of Chief of Staff, War Plans, and War College Division), File 9053-1, National Archives, Washington, DC (hereafter, RG 165, NA), cited in Finnegan, Against the Specter of a Dragon , 44; Wilson to Garrison, 21 July 1915, PWW , 34:4; Bliss had been appointed Assistant Chief of Staff on 13 February 1915. Frederick Palmer, Bliss, Peacemaker: The Life and Letters of General Tasker Howard Bliss (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1934), 102.

13. Scott to Garrison, 13 May 1915, Box 18, The Papers of Hugh L. Scott, Library of Congress Manuscript Division (hereafter, Scott Papers, LOC); Scott to Macomb, 16 June 1915, RG 165/9053-33, NA, and Macomb to Scott, 18 June 1915, RG 165/9053-34, NA, cited in Finnegan, Against the Specter of a Dragon , 47.

14. Epitome of Military Policy," 10 July 1915, RG

165/9053-49, NA, cited in Finnegan, Against the Specter of a

Dragon , 47-8.

15. "Study No. 7," May 1915, RG 165/9053-22, NA; Memorandum for Chief of Staff on Report of Captain Nolan, 30 June 1915, RG 165/9053-40, NA, cited in ibid., 49-50.

Finnegan notes that the War College Division's assumption that Germany could land 435,000 troops and 91,457 animals on the East Coast in 15.8 days was absurd, suggesting as it does that the US Navy would be "impotent to prevent the troop-carrying armadas from shuttling across the Atlantic with the regularity of the Staten Island Ferry."

16. See Chapters 3 through 5 of this thesis.

17. Statement of a Proper Military Policy," 114; James L. Abrahamson, America Arms for a New Century: The Making of a Great Military Power (New York: The Free Press, 1981),105-06.

18. Washington Post, 21 August 1915, and Baltimore Sun, 24 August 1915; According to Link and Chambers, the most often cited source for this claim is Frederick Palmer, Newton D. Baker: America at War, 1:40-41. Palmer himself cites an undated memorandum by Major General Tasker H. Bliss who supposedly heard the story from Assistant Secretary of War Henry C. Breckinridge. The editors of the Papers of Woodrow Wilson, however, have been unable to find any direct evidence to support the contention. Link and Chambers, "Woodrow Wilson as Commander in Chief," 346.

19. Memorandum for Chief of Staff Hugh L. Scott from Brig. Gen. Macomb, Chief of the War College Division, August 1915, RG 165/6966-152, NA; Memorandum from M.B. Mercer, Chief Clerk, War College Division, 31 January 1916, RG 165/6966-176, NA.

20. Memoranda by W.H. Johnston, 17 June 1915, RG 165/9053-38, NA, and 14 August 1915, RG 165/9053-71, NA, cited in Finnegan, Against the Specter of a Dragon , 51.

21. Garrison to Wilson, 17 September 1915, PWW , 34:482-85. Garrison to Macomb, 2 August 195, RG 165/9053-49, NA, cited in ibid., 51-2.

22. "Statement of a Proper Military Policy for the United States," 1:113-35.

23. Finnegan, Against the Specter of a Dragon , 53-5; Herring, "James Hay and the Preparedness Controversy," 389; Article I, Section 8, Paragraph 15 of the US Constitution grants Congress the power "to provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions." It makes no explicit provision for sending the Militia beyond the shores of the nation.

24. New York Times , 22 September 1915; Herring, "James Hay and the Preparedness Controversy," 388; Martha Derthick, The National Guard in Politics , Harvard Political Studies (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1965), 33-44.

25. Sadler to Wilson, 30 October 1915, PWW , 35:138-41. See also John Whiteclay Chambers, II, To Raise an Army: The Draft Comes to Modern America (New York: Free Press, 1987), 107-12. Much of the opposition to the Selective Service Bill in May 1917 would be based on similar sentiment, as indicated by Mississippi Senator James K. Vardaman's fear that conscription of blacks would put "arrogant strutting representatives of the black soldiery in every community," quoted in David M. Kennedy, Over Here: The First World War and American Society (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), 159.

26. Wilson to Richard Olney, 7 February 1916, PWW, 36:138. The texts of the President's speeches can be found in ibid., 36:4-19, 26-48, 52-73, 75-85, 87-122; for newspaper accounts of the campaign, see New York Times , 27 January - 3 February, 1916. See also Arthur S. Link, Wilson , vol. 4, Confusions and Crises, 1915-1916 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1964), 45-9.

27. William Jennings Bryan, "Do You Want War?" The Commoner 16 (February 1916): 1-2; Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917 , The New American Nation Series, ed. Henry Steele Commager and Richard B. Morris (New York: Harper & Row, 1954), 185-86; New York Times , 28 and 31 January 1916.

28. Cleveland News , 28 July 1915; Hay to Wilson, 5 February 1916, PWW , 36:134-35. Coincidentally enough, this plan, which also provided for the creation of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at educational institutions, had been drawn up with the assistance of the General Staff's old nemesis, former Adjutant General Fred C. Ainsworth.

29. Garrison to Wilson, 9 February 1916, PWW , 36:143-44; Wilson to Hay, 18 January 1916, ibid., 35:499-500; Wilson to Garrison, 10 February 1916, ibid., 36:162-64; Herring, "James Hay and the Preparedness Controversy," 394; Finnegan, Against the Specter of a Dragon , 90.

30. Finnegan, Against the Specter of a Dragon , 149-53

31. "Report of the Secretary of War," in War Department Annual Reports, 1916 ,23-59; Kreidberg and Henry, History of Military Mobilization , 193-96; Paxson, "The American War Government, 1917-1918," 56-7. Paxson points out that it was the provision for the advisory committee which would yield the great power of the Council of National Defense, since otherwise it would have merely been a conglomeration of Cabinet officials each with their own separate departments and concerns.

32. For a more supportive interpretation of Hay's plan to federalize the militia, see Herring, "James Hay and the Preparedness Controversy," 402-04. Herring argues that while Hay's proposal did not adequately prepare the US for involvement in the war, neither would the Continental Army, which would not have reached its full size until 1921. In addition, Herring argues that Hay's plan facilitated the incorporation of the National Guard in the nation's defense program once America had declared war and that those Guard units which did see combat fought well under the able leadership of commanders such as Douglas MacArthur. While Herring's argument does force one to recognize the merit of the National Guard, the US would nonetheless be forced to abandon the militia as the mainstay of American defense once the full demands of involvement were realized.

33. Link, Wilson , vol. 4, Confusions and Crises, 1915-1916 , 101-41.

34. Scott to Macomb, 24 February 1916, RG 165/9433-1, NA.

35. Confidential Memorandum for the Chief of Staff [Scott], from Macomb, 29 February 1916, RG 165/9433-1, NA.

36. David E. Cronan, ed., The Cabinet Diaries of Josephus Daniels, 1913-21 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1963).

37. Arthur Walworth, Woodrow Wilson , vol. 2, World Prophet , 2nd rev. ed. (Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1965 [1958]), 32-35; Memorandum from Squire to Secretary of War Newton D. Baker, 27 April 1916, Box 1, Document 64, the Papers of Newton D. Baker, Library of Congress Manuscript Division (hereafter, Baker Papers, LOC).

38. Evidently this plan dd not survive. It is referred to in a memorandum of 14 November 1916, Record of the Joint Army and Navy Board , cited in Grenville and Young, Politics, Strategy, and American Diplomacy , 334-35.

39. Memoranda from Davis, 17 November 1916, RG 165/9910-1, 18 November 1916, RG 165/9910-2, 27 November 1916, RG 165/9910-3, and 18 December 1916, RG 165/9910-4, NA. Kuhn to Davis, 5 February 1917, RG 165/9910-6, NA. See also Ronald H. Spector, "'You're Not Going to Send Soldiers Over There Are You!': The American Search for an Alternative to the Western Front, 1916-1917," Military Affairs 36 (February 1972): 1-2

40. Grenville and Young, Politics, Strategy, and American Diplomacy , 300-307. See also Thomas A. Bailey, A Diplomatic History of the American People , 10th ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1980 [1940]), 475-76 and 483-84.

41. Norman A. Graebner, Foundations of American Foreign Policy: A Realist Appraisal from Franklin to McKinley (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1985), 351-55; Grenville and Young, Politics, Strategy, and American Diplomacy , 312-16; Richard W. Turk, "Defending the New Empire, 1900-1914," in In Peace and War: Interpretations of American Naval History, 1775-1978 , ed. Kenneth J. Hagan, Contributions in Military History 16 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1978): 193-97.

42. Coffman, "American Military and Strategic Policy in World War I," 70-2.

43. Navy Yearbook , 1916, 480-81, cited in Adams, "The Influences Affecting Naval Shipbuilding Legislation," 62. See also David F. Trask, "The American Navy in a World at War, 1914-1918," in In Peace and War: Interpretations of American Naval History, 1775-1978 , ed. Kenneth J. Hagan, Contributions in Military History 16 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1978): 208-09.

44. Ferrell, Woodrow Wilson and World War I , 47; Paulo E. Coletta, "The American Naval Leaders' Preparations for War," in The Great War, 1914-18: Essays on the Military, Political and Social History of the First World War , ed. R.J.Q. Adams (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1990): 174-75.

45. Page to Wilson, 29 July 1914, PWW , 30:314-16; Daniel M. Smith, The Great Departure: The United States in World War I, 1914-1920 (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1965), 2-3; Arthur S. Link, Wilson , vol 3: The Struggle for Neutrality, 1914-1915 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1960), 18-19.

46. New York Times , 16 October 1914; John M. Cooper, Jr., The Vanity of Power: American Isolation and the First World War, 1914-1917 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1969), 19-32; Cooper, "World War I: European Origins and American Intervention," 7-8; William Howard Taft, "A Message to the People of the United States," Independent 79 ( 10 August 1914): 98-99.

47. Jane Addams, "What War is Destroying," Advocate of Peace 77 (1915): 64-5. See also Barbara J. Steinson, American Women's Activism in World War I, The Modern American History Series, ed. Frank Freidel (New York: Garland Publishing, 1982), 1-47; and Steinson, "'The Mother Half of Humanity': American Women in the Peace and Preparedness Movements in World War I," in Women, War, and Revolution , ed. Carol R. Berkin and Clara M. Lovett (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1980): 259-84; Millis, Road to War , 242-45.

48. Bryan quoted in Ernest R. May, "The Development of Political-Military Consultation in the United States," Political Science Quarterly 70 (June 1955): 166; Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917 , 86-7. Members of the Joint Board seem to have taken the Presidential admonishment to heart, since Henry Breckinridge, Assistant Secretary of War from 1913 to 1916, recalled it in a 1958 interview as "a board I fooled with on hot summer afternoons when there was nothing else to do," quoted in Edward M. Coffman, "American Military and Strategic Policy in World War I," 68-70.

49. Wilson to Bernhardt Wall, 8 July 1918, PWW , 48:557. The etching was sent to Wilson on 17 June 1918 and is shown in the illustration section of ibid., 48:358-59.



Serious military planning began immediately after Count Johann Heinrich von Bernstorff presented his note to US Secretary of State Robert Lansing on 31 January 1917. In this message Germany announced the decision which it had adopted earlier that month at the council at Pless; namely, the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare in the waters around Great Britain, France, Italy and in the Eastern Mediterranean. All ships found within this zone--military or merchant, enemy or neutral--would be sunk.(1)

Memories of the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 arose both within and beyond Washington. Still, however, the President believed that the US could remain detached from the European imbroglio. His last attempt to avert American involvement was a plan to arm merchant vessels. Such, he earnestly hoped, would restore American trans-Atlantic trade and at the same time deter Germany from committing some overt act which would lead to war between the two countries.

Wilson addressed Congress at one o'clock on 26 February, a little more than three weeks after the break in diplomatic relations with the Kaiser. While admitting that no major engagements had occurred between US merchant ships and German submarines which would merit a strong American response, he pointed out that many merchant ships remained in American ports for fear of the German U-boat. Such, he argued, could achieve the German goal of stifling neutral commerce. He elaborated:

No one doubts what it is our duty to do. We must defend our commerce and the lives of our people in the midst of the present trying circumstances, with discretion but with clear and steadfast purpose. Only the method and the extent remain to be chosen, upon the occasion, if occasion should indeed arise. Since it has unhappily proved impossible to safeguard our neutral rights by diplomatic means against the unwarranted infringements they are suffering at the hands of Germany, there may be no recourse but to armed neutrality, which we shall know how to maintain and for which there is abundant American precedent.

Wilson's Armed-Ship Bill passed the House on 1 March with only fourteen dissenting votes. The Senate, however, proved less receptive. A successful filibuster stalled the bill until the end of the legislative session, and Congress adjourned on 4 March without granting the President's request.(2)

Undaunted, the President sought legal justification for an executive fiat. Without the approval of Congress, Wilson issued a statement to the press on 12 March announcing that all American merchant ships sailing through the areas proscribed in the German note would carry an armed guard, "for the protection of the vessels and the lives of the persons on board." In retrospect it is difficult to imagine how this policy would have achieved the President's aims. Armed guards and small deck guns only posed a threat to a submarine on the surface and thus were not only ineffective, but also might have further convinced U-boat captains to refrain from announcing their attacks. Wilson's policy was implemented, but it would not yield the deterrence which he sought.(3)

While Wilson wrestled with and eventually sidestepped a defiant Congress, the War Department scrambled to assemble the fragments of war-plans which had been created. In a memorandum to the President on 7 February, Baker outlined the steps so far taken to address the present crisis. The eight elements of this page-and-a-half sketch included: (1) a provision for giving the government priority access to the nation's telegraph and telephone system; (2) the initiation of a study in conjunction with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad of possible railway transportation requirements; (3) estimates of the supplies necessary to increase the regular army and National Guard to war strength and to train a volunteer force tentatively fixed at 500,000 men; (4) arrangements for purchases of items such as clothing, shoes, food, and tents; (5) the operation of all arsenals on a two- shift basis for maximum output; (6) the erection of torpedo nets in all Atlantic-coast harbors; (7) the placement of War Department engineers, personnel, and arsenals at the disposal of the Navy; and (8) the purchase of land at Montauk Park for the protection of New York Harbor. Although many of these steps bespeak a much more active role for the army, it was the last three -- the measures ensuring coastal defense -- which were of most immediate concern.

This plan offered no hint that the forces mentioned would do any more than guard the Atlantic harbors; and as with the War Plan Black, no explanation was offered of how Germany would pose a credible threat to American shores. Although some of Baker's attention was also drawn beyond American shores to such places as the Philippines and the Canal Zone in concern for sabotage of interned German merchant vessels, such interest in US overseas territories was scarcely out of step with existing military policy and was hardly in recognition of possible American involvement in Europe. There was certainly no hint that any US soldiers would leave for the Continent within only five months.(4)

Baker and Wilson still sought to downplay military planning. Only two weeks before the break in US-German relations, the Secretary of War had counseled against sending Major General Leonard Wood to observe the belligerent countries for the purpose of preparing a history of the conflict. Baker argued, and Wilson agreed, that rumors of impending cooperation between the United States and the countries visited by Wood would surely result from such a trip. Even after the rupture of relations, Baker assured the President in his note concerning War Department actions taken as of 7 February that "I have endeavored in every way possible to have these steps carried out without publicity in order not to give rise either to excitement in our own country or misconstruction abroad."(5)

Meanwhile Chief of Staff Major General Hugh L. Scott was champing at the bit. In January he had presented the Franklin Dinner Speech in Philadelphia. Emphasizing that founding father's "zeal for preparedness in the service of his country," the Chief of Staff warned:

Nor can it be doubted that were he here tonight, he would urge upon us to arm and go stand in the ranks ourselves, that we may show ourselves worthy of the sacrifices of our ancestors and preserve for our children the liberties so dearly bought by suffering and blood, lest it be written of American as it has been of Jerusalem: 'Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered you even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wing -- but ye would not! behold, your house is left unto you desolate.'(6)

Critical of what he viewed as an irrational denial of the inevitable, Scott lambasted the Administration's delay in a letter to Colonel H. J. Slocum, commander of the 13th Cavalry at Columbus:

The President does not want any action taken that will give any kind of an idea to Germany that we were getting ready for war. Personally, I think it would be better for her to get such an idea; it would make her understand in a minute what we said. . . .I am sorry to lose all this good time, because if we must call out the volunteers eventually, the cloth is not even woven for their uniforms and we are not authorized to order it.(7)

Scott was unwilling to sit idle. On the very day after Lansing received the announcement of unrestricted U-boat warfare, the Chief of Staff directed the War College Division to consider possible overseas operations in the event of war with Germany. On 2 February he sent Captain Davis's memoranda to the War College for its consideration. Inspired by the idea of an alternative to the Western Front recommended by the US Military Attaché in Athens, Scott himself suggested the possibility of a campaign through Holland.(8)

It is unclear whether Baker knew of Scott's actions; if he did, he most certainly did not inform the President. The form of the War College Division's initial response on 3 February was markedly different from that which the Secretary of War presented to the President only four days later. Baker had emphasized such steps as obtaining priority access to the nation's telegraph and telephone lines and erecting torpedo nets in Atlantic harbors. The General Staff suggested, among other recommendations, that all members of the National Guard and organized militia not already serving under federal authority be called into such, that a national secret service be established under military control, that all aliens submit to registration and surveillance, that national censorship be established, and most importantly that military cooperation be initiated with the Allies as soon as war appeared certain and that any troops raised by the United States receive their full training within the country before being sent abroad. Little common ground existed between the War College Division's initial recommendations and those which Baker carried to Wilson, so it is doubtful that the Secretary of War informed the President of the additional plans being made.(9)

The Chief of Staff almost certainly kept Wilson ignorant as well. In a pair of letters early that month Scott himself hinted that he had exceeded the Presidential restrictions. He wrote:

At the present time the President is not taking any real steps to call out a large force. Of course we are doing what we can in a quiet way in the service, but I do not think he wants anything done which will show foreign nations that we are getting ready until Germany does some overt act.(10)

Scott repeated this sentiment and much of this wording in another letter on the same day:

At the present time we are going ahead and doing what we can in a quiet way. The President desires no step taken toward mobilization, I suppose in the hope that Germany will not do any avert act. I am not able to share in that hope myself, and would like to be at work with all our force.(11)

It was probably wise that Scott did not alert Wilson of the plans that were being contemplated, for surely they would have caused a vehement reaction on the President's part. The effects of the stop-and-start approach to military planning in previous years were sorely felt when the General Staff set about studying America's potential role in the Great War. The report concerning possible lines of action through Macedonia relied on estimates of available American shipping from 1 April 1916 -- almost a year out of date.(12)

Little tangible and detailed planning could take place because the General Staff was still in the dark concerning what shape the army would take. In response to a letter from a Massachusetts cadet prematurely eager to serve overseas, Scott complained:

In the case of a real break with Germany, nothing in the way of an expedition to the other side of the Atlantic can be done until a real army is raised and trained. Congress has not yet given enough authority or money to start weaving the cloth for the uniforms of the first contingent. The raising, training and equipping of a real force is a matter of time, and at least a year will elapse before we can get such a force ready.(13)

Debates on military policy in Congress remained decidedly detached from the growing likelihood that America would become involved in the war. Even the break in diplomatic relations with Germany did little to change this assessment. S. Hubert Dent of Alabama, the new Chair of the House Military Affairs Committee, announced in mid-February that his committee had "reached the conclusion unanimously that at least this was not an opportune time for any radical changes in the military policy of this country." He declared that the 1917 Army Appropriations Bill would make provisions for a regular force of only 135,000 soldiers. Committee Member Thomas S. Crago of Pennsylvania correctly bragged that this bill had been drafted "not as a war measure but as a great peace measure."(14)

Unlike those measures being considered by the President and Congress, the plans being weighed by the War College Division significantly departed from previous American military assessments. The size of the proposed fighting force was hardly exceptional, at least compared to those previously proposed by the General Staff; the potential policies were based on an army of 500,000 to 1,000,000 men. The purpose of this force, however, was notable: it was to be an expeditionary force to Europe. In addition, this study marked a change in the fundamental approach to American military planning. Instead of forming policy which was long-term in its focus and only loosely related to the events in Europe or the current requirements of US foreign relations, this examination was designed to address the probable uses and needs of the US military.(15)

Although the War College Division rejected the suggestions for a campaign through either Macedonia or Holland, it did not reject the concept of an expeditionary force. The main drawback that it saw in these plans was that the armies envisioned exceeded the scope of current military capacity. In addition to the time required to raise such a force, it would at least ten months to ship a half million soldiers to the Continent. While this time scale was not necessarily absurd, Kuhn and the War College Division suggested that America refrain from sending any units until a complete US Army had been created. From this suggestion, then, it would be mid- to late-1918 before even the first effects of any American military participation might be felt. Kuhn concluded, "While the enclosed studies on Macedonia and Holland cannot be made the basis of any practical plans until our general relations with other belligerents are settled, they emphasize the fact that a long period of time must elapse before we can be capable of any effective action under our modern military conditions. . . ."(16)

A key element of the "modern military conditions"which Kuhn mentioned were the armaments of a modern fighting force: those fire weapons which had demonstrated their brutal effectiveness so ruthlessly and had helped to foster the inertia of trench warfare. In this area, too, America was lacking. Even by the time it finally embarked from New York in late May 1917, Pershing's force had ready for issue only 285,000 Springfield rifles, less than 1,500 machine guns, 400 light field guns and 150 heavy field guns. Except for 3-inch shells, the US possessed artillery ammunition sufficient for less than nine hours' worth of firing, even considering the limited number of guns available. Even though America would possess significantly larger volumes of these weapons by the end of the fighting, it was grossly ill-equipped in early 1917.(17)

In addition to equipping a force with modern weapons, the War College Division recognized that a necessary prerequisite for involvement in the war would be the raising of a mass army. It therefore took this opportunity to advocate conscription once again. Four days before Germany's announcement at the end of January, Scott had received at his own request a "Plan for a National Army" from the War College Division. This plan had called for a regular army of 310,000 backed by a first line defense of 2,500,000 citizen-reservists who would begin an eleven month program of universal military training at age nineteen. Some General Staff members, including Assistant Chief of Staff Major General Tasker H. Bliss, recognized the plan as a political absurdity, especially since the US was not at war. They suggested instead that the military pursue a policy of selective rather than universal training, but Scott presented the study to Baker as it stood. Baker did nothing with the study at that time, but the General Staff would refer to this examination in the weeks to come and would repeat its calls for some form of a draft following the rupture of diplomatic relations.(18)

On 14 February Scott received from Kuhn a plan for raising, equipping, quartering and training an army of 4,000,000 men. Historians Edward Coffman and Timothy K. Nenninger have claimed that President Wilson endorsed the plan, but it is doubtful that the idea of conscripting such a large army was so readily accepted. It seems that the War College Division recognized the slim chance of realizing its plan and felt compelled to issue a revision. On 20 February Kuhn submitted to Scott, "in view of the fact that it may not be possible to secure enactment of the legislation required for universal service," an alternative plan for raising an army of half-a-million men, "under the provisions of existing law." Although recognizing that political realities might preclude the adoption of draft legislation, the War College Division nonetheless restated its support for that approach: "The War College Division is convinced that the _best_ plan for raising such a force involves the adoption of universal liability to military service."(19)

Support for universal military training was of course nothing new for the military planners. It was their willingness to consider this approach to raise the Continental Army which had been one factor in the demise of that plan. Even before the President had endorsed preparedness, one member of the War College Division, Captain George Van Horn Moseley, had strongly advocated universal military training in spite of the political liabilities of such a policy:

We are not concerned with the question as to whether the consideration of the question of some form of compulsory military training is a practical one for the party in power but our opinion should be correctly recorded in answer to the question -- can a practical system of National Defense adequate to our needs, be established which does not include in some form the principle of compulsory military training?(20)

Following the retirement of James Hay, the long-time Chair of the House Military Affairs Committee and habitual opponent of the General Staff, the War College Division had called for "universal liability to military training in time of peace" in a December 1916 report concerning the proper military policy of the United States. In testimony before a Senate Committee on 19 December 1916, the Chief of Staff himself had advanced the possibility of a peacetime draft to secure the numbers of soldiers required for adequate defense of the nation: "The time has come when this country must resort to universal liability to military training and service." With war raging so distantly, the American public and their representatives were hesitant to support such a measure. This opposition would eventually yield now that the war seemed much closer, but the change of heart within the President would not be spurred mainly by military and strategic considerations. Although Wilson eventually reached the conclusion of the General Staff concerning conscription, he did so by a significantly different path.(21)

Baker and Wilson had been neither strong supporters nor vehement opponents of the draft. As early as January 1916 the Secretary of War had expressed sympathy for a draft's ability to raise a large army while reducing the social and economic disruption associated with unregulated voluntarism. Through conscription, the Administration could control who exactly left the workforce to join the military. Wilson had been quite receptive to Section 79 of the National Defense Act of 1916, the so-called "Hayden joker" which permitted him to fill vacancies in the National Guard by means of conscription during wartime "if for any reason there should not be enough voluntary enlistments." The administration emphasized that this power was limited to wartime exercise only, however, and did not consider advocating a peacetime draft.(22)

After 3 February 1917, both Baker and the President echoed these ambivalent feelings toward a draft. Baker and Wilson were at this time committed to reliance upon volunteers to form the greatest portion of military manpower and were willing to adopt conscription only after voluntarism began to wane. On 6 February Baker warned Wilson that "great suspicion would be aroused if compulsory military service were suggested at the outset and before any opportunity to volunteer had been given." In spite of the arguments of the nation's military planners, Wilson and Baker viewed the draft as the last, not the first resort.(23)

On 3 February Baker had asked the War College Division for a plan to raise "a large volunteer force . . . tentatively fixed at 500,000 men." In its response the War College Division referred to its "Plan for a National Army" of 27 January and strongly urged the adoption of universal military service. Baker continued to demand a force consisting of volunteers, not conscripts, to back up the regulars and National Guard. Reluctantly the War College Division presented a plan on 15 March for invoking the Volunteer Act of 1914, but it still enumerated its reasons for favoring conscription. These reasons were simple and were reiterations of arguments which had been used by Scott and the General Staff before: the British experience had shown volunteer enlistments to be unpredictable and fickle, voluntarism was too inelastic to allow for great expansion to meet the developments of war and conscription remained the only feasible means of raising such a large army in such a short time with minimum disruption to the rest of society.(24)

 Such military rationale, however, would fall upon the President's deaf ears. Contrary to some historical accounts, the President did not order his Secretary of War to draft conscription legislation on 4 February. The actual date was 22 February and the bill was designed to give the President the authority to "raise" (but not to "use") an army if Germany committed some overt act while Congress was not in session. Although this legislation did make provisions for conscription, such an approach would occur only after volunteering began to wane. Even the President's personal decision for war on 20 March did not alter his desire to rely first and foremost on volunteers for America's military needs. Scott reported that in a meeting on 24 March the President had made clear that he would resort to the draft only after the failure of the volunteer system. Most likely, Wilson wished to avoid a confrontation with those same legislators who had rejected the Continental Army the previous Spring. The turning point would thus have to come in the form of a political challenge stronger than the threat posed by the Congressional Democrats.(25)

In an unexpected volte face Wilson changed his mind on selective service and put his full weight behind the measure almost immediately after he had made clear once again that he favored a system of volunteers. Suddenly the President ordered that volunteers would be used only in the regulars and the National Guard; the remaining force of between 500,000 and 1,000,000 men would be "raised and maintained exclusively by selective draft." As historian John W. Chambers, II, points out, this change of heart is significant because in doing so Wilson had thrown his support behind a system of conscription that flew in the face of antiwar and antidraft sentiment, the tradition of the volunteer system and perhaps even his support among many of his own party members in Congress.(26)

Chambers discounts the role of military advice, since both the President and the Secretary of War had repeatedly heard the same suggestions from Scott and the General Staff for some time. He rejects the tension of international circumstances as motivating the President, since war had seemed quite likely since 1 February and since Wilson openly advocated a volunteer system for a week after the famous Cabinet meeting of 20 March. In addition, since the Commander-in-Chief had made no decision concerning whether or not to send an American army overseas, it seems doubtful that his decision resulted from a thorough understanding of the impending commitment which loomed in the future for the United States. Chambers concludes that Wilson's decision was motivated in great part by his desire to thwart the efforts of his political rival Theodore Roosevelt to raise a volunteer division for immediate service in France. Here again, then, the influence of political consideration over military analysis is clear.(27)

Early in February the former Rough Rider, now almost sixty years old and blind in one eye, had written Baker about the possibility of raising a volunteer division and sailing abroad. Many Republicans supported the former President's idea. In the eventual congressional debate on the Selective Service Bill, Augustus P. Gardner of Massachusetts remarked, "If Roosevelt or any other Pied Piper can whistle 25,000 fanatics after him, for Heaven's sake give him the chance." Baker, however, gently declined the suggestion. Unwilling to relent, Roosevelt pressed his proposal throughout the following weeks. Wilson would clearly never allow such an usurpation of political and military power. Historian David M. Kennedy notes that "there was . . . a chance that Roosevelt might contrive to make this martial buffoonery appear to be the stuff of genuine heroism and adventure-- a demonstration of patriotic success which Republicans could be expected to use to bludgeon the Democratic administration." The task thus fell to Baker on 20 March to reject Roosevelt's offer more firmly. The Secretary of War explained that Congress had not yet authorized an army and that general officers must be drawn from the ranks of the regulars. Roosevelt still refused to yield and sent a telegram on 23 March reminding Baker that he was "a retired Commander in Chief of the United States Army and eligible to any position of command over American troops to which I may be appointed."(28)

Undoubtedly surprised at such audacity, Baker forwarded this message to Wilson on 26 March. Equally astonished, the President called Roosevelt's telegram "one of the most extraordinary documents I ever read!" He thanked his Secretary of War for allowing him to "undergo the discipline of temper involved in reading it in silence!" The following day, 28 March, the President met with Baker and formally approved the exclusive reliance upon the draft to raise all soldiers beyond those to be formed within the regular army and the National Guard. Chambers argues that since this policy would preclude any volunteer units whatsoever, including and especially a division commanded by the Bull Moose himself, Wilson embraced it. Thus, although the President remained unconvinced by the pleadings of America's military planners for a long time, he eventually bowed to their goals. He did so, however, neither because of nor in consultation with these advisors in the War College Division; his decision was independent of military considerations and was based instead on political efficacy. While on the surface it appeared that, as James W. Pohl has noted, "the President, the Secretary of War, and the General Staff were in accord on the central question of developing manpower through conscription," the plans of the General Staff and the goals of the President meshed much more by coincidence than by design.(29)

At 8:32 pm on 2 April 1917, Wilson stood before the Joint Session of Congress. Armed neutrality had failed to dissuade Germany's submarine campaign, and Wilson believed that only one avenue remained -- war. Seated directly in front of the Speaker's desk was the Supreme Court. The Cabinet was on one side while behind them sat, for the first time at such a joint session, the Diplomatic Corps in full evening dress. The House was called to order and the Vice-President entered followed by the Senate. All of the senators but two--Robert M. La Follette and James K. Vardaman--wore or carried a small American flag. As the ovation died down following his introduction, the President began to read from the papers on the podium before him:

Gentlemen of the Congress: I have called the Congress into extraordinary session because there are serious, very serious choices of policy to be made, and made immediately, which it was neither right nor constitutionally permissible that I should assume the responsibility of making.

The President followed with a thirty-six minute oration documenting the causes which he believed justified a declaration of war. It was to be a battle joined "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." In spite of the President's claim that "what this will involve is clear," few plans existed beyond the initial decision to adopt conscription as the method to raise the army. Fundamental choices including whether or not to send an expeditionary force to Europe, and if so when and where best to exercise America's military influence, remained to be decided in the weeks and months ahead.(30)


1. Bernstorff to Lansing, 31 January 1917, PWW, 41:74-9.

2. "An Address to a Joint Session of Congress," 26 February 1917, ibid., 40:283-87; Diary of Colonel Edward House, 4 March 1917, ibid., 41:331-32. See also Richard Lowitt, "The Armed-Ship Bill Controversy: A Legislative View," Mid-America 46 (January 1964): 38-47. Lowitt argues, however, that the caricature of the "little group of willful men" defeating Wilson's bill by their filibustering tactics is not accurate, since most of the speeches on the legislation were given by supporters of it.

3. Press Statement, 12 March 1917 (Enclosure II in note from Robert Lansing, 9 March), PWW, 41:372.

4. Baker to Wilson, 7 February 1917, ibid., 41:151-2; Diary of Josephus Daniels 20 March 1917, ibid., 41:444-45; See Baker's correspondence with Colonel Chester Harding, Canal Zone, and Harrison, Manilla, 3-4 February 1917, Box 2, Documents 3, 4, 5, and 8, Baker Papers, LOC.

5. Baker to Wilson 12 January 1917 and Wilson to Baker 13 January 1917, Box 4, Documents 13 and 14, Baker Papers, LOC; Baker to Wilson, 7 February 1917, PWW, 41:151-2.

6. "Franklin Dinner, Philadelphia," 17 January 1917, Box 81, Scott Papers, LOC.

7. Scott to H. J. Slocum, Laredo, Texas, 12 February 1917, Box 27, ibid.

8. Scott to Chief, War College Division, 1-3 February 1917. RG 165/9433-6, NA.

9. Lieutenant Colonel W. S. Graves, General Staff Secretary, to Scott, 3 February 1917, RG 165/9433-4, NA.

10. Scott to E. R. Hardin, Staten Island, NY, 6 February 1917, Box 27, Scott Papers, LOC.

11. Scott to Mr. Charles B. Rushmore, New York, NY, 6 February 1917, ibid.

12. Kuhn to Scott, Subj: Studies prepared in the Army War College relating to possible operations in certain European theaters of war, Appendix A, "A Study of Conditions Affecting Possible Operations in the Macedonian Theater in Case of War With Germany," 29 March 1917, RG 165/9433-6, NA.

13. Scott to Lawrence H. Hamilton, Groton School, MA, 9 February 1917, Box 27, Scott Papers, LOC.

14. S. Hubert Dent, 15 February 1917, and Thomas S. Crago, 16 February 1917, Congressional Record, 64th Congress, 2nd Session, 3370 and 3436, quoted in Finnegan, Against the Specter of a Dragon, 186.

15. Kuhn to Scott, "Memorandum for the Chief of Staff," 29 March 1917, RG 165/9433-6, NA.

16. Kuhn to Scott, 29 March 1917, RG 165/9433-6, NA; see Chapter 5 of this thesis for a more detailed discussion of the General Staff's evaluation of these proposals.

17. General John J. Pershing, My Experiences in the World War, 2 vols. (New York: Frederick A. Stokes Co., 1931), 1:26-28. By the time of the Armistice the US would

have 1,761,00 rifles, 2,106 75 mm guns and 1,485 heavy guns in France, with approximately half as many of each also in the United States. Many of the products of America's mobilization, however, would never see use in the war. An example was America's effort to meet the nation's requirements of gunpowder, estimated by Major General William Crozier, Army Chief of Ordnance, to be 300 million pounds for the period May 1917 to May 1918. Although founded in December 1917 and created with the goal of producing 700,000 tons of gunpowder per day, Nitro, West Virginia (named after the gunpowder itself--Nitro Cellulose), was only producing 350 tons per day by November 1918. William D. Wintz, Nitro: The World War I Boom Town (Charleston, WV: Pictorial Histories Publishing, 1985), 3- 4, 39-42.

18. Kuhn to Scott, "Plan for a National Army," 27 January 1917, RG 165/9876-9, NA. Bliss to Scott, 31 January 1917, RG 165/9876-13, NA.

19. Kuhn to Scott, 14 February 1917, RG 165/9876-29, NA, cited in Coffman, "The American Military and Strategic Policy in World War I," 72; Timothy K Nenninger, "American Military Effectiveness in the First World War," in Military Effectiveness, vol. 1, The First World War, ed. Allan R. Millet and Williamson Murray (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1989), 117-18. Coffman and Nenninger do not elaborate on their claim that Wilson "endorsed" the plan. Graves to Kuhn, 3 February 1917, RG 165/9433-7, and Kuhn to Scott, "Plan for Raising an Army of 500,000 Men," 20 February 1917, RG 165/9433-7.

20. See Joe Decker, "Progressive Reaction to Selective Service in World War I" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Georgia, 1969), 19-41; Chambers, To Raise an Army,

73-124; Captain George Van Horn Moseley to Chief of Staff, 1 March 1915, RG 165/9317-2, NA, cited in Decker, "Progressive Reaction to Selective Service in World War I," 21-2.

21. War College Division to Scott, 9 December 1916, RG 165/9832-1, NA. Scott had requested this report on 31 October 1916; Testimony before Senate Committee on Military Affairs, 19 December 1916, RG 165/9876-14.

22. Chambers, To Raise an Army, 126-27; Baker to Wilson, 26 December 1916, with enclosed memorandum from Enoch H. Crowder, 26 December 1916, and Wilson to Baker, 26 December 1916, PWW, 40:327-330. Wilson had issued this interpretation following challenges to this portion of the 1916 Act brought by Amos Pinchot, who feared that this provision (originally inserted by Rep. Carl Hayden of Arizona) amounted to an under-handed attempt at conscription, and who urged its immediate repeal. Many others also urged the President to revoke that portion of the Act, including Henry Morgenthau, Lillian D. Wald and Charles T. Hallinan, Editorial Director of the American Union Against Militarism, who labelled [ sic] Section 79"blood tax" and threatened that Wilson would lose the votes of 250,000 Quakers and millions of Socialists. The President demurred, however, and cited that even such strong opponents of the draft as James Hay largely concurred with the Administration's view. See Pinchot to Wilson, 9 August 1916, Wilson to Pinchot, 11 August 1916, Hallinan to Tumulty, 18 August 1916 and 23 August 1916, Morgenthau to Wilson 20 September 1916, and Wald to Wilson 23 November 1916, all cited in James W. Pohl, "The General Staff and American Defense Policy: The Formative Period, 1898-1917" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1967),383-88.

23. Baker to Wilson, 6 February 1917, Box 4, Baker Papers, LOC. See also Daniel R. Beaver, Newton D. Baker and the American War Effort, 1917-1919 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1966), 22-24.

24. Secretary for Chief of Staff to Kuhn, 3 February 1917, RG 165/9433-7, NA; Kuhn to Scott, Subj: A Plan for an Expansible Army of 500,000 men based upon Universal Liability to Military Service, 20 February 1917, RG 165/9433-7, and Kuhn to Scott, Subj: 500,000 Volunteers in Addition to Regular Army and National Guard, 15 March 1917, RG 165/9433-7.

25. The traditionally accepted date of 4 February was mis-remembered by Crowder in a speech on 15 March 1928 and was accepted in David A. Lockmiller, Enoch H. Crowder, Soldier, Lawyer, and Statesman(Columbia, MO: 1955),152-54. Others have accepted it with little question, including John K. Ohl, "Hugh S. Johnson and the Draft, 1917-18," Prologue 8 (Summer 1976): 86; Ferrell, Woodrow Wilson and World War I, 16; and Frederick S. Calhoun, Power and Principle: Armed Intervention in Wilsonian Foreign Policy (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1986), 163. For a detailed analysis of the reasons for and effects of this measure, see Chambers, To Raise an Army, 131-35; Scott to Brigadier General E. St. James Greble, 24 March 1917, Box 28, Scott Papers, LOC.

26. Baker to Wilson, 29 March 1917, Enclosure,"Summary of the Bill to Increase Temporarily the Military Establishment of the United States,"PWW, 41:500-01. Eventually the conscripted "National Army" would comprise seventy-seven percent of the total number of soldiers. See Kennedy, Over Here: The First World War and American Society, 149-50; Chambers, To Raise an Army, 134-35.

27. For an account of that meeting see "Memorandum of the Cabinet Meeting, 2:30-5 pm," 20 March 1917, PWW, 41:436-44; Baker to Scott, Petrograd, Russia, 1 July 1917, Box 3, Document 115, Baker Papers, LOC: "The first part of Pershing's expeditionary force left about the middle of June. . . . No definite plan has as yet been made about the dispatch of further troops abroad. . . ." For a discussion of the eventual decision to send an army overseas, see Chapter 4 of this thesis; Chambers, To Raise an Army, 134-41.

28. Roosevelt to Baker, 2 and 7 February 1917, and Baker to Roosevelt, 3 and 9 February 1917, Letters of Theodore Roosevelt, ed. Elting E. Morison, 8 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1951-54), 8:1087-88. See also Seward W. Livermore, Politics is Adjourned: Woodrow Wilson and the War Congress, 1916-1918 (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1966), 15-31; Frederick L. Paxson, American Democracy and the World War, vol. 2, America at War, 1917-1918 (New York: Cooper Square Publishers, 1966 [Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1939]), 7-8; Kennedy, Over Here: The First World War and American Society, 149; Roosevelt to Baker, 19 March 1917 and Baker to Roosevelt, 20 March 1917, Box 3, Document 59, Baker Papers, LOC. See also Morrison, ed., Letters of Theodore Roosevelt, 8:1164; Roosevelt to Baker, 23 March 1917, enclosure in Baker to Wilson, 26 March 1917, PWW, 41:469-71.

29. Wilson to Baker, 27 March 1917, PWW, 41:478; Chambers, To Raise an Army, 138; Pohl, "The General Staff and American Defense Policy," 391.

30. "An Address to a Joint Session of Congress," 2 April 1917, PWW, 41:519-27. See also Millis, Road to War, 436-43.



The decision for war answered only the first half of a two-part question. The United States now had to address how to fight. Controversies surrounding the depth and nature of US involvement abounded during the weeks following the American declaration of war. The central clashes focused first on whether to amalgamate American soldiers into existing Allied lines or to create an independent US Army, and second on whether to send an immediate expeditionary force to France or to withhold US troops until they could be trained and organized within the country. In resolving these dilemmas, Wilson proved once again that he believed strongly in the authority of the civilian President over the military and that his concerns were noticeably different from those of his military advisors.

The thought of committing an army to the Continent was revolting to some American political figures. While testifying before the Senate Finance Committee on 6 April, Major Palmer R. Pierce, an aide to the Secretary of War and a member of the War College Division, was asked by Committee Chair Thomas S. Martin of Virginia about the Administration's budget proposal. Pierce explained that the budget would cover necessary expenses such as "clothing, cots, camps, food, pay. . . . And we may have to have an army in France." "Good Lord!" Martin thundered, "You're not going to send soldiers over there, are you?"(1)

Even after Pershing had departed for France with the seeds of his first division, some politicians sought to prevent any further American expeditionary force. A concurrent resolution submitted to the House of Representatives on 28 June argued that since the nation waged war ostensibly for self-defense, it should send no soldiers beyond its own shores. Warning that "the contemplated service of American freemen in the Army involves being ordered into the zone of modern artillery and machine-gun fire from which few men escape with their lives and almost none without wounds," this resolution declared:

Rule 1. That the land forces or Army of the Republic, in whatever manner raised or recruited, shall be employed only to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions, and other use is declared to be unconstitutional. Under no circumstances shall it be legal to order soldiers to engage in battle in foreign countries.

Rule 2. That in the proper exercise of their inalienable rights as American freemen, and as proclaimed in rule one, soldiers may legally and honorably refuse to go upon any ship or vessel bound or to be ordered to a foreign shore.(2)

Legislators were not alone in their reluctance to field an expeditionary force. Although he would soon change his mind on the issue, Secretary of War Baker stated as late as a week after the declaration of war that no army would leave the US "until its members have been thoroughly seasoned." Recalling after the war the rationale for the massive American loans to the Allies, Treasury Secretary William G. McAdoo explained that at the time he believed that "the dollars that we sent through these loans to Europe were, in effect, substitutes for American soldiers. . . ." Wilson's personal secretary, Joseph Tumulty, noted a consensus among many leading journals that an increase in the strength of the army was needed, but mostly for the purpose of defense of the nation's borders. The Zimmermann Telegram, released by Britain on 24 February, had fueled fears of a Mexican invasion and thus emphasized the importance of domestic security. Colville Barclay, the British Chargé d'Affaires in Washington, also noted this public sentiment toward domestic defense and warned that "there appears to be a strong feeling in the States in favour of limited co-operation for purely American purposes." These media and public opinions did not inherently preclude an expeditionary force, but they did seem to emphasize domestic defense as being of far greater importance.(3)

Even Wilson himself did not yet seem committed to fielding an expeditionary force. His declaration of war speech had made no mention of the possibility, largely because he assumed that the mere threat of American intervention would suffice to convince Germany of the hopelessness of its situation and motivate it to sue for peace. The request for an immediate, direct, American role in the war, therefore, would have to come from the Allies.(4)

Some Allied political leaders questioned the wisdom of creating an American expeditionary force as well. They feared that if the US focused its energy on mobilizing, training, equipping, and supplying its own force, it would ignore the immediate Allied needs of food, munitions and most importantly money. The Allied armies might starve or their governments go bankrupt before the United States could raise a significant army. Charles A. Repington, military correspondent for the Times of London, argued that "the direct military intervention of the United States in the war is not practicable, even were America to desire it." In a conversation with Colonel Edward M. House, Wilson's longtime friend and intimate advisor, Joseph Allen Baker, a member of the British Parliament, contended that the Allies needed support in the form of food and armaments more than they needed man-power:

No greater service could be rendered to the cause of the Allies than in continuing to supply our requirements in Munitions and Food, and helping us in Finance. We could supply the men and do the fighting if the United States would keep the track across the Ocean clear, and ensure our receiving the full quantity of the necessary supplies.(5)

Thomas Beaumont Hohler, the Secretary of the British legation in Mexico, explained to Colonel House in another conversation that an attempt to arm an American force could jeopardize Allied needs such as munitions, since every bullet given to an American infantryman was one not sent to a British or French soldier in the trenches of Western Europe:

I referred to fears I had heard expressed lest munitions, etc. should be held up from the Allies in order to arm American forces which would be in the process of training: this would materially hamper the cause and so defeat the very aim which the United States would, in the eventuality, be pursuing. He said such a course had been insidiously insinuated to them from German sources, but it would not by any means be the case: heretofore the United States Government had allowed us to obtain munitions, credit and food: once the break came, they would `pump them in.'.(6)

In reality, of course, House was correct; the creation of an American army itself threatened none of the support that the Allied leaders desired. The Americans would have to rely on the Entente powers for most of their weaponry anyway, so the organization of an expeditionary force could not decrease the supply of that which America itself did not have. More potentially worrisome was food production, but the capacity of America's heartland was enormous and capable of feeding both America and the Allies. Money itself was of little concern, since extensions of credit were relatively easy to arrange. These worries alone did not preclude an American expeditionary force. A more formidable obstacle would be time. The most optimistic of American estimates concluded that in addition to the time required to raise and train it, at least ten months would be required to ship a force of 500,000 to Europe. British and French time tables were even less hopeful. The British General Staff concluded that even after a year no more than 250,000 American soldiers could be put into the field. In the face of the German submarine campaign which exacted its largest amount of damage in the month of April -- 881,027 gross tons, over 500,000 tons of which were British -- the Allies might not have that long to wait.(7)

On top of the delay associated with fielding an American army, many Allied commanders had voiced disparaging opinions of the quality of such a force. General Sir William Robertson, the Chief of the British Imperial General Staff, issued a rather pointed evaluation of the capacity of the American military when he wrote to a fellow general, "I do not think that it will make much difference whether America comes in or not. What we want to do is to beat the German Armies, until we do that we shall not win the war. America will not help us much in that respect." In a memorandum to Kuhn, the Chief of the Military Mission in Paris noted that "all of the French are somewhat afraid of the efficiency of our military organization."(8)

 To solve both issues of the quality and the speed of American military involvement, the Allies sought to recruit soldiers directly into their armies. It was seriously doubtful that either the American public or their politicians would allow such an approach, however, so the Allies sought an alternative: amalgamation. American soldiers could enlist into the US Army and then, either individually or in small units, be integrated into existing Entente lines and chains of command. These soldiers could receive the experienced training of the British or French in Europe and could therefore play a role in the fighting more quickly than if they were trained at home. From the Allied perspective, amalgamation seemed an almost perfect solution; from the American perspective, both militarily and politically, it was out of the question.

Military commanders were unlikely to give up the very armies which they commanded, and the public would hardly swallow a plan which seemed to use their sons, brothers, fathers and husbands as mere fodder for the English and French war machines. A third option which the Allies could pursue would be to encourage the United States to send a small expeditionary force immediately to Europe. By doing so they could more quickly get the Americans involved in the war and perhaps even wear down some of the opposition to amalgamation. It was this proposal which the Allies eventually pressed.(9)

With the professed reason of discussing the nature of military cooperation between the US and the Entente Powers, Britain asked to send a mission to the US in early April 1917. The President was not eager for such visits; he desired to maintain both the military and the diplomatic detachment implied by his designated status of "Associate Power," and he wrote to Baker that "a great many will look upon the mission as an attempt to in some degree take charge of us as an assistant to Great Britain." Wilson, however, acquiesced to the request and on 13 April a British mission led by Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Arthur J. Balfour and Lieutenant General Tom Bridges left Liverpool. Wanting to make their appeals heard as well, the French sent a mission led by former Premier René Viviani and Marshal Joseph Joffre to coincide with the British visit.(10)

 From the British perspective, the objective of convincing the Americans to send an immediate expeditionary force to Europe, regardless of its size, was second only to the need for spurring American shipbuilding. The British would argue that an American presence, whatever its form, could achieve two purposes: first, it would boost the sagging morale of the Tommies and poilu , and second, it would provide the US an opportunity to show the flag and demonstrate its commitment to the cause. A third reason offered by some was not to be presented to the Americans: the thought that by getting its nose bloodied in combat with the Germans, the US might dedicate itself even more to the Allies. Robertson had written to Haig, "I am also urging them to send some troops to France at once even if only a brigade. It would be a good thing to get some Americans killed and so get the country to take a real interest in the war."(11)

Washington "cheered, clapped, honked, tooted and in other noisy ways showed its approval" when the British Mission arrived at Union Station at three o'clock on 22 April. After being greeted by several government officials, including Lansing, and under a canopy of British and French flags flying over houses, the visitors were taken by cavalry escort to the Franklin McVeagh Home on 16th Street.(12)

Bridges lost no time in stepping on toes at the US War Department. Within a week of his arrival in Washington he wrote to Scott and requested that a regular division be sent immediately across the Atlantic. Citing the effect of such a presence on the morale of both the Entente and the Central Powers he wrote, "The sight of the Stars and Stripes on this continent will make a great impression on both sides. . . . To this end I would like to see one of your regular divisions sent to France at once." He also suggested how America's participation should evolve: "If you ask me how your force could most quickly make itself felt in Europe, I would say by sending 500,000 untrained men at once to our depots in England to be trained there, and drafted into our armies in France." Bridges claimed that in only a little more than ten weeks these soldiers could be killing the Hun.

He attempted to soften this proposal by suggesting that these soldiers could eventually be "drafted back into the US Army and would be a good leavening of seasoned men," but his suggestion met with a cool reception from the Chief of Staff. Potentially more worrisome for Bridges, both Baker and Wilson saw this letter. When the British general pressed the issue with Baker, the Secretary of War informed him that recruiting American citizens directly into the British or French army was unacceptable because it would undermine America's war effort. Baker described to Wilson his conversation with Bridges on 2 May:

General Bridges took up with me the question of their being allowed to recruit for British service in this county--first, as to British-born subjects resident here and, second, as to citizens of the United States. I told him that we could in no event allow the opening of recruiting offices here for the recruitment of American citizens as that would take from us the whole power of exempting persons indispensable to the industry of the country, upon which the success of all parties interested depended.(13)

House had already forwarded a similar proposal from Herbert Hoover to Wilson in mid-February. The President had made no comment then and his position had not mellowed by the time of the British visit. The Allies would not receive Wilson's blank check to recruit Americans and thus -- with amalgamation at least temporarily out of the picture as well -- they would have to resort instead to obtaining an immediate American expeditionary force.(14)

The French seemed at first no more successful than the British in their discussions with the American military planners. They arrived in Washington on 25 April and their mission was made all the more important by the failure of the Nivelle offensive earlier that same month, a disastrous attack which cost 120,000 casualties (twelve times greater than Nivelle's own estimates) and precipitated mutiny in fifty-four divisions -- half of the entire French army! They did seek to coordinate their effort with the British, and on 26 April they agreed to pursue the goal of the immediate dispatch of a regular division to France, followed as quickly as possible by conscripted reinforcements. On 27 April Joffre spoke to the students at the Army War College. Following the speech he retired to the college president's office to meet with Baker, Scott and Bliss. The Frenchman repeated his appeal for "men, men, men" and requested that an American division be sent to Europe at once, submitting a tentative plan drafted by the French General Staff and the American Military Attaché in Paris two weeks before. He emphasized that the Americans needed to organize and raise an independent army, but reiterated that they should nonetheless send an expeditionary force immediately to the front.(15)

The General Staff opposed such a course of action with a strong and unified voice. Even before the declaration of war, American military planners had rejected such an idea. When Baker asked Bliss to voice his opinion concerning Roosevelt's proposed volunteer division, the Assistant Chief of Staff presented an argument that applied equally well in response to recommendations such as the one from Joffre. He saw the immediate dispatch of an untrained force as merely the beginning of a mass butchering of green American recruits. He counseled that any effect on Allied morale gained by "showing the American flag" would quickly wane as that force was decimated on the battlefield. Arguing that "the moral effect . . . must be considered in connection with many other things," Bliss asked: Where is the moral effect to be produced by a small and the only available force. . . ? If the proposed force is sent abroad and put at once into the field . . . it must be accompanied by two or three times its strength in order to promptly meet the excessive losses that an insufficiently trained force will incur. We will have to feed in raw troops to take the place of raw troops.(16)

Lieutenant Colonel W.H. Johnston concurred and later, after Wilson had decided to send an immediate expeditionary force to France, argued that sending untrained troops into battle could lead to a vicious circle whereby more and more of the nation's efforts would go toward replacing the "casualties of a small force instead of training an adequate force for later participation in the war."(17) Bliss also correctly surmised the unstated British hope that a few American casualties might stimulate the US fighting spirit. He cautioned against this tactic, however, and further asked:

What about the moral effect of this at home? It is conceivable that from the English or French point of view these very losses, unnecessarily severe, will produce the moral effect that they desire. They may think that this will still further our fighting blood. But for what purpose and to what effect? Will they want to so stir us that we will insist on rushing great armies of ill-trained men into the field? They certainly will not want this; therefore, if they as well as the Central Powers know that the vast bulk of our forces must be held for prolonged training, what is the valuable moral effect that will result? Will not the moral effect turn into depression when they find that a rapidly dwindling small force will not be followed by others for a good many months?(18)

Kuhn and the War College Division equally opposed such a plan. In late January Kuhn had requested information from the Director of Naval Intelligence on the numbers of men, animals and vehicles comprising the current belligerent forces and the tonnage needed to transport them, but his query cannot be viewed as the prelude to endorsement of an immediate expeditionary force. In reality, he was attempting to create an embarkation problem for a War College course and no one in the General Staff seemed to have any information on the subject. When Scott had ordered the study from the General Staff on possible lines of action in the event of war with Germany at the beginning of February, the military planners counseled against sending any troops abroad before a complete American army was raised. In his initial report on 3 February, Kuhn wrote:

The War College Division earnestly recommends that no American troops be employed in active service in any European theatre until after an adequate period of training, and that during this period all available trained officers and men in the Regular Army and the National Guard be employed in training the new levies called into service. It should, therefore, be our policy at first to devote all of our energies to raising troops in sufficient numbers to exert a substantial influence in a later stage of the war.(19)

In its memorandum to Scott on 29 March the War College Division reiterated the argument that a small force could exert no influence on the front and could only bring harm to an American effort to create an independent army. Trained soldiers and officers were scarce in America, and forming most of them into a single division would undermine future American mobilization:

There have been indications in the press . . . that there might be a popular demand for sending a smaller expedition [than those of 500,000 proposed] composed of one or more divisions of our existing regular establishment. It is the opinion of the War College Division that such an enterprise would be a serious mistake, and should be promptly rejected as part of our plans in this emergency. The effect of such an arrangement would be to send a large part of our trained personnel on an expedition that could not exert any important influence on the war, with the result that we would be seriously embarrassed in finding trained officers for such larger forces as may be required either for offensive or defensive purposes.(20)

Even more than a month after the US declaration of war, Kuhn and the War College Division again counseled against the immediate dispatch of troops. Even when Baker ordered them to draft plans for a possible expeditionary force on 10 May, the military planners restated their misgivings about this idea. Once more they warned, "The War College Division is of the opinion from a purely military point of view, that the early dispatch of any expeditionary force to France is inadvisable because of lack of organization and training, and because the trained personnel contained therein will be needed for the expansion and training of the national forces."(21)

The military planners, then, had made their position clear: the immediate dispatch of an expeditionary force to Europe would not, in their opinion, be in the best interest of the American war effort. Just such an expeditionary force, however, departed in June 1917 under the command of General John J. Pershing. The British and French missions seem to have persuaded Wilson, and during the President's four o'clock private meeting with the French Field Marshal on 2 May he had "allowed General Joffre to take it for granted that such a force would be sent just as soon as we could send it." In his sixty-five minute audience with Wilson the French commander successfully elicited what the American military planners had opposed so passionately ever since war had appeared likely. It is noteworthy that the President was informing Baker of this commitment after he had already made it; it does not seem that Wilson directly consulted his Secretary of War. Similarly, the President appears to have reached his decision independently of the advice being issued from the nation's military planners.(22)

Joseph Tumulty claimed that Wilson was extremely up-to-date on military matters. In reference to the President's meeting with Joffre, Tumulty wrote: When Marshal Joffre visited the President in the spring of 1917, he was surprised, as he afterward said to Secretary Daniels, to find that President Wilson had such a perfect mastery of the military situation. He had expected to meet a scholar, a statesman, and an idealist; he had not expected to meet a practical strategist fully conversant with all the military movements.(23)

In spite of Tumulty's claim that Wilson had a complete grasp of the military situation when he met with Joffre, it is doubtful that Wilson was cognizant of the opinions of the military planners. Sir Tom Bridges of the British delegation certainly did not concur with Tumulty's assessment. Bridges wrote of his personal interview with the President that "he would talk to me of American labour problems, railways and even golf, but of war, not a word, and the hundred and one questions to which I had prepared answers remained unasked." During his actual conversation with Joffre, the President referred to none of the concerns which they had enunciated about an immediate expeditionary force. There is no record that Baker had briefed the President on the General Staff's opinion of this recommendation. Even after the President had made the decision and the General Staff had resigned itself to Wilson's wishes, Baker made no mention of the prior reservations which the War College Division had expressed. In a letter to the President on 8 May, he wrote:

The General Staff here believe that the despatch of this force will for a while satisfy the sentimental desire of the French people to see American soldiers on the front, and that it will have an enormously stimulating effect in France. They believe, however, that very constant pressure will be brought to bear from France for further forces, and that the offers of England and France to place their training camps at our disposal to complete the training of partially trained bodies of men will be pressed upon us, so that they urge me to keep in mind the possibility of this sort of insistence from the French and British military authorities.(24)

While the Secretary of War did refer to the worries of the General Staff that this expeditionary force might motivate the Allies to seek additional, untrained soldiers from the US and therefore undermine the creation of an independent American army, he expressed none of the fears that the military planners had so emotionally voiced about the potential slaughter of US soldiers. Therefore, it is unlikely that the President directly overruled the War College Division and it seems quite certain that Wilson arrived at his decision independently of any military counsel other than that offered by his Secretary of War. Wilson most likely acted on his own with a diplomatic goal in mind when he promised Joffre an immediate expeditionary force. To this extent, Colonel W.H. Johnston was correct in his dissent on 11 May: "If the expedition must be sent it is assumed that diplomatic rather than military reasons suggest such [a] course." Wilson had decided by 2 April that "right was more precious than the peace," and he had sought a role as a mediator of the conflict for quite some time before the US entered the fray.(25 

Although some historians discount this desire for mediation as a motive for entering the war, few contend that such desires did not move the President once he had committed the US to the struggle.(26) It was to be this desire for a seat at the peace conference that would guide Wilson's decisions, and while such harmony between policy and objectives is admirable, the President was to make this resolution -- as he had before and would again -- with no direct consultation with his military planners.

 In order to claim Wilson's desired role in the eventual negotiations, America would certainly have to endure a large share of the fighting and dying. If the United States waged war tardily or from a distance, the Allies would never recognize Wilson's ideas for the postwar world. Contributions such as munitions, food and money were too easily discounted; it would matter little that bullets were manufactured in the United States if it were only French and British soldiers who fired them. Only if America influenced the outcome of the war, and only if the US had a sizable army on the battlefield under its own flag to demonstrate this influence, could Wilson mold the shape of the peace.(27)

Wilson's notion of influencing the peace settlement was certainly not lost on some military planners. Even before the resumption of the German U-boat campaign, Captain Davis (the Military Attaché in Athens and the author of the proposed American campaign through Macedonia) argued that American involvement would yield a "voice in the councils of settlement that would be beneficial and welcome because it would be a voice that had attained authority, in the only possible way, viz: by effective participation in the affairs to be settled -- a participation which would be recognized as free from territorial greed." Secretary Baker seems to have shared Wilson's postwar goals. He certainly had not voiced any of the General Staff's concern to the President, and he had even expressed privately that "to my mind the war, the settlement, and the reconstruction are the same thing, one and inseparable."(28)

The General Staff's opposition to this expeditionary force was not, on the surface, antithetical to the idea of a significant American role after the war. Their concern had been that an impetuous decision now might jeopardize the strength of any American involvement and therefore threaten not only the success of an independent American army but also the triumph of American postwar diplomacy. In reality, of course, had the United States delayed it would have found itself with almost no military presence on the Continent at the close of the war. Judging from Wilson's inability to convert the Allied leaders to his way of thinking even in light of the degree of American participation, it is likely that the President would have had little or no diplomatic influence whatsoever at the postwar negotiations. Therefore, Wilson's decision was sound in the final analysis. It is still impossible to ignore, however, that the President's choice was made with no direct consultation with the military planners in the War Department General Staff.

On 14 May Baker and Joffre drew up a detailed plan for American cooperation with the French. Four days later, the same day on which Wilson signed the Selective Service Act, Baker announced publicly that Major General John J. Pershing would lead a force of about one division to France. The dense fog which engulfed Pershing and his staff as they departed New York on the Baltic symbolically enshrouded America's military planning. The nature of American involvement was beginning to take shape, but the complete foundation of America's wartime policy had not yet been laid. Even as late as 1 July the Secretary of War mentioned to Hugh Scott, then in Russia with the Root Mission, that "no definite plan has yet been made about the dispatch of further troops abroad. . . ." Baker had either forgotten about the General Staff plan issued on 7 June to begin shipping 120,000 American troops per month beginning in August, or -- more likely -- he had realized that such a rate of dispatch was absurd. Regardless, this letter to Scott demonstrates that fundamental questions regarding America's war effort remained to be determined. Additional issues such as where best to apply American military might would also come to the fore only after the American First Army had deployed in France. Even more than two months after its declaration of war, the US was gaining only a vague hint of the degree of commitment which awaited it.(29)


1. Palmer, Newton D. Baker: America at War, 1:120.

2. House Concurrent Resolution 15, 65th Congress, 1st Session, Submitted by Mr. Hilliard, 28 June 1917. The seeming redundancy of Rule 2 was designed to allow soldiers a legal escape clause so that they would not be bound under military law to any orders declared illegal in Rule 1. See also Baker's letter to the Chair of the House Committee on Military Affairs, in which the Secretary of War offers three arguments in rebuttal to the resolution: (1) that defensive measures often require a nation to "strike when opportunity affords," (2) that the US has sent troops into foreign lands on numerous occasions "in defense of our honor and our legal rights. . . ," and (3) that while the Constitution restricts the power to raise and support an army and navy and the power to declare war to Congress, it gives the President sole authority as Commander-in-Chief. Baker to S. Hubert Dent, Jr., Chair, House Committee on Military Affairs, 13 August 1917, RG 165/10050-88, NA.

3. Baker to Theodore Roosevelt, 13 April 1917, Box 3, Document 63, Baker Papers, LOC; William G. McAdoo, Crowded Years (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1931), 376-77; Tumulty to Wilson, 24 March 1917, PWW, 41:462-64; Colville Barclay, "The Assistance Which the United States Might Render to the Entente Powers in the Event of Their Intervention in the War," 7 February 1917, WO 106/467, Public Records Office (hereafter, PRO), Great Britain, cited in David R. Woodward, At War with the Kaiser (forthcoming), Chapter 3; Barbara Tuchman, The Zimmermann Telegram, 168-200.

4. Kathleen Burk, "Great Britain in the United States, 1917-1918: The Turning Point," International History Review 1 (2 April 1979): 234.

5. Charles A. Repington, reprinted in "Our State of Preparedness for War," Literary Digest54 (17 February 1917): 385-87; Conversation between J. A. Baker and House, 22 February 1917, related in letter from J. A. Baker to Arthur James, 2 April 1917, PWW, 41:532-36.

6. Thomas Beaumont Hohler to Lord Charles Hardinge, Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs, including text of conversation with House, 23 March 1917, PWW, 41:458-60. In this same letter Beaumont Hohler had referred to Wilson as "the most agile pussy-footer ever made." The President's own opinion of Beaumont Hohler upon their first meeting in February 1914 was also less than complimentary: "Not having my surgical instruments with me, I found it impossible to get an idea into his head." Wilson to Walter Hines Page, 24 February 1914, ibid., 29:283-84.

7. Kuhn to Scott, "Memorandum for the Chief of Staff," 29 March 1917, RG 165/9433-6, NA; [British] General Staff, "Note on the Military Forces of the United States," 5 February 1917, WO 106/467, PRO, cited in Woodward, At War with the Kaiser, Chapter 3; Herwig and Trask, "The Failure of Germany's Undersea Offensive Against World Shipping," 619.

8. Robertson to General Sir A. J. Murray, 13 February 1917, in The Military Correspondence of Field-Marshal Sir William Robertson, Chief, Imperial General Staff, December 1915 - February 1918 , ed. David R. Woodward, Publications of the Army Records Society 5 (London: The Bodley Head, for the Army Records Society, 1989), 149; Logan, Chief of Military Mission, Paris, to Chief of Army War College, War College Division, General Staff, 13 April 1917, RG 165/10050-2, NA.

9. See Thomas Clement Lonergan, It Might Have Been Lost!: A Chronicle from Alien Sources of the Struggle to Preserve the National Identity of the A.E.F. (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1929).

10. Wilson toBaker, 11 April 1917, Box 4, Baker Papers, LOC. David M. Esposito argues that Wilson's reluctance to receive the missions also stemmed from the fear that the Allies would attempt to limit America's role in the war and thereby to decrease the President's influence at the peace settlement. See David M. Esposito, "Force Without Stint or Limit: Woodrow Wilson and the Origins of the American Expeditionary Force" (Ph.D. dissertation, Penn State University, 1988), 165-66.

11. War Cabinet (116), 10 April 1917, Cab. 23/2, PRO, and War Cabinet Office to Oliphant, 12 April 1917, FO 800/208, PRO, cited in Kathleen Burk, Britain, America and the Sinews of War, 1914-1918 (Boston: Allen & Unwin, 1985), 102; Robertson to Haig, 10 April 1917, Woodward, Military Correspondence of Robertson , 169.

12. Diary of Thomas W. Brahany, 22 April 1917, PWW, 42:121.

13. Bridges to Scott, 30 April 1917, WO 106/467, PRO, cited in Woodward, At War with the Kaiser , Chapter 3; Burk, Britain, America and the Sinews of War , 123; Baker to Wilson, 2 May 1917, Box 4, Documents 109 and 110, Baker Papers, LOC. Baker did mention, however, that the War Department would not necessarily try to stop any American who wished to volunteer for service under the Union Jack, since such numbers would undoubtedly be too small to have an adverse effect on American mobilization.

14. House to Wilson, 14 February 1917, with enclosure, Hoover to House, 13 February 1917, PWW, 41:226-29. Wilson did send a copy of Hoover's letter to Baker with the comment, "Here is a letter so pertinent to the inquiries being made by the Council on National Defense that I am taking the liberty of sending it to you for consideration. It comes from a very experienced man." Wilson was more interested, however, in Hoover's insights on shipping and food distribution than he was in his suggestions for allowing Allied recruitment in the US. See Wilson to Baker, with enclosures, 14 February 1917, Box 4, Documents 3 and 37-2, Baker Papers, LOC.

15. Alistair Horne, The Price of Glory: Verdun,1916 (London: Penguin Books, 1987 [1962]), 319-25; Bridgesto Chief of Imperial General Staff Sir William Robertson,29 April 1917, Cab. 21/53, cited in Burk, Britain,America and the Sinews of War , 123; Major James A. Logan, Jr.,Chief of Military Mission, Paris, to Kuhn, 13 April 1917, Subj: Military Studies on possible Participation of American Troops in Operations in France, RG 165/10050-2;Coffman, The War to End All Wars , 8-9.

16. Bliss to Baker, undated but probably March 1917, Box 1, Document 60, Baker Papers, LOC.

17. Lt. Col. W.H. Johnston to Chief of Staff, Memorandum of dissent, 11 May 1917, RG 165/10050-8.

18. Bliss to Baker, undated but probably March 1917, Box 1, Document 60, Baker Papers, LOC.

19. Kuhn to Director of Naval Intelligence, 30 January 1917, RG 165/6291-12, NA, cited in Esposito, "Force Without Stint or Limit, 135; Memorandum from War College Division to Chief of Staff, 3 February 1917, Subj: Preparation for possible hostilities with Germany, RG 165/9433-4, NA.

20. Army War College Division to Chief of Staff Scott, 29 March 1917, RG 165/9433-6.

21. Kuhn to the Chief of Staff, 10 May 1917, Subj: Plans for a possible expeditionary force to France, RG165/10050-8, NA. It was this memo from which Johnston dissented, not because he disagreed with his colleagues' opinions, but rather because he did not feel that they had stated their opposition strongly enough.

22. Wilson to Baker, 3 May 1917, Box 4, Document 109, Baker Papers, LOC.

23. Tumulty, Woodrow Wilson As I Know Him , 298-300. Tumulty's attribution of this claim to Joffre probably reflects a good bit of embellishment.

24. Sir Tom Bridges, Alarms and Excursions: Reminiscenses of a Soldier (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1938), 175; "A Conversation with Josef-Jacques-Cesaire Joffre," 2 May 1917, PWW, 42:186-91; Baker to Wilson, 8 May 1917, Box 4, Document 123, Baker Papers, LOC.

25. W.H. Johnston, Memorandum of dissent, 11 May 1917, RG 165/10050-8; "Address to a Joint Session of Congress,"2 April 1917, PWW, 41:519-27.

26. Those historians who view the desire to mediate as a prime reason for his decision for war include Patrick Devlin, who argues that by April 1917, "It would be idle for Wilson to go to the Peace Conference without a seat in the Cabinet of Nations. The price of that seat was now war. Wilson himself had no doubt of that." See Devlin, Too Proud to Fight: Woodrow Wilson's Neutrality (London: 1974), 678-81; and Trask, "Woodrow Wilson and World War I," 1-6. Opponents of this interpretation include J. A. Thompson, who contends that the weakness of Devlin's position is the slim likelihood of American intervention in the absence of the German submarine campaign. He claims that without such a direct challenge to the United States, it is hard to believe that Wilson would have gone to war for the prospects of American participation in the eventual peace settlement, since the driving force behind his previous attempts at mediation had been to avoid war altogether. Is was only after the battle had been joined that the desire for an American hand in the settlement became an over-arching theme of Wilson's policy. See Thompson, "Woodrow Wilson and World War I: A Reappraisal," Journal of American Studies 19 (December 1985): 338-47. A middle ground is struck by Arthur Link, who claims that although Wilson's decision for war was governed in great part by an eye to the diplomatic resolution of the conflict, the President was more concerned with preventing a peace on Germany's terms than on assuring a peace on those of the United States. His policies once committed to belligerency, however, were governed by his desire for participation in the settlement. See Link, Wilson, the Diplomatist , 88-90.

27. David F. Trask, The United States in the Supreme War Council: American War Aims and Inter-Allied Strategy, 1917- 1918 (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1961), 5- 7; Trask, "Woodrow Wilson and World War I," 6-11.

28. Davis, Subj: Macedonian Expeditionary Force, 17 November 1916, RG 165/9910-1, NA; Baker to Guy Mason, 29 July 1917, Box 2, Document 51, Baker Papers, LOC. This letter is misfiled; since the opening of the letter is addressed only to "Guy" and since Mason's last name is buried in the text of the letter, the note itself appears in the "G" folder.

29. "Minutes of a conference of May 14 with the Secretary of War" and "Relations between French Authorities and American Command," editorial translation, in Department of the Army, Historical Section, The United States Army in the World War, 1917-1919 , vol 2. Policy-forming Documents of the American Expeditionary Forces (Washington: Center of Military History, United States Army, 1989), 5-10; Foran account of Pershing's trip across the Atlantic see Donald Smythe, "Pershing Goes 'Over There': The Baltic Trip." American Neptune 34 (1974): 262-77; Smythe, Pershing: General of the Armies (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), 13-19; Baker to Scott, Petrograd, Russia, 1 July 1917, Box 3, Document 113, Baker Papers, LOC. Kuhn to Bliss, 7 June 1917, Subj: Tactical reorganization required to meet requirements in the European theatre of war and program for the progressive dispatch of troops to France, RG 165/10050-30, NA. See also Chapter 5 of this thesis.



The decision to send an immediate expeditionary force to France did not complete American strategic planning. While the United States had committed itself to a military role, the exact nature of the nation's involvement still remained to be determined. Of immediate concern was the speed with which American troops would follow the First Division across the Atlantic: would the bulk of the American army remain in North America to complete its training or would the United States begin shipping more soldiers immediately? In addition, during the few months after the initial expeditionary force was dispatched to France, some prominent Americans--even Wilson himself--questioned the wisdom of fighting on the Western Front.

Almost three years of relentless fighting there had left the terrain scarred with trenches and graves, yet had yielded little gain for either side. An alternative to this stalemate was sought. Pershing's appointment as Commanding General of the AEF marked the beginning of a shift in strategic planning initiative away from Washington. Pershing's powers were vast and unprecedented--never before had a commander wielded such carte blanche control. The only strict guideline which Wilson and Baker had offered was that the US must create an independent army, but surely the President was preaching to the converted. Pershing staunchly demanded an independent force, much to the consternation of the Allies, and there is no indication that in the absence of this Presidential dictum Pershing would have completely subjugated his own command to that of the British and French. Pershing desired to fulfill his role as Commanding General; exactly what he would command, however, remained unclear as the Baltic sailed out of New York Harbor on 28 May 1917.

Even after deciding to send the First Division to France, Wilson made no immediate commitment to follow-up with more soldiers. On 17 May Colonel House forwarded a letter from George G. Moore, a retired New York businessman who had often visited Sir John French at the Headquarters of the British Expeditionary Forces in France during 1914-15.

These visits evidently were not wasted, since Moore astutely observed that "modern artillery gives overwhelming superiority to the army on the defensive and three years of warfare have shown the impossibility of an offensive succeeding against an army possessed of artillery and machine-guns adequately manned. For this reason Ypres, Verdun, the Somme and the Dardenelles were German and British failures." Moore echoed the General Staff's reservations when he concluded that the US should withhold the bulk of its army until a later date when a significant effect could be produced. Impulsively committing more troops to Europe might result in the senseless slaughter of American soldiers, since "political urgency and the personal ambition of commanders have caused a hideous wastage of the man-power of England and France in attacks from which there was no intelligent hope of success." Moore finally warned that the US should "avoid the needless wastage of American lives until the time when the sacrifice is warranted. I have seen the steady dissipation of the man-power of England without any intelligent plan and pray that this may not happen here."(1)

Moore's appeal struck the President. Wilson forwarded the note to Baker the next day, writing that "[the letter from] George G. Moore about defensive and offensive warfare on the Western Front of Europe makes a considerable impression on me and I should very much like to discuss it with you when we have the next opportunity." Apparently unknown to Wilson, however, was that the military planners within America's War Department General Staff had already voiced these very warnings. When Baker briefed the President on 8 May concerning the state of plans for the immediate expeditionary force to France, he was less than forthright about the War College Division's opinions. Baker wrote:

My military associates here believe that it will be necessary to have a division of troops on this side ready to follow fairly shortly, so as to get the advantage of the training received by the first division and be able to supplement it should battle loses or sickness diminish its numbers.(2)

Baker did not lie about the General Staff's views concerning the dispatch of a second division to France, but he was not completely open about all that the military planners had to say. Included here were none of the misgivings which the War College Division had previously expressed and which they would reiterate only two days later in a memorandum to the Chief of Staff. Absent too was the forceful dissent of Colonel W.H. Johnston who believed that his colleagues had not voiced their opposition to the expeditionary force strongly enough. The General Staff had not changed its opinions by the time Baker briefed the President. Wilson, then, seems to have been largely ignorant of the counsel of the military planners in the War College Division except as it was filtered through his Secretary of War. Add to this the immediate and unyielding demands for a larger and larger contingent which Pershing would issue even before his boots touched French soil, and Wilson's decision to send even more troops to France immediately is understandable.(3)

While the Baltic steamed across the Atlantic, Pershing and his staff began to formulate their strategy for the American role in the war. This planning seemed to develop a life of its own as it grew farther and farther beyond what the military had expected. G. Eugene Heller, a quarter- master's clerk remarked, "The A.E.F. developed like a snowball started from a mountaintop. It was small and it grew far beyond anyone's expectations." The whole exercise carried these planners into strategically uncharted waters. Major James G. Harbord, Pershing's Chief of Staff, remarked: "Our war ideas are expanding as we near the theater. Officers whose lives have been spent trying to avoid spending fifteen cents of Government money now confront the necessity of expending fifteen millions of dollars,--and on their intellectual and professional expansion depends their avoidance of the scrap heap."(4)

Pershing made tentative plans to have an army of at least 1,000,000 men by early spring of the following year. To achieve this end, the United States would have to ship the equivalent of four divisions per month for the next year. In addition, the supplies for such a force would call for the daily delivery to France of 25,000 tons of freight. At the time, however, the most optimistic War Department estimates concluded that by the middle of June 1918 a total of 634, 975 American troops--less than 65% of Pershing's request--could be landed in France.(5)

Pershing did not stop at this initial request. Only a few days later, on 11 July, he wrote to Washington that even more soldiers would be desirable. He viewed his plan for 1,000,000 troops as only a "basis of study" which "should not be construed as representing the maximum force which will be needed in France." He suggested that "plans for the future should be based . . . on three times this force -- i.e., at least 3,000,000 men, " a rather surreal figure which would have left the US with a force larger than the combined strength of all the belligerents in Europe.(6)

By the time Pershing began to issue his growing demands for manpower, the military planners in the General Staff seem to have yielded to Baker's wishes for the immediate shipment of more soldiers to France. On 7 June the War College Division issued a "program for the progressive dispatch of troops to France, " in which the army would grow to more than 1,000,000 in the next four months and 120,000 troops per month would cross the Atlantic beginning on 1 August 1917. This force would receive its training both in North America and in Europe.(7)

Baker worried that Wilson's admiration for George G. Moore's suggestions that the US retain most of its army might undermine the plan to send more soldiers immediately. He wrote to the President on 27 May:

For us to sit by and allow the French and British to be worn down by further attrition would start three kinds of criticism; first, it would be said that our part in the war was too slow, and that the red tape of the General Staff was prevailing over the impetuous wish of Americans to be of present assistance, and this would be based upon statements made by the British and French, and also by soldiers in our own Army to the effect that a long drawn out period of training in this country is unnecessary. Second, it would be said that we were running the chance of the French or Russians breaking down and thus immeasurably increasing the size of our own task later. Third, it would be said that the immediate and overwhelming aggregation of forces, including our own, is the way most speedily to terminate the war and not to feed nations to the German machine in detail.(8)

The Secretary of War enclosed a letter from Bliss in which the Chief of Staff praised Moore's thinking. In spite of Bliss's appeal, however, Baker had touched a nerve with the President: America's tardiness threatened not only continued slaughter on the battlefields but also the nation's perceived role in the fighting and thereby might thwart the President's own place at the settlement.

Wilson made his decision in the few days followingBaker's letter. Against the counsel of the General Staff, he accepted the advice of his Secretary of War. Vilifying the "military masters of Germany . . . [whose] plan was to throw a broad belt of German military power and political control across the very center of Europe and beyond the Mediterranean into the heart of Asia, " the President declared in a Flag Day Address on 14 June that "we are about to bid thousands, hundreds of thousands, it may be millions, of our men, the young, the strong, the capable men of the nation, to go forth and die beneath [the flag] on fields of blood far away. . . ." The die was cast and, albeit slowly, American troops began a steadily increasing flow to Europe.(9)

Still other questions came to the forefront of strategic consideration in the following months. Suggestions from a variety of sources, including military men, politicians, journalists and even the President himself, offered alternatives to the Western Front as the focus of America's military efforts. All of these proposals must have frustrated the planners in the War College Division, who seem to have settled on the Western Front even before they began to draft plans for the progressive dispatch of American soldiers to France. Baker himself recalled years after the war that "General Pershing, General Scott, General Bliss and I had agreed that the war would have to be won on the western front at the time General Pershing started overseas. At one of our conferences before he left we discussed some of the sideshows and decided that they were all useless. . . ." In spite of the sound, strategic rationale for this decision, the General Staff would be forced to explain its reasoning repeatedly throughout the remainder of the year.(10)

The earliest alternatives to the Western Front had been offered before America even became involved in the war. When the War College Division first began to examine strategic options in early February 1917, then Chief of Staff Scott recommended that they consider the possibility of Holland becoming involved in the conflict as a result of German U-boat attacks on her shipping. An offensive through Holland, Scott argued, would allow an invasion into France to the rear of the western German army.(11)

The War College Division's eleven-page evaluation, written by Major E.T. Collins of the US Infantry, gave Scott's idea of a Holland front mixed reviews. Since an American expeditionary force sent to Holland would arrive in friendly territory, an amphibious assault would be unnecessary. Holland's harbors could be used, and Rotterdam could serve as an adequate port facility for an expeditionary force. Nonetheless, any American offensive launched from within that country faced severe obstacles. If Holland's army could not hold the line in the face of a German attack, the Dutch would have to resort to flooding their territory for defense, rendering an expeditionary force effectively secure, but bottled up and unable to advance.(12)

Estimates of the required strength of an American force sent to Holland were pessimistic at best. The proposed force would have to be strong enough to either advance against and successfully attack the western German army or at least to cause its withdrawal. The most reliable sources, according to the War College Division memorandum, placed the strength of the western German army at 2,000,000 combat-ready troops. To this figure were added an inestimable number of reserves which Germany could bring from the Eastern Front. In light of these numbers, the War College Division placed the requisite size of an American force at a minimum of 1,000,000 men.

A Holland offensive, it was argued, would be far less sedentary than the Western Front--the primary reason for discussing the idea at all. Training for a Holland campaign would have to stress mobility and maneuver over techniques of trench warfare, an approach which would free the forces from the futile tactics of the Western Front. A drawback was that the German army already had a high proficiency at such skills, so any American force would have to be equally well-trained.

Another advantage of a Holland offensive was the element of surprise. Although shipping estimates placed the required transportation time of an expeditionary force to Holland at fourteen months, American troops could be quartered in England until the entire force was ready to embark. The distance from the Thames to Rotterdam was only 140 miles; this short span combined with the amount of available British tonnage and the experience of the British admiralty promised a satisfactory rate of arrival in Holland.

The uncertainties of a Holland offensive, however, outweighed the possible advantages. While the American troops massed in Great Britain, Holland's defensive force of 400,000 to 600,000 troops would have to withstand a concentrated German attack without resorting to that nation's best available defense--flooding. More importantly, this traditionally neutral country would not only have to allow an American force to march through its territories, but also would be required to cooperate closely with any such army. All of these arguments, of course, danced around the most compelling strategic reason for rejecting this proposal. A raw force from the United States would have been little match for the experienced Imperial German Army, and therefore any American role in the land war would have been short-lived if such a policy had been adopted. Other than the memorandum of 29 March itself, no other discussion emanated from the War College Division or the General Staff which would indicate that the Holland campaign was seriously considered.

Captain Edward Davis, American Military Attaché in Athens, had presented another alternative in late 1916, a plan for a Macedonian campaign. His plan, studied by the War College Division at the same time as the idea of a Holland offensive, was seen as far more tempting than Scott's suggestion. Yet, even though his proposal piqued the interest of the military planners more than the one initially offered by the Chief of Staff, Davis's suggestion did not fare much better than the idea of a Holland campaign.(13)

Davis based his plan on several premises which he believed would lie at the root of US involvement in any Continental conflict. First, the United States was traditionally reluctant to participate in European politics. Second, the US sought no territorial aggrandizement from the outcome of this war. Third, America was in the unique position among the Entente powers of enjoying equal friendship with all of the present belligerents. Fourth, the United States had shown its sincere desire to remain neutral and preserve international law. Fifth, the European nations would recognize these premises in a state of balance, such as after the resolution of the present war. Last, America had shown its ability--again unique among the Entente powers--to exert powerful diplomatic pressure upon its possible antagonists. Davis sought to find a possible theater of conflict which would best fit these principles, a theater where America could exercise its independence and moral superiority. He chose Macedonia. 

Davis believed that a Macedonian campaign would best suit America's purposes because it would bring about the speediest end to the war. The requisite force, which Davis estimated to be approximately 500,000 strong, would land at a Macedonian port and then invade Bulgaria. With the elimination of that nation from the fight, Turkey would find itself isolated and soon defeated, releasing one Russian and two British armies for operations elsewhere. Removing Bulgaria and Turkey from the war would also clear the way for a concerted effort against Austria-Hungary by the Russians and Rumanians from the East, the Allies from the South and the Italians from Trieste.

The first domino of Davis's plan, Bulgaria, was the key. Davis argued that this satellite of the Central Powers was being propped up mainly by a fear of merciless treatment by the Entente if it quit. The moral presence of the United States would cause the Bulgarians to trust their fate to the Allies. According to Davis, the United States was "the only country in position to combine force and fair diplomacy so effectively toward the ending of the war, and the Balkan theatre is the place for this combination."

When Davis submitted his plans in late 1916, the General Staff hardly received them enthusiastically; the Presidential restrictions against military planning still carried their full force. In February 1917, however, after the United States had broken diplomatic relations with Germany because of the resumption of unrestricted U-boat warfare, the War College Division examined these plans in greater depth. At the same time that he asked the planners to explore his idea of an offensive launched through Holland, Chief of Staff Hugh Scott ordered them to consider Davis's suggestions.(14)

The War College Division's study of Davis's idea, written by Colonel A.W. Catlin of the US Marine Corps and Major H.L. Threlkeld of the US Infantry, agreed with Davis that the required number of troops for a Balkan campaign would be 500,000. Shipping such a force would require approximately ten months, and the only possible point of arrival seemed to be Salonica in Northern Greece, a bay with length, breadth and depth sufficient for a high volume of sea traffic. The Entente Powers had already occupied this area, so there existed sufficient and suitable ground for encampments of American troops.(15)

This choice of Salonica was notable. One of Davis's main arguments for such a campaign was the degree of independence it would afford the US war effort. The War College Division rightly surmised, however, that the US had no chance of executing such a major action on its own; it lacked both the means of landing such a force and the armaments to supply it. An attack by way of Salonica, the only feasible route for an offensive in this region, would inherently involve close cooperation with the Allied forces already there. Such collaboration was exactly what Davis had sought to avoid in the original proposal of this alternative, and therefore the only possible means of implementing this strategy negated its very usefulness.

Even though the idea of a campaign against Bulgaria, whether launched in conjunction with the Allies or not, offered "tempting results, " the War College Division argued that such a plan contained hurdles and dangers that might not justify the possible benefits. The military planners pointed out that if America became involved directly with the Allies, the demands on American shipping would increase sharply, making it difficult to assemble the bottoms necessary to transport an expeditionary force to Macedonia. Also, the dangers of submarine attack were magnified in the Mediterranean Sea. Even without this extra risk of loss in tonnage, the War College Division concluded that Davis's plan, like Scott's Holland campaign involved "so largely cooperation with the Navy and the joint preparation of plans that its practicability should be discussed from the naval point of view before any further steps are taken towards the drawing up of a war plan."

These War College Division discussions marked the extent of the quest for alternatives to the Western Front before Wilson's request for a declaration of war and for some time afterward, but the idea of other options for American participation, particularly in the East, was not dead. F.C. Howe of the U.S. Department of Labor Immigration Service, warned Baker that Germany's true war aims lay in the East: "Here are the oil and coal fields. Here are some of the best wheat lands of Russia. And here the Ukrainians are very much disaffected." The Secretary of War safely ignored Howe's comments, but in September 1917, President Wilson himself ordered Baker to examine options to American military participation in France.(16)

Wilson submitted to Baker the plan of Major Herbert H. Sargeant for the "General Strategy of the Present War Between the Allies and the Central Powers." Sargeant, himself a member of the General Staff, had given this plan directly to the President, probably because he foresaw the reception that the suggestion would receive from his colleagues. He decried the three-year-old stalemate on the Western Front and saw little hope of either side gaining significant territory against the enemy's layers of defenses. The entrenched lines themselves were framed by the neutral countries of Switzerland and Holland which provided little hope in Sargeant's opinion, even if they could be persuaded to take up arms. His plan, then, involved the commitment of the smallest possible force to hold the line in the West while concentrating, as Davis's plan had suggested almost a year earlier, on the East.(17)

Sargeant advocated an attack against either Turkey or Bulgaria, the object being to cut the Central Powers in two and to capture Constantinople by crushing the armies of the Central Powers in that vicinity. After the fall of Constantinople, the Allied forces would attack Austria- Hungary with the Russians "on the right and the Italians on the left." Success in such an endeavor would defeat the Central Powers in what Sargeant saw as their most important theater of operations. If the Allies could capture this area, "the Kaiser's hope of becoming the ruler of a great central empire extending from the Baltic Sea to the Persian Gulf [would] be permanently frustrated."

Sargeant offered an alternate to Davis's route to Turkey by way of the Mediterranean Sea. An American Army could sail from San Francisco across the Pacific and Indian Oceans to the Persian Gulf to cooperate with an English Army currently in the vicinity of Baghdad. Such a course would be entirely through friendly waters, and several minor bases such as Honolulu, Manila, Singapore, Columbo, and Bombay could serve as stops along the way. In response to the question of adequate tonnage to carry a force across the Pacific, Sargeant argued that perhaps Japan could be convinced to assist in this endeavor.(18)

Where Davis's Eastern Plan had met with little detailed opposition as late as March, the suggestions of a Balkan or Near Eastern campaign that arose in September met with the vehement disapproval of military planners. Proponents of the Western Front had gained much momentum in the few months since the first American forces departed for France. The military planners themselves showed little interest in entertaining alternatives until ordered to do so by the Secretary of War and the President. In July 1917, General Tasker H. Bliss, then Chief of Staff, submitted a series of papers prepared by the English War Correspondent G. Gordon Smith on "The Political and Military Importance of the Balkan Front." The evaluation of this proposal, written by Captain Standiford of the General Staff, concluded that "no further action be taken at this time and that the papers be filed." The military planners could hardly entertain Wilson's request with the blasé attitude which they used to dismiss Smith's proposal; after all, it was the President making this suggestion, not some war journalist from Britain. They were no more willing to consider the idea of an Eastern campaign in September than they had been in July, but their responses at this time offered far greater detail as to why such a plan was ill-conceived.(19)

On 28 September, Colonel P.D. Lochridge, acting Chief of the War College Division, issued a memorandum to the Chief of Staff, "Possible Lines of Action in the Eastern Mediterranean, " relating several reasons why an Eastern campaign was not the proper role for the American Expeditionary Force. The War College Division praised an Eastern campaign's goal of striking at the weakest point of the Central Alliance, a strategy which had worked for such legendary generals as Napoleon in his French Campaign in 1814. The distinction between this plan and Napoleon's was that the latter had the advantage of interior lines of supply; in this instance that advantage would rest with the Central Powers.(20)

Shipping a force from New York to the Eastern Mediterranean would involve a distance 1400 to 2000 miles greater than sending that same force to the West Coast of France. This entire increase would be in a land-locked sea with an abundance of possible submarine bases. Troops "going to the Eastern Mediterranean [would] have to run the gauntlet of submarines for approximately one-half of the journey, " which would require dedicating a strong naval escort there while at the same time escorting supply ships for the Allies to the West Coast of France. In sum, shipping for an Eastern campaign would require an additional 45% to 62% of the time required to send a comparable force to France.

Another disadvantage of a Balkan Campaign would be the requirement of the attacking force to carry with it all supplies and munitions. The American army was embarrassingly short of cannons and ammunition and was already forced to rely on France for its artillery needs in the West. Thus, an American force landing in the Balkans would be unequipped for any fighting at all.

Lochridge also described the difficulties of the terrain in each of the areas of the Eastern Mediterranean that were possible debarkation points for a military force. The mountains in Northern Italy provided a formidable hurdle for any planned invasion. Lochridge pointed out that these mountains were so difficult to overcome that merely 50%of the Austrian Army had checked the entire Italian Army for over two years. Lochridge also pointed out that Italy's system of railroads was already taxed by that country's own needs, let alone the requirements of a foreign expeditionary force. Macedonia was, according to Lochridge, a "sector of great apparent possibilities." Even so, there were obstacles to the success of any campaign in this region. The terrain in Albania was too rough for the movement of a large military force, so it was out of the question as a possible launching point of a campaign. The ports in Northern Greece had their geographical limitations as well.

The main argument against a campaign in this area, however, was political. Describing Macedonia as having been for centuries the "cesspool of nations, " Lochridge contended that this area provided a microcosm of the nationality problem that had greatly troubled the entire Balkan region. The Allied forces there included contingents from all of the participant countries, making harmonious cooperation impossible. It was better, therefore, that the United States avoid becoming embroiled in this political powder keg.

Lochridge dismissed in short order the idea of launching a campaign from Turkey. Not only would tremendous delays result from the added length of the voyage across the Pacific rather than across the Atlantic, but the potential rewards involved in a Turkish campaign were nominal. Even though the Baghdad Railway, a main transportation route of the Central Powers, was near to the proposed landing spots of Smyran and Alexandretta, that section of the rail line was not vital to the survival of Germany and her allies. Thus, the potential gains came nowhere near to balancing the dangers and delays of such an offensive.

Lochridge also objected to these alternative strategies on political grounds. The American goal was to crush Germany and destroy its military capabilities. As much as an attack against Germany's allies might hurt the Central Powers as a whole, it would do nothing to slow the Kaiser's war machine. Since the United States had not as yet declared war on any nation but Germany, and since the US had designated itself as an "Associate" rather than an"Allied" power, such plans did not mesh with American diplomatic policy. Lochridge then turned his attention to a critique of a possible Russian campaign. After the first Russian Revolution in March 1917, which resulted in a democratic government, it became obvious that the Allies' Eastern Front was faltering. If Germany could force a peace on Russia, she could free a large portion of her army for further work in the West. Such worries raised the possibility of American intervention against Germany through Russia. Although this plan alone among the proposals elicited some measure of enthusiasm from the War College Division members, it fared no better than any of the other alternatives the trenches in France and Belgium.(21)

The War College Division refuted the idea of a Russian Front in the same memorandum wherein it rejected the idea of an Eastern campaign. The first argument against this plan was that Russia was largely inaccessible. The Central Powers had effectively bottled up the Russian ports in the Black and Baltic Seas, and the neutrality of Norway and Sweden precluded any possible land routes through those countries. An expeditionary force sent to the North would therefore have to sail through the Barents Sea and would most likely arrive at Archangel (about 700 miles by rail from Petrograd). This port had facilities sufficient for about 40 vessels simultaneously--a much larger overall capacity than the rail lines serving the port, which could carry an estimated 60,000 troops (with equipment) per month. This route itself would also be closed by ice for about six months beginning in November. A smaller port which might serve as an alternative to Archangel was Alexandrovsk, but its ship capacity was less than one sixth that of Archangel, and it was 250 miles farther away from Petrograd. It was inaccessible during the summer months because the Murman Railway passed over large tracks of swampland and was subject to attack by the Germans, so Russia had no sufficient access routes from the North.(22)

The War College Division believed that other routes to Russia were equally ludicrous. There were two ports on the East Coast of Russia: Vladivostok and Nikolayevsk. The former was 7000 miles away from Petrograd by rail and had facilities for 30 vessels. The rails themselves had the capacity to haul 40,000 troops per month, but rolling stock was in short supply, so the actual number would have been even less. Nikolayevsk was a new terminus on the Trans-Siberian Railroad located 900 miles north of Vladivostok. Both its limited rail capacity and its shallow harbor prohibited it from being a possible landing point for an American expeditionary force. Even if Russia had possessed adequate port facilities, however, the length of the voyage to either Archangel or Vladivostok alone would have prohibited an offensive via this route. The War College Division listed the following distances:

Route                                                    Miles

New York to Havre, France                   3600

New York to Archangel, Russia            7000

San Francisco to Vladivostok               7000


In addition, the entire length of the voyage from New York to the West Coast of France was within a temperate climate; the same could be said of neither Russian port.

Another practical hurdle to a Russian front was the appalling condition of Russian railways. The United States government had recognized this weakness on the part of Russia even before the US declaration of war. The War College Division explained that the sad condition of Russian railroads, with its shortages of rolling stock and locomotives, had grown even worse since the March Revolution. Even if an American force could be shipped efficiently to one of Russia's coasts, it was doubtful that it could move within the country itself.(23)

Geographic considerations did not form the only arguments against a Russian campaign. Earlier discussions between Baker and Major Stanley Washburn of the Special Diplomatic Mission to Russia had discussed the tenuous political situation in that country. Washburn cautioned that any plans involving military cooperation with Russia were unlikely to succeed in 1917: "nothing but a miracle can bring about a dominant military situation this summer." Hurrying the Russian army into an advance could very well result in Russia quitting altogether. Washburn suggested that America restrict involvement in that nation to economic aid to build its railroads and feed its citizens. Senator John Sharpe Williams of Mississippi echoed Washburn's opposition to sending an American force to Russia, contending that its soldiers and citizens would resent a force of West Point graduates giving them orders.(24)

The War College Division downplayed the value of the Russian Front in the German war plan. Although it seems hard to believe that the Central Powers would have declined further advances into Russian territory if the opportunity arose, the General Staff argued that their interior lines of supply and communication would be so stretched by such progress along their Eastern Front that they would hesitate to attempt it. While the War College Division's reasoning was a bit lax on this point, their next argument was clearly true. An invasion of Russia was not the immediate objective of Germany; an invasion of France was. Thus, American participation in the East, whether in the Balkans or in Russia, would have left America with a relatively minor and peripheral role in the fighting--a role which might have risked the collapse of the entire Allied cause.(25)

The military planners had decided on committing US troops to the Western Front months before talk of alternative strategies piqued the interest of politicians. Their plan of 7 June had envisioned the progressive dispatch of troops to France at the rate of 120,000 per month starting in August. While the rate of dispatch foreseen in this proposal was not realized until April 1918--a full three-quarters of a year behind schedule--this plan is still significant in that it illustrates that US military planners had decided upon France as the proper theater for American influence almost from the outset of the nation's involvement.(26) In the context of these discussions, and at Baker's suggestion, the War College Division took the opportunity to explain and defend its choice of a Western campaign. After illustrating the drawbacks and flaws of plans which focused on the Eastern Mediterranean or Russia, the planners outlined the advantages in fighting with the British and French in the West. The War College Division argued that it would be unwise to abandon the plan that was already in place to reinforce the Western Front. Decisions such as this, it was argued, should not be reconsidered unless some drastic change had occurred in the overall military situation of the war. The reasoning here is the weakest found in the planners' arguments. The carnage that had already occurred on the Western Front justifiably placed the burden of proof on the advocates of that strategy rather than on its opponents. The War College Division did prove its case in subsequent arguments, but this one alone was not convincing.

The military planners contended that a "sideshow" strategy would unnecessarily divide the American forces. America had as yet declared war only on Imperial Germany, and therefore, unlike Great Britain in Mesopotamia and in Palestine, or France and Italy in Greece, the United States had no compelling political reasons to send troops to any place other than the Western Front. In order for an alternative strategy to succeed, the US would have to field a force large enough to hold the line in the West and at the same time fully equip a force sufficient enough to have an influence in another theater. The force on the second front would require its own artillery, lines of communications, rolling stock, bases, and sufficient personnel--items that the American force alone did not have. The United States was already strained in sending sufficient railroad cars and locomotives to supplement those in France, let alone supply an entire American army on its own. The American Expeditionary Force already relied on the French for its field artillery, so it could not have supplied itself in another campaign.

Another reason why the military planners argued against a change in strategy was the strain on available shipping that the extra distances would entail. Not only would American tonnage have to be dedicated to sending an entire army to another theater, but some of that tonnage would have to be used to supply, or at the very least move, the expeditionary forces already in France. Great Britain did not have enough ships in 1917 to assist the AEF, so America would have to find sufficient shipping on her own. Since such shipping was simply not available to the United States at that time, abandoning the Western Front would have been logistical folly.

The War College Division also contended that the Allies could not survive alone on the Western Front. No miracles had occurred in the three months after the dispatch of Pershing's First Division, so France still needed American assistance. A common bond linked the United States and France, a bond that dated back to the aid of the French Marquis de Lafayette in the American Revolution. This bond, it was claimed, facilitated a degree of understanding that would be possible only with the French or the British--it would certainly not be attainable with the Russians or any other group:

We can reinforce the Allies in greater strength and more quickly on the western front and maintain ourselves there better than any other. We understand the French people and they understand us, our forces are received with open arms and we can depend upon our forces cooperating in the highest degree, and, in consequence to the end of the highest effectiveness, with those of the French by virtue of this understanding. With no other country, except the British, is this possible.(27)

Most importantly, the War College argued that the West was the decisive theater of the war. The sideshows in the East were just that--sideshows. The German objective, they argued, lay with crushing France, and American involvement in the West would do the most to thwart that goal. The military planners recognized that a deadlock had existed for some time in the West, but they claimed that American involvement to the expected degree (eventually one or two million men) would tip the scales decidedly in the favor of the Entente Powers. The war would be won or lost in the West; if the United States desired to play a decisive role in the outcome of the war, and thereby earn a seat at the settlement, it would have to play that role side by side with the French and British in the trenches of the Western Front.(28)

By the end of September, the War College Division had offered its best reasoning for a western campaign, but it continued to receive suggestions for alternatives to this strategy. George Chamberlain, Chair of the Senate Military Affairs Committee, forwarded to Baker a proposal of Ameen F. Rihani (a specialist in Middle Eastern history and literature and the Chair of the Syria-Mt. Lebanon League of Liberation in New York) which advocated a campaign through Turkey. Like Sargeant's plan, Rihani advised that the American force travel across the Pacific Ocean. In his critique of this strategy, Bliss euphemistically suggested that Rihani "has underestimated the difficulties of transporting a force there and supplying it." The Chief of Staff explained that it would take at least twelve months to send an army of 200,000 men to the Red Sea, and that "an army of 200,000 men is a small one these days." Baker chose not to send Bliss's letter to Chamberlain, since doing so might provide a dangerously detailed account of the American strategic thinking. Instead, with the President's agreement, the Secretary of War ignored this recommendation.(29)

Even still the proposals continued to arrive. Baker had sent Lochridge's memorandum with its three enclosures to the President on 11 October. In early November, however, Wilson again presented to Baker the plan of Major Sargeant concerning "the General Strategy of the Present War between the Allies and the Central Powers"--the very same plan which he had given to his Secretary of War in September and the very same plan which the War College Division had already rejected in the lengthy study for the President himself! Surely Baker must have been puzzled when, upon his return to his office, he realized that Wilson had resubmitted Sargeant's proposal. On 11 November Baker forwarded a copy of the War College Division's memorandum of 28 September to Wilson. In his cover letter he once again reiterated the arguments against a sideshow strategy for the AEF. Hinting at Wilson's desire to have a seat at the settlement, Baker concluded by reminding the President that America's army had been "pledged for use on the Western Front in cooperation with the British and French forces there."(30)

The President finally bowed to Baker and the General Staff, but not before once again illustrating the great difference between his goals and those of the military planners. Ronald H. Spector argues that news of the November Revolution in the nascent Soviet Union and the Italian disaster at Caporetto, which had cost the Allies 40,000 casualties and a quarter-million prisoners of war, doused any ideas of alternatives. Timothy K. Nenninger, however, suggests that one argument in particular may have been decisive in the eyes of the President. The Western Front policy would allow the United States to play a major role in the war, and it therefore fit well with Wilson's political goals of reshaping Europe. While this reasoning may have convinced Wilson, the military planners themselves had already decided on this course of action months earlier for purely military reasons. Thus, while postwar politics may have entered into the final decision on whether or not to focus on the Western Front, it seems unlikely that the strategy itself was formed in the context of these considerations. In the eyes of the military planners, victory was a prerequisite for any settlement, so their plans sought this goal foremost.(31)


1. Moore to House, 17 May 1917, House to Wilson, 22 May 1917, PWW, 42:372-74.

2. Wilson to Baker, 23 May 1917, ibid., 42:377; Baker to Wilson, 8 May 1917, Box 4, Document 123, Baker Papers, LOC.

3. Kuhn to the Chief of Staff, 10 May 1917, Subj: Plans for a possible expeditionary force to France, RG 165/10050-8, NA. See Chapter 4, above; W.H. Johnston, Memorandum of dissent, 11 May 1917, RG 165/10050-8.

4. Ruth Reynolds, "First To Go Over There, " Sunday News (New York), 26 May 1940, 50; James G. Harbord, Leaves from a War Diary (New York: 1925), 12.

5. Pershing, Paris, to Bliss, 2 July 1917, The Papers of John J. Pershing, Box 26, Library of Congress Manuscript Division (hereafter, Pershing Papers, LOC); Pershing, My Experiences in the World War, 1:94-5, 118; Smythe, "Pershing Goes 'Over There', " 268; Smythe, Pershing: General of the Armies, 35; The United States Army in the World War, 2:17; Edward M. Coffman, "Conflicts in American Planning: An Aspect of World War I Strategy, " MilitaryReview 43 (June 1963): 79.

6. Pershing, My Experience in the World War, 1:101.

7. Kuhn to Bliss, 7 June 1917, Subj: Tactical reorganization required to meet requirements in the European theatre of war and program for the progressive dispatch of troops to France, RG 165/10050-30, NA.

8. Baker to Wilson, 27 May 1917, Box 4, Document 160, Baker Papers, LOC.

9. Wilson, "A Flag Day Address, " 14 June 1917, PWW, 42:498-504.

10. Baker to Peyton C. March, 7 September 1927, Box 150, Baker Papers, LOC, quoted in Edward M. Coffman, "The American Military and Strategic Policy in World War I, "

75; Kuhn to Bliss, 7 June 1917, Subj: Tactical reorganization required to meet requirements in the European theatre of war and program for the progressive dispatch of troops to France, RG 165/10050-30, NA; Beaver, Newton D. Baker and the American War Effort, 46-9; Nenninger, "American Military Effectiveness in the First World War, " 124.

11. Chief of Staff Scott to Kuhn, 3 February 1917, RG 165/9433-6, NA.

12. This and the following four paragraphs come from: Kuhn to Scott, 29 March 1917, RG 165/9433-6, NA.

13. Davis's plan, discussed in this and the following three paragraphs, was set forth in a series of four memoranda, 17 November, 18 November, 27 November, and 18 December 1916. RG 165/9910-1 through 9910-4, NA.

14. Scott to Kuhn, 3 February 1917. RG165/9433-6, NA.

15. The bay itself was ten and a half miles long, six miles wide, and seven to ten fathoms deep; This and following two paragraphs from: Kuhn to Scott, 29 March 1917, RG 165/9433-6, NA.

16. F.C. Howe to Baker, 26 June, 1917, Box 2, Document 21, Baker Papers, LOC.

17. Sargeant's plan, discussed in this and the following two paragraphs and dated 6 September 1917, was sent to Baker by Wilson on 22 September 1917, Box 4, Document 141,

Baker Papers, LOC. Note that Baker himself incorrectly refers to this letter as having been sent on 12 September in his response to Wilson, 22 September 1917, Box 4, Document 140, Baker Papers, LOC.

18. Although his ideas would be rejected, Sargeant remained a committed "easterner." See Sargeant's series of articles in the North American Review between February and October, 1919, published as The Strategy on the Western Front (1914-1918) (Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co., 1920).

19. Captain Standiford to Kuhn, 10 July 1917, RG165/10050-68, NA. One can only speculate as to the shape of the file that Standiford would have suggested.

20. This and the following eight paragraphs are from: P. D. Lochridge, acting Chief of War College Division, to Chief of Staff Tasker H. Bliss, 28 September 1917, RG 165/10050-111, NA.

21. Spector, "'You're Not Going to Send Soldiers Over There, Are You!', " 3.

22. Alexandrovsk, which goes by the modern name of Poljarnii, lies at the opening of the bay to Murmansk. This and the following paragraph are from: Lochridge toScott, 28 September 1917, RG 165/10050-111, NA.

23. Baker to Wilson regarding the inspection of the Trans-Siberian Railway by American railroad experts who could make suggestions toward improving its efficiency, 31 March 1917, PWW, 41:511.

24. Major Stanley Washburn, Special Diplomatic Mission to Russia, to Baker, 25 June 1917, Box 5, Document 215, Baker Papers, LOC. See also Sen. John Sharpe Williams to

Wilson, 10 August 1917, Box 5, Document 68-E, Baker Papers, LOC. Williams was rather uncomplimentary of the Russians people, arguing that their overall ignorance would lead them to resent an American force, but his conclusion was still similar to Washburn's.

25. This and the following five paragraphs are from: Lochridge to Chief of Staff, 22 September 1917, Subj: Strategy of the Present War, RG 165/10050-111, NA. See also follow up memo from War College to Chief of Staff, 28 September 1917, RG 165/10050-111.

26. Kuhn to Bliss, 7 June 1917, Subj: Tactical reorganization required to meet requirements in the European theatre of war and program for the progressive dispatch of troops to France, RG 165/10050-30, NA. Baker seems to have doubted the feasibility of this plan rather quickly, considering that less than a month later he told former Chief of Staff Hugh Scott (at the time serving with the Root Mission in Russia) that "no definite plan has yet been made about the dispatch of further troops abroad. . . ." Baker to Scott, Petrograd, Russia, 1 July 1917, Box 3, Document 113, Baker Papers, LOC.

27. Here Lochridge was specifically applying these reasons to refute the idea of a Russian front, but the War College Division would use similar reasoning in the context of other alternatives.

28. Spector, "'You're Not Going to Send Soldiers Over There Are You!', " 3.

29. Baker to Wilson, 4 October 1917, and Bliss to Chamberlain (draft of a letter which was never sent), October 1917, Box 4, Documents 160 and 160-E, Baker Papers, LOC; see also note 1, PWW, 44:361-62.

30. Baker to Wilson, 11 October 1917, PWW, 44:361; Baker to Wilson, 11 November 1917, Box 4, Document 234, Baker Papers, LOC.

31. Spector, "'You're Not Going to Send Soldiers Over There Are You!', " 4; Stokesbury, A Short History of World War I, 246-48; Nenninger, "American Military Effectiveness in the First World War, " 126-127.



With the decision to concentrate American forces on the Western Front finalized, the responsibility for most strategic planning shifted away from Washington. Finally, more than seven months after the US declaration of war, the foundation of the American war effort was complete: the AEF would be raised by conscription; it would be shipped as rapidly as possible to Europe, receiving its training on both sides of the Atlantic; and it would cooperate closely with the French and British in the West, but would remain an independent force. The amalgamation issue would rear its head again in the winter of 1917-18, but the burden of parrying the Allied attempts to incorporate American soldiers would fall on General Pershing, as would the decision to focus US efforts on the Lorraine sector of the Western Front. Further issues relating to the coordination of the Entente war effort would be debated among the members of the Supreme War Council. While Bliss, who had been active in the General Staff's strategic planning as both the Chief of the War College Division and the Chief of Staff, would serve as the American military representative on the Council, the War College Division itself would play little part in these considerations. Belatedly, the military planners in the General Staff had fulfilled their war- planning role. The task of carrying through on those plans would belong to General Pershing and his own staff at their Headquarters in France.(1)

After Major General Peyton C. March assumed the position of Chief of Staff in the spring of 1918, the General Staff would finally gain recognition as the coordinating and supervisory agent of the War Department -- the status which it had sought since the turn of the century. Under March, the War College Division's role in strategic policy-making would be made official and that branch of the General Staff would be renamed the War Plans Division. Also during March's tenure, Wilson would begin close coordination with his military planners, as described by historians Link and Chambers. Such a cohesive approach to planning, however, had not existed during the formative period of America's policy-making for the war, and this examination of that topic has demonstrated the disparity between the approach and attitude of the military planners in the War College Division and that of President Wilson.(2)

Military planning before the US declaration of war had found itself tethered by several strong ropes. Within the War Department itself there existed no consensus on how best to approach the task. The individual bureau chiefs vigilantly protected their personal power from any hint of infringement, and in so doing often exercised their influence in Congress to thwart the General Staff by reducing its number or limiting its authority. Legislative opposition stemmed from other sources as well, including an honest fear that any comprehensive policy-making would inevitably lead to a Prussian-like military system within the United States. In addition, the organized militia-- the traditional American second line of defense--had strong supporters in key positions in Congress. The General Staff's criticisms of the National Guard would thus yield only a backlash of attacks on the military planners themselves.

The military planners were by no means blameless. They did little to transcend the myopic context of the Monroe Doctrine even as American foreign policy was reaching across the oceans. Even if they had been more far-sighted, however, the strong public sentiment for neutrality and the understandably popular desire to remain aloof from the slaughter in Europe would have prevented any military planning which might have even remotely suggested US involvement. In the context of American neutrality, any military planning at all was seen by many as a prelude to an American role in the conflict, and therefore was to be avoided.

Woodrow Wilson's view of the civilian-military relationship cannot be discounted, especially since he was the President who "kept us out of war." The constitutional distinction between the civilian Commander-in-Chief and the military leaders which Wilson so greatly enforced must be praised. It was precisely the lack of such a separation of powers which had led Germany to make several key errors in their war effort, including the eventually fatal mistake of resuming unrestricted submarine warfare in January 1917. A division of civilian and military authority, however, need not yield a complete rift in military planning. A coordinated approach to policy-making can be pursued in the context of civilian authority, but Wilson chose almost completely to ignore his General Staff. He did not simply overrule their suggestions; instead, he seldom even sought their advice.(3)

As winter passed into spring in 1917, it became more and more obvious that the US was drifting into the war. Even Wilson began to consider the steps that might be necessary to mobilize America's armed forces, but only those actions necessary to safeguard the homeland from a possible attack. Definite restrictions remained in place. The President tenaciously clung to the hope that Germany would not carry through on its U-boat threat and that American involvement could be averted. Consequently, the military planning which Wilson did sanction-- narrow though it was--was kept under tight wraps. Chief of Staff Scott was reluctant to operate solely within these confines and, unknown to the President, ordered the military planners in the War College Division to consider strategies which wentsignificantly beyond those which Wilson desired and which included the possibility of creating an expeditionary force.

Even though these military planners had finally broken the bonds of the Monroe Doctrine, they found themselves hampered by the nation's previous inaction and failed to create a reasonable plan for US involvement. The War College Division did, however, successfully draft plans for raising a mass army. It concluded dearly that conscription would be the only feasible means of raising a large American force, no matter what the eventual shape of the nation's involvement. Here again, though, the gap between the concerns of the military planners and those of the President is illustrated. In spite of their repeated urgings of the General Staff and in spite of the growing likelihood of US participation in the struggle, Wilson continued to look toward voluntarism to expand the army. Not until he realized that selective service could thwart Theodore Roosevelt's plans to raise a volunteer division for service overseas did he embrace the draft and jettison his previous affinity for volunteers. This was one of the rare times that Wilson was fully aware of the opinions of the General Staff. His concurrence would not result from their persuasive arguments, however; instead, it would come only after he had realized the political utility of conscription. Wilson was not so fully attuned to the War College Division's recommendations concerning an immediate expeditionary force to France. The military planners voiced their reservations passionately and argued that sending an American army to Europe before it had been trained could not only threaten the nation's independent war effort, but might also result in a mass butchering of raw soldiers. Wilson was probably ignorant of these opinions when, on 2 May, he promised Joffre that the US would raise and send a division as soon as one could be organized.

In retrospect, following the War College Division's advice to hold the bulk of American soldiers within the country until they had completed their training would no doubt have left the US lacking a land presence at the end of the war or, worse yet, might have resulted in a victory for the Central Powers. Such hindsight analysis does not erase the fact that Wilson had not thought to consult the General Staff and that Secretary of War Baker proved a poor messenger for the War College Division's opinions.

Wilson's approach to strategic planning came dangerously close to folly when he suggested that the US seek an alternative to the Western Front. Wilson seemed too easily swayed by the strategic advise of amateurs or polemicists, such as Herbert H. Sargeant. Indeed, the President appeared reluctant to accept even the most straight-forward arguments which excluded the possibility of an attack through Russia. Secretary of War Baker had to present the War College Division critique of these alternatives twice, and even then it is less likely that the President was swayed by the strategic considerations than it is that he was influenced by the fall of the Provincial Government in Russia and by Baker's contention that a campaign along any front but the West would threaten Wilson's role at the peace settlement.

It is often easy to find mistakes in failure. It is more difficult to criticize a process which ends successfully, as did America's effort during the First World War. The Allied victory, however, does not change the fact that American strategy was formulated in a tardy, reckless and haphazard fashion, with Wilson making policies and commitments with no consideration for the counsel of his military planners in the War College Division of the General Staff. This is not to say that the advice of those planners was always sound, or to claim that it should always have been adopted, or even to suggest that, at least on the surface, American diplomatic goals and military policy failed to mesh. In fact, in retrospect it appears that Wilson's decisions were often better suited to America's war aims than was the advice of the War College Division. Nonetheless it must be recognized that these decisions were not the result of a long and considered dialogue between the President and these military planners. They were instead the outcome of unilateral decision-making which, although successful in this instance, is a dangerous approach to strategic planning.

1. See Allan R. Millet, "Over Where? The AEF and the American Strategy for Victory, 1917-1918," in Against All Enemies: Interpretations of American Military History from Colonial Times to the Present, eds. Kenneth J. Hagan and William Roberts, Contributions in Military Studies 51 (New York: Greenwood Press, 1986): 235-56; American Battle Monuments Commission, American Armies and Battlefields in Europe: A History, Guide and Reference Book (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1938), 16; Trask, The United States in the Supreme War Council; On 3 September Pershing ordered from his own staff a study of strategical fronts for the employment of the AEF. The examination was complete within the month: Lt. Col. Fox Conner, Col. L. R. Eltinge and Maj. H.A. Drum, "A Strategical Study on the Employment of the A.E.F. Against the Imperial German Government," 25 September 1917, Record Group 120 (American Expeditionary Forces), File 1003, Folder 681, Part 2, G-3, G.H.Q., A.E.F., National Archives; Pershing's headquarters were at No. 31 Rue Constantine, Paris, until 1 September 1917, when they were moved to Chaumont. Army War College Historical Section, Genesis of the American First Army, 3.

2. Edward M. Coffman, The Hilt of the Sword: The Career of Peyton C. March (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1966); Michael J. McCarthy, "The US War Department General Staff in World War I," in The Encyclopedia of World War I, ed. Anne Cipriano Venzon, Wars of the United States Series (New York: Garland Publishing, forthcoming); Link and Chambers, "Woodrow Wilson as Commander-in-Chief,"319-24.

3. Martin Kitchen, "Civil-Military Relations in Germany During the First World War," in The Great War, 1914-18: Essays on the Military, Political, and Social History of the First World War, ed. R.J.Q. Adams (College Station: Texas A&M University Press), 39-68; Cooper, "World War I: European Origins and American Intervention," 10-12.





BP = Papers of Newton D. Baker, US Secretary of War, Library of Congress Manuscript Division, Washington, DC, by box and document number


PP = Papers of John J. Pershing, Library of Congress Manuscript Division, Washington, DC, by box number


PRO = Public Record Office


PWW = Arthur Link, ed., The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, by volume and page number


RG = Record Group, National Archives, Washington, DC, by record group and file number


WO = War Cabinet Office of the Public Record Office 1914





August 1 Outbreak of World War I; German declaration of war on Russia


4 Wilson proclaims US neutrality


14 Battle of the Frontiers begins


26 Opening of the Battle of Tannenberg




5 Opening of the First Battle of the Marne


14 Opening of the First Battle of the Aisne; start of trench warfare




8 Battle of the Falkland Islands


21 First German air raid on Britain






18 Japan's Twenty-One Demands on China




4 Germany announces "war zone" in British waters


13 General Tasker H. Bliss appointed American Assistant Chief of Staff


15 Bliss suggests to Sec. of War Garrison that War College Division update Stimson Plan of 1912 (Bliss Papers, Box 189)


19 British begin naval action against the Dardenelles




1 Capt. George Van Horn Moseley of War College Divison suggests a plan for universal military training to Chief of Staff


11 With Wilson's consent, Secretary of War Garrison asks War College Division to update Stimson Plan of 1912, paying special attention to recommended strength of the army (RG 165/9053-1; PWW 34:4) April


22 Second Battle of Ypres begins


25 British landing on Gallipoli Peninsula


26 France, Russia, Italy and Britain conclude secret Treaty of London




2 Opening of great Austro-German offensive in Galicia (Gorlice-Tarnow)


7 Lusitania sunk by German U-boat off Irish coast


9 Opening of the Second Battle of Artois on western front


23 Italy declares war on Austria-Hungary


25 Asquith reorganizes his liberal ministry as a coalition




8 Bryan balks at second Lusitania note and resigns as American Secretary of State; succeeded by Lansing


29 First of twelve battles of the Isonzo begins on the Italian front




10 War College Division fulfills Garrison's request of 11 March and issues the "Epitome of Military Policy," suggesting a total combined American force of 1 million troops (RG 165/9053-49)


21 Wilson sends notes to Secretary of War Garrison and Secretary of Navy Daniels directing them to draft a defense program (PWW 34:4-5)




Tumulty warns Wilson that Republicans will use the tariff and national defense as an issue in the 1916 campaign (Tumulty, Woodrow Wilson As I Know Him, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1921, 240-41)


2 Garrison returns "Epitome of Military Policy" to War College Division for revisions, ordering them to use 140,000 as the figure for the regular army -- the limit of available military housing (RG 165/9053-49)


10 Civilian military training camp started at Plattsburg


19 Two Americans die in sinking of Arabic off Ireland


21 The Washington Post carries story that General Staff is planning to send a force of 1 million soldiers overseas


24 Baltimore Sun carries story that General Staff is planning to send a force of 1 million oldiers overseas


War College Division denies allegations in Wash. Post and Balt. Sun (RG 165/6966-152) American General Staff, in response to request from Secretary of War Lindley M. Garrison, devotes much of the year to preparing the "Statement of a Proper Military Policy for the United States" (War Department Annual Reports, 1915, Washington: Government Printing Office, 1916, 1:113-35)




1 Arabic pledge be German Ambassador von Bernstorff


22 Opening of Second Battle of Champagne on western front




3-5 Anglo-French force lands at Salonika, Greece




4 Henry Ford's peace ship, Oskar II, begins voyage to Europe


15 Haig becomes Commander-in-Chief of BEF






27 Wilson launches nationwide whistle-stop campaign to generate support for Preparedness and the Continental Army with three speeches in New York (PWW 36:4-19, 26-48, 52-73, 75-85, 87-122)


31 War College Division warns its civilian employees "to engage in no discussion whatever concerning the progress of the European War" (RG 165/6966-176)




3 Wilson delivers final speech of Preparedness campaign in Saint Louis


5 James Hay of House Military Affairs Committee informs Wilson that Continental Army will not get committee approval PWW, 36:134-35)


9 Secretary of War Garrison warns Wilson that he will resign of the President withdraws support for the Continental Army (PWW, 36:143-44)


10 Garrison resigns as US Secretary of War


21 Beginning of ten month Battle of Verdun


22 House-Grey Memorandum drawn up in London


23 Ministry of Blockade created in Britain


24 Acting Secretary of War Hugh L. Scott asks War College Division if any plans exist in the event "of a complete rupture" with Germany (RG 165/9433-1)


29 War College Division responds to Scott's request of 24 February and explains that existing plans assumed a German invasion of North America (RG 165/9433-1)




3-7 Gore-McLemore resolutions tabled in Congress


7 Newton D. Baker appointed Secretary of War


9 Pancho Villa's raid on Columbus, New Mexico


15 Pershing starts pursuit of Villa into Mexico


24 French passenger ship, Sussex, torpedoed




4 American n naval and military attaches in Paris and London draft plan for mobilizing US shipping to carry an American army to Europe, but their plan is ignored (this plan did not survive, but is referred to in a memorandum of 14 November 1916, Record of the Joint Army and Navy Board)


24 Rebellion begins in Ireland on Easter Monday


27 Charles O. Squire, American Military Attache in London, sends to Sec. of War Baker a report of a discussion with Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, British Secretary of State for War, asking for American military participation in Europe (BP 1:64)




4 Germany renounces submarine policy -- "Sussex Pledge"


19 Britain and France conclude the Sykes-Picot Agreement


31 Opening of Battle of Jutland




3 National Defense Act authorizes five-year expansion of US


Army, but at the same time drastically limits size and


authority of US War Department General Staff


4 Beginning of the Brusilov offensive against Austria-Hungary




1 Battle of the Somme opens; British suffer approximately 60,000


casualties on the first day


24 Enoch Crowder tries to persuade Baker that authority of US War


Department General Staff should remain limited (War Department


Annual Reports, 1916, Washington: Government Printing Office,


1917, 80-9)


29 US Marines land in Haiti


30 Black Tom Island munitions plant destroyed; German sabotage






29 Council of National Defense established under Army


Appropriations Act


31 Germany suspends submarine assaults




13 Baker rules that US War Department General Staff has authority


for supervisory and planning role (War Department Annual


Reports, 1916, Washington: Government Printing Office, 1917,




15 Tanks introduced on the Somme battlefield by the British




15 Germany resumes U-boat attacks under search and destroy rules




7-9 Wilson wins reelection, which was in doubt until the California returns


17 Captain Edward Davis, American Military Attache to Athens, begins suggestion of an American offensive through Macedonia (RG 165/9910-1,2,3 & 4)


28 First Germany airplane raid on London


29 US occupation of Santa Domingo proclaimed




5 Asquith resigns as Prime Minister; replaced by Lloyd George


9 War College Division calls for universal military training in report to Chief of Staff on "Proper Military Policy of the United States" (RG 165/9832-1)


12 Germans issue peace note suggesting compromise peace


18 Wilson requests statement of war objectives from warring nations in peace note; British offended by implication that their war aims are no more moral than Germany's 19 Chief of Staff Scott champions a peacetime draft in testimony to Senate (RG 165/9876-14)






9 German leaders decide to launch unrestricted U-boat warfare


10 Allies state war objectives in response to Wilson's peace note of 18 December


12 Baker counsels Wilson against sending Gen. Wood to Europe to assist in preparing a history of the conflict, as such would appear to suggest close US involvement with the Allies


17 Chief of Staff Scott bemoans lack of preparedness in Franklin Dinner Speech in Philadelphia


27 Scott receives "Plan for a National Army" from War College Division calling for a regular army of 310,000, a civilian reserve of 2,500,000, and universal military training (RG 165/9876-9)


31 Bliss points out to Scott political absurdity of univeral military training as contained in "Plan for a National Army," but Scott presents to Baker anyway; Baker ignores universal military training provisions (RG 165/9876-13)




1 Scott orders War College Division to consider possible avenues for overseas operation of US forces


2 Theodore Roosevelt makes request to lead a division of volunteers to Western Front


3 War College Division issues initial report to Scott; hints at foreign involvement of US troops and recommends that all US forces receive full training in America before departing (RG 165/9433-4)


Baker refuses Roosevelt's request of 2 February


5 British General Staff estimates that no more than 250,000 American soldiers could be in Europe even after a year (WO 106/467)


6 Baker warns Wilson that "great suspicion would be aroused if compulsory military service were suggested at the outset before any opportunity to volunteer had been given" (BP 4)


7 Roosevelt repeats request to lead division of volunteers to Western Front


Scott receives from War College Division a plan for raising, equipping, quartering and training a force of 4,000,000 by conscription; some historians argue Wilson endorsed plan, but it is doubtful that he knew about it (RG 165/9876-29) British MP Joseph A. Baker suggests that US could better serve Allies by providing food and armaments than by fielding an army (PWW 41:532-36)


Zimmermann Note released to press by State Department


Culmination of "February Revolution"; Nicholas II abdicates


Wilson's Cabinet votes unanimously for war


Thomas B. Hohler, Secretary of British Legation to Mexico, expresses concern that American effort of creating an army might undermine its ability to supply Allied needs (PWW 41:458-60)


Wilson states he will rely on draft only after volunteerism begins to wane


Admiral Sims ordered to Great Britain as liason to Admiralty


War College Division issues report to Scott: Calls for large force of between 500,000 and 1,000,000 -- and optimistically estimates that at least ten months would be required to ship a force of 500,000 to Europe once it was raised and trained, putting the earliest effects of US involvement in mid- to-late 1918; openly plans to send US force overseas, but argues against offensives through Macedonia or Holland; repeats opposition to sending an untrained American army overseas (RG 165/9433-6)


US declares war on Germany


In note to Roosevelt, Baker claims that no American army will leave the US "until its members have been thoroughly seasoned" (BP 3:63)


British mission led by Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs


Arthur J. Balfour and Lieutenant General Tom Bridges leaves Liverpool for US


14 Committee on Public Information established by executive order


16 Neville's offensive begins (Second Battle of the Aisne)


22 British Balfour mission arrives in Washington, DC


24 US destroyers despatched overseas


25 Joffre delegation arrives in Washington, DC, from France


26 British and French delegations in US agree to coordinate efforts and pursue the goal of convincing US to dispatch an immediate expeditionary force to France


27 Joffre speaks at US Army War College and submits to Baker, Scott and Bliss a tentative plan designed by French General Staff and American Military Attache in Paris (Burk, Britain, America and the Sinews of War, 123; RG 165/10050-2)


30 British General Bridges suggests to Scott that Allies be allowed to recruit Americans directly into their ranks (WO 106/467)




2 Wilson, in private meeting, allows "General Joffre to take it for granted that [an immediate American expeditionary] force would be sent just as soon as we could send it" (BP 4:109; PWW 42:186-91)


8 Baker advises Wilson of General Staff's fears that Allies would continue to oppose an independent American army, but makes no mention of War College Divisions warning about the dangers of combat to untrained American troops in Europe (BP 4:123)


10 War College Division weakly repeats warning against sending untrained American troops overseas (RG 165/10050-8)


11 Col. W.H. Johnston, advises Scott against sending an immediate expeditionary force to France (RG 165/10050-8)


14 Baker announces publicly that Pershing will command AEF 17 House receives letter from retired NY businessman and frequent visitor to the Western Front George G. Moore in which Moore advises that the US should retain the bulk of its army in America for training and should not follow up on initial expeditionary force immediately (PWW 42:372-74)


18 Selective Service Act signed by Wilson


22 House forwards Moore letter of 17 May to Wilson (PWW 42:372-74)


23 Wilson forwards Moore letter of 17 May to Baker, adding that the letter "makes a considerable impression on me and I should very much like to discuss it with you when we have the next opportunity" (PWW 42:377)


24 Wilson meets Pershing for first and only time before departing for France, but says nothing on the subject of the expected role of American forces in the war (WWLL 6:85)


26 Pershing receives orders signed by Baker and approved by Wilson (superseding those from himself through Bliss): "you are directed to cooperate with the forces of the other countries employed against [the] enemy; but in so doing, the underlying idea must be kept in view that the forces of the United States are a separate and distinct component of the combined forces, the identity of which must be preserved. This fundamental rule is subject to such minor exceptions in particular circumstances as your judgment may approve" (WWLL 6:88)


27 Baker tells Pershing he would give him only two orders, "one to go to France and the other to come home" (Palmer Newton D. Baker 1:180)


28 Pershing leaves New York harbor for France aboard Baltic


29 Rear Admiral Cleaves chosen as commander of convoy operations in Atlantic




7 General Staff issues plan to ship American forces at a rate of 120,000 per month beginning in August; this rate of dispatch would not be realized until April 1918 (RG 165/10050-30)


14 Wilson, in his Flag Day Address, declares that the initial American Expeditionary Force will be followed by more soldiers as quickly as possible, and that these soldiers will not be held in the US for training (PWW 42:498-504)


15 Espionage Act


26 F.C. Howe of US Department of Labor Immigration suggests an American campaign through Russia (BP 2:21)


28 Concurrent Resolution submitted to House of Representatives claiming that US soldiers could not constitutionally fight overseas (RG 165/10050-88)




2 Pershing makes first request for a US army of 1,000,000 (PP 26; Pershing, My Experiences in the World War, 1:94-5, 118)


10 War College Division discounts suggestions of English war correspondent G. Gordon Smith on "The Political and Military Importance of the Balkan Front" (RG 165/10050-68)


11 Pershing suggests that figure of 1,000,000 is only initial size, and a total force of 3,000,000 should be the goal (Pershing, My Experiences in the World War, 1:101)


16 Start of July demonstrations in Petrograd against Provisional Government


19 Peace Resolution in favor of peace without annexations or indemnities passed by German Reichstag


28 War Industries Board established by CND; supersedes General Munitions Board


29 Baker states in private letter that, "to my mind the war, the settlement, and the reconstruction are the same thing, one and inseparable" (BP 2:51)


31 Passchendaele offensive (Third Battle of Ypres) opens in Flanders




1 Papal peace proposal


10 Hoover appointed as Food Administrator


29 Wilson rejects Pope's call for negotiations with Germany




1 Pershing establishes his general headquarters at Chaumont


6 Maj. Herbert H. Sargeant drafts plan for an American campaign through either Turkey or Bulgaria (BP 4:141)


22 Wilson forwards copy of Sargeant's plan of 6 September to Baker (BP 4:140)


28 War College Division discounts suggestions of an Eastern Campaign and supplies rationale for focusing American strength in the West (RG 165/10050-111)




3 War Revenue Act; graduated income tax authorized


4 Baker forwards plan of Ameen F. Rihani for an American campaign through Turkey, as forwarded by Chamberlain, Chair of Senate Military Affairs Committee; Baker advises that this plan be ignored, and Wilson agrees (BP 4:160 & 160-E; PWW 44:361-62)


6 Trading with the Enemy Act; government controls all foreign trade


11 Baker forwards War College Division study of 28 September to Wilson (PWW 44:361)


24 Austro-German breakthrough at Caporetto on Italian front




2 Lansing-Ishii Agreement


11 In response to Wilson resubmitting Sargeant's plan of 6 September to Baker for consideration, Baker again forwards War College Division study of 28 September to Wilson (BP 4:234)


7 Allied Supreme War Council created at Rapollo, Italy


20 British launch surprise tank attack at Cambrai




7 United States and Austria-Hungary at war


9 Jerusalem captured by British


22 Central Powers and Soviets open peace negotiations at Brest-Litovsk






5 Lloyd George's war aims address to Trades Union Congress


8 Wilson's Fourteen Points speech to joint session of Congress




11 Wilson's Four Principles speech to joint session of Congress




3 Soviet Russia and Central Powers make peace with Treaty of Brest-Litovsk


4 Bernard M. Baruch appointed head of War Industries Board


5 British landing at Murmansk in North Russia


21 Germans launch first of their great 1918 assaults against British (Battle of Picardy)


26 Doullens Agreement gives General Foch "co-ordinating authority" over the western front




5 Japanese landing at Vladivostok


8 National War Labor Board appointed to mediate labor conflicts


9 Germans launch second assault of their 1918 offensive (Battle of the Lys) in British sector of Armentieres


14 Foch appointed Commander-in-Chief of Allied forces on western front




16 Sedition Act; amendment to Espionage Act of 1917


25 German U-boats make their first appearance in US waters


27 Third phase of 1918 German offensive (Third Battle of the Aisne) begins in French sector along Chemin des Dames


28 28th Regiment of US 1st Division goes into action at town of Cantigny




6 2nd Division captures Bouresches and southern part of Belleau Wood


9 Opening of fourth phase of 1918 German offensive (Battle of the Matz) in French sector between Noyon and Montdider


17 Artist Bernhardt Wall sends to Wilson an etching depicting the President in a military uniform, but Wilson reacts to suggestion of militarism (PWW 48:557, etching illustrated in PWW 48:358-59)




2 Allied Supreme War Council supports intervention in Siberia


6 Wilson agrees to American intervention in Siberia


15 Opening of last phase of German offensive (Second Battle of the Marne)


18 Allied counterattack seizes strategical initiative from Germans; nine US divisions participate




3 Large-scale Allied intervention begins at Vladivostok


8 Battle of Amiens opens; Ludendorf's "Black Day" for German army


10 1st US Army organized under Pershing




4 American troops land at Archangel in North Russia


12 United States launches St. Mihiel offensive


19 Opening of British offensive in Palestine (Battle of Megiddo)


26 Meuse-Argonne offensive opens; greatest offensive of war for US forces


27 Wilson's Five Particulars speech in New York City


29 Bulgaria signs armistice




3-4 Germans and Austrians send notes to Wilson requesting an armistice


12 Pershing forms 2nd Army under command of General Bllard


21 Germany ceases unrestricted U-boat warfare




3 Mutiny of the German fleet at Kiel


5 Congressional elections result in Republican control of Congress


11 Armistice goes into effect at 11 am


18 Wilson announces that he will attend peace conference personally




13 Wilson aboard the liner George Washington arrives at Brest, France


14 Khaki Election in Britain






5 Sparticist (Communist) revolt begins in Berlin


18 Peace negotiations start at Paris


25 Peace conference accepts principle of League of Nations




6 Germany National Assembly meets at Weimar


14 Draft Covenant of League of Nations completed


24 Wilson arrives at Boston aboard George Washington


28 Lodge starts campaign against League of Nations




4 Lodge introduces Republican Round Robin


13 Admiral Kolchak begins his offensive against Bolsheviks in Russian Civil War


14 Wilson returns to Paris after a month's absence




3 Wilson becomes sick with influenza


7 Allies evacuate Odessa


23 Wilson appeals directly to Italians in an effort to gain their support for his views on peace settlement


24 Italian Premier Orlando walks out of peace conference over Fiume issue




6 Peace conference disposes of Germany's colonies


7 Treaty of Versailles submitted to German delegation




21 German High Seas Fleet scuttled at Scapa Flow


28 Treaty of Versailles signed in Hall of Mirrors at Versailles



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--------. At War with the Kaiser: Anglo-American Military Cooperation in the First World War. Forthcoming.


By Michael McCarthy,

The War College Division and American Military Planning for the AEF in World War


Several individuals have made this thesis possible. My parents did much over the years to satiate my curiosity, whether my interests focused on fossils, stars or humanity's past. I would like to thank Dr. Michael L. Seewer of Fairborn High School for introducing me to the promise of history. I am indebted to Dr. William N. Denman and all involved with the Society of Yeager Scholars at Marshall University, who provided me with a solid undergraduate education more than sufficient to carry me on to graduate school. I must also express my appreciation to the staffs of the Library of Congress Manuscript Division, the National Archives and the James E. Morrow Library at Marshall University, including Patricia Delnero, Ron Titus, Becky Goodman and a woman I know only through her numerous messages on my answering machine as "Wendy from interlibrary loan." I extend my thanks to Dr. Charles Bias and Dr. Frances Hensley for their patient and enlightening criticism, and of course to Dr. David R. Woodward, whose confidence has opened several opportunities for me and through whose mentorship I have learned the joy of research and the dangers of Szechuan Chinese food. Finally, I am most appreciative of my loving wife, Diane, whose gentle tauntings of "history is bunk" serve to remind that all historiography is written in sand rather than stone. Any errors of fact or interpretation exist in spite of the efforts of these individuals and others, and thus are my own.

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