1-199 Memorandum for General Pershing, April 9, 1923

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: April 9, 1923

Memorandum for General Pershing

April 9, 1923 Washington, D.C.

Preliminary study concerning rate of drafting men

during first six months of 1918.

An endeavor to justify any conclusion regarding the maximum rate at which men might properly have been drafted in the first half of 1918, involves a variety of considerations, the principal of which are:

Quartermaster Supplies obtainable, principally clothing and shoes.

Available shelter in the United States.

Rate of shipment of troops to Europe, which involved:

Troop and cargo tonnage.

Tonnage for nitrates from Chile.

Allies’ obligations to supply A.E.F.

Vacating of cantonments.

Excessive drafts of colored troops.

Removal of young men from farms and essential industries.

The available records of the War Department are inadequate at the present time to an exact understanding of the conditions in 1918. It has not yet been possible to find the War Program approved April 29th, and promulgated April30th. Many other important papers cannot be located in the files.

In general, it is apparent that at the end of January, General Goethals was strongly of the view that the then program of drafting men was too large; that the supply situation from a procurement standpoint, was most serious; that sufficient tonnage could not be obtained for shipment of troops abroad; that if the tonnage was available, the port and railroad situation in France would prevent sufficiently rapid unloading and evacuation of supplies.1 His views were shared by Mr. Charles Day and Mr. P.A.S. Franklin, of the Emergency Fleet Corporation, both members of the War Council.2 General Goethals opposed any further drafts until supplies could be assembled and Mr. Thorne, his Assistant, definitely recommended no further draft calls until June, 1918. . . . General Goethals made a point of the excessive requirements of General Pershing’s “up-keep” tables for supplies and cites the example of overcoats. (See Memorandum of General Goethals, February 7th.)

General Jervey in a memorandum of February 18th, Page 3, to the Chief ofStaff,3 stated the reasons against calling a new draft in April, to be:

Shortage of wool uniforms and other winter equipment.

Further congestion of inland transportation and freight.

Further dispersion of equipment already short.

Further congestion of camps where tentage is short and supply of cotton duck needed for other purposes.

Disturbance in industrial and agricultural activities during the spring and summer without just cause.

Unwise expansion of a program whose full accomplishment is probably doomed or much delayed by the limitations of overseas transportation.

He then definitely recommended a reduction in the draft program approved of February 7th, to the figures given for February 25th.

The Chief of Staff in approving General Jervey’s memorandum of February 18th, stated the following general principles to be observed:

“1. That when practicable it is desired to give men about six months training before being sent abroad.

2. That it is not desired to draft men until they can be clothed and equipped.

3. That it is not desired to draft men until they are necessary, in order to interfere as little as possible with the carrying on of civil pursuits.”


January 21st

Draft Program*

February 25th

Draft Program**

Program Actually

Carried Out***













































*Refer to Memorandum of General Goethals, dated February 7th.

**Refer to Memorandum of Chief of Staff, dated February 25th.


With the arrival of General March came a vigorous impulse and a dominant optimism,5 which resulted after the arrival of General Pershing’s Cablegram of April 24th (No. 990-S, copy hereto attached),6 in a complete revision of the war program, bringing about the great troop shipments to Europe in May, June, July and August. Unfortunately, this program cannot be located, and Major Phoenix, now in the State Department, who was Recorder of the War Council at this time, believes that there was no formal program other than General Pershing’s cablegram.7 This is not probable, as a more detailed and inclusive statement to the various services of the War Department would have been necessary than was contained in this cable.

Throughout the heavy shipments abroad, it is apparent that the civilian members of the War Council, the Director of Purchase, Storage and Traffic, and the Chief of Ordnance (General Crozier),8 were fearful of the consequences, and that the Secretary of War and General March were optimistic and determined, Mr. Baker openly accepting the risks involved.

Nothing has been found specifically indicating why more men were not drafted in the late spring, unless it was the difficulty of securing sufficient woolen clothing. Major Phoenix, above referred to, stated that the Secretary himself, consistently opposed further increases in the draft, and without giving his reasons. Apropos of this, Major Phoenix furnished me a copy of a secret memorandum for the War Council, (hereto attached), prepared by him on May 9th, for the purpose of showing that unless more men were drafted there would be a serious shortage of infantry and machine gun units in the United States.

Members of the War Council continually expressed concern over the port and railroad situation in France. On one occasion General March reminded them that General Pershing was undoubtedly as alert to this situation as they were and would solve it. The members of the Council were also concerned with the nitrate situation, which was being pressed by Mr. Baruch.9 The amount of tonnage required for nitrate shipments was exceedingly large and more was constantly being demanded.

General Wood, Acting Quartermaster General,10 in a memorandum of June17th (attached), to the Chief of Staff, gives an interesting outline of the supply situation in view of the tremendous increase in drafts.

I am unable to form an opinion from consideration of the available records, as to whether or not the War Department would have been justified in drafting men more rapidly in April, May and June, but I am of the opinion that the Secretary’s advisors were unduly pessimistic in February and March, and prevailed upon him to adopt too conservative a course. However, this latter view probably does not sufficiently take into account the tremendous change in the shipping outlook and Allied supply prospects, created by the crisis of March 21st-April 3rd, (first German offensive).

When one considers the inevitable confusion incident to coordinating industries in the United States, training, shelter, and shipping, it is surprising that the demands from the A.E.F. were met to the extent they were, and any qualms the Secretary of War may have entertained over further increasing the draft, are not surprising, particularly since he and his Chief of Staff, apparently, were the only optimistic members of the War Council.

G. C. M.

Document Copy Text Source: National Archives Donated Materials Group, PRSHG, John J. Pershing Papers, Miscellaneous, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed memorandum signed.

1. Major General George W. Goethals (U.S.M.A., 1880), the man in charge of the construction of the Panama Canal, commanded the War Department’s Storage and Traffic (later Purchase, Storage and Traffic) Division between December 28, 1917, and March 1, 1919.

2. The War Council was created on December 20, 1917, as an instrument for improving coordination of the work of the various War Department supply bureaus. Theoretically only an advisory committee, the presence of the secretary of war, the assistant secretary, the army chief of staff, and the heads of the major War Department bureaus, gave the council great power to act. The council met nearly every day during the first half of 1918. On Wednesdays shipping matters were discussed, and the secretary of the navy, chairman of the War Industries Board, chairman of the Shipping Board, director-general of the Emergency Fleet Corporation, and the chairman of the War Trade Board attended or sent representatives. The council was dissolved July 8, 1918.

3. Major General Henry Jervey (U.S.M.A., 1888) was director of the War Department’s Operations Division between December 12, 1917, and August 31, 1921. Tasker H. Bliss was army chief of staff until May 20, 1918.

4. This table was in somewhat different form on the typed original.

5. Peyton C. March became army chief of staff on May 20, 1918.

6. None of the attachments were with the original in the file.

7. Spencer Phoenix was a drafting officer in the State Department’s Office of the Economic Advisor.

8. Major General William Crozier was chief of Ordnance, November 22, 1901, to July 15, 1918.

9. Bernard M. Baruch, a wealthy stockbroker, had been chairman of the War Industries Board.

10. Brigadier General Robert E. Wood (U.S.M.A., 1900) was acting quartermaster general from December 20, 1917, to February 12, 1919.

Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 1, “The Soldierly Spirit,” December 1880-June 1939 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), pp. 227-230.

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