National World War I Museum Symposium November 2018
John T. Kuehn
Apologies for this one being so late, we’ve been busy lately at the command and general staff college administering oral comprehensive boards to every one of our 1158 (or so) students. Each board required three faculty members (teaching faculty) and took about 90 minutes.
David Kennedy—Rallying America for war
Missed first part of the lecture, but Kennedy highlighted Wilson’s concerns over Americans rallying behind him for war.
Neutrality politicians say draft law and repressive laws were proof of his concern over lack of public support for the war. This causes Wilson to overreact in his policies vis-à-vis the war, an overreaction because of fear of lack of support rather than fear of the Germans.
Tenuousness of American support—repeatedly emphasized Americans “separateness” in the anti-German conflict. I.e. Pershing and Wilson’s insistence on non-amalgamation of US troops with allied units (except African-American troops).
Preparedness—economic mobilization—Council of National Defense, a toothless agency as far as its effectiveness in the Spring of 1917. Record of “unrelieved irrelevancy”.
Herbert Hoover was the exception in terms of effectiveness, for the agricultural side.
War Industries Board (WIB), emerged months after several months of war and only became effective when Bernhard Baruch took over in March 1918.
WIB. Highlights how tentatively US mobilized for the war.
Paramount needs for AEF was troops and equipment. Most equipment came from Allies in Europe NOT from US because the economic mobilization is so lethargic and tenuous.
Hurley and shipping board (1914), an opportunity to improve US economic situation.
Merchant shipping. Accusations flew between US and British. British merchant marine shrank during the war and Americans grew, by 60%. [my own research on General Board of the period emphasizes that US admirals were secretly happy over this development because they considered merchant marine a component of sea power and that British had had an unfair advantage in shipping for carrying trade.]
Kennedy said US used the German Navy to aid in its growth of Sea Power.
Volunteerism really drove the American war effort, the Wilson Administration tried to avoid using top down Federal fiat to exercise control over draft, economy, etc. Wilson’s war managers were guided by an ideology that saw the war was about autocracy versus democracy. Thus, the American ambivalence and tenuousness reflects that ideology. Herbert Hoover, “ Food administrations of Europe are …dictatorship…[ours] is an entirely different conception” ours relies on “volunteer”ism.
We had no authority but our approach worked, and it worked better than the Europeans (Creel*, not presented as a fact). Save meat, save food, conserve, Hoover tried to avoid rationing—deliberately, but with appeals to altruism. Massive publicity campaigns. American housewives should introduce wheat-less days and meatless days.
“Cooperation rather than coercion”
WIB and Baruch—formal powers were few. No legal authority to set prices or sign contracts, most potent instrument was Baruch’s personality. Subtle argument—the draft was the most coercive measure. Even that was wrapped in the language of “volunteerism”. Sec War Newton Baker and Crowder—day to day administration of 5000 civilian local draft boards. Keep military uniforms out of it. Avoided the overt exercise of statutory authority.
Anxiety in Wilson Administration. The real campaign was about culture:
Democracy vs Autocracy
Loyalty to America unalloyed
"Huns" were sub-humans that deserved no mercy.
“Yank the hyphen out of Americans” (eg. German-American)
The 4-minute men (at theaters and cinemas and public gatherings)
CPI (comm. Of public information) was the most effective organization.
WWI public lack of support led to indirect methods.
WWII pubic support led to more direct methods (rationing)
**No further information on this reference, perhaps an H-WAR reader could expound