The United States At War--at Home

: Winning A Cause World War Stories

When any nation declares war, it immediately brings upon itself unusual

problems and difficulties, but probably no other nation ever had such

problems to solve and such difficulties to overcome as the United

States, immediately after Congress declared a state of war existed with

Germany. The United States was not ready for war. She had been a

peace loving nation, and although possessed of great natural resources,

had never developed them, to any extent, for the purpose of

carrying on war. The cosmopolitan people of the United States had

never been put to the severe test of war conditions, and whether or not

they would stand together as one great nation was yet to be proved.

This meant that when war was declared the United States had to start

right at the bottom and build up a mighty fighting nation. This had to

be done as quickly as possible, for Germany's plan was to crush her

enemies before the United States could bring any help.

The first thing that the country was called upon to do was to raise an

army. Under ordinary circumstances, the government would call for

volunteers. In this way an army could be provided which would be

sufficient for usual conditions. The war with Germany, however, was by

no means a war in any way like that Americans had taken part in before.

The government knew this and realized that the United States would have

to raise an army that numbered in the millions. To do this, the

volunteer system was found entirely inadequate. So a system of

drafting men was worked out for which the government passed the draft

law, compelling all men between the ages of 21 and 31 to register for

military service. This plan was accepted with great favor by the

people, and consequently, the day after registration the government had

ten million men in the prime of life from which to pick her army. The

draft system was in charge of General Crowder who, as a result of long

study on the subject, had devised a system which was not in any way

influenced by political pull and was equally fair to both the rich and

the poor. Local boards were established for examining the drafted men,

and those selected were soon on their way to training camps.

To house this great army, the government had to build a great system of

army camps. Contracts were given out soon after war was declared and

the camps began to spring up almost overnight. The government built 16

draft army camps and 16 national guard camps. There were also numerous

other military zones where smaller bodies of troops were trained. The

draft army camps were located so as to house the men from different

sections of the country, as a glance at the list of camps will show:--

Camp Devens, Massachusetts; Camp Upton, New York; Camp Dix, New Jersey;

Camp Meade, Maryland; Camp Lee, Virginia; Camp Jackson, South Carolina;

Camp Gordon, Georgia; Camp Sherman, Ohio; Camp Taylor, Kentucky; Camp

Custer, Michigan; Camp Grant, Illinois; Camp Pike, Arkansas; Camp

Dodge, Iowa; Camp Funston, Kansas; Camp Travis, Texas; Camp Lewis,


These great cities were built in less than four months. If all the

buildings of the sixteen cantonments were placed end to end, they would

make a continuous structure reaching from Washington to Detroit. Each

one of these camps housed between 35,000 and 47,000 men. The sixteen

cantonments were capable of providing for a number equal to the

combined population of Arizona and New Mexico. The hospitals of these

camps were able to take care of as many sick and wounded as are to be

found in all the hospitals west of the Mississippi in normal times.

Each camp covered many square miles of land which had to be cleared of

trees and brush before buildings and roads were completed.

[Illustration: This picture shows the standardized style of building

used in every army cantonment in the United States. The tar-paper

structures in the foreground were used for storehouses and general

out-buildings. In the background are the well-built barracks. The

company streets run between them. Camp Devens, Mass.]

To keep these cantonments clean and fit to live in, large numbers of

sanitary engineers, medical officers, and scientific experts were kept

busy planning and installing the most modern sanitation systems. To

command this great army, the government built officers' camps where men

best fitted were trained to be officers, and were then sent to the

cantonments to help in changing the American citizen into a soldier.

War was declared in April, and by the hot weather of summer America was

sending troops by the tens of thousands to Europe. The wonderful way

in which American shipbuilders had made it possible to transport these

soldiers is told later. But before leaving the subject of raising an

army, let us first see by means of figures just what the United States

had accomplished in this work. In August, 1918, the overseas force

alone was seven times as large as the entire United States army sixteen

months before, at the declaration of war. In this time she had

transported a million and a half troops overseas and had the same

number on this side, with the numbers always increasing. In September,

1918, she had another draft and registration, calling men between the

ages of 18 and 45. This gave thirteen million more men.

The colleges of the country had suffered a great deal because of the

two draft laws, as practically all men of college age were liable to

military service. To overcome this difficulty, the government

established in the fall of 1918, the Student Army Training Corps. This

plan allowed all students of military age, who were physically fit, to

enlist in the army and receive military training, and at the same time

obtain a college education. From these men the government planned to

choose future officer material. Although the war came to a close

before the plan could be fully carried out, it gave every promise of

being a success.

It must be evident that perhaps even a greater problem than raising the

army was how it was to be transported to Europe. At the beginning of

the war, the United States had no ships to use for her necessary task

of transporting men and supplies. The ships that were sailing from her

ports were all doing their capacity work and could not be used for the

new demands. The Shipping Board immediately looked around for yards to

place orders for new ships; but there were no yards to fill the orders,

as the few the United States had were all overburdened with work. The

only remaining solution of the problem was to build new yards. America

did it.

The United States went into the war with something like thirty steel

and twenty-four wood shipyards, employing less than eighty thousand

men. In a little over a year's time, there were one hundred and

fifty-five yards turning out ships and employing over three hundred and

eighty-six thousand men. These men turned out more tonnage every month

than the United States had ever turned out in any entire year before

the war. Of the new yards, the greatest was the famous Hog Island

yard. On what was once a swamp on the Delaware River, just below

Philadelphia, the United States built this yard which is the largest in

the world. The demand for speed in building resulted in the plan of

fabricating the steel before sending it to the yards. By this method

the steel is cut and punched before going to the yard where it is then

assembled. Thus steel mills at long distances from the shipyards could

be doing a very considerable part of building the ships. Perhaps the

great increase in shipping can be best stated by a few figures. In the

month of January, 1918, America produced 88,507 tons. Six months later

in July she produced 631,944 tons. Before the war the official

estimate of America's annual shipping production was 200,000 tons. The

estimated production for 1919 was 7,500,000 tons.

The United States navy at the time of the declaration of war was

unprepared for the task ahead of it. It was efficient but not nearly

large enough for the tremendous amount of work it was called upon to

perform. The troop and supply transports needed convoys. There were

hundreds of miles of coast to be patrolled. Merchant ships must be

armed with men and guns. All this had to be done, besides the work of

aiding the Allied fleets in European waters. The government was not

long in seeing the need of a great increase in the naval force and was

soon making plans to bring this about. New yards were constructed

immediately for the building of warships, and the capacity of the old

yards was increased. These yards were soon busy turning out destroyers

and battleships at a remarkable speed. The special work of patrolling

the coasts for submarines called for a great many small and speedy

submarine chasers. Motor boat manufacturers all over the country

immediately began to make these swift little craft which were popularly

called the mosquito fleet. Even the great factories of Henry Ford,

although already busy turning out thousands of motor cars, found room

to build these chasers at their inland factories. They were built on

specially constructed flat cars, which were then drawn to the coast,

where the ships were launched.

As the number of ships increased, the man power was accordingly

increased. The navy established a new record by placing a unit of five

14-inch naval guns mounted on specially built railway cars for land

duty in France. These guns were the longest range guns in France and

were out-distanced only by the great German super guns, the destroying

of which was one of their objects. The German super gun fired a small

shell for a distance of from sixty to seventy miles. The naval 14-inch

guns fired a 1400 lb. shell about twenty-five miles. Although this was

a new departure for the navy, it met with the same success which had

crowned all of the other war work of this branch of the service.

[Illustration: A 10-inch caliber naval gun on a railroad mount at the

Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland, where, after official testing, it

was destined for the advance into Germany. Railroad artillery played a

very important part in the late war because of its great mobility and

range. This gun is terrifically effective at a range of fifteen miles.

The oil cylinders visible under the gun where it is mounted are not

sufficient to take up the recoil, hence the braces which protrude

against the wooden platforms sunk into the ground. The bridge-like

structure on the rear platform of the car is part of the carrier for

the shell in loading, and the arched bar over the breech block a part

of the newly invented quick loading device.]

In figures the work of the navy stands out prominently. At the time

war was declared, the navy had 65,777 men in the service and 197 ships

in commission; when the armistice was signed, the navy consisted of

497,030 men and about 2000 ships, out of which 75,000 men and 388 ships

were on duty in foreign waters.

While army and navy preparations were going on, the business of

obtaining munitions and supplies was being very carefully attended to.

Before the war there were very few firms making supplies for the

government. This meant that the government would have to turn to the

great private concerns for its material. These firms dropped all their

pre-war work and attended strictly to government orders. The result

was that at the end of the summer of 1918 the government was doing

business with over 3,000 firms and had over 12,000 contracts in

operation. Even small plants invested heavily in increasing their

capacity so as to be able to turn out more and better work for the

government. The organizing and manufacturing genius of the American

people came to the front with a result that the American overseas

forces were almost entirely supplied by American products, thereby

taking little strength away from the foreign manufacturers.

A few facts concerning the production of motor vehicles will give an

idea of the immensity of America's manufacturing program. The

automobile industry as a whole expended one billion three hundred

million dollars in order to expand its factories to fill government

orders. By the month of October, 1918, 70,000 motor trucks had been

sent overseas. At the end of the war, 5-ton and 10-ton trucks were

being built at the rate of 1000 a day, and all trucks, at the rate of

shipment then prevailing, would have in a year's time made a procession

300 miles long.

If critical persons were to try to point out any weakness in America's

preparedness program, they would probably take the production of

aircraft as an instance where the government had failed. Although

America was slow in producing airplanes, it must be taken into

consideration that this was almost entirely a new departure for

American manufacturers. The delay in airplane production was due to

the fact that there was too much red tape to be unrolled before actual

work was begun. The government soon realized this and appointed one

man to have entire charge of aircraft production. Under his management

the red tape was thrown aside and business-like methods took its place.

The combined ability of the automobile engineers of the country

produced the Liberty motor which proved to be one of the best airplane

engines ever developed to lift great weights. The DeHaviland and

Handley-Page, bombing and reconnaissance planes, were immediately

equipped largely with the new Liberty. 3180 of the former and 101 of

the latter were produced in this country in the year before the

armistice was signed. Out of this number 1379 had been shipped

overseas. In the meantime the production of planes had been far

outstripped by the enlisted and commissioned personnel of the air

service. Thousands of cadets and officers were delayed in the ground

schools, at the flying schools, and at Camp Dick, Texas, the

concentration post for aviation, because of the ruinous shortage of

planes, just when the American forces newly brought into the battle

zones needed the efficient help of a great fleet of aircraft.

Airplanes are rightly called the eyes of the army. It is

unofficially stated that less than 800 American aviators ever saw

service over the German lines, and these men, not having American scout

planes, used largely foreign models equipped with the famous French

Gnome, LeRhone, and Hispano-Suiza motors. American-made machines,

whether for bombing, observing, or scouting, went into action for the

first time in July, 1918.

[Illustration: A photograph from an airplane at 7900 feet, showing Love

Field, Dallas, Texas, and a parachute jumper in the Flying Frolic,

November 12, 1918. Parachutes were used by observers to escape from

kite balloons ignited by German artillery fire, and a new type is

being perfected by which aviators may also escape from disabled


The American people before the war were the most wasteful people in the

world. This was probably due to the fact that the people had never

been confronted by a real necessity for economizing. However, when war

was declared the government immediately demanded that the people

conserve their food. The result was that Americans were soon observing

wheatless, meatless, and porkless days with great patriotic fervor.

12,000,000 families signed pledges to observe the rules of the food

administration, and hotels and restaurants joined in the great

conservation effort. War gardens sprang up by the millions. The

country was soon conserving millions of pounds of foodstuffs that would

ordinarily have been wasted. A food hog was considered in the same

light as a traitor!

On the same plan as the food administration, the government conducted

the conservation of coal. The result was that the essential industries

received coal first and the people could get only what was absolutely

necessary for heating their homes. Lights were turned out in cities

early to save fuel. The daylight saving plan from April to November

turned the clocks ahead one hour. As a result of all these

precautions, the factories were kept going, the ships were not hindered

for lack of coal, and America's great preparedness program was carried

on without hindrance or delay.

It is difficult to realize what gigantic efforts America was putting

forth. An illustration from the manufacture of ordnance will help such

an understanding. In the fall of 1918, the United States government

was spending upon the making of ordnance alone, every thirty days, an

amount equal to the cost of the Panama Canal, and it was spending as

much or more in several other departments. What a terrible loss war

brings to the world!

[Illustration: The Red Cross War Fund and Membership poster by A. E.

Foringer was one of the most effective produced during the War.]

To finance these tremendous preparedness projects, the government

called upon the people to lend their money by buying government liberty

bonds. This was an entirely new thing for the American people of any

generation, but they responded in a manner that showed the government

that the people were backing it to the last inch, and that they were

out to win as quickly as possible, regardless of cost, or other

sacrifices they were called upon to make. The government conducted

great loan campaigns. Each one met with greater success than the one

preceding it. The bonds were bought by all classes of people, and a

man without a bond was like a dog without a home. Of course the great

banks and corporations bought millions of dollars worth of bonds, but

the great number of small denomination bonds bought by the wage-earning

classes was what spelled the success of the loans. The total amount

raised by the five loans was approximately twenty-two billion dollars.

Besides these great loans, the American people contributed $300,000,000

to two Red Cross funds inside of a year. There were also enormous

contributions to the Y. M. C. A., the Knights of Columbus, the War Camp

Community Service, the Salvation Army, and allied funds.

Although a great deal of credit for the remarkable success of America's

preparedness program is due to the fact that she had such wonderful

resources, the true underlying reason for her success is the

magnificent spirit of the American people. Germany thought that,

because of the cosmopolitan make-up of the people and the immensity of

the country they occupied, they would not unite as one great nation.

The United States has proved for all time that she is one solid

indivisible nation with ho thought of anything but the progress and

liberty of her country and the world, of the unsullied honor and

unquestioned defense of her flag, and of all for which it stands.


It was not his olive valleys and orange groves which made the Greece of

the Greek; it was not for his apple orchards or potato fields that the

farmer of New England and New York left his plough in the furrow and

marched to Bunker Hill, to Bennington, to Saratoga. A man's country is

not a certain area of land, but it is a principle; and patriotism is

loyalty to that principle. The secret sanctification of the soil and

symbol of a country is the idea which they represent; and this idea the

patriot worships through the name and the symbol. . . .

We of America, with our soil sanctified and our symbol glorified by the

great ideas of liberty and religion,--love of freedom and of God,--are

in the foremost vanguard of this great caravan of humanity. To us

rulers look, and learn justice, while they tremble; to us the nations

look, and learn to hope, while they rejoice. Our heritage is all the

love and heroism of liberty in the past; and all the great of the Old

World are our teachers.