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Chapter One

 

“First official mention of the 80th Division appears in General Order 95, War Department, July 18, 1917. Part of that order follows:

 

"The cantonments for troops of the National Army and camps for troops of the National Guard are named, as shown below, in honor of the men named who contributed during their lives to the development of the United States and the acquisition by American citizenship of its present status."

 

One section of the order directed that the cantonment authorized at Petersburg, Va., would be the home of the 80th Division, which was to be made up of men from New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia. The cantonment was to be known as Camp Lee, in honor of "Robert E. Lee, General in Chief, C.S.A.  Born in Virginia. Served in Mexican War and on frontier. Supt. U.S.M.A., 1852-1855. Commanded Army of Northern Virginia from June 3, 1862, to Appomattox, April 9, 1865. Last campaign was in vicinity of Petersburg."

 

This mention of the 80th was merely a bookkeeping convenience, for not until August 3, in its General Order No. 101, did the War Department actually establish the division as an organization:

 

"3. By direction of the President and under authority conferred upon him by Section 1 of an `Act to authorize the President to increase temporarily the Military Establishment of the United States,' approved May 18, 1917, 16 Infantry Divisions of the National Army are hereby established, effective August 5, 1917, to be organized, together with the additional troops hereinafter indicated, at stations indicated in General Orders No. 95, War Department, 1917. -Additional troops - Such number of separate training battalions of 612 enlisted men each and numbered serially, beginning with 1, as can be organized from the enlisted personnel available."

 

Then on August 5 came realignment of the geographical area, which was to supply the men for the 80th; Virginia was retained, with the addition of West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania, while the rest of the territory specified July 18 was assigned to the 78th and 79th Divisions.

 

It was on August 23 that Maj. Gen. Adelbert Cronkhite, who as brigadier general had been Military Commander of the Panama Canal Department, was assigned to command the 80th Division and Camp Lee. At the same time, a dozen newly promoted brigade and regimental commanders and staff officers were instructed to report to him.

 

In conformity with the policy of assigning Reserve officers to serve with men drafted from the same home districts, the 80th's first quota of such commissioned personnel was drawn largely from the Reserve Officers Training Camp at Ft. Myer, Va., to which had been assigned candidates from Pennsylvania, Virginia and New Jersey. Commissioned Aug. 15, these officers were given leave and instructed to report at Camp Lee on Aug. 27.

 

Meanwhile, back in numberless communities, thousands of young men who had grown up in a completely non-military atmosphere, had never expected to wear a uniform and who, in possibly most cases, had never even seen a Regular soldier, were quitting their jobs and preparing to leave for camp. On July 18, when the War Department order first mentioned the 80th, the draft numbers of these men had not even been drawn. Yet by the next July 18 they would be moving into the line with the British, near Arras, and a year later the Division to which they had given life - and in which some had given their lives - would have become a part of history.

 

The Division which these young men were to form was to be part of an American Army whose existence was foreseen by few when on Aug. 1, 1914, Germany launched World War I. But, after maintaining neutrality for two and a half years, their country in the early part of 1917 had been drawn closer and closer to the conflict. With France and Britain hard pressed, Germany attempted to persuade Mexico to attack the United States and resumed ruthless submarine warfare, admitting her promise to end the practice had been made only to gain time for additional U-boat construction. Previously the Central Powers had destroyed 30 American ships and 135 American lives.

 

On Feb. 3, President Wilson severed diplomatic relations with Germany; on March 12 all American merchant vessels were ordered armed; on April 2, the President urged Congress to recognize a state of war with Germany; on April 4 the Senate passed a declaration of war, and on April 6, 1917, the House passed the measure which was signed by the President the same day.

 

At the outbreak of the war in Europe, the United States peacetime establishment had consisted of 92,000 men scattered from China to the Panama Canal, organized in no units larger than a regiment. Trouble on the Mexican border had given invaluable training to some Regular Army and National Guard units and revealed, in time, some striking deficiencies. Even with new legislation in 1916, America's armed forces probably did not exceed 200,000 men at the time of her declaration of war, and this figure includes 67,000 Federalized National Guardsmen.

 

During the three years of neutrality many Americans had advocated military preparedness. Others believed such steps would take America into the war. President Wilson, hoping the combatants might come to terms among themselves, and fearing that arming of the United States might be misunderstood, had held out against any move toward strengthening the country's military forces. When, therefore, Congress declared war, the Nation, however well prepared morally, was militarily unprepared.

 

The declaration of war found the National Guard just beginning to reorganize and the Regular establishment disorganized in the process of absorbing its first quota of new trainees. Called upon to furnish cadres for new units, the old Regular regiments had been greatly depleted. The enlarged General Staff had not adjusted itself to its duties. Transferred officers were still unfamiliar with their new tasks. Furthermore, the existing system of voluntary enlistment had failed, despite tremendous efforts to recruit the authorized units of the Regular Army and the National Guard.

 

When war was declared, the strength of the Regular Army was 5,971 officers and 133,000 men, exclusive of 67,000 Federalized National Guardsmen, while the strength of the State troops was 3,199 officers and 150,000 men. A considerable percentage of the Regular Army had been recruited only recently, and only 4,500 Regular officers had experienced more than a year of service.

 

By April 1, 1917, 60,000 State troops of a total of 150,000 already were under arms. The Navy, with an authorized peace strength of 87,000 men, was 35,000 short, and 99,809 Regulars and 45,870 reserves were required. The Regular Army and the National Guard were still far below strength. Therefore, when on April 6 the order was issued for the mobilization of the Regular Army and Navy, recruiting on a large scale had to be undertaken.

 

Looking at the shortage of recruits, and recalling United States military history, it was impossible to find hope for relying upon voluntary enlistments to support a modern war. Conscription had become necessary in England. In the War Between the States, both North and South could not ignore these facts.

 

Accordingly, the War College proposed to raise the Regular Army immediately to its authorized complement of 300,000, to Federalize over 400,000 State troops, and to draft at least 500,000 men. The whole Army then was to embrace a minimum of 1,000,000 men. The plan was presented by the President to Congress early in April, 1917.

 

Great Britain and France each dispatched a high commission to the United States to discuss cooperation. A current belief had been that the Allies needed only money and supplies. But the British and French made it plain that in the face of a threatened collapse of Allied man-power, only a huge American Army could bring victory. German troops dangerously outnumbered the Allies.

 

While Congress debated the proposed legislation, every possible means of securing volunteers was employed. Inspiring cartoons and posters deluged the land. "Wake up, America!", and "Your Country Needs you!" became conspicuous everywhere. Enlistments rose from 25 a day to a thousand a day for the Navy, and to as high as 1,434 for the Army. Nevertheless it was obvious that at such a rate an adequate Army and Navy could not be raised in time and, in addition, all the usual objections to the volunteer system existed. Yet Congress continued to debate, for opposition to conscription died hard.

 

Inasmuch as enough volunteers already were failing to come forward, the President, supported by the General Staff, brought pressure on Congress to adopt his original proposals, pointing out that the principle of the draft was fundamental.

 

Whether the Army was to be volunteer or draft, provision had to be made for training and housing. Accordingly, without waiting for legislation, the General Staff arranged for the training of reserve officers and the quartering of the expanded Army.

 

Not less than 20,000 officers were required immediately and there were less than 9,000 in the Regular establishment and the organized militia combined. The experience of Great Britain pointed the way. The old method of appointing volunteer officers would not suffice; they must be procured through training camps. It was therefore necessary to create 16 such camps, with a capacity of 2,500 each, and invite applications for admission. Of the thousands who applied, 40,000 candidates were accepted and ordered to report May 15, 1917, for a course of three months.

 

The Selective Service Act was passed by Congress May 18, 1917. It gave the President authority to raise the Regular Army by enlistment to 287,000 men; to draft into the service of the United States all members of the National Guard and the National Guard Reserve; draft an additional force of 500,000 men, with another 500,000 at his discretion.

 

All male persons aged 21 to 30 years, inclusive, were required to register "in accordance with regulations to be prescribed by the President" or become liable to imprisonment for one year. Permitted exemptions from the draft included National and State officials, ministers of religion, theological students, military and naval personnel, county and municipal officials, mail and custom house clerks, pilots and mariners actually in sea service, artisans and workmen in armories, arsenals, and navy yards, members of sects whose creeds forbade them to engage in war, persons employed in industries and in agriculture necessary to the operations of the armed forces, those physically or mentally deficient, and those with dependents to support.

 

A Presidential proclamation, fixed June 5, 1917, as registration day, except in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, where a date would be named later. Gen. Enoch H. Crowder was appointed Provost Marshal to execute the measure.

 

Speedy creation of 4,500 local boards with a volunteer civilian personnel of 125,000 made possible the smooth registration of 9,586,508 men on that memorable fifth of June.

 

On July 20, a total of 1,374,000 men was selected for possible service by means of a lottery carried out publicly in Washington. Into a huge glass bowl were thrown 10,500 black celluloid capsules, each containing a numbered slip. Blindfolded, Secretary of War Newton D. Baker drew the first capsule. Taken down by three tally clerks, the number was recorded on an immense blackboard and telegraphed at once to every city, town, and hamlet in the 4,557 registration districts of the country. Any man whose local registration number was drawn was in this way selected.

 

In many cities and towns, business was practically suspended. All day and far into the night, through the 16 hours of the drawing, crowds thronged the sidewalks before every bulletin board.

 

Opposition to enforcement of the Selective Service Act was virtually non-existent. When the time arrived for the drafted men to appear before their local boards for physical examination, the Provost Marshal General pointed out there was nothing as yet to resist; the call to appear was to afford anyone an opportunity to present reasons why he should not be ordered to military duty. Those failing to report were automatically posted as inducted into service, subject to military law, and liable to punishment as war-time deserters.

 

Out of the force provided by the Selective Service Act, the President was authorized to organize such combat and technical units as he might see fit. The General Staff had already adopted a division organization consisting of two infantry brigades and an artillery brigade, which, with the necessary auxiliary units, called for 1,000 officers and 27,000 men. The authorized regular establishment was allowed a maximum of 10 regular divisions, and it was hoped the National Guard would furnish at least 16 more. It was therefore decided to organize 42 combat divisions at once, 16 of which, recruited from the draft, were to constitute the National Army. Gen. John J. Pershing, selected to command the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe, had sailed late in May for France, accompanied by 53 officers and 146 enlisted men.

 

The program of 42 combat divisions alone called for 1,134,000 men. In addition, men were needed for the numerous auxiliary units and for a service of supply both in the United States and overseas. A minimum of 1,000,000 men over and above the volunteer strength was required for this General Staff plan.

 

The President, considering the lack of equipment, trained officers, and camps, refused to call that number at that time. Instead he asked for a report showing the number necessary to fill the units of the Regular Army and the National Guard.

 

By the end of July, although more that 1,000,000 had volunteered, only 558,858 had been accepted - 163,633 for the Regular Army, 145,000 for the National Guard, 69,000 for the Navy, and 35,000 for Officers' Training Camps.

 

The Regular Army and the National Guard were still 187,000 short after four months of most intensive recruiting. To this number, the President was willing to add 500,000 men, and no more, thereby limiting the first draft to 687,000 men.

 

On July 9, 1917, President Wilson called the National Guard into the Federal service. In 11 states the units were mobilized July 15 and sent to tent camps. In 18 states and the District of Columbia, they were mobilized on July 25, and on Aug. 5 the entire National Guard was drafted into the Federal service under the act of May 18.

 

To receive the 1,000,000 men called for by the program, quarters had to be provided on a vast scale. On June 1, the Department decided to erect 16 wooden cantonments for the National Army, provided with comforts and sanitary facilities hitherto lacking in American Army Camps. Each was to have a capacity of 41,000 troops, so that a camp would accommodate an entire division and a depot brigade. After the original National Army divisions had left, these camps could receive successive contingents.

 

Accordingly, the entire country was roughly divided into 16 districts, each of which was calculated to yield a draft division and to house a permanent camp. This plan gave prospective National Army divisions a territorial identity. Inasmuch as National Guard units were already organized, and would not be succeeded by other volunteer formations, permanent camps were not essential for them. The Guard divisions, too, were to be formed, in so far as practicable, of units from neighboring areas, and thus also would bear a territorial complexion.

 

Until this time, the country had measured public works by the Panama Canal project. It had required ten years to build the waterway. The 16 National Army cantonments and the 16 National Guard camps were to cost seven-tenths as much and their completion required in 90 days. Eventually, 45 training camps were erected at a cost far exceeding the modest original expectations.

 

Of approximately 200,000 Army officers who served during the war against Germany, one in six had had previous military training in either the Regular Army or National Guard. Three were instructed in training camps, and two lacked previous training. Of the latter class were the medical men, ministers, and men with special business, professional, or technical experience, who were commissioned and assigned to the various branches of the service. The training camps produced 45 per cent of all the officers or 96,000.

 

These officer-training camps were opened May 15 in 16 large training centers, with groups of 2,500 civilian candidates reporting at each. To receive them were 10 to 12 Regular Army officers, scattered barracks, and the prospect of three months of gruelling work. One instructor, as a rule, was allotted to every 150 candidates, who had to be immediately fed, clothed, and equipped. There rarely were subordinate or non-commissioned officers to aid him. In a number of the camps, the food was insufficient and the clothing often consisted of any cotton khaki that could be collected.

 

The officer-training course was a keen, competitive and rigorous experience, in which both instructor and candidate were subjected to extreme physical pressure. The day began at 5:30 a.m., and ended with instructors and candidates exhausted. On the whole, these candidates were as fine a product as America could turn out. A bank president took his place in ranks beside a callow college graduate; a prominent lawyer and a grocery clerk used the same pack; the son from a Fifth Avenue home slept side by side with the naive country-bred youth. Their spirit was magnificent; their patriotism of the highest type.

 

The outcome of this new, 90-day process was watched anxiously by the War Department. For not only was it necessary to choose the raw material but also to classify it for the different branches of the service. From these camps were to come the officers of a regiment from the grade of major down, machine-gun specialists, Ordnance lieutenants, Quartermaster officers, aviation candidates, and those recommended for a second training camp. The success achieved was astonishing. Those who failed in the strenuous competition generally confirmed voluntarily the fairness of their elimination.

 

In all, there were four successive training courses for officer candidates. Of the 40,000 candidates admitted to the first training camps, 27,341 received commissions Aug. 15, 1917. For the second course, which commenced Aug. 27, there were 27,197 applicants, of whom 21,000 were admitted and 17,237 graduated.

 

The four camps furnished to the Army two colonels, one lieutenant colonel, 294 majors, 5,429 captains, 12,397 first lieutenants, and 62,445 second lieutenants. Of those commissioned, 48,968 were assigned to the Infantry, 20,291 to the Field Artillery, and 1,966 to the Engineers. Thus almost 61 per cent of the 80,568 officers commissioned in the line, including none above the grade of major, went to the Infantry, and more than 25 percent to the Field Artillery.

 

A large number from the first camps were commissioned 2nd Lieutenants in the Regular Army, and others were assigned to the National Guard. Of the total number of applicants, less than 50 per cent met the high physical standards required for commissions.

 

As the cantonments arose, the Adjutant General on Aug. 8 called the National Army to the colors as follows: 30 per cent to report commencing Sept. 1, 30 per cent commencing Sept. 15, 30 per cent commencing Sept. 30, and the remaining 10 per cent as soon thereafter as possible.

 

Five days later, however, the Secretary of War changed the original dates because "Saturday, Sunday, and Labor Day are three of the first five days in September." Under the rearrangement, the first call was set for Sept. 5, the second call for Sept.9, and the third call for Oct. 3.

 

Another modification was found necessary because the railroads were busy transporting the National Guard southward. It was therefore announced Aug. 25 that only 5 per cent would be called beginning Sept 5, to be moved at the rate of 1 per cent a day in order to avoid rail congestion.

 

A second quota of 40 per cent was ordered to start Sept. 19, another 40 per cent Oct. 3, and the remaining 15 per cent as soon thereafter as expedient. The first 5 per cent would comprise white men desirous of volunteering in advance of their draft call and, in so far as possible, would consist of men with previous military experience.

 

The spirit of the men as they entered upon their transition from citizens to soldiers was inspiring. In countless communities the first departures brought out emotion-charged crowds and stirring scenes. Great ovations were accorded the men as they marched through streets lined with American and Allied colors.

 

The unassuming, civilian-clad ranks were without arms, without uniforms, without step, but they aroused full realization of the momentous significance of the war to America. The unpretentious Godspeed accorded the men in the little towns and villages was simpler than in the cities but nonetheless impressive.

 

In marking the historic event, the President addressed to the men this message:

 

"You are undertaking a great duty. The heart of the whole country is with you. Everything that you do will be watched with the deepest interest and with the deepest solicitude, not only by those who are near and dear to you, but by the whole nation besides.

 

"For this great war draws us all together, makes us all comrades and brothers, as all true Americans felt themselves to be when we first made good our national independence.

 

"The eyes of the world will be upon you, because you are in some special sense the soldiers of freedom. Let it be your pride, therefore, to show all men everywhere not only what good soldiers you are, but also what good men you are, keeping yourselves fit and straight in everything and pure and clean through and through.

 

"Let us set for ourselves a standard so high that it will be a glory to live up to it, and then let us live up to it and add a new laurel to the crown of America.

 

"My affectionate confidence goes with you in every battle and every test. God keep and guide you!"

 

In the meantime, an anti-conscription propaganda had sprung up in various parts of the country, under the sponsorship of Socialists, Industrial Workers of the World, pacifists, pro-German organizations and other elements opposed to this nation's participation in the war. Minor disturbances occurred in various localities as a result of their efforts to create disaffection. Nowhere except in a few spots in the West and Northwest did this agitation assume more than sporadic form.

 

The Department of Justice moved to suppress these activities with the result that many of the leaders and instigators, including Eugene V. Debs, head of the Socialist Party, were found guilty of sedition. Prison terms were imposed, and the disloyal propaganda quickly ceased as the whole nation turned its eyes to the training camps. Now thoroughly awake to the gravity of the situation, all classes, parties, and creeds united to support these youths on which so much depended.

 

As subsequently amended, the Selective Service Act covered all the man-power of the Nation from 18 to 45 years, inclusive. Under this Act, approximately 10,000,000 men between 21 and 31 were registered June 5, 1917 and an additional 675,000 of the same age on June 5, and Aug. 24, 1918. Of the total registration of 10,679,814 of the first class, 25 per cent, or 2,666,867 men were inducted into service. The third registration on Sept. 12, 1918, extended the age limit downward to 18 and upward to 45 years, yielding an enrollment of 13,228,762 men, of whom only 120,157 were taken into the service. The total enrollment under all three registrations, including those in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico of 325,445, was 24,234,021, with a total induction of 2,810,296 men.

 

In addition to the nearly 3,000,000 draftees, there were 1,989,704 volunteers in the Regular Army, Navy, and Federalized Militia, or a grand total of 4,800,000 men. Thus, 9 per cent of the entire male population of the country entered the service, or approximately one man for every 18 inhabitants. During the War Between the States, 2,400,000 served in the Northern Army and Navy, or one in each 10 inhabitants of the North.

 

The volunteer system, although given every opportunity and spurred by the draft, failed utterly to provide the necessary recruits. Of the entire Army, the draft furnished 77 per cent of the men, the Regular Army 13 per cent, or 527,000, and the National Guard 10 per cent, or 382,000. There was not a single Regular Army or National Guard formation that did not draw from the draft to complete its strength. Up to 50 per cent of many of the latter were drafted troops. Of the 17 National Guard divisions, their personnel averaged 25 per cent drafted men. It was but a short while before the Regular Army divisions were similarly constituted.

 

Under the draft, registrants were given physical examinations by the local boards. After those who were found, often erroneously, qualified for service and sent to training camps, they were re-examined by Army surgeons.

 

It is worthy of note that in the physical examinations, even the lowest showing of the draft system was far superior to that of the volunteer system. And there were fewer desertions among the drafted troops than among the volunteers. The spirit of the selective draft of 1917-1918 was such as to elevate the whole tone of military service and to justify all that military men had expected of it.

 

No man in the National Army was under a prejudice because he had awaited the formal call of the Republic; the magnitude of its personnel and the nation-wide distribution of its component units acted to assure its troops an equitable measure of public recognition. The willingness with which the mass of the American people accepted the universal draft, and their enthusiastic support of the war effort effectually dissipated all possibilities of internal dissension, besides serving to expedite markedly the Nation's preparations for waging the conflict with maximum vigor.”

 

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