Category Archives: World War 1

June 26, 1917: First U.S. Troops Arrive in France

On this day 100 years ago, the first American troops of World War I set foot in France.  The landing location had been kept secret, but on that date, 14,000 American inantry troops landed at the Port of Saint Nazaire.  Despite the secrecy, an enthusiastic crowd was gathered at the port to greet them.  General Pershing quickly set up training camps in France to prepare the new recruits for war, and it would be four more months before they would enter combat.

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1917 Boys’ Life: Signaling and Beans

1917JuneBLCover

A hundred years ago this month, both the front and back cover of the June 1917 issue of Boys’ Life magazine featured signaling methods. In the cover art shown above (with no attribution to the artist that I could find), a Scout is shown relaying a semaphore message to a distant point.

1917JuneBLBackNot to be outdone, the back cover, an ad for Colgate toothpaste, used International Morse Code to proclaim the messsage, “I BRING GOOD TEETH GOOD HEALTH.”  Since the nation was at war, the ad also reminded Scouts “how soldiers and sailors benefit from good teeth, and that they must have them to pass the physical examination.”

But the wartime service promoted by most of the magazine was the Scout’s duty to feed the nation and the troops.

It proclaimed that “no organization in the United States acted more promptly than the Boy Scouts of America when Congress declared, on April 5th, that a state of war existed between our country and Germany.  ‘Be Prepared’ is the Boy Scout motto, and more than a quarter of a million Scouts proved they WERE prepared.”  One of the first actions suggested was that in every large city, the Scouts should mobilize, march to the City Hall, and offer their services to the Mayor.  According to the magazine, many Scouts immediately did exactly that.

Mobilized Scouts offering their services at an unnamed city hall.

Mobilized Scouts offering their services at an unnamed city hall.

But the biggest task undertaken by Scouts was to help win the war through the gardening movement. As soon as the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that every citizen was needed to increase the food supply, the National Headquarters of the BSA issued an emergency circular urging every scout to start a garden and persuade nine other people to do the same.

The slogan adopted was, “every scout to feed a soldier.” It meant that every Scout was expected to raise enough food to feed himself, thus freeing up enough food to feed the soldier.

Almost immediately, National Headquarters fired off a telegram to London, to none other than Herbert Clark Hoover, who was already “famous for his great efficiency in managing the enormous relief work among stricken peoples of Europe.” The cable read:

Two hundred fifty thousand Boy Scouts of America tender services as your aides as producers and conservers of food as service to our country.

Mr. Hoover immediately cabled back his response, and his response was that Scouts should raise beans:

The prime service of our Country in this War is ships and food, and we can here display the true American ability at great efforts.

In order to provide the food necessary we must from this moment eliminate all waste and stimulate food production at every point. We must send to our Allies more wheat, corn, beans, meat, bacon and lard than we have ever sent before if their men are to fight and their women and children to live; and our people must economize and eat other things.

Among these foodstuffs couldn’t the Scouts take as their own province the stimulation of bean production, for there is not only a great shortage at Europe and at home, but they are the best of foods. Let them help make America able to export ten times as many beans as she ever exported before. To do this, let the Boy Scouts see to it that they are planted everywhere, so that the biggest bean crop ever known shall be the war contribution of the Boy Scouts to America and her Allies.

(Signed) Herbert C. Hoover.

Theodore Roosevelt, upon receiving a copy of Hoover’s telegram, signaled his assent: “I think Mr. Hoover’s suggestion that the Scouts take as their own province the stimulation of bean production is particularly good. Let each Scout start a garden and thereby help feed the soldiers.”

Scouts clearing idle land in preparation for a crop. The caption notes that fire is a useful ally, but the Scouts watch it closely. In a month, this field was to be covered with navy beans.

Scouts clearing idle land in preparation for a crop. The caption notes that fire is a useful ally, but the Scouts watch it closely. In a month, this field was to be covered with navy beans.

The magazine noted that navy or field beans were an easy crop to grow. They would show good yields even on poor soil or thin soils. They could be planted late, after the rush of other planting had subsided, and required only a third of the cultivation required of corn. With a good season and average care, a yield of 10 to 25 bushels per acre was to be expected. Their high food value and ease of storage made them an excellent war crop.

The magazine also noted that many Scout camps would turn into farms. Since there was a scarcity of farm help, the Scouts would help to fill the gap. Even though they would learn to plant and pick, there would still be plenty of fun after the day’s work was over.

Finally, the magazine announced that the BSA would be offering a War Service Emblem for Scouts who were responsible for starting ten gardens or inducing ten people to increase their garden acreage.



1917 Dictaphone

1917June6ChiTribA hundred years ago today, the banner headline of the Chicago Tribune, June 6, 1917, reported that 308,809 Chicago men had registered for the draft. It predicted that the total for the country could pass ten million, with 640,000 of those in the State of Illinois alone.

Whatever the exact numbers, it was clear that many American men would soon be under arms, and that labor shortages would probably result. It wasn’t surprising then that one company made the best of the situation by promoting in the same paper its labor-saving device: The Dictaphone.

The ad (which was itself dictated into a Dictaphone, it was claimed at the bottom) proclaimed that “the man-power of the country is enrolling in defense of the flag–but business must go on.”

The ad reminded the businessman that “you have always needed The Dictaphone,” but these times of stress and pressure made the need even more acute.

The businessman who had already adopted The Dictaphone “knows where he stands. He has a flexible, efficient, provably better way to handle his correspondence.”

The ad promised that “The Dictaphone will more than make good your loss of experienced, able office personnel who may be called to the colors.”

 



Congress Institutes Draft: 1917

On this day one hundred years ago, May 18, 1917, Congress passed the Selective Service Act of 1917, authorizing the military draft, now that the nation was at war.

Unlike the draft for the Civil War, the act specifically prohibited the hiring of substitutes:

No person liable to military service shall hereafter be permitted or allowed to furnish a substitute for such service; nor shall any substitute be received, enlisted, or enrolled in the military service of the United States; and no such person shall be permitted to escape such service or to be discharged therefrom prior to the expiration of his term of service by the payment of money or any other valuable thing whatsoever as consideration his release from military service or liability there to.

The first registration under the act, for men age 21-31, was set for June 5, 1917.  18 year olds were set to be registered in 1918.

In 1918, the U.S. Supreme Court held the Act constitutional.

 



Training Wireless Operators, 1917

1917MayPMA hundred years ago this month, the May 1917 issue of Popular Mechanics showed this image of woman students at Hunter College, New York.  The women were looking forward to the possibility of wartime labor shortages that would allow them to serve the government as wireless operators.



Wake Up America Day 1917

A hundred years ago, April 19, 1917, it was “Wake Up America Day,” an event designed to boost recruiting for the First World War.

The days main event was a parade in New York City.   In the photo here, Abraham Lincoln impersonator Benjamin Chapin is shown riding in an antique coach.  He is followed by Boy Scouts bearing illuminated signs with the points of the Scout Law, along with the words, “We are coming, Father Abraham, thousands strong.”



Battle of Vimy Ridge, 1917

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The Battle of Vimy Ridge, painting by Richard Jack. Canadian War Museum via Wikipedia.

220px-Canada_flag_halifax_9_-04Today marks the 100th anniversary, April 9, 1917, of the start of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

The battle was part of the opening phase of the British-led Battle of Arras in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France, and involved four Canadian divisions against three German divisions.

The Canadians objective was to take control of the high ground, in order to ensure other troops could advance without German fire. The Canadians captured most of the ridge during the first day of the battle.

The battle marked the first occasion when all divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force participated in a battle together, and became a symbol of Canadian national achievement and sacrifice.

free-vector-poppy-remembrance-day-clip-art_106032_Poppy_Remembrance_Day_clip_art_smallBritish and Canadian losses totalled 3598 dead and 7004 wounded.



Amateur Radio Shut Down, 1917

QST, April 1917.

QST, April 1917.

With the declaration of war, Amateur Radio in the United States was shut down for the duration.  Both transmitting and receiving were banned, and amateurs were required to take down their antennas.

The official order was printed in QST, May 1917:

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
NAVIGATION SERVICE
Office of Radio Inspectoor

To all Radio Experimenters,

Sirs:

By virtue of the authority given the President of the United States by an act of Congress, approved August 13, 1912, entitled “An Act to Regulate Radio Communication,” and of all other authority vested in him, and in pursuance of an order issued by the President of the United States, I hereby direct the immediate closing of all stations for radio communications, both transmitting and receiving, owned or operated by you. In order to fully carry this order into effect, I direct that the antennae and all aerial wires be immediately lowered to the ground, and that all radio apparatus both for transmitting and receiving be disconnected from both the antennae and ground circuits and that it otherwise be rendered inoperative both for transmitting and receiving any radio messages or signals, and that it so remain until this order is revoked. Immediate compliance with this order is insisted upon and will be strictly enforced. Please report on the enclosed blank your compliance with this order, a failure to return such blank promptly will lead to a rigid investigation.

Lieutenant, U.S. Navy,
District Communication Superintendent



US At War: April 6, 1917

One hundred years ago today, April 6, 1917, the United States entered the First World War when Congress declared war on Germany.  President Wilson, in an address to a joint session of Congress on April 2, had asked for the declaration, citing unrestricted German submarine warfare and the Zimmermann telegram.  The Senate passed the resolution on April 4, with the House following on the morning of April 6.

 



Wilson Asks for War: 1917

On hundred years ago today, April 2, 1917, President Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress and asked for a declaration of war against Germany.

In his address, Wilson first told the assembled Congress that there were “serious, very serious, choices of policy to be made, and made immediately.” He first cited the German government’s declaration on February 3 or unrestricted submarine warfare in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, which he called “a warfare against mankind.”

It was clear that Wilson saw the role of the United States as a superpower who would win the war through overwhelming national power:

What this will involve is clear. It will involve the utmost practicable cooperation in counsel and action with the governments now at war with Germany, and, as incident to that, the extension to those governments of the most liberal financial credits, in order that our resources may so far as possible be added to theirs. It will involve the organization and mobilization of all the material resources of the country to supply the materials of war and serve the incidental needs of the nation in the most abundant and yet the most economical and efficient way possible. It will involve the immediate full equipment of the Navy in all respects but particularly in supplying it with the best means of dealing with the enemy’s submarines. It will involve the immediate addition to the armed forces of the United States already provided for by law in case of war at least 500,000 men, who should, in my opinion, be chosen upon the principle of universal liability to service, and also the authorization of subsequent additional increments of equal force so soon as they may be needed and can be handled in training. It will involve also, of course, the granting of adequate credits to the Government, sustained, I hope, so far as they can equitably be sustained by the present generation, by well conceived taxation.

And while Wilson stated that the United States had no quarrel with the German people, it’s government, as evidenced by the Zimmermann telegram, was evidence of “criminal intrigues everywhere affot against our national unity: ” That it means to stir up enemies against us at our very doors the intercepted note to the German Minister at Mexico City is eloquent evidence.”

The country would be at war within four days. The Senate approved the declaration of war on April 4, with the House approving it on April 6.