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PiipM«« ftod p«hiuhad far AMOounov PUM by Jifea Ikttttta^n ft aam. LU,. MttkBiik, I 



An Account of the Work of 

the American Young Men's 

Christian Associations in 

the World War 

Editorial Board 



Managing Editor 

Associate Editors 




New York: 347 Madison Avenue 


3i . 5. a "5 

Copyright, 1922, by the 

International Committee of 

Young Men's Christian Associations 

Printed in the United States of America 

i . 

PART III (Continued) 
XXXIV. Education for National Service .... 1 

Personnel — Textbooks — Pre- Armistice Conditions — 
Transition — Post Schools — Divisional Educational 
Centers — French and British Universities — American 
University at Beaune — United Kingdom — Supplemen- 
tary Activities — Army Educational Corps. 

XXXV. Games for Fighters and Victors .... 26 

In the Fighting Period — The Post- Armistice Period — 
The A E F Championship Contests — The Inter-Allied 
Games — Athletics in Leave Areas and with Troops of 
Allied Nations — Significance of Athletics. 

XXXVI. Women's Work 55 

Women's Work in the Field. 

XXXVII. In the British Isles and Italy .... 67 

American Troops in Transit — Training Camps and 
Fixed Posts — In the Cities — Headquarters and Organ- 
ization — American Forces in Italy. 

XXXVIII. With the Services of Supply .... 93 

Base Sections — Intermediate Section. 

XXXIX. With the Combat Divisions 118 

Service in Training Areas — Periods of Combat. 

XL. The Leave Areas 142 

The Leave Problem — Life in the Leave Areas — The 
Rhine Areas — The Paris Division — Leave Area Per- 
sonnel — A New Feature of Army Life. 

XLI. With Returning Troops 163 

In the Billeting Areas — The Embarkation Center — 
Le Mans — At the Ports of Embarkation — Graves 
Registration Service — Another Adaptation. 



XLII. The Army of Occupation 179 

The March to the Rhine — Luxemburg — Germany — The 
American Forces in Germany. 

XLIII. Meanings and Values of Service .... 200 


XLIV. Behind the Barbed Wire 217 

The Life of the Prisoner of War — Barbed-Wire Disease 
— The Administration of Prison Camps — The Needs of 
the Prisoners. 

XLV. The Organization of the War Prisoners* Aid of 

Young Men's Christian Associations . . . 230 
Closed Doors — The Principles of Camp Service — ^Esti- 
mate of Success — The Story of the Prisoners. 

XLVI. Prisoners in Great Britain 244 

Organization and Cooperation — Civilian Prisoners — 
The Military Prison Camps — Prison Camp Activities 
— Changing Conditions. 

XLVII. The Working Prisoners of France . . . 258 

The Camps and Their Inhabitants — The Problems of 
Welfare Organization — Welfare Work Among the Ger- 
man Prisoners — The War Prisoners' Aid and the Fa- 
vored Prisoners — A Complex Service. 

XLVIII. Russia 270 

The Y Enters Russia— What the Y Faced— The Work 
of the Y — Disorganization and Reorganization. 

XLIX. Italy and the Balkan States .... 283 
Italy— The Balkans. 

L. Allied Prisoners in Germany 290 

The German Prison Camps — The Y Enters Germany — 
The Camps — After America's Entry in the War. 

LI. The Camps of Austria-Hungary .... 305 

Y M C A Organization in Austria-Hungary — Welfare 
Work— The Challenge. 


LII. The Last Act 314 

The Peace of Brest-Litovsk and Its Consequences — The 
Armistice and Its Consequences — The Last Stage — The 
Human Motive. 



LIII. The International Service of the American 

YMCA 331 

LIV. Les Foyers du Soldat 335 

The Development of the Foyers — The Extension of the 
Foyers — The Method and Influence of the Foyers — A Dis- 
tinctive Service. 

LV. With the Allies in France 359 

With the Armies of Portugal — With the Polish Autono- 
mous Army — With the Russian Legion — With the Chi- 
nese Labor Corps in France. 

LVI. Italy and the Balkans 369 

Italy — The Balkans — Roumania — Greece — Turkey and 
Asia Minor. 

LVII. In the Near and Middle East 393 

India — Mesopotamia — German East Africa — Egypt — 
Sudan — Gallipoli — Palestine. 

LVIII. Wartime Activities in Russia 419 

Welfare Work Before the Summer of 1917— Y Work in 
Garrison Cities and on the Fronts — From the Samara Con- 
ference to the Period of Allied Intervention — Period of 
Allied Intervention — Evacuation — Conclusion. 

LIX. Poland and Czechoslovakla 458 

LX. The Larger Horizon 476 

I. Executive Organization 487 

Conference on Army Work at Garden City, N. Y., April 10, 
1917 — President Wilson's Appreciation and Acceptance of 
Extended Association Service — Army and Navy Orders 
Authorizing Association War Work — National War Work 


II. Militarizing the Y M C A 498 

Militarizing Y M C A Personnel — Defining Duties of Red 
Cross and Y M C A — Military Uniforms f or Y M C A Work- 
ers — Assignment of Secretaries to Military Organizations 
— Military Rules Governing Travel of Welfare Workers — 
- Draft Difficulties and YMCA Personnel— Official Order 
Coordinating Work of All Organizations — Classification of 

III. Financing Welfare Work 507 

First YMCA War Fund Campaign, May, 1917— Second 
YMCA War Fund Campaign, November, 1917 — United 
War Work Campaign — Disposition of Post Exchange Sur- 
plus to American Legion — Audited Financial Statement for 
the Period Ended March 7, 1921. 

IV. Housing and Equipment 541 

YMCA Peace-Time Army and Navy Work, 1902 — Mexi- 
can Border Work, 1914 — Army and Navy Orders, 1917- 

V. General Supply Department and Post Exchange . 545 

Order Establishing Post Exchanges — Tonnage Require- 
ments, A E F-Y M C A — Warehousing — Tonnage Crisis — 
Automatic Tonnage — Difficulties in Distribution — Sale of 
Goods at Quartermaster's Prices — Sale of Gift Cigarets. 

VI. The Ministry of Religion 557 

Bible Study in Army Camps — Members of Religious Work 

VII. Education 561 

Educational Committee of the Commission on Training 
Camp Activities — Estimated Budget for Educational Work 
— Budget of the Army Educational Commission for the 
Year Nov. 1, 1918-Oct. 31, 1919— Educational Work in the 

VIII. Entertainment and Athletics 566 

IX. Leave Areas 571 

X. Morals and Military Efficiency .... 573 

XI. Prisoners OF War 576 


XII. Casualty List — Death Roll — Citations — Decora- 
tions 579 

Y M C A Casualty List— Death Roll as of Official Record- 
Wounded and Gassed — Citations and Decorations. 

XIII. The Taking Over of Welfare Work on Military and 
Naval Reservations by the War and Navy Depart- 
ments OF THE United States 601 

XIV. Dissolution of the National War Work Council . 622 

XV. Tributes to the War Work of the Young Men's 

Christian Associations Abroad and at Home . . 626 

Letter of the Commander-in-Chief A E F — General Persh- 
ing and the Young Men's Christian Association — Represen- 
tative Utterances. 

XVI. Bibliography 641 

Classified List of Books and Authorities Mentioned in 
These Volumes with Other Literature Related to Welfare 
Work and the Problems of Reconstruction Since the War — 
Education — History — Relief — Welfare — War — Miscella- 
neous Descriptive — Morals and Morale — Prisoners of War 
— Religion — Women's Work — Entertainment — Athletics. 

Index 647 



Map of European War Area 



Map of European and Asiatic Russia Showing 
Siberian Railroad and Y Service Points . 


Troops Sailing from American Ports and Landing 

IN France and England^ . . . . . .70 

XVI. Tabular Summary of Leave Areas Department . 154 

XVII. Map of France Showing Foyers du Soldat 


XVIII. Maps of Murmansk and Archangel Districts 

Showing Y M C A Service Points .... 436 

*From The War With Germany. A Statistical Summary. By Col. Leonard P. Ayret, Washinston, 
D. C. 1919. p. 42. 


Chapter XXXIV 

The Government's task of transforming five million citizens into 
soldiers through military training and drill, was a stupendous educa- 
tional enterprise, rigidly limited, however, to military science. With 
the arrival of American troops in France, this training reached its 
climax. This was neither the time nor place for developing any non- 
military activities; yet it became clear at once that certain kinds of 
knowledge, even though not strictly military in character, were valu- 
able assets to officer and soldier. Ability to talk to his new neighbors 
in their own tongue, some acquaintance with French history, tradi- 
tions, manners, and customs — these had distinct usefulness, and in- 
struction in them became of real military value. Although the Army 
Intelligence tests caught many of the illiterate and near-illiterate, yet 
many thousands of men in the first detachments to go to France were 
unable to read and write, to count, or even to tell time accurately. 
Such ignorance contained elements of danger as well as inefficiency. 

The Association recognized this situation and endeavored to help The 
it through its lecture and entertainment service; while individual situation"^ 
secretaries were, for the most part, alert to seize occasional oppor- 
tunities to impart instruction. These sporadic efforts were very far 
from measuring up to the magnitude of the need and the oppor- 
tunity that foresight could discern. There would come a time when 
men in far greater numbers would have many unoccupied hours, for 
which no more profitable use could be imagined than study. The^ 
unique relationship of the Y M C A to the Army indicated it as the 
organization properly responsible for this service and the system of 
huts, transport, and workers that it was building promised the requi- 
site physical foundation and machinery. 

Accordingly, on January 18, 1918, Dr. Anson Phelps Stokes, 
Secretary of Yale University and Chairman of the American Uni- 
versity Union, arrived in France under the auspices of the Y M C A 
to make a thorough survey and recommend an educational plan. After 
visiting all parts of the field, and consulting officers and men of all 
ranks, as well as European educators, he rendered a report in Febru- 

The Stok«8 


ary to the Chief Secretary, for his approval and transmission to the 

This report was in two parts. The first part contemplated edu- 
cational possibilities during the period of active fighting. There 
could be no question that, during this period, the only legitimate 
undertaking was that which would directly strengthen the soldier as 
a fighting man. Consequently Dr. Stokes placed special emphasis on 
the importance of instruction in the French language, in the history 
and causes of the war, and in similar subjects. He proposed the 
utilization of Y M C A huts as class-rooms, and of the organization 
of the Y M C A to furnish the teachers and needed supplies. Instruc- 
tion was limited to troops in training, rest, or hospital camps. At- 
tendance would be voluntary, and all details subject to the approval 
and support of the Army oflficers in command. 

The second part of Dr. Stokes' report anticipated the period 
when the active fighting would be over and the soldier would have a 
long period of waiting before his repatriation. In that period edu- 
cational work would not only furnish the soldier with an occupation 
which would help to maintain discipline and morale, but would also 
be of direct value to him upon his return to civil life. Post schools 
for units of five hundred men, giving common school courses for those 
whose education was especially deficient, industrial training and voca- 
tional work, even courses in French and British universities for col- 
lege and professional men were among the possibilities. 

These plans of Dr. Stokes were approved by the Commander-in- 
Chief in a telegram February 28, 1918, and by letter March 5, 1918. 
This letter, signed by Colonel Logan of the General Staff, in behalf of 
General Pershing, was in part as follows : 

"I am directed by the C.-in-C. to acknowledge receipt of the 
extremely interesting project prepared by Mr. Anson Phelps Stokes. 
The C.-in-C. is interested in this matter and is very much pleased with 
the comprehensive report which Mr. Stokes has submitted, in which 
he outlines the objects of this educational project. The C.-in-C. ap- 
proves the project in principle and has directed that proper facilities 
be given for this work throughout this command. As already tele- 
graphed, the only important change that will have to be made in the 
project will be by transferring the functions that he has assigned 
to the Educational Director of each Division to an agency of the 
Y M C A." 

' Consult Educational Plans for the American Army Abroad, Anson Phelps 
Stokes, New York, 1918. 


The project also met the most cordial support on the part of 
the leading authorities in education in France and America.^ 

Dr. Stokes proposed the establishment of the Y M C A Army organization 
Educational Commission of three to direct the work. Pending the 
appointment of this commission, Professor John Erskine of Colum- 
bia University became acting director in charge of the preliminary 
preparations. In August, Dr. Erskine was made chairman of the 
permanent commission and Dr. Frank E. Spaulding, Superintendent 
of Schools, Cleveland, Ohio, became the second commissioner. Soon 
after this. President Kenyon L. Butterfield of the Massachusetts Agri- 
cultural College at Amherst, Mass., was appointed third commissioner ; 
he arrived in France in December, 1918. Thus the planning and 
direction of the work was entrusted to specialists eminent respectively 
in the fields of university, common school, and vocational education. 

The field organization was to consist of regional and divisional 
superintendents. Under the immediate direction of the divisional 
superintendents, hut educational directors were to report educational 
needs and opportunities to their division superintendents, organize 
classes where possible, teach or secure teachers, and supervise all the 
work in their units. With the arrival of President Butterfield, the 
work of the commissioners was subdivided, Dr. Erskine taking charge 
of all academic and professional education. Dr. Spaulding being re- 
sponsible for the field staff and for the educational work below college 
grade, and President Butterfield for all vocational education — agri- 
cultural, commercial, trade, and technical. There was a special di- 
rector of the Department of Books and Periodicals. 

In addition to this organization in France, Professor George 
Strayer of Columbia University, President of the National Educa- 
tional Association, and Dr. James Sullivan, Director of the Division 
of Archives and History at the University of the State of New York, 
acted as representatives of the Commission in New York City. These 
men served as the connecting link between the educational work in 
France and the whole educational world of America. 

On October 31, 1918, the Army issued its first formal announce- J^j^.^^^j^^ 
ment of educational plans, in General Orders No. 192, to become 

' The Minister of Public Instruction, the Directeur de I'Office Nationale des 
Universites et ficoles Frangaises, and rectors of the universities gave their whole- 
hearted assurances of cordial cooperation. Educators throughout the United 
States recognized the unusual opportunity and many of them gave their time 
and energy without stint in the organization and the carrying out of educational 


effective January 1, 1919, which created an educational organization 
within the Army. This consisted of a school officer in each army, 
corps, division and regiment, who should be responsible for the organi- 
sation of classes, for the securing of classrooms and equipment, and 
for school discipline. 'Tost schools," it read, "will be controlled by 
post commanders as to discipline, attendance, sanitation, and, in 
the absence of volunteer civil agencies, instruction ; but such instruc- 
tion will conform to the approved system of the Y M C A Army Edu- 
cational Commission, and such schools will be subject to inspection and 
supervision as to methods, results and subjects of instruction by 
properly authorized agents of the Y M C A Educational Commission." 
In December, the Government sent to France Brigadier General 
Robert I. Rees, who had been Chairman of the War Department's 
Committee on Education and Special Training, and who had organized 
the Students' Army Training Corps throughout the colleges and uni- 
versities of the United States ; he was placed at the head of the new 
organization. Thereafter, the educational work was carried on by the 
cooperative action of the army educational officers and Army Educa- 
tional Commission of the Y M C A until April 15, 1919. By General 
Orders No. 9,^ January 14, 1919, the task of instruction was definitely 
assigned to the Army, in addition to full responsibility for administra- 
The Y M c A tiou. The function of the Y M C A Army Educational Commission was 

Army Educational 

Commission defined in general, as that of an advisory board to the 5th Section of 
the General Staff, with specific responsibility for the following duties : 
To furnish expert educational advisers and assistants; to develop 
methods of instruction, syllabi, course material and the procuring of 
text and reference books : to provide, so far as practicable, facilities 
for post schools in Y M C A huts. The expert advisers were to be 
assigned to duty with army, corps, division, and post school officers, 
and to act as teachers of method to detailed instructors, as super- 
visors and inspectors of instruction, advisers to school officers, and 
instructors so far as their other duties would permit. Attendance 
was to be voluntary, except for illiterates and foreign speaking sol- 
diers who could not read or write English. This division of authority 
and responsibility, whereby the teaching staff was relieved of all 
administrative, disciplinary, and constructive details, and was set 
free to devote its entire time and attention to instruction, was a 
unique experiment in education. The success attained bears witness 

* Appendix VII, p. 564. 


to the almost universal presence of tact and sympathetic cooperation 
in the dual administration. 

In February, 1919, General Orders No. 30^ authorized still D>v«ionai schools 
further elements of the Stokes plan. It called attention emphatically cooperation' 
to the importance of national education. In addition to post schools, 
divisional schools were to be established to teach subjects of high 
school grade, and fourteen trades were specified to be taught in each 
divisional center. Courses were to be arranged for five hours a day, 
five days a week for three months, and students were to be relieved of 
other duties except one hour of military training daily. Still more 
noteworthy, the arrangements that the Y M C A had perfected with 
French and British universities were approved, and the detachment 
of selected soldiers, with commutation of quarters and rations, was 
commanded in order to permit them to take up advanced studies in 
those institutions. Finally, to provide for several thousands more 
than could be served in this way, authority was given for the estab- 
lishment of an A E F university. Thus every feature of the plan 
submitted by Professor Stokes a year earlier was put into effect. 
The burden of this educational enterprise as finally established be- 
came entirely too great for any civilian organization to carry .- 

From the very beginning the possibility of ultimate army con- Army 


trol had been present in the minds of the farsighted leaders who de- 
vised and promoted the scheme. Dr. Stokes, in the introduction to 
his report as published in October, 1918, said: 

"It probably will assume such large proportions when demobili- 
zation begins that government cooperation, and perhaps direct gov- 
ernment control and responsibility, will ultimately be necessary," 

Ten days after the Armistice, the Executive Committee of the 
War Work Council adopted a resolution requesting the General Sec- 
retary to communicate to the Secretary of War the Council's desire 
to be of the utmost service during the difficult period of demobiliza- 
tion, with the following explicit statement as to educational work : 

"It is especially desirous that the services of the Y M C A Army 
Educational Commission formally authorized by General Pershing, 
together with its machinery, personnel, and equipment, should be 
made such use of in the interest of education as the military authori- 

' Appendix VII, pp. 564, 565. 

' Educational Plans for the American Army Abroad, Anson Phelps Stokes, 
Secretary of Yale University, New York, 1918, p. 4. 


ties may think best. This committee will be glad to be informed as 
soon as practicable whether the original plan is to be followed by 
which this Educational Commission will continue under the War 
Work Council of the Y M C A as the main agency for providing edu- 
cational facilities in the A E F, or whether the Government wishes to 
take over entirely the work of the Commission, or whether it wishes 
to develop some modified plan of cooperation. In any case the Sec- 
retary of War is assured that the Association will be glad to follow 
the Government's wishes as to the part it should play in helping to 
develop adequate educational facilities for the American troops 

Pending an official decision on the matter, the Council appropri- 
ated $200,000 a month for a period of six months from February 1, 
1919, for educational work with the A E F. 
Transfer With the arrival of General Rees, with the adoption of the full 

to the Armr 

educational program of the Y M C A Army Educational Commission 
by the Army authorities, with the establishment of compulsory attend- 
ance throughout the Army for illiterates and near-illiterates, and with 
the appointment of thousands of school officers and teachers from the 
Army itself, the Y M C A Educational Commission believed that the 
time had come when the work should be wholly administered by the 
Army. On March 3d they recommended to the Y M C A Chief Secre- 
tary, that the transfer be made. After several weeks of negotiation, 
on April 8, 1919, General Orders No. 62^ appeared, the second section 
of which mobilized the Y M C A Educational Commission as the 
"Army Educational Corps in the American Expeditionary Forces." 
This order served to make authoritative and in some details more 
complete the transition which had been working out in practice for 
several months. The Y M C A had been responsible for the initiation 
of the movement, and for the support of the preliminary program. 
It had realized that unless supplies in the way of books and materials 
were prepared, secured, and on the spot when needed, and unless the 
administrative machinery was set up and ready to operate when the 
need came, they would not be there at all when they were wanted. It 
had appropriated the sum of $2,000,000 for the purchase of textbooks 
and supplies, and had spurred on their manufacture and transporta- 
tion so that an immense stock was already in France. It had formu- 
lated in great detail the plans which were put into effect when the 
opportunity came, and had recruited educational experts. All this 

* See Appendix VII, pp. 564, 565. 


had been done with clear prevision that the period of demobihzation 
would bring an immense need of educational service, and that every- 
thing must be ready for instant action when the moment should 
come. With the realization of this anticipation, the Army had inevi- 
tably become more involved in the work. During the winter of 1918- 
1919, it furnished an increasing proportion of class room facilities, 
equipment, and transportation. It had reconstructed and equipped 
the hospital at Beaune to serve as an A E F university. It had fur- 
nished the staff of teachers who could have been secured in no other 
way. Thus the Educational Commission, with its staff, was so in- 
extricably mingled or merged into the enterprise that continuation 
without them was unthinkable. In absorbing the personnel of the 
Commission into the Army, the final stamp of approval was given to 
the service which had been rendered. 

In a letter to the Chief Secretary, dated March 25th, General official 

'' ' ' Appreciation 

Pershing said: 

"It is desired, in conclusion, to express the highest appreciation 
of the work of the Y M C A through its Educational Commission in 
organizing the educational work at a time when it was impracticable 
for the Army to do so, and for the continued assistance up to the 
present time in the wise development of the educational system in 
the A E F. The large number of well qualified educators brought to 
France by the Y M C A during the past year will be of inestimable 
value to the Army in its educational work, and this contribution is 
especially appreciated." 

In a final acknowledgment of the transfer. Secretary of War 
Baker wrote to Mr. William Sloane, Chairman of the National War 
Work Council, as follows : 

"In accepting this transfer on behalf of the Army, we wish to 
thank the Y M C A for the admirable work which it did in initiat- 
ing and carrying on this educational work at a time when, because of 
the pressure of the all-engrossing business of actual fighting, it would 
have been difficult for the Army to have undertaken it. 

"I have been familiar in a general way with the origination of the 
idea for an educational program for the A E F in the mind of Dr. 
Anson Phelps Stokes ; of the selection of Professor Erskine, President 
Butterfield, and Superintendent Spaulding, Dr. Sullivan, and Mr. 
Fairley for the corresponding duties on this side, and I understand 
from my associates that because of their accomplishments it is now a 
comparatively easy task for the Army to carry on the work which they 


When the Y M C A transferred its textbooks, surrendered its 
staff and materials, and resigned to the Army this branch of its wel- 
fare work, a great educational machine was ready and working. 


The Call for Educational work began in the spring of 1918 with a total staff 

se«eteries of Only fourtcen men, a library force of three, and a headquarters 

staff of three, including the Educational Director. With the coming 
of July, the staff at work consisted of nineteen educational directors, 
in charge of not more than 285 hut secretaries who had had prac- 
tical educational experience. Of these not more than 100 were giv- 
ing their full time to the educational work. Plans were then far 
enough advanced, and registration in classes so large as to warrant 
a call for the special recruiting of educational secretaries, and on 
July 1st, Dr. Erskine cabled to America for one educational secretary 
for each hut — 1,000 in all — for 75 supervisors, and eight regional 
directors. At once recruiting was begun. Since the need then and 
later was primarily for administrators and supervisors, all efforts 
were concentrated on securing men with wide executive and admin- 
istrative experience in school affairs. The responses were prompt and 
enthusiastic, but the usual personal and official difficulties created 
many delays. 

After the Armistice, when educators in the Army itself could be 
freed from military duties, the War Department advised the cessa- 
tion of recruiting. The sending of personnel for the general educa- 
tional work continued, however, until April 10, 1919, for lecturers on 
citizenship until April 30, 1919. By this time the Association had re- 
cruited and sent to France nearly 600 educational organizers and 
supervisors of the highest standing. In spite of the best efforts of all 
concerned, however, there was never a time when the staff on the 
ground was not wofully insufficient for the huge task. 

Even though the full numbers requested by the Commission could 
not be supplied, those who were sent composed that necessary nucleus 
of experts around which the entire scheme was built. 


Textbooks, of course, constituted a fundamental necessity of 
educational work. Books from England were unsuitable. English 
arithmetics and commercial books, for example, were written in 
terms of pounds, shillings, and pence. Pre-war supplies, even of 


books that could be used, were practically exhausted owing to previous 
demands of the British, Canadian, and Australian Y M C A. Gov- 
ernment restrictions in the use of paper prevented the reprinting of 
exhausted editions. Until after the Armistice, tonnage restrictions 
prevented book shipments from America. Recognizing that the great 
need would arise after the Armistice, the Commission made careful 

As early as September, 1918, a list of necessary textbooks had f^"'=^«^°ai 
been prepared. The War Department advised planning for the needs 
of 2,000,000 men. On October 24th, the Finance Committee in New 
York authorized the expenditure of $2,000,000 for textbooks and 
educational supplies, apportioned tentatively as follows: for maps, 
blackboards, mechanical drawing materials, etc., $100,000; for sta- 
tionery and supplies, $200,000; for textbooks, 950,000 copies, $750,- 
000 ; for reference books, $880,000 ; for correspondence courses, $70,- 
000. These allotments were greatly modified by later developments. 
The American Library Association undertook responsibility for ref- 
erence books up to a maximum expenditure of $1,000,000.^ 

The markets of the country were unprepared to fill such orders. 
Publishers undertook the manufacture of special inexpensive editions 
and, with the sudden coming of the Armistice, bent every effort on 
speedy production and delivery. In spite of an interruption, caused 
by uncertainty immediately after the Armistice as to plans for re- 
patriating the A E F, more than 1,500,000 books had been shipped 
from New York before the end of February, 1919, four months from 
the time the purchase was authorized. 

In view of the difficulties in transportation the Association was 
experiencing in France, it was agreed that the Army should take 
over the textbooks from the Y M C A and distribute them. The 
Y M C A contributed to the Army the textbooks then in use throughout 
France, and transferred at cost the books then en route. At this time, 
also the American Library Association undertook such parts of the 
task as could be administered best by them. 

Pre-Armistice Conditions 

When the staff on the field began educational work they found, 
of course, that the conditions of active service made it impossible to 

' Some conception of the size of the order may be gained from the fact 
that 195,900 books on agriculture, 169,822 on engineering, 128,800 on economics, 
and 106,900 on education were requisitioned. Half a million pamphlets were 





carry out systematic plans. Moreover, transportation facilities and 
available tonnage were so inadequate that even the canteen could 
not get its necessary supplies. Such educational materials as were 
needed had to be secured either on the spot or improvised. The limited 
amount that could be brought over by arriving secretaries, in connec- 
tion with their personal baggage, did not go far with an army. Yet, 
whenever the secretaries in the field could, they gave lectures to the 
soldiers, established classes, and gave instruction. It was a surprise 
to all to discover how unexpectedly large a proportion of the soldiers 
were eager to learn and willing to use their scant leisure in study 
rather than play. Beginning with occasional lectures, the educational 
work developed rapidly wherever the secretaries in charge were en- 
thusiastic in the cause. 

The significance and results of the educational work are not 
nearly so obvious as those that had to do either with the canteen ser- 
vice or athletics. Many secretaries, especially when under extra- 
ordinary pressure, were often uninterested in, and sometimes seriously 
objected to, the establishment and development of an educational 
program. Divisional secretaries overwhelmed by imperative and 
insistent demands for increased canteen service sometimes com- 
mandeered the educational secretaries in their department as helpers. 
Sometimes special educational secretaries themselves, enticed by other 
apparently more important phases of the Y work, transferred to 
these departments. As time passed, the plans and possibilities became 
more definitely outlined, and the territory to be covered clearly dis- 
tricted ; and on July 1, 1918, the acting director issued the call for an 
adequate staff as already described. 

With the development of the Army Educational Commission and 
its staff, there was built up within the Y M C A a subordinate organ- 
ization, functioning practically as an autonomous unit in itself. That 
the educational directors and secretaries were responsible directly to 
the Commission and only indirectly to the Y as a whole, was the cause 
of occasional friction where this double relationship was not fully 

Yet, in spite of these and other troubles, the work developed in a 
most encouraging fashion. By February 10, 1919, in one division, 
scattered throughout 57 different villages, classes were organized in 
every one. The soldiers displayed a great interest in French. Text 
books were lacking and instructors were few. Early in 1918 the 
Ministry of Public Instruction selected Eugene Gourio of the Lycee 


Buffon to prepare a special text book for the French classes in the 
Army, and in some cases delegated French teachers from the schools 
to give the instruction and to supervise the teaching. This work 
increased so rapidly that in the report of progress issued by the Army 
Educational Commission, October 1, 1918, it was stated that more 
than 200,000 were then studying French in regular classes, meeting 
once, twice, or three times a week, under French and American 
teachers. By this time hundreds of French teachers who had been 
secured locally were being employed, receiving from five to eight 
francs a night for teaching each class an hour. 

A close rival to French in popularity was instruction in English. Keating and 
Thousands of illiterates and foreign born soldiers who could not read 
or write English wanted to write letters home. In one of the ports 25 
per cent of the negro troops could neither read nor write. In another 
camp the illiterates numbered 30 per cent. Classes in English were 
formed, meeting whenever military duties permitted, usually for half- 
hour classes in the evenings. In one camp in the course of six weeks' 
instruction, 100 men were taught to read and write. These men 
were working at least eight hours a day ; yet such was their interest 
and zest for this instruction that they were voluntarily giving up their 
free time for study. Nothing could equal their pride when they were 
able to sign the payroll for the first time, and later on when they 
could actually write letters home. 

Historical lectures proved very popular. The soldiers seemed French 
eager to know something of the outstanding figures of French history. 
Wherever possible these lectures were accompanied or followed by 
lantern slides illustrative of the talk; sometimes they were combined 
with trips to the spots in the neighborhood which were the scenes of 
great events. Such lectures were always well received; and in the 
development of this work thousands of slides were sent to different 
centers on every conceivable subject of educational character, selected 
to illustrate the historical, social, or industrial life of the country. 

The soldiers had, by reason of their military life, a very I'sal G«>^Braphy^nd 
interest in the railways, waterways, natural resources, and topography 
of France. Maps which presented these features in clear outline were 
eagerly sought and studied. As in the home camps, in every hut 
where there was a map, the soldiers gathered around it, tracing out 
the battle line, or studying the topography of the section. They were 
discovering in this way the military importance of mountains, valleys, 
and rivers. This very practical interest in local situations stimulated 





a real interest in economic geography, and lectures of high quality on 
this subject never failed of an audience. Mathematics was another 
popular subject. The lack of a sufficient number of text books was a 
great handicap, but by October, 75,000 men were enrolled in regular 
classes in spite of inadequate equipment. 

Where no classes could be formed, where no lecturer spoke, where 
even entertainers seldom appeared, a good book or magazine was a 
precious find. Standard library units holding about 35 volumes were 
sent out to the fighting divisions; even small cases holding seventeen 
volumes were designed for the soldiers in the trenches. The coopera- 
tion of the American Library Association made it possible to develop 
this library service. Any soldier anywhere could write to Paris asking 
for any book ; it was sent him free, at once, if humanly possible, on a 
loan for a month. This library service was not only an indispensable 
aid to the educational work, but in only too many cases it was the 
educational work itself. During June, 1918, books and magazines 
sent out to the soldiers by this library service totaled 2,216,213, be- 
sides 300,000 newspapers; in October the total, inclusive of news- 
papers, reached 4,179,112. 


The unexpected signing of the Armistice on November 11th 
brought upon the Educational Commission a readjustment for which 
it was far from ready. Plans submitted for approval even in mid- 
October contemplated the continuation of hostilities up to mid-summer 
of 1919. Now, action and performance had to replace preparation, for 
with the sudden cessation of hostilities, the pressure to supply the 
educational needs of the Army increased tremendously. The tempo- 
rary cancellation of the text book order, transportation troubles both 
on sea and land, inadequacy of equipment, shortage of personnel, were 
very serious handicaps to the prompt and effective establishment of 
the new type of work. 

Nor were the difficulties to be overcome all of this material charac- 
ter. The minds of the soldiers themselves were now filled with the 
idea of getting home to the exclusion of almost every other interest. 
Only slowly did they come to realize that months, instead of days, must 
elapse before all could be returned. Men were reluctant to enter upon 
any educational program that seemed, at best, short-lived. As the 
days passed and the situation became better understood and the work 
of the Educational Commission better known, this attitude changed. 


The opportunities for helpful training were brought to the at- ^"p^^^^^ij"" 
tention of the men in various ways. Posters in the huts and dis- '^"J"'"^ 
play advertisements in the Stars and Stripes and other army publi- 
cations brought home to them in effective fashion the importance of 
preparation for their return to civil life. The theme was always the 
need at home for men who were trained. The response on the part 
of the men was gratifying ; it did not take much persuasion to induce 
them to equip themselves for better positions and a fuller pay envelope 
back home. Yet at the same time that vocational training was being 
emphasized in this way, the problems of citizenship were equally 
stressed ; for there was full realization of the fundamental purpose of 
this period of training, as stated by General Pershing himself in Gen- 
eral Orders No. 30 : 

"The Commander-in-Chief invites the attention of organization 
commanders and of all officers in the American Expeditionary Forces 
to the importance of national education. This citizen army must 
return to the United States prepared to take an active and intelligent 
part in the future progress of our country. Educational and occupa- 
tional training should therefore be provided to meet the needs of the 
members of the A E F in order that they may become better equipped 
for their future responsibilities." 

The army school officers, without whom the work could not be 
officially established in the camps, were appointed promptly in most 
cases; where this did not happen, due to a failure to appreciate the 
importance of the educational orders, or where these officers when 
appointed were not in full sympathy with the plans, the work was slow 
in getting started. When once the post and division schools were 
begun, with the full support of the army authorities, the progress of 
the work was much more rapid. 

Post Schools 

General Orders No. 192, in effect January 1, 1919, authorized the 
establishment of the educational system of the A E F-Y MCA 
throughout the Army. Among other things these orders provided for 
the establishment of "Post Schools" in all posts, cantonments, hospi- 
tals, or rest camps, or areas which had a constant population of 500 
or more soldiers. Attendance was voluntary, except for illiterates and 
non-English speaking soldiers, who were obliged to attend. It was 
natural that the first schools to be started were for illiterates, where 
the work was definitely prescribed. For all other soldiers the plan 


had to be extremely flexible, capable of adaptation to all sorts of con- 
ditions. The subjects were those of a common school curriculum, 
modern languages, history of the United States and of other modern 
nations, civics and citizenship, and such other additional subjects as 
might be authorized by General Headquarters. So far as possible, 
the wishes of the men were met by the establishment of special work. 
In all 133 different subjects were taught in the schools, ranging in 
scope from reading, writing, and arithmetic, to psychology, baking, 
advertising, and locomotive engineering. The purpose was not to 
offer a ready-made educational program to the soldiers, but rather 
to construct one to order. The primary requirement was that it 
should first of all meet the needs of the soldiers. The man himself 
was asked what he wanted to study. When a sufficient number agreed 
on a subject to warrant the formation of a class, an instructor was 
sought, classroom and equipment secured, and the work begun. 
Terms of The initial enrollment was voluntary, but students who began 

any course of instruction in a post school were required to complete 
the course, and could not drop out at will. Should the military unit to 
which they belonged be ordered back to the United States, however, 
they were to be permitted to go with it. Until this was made clear 
there was great reluctance to enroll, through the fear that such en- 
rollment would delay the longed-for return home. 

The classes were started in all sorts of quarters with such make- 
shift equipment as could be secured in the confusion. At first the 
work was carried on in the evening, after the duties of the day were 
ended, since one of the requirements of this work was that it should 
not interfere in any respect with military requirements. After the 
schools were well started men were frequently released from military 
drill for two or three hours per day, for study or class work. In 
the Army of Occupation, an order was issued specifically setting aside 
two hours in the afternoon for school work, and prescribing that 
soldiers regularly enrolled in post schools could not be taken from their 
studies at this time. 

Practically all the teachers used were secured from the Army it- 
self. An exhaustive list of officers and men with the necessary edu- 
cation and experience had been made, and from this list a selection 
was made of those who might be detailed to act as instructors. One 
of the most difficult tasks was to discover those who were competent. 
Some of them had had previous experience in teaching ; many of them 
had not. This made the problem of teacher-training an especially im- 


portant one, and ultimately teams of supervisors were appointed from 
the Army Educational Corps whose duty it was to work constantly in 
all parts of the A E F, observing the teaching, holding individual and 
group conferences with the teachers, arranging formal institute pro- 
grams, and preparing helpful syllabi and bulletins from time to time, 
in order to improve the kind and quality of the instruction. In order 
to assist in this, men detailed as teachers were often released either 
wholly or in part from other duties so as to allow them to prepare 
lessons as well as to teach. 

The size of the schools depended directly upon the local billeting 
situation. Where large numbers of men were quartered in a small 
area, as in a city or large camp, the schools had a large member- 
ship. The post school in Hoehr, Germany, reported an enrollment of 
741 for the month of February, and the school for colored troops at 
Camp St. Sulpice reported a maximum enrollment of 1,301. 

Most of the post schools were small. In the First Army area. Attendance 
of a total of 560 schools less than half had as many as 60 members, 
and 73 had less than twenty. Even so, the enrollment for the month 
of maximum attendance reached the amazing total of more than 
182,000. In the Advance Section SOS alone, in spite of its task 
of maintaining the long lines of communication to the Rhine, and the 
necessity of doing all educational work at night, by candle light, after 
a hard day, the enrollment during the month of March was 12,350. 
From January to June 1st, the total number of students reached in 
this section was 22,300; the teachers numbered 1,425 and gave in- 
struction in 215 schools. 

Divisional Educational Centers 

The curriculum in the post schools was arranged so far as possible 
to meet the wishes of the men. Frequently, however, there were re- 
quests from a few students for courses of a technical or advanced 
character. For such courses and for such students, the divisional 
educational centers were established. This did not necessarily mean a 
school for an army division, as might be expected. It meant rather 
central schools in given areas, as many and as scattered as conditions 
might demand. Here men who could be spared came from all over the 
district, to take special courses. Instruction was afforded in certain 
trades, selected primarily on the basis of the army equipment that was 
available, such as baking, telegraphy, carpentry, horseshoeing, survey- 
ing, tailoring — anything the men wished to learn. 





In the trade schools the men were trained in connection with the 
army shops. In groups of one to five they were assigned to expert 
workmen as instructors, with an expert non-commissioned officer 
in charge of several groups. They worked seven or eight hours a 
day, learning as they worked. At Decize 3,500 men were taught in 
this way to operate and make light repairs on motor cars and motor- 
cycles. In some camps part time was spent in the classroom study- 
ing such related subjects as shop arithmetic, applied mechanics, or 
mechanical drawing. The value of such practical training as this 
was immediately obvious. At Romorantin there was an increase in 
production after the system was put into successful operation of 
from ten to twenty per cent. More than 27,000 soldier-students 
were enrolled in the various divisional educational centers through- 
out the Army; and the work at many of these centers was at its 
best when the army school system was dissolved in June. 

French and British Universities 

From the very beginning this educational enterprise had re- 
ceived the hearty approval and enthusiastic support of the educa- 
tional leaders in England and in France. The cordial cooperation 
of the French educators, culminated in an official invitation to the 
U. S. War Department to make the fullest use possible of the French 
educational institutions. With the coming of the demobilization 
period, it became possible to accept this invitation, and to send selected 
officers and men from the Army to the universities of France. The 
universities of the United Kingdom extended a similar invitation. 
Tentative arrangements were made by the Y M C A long before the 
Army was ready to send students. A preliminary survey showed that 
the French universities would be able to accommodate at least 6,000, 
and the British 2,000 more. 

The French universities offered courses in letters, science, law, 
and medicine. The British universities did not specify particular 
fields of study, but left the election open to the student. While most 
of those who went to Great Britain entered courses similar to those in 
the French universities, theology, technology, and agriculture also 
drew their quota of followers. 

It became clear that the soldier's pay during his furlough would 
not enable him to live properly at the universities and that three 
months would be hardly enough time for him to become accustomed to 
the new environment and to profit fully from his opportunity. So 


it was arranged that the officers and soldiers chosen would be "ordered 
to detached service" for this work, and that the soldiers would re- 
ceive commutation of subsistence at two dollars per day and reim- 
bursement for actual cost of room rent not to exceed one dollar per 
day. The student was obliged to pay a fee for the courses he chose, 
amounting to not over 250 francs. Special extra fees (laboratory), 
if required at all, were not to exceed a maximum of 100 francs addi- 
tional. These arrangements were announced to the Army by a tele- 
gram from General Headquarters to the commanding officers of each 
division and of the S S on February 8, 1919. 

All applicants for this detached service were required to be col- 
lege graduates or to have had a minimum of two years of college work 
or its equivalent. For those who were to attend the universities in 
France, some knowledge of French was imperative. In order to 
assist those whose mastery of the language was still imperfect, courses 
in the French language were established at each university. 

The term was to correspond with the regular university schedule, 
continuing from March 1st to June 30th. Students who chose this uni- 
versity work were required to remain in residence and complete 
the term, even though their units might have been ordered home 
before the end of June. 

Many more applications were received than could possibly be 
accommodated, so a quota was selected from each division, and 
ordered to report to specific universities. For each university a 
military commander was appointed, by preference one who was a 
university man himself. 

The officers and soldiers who were sent to the 49 British uni- g'„'f;^e^g,tieg 
versities which opened their doors to the American visitors were less 
fortunate in some respects, since they were able to take advantage 
of only the short summer term. Although special arrangements were 
made for the American soldiers there was less chance for regular 
university study. In other respects, the students in Great Britain 
met with the same cordial reception and warm welcome as their fel- 
lows in France. They came away at the end of the term cherishing 
the most delightful memories of their visit and of the kindness of their 

American University at Beaune 

The applications for entrance to the French and British universi- 
ties were far in excess of the accommodations, even though at least 





two years of collegiate work was a requisite to admission. To accom- 
modate this overflow, and to offer an opportunity to those who had 
had less than the necessary two years preliminary preparation, an 
American University was proposed to be conducted along American 
lines, and staffed entirely with American instructors. As soon as 
this plan was authorized, search was begun for the most suitable 

At Beaune, a beautiful little city in Cote d'Or, there was a great 
base hospital camp, about two miles square, containing more than 
200 buildings. This camp was chosen to be the site of the American 
University. At Allerey, ten miles away, another hospital camp, in 
the midst of six hundred acres of farm land, afforded an opportunity 
for easy transformation into a College of Agriculture, to be carried 
on in connection with the University. In a month's time, after the 
choice was made, the hospital buildings were remodeled, adapted to 
educational purposes, 175 new ones constructed, the workshops of the 
hospital transformed into laboratories for engineering and technical 
instruction, an administrative staff organized, and teachers secured. 
On February 7th, General Rees appointed Colonel Ira L. Reeves, 
former President of Norwich University, to be the local representa- 
tive of the General Staff, Section 5, and made him Superintendent 
and Commanding Officer of the University, afterwards President. As 
the local Army Executive Officer, he was in charge of the military ad- 
ministration, and his special function was to establish and main- 
tain the fullest possible coordination between it and the educational 
program. His previous educational experience and natural interest 
in the work made him a most sympathetic collaborator; and the 
American University became a remarkable illustration of most suc- 
cessful cooperation in dual administration. 

The University was administered by a "University Council," con- 
sisting of Colonel Reeves as President, Dr. Erskine as Educational 
Director, the other members of the Army Educational Commission 
ex-officio, the directors of the various colleges and of the citizenship 
course, and the registrar. This Council was charged with all matters 
concerning curriculum, schedule, and personnel, with the power to 
recommend action to the President. Each department in turn ad- 
ministered its own affairs, recommending to the University Council 
through its director. 

A survey of the Army showed that among the officers alone there 
were 2,600 who had been college professors or were equipped to give 


instruction in college subjects. With such a supply to draw from, 
it was not difficult to secure a faculty to teach practically every subject p^^^j^y 
offered in an American university. Naturally, it took some time to 
complete laboratories, secure equipment, get books and establish 
smooth running conditions. Students began to arrive on March 7th, 
1919. It was not long before 6,000 of them were working here on 
a wide range of subjects, with adequate materials, and under efficient 
instructors. These students were sent to Beaune on "detached ser- 
vice," whereby they received their full pay while attending courses. 
One of the factors that made the University attractive to the men and 
yet introduced difficulties in the administration, was the fact that 
both instructors and students were allowed to be returned with their 
outfits when their turn came for embarkation, even if this compelled 
them to leave in the middle of a term. On account of the eagerness 
on the part of the men to get home at the earliest possible moment, 
there had been considerable reluctance to apply for admission to the 
University until this option to go or stay was made definite. The 
occasional departure of groups of students or instructors had a dis- 
organizing effect on some classes ; but at the end of the three months' 
session, the University was running with unexpected smoothness and 
accomplishing its work in very effective fashion. When the Uni- 
versity was in full action at mid-term, it was offering 240 courses in 
its 36 departments to a total class enrollment aggregating 13,243.^ 

One of the especially interesting branches of the work at the JJ^^jj^J^^^g 
University was that in the college of fine and applied arts. It was 
not supposed at first that much interest would be shown in an art 
school for soldiers; but application for courses in the fine arts, 
throughout the Army, totaled well over 3,000, without advertising 

' The scope of the educational work in general is indicated by the complete- 
ness of the list of subordinate colleges in the University at Beaune. These were 
thirteen in all, designated as the colleges of agriculture, fine and applied arts, 
business, cadets (West Point courses), correspondence, education, engineering 
and industry and trades, journalism, law, letters, medicine, music, and science. 
Of these the college of business was much the most popular, with an enrollment 
exceeding 2,000 more than twice that of any other. Regular courses were carried 
on during five days in the week. On Saturday morning there was a course in 
citizenship, for all the University students, at which attendance was required. 
Saturday afternoons were free, affording opportunity for many delightful rambles 
in the beautiful countryside of the Cote d'Or, or for excursions to places of 
interest in the neighborhood. 

The University was of valuable service to the system of post schools and 
divisional centers throughout the Army; for many of the men chosen to teach 
in these schools were sent to Beaune for a two weeks' intensive normal training 
course, planned to coach them in the best methods of school work. 


or special solicitation. In connection with the college at the Ameri- 
can University, a special art training center was established at Belle- 
vue, between Paris and Versailles. Here courses were given in paint- 
ing, architecture, sculpture, landscape design, city planning, indus- 
trial and commercial art design, and architectural engineering. No 
more admirable location for such a school could have been found. 
Through the courtesy and generous cooperation of the French, the 
ateliers of Laloux and of Jaussely, and the Academic Julian, were 
thrown open to the American students, and famous masters of paint- 
ing and sculpture gave freely of their time to criticise and direct the 

As a result of the work at Bellevue, and in the art school at 
Beaune, there was an extraordinary interest taken by the soldiers in 
fine and applied arts. The American University and the art school at 
Bellevue, together with the other opportunities in Paris and neighbor- 
hood, gave instruction and training to more than 1,300 art students, 
in addition to those who received less systematic training in the many 
camps where local educational directors organized and conducted 
special art classes independent of and unconnected with this central 

United Kingdom 
A Triple The general educational work of the Y M C A with the Army in 

Service , 

the United Kingdom was carried on by means of three principal 
agencies, the Library Service, the Lecture Service, and the Instruc- 
tion Service. Up to the time of the Armistice, while the troops were 
moving, textbooks were scarce and classrooms lacking; the first 
two of these agencies practically monopolized the field. 

During its first year in the United Kingdom, the Library Ser- 
vice distributed more than 478,000 books, magazines, pamphlets, and 
maps to the troops. Lectures were always popular. Even during 
this period class work was carried on wherever possible in a wide 
variety of subjects. 

When the general educational program was approved by the Army 
and began to receive its active support early in 1919, the most im- 
portant service of the Educational Department of the United Kingdom 
was the problem of placing the 2,000 soldier students who were to 
come from France to study in the various British universities. In 
this task the Y M C A placed its entire resources at the disposal of the 
Army Educational Corps. 


Preliminary arrangements with the universities were completed 
by the time of the arrival of the first students at Knotty Ash Camp, 
Liverpool, in March, 1919. Meetings were held at which attention 
was called to the special opportunities at each university, followed 
by individual conferences in which further information and advice 
could be given. After these meetings the assignments of the students 
were quickly made, and they were sent out to the universities where 
they were to study. 

When the universities found it almost impossible to house this 
sudden influx of students, the Leave Department of the Y M C A 
found lodgings for them. When they organized their college sports 
in American fashion, the Y M C A supplied them with athletic equip- 
ment. When during vacation periods, or in their free time, the stu- 
dents planned tours or excursions, Y secretaries acted as guides and 
lecturers. In various other ways the Y M C A helped to make the 
stay of these young Americans in England both pleasant and profit- 

Supplementary Activities 

From the beginning, it was recognized that the lecture would be ^^^^^'°'' 
one of the very best methods of education under the unique circum- 
stances. The troops were frequently in motion, the courses had to be 
short; continuous class work was impracticable; but a lecture was 
always possible. The educational work overseas began with one man 
giving part of his time to lecturing. When the work closed June 3, 
1919, there were 157 field lecturers in this single branch of educa- 
tion. This number, too, includes only those who were specifically 
with the Army Educational Corps, and does not include the large 
number of other secretaries, who, as opportunity offered, in addition 
to their regular duties, gave talks and lectures to the soldiers on a 
variety of topics. 

The lectures covered a wide range of subjects. Talks on pres- 
ent-day political and social problems were always well received. The 
history and art of France furnished a wealth of material with illustra- 
tions always ready to hand. One of the most successful branches of 
the lecture service was that on occupational direction. A team of 
speakers met the men in formal public gatherings, to talk on the 
general problems of employment ; in groups by trades or professions, 
to discuss the problems of the group ; and individually, for consulta- 
tion on their personal problems. 


Lecturers on business topics, especially insurance, on engineer- 
ing and on trades, found a ready hearing, and the teachers who were 
working in the post and division schools were greatly helped by the 
field force of trainers who coached them on teaching methods, and 
helped them with individual counsel. When possible, the speakers 
were grouped in teams, and the work carried on in the form of insti- 
tutes. This became the most practical solution of the problem of 
reaching the largest number of soldiers with a limited personnel. 
Particularly successful were the agricultural institutes ; the first one 
of these, held in the Bordeaux area, reached 10,000 men in a period 
of two weeks. 

By the middle of April when the Army took over the work, the 
institute movement was well started throughout the Army. Available 
records of meetings and attendance are not complete ; but they indicate 
that during April and May there were over 500 institutes throughout 
the A E F with an attendance approximating 200,000. 

Under the inspiration of an institute, or sometimes of a single 
lecture, clubs were established among the soldiers to follow up the 
work just started. Occasionally these were organized, managed, and 
maintained by the men themselves spontaneously, or upon barely more 
than a suggestion. They were of every possible type. In the college 
of agriculture at Allerey, there were more than 40 varieties, from a 
peanut club to a dramatic club. The membership varied widely. At 
one time, in one regiment alone of the 91st Division, there were more 
than 1,000 men enrolled in clubs ; in Le Mans area, 2,000 names were 
on the list. 

One of the most valuable features of the club work was a by- 
product. Many a man discovered the value of getting together with 
others on matters of common interest. He found that he not only 
could learn from, but also contribute to his neighbor, and through 
this club experience he received a real stimulus towards cooperative 
organization and community spirit, 
fiiirelu^^'^ In connection with the general program, a special Citizenship 

Bureau was established after the Armistice for the specific purpose 
of spreading reliable information about, and stimulating discussion 
upon the problems of our industrial, social, and civic life. 

This work was carried on almost entirely by the institute and 
club methods. A special staff of lecturers, in teams, went about from 
camp to camp, discussing topics of vital interest to the soldier-citizen. 
They followed up the lectures with an "open forum" and in this dis- 


cussion the men themselves took a Hvely part. The reports show that 
lectures and discussions were held before audiences whose numbers 
exceeded 230,000. The generous cooperation of numerous organiza- 
tions in the United States was of great assistance. Slides, charts, 
and a variety of exhibits on such subjects as city planning, child wel- 
fare, health, and other matters of civic importance were furnished 
free, enabling the bureau to do its work without expending a large 
part of the Y M C A appropriation for the purpose. 

The Sight-Seeing Department was an important educational f ea- sight-seemg 
ture. One of the most valuable methods of learning is to see objects of 
historical or artistic significance under capable direction, explained 
by one who understands and appreciates their value. 

In the leave areas, where the soldiers were given a seven-day 
respite from the strenuous military life, they could hardly be ex- 
pected to spend any of their precious vacation time in a class room, 
no matter how interesting or important the subject. Since, however, 
these areas were in the most attractive and enticing spots in all 
France, they afforded an exceptional opportunity for lectures, talks, 
and hikes to historical points with guides — a form of instruction 
which from the first proved popular and successful. Even in the 
camps there were many similar opportunities. Where there was a 
group interested in agricultural study, permission was obtained from 
near-by French stock breeders to visit their farms, and leave to go 
was granted by the military authorities. Problems of stock raising, 
feeding, selling, pasturing, and breeding, as well as of general farm- 
ing, were studied at first hand. Or perhaps it was to be field work in 
art and architecture; by skilful planning and guidance a wealth of 
illustrative material could be revealed. The chateau region was espe- 
cially rich in such opportunities. At Blois, companies of soldiers were 
taken every day to the chateau, famous alike for its architectural 
beauty and for its historical associations ; and many trips were made 
to the cathedrals in the neighborhood, the French gardens, the local 
stock farm, and the stone quarries. 

Although the active educational organization which the Y M C A Ex-service 
had built up in France was taken over bodily by the Army in April, 
1919, the contributions of the Y M C A to the educational welfare of 
the soldier did not cease. Wherever opportunity offered, incidental 
classes were established, and the library and lecture service continued ; 
nor was its work ended with the return home of the Army. Realizing 
the problems that ex-service men faced in the attempt to adjust them- 


selves to changed economic and social conditions, the Y M C A "Edu- 
cational Service"^ was established in order to assist these ex-service 
men, as well as the Americans who served with the Allied Armies, in 
securing education, choosing a suitable occupation, and obtaining 
satisfactory employment. 

Army Educational Corps 

The experience of our educational leaders in their work with the 
educational program in France revealed to them in a striking fashion 
the defects in our national educational system, and also what could 
be done by a systematic effort to remedy those defects in connection 
with the national Army. The results were so significant as to sug- 
gest the possibility of the establishment of some permanent system 
of brief courses of study under military discipline. If we are to 
overcome the illiteracy that exists, if we are to train even our literate 
citizens adequately for some trade or profession, it must be done in 
some way supplementary to our present educational system. It is 
significant that at the A E F University at Beaune, May 24 to 28, 
1919, a conference was held by a Committee on Universal Training for 
National Service, at which the three members of the Army Educa- 
tional Corps, each in his own way, presented before the conference 
the importance of some system of this sort.^ There can be no ques- 
tion but that this experiment on a large scale in education in citizen- 
ship under army direction, will prove to be one of the most valuable 
in the educational history of our country, not merely to those whose 
intellectual equipment was definitely increased thereby, but equally 
to the leaders in the educational world and to the country at large, 
in the light which it throws upon our present educational weaknesses 
and possible methods of reorganization. 
Educational One of the most striking lessons of the war was this discovery 


of the importance of better education for men in the Army, both as 
soldiers and as citizens. As the size of the Army increased, the War 
Department had been compelled to establish schools at army camps, 
and to organize development battalions. It had even drafted the col- 

* Consult Chapter XX. 

' Dr. Erskine, in an article in the Review of Revieivs for October, 1919, 
and Dr. Spaulding in the Atlantic Monthly for April, 1920, not only advocate 
but urge the establishment of an educational draft, for a year of combined mili- 
tary and civic training, for all except the physically disabled and the mentally 


lege and technical schools in order to give the enormous amount of 
intensive education and vocational training needed by officers and 

An examination of the men drafted for the Army had revealed Responsibilities 
the fact that more than twenty per cent could not read a newspaper 
or write an intelligent letter ; that many who were technically literate 
had not mastered yet the fundamentals of elementary school educa- 
tion ; that the number of skilled men in the trades was grossly insuffi- 
cient for the needs of the state ; and that in general there was a wof ully 
inadequate preparation for civic responsibilities.^ 

With the transition from war to peace, our Army became trans- 
formed from a fighting machine into a huge university. The materials 
utilized in the war were found to be equally valuable as equipment for 
technical and trade education. It has been stated that in peace time 
only four hours per day can be spent profitably in strictly military 
training, and that nearly 50 per cent of the Army should spend the 
rest of their time in vocational training and in training for other 
national needs. So with the repatriation of the Army, and the de- 
mobilization of most of the men, the Army did not give up the educa- 
tional system adopted and practiced in the camps at home and abroad. 
The fact that it has preserved such a system as a permanent element 
in military training is evidence of the highest possible type to the 
value of the educational work done during the war, and an indirect 
recognition of the significant service rendered by those who planned, 
formulated and organized the program which was finally put into 
effect. By its present educational system, the Army is continuing 
to make men not only better soldiers, but better citizens, able both 
to defend their country, and to contribute productively to its life, 
with a better understanding of its fundamental institutions, and a 
fuller appreciation of its national ideals. 

* Consult Final Tabulation of Army Mentality Tests During the War, 
Vol, XV, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, 1921. 




Chapter XXXV 


In the minds of leading physical directors, Y M C A physical 
work with the A E F was broadly conceived and elevated above the 
popular conception of athletic sports. These were regarded as but 
one of several means by which not only fighting efficiency could be en- 
hanced, but a genuine character building influence exerted. After 
the Armistice, the recreational and entertainment aspects of athletics 
emerged into spectacular prominence. Nevertheless, in the broadest 
service, the fundamental characteristic of Y M C A physical work 
was dominant. While contestants might be actuated by no motive ex- 
cept the desire for fun and victory, the physical director aimed at 
cumulative resulting life values. 

In the Fighting Period 

The work was initiated by Dr. John H. McCurdy, of the Y M C A 
College at Springfield, Massachusetts. Dr. McCurdy had won a 
national reputation as a leader in his field, as indicated by his selec- 
tion to be chairman of the section on physical education and hygiene 
of the National Commission on Secondary Education, and editor of 
the American Physical Education Review. He was directly com- 
missioned by the International Committee to take charge of physical 
work with the A E F. With the consent of the Committee he also ac- 
cepted a credential authorizing him to act as the official representa- 
tive in France of the War Department Commission on Training Camp 
Activities. Arriving in France on August 14, 1917, Dr. McCurdy 
spent two weeks as physical director at the field artillery training 
camp at Valdahon, and then inspected the 1st Division in the Gondre- 
court area to familiarize himself with typical conditions in the field. 
On September 1st he undertook the duties of Y M C A athletic direc- 
tor for the A E F, the department of which he was head being known, 
informally, as Recreation. 

The first necessities were workers and supplies. Before the end 
of the month requests were sent to New York for physical directors 
on the basis of one to each 2,500 men, and, in addition, for each 15,000 
men an average of one man capable of handling the work in an entire 



division. In the light of the best information available, the numbers 
required were 170 by May 1st, enough to handle the work with an 
army increasing to about 450,000 men. Supply estimates were based 
on the division as a unit, and an order aggregating $300,000, estimated 
to be sufficient for 40 divisions and to last until October 1, 1918, was 
sent to New York in the middle of November. 

Meanwhile, with the few men and supplies available, work was ^twetic 

'^ '■ ' Beginnings 

started. At Gondrecourt on Thanksgiving Day a divisional field 
meet was held. At the aviation school at Issoudun an active director 
worked with the hearty cooperation of the commandant and a captain 
detailed as athletic officer. Three fields laid out by army agencies 
were available for football. In reporting on his activities, December 
17,1917, sixteen days after his arrival at his station the enthusiastic 
director wrote that twelve football teams had been organized. 

The basket ball season was started on January 1st and ended on 
February 13th. Twenty-one teams were organized and one night 
each week was always devoted to this one sport. On account of the 
weather all games were played in the Y M C A hut. Officers acted 
as officials for the games. Every Monday was given over to boxing 
bouts and wrestling matches. Boxing was the favorite amusement 
and drew capacity audiences. For baseball the Y M C A leased a 
field upon which a number of diamonds were laid out. 

Similar activities developed in a number of places, especially 
about the base ports. There were not enough secretaries and the 
canteen had an irresistible tendency to draw into its vortex every 
worker in sight. It was particularly hard to get trained physical 
directors from America. Most of the men active in the work in the 
United States were of military age and had entered the Army. Of 
those available who were familiar with athletic games and their organ- 
ization, few had the technique necessary for promoting mass and non- 
equipment games which constituted the corner-stone of the Y M C A 
athletic program. Supplies too were exasperatingly slow in coming 
in spite of strenuous efforts in New York to overcome the obstacles 
that held back all materials. For such reasons, in part, the athletic 
development was slow. 

The program, however, had other important features which could g'y'Jf]^^ 
be promoted without a large personnel, or supplies. One of these was 
the Bureau of Hygiene, organized November 6th. To head this, Dr. 
McCurdy secured Dr. James Naismith, always, however, himself giv- 
ing the closest attention and cooperation. Dr. Naismith had been 


head of the Department of Physical Education in the University of 
Kansas for 21 years and had had several years' service as chaplain 
in the National Guard. The work consisted of preparation and dis- 
tribution of literature, and lectures on the importance of clean living, 
especially from the point of view of fighting efficiency and of future 
family and social health. So far as possible, men with scientific, 
professional knowledge were entrusted with this duty, and uninformed 
zeal was discouraged from meddling with it. The lectures and litera- 
ture combined educational and inspirational features. The facts were 
set forth plainly, but without exaggeration. Appeal was made 
to Christian principles, to the soldier's sense of duty to his family, 
actual or anticipated, and to his sporting spirit — the spirit of the 
athletic training table. The objective was distinctly to establish or 
cultivate the inner motives for clean living, for self-respect, and for 
self-control, as contrasted with medical measures for avoiding disease 
after exposure. 
A^^vic The fact that the subject does not lend itself to general discus- 

sion should not be permitted to obscure the much more important fact 
that there was need of such efforts and that they were recognized as 
having definite usefulness by the medical officers who were continually 
consulted, and whose professional labors the program was intended 
to assist.^ Of course some men sneered at the work, and accused its 
promotors of pruriency. Such probably were not aware of the statis- 
tics showing the military casualties from this cause in the earlier years 
of the war, nor of the civilian conditions which, before the war, caused 
many sober and unexcitable leaders in the United States to feel that 
extensive education in social hygiene is one of our most urgent civic 
needs. Some of the measures taken locally by army officers to expose 
to public shame, as a deterrent to others, men who had contracted 
venereal disease, could be justified only by the undeniable fact that a 
man who rendered himself unfit for duty, because of indulgence, was 
as guilty of disloyalty as if he had wounds self-inflicted for the pur- 
pose of escaping the dangers of fighting. Side by side with disciplin- 
ary measures, commanders welcomed the influence that would make 
discipline unnecessary.^ 

' Consult Chapter VI. 

' Although urged by leading officers of the Medical Section of the General Staff 
to accept a commission and officially direct a program to promote cleanness of life. 
Dr. McCurdy's conviction that he could accomplish more as a Y M C A man re- 
mained unshaken. 


A third responsibility undertaken by this department was main- Health 
tenance and promotion of the health of secretaries. This originated 
September 16, 1917, with a report on camp sanitation and coopera- 
tion with the Army Medical Corps. At first treating personally 
such secretaries as became ill, the director in November made an ar- 
rangement with the American physician practicing in Paris to give 
medical care to Y M C A workers. About the same time he arranged 
for hospital care by the American Red Cross Hospital No. 2 in Paris 
and the American Hospital at Neuilly, and for medical treatment 
and hospitalization in the field by the Army Medical Corps. The 
service of the Red Cross and Medical Corps was always freely given. 
Early in January a visiting nurse began to care for secretaries ill at 
their lodgings in Paris. On January 28th, Dr. Frederick P. Lord, 
Professor in the Medical School of Portsmouth College, who had come 
to France as a secretary, was appointed head of the Health Section 
of the Recreation Department. This bureau had, of course, intimate 
connection with the Personnel Department. Eventually it became 
independent as the Medical Department, reporting directly to the 
Overseas Committee. With a personnel of 40 workers, eighteen of 
whom were physicians, this department conducted a wide variety of 
preventive, sanitary measures as well as care of the sick. 

While setting these activities in motion the Director of theAtwetic 
Recreation Department was giving his chief attention to a compre- 
hensive effort to make a positive contribution to the physical condi- 
tion of the Army through recreational athletics. It v/as his belief 
that, however many physical directors the Y M C A might provide, 
they would be inadequate in numbers, and that every unit should have 
officers and men scientifically trained to direct this work. Too many 
officers, however, regarded athletics simply as a time-killing device 
to keep idle men out of mischief. 

The situation and the proposals resulting from study of it may 
best be indicated by the following incident. In November, 1917, Gen- 
eral Summerall, after discussion of plans with Dr. McCurdy, turned 
over his brigade for a demonstration by the physical director at St. 
Nazaire. Tapes were laid down to indicate a trench six feet wide, 
and the whole brigade attempted to jump the trench. Twenty eight 
per cent of the men failed to clear it. The minimum standard jump 
for grammar school boys thirteen years old, in New York City, is 
six feet. The men then ran 220 yards. The minimum standard for 
school boys for the distance is 27 1-5 seconds. Seventeen per cent of 


the brigade took more than 30 seconds. Dr. McCurdy offered to guar- 
antee that if given the opportunity he would take the poorer 40 per 
cent of the men and increase their physical efficiency ten to fifteen 
per cent in six weeks. After a similar test in the Gondrecourt area, 
one officer declared that such an improvement would save ten per 
cent of the casualties in a surprise attack, and another said that that 
ten per cent would make the difference between success and failure. 

Several such demonstrations proved that recreational athletics 
had a positive relation to fighting efficiency, and that the mass play 
methods which were aimed particularly at getting into the game 
those men, physically inferior, who were least likely to take part in 
voluntary athletics, offered a feasible method of procedure. 
Mass By March, 1918, the idea had made sufficient progress among 

officers to warrant a definite proposal of compulsory mass athletics, 
which was put forward to the Commander-in-Chief as follows : 

1. (a) Compulsory mass athletics, the training graded accord- 
ing to the ability of the men, the prime object being to raise the physi- 
cal efficiency of the poorer 40 per cent. All should be included in these 
exercises in graded groups. This will result not only in increased 
efficiency in the Army but in the development of a method for the 
schools and colleges in America, which will fit men for efficient mili- 
tary service who are now ineffective. The present Army has from 
20 to 30 per cent of its force below normal possible efficiency, essential 
to a good soldier. The trench jumping of a brigade in which 28 
per cent failed to jump over a trench six feet wide indicates this fact. 
Six feet is a poor jump. Numbers of other men were only mediocre: 
seventeen per cent of the men tested could not run 220 yards in 30 
seconds, a very moderate rate. Such men could neither catch a Hun 
nor get away from one. The poorest 40 per cent of an army is the 
easiest portion to improve in physical efficiency through training. 

(b) Optional athletics on evenings, holidays, and Sundays 
for the natural athletes, the object being to furnish a spectacle and fun 
for the crowd. Inter-regimental and inter-divisional matches in box- 
ing and baseball are illustrations. 

2. If the Commander-in-Chief desires it, the A E F-Y M C A is 
prepared to carry out both of the above types of physical training. 
The first type can only be handled as a compulsory program. This 
would involve turning the men over to the Y M C A physical directors 
for them to direct the work with the help of officers and non-commis- 
sioned officers. The second type is already being undertaken by the 
Y M C A. A vigorous program of mass athletics and competition in 
team athletics is essential to the highest physical efficiency and fight- 
ing morale of the army. 


3. The Y M C A is prepared to furnish athletics and gymnastics 
related to the military needs in agility, speed, skill, and endurance. 
The Y M C A has already a staff of 86 trained physical directors with 
the A E F. By November, 1918, it will have a staff of approximately 
300 serving with the A E F. It now has in process of delivery over 
$300,000 worth of athletic goods for the A E F. 

The letter further suggested that the Commander-in-Chief should 
consider detailing an officer in each division to promote athletic work 
under the general supervision of the Athletic Department of the 
Y M C A, and that an officer in each regiment and company be desig- 
nated to cooperate with the Y M C A physical directors. These men 
were expected to be non-commissioned officers who had had athletic 
experience, and could be detailed a few hours each week to assist in 
both compulsory and mass athletics, and to help in the promotion of 
optional team work for championships. 

At the time this letter was sent many features of the program as 
suggested for the whole Army were already under way in the 2d 
Division and elsewhere, and the purpose was to universalize the 
method. At the First Corps School for officers in the Gondrecourt 
area, the Y M C A physical director made during the spring a demon- 
stration of instruction that led the commander to recommend that 
it be introduced into all the military schools in France. 

On March 21st the Germans started their great spring offensive. Fortunes 
and open warfare began. The resulting changes in the military situa- 
tion not only made impossible the adoption of the compulsory plan but 
also, to a large extent, prevented the smooth working of the program 
for voluntary athletics. The limitation of trans-Atlantic transporta- 
tion space cut off much of the expected inflow of additional physical 
directors and of athletic material. The sinking of the Kansan and 
Oronsa, each carrying a large quantity of athletic supplies, dealt a 
heavy blow to the Athletic Department. 

The dark side of the situation resulting from these various dis- 
appointments is indicated by the following report, dated March 22, 

"The first brigade returned from the trenches the other day to 
the Gondrecourt Division for rest. We tried for several weeks be- 
fore this time to have athletic material, especially baseball outfits, 
on hand, so that we might put on a big program of athletics immedi- 
ately. All arrangements were made with the Army so far as the 
appointment of athletic officers was concerned and plans were laid 
for a big time during the next four weeks before the men went back 



to the trenches. We are seriously crippled in the carrying out of 
our plans because of the lack of material and there is not much hope 
for a change for the better. One of the generals remarked at an 
athletic meeting the other day that it was up to the Y M C A to de- 
liver the goods. He said something about the fifty million dollars and 
the fact that we had several months to prepare for this athletic work 
— which, of course, is quite true. The general, like most Americans, 
is very much interested in baseball and if we fall down on this one 
item I think we are in for a great deal of criticism from the Army. 
The same thing applies to our front line work. There isn't half 
enough material to carry on the work. There will be more to explain 
away as the weather brightens up and there is more chance for out- 
door games." 

Encouragements This, howcver, was but onc side of the picture, as appears from a 

cablegram from General Pershing, dated April 5, 1918: 

"Paragraph I-A. Reference physical training troops in France. 
Understand Fosdick Commission is planning to send athletic direc- 
tors who are to be commissioned and detailed for this particular pur- 
pose by War Department. It is not thought wise or desirable that ad- 
ditional non-combatant personnel should be attached for any purpose 
to division staff already large. If it becomes desirable to have these 
activities conducted by commissioned officers there are graduates of 
West Point and the great colleges who are available for this purpose 
and in the meantime the situation is being adequately met by the 
Y M C A physical directors working in entire harmony with divisional 
and smaller unit commanders. Conditions governing in the training 
camps in the United States do not govern here and methods used in 
the United States cannot be used here. It is recommended that the 
present satisfactory system be not changed or interfered with, espe- 
cially in view of the fact that opportunities for physical exercise apart 
from strictly military training will constantly diminish in number." 


Behind this expression of opinion by the Commander-in-Chief lay 
a cumulative development. At the end of December, 1917, following a 
conference with Col. Logan, Chief of Staff, First Section (G-1), the 
Y M C A had been asked to promote informal games in late after- 
noons and evenings, challenge games on Saturday and Sundays, and 
regular scheduled games at training camps. Army athletic materials, 
e.g. the Clark Griffith's supplies, were to be turned over to the Y M C A 
for distribution. When possible, soldiers were to be detailed for 
athletic instruction. 

Early in March, E. B. De Groot, who had had large experience in 
public play promotion in Chicago and San Francisco, became Associate 


Director with special responsibility for athletics. In March, the 
Colombes Athletic Field — the scene of the Olympic contests held in 
connection with the World Exposition in 1900 — was secured for the 
Paris Division. The Clark Griffith's equipment was found in an 
army warehouse at Nevers, and put into circulation. The athletic 
supplies ordered in November were beginning to arrive. On May 9th 
the athletic work was extensive enough to warrant the reorganization 
of the Department of Recreation, which now became the Department 
of Athletics, Hygiene, and Health. 

The athletic staff, at that time numbered about 100 men, instead undermanned 


of the 170 called for ; of these, 30 had been selected from among the 
general workers to serve until trained men could be found to replace 
them. The practice of some divisional secretaries of setting physical 
directors to canteen or transport work was peculiarly exasperating. 
Three days after the reorganization of the department, its representa- 
tions on this score resulted in a bulletin issued by the Chief Secre- 
tary, requiring that all physical directors should be released from 
other duties and giwe full time to physical work. 

Early in June the Chairman of the War Department Commission 
on Training Camp Activities visited France, and in a series of con- 
ferences it was agreed that the Commission would send no athletic 
directors to France, and that the Commission's supplies should be de- 
livered to Dr. McCurdy for distribution to the army units and to 
the athletic directors of the Y M C A and Knights of Columbus. About 
$300,000 worth of supplies eventually came from this source. An 
order for athletic supplies, amounting to $40,000 to meet needs for the 
remainder of the year, and another amounting to $1,400,000 for 1919 
were sent to the War Work Council, thus early to avoid a repetition 
of the delays already suffered. These orders, large in the aggregate, 
called for an expenditure of forty cents per year per man. 

The scale on which activities in the field were actually carried llf^i°^ 
on while this development was being accomplished, was indicated by 
a report of June 30, 1918, from which the following is quoted : 

Equipment Games Played 
Distributed in June 

Baseball 25,200 balls 6,000 

Basket ball 500 balls 4,000 

Volley ball 14,400 balls 10,000 

Track and field meets 300 

Boxing 1,506 sets 1,400 

Soccer football 2,980 balls 800 




Athletics on 
the Front 

An average of 200 baseball games and ten track and field meets 
per day was far from insignificant. This report also proposed a school 
for physical education of athletic officers during the fighting period, 
and the Inter-Allied Championship games during demobilization. 

The personnel and supply situation seemed to call for more ef- 
fective action in the United States, and with the cooperation of Dr. 
Luther Gulick, well known as a leader in this field, a spirited recruit- 
ing campaign was conducted. One of the new provisions was that 
every recruit for this work should take an intensive training, adapted 
to overseas conditions, in the Y M C A Training School at Springfield, 
Mass., or at Chicago. As a result of this campaign, 1,616 men were 
recruited, 869 for home camps and 747 for overseas. During August 
and September, 301 physical directors sailed for France. 

While these efforts were being made, military events of the first 
importance had been occurring in rapid succession. All eyes wero 
turned toward the front. About the middle of July when the German 
offensive was at its height Major General Harbor d was asked whether 
there was not some special service that could be rendered by athletic 
directors for the men who were actually fighting. Troops in the 
Chateau-Thierry region were then scattered all over the country-side. 
There was a large number of men who were not in immediate contact 
with the enemy, but who were waiting to go into the front lines, or 
who were in artillery units firing from distances of one to ten miles 
in the rear. The question was what could be done that would not 
interfere with military operations. The General's opinion was, 

"You can go just as far forward as you have the nerve to go. 
I will have it known that the Y M C A directors are to promote simple 
sports as far as they can. See Major General Bundy, Commander 
of this Division, and tell him this." 

General Bundy, when seen at his own headquarters, was enthusi- 
astic. He thought the Services of Supply were getting too great a 
proportion of the physical directors. 

"Let me sketch the conditions in my division," he said. "Within 
a mile of where we stand are perhaps ten thousand men who are in 
what may be termed 'support positions' — not in the line. They are in 
the woods here concealed and in camouflaged positions out of sight of 
the enemy aircraft. Elsie Janis doesn't come up here and sing to 
these fellows. What do you suppose they are doing? They are in 
the woods, waiting three hours or three days for orders to take them 
into the front lines and if there is one period when the strain is the 


most severe on the American it is when he is waiting for something. 
He is all right when he is fighting and training. But when the 
training is done and the fighting has not begun, when he is in a period 
of inaction, when he is within sound of the guns and can't see the 
enemy, then is the time, if ever, that he is upset. There is only one 
thing that will offset that to any appreciable degree and that is some 
form of physical activity. These men are trained up to the minute 
to fight and we say : 'Wait three hours or three days.' If you can 
go in there with something that does not mean the men must collect in 
large groups, send every athletic director you have." 

In went the directors. Non-equipment sports were started at 
once. Boxing-gloves and baseballs were supplied whenever possible 
but it did not take much material to keep a great many men busy in 
such off hours as they had. The non-equipment games spread rapidly 
until the whole 2d Division was soon familiar with the methods 

In the training areas as well as close to the front many games 
were played under exciting conditions. Sometimes it was necessary 
to post guards to watch for enemy airplanes and many a nine had to 
take to the woods till danger had passed. 

Sometimes army officers were not favorably disposed. Occasion- 
ally a commander would say: "Absolutely nothing doing — ^we are 
fighting a war — you fellows are crazy — this is not a playground." 
The majority, however, took General Bundy's view and often cooper- 
ated by calling special attention to particular situations where ath- 
letics would help ; such, for example, as the fact that in the artillery 
divisions guns were manned by two crews, one of which was always 
off duty, and in need of recreation. 

By August 1st the personnel of the department had risen to 170 ; J^gJ°;?^^"* 
by October the figure had reached 297. Even prior to the arrival of 
the new recruits from the training schools matters began to improve 
to some extent, partly because of the withdrawal of physical directors 
from canteen work and partly because a large number of Army and 
Association officials were being converted to the opinion that the 
promotion of athletics was a very essential matter. A reflection of 
this change occurs in a formal expression of opinion by the conference 
of regional directors held at Paris, August 9-10, 1918: "Divisional 
and regional secretaries must accept the responsibility for meeting 
the recreational athletic demands put upon us by the Army. This 
work having been definitely committed to the Association by the Army 
becomes one of the obligations to which all are committed." During 


the month of August, when complete statistical reports were compiled 
for the first time, there were recorded in round numbers, 175,000 
soldiers participating in games promoted by the Y M C A directors, 
and 720,000 who enjoyed them as spectators. An important factor in 
hastening the change in favor of pushing athletics was a letter to the 
Y M C A athletic director for the First Army from Major General 
Harbord, Commanding Officer, Services of Supply (prior to that Chief 
of Staff at General Headquarters and also Commander of the Marine 
Brigade of the 2d Division at Chateau-Thierry). This letter dated 
August 27, 1918, was as follows: 

of'lthkti'c'^* "I take advantage of our acquaintance, dating from the days 

Values when you were the physical director in the Y M C A work in the 

Philippines, to say to you that it has reached my ears that the benefit 
of recreational athletic sports furnished by the A E F is still a matter 
for discussion among some of your people. In my mind there is no 
uncertainty. In the first place, granted the time for recreational 
athletic sports, it seems to me that there can be no doubt of the value 
of athletic recreation for men of all types, soldiers and others. 

"In any Army we have in France, no matter how large, there will 
always be, roughly, one-third of it in the Services of Supply. These 
officers and men are without the stimulus of meeting the enemy, their 
work is of the humdrum, monotonous character that lowers tone, yet 
it is so important that the Army at the front cannot exist without it. 
It extends from the ports to immediately behind the front line 
trenches. Obviously, unless the Army at the front can be supplied, 
it cannot exist. On the Services of Supply falls the burden of sup- 
plying it. I can think of no better method of elevating the tone of 
this large force, of taking their mind off of their work outside office 
hours, so necessary to maintain health and at the same time guard 
their morals, as recreational athletic sports that the Y M C A is alone 
able to furnish them. 

"The theory of the employment of the combat divisions is that in 
ordinary times probably half of them are engaged in combat and half 
of them in rest. With those in rest, their minds must be taken off of 
losses recently suffered, the memory of hardships undergone must be 
removed, the physical tone elevated after comparative physical inac- 
tivity in the trenches, and their morals must be guarded by furnishing 
them an amusement which will keep them from seeking bad associates. 
For all these purposes there occurs to me but one which appears to 
help on all points mentioned: that is, recreational athletic sports 
furnished by the Y M C A. The benefits of this phase of the Y M C A 
work are so clear to me, so generally believed in by all our officers, and 
so welcomed by the men, that I am astonished that there should be any 
doubt expressed by anyone. 

"Very sincerely yours, 

"J. C. Harbord, Major-General, Commanding." 


The reading of this letter at a general conference of division 
secretaries held shortly after it was received gave a distinct impetus 
to athletics. The previous order releasing physical directors from 
other types of vi^ork now met with full compliance except in bad 
weather or in emergencies. Such Army officers in the Services of 
Supply as might have been indifferent hitherto could not fail to follow 
the Commanding Officer and give full cooperation. 

The result of this change of attitude was at once apparent. 
Taken in conjunction both with the increase in the number of physical 
directors and supplies, it goes far toward explaining the increased 
number of participations in athletics for September and October as 
compared with August. The numbers for the two latter months were 
580,000 and 1,007,000 as compared with 175,000 in August. The 
lower rate of increase in the number of spectators (August 720,000, 
September 1,614,000, October 1,973,000) is also an indication of 
improvement, for it shows that the effort to get "every man in the 
game" was having effect. 

The chief improvement was naturally felt in the Services of 4e"strv1cl" 
Supply particularly at concentration points such as Tours, Blois, ^^ suppiy 
Dijon, where a considerable number of athletic directors had been 
assigned to meet the needs of relatively permanent units. Even 
among depot divisions, however, where the troops were coming and 
going, and where men destined to be replacements with combat divi- 
sions were receiving the hardest kind of training to prepare them for 
the front, much more was accomplished than had hitherto been 
possible. In spite of the fact that hours for drill and other regular 
duties were long and filled completely, games were often played in the 
late afternoons or evenings. On Saturday afternoons and Sundays 
the utmost use was made of every available bit of athletic material. 
In addition to mass games, track athletics and baseball flourished. In 
the latter sport not only were the representative teams of neighboring 
units pitted against each other, but league games were scheduled 
with teams of different army divisions. Drill grounds, sometimes to 
the number of thirty for a single divisional area, usually provided the 
fields for diamonds. They were not the best imaginable but the teams 
gladly accepted them and the enthusiasm of both players and the large 
crowds of vociferous spectators covered all defects. 

Track athletics were promoted by holding innumerable local 
meets. The best contestants in each local event were selected to 
compete in sectional meets. In some instances sectional meets were 


recognized by division commanders who sometimes suspended drill 
for half a day and even detailed a band for the occasion. In some 
units track and recreational work was done on the field at intervals 
during drill. For a change and diversion the officers were glad to 
have the men jump into games of soccer, brisk foot-races, or pushball 
contests. Boxing always attracted crowds but there were not gloves 
enough in all France to make this sport more than a form of enter- 
tainment. Quoits, volley ball, indoor baseball, and basket ball both 
indoors and out, furnished additional recreation and amusement, but 
to the American nothing took the place of baseball. 

While such activities as these were being organized on an 
increasing scale in the Services of Supply during September and 
October, 1918, a similar extension was occurring at the base ports 
where soldiers were still debarking at the maximum rate. 

Thus, amid the inevitable rush of the fighting days, handicapped 
by the rapid movement of troops, discouraged by the lack of trans- 
portation facilities and of athletic material, confronted in the begin- 
ning by an underestimate of the war value of their work and the 
necessity of doing canteen service, the physical directors, cooperating 
with local Army officers wherever and whenever possible, actually did 
succeed in carrying out the voluntary program to an extent hardly to 
be expected under the circumstances. Aside from promotion of the 
great variety of athletic activities, perhaps the greatest accomplish- 
ment was the demonstration on a large scale of the fact that athletics 
not only have a place in the Army, but that even in a fighting period 
their value is great enough to warrant their inclusion as an integral 
and carefully organized part of military operations. 

The Post-Armistice Period 

While the Army could not give detailed attention to a peace-time 
program, it was plain that the cessation of hostilities would inaugurate 
a period when an extensive scheme could be carried out without serious 
or unexpected interruptions. For the Association, too, conditions 
would be different. It could be reasonably expected that the shortage 
of supplies and personnel would be rapidly overcome. The essential 
need would be a comprehensive program and a thorough organization 
to measure up to the opportunity. 
Reorganization The expausion of athletic work in September and October had 

led to a partial reorganization, the Athletic Section of the Department 
of Athletics, Hygiene, and Health being set up as an independent 


department with Elwood S. Brown as director. Upon Dr. McCurdy's 
return to the United States in November, the Health Section also 
became independent. Already in June the suggestion had been made 
of a great series of Inter-Allied championship contests to be held in 
the period of demobilization. As the great offensives of September 
and October went on, a preliminary series of A E F championships 
was proposed, and the plans for both were thoroughly elaborated. 
These were laid before the Commander-in-Chief on October 15, 1918:^ 

"Peace, whether it comes tomorrow or many months from now, conditions 
should find us in a state of preparedness against the inevitable period 
of relaxation that must be met when hostilities cease. This period 
will bring about an increased danger from moral temptations, will 
be a time of impatient waiting for the day of departure for America, 
and will call for very constructive and interesting bodily activity if 
the dangers of disorderly physical expression are to be avoided. 

"Fundamentally our Army in France is a physical machine. 
Physical vitality is the chief element, the most important asset. Two 
million men are now engaged in the strenuous game of beating the 
Hun. They are in hard daily labor, intensive military training or 
engaged in actual fighting — physical expression, nearly all of it. 
When this is suddenly taken away no mental, moral, or social pro- 
gram, however extensive, will meet the need. Physical action will be 
the call ; games and play, informal and competitive, the answer. It is 
assumed that a certain amount of military work will be continued but 
it is not believed that this will be found either sufficient or the best 
way to offset the certain reaction that will come about when the 
fighting is over. 

"Four activities are suggested, for which, in cooperation and suKsestions 
conjunction with the necessary Army committees, the Y M C A 
through its Department of Athletics is prepared to assume the initial 
responsibility in promotion and organization. 

"1. Great mass games and play for every possible man — 'Ath- 
letics for everybody.' 

"2. Official A E F championships in a wide variety of competitive 
sports including military events; beginning with elimination regi- 
mental contests, ranging upwards through the divisions, possibly the 
army corps, and culminating in great finals in Paris. 

"3. Physical pageants and demonstrations to be held in many 
centers demonstrating to our Allied friends America's best in sport, 
her great play spirit and incidentally her finest in physical manhood. 

' This letter outlined the proposals in great detail. Though written in a 
highly condensed style, it would cover several pages of this book. It is printed 
in full in The Inter-Allied Games, Paris, 22d June to 6th July, 1919. Major 
G. Wythe, Captain J. M. Hanson, Captain C. V. Burger, editors. Published by 
the Games Committee, Paris, 1919. See pages 17-20. 


"4. Inter-Allied athletic contests — open only to soldiers of the 
Allied Armies — a great set of military Olympic games." 

The letter proceeded to call attention to the fact that this 
program would require the Association to arrange for : (1) the con- 
tinuance during demobilization of at least 100 of its best trained 
experts in mass play who for the most part were under contract 
reading "for the duration of the war"; (2) the preparation of 
instruction books, rules, and printed matter of many descriptions; 
(3) the procuring of a half -million dollars worth of athletic supplies 
in addition to the order of $1,400,000 already placed for 1919 ; (4) 
the technical direction of the elimination contests within regiments 
and divisions; (5) the securing of specialists to conduct and drill 
participants in pageants and demonstration games; (6) the securing 
of suitable grounds, equipment, and necessary prizes for the finals; 
(7) the arrangement of entry lists, heats, events, and officials. 
Array ^ For the Army the letter suggested that cooperation would be 

ooperaion ^jegij-able in the following ways: (1) the detailing of a considerable 
number of "non-coms" for instruction in promotion, organization, and 
conduct of group games; (2) the detailing from the army ranks of 
a number of trained athletic directors to work in cooperation with 
Association men; (3) the appointment of committees of officers to 
work with Association committees. In addition it was proposed 
that the Army assume responsibility for the training of its men 
entered in the international events and that, while a suitable Inter- 
Allied Army Committee should be organized, participation in all con- 
tests should be upon invitation by the Commander-in-Chief of the 
American Army to the Commanders of the Allied Armies. 

While no direct written reply to this communication could be 
expected at this time, a very definite intimation was at once given 
verbally, that when the proper time came the Army would cooperate 
heartily. So definite was this intimation, in fact, that the Association 
promoter of the plans proceeded to perfect them as far as could be 
done at such an early stage of proceedings. No one not familiar with 
the negotiations necessary to carry such a plan as this into execution 
can fully realize what is covered by this simple phrase "perfecting of 
plans." Even before the proposal could be made at all, many officials 
within the Association, especially those entrusted with financial mat- 
ters, had to be convinced both of its practicability and its utility. 
Also, after the Armistice, the Army had to be thoroughly assured that 


the proposed plans would actually succeed before it could definitely 
issue orders putting them into effect. Innumerable unofficial con- 
ferences were necessary. It was futile to ask the Association's Finan- 
cial Committee for a stadium and detail of secretaries unless the 
Army would accept, and the Army could not accept unless assured 
that these things would be furnished in addition to expert advice. 

Fortunately the Association had on the ground, in the person of Ji»e ^^t^etic 


the man who had worked out the plans, a man experienced in such 
negotiations and organizations on a huge scale. In a very real sense, 
the foundations for the post-Armistice athletics in France were laid 
in the Philippine Islands nearly a decade earlier. In those far off 
possessions of the United States Elwood S. Brown, as representative 
of the International Committee, had begun work among the civilians 
of Manila in 1910, and had succeeded in the course of several years 
not only in making sports popular among the Filipinos but in further- 
ing the organization of a series of international contests known as 
the Far Eastern Games. In the first series, at Manila in 1913, both 
Japanese and Chinese participated. So successful was the meet that 
a permanent organization was formed and games were held biennially 
thereafter — Shanghai 1915, Tokio 1917, Manila 1919. By the success- 
ful promotion of these meets and by its earlier athletic activities in 
the Philippines, the Y M C A through its local physical director accom- 
plished at least one thing that became of the utmost importance for 
the post-Armistice athletic programs of the Great War. This accom- 
plishment was an ocular demonstration to officers of the American 
Army then in the Philippines — among them the very men who were 
destined later to hold the highest commands in France — that mass 
athletics could be taught rapidly to men hitherto inexperienced in 
such recreations; that athletics, by stimulating the mind as well as 
the body, improved efficiency; and that, on the field of sport more 
easily perhaps than anywhere else, men of different nationalities can 
be made to cooperate harmoniously in the most strenuous forms of 
competitive activity. 

The winter months, during which these negotiations were Pro- ^''^n^^J^'*'"^ 
gressing, were naturally very tedious for the soldiers. Drilling at orders no. 241 
first was greatly reduced in amount and time hung heavy. Mail and 
pay did not always arrive on time. Even in January some of the 
soldiers still had insufficient light and heat; clothing and sometimes 
shoes were inadequate. Men frequently marched all day in the rain 
and were brought back to wet billets. In some places there was only 



Effects of 

of the Chief 
Athletic Officer 

one candle to every five or six men. On this account, supper was 
served at 4.30. To meet such conditions the military authorities 
resorted to heavy drilling. "Squads right, squads left," looked upon 
as ancient history, became again the order of the day. The doughboys 
were outraged, and expressed themselves forcibly. As a matter of 
fact, the military authorities did not want to resume heavy drilling 
but something had to be done. This was late in November. 

Criticism was not confined entirely to the ranks. One day there 
came to the ears of General Fiske, Chief of the Training Station at 
General Headquarters, the report that a certain colonel did not 
approve of the general training program. The colonel — ^who hap- 
pened to be one of the best known athletes in the A E F — was called 
upon to explain. No matter who he was, he was told, for such 
criticism he would be severely punished. In defense the colonel out- 
lined a general plan of athletics very similar to that which the Associa- 
tion had already proposed. Punishment came just the same. Orders 
were issued for his transfer from the Intelligence Section to be head 
of the Athletic Sub-section of the Training Section, together with the 
command to execute the program. The culmination of this punish- 
ment was the Distinguished Service Medal and the following cita- 

"Colonel Wait C. Johnson, U. S. Army. For exceptionally meri- 
torious and distinguished services. As Athletic Director G-5 of the 
American Expeditionary Forces, he was given the important and 
difficult task of planning and organizing an elaborate program of 
athletic training and competitions for American troops, embracing all 
branches of sport. By his zeal and sound judgment he carried this 
program to an eminently successful conclusion, thereby rendering an 
invaluable service in maintaining the morale and physical fitness of 
our troops during the trying period of repatriation." 

By the appointment of Colonel Johnson as Chief Athletic Officer 
on December 1st, the Army was equipped to cooperate officially in 
very close coordination with the Association. To him was turned 
over the letter of October 15th, a second letter dated November 27th, 
outlining further proposals for the Inter-Allied Games, and other 
correspondence of later date. 

Colonel Johnson at once gave every possible encouragement to 
the Association's voluntary activities and in the ensuing months the 
number of participants increased from 5,140,000 in January, to 
7,500,000 in March. Immediately succeeding his appointment, also he 


held numerous conferences with representatives of the Y M C A. The 
result was the following letter from the Commander-in-Chief : 

"We are now starting on one of the most important and trying 
periods which the American Expeditionary Forces have had to face 
Relieved from the stimulation of the exciting demands of actual 
battle conditions, we must maintain the contentment of our officers 
and men and continue to increase their military knowledge and 
efficiency. . . . 

"I am, now, therefore, most anxious to encourage in every way 
possible the athletic side of our training, both as a means of keeping 
them in the state of physical and mental fitness which is so necessary 
to the morale which breeds contentment. 

"Your organization has already rendered to our Expeditionary 
Forces great and most useful assistance in athletic activities, and I 
assure you I thoroughly appreciate all that it has done and the spirit 
back of the self-sacrificing services of yourself and of the members 
of your staff of athletic directors. Because of this and of my confi- 
dence in the desire of all of you to help in every way, I am writing 
to ask you to continue your assistance at this time, when expert ath- 
letic direction is so vitally necessary, by arranging to keep at least 
one of your best fitted and most competent men with each of the 
divisions and separate units in the American Expeditionary Forces, 
to cooperate with the divisional athletic director. 

"Allow me to express the earnest hope that you may be able to 
comply with this request." 

With full cooperation between the Army and the Association issuance of 
assured, the Army proceeded to issue General Orders No. 241^ No^m 
embodying explicit instructions for the A E F Championships. This 
order did not mention the subject of Inter-Allied Games. Negotia- 
tions for that meet had not progressed sufficiently at that time. In 
other aspects, however, it did adopt the chief features of the Associa- 
tion's letter of October 15th. The Army was to assume responsibility 
for the A E F elimination contests, athletic officers were to be detailed 
for army, corps, division, regimental, and company units together 
with company sports managers, non-commissioned officers, and pri- 
vates for each of the various athletic activities. Participation in 
mass athletics was encouraged by the unique provision that group 
competitive game schedules should be arranged in which the number 
of men entering, as well as the points won, should be considered in 
determining the winning company or unit. All-point company cham- 
pionships were to be arranged with suitable trophies for the success- 

* See Appendix VIII, pp. 566, 567. 


ful unit and individual prizes for those representing that unit. 
Elimination contests were to culminate in championships. As far as 
possible contestants were to be relieved of military duties in excess of 
four hours per day. Concerning the Association the order read : 

"The Y M C A, with the approval of the Commander-in-Chief, has 
organized a Department of Athletics and is prepared to give every 
assistance in the development of general athletics and the arrange- 
ment and management of competitions between military units. It 
has a large number of specially trained physical directors with wide 
experience in mass play and in other athletic activities now in its ranks 
in France. One of these will be attached to the staff of each division 
and separate unit, and will be designated in orders as Divisional (or 
Unit) Director and, under supervision of Division Athletic Officer, 
will be charged with the responsibility for the arrangement, manage- 
ment, and general conduct of athletic activities throughout the unit. 

"In carrying out the work outlined in this order, the Y M C A 
will seek the participation and assistance of the personnel of the other 
auxiliary welfare agencies in such a way as to obtain the maximum 
efficiency and results. 

"In order to obtain the maximum benefit from the Y M C A, 
Knights of Columbus, Salvation Army and other welfare organiza- 
tions, and to increase their efficiency, commanding officers are 
authorized to assist these organizations in every way consistent with 
military requirements, and for the purpose to detail non-commis- 
sioned officers and privates from their commands to perform duties 
appropriate to the grades of the men detailed." 

The a E F Championship Contests 

Elimination Uudcr General Orders No. 241, for months preceding the final 

struggles, elimination contests were held in football, basket ball, box- 
ing, wrestling, baseball, golf, shooting, soccer, swimming, tennis, and 
track and field events. As a general rule the teams in each class of 
sport competed first for supremacy in each of the regions into which, 
for convenience, the A E F was divided. In the semi-finals and the 
finals the requirements were that the regional championship organiza- 
tions should be the original teams that had fought their way through 
from the start. Partisan backing of teams representing particular 
units was thus assured. Excitement ran high. In football no season in 
the history of the sport ever developed better matched teams or more 
exciting contests than the preliminary matches held to decide the 
supremacy of the Second Army. As in the ancient days when Greek 
met Greek, America's best were matched against their peers. Men 
renowned for earlier victories on college grounds were again com- 



peting; Withington, Legore, Beckett, Mahan, and Fish; could they 
"come back"? Discussion of questions like this stimulated greater 
interest in athletics than ever before. The four teams that qualified 
for the Second Army championship played five tie games before the 
7th Division won. The 28th Division team played three scoreless 
games with their principal rival, the 5th Division, and agreed, in case 
the fourth game resulted likewise, to accept the unheard of solution of 
judging the winner on a yardage basis. The 28th Division won the 
game but this strange rule had to be invoked in its final game with the 
7th Division, for neither team could score during 60 fiercely fought 
minutes, and the 7th Division was adjudged winner by only 34 yards. 

Participation in all sports for the first five months of 1919 competitors 
mounted to over 31,500,000. During the Championship Series not less 
than 5,000 officers were devoting particular attention to the conduct 
of athletics, and even elimination contests were witnessed by great 
crowds. The contests at Bar-sur-Aube between the teams of the First 
and Second Armies were attended by 25,000 soldiers brought by 
special trains. The finals, held for the most part at the Colombes 
Stadium near Paris, were watched by the Army with all the interest 
ever called forth by a Yale-Harvard game or a World's Championship 
Series. The concluding contests were always witnessed by the Com- 
mander-in-Chief and he awarded the prizes. Efficient management of 
the entire series produced remarkable results. In football 75,000 
officers and men participated, but despite the terrific struggles that 
occurred, sometimes even on fields covered with snow and ice, there 
was not a single serious accident and only one broken bone. The spirit 
of fair play was universal. Officers and men competed on equal 
terms. In boxing matches the majority of the men who took part in 
the finals had formerly been professionals, but in numerous instances 
they underwent heavy preliminary training and gruelling matches for 
no other reward than the desire to win for their own organizations. 
The bouts were conducted under new rules ; the length of rounds was 
reduced to two minutes and other changes were made which estab- 
lished the sport on a new basis. 

To witness or take part in a boxing match was, next to a good feed spectators 
and baseball, the most popular enjoyment in the Army. Enormous 
crowds attended the championship bouts just as they did the purely 
exhibition contests staged, on numerous occasions, both before and 
during the series. The combined report of participations and attend- 
ance in this sport was 680,000 and 6,250,000 respectively. The par- 



Boxing Promoted 
by the Knights 
of Columbus 

Boxing in 

of Boxing 

ticipation figures include the large numbers of men who engaged in 
mass boxing conducted by Y M C A athletic directors. 

Special credit for the success of boxing carried out under Order 
No. 241 must be given to other welfare organizations. As related in 
Spalding's Athletic Almanac for the A E F Championships : 

"The Knights of Columbus requested, because of the fact that 
many of the secretaries of their organization had in the past been in- 
timately associated with the boxing game, that they be allowed to de- 
vote their energy to this particular sport." 

The Knights of Columbus in the Third Army alone staged more 
than 60 big programs and 4,000 bouts throughout the Army of Occu- 
pation before fans numbering more than 100,000. Their experts were 
often called upon to act as officials in the A E F boxing and wrestling 
eliminations. The Jewish Welfare Board, the Red Cross, and other 
welfare agencies also entered the boxing entertainment field, though 
not on such a large scale as did the ICnights of Columbus and the 

For several months after the signing of the Armistice the 
YMCA staged weekly bouts at the Palais de Glace before audiences 
of 4,000. These accommodations proving too small it was found neces- 
sary to hold both the A E F boxing and the wrestling finals in the 
Cirque de Paris which was leased for this purpose by the YMCA 
for a period of two months. There were approximately 6,000 seats 
in the building and standing room for 2,000 more. Here Carpentier, 
Jeannette, and McVey had fought famous battles before audiences 
that paid high prices for admission. Not a soldier paid a cent. For 
exhibition contests the General Finance Committee of the YMCA 
made a special appropriation which enabled the athletic directors to 
engage many well-known French, English, and Australian, as well as 
American, boxers. Under this appropriation at one time 80 shows 
were held a week in various places to audiences totaling more than 

Generally speaking the finest of sportsmanship prevailed. To 
quote Col. Johnson : 

"These men fighting under a new set of rules especially compiled 
for the A E F gave a magnificent exhibition of the manly art and de- 
monstrated that boxing can be conducted along absolutely clean lines 
and in such a manner as to give it in the field of sport the eminent 
position it so justly merits as a clean and splendid game. The contest- 
ants treated each other with all the courtesy of the tennis court and 


yet the fierceness of the fighting throughout all the rounds left nothing 
to be desired by the most ardent fan." 

The closing tribute to the success of the A E F Boxing Champion- 
ship Series was paid by General Pershing in his speech on that night: 

"The fairness and cleanliness of these bouts is something of which 
we should all be very proud. The result of this type of athletics is sure 
to create a higher tone of athletics at home. Two million men are 
going to carry back home a better notion of what clean sport should 
be. The management deserves credit for carrying out these events, 
and to the men in charge I wish to express my very sincere thanks." 

There was no lack of similar praise for the high ideals of sports- The Finals in 

. ° '^ Other A E F 

manship mamtamed, as audience after audience witnessed the finals championship 
in other sports. The boxing and football championships received the 
greatest publicity. Less general attention was paid to baseball be- 
cause the finals were not reached until after the Inter-Allied Games. 
The soccer contests, which lasted four days, were, however, com- 
pleted at Colombes Stadium by the middle of May and aroused great 
enthusiasm. The tennis championship was fought at the Racing Club 
of France toward the end of the same month. Shooting and musketry 
matches were held at the rifle range at Amours near Le Mans and 
swimming events in the lake, Bois de Boulogne, Paris. For track and 
field events, stars selected from all parts of the A E F were brought 
back to Paris for training and elimination contests. The finals were 

The whole series of contests leading up to the A E F Champion- 
ships considered as one meet, constituted the greatest athletic program 
ever carried out under one management. The victors in the finals had 
to play through from ten to forty preliminaries. They were the best 
athletes selected from two million men. Many of them had gained 
topmost rank in amateur sports in a nation noted for its promotion 
of athletics. Many were professionals. To have taken part in organ- 
izing such a series was a high privilege. 

The Inter-Allied Games 

The Inter-Allied Games provided a fitting climax to the champion- 
ship contests. During the entire period of the eliminations it was 
known throughout the Army that the victors in the A E F Series 
would be eligible to represent the United States in the Inter-Allied 
events. Such knowledge naturally enhanced the fierceness with which 
the earlier series were fought. 



The Motive of 

Army and 

Y M C A Joint 




The main purpose of the Inter-Allied Games, however, was essen- 
tially different from that which underlay the A E F contests. The 
games occurred late in June and early in July after three-fourths of 
the troops had already left France. The problem of securing partici- 
pation in sports, therefore, was rapidly disappearing. What the 
games did accomplish, according to purpose, was a demonstration be- 
yond peradventure that in one field of human activity at least, intense 
competition could coexist with friendship. The world contests stood 
for the application in international relations of the sportsman's ideal 
of keen rivalry, a free field and fair play. They symbolized the ends 
for which the war itself was fought. The letter of invitation, sent by 
General Pershing on January 9, 1919, to commanders of the forces 
of 29 nations, colonies, and dependencies, presented this purpose in 
the clearest and most forceful language. 

As his letter indicated clearly, the games were not an Olympiad 
promoted on the basis of joint-control by participating nations. The 
American Army was the host. Every effort was made, through re- 
peated consultations, to make the rules and regulations agreeable to 
the nations that accepted the invitation, and in no case was expense 
incurred by the invited armies other than that involved in training, 
transporting, and billeting their own teams. 

As finally arranged after numerous conferences with Colonel 
Johnson, responsibility for the games rested entirely in the hands of 
the Army Games Committee. This committee, established February 

4, 1919, derived its authority directly from General Pershing. It 
consisted of Colonel Johnson, Chairman, two other army officers, 
and two Y M C A representatives. Numerous sub-committees were 
created to care for publicity, grounds, supplies, and ceremonies as well 
as for the program of competitions. To all these committees, Y M C A 
directors possessing technical knowledge on particular subjects were 
attached either as members or in an advisory capacity. Immediately 
l)ef ore the games were staged, Colonel Johnson conferred upon Elwood 

5. Brown, then Y M C A Athletic Director for the A E F in France, 
entire authority, derived directly from the Commander-in-Chief, to 
act as Director General of the Games. 

The original plans contemplated use of the Colombes Stadium, 
but when the acceptances came in and the widespread enthusiasm for 
the project was realized it became necessary to provide a larger arena. 
The Y M C A then guaranteed to build that monumental structure 
accommodating 40,000 spectators, the famous Pershing Stadium, later 


presented to the French people as a perpetual memorial of America's 
goodwill. Situated in the Bois de Vincennes where knights of France 
since Henry of Navarre had contended, the site, donated by the French 
Government, was near enough to Paris to be ideal. To defray the 
cost of the structure and to carry on the games, the Y M C A appropri- 
ated 1,000,000 francs divided as follows: 450,000 for preparation of 
the site, 150,000 for equipping the Stadium, 50,000 for prizes, and 
350,000 for general operating expenses including welfare and enter- 
tainment service to American troops and competitors of all nations. 
The whole project of the Stadium, however, would have failed com- 
pletely had it not been for the spirited and efficient way in which the 
American Army met a very embarrassing emergency. After the 
structure was about one-third completed, the French contractor sud- 
denly was confronted on May 2d with insuperable labor difficulties 
and was compelled to cease work. With the games scheduled to begin 
June 16th, the situation was apparently hopeless. The Army, how- 
ever, rushed in engineers and materials, and by herculean efforts com- 
pleted the Stadium on time. 

The working out of the program developed many novel features. ^^^*J 
To avoid unfairness to nations weakened by the war, or accustomed 
only to a limited variety of sports, it was provided that there should 
be no general championship. Any country especially proficient in any 
given sport could make an entry for that alone, could have a chance 
for a special championship, and, if successful, could gain the satisfac- 
tion that comes from recognition of merit. This departure from 
usual procedure in Olympics had proven highly successful in the Far 
Eastern Games. In scoring, no account was taken of form. Any sport 
which had but one entry became an exhibition event and any country 
could stage a demonstration. Moreover the no winner plan encour- 
aged many countries that wished to introduce particular games among 
their people, to enter teams against countries that had specialized for 
years in those particular sports. The object sought was many entries 
rather than extraordinary records. Eligibility was limited to men 
who had worn the uniform of any of the Allied Armies. Nearly 
15,000 athletes participated. 

In view of the enormous losses of men suffered by many of the J^^^^j^^^ti^j, ^y 
armies the eighteen acceptances to the invitation were highly gratify- JtSr""^ 
ing. Some of the nations were at a tremendous disadvantage. After 
eight years of devastating war, Serbia's sportsmen faced a hopeless 
task when they sought representatives. The Czechs had fostered 


gymnastics but had long been discouraged by Austria from promoting 
sports or athletics. Great Britain, had she been able to participate, 
would have found herself handicapped as was France by the fact that 
in listing names illustrious in previous contests, scores would have 
appeared on the honor roll as "killed in action." Nevertheless many 
nations made very strenuous efforts to be represented and this natur- 
ally helped to encourage that spirit of good sportsmanship which the 
games were intended to foster. In some instances the example of the 
United States in its earlier encouragement of sports helped greatly to 
stimulate these efforts. Italian Army officers, for example, became 
much interested in the athletic competitions held among the United 
States troops that were sent to aid Italy's fight and they asked the 
Y M C A to introduce the same system into their own Army. The 
granting of this request led to a long series of elimination contests and 
the final selection of a team to represent Italy in the games. In other 
sports in which Italians excel such as riding, fencing, wrestling, and 
swimming, the nation was naturally well represented. Czechoslovakia 
sent as her soccer team the Prague squad that had been boycotted by 
the Austrians from 1908 to 1918, and had the great satisfaction of 
winning the championship in that sport. In fencing, too, the team of 
this nation gave an excellent account of itself. For the competition in 
tennis, however, her players had had no practice chiefly because in 
their country no tennis balls had been available since 1914. 

France, in spite of her enormous losses of men, made a very re- 
markable showing. She combed her Army for athletes, held extensive 
elimination contests, and enlisted the cooperation of her many athletic 
federations. As a result she was one of the largest participants in 
practically every sport. Her fine spirit of cooperation and determi- 
nation to conquer won her the same admiration in sport that her 
splendid valor on the field of battle had brought her in the war itself. 
The Among all the nations the United States was the least handi- 


Position of^the Capped. Nearly all of her best athletes were in the Army. Compara- 
tively few had been killed. Furthermore, the presence of some 50 
athletes from the Army at home was a partial compensation for the 
absence of many victors in the A E F Championships who could not 
remain for the Allied Games. These considerations detract nothing 
from the merits of victorious individuals or teams but they cannot be 
left wholly out of the reckoning when accounting for the fact that 
American teams won twelve championships out of a possible twenty- 

United States 


Thirty thousand spectators rose to their feet on the opening day caia 
at the entrance of the military parade headed by the Garde Republi- ^'^"^ 
caine Band, and followed by representatives of some of the most 
famous fighting contingents of the war. Tattered regimental flags, 
many stained with blood of battles long antedating those of the Great 
War; national ensigns of all participating nations; uniforms of vari- 
ous sorts. Chasseurs Alpins, Zouaves, Tirailleurs, French, Italian, 
Serbian, and all the rest — these, and the presence of thousands of 
spectators in uniform, were the thrilling reminders of the world-wide 
character of the long and bitter struggle now brought to a victorious 
close. The military were followed by 15,000 athletes who lined up in 
front of the troops marshalled before the reviewing stand. 

In the presence of this audience the Stadium itself was pre- JJffs\^*/>'* °* 
sented by the Y M C A to General Pershing as representative of the ^ ^'■^"<=« 
Army, and by him in the name of the Army to the French people. 

The inscription perpetuating the event, wrought in bronze and 
set firmly in the concrete of the Tribune d'Honneur, reads as follows : 

"Pershing Stadium erected for the Inter-Allied Games by the 
American Young Men's Christian Association and presented by it 
through Edward C. Carter, Chief Secretary, to General John J. Persh- 
ing, Commander-in-Chief, for the American Expeditionary Forces, 
and in turn presented by General Pershing to M. Georges Clemenceau, 
President Council of Ministers and Minister of War, for the French 
people, that the cherished bonds of friendship between France and 
America forged anew on the common field of battle may be tempered 
and made enduring on the friendly field of sport." 

The story of the exciting contests that took place during the next 
two weeks in the great Arena has required a book to itself.^ 

Suffice it to say that not one accident marred the success of the J^^^^^j^suc^^s^ 
great meet. Not only the sports themselves but the exhibitions, such 
for example as the dare-devil horsemanship and swordsmanship of the 
Hedjaz Arabs or the swoop of the great Caproni to within twenty feet 
of the ground to rise by a masterful maneuver clearing the stands a 
few feet above the spectators — these and the many pageants, demon- 
strations, and night illuminations lent a picturesqueness and variety to 

^The Inter- Allied Games, Paris, 22d June to 6th July, 1919. Mai or G. 
Wythe, Captain J. M. Hanson, Captain C. V. Burger, editors. Published by the 
Games Committee, Paris, 1919. Concerning this volume it has been fitly said: 

"Economists, diplomats, moralists of every persuasion, must instantly admit 
the strength of the spirit here set forth toward world friendship or belie their 
own sanity. It is moral, it is hopeful, it is religious in a most practical sense, it 
is the antithesis of war." 


the celebration that was in keeping with its character as a symbol of 
international fraternity. 

Athletics in Leave Areas and with Troops 
OF Allied Nations 

Jf'i^ietlc^*"*'* "^^^ history of athletics in the A E F in France is not complete 

Service without mcntion of the work accomplished at leave areas in France. 

Neither can an account of athletics overseas be adequate without 
some attention to the contribution which Y M C A physical directors 
made among troops of the Allied nations, both in France and in other 
fields of military activity. In the leave areas athletics were largely 
subordinate to entertainment and in consequence boxing and other 
sports that could be staged before crowds were featured. At Nice, 
however, the A E F tennis and golf championships, in which many 
famous players competed, were run off amid much enthusiasm. When 
weather permitted winter sports, skating, skiing, and mountain 
climbing were enjoyed to the full at Aix-les-Bains and other mountain 
resorts. Athletics among French troops was cared for by the Comite 
Nationale d'Education Physique et Sportive de I'Hygiene Sociale and 
with this Association the Y M C A worked in close cooperation. The 
French were particularly proficient in boxing, track events, and soccer. 
Franco-American contests in these sports aroused intensest enthusi- 
asm. The American loves an up-hill fight and in competition with the 
French his mettle was tried at every instant. During the early period 
of exhibition boxing, out of 132 Franco-American contests held at the 
Palais de Glace the Americans won 56, the French 55, and 21 contests 
were draws. The Frenchman's fist was not exactly feeble. Moreover, 
his chivalrous conduct in the ring was equally influential in developing 
respect for his prowess. The French knowledge of Rugby football 
was likewise expert and their superiority over hastily trained Ameri- 
can teams was easily demonstrated. On the other hand, the popularity 
of baseball among the Americans had so much influence upon the 
French as to produce a recommendation by General Cottez, Director 
of Physical Training in the French Army, that baseball be included in 
all centers of physical instruction. Following this order one Y M C A 
director at a training school for French infantry made it possible 
early in the war for the French soldiers to lengthen their grenade 
throwing considerably, and improved accuracy by 30 per cent. Other 
directors attached to the Foyers du Soldat aided especially in introduc- 
ing mass plays such as line relay games, hand wrestling, and mass 


boxing, with which the French soldiers had hitherto been entirely- 
unfamiliar. The French were particularly pleased with the American 
game of basket ball. Avoiding the danger of a baseball to unskilled 
hands, basket ball has the features of speed, excitement, and open 
play. Moreover it develops the muscles of the arms as well as legs, 
and men somewhat deficient in the upper body profited much by in- 
terest in the sport. 

Special efforts were made also to advance the sporting program ^tnieucs Among 
among many of the Asiatic and African races serving in the Allied a^''^^^^^^" 
Armies. The Chinese Labor Corps and Indian troops serving the 
British Army, the Arabs, Senegalese, Tunisians, Anamites, and other 
Indo-Chinese with the French were all reached to a greater or less 

In fields outside of France the Americans were likewise influen- 
tial in the teaching of athletics. The British were just as quick as 
the French to adopt the American basketball. After the Armistice 
an instruction tour by two American teams was specially arranged 
for by the Y M C A. Before demonstrations, a half hour lecture on 
the principles of the game was given. The result was a request for an 
expert to teach the game to British non-commissioned officers in order 
that they might in turn instruct their men. 

Similar calls for expert instructors in various branches of ath- 
letics came from many other nations, especially during and after the 
Inter-Allied Games. The Chief Military Officer of Roumania asked 
the Y M C A that a trained recreation leader be assigned to that 
country for at least a year. The Y M C A responded by sending a 
director and four assistants. A number of directors were sent to work 
with the armies of other nations, Italy, Poland, Czechoslovakia, 
Greece, and Belgium. 

Significance of Athletics 

Athletics proved to be one of the major features of welfare work. 
Pushed into the background at first by more urgent and engrossing 
concerns, it gradually won recognition as an unexcelled method of 
occupying the free time of the men with interesting, congenial, and 
beneficial activities. With physical improvement it combined relaxa- 
tion of nervous tension and outlet for surplus energy. Through mass 
games for all, unskilled as well as expert, and hotly fought exhibitions 
of clean sport, it promoted the spirit of gameness, determination, com- 
radeship, and fair play which is the soul of cooperative success. Fin- 


ally it brought together, in competitions no less strenuous because 
friendly, the picked athletes of the Allied Armies, welding on the field 
of sport the bonds of fellowship forged on the field of battle. From 
purely individual ministry, the maintenance of a healthy mind in a 
healthy body, its influence extended to the promotion of a sound inter- 
national unity, through mutual respect based on mutual acquaintance. 
The value of its contribution to the national welfare, in peace as well 
as in war, is beyond question. 

Chapter XXXVI 

The dominant part played by women in the initiation of modern 
efforts to mitigate the hardships of soldiers was a clear augury that, in 
such a struggle as the World War, women would not be content with 
Hooverizing and knitting. That the first development from the 
impulse given by Florence Nightingale should have employed pri- 
marily the unique gifts of women for nursing the sick and wounded, 
was in the natural order of events. But her vision had included also 
the well, and when welfare work for all began to be conceived as the 
extension of home influences and comforts into military camps, the 
indispensability of women, as well as their resolution to participate, 
might have been foreseen as certainties. It was only the fact that 
the Y M C A, to which welfare work was entrusted, was specifically a 
men's organization, that obscured for a little while the large and 
important function which could be best performed by women. When 
individual women began to seek admission into the ranks of welfare 
workers, they found advocates able to persuade those who feared 
embarrassment and difficulty to try the experiment. The result was 
a demonstration that a well-rounded welfare program requires women, 
not as substitutes for men, but as cooperators in a work for which 
neither sex is sufficient by itself. Performing a wide variety of prac- 
tical service, they imbued it all with a comradeship in which the 
soldiers found a deeper satisfaction than in all the creature comforts 
they received. That this comradeship exerted an effective influence, 
not only upon the conduct of the men, but on their character and 
soldier spirit, needs no discussion.^ 

* Readers who would enjoy detailed information on Y women workers will 
find interesting accounts in the following books: A Red Triangle Girl in France, 
New York, 1918; A Y Girl in France, Letters of Katherine Shortall, Boston, 1919; 
Canteening Overseas, 1917-1919, Marion Baldwin, New York, 1920; My A. E. F., 
A Hail and Farewell, Frances Newbold Noyes, New York, 1920; That Damn Y, 
Katherine Mayo, Boston, 1920; The Big Show, My Six Months with the American 
Expeditionary Forces, Elsie Janis, New York, 1919; Trouping for the Troops, 
Fun-Making at the Front, Margaret Mayo, New York, 1919; Two Colored Women 
with the American Expeditionary Forces, Addie W. Hunton and Kathryn M. 
Johnson, New York, 1920; Uncensored Letters of a Canteen Girl, Katherine 
Morse, New York, 1920. 



|jjt^'2^^ It was the exacting demands of the war itself which opened, to 

women, doors always before closed. The draining of the man power 
of Britain left gaps, first in civilian industry and soon in military sup- 
port service, to fill which only women were available. They answered 
the challenge as spiritedly as did their brothers, and it was not long 
before, in munition shops and on farms, in trains and busses, and 
countless other occupations from which the requirement of bodily 
strength or technical skill had previously excluded them, women were 
busily and efficiently at work. Civilian life in Britain had been dras- 
tically scaled down by 1916; without the women doing men's work, it 
is difficult to imagine how it could have gone on at all. In the face of 
what women were actually doing, he would have been bold who had 
dared propose, for any occupation, the warning, "Women Excluded." 
In the Army, too, women found place. Corps of women, famil- 
iarly and almost affectionately known as Waacs (W.A.A.C., Women's 
Auxiliary Army Corps) , Wrens (W. R. N.C., Women's Royal Navy 
Corps), Rafs (W. R. A. F., Women's Royal Air Force) and Vads 
(V. A. D., Voluntary Aid Detachment) were cooking, typing, driving 
cars and trucks, speeding on motor cycles as messengers, and perform- 
ing varied services in direct connection with the Army and Navy, not 
only in Britain, but in France and Belgium. They were uniformed 
and drilled, lodged in barracks and commanded by woman captains, 
majors, and colonels. It was inevitable, therefore, that women should 
have presented to the British Y M C A a solution of its serious recruit- 
ing problems, and as the months of 1915 and 1916 passed, with stead- 
ily increasing demands for men to fight, women came to carry most of 
the load of hut and canteen service in British training camps and 
cities, and a very large part of that on the continent. 

Beginningsj)y The cantecn door was the first one opened to women by the 

Y M C A. Mrs. Vincent Astor offered her services, and, arriving in 
France in June, 1917, was put in charge of the first canteen for sailors 
at Brest, and Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., opened the first canteen in 
Paris in July. These two were the pioneers of more than 3,000 Y 

In early conferences between the American and British Y M C A 
leaders, the work of women in the British huts was carefully reviewed 
and discussed, with the result that in August, a message was cabled 
to the War Work Council, in New York : "Unanimous opinion that 
qualified women for canteen work are necessary." 

American Women 


An explanatory letter revealed the cautious approach to what 
seemed a revolutionary innovation: 

"All should understand that the primary task for the women 
workers is assisting in the menial work, in the canteen, the kitchen and 
the cafe, at the same time having very limited opportunities in French 
and other educational classes, and in the entertainmients. . . . 
Our official reason for bringing women into huts should always be that 
we desire to use women so as to free as many men as possible for 
military service." 

In striking contrast to the careful limitations of this program is 
the statement of the head of women workers in Paris a year and a 
half later. She reported that she was eliminating all women from 
the dry canteen at the Pavilion Hotel because it, being a purely busi- 
ness proposition, should be carried on by men, in order to set women 
free for social service. 

The Chief Secretary's judgment as to the type of women wanted, ^^^"^^^ 
however, never needed revision. They must, he wrote, be strong, 
sensible, with some knowledge of life, good mixers, loyal to military 
and Association rule, in thorough sympathy with the Association's 
social and religious aims, and have interest in spiritual things. He 
adds, "the by-product of the presence of women in the huts is so very 
great, that the highest standards of character, religious interest, edu- 
cational, and physical efficiency must be insisted on." Such require- 
ments did not seem exacting and it was thought that all the women 
needed could be easily found among volunteers. In July and August 
several women hearing rumors of overseas canteen service had already 
applied. A group of women recruited from the American colony in 
Paris were aiding Mrs. Roosevelt in the Paris canteen. In August an 
American woman was sent to St. Nazaire, another to Nevers, a group 
from the American Fund for French wounded opened a canteen at 
Bourmont under the Association, and Mrs. Astor had made the begin- 
ning at Brest. By early September it was evident that the women's 
work was going to need the special care and guidance of women. By 
October, 25 women had come from the United States and at a confer- 
ence at Versailles the Women's Bureau was formally organized as part 
of the Paris headquarters, with Gertrude Ely and Martha McCook in 
charge.^ Meanwhile, recruiting women in New York developed in 
charge of the Women's Division of the War Personnel Board.^ 

' Consult Chapter XXVII. 
* Consult Chapter XV. 


Women's Work in the Field 

Location The 0116 Order from Army Headquarters relating to the stationing 

of women with the troops was that forbidding them to go beyond 
Brigade Headquarters. As, at the front, nothing is easier to lose than 
Brigade Headquarters, this regulation was never a guide. The gen- 
eral plan was that the women would work at the ports, in the SOS, 
and with the troops in training. The women with the 1st Division, 
moving with their troops, worked in the field hospitals during the first 
engagements in the Cantigny sector. In the view of the officers, their 
influence and helpfulness was so great that they were allowed with the 
divisions at Soissons, St. Mihiel, and through the battle of the Meuse- 
Argonne — some of the women marching with the troops into Ger- 
many. These of the 1st Division had the longest and most effective 
service of any of the women with the fighting divisions. There were, 
however, more than 50 under fire with twenty other divisions and 
with the Foyers du Soldat. Thirteen women secretaries received the 
Croix de Guerre, and many were cited for bravery. Practically all 
of the women hoped for front line service ; but since the presence of 
welfare workers at the front was entirely under the control of the com- 
manders, it was not possible to make any definite plans for these 
coveted positions. In September, 1918, an order was sent out from 
the Women's Bureau that no women should be permitted in the regions 
of the moving troops save those who had been from six to nine months 
in the service and who were especially recommended by their divisional 
chiefs for this honor. The Armistice came before this plan could be 
made effective, and whether one ever saw the front or worked the 
whole time in a port was a matter rather of chance than of selection. 
Though it was hard for the women of the rear to realize this, there is 
no doubt that the leaders were right in their feeling that the most 
valuable work the women could do v/as during the periods of waiting, 
or in those rear regions where the men labored incessantly with no 
hope of excitement and no incentive to heroism. 

The The actuality of the canteen was very different from the imagi- 

nary picture most of the women had conjured up.^ 

"We started with splendid plans to run a sort of quick lunch res- 
taurant with ham and eggs, omelet, hot chocolate, steak, French fried 
potatoes, chops, etc. I laugh when I think of it. We got up at six and 
tried to start the fire. French coal is about half slate and you can't 

* A Red Triangle Girl in France, New York, 1918. 


depend on it a minute. Anyway, our range is a snare and a delusion, 
with a fire box about the size of a couple of bricks. We also had a 
balky little charcoal burner and my sterno. . . . The boys drank 
eighty gallons of chocolate and milk ; and after the hours of serving 
were over some of the cadets came in to help wash the dishes, sweep 
the floor and put the canteen in order. . , . Our canteen, though 
too small, is better than many, for we have floors, a few little heating 
stoves, and best of all, electric lights." 

Perhaps this worker had an exceptionally exaggerated anticipa- Types of 
tion of canteen work, but the conditions which enabled her to con- 
gratulate herself because her canteen had floors and a few little heat- 
ing stoves, were typical, and suggest the situation better than a 
description. Not only were the services narrowly limited but the 
amount of labor and ingenuity required for even a minimum of service 
was prodigious. Such prosaic details as procuring wholly inadequate 
supplies of green wood and continual feeding of fires, or washing hun- 
dreds of cups, when water had to be carried from a distant pump or 
well and heated over a single tiny stove, absorbed hours and taxed 
good nature.^ Running a canteen was not merely a matter of selling 
or serving over a counter, and it was only gradually that French 
women were hired to help out in the preliminaries. Until after the 
Armistice, soldier details were not to be spared from military duties. 

Nevertheless, the extract quoted suggests ways in which the 
transformation of women's work began. The soldiers everywhere 
lent a hand in their free time. Their tendency to linger for a chat 
at the counter, had to be repressed because of delaying the line of men 
waiting for service. But they quickly found that helping in the 
kitchen gave better opportunities for talk with the girls, and men who 
despised and loathed detail as kitchen police in the mess kitchen com- 
peted for the privilege in the Y canteen. What the Chief Secretary 
had referred to as a by-product of women's work, the friendly associ- 
ation with the men, took in this natural way a start toward the most 
significant feature of their usefulness. 

Cooking, too, led to satisfaction greater than the eating of the <^°°'^''^8^ 
things cooked. Facilities and supplies were both lacking for a restau- 
rant, or even quick lunch service in the huts. But the men would get 
materials and bring them to the girls for preparation. Sometimes it 
would be sugar for a batch of fudge ; sometimes apples could be secured 

^ "It took three hours to boil our huge pots on the small stoves we had." — 
Letter of a canteen worker. 





and the girls made pies ; or flour for fried cakes. This was irregular 
and occasional, a matter of readiness to seize or to make opportunity. 
It meant, however, that many toothsome delicacies were enjoyed by the 
men, not to speak of the fun that went with stirring the fudge and 
washing up afterwards. Most of the huts and girls managed to 
develop specialties; at one it was doughnuts, at another, ice cream; 
but the point was that, in an unpremeditated way, a very large number 
of men felt that they had special personal attention for which they 
felt personal appreciation. 

As opportunity offered, most of the women practiced a hospitality 
that went still further in this direction. The equipment for a tea table 
could often be secured or improvised, and invited groups gathered 
about the fireside in the hut, or in the women's billets if the situation 
permitted. Just how much such interludes, for they were no more, 
meant to men in the general squalor and roughness, is only to be 
inferred from the popularity of the women workers. The obvious 
dangers of seeming partiality were avoided, with few exceptions, by 
the social experience and poise which had been an emphasized require- 
ment in recruiting, and by the fact that the women were genuinely 
intent on service, and watched continually for the men who showed 
signs that life was going especially hard for them. The situation 
demanded the utmost tact and sincerity, for the admiration and appre- 
ciation of the men were outspoken, and might easily turn heads sus- 
ceptible to compliment. To be the only woman among hundreds of 
men, to see daily men undergoing experiences evoking sympathy, and 
to be unable to forget that sooner or later they would move forward 
into battle, and yet to smile and be gay and thrust aside the pathos and 
make a joke of the hardships even while intent on mitigating them, 
most of all to shed the personal tributes without appropriating them, 
as unconsciously as a duck sheds rain — all this was a severe test that 
only sincere devotion could successfully pass. 

It is hardly possible to enumerate the details of women's work 
with the A E F, nor would the most complete enumeration convey the 
real significance that made it invaluable. One of the characteristic ele- 
ments took the form of hut decoration. Apparently the first reaction 
of any woman on arriving at a hut was that it needed to be cleaned up 
and made attractive. A poster or two, or a string of flags; curtains 
hastily improvised out of materials bought in the nearest town; a 
touch of paint here and there — after all they did not make the barn- 
like huts or the barns themselves that served as huts, really beautiful. 


But they served as reminders that beauty was real and would one day 
be again enjoyed ; they helped to visualize home ; they bore witness to 
the presence of the home-maker which perhaps means more to men 
than any concrete expression of the home-making instinct in materials. 
Without attempting to catalogue the details, one may visualize women, 
bright, inventive, resourceful, sympathetic, expressing themselves in 
ways that multiplied their limited numbers until each man's own 
womenfolk became real to him. When the chairman of the War Work 
Council went over the field in the spring of 1918 and observed the work 
of the women, he insisted that the limiting title, "Canteen worker," be 
dropped and the time-honored Association title, "Secretary," be given 

While this aura of womanhood, so difficult to describe, yet so real, Physical 


attended all that the woman did, it must be recognized that their 
actual concrete service was often of the most laborious and exhaust- 
ing character. With many a division, the serving of hot drinks and 
sandwiches to troops entraining or detraining, was largely performed 
by them. Forty-eight hours without intermission, on a railroad sta- 
tion platform, in heavy rain, preparing and passing out hot chocolate, 
was an experience many of the women knew. Hospitals and dressing 
stations, when the wounded were pouring in, found women working 
at top speed for hours at a stretch, assisting surgeons, bathing and 
cleansing patients, preparing food and drinks, and ministering to 
every need within their power. Even the chauffeur's job was theirs at 
times, and although the conviction that they could be more useful in 
other ways prevented extensive employment as drivers, they proved 
in emergencies that they could negotiate the rough roads of the 
advance zone without lights, and what was still m.ore important, take 
care of their cars. In the advance zone they experienced the hard- 
ships of the troops, serving in towns where nightly bombing or shell- 
ing made it necessary for all hands to go out into the fields to sleep. 
They were billeted in unheated rooms, and at times had to forage for 
their food. Although special efforts were made to secure comfortable 
quarters and conveniences for them, they had to go to some places 
where such things did not exist and could not be created, and they 
accepted conditions without complaint. Perhaps the severest condi- 
tions were those endured by the few women who marched with the 
troops into Germany. As a group, the women demonstrated physical 
ability to endure the strain of protracted periods of hard work, dan- 
ger, and hardship, and a spirit that outran even the limitations of the 






body.^ The record of serious illness was remarkably low. Out of 
3,480 women overseas, nineteen died of disease, four before they 
reached the field. 

The conception of dancing as a social enjoyment of the idle must 
be put aside when this feature of women's activity in the A E F is con- 
sidered. To the men it was the favorite recreation, but their inces- 
sant demands put a severe strain upon their partners. When a dance 
was proposed for a unit in the billeting areas, after the Armistice, 
the Y girl attached to the unit would call upon all the women workers 
within motor radius to come and help out. Cars would be furnished 
by the Army to bring them and take them back to their posts. It 
was held that a girl who responded to such a call had the right to 
claim a return in kind when her unit gave a dance. One of the work- 
ers tells, in a letter, of her dismay when she realized that in collecting 
partners for her outfit's dance, she had put herself under obligations 
to go to thirty dances in other units. Since dancing was regarded as 
an extra, not releasing women from their regular duties, it became a 
serious problem. The director of the Women's Bureau, in writing to 
one of the regional directresses in March, 1919, said: 

"It will be wise for you to tell the women in your region that they 
cannot leave their huts for more than one evening a week; I see no 
other way to curtail this mad dancing. ... I realize that noth- 
ing quite takes its place, but it is certainly being overdone and we have 
got to substitute other methods of amusing our men." 

In Paris the matter had to be taken up with the prefect of police 
and with our army authorities. The rules as finally laid down for the 
entire Y M C A force forbade attendance at any dance where liquor 
was served, and ordered that all dances be scheduled to permit the 
workers to be at home by midnight. Y women were to attend only 
dances given by welfare organizations where there were stated host- 
esses, and they could go to but two a week. The situation, and the 
attitude of the army in the matter is made clear by a telegram from 
General Hagood with the Army of Occupation : 

"Greatest immediate need is several hundred young women work- 
ers of pleasing personality. At a recent dance here twenty-one 
Y M C A, Red Cross and telephone girls were collected from surround- 
ing country and there were fifteen hundred soldiers crowded into the 

' Compare Chapter XXVII. 


hall. These women you have on the job are overworked and do not 
have even an opportunity to eat their meals." 

The "flying squadron" was an attempt to save the hut worker 
for what seemed to the Women's Bureau far more important service, 
and yet not disappoint the soldiers and officers. These flying squad- 
rons were groups of women under a chaperon who went from hut to 
hut dancing with the men. Although so far as the pleasure of the sol- 
diers was concerned, this was most successful, it was a plan requiring 
such careful handling and fraught with so many dangers, that it could 
not be considered a solution; a setting of limits to the dancing was 
finally recognized both by Army and Association as imperative. 

In the work of the Foyers du Soldat it was quickly seen that it fowa" "^^ 
would be impossible to answer the call of the French Army for 1,400 
huts without the help of women. The recruiting of French women 
was begun in the autumn of 1917; but it was found impossible to 
secure the requisite number of suitable helpers. Several American 
women were secured and the first experiments were made with twelve 
French and American directresses. The plan was that the front line 
work should be in the hands of men secretaries exclusively, while in 
the destroyed towns each hut should be in charge of two women, a 
French and an American, the French directress being in charge. So 
successful were the twelve women that more were sent for and there- 
after the French and American women worked together on an equality 
and planned out their huts according to their own judgment. There 
was much greater difficulty in securing permission to move among the 
French troops than among the American, so that the Foyer workers 
had often to wait long periods before they could set up a new Foyer 
when forced to evacuate an old one. These delays added to the diffi- 
culty of securing sufficient American women. It was necessary that 
American women working with the French should have, besides a 
knowledge of the French language, an understanding of the French 
people and such grasp of affairs as would make them tactful, sympa- 
thetic friends of the poilu. Although many such women went to 
France, the work for the A E F naturally seemed always the more 
urgent, and despite constant calls only 79 American women served 
with the Foyers. This meant working not alone with the French 
troops, but with Algerians and the Polish Legion and with the refu- 
gees fleeing before the Germans, or creeping back to their restored vil- 
lages. The most thrilling incidents in the women's services came to 


these Soeurs Americaines. The one woman who lost her life on duty 
under fire was a Foyer directrice at Ste. Menehould — Marion Cran- 
dall. Nowhere was there such opportunity for influence making 
toward international goodwill, as that which came to the women wear- 
ing the grey veil of the Foyers du Soldat. 

J^^j The women's work in Italy was theoretically under the Women's 

Bureau in Paris. Workers were assigned from Paris and Italy was 
treated exactly as one of the regions in France ; but so far away was it 
in those days that the work went on necessarily with scant communi- 
cation and little either of advice or equipment. An appeal for work- 
ers for Italy reached New York in the spring of 1918. In August, five 
women were sent down. In Rome and Florence the American women 
residents made strong volunteer committees so that the first women 
secretaries were used especially as liaison officers to bring the eager 
and generous members of the official corps and the American colony 
in touch with the men. The devotion of these volunteers was 
unwearying, and one of the most useful results of their interest was 
the opening of American homes to the boys. Women worked for 
short periods at Fiume, Trenso, Treviso, Milan, Bologna and till the 
summer of 1919 at Rome, Florence, Venice, Genoa, and Trieste. Since 
only one American regiment was stationed in Italy, the work was 
mainly with the Navy, the soldiers passing through, the ambulance 
men, and the sailors from convoys. 

In the The women's part of the work in Great Britain^ for the A E F 

began when Eagle Hut opened in 1917. From the British Y, from the 
Green Cross, the Association for volunteer war service, and from 
the American Women's Club gathered hundreds of eager helpers. 
They worked in teams, each under its captain, and many served 
throughout the whole two years and more while our men were passing 
through England. 

The work could not have been carried on without this service from 
the already over-burdened English women to their late come Allies. 
"Not only did they 'carry on' in the face of air raids, and 'flu' epi- 
demics and in the midst of personal grief" but they took the hard hours 
of night and early morning. This was partly because there were 
few American women, but largely because our women were not hard- 
ened to the discipline and heavy, steady work to which the British 
women were inured by three long years of war. Even Saturday aft- 

The very significant service of women in the street patrol in London is 
described in Chapter XXXVII. 


ernoons and Sundays there were shifts of English girls from shops 
and offices who gave up their holidays gladly to help the Americans. 

In June, 1918, the women's department was organized under Lady 
Ward, who served without interruption from beginning to end. Abso- 
lutely necessary and successful as had been this volunteer service by 
women, there was decided opposition to the idea of women workers 
from America such as had been working almost a year in France. 
Lady Ward began with eight and wrote to New York for six more. 
After watching this innovation for a month the secretary most opposed 
asked for eight for his own district, and the cause was won. Before 
the work closed, 159 American women were working in the stations 
scattered from the Orkneys to Plymouth, from London to Bantry Bay. 
Under the London office, too, came the women at Corfu, Corsica, and 
Azores. Much of this work was, of course, in the ports, with the 
navy and the sailors of the transports. At Barry Docks, Cardiff, 
women were first used with the merchant marine. Here was a class 
of men, the same in peace as in war, always wanderers from port to 
port, always homeless. The success of the little Y at Barry Docks 
with its American house mother was so immediate that one wonders 
why so inexpensive and simple a method of giving the seamen a home 
in a foreign port had not long ago been discovered by the port soci- 

It is not the purpose of this chapter to give a comprehensive and 
detailed account of all the service rendered by women to the Army. In 
the descriptions, both of plans and of performance, already given and 
to follow, there is constant allusion to their presence in all departments 
and fields. Wherever men were, there were women also, taking their 
full share of what was to be done and meeting emergencies with no 
hampering preconceptions as to what was and what was not their 
proper function. 

The profoundly significant development of the war, in this con- JJ^^^^^m^^''^^ 
nection, was the demonstration that the right kind of woman may live 
in military camps, not only without offense or harm to herself, but 
with incalculable benefit to the men. Even the entirely proper pre- 
caution, established at first, that women should be assigned always in 
couples and never singly, was soon quietly ignored under the pressure 
of the work, and was found in practice quite unnecessary. It may be 
doubted whether, in any surroundings except the privacy of home, 
women could be more secure, not only from danger, but from the 
slightest offense of word or look. The soldiers gave them undiluted 


respect, and the perfect loyalty of comradeship. To this result the 
bearing and spirit of the women contributed equally with the chivalry 
of the men. In the long history of the association of the sexes, there 
is no better augury for the future than in this natural companionship 
in a great achievement, where sex unquestionably played an important 
part, yet without perversion or exaggeration. 

Chapter XXXVII 

In the description of the fundamental elements of service, the 
point of view, so far, has necessarily been that of men planning for 
the whole A E F, and setting ideal standards of service. Inevitably, 
the standards outran achievements, and the implied comparisons pro- 
duce an effect distinctly unjust. In the following chapters the stand- 
ards and the conditions that limited their realization recede into the 
background. Going into the field with the workers and the soldiers, 
we shall see through their eyes the things that were actually done. 
Inasmuch as the British Isles constituted an important field of service 
for the A E F-Y MCA, in which a large proportion of the soldiers 
first entered their overseas experience, it will be convenient to survey 
the work done there before considering the work in France. 

In relation to the A E F, the British Isles had the character of Americans in the 

. British Isles 

an intermediate base. Approximately half the American forces 
landed at British ports and stayed a few days before proceeding to 
France. The business of forwarding these troops gave permanent 
employment to several thousand officers and men at the various head- 
quarters, posts and rest camps. Naval operations, carried on jointly 
with the British, were based on British ports, in which 25,000 to 
40,000 naval men performed shore duty or came on leave from the 
ships. Saw-mill units, cutting lumber in the forests of Scotland, and 
aviation mechanics, to the number of approximately 25,000, taking 
special training in the care and repair of aeroplanes, constituted a 
semi-permanent American population, while military and naval offi- 
cers constantly coming and going on business in London, and the 
crews of the transports on shore leave at Liverpool and other ports, 
formed a transient personnel always numerous enough though al- 
ways changing. 

The American Y M C A in the United Kingdom had thus a two- 
fold function. It furnished service appropriate to the needs of Ameri- 
cans in those parts, and acted as a link between the organizations at 
home and in France, especially in the forwarding of personnel. More 
than 6,000 Y workers passed through England en route to France, of 
whom less than 1,000 stayed to give service for a few weeks or months. 




Making Place 
for the 

The Opening of 
the American 

Housing and transportation of these travelers was almost as difficult 
as the similar task performed by the Personnel Department in Paris. 

The influx of Americans into the Britain which had resulted from 
three years of war/ brought a necessity for readjustments both ex- 
tensive and delicate. On the personal side, there was a natural dis- 
position to look upon the American advent as "none too soon,"^ but 
the universal belief that the American Army and Navy would prove 
the decisive factor in the critical situation ensured a hearty welcome. 
If, as was unquestionably the case, the exuberant confidence of the 
newcomers irritated people who had passed through the sobering 
experiences of three years of war, it had also a certain contagion 
which revived the earlier spirit of the English. Certainly the civilian 
population, in spite of exhausting preoccupations, joined cordially in 
every effort for the happiness and well-being of the Americans. 

On the physical side there were real problems. To house the 
newcomers, British camps were turned over temporarily or perma- 
nently, their occupants going to improvised quarters, or crowding 
into already crowded encampments. American labor battalions were 
employed in many places building barracks to replace those loaned to 
the Americans. The transfer of troops from Liverpool to Channel 
ports put a severe strain on railroad equipment. Food, too, presented 
problems. The American supply service provided of course for strictly 
American camps, but the many detachments in British camps were 
fed by the British commissary until, in some cases, the Americans' 
dislike of British rations forced a change. The civilian population 
were under sharply restricted rationing, and American civilian 
workers and soldiers away from their units learned what hunger felt 
like at times. The extent to which private hospitality was shown 
Americans when people were limited to eight ounces of meat, two 
ounces of margarine and eight ounces of sugar per person per week, 
when milk could be had by none except children and the sick, was 
eloquent testimony of the goodwill of the British. 

There were in the spring of 1917 a number of American Y M C A 
secretaries in England in the prisoners of war work, while others, 
among whom was Edward C. Carter, were working with the British 
Y M C A. The first active work was undertaken at Bordon in Hamp- 
shire, where several thousand American engineers were encamped for 
a few days on their way to France. The saw-mill and other units ar- 

' Consult Chapter IV. 

-Consult To Fighting Americans, Rudyard Kipling, Paris, 1918, p. 12. 


rived in succession, and the welfare work continued at this point until 
in the early autumn a purely American camp was permanently estab- 
lished at Winchester. Meanwhile, a large hut in course of construc- 
tion in London for the English Y M C A National Council was pur- 
chased by the American Y M C A : this was the famous "Eagle Hut'* 
in the Strand. 

Since the general supervision of the operations in France neces- 
sitated Mr. Carter's presence in Paris, in August, 1917, Robert L. 
Ewing, who had been in charge of the prisoners of war work, assumed 
direct responsibility for the service in the British Isles as a part of 
the A E F-Y MCA. In October, Headquarters were opened at 47 
Russell Square. The prisoners of war enterprise, which had been 
under the general direction of the English National Council, was trans- 
ferred to the American Association at this time. 

American Troops in Transit 

Of the 1,025,000 Americans who passed through England, 844,000 R^^t^cYm^s 
or nearly five-sixths landed at Liverpool. Approximately 50,000 
landed at each of the ports of Southampton, London, and Glasgow, 
with a scattering few elsewhere.^ The need of opportunity to recuper- 
ate after the trans-Atlantic voyage, and the irregularity of Channel 
transport, necessitated a few days' stay in England, and encamp- 
ments of large capacity, known as rest camps, were established near 
the ports. Those at Winchester, Romsey, and Southampton Com- 
mon, being very near the principal point of departure for France, 
were usually utilized so long as space was available. Close to Liverpool 
was Knotty Ash Camp, where men just off transports could be held 
overnight, or, if the camps near Southampton were filled, until room 
was vacated by departing troops. In the autumn of 1918, camps at 
Codford, Flowerdown, and Stanton were also used as rest camps. The 
men usually arrived at rest camps in a most uncomfortable state of 
mind and body. Sick and tired of the long voyage in cramped quarters, 
weak from sea-sickness or lack of appetizing food, with nerves ab- 
normally tense or abnormally relaxed, and often with a long ride in 
crowded trains following immediately their debarkation, they were in 
real need of rest, good food, and diversion. The rest period proved, 
however, a rather uneasy repose. In face of the possibility of sub- 
marine interruption of the Channel transport, the stream of men was 
kept flowing at full height, and some detachments had hardly settled 

* See Plate XV facing p. 70. 


in barracks when their turn came to move on, while others, though 
they stayed several days, were in constant expectation of embarkation 
orders. It was not easy to settle down, and something interesting at 
every moment was required to keep these "resting" men occupied. 

The general characteristics of Y service can be easily imagined. 
First of all the men wanted food, and crowded into the canteen. Then 
they wanted to write home. If 5,000 men arrived at a rest camp in 
the morning, it was a certainty that 10,000 letters would be written 
and handed in for mailing that day. Impromptu athletics would Ap- 
peal to many as the first chance for a week or more to limber their 
muscles. Concerts, shows, and movies exerted an unfailing attrac- 
tion, while, if time allowed, short sight-seeing trips appealed to those 
curious to see something of England. All these activities were pro- 
moted by the Y in all the rest camps, of which a brief account of two 
will represent this type of work. 
Winchester The camp at Winchester was transferred to the American Army 

by the British, and the American Y was able to secure two huts in 
which the British Y had been operating. Very soon a building in the 
town, known as the Garrison Theater, was hired. This had a seating 
capacity of 500, far too small to accommodate the audiences, and two 
large tents were erected in combination as one, with a capacity of 
4,000, for entertainment purposes. Another hut, 30 x 90 feet, was 
bought and moved to Winchester to serve as an officers' club, and still 
later several large marquees were erected in different parts of the 

Being less than two hours' journey by rail from London, it was 
possible to secure the best of talent for all kinds of entertainment for 
this camp, as also for Romsey and Southampton close by. The British 
Committee on Entertainment furnished a large number of programs 
by professionals, and local talent obliged most willingly when needed. 
An entertainment was given every night when as many as 1,500 men 
were in camp, and if the camp was filled, shows and movies were given 
at three or four places simultaneously, often twice in an evening so 
that two relays of men might be entertained. At one time or another, 
every crack British band played in this camp. 

All the buildings and tents were equipped with tables and chairs 
for reading and writing, plentiful supplies of books, magazines, and 
American newspapers, musical instruments, including pianos and 
phonographs, billiard or pool tables, post exchange and wet canteens 
adequate to serve 15,000 men. In six months 35 match and 600 in- 











PHI LA 35000 



TOTAL Z 086 000 










Plate XV 


formal games of baseball were played, besides football, soccer, basket- 
ball games and boxing matches in proportion. Winchester had eight 
baseball diamonds, five basket-ball courts, two football fields, and an 
athletic field with quarter-mile track, besides ample facilities for 
other sports. 

Lectures were well attended, the new arrivals showing lively f^^ot^""^' 
interest in talks on England, and France, their history and customs, ^"^^'"'^'^^ 
and on the war. Other educational work was for the most part, with 
the men permanently stationed in the camp. In one week in Octo- 
ber, 1918, classes were meeting in five subjects, with a total attendance 
of 450. Eight libraries were maintained, with a circulation of 200 
books or more a week. Bible classes were organized among the per- 
manent detachments, and services for worship and preaching were 
held regularly in the Garrison Theater and the Auditorium, as well 
as in the huts. At these services many of the leading preachers of 
England and Scotland, as well as those brought by the Y M C A from 
America, were heard by the soldiers. 

The life of the 35 Y M C A secretaries in Winchester was ex- 
tremely uneven. With the arrival of a convoy bringing 20,000 to 
35,000 men, the rest camps would be filled to capacity, and for a few 
days every secretary would be working at top speed, snatching meals 
and sleep as opportunity offered. Then the camp would be emptied as 
suddenly as it had filled, and in the breathing space the staff would 
renew stocks and equipment, plan for the future and make themselves 
useful to the depot brigade, who also had time for Y activities only in 
the lulls between successive convoys. 

The camp near Liverpool was constructed by the Americans in^^°**y 
February, 1918. It spread over a meadow, about five miles from the 
landing stage, and had accommodations for 13,000 men. In fifteen 
months, 250,000 men passed here their first hours on foreign soil. 
Beginning with a single tent, the Y M C A work expanded until there 
were eleven centers manned by 21 secretaries. The stay of troops was, 
on the average, shorter than at the rest camps in the south. One 
of the frequent features was a parade of the newly arrived men, to 
receive a welcome in England from a representative of the King, when 
a printed copy of a greeting signed by the King was given to each man. 

Activities were carried on in the manner already described. The 
Liverpool Gymnasium was secured for basket ball, and the chemical 
laboratory at Liverpool University for instruction, military transport 
being provided to take players and students back and forth between 


the camp and the city. For nearly a year welfare service was pro- 
vided at the hospital to which many soldiers were taken who had suc- 
cumbed to influenza or other diseases on shipboard. 

Closely connected with the Knotty Ash Camp was service at two 
social centers in Liverpool and the very important work at the land- 
ing stage for debarking troops. After June, 1918, a corps of secre- 
taries met every ship to answer questions, exchange money, distribute 
postcards and collect letters and cablegrams, and to give the men 
copies of the Association publication, Home Neivs, containing the 
latest cabled news from the United States. At the Dewey Rooms a 
restaurant served 1,500 men a day in busy periods. Three hundred 
local women gave volunteer service here. Just after the Armistice 
another social center was opened at Lincoln Lodge, with sleeping ac- 
commodation for 300 and a large restaurant. Here a corps of 250 
volunteer women made the extensive service possible. Both these 
centers had frequent religious services and entertainments. A well 
equipped American Officers' Inn was opened in November, 1918, and 
was used at double capacity most of the time. Special centers for the 
Military Police unit and the Motor Transport Corps were also pro- 

The cooperation between the townspeople, the military authori- 
ties, and the Y M C A, was notable at Liverpool, as at practically all 
centers of important American activity. The ladies gave unlimited 
time and labor at the city centers, leading citizens served actively on 
committees for social and entertainment activities, and the various 
institutions of the city helped in all possible ways. There was effec- 
tive effort to impress the Americans at their first entrance into Eng- 
land with the fraternal friendship which welcomed them, and to pro- 
mote their comfort and happiness. 

Training Camps and Fixed Posts 

Saw-mill ^^® °^ *^^ ^^^* groups to claim the attention of the Y M C A was 

Units the saw-mill units. The estate of Sir Charles Ross along the banks 

of the Dornoch river near Ardgay, Scotland, was the scene of the 
labors of about 400 skilled New England lumbermen. Within two 
weeks after their arrival in July, 1917, the Association pitched a 
marquee at Ardgay near the center of operations, and later erected 
smaller huts in each of the isolated camps of the ten units. For ten 
months the industrious lumbermen felled trees with a rapidity that 
outdistanced any other unit in per capita production. With no other 


resources for material or social comfort within 1,600 square miles, 
Association service contributed largely in keeping the men contented 
in their isolated camps. The marquees and huts all had well stocked 
canteens. Billiard tables and libraries were installed and American 
newspapers and magazines were furnished weekly. Entertainments, 
vigorous athletic programs, and first-class lecturers were provided. 
Services were held every Sunday in the various huts, 95 per cent of 
the men attending these services. At Christmas, with the cooperation 
of the American Citizens' Committee, the Association offered a ten 
day holiday in London, of which 135 men availed themselves. They 
were cordially entertained at Eagle Hut, guided to the sights of in- 
terest, and furnished free tickets to theater and other metropolitan 
places of amusement. These camps were disbanded in June, 1918, 
but before leaving, the soldiers presented the secretaries with seven 
engraved silver loving cups in appreciation of their services. 

The Americans who were detailed for training in British camps Aviation 

• IT. f . m Mechanics 

presented very special conditions of service. The detachments were 
small, numbering from twenty to 1,500, with 150 to 200 as the ordi- 
nary unit. These groups found themselves in the midst of British 
soldiers numbering perhaps several thousands, and of course under 
British command. The camps were in out of the way places, usually 
two or three miles from a village, and often as on Salisbury Plain, even 
further away from any but military communities. Most of the camps 
were flying schools, and the work of the American mechanics was 
extremely irregular. In good weather, flying was going on from day- 
light until dark, which in summer meant from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. Then 
the mechanics worked in shifts through the whole 24 hours. In bad 
weather no flying was done and the men were idle. 

In these mixed camps there was more or less friction between 
English and Americans, due in part to difference of manners and cus- 
toms, and in part to inability on each side to put themselves in the 
place of the others. It was generally supposed that athletic contests, 
in which each would appreciate the good sportsmanship of the other, 
would overcome such difficulties, but singularly enough in numerous 
instances, the result was exactly the opposite. Field and track meets 
planned simply as camp events took on an international character, 
and in most cases the Americans won. There was no resentment of 
that, but unfortunately the Americans, in accordance with our na- 
tional habit, celebrated their victories rather noisily as national 
triumphs, and this was resented. The Americans, for their part, for- 


got that while they were the first choice of American young manhood, 
the best of England's athletes had gone to Flanders in 1914, and most 
of them had stayed there. Just why the Englishmen should have 
been despised for accepting without complaint the rabbit stew that 
Americans denounced with vigorous and picturesque vocabularies is 
not clear. Worst of all was the fact that few Americans had any just 
knowledge or appreciation of the magnitude of England's effort and 
sacrifice in the war, while many Englishmen only partly concealed the 
opinion that America had stayed out of the war a little longer than 
was compatible with self-respect. Out of such causes, most of them 
trifling, and all curable by genuine desire for mutual understanding, 
there grew a feeling that made it necessary in some camps to separate 
the groups as much as possible. This involved separate Y M C A 
service for units of Americans much smaller than the average, and 
proved a serious drain on the inadequate force of American secre- 
taries in England. 
?f sSwce ^^ assign more than one secretary to such a unit was impossible, 

and it was not uncommon for one to serve two camps on alternate days. 
The plan was devised of dividing the territoiy into areas, and of 
putting into each area a staff including a secretary for each activity. 
These area secretaries had a much more direct relation to the soldiers 
than the regional staffs in France with which they superficially cor- 
responded. They carried on the educational or athletic work them- 
selves, going from camp to camp, organizing classes, arranging game 
schedules, or entertainments, and assisting the local secretary-of-all- 
work in all possible ways. 

The difficulties encountered in the endeavor to carry out a regular 
program were many. Squadrons were cut into four detachments and 
changed stations every four weeks. Hours were irregular. Never- 
theless it was possible in some camps to establish classes in Bible 
study, the French language, history, economics, government, and other 
subjects. The lecture program was more effective and the library 
service still more efficient. In the air service alone there were dis- 
tributed 30,000 circulating books, 300,000 copies of magazines and 
newspapers, 350,000 leaflets such as Ian Hay's "Welcome to England'* 
and Kipling's "To the Fighting American" and thousands of religious 
pamphlets. Because, otherwise, no technical books were available 
for the training of new aviators, a technical library including a large 
number of special treatises on aeroplane construction and flight, on 
photography, mechanics, wireless, and internal combustion engines. 


was installed in each camp. Every camp had a piano and phono- 
graph, and a large number of band and orchestral instruments were 
supplied when there were musicians to use them. Athletic supplies 
were liberally provided. 

In addition to activities in the camps, social centers were estab- 
lished in seven cities and towns to which the men could easily resort 
when off duty. These were halls leased or loaned, and furnished com- 
fortably for lounging, reading, and writing. It was usual in the 
evening for a number of young ladies to be in attendance, chaperoned 
by their elders, and singing, dancing, games and conversation proved 
attractive to the men. 

A field secretary had general responsibility for service to avia- 
tion units, which during the period of activities totaled 83. He 
enjoyed the confidence of the military authorities who informed him 
of the location and movement of squadrons. Altogether 156 secre- 
taries, including headquarters and field workers, participated in this 
service. Tents were used very largely, with occasionally space in 
barracks assigned by local commanders. A few huts were provided. 

For the naval air patrol, some ten or more stations were estab-'J^«i^^^?' 

'^ ' Air Service 

lished by the American Navy. At these stations the Y M C A put forth 
special efforts. The largest camp was at Killingholme, an isolated 
spot, where an entire British airplane reconstruction plant was turned 
over to the American forces. The duty consisted of scouting over the 
North Sea for submarines. The American Commander at Killing- 
holme did not, at first, desire to have the Y M C A in the camp at all. 
He planned to have officers and enlisted men run the large theater and 
recreation hall which the English had erected. It was some weeks 
before the Y M C A secretary who had been admitted to the camp on 
sufferance won his way sufficiently to start the usual program. Quiet, 
practical service to the men eventually won confidence and approval. 
Not only were the two large buildings transferred to the Association 
but smaller centers were permitted. Four secretaries were assigned 
including physical and educational specialists. Motion pictures were 
staged every night, elaborate entertainments were given at least once 
a week, regular educational classes were conducted, and on the athletic 
field a full program was put in operation. Thus there was at all times 
some means at hand to offset the strain of the strenuous work the 
men were doing, to relieve the rigors of severe discipline, and to break 
the monotony inevitable when men found themselves off duty with 
nowhere to go. 


Services of a similar character were carried on at Dover, East- 
leigh — the aviation repair base — and especially at naval patrol centers 
in Ireland; namely, Wexford, Whiddy Island, Aghada, Lough Foyle, 
the Berehaven kite-balloon station and other points. Men attached to 
destroyers, submarines or air squadrons naturally had excitement in 
plenty. But several thousands engaged in very monotonous work were 
stationed at the most out-of-the-way places imaginable. With fine 
irony they referred to their service as "the great Irish offensive" or 
"the Battle of Bantry Bay." At the construction camps, on the battle 
cruisers, the seaplane repair bases, the kite-balloon centers, life for 
the most part was a steady grind. The journey to some of these 
secluded places was an adventure in loneliness. To reach them there 
was first a ride to the end of a little branch railway. Next came a 
wait for a chance to take a tug or a drifter — a day's journey down 
some bay or lough. Finally a trip in a jaunting car completed the last 
stage. Sometimes there were little towns near the station, but they 
offered nothing worth while. The usually warm-hearted Irish were 
not particularly pleased to see the Americans on their island and when 
off duty the sailors found little to occupy their time. In addition to 
the usual equipment, technical libraries were provided, and systematic 
lectures on scientific subjects were well attended. This educational 
work among the Naval Patrol men in Ireland was highly successful. 
The men represented a fine type of volunteers. Each group was sta- 
tioned in a single center for a considerable period of time and in each 
was a fair proportion of college men able to lend effective assistance. 
Moreover, the commanding officers gave cordial support. 
BaMs^' ^^^ work of the Association for the Naval Patrol, however, was 

but a small part of its services to the American Navy in the waters 
around the United Kingdom. Both in Irish ports where destroyers, 
ever alert for the dreaded submarines, were constantly running in and 
out, and in Scotland where the mine laying bases were the scene of 
perilous and unremitting toil, every effort was made to utilize the 
spare time of the men to good advantage. Naturally at ports of em- 
barkation and debarkation such as Liverpool and Southampton no 
separate provision was made for the Navy and Army men. In Lon- 
don also the men of both services were welcome at all service build- 
ings. At the special naval base at Plymouth, at the naval repair sta- 
tion at Newcastle, at Queenstown where American destroyers first 
participated in the war, at Cardiff which was both a navy and a mer- 
cantile marine base, at Inverness, the mine laying base, and at Kirk- 


wall, the mine sweeping base, the Association provided secretaries and 
equipment to meet the particular needs of the Navy. 

When ships of the Navy were known to be on their way to a 
given port, every effort was made to see that the sailors who were 
coming ashore had the best that could be provided. Not only does this 
mean that huts, canteens, hotels, and recreation facilities were fur- 
nished in most of these centers, but that recreational equipment was 
sent aboard the ships and that parties "on leave" were routed and often 
personally conducted on tours through various parts of England, Ire- 
land, and Scotland. Naturally during the war itself the service was 
largely localized. As soon as the major part of the fleet was released 
from active duty, however, the men began to come ashore and to 
reach the larger cities in great numbers. Sometimes notice of their 
arrival was extremely short. 

An occasion of this character was the assembling at Weymouth in The Fleet 

__ at Weymouth 

December, 1918, of the fleet that was presently to escort President 
Wilson to Brest. The "Atlantic City of Southern England" was sud- 
denly invaded by 20,000 sailors ready for a ten days' revel. 

A telegram received in Southampton the previous afternoon was 
all the warning the Association had. Weymouth was 70 miles dis- 
tant, and there was no equipment there. A motor-lorry carrying a 
90 X 30 marquee and 3,000 pounds of canteen supplies, left Southamp- 
ton shortly and twenty secretaries were soon en route to the famous 
watering place. In spite of the fact that three moves had to be made 
in the first two days before a lease of the Palm Court could be secured, 
entertainments were staged in rapid succession. Concerts were given 
aboard ships and daily at the Pavilion there were vaudeville programs, 
dancing and theatrical productions. In cooperation with Admiral 
Barnard, particularly enjoyable dances for naval officers and the 
ladies of Weymouth were arranged. Two baseball fields were also 
leased and turned over to the boys of the fleet. Light refreshments 
were freely served. 

In Scotland, work for the Navy was begun as early as March, p°f^°"'*'* 
1918, when a hut was erected at Corpach and a secretary was making 
regular visits to the station at Kyle. In the same month, the building 
known as the Northern Meeting House was opened in Inverness. 
This large club house containing a concert hall, club and game rooms, 
restaurant, and 80 beds, was served by four secretaries and 400 volun- 
teers. In the long twilight of the summer evenings, it was the center 
of much merriment of the men who endured the dangers and discom- 


forts of mine-layers. In May and June additional Y M C A huts 
were opened at Invergordon, Glen Albyn, and Dalmore for some 5,000 
men. So dangerous was the work in which they were engaged that 
a great hospital was erected by the Government in anticipation of a 
disastrous explosion ; fortunately it was not needed. 

The Y M C A complement for these three stations was fifteen 
secretaries. Large huts were erected and were thoroughly equipped 
with library, billiards, club and social rooms. The restaurant at 
Invergordon served from 1,500 to 2,000 meals per day. At Glen 
Albyn there were two band concerts and informal dances daily. Con- 
certs and movies were staged at all three units. Athletics were pro- 
moted and more than 25 educational classes were conducted. The 
following summer when men of the mine sweeping fleet were 
removing the great mine fields that had imprisoned the German sub- 
marines, the equipment at Dalmore was transferred to Kirkwall, 
there to serve men for whom the war, a year after it ended, was still 
the grimmest kind of a reality. 

In the Cities 

The conditions encountered by American soldiers in foreign cities 
included all those met with in America, with the additional features 
arising out of the effects of the war and the fact that the men were 
strangers in a strange land. For the most part the visitors were 
transients, on business errands or short leaves. Housing accommoda- 
tions for such were less than normal, while the demand was excep- 
tionally great. In London, as in Paris, government and military 
authorities had commandeered the largest and most famous hotels 
for office purposes. Restaurants and small eating places had limited 
supplies of food and charged high prices. The most fundamental 
services that could be rendered were to provide lodgings and meals 
for transients, to supply a place which they could use as a "hangout" 
with the certainty of finding congenial companions, and information 
and guidance to the best out of the innumerable interesting and 
amusing possibilities of a great city. The largest work of this sort in 
England was naturally in London, but similar needs were met in 
Plymouth, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Glasgow. 
officfrT-7nn^° '^^^ large number of officers who visited London on matters pre- 

liminary to the arrival of the Expeditionary Forces, found great 
difficulty in securing satisfactory hotel accommodations. The Y M C A 
grappled with the problem, and found a lively interest in the matter 


among influential Londoners. Early in January the American Offi- 
cers' Inn was formally opened at No. 5 Cavendish Square, the house 
formerly occupied by Herbert Raphael and at one time the home of 
Lord Nelson. Additional buildings were leased later, until the Inn 
finally included four private residences. A Y secretary was manager, 
with an English lady as hostess, and a large staff of ladies, many of 
them possessing titles of nobility, formed the working staff of volun- 
teers. Through loans, the rooms were beautifully furnished ; famous 
paintings from private collections adorned the walls; and the place 
had the comfort of a high class club with the atmosphere of a delight- 
ful home. 

The eagerness with which officers sought the privileges of the l^^^^^^j^jj^g^^^ j^^^^ 
Inn led quickly to plans for another. The Association secured the use 
of the garden or park in St. James's Square, a high class residential 
section in the West End, by virtue of a "peppercorn" lease — the obli- 
gation being to pay one peppercorn annually and restore the ground 
to its former condition within a year after the end of the war. Here 
a unique building was constructed, consisting of eight cement and 
cinder huts radiating from a central court like the spokes of a wheel. 
In the center of the court stood an equestrian statue of King William 
IV, and around it was a colonnade connecting the huts. The great 
trees which were the chief beauty of the square were carefully pro- 
tected, and, rising through the huts, gave a novel effect to the interior. 

One of the huts served as lounge ; another as library and reading 
room, with facilities for social gatherings and entertainments ; a third 
was the dining room ; and five were divided into sleeping cubicles, and 
supplied with shower baths and other comforts. The 300 women 
volunteers who performed the necessary services in such an institution 
were recruited and directed by influential English ladies. 

Apart from the very practical service to officers whose allowances 
were severely strained by the charges of ordinary hotels, there were 
developed social and recreational features that were highly valued. 
Many distinguished visitors were entertained, and gave formal or 
informal addresses to the oflficers. Parties were organized to visit 
the Houses of Parliament, the Guild Hall, and other places of interest, 
where they were shown exceptional consideration. For two seasons 
a box at Drury Lane Theater was placed at the disposal of the Oflicers* 
Inn by its titled owner, and innumerable theater parties were 
arranged. Invitations to dinner or to week-end visits in country 
homes were accepted by many officers, and acquaintances made in the 


Inns developed into valued friendships. Whenever accommodations 
were available, officers of the other Allied Armies were allowed the use 
of the Inns, and fraternal feeling was promoted by the informal and 
natural contact that resulted. 
Tiie Even more significant, and on a much larger scale, was the service 

Eagle Hut 

to enlisted men in London. This centered in the famous Eagle Hut — 
the largest single soldiers' club conducted during the war. It con- 
sisted of a cluster of huts erected in the Strand, at the foot of Kings- 
way, near Temple Bar and convenient to Waterloo and Charing Cross 
stations. The equipment was designed for only 2,000 but the number 
actually served often reached four or five thousand men per day. Any 
uniformed man of the American or Allied forces was welcome. Lack 
of space was the only other limitation. The most popular feature of 
the hut was the restaurant. Here in a single month (March, 1919) 
142,020 meals were served, an average of 4,500 meals a day. On 
certain occasions this average was greatly exceeded, although on the 
architect's plans the restaurant space was marked "capacity 250." 
An American soda fountain, where real ice cream was served, was 
always popular. The four rooms used for dormitories were designed 
for about 200 beds but actually contained 410. Hardly a night passed 
that did not see all of them occupied. The kit-room where the men 
could leave their belongings held over 800 bins and was generally 

The main doorway to the building opened upon the lounge. This 
large room usually presented an animated scene, the different uni- 
forms of the Allied armies and navies intermingling everywhere. 
On one side was the "store." Its total turnover from November, 
1917, to May 1, 1919, was about $75,000. Nearby was an informa- 
tion bureau and a directory to indicate where outside lodgings and 
meals could be obtained. A register of visitors was kept and by means 
of this and a huge wall map into which men stuck flags bearing their 
names, to indicate their home towns, many friends were enabled to 
meet. The "money exchange" not only performed the function its 
name indicated but also took care of such remittances as the enlisted 
men desired to have sent home. A large hall with stage served for 
entertainments, religious services, and social gatherings. In several 
corners might be found pianos, at every one a friendly young woman 
chatting and playing the songs called for by the group surrounding 
her. Several billiard tables were in constant use. A large "quiet 
room," with comfortable easy chairs and plenty of books, furnished 


a retreat for men tired of the confusion and fun of the crowd. The 
staff of Association secretaries at Eagle Hut ranged from nine to 
twelve. After November 11th four Y M C A women were added. 
In addition there were about 50 paid employes. A very large part of 
the work at Eagle Hut, however, was carried on by volunteers. 
Without their assistance the hut could not have achieved the results 
it did. 

The corps of men volunteers was organized into an Association H^ttew '* 
known as the "Eagle Hutters." To all members very definite duties 
were assigned ; to some the bed-booking office, to others the kit-room 
and to still others the billiard tables and games. To greet and direct 
men newly arrived, one or two Eagle Hutters were always on duty. 
Others were close at hand to bar civilians, or roughs, or various types 
of passers-by not allowed to enter. From some other huts drunken 
men were barred but not from the Eagle. There "the Hutters" took 
them in hand, straightened them out in a reservation known as the 
"poet's corner," and on the morrow sent them back to their units 
sober and perhaps wiser. Some of the Hutters rendered special 
service so quietly that even their fellow members did not know what 
they were doing. A dentist, for instance, it subsequently became 
known, treated 250 soldiers and sailors gratis, and said nothing about 
it. Many a man in trouble was helped. Perhaps the best service 
rendered was through quiet talks with hundreds of men who will not 
soon forget the way they "bucked up again" after a visit to Eagle Hut. 

The women attached to the Hut vied with the men. At the height l^^^^^J^.f 
of the work some 700 women were on the roll of volunteers. Many 
came each week for as many as four days. All averaged at least eight 
hours. They worked in shifts of 25 but over week-ends or holidays 
40 was the more usual number. A large proportion were business 
women who gave a part of the only free time they had — evenings and 
holidays. Many served on the all night shifts; others during the 
early morning hours till nine. Canteen, cash register, room and meal 
desk, telephone exchange, information bureau, store or restaurant — 
all were alike to them — none shirked. No matter how tired they 
were, on duty or off, they were always ready with a smile for whatever 
was to be done. Whether British or American, the volunteer women 
worked with a will at even the hardest tasks and without a thought of 
commendation. ^^ ^ ,, o * 

, , , . . The Y M C A 

Several hotels were also maintamed m London by the Associa- Hotels 
tion. Three of these situated near together in Bloomsbury had a 


common dining room and were under one management. Fully three- 
quarters of the men living there were from the Army and Navy Head- 
quarters Staff in London. Two other hotels containing a total of 328 
rooms were maintained in similar manner. Under the skilful man- 
agement of a hostess, a paid staff of 25 and a volunteer corps of 
"Green Cross" girls, these hotels furnished not only living accommo- 
dations at prices much lower than were charged elsewhere, but a 
friendly atmosphere that was beyond price. 

Similar services, larger in a total sum, were rendered in other 
cities of the United Kingdom. In Edinburgh, St. Andrew's Hut, 
situated in the most prominent square of the city, was nearly as large 
as the London Eagle Hut. Because of unavoidable delay in construc- 
tion it was not opened until March, 1919, but thereafter it admirably 
supplemented the earlier work at the Officers' Inn in Drumsheugh 
Gardens. English and Scotch as well as Americans came to the hut 
in great numbers. There was a large corps of volunteers. It proved 
well worth while as a means of promoting international goodwill. By 
the spring of 1919 this type of work was well under way in Liverpool, 
Southampton, Plymouth, Birmingham and other cities. 
iiSrnationai Exteusive as was the city work which the Y M C A carried on in 

Leagul^"^'' ^^*^' officers' inns and hotels, there were other phases of service that 

were equally important. These divisions of the work might be 
termed extramural activities in cities. They included the meeting of 
men on leave when they arrived at railroad stations, the establish- 
ment of information bureaus and night patrols of streets, the organi- 
zation of entertainment in private homes, the conducting of theater 
parties and sight-seeing tours, and the maintenance of close coopera- 
tion with other welfare organizations. These phases of the work, 
largely carried on by volunteer workers under the supervision of 
the Association, were eventually merged into the Y M C A Interna- 
tional Hospitality League. 

The League began in a very natural way. Some of the American 
and British ladies who were anxious to serve the American forces 
had early found work at the huts and hotels, but not all had discovered 
what they could do until Army and Navy men on leave began coming 
to the cities in large numbers. Some of these men were country boys 
alone in a large city for the first time in their lives. Practically all 
were strangers in the United Kingdom. They were at liberty in a 
most complete sense. For the time being neither Army nor Navy 
exercised any control over them so long as they kept the peace. Many 


of these men, it was discovered, wandered the streets in the most 
aimless fashion. 

To place information booths with volunteer staffs, at the railway g'^othT*"*"* 
stations and to maintain kiosks on conspicuous street corners was a 
simple matter. Here maps were to be found, and printed material 
showing the location of restaurants, hotels, and welfare service points. 
Here all church services, entertainments, sig-ht-seeing trips, and 
theater parties were advertised. Groups of volunteers attached to 
these booths soon began acting as guides and general advisers. These 
volunteers also, especially the ladies, were not long in discovering that 
one of their most appreciated services was the entertaining of Ameri- 
can boys in their own homes. Such spontaneously offered hospitality 
was immediately recognized as one of the finest possible benefits to the 
men as well as a means of promoting mutual understanding and inter- 
national friendships. It was soon discovered, too, that many all 
through the country, who could not give personal service in the huts, 
would welcome Americans and British colonials to their homes, if a 
way could be found of bringing host and guest together. To make 
sure that the opportunities were fairly distributed among the different 
armies, and to protect both sides from undesirable associations, the 
Y M C A International Hospitality League was organized in the spring' 
of 1918. This was formed by representatives of the Y M C A's of 
the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, 
each of which delegated four to six secretaries and contributed £200 
for initial expenses. The League was soon operating in a number of 
cities, in each of which the information booths were run in coopera- 
tion. Through churches, chambers of commerce, and other organi- 
zations, it was made known that the League would receive invitations 
from people wishing to entertain soldiers, and would apportion them 
so far as possible according to the wishes of the hosts and the men 
who desired hospitality. Within a few months several thousand 
soldiers enjoyed a week end or more in such homes. 

The League's work grew rapidly during the summer of 1918 and pafrof"®* 
presently developed new features. One of these was the street patrol. 
A considerable number of cases of men in a bad way from dissipation 
came to the Association workers, and there was evidence that soldiers 
were being deliberately rendered helpless by drink or drugs for pur- 
poses of robbery. The venereal record of casuals in the cities was 
disturbing. While, in the large, the Association activities exerted a 
powerful counter force to evil conditions, the dangers to which inex- 


perienced men were exposed impelled many workers to more direct 
methods. Such secretaries and volunteers began, of their own initia- 
tive, to patrol streets late at night ready at any moment to assist any 
soldier, and the results led to organized efforts. Women as well as 
men were eventually enlisted in this service. Among the women two 
New Zealanders were the pioneers. They had decided that more than 
offering welcome in a hut was necessary if their countrymen were to 
avoid the effects of ill-spent leisure. They were convinced that 
women could sometimes bring results when men could not. Two 
weeks in London were given them by the League to try out their 
methods. Success followed. Two American women were then desig- 
nated to learn their methods. Soon eight more were added. Finally 
many volunteers were enlisted in various cities. All were mature 
women, especially chosen for this type of work. Donning their uni- 
forms shortly after supper they patrolled the main thoroughfares, in 
pairs, until the small hours of the morning. Usually a male worker 
kept within sight or hearing, and when possible an automobile was 
stationed on the beat for use when required. Many a soldier in 
London was persuaded to go to his lodgings or was escorted to Eagle 
Hut there to be put to bed by the "Eagle Hutters." No influence 
other than that of these women patrols could have so successfully met 
the situation. "It beats all," said one lad who was brought in, "I 
can't understand it. I've been over here a year and this is the first 
time anyone cared a rap what I did." After the Armistice there were 
crews of rollicking "gobs" on leave and always some felt that no cele- 
bration was complete unless they got drunk. But they did not resent 
the approach of American women who, separating them from com- 
panions they had met for the first time, took them to the Y M C A 
and sent them back to their ships with a clean record. Even the 
street women often accepted help in good part. Many were sent to 
hospitals and others were restored to honest industry through the 
efforts of the street patrol. A few showed resentment but the police 
gave support and there was no serious trouble. The men almost 
without exception were courteous and often extremely grateful. "I 
never found one who did not thank me," wrote one worker after weeks 
of patrol duty. 
tt»e^"a°ue°' "^^ more and more volunteers entered the service of the League, 

its work as a whole grew to large proportions in various cities of the 
United Kingdom. For the entire twelve months ending May 31, 1919, 
the League's officers reported services to men in the uniforms of all 


the Allied Forces as follows: inquiries answered 1,237,777, taken to 
lodgings by car 120,093, given hospitality in homes 41,881, dealt 
with by street patrols 528,377, sent on tours with guides 118,111. 
The special extramural work of caring for men on leave was under 
the direction of the League from July 10th to October 15, 1918. By 
that time, however, the number of men to be dealt with was increas- 
ing enormously. Moreover, the various associations had largely 
developed their separate constituencies. The League, therefore, 
retransferred to the various associations that part of its activities 
which were distinctly leave work. 

In London the American Association had already created a defi- The Leave 

• jx T-v 1 j-i-iiiTi" • Department 

nite Leave Department. Establishing operating headquarters in one «n London 
of the buildings in the Eagle Hut group, the department was well 
equipped to arrange for the accommodation and entertainment of 
officers and men who had several consecutive days off duty. At 
times, however, this type of work was far too heavy for a single 
department to carry alone, and practically every worker of the entire 
Y M C A organization in the city was utilized to put through a great 
entertainment program. One such occasion was on the Fourth of 
July, 1918, when Americans and British fraternized as never before 
in history. Another was in the early part of December, 1918, when 
the sailors from the Grand Fleet, on leave for two weeks, arrived in 
London in throngs. .On the latter occasion the Leave Department in 
London was reenf orced by the addition of 30 extra secretaries called 
in from other districts. On the former, every secretary in the city 

The Fourth of July celebration was unique. At a great fellow- of'^ju^y^fj^a 
ship meeting at Westminster, statesmen voiced the feelings of the 
British nation towards America in speeches eloquent because of the 
intense earnestness of the men who delivered them. Mr. Winston 
Churchill, son of an English noble and an American mother, expressed 
this feeling most clearly when he said : 

"Deep in the hearts of the people of this island, deep in the hearts 
of those whom the Declaration of Independence styles 'our British 
brethren,' lay the desire to be truly reconciled, before all men and 
before all history with their kindred across the Atlantic Ocean; to 
blot out the reproaches and to redeem the blunders of a bygone age ; 
to dwell once more in spirit with our kith and kin ; to stand once more 
in battle at their side ; to create once more a true union of hearts, to 
begin once more to write a history in common. That was our heart- 
felt desire, but it seemed utterly unattainable. . . . But it has 


come to pass and every day it is being emphasized and made more real 
and more lasting. However long the struggle may be, however cruel 
may be the sufferings we have to undergo, we seek no higher reward 
than this supreme reconciliation." 

London was decorated from end to end. The Stars and Stripes 
were displayed everywhere. The British public attended all the 
meetings in thousands, lined the streets cheering Americans and 
entering into the festivities as if they were their own. More than 
3,000 American soldiers were in the city for the day. In the morning 
the Y M C A arranged a coaching tour for several hundred men. At 
ten o'clock the boys at the Eagle Hut piled into the high seated coaches 
and were driven off to visit the famous places of the town. After 
the return for the noon meal, furnished by the Association, they again 
mounted the coaches and were off to the baseball game between teams 
of the Army and Navy. Hundreds of other men in uniform — all 
admitted free — were piloted to the game by Association secretaries. 

The King went out on the field with Major General Biddle and 
Admiral Sims to greet the players. There were no guards and the 
crowd pressed close around his Majesty as he shook hands with the 
captains of the teams already flushed from warming up. The game, 
closely fought, aroused intense enthusiasm and when the Navy won 
by 2 to 1, the uproar equalled that of a final series game at the Polo 
Grounds. Again, the high seats on the coaches — this time to a fete 
and supper at Kensington Gardens prepared by 300 cordial English 
hostesses. An evening concert and return to Eagle Hut for the night 
ended the memorable day. 

Other entertainments were held in various sections of London. 
A British committee provided 1,340 London theater tickets free. At 
the Officers' Inn, at Eagle Hut, and other buildings, festivities were 
held. In other cities, too, the celebration was observed with great 

On other national holidays, the Leave Department was equally 
busy. Thanksgiving Day, Christmas, Washington's Birthday, Me- 
morial Day, received fitting recognition. 

Entertaining The early weeks of December, 1918, brought the hardest strain. 

ofWrieet With two weeks' leave, sailors from the Grand Fleet were arriving 

in London at the rate of 1,000 per day. Fifteen or twenty secretaries 
met the incoming specials. Trucks supplied by the British Navy and 
busses hired by the Y M C A, transported the sailors to the Associa- 
tion's hotels or lodgings engaged by its representatives. From the 


Eagle Hut and the Association hotels, sightseeing parties left twice 
daily with Y M C A secretaries as guides. Each day there were two 
standard trips. The "East" included the Law Courts, St. Paul's, the 
Bank, and the Tower. The "West" gave at least a glimpse of the 
Embankment, Charing Cross, the National Art Gallery, Piccadilly, 
Westminster, and the Houses of Parliament. Y M C A lecturers 
accompanied the parties. Other trips included Kensington Museum, 
Greenwich Observatory, Hampton Court, Eton, and Windsor. Daily 
at 11.30 groups of American soldiers joined with similar parties of 
British colonials at the Chapter House to hear John Burns lecture on 
English history. On Tuesday afternoons at Windsor there were 
special receptions for which the Y M C A received invitation cards 
for 25 men. Representatives of the Royal Family were always 
present and sometimes the King and Queen. 

Another service which the Leave Department rendered was the Ir^^i'"''^} 
outlining of sight-seeing tours through England, Scotland, Ireland, Tours 
and Wales. Ten, in addition to these for London and vicinity, were 
very carefully arranged. Oxford and the Shakespeare country, 
Edinburgh and Aberdeen, the Scotch Lakes, the Cathedral Cities, 
South Wales and the Wye Valley, Dublin and Belfast, and a circular 
tour, were among those chosen by large numbers of men. Both indi- 
viduals and groups were booked and the Y M C A facilities in the large 
cities were utilized for their physical comfort en route. From every 
city center also the Leave Department arranged short trips of edu- 
cational and historical value. In some places classical works relating 
to the scenes to be visited and standard novels whose plots were laid 
in the vicinity were furnished days in advance. Men who were par- 
ticularly interested in industrial conditions were also aided to visit 
some of Great Britain's most important manufacturing plants. 
Special preparations were made for American students who came to 
the British universities after the Armistice.^ 

A plan for an extensive system of leave centers similar to that on J^^j**^*** 
the Continent was developing when the Armistice and the decision centers 
to return very few men through England rendered it unnecessary. 
One center was opened in the Shakespeare country at Stratford-on- 
Avon, where 600 officers were guests, and one for enlisted men was 
begun at Leamington Spa in Warwickshire, but operations ceased in 
February, 1919, owing to demobilization. 

Consult Chapter XXXIV. 


Headquarters and Organization 

The Y M C A headquarters in England were first housed at 45 
Bedford Square in a building then occupied by the British Associa- 
tion. In October, 1917, a private house at 47 Russell Square was 
obtained. Later, an adjoining house and two other buildings, 1 Mon- 
tague Street and 50 Russell Square, were added. In these buildings 
were housed the main offices for the staffs of the seven central admin- 
istrative divisions. 

The Headquarters organization was in the main similar to that 
in France. The number of men to be served was probably not more 
than one-tenth of the forces in France, except of course that brief 
service was given to half the A E F in transit. The Y M C A staff 
was much smaller in proportion, and subdivision of organization was 
not carried to the same extent. All activities were directed by an 
Activities Division, within which bureau staffs specialized on religious, 
athletic, and similar work. A cooperating committee of prominent 
American residents acted as an unofficial cabinet to the Chief Secre- 
tary for the United Kingdom, who bore a subordinate relationship to 
the Chief Secretary of the A E F-Y MCA. 
The This division, which carried on the direct work for the A E F 


Division in the United Kingdom, was naturally one of the largest. Withm 

it were several departments. The Religious Work Department 
promoted evangelism, Bible study, lectures on missions, religious 
literature, and sex hygiene. In a five weeks' campaign among the 
aviation men two secretaries held 33 meetings with an average 
attendance of 200. Other secretaries did similar work. Some 175 
Bible classes were organized and thousands of Bibles, Testaments, and 
religious books and pamphlets were distributed. Educational Depart- 
ment activities were carried on by three agencies, the library, the 
lecture and the instruction services. The first two were organized 
soon after the troops began to arrive in England. Working in close 
cooperation with the American Library Association in the United 
States — the organization which supplied most of the books — the 
Library Service, from May, 1917, to March, 1919, besides shipping 
over 1,500,000 books and 3,500,000 copies of other publications to 
Paris, had distributed in the United Kingdom 93,000 books. Of 
these 8,500 were text books. Nearly 3,000 were of a technical char- 
acter relating to aviation. Nearly 450,000 newspapers and magazines 
were supplied to the men in the United Kingdom by the same depart- 


ment. The Lecture Service which routed some of the most eminent 
of American and English speakers, up to April 1, 1919, had provided 
670 lectures attended by about 160,000. In regular classes some 
8,000 were enrolled in October, 1918. The Athletic Department suc- 
ceeded in organizing some form of athletics at practically all of the 
points where Association secretaries were assigned. Besides promot- 
ing the usual forms of mass play and supplying materials, athletic 
fields were laid out on a large scale. At the city centers innumerable 
match and exhibition games were played before enormous crowds. 
A special program of contests was also carried out among the A E F 
men at the Universities. The approximate figure for participations in 
athletics in the United Kingdom was 500,000, for spectators, 7,500,000. 
The value of athletic equipment distributed free was $84,465. Under 
the supervision of the Social Department provision was made for sup- 
plying entertainers, both American and British, and for the routing 
of moving picture films. Close cooperation among these various 
departments was effected both by centralization at headquarters and 
by the fact that all operated through the ten area headquarters. 

Most soldiers who were detailed to duty in Britain, and even Disappointed 


those who were detained there for training, were discontented if not 
resentful at the fate which kept them from the advanced zones. From 
the training camps in America clear to the front limits of the SOS, 
men were straining forward. The fact that they were more com- 
fortable and safe than the fighting men did not count. They were not 
in the Army for the purpose of being comfortable and safe. The 
same was true of secretaries in England. Though they accepted the 
duty presented, they wanted to be in France. Considering that very 
few were recruited with the understanding that they should serve in 
England, and that the staff there was made up of men who responded 
to appeals for volunteers to stay and help, or who were held by 
authority secured from New York or Paris, the spirit in which they 
worked was distinctly commendable. 

The service owed much, for its success and scope, to the assistance ^"^v^'J^^^f^'g 
of volunteers. Not only in the notable achievements at Eagle Hut 
and the Officers' Inns in London, which would have been impossible 
without the hundreds of men and women who gave all the time their 
personal situation allowed, but throughout the organization and the 
field, the interest and sympathy of the nation showed itself in exten- 
sive and steadfast activity. The Government, the universities, and 
local organizations of all sorts, and individuals ranging from the high- 


est rank to self-supporting women who gave up hours needed for 
their own rest and recreation, expressed in the most practical ways 
their solicitude for American soldiers and their desire to strengthen 
the friendship between the two great English-speaking nations. 

Because of this, and because military arrangements made pos- 
sible a fairly permanent localization of service at fixed posts, the 
character of the work resembled more closely that done in home camps 
than did the work in France. It developed in more orderly fashion, 
experienced no violent deflections because of emergencies, and earned 
the cordial approval of those who observed it most widely and those 
for whose benefit its steady practical activity was maintained. 

American Forces in Italy 

Besides Britain and France, American Expeditionary Forces 
served also in Russia and Italy. In Russia Y M C A service was ren- 
dered to all Allied forces without distinction,^ but in Italy the work 
for Americans was administered separately from that for Italians. 
Although it was related officially to the Paris Headquarters, it can be 
most conveniently described at this point. 
Arrival of The 332d Infantry constituted the fighting American forces sent 

Infantry to Italy. They arrived in midsummer of 1918, and entered the lines 

in September. Before their arrival, however, there were many 
Americans in uniform scattered through the country. About 1,200 
young college men were serving in ambulance units, a group of 400 
aviators were stationed at Foggia, and sailors frequently appeared on 
shore leave especially at Genoa and Naples. After the Armistice, a 
large number of men from the forces in France and Germany came to 
Italy on leave. The service of all these presented the familiar charac- 
teristics of impermanence and of distribution in small groups at posts 
widely separated. 

A beginning of service was made at Foggia in February, 1918, 
which, after a brief interruption, continued as long as the unit 
remained there. A hut was erected, canteens established and many 
pictures furnished. The practical impossibility of securing enter- 
tainers in that remote spot only stimulated the ingenuity of the secre- 
tary and men, and amateur shows, mass athletics and stunts filled 
the spare hours. 

In Genoa a room was rented in February, but was not opened as 
a service station until April 7th. In June, secretaries sent to Rome to 

' Consult Chapter LVIII. 


serve Italian soldiers opened spacious quarters especially for Ameri- 
cans. Up to this time the work had been directed by the Y organiza- 
tion for service to Italians, but with the coming of the 332d regiment 
in July, a director was sent from Paris for the American work. He 
found 6,850 Americans scattered at ten centers, 1,200 ambulance men 
in scattered units of 20 to 40 men each, besides casuals at many points. 
By October, a staff of 31 secretaries was at work in fixed centers 
or with rolling canteens, which reached men at 49 different places. 
Their efforts would have been quite inadequate without the invaluable 
assistance of ladies from the various American colonies, who cooked 
and served, sewed on buttons, talked and danced with the soldiers. 

When the troops entered the fighting lines in September, secre- pj^ve* 
taries accompanied them close up to the Piave, and drove truckloads 
of supplies nightly to their posts. The last battle in Italy began in the 
mountains at dawn of October 24th. The enemy was badly shaken 
when the Americans were ordered into action on the 28th. They 
cooperated with the Tenth Army of Italians and British, under the 
Earl of Cavan, in shattering the enemy's improvised lines at Monti- 
cano, and advanced to the Livenza. There the retreat became a rout, 
and the Allied troops followed the enemy in forced marches which 
exhausted the pursuers as well as the pursued. 

At the Piave came an opportunity for exceptional service. The ffr^ke""*' 
pontoon bridges would not support the heavy army trucks. The Y's 
light camions had been serving the marchers for two days with can- 
teen supplies. Now, by official request, they were put into commis- 
sary service, and for two days transported all food supplies to the 
pursuing troops. This done, they took up again their usual tasks, and 
arrived at the Taliamento with the marchers, bringing in all the strag- 
glers they could carry, on the fenders, and even perched astride the 
engine hoods. On the night of the Armistice with Austria, November 
3d, thousands of cups of hot coffee were served around a roaring bon- 
fire made by the men. They needed the warmth and stimulation. It 
is said that 25 died of exposure and exhaustion in that terrific pursuit. 

Soon after the Armistice, the regiment was divided. One bat- 
talion went to Treviso, one to Cattaro on the Dalmatian coast, and 
one to Fiume. A single company went to Cettinje, capital of Monte- 
negro. Secretaries went with all. Service varied. At Cattaro for 
weeks the Army was unable to supply standard rations or clothing. 
The Y had no supplies, but the hut served at least as a place where 
the men could gather. At Fiume, they fared better, and the camions 


made bi-weekly visits to the ambulance units. Service continued at 
Rome, Florence, and two aviation camps. Sailors and marines from 
the Adriatic fleet swarmed ashore at Venice and Trieste, and were 
welcomed by secretaries serving Italians until an American service 
could be organized. At Genoa, five centers served the men waiting 
for embarkation, and after them the ambulance units. 

With the arrival of men on leave, the Y M C A found itself a busy 
tourist agency. Soldiers and officers had only a few days to "do" the 
country, and every hour counted. With efficient Italian helpers the 
secretaries relieved the men of all formalities relating to passports, 
located them in hotels, bought them tickets for railway, opera, or 
concert, and furnished English-speaking guides for their sight-seeing. 
At times in Rome there were ten parties of twenty each, in motor 
busses, circulating through the famous ways of the city. Similar 
service was rendered in Naples, Genoa, Florence, Venice, and Trieste. 
The fleet remained in the Adriatic through the Fiume controversy, 
until the spring of 1921, and service was continued in Rome and 
Venice until practically all Americans had departed. 

The work for Americans in Italy was highly commended by the 
American consuls in Rome, Venice, and Trieste, and by Colonel Wal- 
lace of the 332d. 
The Italian The imprcsslon made upon Italians was most clearly indicated by 

Association the oft declared resolution that the work of practical brotherhood, 

demonstrated by the American Y M C A, must be perpetuated and 
developed as an indispensable element in their national life. From 
the soldiers and sailors who were the most concerned came many 
expressions of appreciation. The secretaries themselves, in practi- 
cally every report, emphasized the services of American cooperation, 
especially of American ladies, to whose devotion and efficiency they 
attributed a large share of the success attained. 


Chapter XXXVIII 

Reverting to the military organization and functions of the 
Services of Supply,^ it v^^ill be remembered that their territory em- 
braced the whole of France outside the zone of active military opera- 
tions and was divided into nine Base Sections (six in France), which 
included the ports of arrival and the large rest camps in their vicinity, 
and one Intermediate Section, across which ran the lines of communi- 
cation and in which were located the main storage depots of the A E F, 
a number of great industrial plants engaged in the production of war 
materials, and training camps for the air force, artillery, and other 
technical services. The District of Paris was a separate administra- 
tive area, the seat of the Headquarters Organization and its several 
bureaus, within the same territory. 

In the area behind the advanced sections the Association's activi-T'^f.'^t"*^''"^ 


ties attained their fullest development. Partly this was because con- 
ditions were sufficiently stable to justify the erection or leasing of per- 
manent buildings, but more significant was the fact that here -were 
really the strategic points for welfare work. In the Base Sections 
were quartered about one-third of the entire A E F — 550,000 men, 
forever preparing and passing forward the materials essential to the 
combat divisions. Their days were spent in dull, laborious tasks, free, 
it is true, from the peculiar dangers and hardships of the fighting line, 
but equally devoid of their zest and variety. The presence of these 
permanent troops in itself constituted an irresistible call for service. 
There was, however, a still stronger reason. The entire Army passed 
twice through one or other of the base ports. There Americans made 
their first contacts with the countries and peoples in whose crusade 
they had joined, when all the uncertainties of war were before them. 
There victorious, they bade farewell to France returning to an Amer- 
ica made dearer by all their experience. In the base ports sooner or 
later every American would be found; and most Americans, taking 
training, leave, and occasional journeys on duty, would be there many 

* Consult Chapter VIII. 



Base Sections 

The magnitude and stages of the need at these points are reflected 
in the record of debarkation of American troops in Europe. During 
the first thirteen months of America's participation in the war, half a 
milHon men were transported to Europe ; during the last six months 
a million and a half landed in the ports of England and France.^ The 
Association was at hand to welcome the first men who arrived and was 
on the ground continually thereafter, but with the unprecedented troop 
movements of the last crowded six months before the Armistice, wel- 
fare work at the ports reached a magnitude and intensity undreamed 
of in the earlier period. Of the more than two million men who con- 
stituted the A E F, about half landed first in England, while the other 
half were distributed among the six chief American ports in France 
approximately as follows: Le Havre, 13,000; Brest, 791,000; St. 
Nazaire, 198,000; La Pallice, 4,000; Bordeaux, 50,000; Marseilles, 
1,000.2 rpj^g ports at which the smaller numbers debarked were used 
more largely for the discharge of freight cargoes. 
The First With the first intimation, in April, 1917, that American destroy^- 

Land in France ers Were to be Sent to European waters, the volunteer Y M C A com- 
mittee in Paris^ despatched representatives to Brest and St. Nazaire 
to prepare for their coming, and the first American sailors landing at 
a French port were gi-eeted with the sign of the Red Triangle. Begin- 
ning in May with a few rooms in a store at Brest, a tent on the St. 
Nazaire docks, and a rented building at Pauillac, near Bordeaux, the 
Association added more and more equipment to serve the growing 
population. Special navy huts were erected, the first in July at Grange 
Neuve, and aviation huts were opened at St. Rafael on the Mediter- 
ranean, and at Moutchic on the Atlantic, 30 miles west of Bordeaux. 
Soon detachments of the Quartermaster Corps, the forerunners of the 
American Army in France, began to arrive. Engineer and labor com- 
t)anies set to work building the vast rest camps near the ports. Then, 
with the coming of the 1st Division and other combat troops, the huts 
lost their distinctively naval character. The expansion of the Y kept 
pace with the expansion of the need with a fair degree of success until 
the inundation of troops after March, 1918, temporarily swamped the 
organization. It was, however, not long before the Association once 

* The War with Germany, Leonard Ayres, Washington, 1919, p. 37. 

'The Same. 

' See Appendix I, pp. 495, 496. 


again began to catch up with its task. There was a period of feverish 
building to meet the new situation, and before the Armistice a vast 
equipment had been installed. 

The Americans at the base ports were of several distinct classes. 
Some were stationed permanently in the areas, to carry on their activi- 
ties, such as engineer, quartermaster and motor transport troops, and 
stevedore and labor battalions. There were groups of aero men in 
remote camps and all sorts of detached units. There were sick and 
wounded in the base hospitals. The majority, however, were tran- 
sients. The cities swarmed with casuals, men from the cargo-boats, 
troopships, and mine sweepers, the rescued from torpedoed ships, offi- 
cers idly waiting, sometimes for months, for their assignments, indi- 
viduals on short leaves or on duty. By far the largest number were 
men of the combat divisions landing from the transports, staying a 
little while at the rest camps, and then passing on. 

As a result of these varied conditions several different types of ^"'"'^ .^<''" ,. . 

'' ^ Transient Units 

huts were evolved. In the large camps were large double huts that 
served both the troops regularly stationed there and the transient 
units. When a large contingent arrived there was a period of intense 
activity in which canteen work predominated. Thousands and thou- 
sands of boys, thinking this to be their last opportunity to "stock up," 
thronged the huts to buy comforts. Some idea of the volume of these 
sales may be gained from the figures reported from the Brest area. 
Beginning in November, 1917, with sales amounting to a little over 
30,434 francs for that month, the dry canteens in this section alone 
reached a total of 1,235,359 francs for March, 1919. The entire per- 
sonnel of a hut sometimes had to turn to this task during many hours 
of the day. This canteen service was not without its welfare aspect : 
not only did prices in French shops rise suddenly with the American 
advent, but many of the things Americans wanted could be had only 
at the Y canteen. Often it served as a point of personal contact, 
which led to opportunity for some special personal service. The can- 
teen was thus the center of activity, but, great as were its demands 
upon the personnel, it was never the only activity. Somehow or other 
the secretaries would manage to organize games and furnish entertain- 
ment to compete with the city resorts. 

Then the troops passed on, and there was a lull until the next 
division arrived. In these calmer intervals, the huts in rest camps 
served the stationary troops, and the work was more like that done in 
the second type of hut — the smaller huts in the isolated camps. 


Work for This work for the permanent garrisons of the large rest camps 

and of the smaller detached camps scattered throughout the base sec- 
tions was not so thrilling as that for the newly arrived hosts of men 
on their way to the front, but the circumstances under which it was 
done were more favorable for work of an intensive character with 
permanent results. The men reached by this service included engi- 
neer troops engaged in various forms of construction work, quarter- 
master troops handling supplies for all parts of the A E F, mechanics 
employed in overhauling airplanes and motor transport equipment, 
cadets in training for flying, and many other classes. They worked 
as a rule on a strenuous schedule and had little time for recreation. 
The huts were the social centers for these men and in them was done 
an inconspicuous but constructive work along the lines of the Asso- 
ciation's four-fold program. The buildings had the familiar club 
equipment. Professional entertainers came often from Paris, and 
there were motion pictures. Athletic contests between units, even 
league schedules, were possible, subject to interruptions. Educational 
classes were organized with some chance of continuous work and relig- 
ious services gained something of intimacy as soldiers and secretaries 
got acquainted. On Sunday afternoons the Y kept "open house" and 
served refreshments to its guests. 

As so many of the organizations permanently stationed at these 
points were stevedore and labor units, a considerable proportion of 
the troops served were colored men, and a number of the huts were 
devoted exclusively to their needs. At La Pallice, for example, a 
standard A-type hut, with full equipment, was provided for a group 
of about 3,000 colored men. The number visiting the hut daily was 
about 1,500 and the number served by the canteen about 700. It is 
significant that at this time about 1,000 sheets of letter paper were 
required for their needs. The religious services on Sunday always 
attracted a good attendance. A popular feature was the jazz band 
which played every day and also furnished music for other camps in 
the area. Colored women secretaries proved to be a most wholesome 
influence at some of these huts. 

"Ra« to When General Harbord assumed command of the S S in August, 


there was urgent need of accelerating the unloading of ships. The 
stevedore units were full of men who had enlisted to fight and were 
chafing under their assignment to duty in the rear. The General 
called Y representatives into consultation, asking their cooperation 
in improving the efficiency of the labor troops ; and as a result of this 


conference a plan, known as the "Race to Berlin," devised by the 
Entertainment Department, was put into effect. A championship 
contest in car loading was started among the nine ports, with prizes 
given by the Y to the port winning with the highest record of 
loaded cars. An intensive propaganda was conducted to speed up 
the service and to sustain rivalry. The work went on day and night 
and for twenty-four hours each day the huts were open to the men. 
The Association conducted a program of entertainments to fill the 
rest periods and operated wet canteens for refreshments. The contest 
reached a stage of feverish excitement which the Y men shared equally 
with the stevedores. The secretaries resorted to all kinds of expedi- 
ents to secure entertainment features to maintain enthusiasm. There 
were midnight shows and concerts. At Marseilles the secretary in 
charge even secured a menagerie. In these huts and in tents on the 
docks the stevedore passed his rest period in warmth and comfort, was 
entertained and returned refreshed to his work. The final victory 
was won by Brest, with Rochefort and Rouen very little behind. The 
schedule had allowed eight weeks for the contest, but it was actually 
won in six weeks and three days. General Harbord stated that by 
these means the efficiency of the ports was increased by an average of 
eleven per cent. 

Lastly, there were the city centers. Many men attached to head- work in 

. City Centers 

quarters units were stationed permanently m cities. Others, released 
on leave passes from the camps, made at once to cities near by. The 
situation was typified by Bordeaux. A colonel in the Medical Corps 
there called on a Y representative in Paris and said : "You have got 
to do something more in the Bordeaux area, particularly in Bordeaux. 
There are a thousand men every night walking the streets in Bor- 
deaux. You have got to put up a big hut." He was taken to the 
Chief Secretary, who, it happened, had been trying for several months 
to get the necessary permission to erect such a hut. With the facts 
furnished by the colonel, the Chief Secretary was able to go direct to 
Army Headquarters and secure the permission. 

The city center organized the men's leisure. It furnished sleep- 
ing accommodations in its hotels, meals in its restaurants and cafe- 
terias, provided indoor and outdoor games, staged entertainments of 
all kinds, and organized sight-seeing tours. At Le Havre three hotels 
were operated by the Y M C A, one primarily for the accommodation 
of enlisted men stationed in the city, one similarly for officers, and one 
for transients. In addition to furnishing comfortable beds and good 


meals at reasonable prices, these hotels operated canteens and provided 
all the facilities afforded by the huts, such as reading and writing 
rooms, information and money exchange service, dances, entertain- 
ments, and religious services. At the two busiest ports, Brest and St. 
Nazaire, the operation of week-end leave hotels was especially appreci- 
ated. The best hotels in Trez-Hir and Ste. Marguerite were leased 
and operated as seaside resorts with comfortable beds, good meals, 
games, entertainments and dances. Some men were able to spend 
several days in these places and hundreds passed week-ends there. 
Every week the Association conveyed large parties of men out from 
the ports as guests at the Saturday night dance. In these and many 
other ways the Y attempted to seize every opportunity to provide an 
environment of happiness and wholesome influence. 
iStfes ^^^ ^^ *^^ prominent features of the base port huts was the money 

exchange. The men who landed at the ports had American or Eng- 
lish currency or its equivalent in traveler's checks or, in thousands of 
cases, only personal checks or drafts. The French currency was 
strange to them, the traveler's checks good only at banks which it 
was often impossible to reach, the personal checks not negotiable. To 
meet this situation individual Y secretaries began the practice of 
changing money at the huts; and as this was found to be of real 
service, in December, 1917, an Exchange Department was set up. 
Sailors from the destroyers and transports, soldiers in ever increas- 
ing numbers, officers with no security but the reputation of the service, 
cashed their checks. Rates of exchange were on a par with or lower 
than the current bank rates, thus saving the men from exploitation by 
money changers. The huts accepted payment for goods in American, 
French, Italian, and Belgian currencies. It will easily be seen that the 
receipt of this money, its clearance through a central exchange and the 
necessary bookkeeping involved great labor. The Brest area alone 
had a capital of a quarter of a million francs for exchange service, 
and this was often insufficient. In the year 1918 the exchange trans- 
actions in that area totaled almost 28,000,000 francs. 

In connection with the huts various other forms of equipment 
were employed. For physical activities athletic fields were leased and 
gymnasiums and bath houses built. Public theaters and auditoriums 
were taken over for entertainment purposes. In the St. Nazaire 
area, during the early weeks of 1918, the Y was providing 85 enter- 
tainments each week. Entertainments were given on board transports 
in the harbor as well as at the centers ashore. Such well known 


artists as Elsie Janis and E. H. Sothern were among the performers. 
Classes in all kinds of subjects were held. In cooperation with the 
American Library Association, libraries were placed in the huts, and 
books and magazines distributed. 

There were also various clubs and institutes, such as Farmers* 
Clubs,^ and the Honey Bee Clubs^ had their origin here. Religious 
work secretaries held services frequently at all points. 

Sight-seeing tours by boat and auto were also arranged at the 
ports. The Y provided free transportation and box lunches, so that 
the only cost to the soldier was for his dinner at some hotel — usually 
about four francs. A specimen weekly program at Brest shows a 
trip up the river with its ancient castles, a coast trip to the ruined 
abbey of St. Mathieu, by auto to the cathedral at Leon, to the quaint 
fishing village at Camaret and to other places. These trips gave the 
soldiers a splendid chance to see the country, to travel through the 
land of dolmens, menhirs, and druidic monuments, and to see the 
ancient churches and picturesque religious festivals, which survive as 
distinctive features of the local home life. 

Behind the huts of all types there was an immense business 
organization, operating warehouses through which Y supplies were 
passed on their way to canteens all over France, bakeries, ice-cream 
factories, a motor transport service with many garages. 

Of the nine Base Sections only the three busiest on the western ^0^^5^3*68? 
coast can be given particular mention, and even in dealing with these 
only a few of the special features can be outlined. As more than 
three-fourths of the troops who landed at French ports passed through 
the Brest area, the work for transients here was of special importance. 
It began with two secretaries in a small building opened scarcely seven 
weeks after the United States declared war. From this small begin- 
ning it expanded until it employed 210 secretaries, besides a large 
staff of French employees, and was carried on at 50 different centers 
of various kinds. The headquarters of this area was in Rue de 
Traverse, a two-story building, containing business offices, a postoffice, 
check-room, canteen and assembly room, used by day for reading or 
writing and in the evening for entertainments. More than 2,000 
men per day were served in various ways at this place. Nearby 
were two restaurants with a capacity of 1,200 per day. Xhese were 

'Consult Chapter XXXVI. 
' Consult Chapter XXXIV. 



The Red 
Triangle Cafe 

The Doughnut 

converted into cafeterias after the opening of the larger restaurant 
at Flag Hut, in which as many as 4,600 in one day and 78,000 in a 
single month were served. There was also another cafeteria, or "bite 
between meals" counter, at this hut. The average cost of meals was 
slightly over two francs. For half a franc the soldier could purchase 
a meat or cheese sandwich and a large hot drink. 

One day a secretary passing down the Rue de Lian noticed an 
auction in progress and found that a French cafe, condemned because 
it was nearer to a church than the law allowed, was being sold. Seiz- 
ing the opportunity, he bought at once, for a ridiculously low figure, 
the whole property and fixtures, including the bar, and in a short time 
it was reopened as the Red Triangle Cafe. In this place twelve women 
were constantly employed in serving soft drink's and there was usu- 
ally a crowd four or five deep around the bar. 

To supply these eating houses, bakeries and ice cream factories 
had to be provided. Among these was the Doughnut Factory. The 
only bakery to be had was one that had been so long abandoned that 
the oven had to be fired for a week before it could be heated through. 
There was a small gas hot plate upstairs on which the secretary and 
his seven French assistants tried to heat the lard pans, but the supply 
of gas was insufficient and spasmodic, so they resorted to the use of the 
small stove and, as the stove pipe was not long enough to reach the 
roof, these amateur pastry cooks worked in a constant cloud of smoke 
for many weeks until an army range was secured. Two women secre- 
taries were induced to come over in their leisure time for the first 
week to teach this peculiarly American art to French helpers. In spite 
of all difficulties they succeeded in turning out cakes with the old oven 
and in a very few weeks were producing 6,000 doughnuts per day. 
The demand for their product increased to such an extent that a sec- 
ond crew and a night shift had to be employed. These men, by work- 
ing from 4.30 a. m. till 11.30 p. m., under the charge of one secre- 
tary, managed to produce 15,000 dougnuts daily which were delivered 
to the restaurants, cafeterias, the Red Triangle Cafe, and the Ponta- 
nezen camp. Once a week they were sent to outlying points for free 
distribution at the Sunday afternoon "at-homes" in the huts. Over 
75 per cent of the product was thus given away. 

With the expansion of Camp Pontanezen and the arrival of troops 
in ever increasing numbers the Y put up hut after hut and opened 
many additional centers. The Grand Hotel Moderne was leased as 
an officers' club. It had bedrooms for 127 officers, a dining room 


holding 110 and averaging two sittings at every meal. It was 
equipped with all the conveniences usually found in an American 
hotel. Afternoon teas were served. An orchestra played during din- 
ner. There were billiards, pool, and other games and frequent enter- 
tainments. In this hotel about 700 guests per month were accommo- 
dated and 11,500 meals served. Later an additional apartment next 
door was added ; and a leave hotel for 40 officers was opened at Chateau 
Bellevue on the Atlantic shore about 25 miles from Brest. There 
were still other hotels and dormitories for Y personnel. 

For the men there were the huts — the Flag Hut on Place duJheMen'i 
Chateau ; the J. B. Ellis Hut for the Motor Ambulance Park ; the Sol- 
diers' Hut at Casemates Fautras outside the city gates and serving the 
permanent camp there; the hut at Camp Porte Foy for the Military 
Police companies ; the Takeiteasy Hut at the Motor Reception Park ; 
two huts, one for white and one for colored men, at Camp President 
Lincoln, where the Transportation Corps and labor battalions were 
quartered; the Thanksgiving Hut at Fort Bouguen; the Engineers' 
Hut at Fort Federes ; the Portuguese hut at Kerangoff ; and other huts 
for negroes at the Sorting Yards, for the baking companies at Camp 
Gambetta, as well as at the Kerhuon Hospital, the Chinese camp, the 
four American Polish camps, and the Russian camp. Even these do 
not exhaust the list. In the Pontanezen division there were no fewer 
than seventeen additional huts for the large camp there, and in out- 
lying districts, notably at the aviation centers, there were still others. 

Two from this list will suffice for special mention. The J. B. 
Ellis Hut with the Ambulance Park was typical of the smaller hut 
serving a permanent unit. In this camp were about 250 men whose 
duty was to meet hospital trains and ships and who had to be ready 
for a call day or night. Here the men could always get pies, ice 
cream, and doughnuts. Here they wrote their letters, read, played, 
saw movies and shows, and attended Sunday and weekday religious 
services. The two women workers at this hut were known through- 
out the camp as "mother" and "sister." 

The largest and most complete equipment was the Flag Hut at 
Place du Chateau. This was originally the Navy Hut and to the end 
the women workers wore the navy blue. It began in four rooms in the 
old chateau, part of the ancient fortifications of Brest, used as a naval 
station. When the numbers of navy men in port increased, other 
rooms were taken, soon to be outgrown. Then the local French 
authorities very graciously came to the rescue, giving the Y permi's- 


sion to build huts on the entire Place du Chateau, the historic plot that 
back in 1769 had been solemnly consecrated by the populace "to loyalty 
to the Nation, to the Law, to the King." On this site what was 
then the largest hut in France was opened in May, 1918. The navy 
men decorated it and did all the wiring for electric light. On the 
walls were ships' clocks and ships' flags. Through the generosity of 
private patrons the equipment was particularly complete and the fur- 
nishing artistic. But this hut, large as it was, proved insufficient 
when the great troop movements began. It was enlarged, its name 
was changed to Flag Hut, and it became a military as well as a naval 
center. The restaurant and cafeteria, already mentioned, were added, 
as well as a large gymnasium with attached shower baths, an American 
barber shop and souvenir store, and even a wireless apparatus to 
snatch from the air the day's news for the bulletin board. It was 
completed by the addition of an auditorium seating 3,000 men. 

The Association also leased the Municipal Theater. In these two 
large halls and in all the other centers varied educational and enter- 
tainment activity was carried on. Reports show that in a single week 
eight American professional and four local amateur companies 
appeared, giving performances in 28 diiferent huts and that five addi- 
tional units were being requisitioned from Paris. No fewer than 34 
athletic fields were laid out in this area, including the Polygone across 
the River in old Brest, where every Saturday and Sunday afternoon 
half a dozen baseball games of the Army and Navy League were in 
progress ; and the Velodrome, with its nine tennis courts always busy 
and its facilities for track meets and baseball. Ten physical directors 
had charge of promoting and arranging games varying from formal 
league baseball games to extremely informal pillow fights. To some 
of these centers were attached bath houses with free supply of soap 
and towels. 
Base Section The St. Nazalre area was second only to Brest in the number of 

st.Nazaire troops handled. A Y tent had been erected on the dock to meet the 

first detachments of the Quartermaster's department and before even 
a single American soldier had landed, a baseball diamond had been laid 
out. By November, 1917, nine different centers in this region had been 
opened; by March, 1918, there were 19 in St. Nazaire and 62 in the 
region. Before the end there were four clubs, a hotel, restaurant and 
leave center for the officers ; twenty huts for the soldiers ; a cafeteria 
serving 25,000 meals a month, three auditoriums, and two large ware- 
houses, besides athletic fields, factories and bakeries, and mess rooms 


for the Y personnel. There was a similar development at Nantw, 
Vannes, Coetquidan, and other outlying centers. 

The growth of the organization in this area may be made more 
vivid by the story of how it grew in one small camp. The secretary 
assigned to a camp of engineers engaged in building the huge ware- 
house and siding system at Montoir found his men housed in an old 
French warehouse, a wooden building with cement floors. They had 
no stoves except a few that they themselves had knocked together out 
of sheet iron. There were very few even of these and, as the pipes 
did not reach the roof, the building was always cold and full of smoke. 
These men were in a very forlorn condition. During the day they 
worked in swamp land, with water often to their knees. As the camp 
was temporary, the commanding officer discouraged the building of a 
hut, so the Y began its service in one corner of the warehouse. The 
secretary's first job was to get hold of a real stove, which he stoked 
with coal picked up from passing trains. Soon he installed a phono- 
graph, obtained a couple of hundred books, and supplies of stationery. 
He was not allowed to open a canteen but, in no way discouraged, he 
turned over what supplies he could secure to the mess sergeant for 

Soon the 250 men originally stationed at the camp were increased ^ndrt°on?* 
by many hundreds and day laborers came in by train each morning. 
The Y equipment was now increased by two tents. After heavy rains 
the men had to stand in rubber boots to see the shows. There was no 
electricity in the camp, and the French candles were expensive and so 
full of "bubbles" that they did not last long. Nevertheless, an enter- 
tainment hall was opened just as soon as an empty warehouse could be 
secured. A few Japanese lanterns gave some illumination. There 
were no chairs or benches, and no lumber to make them, but the men 
welcomed shows, even though they had to stand shivering in their 
overcoats. At first the entertainments were provided by local talent, 
but in a little while the Y began to bring in professionals and lecturers. 
One evening when a Chicago judge was lecturing, there was no light 
in the hall except a small flashlight held by the secretary to light up 
the speaker's face. Once a week the St. Nazaire office sent up an 
acetylene moving picture machine in charge of a French operator. 
The car had to stop three-quarters of a mile below the camp, since 
there was no road except the railroad track, but a small detail met the 
auto with a flat car and on this the apparatus would be pushed by hand 
to the entertainment warehouse. 



Base Section 
No. 2: 

Tourny Y 

By the end of 1918, this camp had increased from 250 to 8,000 
men and the Association had erected five huts with a resident staff of . 
six men and seventeen women. The equipment included v/et can- 
teens for both white and colored troops, an enlisted men's club, an 
officers' club and an auditorium. 

Within a radius of 25 miles of Bordeaux there were ten camps and 
two large base hospitals with an approximate American population of 
75,000. This district included, besides the City of Bordeaux itself, 
Bassens, where the greatest of all the American dock construction 
projects was carried out; Camp St. Sulpice, with its enormous storage 
facilities; the Beau Desert Hospital Center; and other stations, the 
most important of which centered about Limoges, Libourne, and 
Souges. The Y operated at all these points, and in addition, Associa- 
tion work in Base Section No. 7, the La Pallice area, was administered 
from the Regional Headquarters at Bordeaux. In addition to the 
general types of service already described, it will be suflficient to men- 
tion a few special features of the work in Bordeaux itself. 

The center of activity was the famous Tourny Y near the heart 
of the city, originally the Cafe des Anglais. Rented by the Associa- 
tion in December, 1917, renovated, decorated, and gradually adapted 
to the needs, it was opened every day at 7.30 a. m. and remained open 
until 1.30 next morning. On the first floor was the cafeteria, which, 
when troops were passing through, served an average of 6,000 meals 
a day.^ On the second floor was an information bureau, the American 
Express Company's money office, a lounge, with billiard tables and 
other games, and a quiet room for reading and writing. On the third 
floor was the tearoom, where light lunches and ice-cream were served 
and where Army and Navy bands gave almost daily concerts. Near 
the entrance to the tearoom was "Mother's Corner," where one of the 
women workers was always in attendance, ready to talk to the boys, 
admire their sweethearts' pictures, sew on a button, or mend a torn 
tunic. The fourth floor accommodated a library (operated in cooper- 
ation with the American Library Association), class rooms where 
French language and history were taught, and, beyond them, wash 
rooms, shower baths, shoe shine "parlor" and barber shop. During 
the busiest times as many as 10,000 men per day were served in vari- 

* There were 120 French employees on the staff, and in its kitchens were 
cooked one steer, four calves, 42 lambs, 400 rabbits and over 7,000 eggs daily. 
Three-quarters of a ton of bread per day was consumed. Two hundred turkeys 
were needed for the Sunday dinners. 


ous ways at this center. In reviewing this work at its close, the sec- 
retary in charge stated : "It may be said that no one has ever been 
turned away from the Tourny Y without bed or food or any other 
necessity that could be provided, for lack of money." 

Even as early as the winter of 1917-18, it was found that there lodgings 
was great need for sleeping accommodations for the men compelled 
to pass the night in Bordeaux. Cots were placed on the upper floor 
of the Tourny Y, but these soon proved inadequate. The lounges in 
the tea room were occupied, and soon as many as 125 men were sleep- 
ing nightly on pallets on the floors of the rooms and corridors. The 
Y reserved all the beds it could possibly secure in respectable hotels 
and lodging houses. Hospitable secretaries met trains all through the 
night to pilot the men to these billets. Finally a hotel, which became 
known as the Hotel des Americains, was leased, at a high rental. Its 
capacity was 75, but from the first it housed 250. Over the week-end 
it would be so crowded that it was almost impossible to move about the 
corridors. It is reported that 600 have crowded in at one time. In 
a period covering about a year over a million men in Bordeaux were 
provided with a place to sleep. 

A large entertainment center was opened at Franklin Hall, a pub- The 


lie auditorium holding 1,500, with a particularly large stage and 
orchestra pit. It was at first leased for three evenings a week, but it 
was so popular that the Y assumed entire possession. Throughout 
the day the main floor was cleared for basket-ball and once a week an 
athletic tournament was held. In the evenings entertainments and 
popular religious services were given. Every Wednesday there was 
a dance. 

Marseilles was little used for debarkation, but when the troops 
were returning, the French steamers touching at that port were util- 
ized especially for casuals. Activities there were developed accord- 
ingly, of the types already described, with the special features added 
in all embarkation ports.^ 

Intermediate Section 

The Intermediate Section, which occupied a great area in the cen- 
tral part of France extending from northwest to southeast, served as 
a storehouse for supplies and the connecting link between the base 
ports and the fighting troops in the Advance Section. Along the 

' Consult Chapter XLII. 




G. H. Q. 


lines of communication which traversed it in three main highways 
were located a series of great storage centers and industrial plants 
whose operations gave employment to thousands of members of the 
A E F, as well as camps where other activities essential to the conduct 
of the war at the front were carried on, such as the supplying of 
replacements to combat divisions, the reclassification of troops for 
various reasons, and the training of men for aviation, artillery, and 
other technical services. 

By March, 1918, the Y M C A had, besides 62 stations at the base 
ports, 71 stations along the lines of communication, at such centers as 
the Headquarters of the S S at Tours, the storage depot at Gievres, 
and the casual camps at Blois and St. Aignan, 20 stations at the artil- 
lery camps, such as Valdahon, Mailly, and Coetquidan, 10 in the 
newly organized aviation centers at Issoudun and elsewhere, 12 serv- 
ing detached units of engineers and foresters, and, by arrangement 
with the Red Cross, 11 at ambulance headquarters and military hos- 
pitals — total 204 in the S S, an equipment which increased later. 

In general, the work done in the Intermediate Section was similar 
in character to that done in the Base Sections and already described. 
Here we find the same types of service — for men permanently sta- 
tioned in the camps, for those passing through on their way to and 
from the front, and for visitors to the cities. 

Although Chaumont was situated in the Advance rather than the 
Intermediate Section, its personnel was to a large extent fixed and the 
welfare work carried on was so much like that in the SOS that it may 
well be considered here. Chaumont was selected as Headquarters 
for the A E F in September, 1917. The military population which 
was ultimately assembled in its vicinity included such a mixture of 
troops as could not be matched anywhere. Approximately 1,200 offi- 
cers were on duty there. In Chaumont itself, as well as at Hanlon 
Field, Donjeaux, Bourmont, St. Blin, Rimaucourt, Luzy, Jonchery and 
other neighboring points, were detachments of all units that go to 
make the complex thing we call an army — artillery, engineers, pio- 
neers, infantry, cavalry, railroad companies, motor park units, labor 
battalions, hospital units, headquarters troops, military police, casual 
companies, and other minor units. The total strength of these varied 
detachments, plus the casuals and convoys daily passing through, 
aggregated close to 70,000 men. The area eventually covered several 
hundred square miles and included about 25 towns or camps, adjacent 
to Chaumont, where troops were stationed. 


The Y M C A erected its first hut in Chaumont in November, 1917, Association 

' ' Service at 

and as the military population increased added to its equipment and chaumont 
service in order to keep pace with the needs of the men. This first 
building was a large double hut intended for the use of enlisted men. 
It served also as a lodging house, often affording sleeping accommoda- 
tions for as many as 250 men, who were also served with chocolate 
and cakes free of charge. 

A few months later a hut was built for officers, containing a read- 
ing and lounging room with large open fireplace, a dining room seat- 
ing 200, sleeping rooms for 50 and an overflow with tents for 30 more. 
This building served an especially useful purpose, because of the large 
number of officers always to be found in Chaumont. It was so well 
patronized that on many occasions, after all the regular sleeping 
accommodations were exhausted, officers up to the rank of major- 
general were found sleeping on the floor. 

A distinctive work was done at the interpreters* school at Biesles, |Jh(if ^''''''^**"' 
at which, in preparation for liaison work, French oflficers and men 
were given instruction in English, together with information about 
American customs and traditions. The men at this school, numbering 
at the maximum about 400, v/ere provided with athletic material and 
taught American games and physical recreation methods. They took 
great delight in playing baseball, as did the Americans in watching 
them. To these men, as well as to the American soldiers, the Associa- 
tion brought as lecturers many of the distinguished American visitors 
to France, who, of course, rarely failed to include Chaumont in their 
itinerary. It is difficult to estimate the results, in international 
understanding, of bringing such men into contact with these groups 
of the most intelligent and influential French soldiers. In return, 
many of the French officers at the interpreters' school helped the Y 
by giving lectures at the American huts. 

Daily there were many casuals in Chaumont, some for a few 
hours, some over night, and the Association operated a canteen near 
the station where these hungry and tired soldiers could find a welcome 
and be given food and a bed. This hut, a canvas barrack, served an 
average of nearly 400 daily. Many troop trains, en route to other 
points, stopped at this station for a little while, and when the men 
were not permitted to leave the box cars in which they usually trav- 
eled, the secretaries carried chocolate, sandwiches, and cigarets to 
them. Only a reader who has traveled in a box car and dined on 
hardtack, "corned willy," and tepid coffee can appreciate such service. 


On July 1, 1918, the Chaumont area had a Y personnel of about 
25 men and 12 women, but this number was much increased later. 
An idea of the extent of the service is conveyed by the facts that the 
average monthly canteen sales exceeded 500,000 francs, the amount of 
A E F remittances averaged nearly 100,000 francs per month, and 
free supplies to the average value of 33,000 francs were distributed 

The directors of the athletic, entertainment, religious, and educa- 
tional activities maintained almost uninterrupted service in their 
special fields. Proximity to General Headquarters made available 
facilities for the conduct of these activities which did not exist at most 
other points, and unusual service was rendered along these lines. 
But here, as elsewhere, what counted most was the things that the 
hut made possible — some amenities of existence, reminders of home, 
the welcome companionship of American girls, and the unnoticed and 
unreported round of small services. These things almost evaporate 
in the telling. The visit of the King and Queen of the Belgians to 
Chaumont and the bestowing of decorations upon Y M C A women 
was an interesting occasion. 
Tours Tours was the headquarters of the SOS and, from the American 

military point of view, the second most important city in France. 
Its military character was similar in many respects to that of Chau- 
mont. The administration of the vast enterprises of the SOS neces- 
sitated the presence of an unusually large number of officers, either 
assigned to regular duties or going in and out on business, and the 
units stationed here represented nearly every branch of the Army, 
but particularly those concerned with construction and supply. 

The Y service was inaugurated in the autumn of 1917. In 
December, there were in operation one center in the city and five at 
outlying points. By August, 1918, work was being carried on at 26 
established centers throughout the area and six outposts without per- 
manent equipment. These included hotels, cafes, clubs, and theaters, 
besides the huts with their standard activities. Up to July, 1918, no 
other welfare agency had established welfare work in the area, except 
the Young Women's Christian Association, which had hostels for 
English and French telephone operators, stenographers, and clerks in 
the service of the American Army. 

The main center of Y M C A service in Tours itself was the Cafe 
du Palais, opened in January, 1918, as a club room and restaurant for 
enlisted men. During 1918 this building served an average of 4,500 


soldiers every day. An average of 425 meals a week were given away 
to transients ; only the secretary and the men concerned knowing that 
they were gifts. The following incident is typical. Two men, with 
tunics much the worse for wear, stood for a long tim.e in the entrance 
of the Cafe du Palais, without moving or speaking. They seemed too 
reticent to make their wants known. The secretary approached and 
asked if there was anything he could do for them. They told him that 
they were casuals who had been gassed at the front and were now on 
their way to the States, that they were hungry but had not the price of 
a square meal. One reached down in his pocket and drew out a franc 
and a half, offering this in payment for as much as it would buy. He 
was told to put it back in his pocket and both men were given a good 
meal. Afterwards, one of them came to the secretary and said, "Look 
here, Secretary, I ain't never bummed a meal in my life, and I want 
you to take these coins and let me give you my I. 0. U. for the rest." 
"Nonsense," replied the Y man, "you're not bumming anything. 
You're just the guests of the friends back home, that's all. This is 
their house and you have been sitting at their table. Take your coins 
with you, for you'll need them before you get through." The men 
passed on with a grateful farewell and, a few days later, the secretary 
received this letter : 

"Dear Secretary: I've just met my major and nicked his bank 
roll for fifty francs. Am sending you ten francs to pay for them 
meals you let me and my buddy have. If there's any change use it 
to pay for a meal for some other hungry guy that comes along. Thanks 
ever so much." 

Under agreement with the Red Cross, work was conducted for cooperative work 
men in the hospital at Tours. A secretary daily passed through the Red cross 
wards with his handbag, distributing without charge tooth brushes, 
toothpaste, shaving cream, cigarets, chewing gum, and other articles, 
and taking orders for such things as the men might desire him to 
buy in the city. Twice a week during the summer, the Commandant 
placed a camion at his disposal and he would take about 30 convales- 
cents and a supply of food down to the River Cher for an afternoon 

Because of the large proportion of oificers in Tours, special pro- 
vision was made for them at three hotels and a club known as the 
Beranger Gardens. Arrangements were also made whereby they 
might for a small fee have the use of the facilities of the Tours Golf 



Y service buildings, with the usual activities, were located at 
Saumur, Angers, St. Maixent, and other points within the Tours area. 
The huts at Rannes and Rochambeau received over 3,000 men each 
daily. At the Meeker Memorial Hut, located at the 2d Aviation 
Instruction Center, 1,500 bowls of chocolate and as many sandwiches 
were dispensed free every afternoon. Daily within this area some 
23,000 men visited the huts, 1,500 letters were written, 500 books were 
issued from the library, thousands attended shows, boxing bouts or 
other athletic features, or the movies. Hundreds danced and took 
sight-seeing trips. Magazines and newspapers were distributed, lec- 
tures given, educational classes and clubs established, and religious 
services held with excellent attendance. The rolling canteen made 
daily trips to detachments that were too small for regular service. 

Near the little town of Gievres American Engineers constructed 
the main storage center of the Intermediate Section, the General 
Intermediate Storage Depot. This was an immense industrial plant 
employing about 25,000 men, with a hundred acres of storage and 
packing space, a network of railroad sidings, and a camp nearly 
seven miles long and a mile wide. It included separate supply sections 
for troops of the quartermaster corps, signal corps, engineers, medical 
corps, and chemical warfare service, besides a gasoline and oil 
section, and warehouses of several of the welfare societies. Near by, 
at Romorantin, were 13,000 more Americans attached to the great 
Air Service Production Center and Aviation Training Camp there. 

The welfare work at this point differed from that at the two 
headquarters centers just described in that the proportion of perma- 
nent units served was larger and therefore less provision for tran- 
sients and casuals was required. Y M C A work kept pace measurably 
with the military growth until there was a personnel of 125 operating 
at 30 different points, and a general and complete program was devel- 
oped as rapidly as conditions would permit. As many as 200 religious 
meetings were held in a single month, 500 entertainments of one kind 
or another were not unusual in a month's program, enrollment in 
educational classes at one time exceeded 10,000, the business depart- 
ment usually handled over 1,000,000 francs monthly, athletics enter- 
tained many thousands, and all needed equipment was supplied free. 
At practically every one of the 30 places a wet canteen, with American 
girls in attendance, was in operation. One day each week was "at 
home" day, refreshments were served free, and the huts were always 


In addition to the welfare activities directly touching the soldiers, 
the Y maintained three large warehouses in which were stored great 
quantities of supplies intended for all parts of France. As many 
as 120 carloads of supplies were handled in a single day, and during 
the month of September, 1918, nearly 1,450 carloads were handled. 
The Y storage space aggregated over a half million square feet. 

The Nevers area covered 22 different camps, whose military Severs 
population was about 50,000. Nearly every arm or department of 
service was represented. There were aviation camps, railroad engi- 
neers and railroad operators, labor battalions, motor repair units, a 
remount station, hospital units, and many others. There were sev- 
eral thousand German prisoners and nearly a thousand homeless 
Russians. At the time of the Armistice there were 30,000 patients 
in the great hospitals at Mesves and Mars-sur-Allier. 

Camp Stephenson, where three thousand men of the Railway ^^^^^^^^^ 
Engineer units were building and repairing locomotives, was one of 
the most interesting stations in the Nevers area. The Y M C A activ- 
ities at this camp were typical of those at many surrounding camps, 
but the fine spirit of cooperation between the Y and the Army, made 
Camp Stephenson stand out as a shining example. The soldiers con- 
structed and the Association paid for the material of the Y building, 
which was one of the most complete and attractive in France. It con- 
tained living quarters for the Y personnel, kitchen, canteen, billiard 
room, library and reading room, and an auditorium seating 1,700, 
with fully equipped stage and dressing rooms. It was built largely 
of tile and concrete, had a large veranda with flower boxes, and 
presented the appearance of a first class club. There was a show, 
motion pictures, boxing bout, dance or tea nearly every afternoon 
and evening. On Sunday, well attended religious services filled the 
morning hours, while athletics, a band concert, and open house were 
the afternoon attractions. A departure from ordinary overseas prac- 
tice, which proved very successful, was that of securing the active 
participation of the men in the management of the hut. The hut 
secretary reports: 

"The success of the work in this camp was in a large measure 
due to the fine spirit of the Committee of Enlisted Men. This Com- 
mittee initially formed to conduct the dances, agreed, at the request 
of the hut secretary, to take over a larger interest in the welfare 
of the men of the camp. Their advice on points that might give rise 
to misunderstanding and discontent, or any course of action, and their 
explanation to men of their companies of any difficulty that arose, 



brought about a confidence and an appreciation that could not have 
been had in any other way. We practically let them manage the 
work and we put it across." 

Blois, a city of about 25,000 people, was selected as a base hospital 
center and classification camp. It was, in reality a great casual 
camp, where officers and men were held pending their return to duty 
or to America. It was, therefore, a place where a large part of the 
military personnel was transient and welfare activity was principally 
directed to such things as would best serve a floating population. 
Association work here suffered all the disadvantages which accom- 
panied situations in which it was impossible to establish personal 
acquaintance between the welfare worker and the soldier. 

In Blois proper the Y operated two excellent hotels, an enlisted 
men's club, cinema theater, a number of athletic fields and a large 
supply warehouse, while seven outlying stations or camps were under 
the supervision of Y Divisional Headquarters. The most important 
Y center at Blois was the hut erected in the courtyard of the Caserne, 
where an average of 5,000 men per day availed themselves of the 
privileges offered. There was as great a diversity of activity here 
as could be found in any one building in the A E F. 

St. Aignan was the Y headquarters for an area of nearly 600 
square miles. The city is best known to Americans as a great 
replacement depot from which troops were forwarded to the combat 
divisions to fill the depletions due to casualties. This First Replace- 
ment Depot, familiarly known as "The Mill," furnished 555,000 
replacements to the fighting units. During the weeks preceding the 
Armistice the daily strength of the camp ranged between 35,000 
and 45,000 men. After the Armistice it became a reclassification 
camp, at which casuals received the same preparation for embarka- 
tion as that through which the organized units went at Le Mans. 
For months the average stay of individual soldiers in the camp was 
less than two days. The impressions which it made upon them may 
be surmised from the fact that they nicknamed it "St. Agony." 

Y M C A work began in February, 1918, and by the time of the 
Armistice was being carried on at 39 established centers within the 
area by a personnel of 78. The hut commonly known as Classification 
Hut was the busiest of all the welfare stations. It had all the features 
to be found in other buildings of its type, and in addition facilities 
for a number of inconspicuous but useful services not so commonly 
rendered. One of the most distinctive of these was the maintenance 


of a loan fund, which helped hundreds of American boys over diffi- 
cult situations. This was financed partly as a gratuity of the hut 
and partly from funds supplied by generous friends. Another unusual 
feature was a bundle wrapping, cable, and telegram department. 
Bundles prepared for shipment averaged 50 a day, and cables and 
telegrams at times numbered as many as 600 a day. A post office 
for casuals was maintained here, as at Y headquarters, enabling many 
men to receive mail which they would otherwise have missed. In 
this hut as many as 8,000 men were served in four hours, requiring 
more than 300 gallons of chocolate. The religious services were splen- 
didly successful, many meetings attracting an attendance of nearly 

Physical work secretaries in this area sought to keep every boy 
active and give every one a chance to engage in athletics. Boxing, 
football, and other kinds of outdoor and indoor sports were promoted. 
Some of the athletic events were held in big hangars, with as many 
as 10,000 men as spectators. 

During the six months ending with November, 1918, canteen 
sales within the area amounted to more than 2,500,000 francs, while 
more than 1,000,000 francs were sent out in the form of A E F 

Here and there throughout the area of the S S were scattered J^on camps 
the training camps at which the technical branches of the Army 
trained men for service at the front. The largest and most important 
of these were established for the artillery and aviation units. Near 
Valdahon, for example, there was the camp where many famous 
artillery brigades received their final training before going into the 
line. With the artillery of three divisions generally in training here 
at one time, soldiers were billeted in six or seven surrounding villages 
as well as in the old French barracks. The Y M C A began its 
service in the summer of 1917 by first renting and later purchasing 
from local French people an old tent with a seating capacity of 1,000. 
One of its early enterprises was the production of the first grand 
opera ever heard in the village, with the aid of a company from 
Besangon. Later, two barracks were assigned to the Y and two huts 
were erected. The latter were built, with some aid from the Army, 
by the secretaries themselves, who, while construction was in progress, 
worked on the new buildings from seven to four, while most of the 
soldiers were away at the artillery ranges, and then carried on the 
regular activities in the barracks centers from five to ten. When 


units set out for the front, especially in winter, the Y put up an 
outdoor canteen and served hot chocolate, sandwiches, and other food. 
In the village of Valdahon itself a small hut was erected for the pur- 
pose of serving the men while on liberty from the camp. Here, at 
Christmas in 1917, one of the first activities was a celebration to 
which the children of the village were invited. There was a big 
Christmas tree, with gifts for the children from the soldiers, and one 
of the men acted as Santa Claus. Official motion pictures of the 
scene were taken for the Army. At Coetquidan, a heavy artillery 
training camp in the St. Nazaire area, where 25,000 men were sta- 
tioned, the Y M C A operated at one time five huts, with other service 
centers at outlying points, employing for the district a personnel of 
36. These were only two of more than 20 such camps where the 
Association carried on its activities. 
The Aviation The outstaudlng work in aviation camps was that done at Issou- 

Camp at n • i i • i 

issoudun dun, where the A E F had one of the largest flying schools m the 

world, with seven separate flying fields, covering 50 square miles, 
and housing by the time of the Armistice more than 6,000 officers 
and men. The Y M C A entered the field in September, 1917, and 
for two months occupied the same building with the Red Cross, until 
its own first hut was erected at the main camp. A second hut was 
built in March, 1918, for the men engaged in the machine shop and 
repair depots at the other end of the field. The interior of this 
building was decorated with a landscape border by two useful 
brothers. These men, who had an interior decorating business at 
home, happened to be clever boxers, and were recruited as physical 
directors. When the Hut Decorating Department was organized, 
they were captured by it because of their special ability in its line 
of work and sent about to improve the interior appearance of the 
huts. They played a double role — spending their days in painting walls 
or devising window curtains out of cheese cloth and stencils, and in 
the evening giving exhibition bouts, usually closing with an invitation 
to take on all comers in the ring. 

By the end of July eleven centers were in operation. In addition 
to the usual hut activities, there were one or two distinguishing 
features here. Because of the distance of the camp from the town 
and consequent difficulty of securing needed articles, an information 
bureau was established, where checks could be cashed, orders placed 
for articles which could only be obtained in the city, and general 
information of a helpful character furnished to the men. As many 


as 70,000 francs were paid out in one day to officers and men cashing 

Athletic work was emphasized at the special request of officers 
as meeting" a condition peculiar to flying men. Their duties occupied 
but a brief part of the day, were irregular because of dependence 
on weather conditions, and were characterized by high nerve tension 
with practically no muscular exercise. Off duty, complete mental 
diversion and physical activity were desirable. General Patrick, 
Chief of the Air Service, and Surgeon General Ireland invited Dr. 
McCurdy to confer with representatives of the Research Board and 
Medical Staff, and an extensive athletic program was recommended. 
Committees of officers and men were organized to promote interest 
and organize sports in cooperation with the Y M C A. 

A typical week's program in the summer of 1918, when seven Typi^ai^^ 
huts were in operation, included the following events: Eleven well 
attended religious services were held, besides four Bible classes. Six 
French classes, enrolling 124 men, were conducted, and 31 pupils 
helped privately. A radio class was suspended temporarily on 
account of the instructor's illness. Two illustrated lectures were 
given, and two concerts by a French company. There were eleven 
motion picture showings, including four different sets of films. Stunt 
nights were held in three huts, and a dance in one. On one night 
there were outdoor boxing bouts, accompanied by a band concert, 
with a special view to holding the men in camp. One day 50 men were 
taken out by truck for a swim. On Sunday afternoon there was the 
usual reception, with free refreshments. Finally, a traveling canteen 
carried food and drink, music and stunts, to two new fields as yet 
without permanent equipment. 

Service on a smaller scale, but of the same essential character, 
was rendered at other aviation centers, such as Clermont-Ferrand, 
Romorantin, St. Maixent, Chateauroux, Avord, Gondrecourt, and else- 

No class of American soldiers in France had less to divert them isolated 


or more to justify discontent than those in the detached units. Many 
men, white and colored, of the Pioneer Infantry Regiments, Forestry 
Units, and Graves Registration Service were located in lonely and 
for the most part inaccessible and unattractive places. There were 
little detachments of Military Police along the lines of communica- 
tion; Signal Detachments at more or less lonely spots along the 
coast, and larger units — from 100 to 1,000 men — cut off from the 


rest of the forces and located where even little villages v^'ere few and 
far between. 
Forestry South of Bordcaux, scattered over 10,000 square miles of forest 


land, often low and swampy, were some 6,000 Americans engaged in 
cutting lumber for various purposes, principally railroad ties. These 
men were among America's first arrivals. Other forestry units were 
in the wooded hills around fipinal and Besangon, close to the border 
of Switzerland, and still others were stationed about Dijon, Orleans, 
and Gien. Isolated units were served by the Association even in the 
Azores. There were 26 camps south of Bordeaux and about an equal 
number in the other districts. 

The Y was the only welfare organization whose workers pene- 
trated these isolated camps. But for the diversions which it planned 
and carried out, these men would have been without entertainment. 
Barracks, rented rooms, tents, portable huts, and every conceivable 
kind of shelter were utilized for the maintenance of this service. 

The following extract from a report on one of these camps sub- 
mitted by an inspector, gives some conception of the kind of labor 
required of a welfare worker in order to make his mission successful : 

"In February the Y M C A was asked to care for the needs of 
small groups of men scattered around the neighborhood in five camps. 

did an exceedingly effective work for the troops. He ran 

at first three and later the five points alone. He had no transporta- 
tion. He carried supplies on his back once a week to the different 
stations. He built up an educational program that included classes 
in the French language, French history, algebra and geometry. He 
arranged a magazine supply system that met the needs of the camp 
in a most practical way. He lectured, preached, and when the 'flu' 
broke out, nursed the sick and read the funeral services over the 

It is not possible, in the brief account which space permits here, 
to mention all of the points in the SOS at which the Y M C A 
brought its service to the men of the A E F. A few centers have 
been described, where the work attained great proportions because 
of the large numbers of men reached or where it was distinguished 
by some particular quality, but it must not be forgotten that at more 
than 200 other unnamed places the men were receiving the benefits 
of a service without which they would have been thrown upon their 
own resources, or those of a French city or village, for recreation, 
amusement and all that they needed for the employment of their 


leisure time. The particular need of such a service in the SOS, 
where men were engaged in a monotonous routine involving long 
hours of arduous toil or office duty, with none of the excitement of 
actual combat, has been mentioned. Its value in terms of human 
service cannot be indicated. The "Race to Berlin" is a sufficient 
index of its military value. 

of the 

Chapter XXXIX 

Of approximately 2,000,000 soldiers sent to France 1,300,000 
became engaged in active fighting. They were organized into 42 
combat divisions, twelve of which were used as depot brigades and 
replacements, and one arrived so late that it never passed beyond the 
base ports. Twenty-nine operated as divisions on the front line, their 
casualties replaced by the fighters from the other twelve. 

In general, combat troops were passed up through the base and 
intermediate sections to the training areas, and thence to the fighting 
line. In both situations existing conditions made necessary types of 
service quite different from that in the rear. Up to July 1, 1918, only 
three divisions had been in battle, the 1st entering an active sector late 
in April and the 2d and 3d going into the lines with the French about 
June 1st to check the Aisne-Marne offensive. In July, seven divisions 
entered the fighting line and in September, fourteen more, the month 
of August having been largely employed in organizing the First Amer- 
ican Army for the St. Mihiel operation. Of these 21 divisions, seven 
went directly from training areas into active fighting; fourteen had 
seen service in quiet sectors for periods varying from five months to 
one week.^ 

July 1, 1918, constitutes therefore a convenient date for division 
between service to training and to fighting troops. Of course, there 
was service to fighting troops earlier, and on the other hand even after 
active operations began, divisions or parts of divisions were with- 
drawn for special training of a week or two, and late arriving divisions 
were entering training areas. Before July 1, however, the service to 
combat troops was comparatively stable ; after that date it was typi- 
cally service to troops in rapid movement. 

Service in Training Areas 

A study of the distribution of troops and the organization of the 
Y M C A in training areas- makes quite clear the outstanding charac- 

* See Vol. I, Plate III facing^ p. 152. This diagram shows for each division the 
approximate date of organization, arrival in France, entry into quiet sector, and 
entry into active fighting. 

' See Chapter XXVII. 



teristics of this service. Instead of a camp and hut staff with secre- 
taries assigned to each special activity, as in the rear, there M^ere at 
most points in the training area a single secretary, or at most two, 
charged with responsibility for complete service. At divisional head- 
quarters there was a staff representing each of the four principal 
activities, but these divisional workers had to spread their efforts 
over a territory of 50 to 500 square miles^ containing 25 to 80 villages 
in each of which was stationed a group of Americans numbering from 
150 to 3,000. The impossibility of being in two places at once and of 
doing three or four things at the same moment imposed limitations 
upon both variety and extent of service. On the other hand, the 
soldiers were undergoing intensive training, including long practice 
marches by night as well as by day, trench digging, and all the opera- 
tions which they would soon have to perform under fire. Their princi- 
pal needs were for comfortable places to spend their leisure hours, 
facilities for simple recreation and amusement, and canteen supplies. 
The army policy discouraged the erection of new buildings and the 
local resources were used to the limit, supplemented by tents and 
occasionally by space in army barracks. There was no uniformity. 
The hut in one place was a cowshed, in another a chateau, in another 
the town hall, in another a disused dance hall or a commandeered wine- 
shop. As the buildings varied so did the service. At each point 
unique conditions made special demands and individual secretaries 
showed extraordinary ingenuity in taking advantage of local facilities 
and in inventing ways to make the men more comfortable and con- 
tented. Under such circumstances the only way to convey an idea of 
the service rendered is by gathering up instances which are more or 
less typical. 

The 1st Division embarked for France on June 14, 1917, and the f i^*"^?!;^^ 
last units arrived there on July 2d. The 5th Regiment paraded in 
Paris July 4th, then with the rest of the division went into training 
in and about Gondrecourt in the foothills of the Vosges, about 30 miles 
directly south from St. Mihiel, then occupied by the Germans. Secrecy 
was the watchword and two weeks passed before Association Head- 
quarters learned where the troops were. Then service was started in 
Gondrecourt and several adjacent villages. 

A floorless barrack was turned over to the Y. The secretaries, 
including a woman, laid a floor and painted and papered the walls. 

* The 10th Area with headquarters at Prauthoy extended 18 miles north and 
south and 31 miles east and west. 


Officers of the 1st Corps used it for study during the day, and the staff 
did their night work there after supper. Chocolate was ready at ten 
o'clock each evening, as many as 500 cups being served in 45 minutes. 
There was no bread for sandwiches, but little cakes were sold with the 
chocolate. On Sunday mornings the religious services were attended 
by 15 to 25 officers. One Sunday during service the roof blew off. 
Often men slept in the hut because they had no blankets and no fires 
in their barracks. There was only green wood to burn and one man 
after another coaxed the smoky stove most of the night. 

At Treveray there were 2,200 soldiers in a village of 900 civilian 
population. A single secretary was furnished with two small tents 
by the side of the road. One served as canteen ; the other as reading, 
writing, and rest room. After two weeks a French barrack, without 
floor, was turned over for his use. The men soon tramped the mud 
hard as cement. Limited canteen supplies were secured and dis- 
tributed. The secretary got the men to playing games, races, jumping 
and the like, and organized classes in arithmetic, French, and reading 
and writing. Spelling bees were popular. On Sundays, morning and 
evening services were held. Twice a week 30 or 40 men in the hospital 
were visited. 
Thanksgiying By Thanksgiviug the division had an athletic director who had 

and Christmas o <=. 

arranged a field meet of the entire division for that day. A five mile 
relay race with 88 men on the side, each running 100 yards, was fol- 
lowed by a tug of war with 50 men on a side. Other events were a 
relay jump, 50 men on a side each jumping once, the largest aggregate 
winning, and a contest in which groups of 50 men each kicked a foot- 
ball around a short course in the shortest possible time. The Army 
provided turkeys for Thanksgiving dinner and the Y workers cooked 
as many as they could. Afterwards a soccer football game with four 
balls, 105 men on a side, engaged those who had survived the dinner. 
During November canteens were operated in 25 towns. By 
Christmas there were 28 huts in the division and in each a Christmas 
entertainment was held, with a present for every man. At many huts 
children of the town were invited in and the men felt a greater 
pleasure in giving them their first Christmas celebration in three 
years. The division suffered for lack of equipment, especially shoes, 
and frequently men were ordered out on 48-hour maneuvers with their 
feet poorly shod. After such a march the hut was practically the 
only place to rest and get dry and warm, and hot drinks were regu- 
larly served free to the returning men. 


Early in January half the division was ordered to the Toul front, 
and within ten days 65 Y men and 13 women were operating head- 
quarters and warehouse in Toul, and 22 service points in or just behind 
the lines. These were in dugouts, tents, and rooms in partially de- 
molished buildings. Pianos were bought in Nancy. Moving pictures 
were shown in rooms accommodating 50 men within 500 yards of the 
German trenches. Seven hundred cases of apples contributed by the 
American Apple Growers' Association and 700 cases of oranges 
bought by the Y M C A, were distributed. The tea served hot to the 
men in the trenches used up thirteen chests. When the division left 
the Toul front after ten weeks each man and officer entraining received 
two cakes of chocolate, two packs of cigarets, two packages of sweet 
biscuits, and a hot drink. These were distributed by two men and two 
women at each entraining point, who served continuously for 48 hours 
in a cold rain. Secretaries went with each train and at the end of the 
150 mile ride to Chaumont-en-Vixen they were ready to serve hot 
drinks to the men as they left the comfortless box cars. When Colonel 
King, Chief of Staff, received his cup of chocolate he said, 

"This is the last straw, when men and women will stand in the 
cold and rain for hours to serve comforts to 25,000 men I am con- 
vinced there is something to it. I am for them. They can have any- 
thing they want." 

The 2d Division was organized in France during the last three f!'"^!'=? *<> 

*^ 2d Division 

months of 1917, and went into training in the vicinity of Bourmont. 
As early as October 1st service was being given to the first units at 
Gondrecourt where within a week a barrack, a walled tent and a 
barn were used in succession for the hut. At St. Thiebault a circus 
tent was secured but wind and rain were too much for it and a double 
walled tent took its place. By November 15th, 20 secretaries were at 
work in Bourmont and eight nearby villages, and by January 1st there 
were 94 workers in 30 villages. In Griffigny no place could be found 
except the town hall. The mayor was appealed to for the use of a 
room on the third floor and, after a council meeting, gave the use of 
the entire building rent free, only asking that care should be taken 
not to injure the town records which extended over 700 years and 
were regarded with great pride by the townspeople. In Brainville a 
convent was housing 100 or more French and Belgian refugees and 
30 American soldiers were billeted there. The Y M C A secretary 
requested the use of the woodshed, which was granted free. At Dam- 
blain a barn 40 x 120 feet was secured and soldiers of the 5th Marines 


laid a floor, built a stage, and painted scenery for a little theater where 
many amateurs and visiting troops gave entertainments. By January 
1st three portable moving picture machines were giving shows in 
eighteen villages each week and three stationary machines were in 
use twice a week in the larger towns. The typical weekly program 
included two religious services on Sunday, a midweek Bible class, two 
evenings for moving pictures and one each for lecture, boxing, and 
stunts. One woman secretary conducted French classes in five vil- 
lages, reaching each once a week. The intensive training left the men 
little inclination for study. A divisional athletic field meet was con- 
ducted on February 22d, and the division was fortunate enough to 
secure a physical director for practically every regiment, who pro- 
moted formal and informal games, boxing and wrestling, as oppor- 
tunity permitted. 
■^raffic The whole division labored under a scarcity of motor cars and 

Difficulties 1 •J? J 

gasoline during this first winter. Roads were covered with drifted 
snow that at times stopped traffic altogether. Repair parts were 
scarce and skilled mechanics still scarcer. The Army shared its small 
supply of gasoline with the Y which reciprocated by running its trucks 
for army use. Canteens were operated in all the huts to the extent 
that supplies permitted. As with the 1st Division, a special effort was 
made to serve the troops departing for their first experience in the 
trenches. In March the 2d Division was ordered into the line at 
Verdun where the French troops had by that time recaptured the 
ground lost in the Crown Prince's desperate offensive. The Y M C A 
staff was divided, some going ahead to be ready to welcome the troops 
at arrival, the rest remaining to serve them as they entrained. The 
quartermaster furnished bread which was made into sandwiches with 
jam for filling and these, with hot chocolate and cigarets, were given 
to every man and officer. A secretary recorded that he had to pay 
$40 a cord for green wood to keep the chocolate boilers going. When 
the 6th Regiment of Marines reached Camp Massy near Verdun 
they found a secretary established in a cowshed by the side of the 
road. He had secured "several wonderful boilers" from headquarters 
and for six weeks he filled canteens with hot chocolate for officers and 
men tramping by. This secretary later ran a canteen in a wine cellar 
at Seicheprey until it was demolished by shells and filled with chlorine 
gas. He then set up his chocolate boilers in a sheltered corner of a 
courtyard. The army kitchen had also been demolished and the men 
at four o'clock in the afternoon were about to go unfed into the 


trenches for the night. The secretary ran to his abandoned cellar to 
get a case of condensed milk to add to the chocolate he was serving. 
As the "all clear" signal had been sounded he did not wear his gas 
mask, forgetting that the gas would remain in the cellar after it had 
cleared away above ground. He was dragged out unconscious and 
after weeks in hospital was pronounced physically unfit for further 

Early in September the Y was notified that the 42d Division f^^^^'j=|g^^ 
would train in the Neufchateau area. On September 4th, accordingly, division 
an organizing secretary began preparation and ten days later nine 
more secretaries joined him. The 42d, however, was split up in 
transport, some of the troops coming by way of England, and debarka- 
tion in France was not completed until December 2d. Meanwhile the 
26th was ordered to Neufchateau, divisional headquarters being estab- 
lished October 31st. 

For a couple of months the secretaries served various casual units 
found at Base Hospital No. 18 at Bazoilles and a company of telephone 
engineers at Liffol-le-Grand. A secretary arrived at Bazoilles on a 
truck which also bore a piano and phonograph. The men began play- 
ing the piano before it was lifted off the truck and kept it in action even 
while it was being carried into the hut. Willing volunteers carried it 
to the nurses' quarters for a dance that evening and brought it back 
for the Sunday morning service next day. The Y program began with 
a baseball game the first afternoon, athletic supplies having also been 
brought by the secretary. Soon a specially designed hut was ordered 
which was opened on Christmas Day. 

At Liffol-le-Grand work was immediately started for the telephone 
engineers in two Adrian barracks. The canteen was a plank sup- 
ported by two barrels. Supplies were not received from Paris and 
secretaries scoured the country for 50 miles buying whatever they 
could find, usually at full retail price. The men's pay was in arrears 
and rations were inadequate. One evening a piece of hardtack was 
offered as a reward for anyone who would tell a story, sing or dance, 
and a piece of bread and jam was offered as grand prize for the best 
performer of the evening. It was hotly contested. The winner was 
a professional actor who became chairman of the entertainment com- 
mittee and arranged many a good program of soldier talent. 

About the middle of November three battalions of the 103d Regi- 
ment of infantry arrived. The Adrian barracks could not begin to 
accommodate the increased crowd. Volunteers were asked for to 


erect a big double hut for which the Y M C A had material. Men 
volunteering were relieved from military duty and as many as 200 a 
day worked on the hut, with the result that it was finished in two 
weeks, ready for a grand opening on Thanksgiving Day. Something 
was going on every night at this hut — lectures, movies, indoor athletics 
or boxing, stunts, amateur shows, religious services. Five of the 
first six secretaries working here were sent to the hospital suffering 
from overwork and exposure. 

The delay in arrival of the main body of the 26th Division enabled 
the Y to get its secretaries on the ground at every point in advance of 
arriving troops, although the record was maintained in some instances 
only by swinging the Y truck in ahead of soldiers marching from the 
trains. Billeting plans called for the placing of troops in 40 villages. 
Some barracks were erected but most of the men were billeted in 
houses or barns, some of them sharing accommodations with the cows 
and chickens. There was no coal and wood was scarce. Electricity 
and gas were not to be had, and even kerosene could not be secured 
until several months later when the Army obtained a supply. 

The Y M C A was able to get a small supply of candles for the 
hut and during part of the winter shared its stock with the Army for 
use in the mess barracks, a single candle being allowed for a whole bar- 
rack. With night closing in at half past four, and no place warm and 
light except the wine shops, the Y M C A, the only welfare organiza- 
tion in the field, had a heavy task to combat darkness, cold, and gloom. 
Neufchateau The big doublc hut at Neufchateau became famous. It was not 

only the divisional headquarters to which came men and officers from 
all the surrounding villages, but it was on a main road leading from 
General Headquarters at Chaumont to the Toul front, and unending 
streams of officers and men flowed by it in both directions. Everyone 
was welcome. The atmosphere was dominated by the head secretary 
who introduced himself to the men on opening night thus: "I have 
a title at home and I insist on being called by that title here. My title 
is Billy. Now, everybody who is able to pronounce it — BILLY." 
Neither soldier nor secretary was able to maintain a grouch long 
in Billy's presence. His motto for the staff was, "Do if possible any- 
thing for any service man at any time he wants it done." 

The vice-president of a college in New York State was assigned 
to this hut early in January. His first day's work, on a Sunday, was 
to clean the mud out of the hut, after which he made 1,600 sandwiches. 
He was appointed "handy man" for the hut, in which capacity he 


repaired floors, set up stoves, cut wood, opened cases of supplies, and 
built a stairway and walk from the street to the hut. After a period 
in the hospital, where he narrowly escaped amputation of his hand for 
blood poisoning, caused by a nail stuck into his thumb while opening 
a case of supplies, he opened a hut at Orqueveaux in an old mill. His 
experience driving a team of four army mules, which he secured to 
haul a load of supplies from the warehouse at St. Blin, would amuse 
the students to whom he returned after a year of service. 

In the Neufchateau area, huts or tents were operated by secre- 
taries in fifteen villages in November, 1917, eighteen in December, 
nineteen in January. In February part of the division went to the 
Toul front, and most of the huts were dismantled except in Neufcha- 
teau and Liff ol-le-Grand. The area was transferred to the French, but 
was recognized as an American area in April. In addition to the huts, 
some 20 villages were served by itinerant secretaries with Ford light 
trucks. Portable moving pictures were kept busy. Letter writing 
material was always available in this and in all training areas. A few 
lecturers and entertainers came from Paris and good talent was dis- 
covered among the soldiers and extensively utilized. Outdoor ath- 
letics, when weather permitted, and indoor boxing and wrestling 
during the winter, were steadily promoted. 

Transportation was inadequate. At one time the Y had only inadequate 
one serviceable truck for the whole area of 400 square miles. Army 
trucks were generously loaned whenever possible and all sorts of 
conveyances were used to distribute supplies from the divisional ware- 
houses at Neufchateau and St. Blin. In December there were 51 secre- 
taries; in January, 66; yet in April, 1918, the division had been fur- 
nished only six cars, of which three were reported unfit for service. 
As late as December, 1918, there were only eight trucks, of which 
three were "no good." 

The 42d Division was arriving at St. Nazaire and Brest from service to the 

42d, 41st, and 

November 1st to December 7th. The Association sent thirteen secre- 32d Divisions 
taries to the division, of whom three were women. All these accom- 
panied the division to the Vaucouleurs area where it assembled be- 
tween December 7th and 12th. A rented building with wet and dry 
canteens and a room for officers was opened. After a week the divi- 
sion moved to La Fauche where the Y force was increased to twenty 
and eleven service points were operated in nine towns. The stay there 
was only two weeks, the division moving the day after Christmas to 
Rolampont in the Langres area where a Y organization was already 


set up at a few points and was rapidly expanded during January and 
February. Service was similar to that already described. On Febru- 
ary 16th the division entered the line in the Luneville sector. 

The 41st Division arrived late in December and was stationed as 
a depot division in and around St. Aignan where it received and for- 
warded 263,385 replacements to fighting divisions. Service at St. 
Aignan has been touched upon in the preceding chapter. 

The 32d arrived in sections during February and March and 
was designated as a replacement division with headquarters at Prau- 
thoy near Langres. In May it was changed to a combat status and 
moved into the lines near Belfort in Alsace. These were the last 
fighting divisions to arrive in France before the great rush of Ameri- 
cans which was started by the German offensive in March. 
Organization Duriug this period of nine months, then, six fighting divisions 


arrived in France, of which three had been settled in training areas 
long enough for service to be firmly established, one had been stationed 
in the intermediate section, one had moved several times at short 
intervals, and one had just arrived at the end of the period. All re- 
ceived service, the three that had been in France longest being sup- 
plied with 50 to 100 secretaries each. The Association had learned 
what was required. General Headquarters was systematically advis- 
ing it of expected arrivals and their proposed location. It had ex- 
perienced organizers ready on notice to enter an area, locate service 
points, secure buildings and establish the nucleus of a working staff 
with divisional warehouses and transport ready for the first comers. 
Its personnel was increasing and the general character of service, 
quite different from that in the cantonments at home and from the 
base port service, had defined itself. The great need was for physical 
comfort, for places of refuge from the dark, cold, cheerless barracks, 
barns, and billets in which the men lived. Even without special activi- 
ties a light warm room is better by an immeasurable difference than 
a dark cold one. Something to read and materials for letter writ- 
ing must always be at hand. Next in importance was the canteen, 
and the activities of the General Supply Division were producing re- 
sults that promised better things in the early future. Moreover, 
spring had come and the prospect of outdoor activities promised relief 
to the crowded huts and tents and increased recreation for the men 
merely by supplying them with athletic materials and physical direc- 
tors who were believed to be on the way. Most secretaries who had 
worked through that first bitter winter felt that nothing to come 


could be worse and the organization, which had learned side by side 
with the Army what service in France really meant, looked forward 
with confidence to the steady but gradual increase of its task. 

The illusion was soon dispelled by the pouring in of a flood of 1*^^,^™^"'=^° 


soldiers such as no one had even dreamed of. In the next three months 
eighteen combat divisions landed in France, and July and August 
brought eleven more. The latest arrival to share in active fighting 
was the 88th Division, its last units landing September 9th. After 
two weeks' hasty training the 88th relieved the 38th French Division 
in Alsace and on November 2d became part of the Second American 
Army Reserve until the Armistice. None of these 29 divisions had 
more than twelve weeks' training and some had only one month. Five 
of them were designated as depot or replacement divisions and were 
stationed in the intermediate section where they received service from 
the established huts. Two others trained with the British troops 
and received services from the British Y M C A. All those which 
went into American training areas received service both from estab- 
lished centers and from their own divisional Y M C A staffs. 

There was no possibility of keeping pace with such an avalanche. 
Although both workers and supplies increased, the number of men 
to be served increased three times as fast. Experienced men and 
women were drawn from the older divisional staifs to head up new 
ones. The 1st Division alone supplied seven divisional directors for 
the new arrivals. These secretaries organized service on the tested 
lines, setting up divisional headquarters and scattering their assist- 
ants by ones and twos into the surrounding villages. Humble as had 
been the requirements for huts in the early days, places now were 
utilized under the increasing billeting needs of the Army that would 
have been scorned before. More and more tents were used and 
the canteen lines formed outside instead of inside. Workers redoubled 
their efforts, cut down their sleeping hours, and refused the furloughs 
to which they were entitled. Because of inadequate supplies canteen 
sales were limited to two or three hours a day and the selling hours 
were advertised as widely as possible so that all would have an equal 
chance to buy. Quantities to be sold to individuals were limited 
for the same reason. Between selling periods secretaries foraged 
through the country on foot, truck, or motorcycle, in desperate hope of 
finding something somewhere for the men. Knowing that the stay of 
the troops would be short and that in a few days they would be going 
into the line, attempts were usually made to reserve enough cigarets, 


chocolate, and biscuits, to give every man a supply at the moment of 
departure. Newspaper and magazine service improved and daily 
distribution of the Paris editions of American papers became fairly 
regular. Entertainers were increasing in number and numerous 
parties made their way into the training areas giving two or three 
scheduled performances a day and frequently two or three unscheduled 
to groups of men met in the villages or along the roads. The Com- 
munity Motion Picture Bureau too got into full action and stationary 
and portable outfits were increasing in number every month while 
couriers rushed to and from Paris with films. Educational class 
work was for the most part out of the question, but lecturers reached 
many of the units, and a good many men were getting help in their 
study of French. Athletics in the form of impromptu baseball, 
basketball, football, and mass games, constituted perhaps the most 
successful activity. Divisional records for the period are far from 
complete, for no one had time to write formal reports. Correspon- 
dence reveals innumerable glimpses of men and women doing the same 
sort of things that have been described in earlier pages, but doing 
them with nervous haste. There was little that was novel ; just a uni- 
versal effort to extend the essentials of service to the largest possible 
number of men. 
se'^vkl"^ Figures compiled at Headquarters show that, from March to 

July, dry canteens increased from 304 to 639 and wet canteens 
from 84 to 325. Remittances increased from $96,961 in March to 
^1,227,405 in July. Canteen sales amounted to 28,733,565 francs 
between May 1st and August 1st. Entertainments furnished from 
Paris numbered 200 in March, 390 in April, 613 in May and 782 in 
June. While these figures apply to the entire A E F, it was with com- 
bat divisions that the greater part of the increase occurred. Although 
unquestionably there were groups of men unreached by any form of 
service the figures given will serve as indicators of the degree of suc- 
cess with which the Y M C A expanded its service with the expansion 
of the A E F. 

Periods op Combat 

Already, however, American troops had begun to fight. The 1st 
Division entered the Cantigny sector April 25th after two brief periods 
in quiet sectors. The 2d Division entered the Chateau-Thierry sector 
May 31st, after service in comparatively quiet sectors near Toul and 
Verdun. The 26th had seen active fighting, in what was regarded 


as a quiet sector, near Toul in April. With these operations began 
that period of extraordinary movement to which frequent reference 
has been made in preceding pages. So intensely has the brilliant 
fighting of American soldiers impressed the minds and stimulated 
the imaginations of their fellow citizens, that an effort is required 
to realize that all their fighting was done in one fourth of the time 
that the A E F spent in France. Eleven months, lacking one week, 
elapsed between the arrival of the 1st Division and its first major 
action, the taking of Cantigny; nine months after the Armistice the 

Y M C A was still serving belated soldiers in France exclusive of 
its continuing service to the American Forces in Germany. From 
the entrance of the 1st Division into the line at Cantigny to the Armis- 
tice was exactly 200 days or six and a half months. Nevertheless, 
though short, the period was one of indescribable activity. For the 

Y M C A the fundamental problem was to keep in contact with shift- 
ing troops. They moved without notice, sometimes crossing half of 
France at a single jump. The conditions are comprehensible by a 
glance at the map showing the movements of the 1st Division in 
France.^ Units of the division were located, for longer or shorter 
periods, at 8,995 towns and hamlets.^ To keep with this division the 

Y M C A moved divisional headquarters seventeen times, and opened 
more than 400 service points so as to maintain an average of 25 points 
at all times. No other division moved so extensively, but, in the suc- 
cession of operations on the Aisne-Marne salient, the St. Mihiel salient, 
and the Meuse-Argonne, in the loaning of American units to the Brit- 
ish and French Armies, every division was shuttled here and there 
with disconcerting suddenness and speed. 

This activity naturally presented the Association with the task continual 
of continually shifting service points to the location in which the service Points 
troops settled for a few days or a week. On the journeys it was 
practically impossible for the Army to provide the soldiers with hot 
food and there was no certainty that at a journey's end the army 
kitchens would be ready. The men depended for sustenance en route 
on the hard tack and "corned willy" they carried with them. The 

Y M C A met this condition by developing service to entraining and 
detraining troops. The order for departure was at every point the 
signal for the chocolate boilers to be rushed at high pressure, for the 
making of sandwiches by thousands and the preparation of little 

' See Vol. I, Plate IV facing p. 160. 

'Tabulation by the Statistics Branch of the War Department. 


packets containing a few cigarets, cakes, and chocolate bars, so that 
each officer and man, upon boarding the train, might receive a hot 
drink, sandwich, and supply of smokes. This service was invariably 
free, and it was repeated hundreds of times. Entraining usually re- 
quired not less than 48 hours for a division, and the secretaries, both 
men and women, stuck to their jobs until the last train had pulled 
out. If possible, one or two secretaries traveled on each train, with 
all the supplies they could find room for, and at each stop ran from 
car to car distributing what they had. If the movement was by march- 
ing, a small fleet of Y trucks was assembled and usually given place 
near the head of the column. From time to time a truck would stop 
near the side of the road and serve hot chocolate and other supplies 
to the men as they marched by. No records are available of all the 
troop movements that took place in France, but such service is re- 
corded at least once for the whole or for parts of every fighting divi- 
sion, and for most of them several times. 
Casualties As the dlvlslons took their places in the fighting lines, the Asso- 


Welfare ciation and the Army faced a problem that was never solved systemat- 

Workers ^ n nr • 

ically or in principle. Extraordinary examples of effective service 
are recorded but they cannot be said to be typical ; they were rather 
characteristic of the individual secretaries who were able to get in 
touch with the men. Military authority was not clear as to what 
service it wanted or would permit. Attention has been called to 
the order^ prescribing that each divisional commander specify in writ- 
ing the number of welfare workers he was willing to have with his 
command. The effect of this order was that in nearly half the divi- 
sions only the secretaries already with the troops on July 7th were 
able to accompany them to the front. Divisional welfare staffs suf- 
fered casualties; eight secretaries were killed, 123 wounded, and 
many broke down from exposure and overwork, but even these could 
not be replaced without written request from the commanding gen- 
eral, who had many other things to occupy his attention. 

There was similar uncertainty and variety of opinion as to the 
proper places for service. Some commanders permitted secretaries 
to penetrate the trenches and even to go over the top. Others forbade 
them to go beyond field headquarters, usually located several kilo- 
meters behind the line, thus limiting service to men in reserve and 
to the sending of supplies forward by army trucks. Still others 
ordered the welfare staff to serve in dressing stations and field hospi- 

' Consult Chapter XXVII. 


tals during action, or sent the women workers back to base hospitals. T!l^ Problem of 

^ Advanced Service 

The impression received from hundreds of reports, letters, diaries, 
interviews, and military orders, is one of workers persistently press- 
ing toward the front with or without permission, and of such variation 
in the attitude of officers that workers felt justified in avoiding the 
notice of those known to be opposed to advanced service.^ It is be- 
yond question that this was, in some cases, the cause of exasperation 
to officers, because of actual or potential interference with military 
operations. The clearest outcome of the experience was the necessity 
of systematic study and definition of the legitimate functions of wel- 
fare workers with fighting troops.- 

^ Every division which entered a battle received service during action. The 
service was uneven owing to the uneven distribution of workers. In some 
divisions workers were sufficient only for a few units and other units received 
only casual service when at established service points. The detailed instances in 
the following pages are chosen solely to illustrate types of service. 

- The judgment of the Commander of the First Division after six mfonths' 
experience in welfare work on the fighting line, is expressed in the following 
order : 

"Headquarters First Division, American Expeditionary Forces, 

France, October 25, 1918. 
"Memorandum No. 173. 

"The Division Commander appreciates the efforts of auxiliary civilian 
organizations to furnish supplies to the personnel of the Division under the most 
difficult and dangerous circumstances while the Division is in the line. It is 
observed that the functioning of these organizations throughout the entire sector 
while the Division is in the line has resulted in their inability to furnish ade- 
quately supplies and recreation to the personnel of the Division when the Division 
is in a rest area and the personnel can best realize and appreciate the efforts 
of these organizations. It is realized that their inability to serve more efficiently 
the need of the Division while it is at rest is due to the unavoidable deterioration 
of their transportation and the necessity of a rest for their workers, due to their 
efforts during the preceding period of activity. 

"The following rules are prescribed for the functioning of these organiza- 
tions in the future when the Division is in the line, it being considered that they 
are for the best interest of all concerned: 

"(a) Distribution of supplies will be made by means of organization supply 

"(b) Each civilian organization may have one secretary or representative 
for each Division organization to which supplies are to be delivered, at the point 
of delivery of said supplies. 

"(c) Except as above stated representatives from these organizations will 
not go farther forward for the purpose of delivering supplies than Field Hos- 
pitals, at which point they may deliver supplies. 

"(d) These organizations will, in so far as practicable, hold their personnel 
in reserve and build up their equipment while the Division is in action. 

"(e) In order to carry out the above provisions organization commanders 
will render to these organizations such assistance and cooperation as is possible. 

"By command of Brigadier General Parker. 

"Lieutenant-Colonel Infantry, U. S. A., 

Division Adjutant." 



With Combat 




The amount of service rendered was, of course, largely determined 
by the number of workers. The Y M C A attached to combat divisions 
every man and woman for whom it could secure military permission. 
At two periods it called in from the S O S a large number of workers 
for transfer to the front, many of whom, after waiting in vain for 
the travel permits which the Provost Marshal would not issue, re- 
turned to their posts in the rear. Workers were sent to regional 
headquarters in the advance section in the hope that, although they 
could not go directly from Paris to the designated divisions, the re- 
gional secretary might find indirect ways to get them to advanced 
posts. The maximum number of workers recorded as with Combat 
Divisions was 833, on November 1, 1918.^ At the same time 885 
workers were reported "unaccounted for." Actually many of these 
were with combat divisions, having reached them by the roundabout 
methods suggested above. Moreover, a considerable number whose 
workers' permits read "Paris headquarters" came under the head 
of "General Supply Division," "chauffeurs," "mechanics," "account- 
ants," "educationalists," "athletic directors," "religious directors," 
and were on duty with fighting troops. The Chief Secretary, after a 
special study of this situation, stated: 

"It may safely be assumed that there were not less than 1,200 
Y workers in service in the zone of the Army during the first week of 

These 1,200 had to serve 1,200,000 men. According to the esti- 
mated requirement of 120 workers per 25,000 fighting men, there 
should have been 5,760 instead of 1,200. Had the workers been evenly 
distributed, each one would have had 1,000 soldiers to serve instead 
of 200, the estimated maximum for satisfactory service. As related 
to the other points of service, the combat divisions had 28 per cent of 
the entire force of workers on November Ist,^ 

Direct service on the front line narrowed to furnishing comforts 
and sending home soldiers' money, plus such individual ministry, 
religious and friendly, as was acceptable and possible. Supplies de- 
pended, of course, upon motor transport, and the work of the Y truck 
drivers deserves more than passing mention. They secured their 
loads from the divisional warehouses at the railheads, or, when these 

^ Special Report by Records Bureau to Chief Secretary, November 1, 1918. 

- Of course, those engaged in general service cannot be counted as belonging 
either to the front or the rear areas. This percentage must be placed consider- 
ably higher when considered as percentage of workers actually available for field 


were empty, at the base warehouses at Gievres and Paris, even at 
times hauling direct from the ports to the front. As they drew 
nearer to the Hnes, the roads became more and more congested, long 
columns of vehicles and marching men traveling constantly in both 
directions on roads so narrow that a disabled truck was immediately 
ditched in order not to block the traffic. Within twenty miles of the 
line the roads were pitted by shell holes. Movement was confined 
to the hours of darkness, but no lights were allowed. The strain on 
muscle and nerve was beyond description. 

Among the army chauffeurs the Y M C A men held their own. ^^^ "Brewery 
There were, for instance, with the 1st Division, the men of the "Brew- 
ery Gang," so called because they had lived for a while in an abandoned 
brewery and prided themselves upon its entire absence of comforts 
or even conveniences. To be eligible for initiation into this group, a 
driver had to qualify by working 24 consecutive hours without com- 
plaint; and to keep his place, his truck had to be in running condi- 
tion at 6.30 every morning and ready at all times to go at the 
call of the transportation chief. An excuse of any kind meant ex- 
clusion from membership. Since nobody knew when the division 
would move, they had to be ready at a moment's notice. A mobile 
repair outfit with its full equipment of garage supplies, a stock of 
canteen goods and a number of phonographs, portable cinemas, and 
athletic supplies were always kept on hand. When orders to move 
were received, these things were quickly loaded into their special 
trucks, the unit swung into the convoy to follow the whims of a mobile 
division and when the troops finally landed at their destination the 
goods were as quickly unloaded to supply their needs. When the 
division made its quick run from Toul to Montdidier, 300 miles across 
country, the 25 autos were the second group in the line, and not a 
single car lost its position during that long, exhausting drive of six 
days, with very little food and no shelter, in the rainiest season any 
of these men had ever seen. When the division was settled, they 
would begin again the ordinary routine trips between the warehouses 
and the various Y huts. Often, reaching a warehouse, they would 
find it cleaned out, and then the trucks would be started towards 
places far back in the SOS region where it was rumored supplies 
were held up because of lack of railroad cars. Many trips were made 
to Is-sur-Tille, about 150 miles each way, or to Le Havre, 200 miles 
involving several days of almost continuous night and day traveling. 
When they had obtained the stuff their work had only begun. It had 


to be delivered. For this front-line work picked men were used. 
Driving was always hazardous. The roads were under shell fire, gas- 
sing was frequent. One of these drivers writes: 

"I had driven from our tent where our supplies and headquarters 
were at Montfaucon, on this, my third trip, with rush supplies and 
daily papers into Romagne. On going out I was caught under as 
beautiful a barrage as I ever saw laid down on a road. Luckily I 
escaped injury by throwing myself face down, first beside the car and 
then in a ditch beside the road, but poor 'Lizzie' was badly shot up ; 
top, tires, cushions, body and hood were literally riddled, and there 
were over 50 holes in the rear of the car itself. Strange to say, the 
engine was not injured, and after varied and sundry repairs, I drove 
this same car for weeks afterwards, always an object of curiosity and 

This kind of work was not spectacular. If the truck was late its 
driver was soundly cursed by disappointed waiting men. Success 
brought no rewards except the pride of service expressed in the re- 
port of the transport chief : "Not a single driver ever left his truck 
or found it impossible to get through with his load during all the 
time the front line activity was continued." 

The "Brewery Gang" was not unique. Every cigaret and piece 
of chewing gum and cup of chocolate of the millions distributed in the 
front lines rode part of its journey in a truck driven by just such men; 
nor should the mechanics who worked miracles in keeping trucks 
in running condition be forgotten. 

A woman worker^ describes a village hut as follows : 

ser"vYce° "Bcyond the mess-hall is the hut, a French abri tent with double 

walls. Ducking under the fly, one finds oneself in a long, rectangular 
canvas room, lighted by a dozen little mica windows. The room is 
filled with folding wooden chairs and long, inkstained tables over 
which are scattered writing materials, games and well-worn maga- 
zines. Opposite the door, at the far end, is the canteen counter, a 
shelf of books on one side, and a victrola and a bulletin board, to 
which cartoons and clippings are tacked, on the other. Back of the 
counter, on the wall, held in place by safety pins, are the hut's only 
decorations, four of the gorgeous French war posters brought with 
me from Paris. There are two stoves resembling umbrella-stands for 
heating in the main part of the hut and behind the counter another 
about the size and shape of a man's derby hat, on which I must make 
my hot chocolate. For lights at night, I am told that one can occa- 

* Uncensored Letters of a Canteen Girl, New York, 1920. 


sionally procure a few quarts of kerosene and then the lamps that 
stand underneath the counter are brought out and, for a few days, 
we shine; but usually, we manage as our ancestors did with candle- 
light. Our candlesticks form a quaint collection; some are real tin 
bourgeois, brought from Paris; some strips of wood; some chewing- 
gum boxes ; while others are empty bottles, 'dead soldiers' as the boys 
call them .... For the rest, the hut is equipped with a wheezy old 
piano, a set of parlor billiards and a man secretary." 

"Orders took us to Saizerais, Divisional Headquarters, where 
the problem of finding a building was a pressing one. We finally 
found an old house, the dirtiest I have ever seen, and by the use of 
ten pounds of soda, twelve French peasant women, and a lot of white- 
wash, we managed to make the place habitable. After we had spent 
three days cleaning it and a few more days living in it we received the 
inevitable orders to move. 

"We had our Y in a hall over a barn, the odors of which defied 
ten pounds of chloride of lime. We held services here, also had a 
battalion service for the men killed in the Soissons affair and managed 
to put on one movie show. On the whole, in spite of the liquid manure 
trickling down the streets of the little town and the rest of the dirt 
and the filth, we had a pretty good time of it." 

Still nearer, the Y center was a cellar or a dugout. There was, ^ Typical 

Y Dugout 

for instance, the dugout at Villers-Tournelle in the Cantigny sector. 
During the time the Americans were there it was under constant 
bombardment. When the two Y men arrived all the cellars and dug- 
outs were full of soldiers and for three days they operated a canteen 
in a barn on the surface. Then some Moroccan troops moved out and 
they got hold of the vacated cellar. It was only a small provision 
cellar about six steps down from the street level. When they moved in 
there was one shell hole through the roof. When they left with the 
regiment after three weeks, the whole house, with the exception of a 
few feet of brick wall, had been pounded flat. Frequently, the debris 
had to be cleaned away so that men might enter. The bombardment 
was so intense that there were many more casualties in the town than 
in the trenches. The Y was ordered to remain closed during the 
day time. A big sign was painted on the door, "This Y M C A is 
open from dark to daylight only," but a shell soon blew most of the 
door down the cellar steps. It was unnecessary anyhow. Only 
group selHng was permitted. The soldiers were kept in a nearby 
dugout to wait their turn. From dusk till dawn the secretaries 
served the men who crowded down into the damp, dingy cellar. Each 


man brought a sack or an empty box to carry back a load of stuff 
to the other men in his squad. Often the shells struck so close that 
the candles were blown out by the concussion ; but they were quickly 
relighted and the work went on. 

The story of this dugout at Villers-Tournelle illustrates front 
line service in the quiet times. It was mainly canteen service. 

"This little cellar in the actual front line," writes the secretary, 
"carries canned Hawaian pineapple, peaches, pears and apricots, six 
kinds of sweet cake and cookies — stuffed dates and boxed figs, cigarets 
and chewing gum." 

Many times the Y was ordered to move its huts further to the 
rear so that crowds might not collect, or the tracks of men going 
to the huts reveal positions to the enemy airmen. Even the thin 
column of smoke from the stove used for making hot chocolate would 
be a danger and limitations were put on the Y for these reasons. 

"By order of the commanding officer," reads a sample report, 
"we have been compelled to shut down our Y M C A work in two 
of the foremost positions which we had located in dugouts. I am 
sending into Paris four of the men who worked in these dugouts. 
They are bringing in two Y M C A signs which are shot full of holes." 

Women too shared in the common dangers and hardships : 

"We could not serve hot drinks here because the Germans could 
see the smoke. We weren't allowed therefore to cook outside and 
that was the only way we had. We couldn't get enough water either 
to make drinks. We had a pocket edition of the movies and used 
to run them ourselves, having three sets of films a week. We opera- 
ted a tent there, but had to move it because they bombed it once. 
Next time we camouflaged it more thoroughly. We slept in dugouts 
most of the time. We used to feed the men coming back from the 
front. The relief would come up at 10.30 when it became dark and the 
men coming from the trenches would be served hot chocolate from 2 
till 3.30 in the morning. We would get to bed about 4 o'clock and 
had to be up at 8 to be at the hut." 

The The Argonne drive started with the barrage at 11.30 p.m., 

DrfvJ""® September 25th. At six o'clock in the morning of the 26th, troops of 

the 37th went over the top. The first village they took was Avocourt. 
At noon of that day, three secretaries reached Avocourt with a Ford 
loaded with supplies. They took possession of a German dugout, 
opened for service, and sent the car back. It brought a second load 
and some more secretaries during the evening. Two field hospitals 


were opened in the town and the secretaries gave hot chocolate and 
cigarets to the wounded all night. 

Lieutenant Colonel Herr, 305th Infantry, 77th Division, made the 
following statement in a report to the divisional chief of staff (G-1) : 

St. Mihiel salient offensive. On the second day of this offensive, omciai 
I had occasion to go from Corps Headquarters through Mamey to the ^°""^°*^ 
town of Thiaucourt. In so doing I passed through the Army and 
Corps Artillery, then engaged in the fight toward the northeast. I 
observed several Y M C A stations actively engaged in serving those 
who passed along the roads ; in fact I was rather anxious about the 
exposure .... On arriving about two kilometers from Thiaucourt, 
I overtook an automobile carrying one man and three women workers 
of the Y M C A, who were handing out their wares from the sides of 
the car en route to Thiaucourt to continue their operations there. I 
thought that this party had gotten too far to the front, .... so 
ordered them to leave the road by the west and to retire back in the 
direction of the south, getting out from the vicinity as soon as possible. 

Argonne Offensive. In the advance through the Argonne I 
found establishments of Y M C A personnel at Varennes, Chatel-Cheh- 
ery and Fleville, several days, in fact a week or so before the enemy 
had been pushed back so far that his artillery could not reach these 
towns. At this stage of the war, in fact, there appeared to be so 
many Y M C A and other establishments that I protested several 
times against their activities because of the fact that it seemed to be 
necessary always to locate their main and secondary dumps and 
wheeled establishments where the traffic was at times seriously inter- 
fered with. The traffic management in the Argonne was an ex- 
tremely difficult and serious problem to contend with, and it seemed 
at times that the removal of just this much interference would help 
a great deal in carrying up ammunition and food. 

The chaplain of the 102d Engineers, 27th Division, wrote to the 
Chief Secretary November 18, 1918, in part as follows: 

"Our regiment has recently come out of the front area where we 
have seen very active service. I have many letters to write and much 
back paper work to catch up with. But the very first claim upon my 
heart and mind which I must satisfy before I do anything else is to 
write you a word attempting to express the appreciation every man 
in the regiment feels for the benefits received through the Y M C A 
canteen which has been with us every step of the way .... Our 
boys have never wanted for supplies. In the face of seemingly im- 
possible conditions Mr. has kept his canteen open and well 

stocked. ... I suppose that an engineer regiment is the most difficult 
to serve because the men are always widely scattered and have long 
hours of work. Mr. has met the situation by carrying sup- 
plies to the separated battalions." 


Delivering Beyond the point where canteens could be set up, secretaries 

in^'the Trenches carried suppUcs on their backs. Narrow escapes from exploding 
shells are often humorously recorded with frequent brief but sober 
records of secretaries wounded and killed. The commander of the 
151st Field Artillery issued the following special orders No. 73, 
July 21, 1918: 

On July 16th, during heavy shell fire, Mr. , a Y M C A 

secretary, visited the batteries of the 1st Battalion and the Regimental 
P. C, and distributed cakes and tobacco. Approaching the batteries 
along the Stiippes-Souaine road, he fearlessly made his way with great 
danger to himself, and after completing his mission returned, giving 
no thought to his personal danger and only concerned with the com- 
fort of the men. He is to be commended for his distinguished cool- 
ness and bravery. 

The Sergeant of Company H, 111th Infantry, 28th Division,wrote : 

"I have never, in all the time you have been with us from Foret- 
de-Fere (August 1, 1918, until the finish), wanted for anything in 
the eats or smoking line, due to your ceaseless efforts. Your presence 
among us in the front lines was a common sight, gathering up mail, 
passing around smokes, etc. Though without any military training, 
we have seen you go through gas attacks, and 'Jerry's' stiff barrages 
like a veteran. One of my most memorable occasions was shortly 
before an attack on Aisne Heights when the boys of Company H were 
supplied with so much stuff that they did not miss their meals, which 
could not be gotten to them for forty-eight hours." 

A major of the 101st Infantry, 26th Division, recommending a 
secretary for the Distinguished Service Cross wrote : 

"During the fierce fighting at Molleville Farm, Houppy Bois and 

Belieu Bois, October 23d to 21st inclusive, Mr. , a Y M C A 

man, although wounded by a shell fragment, refused to leave his 
boys, as he called them, and stayed with them during the intense 
artillery and machine gun fire. He brought them cigarets and hot 
chocolate, each trip being made under continual hail of shells and 
bullets. He ministered to the men of the battalion in every way possi- 
ble, giving great assistance in rendering first aid. His courage and 
devotion to this entirely voluntary duty, his utter disregard of his 
personal safety, that he might be of help to others, merits the highest 

In a letter signed by seventeen officers of the 8th Machine Gun 
Battalion, 3d Division, to the Chief Secretary, occurs the following : 

"During the great Marne battle his work was peculiarly con- 
spicuous. On July 15th, just after the heavy barrage, his Y M C A 


supplies were the only rations which the men of this battalion, in his 
immediate neighborhood, had to eat. He not only distributed food, 
but saved wounded and gassed soldiers at great risk to himself. On 
one occasion a shell knocked a chair from under him. On another, 
the house in which he was resting was struck by a shell and he was 
buried in debris. In all our army life he was one of us, in our dangers, 
our work, and our recreation. We heartily commend him as a good 
soldier and trustworthy friend." 

There was hardly a division in which secretaries are not on pressing station 


record as serving in the dressing stations and first aid stations dur- 
ing action. The service included provision of hot drinks for the 
wounded, supplying cigarets, holding lights for the surgeon, cleaning 
instruments, taking messages and writing letters for the men, and 
even medical attention under doctors' directions. At Varennes, with 
the 82d Division, as soon as the wounded began to come in, a tent was 
erected in a field of mud in the midst of barbed wire, shell holes, 
and trenches on ground recently taken from the Germans. One of the 
doctors sent for two women workers to make hot chocolate for the 
men as they were brought in. Some of them had lain two to four 
days on the field, wet through and muddy. The Y girl fed them 
through tubes as they lay on the tables. The doctors said that many 
lives were saved, as the food enabled the men to endure surgical opera- 
tions. Shells were bursting around continually. Only candles lighted 
the improvised hospital. There was no floor and the mud was ankle 
deep. There were no beds. The wounded lay on stretchers which 
were lifted to the table in turn. A surgeon of the 32d Division wrote 
to the Association Headquarters August 21, 1918, in part as follows: 

"In behalf of the men of the 2d Battalion, 125th Infantry, I wish 
to thank, through your office, the Christian services rendered by your 

representative, Mr. , to the men of our battalion during the 

recent advance of this regiment. He was with us at all times under 
shell and machine gun fire .... giving cigarets to the wounded and 
fighting men who were wet and cold. ... In many instances he helped 
litter bearers to evacuate the wounded. In the aid stations he rendered 
valuable services in procuring hot coffee and warm food for the wound- 
ed, going without sleep himself in order that the soldiers could have 
all possible comforts." 

It would require several pages merely to list the different things Miscellaneous 
which individual secretaries did upon occasion. Practically every 
secretary on the field received money in large sums to be sent home for 
the men. Soldiers gave them watches to get repaired when they 


should visit towns in the rear, and battle souvenirs to be packed and 
sent home. They collected soldiers' letters for mailing daily. These 
were routine services common to all. At Grand Pre, between Novem- 
ber 1st and 11th, 3,000 newspapers a day were distributed in the 
6th Division while men were actually advancing, and a total daily 
circulation of 160,000 newspapers was attained. In one month 379,- 
854 magazines were supplied. On the St. Mihiel front airplanes 
dropped papers to the men in the front lines, and in the Argonne, 
motor trucks carried papers up daily during the most strenuous days 
of action. 

But there were numerous unique and novel services rendered. A 
secretary with the 37th Division wrote: 

Unusual "I took the Khaki Trio and their folding organ Wednesday, 

Conditions August 20, 1918, up on the ration wagon with me, reached battalion 

headquarters at 10 p.m. and gave our first concert in a dugout to 
eighteen men. We spent the rest of the night at the guard house, 
sleeping in bunks, hammocks, and on the floor with rats running all 
over us. Got up early next morning, gave our first concert at 6 a.m., 
then started up the trenches, stopping wherever we found a platoon 
of soldiers, gave them a concert, and put on our fifth and last con- 
cert for the day at 3 p.m. at the farthest outpost on the edge of No 
Man's Land ; then sang a song to Fritzie, looked through a periscope 
at them, and left." 

The commanding officer of the 9th Infantry, 2d Division, wrote 
to the Chief Secretary on September 19, 1918, in part as follows : 

"In the recent operations of September 12th to 16th Mr. 

went over the top with the assaulting battalion of the regiment, took 
care of the wounded on the field, and when the battalion was halted to 
re-form at its first objective, took possession of a German kitchen, 
reorganized it with four German prisoners as kitchen police, and fed 
over four hundred men with coffee, steaks, rice and potatoes. Mean- 
while he was ministering to the wounded and spent the night with 
those who were not evacuated until the next day. The following 
day he went on with his usual work of supplying troops with cigarets 
and other articles." 

Lieut. Colonel Whittlesey, Commander of the "Lost Battalion," 
wrote, "I take great pleasure in stating that on the relief of the 'Lost 
Battalion' the first hot food which the men received was the cocoa 
supplied by the Y M C A." In the report of Lieut. Colonel Herr, 
already quoted in part, occurs the following: 


"I was in this defensive action (Chateau-Thierry) with the 3d 
Division from June 2d to July 2d. During this time I executed a 
rehef on Hill 204 with my battalion and two battalions of the 53d 
Colonial Infantry, French Army (General Marchand's Division), 
and the Y M C A secretary accompanied us and continued to provide 
such articles as the military transport could bring him. At one 
time during this service I learned that the company commanders of 
the battalion had carried with them their company funds amounting 
in the aggregate to 60,000 francs more or less. I had these funds 
turned over to the Y M C A for deposit in Paris banks, and the matter 
was handled to our satisfaction in every respect. Also during this 
time I saw the Association's activities with respect to caring for 
money for the men, noting that on Sundays or on pay days their 
receipts from soldiers for safe keeping, amounted on several occasions 
to over 200,000 francs per day. One secretary found a huge kettle 
which he scrubbed and cleaned and set up as an improvised bathtub. 
He carried water one hundred yards, heated it, and served baths 
for a long line of men, including the colonel." 

Under the conflicting conditions service, necessarily, was far from The Essential 

° > ^ > Element of 

systematic and depended upon the ingenuity and initiative of individ- service 
uals, supported by the supplies furnished by the organization. In- 
evitably it must appear that the soldiers continually helped them- 
selves, and that only by the cooperation of officers and army transport 
could a tithe of the service have been rendered. The story of what 
was done may convey to those not familiar with the battlefield some 
more definite conception of the discomforts and hardships which at 
times made the danger of wounds and death seem trivial. Most of 
all must appear the fact that, in welfare service to fighting men, the 
essential element is a man or woman so imbued with the spirit of 
friendly service that, with or without material aid, his or her pres- 
ence will bring cheer to the men. 

Chapter XL 


An In July, 1917, General Pershing discussed with various advisers 

the problem of American soldiers on leave in France. There were 
many puzzling considerations to be taken into account. The Leave 
Area idea, proposed by the Y M C A, and developed in numerous con- 
ferences and through experiment and improvement, proved the correct 
solution of the problem. Briefly stated a leave area was a section 
of country selected for its natural beauty, attractive features, and 
facilities for amusement and recreation, which was officially desig- 
nated as a resort for American soldiers on leave. In its final develop- 
ment, the Army paid for lodging and food, and exercised general 
. control ; the Y M C A furnished all social and recreational features ; 
the soldier enjoyed himself without cost. Before this status was 
reached, the Y M C A carried a much larger share of responsibility 
through the experimental period, until both the soundness of the plan 
and the appropriate division of responsibility had been demonstrated. 
In all, nineteen leave areas, including 39 towns, were put in operation.^ 
They were located in Alpine resorts and the Riviera, the valley of the 
Rhine, the seacoast of Brittany, towns in the Pyrenees and the Cote 
d'Or — all places where beauty of scene and mild or bracing climate 
had attracted rest- or pleasure-seekers for many years. The exten- 
sive amusement facilities already existing were supplemented by all 
the sports that Americans love. The first area opened, at Aix-les- 
Bains, was the pattern for all those opened later. Here the Grand 
Cercle Casino was leased, and its theater, dance hall, restaurant, loung- 
ing and recreation rooms were devoted to the pleasure of soldiers. 
Social features were everywhere emphasized ; to this end women pre- 
dominated among the workers. Athletic sports of all kinds went on 
daily, including not only baseball, football, and tennis, but mountain 
climbing, skiing, swimming, and similar out-of-door activities. Lake 
and river steamers were chartered for daily trips, and hikes to places 
of historic or scenic interest, with competent lecturers as guides, were 
features of all areas. In short, from early morning to late at night. 

' See Plate XVI facing page 154. 



the soldier on leave had a wide choice of occupation, and freedom lim- 
ited only by the respect due the uniform. There was neither reveille 
nor taps ; if a man wanted breakfast in bed at noon he could have it. 
Concerts by famous bands, moving pictures, theatrical entertain- 
ments, and best of all, American girls to talk or dance with, were at 
hand at all times; the soldier had only to enjoy himself. Every man 
was entitled to seven days' leave every four months. When the char- 
acter of leave areas was once understood the whole army was eager 
to go. Nearly half a million men spent seven day leaves in the areas, 
and the total entertained, including shorter leaves, reached nearly 

A clear comprehension of the psychology of soldier furloughs as pJ?obkm''^ 
affected by conditions prevailing in France is prerequisite to the 
proper evaluation of the work of the leave areas. Change of scene, of 
occupation and of companionship, release from habitual restraints, 
activity of ordinarily unused powers, as well as escape from routine, 
are essential to continued efficiency. The need for furlough of the 
soldier on active duty is plainly far more urgent than in time of peace. 
No matter how many diversions may be introduced to relieve the 
monotony of camp life, there remains in the human constitution the 
necessity for the periodic vacation bringing complete change of envi- 

The situation of the A E F presented peculiar difficulties. The 
soldiers of France, temporarily released, could go to their own homes 
— the furlough that every citizen soldier most craves. It has been said 
that the French commuted to war. For the British, England was 
just across the Channel, and though inadequate transportation 
imposed limitations, most of them went home at intervals. England, 
too, was a good substitute for home to the British colonials; Cana- 
dians, Australians and the rest found warm welcomes among a people 
whose speech, customs, and sports were their own. 

Americans were three thousand miles from home shores. They 
were in France for "the duration." England was in no sense a sub- 
stitute for home, even if the additional burden on channel transport 
could have been borne. Ordinary leaves in France were out of the 
question. Our men did not know the language, and their ignorance 
of the customs of its people furnished large possibilities of trouble 
with the civilian population. Turned loose, the majority would have 
gone straight to Paris, the one French city whose name and fame are 
magnets to every American. But Paris, overcrowded, struggling 


with shortage of housing, fuel, and food, could not provide for their 
physical needs, while the worst she had to offer promised defeat of 
the very object of all furloughs. From the military point of view, 
also, the scattering of soldiers all over France was unthinkable. No 
one knew when a great enemy offensive would force the calling back 
to duty of every man, a possibility that became a reality in March, 
1918, when the newly started leave area at Aix-les-Bains was depopu- 
lated almost in a day. These conditions created a delicate and intri- 
cate problem. 
Complex The complexity of the problem was clearly perceived by all con- 


cerned. At a conference attended by the American Am^bassador, as 
well as representatives of the Army and the Y M C A, August 3, 1917, 
the suggestion v/as made to designate one of the world-famed holiday 
resorts of France as an official vacation center and to arrange a pro- 
gram sufficiently elaborate to fill every waking hour with healthful 
and popular recreation. Chamonix, nestling in its romantic valley at 
the foot of Mont Blanc, was particularly mentioned as well adapted 
to the purpose. 

At each stage of the discussion it became more and more evident 
that the realization of the idea was to be no easy matter. One of the 
most puzzling problems was that of gi'anting the largest measure of 
personal liberty to the soldiers without relinquishing the military 
control which the situation demanded. Would the American soldier 
relish being told where he must go on his vacation? The answer was 
undeniablj^ "No, even if the place named were the most attractive in 
the world." The essence of vacation is to go where one chooses and 
do what one likes, and to be free to change one's plans every day with 
changes of mood. The soldier would evidently have to be conducted 
to the prescribed area and military control established to see that he 
did not leave it except to return to his post. How, then, were freedom 
and control to be reconciled? The answer was, that, once there, the 
soldier should find himself so contented that he would not want to 
leave, and would so report to his comrades on his return. Provision 
for his entertainment must therefore be made with unerring insight 
and skill. Housing and feeding without exploitation must be assured. 
In short, upon the idea must be built a plan. In a letter dated Novem- 
ber 13, 1917, General Pershing formally requested the Y M C A to 
submit such a plan for operating a Leave Area for American soldiers. 
P^JS When the first investigation of possibilities was begun, the plans 

for the American Expeditionary Forces contemplated only a small 



number of troops in France in the first year. To make sure of enough 
men simultaneously on leave to justify any such project, a suggestion 
of cooperation with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces was adopted. 
Accordingly, in the latter part of August, 1917, representatives of the 
American and Canadian Y M C A's visited a number of resorts and 
recommended the choice of Chamonix, with Nice as an alternative. 
Men on leave from the American and Canadian forces combined 
might total 1,000, v/hich would keep the accommodations at Chamonix 
filled. Larger numbers could be sheltered in tents. Lease of the 
ground floor of the Majestic Hotel for use as a club, and rental of a 
field for athletics, were proposed. The Y M C A approved the report, 
but postponed action "until more secretaries arrive from America." 

Here the matter rested for eight weeks. Late in October, Rev. selection 

° ' of Resorts 

Karl S. Cate, who in the course of welfare work in Camp Devens, 
Mass., had conceived and carried well toward completion a plan for a 
sort of country club for soldiers on furlough from that camp, was 
assigned to proceed with investigations. In conference with the 
director of the Government Bureau knowm as the Office Nationale du 
Tourisme, representatives of the Touring Club of France, and the 
National Hotel Association, a complete list of resorts was secured, 
investigating trips planned, and valuable introductions to the right 
persons supplied. On the way to Chamonix the investigators passed 
through Aix-les-Bains ; and here they found all the features of which 
they were in search ; large hotels, thermal springs, a lake, a casino — 
the Grand Cercle — containing a theater and several recreation halls, 
opportunities for hikes to places of interest within reach, and space 
for athletics. The city officials were quick to see the local advantages 
in this leave area plan, for the war had disastrously affected the tour- 
ist business. A conference of the hotel owners was called immedi- 
ately to determine what arrangements could be made for the use of 
hotels that had never before been operated in cold weather. 

In the meantime a Franco-American military conference at unitary 

. , Conditions 

Pans had laid down certain conditions in regard to the leave system, 
suggested largely by the experience of the French in dealing with 
their own furlough problems and by their views of what precautions 
would be wise on account of the military and civilian situation. The 
conference was held on November 8th at the headquarters of General 
Vidalon of the French Army at the War Ministry in Paris. A seven- 
day leave once in four months for every soldier was agreed upon, 
the first to begin in February, 1918. This disposed of any idea of an 


immediate opening at Aix-les-Bains. Another decision of the confer- 
ence precluded Chamonix as a Leave Area while the war lasted, 
because its proximity to the border of neutral Switzerland raised 
possibilities of international complications. The number of men on 
leave was not to exceed ten per cent of the American forces. Twenty- 
four hour leaves to troops in the immediate vicinity of leave areas 
were opposed because of the difficulties of transportation and the pos- 
sible discontent of the French troops who were not allowed such a 

An "Outline of Plans for Handling Permissionaires" was pre- 
pared in concurrence with this military program ; this emphasized in 
addition the moral tone of the resorts, the general activities to be 
encouraged, the entertainment program, and the value of American Y 
women as hostesses and leaders in the amusements. 
TheYMCA jt was now thought that there would be enough American sol- 

Officially ^ 

Authorized to dlers on furlough to fill a leave area and the idea of Canadian coopera- 

Conductthe ^ y^ , t-, 

Leave Areas tion was dropped. In December, a letter was sent to General Per- 
shing, proposing the opening of leave centers at Aix-les-Bains, Cham- 
bery, Annecy, and Grenoble. On December 28, 1917, a conference 
was called by the Provost Marshal General at Paris, at which a draft 
of General Orders was prepared. This lodged military authority and 
responsibility for leave areas with the Provost Marshal General, and 
for transport of men to and from them with the Director of Trans- 
portation. The Y M C A was officially recognized as the authorized 
agency for arranging for accommodations, and for conducting social 
and recreational activities. The way was left open for other organi- 
zations to be admitted to the field, if desirable. As it proved, the 
Y M C A alone undertook this type of work. The draft formulated 
by this conference was promulgated as General Orders No. 6, in effect 
January 8, 1918.^ 

At a conference on January 10th, the army officers in charge of 
the plan desired immediate action on the opening of Aix-les-Bains and 
asked if the Association could be ready to handle 3,000 men within 30 
days. The answer was, "Yes," although there had been no corre- 
spondence with the officials at Aix for ,two months. Mr. Gate 
hastened to Aix to make arrangements. Under General Orders No. 
6, the Association was to make all contracts for hotel accommodations 
as well as for buildings for its own activities. In the next seven days 

See Appendix IX, p. 571. 


100 hotels and pensions in Aix, Chambery, and Challes-les-Eaux were 
examined and a model contract drawn which served as the basis of all 
the subsequent contracts when the military authorities later took over 
this part of the operations. It set the price of the various classes of 
rooms, the quality of meals, the fees, hours of service, and a scale of 
damage charges. There were few points in which either the soldiers 
or the Association were left unprotected. Negotiations for the Grand 
Cercle at Aix-les-Bains were begun and beds for 1,800 men secured, 
when word came from the Army that 3,000 men would arrive in 
three weeks. A precedent for all subsequently opened areas was set 
by holding conferences with local officials and leading citizens result- 
ing in effective cooperation for the control of social evils. At this 
point, Mr. Gate, back in Paris for a military conference, was asked to 
investigate other places which could be used for leave areas, and 
Franklin S. Edmonds was placed in charge of the staff already gath- 
ering at Aix. Such incidental matters as additional supplies of sugar, 
flour, and coal for the hotel proprietors, arrangements with the French 
Army for the reception of the Americans, proved to be a part of the 
day's work of the leave area staff. 

The opening day of Aix-les-Bains, February 15, 1918, and the gp|^ J^^^ "^ the 
arrival the following morning of 361 hungry, bedraggled, discon-^rea 
tented Americans is one of the interesting stories of the Association 
annals. The soldiers had come to "Aches and Pains," sure they were 
to spend a so-called vacation under military rule, with reviews for 
the pleasure of the French people, and prayer meetings at the Y M G A 
for relaxation. When they saw the hotels at which they were to stay, 
and found there was no reveille and no taps, and they could have 
their choice of every sort of pleasure, the mood changed and they 
became a good-humored, happy, satisfied crowd of men. 

The 31 members of the Savoie staff bent every effort on erasing 
the initial misapprehension and giving these soldiers a good time. 
The Grand Cercle was open from 8.30 in the morning to midnight. 
At the beginning a nominal charge for the theater was made; but 
this was soon abolished and all entertainments and activities were 
always free. 

Every night there was some sort of entertainment in the theater, 
and in the ball room also, save on the two nights a week when dances 
were held. There were two cinema shows each evening and in bad 
weather morning and afternoon as well. The after-theater hour was 
filled by informal games; and this became one of the most popular 


features at Aix. This game hour was varied by charades, moving 
picture burlesques, and all sorts of stunts by the men. One object in 
these informal amusements was always to get the men to entertain 
themselves and one another. An army band and a French orchestra 
played afternoons and evenings. There was free service of chocolate, 
coffee, cool drinks and sandwiches on Sundays and holidays. A daily 
trip, "Seeing Old Aix," hikes up Mount Resard, to chateaux thrown 
open to soldiers, and to other points of interest, and the daily excur- 
sion on Lac de Bourget, gave the men a chance to see all the beauties 
about them. Outside the city an athletic field was laid out, the space 
for the baseball diamond taking in eleven small truck farms, which had 
been leased by the Association. Arrangements were made with a 
large bathing establishment for baths during the winter ; and in the 
summer a large raft, a life saving boat, and a supply of bathing suits 
made the lake popular. The American Library Association furnished 
an excellent library. Short lectures on the region and on French 
history were given before the evening entertainments, and short relig- 
ious services were held daily. Such was the program which, with the 
differences in outdoor activities caused by difference of region and sea- 
son, was the pattern for all the areas that followed. 
L°|ht of°"^ '° ^^^ '^^® ^^^* permissionaires left Aix-les-Bains February 23, 1918, 
Experience after a memorably joyous week. But there were few to take their 

places. Hardly any applications for leaves were received by com- 
manders. As a consequence the patronage of Aix-les-Bains and 
Chambery dwindled while no one at all was assigned to Challes-les- 

Evidently something was radically wrong with the system. The 
hotel proprietors of the three towns were in consternation. Solely 
for the accommodation of the A E F they were running out of season 
at big overhead expense. Yet the A E F did not patronize them and 
they were left without income. They complained to the Y M C A, 
demanding some guarantees for unused beds if their hotels were to be 
kept open. The proprietors had been led to expect a quota of about 
8,000 men and had m.ade preparations accordingly. Some hotels had 
been in constant readiness since the middle of February and had not 
received a single guest. The special leave trains were discontinued 
as there was no demand for them. Meanwhile 100 hotels with their 
large staffs waited for permissionaires who did not come. 

Two causes contributed to this catastrophe. One was the ignor- 
ance of the soldiers as to the real nature of the plan and as to the prep- 


arations that had been made for their pleasure. The Leave Area had 
not been sufficiently advertised, and the reports of the first permis- 
sionaires, enthusiastic as they were, did not circulate fast enough to 
produce desired results. 

To overcome this, it v^as planned to appoint two officers to visit 
camps along the American lines of communication, explain the plan 
and stimulate applications for leave. 

Much more serious was the requirement, in General Orders No. 6, Drawback 
that every man going on leave should have sufficient money to pay his 
board and lodging. This amounted to 100 to 135 francs or $20 to $27, 
and with additional pocket money, represented a sum that very few 
soldiers could save out of four months' pay after allotments for rela- 
tives, insurance, liberty bonds, and the like had been deducted. 
Urgent representations by the Y M C A led the Army to grant each 
permissionaire 40 francs, or about $1 a day, for food. This was little 
help. Finally, it being made clear that the alternatives were that the 
Army should provide lodging and food for men on leave, or that the 
Leave Area plan must be abandoned, it was ruled that the restrictions 
imposed differentiated the prescribed leaves from ordinary furloughs, 
and the men being on duty status, were entitled to commutation of 
quarters and rations. This new conception was embodied in General 
Orders No. 38,^ issued March 9, 1918, which authorized payment by 
the Army and revoked such provisions of General Orders No. 6 as 

One more difficulty remained. The hotel keepers had learned a The 

^ ^ Hotel Keepers 

lesson from their empty hotels and demanded a guarantee that they Guarantee 
should be reimbursed for losses resulting from failure to use the 
accommodations they provided. The Army could pay only for accom- 
modations actually used. The Finance Committee stepped into the 
breach by authorizing an arrangement under which the Y M C A 
would pay for unused accommodations up to two-thirds of the total 
reserved. This guarantee came just in time, for on March 21st the 
German offensive began, and all leave privileges were suspended in 
the American Army for an indefinite period. Under its guarantee, 
the Y M C A paid 352,000 francs to the hotel keepers. There fol- 
lowed three months of idleness in the Leave Areas; the staff was 
reduced to eight men and eight women, barely enough to keep things 
ready when leaves should be restored. 

' See Appendix IX, p. 571. 


Organization of Although there had been suggestion of a Leave Area Department 

the Leave Area ^ 

Department as early as August, 1917, the various negotiations and administrative 
tasks at Aix-les-Bains had been carried on by individuals through the 
experimental period. With the demonstration that the idea was 
sound, it became certain that additional areas would be required as 
soon as conditions permitted the renewal of leave privileges. In 
April, 1918, the department was organized, like a region, but with 
headquarters at Paris, and Mr. Edmonds was appointed head. Under 
assurances from G H Q that the leave areas would not be interfered 
with, the department set itself to holding on, and to planning for 
future developments. Meantime Mr. Edmonds was traveling back and 
forth between Chaumont and Paris, urging that leaves be granted to 
men in the SOS even though suspended for combat troops, and on 
July 4th an order was issued, restoring leaves for the men not actually 
engaged in the fighting lines. This was the last battle for the leave 
areas. Their need and their success had been recognized by the 
Army and their development was only a matter of time; the Army 
was now ready to guarantee the hotel keepers a fixed sum in case 
their houses were not fi.lled, so that the way was clear for the Asso- 
ciation to devote itself entirely to the organization of the areas for 


^^^g As soon as leaves were restored, applications immediately out- 

numbered accommodations. The Army requested the Y M C A to 
organize 25 additional centers with provision for 50,000 men. Mr. 
Gate returned to the work when this demand of the Army foretold 
immediate and immense expansion. He had already investigated 
fourteen places, eight of which were now accepted. The first was the 
Brittany area, consisting of St. Malo, Parame, and Dinard, and accom- 
modating 2,500. The second, opened September 1st, was the 
Auvergne, including La Bourboule, Mont Dore and several other 
towns of the Central Plateau. 

On September 11th a military conference at Tours called for leave 
areas providing 74,000 beds. There were in the three areas already 
open 11,500 beds, and in the eleven others now selected a total of 
58,200. The areas included the Riviera, Cauterets, and three other 
towns in the Hautes-Pyrenees, Pau and three towns nearby, Vals- 
les-Bains and Lamalou-les-Bains. Cannes, Nice, Menton were opened 
in October and shortly afterward, Monte Carlo and Monaco, which 


early in the movement had been offered by the Prince of Monaco to 
the Association. This Riviera Area became the most noted of all, 
entertaining more men than any other except the Rhine Valley Area, 
in its most luxurious hotels and casinos. It afforded unexcelled oppor- 
tunities for driving over the Corniche, climbing the olive covered 
hills, sailing the blue waters of the Mediterranean or flying in planes 
along the coast.^ 

While the seven day leave areas were the first and most serious cl^^^'°° 
task of the Leave Department, they did not constitute all of its work. 
Recreation Centers was the name given to points near large camps 
and base ports where men could go for week-end leaves or for even 
a few hours. The beginnings of this plan are found in the efforts of 
Mme. de Billy, wife of the chief of the Tardieu Mission to Wash- 
ington, whose desire was that American soldiers on leave should 
be entertained in better-class French homes. The Committee on 
French Homes, made up of many prominent French men and women, 
and especially Mme. Borel, its Paris chairman, were largely influen- 
tial in the opening of resorts at St. Marguerite near St. Nazaire, and 
Trez-Hir near Brest. A third, Valengay, near Issoudun, was the 
wing of a noted chateau loaned to the Association through the courtesy 
of the owner. Special provision for travelers en route was made at 
Nancy and Lyons, railroad junction points where thousands of sol- 
diers had to wait for trains. 

It was not till after the Armistice that Paris was treated as a 
recreation center, but when short leaves there were allowed in order 
to gratify the wish of every American boy to see this famous city, it 
became necessary to make the most complete arrangements in order 
to keep those visitors busy. With the occupation of Germany, five 
areas were established in the Rhine Valley. 

Some fortunate soldiers and officers secured leaves in England ^eav..^^^^^^ 
and Italy. Special reasons, such as the wish to visit relatives, had to 
be given if one was to receive military permission to go to England, 
and passport and travel difficulties made leaves in Italy few. The Lon- 
don executives made arrangements for a leave area on the A E F 
model at Leamington Spa, but the quick evacuation of the United 
Kingdom after the Armistice prevented its operation. A very popular 
officers' club was established at Stratford-on-Avon, by the coopera- 
tion of Miss Marie Corelli and others, where many officers stationed 

* For Leave Areas with statistical information, see Plate XVI facing p. 154. 


in England spent week-ends. English hospitality provided other 
delightful and much enjoyed week-end visits for many officers and 
men, and short tours and visits in Scotland made those who secured 
them enthusiastic over the welcome and attention given. The Hospi- 
tality League was the agency through which most of these visits were 
arranged, and its carefully thought out methods enabled men to 
specify the combination of mountain, seashore or country, and golf, 
tennis or shooting that would please them best. 

Life in the Leave Areas 

The summary facing p. 154, prepared by the Leave Areas 
Department, shows so far as figures can, the magnitude of the ser- 
vice. If to the number of men entertained, the factor of the length 
of each man's stay is applied, there results the extraordinary record 
of 3,858,303 men-days for the French leave areas, and 1,290,000 men- 
days for the Rhine areas, or a total of 5,148,303 men-days for the 
entire department, exclusive of Paris for which no records were kept. 
Contrasting Not alone the quantity, however, but much more the quality of 

the provision for the soldiers' comfort and happiness constitutes the 
real substance of the service. This may best be apprehended by sur- 
veying it as it presented itself progressively to the soldiers. They 
came, it must be remembered, from the billets of northern France, 
with its mud and rain and its unspeakable devastation, or from the 
barracks and tents of the SOS camps. 

They came with full equipment, rifle, bayonet, gas mask, and 
all. The mud of the trenches was on their boots. For months they 
had not slept in a bed; their food, ladled out as they filed past the 
mess kitchen, had been eaten from mess kits. The primary desire of 
every man was for a taste of physical comfort. 

They descended from the trains into the most renowned pleasure 
resorts of Europe. In a brief speech, the Army officer in command 
informed them that, while they were there, they were free from 
military routine, and subject only to the ordinary rules of decent be- 
havior. They were conducted by Y secretaries to hotels, built and 
furnished to cater to those able to pay for the most elaborate luxury. 
The entire accommodations were for their use. Any man might draw 
a room in the royal suite. Beds with clean sheets awaited them, and, 
as the director of the department remarked, the first thing done by 
most of the visitors was to "loaf and invite their souls" to spend 24 
hours in bed. 


Arising they found their clothes and boots cleaned, and descended 
to dining rooms where tables were laid with white cloths and silver, 
and decorated with flowers. The meals stipulated in the Y M C A 
contract with the hotel keepers were of high standard, both as to 
variety and quality. By contrast with the conditions they had left, 
the Leave Area was the acme of luxury, and all this was at the 
expense of the Government, thanks to the persistence of Y M C A 
advocates of soldiers' rights who, in face of many serious obstacles 
and objections, had pushed the matter to an official ruling by the 
Judge Advocate General. 

It was not long before most visitors found their way to the 
casino or club house where the Y M C A had established its service 
center. The characteristic European breakfast of rolls, coffee or 
chocolate, and fruit, only whetted appetites for a real American 
breakfast, and the widespread rumor that sausages, cakes, eggs, and 
American coffee could be had at the Y canteen was an irresistible 
attraction. This led to new discoveries. There were American girls, 
whose occupation was to make things pleasant and homelike for the 
soldier. They served him food, told him of the attractions of the 
place and the entertainments planned for the week, and were in- 
terested listeners to his talk about his experiences or about his home 
and home folks. Lounging rooms with easy chairs that were really 
easy, American papers and magazines, facilities for amusements in 
great variety, were plainly in evidence. There should be no difficulty 
in enjoying himself. 

Out of doors was equally attractive. No physical surroundings Natural 


could have been more satisfactory. These towns were as peaceful 
and beautiful as if war had never been. They were not only resorts 
of holiday seekers, but homes of people of means and leisure, and 
villas, gardens, chateaux, were as attractive as taste and wealth could 
make them. There were varieties of climate, but all were good. The 
bracing air of mountain areas, the sunshine of the Riviera, and the 
sea breezes of Brittany were alike a welcome relief from the fog and 
cold and rain of northern France, while instead of dirty villages and 
barren plains, there were snow-capped peaks against blue sky, or 
lake, river, or cliff-lined coast in the distance, and well kept streets 
and parks to stroll through. For most of the men it was the first 
glimpse of "beautiful" France, the beginning of comprehension of 
that passionate French love of country which they had seen so little 
to justify or explain. 


The natural attractions of the town or region offered plenty 
to interest men who preferred to follow their own fancy. There was 
plenty of companionship, too ; men from all parts of the United States 
and from all branches of the military service with whom to compare 
notes and extend mental horizons. Nevertheless, so thoroughly had 
the YMCA arranged ways and means for maximum enjoyment 
that most of the men spent the larger part of their time under its 
Varied Hlkcs, slght-seclng trips, and picnics were extremely popular. 

About every leave center points of interest and natural beauty abound- 
ed. From Vals-les-Bains, in the Ardeche, one might visit Avignon 
with its palace, the home of the popes in the 14th century, or spend a 
day climbing about the Pont d'Arc, a natural bridge over the river 
Lignon, or explore the crater of the Tojac Volcano. In Nimes were the 
Temple of Diana, the Arena, and the Roman Baths, built in the 1st 
and 2d centuries. In Aix were similar ruins and the grottos whence 
came the naturally heated waters for the thermal baths. From the 
centers in Brittany the famous Norman monastery of St. Michel could 
be easily reached. Elsewhere excursion steamers on lake or river 
or sea were chartered by the YMCA for the free use of soldiers. 

On all these trips, fun was combined with exercise and instruc- 
tion. With the lunches provided by the hotels and supplemented 
by hot or cold drinks and other supplies from the Y canteen, the 
day was planned as a regular American picnic, or "pique-nique" as the 
French called it. Fifty or more soldiers with two or three Y girls to 
provide the feminine element made up the parties. Always there was 
a Y man along, well informed as to the history and legends that at- 
tached to the places to be visited, or prepared to explain the natural 
curiosities to be seen. History learned amid the scenes where it was 
made is more vivid and fascinating than books can make it. Although 
most reports state that educational work was not emphasized in 
the leave areas, there can be no doubt that in these informal talks, 
with free opportunity to ask questions, men gained acquaintance with 
the people, customs and events of the past that they could or would 
have secured in no other way. 

For those who did not care for such excursions, or by way of 
variety, sports of all kinds offered attraction. They included both 
the amusements peculiar to the place and season and the games popu- 
lar with all Americans. In the Alpine and other mountain areas there 
were peaks to climb, with expert guides engaged by the YMCA. 





Date of 

r>atp nf ' Hotel 

1 "A" 




Y Personnel 



1 c». 








Challes Les 


Feb. 15, 1918 
Feb. 15, 1918 

Feb. 15, 1918 

June 1,1919 
June 1,1919 

June 1, 1919 













St. Malo 



St. Servan 

Aug. 25, 1918 
Aug. 25, 1918 
Aug. 25, 1918 
Feb. 1,1919 

June 15, 1919 
June 15, 1919 
June 15, 1919 
June 1, 1919 

! 906 













La Bour- 

Mont Dore 

Sept. 5,1918 
Sept. 5,1918 

Jan. 15, 1919 
Jan. 15, 1919 









Uriage Les 


Sept. 25, 1918 

Sept. 25, 1918 
Sept. 25. 1918 

May 6,1919 

May 6,1919 
May 6,1919 











Sept. 1,1918 

Feb. 20. 1919 









Vals Les 

Nov. 1,1918 

Apr. 25. 1919 









Les Bains 

Nov. 15, 1918 

Apr. 27, 1919 

I 1,350 









Dec. 15, 1918 

Apr. 20, 1919 

! 600 





! 3,934 









Dec. 1,1918 
Dec. 1,1918 
Dec. 1,1918 

Jan. 1, 1919 

May 27, 1919 
May 1,1919 
May 10, 1919 

May 15, 1919 

i 45,026 



t 20,331 



""l50',549 20 
j 13 

1' 14 














Dec. 1,1918 
Dec. 1,1918 

Dec. 10, 1918 
Mar. 15, 1919 

May 10, 1919 
May 20, 1919 

Apr. 19, 1919 
June 1,1919 













St. Gervais 
Le Fayet 

Jan. 1, 1919 
Jan. 1, 1919 
Jan. 20.1919 

May 5,1919 
May 5,1919 
May 5,1919 











Jan. 10. 1919 

May 20, 1919 














Jan. 10,1919 
Jan. 10,1919 
Jan. 20, 1919 
Jan. 25,1919 
Feb. 10. 1919 

May 7,1919 
May 7,1919 
May 7,1919 
May 7,1919 
May 7,1919 





y Leave 
















Feb. 15, 1919 

June 15, 1919 












Nov. 1,1918 

July 1,1919 






Ste. Mar- 

Aug. 15, 1918 

May 1,1919 








Sept. 1,1918 

May 1,1919 








Nov. 1,1918 

July 1,1919 







Paris Div. 

Nov. 1,1918 

Feb. 15, 1919 

19 Areas 39 Towns I 










One notable event was the scaling of an unnamed peak in the Pyre- 
nees by a party from Cauterets. Twelve men reached the summit, 
where French and American flags were raised and the name "Peak 
Wilson" officially bestowed. Winter sports such as skating, skiing, 
and sleighing had their turn, and snow-ball fights were not unknown. 
In the summer there were baseball, tennis, golf, and swimming, and 
the innumerable non-equipment games that left men breathless from 
laughter and exertion. The Y M C A provided the athletic field or 
baseball diamond and the necessary equipment — the men needed no 
stimulation to do the rest. 

In-doors, in the evening or in bad weather, there was ^qual ^ii^<J^o°^^.^^^^^ 
variety. Every center had its theater where players of the Over- 
There Theater League gave plays, or French vaudeville or concert 
parties entertained. A separate hall was used for motion pictures 
and two or three showings were given daily. Very popular were 
the games especially those known as "rough house" games. A group 
of men would be blindfolded and scramble to get and hold a place on 
a small table. Blindfold boxing was an unfailing source of hilarity, 
and even potato races and similar games were played with zest and 

Impromptu acting also became popular. From charades there 
developed the living movies, in which melodramatic scenarios were 
acted as if before a motion picture camera, a single speaker supply- 
ing explanatory remarks as a substitute for the "titles" of the screen. 
Many of the men, as well as the Y girls, could dance, sing, or play an 
instrument, and all were willing to contribute their specialties for 
the general amusement. In brief, the social halls held every night 
a crowd of young Americans eager for fun and able to improvise it 
without difficulty. 

Dancing of course played an important part. Although the men 
outnumbered the girls by fifty to one, the system of "tag" dancing, 
by which, when a whistle was blown, every man might cut in, made 
sure that every man got a partner. In the social halls, rank was 
forgotten; one of the workers at Aix-les-Bains tells of the visit 
of the Queen of Roumania and her daughter. The princess accepted 
an invitation to dance with an American captain. At the end of 
the first minute he was "tagged" by a doughboy, and the princess 
finished the dance with a succession of enlisted men. The dancing was 
a strenuous addition to the duties of the girls. They worked all day in 
the canteen, or hiked with the picnic parties; there was no possibil- 


ity of resting while the orchestra played, for girls were too scarce, 
and they were caught from one partner to another often without 
missing a step. Dancing slippers had little chance against hobnail 
army shoes; the rule was that proposed by the donkey turned out 
in the poultry yard : "Let every one look out for his own toes." But 
somehow the girls endured it and kept smiling. 
The French Thcre was hardly a leave center in which the French residents 

did not furnish an element of enjoyment and permanent value. At 
first uncertain, they soon discovered that these hundreds of young 
men in khaki were gentlemen. Visiting the casinos they made 
acquaintance and invited their new friends to their homes. Social 
leaders invited and chaperoned young ladies of the local families at 
the dances and other social gatherings. Great as was the momentary 
pleasure of such association, the deeper value lay in the mutual 
discovery of qualities that led to respect and liking. For the Ameri- 
cans who had met none but peasants in France, this was a revela- 
ation of the character which has made France a great nation, and the 
sowing of seeds of mutual liking and respect which may easily grow 
into an international influence. 

When the time came for the men to go back to their posts of ser- 
vice, there was unanimous appreciation and praise for the good 
times enjoyed and regret that they were so soon ended. The primary 
purpose of the Leave Areas was attained. They furnished the restora- 
tive recreation that braces bodies and spirits, and heightens morale. 
The state of mind of soldiers, whose leave grant was coupled with 
orders to go to a particular place, had been accurately foreseen, as was 
proved by the fact that almost every arriving party was filled with 
gloomy forebodings of life in barracks, parades, and compulsory 
athletics. Man after man confessed that his one aim had been to find 
a way to slip out of the area and enjoy himself in his own fashion. 
Equally evident was the wisdom with which that state of mind had 
been met. The hope to make the Leave Area so pleasant that no one 
would want to go away after he comprehended what was offered, 
was realized to an extraordinary degree. The program satisfied the 
permissionaires, and the few who criticized were shamed into silence 
by the majority who took pains to make known their appreciation. 
While in two or three places, results were marred by lack of local 
cooperation, staff difficulties, unavoidable changes of program, or con- 
tinued bad weather, the characteristic of the work as a whole was 
unqualified success. 


The Rhine Areas 

There were certain features of the leave service in the Rhine 
areas that distinguished them in some degree from those in France. 
Most important was the fact that seven day leaves were rarely 
granted in the Army of Occupation, most of the men receiving one to 
three days' furlough. This, together with the fact that soldiers were 
not permitted to resort to German hotels and restaurants, made nec- 
essary a very considerable provision of facilities for serving meals. 
The Y M C A was permitted to draw needed supplies from the Quarter- 
master for this purpose, and served food at cost. 

A second result was the development of the one day excursion one Day Rhine 
plan. A jfleet of seven steamboats was requisitioned and manned by 
the Army, These made daily round trips between Bonn and Bingen. 
A Y M C A secretary was in charge of entertainment, and a lecturer 
pointed out the castles and points of interest, telling the history and 
legends attached to each. A panorama and booklet of Rhine legends 
were given to each passenger. When possible the Army supplied a 
band, at other times the Y M C A an orchestra, for music and dancing 
on deck. Materials were furnished by the Army for the midday meal, 
prepared and served by the Y, and canteen supplies were distributed. 

Directly across the river from Coblenz was the castle of Ehren- 
breitstein, the strongest fortification in Grermany, and Stozenfelz 
Castle, the property of the Kaiser. These had great interest for visit- 
ing soldiers, and the Y secured two launches which made several trips 
daily for their accommodation. On all these excursions, Y M C A 
girls added greatly to the soldiers' enjoyment, as always. The enter- 
tainment and athletic programs in Coblenz and other cities were in- 
tensified with a view to the large number of men on one day leaves 
and short furloughs.^ 

The Paris Division 

Paris was recognized as a Leave Area after the Armistice. The Paris as a 
work done, however, was a continuation and expansion of that which ^^^"^ '^"'^* 
had gone on from the beginning. Something like 200,000 casuals, 
men and officers, arrived each month on their way to join their units, 
on special duty or as permissionaires. Katherine Mayo's description 
of the casuals in London applied equally to Paris.^ 

' Consult Chapter XLII. 

' That Damn Y, Katherine Mayo, New York, 1919, p. 361. 



The Art of 
Genial Approach 


"Take, for example, a cold wet winter's night. The street is full 
of khaki — Australians, Americans, Tommies, Canadians slogging 
along in the rain and slop, dog-tired, strangers and nowhere to go, 
with their heavy kits on their backs. 

"Where are they exactly? They don't know. Where are they 
bound for? They don't know. Where will they sleep that night? 
Heaven alone can tell — if Heaven cares. Hungry? Yes, Fed up? 
Fed— up." 

Service began at the railroad stations where there were informa- 
tion booths and canteens, and secretaries met the trains day and night. 
They greeted arrivals and guided them to the large trucks that ran 
as omnibuses between the stations and the Y and Red Cross hotels. 
At night a secretary accompanied each of these trucks to see that all 
the men were properly lodged. The men who were chosen for this 
service were very carefully selected. They were salesmen, newspaper 
men and others with large experience in the art of genial approach. 

This effort was not confined to the railroad stations. Informa- 
tion scouts patrolled the popular streets, ready to give information 
and to direct men about the city. Many times they cared for intoxi- 
cated men and found lodging for those on the streets at night. A 
small band of women workers were included in this street hospitality 
service. Their presence in the streets at night was in many instances 
an effectual means of keeping the boys from evil companions. 

The Association, in addition to many smaller places, operated 
four large hotels, Hotel du Pavilion, Hotel Rochester, Hotel du Palais, 
and the Hotel Richmond. During the month of March, 1919, these 
four hotels served approximately 100,000 meals and provided beds 
for 35,000. The Pavilion, containing 190 rooms accommodating 420 
people, was leased at a rental of 260,000 francs per year. At this 
place and the Richmond, free teas were served every afternoon, and 
usually there was music by an orchestra. There were two restaurants 
(serving a daily average of 22,000 meals) and 24 huts, barracks and 
canteen rooms, besides the clubs, theaters and other amusement 
centers in the Metropolitan area. 

The soldier with a few days to spend in Paris was naturally 
anxious to see the sights. Twice a day from five of the most important 
Y centers, walking parties conducted by competent guides made tours 
of the city ; many men had only a few hours between trains in town, 
and other parties, starting from the railroad stations, were formed 
for these. Large sight-seeing busses and army trucks also made a 


comprehensive tour of the city twice a day. There was, further, 
an auto and boat service to reach the beautiful and historic suburbs 
of Versailles, St. Germain, Malmaison, Fontainebleau. The sight- 
seeing bureau also distributed to all soldiers an attractive booklet en- 
titled "The Story of Paris." There were still other secretaries special- 
ly trained for guide service in the Hotel des Invalides, the Louvre, 
Notre Dame, and the Pantheon. 

This service began in October, 1917, with one secretary and one 
ten-passenger car. Towards the end it employed more than 50 men. 
During the six months, January to June, 1919, nearly 700,000 Ameri- 
can soldiers took advantage of these trips entirely without cost to 
them. The Association spent more than 300,000 francs in this ser- 
vice, exclusive of the allowances of the secretaries employed. 

In Paris, primary emphasis was not placed on the religious work, Sunday 


except among the troops permanently located in the area. Every 
Sunday night a service was held in the Palais de Glace at which 
the average attendance was about 1,000. The religious director, with 
a staff of only seven men, managed to hold Sunday services in practi- 
cally every place within the area where American soldiers were 

The greatest needs of the transients were met by the provision 
of hotels and restaurants, and the hospitality and sight-seeing depart- 
ments. Next to these, the most pressing task was to keep the boys 
properly entertained. Extensive plans were launched for their diver- 
sion. The Albert Premier Theater which had a seating capacity of 
700, was soon outgrown, so the Palais de Glace was taken over. Its 
theater accommodated 3,000 seated and another 1,000 standing, and 
more than 70,000 per month witnessed the varied shows in which 
many of America's leading professional players appeared, including 
the A E F boxing matches once a week. It was also a club house, 
a meeting place for men and women of all the Allied Armies. 

Another of the Parisian playhouses conducted by the Entertain- 
ment Department was the Champs-filysees Theater. This was one 
of the newest, most elegantly appointed theaters on the continent, and 
its stage was so large that only part of it could be used by even the 
biggest shows. There were several other theaters, large and small, 
in this area, but the greatest of all was the Cirque de Paris. Its seat- 
ing accommodations of 6,000 were increased to 8,000 and, on an aver- 
age, it entertained 15,000 a day at its two performances. Here too 
were attractive lounging rooms plentifully supplied with good read- 




Service to 
of War 

ing matter, a canteen, and a regulation boxing ring, as well as the 
main stage and many rest rooms. 

It is estimated that in all other Y amusement centers in Paris 
about 12,000 soldiers per day were entertained in the period between 
March 31 and June 30, 1919. 

Nancy, strictly speaking, was neither a leave area nor a recrea- 
tion center, but was turned over to the Department because the prop- 
osition involved looking after men on short leaves and often men 
A W L, and because of Nancy's proximity to the American Second 
Army, so that hundreds of our men visited there daily. For the ac- 
commodation of this floating population the Hotel de I'Europe, with 
a capacity of 125, was taken over for officers, and a large apartment 
house near the station was procured for enlisted men. Nancy had 
suffered such frequent bombardments that these bomb-wrecked build- 
ings were made habitable with much difficulty. 

The outstanding feature at Nancy was the taking over by the Y 
of the Nancy Thermal. This huge bathing establishment, fed by 
natural hot water, contained two swimming pools, one of which cov- 
ered over 13,000 square feet, a large pavilion of modern construction, 
special bathing and lounging rooms, a large building with halls on the 
lower floor and a cinema theater above, a great power and heating 
plant, large grounds with tennis courts and roller skating rink, and 
space for all athletic games. This had been completed just before the 
war, and had never been used. Arrangements were made with the 
Army to furnish clean underwear to each soldier utilizing the baths, 
the Army Salvage Department put a laundry in operation in the 
building ; and while the soldier was having his swim, his outer clothing 
was put through the delousing plant. Two large tents, where refresh- 
ments were served, stood in an open space beside the pool. Between 
October 16th and February 16th, 120,000 Americans visited the baths. 

Perhaps the most noteworthy service was that rendered to 30,000 
Allied ex-prisoners, released after the Armistice. The following 
excerpt is from an official report : 

"Since Friday last practically all our force have been engaged in 
serving the prisoners (English, French, Italian, Roumanian, etc.) lib- 
erated by the Germans on this front and brought into Nancy. There 
had been no provision made for them as they were not expected here, 
so we opened our canteen and dining-room to them and served choco- 
late, cookies, and such things as we had, and are still doing so. We 
have received the thanks of the English Army men, with the statement 
that if it had not been for the Y M C A many men would not have 


lived. We are keeping the baths open all night for them. We have, of 
course, expended a large amount. Feel that it was the greatest op- 
portunity possible for the Y and authorized all possible use made of 
our canteens and supplies." 

Leave Area Personnel 

Early in the experiment the leaders had seen the need of training Training 

^ Personnel 

their workers. This work was altogether different from that in a 
hastily improvised roadside hut near the front, or in a great soldiers' 
club in a camp where the men worked hard all day. Leave areas 
meant one grand round of diversion. The object of it all was to make 
nerve-racked men forget the war — forget even that they were thou- 
sands of miles from home. The tried workers of the first winter were 
therefore used to man the points, and the inexperienced were sent for 
training to the Savoie Area. Nearly every one of the 885 secretaries 
in the department served an apprenticeship at Aix before being 
assigned elsewhere ; a system to which the success of the whole scheme 
may be largely attributed. The majority of the workers were women, 
who carried on the more picturesque and noticeable though not the less 
difficult part of the task. Often these soldiers had scarcely spoken to 
a fellow country-woman since leaving home ; and in the leave areas it 
was part of the plan that they should find American women at leisure 
to chat, to play games, to lead hikes. Nothing else could have done so 
much to make the men feel at home, and to make them forget the hor- 
ror and the monotony of their past months. This women's work was 
organized and guided for nearly the whole of the first year by Mrs. 
Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. Her successor at Aix, when she took charge 
of the entire field, was Mrs. James T. Anderson, who took charge later 
of the largest of the areas, that of the Riviera. It was the wisdom 
of her oversight of the hundreds of Association women in this region 
that caused General Pershing to suggest that all women of whatever 
organization, coming to the Riviera, either on leave or on duty, be 
placed directly under her charge. A superficial consideration may 
suggest that these workers had an easy task, as well as more com- 
fortable living conditions than most Y men and women. It was the 
opinion of the closest observers, however, that there was no more 
difficult work in the service. To receive continually shifting groups ; 
to make every man personally feel a particular welcome ; to meet men 
who were unhappy and dissatisfied either with military conditions or 
with the service of the Y M C A or both ; and to entertain these men 


so as to renew their devotion to American ideals, was a tremendous 
task demanding continually the exercise of high qualities of person- 
ality and friendship and attended by severe nervous strain. 

A New Feature of Army Life 

A MUitary The Leave Area plan was an absolute novelty in the world's mili- 


tary annals. It was the solution of an age-old problem which had 
been previously deemed impossible of solution or not worth the trou- 
ble. The driving force that carried it through to success was in part 
a better understanding of the factors of military efficiency, but far 
more a determination that America's citizen soldiers should not wholly 
lose touch, in the brutality of war, with the civilization for which the 
war was fought. It was one of the iirst of the problems of the A E F 
to be considered, and the development progressed rapidly enough to 
keep pace with the Army's needs. Fundamental to its success was 
the principle of "leave on duty status" which Mr. Edmonds worked 
out and persuaded the Army to accept, and the intelligent program 
of entertainment provided by the Y M C A. Without the first, few 
soldiers could have availed themselves of leave privileges. The hotel 
charges for seven day leaves alone would have amounted to more than 
50,000,000 francs, or $10,000,000. Without the second, only repres- 
sive measures could have controlled the restlessness and discontent, 
and the whole purpose of leave would have been defeated. Military 
and social values were the product of personal satisfaction and enjoy- 
ment that made the leave period a bright spot in a drab existence. 

It is to be hoped that a much fuller record and study of the Leave 
Area enterprise than is possible in this book may be made available. 
Not only is it unthinkable that it should be omitted from the plans for 
any expeditionary force that America may in future send from her 
shores, but it has significant values for civilian consideration. There 
can be no question that, as the largest employer of labor, the United 
States Government found that its immense expenditure on soldiers' 
vacations paid high dividends in efficiency. Such a discovery should 
have a far reaching effect upon industry at home. Whether or not 
this shall follow, the full comprehension of the Leave Area service by 
the supporters of the Y M C A cannot fail to be convincing. In that 
service their purpose and desire for the welfare of the soldiers was 
brilliantly fulfilled. 

Chapter XLI 

The general situation in France following the Armistice has been 
previously discussed.^ It remains at this point merely to emphasize 
the principal effects of the new conditions upon the welfare program 
as preliminary to a description of the field operations. 

The Y M C A programs of education, athletics, and other activ- and^l^^s^^Sion 
ities, prepared in anticipation of the event, were produced; and the of Activities 
organization was redistributed in accordance with the new arrange- 
ment. The difficulties involved in such a reorganization can hardly 
be overestimated. 

The close of hostilities, however, made possible the full partici- 
pation of the Army in welfare activities. The educational program 
was finally taken over entirely by the authorities, the athletic program 
was constituted as one huge cooperative effort between welfare 
workers and army officers assigned to the work, entertainment was 
made an official activity, and the Y was in the end relieved of the 
onerous burden of the canteen. The soldiers themselves were, of 
course, free for a more extensive participation in all activities and 
for detail work in the huts.^ The cooperation of the Army in no sense 
diminished the task of the Y M C A ; rather every department of 
work was expanded to meet the increased demands. 

The clearing of eastbound ocean traffic helped the personnel 
and supply situation materially; though, of course, this help was 
not immediately available in the midst of the first necessary read- 

From the point of view of the A E F-Y MCA the period from 
November 11, 1918, to September 1, 1919, represented a short but 
very trying phase of reorganization to prepare for extensive activities 
in cooperation with the Army, during which intensive service in 
the billeting areas had to be maintained, followed by the establish- 
ment of large new facilities for general work in the debarkation 
areas and base ports. Meanwhile, the Army of Occupation called 

* Consult Chapter X. 

' Consult Chapters XXX, XXXIV and XXXV for detailed accounts of enter- 
tainment, educational, and athletic activities after the Armistice. 




for a diversion of effort to Luxemburg and Germany. The purpose 
of this chapter is to present the leading features of the new work 
in France inaugurated by the Armistice. 


Call for 
Women Workers 

In the Billeting Areas 

Most of the combat troops spent the few weeks during which the 
arrangements were made for their evacuation in the billeting areas 
behind the lines. With the wintry weather, and the inactivity and 
the uncertainty as to the length of the delay, it was a bad time. 

There was nothing new in the features of service offered at this 
time, though the emphasis had changed. There is one thing very 
clear. Though every part of the Y's work was more or less under- 
staffed and at very few points before the Armistice was any situation 
regarded as "in hand," yet there appears in the appeals to Paris from 
the field at this time an unmistakable note of new urgency. It is 
quite plain that in those dreary days the field organization of the 
Association was conscious of a need even greater, if that were pos- 
sible, than in the period immediately preceding. To understand the 
reason, it is only necessary to put the various elements of the situation 
together. The miserable weather, the lack of purposive activity, and 
the desire for home — now that the big job was accomplished — ^threw 
up into high relief all personal deprivations of every kind. To say 
that this created a great problem for the high command and for 
the ofl[icers in the field is quite just, but the statement is liable to 
obscure the truth that the situation created a great problem for every 
soldier himself. And while the headquarters staff of the Y was 
working on new plans and making reassignments as fast as permis- 
sion could be secured, the general uneasiness was also affecting the 
welfare workers in the field. 

There was an earnest effort made to stiffen every activity of 
the Association at once, hindered very greatly by the fact that few 
new workers could be sent anywhere. The women secretaries were, 
of course, invaluable at a time like this ; they brought the one touch 
most needed in the drab surroundings. An emergency call for 57 
women from one regional headquarters indicates at once the extremity 
of the need and the clear apprehension of the means required to 
meet it. 

The period of inactivity was soon over and the movement west- 
ward began. 


The first work of the Association at these centers at the front Entrainm.nt 
was the putting on of entrainment programs for the troops starting 
home and looking after the remnants of troops left behind. After 
the long, cold, dark weeks of waiting, a division would get its orders 
to move up into the Le Mans area. That these men were to move 
at all was enough to raise their spirits and cheer their hearts, but 
none the less there were many little things to be done to free this 
initial stage of their journey from inconvenience and to make it as 
comfortable as possible. If the departure was scheduled for the early 
morning, there was breakfast to be supplied or hot coffee at least. 
Reading matter had to be furnished, games supplied and all the odds 
and ends involved in a departure to be looked after so that there 
would be the greatest amount of comfort and amusement en route. 
Usually the Y staff that had worked with the division accompanied 
it, and continued its service for the time they were traveling and 
at the embarkation center when they arrived. 

At the stations through which they passed en route it meant much 
to them to find the Y ready to furnish hot chocolate and a sand- 
wich and to bring chocolates, cigarets, and sandwiches to soldiers not 
allowed to leave the trains. A place to sleep comfortably was not 
unwelcome to those who had a few hours* respite on the train journey. 
In the Chaumont section a cot would be frequently used by two or 
three men in a single night, one man rising to catch a train and 
another taking his place. 

As the Army gradually left the areas and the regular service cieaning-up 
diminished, there remained for the Association workers the tasks 
always accompanying the breaking up of a field organization. Sal- 
vaging, closing out of leases, settlement of damage suits, inventory- 
ing, and shipping supplies and equipment, the problem of returning 
personnel, all clamored for attention ; not until July when the troops 
were practically all under way was this work finished. 

The Embarkation Center — Le Mans 

The most rapid expansion recorded in the whole history of wel- 
fare work in the American Expeditionary Forces took place within 
Le Mans Area, shortly after that city and its outlying towns had 
been designated as the American embarkation center. This area 
included the district from 30 to 50 kilometers around the city and 
had a billeting capacity for over 300,000 men. It was almost equi- 
distant from the ports of LeHavre, Brest, St. Nazaire, and Bordeaux, 




A Twenty-four 
Hour Job 

and so was the natural center to which to bring the troops to be 
prepared for embarkation. Here the soldiers came for delousing 
and re-equipment and final reclassification before being started on the 
final lap of their long journey. 

Le Mans had previously been used as a replacement depot, so 
there was already on hand some existing equipment for welfare work, 
but with the enormous influx of troops after Armistice time the wel- 
fare organizations were forced to expand very greatly and very 
rapidly to meet the new situation. Soon after the Armistice there 
were 200,000 new troops here, the first contingent of those who were 
on their homeward way. As units went out to the shipping ports, 
others coming in immediately replaced them. As quickly as possible 
they too were moved on ; their stay was often, as they hoped it would 
be, a short one. Yet while some divisions spent less than a week 
here, others remained for nearly four months. Arrivals and depar- 
tures took place on shortest notice. 

This program of a perpetually transient population was aggra- 
vated by the movement of casuals back and forth, some homeward 
and some to other points in France. While a division brought its 
own group of Y workers with it, which helped to relieve the pres- 
sure on the local staff, yet the task was always serious enough, 
and in June it required more than 600 workers to man the 300 Y 
stations in this single area and to operate the fifteen rolling canteens. 

Some idea of the extent of the work may be gained from the fact 
that nearly 625,000 soldiers passed through Le Mans before June 30, 
1919, and the total operating expenses for the region up to June, 
not including the expenditure of the Paris Headquarters for per- 
sonnel and material, were almost a million francs. 

The soldiers arrived at all hours of the day or night, in com- 
panies, in squads, in pairs and singly as casuals — ^thousands of them 
pouring in, all to be cleared preparatory to being sent to the port 
of embarkation. Arriving usually after a long and wearisome rail 
journey in a troop train, a welcome at the station or at the hut with 
a cup of hot coffee meant a great deal. Often the girls in the wet 
canteen, in addition to their regular work, stayed up all night once 
a week to make coffee for the troops coming in for embarkation, and 
spent the following day serving coffee and sandwiches, taking and 
sending cablegrams, shopping, and performing the hundreds of minor 
services which seem of such importance at the last minute to the 
departing soldier. 


Hotels were crowded, cafes were charging enormous rates for 
simple meals, and even Central Hut itself was being used for sleeping 
quarters as well as a recreation center. In an attempt to meet the 
food emergency, the Y opened one of the largest and finest cafe- 
terias in France in the heart of the city. The building had been 
originally designed for a Y activities hall and could be adapted to 
cafeteria purposes without serious difficulty. It had accommodations 
for seating 300 at once and could serve 1,000 soldiers in record 
time. Breakfast was "real American," made to fit the American 
palate. Here the boys found "hot cakes and syrup" just like home. 
At the height of its season from 1,100 to 1,800 meals a day were 
served, not only meeting the needs of those who otherwise would have 
had to hunt for a meal in a crowded city, but furnishing a welcome 
relief to men already long-tired of army fare, and eager to return to 
the comforts of civilian life. 

The regular departmental activities were organized and devel- Activities 
oped to a remarkable degree. The number of participants, including 
repeaters, in athletics during the six months ending in June, totaled 
over 3,000,000. Eighty thousand pieces of athletic equipment were 
supplied. In the month of May alone over 1,000,000 persons wit- 
nessed baseball games played on 243 diamonds. Fifteen thousand 
baseballs were used up. At times other games such as indoor base- 
ball, basket ball, volley ball, football, quoits, and wrestling rivaled 
baseball in popularity. Boxing had a strong hold on the interest 
of the soldiers. Seventeen hundred sets of boxing gloves were fur- 
nished in the month of April alone. Especially noteworthy were the 
boxing events staged in the Pare Des Jacobins, once a Roman amphi- 
theater, so arranged that thousands could witness the boxing events 
staged on the bandstand. At one time there were over 18,000 men 
as spectators of a boxing exhibition in this park. 

The athletic work here meant the equipment and development ^he work 
of a group of bored, tired, and discouraged men, twice outnumbering 
the total enrolment of our six biggest colleges combined. It meant 
the transformation of muddy, undrained meadows into adequate 
athletic fields. It meant the supplying and sometimes the manufac- 
ture of suitable athletic material. It meant endless work in preparing 
schedules and supervising training. Figures can never tell the real 
story of the man whose weary wait for his trip home was made less 
tiresome and more endurable by interesting events in which he took 
part or which he could witness. 


Education The Educational Department found abundant ways to help the 

men stationed in or passing through Le Mans area. The con- 
stantly changing personnel of the troops and the absence at the begin- 
ning of proper textbooks, school rooms and teachers delayed the 
establishment of formal work, but finally there was a system at work 
embracing grade schools, grammar schools, high schools, business 
and college courses. The Ecole Pratique in the city of Le Mans was 
secured for evening classes and developed until it had a faculty of 
fifteen with courses in twenty-five different subjects. In January 
a School of Architecture was opened with a beginners' class of twenty 
men detached from their respective organizations by special orders 
from Divisional Headquarters. There was organized a most success- 
ful School of Agriculture, and instruction in all phases of farm work 
was carried on through classes, lectures, and farmers' institutes. 
Agricultural clubs were organized and excursions planned whereby 
the men had opportunity to visit and study at first hand the farming 
methods in the noted French farms of this department. 

In addition to this regular work the library service was developed 
to meet the craving of the men for mental recreation and improve- 
ment. The number of loans of books totaled over a million and a 
half and 10,000 copies of the Paris editions of the New York Herald, 
the Chicago Tribune and the London Daily Mail were distributed daily 
to the soldiers within two hours after arrival from Paris. Truck- 
loads of current magazines were brought into the area to be quickly 
worn out through continuous reading. 

Incidental lectures and sight-seeing trips helped to fill in odd 
moments and make some of the time profitable as well as entertaining. 

A Big At no point was the entertainment service a more effective force 


than at this embarkation center, where it received its greatest devel- 
opment. Concerts, theatrical performances, motion picture shows, 
were provided in endless succession. Within a period of three months 
the attendance at the various kinds of shows, theatricals and enter- 
tainments increased from approximately 500,000 to 3,500,000 per 
month and the number of entertainments given from 1,000 to nearly 

The booking office at Le Mans was widely known as "Entertain- 
ment House" and became the largest play factory in the A E F. Under 
the direction of an expert New York theatre manager, plans were 
developed and personnel increased so that Entertainment House was 
prepared to furnish all kinds of amusement for the Army. At the 


beginning of the year, there were on the road four Y M C A troupes 
and half a dozen Army shows, as well as some transient troupes from 
the home-going divisions. During the month of January these units 
gave about 600 shows to audiences aggregating 100,000 men. The 
amazing growth of the department's work was illustrated by the 
comparison of these figures with those of the month of April, when 
there were 4,250 performances given to a combined audience of more 
than 3,500,000. In the city of Le Mans alone more than a dozen 
theaters, including the magnificent Municipal Theater, were opened 
to soldiers after April first. Not always, however, did the cast find 
such conveniences at hand. Shows were given in huts, in tents, in 
trucks, in French barns and occasionally even in open fields. 

The department staff not only provided Le Mans area with its |[^^^^|,^°[^*^^ 
entertainment, but developed three of the most successful shows 
as well as the largest single production that toured the entire A E F. 
Many of the productions of this play factory received commendatory 
citations from the commanding officers at the various points where 
they staged their performances. 

The Cinema Department supplemented this regular work with 
its valuable and interesting form of entertainment. It added to the 
regular movie work what was known as a "flying squadron," which 
consisted of a series of trucks equipped with Delco lighting outfits 
and projectors by which picture shows could be carried to the most 
remote areas, shown on screens on the side of a hut, the wall of a 
house, or perhaps a frame supported on an Army camion. In the 
month of May 2,047 shows were given to audiences of 954,000 men. 

The Religious Department in this area provided for religious |«j;'^k^o"» 
services on all suitable occasions, organized Bible classes and dis- 
tributed Bibles and other religious literature in large quantities. 
During the month of March there was a total of more than 1,000 
services attended by 225,000 soldiers. Ten thousand Bibles were given 
away. Two hundred and seventy-two thousand pieces of religious 
literature were distributed. A very keen religious interest was mani- 
fested by the soldiers in most cases, and every reasonable endeavor 
was made to have the services conducted in popular style without 
offense to men of different sects or to those of non-church-going 
habits. The religious motive back of all welfare work was empha- 
sized, and many obtained a new vision of religion as life and service. 
The number of men signing the war roll cards was 1,545, and the 
number of Bible classes held during the period from January to June 


15, 1919, was 304 with an attendance of more than 4,700 men. The 
Department worked in hearty cooperation with the Army chaplains, 
who were necessarily recognized as the authorized religious leaders. 
Y M C A secretaries were frequently called upon by Army chaplains 
to conduct services and do other religious work in the chaplain's 
absence. Jewish, Roman Catholic, Christian Scientist, as well as 
Protestant denominations, were furnished with space in the Y M C A 
huts for the purpose of conducting their own services. The aim of 
the Department was to hold at least two religious services each week 
in every place in the region, where circumstances permitted, and 
special occasions, such as Christmas Day, Easter Sunday and Mother's 
Day, were usually observed with a fitting religious program. 
i>an"ne With the arrival of American girls after the Armistice, the enthu- 

siasm for dances grew by leaps and bounds. So popular was this 
feature of the social life that night after night girls who had worked 
all day in canteen or station service, were kept busy trying to accom- 
modate the soldiers and to meet the demand for dancing partners. 
This was no easy task. Practically all the women workers were 
expected to attend a dance twice a week. Many of them were called 
upon for every night except Sunday. It even became necessary 
finally to establish a dancing bureau in order to see that every soldier 
got an opportunity to dance with an American girl once in a while, and 
that the girls themselves should not be permitted to exhaust them- 
selves by overdoing. Flying squadrons were established of girls who 
were taken from one camp to another by motor in order to afford all 
the soldiers some opportunity to dance with an American girl. The 
stories of their experience make interesting reading. One girl writes : 

"The dances in Le Mans proper were always interesting, but it 
was the dances in the little towns that provided the variety. When 
the girls started from their canteens and offices for one of these dances 
they never knew what kind of a place they were bound for. When 
the destination was reached the girls were likely to find their hosts 
waiting in a barn, a French dancehall or a fine old chateau. The 
music, too, varied from a forty piece band to a reed-organ or an 
accordion. No girl expected her shoes to last longer than one week 
without repair, for dance floors were always an uncertain quantity, 
perhaps cement or planking so hurriedly put together that hopping 
over the cracks was in order, and one could fairly feel the leather 
wearing off the soles, while the hob-nails played havoc with the uppers. 
No one was ever so popular as an American girl at an enlisted men's 
dance in France." 


At one dance in the Seventh Division when it was the first time ^e Balln^Te^ 
the men had danced or had been with American girls for six months, 
there were 1,500 men and seventeen girls. The officers were obliged 
to order that every third dance be a stag dance in order to save the 
girls. On another occasion at an enlisted men's dance, a limited num- 
ber of men were let in at one door and put out after their dance 
at another, while a new relay came in. Cutting-in was popular, but 
it required the greatest care to prevent it having all the marks of a 
stampede. Many a time the girls reached their homes late at night 
or early in the morning after a tiresome motor ride only to be up 
again at seven to begin the regular canteen duties of the day. What 
these girls meant to the men was well expressed by one soldier boy 
when he said: "Life in the Army is awfully out of balance, you 
know, but you girls helped to balance it."^ 

At the Ports of Embarkation 

When the Army first began to reach France the ports of Brest, conditions 
Bordeaux, and Marseilles were already overloaded with the task of 
handling munitions and war supplies. Work was being rushed at top 
speed to increase their capacity to handle freight, long before the 
problem of troops became serious. With the coming of an army 
from America the construction work increased enormously, in order 
that as soon as possible these harbors might be used for the discharge 
of troops, and the pressure on England and the congestion on the 
Channel be relieved. By the time of the Armistice tremendous 
changes had been made, and camp accommodations were ready for the 
large bodies of men who now would be able to return direct from 
France to the United States. The conditions at Brest had been so 
improved that in spite of the climatic conditions there — the records 
give 333 rainy days in one year — the camps in the Brest and Pontane- 
zen districts came to be regarded as among the best in France. In the 
spring of 1919, nevertheless, all those ports, now ports of embarka- 
tion instead of debarkation, were taxed to the limit of their capacity 
to meet the requirements of the returning troops. As in the days 
before the Armistice, the largest number of troops continued to pass 
through Brest, but other ports v/hich had previously been used largely 
for freight now became ports of embarkation for many of the return- 

' The History of the Y M C A in Le Mans Area, by the Regional Staff, Port- 
land, Oregon, 1920, furnishes a complete account of the Association Activities in 
this Embarkation Center from December, 1918, to July, 1919. 


ing soldiers. The proportions are indicated in a report of the Statis- 
tics Branch of the General Staff for April 23, 1919, which shows that 
up to that date there had sailed from Brest 432,830 men, from St. 
Nazaire 197,908, from Bordeaux 155,918, from Marseilles 32,421, 
from Havre 5,190, and from English ports 36,965. 
Expansion at With the rapid growth of the camp accommodations, went a 

the Ports ■■ • i • , -, ^ j^ -xr 

corresponding growth in the equipment and personnel for Y service. 
With the arrival of troops homeward bound, new huts were erected, 
new secretaries initiated into their multifarious duties, orders for 
supplies doubled, and redoubled, again and again. Even so, it was not 
until the coming of spring that the service became all it was hoped to 
make it. By that time the athletic programs, entertainments, cinema 
shows, sight-seeing trips, and religious and educational work were 
progressing at full speed, in daily service to the hundreds of thousands 
of men passing through en route for home and undergoing all the for- 
malities requisite for repatriation. 

In many respects the work at these ports was a repetition of 
the organized work at the embarkation centers. For some of these 
troops who had not gone through Le Mans these ports were the 
first stopping place after leaving their billets near the front. Here, 
too, were delousing camps, where the men were obliged to remain 
from three to ten days in practical isolation, where a Y hut with Y 
service was, as one man put it, "certainly an oasis in the desert." 
Here the men remained long enough to be re-equipped and reclassified, 
or, if ready for sailing, until the transports were ready and their 
sailing orders received. The uncertainty of the length of their stay 
again made regular, continuous work for any considerable period, 
especially educational classes, impracticable, except for the troops in 
charge of the camps. But all the other features were developed to 
the full. Sight-seeing excursions to points of interest in the neigh- 
borhood took place daily, rain or shine. Sometimes on foot, some- 
times in camions or by boat, soldiers and secretary or "Y girl" would 
be off for the afternoon, visiting interesting old chateaux, quaint 
villages, historic spots, witnessing the quaint customs of the people 
of the district ; learning something of history, something of architec- 
ture, much of France; and whiling away in a delightful fashion 
another of the tiresome days before their final departure. The eve- 
nings were filled with entertainment features, shows and moving 
pictures. The report of the Entertainment Secretary of the Pontane- 
zen Division says; 


"So, from January to June, the entertainment work grew and 
flourished, and took on ever broader and broader proportions. What 
had seemed an almost hopeless task at the beginning, by reason of 
intelligent planning and faithful effort, gradually took on life, order 
and system, so that the department was able to furnish ever more 
adequate and efficient service. It expanded from week to week 
with almost astounding development and fast became one of the 

Y M C A's most helpful and truly successful enterprises, in that divi- 
sion. Courage, optimism, unwavering determination and never flag- 
ging effort won their deserved reward, triumphing over difficulties, 
dampness and depression, and bringing to the long detained, home- 
hungry boys just that mental exhilaration, emotional relaxation, good 
cheer stimulus and recreation of spirit that they stood in such vital 
need of during those dull days that stretched between Armistice Day 
and their long awaited 'Embarkation Day.' " 

Special auditoriums were built to hold the audiences that wished 
to attend. The one at Brest had seats for 3,000 men ; the stage here 
was exceptionally well equipped, and matinees and evening perfor- 
mances were a daily occurrence. The number of huts in the Pontane- 
zen Division, to which entertainment was furnished through the 

Y M C A, grew from six in February to twenty-three in June, when 
there were given weekly in these huts an average of 70 musical 
and dramatic shows, 120 motion picture shows, and 15 band concerts. 

In addition to all the various activities already described in specialties 
previous chapters, the embarkation ports called for certain new forms 
of service, arising from their character and the special needs of the 
men at the time of embarkation. The soldiers arrived at the ports, 
often after a journey of 48 hours or more, weary, cold and hungry. 
In addition to their regular work, men and women secretaries some- 
times spent whole nights making coffee or chocolate, and sandwiches, 
and serving them to troops coming in for embarkation. Information 
as to trains, trips, and places of interest in the vicinity was given 
hundreds of times a day, and every effort made to insure its accuracy 
and helpfulness. With the influx of troops in such great numbers, 
hotels and restaurants in the towns were overloaded, and the charges 
were often high. To relieve the pressure, and to provide good food 
in wholesome surroundings at lower prices, restaurants and cafe- 
terias were opened, where the men could get real home cooking and 
home dishes. Ice cream factories were established; from a section 
near Brest, famous for its strawberries, half a ton was used every 
day in making strawberry shortcake. Hotels were opened for the 



Activities of 
the Financial 


Shopping Bureau 

officers, buildings secured for officers' clubs ; and the huts themselves, 
whenever needed, were always at the service of new arrivals who had 
not found a place to sleep. The free chocolate and cookies on Sundays 
at the huts were always a great attraction. 

These men, arriving from all over France and about to return 
to America, found themselves possessed of French money, often that 
of local districts not legal tender in other sections of France. To 
change their French money into American, to accept these local notes, 
which were later redeemed through the Y secretary in the district 
to which they belonged, to cash checks, to arrange the sending of 
money home, all these services during the last few days of the men 
in France made the financial department of the embarkation port a 
very busy place. During the month of January, 1919, the value of 
the money thus exchanged at Brest was nearly 4,500,000 francs. A 
working capital of 250,000 francs was committed by the Paris head- 
quarters to the Brest Division to make this work possible, and of this 
amount not one franc was lost to the Association, although, at times, 
in order to render a needed service, the financial department took 
chances which no organization operating for profit would have dared 
to take. 

One of the unique forms of assistance was that of the "shopping 
bureau." Thousands of men would arrive in camp, uncertain whether 
they were to leave for the boat in one day or ten. Their stay was 
seldom longer than a week; leaves were rare or impossible; for the 
most part the men were necessarily restricted within the limits of the 
camp itself. Yet they all wanted to get souvenirs of the town or of 
France, presents for the folks at home, or little things for themselves. 
Virtually prisoners for the time being, they would have been prevented 
entirely from taking such things home had it not been for the services 
of women workers who went to the town on regular shopping tours. 
The purchase of suitable articles for gifts was often much of a puzzle 
to the soldier, and the advice and help of a Y girl was especially 
acceptable when he doubted his own judgment as to value and appro- 
priateness. The women also helped by sewing on new chevrons, 
service or wound stripes, or shoulder insignia that needed replace- 
ment; and inasmuch as every soldier wanted to look his best on his 
return, there was an endless amount of this sort of work to do. Shop- 
ping and sewing filled many an hour of a Y girl, and brought frequent 
opportunity for a chat with the departing soldier about home. These 
activities are illustrated in a report from Marseilles: 


"We find that the boys have many other needs, as well as the 
desire for tasty food. None of the casuals are allowed outside of the 
camp, yet all wish to get souvenirs of Marseilles and to complete their 
supply of presents for the folks at home ; also, they are all sent through 
the 'mill' and are bereft of chevrons, service and wound stripes, and 
shoulder insignia, all of which they must have before sailing in order 
properly to impress their friends and family on arrival. To supply 
these needs we have established a shopping bureau handled by two of 
the girls. Each day one is in town buying everything from service 
stripes to lingerie, while the other is at the counter taking orders and 
selling her purchases. These girls also keep a supply of post-cards 
and views of Marseilles, which we sell in enormous quantities at v/hole- 
sale prices. . . . Each girl of our staff has some canteen service every 
day, some regular time oif , and other time which she spends outside 
in the hut with the boys. One girl takes care of the flowers, so that 
there are always several bouquets on the counter and around the hut. 
Several of the girls play and sing and amuse the boys when off 
duty. The others spend what time they have, which is all too little, 
in sewing on chevrons and attending to the thousand and one wants 
of one big family of boys." 

When the troops finally went aboard the transports for the ocean ocean Activities 
trip that was to finish their overseas service, the Y followed with Home journey 
supplies, equipment, and personnel for work during the home journey. 
At first, when workers were too few for the work in France, the chief 
task was the equipment of each returning transport with welfare 
supplies. Each ship was met on arrival and examined with a view to 
ascertaining the kind and amount of materials needed, which were 
then provided and placed on board for distribution. These were 
principally such articles as cigarets, games, books and magazines. So 
much of this material was needed that it required a special warehouse 
for these supplies alone. At one port the requisitions for a single 
month included 300,000 packages of cigarets and 200,000 packages of 
chocolate. Sometimes phonograph records and musical instruments 
from the entertainment department, or boxing gloves or other athle- 
tic equipment from the physical work department, were added. Every 
ship was provided with all kinds of religious literature. 

When it is considered that embarkation camps were filled with 
thousands of men who were through with the war and anxious to 
get home, but who were detained for periods ranging from seven days 
to six weeks, it will be readily understood that an intense athletic, 
social, religious and educational program, together with sight-seeing 
and other activities, played a great part in keeping them contented. 



A Much Needed 

With the 



Graves Registration Service 

While the main body of American soldiers thus found themselves 
in the currents setting homeward, and the greatest volume of wel- 
fare activity related itself to these men in the ways already described, 
there were some small groups, here and there throughout France, 
who, like the larger Army of Occupation in Germany, were destined 
to remain for longer periods than their fellows in order to help bring 
to a close the outstanding affairs of the A E F. Among these groups 
none was in greater need of welfare work than those engaged in the 
tasks of the Graves Registration Service. The very nature of their 
occupation rendered desirable every possible diversion of their 
thoughts during recess hours. Not only at the cemeteries, but where- 
ever American soldiers fought, there was for them work of the most 
melancholy kind. Everything about them — the bodies, the shell- 
marked fields, shattered woods and ruined villages — suggested death. 

These men, whose duties brought them into closer contact with 
the dead than with the living, were surrounded by many diversions 
through the activities of the Y M C A. Huts and canteens were opened 
throughout their camps ; dances, entertainments, lectures and religious 
meetings were arranged, and schools were inaugurated. American 
girls went out to them to give added cheer. As far as the means avail- 
able permitted, every leisure hour was utilized by Y workers, so that 
the men might have no after-thoughts of their day's gruesome work. 

Closely associated with the men of the Graves Registration Ser- 
vice were a number of colored units. Pioneer Infantry, Engineers and 
labor battalions.^ It was the duty of these men to go over the blighted 
areas where Americans had fought, salvaging, repairing highways 
and railroads, filling in trenches and reburying the dead. They 
labored in a wilderness of destruction. Centered in and around Ver- 
dun and the Argonne were 30,000 men on this kind of work. The 
Y established headquarters in Verdun and with a force of only eight 
workers, men and women, covered every point where American sol- 
diers were at work. Soldiers were detailed to canteen work, sixty men 
being thus employed at one time. Entertainments were furnished 
by bands, orchestras and vaudeville units in the area. Religious ser- 
vices were conducted by white secretaries and by enlisted men who had 
had experience in religious work. 

' Consult The American Negro in the World Wai-, Emmett J. Scott. Wash- 
ington, 1919. 


The work of the troops finally resolved itself into the construc- 
tion of the national cemeteries at Romagne, Thiaucourt, and Beau- 
mont, so that by May, 1919, practically all the soldiers had left the 
district except those thus employed. 

At Romagne about 6,000 men were at work on the Argonne ARe|ion^_^^ 
Cemetery, the largest of the American burial places in France. Bodies 
in various stages of decomposition had to be brought from distances 
varying from 30 to 50 kilometers. The whole region was in a state 
of desolation, and the total lack of conveniences subjected the men 
to many hardships. It was obvious that there was great need of 
welfare work in these places, to prevent lowered morale. 

The Y sent colored workers, both men and women, who succeeded 
in furnishing comforts and distractions that relieved the tension and 
greatly improved the morale of the men. Headquarters for this work 
were established in Romagne, and a building opened. A second build- 
ing was opened later and used as a reading and writing room. Both 
buildings were supplied with pianos, tables and chairs, and were made 
as cheerful and homelike as possible. A large hangar served as an 
auditorium, with a capacity of 2,500. A lively program of indoor 
and outdoor activities was carried out and a plan of religious service 
best adapted to the men inaugurated. Two women of especially 
broad experience were placed in charge of the hut. They had the as- 
sistance of four women secretaries and a detail of 26 soldiers who 
prepared sandwiches, doughnuts, chocolate, and lemonade to be freely 
distributed. Three thousand doughnuts, 2,500 biscuits, 1,500 sand- 
wiches, twenty pounds of cheese, one case of jam, 1,200 lemons, and 
four bags of sugar were served daily to the men. In addition to 
these goodies, there was a supply of cigars, cigarets, chewing gum, 
and candy. Three thousand newspapers were distributed daily. 
On leaving the camp each soldier was given some chewing gum, candy, 
cigarets, and cigars. 

By the end of June there were engaged at Romagne four women 
and seven men secretaries. The presence of the women had a most 
wholesome influence. Under date of June 27, 1919, the 1st Battalion, 
813th Pioneer Infantry, expressed its appreciation to the Y M C A 
workers at Camp Romagne in the following terms : 

"We have been doing very tedious work, but very sacred, that is, 
digging up and reburying the American soldiers, who fell in this 
great conflict to save their country. The Y M C A workers have toiled 


day in and day out, never tiring, making everything pleasant and 
homelike for us. 

"This is the first time that the 1st Battalion, 813th Pioneer In- 
fantry has ever had a Y M C A attached to them, and when this was 
found out by the Y M C A workers of Camp Romagne, why it seemed 
as though they doubled their efforts to make everything bright and 
cheery for us. 

"We have had plenty of motion pictures, traveling vaudeville 
shows, at least four or five nights a week, plenty of soothing refresh- 
ments served to the boys when they came in from a long, hot and dusty 
trip on a truck, and plenty of sporting equipment for out and in- 
door sports, and also plenty of reading material. 

"The Y M C A workers have kept the morale of this camp to the 
highest standpoint, and if it had not been for their presence here, the 
work that the men were doing and having home constantly on their 
minds, why this camp would have been in an uproar all the time." 

Another Adaptation 

The Post- The varied welfare activities conducted on behalf of the Ameri- 

Adjustment can soldlors during the period following the Armistice illustrate again 
the efforts of the Association to adapt its program and its resources 
to the needs of the men it was seeking to serve. New problems necessi- 
tated the working out of new methods, all designed to meet the parti- 
cular needs of the men under changed conditions. One factor in the 
larger success of welfare work during this period was the plan of 
military supervision which gave to the welfare program the full back- 
ing and support of the army organization. The chief of one sub-sec- 
tion of the General Staff was made directly responsible for the co- 
ordination of all the activities, an arrangement which secured the 
cooperation of all the welfare societies and insured a high degree of 
efficiency. Into this unified scheme the Y M C A fitted its established 
machinery and personnel. Based upon the psychological necessity to 
relieve the months of the post-Armistice period from the evils of 
idleness and temptation, no one can contradict the outstanding fact 
that the results of the whole effort fully justified the time, strength, 
and money invested. 

Chapter XLII 

Of course, the spectacular event of the post-Armistice period was 
the occupation of German territory. The task of occupying the 
American zone was assigned to the Third Army, organized for this 
specific purpose, under the command of General Joseph T. Dick- 
man. In the early morning hours of November 17, 1918, less than 
a week after the Armistice, this Army began its march. At the 
head of the column were the 1st, 2d, and 32d divisions, bound for the 
east bank of the Rhine ; these were followed by the 3d, 4th, and 42d 
divisions, who were to occupy the west bank ; next came the 89th and 
90th divisions to take up their position in the Moselle Valley; and 
behind there followed the supporting 28th, 33d, 5th, 7th, and 79th 
divisions, who were to be stationed in Luxemburg and also to guard 
the lines of communication.^ The 1st Division crossed the Rhine on De- 
cember 13, 1918. The various divisions, aggregating approximately 
250,000 men, rapidly took up their positions and were soon scattered 
over a territory of 3,000 square miles stretching from the French 
frontier through Luxemburg and Germany up to the Coblenz bridge- 

After a period of about six months, the American Army of Oc- 
cupation was withdrawn and the remaining troops, about 15,000 in 
number, became known as the American Forces in Germany. 

The welfare work of the Y M C A appears, during this last period, The Period 

^^ > '=' ^ of Transition 

m four phases : first, service during the march forward ; second, work 
for the units on the lines of communication ; third, the elaborate enter- 
prise conducted for the Army of Occupation; and fourth, the com- 
pact and highly-developed organization in the American Forces in 
Germany. The whole period reflects the transition from the hectic 
conditions of the rapid, forced advance, begun with a minimum of 
preparation; through the extended activities of the first months of 
1919, when large opportunities were matched at last by rapidly in- 
creasing facilities ; to the last stage, when, for the service of a small 
body of men, it was possible to organize scientifically with a selected 

' History of the A E F, Shipley Thomas, New York, 1919, p. 372. The sup- 
porting divisions were attached to the Second Army with headquarters at Toul. 



personnel, well supplied with the basic essentials of successful wel- 
fare work. 

The March to the Rhine 

The Y M C A had no opportunity to make preparations for the 
march into Germany. Such workers as were with the different units 
when the fighting ceased were permitted to go forward with their 
units. They were able to carry with them only such supplies as they 
found ready to hand. Thus, welfare service on the march was repre- 
sented almost entirely by efforts of personal ingenuity on the part 
of workers who were so fortunate as to find themselves in favorable 
positions. The story is interesting primarily for this reason. 

It was a hard time for the soldiers. The roads were bad and the 
weather cold and wet. All the advancing divisions had been in combat 
and there had been little rest after the hard fighting. Though in- 
clusion in the Third Army was unquestionably an honor, there was 
a natural feeling of disappointment that they were not chosen rather 
to turn their faces toward home. But it was only an armistice ; fight- 
ing men were needed at the front till the possibilities of peace were 
On the The 1st Division, first in so many things, was the first to cross 

the bridge at Coblenz. It was served on the march by a small group 
of secretaries giving cinema shows with a portable machine wherever 
possible, and distributing supplies secured from the warehouse at 
Ippecourt. During the week when the division was delayed at Luxem- 
burg a dining room was secured at one of the large hotels, a reading 
and writing room was opened, and a wet canteen was started. Five 
Y M C A girls were attached to the division. The troops were proud 
of the fact that their outfit was accompanied by Miss Gertrude Ely 
of Philadelphia, who had been decorated with the Croix de Guerre for 
her work in the trenches, dugouts, and hospitals in the forward posi- 
tions. Miss Ely was the first American woman to cross the Rhine, 
marching over the pontoon bridge at Coblenz at the head of the column 
just behind Brigadier-General Frank Parker and his staff. Another 
woman secretary won admiration by walking the entire distance with 
the soldiers, refusing all offers of a place in an automobile. She de- 
clared that if the doughboys could march into Germany with packs 
on their backs, she certainly could march without a pack, and she did. 
The soles of her shoes were worn through, but the saddler patched up 
the holes. 



Secretaries hiked with the outfits of the 2d Division and during 
the stay in Luxemburg sent ten trucks to France for canteen supplies 
which were distributed before the men reached Germany. 

A woman worker with the 3d Division wrote : 

"The Armistice was signed, and soon after we were en route to 
Germany on trucks. This was the most discouraging time. The war 
was over, so we thought, the work done, and everybody wanted to go 
home, and, worst of all, supplies were low. We carried all we could 
on the trucks, but rail connections were not yet through and truck 
loads do not go far with a division. Much of the time was spent of 
course traveling but when a stop of a day or two was made we girls 
were packed on to Ford camionettes with a cocoa-making outfit and 
dumped into a town to find a place to set up shop. We served cocoa 
all afternoon until called for and taken to headquarters for the night. 
It seemed as though there never was enough to go around at that time 
but we did the best we could with what we had." 

The 4th Division was badly handicapped by the lack of transporta- service Despite 


tion but strenuous efforts were made to reach the different units. 
With the advance of the troops of occupation, the divisional 
headquarters of the 5th Division were successively moved from fitain, 
to Longuyon and Longwy, France, and to Hollerich, Luxemburg. The 
next move was to Merle and, lastly, to Esch where the division re- 
mained until ready to entrain for embarkation. During the weeks 
through which these changes were made in the effort to keep abreast 
with the Army there is a record of a heavy distribution of canteen sup- 
plies, a free hot drink service, a banking system, generous supplies of 
newspapers, magazines, writing paper and envelopes, together with 
occasional entertainments, athletic events, and religious meetings. 
Transportation required a car, two trucks and several camionettes. 

"Marching into Germany the 32d Division Y succeeded in keeping 
supplies rolling with the front ranks, thanks to the generous coopera- 
tion of the Army," wrote a secretary with that division. 

During the long and uncertain ordeal of the Argonne drive sup- 
plies were received from the regional warehouse at Ippecourt and 
this continued to be the source until the division left Consdorf , Lux- 
emburg, a distance of 140 miles. At Consdorf in celebration of 
Thanksgiving Day, 60,000 pounds of chocolate and other supplies were 
distributed. At Speicher, Germany, the canteens were supphed from 
Treves. Part of the Y staff remained at Speicher two days waiting 
for additional supplies and thus had an opportunity to serve two 





other divisions, the 42d and the 89th, which remained for a day 
in the town. On this hike of the 32d Division 320,000 sheets of letter 
paper were distributed with envelopes. 

The experiences of the 90th Division were typical: 

"The day the Armistice was signed we located in Mussay on the 
Meuse ; all supplies were brought by truck from Ippecourt. The next 
move of the division located us at Marville. Here the lines of com- 
munication broke down. At Marville were delivered our last regular 
papers, which had been brought up to this time from Ippecourt. To 
relieve the desperate supply situation and to make Thanksgiving Day, 
now at hand, a fact, G. 1 of the 90th Division gave us a convoy of 
thirteen trucks to haul supplies from Ippecourt. 

"The next long jump landed us at Retang. All that was left of 
the abundant Thanksgiving supplies at Marville were relayed and 
stored here. While at Retang we secured two truck loads of supplies 
from Luxemburg city. Another long jump and we landed with the 
division at Remisch, Luxemburg; for here we brought supplies from 
Luxemburg city. In each of these cities we opened a large central 
canteen. The secretaries assigned to troops remained with them 
through all the movements. In every way possible they got supplies 
from the central canteen and served their own units. During these 
days we used our own limited transportation for traveling canteen 
purposes. In getting supplies we were absolutely dependent on army 
transportation. At Retang an Army truck was given to mount a 
Delco moving picture machine. The outfit complete joined us at 
Remisch, and here worked successfully, practically every night while 
marching, in entertaining the boys of the 90th Division. 

"Trucks loaded with supplies and secretaries crossed the Moselle 
into Germany and served the men en route until we came to rest 
at Wittlich." 

Holding these few facts in review it can hardly be doubted that 
thousands of the men who participated in that long and eventful 
march of the Third Army from the old battle line in France to the 
banks of the historic Rhine, carry with them memories of the part 
played by certain men and women secretaries of the Y M C A. The 
workers were eager to go forward into Germany and were ready to 
share with the Army in the discomforts of the weary hike. Much 
depended, not only on their ability to secure and to transport supplies 
for the canteens, but also on their readiness to perform spontaneous 
service. From Luxemburg, for example, the march was particularly 
hard. The weather was cold and raw, and in many cases the men's 
shoes were worn through and their feet were sore and blistered. One 
of the secretaries conceived the idea of finding out in advance where 


the troops would be billeted for the night and planning for their com- 
fort. She would go ahead with the billeting officer and make arrange- 
ments with the German families to have hot potato soup in readiness. 
There was no shortage of potatoes, and the German housewife has a 
reputation for potato soup. If there was any hesitation on the part 
of the cook, a hint that she would be reported to the American Army- 
authorities, was sure to overcome it. It rained nearly every day, and 
it was usually late at night when the men arrived. What could meet 
more perfectly the requirements of wet, tired, and hungry men than 
good hot potato soup ! 

The American finds more than news and editorial comment inTjieNews 

of the 

his newspaper. The satisfaction he takes in the consciousness that Day 
such a publication is within reach, a symbol perhaps of his contact 
with world events, has its antithesis in the dissatisfaction he feels and 
in the complaints he utters if he is deprived of this solace. 

They were eager to know what was going on in other parts of 
the Army and especially hungry for news from the United States. 
Any long continued ignorance of the general progress of events greatly 
increased their restlessness and anxiety and to that extent threatened 
army morale. The work of getting newspapers and magazines into 
the hands of the soldiers therefore met a very profound and a very 
practical need. The means adopted to accomplish this end and the 
difficulties in the way were specifically indicated in letters written to 
the Book and Periodical Department by their representative. It 
was agreed that newspapers would be even more welcome than sup- 
plies. Under date of November 26, 1918, he wrote: 

"I reached Luxemburg Saturday night after jumping eight 
trucks between Ippecourt and Luxemburg. Trains were running but 
the movement was slow owing to army supply trains. All ingress to 
the Metz-Luxemburg region without special passes was stopped. 
The route north by Nancy was clogged by north-bound freight and 
it was impossible to forward papers by rail. Trucks were employed." 

After several days spent in a town along the route, he wrote: 

"The papers started coming here on Saturday. No word had been 
sent concerning them and they were distributed locally. West's 
truck arrived and went that* night with Mails and Tribunes of the 
26th. The Heralds did not come until morning. 

"Wednesday the truck got back with the driver 'all in.' Thurs- 
day morning I sent it back with the Heralds of the 26th and the Mails 
and Tribunes of the 27th, also writing paper, magazines, cigarets, 
chocolate, etc. There were none at Luxemburg. It got back here late 






Features of 
the March 

tonight and will get out tomorrow early with two days' papers. I go 
with it. 

"I am writing this Friday night late. The truck is in bad condi- 
tion. (220 kilometers a day in a four-ton truck is no joke). But I 
think we'll get off O.K." 

By such means did the Y M C A seek to minister to the mental as 
well as to the physical needs of the Army in transit. To visualize 
the event one must picture first the tired troops in the bleak winds 
of shell-shattered northern France, bivouacked perhaps in some sheer 
skeleton of a wood, shivering at their camp fires, waiting the order to 
move. Then the long columns of infantry are seen lengthening out 
along the dusty roads and winding through ruined villages past crumb- 
ling walls and heaps of debris where once had been quiet homes, little 
schools, and modest churches. They come then to liberated French 
villages with pathetic ill-fed people gaping from the doorways, as 
if unable to understand what it all meant. Tender-hearted doughboys 
share their meager rations with haggard women and emaciated chil- 
dren. Released prisoners, ragged and pale, pass in grotesque but 
pitiful groups. But the Americans move steadily on day by day, 
stepping to the music of the regimental bands, until more fortunate 
neighborhoods are reached, unhurt by the havoc of war. Signs of 
rejoicing and demonstrations of welcome are given, and children run 
along by the side of the column giving flowers to the men. Over the 
hills and down through the winding valleys of old Luxemburg they 
march with aching feet. Quaint houses, picturesque towns with ancient 
towers and castles, fit into the landscape as if so placed by nature's 
hand. Occasional stops are made — then again the incessant tramp, 
tramp, tramp of the companies, regiments, brigades, and divisions, as 
they swing forward to the positions in the Rhine country, and ever 
the cold wind, the chilling rain, the aching muscles, and tired feet, 
and the honest appetites of youth in action. It was an eventful day 
in the history of the march when General Pershing entered the city of 
Luxemburg to be welcomed as a hero and deliverer and to review the 
troops in company with the Grand Duchess from the palace balcony. 

No picture of the march would be adequate that did not feature 
the motor trucks scurrying to and fro keeping the advancing lines in 
touch with distant bases of supply, bringing up great loads of choco- 
late, cigarets, cakes, candy, newspapers and magazines, writing paper 
and envelopes ; the cinema shows night after night when opportunity 
offered ; canteens located in all sorts of places and equipped as if by 


magic for a few days' or a few hours' service ; sympathetic, courageous 
women ready always to make hot chocolate, distribute cigarets, news- 
papers, and stationery, to help with correspondence, mend clothes, or 
sew on buttons. 

In general, the conditions prevailing during the migration of^^^^^?^"^^ 
the Army over the French border and into Germany were not favor- 
able to the holding of religious services. As opportunity offered the 
desires of large numbers of the men were complied with and many 
services of an interesting and profitable character were held. The 
recurrence of Thanksgiving Day was a reminder of the religious 
nature of that observance, and some appropriate services were held 
at various points along the line of march conducted by chaplains and 
secretaries. Meetings on Sunday were held whenever possible. 
Especially to those men of strong religious sentiment and accustomed 
to church attendance at home, religious exercises on the march meant 
much ; while to a very large number such gatherings were at the very 
least an emphatic reminder of the spiritual elements of American 
life, and an inspiration to m^aintain the ideals upon which our country 
is founded. 

The long march was soon over, and more settled conditions gg'^^^°[jfj 
brought a measure of contentment — persistently disturbed by the ur- 
gent desire to be out of it all and back home again. Contact with for- 
eign lands created in American troops true appreciation of their own. 


The main line of march of the Third Army lay through the Grand 
Duchy of Luxemburg. For centuries Luxemburg had been a bone of 
contention between France and Germany. In 1866, Luxemburg was 
declared a neutralized principality under the Dutch Crown. In 1890, 
when Wilhelmina became Queen of Holland, Luxemburg became an in- 
dependent Grand Duchy under its own line of sovereigns. In August, 
1914, the Grand Duchy was overrun by German troops and was oc- 
cupied by them during the war. The evacuation of the country by 
Germans was one of the conditions of the Armistice. On November 
21st, General Pershing entered the city of Luxemburg at the head of a 
small body of troops, the rest of the line being sent around the city. 
In his proclamation. General Pershing explained that it had become 
necessary for the American troops to pass through the Grand Duchy 
of Luxemburg and to establish and maintain lines of communication 
there for a certain time. 


When spectacular events are concentrating attention, it is easy to 
forget small bodies of men in out of the way places, however necessary 
may be the functions they perform. Yet because of their very isola- 
tion, their need of welfare service is more urgent. The men in Luxem- 
burg were no exception of the rule. They were scattered in small 
groups along the lines of communication upon whose security and 
efficient operation the Army of Occupation was dependent. 

In spite of the fact that the leaders in Paris were striving with all 
their power to follow up their outposts in Germany, an extensive Y 
service was built up among the troops scattered through the little 
Grand Duchy. The divisional secretaries went forward with the 
troops but supplies and supporting personnel came up slowly in the 
general confusion that followed the total rearrangement of plans after 
the Armistice.^ The scattered units were hard to reach with limited 
personnel and equipment. The billeting arrangements, as usual, dis- 
tributed each division over a considerable territory. In one case a 
single woman worker was compelled to supervise no less than four- 
teen service points. Supplies were scarce all through the winter for 
familiar reasons. The workers complained particularly of the diffi- 
culty of securing proper quarters for their work. 
Service in Ncvertheless, a real service was established in Luxemburg. There 


is no need to recount the multiplication of familiar activities. Such 
a center as the divisional headquarters at Esch represented the final 
achievement. At this point during the winter was developed a com- 
plete divisional organization with a headquarters staff including activi- 
ties directors. The field workers were distributed in seventeen towns 
from which service was extended to some 40 centers in all. At Esch 
there was provided a large lounging room, a theater, a club for officers, 
and a club for non-commissioned officers. A warehouse and garage 
were also in operation. A number of the working centers in this dis- 
trict were housed in most unsatisfactory quarters but others were 
well up to the best standards. Soldier details furnished much assist- 
ance at various points. 

The typical activities beyond canteen service were represented 
by athletics and entertainment. Football, boxing, and wrestling 
made up a large part of the program, and volley-ball became a highly 
popular diversion. There were divisional championship contests 
with trophies awarded by the Y M C A. In spite of transportation dif- 

' Consult Vol. I, Chapter X. 


Acuities the usual forms of entertainment were carried on — vaude- 
ville shows, lectures, moving pictures — now, of course, augmented by 
soldier shows and "stunt nights." Dances were given to which girls 
from the homes of Luxemburg were invited. Among the women 
workers in this area there were many with musical talent and these 
gave little informal concerts in connection with their trips to the 
scattered outposts. 

By the spring the troops began their much-desired exodus ; and ^fj^i^^" 
arrangements were made to close up welfare work, in accordance with Activities 
military regulations, by June 1, 1919. As entrainment was postponed, 
permission was secured to remain for a longer period and service 
was actually continued till the soldiers left for embarkation in July. 


The Third Army began to cross the German border December 1, 
1918. Several weeks elapsed before the Coblenz bridgehead and the 
various billeting areas were occupied. 

The country and its people presented a sharp contrast to mutilated 
France. A writer observed: 

"We have crossed the border into Germany. It is another land. 
Instead of desolation and ruin, the countryside is untouched and un- 
hurt by the hand of war. Nothing could look better kept and more 
prosperous than these well-groomed vineyards and fertile fields 
through which we are passing." 

While there were no welcoming demonstrations as in Luxemburg, Frrtlrniz°ftion 
there was no opposition on the part of the people. The crowds in the 
streets of Coblenz were described as "curious though not hostile." 
When billeted in their homes, the soldiers usually found the German 
people agreeable and given to hospitality, but they were still an 
enemy people. General Pershing wrote in his report : 

"The fraternization problem was sharply raised by the transition 
from the rigors of war conditions in France to the comforts of undis- 
turbed German cities and homes." 

Measures were taken to safeguard the Army against this temp- 
tation. Fraternization was forbidden. Throughout the Zone of Oc- 
cupation, only a few designated hotels and restaurants could be 
patronized. The Army was thrown back on its own resources for 
the diversion necessary to keep the men normal in mind and body. 
The problem of morale thus appeared in a new form. 



Perils of 




Another fact to be considered was the large amount of un- 
occupied time. The business of occupying enemy territory under 
the terms of an armistice is quite different from the fatiguing pro- 
cess of training for an impending conflict, or participating in bloody 
combat. A certain amount of drilling was still necessary, and the 
business of conducting the army organization imposed many diffi- 
culties on the men in the more responsible positions. But the Ameri- 
can soldier was in Germany primarily just to await developments 
and to hold himself in readiness for whatever action might finally 
prove necessary. However disinclined to idleness, the situation left 
him with much time at his own disposal. In an account of his experi- 
ences with the Army of Occupation, one man wrote : 

"In traveling to my assignment with the Rainbow Division, I 
passed through innumerable small villages where a single company 
might be billeted, or possibly if the town was large enough a regiment 
would be stationed. There was, of course, a pretence of drilling daily, 
and it was a frequent sight to see doughboys hard at work in the field, 
marching back and forth in full equipment, the only real purpose of 
which seemed to be to give them a little exercise and warm them up. 
The usual sight, however, was a village street full of doughboys at 
rest, 'holding up some door post,' or talking over complaints in general, 
seated on a door step. After several months with the A E F, I came 
to believe that there could be no lazier life in the world than our dough- 
boy was having in Germany." 

Seldom in this story has it been possible for the historian to 
record a situation where the possibilities of service in any degree 
matched urgent human demands. In connection with the occupation 
of German territory, such a situation actually began to take shape. 
Military exigency in the shape of the rapid advance into enemy coun- 
try set up its last difficulty and then, relatively speaking, retired grace- 
fully from the field. The months of November and December, 1918, 
were difficult ones for the welfare leaders ; but when they were once 
free to move into Germany, most of the limitations that had beset 
them night and day since May, 1917, dissolved before their eyes. The 
real danger was over, and the military authorities were able to relax 
regulations and smooth the way for welfare work. Further, it must 
be remembered that, while the Americans desired to impose no un- 
necessary burdens upon Germany, the relationship between the civilian 
population and the military forces was quite different. It was ex- 
pected, under such circumstances, that the American Army would 
freely requisition facilities required for all departments of service. 


. It is no matter of surprise, therefore, that on February 1, 1919,^ 
less than six weeks after the 1st Division had crossed the Rhine, the 
Chief Secretary with the Army of Occupation could report 336 centers 
of service manned by a personnel numbering 472. The program was 
well-balanced and highly organized. By January 20, 1919, adequate 
rail transportation service was established for the Army, and extended 
to the Y. Before February 1, 108 cars of canteen supplies were de- 
livered. These were distributed to more than 300 canteens. The 
welfare workers in this period proved that, given the opportunity, 
they could establish a large and effective service with great rapidity. 

The Entertainment Department was evidently the first to get The Activities 
under headway. This was accomplished largely through the persist- First Month 
ent effort of an entertainment director, who, after waiting for passes 
fifteen days at Bar-le-Duc became impatient of the delay, and defied 
red tape by actually appropriating the automobile of one of the 
Y M C A officials and going A W L to Coblenz. A letter to the 
Entertainment Department in Paris related his experience as follows : 

"Although stopped about fifteen times, I managed to bring the 
Hunting and Francis party through, reaching here (Coblenz) last 
night. We are working right now on taking over the biggest and 
best place in town tonight called the Festival Hall, seating over 1,500 
men. We are going to get a band and start off in good shape to over- 
come our great handicap which the Entertainment Department has 
been in no way responsible for. Speaking to some officers, shortly 
after we reached here, I told them straight how we were kept out 
through lack of passes, so if the Army sets up any more howls to 
you, tell them straight that we waited fifteen days at Bar-le-Duc for 
permission to come. Even if I am shot at sunrise, I am happy as I 
can be for going A W L in Sheets' car. I would still be in Bar-le- 
Duc, and here we are going to show tonight." 

The report for January, 1919, gives a total of 303 performances 
by professional parties to audiences aggregating 100,000 men. At 
the same time there were 91 soldier talent shows, a majority of which 
were trained and costumed by the Y M C A. More than 1,250 costumes 
were in stock, purchased from the largest theaters of the occupied 
territory, at an expenditure of approximately 65,000 francs. These 
costumes were lent without charge to the units approved by Y M C A 
coaches and army entertainment officers. A complete establishment 
was set up for making special costumes, and for altering the existing 

^ It must be remembered that for various reasons no general advance of 
welfare workers was permitted until January, 1919. 


stock to meet the definite needs of the organized units. Other items 
such as wigs, paints, hats, and masks, were also carried in stock. 

The Music Department was organized to supply music and musi- 
cal instruction, and train directors for mass singing. During the first 
month 282 musical instruments were supplied. An order was placed 
with a leading firm at Mainz to make 100 instruments a week for 
eight weeks. A library of 50 songs was projected, and a printing firm 
engaged to turn out 5,000 copies of each. The music and the instru- 
ments were issued to the army units without charge. 

The Cinema Department also began to function very early in 
the period and at the end of the month reported the possession of 
thirteen portable machines and 35 stationary machines. There were 
ten Y M C A directors in the department and 36 soldier operators ; 
1,810 reels were shown during the month at 724 shows, attended by 
512,500 men. 

The Athletic Department distributed large quantities of athletic 
equipment, and with the cooperation of the army athletic officers, con- 
ducted elimination contests leading to the selection of representatives 
in the A E F Finals, and the Inter-Allied Games at Pershing Stadium. 

Through the Newspaper and Magazine Service Department, 
1,550,000 papers were distributed during the month and 112,357 maga- 
zines. The papers arrived from Paris at three P.M. on the day suc- 
ceeding the date of issue, and were distributed among the divisions by 
the use of Ford cars. 

Even thus early also, the hotel and restaurant enterprise assumed 
considerable proportions. Thirteen hotels were being operated, ten 
at Coblenz, one at Andernach, one at Cochem, and one at Treves. 
More than 185,000 meals and 8,850 beds were supplied. 
The^German The following Icavc arcas were opened: Andernach, Coblenz, 

Neuenahr, Neuwied, Treves. An all-day program at each center in- 
cluded meals, canteens, entertainments, daily excursions, and Rhine 
boat trips, library and money exchange privileges. The exchange 
business throughout the Area of Occupation averaged 500,000 francs 
a day, while secretaries sent home for men in the Third Army a 
total of 5,000,000 francs during January. The Coblenz Leave Area 
Exchange at the Fest Halle handled a total of 200,000 francs daily in 
post office money orders, express orders, drafts, and French, Ameri- 
can, and German moneys. 

In the Religious Work Department there were twenty-five work- 
ers, each division having a religious work director. There were nine 


special speakers in the field. Over 375 meetings had been held, and 
supplies distributed as follows: 

Hymnals 250,000 Communion sets 5 

Testaments 11,825 Rosaries 1,000 

Miscellaneous 20,000 Scapulars 1,000 

Folding organs 14 Crucifixes 1,000 

The Educational Department was in charge of Dr. Guy Potter 
Benton, President of the University of Vermont. An educational pro- 
gram was conducted in accordance with G H Q General Orders No. 
9 (1919), in cooperation with the army educational officers. There 
were 18 directors, 13 lecturers, 960 teachers in army schools, and 
18,360 men enrolled in classes. 

This rapid expansion of service continued until by April 1, there 
were 508 points being served, 425 of which were full time centers. 
Outlying points were reached with the rolling canteen and the portable 
moving picture machine 

The period from January 1 to July 1, 1919, presents not so ™uch A^Penod^of^^ 
a record of problems faced as of the achievement of a rich and varied 
service in which the Army and the Y M C A cooperated to make 
full use of all facilities. The details of this service are of interest 
because they demonstrate the range of possibility of welfare work 
under favorable conditions. The need was in one sense as great 
as ever. The fighting men were not very busy and there were very 
sound reasons for the maintenance of a clear line of separation be- 
tween them and the civil population. Some of the rules may appear 
as rather rigid, but the high command of the American Army has been 
fully justified by experience. Such rules of course implied a restric- 
tion of ordinary means of diversion. There are many stay-at-homes 
who would give much for the privilege of a six-months* sojourn in 
Europe, but the vacation feature of the experience ceased to appeal to 
the Army of Occupation. A referendum on immediate repatriation 
would have been carried in the affirmative at any moment by an al- 
most unanimous vote. In the present case there were present the 
facilities to the need; short of changing the basic conditions, any- 
thing desired was within the powers of the Army and its welfare 

Every department of work expanded rapidly. 

The great Fest Halle at Coblenz was requisitioned by the Army 
and turned over to the Y M C A as a center of activities in December, 
1918. On the first floor of this building were located the post office 


and information desk, check-room, news stand, pool and billiard tables, 
bowling alleys, and a large restaurant. On the second floor were the 
main lobby, the library, game room, writing room, and a wide porch. 
The main auditorium, seating 2,000, has a fine pipe organ with a choir 
loft seating 150 people. These excellent quarters became a first-rate 
American club. In all, nineteen hotels and restaurants were operated, 
serving on an average 18,000 meals a day in the busiest season. Vic- 
tory Hut in Coblenz held the cafeteria record of 7,000 in one day. 
Outside Coblenz huts were built or suitable buildings requisitioned 
with the idea of duplicating all the essential features of the Fest Halle 
program at as many points as possible. 

The cinema work in the area was extended until 55 of the larger 
centers were equipped with standard machines, and 63 small machines 
were mounted on trucks equipped with electric plants and storage 
batteries. The use of the trucks made it possible to give approximately 
100 shows a night to the detached units. At the Lese Verein at Co- 
blenz, motion pictures were operated day and night. Over 1,566,000 
men attended these shows from January 1, 1919, to July 1, 1919. Dur- 
ing this period the total attendance at motion picture shows in the 
Third Army was more than 5,000,000. 
Liberty III athletics, the program was developed until practically every 

man in the Army was reached. Liberty Hut, on the grounds of the 
ex-Kaiser's palace, was built expressly for athletic purposes. It ac- 
commodated 4,000 spectators for boxing events, and provided gym- 
nasium facilities of every description. On Carnival Island in the 
Rhine River, near Coblenz, an athletic field was built with a quarter- 
mile track and 220-yard straightaway. 

The entertainment work grew until there were 68 professional 
units, with a total of 273 artists. The development of soldier talent 
was one of the distinctive achievements of the post-Armistice period. 
Professional coaches were recruited by the Y M C A for this purpose. 
In this way, 138 officers and 2,966 enlisted men were trained, and 
gave a total of 4,935 performances. Musical instruments to the num- 
ber of 4,029 were distributed. Sheet music was printed and distrib- 
uted by the hundreds of thousands. The educational work was taken 
over by the Army April 15, 1919. Prior to that time a comprehensive 
scheme of education had been developed, including regular classes and 
lectures on a wide variety of subjects. 

While religious motivation is claimed for the work of all depart- 
ments, the Religious Work Department found excellent opportunity 



in Germany for its special function, and the Sunday afternoon meeting 
at the Fest Halle in Coblenz, was the outstanding event of the week. 
The auditorium accommodated 2,000 and was packed to its capacity. 
More than 40 itinerant speakers, and as many as 25 singers, were 
regularly employed visiting the scattered units. More than 100,000 
pieces of literature were distributed. Bible classes were well attended 
and popular. 

Leave area and sight-seeing features were present on a large 
scale. Seven Rhine excursion steamers were requisitioned by the 
Army with a total carrying capacity of 3,500. The Y M C A supplied 
the lecturer and a group of women workers for each steamer. The 
general plan was to give the lecturer the right of way on the outgoing 
trip, reserving the return journey for merrymaking. Sight-seeing 
trips to Ehrenbreitstein on the Rhine and other historic and pic- 
turesque places were made instructive and diverting. 

While it was unavoidable that some units should fare better than The outiymg 


others, it cannot be alleged that the work was confined to the larger 
and more accessible fields. The early circuit riders crossing moun- 
tains, fording rivers, and threading forests in order to reach their 
small congregations in the back woods settlements were no more 
persistent in their efforts to deliver the Gospel message than were 
some of the Y secretaries in their efforts to reach the smallest and 
most isolated groups of soldiers with canteen supplies and messages of 
good cheer. The story of the outpost service in Germany is of the 
kind usually enshrined in literature. Between the Allied and Ger- 
man lines, there was a neutral territory where neither friend nor foe 
was supposed to be. One of the most trying pieces of work that the 
Army had to perform was the guarding of the edge of land that 
looked over upon this unoccupied space. For several months affairs 
were much on edge. If the Armistice should suddenly terminate, 
these outposts would be the first to be plunged again into actual battle, 
and that perhaps without a moment's warning. Groups of about 50 
men were sent out to the frontier. From these outposts again, 
smaller groups of four or five men each were sent out to form what 
were known as Cossack Posts, and to keep sharp and lonely vigil on 
the edge of the neutral territory. Except for the occasional visit of 
an inspecting officer and of the men who brought their rations, these 
guards were left absolutely alone. They deserved the best the Y 
had to give, but how to reach them was the problem. No vehicles of 
any sort were allowed on the roads leading to the posts, except for 


the purpose of taking munitions to the men. This situation appealed 
to the sympathies of the nearest Y directors. Two young women were 
chosen and assigned to the special task of helping the guards at these 
lonely stations. The men could be reached only by long journeys on 
horseback. Thus mounted, and with great saddle-packs swinging on 
either side, filled with writing paper, games, chocolate, and cigarets, 
the women traveled day after day over roads forbidden to any but 
themselves, in order that they might carry creature comforts and 
good cheer to the men so far from civilization. Shouts of welcome 
greeted the women on every visit, and it was the testimony of the 
soldiers themselves, that the personal presence of the visitors brought 
them their chief joy. A machine gun battalion was usually posted 
behind the front line guards. This battalion was visited first in the 
day's round, and from their positions, the start would be made for 
visits to as many points as time would permit. In order to be of 
greater service, the young women enlisted the help of an adjutant, 
and arranged for a little play to be given at the various outposts. 
The sketch furnished by the Y M C A Entertainment Bureau was en- 
titled "After the War." It was an amusing piece that had gained re- 
nown in various parts of the A E F. This necessitated the erection 
of small stages made of little trees cut for the purpose, or salvaged 
tables nailed together and supplied with candles in tin cans as foot- 
lights. No more delighted audiences ever assembled in France, 
although sometimes the audience would consist of but four or five 
soldiers. The outposts were supplied with books from time to time, 
and religious services were arranged for Sundays. 

"The men were far from being disheartened. They felt the effect 
of the strange and different work they were doing. They knew how 
to take care of themselves, but there was grave danger that they would 
fall into those habits and unhappy ways that come from entire 
separation from the world. It was this we tried to prevent and suc- 
ceeded in doing. They deserved all we could give them. We were 
delighted with the apparent pleasure we gave." 

The Last Days The late Spring of 1919 found preparations under way for the 

of the Army of 1.0 r r ./ 

Occupation repatriation of the Third Army with the welfare work at its height. 

This welfare work was the last demonstration on a large scale in the 
A E F and it may fairly be recorded as an example of effective service 
reaching a point of efficiency above that possible in any other area 
overseas. It would not have been possible but for the experience that 
preceded it and for the fine cooperation of the Army, both officers and 


men. In particular, it demonstrated some of the best features of 
civilian participation in the military enterprise; for, in spite of the 
early difficulties due to the rapid advance, the flexibility of the Y M C A 
organization in the end proved of great service in supplementing the 
more rigid official procedure and in bringing directly to the fighting 
man the chief elements of home life at a time w^hen that home life was 
ever in the forefront of his thoughts. It is quite true that this occu- 
pation of enemy territory is not a typical military task, nevertheless 
it involved many tens of thousands of American citizens in uniform ; 
and this last six months of overseas experience would have been very 
different if civilian welfare service had not been an active element in 
their lives. 

The American Forces in Germany 

As the Third Army started toward home, the Y M C A began sal- co^itions 
vage operations, closed the main welfare centers, and prepared to 
withdraw from Germany. The commander of the new forces, how- 
ever, Major-General Henry T. Allen, made a definite place for the 
Association in his plans for the welfare of his men. On September 1, 
1919, the A F G-Y MCA, with James A. Sprenger as Chief Secretary, 
took over from the Third Army, the last of its points, and prepared to 
carry out a liberal service program for as long a period as was desired. 

It is true that this last phase represents service for a compara- 
tively small number of men ; but it has a place of significance in this 
history because it was, in one sense, the fine flower of the welfare 
enterprise. The new organization was more thoroughly militarized 
than its predecessor had been ; indeed, it was practically incorporated 
in the A F G and even the detail of its plans was carefully worked out 
with the Staff. Since the active work in France was over, the Chief 
Secretary in Germany reported directly to New York ; so there were no 
longer conflicting demands for service to be adjusted. The Y had a 
small personnel, selected from a large group of experienced workers ; 
during the years 1920 and 1921, there was no change among the heads 
of departments. The men to be served were in a settled location. 
Facilities and general supplies were adequate. Most important of all, 
it was possible to make definite plans for a known situation. 

The new program called for a reopening of the Fest Halle, which 
had been closed in the early summer, as a center of activities in 
Ccblenz, with club-rooms in the outlying posts. Religious, educa- 
tional, athletic, and entertainment activities were planned on a large 



The Structure 
of the Work 


scale in cooperation with the army officers assigned to these special 
departments. Hours of opening and closing recreation centers, deter- 
mination of the extent and character of free distribution of supplies, 
and all kindred matters were settled by the military authorities. It 
was clearly understood that the Y M C A work was conducted for 
American soldiers and that such privileges as were accorded to Ameri- 
can and Allied civilians were not in any way to interfere with the 
primary purpose. 

When the A F G-Y MCA opened its work sixteen huts and the 
Victory Hut cafeteria in Coblenz were in operation. The outlying cen- 
ters were serving the small units guarding stores in the transition 
period. All but three of these points were closed within a few weeks. 
The Fest Halle in Coblenz was turned over to the Y M C A again on 
October 1st. After extensive repairs had been made and a large stage 
installed in the auditorium, the building was reopened on October 25th. 
The Fest Halle under the new conditions replaced the Liberty Hut and 
the Victory Hut Cafeteria. New centers were opened as occasion 
demanded. In all a total of 36 huts were in operation in 1920 and 
1921, the largest number at any one time being 23 in May, 1921. Over 
the Occupied Area, which covered some 700 square miles, there were a 
number of small units. These were served through club-rooms 
equipped and supplied by the Y but run by soldier details. Eighteen 
of these club-rooms were established. Moving pictures were shown 
regularly at most of these points, two had a stage for more extensive 
entertainments, and two maintained canteens. In addition, limited 
service was offered at about 20 other points. A fully equipped hut was 
maintained at the American Base Port Headquarters at Antwerp and 
a branch hut at the American Docks. During the summer of 1921, at 
the request of the commanding officer of the American Graves Regis- 
tration Service, a hut was operated at Romagne. 

The outposts in the Bridgehead were served as formerly by the 
rolling canteen, which distributed all supplies free. This canteen 
regularly visited about fifteen points and up to the end of the year 
1921 had served 28,890 men in 137 operating days. 

When the troops of the Silesian Brigade entered the occupied area 
for training, seven huts were opened for their benefit. 

The Bahnhof Hotel in Coblenz was operated by the Association 
until August, 1921. 

A determined attempt was made in connection with all restau- 
rants, cafeterias, and canteens to supply food cooked and served in the 


American style. The Y endeavored to secure supplies that would fit 
in with this policy. In two cases it was necessary to manufacture. 
The Y therefore was authorized to open a bakery and an ice-cream 
plant. In two years the bakery turned out 1,000.000 pounds of bread 
and 500,000 pounds of rolls, not to mention 1,500,000 doughnuts, 800 
cinnamon rolls, and 350,000 pies, cakes, tarts, turnovers, and other 
forms of pastry. The ice-cream plant, in the same period, produced 
1,128,000 liters of ice-cream. These supplies were sold at cost to mem- 
bers of the A F G and their families. 

The original arrangement with the A F G called for a staff of 20 JfJ°?;p^«J ^^^ 
men and 35 women, or one secretary to about 250 men. New situa- 
tions arose calling for additional service from time to time and these 
figures were exceeded. Many additions were made of men expert in 
special lines of work. These workers were, of course, supplemented 
by a large force of German employes, the Fest Halle alone requiring 
over 100. 

The extraordinary value of women's service in this area must be women's 

"" Service 

emphasized. In all about 150 served, the highest number at any one 
time being 72. The women secretaries were entirely responsible for 
hut management except in the case of two large centers. They par- 
ticipated actively in all activities — social, religious, entertainment, and 
educational. Two women traveled with the rolling canteen. Their 
contribution in music was particularly useful. In 1920, a woman was 
appointed to the position of Port Secretary at Antwerp — with excel- 
lent results. In this field the Y women really surpassed their enviable 
previous record. 

It is not proposed to enter into a detailed description of the multi- 
farious activities of this period. They presented many unique fea- 
tures of peculiar interest but were, of course, for the most part devel- 
opments of previous experience refined in the new favorable condi- 
tions. Educational work included a night school, and a day school 
operated until the Army Commission was ready to take over the 
service on a permanent basis, a school for children of Americans in 
Coblenz, and the operation of the library. Athletics included con- 
tests in baseball, basket-ball, boxing, football, soccer, golf, mass games, 
polo, swimming, tennis, and track athletics, in which the figures for 
participation exceeded 1,700,000. The Y provided athletic fields, 
club-houses, a swimming pool, trophies, and all kinds of equipment, 
working always in harmony with the athletic officers. The movie 
machines presented 13,891 programs for 2,934,888 spectators, clicking 


off about 20,000 miles of film in the process. The entertainments 
offered included vaudeville shows, musical concerts, amateur shows, 
stunt nights, operas, the Harvard glee club, and the various per- 
formances of the popular American Y M C A Stock Co. In all 6,982 
different events were given for 1,882,643 spectators. The Rhine 
excursions were continued. The work of the Religious Department 
was entirely non-sectarian. Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish services 
were held in the huts, and literature of all types supplied to the men. 
The whole program was carried out in the closest cooperation with the 
army chaplain. Public meetings were supplemented by study and 
discussion groups of all kinds. In the hospitals, the Y at the request 
of the Red Cross conducted many special activities. 
cilmln ^^^ ^^ must not be forgotten that this splendid program was carried 

Cooperation Qut as a part of the regular life of the forces, a splendid example of 
military and civilian working hand in hand in the interests of the best 
service to officers and men. 

This summary account of the last phase of the work in Germany 
brings to an end the story of the Y M C A with American forces in 
the World War. There remains to be told the story of work done for 
prisoners-of-war and for Allied soldiers — no small part of the total 
activity of the Y M C A during the war, yet perhaps not possessing 
the strong appeal to American interest of the work done for our own 
men. For the first time it has been possible in this book to present to 
the public a comprehensive picture of the complicated and extensive 
enterprises which came to be included under the general term of wel- 
fare work for soldiers. 

No soldier or sailor was reached by every phase of activity, and 
very few of the workers, except those in places of central responsi- 
bility, saw more than bits of it here and there. All reports and com- 
ments by individuals were necessarily based on fragmentary observa- 
tion, and even the liberal space in newspapers and magazines was 
insufficient to give more than illustrative glimpses. Seen now as a 
whole, of which many a single division was greater in magnitude than 
the prevailing conception of the entire work, the service can be meas- 
ured in its true proportions. Not only was it an unprecedented per- 
formance, but never before the World War had such an enterprise 
even been conceived. The comparatively simple ideas of welfare work 
which can be discerned in earlier efforts for soldiers developed into a 
program which searched out every significant need of men in all 
possible situations, and devised ways to meet all needs, at least in some 


degree. The variety and diffusion of service, as well as its magnitude, 
nevitably influenced the allotment of resources to any particular group 
of men or type of service. In the study of the great mass of reports of 
work done, and not less of the discussions and correspondence which 
accompanied it, the fundamental objectives and principles which gov- 
erned administration have come into clear light. A brief survey of 
these will serve to coordinate the apparently diverse elements into the 
organic whole of which they were constituents. 

Chapter XLIII 

of Welfare 

The American 


Nothing is more fallacious than to confound means with ends, 
forms with spirit. Without the crowding details, the figures baffling 
comprehension, the rushing events, with which the preceding chap- 
ters have been concerned, there could be no understanding of the 
service rendered American soldiers in the World War. But the sum 
of these details is not the sum of service. Doughnuts and chocolate, 
shows and sermons were but temporary and partial expressions of 
something that did not cease when the crumbs were flicked away — 
something that was vital in American life before the war and endures 
as a permanent force. What it was we may not be able to put into 
words ; but it would not be far from true to say that the fulness with 
which a man can apprehend it is the measure of his mental capacity 
and spiritual vision. Only by penetrating through the outward forms 
and the quantitative measurements to the fundamental reality of 
which they were the expression, and appraising the faithfulness of the 
service to that which inspired it, can a genuine comprehension of the 
entire enterprise be attained. 

Most of the American people — 95 per cent at least — fought the 
war vicariously. They never struck a blow nor suffered a physical 
wound. Yet they were heart and soul in the war ; it was their fight — 
an obligation that could not be delegated to comparatively few repre- 
sentatives. If "our finest hope is finest memory," then one of the 
solid bases of faith in the future is the recollection of that personal 
unrest, in those days of trial, which permitted innumerable men and 
women no peace with their own self-respect until they had found some 
way to give themselves to the cause — a way sometimes, indeed, 
pathetic, sometimes grotesque, but always dignified by the earnestness 
of the self-compelled soul. Giving few if any premonitory signs, 
there sprang into activity at the moment's demand, a spiritual 
driving force that gathered the whole nation into its sweep. It util- 
ized money, materials, organizations; its existence was in men and 
women. Danger and difficulty increased its momentum. It communi- 
cated itself directly to the men who bore arms, outrunning the waves 
of the radio spark to fan the ardor in their souls. America, straining 



toward her sons, pouring power into them, lifted them to endurance 
and to deeds that surpassed their conscious powers. There are facts 
here, indisputable though mysterious, which psychologists will be long 
in explaining. When all the material resources have been catalogued — 
that incalculable weight of money, material, and organized industry 
— this spiritual force, resident in citizens, ranks unquestionably 
greater than all the rest. Indeed all the rest were but the media 
through which this effected its impact upon the enemy. 

The change that followed the war, in whatever way it is to be^*^®^^" 
explained, cannot obliterate the reality of this experience. The human 
spirit is subject to tides that must ebb as well as flow. Possibly devel- 
opment to come will enable it to persist normally at the flood attained 
under extraordinary stimulus. In any case that flood was attained 
in an idealistic devotion which, in the largest sense, embraced enemies 
as well as allies, and which, for the time at least, accepted the noble 
declarations of the national leader as the definition of the people's 
purpose, for which no sacrifice was to be refused and in which all were 
resolute to share. Men of faith will hold this fact superior in signifi- 
cance to the recession which seemed to deny its reality, and will be con- 
fident that the power persists to reach again and to surpass the high 
level registered in 1917 and 1918. 

Any sound comprehension of welfare service depends, in the 
first instance, upon recognition of its source in this widely diffused 
and insistent idealism. The people saw in these soldiers unselfish cru- 
saders for a cause whose rewards could be only those of the spirit. 
A man who in those days had dared to suggest that our soldiers were 
risking their lives for the purpose of enriching or aggrandizing the 
United States or for personal advantage of any sort, would have 
needed police protection. It was not enough to promise unlimited 
tributes to those who should return. Even while they fought, they 
must have every alleviation of hardship and danger, every support of 
body, mind, and spirit, that could possibly be given. In giving "until 
it hurt" the people at home expressed their profound concern for the 
men in arms and found a sense of vicarious participation in their 
experiences. They seized upon the welfare organizations as singu- 
larly appropriate mediums of fellowship and charged them with the 
duty not only of transmitting their material gifts but the effective 
expression of their participation in the actual conflict. 

The Y M C A, when America entered the war, was a society, pri- ^^®y mc^a^ 
vate rather than public, with a large but somewhat definitely limited 


membership and supporting group, and with an organization shaped 
to its own purpose, but with special adaptation, in its Army and Navy 
Department, to work with military forces. Almost immediately it 
was made the agent of the American people, officially through Gov- 
ernment authorization and unofficially through the funds contributed 
for its work. The impulsion of its own interest in young men, which 
had carried it into service to soldiers and prisoners of the belligerent 
nations in 1914 — a service made possible by contributions of millions 
of dollars from its own members without any appeal to the public — 
was now augmented by an urge from outside its own circles which 
knew no limits in desire for expression in terms of comfort, content- 
ment, and gratification of American soldiers. Upon it descended a 
double responsibility, of which one part was clear to everyone and one 
part realized by only a few. It had not only to transmit the gifts of 
the people ; it had also to define, to transform, to embody. It received 
money; it delivered service. Behind it was a popular purpose, 
intensely insistent, yet almost void of form and definition — a demand 
that somehow, something should be done for the men. What that 
something should be and how it should be done was conceived in the 
most fragmentary manner by the public at large, and by the Govern- 
ment defined in the most general and abstract way. The Associa- 
tion's task was, in one fundamental aspect, to interpret the inclusive 
purpose of Government and people and to devise the forms and con- 
tent of a service which should accomplish the desired results upon the 
The Very few American citizens knew, while the war continued, how 

-vvidely the forces of the nation were diffused nor how variously they 
were employed. The commonest conception was of a line of men mov- 
ing through the great training camps, across the submarine infested 
Atlantic, to the trenches in France. The sufficient symbol for all sol- 
diers was the fighter with poised bayonet, face to face with a German. 
That, every soldier was or soon would be. How far from the truth 
that conception was, the reader has already realized. There would 
have been no benefit, but serious danger, in making known the details 
of the location, movements, and condition of the thousands of scat- 
tered units ; it was desirable that the public should have its attention 
concentrated upon the dramatic aspects of the situation and that only 
those who had real responsibility for the national defense should know 
the actual facts. Yet without the details the American people, wholly 
unfamiliar with the strategic elements of war, could not construct a 


true picture. Similarly they very slowly and gradually came to realize 
something of the complicated variety of operations in which soldiers 
must be employed to make up that whole which constitutes an effective 
military force. 

If, however, the people were uninformed, it was the particular 
business of the Y M C A to know these things and to guide its action 
by that knowledge. Its responsibility was as extensive as the forces, 
and the fact that a man was assigned to a labor battalion instead of a 
combat unit, or sent to guard the Mexican border instead of attacking 
a German trench, in no way affected either the public or the Associa- 
tion's interest in his welfare. After the war, the relation of fighting 
experience to the long training, the process and delays of transport, 
the grueling labor of supply service, and the waiting for action, can 
be more closely measured. These constituted the entire military 
experience of three-fourths of the mobilized Americans, and occupied 
by far the largest part of the time even of combat troops. Their 
characteristic sense of superiority to other branches of military 
service is natural enough in the excitement of war, but is born of 
romance rather than common sense. They have only to remember 
what proportion of their time was spent in other ways than fighting, 
to realize how important to them was the welfare service outside the 
battle areas. 

However adequate or inadequate the conceptions of the public or wa^r w^rk ^ 
the soldiers, there could be no question that the people's concern was c°""<=" 
for all soldiers in the totality of their military experience ; not for a 
part, or in special situations only. As the interpreter of this concern, 
it was incumbent upon the directors of welfare work to keep the 
entire forces in constant survey. So it came about that the War Work 
Council of the Y M C A was, as it were, a watcher in a lofty tower 
whence its gaze ranged far and near wherever American soldiers or 
sailors were on duty. Or, to change the figure it was a sensitive nerve 
center to which came pulsating messages of need from every cell in 
the vast tissue of the armed forces of the nation, and from which radi- 
ated everywhere the power that took form in service. The task was 
no less than to anticipate all situations that might arise anywhere, 
and to prepare a service that should be feasible under the conditions 
and satisfying to the men. It was an impossible ideal but the Y M C A 
strove to realize it. The Association itself, by its service in the home 
camps, taught the men to expect much; there was no other standard 
than its own service ideals. Surveying the entire experience it is 


beyond question that the Y M C A set the standards and developed the 
methods adopted by all other welfare organizations, and at the end 
transferred to the War and Navy Departments a program such as had 
never been hinted at in any pre-war regulation or recommendation. 

In establishing and applying these standards and methods, the 
Association made maximum use of all facilities granted by govern- 
mental and military authorities. Possibly importunity might have 
resulted in ampler privileges. The responsible heads of the Y M C A 
believed such importunity not justified in the circumstances. It was 
not their function to decide the importance of their own work relative 
to other elements in the national undertaking, nor to review or criti- 
cize the decisions of tbose who dealt with the whole problem of which 
their work was a subordinate part. Their duty was to state their 
plans adequately, to request the facilities needed, and to make fullest 
use of what was granted, 
welfareservice ^^ ^^ impossible to discover any organization as well prepared as 

the Y M C A for the more subtle and perplexing part of the task — the 
devising of forms of service. Here it was the master of tested 
methods developed in service to young men in general and to American 
soldiers and sailors in particular. It had also a rich stock of ideas 
and ideals growing out of experience and now to be tested in practice. 
Its leaders knew by repeated proof the kinds of service acceptable to 
the men. The core or heart of its program was social ; religious, edu- 
cational, athletic, entertainment, and practical personal activities 
issued from and returned into this social nucleus, like the lines of force 
of a magnet. The most definable effect of these cumulative influences 
was a conservation of the sense of personality in the men which was 
essential to their conscious merging of themselves into the great com- 
mon effort. Without interference with the military objective, indeed 
auxiliary to it, welfare work developed a corrective relief or counter- 
force to such of the military processes as tended to mould men mechan- 
ically into uniformity, submerging alike personality, initiative, and 
responsibility. Each man found the means of satisfying a personal 
need or desire, whether it took the form of a craving for sweets or of 
ambition for self -improvement — a need for diversion and temporary 
self -forgetting, or a prof ounder need for self-realization and recovery 
of grasp upon spiritual realities. In such satisfaction he somehow 
escaped temporarily from the status of a cog in a machine and regained 
his self-hood. This was partly no doubt an inevitable consequence 
of acts performed with a more immediate purpose, but on the part at 


least of those who shaped service policies, it was the outcome of a 
conscious intent realized with growing clearness as the war went on. 

In this fact the thoughtful reader will find one of the elements gJ^^^Jts 
of crucial significance. It may be argued with a high degree of con- 
viction that such an objective is intangible and fantastic; that in the 
circumstances of war the relief of physical hardships, the lessening of 
deprivations, the gratification of momentary desires, constitute a suffi- 
ciently exalted aim ; and that a reasonable fulfilment of such purposes 
would merit and«receive the approval of the public and the men served. 
Such an argument, however, proceeds upon the assumption that there 
is an unbridgeable gulf between the two types of purpose involving an 
inevitable choice of one and neglect of the other. 

But there is a deeper diagnosis of the needs of citizens who ^^^^ Psychology 
become soldiers. A great mass of observations of the men made dur- soidiers 
ing the war is most strikingly confirmed from two post-war sources : 
the action of the Government in creating or developing its "morale" 
branch, and the literary expression of those soldier-authors who have 
most freely availed themselves of the relaxation of the censorship. 
There is ample evidence, the more convincing because it is in so many 
cases an unconscious revelation, for the belief that the frame of mind 
which expresses itself in the phrase, "Never again," is due not to the 
fact that men were cold, hungry, worked hard, deprived of customary 
material gratifications, wounded or even killed; but to the fact that 
their lives and actions seemed to be dictated to them without apparent 
consideration of their personal likes or dislikes, abilities or disabilities, 
intellectual, moral or social habits, ambitions or aspirations, or rela- 
tionships to other persons. In the manner of their employment and 
management, in the administration of discipline, in their feeding, 
clothing, housing, transportation, and all the rest, they could not see 
that they were distinguished, in principle, from the horses and mules 
that the Army used. They also were war material, sentient but as 
persons non-existent ; they lost not only their liberty but their individ- 
uality; they became units as satisfactorily identified by a number as 
by a name, and many of them underwent experiences that bred a 
sense of spiritual outrage. Very many others, thoroughly understand- 
ing the necessity of self -subordination to a common cause, found the 
actual experience a severe trial, and valued more than anything else 
the opportunities they could find or create for recovering their sense 
of self -hood. Still others succumbed to influences they did not know 
how to escape. 


The , There is no intent here, either by direction or indirection, to f or- 

Submergence of 7 ^ i • i i /• 

Individuality mulate or to imply a judgment on the degree to which submergence of 
personality is an inevitable accompaniment of war; nor whether in 
the American or any other army, the consideration given to individual 
personality was more or less than conditions warranted. Whatever 
the correct standard may be, and however the actual facts conformed 
to or departed from that standard, it is clear that the coordination of 
millions of individuals in a great cooperative enterprise under emer- 
gency conditions, necessarily involves a high degree of subordination 
of personality, for which submergence is not too strong a word. But 
there is a vital distinction between the methods by which this subordi- 
nation is attained. If it is the conscious voluntary act of men who 
understand thoroughly what they are doing — who are not cancelling 
themselves, but giving themselves in their full powers — it is the 
supreme social act of which humanity is capable, the flowing together 
of innumerable rivulets into an invincible stream of power. If on 
the other hand, it is the surrender of men to mechanical force, the pro- 
duction of solidarity by reduction of individuals to the lowest com- 
mon denominator of humanity, it is the most dangerous process to 
which a democracy can subject its citizens. Repression by authority 
or force of highly developed instinct breeds internal disturbance 
injurious not only to the individual and to society, but to the very pur- 
pose for which it is exerted. It is the characteristic of war that 
events will not wait for the complete education of all soldiers into the 
reasons and necessity for voluntary self -adjustment. The mechanical 
process must be employed in part. Its employment must be entrusted 
not only to the majority of officers who accept it as an unfortunate 
necessity and who seek to replace it by intelligent self-devotion, but 
also to those who know no other way to deal with men and who tem- 
peramentally enjoy the exercise of authority. In these facts and their 
implications centers the entire problem presented to and by the citizen 
soldier ; here is the root of the most significant sufferings and dangers 
to which military life exposes the citizen. The ideal of democracy 
pivots on the freedom of the individual to develop and express his per- 
sonality, with resulting benefit both to himself and to society. This 
is the atmosphere in which Americans live. Whatever undermines 
individuality and saps its vigor, tends to degradation and discontent. 
Social ends are promoted normally by the mutual adjustments of per- 
sonality ; in emergencies by its temporary unification ; never by sup- 
pression. From the individual and social viewpoints, the all inclusive 


service that is most significant is that which enables or assists a man 
to preserve his full manhood through adjustment, and especially- 
through periods of eclipse, of those essentials of manhood — freedom, 
initiative, and responsibility. The w^hole post-war morale policy of 
the War Department emphasizes that, in the new army, "the accent 
is not upon the soldier, but upon the citizen."^ 

In spite of the fact that many soldiers and many welfare workers Needs^""^"*^' 
saw the ministry to deep-seated needs as in sharp contrast with satis- 
faction of momentary desires, the intimate relation between the two 
was comprehended by the leaders from the first and by many workers 
as their experience increased. That relation is in effect the relation 
between symptoms and cause. The incessant demands of the men for 
things having no importance whatever except that they were outside 
army routine — for food other than rations, for particular brands of 
cigarets, for shows which they could applaud or hiss, for places of 
resort where they were not under the sergeant's eye, for exercise dif- 
ferent from that led by the drill-master — these were fundamentally, 
though usually unconsciously, assertions of individuality, efforts at 
self-preservation. The significant fact was that the framers of the 
service program realized this relation and planned their program to 
supply fundamental needs through temporary gratification. Like 
food, it was intended both to satisfy appetite and to maintain vigor of 
body, mind, and spirit. For this it was not required that every known 
form of satisfying human desire should be supplied ; it was sufficient 
that the program should contain elements capable of meeting every 
type of human need — elements convertible into, if not expressly 
designed for, needed nourishment and exercise of the whole man. 
This is the animating spirit of the "four-fold" program which the 
Association promoted. It aimed at the conservation and develop- 
ment of personality, character, in men as individuals, and as members 
of a society which had been civic, was for a time military, and would 
be civic again — a society built upon and unthinkable without the rich- 
est possible development of individual manhood. 

The whole history of the Y M C A had been a demonstration of Jf^^le^oSV'"" 
this spirit and purpose. The official authorization of the President, 

". . . to further the work of an organization that has demonstra- 
ted its ability to render a service desired by both officers and men." 

' Consult Annual Report of the Secretary of War, 1919. Washington, D. C, 
p. 68. 



Elements of 
Complete Service 



and specifically calling attention to the four-fold program,i g^ye the 
stamp of the Government's understanding and approval. The 
response of the people to appeals in v^^hich this aim was clearly set 
forth left no doubt that it was the true interpretation of their purpose. 

The long experience of the Y M C A in serving young men had 
fully demonstrated certain principles. One was that the only effective 
service was that which contemplated the whole man. Beginning with 
a specifically religious purpose, the educational, athletic, and social 
features had early been found not merely desirable, because attracting 
and interesting men, but necessary if the religious objective was to be 
attained. Even the provision of dormitories and restaurants was 
found essential to complete effectiveness. Any person familiar with 
a modern city Association will recognize that in operating hotels and 
restaurants in France the Y M C A was not entering an unknown 
field. The elements of complete service and their coordination were 
both thoroughly understood. 

A second principle that was firmly established was the fact that 
the preservation and development of manhood are achievements 
always of the individual concerned. No one can do it for another. 
Except in unusual situations it is not promoted by gifts to individuals. 
In emergencies, where the ordinary ability of men to purchase what 
they prefer is cancelled by temporary conditions, the gift of creature 
comforts may be the most eloquent expression of interest. Otherwise, 
such gifts should be restricted to occasions and circumstances in which 
the significance as an expression of friendship outweighs the intrinsic 
value. In this matter, the guiding experience of the Y M C A was in 
accord with undisputed sociological science. But this was only a 
special application of a broad principle. Men may be taught, stimu- 
lated, assisted — opportunities and facilities may be provided — but the 
activity must come from the beneficiary himself. It is no more pos- 
sible to maintain or develop manhood from without than to do an- 
other's praying for him or to take physical exercise for him. 

A third clearly recognized principle, also developed in experience, 
was the fact that the forces which affect character, for good or harm, 
vary only in form. They are essentially the same in camp as in city ; 
it is only in appearance that military and civilian life are different. 
The forms taken by the negative forces that undermine or obstruct 
character development vary widely ; the susceptibility and resistance 

' Consult Chapter XIII. 


of men change in different stages of military as of civilian experience ; 
and the forms of the positive forces must vary correspondingly. 
But the nature and mode of action of each group is constant, and in its 
four-fold program the Y M C A had developed a vi^orking method 
which was as effectively applicable to soldiers as to civilians. On 
these and related principles a program aimed to accomplish the pur- 
pose already formulated was prepared. Like the objective, these 
principles are subject to judgment. 

To direct its war work in the large, the Y M C A availed itself of Jt^^^ndlngrf" 
the best assistance to be found in America. The membership list of ^^^^ ^^^j^^jj^^"^ 
the War Work Council includes few, if any, names that cannot be rec- 
ognized as representing advanced leadership in all professions, in 
business and finance, in social and philanthropic work, in organization 
and management. Similar men and women constituted its perma- 
nent advisers and, in many cases, volunteered or accepted invitations 
to share in executive work, in France and England. With such coun- 
sellors it was improbable that any promising line of service would be 
overlooked, or would lack spirited advocates in the conferences where 
the elements of service were coordinated into a balanced program. 
In fact, it is not known that there was any form of activity promoted 
by any other organization which was not promoted in larger measure 
by the Y M C A ; nor since the war has there been suggested any form 
of activity likely to be useful on a large scale that was overlooked or 
rejected by the Y M C A. 

It is equally evident that the program was not confined to the 
forms familiar in civilian Y M C A work. There were war situations 
which had no parallel in civilian life, and others called for a develop- 
ment of service forms in which what was old became completely hidden 
by what was new. The Entertainment Department was conducted on 
a professional scale, where in the normal Association work it had been 
represented only by amateur dramatic clubs. Educational and physi- 
cal work appeared in forms before unknown or barely incipient. It 
seems clear that the Y M C A was open-minded, even to the extent 
of subordinating some of the tenets of its own group to the wishes of 
the soldiers and the Government. 

As is always the case when a purpose is to be cast into forms of 
action, two groups of forces acted and counteracted, one positive, the 
other negative. On the one hand were the daily multiplying ideas, 
schemes, proposals, from within and without the organization, for 
varying or enriching the service. On the other hand was the neces- 


sity of coordinating and balancing the different types of service into 
a well rounded program, and of subordinating the whole to the mili- 
tary situation. Innumerable suggested plans, good in themselves, 
were rejected because their ultimate result would have been practical 
duplication, or because they enriched one field of service at the expense 
of impoverishing other fields. Still other plans, admirable under 
other circumstances, were not feasible under war conditions. 
Specialists III developing special activities the Y M C A called to its aid men 

of Activity of the largest and most intimate familiarity with the a priori possibil- 

ities in specific fields. They were men intensely aware of the capacity 
of education, entertainment, athletics, or religion to benefit men. 
The programs they formulated, the standards they set for themselves 
and the organization, tended to be such as idealists frame for the em- 
ployment of resources whose wealth has never found opportunity for 
full exercise. The educational program would have given continuous 
employment to more workers than the Y M C A had in France ; after 
the Armistice it actually did employ as teachers, officers and soldiers 
outnumbering the entire Y M C A staff. So meager a provision of 
entertainment as one show a week by five performers to audiences 
averaging 500, would have required 3,000 entertainers averaging a 
performance every day — an impossible standard under existing trans- 
portation and other physical conditions in France. Much the same 
might be said of the athletic and religious programs. The simple 
fact was that the means were not at hand for carrying out any of the 
programs in full. Inevitably therefore there was a scaling down of 
all department programs, through the allotment of workers, funds 
and transport, which left the actual performance in each field disap- 
pointing to its promoters as well as to soldiers particularly inter- 
ested. The coordination of these activities was further complicated 
by the invasion of the post exchange, a form of service of elementary 
importance yet distinguished in important ways from the anticipated 
program. This not only absorbed a very large proportion of secre- 
taries* time before the Armistice but drew into the organization a 
more varied personnel. It will hardly be denied that, even with a free 
hand, the problem of balancing and coordinating these elements was 
intricate and perplexing. 

In addition to the necessity for such internal adjustments of the 
different elements of the program to each other, was the necessity for 
the adjustment of the whole and the parts to the varying military sit- 
uation. This was partly a matter for the Association, but more for 


the Army command and local officers. It was effected partly by 
explicit orders, partly by the logic of particular situations. There 
was no universal nor even general standard. At every point and time 
it was a matter of adaptation, which might be compared to the incom- 
ing tide upon an irregular coast. At one point the waves advance 
steadily along a stretch of beach ; at another they penetrate far inland 
up the channel of creek or inlet; at still another they rise almost 
imperceptibly against the face of a cliff. So the life of the Army pre- 
sented fluctuating opportunities and obstructions. At one time men 
were so busy that it was useless to offer educational classes; at 
another, days and weeks of idleness invited a school program occupy- 
ing several hours every day. Again a whole unit might be regularly 
led in mass play or an ambitious baseball league schedule be carried 
through. Elsewhere, at the same moment, the provision of a foot- 
ball for the men to kick about in the intervals between shell fire was 
the maximum possible athletic service. The function of the welfare 
organization was to be ready at all times and places to press in with 
service adapted and adequate to whatever opportunities might appear. 

In such circumstances, unevenness of performance was inevitable, ^f^s^^fj*^^^^ 
At one extreme, service contracted to the distribution of such quanti- 
ties of things to eat, drink, and smoke as could be transported to the 
scene, the care and transmission of valuables, and friendly personal 
acts to as many men as the staff could reach. At the other extreme 
it expanded into a full program of all elements of service promoted 
vigorously and simultaneously. Variations between the extremes de- 
pended partly upon circumstances, partly upon the virtues and defects 
of individual workers, partly upon the operating efficiency of the 
organization. By the irony of circumstance, it was precisely at the 
point when men endured the greatest strain and the environment was 
most barren that the limitations closed in most drastically and ob- 
stacles increased most incalculably. At these points the Y M C A 
lay under the responsibility of making its most strenuous and sus- 
tained effort. The preceding pages prove at least that the Association 
mobilized for front line service more men than it could secure per- 
mission to send forward and that the larger accomplishment in the 
rear sections and in the home camps was not at the expense of the 
greater need. 

In tracing the genetic line from its source in the popular purpose ^^^7j|i^"4 
to its result in service delivered, there has been no evasion of the pro- 
gressive contraction from ideals to actualities. In every great effort 





The Maintenance 

of the 

Home Influence 

to embody an ideal purpose in materials and definite forms, such con- 
traction may be observed. If comparison is made between the ideals 
of negro emancipation half a century ago and the status of negroes 
today, or between the ideal of government of, by, and for the people, 
and existing political conditions, or between the ideals of popular 
education and its actual practice, the discrepancies are obvious. Per- 
haps the most illuminating comparison is between the almost uni- 
versal conviction of the folly and wickedness of war and the results 
of efforts for the assurance of peace. These discrepancies are 
neither to be ignored, apologized for, nor explained away. The better 
future is possible only by the study of their causes and the concentra- 
tion of will and wisdom upon their conquest. In the welfare work 
performed in the World War there was attained the high mark of 
accomplishment of a purpose of which the conscious beginnings 
appeared barely half a century ago, and which expanded almost over- 
night to proportions as unprecedented as the war itself. 

The recorded facts may be reviewed from two standpoints. They 
constitute the material for judgment of a completed historic per- 
formance, and the data for future dealing with a problem that will 
disappear only when war itself shall cease. They may be studied as 
the report of a trusteeship of definite funds supplied for service to a 
definite body of individuals, or as an intensive development of an 
influence for individual and social welfare which both preceded and 
continues after the war. From either standpoint, the correctness or 
errors of insight into the essential nature of the task, the suitability of 
the methods and agents adopted, and the conditions under which the 
work was done must be kept in mind. 

The most inclusive statement of the objective from the stand- 
point that contemplates the soldiers and sailors as individuals to be 
served for their own sake, is that which defines it as bringing to the 
men the best elements of the homes and home communities which they 
had left behind. How much the camps lacked of this is well known. 
But in view of the actual performance, the characterization is both 
too broad and too narrow. The best of home cannot be transferred 
without the women and children who make the home. New friends 
may be valued, but none, however kindly, can fill the place of a man's 
own. The immense provision of materials for letter writing and the 
steady influence exerted to promote home letters made possible a 
maintenance of direct communication never reached in previous wars. 
The introduction of American women into the camps supplemented 


this to a very high degree. They could not be substitutes but they 
were reminders of mothers, wives, and sisters. Their usefulness lay 
less in what they did, though that was great, than in what they were. 
Their presence kept alive the refining influence of womanhood. The 
resulting enthusiastic agreement as to the value of women workers 
should not obscure the fact that the inclusion of worrien was, at the 
time, an experiment, as to which opinion was far from unanimous. 

Similarly the peculiar comforts arising from the privacy of the The 

xlUt (_/lUD 

individual home cannot be enjoyed where men are housed and fed 
en masse and in indiscriminate association. The best substitute for 
these elements yet discovered by society is the club. In the "huts" 
the essence of the club idea was embodied. As compared to barracks 
and mess halls, the huts provided a higher degree of physical comfort, 
individual freedom, and choice of occupation, amusement, and associ- 
ates. Entirely apart from direct activity of workers, the furnishing 
of club facilities in themselves involved an immense expenditure and 
contributed the most significant single service to the contentment of 
the men — a service not less important because it came to be regarded 
as a matter of course. 

The social resources of the average American community '^^'^^^SQcMUel'ouTc^^ 
outstripped by the provision made in large camps everywhere, both 
abroad and at home. Thousands of men saw plays, heard music, and 
read books such as they never could have hoped to find in their home 
towns. They saw and heard speakers of a caliber only to be met in 
great centers of population and gained outlooks into the world of 
thinking minds that far transcended the bounds of village philosophy. 
For a fair parallel of the preaching in the camps one must turn to the 
great American universities, where the most eminent clergymen of the 
country in succession bring their spiritual messages to young men. 
The same is true of the lecture service. Nowhere but in college halls 
have so many and so eminent authorities on subjects of human interest 
been heard. Formal educational work was limited most by the lack 
of time of the men to avail themselves of it, but in scope and variety it 
exceeded the facilities to be found in many good sized towns. As for 
theatrical entertainment, many a unit of 500 men saw plays and play- 
ers rarely if ever to be seen in cities of 100,000 population. If the 
money spent by citizens for such things as these be any indication of 
their human value, then the free provision of them to millions of men 
must constitute an enormous service rendered in the interests of 
maintaining and advancing the standards of civilization. 


ijitimate jt IS belleved that, as the results of welfare performance are 

Values the i ii • j. i 

Criterion Hiore closely studied, the conviction will grow that ultimate values, 

rather than immediate, constitute a true criterion. Two united objec- 
tives inspired every effort — a victorious fighting force and a nation 
enriched in citizenship by its homecoming sons. American character 
and energy were to be afforded the best support and stimulus the 
nation could give. Americans were facing an immediate duty of 
which every instinct of humanity, brotherhood, liberty and self respect 
commanded acceptance. Not all understood clearly, but all felt the 
spirit of the hour and acquiesced without protest in a military regime 
which no compulsion could have imposed. Intermingled with the 
shaping forces of discipline and training, by which these men were to 
be welded into an invincible army, was the welfare service intent on 
enabling each man to offer, in himself, a larger gift. The total result 
stands evident. None but a presumptuous fool would attempt to 
apportion credit — to measure and compare the value of the many 
factors which united in producing that result. How large a share 
was that of any organization is irrelevant; how vital it was is all 

Victory won, those Americans scattered to their millions of 
homes. Are they better citizens ? The future will tell. 


Chapter XLIV 


The prisoner of war is a strangely pathetic figure — a youth, con- 
scious of no crime, yet deprived, in the full vigor of his manhood, of 
nearly all the ordinary outlets of human activity; a soldier, without 
the stimulus of active service or the sustaining consciousness of 
achievement; an exile, living in an atmosphere of constant hostility, 
owing his very life to the sufferance of his captors; a man without 
rights. Since he is no longer an effective unit in the business of war, 
his own military organization counts him as non-existent. Though 
living, he is dead, and dead with little glory. To his captors he is 
simply an additional embarrassment, another mouth to be fed, an- 
other body to be clothed. To his guards, he is the cause of the most 
monotonous and hated of all duties ; and to the civilian population, he 
is the enemy in their power and without means of retaliation. 

The Life of the Prisoner of War 

The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 reduced to a systematic Treatment 

. . *^ . of Captive* 

statement the practice of civilized nations m the treatment of pris- 
oners of war. Though this summary of experience was theoretically 
accepted as binding the signatory Powers, it is well to remember that 
all such provisions were greatly modified in practice in the World 
War. Military necessity cannot always take full account of humane 
agreements and the best of intentions may be frustrated frequently 
by the forces of passion aroused in a life-and-death conflict. 

The articles relating to prisoners of war cover a variety of topics. 
The personal property of captives is to be respected. They may be 
interned within given limits but they are not to be actually confined 
in prison except as an indispensable measure of safety. The govern- 
ment holding the prisoners must maintain them on the same basis as 
the regular troops of the government. Prisoners are subject to the 
laws in force in the Army of the state which has captured them; in- 
subordination may be punished according to such laws. They may be 
put to work, except in the case of officers ; and their wages are to be 
applied to the amelioration of their condition, the balance to be turned 
over to them on liberation. Officers are to receive pay equal in amount 



paid to the corresponding rank in the Army of the state holding the 
prisoners, the amount of such payment to be refunded by the govern- 
ment of the prisoners. There is a provision for the admittance of 
relief societies to all places of internment. An information bureau 
must be provided by each belligerent country for the purpose of keep- 
ing an accurate account of each prisoner. All letters and parcels are 
to be transmitted to prisoners free of postal and custom duties. The 
sum and substance of such regulations is that prisoners are to be 
humanely treated and cared for by the state holding them on a basis 
equivalent to the army standard of that state.^ 

There appeared to be no disposition on the part of any of the 
principal belligerents directly to ignore the Hague agreement. But 
the literal fulfilment of the terms regarding prisoners of war would 
have caused trouble. Since the food supply was scarce everywhere, to 
have fed the prisoners on the same basis as the Army in certain cases 
might have put the prisoners far above the civilian scale of living. 
The civilian population was always afraid that this was being done and 
the Press in some countries kept alive the idea that captive alien 
enemies were actually living on the fat of the land. The officials did 
not dare to disregard the clamor ; they were compelled, no matter what 
their intentions, to avoid every appearance of "pampering" their 
prisoners. Thus the prisoners' standard of living tended steadily 
toward the lowest civilian level. The prisoners, too, were the constant 
victims of reprisals and counter-reprisals. All sorts of stories of ill- 
treatment were circulated on both sides. Naturally, prisoners of war 
appeared as the readiest objects of retaliation. Such prisoners were 
not responsible for the alleged ill-treatment of the other prisoners, 
but they suffered because they were the only lever that could be used 
to move the situation in the enemy's camps. Of course, counter- 
reprisal follows reprisal as naturally as night follows day. 
Prison The prison fare fell off steadily as food became scarce in Europe. 

It is not necessary to take the much-advertised German prison camp 
menus of 1915 at their face value; but there is little question that the 
food units were there.- There were good intentions everywhere, no 


* Consult Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, Vol. 28, p. 314, It 
appears from the record of old controversies that the British have always main- 
tained that the chief responsibility for providing for prisoners should rest with 
the state whose men have been captured. The continental idea obtains in the 
Hague regulations. In the World War the British were still somewhat under 
the influence of their old conviction. 

' Consult In the Prison Camps of Germany, Conrad Hoffman, New York, 
1920, pp. 71, 72. 


doubt. But times became hard; and the prison rations, particularly 
in the territory of the Central Powers, began to fail in essential in- 
gredients and also became less and less appetizing. They fell below 
the requirement for full nourishment, so that prisoners had to depend 
upon supplementary supplies for a full meal. German, French, and 
British prisoners were the recipients of enormous quantities of food 
from their own people. The British people, partly on account of their 
fundamental conviction regarding prisoners of war, kept up a steady 
flow of food packages. In May, 1916, Camp Miinster, Germany, re- 
ceived 264,000 of these parcels for the 30,000 men imprisoned there.^ 
But men of other nationalities were not so fortunate. The Russians 
in Germany, who represented by far the largest national group in im- 
prisonment, received entirely inadequate supplementary supplies. 
Their government did little for them, and the difficulty of transporta- 
tion combined with the ignorance of the folks at home denied them 
possible help from relatives. Other nations such as the Serbs and 
Roumanians, having a population reduced to the verge of poverty and 
no effective national relief agencies, could do nothing for their own 
men in distant prisons. 

Hunger crept slowly but surely through the camps. It was a^^^^^J,^ 
deep hunger, something more than a mere craving for so many caloric 
units. Scarcity of food and the conditions of prison life threw the 
question of eating up into a central and unnatural position. In mod- 
ern civilized society meals are social functions ; for all except the very 
poor a pleasant feature of the day's activities. But when hungry men 
have nothing to do but wait for meals which are not satisfying nor 
such as can be eaten with relish, there is set up a m.ost unwholesome 
complex. This condition is greatly intensified when the weather is 
cold and men's clothing is insufficient and their housing conditions are 
inadequate. Over the whole war area local situations varied much, but 
through vast areas the constant impression of those who moved about 
the prison camps was that men were starving. 

Housing, sanitation, and clothing were other fundamental ele- 
ments in living conditions. Here also the local situations varied 
greatly even when unaffected by reprisal measures. In every country 
the disposition of the camp commandant and the resources at his dis- 
posal were modifying elements. One Y M C A secretary very decid- 
edly testified that in certain camps in England the prisoners were 

* Consult In the Prison Camps of Germany, Conrad Hoffman, New York, 
1920, p. 69. 


better cared for than are the students in Association summer con- 
ferences in America. On other situations the same man forbore to 
remark because of the delicate character of his own position. 

Barbed-wire Disease 

The physical sufferings of the prisoners of war must not be 
stressed to the exclusion of deeper difficulties. While in many cases 
the actual physical condition was desperate and in all cases the diffi- 
culties of men were accentuated by under-feeding, the real problem 
was psychological rather than physical. If all the regulations of the 
Hague Conventions regarding maintenance had been faithfully carried 
out everywhere, the welfare needs of a prison camp would still have 
been urgent. The continued imprisonment of able-bodied and inno- 
cent men does violence to the very deepest sanctities of life. The pris- 
oner of war was shut in by a double wall — the physical barrier of the 
barbed wire, and the moral barrier of an atmosphere of hostility. 
u!l^s^rdier.°' ^^ ^^ ^^^ difficult to distinguish the successive stages in the experi- 

prisoner ence of the fighting man captured in battle. His first feeling on reach- 

ing a prison camp was usually a sense of relaxation. The acute tension 
of battle was over. He slept and rested his fill. As soon as mind and 
body were rested, the natural curiosity of the normal male asserted 
itself. This was a new experience ; he became interested in his guards, 
his fellow-prisoners, what he would eat. There were stories to tell 
and episodes to compare. Such a mood was wholesome but the pos- 
sibilities of the situation were soon exhausted. Then it was that his 
soul ran into the barbed wire. He grew terribly sensitive and usually 
threw up his own defenses to retire therein alone in misery.^ 

Among prisoners of all nations there developed a distinct psycho- 
logical condition, pathological in its nature to a varying degree. 
Herded together as they were in forced confinement without normal 
occupation ; believing themselves hated and ill-used ; tortured by their 
uselessness in the hour of their country's need and by anxiety regard- 
ing their own people at home ; alternating between hope and despair 
till their numbed hearts could feel no more ; fighting without adequate 
encouragement against approaching lethargy, with the blight of fu- 
tility on all that they did — it is little wonder that so many of them sank 
into a neurasthenia so well-marked in type and symptoms that it has 
been called "barbed-wire disease." 

' Many observers state that for most of the men the last stage is already 
reached on arrival in the prison camp enclosure. 


The barbed wire was ever present to the prisoner. From morn- Drugged 

.,,. Monotony 

mg till night, and from day to day, throughout interminable weary 
months and years it was there. Through it he gained tantalizing 
glimpses of the great free world beyond ; by it he was forever hurled 
back into his own drab and hated camp. The mere presence of the 
guards was a persistent irritation. 

"We live in a kingdom of thorns," writes one prisoner, "and 
the points that prick us on all sides are to us like a nightmare. Do you 
imagine that these thorny obstacles that penetrate on all sides are 
soothing to our spirits ? Make the experiment and imagine the picture 
of a man pointing a formidable revolver at you, in such a way that, 
no matter from whatever angle you look at the picture, you stare 
down the black muzzle." 

In the intense emotional complexes centering around the idea of Emotional 
the barbed wire that so effectually repressed desire we find the rea- 
son for the constant recurrence of this theme in their conversation, 
journals, letters, and in their choice of woodwork designs. 

The barbed wire shut them out from the world of activity and 
satisfaction. It also shut them in with the herd of their fellow- 
prisoners. There was no privacy in a prison camp, and no solitude. 

"How well I understand," cries a French prisoner, "the saying 
of Saint Bernard: *0 beata solitudo, sola beatitudo' — we sleep, we 
dress, we eat, we play, we walk, we search for fleas in our hair — we 
dream, we fume, we grow tender, we caress the dear relics in our 
knapsacks — all this in public." Again and again one finds words such 
as these : 'Not a tiny place in the hut nor an inch of room where for 
a solitary moment one may be alone' . . . People are swarming 
everywhere. One cannot sleep at night because the neighbors snore. 
This is the camp-life of those of whom the world says 'They have a 
really good time and they are the lucky ones.* " 

A secretary writes of Alexandria Palace, London: "Under the 
great glass roof of the huge hall about three thousand men find their 
home. A visitor is always immediately struck by the pathetic at- 
tempts of these men to obtain some small degree of privacy in their 
dormitories. Around each two beds, blankets are draped — a real 
sacrifice since they had none too many — so as to form a small cubicle, 
with the result that the whole place looks like a Bedouin encampment." 

The inevitable result of this indiscriminate and unmitigated herd- 
ing was an intense irritability, a growing hatred of their fellow pris- 
oners and a confirmed habit of suspicion. The captive fresh from his 
experiences at the front, rejoicing in his safety, at first threw himself 


with ardor into all the camp activities ; but the final effect of prison 
life was a tendency to withdraw himself in a surly ill-humor. 

"The best of friends quarreled with each other and without 
cause . . . None of us were in a fit condition to argue good- 
temperedly ... we spent most of the day wandering aimlessly 
about from cell to cell in quest of the congenial companion we so sel- 
dom found." 

Such are the phrases with which the prisoner-of-war literature is 
filled. The hatred extends to the guard and even to the prisoners* re- 
lations and the home government. They believe themselves exploited, 
ill-treated, and betrayed by each other and by the whole world. 
TheTragedy ^U ^hls was intensified as the War dragged on its weary length. 

Sustained effort became more and more difficult. These men did not 
know how long their confinement would last. Their hopes rose and 
fell with the varying fortunes of the armies. Rumors, too wild and 
baseless to be believed by normal men, found easy acceptance. They 
swept through the camp. In some mysterious way the same wild 
stories would be found in widely separated sections, in spite of the fact 
that there was no communication between them. The prisoners, 
buoyed up by foolish hopes of early victory or impending exchange, 
would live for a brief while in the exaltation of unnatural and feverish 
expectancy only to fall to greater depths of hopelessness. "The pris- 
oner knows only one word — and that : 'When ?' The one cry always 
goes up from our tombs : 'When shall we get away?' " The real tragedy 
was that all their efforts were infected with futility because they knew 
not the period of their sentence and could not plan with confidence. 
"Was it worth while to begin classes when any day might bring re- 
lease?" So they questioned in the days of hope; and, the next day, 
firmly persuaded that their captivity would endure for years, they 
would begin with forced energy, only to be tormented by the same 
doubts when the next epidemic of rumors swept the camp. Ruhleben 
has been called "The City of Futility." 

To the experience of many fate added another horror — ill-health. 
For those who were really sick, there were hospitals ; but for shattered 
nerves and the ordinary disabilities of life that create misery without 
disability, there could be no relief. Conditions of crowding, under- 
nourishment, and exposure imposed the most exquisite torture on the 
unfit. Depression tended always to add to the numbers of this unfor- 
tunate group. Epidemic diseases were not unknown in the camps and 


one can hardly imagine circumstances less favorable for a contest with 

Where counteracting influences were not operative, the "barbed- Jesuits of 


wire disease" eventually produced a state of utter listlessness. Visit- 
ing workers found men passing most of the day in opium-like lethargy 
on their beds. A passing relief was sought in gambling — the only 
dissipation possible — and the day's rations were most frequently the 
stake. Many even of the most buoyant lost hope in the end. The 
whole outside world dissolved into unreality. Like shades in a land of 
shades they lived out day after day. Only dull resentment, heartache, 
and a feeling of oppression were real. 

Is it any wonder that death and insanity took a frightful toll in 
these camps? 

Fortunately for a large number of prisoners, their captors found 
use for their services outside the camps. The policy of sending pris- 
oners out in small working detachments to farms and factories and 
other forms of service meant usually a heaven-sent release. It is true 
that sometimes there were increased physical privations connected 
with such work — though frequently, on the other hand, it meant more 
and better food — but it was relief from the wire, and employment for 
the hand and brain that was not just work for the sake of work.^ It 
was not possible, however, to use all prisoners in this manner ; at the 
period of fullest development of the working-camp policy there were 
still tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, of men in the large 
camps whose health and sanity depended upon their own resources. 

Captured soldiers did not constitute the whole body of prisoners pSJJn"r8 
of war. Their fate was shared by the large number of interned civil- 
ians in every warring country. Nothing emphasized more clearly that 
the World War was a war of nations, indeed, than the demand for the 
internment of enemy aliens. The drag-nets were called upon to sweep 
ever deeper and deeper until every man regarding whom there was the 
shadow of a suspicion was shut up. There were thus swept up to- 
gether in the civilian internment camps men of every shade of opinion 
from the real alien through all the neutral shades to those who were 
actually thoroughly in sympathy with the country that interned them. 
Soldiers, in some cases even, left fathers in prison camps.^ 

' This must be decidedly qualified with regard to certain forms of factory 
work, especially in Germany, where the suffering was very great. 

^ For a sympathetic picture of some of the incongruities of the situation, 
see the story, "The Bright Side," in Tatterdemalion, John Galsworthy, New 
York, 1920. 


There were some striking differences in the two conditions, how- 
ever. The soldier understood his fate. He had been captured in arms 
and was therefore quite properly a prisoner of war. Most interned 
civilians, on the other hand, considered themselves the victims of great 
injustice. This was particularly true of those whose sympathies were 
whole-heartedly with the land where they were imprisoned, but all 
felt to a certain degree that such rigorous measures were unfair and 
unnecessary. Those who had families were compelled to leave them 
marked with shame in the midst of communities that grew more and 
more hostile as the war went on. Resentment against the families 
even of loyal men often resulted in actions that were practically equiva- 
lent to persecution. The realization of all this naturally increased 
the burden on the prisoner's soul. If in addition, he had no financial 
resources, his anxiety for his loved ones increased ten-fold. In certain 
cases, the civilians were not even permitted to see their families ; and 
even where such rigid rules were not in force, visits were of very brief 

Varying There was another difference growing out of previous conditions. 

\/^hile many, possibly most, of the soldiers after a spell of prison would 
have been glad to get back into the line again, the prison camp was a 
safer place than the battlefield. Even the most heroic may be glad to 
be safe; not all human beings are "gluttons for punishment." The 
civilian, however, was taken from his home and his daily occupation 
and shut up where he had to endure hardships for which he had had 
no preparation. He was not seasoned like the fighting man ; he was 
a soft civilian. Every hour of his life was set over against an exist- 
ence of reasonable comfort. There was no consolation in the im- 

The civilians were a mixed group. All ages and all types were 

• shut up together. Individual adjustments were excessively difficult 

in the heterogeneous mass and men fought hard to protect them- 
selves. On the other side there is something to be said, however. The 
diverse elements in the civilian group opened up richer resources 
for activities within the camps. The presence of older heads was a 
steadying influence. In many civilian camps there were some pris- 
oners of considerable wealth and many of more than moderate means. 
These were, as a rule, more than willing to bear a large share of the 
cost of improvements. When the difficult period of "shaking-down" 
was over, the diversity of gifts unquestionably made for increased 
possibilities of contentment. 


The diversity of political opinion was a really serious matter; 
herein the civilians faced difficulties not generally met by the fighting 
men. In the famous internment camp at Ruhleben, near Berlin, for 
example, there were shut up with the loyal British a number of men 
whose sympathies were all with Germany in spite of their confine- 
ment. Sooner or later everyone had to take one side or the other, and 
thus there were two groups in the camp. No doubt, in all such cir- 
cumstances, a working arrangement was reached ; but the confines of 
a prison enclosure do not provide the best atmosphere for stilling deep 
animosities. Both groups were bound to suffer. 

The interned civilian had a hard time. All his miseries were 
deepened by the rankling sense of injustice. It was an emotional con- 
viction that was probably beyond the volitional control of most of 
these men. It was increased by the treatment usually accorded their 
families and possibly by the actions of some of their guards. It was 
war — that is all there is to say about it. 

The dark side of the picture has been presented but we do not Heroes of the 

Prison Camps 

wish to give the exaggerated impression that all the prisoners suc- 
cumbed to their fate. One could not have been surprised if they had 
done so, but the real wonder is that so many struggled so valiantly to 
preserve their manhood and to keep their interests alive. All who 
have known the prisoners will agree with Captain Gilliland's words : 

"I wonder if the people at home have ever realized that the 
prisoners in Germany number among their ranks some of the greatest 
heroes of this war. On the battlefields, the heroes, or at least some 
of them, are recognized and rewarded accordingly, but the exile is 
never known, though he fights against more hopeless odds . . . 
Fine deeds are done in the heat of action when the excitement of the 
moment gives the spur to many a noble act ; but it takes a braver and 
more steadfast spirit to pass smiling and cheerful through the endless, 
stunted and hopeless days of a prisoner's life, to cheer up those of our 
comrades who have for the moment fallen into the slough of despon- 

In every camp there were these unknown heroes who resisted the 
overmantling depression to the very death and put forth every effort 
to save themselves and their comrades. It was an inglorious and for 
the most part a thankless task. Courage and resourcefulness of the 
highest order were required and constant watchfulness alone could 
save what courage and resourcefulness set up. There were men who 
refused repatriation in order to continue their efforts to alleviate the 
lot of their fellow-prisoners. Such men were the cornerstones of these 


organizations that grew up within the camps, expressing in concrete 
terms the deliberate attempts of men to help themselves in a desperate 
situation. These resolute men gathered together in twos or threes, 
discovering each other out of the mass, and gradually drew into the 
center of power a united group ready for sacrifice in the common 
cause. Religiously minded men impelled by the inspiration of their 
inner conviction made superhuman efforts to spread the Christian 
spirit of hope and friendliness among their discouraged comrades. It 
was not a bad place in which to test the reality of religious faith. 

These heroes will hardly achieve fame. Still it is not probable 
that any of the American prisoners in Tuchel or Rastatt will forget the 
name of Sergeant Edward Halyburton, and there are others that are 
imprinted forever on the hearts of thousands of grateful comrades. 
Could one desire more? 

The Administration of Prison Camps 

In order to understand the situation of the prisoners of war, 
some account must be taken of the problems of prisoner-of-war admin- 
A Heavy The mere physical care of prisoners of war was a heavy burden. 

Germany, for example, at the close of the war held about 2,800,000 
prisoners — a group of men as large as the population of the city of 
Chicago. No other country held any such number, but in each case 
these were enough to cause serious embarrassment in the midst of 
pressing preoccupations.^ The officials were greatly hampered in the 
discharge of their onerous duty by the uncertain disposition of public 
opinion ; the slightest hint of "pampering" was enough to stir up an 
irresistible storm of popular protest. There existed an exaggerated 
fear of prisoners that is a little hard to understand ; its nature and 
justification need not be examined here, it is sufficient to note the fact. 
Such fear accounts in part for the over-elaborate caution embodied in 
rules and regulations. The discipline of the camps proved in some 
cases a very difficult task. Some prisoner groups were docile as a 
rule but capable of baffling insubordination under what they consid- 
ered adequate justification. British prisoners frequently proved a 
handful for their captors; Anglo-Saxon individualism would not sit 
quietly under what was considered as a needless display of arrogance 
or unnecessary restriction. Every self-respecting prisoner felt that 

^ Of course, it must be remembered that the service of the prisoners was of 
the greatest value to Germany in relieving labor shortage. 


he had rights that must be respected according to his own idea of 
what constituted respect. The management of these bodies of idle 
and generally irritable men was no sinecure. All these elements in 
the situation must be kept in mind in any estimate of the situation. 

It is not possible to institute national comparisons or to make any wa?p^fs"oneM 
general assertions regarding the treatment of prisoners of war. All 
that can be recorded is impressions. The sum total of such impres- 
sions seems to indicate that the higher officials in all countries, with 
very few exceptions, were desirous of according the prisoners humane 
treatment. This spirit permeated most of the official organization. 
But there were commandants of domineering and brutal nature whose 
records appear in dark colors; and there were guards, particularly 
among the working parties, whose cowardly and beastly charac- 
ters led them to practice upon helpless prisoners the most inhuman 
cruelty. The proportion of ill-treated prisoners among a total of 
6,000,000 men may have been comparatively small, but the actual 
amount of unnecessary human suffering directly due to carelessness 
or brutality was undoubtedly in the aggregate very extensive. It is 
a sad chapter in the history of human relationship.^ 

The civilian attitude was by no means always hostile. From the 
first there were groups in every country who were truly eager to miti- 
gate the hard lot of the prisoner in their midst. The motives of such 
worthy persons may have been complex, but there was in each case 
a certain basis of pure humanity. Several groups in Great Britain 
sought opportunities for service in the early months of the war. The 
just historian must record that these efforts proceeded, in the first 
instance, largely from the Christian forces in the various countries. 
The injunction, "Love your enemies," was taken literally by sincere 
men and women. It is well to remember that, before any extensive 
international efforts were undertaken, a few civilians in every land 
were proving very clearly that war had not entirely obliterated the 
spirit of compassion. 

The Needs of the Prisoners 

If a list of the needs of prisoners be drawn up — ^food to supple- 
ment rations, recreation, entertainment, education, athletic equipment, 
literature, social centers, facilities for religious exercises — it appears 
strangely similar to a catalogue such as might be prepared for the 

*The student is referred to investigations made by the American Em- 
bassies in Berlin and Paris for further information on this subject. 




The Welfare 

training camps. Indeed, the suggestion has been made that the pris- 
oner's needs are just the fighting man's needs intensified. Such a 
view is not very useful because it was the deep difference, not the 
superficial resemblance, that was significant. The chief difficulties 
arose just at the points of divergence. 

In the question of food, the prisoners lacked not only the "frills" 
of diet but the very essentials. The warring countries lacked an 
adequate supply of fats, of sugar, and of other prime elements ; there- 
fore, the prisoners of war suffered not only from the monotony of diet 
but from its actual inadequacy. There was as much need for the 
tasty additions such as candy, fruit, nuts, and crackers; but it is a 
reasonable supply of the foundations of nourishment that gives point 
to the extras. The first need of the prisoner was for food. Without 
supplementary rations health and strength could not be maintained.^ 
In a dark moment one Y M C A secretary wrote to headquarters won- 
dering whether it was right to send so many talking machines and 
razors to men who needed food. 

The other needs were quite as real, however. At this point we 
encounter another contrast between the conditions of the prisoner and 
the fighting man. The prison camps were full of idle men. There 
was no dearth of workers. Prisoners of war were as a rule eager to 
help themselves. Their lack was equipment. With the best will in the 
world, work cannot be carried on without material. The welfare 
problem was to stimulate activity and to provide the material equip- 
ment necessary. A dramatic performance that meant occupation for 
a number of prisoners and at least temporary relief for all might be 
held up for want of small articles such as a few yards of cheese-cloth 
or a few pots of paint. The supply of a few hymn sheets and Bibles 
made it possible for the religiously minded to have services ; a single 
football was a precious possession, yielding an immeasurable divi- 
dend in health and contentment. The whole width of infinity sepa- 
rated the possession of even a little to work with from having nothing 
at all. Many camps were thoroughly organized before any help 
appeared from outside. In others there was needed the stimulus of 
an outsider, not infected with the prison-virus, to get an organization 
on its feet and to keep it going through periods of discouragement. 
In all cases a man with ideas gathered from a wider experience could 

'Consult In the Prison Camps of Germany, Conrad Hoffman, New York 
1920, p. 73. 



make suggestions as to new activities or modifications of the old. The 
fresh point of view was invaluable. When it is remembered what 
these idle men lacked, the spiritual value of material equipment may 
be better comprehended. Books, stationery, musical instruments, 
educational text-books, artists' supplies, tools, athletic equipment, lab- 
oratory apparatus, talking machines, games. Bibles and hymn sheets — 
these cannot be created in a prison camp ; but what is idle life month 
after month without them? The small working camps were not 
troubled with the difficulty of finding employment, but the hours of 
leisure were blank ; to them games, books, and talking machines were 
a godsend, indeed. 

When any estimate is made of the efforts of relief and of welfare Limitations of 

Welfare Service 

work for prisoners, full account must be taken of the conditions and 
the character of the needs. A large staff of workers would not have 
been permitted anywhere, nor was it at all necessary; though there 
were a thousand useful personal services that a worker might per- 
form, the essential demand was for help in self-help. Given the facili- 
ties, most camps could take care of themselves. This statement does 
require qualification, however. There were groups of prisoners who 
were ignorant and among whom were few leaders. Food and simple 
amusements could be furnished them but beyond such elementary help 
welfare work was powerless. With the strict limitations regarding 
numbers of workers little could be done to help the great mass of such 
prisoners. Still that little was a vast improvement on nothing at all. 

Here and there in the prison camps a triumphant conception took intellectual 

Growth and 

possession of leaders among the imprisoned men. With reasonable Personal 


help from the outside, it appeared that prison life might be made bear- 
able. Then as the first determined efforts of men bore their inevitable 
fruit, it did not seem a remote possibility that some pleasure and at 
least a degree of contentment might be wrested from the hands of hard 
fate. The achievement of this second stage of mental progress opened 
up a new vista — some men saw that the period of internment could be 
made a time of growth and personal improvement. The opportunity 
of the prison camp — that was the thing. It was not all a dream. With 
the establishment of lecture courses, educational classes, dramatic 
clubs, athletics, and regular religious services, there appeared in cer- 
tain of the camps a well-organized social life ; and not a few men came 
out of the experience better than they were when they entered it. 
Such an achievement must be regarded as an outstanding triumph of 
the human spirit. 

Chapter XLV 


The terms of the Hague Convention regarding the admittance of 
agencies of relief are not very definite. Article XV provides that : 

"Relief societies for prisoners of war, which are regularly consti- 
tuted in accordance with the law of the country with the object of ser- 
ving as intermediary for charity, shall receive from the belligerents, 
for themselves and for their duly-accredited agents, every facility 
within the bounds of military requirements and administrative regu- 
lations, for the effective accomplishment of their humane task. Dele- 
gates of these societies may be admitted to the places of internment 
for the distribution of relief, if furnished with a personal permit by 
the military authorities and on giving an engagement in writing to 
comply with all their regulations for order by police." 

|eiief_^^ No relief societies are specified and there is actually nothing im- 

perative in the clause. The injunction is largely nullified by the 
qualifications. "Military requirements and administrative regula- 
tions" developed an excessive rigidity in the World War, varying 
in degree but stiff enough everywhere. It was possible, however, to 
send money, food, and clothing to the prisoners. The Red Cross 
societies of the various countries were able to forward large quanti- 
ties of material to their imprisoned nationals ; and the American Red 
Cross aided very extensively both before and after America's entrance 
into the war in 1917. Other organizations such as Dr. Markel's 
committee and the Friends' Emergency Committee in England, also 
distributed supphes. The Crown Princess of Sweden and her asso- 
ciates conducted a varied service of inestimable value in part directly 
and in part through the Y M C A. For a time individuals were free 
to mail food packages to individual prisoners but this developed such 
difficulties that most of the governments took over the general re- 
sponsibility for the collection and despatch of food, which was then 
distributed on an equitable basis in the camps. A complete account 
of service for prisoners of war would include all these activities. 

This record is the story of the welfare work of the Y M C A. 
The setting of the problem that lay before this organization can be 



exhibited most clearly by following the actual steps taken in estab- 
lishing this unique service. 

Closed Doors 

Among the various projects of service which were surveyed in 
the autumn of 1914 by John R. Mott as the representative of the 
American branch of an institution devoted to the interests of young 
men, the possibility of work with prisoners of war appealed particu- 
larly, both because of the evident need and because it appeared that an 
American agency might venture into this difficult field when others 
would be shut out. Conferences with leaders of the Y M C A in 
Europe seemed to indicate that there was a chance that America 
might succeed. The World's Committee of Young Men's Christian As- 
sociations was feeling its way into several fields of war work and 
hoping to have its own neutrality recognized in all service. But 
American neutrality at that time appeared more substantial than 
anything that existed on the continent of Europe, and the resources 
of this country were recognized as available ordinarily for purposes 
of humanitarian effort. Dr. Mott assured the European leaders that 
they could count on American cooperation. On his return he made a 
complete report to the International Committee in New York, and on 
the basis of this plain statement of need and opportunity, the Com- 
mittee immediately authorized the participation of the American or- 
ganization in this service. 

In January, 1915, the American YMCA sent to Europe two f ^?*gtepB in 
men, C. V. Hibbard and Dr. A. C. Harte, charged particularly with^^s"*"* 
the task of developing the possibilities of service for prisoners of 
war. The negotiations necessary continued for months in the tense 
atmosphere of those early days of the war. Public opinion was in 
unstable equilibrium, and anyone endeavoring to maintain a neutral 
attitude was suspected alike in London, in Paris, and in Berlin. There 
was not much ready sympathy for the imprisoned alien. It is neces- 
sary, also, to bear in mind that at this time neither the relief nor 
the welfare agencies had at their command the large resources that 
were later placed in their hands by the American people. All the 
money for this prisoner of war work had to be raised privately — and 
very quietly; for there were many active prejudices in America.^ 

* The circumstances connected with the first attempts to raise funds for this 
work are interesting. Dr. Mott, on his return from Europe in 1914, set out to 
secure ten subscriptions of $5,000 each toward launching the service. As a matter 
of fact, he appealed to eleven people; and not one declined. 



Avenues of 
Approach in 
France and 


The two American secretaries proceeded first to England. Certain 
relief agencies and the British Friends were beginning a partial ser- 
vice for prisoners and the British Y M C A had one representative 
engaged in camp visitation. A general understanding was reached 
that America would be permitted to inaugurate prisoner of war ser- 
vice, supplying the workers and funds, provided the endorsement of 
the American Embassy was secured. The American Ambassador later 
secured authorization from the State Department for such endorse- 
ment ; and the American embassies in Europe, throughout the course 
of the work, rendered the most cordial assistance. The work was 
finally organized under the auspices of the English National Council 
of Young Men's Christian Associations. 

With so much accomplished Mr. Hibbard and Dr. Harte proceeded 
to Paris and Berlin to present the scheme of service to the French 
and German Governments. Dr. Harte immediately established con- 
tacts with the German National Council of Young Men's Christian As- 
sociations, the German Student Movement, and other religious agen- 
cies interested in prisoners. After some weeks, he was joined by 
Christian Phildius of the World's Committee. Every possible avenue 
of approach to the authorities was worked persistently. At first, the 
Germans were willing to permit only the sending in of books and 
supplies ; but this arrangement did not suit the American representa- 
tive of the Y. The negotiations went on slowly through the month 
of February, but early in March a conditional permission was granted 
for real service. It was determined that the formal local responsibil- 
ity for the work should rest with a committee representing the German 
National Council ; later, the German Student Movement was also rep- 
resented. Meanwhile, Mr. Hibbard was dealing with the supple genius 
of French diplomacy. The French Y M C A was at this time in no 
position to offer active aid ; in France, the negotiations were carried 
on in the name of the World's Committee by the American representa- 
tive. A vague agreement was secured late in February in spite of the 
tensity of opinion in France. It was, of course, conditional on Ger- 
many's action. It required many months to get a substantial arrange- 
ment. These two preliminary agreements were secured only in the 
face of intricate diplomatic difficulties. Even then, the agents of the 
Association regarded them only as marking the first steps of the 

The next move was to bring Russia into the circle of reciprocity. 
Dr. Harte proceeded to Petrograd in May. There he found himself in 


a maze of difficulties. The cumbersome sluggishness of the Imperial 
bureaucracy was not the only obstacle. The Y M C A in Russia be- 
fore the War was almost entirely German, therefore to be avoided. 
The World's Committee because of its connection with these German 
societies was of no assistance. There were many reasons why the 
particular Russian enterprise furthered by the American Y M C A — 
the Mayak, in Petrograd — should be kept out of any kind of connec- 
tion with the war prisoner work. Further, several of the leading 
Russians who were friends of the American movement were suspected 
of pro-German sympathies. Still the unpromising situation was made 
to yield results. With the help of Russian friends and the effective 
assistance of H. R. H., the Crown Princess of Sweden, and the Allied 
ministers in Stockholm, Dr. Harte worked his way through the vari- 
ous government groups and finally succeeded in enlisting the sup- 
port of the Empress. Permission to enter the camps was at last 

Darius S. Davis reached France in May, 1915. He and Mr. Hib-"^'y^"'t 

•' ' Austria-Hungary 

bard proceeded to Italy in June, and Mr. Davis returned to that coun- 
try again in October. There they succeeded in gaining admission to 
visit first the civilian internment camps and later the military prisons. 
In Austria-Hungary, Mr. Phildius had already secured a limited per- 
mission to work in two camps. On his return from Russia in the 
summer of 1915, Dr. Harte was invited to visit the camps in Austria- 
Hungary. He was able to demonstrate the successful arrangements 
made in other countries, particularly in Russia ; the immediate result 
was the opening of a full opportunity for service. 

Throughout the summer of 1915 this curious diplomatic game 
went on; there were many small points to be cleared up, there was 
much repairing of shaky confidence to be carried out. In the end 
"The War Prisoners' Aid of Young Men's Christian Associations" was 
established in all the principal belligerent countries. 

With this brief sketch of the preliminary negotiations before him, 
the reader is in a position to appreciate the character of the enter- 
prise. The general theory of the American organizers was to work 
through local Y M C A agencies as far as possible, but nearly all the 
funds and most of the workers were supplied from America and the 
fundamental responsibility rested on the American agents. In Eng- 
land, the national organization of the Y M C A was directly related 
to the work. In Russia, there was an independent committee. In 
France and Italy, organizations were built up somewhat loosely at- 


tached to the World's Committee. In Austria-Hungary the service 
was under the auspices of the Austro-Hungarian Red Cross. In Ger- 
many, the first committee represented the German Y M C A and the 
German Student Christian Movement, but the Prussian War Minis- 
try undeviatingly held the American agents responsible for the con- 
duct of the work and dealt directly with them. The Russian General 
Staff was very strong in its insistence that both in Germany and Russia 
a committee of standing should assume responsibility for the work; 
and, in deference to this desire, the German service was finally placed 
under a representative committee with Prince Max von Baden at 
its head. Prince Constantin Constantinovitch was chairman of the 
Russian Committee. 
Official Mr. Hibbard returned to America in the summer of 1915 to as- 


Direction sumc general responsibility for the whole service of the American 

Association in Europe. Dr. Harte remained in Europe as a general 
agent of the International Committee with special responsibility for 
the work in the Central Powers and Russia. He opened an office in 
Copenhagen, Denmark, and later, another in Berne, Switzerland. 

The Principles of Camp Service 

The particular object of the Y M C A in entering the prison camps 
was to attempt to meet the educational, recreational, moral, and relig- 
ious needs of the prisoners. The aim was to restore the captive to 
the world as little affected as possible by his imprisonment. The As- 
sociation was glad wherever it could to leave to other agencies the task 
of supplying the immediate material needs of the prisoners in order 
that it might devote its energies directly to its own special work. 
It never attempted to supply food, clothes, or money except in those 
cases where no supplies of this kind were being furnished. 

In this work the Y M C A was but following the bent of its 
own genius. The prisoner was a young man in urgent and serious 
need, and as such appealed directly to an institution whose efforts 
are devoted to the well-being of men of all nations. The Y M C A is 
fundamentally not superficially international ; in its work everywhere, 
it has r^ecognized the equal rights and equal powers of all those with 
whom it deals. Its principles were put to the test in the work for war 
prisoners. The American Y M C A represented a neutral country in 
1915, but very few men were really neutral in those stirring years. 
Still, an even-handed service was measured out irrespective of nation- 
ality and in the name of one common humanity. In the various coun- 



tries there was, of course, national prejudice in the minds of local 
Y M C A men ; their connection with the institution had not freed them 
from human limitations. For many, in the beginning it went decidedly 
against the grain to do anything for the enemy alien, but they did it. 
The Christian ideal triumphed. The entrance of America into the 
war did not change the spirit of the work. It is something to have 
kept alive even in a small degree the Christian spirit in a time of 
hatred as witness to the common humanity of men, deeper even though 
less intense than the hostilities that divided us. 

The aim of the Y M C A was to provide in each camp the neces- The camp 


sary equipment for the conduct of the essential activities of civilized 
life and by the visits of secretaries to create or to stimulate local or- 
ganizations to take full control of welfare activities within the con- 
fines of the enclosure. Specially designed huts were erected in some 
camps and the funds provided for the remodeling of existing build- 
ings loaned by the authorities in others. The list of supplies furnished 
is endless: it included everything — footballs and baseballs, cinemas 
and musical instruments, books and artist's supplies, stationery, 
church furniture, and hospital supplies, razors and false teeth, labora- 
tory apparatus and shoe-brushes — the whole gamut of the ordinary 
equipment of individual and social life. Recreation chests were de- 
signed for the smaller working camps. In addition to the visits of 
secretaries, the local organizations were assisted by literature on 
methods of the work. The World's Committee issued a prisoners* 
periodical in six different languages for circulation in the camp. 

The religious work was entirely unsectarian. Where no other Reh^^'°"s 
way was possible the secretaries themselves gave religious and moral 
talks, at which, usually, all the men were present. But wherever it 
could be done, the Y tried to provide and encourage services to all 
denominations by clergymen of their own faith. The huts were al- 
ways at the disposal of Protestants, Roman Catholics, Greeks, and 
Jews for their religious observances, absolutely without distinction. 
We quote from a letter, written to the London Times by the Rt. Rev. 
Herbert Bury, Anglican Bishop for North and Central Europe. 

"Will you allow me to offer my small tribute to the generosity of 
the American Y M C A? In October, 1915, at the suggestion of the 
Archbishop of Canterbury, the War Office appointed me to superintend 
the social and religious work in the prisoners' camps in Great Britain 
and Ireland, and, in all that work, important and responsible as it has 
been, I have had the unfailing support, financial and otherwise, of the 



of American 


American Y M C A. . . . They have also financed noncomf ormist 
ministers and others who have applied to them for their expenses in 
the neighborhood of different camps, met the expenses of Roman 
Catholic clergy in poor neighborhoods, visiting their co-religionists, 
and have even found them the accessories of worship. It would be 
difficult to speak in too appreciative terms — as no funds have been 
available for such work from the War Office — of the modest, gener- 
ous and entirely unadvertising work of the American Y M C A." 

The report of the Central Committee of the Alexandra Palace 
Internment camp, under the heading "Religion," mentions specifically 
the thanks of the Catholic community for the use of the Hall, adding, 

"The fact that the large hall with its stage lent itself particularly 
well to the performance of the sacred rites of the Catholic faith, con- 
tributed to a large extent to the steadfast attendance at all the Mass 
rites," and of the Jewish community, saying "Our large Jewish com- 
munity is no less appreciative than its sister communities of the great 
benefits it derived from the accommodation offered by the hut." The 
writer of the report adds : "There were no irksome restrictions placed 
upon the men, the same largess presided over the facilities offered for 
religious and devotional services. . . Protestant, Catholic and Jew- 
ish religious gatherings were carried on side by side, harmoniously, 
under the same roof." 

In England, from January to June, 1917, £1,000 were devoted 
to paying traveling expenses of Catholic priests and, in appreciation of 
this service, Archbishop Bourne wrote : 

"May I offer you my very deep thanks for the generous aid which 
has rendered possible an amount of spiritual work which otherwise 
would have been much more difficult to accomplish." 

What was true of England was also true of the work in the other 
countries, particularly in Russia. In Austria, for example, the Y was 
the distributing agency for both Bibles and ikons. Churches were 
built according to the desire of the camp, as for instance, in Wiesel- 
burg where two churches were built, one for the Russian Orthodox 
community and one for the Roman Catholics. There were also prayer 
rooms for the Jews. It is an interesting fact to notice that the robes 
and accessories for the first Greek Orthodox service among the prison- 
ers in Austria were supplied by the Y. 

One universal feature of the Y program was the celebration of 
Christmas. Almost all the 6,000,000 war prisoners were natives of 
countries where religious hope and aspiration center in this festival. 


It is intimately connected not only with the ecclesiastical program 
but with inner sanctities of home life. As each year drew toward its 
end, the prisoners' thoughts inevitably turned toward those from whom 
they were separated. To them the angels' song came as a hope and 
prayer with a peculiarly poignant appeal. Peace, Goodwill — how these 
words sank into the souls of men taken in combat and held by enemies. 

In all countries a tremendous effort was put forth by the YMCA 
to have gifts for the prisoners. Where it was impossible to secure 
goods, small sums of money were distributed. Christmas trees were 
set up and sometimes it was possible to provide something like a 
Christmas dinner. Concerts and Christmas entertainments were fea- 
tured; Christmas dramas were put on in many camps. Everything 
was done to emphasize the spirit of the day, the spirit of Him whose 
birth was celebrated — Who came to loose the bonds of prisoners. In 
the Christmas services the highest note was struck and each year 
hundreds of thousands of prisoners assembled to join in hymns of 
adoration and take part in the celebrations of the Christian churches. 

It could not be ever a Merry Christmas. For most of the men, 
it was unquestionably a time of sadness that merged into acute pain. 
But even the sadness and the pain were healing, for the celebration 
of Christmas symbolizes the inauguration of an era when men shall 
put away their bitterness and bury their weapons of cruelty and "God 
shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." 

Owing to its favorable position the YMCA organization was lutk?"*"***''' 
able to perform a variety of supplementary services. Information 
of prisoners' conditions was secured for relatives. Misapprehensions 
regarding the treatment of prisoners were removed. The distribu- 
tion of relief was assisted or supplemented as the particular occasion 
required. The secretaries had frequent opportunity to act as media- 
tors between the prisoners and their guards. YMCA influence was 
largely responsible for securing the placing of all American prisoners 
in one camp in a good location and for the abolishment of the "block- 
system" in that camp. Much was done to facilitate the sale of articles 
made by prisoners. Individual secretaries were also able to render 
much personal service to disheartened, sick, and anxious men. Di- 
rectly or indirectly the Y touched the whole round of camp life. 

There was one indirect service for prisoners that must not be 
overlooked. To a very large extent the well-being of prisoners de- 
pended upon the disposition of the camp guards. Guarding prison- ^ 
ers is generally regarded as an odious duty, in spite of the fact that 


it is a really important and arduous service. If prisoners are to be 
as little trouble as possible, their handling must be skilful. It was, 
however, not possible always to assign the fittest men to such work; 
and it frequently occurred that the number of guards in a post was 
inadequate, thus laying the burden of long hours on every man. 
Then, too, they represent a part of the national forces easily overlook- 
ed: in many cases, they were compelled to suffer quite unnecessary 
hardships. Both for the sake of the guards themselves and for the 
sake of the prisoners, the Y M C A endeavored to offer these wardens 
of captives the advantages of welfare service. It would be an anomaly, 
indeed, to have alien prisoners enjoying the benefits of social service 
while their guards were deprived of the means of ordinary recreation 
and spiritual refreshment. 
Limitations Tj^ restrlctions under which the War Prisoners' Aid was com- 

of Service 

pelled to work were rigid in the extreme. Their character was clearly 
expressed in the warning injunction to workers in the camps to re- 
member that everything that was not specifically permitted must be 
regarded as specifically forbidden. Admittance to the camps at all 
was regarded as a great concession on the part of the authorities and 
a jealous eye was kept on the activities in enemy countries in order to 
make sure that exact reciprocity was being observed. The national 
war prisoners' departments showed no disposition to override the 
local officers and so these latter had to be won over in each case. 
The military authorities at first were slow to recognize the necessity 
for the service; they felt they had trouble enough on their hands. 
Later, they welcomed the work as an aid to the maintenance of dis- 
cipline in the camp. Every new proposal had to make its way through 
the interminable corridors of the official structure. The delays were 
exasperating, but any attempt to hurry the delicate negotiations was 
almost sure to result in fresh restrictions. The number of workers 
permitted was fixed by the authorities; the absoluteness of such a 
limitation is obvious. In Germany, for example, thirteen secretaries 
from outside countries was the maximum : there were more than two 
and three-quarter millions of prisoners. In the camp, the secretary 
walked a tight-rope every moment of the time. There is every reason 
to believe that in some cases traps were laid for them deliberately 
in order to test their intentions. The official attitude was a reflection 
of public opinion. The prisoners could not be allowed too good a time, 
hence welfare efforts were to be kept within bounds. In Italy, where 
the population had foresworn amusements during the war, the pris- 


oners' recreation was kept down rigidly. In Germany, the Y M C A 
was never permitted to visit the working camps in the war zone. In 
France, the civilian internment camps of the Department of the In- 
terior were closed to the Association workers. The Y M C A had to 
do what it was permitted to do, exactly so much and no more. 

Having negotiated the official barrier, the welfare worker was 
not yet in clear water. Among the prisoners the official permission 
that he had worked so hard to obtain very frequently made him the 
object of very decided suspicion.^ The secretary who had felt as if he 
were regarded by all officials as a criminal of low origin and mean 
disposition was now suspected as a favorite of those same officials and 
a secret propaganda agent. There lay before him quite a puzzle — to 
convince the prisoners of his sincerity without stirring up new doubts 
in the minds of the authorities. When time was so valuable, it was ex- 
asperating to be compelled to waste it in patiently overcoming base- 
less suspicion on the right hand and on the left; but there was no 
other way. 

From beginning to end, the necessities of reciprocity occasioned 
much delay. Whatever may have been the motives of relief agents 
or welfare workers, the governments granted the privileges not for 
the sake of enemy prisoners but for their own men in enemy hands. 
Reciprocity was the only possible principle of operation. Still the 
strict application of the principle necessitated much additional deli- 
cate negotiation, innumerable postponements, and many artificial 
limitations on the number of secretaries employed and upon the char- 
acter of the work in any particular country. When the total situation 
is considered, it is remarkable that so much headway was made in 
gaining the confidence of the various governments and in securing such 
liberal permits in so many countries. Though an unofficial organi- 
zation, the Y M C A was entrusted with great responsibility and often 
specifically authorized for important tasks. 

The entrance of America into the war had an immediate and Xmepfln* °^ 
serious effect upon the War Prisoners' Aid. Though for the moment ^^'^""p^**^'' 
it appeared as if it might be allowed to maintain its small groups 
of workers undisturbed, the hope faded rapidly. Germany withdrew 
the permits of American secretaries and demanded that neutrals be 
substituted not only in Germany but also in the place of American 

' Like so many other statements regarding such an extensive service, this re- 
quires qualification; sometimes the Y representatives were welcomed with open 



Difficulty in 
Securing Neutral 
in 1917 

Official Staff 

secretaries working with German prisoners in Allied countries. In 
the end, exceptions were made of the two secretaries in general 
charge in each of the Central Powers, and the international rela- 
tionship of the American Y was approved for future service on the ex- 
isting basis. 

It proved an exceedingly difficult task to secure suitable and ac- 
ceptable workers from among the European neutrals, and there was 
much delay before the new arrangements were in working order. 
American support of the work was continued, however, after America 
became a belligerent; and this country received its reward in the 
service to American prisoners which the Y M C A was able to render 
till the end of the campaign. 

Estimate of Success 

In attempting to estimate the success of the work, taking into 
consideration, on the one hand, the vast number of prisoners, their 
wide distribution, their manifold needs, the difficulties inherent in all 
such work in time of war, and on the other hand, the actual accom- 
plishment, it is difficult to decide whether one should be more im- 
pressed by what was done or by what was left undone. It cannot be 
claimed that the Y M C A alone or in cooperation with all the agencies 
at work met the need adequately. As for the work of the Y, it was done 
with varying degrees of success in different countries. Very little was 
accomplished in Turkey and Egypt, at any rate until after the Armis- 
tice. The following chapters will attempt to give some idea of the 
work and of the varying degrees of success. At least something was 
accomplished in practically all of the countries engaged in the war. 
At the height of its development the list included not only England, 
Germany, Austria, France, Italy, and European and Siberian Russia, 
but also Bulgaria, Serbia, and Roumania. Finally this effort on be- 
half of the prisoners reached from prison camps of the United States 
and Canada across Europe and Siberia, south even to Tashkent in 
Turkestan and Ahmadnagar in India and on to Germans in Japan. 

The official staff of the War Prisoners* Aid was strictly limited 
by regulation. At the peak, there were 65 American secretaries sup- 
plemented by a force of office and warehouse workers. These, of 
course, represented the organizing and supervising agents ; the work 
in the camps was placed as far as possible in the hands of the prison- 
ers and organizations of prisoners. The camps were full of men 
eager for work; the Y tried to supply organization, personal sympathy, 


and necessary equipment. While the actual force of secretaries and 
the money available was certainly inadequate for the huge task ;^ yet 
when all the difficulties, physical and moral, are taken into considera- 
tion, one can rightly marvel that so much was accomplished even 
when measured by statistics of camps visited, huts erected, and sup- 
plies furnished. 

As to the value of the service rendered it is more easily estimated o/s™vicr 
on its physical side than on the spiritual. There is abundant testi- 
mony that the huts and the activities they rendered possible made a 
real difference in the life of the camps. In one camp where there were 
huts in three of the four compounds, the commandant appealed for a 
fourth hut, stating that the difference between the one compound 
where the Y was not represented and the others was unbelievable, and 
that the men in this compound were "neurotic and half -mad." The hut 
was often the one warm and comfortable place in the camp, the 
only place where the barbed-wire and its restrictions could be forgot- 
ten, where relief could be obtained from the terrible monotony of 
the barracks, where was light and beauty and comradeship. 

"The hut was the greatest of all boons bestowed on us during the 
whole of our captivity; almost everything beautiful and useful for 
the mind centered in it. 

"In the camps' weary round of daily life the Y M C A hut was 
for very many a veritable oasis where they found much needed rest- 
ful surroundings, an atmosphere of calm and quiet and food for their 
anxious minds." 

Whole books made up of such passages could be quoted from pris- Jj''^^,^^^^'^^ 
oners' letters and reports. Even the very building of the hut made 
a difference. It was at least something to do ; and in the organizing of 
work, planning committees, looking after property, the prisoners 
found saving employment. 

Even where the service was much less elaborate it must not 
be underestimated. A piano, a phonograph, a set of chess men, a 
cup of cocoa — how can their value be measured? When men have 
nothing at all, a very little revolutionizes life. 

"A single mouth-organ," reports a visiting secretary, "reformed 
the whole life of a camp. At the last camp where I presented one 
(a very gloomy set of men to start with) I left behind me the guard 
and prisoners dancing together to the sound of the mouth orgar* sup- 
plemented with pot and pans." 

' See Audited Financial Statement, Appendix III, Exhibit D, p. 538. 




of Service 

The greatest success — apart from religious activities — was real- 
ized in the field of education and handicrafts. The list of subjects 
taught, and seriously studied, is amazing, ranging as it does from 
the most elementary tuition for the totally illiterate to the most ab- 
struse branches of science and philosophy. The most lasting work 
was done in languages, commercial subjects, and other branches that 
were related to the after life of the prisoner. These were least assailed 
by the blighting doubt of value, the suspicion of "futility." The same 
result was attained in those handicrafts that were distinctly "use- 
ful." Prisoners tired of making endlessly inlaid cigaret boxes, but 
not of making boots or furniture. 

Besides these special benefits that can be measured in terms of 
material supplies, there were also the general successes — the "diploma- 
tic triumphs." It meant much that an agent of the Y M C A was per- 
mitted to travel from country to country, inspecting camp prisons, 
representing to each government a wider point of view with regard to 
prisoners, removing misapprehensions, and urging upon all govern- 
ments a policy of reciprocal welfare work rather than of reprisal and 
counter-reprisal. It meant a great deal, too, that there was an organi- 
zation distinctly interested in the prisoners themselves in terms of 
a wider humanitarianism. It remains a record of an impressive at- 
tempt to relieve real suffering. Its final success is to be measured in 
spiritual terms. Its greatest achievement was in the spirit that was 
manifested in real service for the "enemy alien." Huts, books, food 
parcels, were only outward evidences of this. In going over the story 
one is struck most of all by its genuine "disinterestedness" — which 
means, of course, that it was actuated, not by love of glory, or military 
purpose, or personal gain, or nationalistic sentiment, nor, even in war 
time, for the furthering of miliary morale, but by the highest of all 
interests, the love of men. 

The Story of the Prisoners 

It is the present purpose merely to exhibit the leading features 
of the prisoners of war service in the principal belligerent nations of 
Europe. To a great extent the general methods of local work were the 
same in all countries, but here and there they were modified by 
national situations and national policy. Special stress is laid upon 
these modifying elements because they are of vital importance not 
only to an understanding of the welfare effort but also to the compre- 
hension of the real experiences of war prisoners. The work previous 


to the cessation of hostilities is treated geographically ; but, in order 
to avoid repetition, leading problems are discussed only once and 
then in connection with those situations where they appeared in their 
most acute form. The service in internment camps in neutral coun- 
tries and in America and in the camps of India is not treated in de- 
tail. These efforts were extensive and successful but did not contri- 
bute unique features of special significance to the whole undertaking. 
It is sufficient to note that Y service was offered in these various 
centers outside the zone of confiict. 

The War Prisoners' Aid made one very serious effort to set up a pi^^Ks'trated 
separate supply system designed to bring goods from America for the 
canteens in the prison camps. Another agency cooperated in the pre- 
liminary stages of the negotiations and it appeared at first as if this 
promising and much-needed service would be established. But in the 
end the Allies refused to permit the plan to be carried out and the 
scheme was dropped. 

The final stage in the story — after the cessation of hostilities — 
represents a great movement which began in the spring of 1918 and 
lasted till 1921. Since at this point the prisoners for the most part 
ceased to be isolated groups and were caught in the march of external 
events, for the sake of clearness this stage has been treated as a whole.^ 

* All statistical figures presented in Part IV of this book must be regarded as 
more or less accurate estimates, since precise figures are not obtainable. In every 
case the estimates are taken from the records of men actually on the ground. 

in England 


Chapter XLVI 

The prisoners of war were in a rather favorable situation in 
Great Britain. Their numbers were comparatively few, probably 
about 145,000. Housing facilities for such a number presented no 
great difficulty. There was a scarcity of food and materials, but the 
supply never fell to the low level of Germany or of Russia. The 
normal transportation facilities are excellent. Several agencies 
were actively interested in the well-being of prisoners ; and the British 
officials, on the whole, appear to have been desirous of assisting the 
service. The problem was compassable. 

The military prisoners were assembled at first in large camps of 
the same type as was used for soldiers in training. The men were 
housed in wooden huts in groups of from 30 to 60. In general the 
appointments were the same as for the soldiers, and all sanitary and 
other equipment was standard. In fact, several of the camps used 
were abandoned recruit training centers. Seventeen of these camps 
were established.^ There were a number of hospitals in addition. 
When, in 1916, the policy of putting prisoners to work was adopted, 
these large centers became the "parent" camps around which were 
grouped the smaller working units. In January, 1917, there were 18 
working camps, including in all about 3,000 prisoners. The plan was 
rapidly extended : in the autumn of 1917, 90 such camps were in opera- 
tion, and by March, 1918, over 25,000 men were at work in over 200 
groups. A year later there were 600 such units. 

Working camps varied in size from the large construction camps 
of 1,000 to 3,000 men down to the agricultural units of four or five 
men. Some of the small groups were, of course, completely isolated. 
In other cases, they worked almost without any supervision and were 
on the friendliest terms with the people. A visiting Y M C A worker 
was astonished to find in one place that on Sundays the prisoners col- 
lected the young children of a village, took care of them until evening, 
and then escorted them home to their parents. 

' The total number of military prisoners in Great Britain at the time of the 
Armistice was approximately 108,000. 



Civilians were at first interned with the military prisoners. The 
pressure of public opinion compelled the imprisonment of so many 
German-born residents that special provision seemed advisable; and 
a large civilian camp was established at Knockaloe in the Isle of Man. 
Here the majority of the 30,000 non-military prisoners were held. 
However, early in 1916, the British War Office adopted the humane 
policy of removing to the metropolitan area those of the married 
prisoners whose families were within easy reach of London. About 
5,000 men were housed in the Alexandra Palace, a huge, glass-roofed 
exhibition building. It was thus possible for the families of prisoners 
to visit them regularly. 

The general conditions in the British prison camps were unques- Attitude of 
tionably as satisfactory as could be expected. The disposition of the 
commandants and guards is reported by very careful observers as be- 
ing over the whole area uniformly humane, considerate, and liberal. 
There was no doubt a good deal of friction, for neither the prisoners 
nor their guards were perfect men; but such a situation must be 
seen against the background of the conditions of the times — feelings 
of considerate humanity made their way through difficulties that were 
nothing short of appalling. 

Organization and Cooperation 

Sir Arthur Yapp, General Secretary of the English National pe "Fiying 


Council of Young Men's Christian Associations, made very definite 
proposals to the American Y M C A with regard to prisoners of war 
work as early as October, 1914. A preliminary agreement was effected 
when Mr. Hibbard and Dr. Harte were in England in January, 1915. 
The first American worker arrived in May. In July, R. L. Ewing 
landed with the so-called "Flying Squadron" of eleven American war 
workers, and was placed in charge of the war prisoners effort 
under a special committee^ working as a department of the English 
National Council. The English Y M C A at first expected to bear 
a part of the expense of this service, but the state of public opinion 
in Great Britain was such that it was feared that any attempt to raise 
funds for this purpose would not only jeopardize the prisoners of 

* This committee included Sir T. F. Victor Buxton, M. A., J. P. ; the Rt. Rev. 
the Lord Bishop of London; Sir Henry Procter; Rev. F. B. Meyer, D. D.; Vivian 
Young; Rev. John W. Oman, D. D.; W. R. Hughes, of the Friends' Committee; 
Sir Arthur Yapp; Arthur S. Sutton; Ronald D. Rees; Rev. Wm. Paton; the Rt. 
Rev. Bishop Herbert Bury, D. D.; and H. H. Henriod. This list is as of Jan. 
1, 1917. 



war work but also imperil the service in the British Army. In the 
end, America carried the total expense. The English National Coun- 
cil financed all work for the guards. When the prisoners of war 
work was extended to Scotland, the same relationship was established 
with the Scottish National Council. 

The English Y M C A had had a certain access to the camps 
since the beginning of the war and definite work at a few points was 
opened up in the late spring of 1915. It was August of the same 
year, however, before the Association was officially recognized by 
the War Office, thus securing a definite standing. It was of course 
understood that all special activities must be approved by the Com- 
mander-in-Chief of each District. The Rt. Rev. Herbert Bury, Bishop 
of North and Central Europe, was intrusted by the War Office with 
special responsibility for the spiritual welfare of prisoners. Bishop 
Bury assisted the Y M C A in its negotiations with the Government 
and took a place on the Association Committee, thus securing the clos- 
est cooperation in this important phase of work. 
Three _ Among the three active agencies in the field, responsibility was 

Agencies divldcd as follows : the Friends' War Emergency Committee cared for 

families of interned men and promoted arts, handicrafts, and indus- 
trial work; the Prisoners of War Relief Agency headed by Dr. K. E. 
Markel agreed to furnish clothes, tools, musical instruments, and gen- 
eral supplies, to remit money for general or individual distribution, 
to provide ambulance facilities, and to arrange for the sale of goods 
made by prisoners ; the Y M C A was charged with the erection and 
maintenance of huts or other social centers in the camps, the furnish- 
ing of permanent equipment, and the organization of activities within 
the camps. The Association also undertook to supply religious litera- 

Upon the entrance of America into the war in 1917, the American 
Y M C A established in England a very extensive service for troops. 
Mr. Ewing was placed in charge of this organization. The prisoners 
of war work then became a regular department of the American 
enterprise. A cooperating committee headed by William Charles of 
London acted in an advisory capacity.^ 

Civilian Prisoners 

The Y M C A sought admission to the civilian camp at Knockaloe 
in the Isle of Man as soon as it was established. The government of 

' The personnel of this Committee remained, with the addition of Mr. Charles, 
practically the same as before. 


this island has special rights within its own domain ; and though the 
British War Office offered every facility for work at Knockaloe, the 
local authorities refused endorsement. Doubtless a permit could have 
been secured eventually ; but since the Friends' War Emergency Com- 
mittee had entrance to the camp and were willing to assume entire 
responsibility for welfare work there, the question was not pressed. 
The aid given by the Association was limited to the supplying of 
lithographic presses, literature, stereopticon shdes, and other minor 
equipment; the Friends directed an effective service to the end of 
the war. Y M C A service to interned civilians was practically limited 
to the group in the Alexandra Palace, London. 

In this huge exhibition building was gathered a crowd represent- pi^^ce '^'■* 
ing all groups of society, from the humble German waiter in a Soho 
restaurant to the merchant prince ; all professions from the Navy to 
the cubist artist ; all degrees of education, from the absolutely illiterate 
to the holder of a university doctor's degree ; every degree of national 
sympathy from the man who had a son in the British Army to the 
most earnest German patriot. It was a society in miniature held to- 
gether by no spiritual bonds, not even those of nativity, but by the 
implacable barbed wire. It was a society shot through with discon- 
tent and a sense of injustice. Even those who had been interned to 
protect them from mob violence succumbed to the all-pervading senti- 
ment and came to regard themselves as victims of a cruel and un- 
necessary deprivation of liberty. 

Alexandra Palace from the physical point of view was satisfac- 
tory enough ; but the huge glass-roofed building was a cheerless abode, 
mentally depressing to a high degree. 

The story of the building of the hut on the Alexandra Palace JA\e Hut"*' 
grounds reads like romance. At first the prisoners refused to help. 
They were sullen and suspicious, thinking that this was yet another 
attempt to propagandize them in the Allied interest. Even when the 
disinterestedness of the Y was demonstrated, the work proceeded 
slowly because of the constant bickering of men whose nerves were 
raw. But gradually enthusiasm was kindled and the doing of con- 
structive work in the common interest utterly changed the spirit of 
the camp. The plans were drawn up by a former vaudeville artist 
who showed no small genius in architecture and whose ingenious de- 
vices for the overcoming of difficulties were the admiration of all who 
saw the completed building. The whole building was a wonderful 
series of makeshifts and compromises. But the men worked with a 


will and at last the hall was opened. This building has been described 
by its builders as "the brain and heart of the camp." Such indeed 
it soon became. It differed from all the other huts in that it was built 
on a steel frame with walls of hollow tile. It was carefully designed 
to meet the various needs of the composite population and to embrace 
every phase of their life. All the artistic talent of the camp was em- 
ployed in beautifying it and all the Y could do was freely done to make 
its equipment comfortable and complete. It contained a billiard room 
and library, a good gymnasium, a number of class rooms, a theater 
capable of accommodating six or seven hundred, a splendidly equipped 
handicraft room, fitted with full equipment for metal-working, shoe- 
making, wood-work, and a variety of other trades. During the 
winter it was the only warm and cheerful place in the whole camp, and 
on rainy days, during the hours when the men were unable to use the 
dormitories, it was the only sheltered spot where they could congre- 
gate. At such times, commodious as it was, every inch of space was 
filled. Here the orchestra performed, here were held Protestant, 
Roman Catholic, and Jewish religious services, rendered the more 
impressive by the music of an excellent organ. The school had its 
home here. The well-appointed class rooms and carefully chosen ref- 
erence library made possible a great expansion of educational work. 
Classes were held in English, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, 
Hebrew, Arabic, Esperanto, Ancient Greek, Latin, shorthand, book- 
keeping, hotel accounting and management, economics, painting, 
sculpture ; and lectures were delivered to appreciative audiences on an 
amazing range of subjects. In the handicrafts section book-binding, 
shoe-making, tailoring, theoretical and practical engraving and metal- 
work, truck-making, and general design were taught. The shoe- 
repairing class alone would have made the effort worth while. It can 
be imagined what a relief it must have been to these captives whose 
wives and children were often in circumstances of destitution, to have 
this opportunity of assisting their families. It made them feel that 
they were not entirely helpless and they found the only real joy of their 
prison life in making shoes for their wives or repairing the boots of 
their children ; indeed many of the little ones must have gone insuffi- 
ciently shod had it not been for these facilities. Then too, many of the 
prisoners learned new trades to fit them for new conditions after their 
release, and the poorer prisoners earned a little money by making 
clothes and other necessaries for their richer fellows, an economic 
interchange which humanized their relationships. 


The management of the hut was in the hands of a central com- J^^^^"^™^*^^ 
mittee with a number of sub-committees to supervise the various 
branches of activity. Material furnished to individuals was paid for 
at cost. The current expenses, such as payments for cleaning and 
minor repairs, were met from the receipts from the billiard table, and 
out of the money thus collected a contribution of £40 was given to the 
American Y M C A. 

What this hut meant to the community at Alexandra Palace may 
be seen from the following quotation from the report of the chairman 
of Central Committee: 

"If this survey of the activities which the hut enabled us to carry 
on is of necessity incomplete, it will nevertheless convey some idea 
of the benefits conferred upon this camp by the Y M C A to whose 
great good work, large-minded policy, well directed generosity, excel- 
lence of practical help, planning and general disposition, no better 
testimonial could be given than is furnished by the unfeigned grati- 
tude of every inmate of the camp, and by the sincerity of the regret 
with which all of them will learn that the hospitable doors of the 
Y M C A will be closed. . . . Everything in and about the hut 
inspired to render the religious services more helpful, to give them a 
more devotional character than was possible within the camp itself. 
The religious life of the camp was maintained by these means, as was, 
on the other hand, the intellectual life strengthened and refreshed. . . 
Whoever has been enabled to witness the joy of wives and children 
at finding themselves united with their husbands and fathers under 
conditions approaching those of the home, will share our feeling of 
gratitude to the Y M C A for the comfort and solace, the brightness 
and beneficent relaxation, that they, by and through the good work 
done in this camp, brought into our very hearts." 

The Military Prison Camps 

Alexandra Palace was in a favorable situation as regards wel- 
fare work. It was within easy reach of the central office, there was 
no difficult problem of transportation; and during the whole period 
of internment the population remained relatively permanent. The 
ideal of service there set up could not be realized in the military camps 
scattered over the whole country. 

The Association program called for the establishment of a social ^he^^.^^.^^ 
center in every large camp and the supplying of equipment to the Program 
smaller points. The social center, in charge of a local committee, was 
the rallying point for all activities. Y secretaries were to visit the 
camps regularly to assist in organization, to encourage the workers, to 
make the necessary arrangements for the forwarding of equipment, 



The Social 


The Prisoners' 



and to render such personal services as time and opportunity per- 
mitted. The headquarters office in London, in addition to its duties 
of general supervision and service of supply, kept in touch vi^ith the 
various cooperating agencies and held itself ready to perform the 
supplementary services for which there was such a persistent demand. 

In some camps the commandant set aside a part of an existing 
building or even an entire building for welfare purposes; and the 
Y M C A supplied the decorations, pictures, partitions, or whatever 
else was necessary to transform the bare rooms into a cozy and home- 
like hall fitted for education and recreation.^ This was the most 
economical solution of the problem of providing a social center but by 
no means the most satisfactory. Permanency could not be assured, 
for at any time a new influx of prisoners might make it necessary 
to use such quarters for prison purposes. Further, such halls were 
too much like the rest of the camp and were never "owned" by the 
prisoners as their special place. Such an arrangement was better 
than nothing but certainly could never be entirely satisfactory. 

In the other camps, where such facilities were not obtainable, the 
Association built its own huts. At the beginning of the work, the 
policy was adopted of building only in camps where the men were will- 
ing to donate the necessary labor in erection. There was little .difli- 
culty in obtaining such labor. The prisoners were only too glad to 
work. Thus the building of the hut became a real part of the service 
even before it was ever opened for use. Attention was thus focussed 
on community problems and the camp was united in a constructive 
enterprise. Huts so built became in a peculiar sense the men's 
own ; interest was stimulated, and much latent talent brought to light. 
Usually the prisoners were told how much money could be spent and 
they cooperated joyfully in seeing that the best possible value was 
obtained for the money. At Shrewsbury, for instance, where only 
rough lumber was supplied, every board was smoothed down with 
small handplanes in order that the result might be as beautiful as 

Six huts were built during the first year of the work and by the 
end of 1916, six others were either completed or nearing completion. 
In all, thirteen huts were provided at costs ranging from £150 to 

*It is indicative of the growth of official recognition both of prisoners' needs 
and of the usefulness of the welfare service that when, in 1916, the largest camp, 
Oswestry, was planned, the commandant arranged for five social huts, and asked 
the aid of the Y M C A in equipping them and in furnishing the services of a 
visiting secretary. 


£1,700. In addition eight converted barracks and two small rooms 
were fitted up. 

The huts at Stobs, in Scotland, at Feltham, and in Jersey in the J^^^jn^i^i 
Channel Islands were nearly as fine as that at Alexandra Palace. The centers 
Jersey hut was handsomely decorated and well-adapted to the purposes 
of community life. At Feltham, Slavs, Poles, Danes, and prisoners 
from other border states were living under a regime de faveur. Men 
of ten different nationalities joined in the building. In this place, 
where there were so many small national groups separated by sus- 
picion, the Association was the only unifying element ; and it was in 
recognition of this that a Dane placed over the door an oak tablet 
inscribed in golden letters with the words of the Apostle Paul: 

"God hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on 
all the face of the earth." Acts 17 :26. 

There was some type of Y building in each of the principal 
camps, which in every case was fully utilized. 

The chief item in the operating cost was heat and light. Coal was 
scarce toward the end of the war, and the prison camp supply was 
cut with all the rest; but the Y M C A succeeded in securing fuel for 
its own huts, and through the damp and cheerless English winter 
the hut was the only warm place in the whole camp. The appreciation 
of the prisoners has been expressed in endles testimonies, but one 
prisoner summed it all up : "The hut was the centralization point for 
all our other-than-animal doings." 

The several agencies in the field cooperated in supplying the 
large camps and the smaller posts with equipment for recreation and 
education, for handicraft and religious exercises, and with all the 
minor necessities of life. 

The Y M C A, in the furtherance of the policy of building up the The camp.^^ 
internal social structure of the camps, very naturally sought to estab- 
lish a contact with the more serious-minded group in every instance. 
As a rule the first point of contact was with those who were pro- 
fessedly Christian. The deeply religious men actually bore the priva- 
tions of the life better than others. The War Prisoners' Aid was a 
rallying point for such and enabled them to exert a real influence. 
The encouragement of sharing the enterprise of a world-wide organ- 
ization of Christian young men gave them heart and courage, and 
made clear that religion was interpreted by some men in the world 
as something more than pietism and sentimentality. The skeptical 






learned something of a faith that expressed itself in disinterested 
service. The material equipment was offered as expression of the 
Christian spirit and the non-religious man could see the import of 
such a demonstration. On the other hand, contact with the program 
had a broadening influence on the very earnest but sometimes narrow 
German evangelical, who came to see that even material instruments 
may be used for the service of God. 

This must not be interpreted to mean that the direction of the 
huts was ever in the hands solely of professed Christians. The policy 
was Christian and liberal. Every man — Protestant, Roman Catholic, 
Jew, or non-religious — was welcomed as an aid as long as he had 
community interests at heart. There was throughout an endeavor 
to avoid all hampering restrictions, and to allow the fullest liberty 
so long as it did not degenerate into license. It must be said to 
the credit of the men who directed the organizations in the camps 
that there is no recorded instance of any abuse of privilege. There 
was no gambling within the huts, no obscenity, and the entertain- 
ments were usually on a high level. 

Prison Camp Activities 

It is not hard to suggest a group of activities that will fill up a few 
idle hours. The prison camp problem was, however, something very 
different from this. Provision had to be made both for a man's work 
and for his play, for his whole life, with a clear understanding of the 
fact that that life was going its artificial round within the barbed 
wire for an indefinite period. Checkers and a football are allies of 
health and sanity in the case of men in confinement, but it does not 
require much imagination to perceive that a checkerboard after six 
months might come to be a loathsome sight and that the football 
might in the end stir up only an ardent desire to kick it over the barrier 
once and for all. Plans for all activities had to take into account 
two active enemies — the sense of monotony and the sense of futility. 
The victory did not in every case rest with the well-wishers of the 

The lack of articles for recreation and daily convenience probably 
supplied the first impulse toward handicraft in the camps. At Shrews- 
bury, for example, before the Association appeared, the men begged 
from the commandant an old cart-wheel. With the aid of various 
odds and ends they constructed a rough lathe, and produced chessmen. 
In another camp, eager music students constructed a practice clavier. 


Their success encouraged them to proceed with the more ambitious 
scheme of constructing a spinet. Given time such determined men 
might have recapitulated the evolution of the piano and produced a 
baby grand; the Association eventually paid the larger part of the 
rent on about 60 pianos for the various camps. 

The welfare agencies were prompt in recognizing the need for 
tools, and handicrafts were encouraged everywhere. Not only were 
ordinary tools supplied, but artists' materials, hthographic presses, 
and other equipment which was of the greatest social value in the en- 
campments. There was thus opened up, also, the possibility of artistic 
creation in addition to the production of daily necessities. At Knock- 
aloe, one particularly excellent feature was introduced. The Friends 
supplied standard designs and the materials for "knock-down" furni- 
ture and paid the prisoners for their work. This furniture was then 
sent out to France to be used in connection with the Friends' recon- 
struction work. All sorts of handicraft were encouraged by exhibi- 
tions, and every attempt was made to find a market for prisoners' 
products. The possibilities of sale were limited but a considerable 
result was accomplished. 

Recreational activities were, of course, promoted on a large ^«'"«*"o° 
scale. Quiet games and outdoor sports were encouraged everywhere. 
Athletic contests were organized to give point to the activities; and 
there are many former prisoners who hold diplomas of merit, designed 
by their fellow-prisoners and printed in the camp on lithographic 
presses, which record their prowess in the field. Gymnastic equipment 
was supplied to all points even to the smaller camps. Naturally the 
faithful phonograph served on all occasions, supported at times by 
the stereopticon and the moving pictures. Theatrical entertainments 
and concerts f ocussed the interest of the camps in a remarkable way, 
and every means was used to facilitate such activities. All that was 
required in this field was equipment and encouragement. 

The most remarkable feature of the whole story was the intense Education 
enthusiasm for education. This enthusiasm is easily understood; 
because, of all the prisoners' activities, this was the only one not 
damned from the outset by the sense of transitoriness and futility. 
In the civilian camp of Lof thouse Park, and afterwards at the Alexan- 
dra Palace, there was an approximation to a complete university 
curriculum. There were even laboratories for natural science studies. 
In the military camps, where there were fewer competent teachers 
and not so many naturally interested in intellectual pursuits, the edu- 



cational scheme was not quite so ambitious, though at Stobs and Jer- 
sey there were schools of almost as wide a scope as in the civilian 
camps. But in all the camps the range of subjects was remarkable 
and the interest aroused almost beyond belief. Handf orth, although 
it was a small camp and the Y was able to equip only one small room 
for school purposes, held 61 classes, taught by 35 men, with a total en- 
rollment of 1,950 students, almost equally divided between elementary 
grammar school subjects, modern languages, technical subjects, and 
the cultural fields. During the year lectures were given in the camps 
on every topic of human interest. Here again, the Association aided 
by supplying text books and placing stereopticons in fourteen camps 
and in arranging the exchange of lantern slides. Without this help 
many of the lectures could not have been given. 
The University The serious character of this educational activity — especially in 

Extension , . , _ 

Scheme the first half of the war — cannot be over-emphasized. It meant that 

much waste time was redeemed. Something was done which should 
bear fruit in after life. A large percentage of the men gained some 
new vision. In addition to the general work done there was one 
special phase that was particularly fruitful, the service of the Y in 
bringing the more advanced and earnest students into contact with 
English university professors who undertook voluntarily the work 
of guiding their studies. Largely under the inspiration of Dr. John 
Oman of Cambridge, the University Extension Scheme was inaugur- 
ated at the close of 1916. The Y acted as agent in seeking out students, 
finding sympathetic teachers, in the interchange of correspondence, 
and in the purchase of text-books where needed; in all 150 students 
were enabled to continue their researches with the help of 75 pro- 

Religion Rcligious work was conducted through a variety of agencies. 

For a time local German pastors were permitted to visit the camps, but 
this permission was later withdrawn. Under the direction of Bishop 
Bury a group of volunteer ministers rendered valuable service. Two 
of the Bishop's own staff were numbered among the visiting secretar- 
ies, and they held services and ministered to the sick in the hospitals. 
The traveling expenses of 35 Catholic priests were paid by the Asso- 
ciation to make possible more regular ministration to Catholics. A 
chief Rabbi was appointed to further the spiritual interest of the Jew- 
ish group; the Association stood ready to defray the expenses of 
visiting rabbis, but the number of Jews in the camps was so small 
that no special assistance was required. The Association as such 


undertook no direct responsibility for church services, though it co- 
operated in every possible manner and of course offered the facilities 
of the huts for services of all kinds. It confined its specific religious 
efforts to its own peculiar field, the organization of Bible study groups 
and the circulation of religious literature. 

Changing Conditions 

This summary account of huts and of activities all too readily 
gives the impression that the War Prisoners' Aid in England was 
engaged in meeting a static situation and in unraveling its difficulties 
one by one. The problem faced by the workers was not only com- 
plex but varying; from the very beginning its character changed 
month by month. It was not possible to put so much away every quar- 
ter and mark it: "Finished." 

The first period of the work was distinguished by the efforts {j>.jt*a^^.^^ 
of the staff to resolve the doubts of commandants and the suspicions 
of the prisoners, and to set up the camp organizations on a firm basis. 
The difficulties in this stage varied greatly according to the camp in- 
volved, but they were very serious. The staff consisted of only about 
half a dozen American secretaries aided by English volunteers. The 
conditions were entirely new to them, the country was strange, their 
resources were not unlimited. They came, however, to be trusted 
by both the authorities and the prisoners and to represent in the local 
committees a fairly efficient organization. 

It is not diflScult to understand the first enthusiasm of the prison- 
ers for the activities promoted by the War Prisoners' Aid and by the 
Friends. Once their suspicion had been allayed, they welcomed any- 
thing that would help them out of their earlier stagnation. The spread 
of the "barbed-wire disease," however, may be slow but it is none the 
less sure. The life was unnatural, confinement is not good for the 
normal man ; and when their first energy was spent, they had to face 
the strong temptation to succumb to the pressure of circumstance. 
The increasing personal sensitiveness resulted in irritability and self- 
isolation and frequently passed over into that apathy whose slogan 
was, "What's the use?" In the second lap, men fought hand to hand 
with the wild beasts of discouragement and despair. 

External conditions now entered to modify the situation. The 
establishment of the working camps in 1916 opened up a new phase 
of the prisoners' experience. The personnel of all the camps changed 
from week to week and an increasing number of men were sent out 


on the working detachments. The first months of the new policy left 
the parent camps disorganized and made continuous effort of any 
kind very difficult, even though the actual number of men drawn 
off was not large. The early enthusiasm for education dwindled 
rapidly ; it was maintained at certain points only by the most patient 
labor. There is little doubt that putting the prisoners to work was 
on the whole a very good thing for them. The hours of work reestab- 
lished a wholesome routine, which is the normal condition for most 
men. But the scattered groups could not be cared for as they were 
in the main camps. They were housed in schools, storehouses, old 
factories, breweries, distilleries, poorhouses, and asylums. When their 
day's work was done they returned to their dreary quarters and to 
each other's enforced company, and there were empty hours to pass 
over before the time of sleep. They were free of the barbed wire, 
a great blessing ; but they were still prisoners and they were cut off 
from the recreation and education of the parent camps. New means 
of service were needed and the special recreation chests were devised 
containing a phonograph and records, a few books, and games. The 
secretaries were provided with Ford vans carrying supplies and a 
portable moving picture machine. An exchange of records and books 
was arranged. The number of camps grew so rapidly that each 
visitor was responsible for from 40 to 90 working points. His visits 
were brief, but in every case he endeavored to deliver goods and to 
render such personal service as lay in his power both to the prisoners 
and to their guards. The ideal aimed at was one visit a month to 
each detachment but even this moderate aim could never be attained. 
The force and the resources were too small. 
Removal of Thcn, in the summer of 1917, came the German demand for the 

American „ . .... 

Helpers removal of all Americans from direct contact with the prisoners. 

The Americans were removed and the work was halted everywhere. 
The replacement took time, the local experience of the American work- 
ers was lost, and much of the hard-won gain was swept away. The 
value of supervision now became plainly evident; for, as the en- 
couraging visits of the workers failed, activities dwindled in every 
direction. Only in places like Alexandra Palace where the popula- 
tion was constant, the organization highly developed, and a certain 
amount of regular assistance still available, did the prisoners keep up 
their regular industrial, educational, and recreational features. The 
waning of the effectiveness of the educational program was particu- 
larly deplorable, because in it lay the chief possibility of making 


the camp experience productive of real benefit. Here and there, de- 
termined men kept their courage and continued the classes; but the 
scattering of the working parties, the deepening gloom, and the with- 
drawal of the visitors played havoc with the school idea. The new 
neutral secretaries came in one at a time, and some of the lost ground 
was recovered ; but it was never possible to regain the position of the 
spring of 1917. 

The disorganized condition continued up to the Armistice when 
there opened a new phase of experience to be recounted in its proper 

Chapter XLVII 


From the beginning the French pursued a very definite policy 
with regard to prisoners of war. Acting in accordance with the long 
established practice approved by the Hague Convention, this thrifty 
people put to work all military prisoners except such as were by gen- 
eral agreement exempt, and certain groups to whom it was desired 
to show special favor. The details of the prisoners of war organiza- 
tion are of little concern for the present purpose. The essential point 
is that each general commanding one of the eighteen regions of the 
country was authorized to make labor contracts with government de- 
partments or with private employers. The War Department received 
1.37 francs per day for the maintenance of each man ; and the prison- 
ers were paid in addition from 20 to 40 centimes for the day's work. 
Frequently, when the service was good, the private employers were 
more generous. For the most part, then, the prisoners of war 
in France were organized as a great working force. 

The Camps and Their Inhabitants 

There were in France at the end of the war probably over 400,000 
prisoners. There were organized about 90 permanent camps. The 
working parties served in mines and stone quarries and forests, on 
railroads and docks, on farms and in gardens. A certain number 
were retained in the central depots, but the majority were out with 
the large parties engaged on one of the big jobs or were scattered 
over the countryside in small groups. Officers, both commissioned 
and non-commissioned, and prisoners selected for a regime de faveur 
were held at central camps. 
Prfs^er]^'''^ The Hvlng conditions of workers were usually fairly satisfactory. 

They were housed in barracks, factories, arsenals, and in some cases 
in camps specially erected for the purpose. The official instructions 
to commandants specifically forbade the housing of prisoners in dark 
or damp rooms and generally urged great care in securing wholesome 
conditions. With very few exceptions these mandates were observed. 
The food provided for working prisoners was usually plentiful and 
good even if the diet sometimes proved monotonous; usually those 



on the farms fared very well. Working parties were exempt from 
the operation of food reprisals. 

The regular routine, the freedom from the encircling barbed 
wire, the better health resulting from the physical exercise, all had a 
salutary effect upon the mental state of the prisoner. His ideal was 
to be drafted with a few comrades to some farm, where the food was 
good and the sentry's bayonet less in evidence than elsewhere. It 
is quite evident that a man who from the beginning of his imprison- 
ment worked steadily in field or garden must have been spared much 
of the depression of the prisoner of war experience. 

The administration of the prisoners was almost uniformly hu- J^™?j^;3t^^tij,j, 
mane and wise. The exceptional cases were the result of individual 
temperament. Occasionally harsh punishments were imposed ; but it 
is fair to say that in many cases the discipline was too lenient to suit 
many of the German non-commissioned camp captains. The Y M C A 
records contain many requests from commandants indicating a rather 
extraordinary degree of personal interest in the true welfare of the 
alien enemy. In considering the attitude of camp administrators, of- 
ficial reprisals must be ignored ; these acts of retaliation do not spring 
from personal animosity but from the imagined necessities of a com- 
plex situation. 

The scattering of prisoners in working parties among the civilians 
of France tended to produce two results quite different in character. 
The civil population, since it saw so much of the prisoners, realized the 
prisoner problem concretely. People were bound to give thought to 
it under the circumstances. There was the enemy alien — the man 
who was killing the sons of France, who had perpetrated the German 
atrocities. It was necessary for the military officials to study public 
opinion with much greater care than would have been the case had 
these men been shut away from view in concentration camps. Partic- 
ularly those who saw the prisoners without coming into direct con- 
tact with them were liable to create trouble. 

On the other hand, the people for whom the prisoners worked ^'^^iJ^^j*^ 
almost always rose to a real sympathy with the unfortunate condition 
of men in the state of imprisonment. One little story sums it all up.^ 
A French woman, watching German prisoners at work, is reported 
to have made some very vigorous remarks concerning the "German 
beast." She added : "They all ought to be shot ; anyone ought to be 
ashamed to employ them." As the prisoners worked away at their 

' Recounted by D. A. Davis in a letter, November 15, 1916. 


threshing, she made the further observation that "they work just 
like our boys." One strong young prisoner, carrying heavy sacks of 
grain, attracted her attention. At last she cried : "The poor fellow ! 
What heavy bags he lifts ! See how hot and tired he is ! I am going 
to get him some water!" 

Food packages, money, and clothing came through from Ger- 
many and other countries in the customary manner and the French 
permitted the establishment of cooperative canteens in the prison 
camps. Medical arrangements were thoroughly adequate. 

As far as the German prisoners were concerned, France had 
only a straightforward problem; but there were several other ele- 
ments that served to complicate the situation. 

There were the Austro-Hungarian prisoners. These men had 
come through a harrowing experience. Most of them had been cap- 
tured by the Serbs and had shared the disastrous retreat through 
Albania. At first, there were 65,000 of them; but disease, starvation, 
and accident had reduced their number to about 20,000 by the time 
they had arrived in Italy. Many in a state of utter exhaustion had 
been killed by falling over precipices. The remnant was transferred 
to France after a time in the hope that they might be rehabilitated 
there. This body of men was a hopeless mixture of races : there were 
Germans and Magyars, loyal to the cause of the Central Powers, and in 
opposition to them Poles, Serbs, Slovaks, Roumanians, Croatians, 
Dalmatians, Czechs, and numbers of other small national groups un- 
willingly forced into the war. 

The French instituted a regime de faveur for these Austro-Hun- 
garians opposed to Germany and for Danes from Slesvig, men from 
Alsace-Lorraine, and the Bulgarians. They were placed in special 
camps or in separate barracks in camps where others were held. 
Though these favored groups were well off as far as the material con- 
ditions of their life were concerned, they passed through a very hard 
experience. They were abandoned by their own governments and 
so received neither food nor clothing from home. As long as they were 
in camps with Germans or Magyars, they suffered from secret persecu- 
tion. The Czechs were never put in separate camps; perhaps this 
partly accounts for their earnest desire to be permitted to bear arms 
with the French. The favored prisoners were mainly peasants with 
few intellectual and spiritual resources and little leadership. Though 
they received the best of care and were free from all measures of re- 
prisal, they were a lonely, miserable lot. Their conditions stirred the 


sympathies of their guards to the depths ; one of the officers, appealing 
to the Y M C A, said : "What I ask for them is that someone should 
take an interest in them. The smallest attention will make them 

Further to add to the complications, about 20,000 of the men Russians 
of the Russian Expeditionary Forces in France refused to fight after 
the peace between Germany and Russia had been concluded. These 
men — to their own surprise, no doubt — were very promptly interned. 
Their numbers were later augmented by over 45,000 Russians released 
from the prisons in the Rhineland. They were particularly unfortu- 
nate. Their action brought universal contempt down upon their heads. 
The civilian population scorned them and their guards had no patience 
with "such cowards." It could not have been otherwise ; this was an- 
other aspect of the tragedy of Russia. The Russians could not under- 
stand the reasons for the harsh attitude taken toward them; they 
suflTered pitiably through a colossal mischance.^ 

To complete the list of prisoners in France, there must be added 
the Turks, held with most of the Bulgarians in Corsica, and the two 
bodies of prisoners guarded by the British and American Armies in 
France. It was a very complex situation and taxed the wisdom and 
judgment of the French authorities to the full. 

There were two types of civilian camps in France. The first ^^^cmiiM 
type provided for the internment of old men, women, and children 
who happened to be in the country at the outbreak of the war. These 
camps were under the direction of the Ministry of the Interior. In 
the second type were imprisoned men of military age, the greater 
number of whom had been taken from ships on which they were en- 
deavoring to return to Germany from America. These were super- 
vised by the War Department. It is hardly necessary to comment in 
detail on these situations ; they partook of the same general character 
as did all civilian camps. The inclusion of the old and very young of 
both sexes had, of course, a distinct effect on camp life, making it 
at once more difficult and yet in a certain sense happier. The intern- 
ment of civilians was an unfortunate necessity. 

The Problems of Welfare Organization 

The French Government was at the outset somewhat reluctant to 
extend privileges to the War Prisoners' Aid. The tentative promises 
made to C. V. Hibbard in the early spring of 1915 remained in the air 

' Consult Chapter LIL 


for many months. In the opinion of the officials, prisoners in France 
were well situated and really required no further services. There was 
some disposition to avoid the reciprocity issue and to suggest that if 
Germany did permit Association work for French prisoners it was 
no more than a just atonement for her many sins of commission. 
French priests and pastors were permitted to enter the camps to con- 
duct religious services and the delegates of the American Embassy 
had free access to the field. It did not at first appear wise to extend 
any further privileges. 

The Y.M c A I^ May, 1915, the Y M C A was granted special permission to 

distribute books and games without the privilege of visitation. Mean- 
while, work had begun in Germany ; and there entered the situation the 
usual decisive element. All permits to visit French prisoners in Ger- 
many were to be withdrawn if similar permits were not forthcom- 
ing in France. Darius A. Davis, formerly Y M C A secretary in Con- 
stantinople, assumed direction of the work in France in July, 1915; 
and upon him fell the task of continuing the negotiations with skilled 
and courteous but highly elusive French officials. By the autumn the 
various difficulties were gradually worked through and permits were 
issued to Y M C A secretaries by the War Department under the 
authority of General Verand, head of the war prisoners' department.^ 
Of course, all such visits were made under the general supervision 
of the general commanding the region and with the permission of the 
local commandant. 

The Swiss As the system of exchange of invalids to Switzerland was devel- 

Red Cross "^ 

oped, the medical and religious commissions of the Swiss Red Cross 
were granted the right of entry. 

The general treatment of the prisoners and the efforts of relief 
agencies like the Swiss Red Cross largely relieved the Association of 
any necessity for providing for physical wants and left it free to de- 
vote its energies to the organization of the intellectual, social, and 
religious life of the prisoners. 

Mr. Davis, who supervised the work in both France and Italy, 
was in direct charge of prisoners of war work in France until he trans- 
ferred his efforts to French Army service in 1916. He was succeeded 
by Alfred Lowry. The American secretarial staff was small ; it varied 
from two or three to ten or eleven men steadily at work.^ On Amer- 

' Inspection Generale des Prisonniers de Guerre. 

' The language problem presented great diflficulties in France, as elsewhere on 
the continent of Europe, for American workers. 


ica's entrance into the war, about a dozen neutral workers were se- 
cured to fill the place of the retiring Americans. 

The French authorities came to place full confidence in the 
Y M C A and to appreciate fully the value of welfare service. They 
made many requests of the organization for specific pieces of work. 
The American Embassy continued at all times to assist the Association 
both in its official negotiations and in the actual work. 

Welfare Work Among the German Prisoners 

The camps of the commissioned officers required little assistance ^fml"' 
from the Y. The prisoners were well supplied with money and, being 
mostly educated men, were able to look after themselves in most 
cases. Such service as was offered them was of an incidental character. 
They were visited by secretaries from time to time as the most urgent 
needs of the camps of privates permitted. 

The Y M C A shared in one experience that v/as very interesting 
and which indicated clearly the far-reaching influence of certain 
seemingly unimportant incidents. The officers' camp at Fort Chateau- 
neuf acquired, by what means is not known, a very bad name in Ger- 
many. Its existence was regarded as just ground for reprisals against 
French ofl!icers in several camps in Germany. The American Ambas- 
sador sent two officials to investigate ; they found the conditions ex- 
cellent and secured a statement to this effect from the ranking officer 
among the prisoners. In this statement the writer requested a con- 
cession regarding exercise and a social hall. Realizing fully the nec- 
essity of leaving no possible excuse for reprisals, the American Em- 
bassy asked the Y M C A to provide a hut. A fully equipped bar- 
rack for recreational purposes was promptly erected by the Asso- 
ciation. It was of great service to the German prisoners ; it was of 
even greater service to the French prisoners in Germany. 

The non-commissioned officers were exempt from work, but some ^J^^^"^"*^***"*^ 
preferred labor to a life of inactivity and volunteered for service. 
For the most part, the non-commissioned officers were placed in camps 
with the rank and file, but one group of about 600 was confined on the 
island of St. Martin de Re. As it happened over 70 per cent of this 
group were students, teachers, and professional men. Acting on the 
hint of the Y M C A, they organized their activities and set up a good 
educational system. These prisoners asked the Association for a hut 
in order that they might extend their educational work, and the com- 
mandant warmly seconded their request in a letter pointing out the 



unique opportunity afforded by "this group of six or seven hundred 
intellectuals." The hut was erected. 

The main effort was exerted, of course, in aid of the really needy, 
the privates in the working camps. These groups were scattered over 
the length and breadth of the land, from the English Channel to the 
island of Corsica in the Mediterranean and from the western ports to 
the borders of Switzerland ; and it was necessary to plan all work in 
view of this peculiar situation. There were no large concentration 
camps as in England and Germany, and from the first the small de- 
tachments were seen everywhere. With its limited resources, the 
War Prisoners' Aid could not possibly expect to cover the whole field 
with systematic visitation. 

A first step taken was the sending of communications to all camps 
suggesting the possibilities of organization within the barbed wire. 
Naturally the response to such a suggestion was not uniformly vigor- 
ous action throughout the length and breadth of France, but the seed 
fell here and there upon fruitful ground. We have already noted that 
intelligent prisoners frequently organized before any outside help 
reached them ; in many cases, the letter from the Association or the 
visit of a secretary was quite sufficient to set the internal forces in 
motion. The workers supplemented the written suggestions with as 
many visits as so few could possibly make. The extent of the visita- 
tion was a mere question of arithmetic : in a field of 90 parent depots 
and many hundreds of working detachments, a dozen workers — and 
this was a maximum not reached for many months after the work 
was inaugurated — could only touch the high spots. 

It was possible to help much with the materials for welfare work 
without visitation. The World's Committee in Geneva worked out 
a very effective scheme of circulating libraries for France, the Amer- 
ican Y providing the money necessary to carry out the plan. By 1918, 
there were 1,600 boxes containing in all 45,000 volumes constantly 
in use. The prisoners of war magazine. The Messenger, was very 
widely distributed. As the work developed, a systematic arrangement 
for the distribution of supplies was inaugurated. Letters were sent 
to the camps offering to supply five classes of material: (1) musical 
instruments (other than brass) ; (2) sheet music; (3) text-books for 
study classes; (4) books for Protestant, Roman Catholic, or Jewish 
religious services; (5) games (lotto, halma, checkers, chess, foot- 
balls, volley-balls) . Attention was called to the libraries, and special 
reference was made to the willingness of the Y also to send games and 


books to the guards. Requests from the camps included many other 
articles which the Association furnished as promptly as possible. One 
of the chief duties of visiting workers was to make purchases for the 
prisoners of everything from actors' wigs to altars for religious ser- 
vices. The requests from the camps came into the Paris Headquar- 
ters at the rate of more than a hundred a month. In order to prevent 
fraud, it was found necessary to have all requests countersigned by 
a special camp committee. There is recorded a rather amusing case 
where the Camp Committee withheld an illustrated French Dictionary 
from the illiterate man who had requested it because it was obvious 
that he proposed to auction off the attractive volume. 

The Y hut appeared also in the prison camps of France. In all JcStuL 
the War Prisoners' Aid erected and furnished fifteen buildings, all 
of the regular French barrack type designed by General Adrian, who 
freely gave permission to use his plans. Their dimensions were 85 
feet by 23 feet and they cost about $2,000 each. In two other camps, 
the authorities furnished barrack buildings for recreational purposes, 
and in six centers rooms were assigned. The Y M C A assisted in 
equipping, furnishing, and decorating these quarters. Thus out of 70 
main depots of German prisoners, 23 were provided with social cen- 
ters. The need for a social center varied in different places depend- 
ing upon the character of the working arrangements. In those places 
where the men were not at contract labor, the hut was particularly 
appreciated and the prisoners spent much time in equipping and dec- 
orating it. These quarters were, of course, available for all recrea- 
tional purposes; and religious services of all types were held within 
their walls. 

The visitation work of the Association was of necessity limited 
but effective. It must be remembered that the camps were also visited 
by the local pastors and priests, by the delegates of the American Em- 
bassy, and by the commissioners of the Swiss Red Cross. These 
visitors were always ready to transmit requests and to render any 
personal service within their power. The Y M C A endeavored to 
facilitate the work of the pastors and priests by every means in its 

Sufficient description has already been given of typical activities Tii^Pro^^am 
in the prison camps. These were promoted in France. Religious ser- Activities 
vices and recreational features can be fitted in anywhere and their 
value was demonstrated as fully in France as in any other region of 
work. The long lists of musical instruments supplied on request sug- 




The American 
Prison Camps 
in France 

gest the central place of this form of recreation in the life of German 
prisoners. It was unquestionably, here as elsewhere, a feature of 
incalculable value in prison camps. It was a great thing for the per- 
formers and, in addition, created an interest for practically the entire 
personnel of the camp. German prisoners found an outlet for their 
energies in artistic and handicraft work, in which a large number 
of them were skilled ; but, of course, there was less need for regularly 
organized efforts in this line in working camps. The day was a busy 
one for the laborers, and arts and crafts took their place as recreations 
— a very wholesome position — rather than extensive activities to em- 
ploy their time. The educational program in working camps was also 
limited and more or less of a side issue. Libraries assumed a posi- 
tion of large importance. At Chegnat, there were 6,000 volumes ; and 
in the camp at Montfort-Sur-Meu, a library of 4,000 volumes was 
organized as thoroughly as in any university. 

Camp organization was not a difficult task in most cases. Indeed, 
Y M C A workers frequently reported that there was little for them 
to do in this direction because there were many men in the camps skil- 
ful in social leadership. At one point, a former member of the 
Twenty-Third Street Y M C A in New York took charge of the athlet- 
ics and worked them out along the most approved lines. Where such 
expert leadership was available, the welfare worker had only to en- 
courage and to suggest. 

The civilian camps under the direction of the Ministry of the 
Interior were never opened to the War Prisoners' Aid. They were, 
however, regularly visited by the priests and pastors and the Y M C A 
sent supplies on requests forwarded by these men. In the civilian 
camps under the direction of the War Department the Y M C A stood 
on the same basis as in other military camps and the service rendered 
was identical. 

The American Army in France undertook the care of its own 
prisoners ; and, in November, 1918, the numbers had risen high enough 
to justify a special department of the War Prisoners' Aid for the 
A E F. The American Commander approved the program of work 
submitted and an extensive service under eight secretaries was in- 
augurated immediately. These prisoners received the very best of care 
and their standard of living was exactly on a par with that of the 
A E F. The Y was well equipped for this branch of service and it 
is doubtful if any group of captives in the war were as favorably situ- 
ated as those who were fortunate enough to fall into American hands. 


The historian treating of prison camps faces the constant diffi- ^^e Prisoners' 

^ Experience 

culty of maintaining an even balance in the description of prison 
camp experience. Favorable elements when presented in detail tend 
to obscure the continuous gray background of the story. Estimates 
of conditions must always be regarded as comparative. Some prison- 
ers were very much better oif than others, both because of circum- 
stances and because of their own inner resources; but it was prison 
life just the same. Three years' imprisonment in his own home would 
probably become very burdensome to an able-bodied man. The work- 
ing prisoner, glad to be at work, yet realizes his position every hour 
of the day and sees the barbed wire and bayonets in his dreams. He 
cannot be enthusiastic over work that certainly helps the enemies of 
his country. The Germans in France, also, had to let themselves down 
from the heights of confidence in speedy victory to the dead level of 
deferred hope that ended in acute disappointment. In the best of 
circumstances they bore their own share of suffering that was re- 
lieved to no small extent by the efforts of agencies that took a direct 
and personal interest in their welfare. 

The War Prisoners' Aid and the Favored Prisoners 

The Austro-Hungarians, Bulgarians, Poles, Danes, and Alsace- 
Lorrainers who enjoyed the benefits of the regime de faveur were not 
an important group in point of numbers but were interesting because 
of their strange position and the peculiar character of their needs. 
They were, in a sense, men "without a country," well-treated by their 
captors but quite cut off from home. Their French guards were 
very kind to them and genuinely sorry for them, but could do little 
to help them in their special difficulties. For the most part these pris- 
oners were very homesick; yet, if the prison gates had been thrown 
open, they would not have gone home during the war. They were 
peasants with few mental or spiritual resources and they felt them- 
selves deserted. They were not peevish or discontented. Their danger 
was more serious. A Y worker reporting on one camp was utterly 
shocked at "the dull-eyed, listless men, moving about like sleep-walk- 
ers, consumed by the tortures of their long captivity." 

It was little enough the Association could do for most of these Elemental 

. ... J Needs 

men. Certain groups, such as Poles, were able to run activities and 
organize their camps. For the rest, occasional visits of encouragement 
and the forwarding of supplies could only touch the outer edge of the 
real need. The Y M C A was here compelled to enter the field of 


relief ; for these men, through the strange official interpretation which 
takes "clothes" to mean only outside clothes, were almost entirely 
destitute of underwear. Communication was opened with the Bulgar- 
ian Minister in Washington and he supplied some money for use among 
the Bulgarians. The International Committee added an appropriation 
for this purpose, and underwear and socks were forwarded to these 
needy fields. The resources at the disposal of the War Prisoners' 
Aid fell very far short of meeting the need. 
American Slncc the Austrlan government had forbidden the exportation 

Contributions ^ t j; 

of books for these prisoners, it was necessary to secure them from 
America. The International Committee in New York gathered up 
all the literature it could find in America. Musical instruments, games, 
phonographs, and tobacco were distributed; and at certain needy 
points Y huts were erected. An American of Czech parentage, work- 
ing in Austria-Hungary, was secured to visit the Austro-Hungarians. 
He was able to give only a few months to this visitation ; but he spoke 
to the men in their own tongue and discovered the real needs to which 
the Association might address its efforts. He also made suggestions 
as to general administration. His effort to secure the complete isola- 
tion of the Czechs was never successful. Various visitors entered 
these camps from time to time bearing the usual gifts and generally 
supported by their never-failing ally, the moving-picture machine. 

The effectiveness of the work in these detachments cannot be mea- 
sured with any degree of accuracy. One visit in three years from an 
outsider who could speak the prisoners' language seems very little. 
One movie show during the whole period of imprisonment seems 
too insignificant for mention. But these slight services were expres- 
sions of interest ; and when they were followed by games, musical in- 
struments, books, and warm underwear, the prisoners were at least 
able to feel that someone was aware of their existence. One must 
ever bear in mind the oft-repeated statement of those who were fam- 
iliar with prison life that a very little is infinitely better than nothing 
at all. It is necessary to try to realize imaginatively what a couple of 
dozen books might mean in a camp where there had been no reading 
matter for two and a half years. 

A Complex Service 

The War Prisoners' Aid in France faced a complex problem. The 
field was so extensive and so varied and the working force so limited 
that it was impossible to accomplish a complete piece of work. Under 



the circumstances it was natural that some aspects were far more suc- 
cessful than others. Very much depended upon local cooperation 
where supervision was so difficult. Correspondence and long-distance 
service generally was very useful wherever there were efficient local 
committees with whom to deal ; it could not achieve much where the 
prisoners were ignorant and incapable.^ 

The general work in France passed through its period of depres- 
sion when the American secretaries were withdrawn, but a very cap- 
able group of neutrals filled their places very soon, the American Y 
continuing to finance the work. 

The accomplishment was far from insignificant. Beyond theTheWeai 
service to German prisoners, which may be regarded simply as a pre-HumSy 
requisite for service to French prisoners— though the Association took 
no such narrow view— the War Prisoners' Aid touched many men of 
many different nationalities in such a way as to impress them with the 
fact that America, represented by an institution endeavoring to em- 
body the Christian spirit in service, was eager to help men in trouble, 
regardless of nationality, race, or religion. In the midst of hatred and 
confusion, the welfare workers kept the ideal of a united humanity 
before the minds of the prisoners. Their efforts are bearing fruit 
everywhere today. 

'An interesting account of this service is found in a thesis by Clarence R 
Johnson, entitled: "Social Work Among the Prisoners of War in France." 

Chapter XLVIII 


-ciprocity The beginning of the work in Russia illustrates once more how 

essential was its reciprocal basis. Quite apart from the Association's 
own international standpoint, the situation was such that the service 
had to be for all prisoners or for none. Scarcely had the first experi- 
mental work commenced in Germany when Dr. Harte encountered 
a new obstacle to its extension. 

"I have not had the freedom," states one of his letters, "that is 
needed really to help the 900,000 prisoners of war in Germany. In 
every official interview, I was asked what we were doing for the Ger- 
mans in Russia." 

;[^^'* Since, at that time, the German policy was to congregate all the 

Allied prisoners in mixed camps, the Y service could not be confined 
to the British and French, and it soon became evident that the work 
already begun in Gottingen and elsewhere would be imperiled unless 
means could be found to enter the Russian field, where most of the 
captured Germans and Austrians were held. From the beginning 
of the war, the German nation was deeply concerned about the fate 
of their fellow countrymen in the hands of the Russians. Many wild 
stories of their sufferings in Siberia were current. Nothing too ter- 
rible could be imagined concerning those who were swallowed up 
in that vast, terrifying country of eternal snows, the land where so 
many political prisoners of the Czar had suffered and died. It is easy 
enough to understand this anxiety and to understand how Russia 
became the keystone of the arch that the Y was striving to build. 

Accordingly Dr. Harte in May, 1915, left Berlin for Petrograd 
to advocate extending the War Prisoners' Aid in this new sphere. 

The Y Enters Russia 

For two weeks after his arrival in Petrograd, Dr. Harte was 
busy in securing the interest of influential persons, notably the As- 
sistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Procurator of the Holy 
Synod, the Empress, the Dowager Empress, and the British and Amer- 
ican Ambassadors. In early June he was finally able to secure per- 
mission to visit the prison camps in Siberia, and set out accompanied 



by one of the Y M C A secretaries. His report of this tour with its 
favorable tone and its entirely sympathetic and constructive sugges- 
tions had much to do with resolving Russian doubts and Russian sen- 
sitiveness to outside interference in her own responsibilities ; so that 
on June 14th he was able to report official permission to establish 
Y M C A service with two secretaries. A modest beginning was made 
at once at Moscow and at Kiev — ^the latter the point at which were 
entrained the thousands of captives sent into the Siberian expanse. 
By the end of August, American friends had enabled Dr. Mott to 
authorize the program for an extensive Russian service. 

Dr. Harte now went back to Berlin, to return to Petrograd in P^^^^^^^^^' 
October bringing good news of further concessions in Germany. He 
carried with him three immense sacks of letters and post-cards to 
their Russian relations and friends from Russian war prisoners in 
Germany and boxes of gifts to prisoners in Russia from their rela- 
tives, a consignment of musical instruments and numerous other 
articles. Better still, he was able to take with him a Russian prisoner. 
This man, the nephew of a prominent official in Russia, was an officer 
who had lost a leg; and, in personal appreciation of Dr. Harte's ser- 
vices, the head of the German War Prisoners* Department turned him 
over to the Y representative in order to facilitate his work in Russia. 
In return, Dr. Harte secured an invalided German prisoner who was 
sent back to Germany. At once the Russians responded generously 
to the suggestion of reciprocity, so that Dr. Harte cabled to America 
for eight American secretaries to take charge of eight provincial cen- 
ters with a main office in Petrograd — this in addition to the two 
secretaries already on the ground. Dr. Harte had also brought with 
him 150,000 marks from Germany for prisoner relief and 100,000 
marks from Austria, and had available 120,000 marks from America. 
He now made another trip to Vladivostok and on his return reported 
the formation of a strong committee of distinguished Russians au- 
thorized to give official and legal standing to the work of the War 
Prisoners' Aid. As in other countries, this committee acted as a 
clearing house for all services between Germany and her nationals in 
Russia, and Russia and her nationals in Grermany. 

The work in Russia was somewhat slow in gaining headway 
because of the extreme difficulty of getting suitable men in America 
willing and able to carry it on. By March, 1916, however, there 
were six secretaries, and by the end of the year, nineteen. The cen- 
tral office was at Petrograd and the men visited camps in the provinces 


and governments of Irkutsk, Kazan, Yeniseisk, Zabaikal, Tomsk, 
Akmolinsk, Bokhara, Ferghana, Kief, Orenburg, Perm, Primorsk, 
Primorskaya, Samara, Samarcand, Simbirsk, Syr-Darjinskaya, Tob- 
olsk, Tschernigorak, and Zakaspdeskaya. Hampered as they were by 
geographical, political, and especially language factors, they repre- 
sented the only disinterested agency for the alleviation of the lot 
of about 500,000 German and Austrian prisoners of of war then scat- 
tered through some 70 Russian and Siberian camps. 

What the Y Faced 

Be^c^verrd **^ Let the reader bear in mind, however, that this was but a small 

part of the total number of war prisoners. What that number was 
we cannot be sure;^ but we do know that in May, 1917, the number 
of camps which could be visited by the small force of American secre- 
taries was 68 out of a total of 891 — 771 in Russia and 120 in Siberia; 
and that of these 68 but 52 were reported to have been effectively 
reached by the Association. Add to this the fact that every secretary 
had a territory many times the size of Great Britain — Turkestan, for 
instance, with 30 camps, having an area 16 times that of England; 
that these huge territories were in many cases inadequately provided 
with railway facilities, so that sometimes long journeys had to be 
made by horseback or sledge ; that the interminable Siberian winter 
further curtailed travel and with the darkening of days must inevit- 
ably have darkened the spirits of the exiled war prisoners; that in 
many camps little attempt at sanitation could be made with insuffi- 
cient water even to wash hands and faces, no soap or towels, clothing 
so scanty that barracks could not possibly be ventilated and a man 
could not wash his shirt without freezing in the process ; that in such 
camps the men were without exception infested with lice and vermin, 
the sick lying among the healthy — advanced cases of tuberculosis in- 
cluded — the latrines in disgusting condition, and epidemics an ever 
present menace; that the Russian soldiers lived in much the same 
way and the military authorities resented any determined effort to 
introduce new methods on a large scale ; that food was poor and medi- 
cal supplies scarce — add these factors, and it becomes evident that, 
with the meager personnel the Y could command, the problem of ade- 
quately caring for prisoners in Russia and Siberia was intrinsically 
impossible of solution. Large as the ultimate achievement appears in 
its totality, the surface only could be scratched. 

* Estimates place the total figure at 1,250,000 to 1,500,000. 


This is not to say that Russia failed to comprehend the problem what Russia 


herself. On the contrary, Dr. Harte's report of his first trip through 
the camps, even taking into account the fact that he was purposely 
writing of the good that he saw and not the bad, shows that they 
had accomplished much. Most of the difficulties outlined above are 
physical and geographical, or represent psychological factors that 
have grown through centuries of Czardom and bureaucracy with its 
peculiar attitude toward the masses wrought of sentimental paternal- 
ism and hard contempt. At the same time, undoubtedly an outstanding 
characteristic of the Russian is compassion, a singularly acute under- 
standing of the human heart and its needs ; and through all the bureau- 
cratic inefficiency, through all the insurmountable physical difficulties, 
this compassion sent its fine influence carrying a certain balm for 
imprisoned men. All those Russians who understood — and they were 
many in high places and low — did much for the prisoners. 

The facts that bear this out are among the most picturesque in^j^^wian 
war prisoner history. In the early days, for example, Russia sent 
her prisoners to remote Siberian villages. Here they were quartered 
among the villagers or assigned separate houses as dwellings. The 
freedom of the village was theirs, and the peasants treated them as 
sons and brothers. They shopped in the village shop and bought milk 
and cream and fresh eggs, honey and butter and vegetables from the 
peasants' wives ; they bathed and swam in the river, and they lounged 
and told tales under the trees. They received 21 kopecks a day, or 80 
kopecks if they worked in the fields and forests. Sometimes, near 
large towns, the municipality employed prisoners on public works, 
as at Tomsk where they were engaged in building new and higher 
banks for the river, and in the words of Dr. Harte, "enjoy the 
freedom, the fresh air, the river baths, and the good food and work 
somewhat leisurely." In the towns, too, many prisoners were em- 
ployed by the bakers, confectioners, tailors, and cabinet-makers, and 
were paid accordingly. Often such prisoners lived freely in the 
city and were considerately treated on the streets and in public 
buildings. Musicians were especially favored; instruments were 
furnished them, and they were paid for giving concerts in nearby 

This habit of treating prisoners as the Russian soldiers them- 
selves were treated extended as well to the hospitals. Again and again 
during his first tour Dr. Harte remarked that in handling the wounded 
and ill everything was forgotten except their needs and everything 



possible was done for their comfort and safe recovery. Russian sol- 
diers and German prisoners lay side by side on the cots, receiving 
the same zealous attention from doctors and nurses. In the larger cen- 
ters especially, the hospitals were clean, light, roomy, and efficient. 
In passing, it may be noted that many of them had been vodka ware- 

Subsequently, however, Russia adopted the concentration-camp 
plan of the other warring countries, erecting camps to house 10,000 
men each — a process that was going on at the time of Dr. Harte's first 
visit. But even here, prisoners seemed to have been treated on the 
same basis as Russian soldiers, housed in the same barracks, given 
the same food — a fact that implied equally bad conditions as well 
as equally good, it should be noted. In many camps, nevertheless, 
things were in astonishingly good shape, all factors considered. Wel- 
fare work was under way, music and recreation were encouraged, 
and above all the officers were patient, harbored no enmity, and 
worked hard in the interests of the men. 

The Work of the Y 

The Y secretaries were assigned to various military districts and 
governments, generally immense distances apart, with a central office 
at Petrograd to serve as directive agency, distribution point, and 
clearing house. There were two broad types of supervision : one where 
the secretary had many camps to visit and had to devote consider- 
able time to traveling, the other where he was located at one camp or 
spent his time between two or three. As elsewhere, the work in 
the camps was of the community type, aiming to develop the maximum 
of activity and volunteer service with the minimum of equipment 
and expense. For this reason, a large share of the responsibility was 
handed over to the camp associations, organized by the Y secretaries 
and operating through an efficient system of committees. By inten- 
sive work at the start, even the traveling secretaries were able to de- 
velop strong associations in camps which they could visit for only a 
few hours once every month or two. The plan of organization fol- 
lowed in the Irkutsk Military District will serve as a model. It in- 
cluded an Executive Committee, and committees directing activities 
of welfare, school, religion, music, library, and camp beautification. 

In Russia, it was not, as in other countries, necessary for the 
Y to build special huts. Only four of these, in fact, were erected; 
in most camps permission was readily obtained to take over vacated 


barracks, with a large resultant saving in energy, time, and money. 
These barracks were adapted, attractively decorated, and furnished by 
the Association. Partitions, often movable, were erected by the pris- 
oners to divide them into kitchens, buffets, class rooms, lecture halls, 
reception rooms, churches, reading rooms, music rooms, and shops. 
Sometimes, starting with a single room, the Y was able to take over 
in the same camp two, three, four, or more entire barracks. 

Much of the Y work, of course, consisted of exactly the same ele- i^tflftlei 
ments as in other warring countries. There were the same recreational 
features — doubly necessary to the morale of the men during the long 
Siberian winter nights — consisting of games, plays, and operettas, 
for which both encouragement and material were supplied by the Y ; 
the same indoor gymnastics and outdoor athletics,^ with skating an 
especially popular feature in winter and tennis in the summer; the 
same cultivation of vegetable and flower gardens, the same garden con- 
tests. As many of these activities, however, have features peculiar to 
their environment, it is necessary to describe some of them in greater 
detail to give an adequate picture of the Russian situation. It should 
be remembered throughout that the work of the Y was, as it were, in- 
tensified and broadened in Russia because of the fact that it was the 
only organization permitted within the camps, so that it became the 
agent for numerous other organizations. Whatever was done for 
the prisoners in Russia was perforce done through the Y M C A. 

During the first year of imprisonment before the Y M C A be- libraries 
gan its activities the scarcity of reading material in the Russian pris- 
on camps was appalling. At Voenny Gorodok, for instance, when the 
educational work was begun in November, 1915, with 1,700 students 
and 35 teachers, but 15 textbooks could be secured. At Darnitza 
an American secretary reports bringing out a dozen language text- 
books and a score of dictionaries, the only books he happened to have 
on hand, for the entertainment of some 1,500 prisoner officers about to 
be entrained ; he was as swamped with demands for them as though 
they had been popular novels. The solution of the problem of secur- 
ing books was long and difficult. The bookstores in Moscow and 
Petrograd were ransacked for everything that could in any way serve 
the prisoners, and books were bought from private citizens. The 

' At Beresovka during the winter of 1916-1917 three skating places were 
maintained. After the ice had broken, there were playing daily at this camp 25 
football teams, 50 volley-ball teams, and 10 teams of baseball or rounders. Nat- 
urally this activity had a large effect for good on the health and vitality of the 


problems of censorship and transportation had to be dealt with in 
turn. Finally, with the cooperation of the Danish Book Commission, 
which was able to secure a large supply of books from Denmark, the 
situation was relieved. By the winter of 1916-1917 at least fifty 
libraries had been established containing from 100 to 4,000 volumes 
each, every library under the supervision of a competent librarian se- 
lected by the prisoners, and the majority of the libraries equipped with 
a book bindery. A special book department was added to the office at 
PetrograJ in November, 1916. This had much to do with the efficient 
handling of the library problem. In addition to the libraries, hun- 
dreds of individual orders for books were received from prisoners and 
filled wherever possible, some coming from camps which were not 
visited by secretaries. Among the larger libraries were those at 
Omsk, with 533 volumes, Pieschanka with 1,444, Tomsk with 500, 
and Orenburg with 1,500. There were libraries in fifteen of the six- 
teen camps of the Irkutsk military district. What these libraries 
meant may be judged from the fact that in one of those in the Irkutsk 
district which opened for the drawing of books at 10 a.m., there were 
20 to 50 men in line by 9.30 to make sure of a book, and every book 
was drawn every day, to be returned the same evening. Books in 
Russian were also furnished by the Y for the Russian guards, who ap- 
preciated them no less than the prisoners. 

One of the most remarkable features of the war prisoners' work 
in Russia was the development of educational activities. In the year 
preceding May, 1917, there were at least 31 organized schools in 30 
different camps, with an enrollment of over 20,000 students taught by 
more than 1,000 different teachers practically all of whom were pris- 
oners, many being well-known university professors, writers, lawyers, 
business and professional men. At Voenny Gorodok, within three 
weeks after the arrival of the secretary, there was a full-fledged "uni- 
versity" in operation with 1,700 students, 35 teachers, and 27 courses, 
and with classes running every hour of the day from 8 a.m. until 9 
p.m. At Tomsk there were 54 classes taking 23 different subjects; 
at Krasnoyarsk, 652 students, 25 courses, and classes from 7 a.m. 
to 8 p.m. ; at Beresovka, 2,500 students and 60 teachers. Language 
studies predominated, then commercial subjects followed by legal, 
professional, cultural, and artistic branches. These classes were con- 
ducted in German, Hungarian, Czech, Ukranian, ItaHan, Polish, He- 
brew, Croatian, Serbian, and Roumanian. In one camp the teachers, 
unable to secure a primer, wrote one by hand and copied it on an im- 


provised hectograph; these men had set as their ideal that no one 
willing to work should go home unable to read and write. At an- 
other camp, nine out of every ten officers learned or perfected one or 
more foreign languages during a period of eight months, and every 
German soldier in the camp was enrolled in an English class. 

From the beginning, an especially important activity of the ""^'*' 
Y M C A in Russian and Siberian prison camps was the organization 
and assisting of orchestras, choirs, and choruses. Several factors 
brought this about: the positive craving of German, Austrian, and 
especially Hungarian prisoners for music, which was as necessary to 
their daily lives as food ; the natural musical talent of these peoples 
and the presence among them of distinguished directors and musicians 
of the Central Empires, especially among those from Vienna and Buda- 
pest; and the bent for music of the Russian authorities themselves, 
who looked with especial favor on this form of activity and often 
organized their own orchestras. In May, 1917, orchestras had been 
reported from 31 camps, with between 700 and 800 instruments in 
regular use, and there were choirs and choruses in practically as many 
camps — in many cases both German and Hungarian choruses. The ac- 
tivities of these musical organizations were largely concerts during 
the week, assisting with Sunday services, and providing entertain- 
ment for the hospitals. In numerous cases where a sufficient number 
of musical instruments could not be purchased or were not donated, 
those needed were made by the prisoners themselves. "I know not how 
many unfortunate Siberian horses," wrote one secretary, "sacrificed 
their tails for (violin) bows." In other cases, too, musical composi- 
tions could not be secured, and whole song-books were written down 
laboriously from memory. A Hungarian officer at Orenburg startled 
the camp by writing Schubert's Mass from memory in preparation for 
the first Catholic service; later he made complete orchestrations for 
music the Y could secure for voice and piano only. Several prison- 
ers wrote original solo, orchestral, and even light operatic composi- 
tions which were publicly produced in the camp. One camp had two 
orchestras — one of 45 instruments — a stringed orchestra, a German 
maennerchor of 40 voices, and a Hungarian maennerchor of 38 voices. 

Although in some camps workshops had been started before the ]^^°'j^^^^p» *«* 
arrival of the Y, in many nothing of this kind had been done; and 
the Association at once organized carpenter shops, shoe shops, book- 
binderies especially needed to repair the well-thumbed library vol- 
umes — wood-carving departments, tailor shops, blacksmith shops, 


basket-making shops, paint shops, and arts-and-crafts departments. 
In Russia, the War Prisoners' Aid was particularly successful in com- 
bining work of this kind with relief work, thus helping to solve two 
problems at once as well as training men to a future life of wider 
usefulness. At Orenburg, for example, the shoe department repaired 
1,300 pairs of shoes and made 300 new pairs. The tailoring shop, 
housed in two rooms, turned out several thousand garments a month, 
made partly from materials supplied by the Red Cross but mostly 
from old clothes cast off by men who were fortunate enough to re- 
ceive new clothing. Two old overcoats would be remade into one good 
one. Every scrap of cloth was saved to be made up into puttees. 

One particularly noteworthy development of this work was that 
completely equipped factories were established under the auspices 
of the Association, at Krasnoyarsk and several other places. This 
development was forced by the growing scarcity of soap and of leather. 
The soap factory was the first venture, and it soon supplied not only 
the camp laundry but also the Russian camp authorities with all the 
laundry soap they required, and had branched out into the manufac- 
ture of toilet soap, disinfecting soap, and shoe polish. Next a tannery 
was opened. By January, 1917, it was turning out excellent sole 
leather and uppers of horse hide, calf, and sheep skin, and was using 
about 800 hides per month. All the leather thus produced by the 
prisoners went to supply the needs of the various internment camps. 
KhThtns""* An illuminating example of the ingenuity employed in enhancing 

the value of help from other agencies is seen in the invalid food 
kitchens established by the Y in the Yeniseisk, Irkutsk, and Trans- 
baikal Provinces, and at Orenburg and Tomsk. These kitchens, in- 
tended for prisoners who were weak, invalid, or convalescent, had a 
capacity each of from 100 to 2,200 meals a day, and were run on a 
self-supporting plan which at the same time permitted those who had 
no money to obtain meals free. In March, 1917, for example, a train- 
load of dried fruits, sugar, rice, and beans forwarded by the American 
Red Cross was received by the American Embassy and turned over 
to the Y for distribution. This food was then purchased by the 
kitchen committees of the various camps from the camp executive 
committees at a moderate valuation, the kitchen committees in turn 
reimbursing themselves by issuing tickets for each meal to prisoners 
at, say, a half -kopeck each over the cost. Both the half -kopeck profit 
— which in three weeks might amount to enough for the purchase of 
75 meals — and the entire amount received in the first instance by the 


executive committees would then be used to purchase meal tickets 
for those sans kopecks of their own. A per capita allowance was also 
made by which the officers could purchase part of the provisions at 
the same price, this money likewise going into meal tickets for the 
penniless. At Werchne-Udinsk more than 66,300 meals were thus pro- 
vided up to the end of 1916; at Pieschanka, about 160,000 by the end 
of April, 1917. In 1916-1917 more than 5,000 per day were served 
from all these kitchens, and the average cost of the meals was 20-27 
kopecks (13 to 18 cents). With food conditions as bad as they were 
in Russia at this time, it is impossible to estimate how many lives were 
saved by this additional nourishment furnished just where it was 
needed most. A Russian general who had seen something of the work 
at Pieschanka said that he would like the Y to establish similar kitch- 
ens in every camp ; and the German government appreciated the ef- 
fort so thoroughly that they offered to continue their monthly con- 
tribution even after America had become an enemy nation. 

In view of the evil conditions as regards cleanliness in many gaths. Laundries. 

Barber, and 

districts, with the constant risk of the introduction and spread of Cental service 
ravaging epidemics, the Y did what it could to supply bathing and 
laundry facilities. The need may be judged from the fact that at Oren- 
burg, where water for bathing and washing had at first been carried 
by hand, the new clean, warm baths and laundries with piped water, 
installed by the Y, were frankly more deeply appreciated even than 
the hut. Barber shops also were organized in numerous camps. One 
of the most important services rendered was the supplementing of 
the wretched dental facilities and the complete installation in many 
cases of adequate dental equipment and offices, with the consequent 
relief of thousands of sufferers. 

The Y M C A in Russia and Siberia encouraged religious ser- Religion 
vices impartially for all creeds and denominations. Rooms were 
equipped for the services of Greek Catholics, Roman Catholics, Protest- 
ants, Jews, and Mohammedans, the various articles used in the 
rituals, as well as Testaments and copies of the Koran, being furnished 
by or through the Y; pastors and priests to conduct services were 
found among the prisoners themselves, or in the cities without. Music 
was a highly prized accompaniment to these devotional exercises. 
In addition to the services of various creeds, there were, of course, 
many Bible study classes, the secretaries sometimes being compelled 
to write their own courses because of the shortage of books. As one 
chairman of a camp committee remarked: 



"You know many of us back home before the War had gotten 
out of the habit of Bible reading ; but now we feel the need for the book 
and are hungry for it. Many a man will read the book the first time 
in years with an earnest endeavor to understand and apply it." 

A typical report of this many-sided religious work comes from 
Orenburg : 

"We were fortunately located, since in this city of Orenburg 
lived Orthodox priests, a Lutheran pastor, rabbis, two Roman Catho- 
lic and several Mohammedan priests. Services have been held for all. 
The singing was always attractive, and the meetings, which were held 
outdoors during the warm weather, were attended by the majority of 
those interned in the camp. I shall never forget our first service, 
which was held early in July. I visited the priest several times, hop- 
ing to get his consent to come, but, as I could not guarantee him an 
undefiled building, it was hard to get the desired promise. We finally 
compromised on an open-air meeting. I had an organ sent in from the 
city and persuaded a fine old Polish count to make the necessary prep- 
arations. On the morning of the Mass, when we arrived, we were 
astonished to find that a high, attractive, evergreen altar, decorated 
with flowers and ikons, had been erected against the stone wall of the 
prison. The priest's face fairly glowed, and it certainly was a beauti- 
ful sight. To this we added holy pictures, candles, silver altar cloth, 
communion service, a gold cross, etc. During the confession and com- 
munion service the men sat with staring eyes and seemed to be strange- 
ly touched. When the white-robed priest turned to begin the opening 
chant of the Mass, old and young sat with fixed faces, while the tears 
coursed down their cheeks as if, after two years' absence, it was too 
much for them. 

"When the holy days of the Turks arrived, I hunted out a rich 
Tartar in the city and had him get a Koran and necessary holy food 
for our Mohammedan friends. We secured the church within the en- 
closure for them that they might pray to Allah and carry out their 
devotions as desired by the priest. 

"We secured religious books and pamphlets for the Jews and 
took the men into the city under guard when their holy days arrived. 
Until the Czechs and Poles were removed to other lagers, we held 
Orthodox services for them regularly in the Greek church within the 

Most of the enormous volume of individual relief and welfare 
work — much of it necessitated by the fact that the Y acted as agent 
in the camps for the Red Cross societies, the Embassies, and other 
organizations — was carried on in close cooperation with the camp wel- 
fare committees composed of prisoners. The Y secretary usually went 
to a camp loaded with money remittances for prisoners, gifts, food 
parcels, and clothing from relatives and other relief agencies to distrib- 


ute, inquiries and replies to inquiries wliich had been forwarded from 
the Petrograd office; and this mass of material he turned over to th" 
welfare committee to attend to and report on at his next vIsTt The 
welfare committees, under the direction of the secretaries, thus became 
the recognized agencies for the distribution of financial a^d other gifts 
where they would do the most good. As early as April, 1917 n^rly 
thanks not- ' ^""^ ^'"' "''''"^ *'^™"^'^ *he Petrograd office, mo e 

11 000 r!b,r"'"''rf "■"'"* P"'°""^ ''^'"^ <J^«" ™*, more than 
11,000 rubles a month being received for transmission to individuals 
The i,st of such services, including the execution of the last wishes of 

Ldertf 'tl; ?'' "^ °'r''''' '''' P™-""« «f books for specia 
students, the changing of money, the arranging of marriage^ bv 

truTandsTftlf *'"' ,7-''^^^*=' "'^ «'^'"« °f - f* "rXs to 
the stennes thit M k "^ o"t penniless for a long journey across 
of ,W ,7 f ?• T^^ *" ^^^^"'^^'^ *° '''^ '«"8th of Homer's catalog 
fretd^^ap^lrvr^*'" "°"'' *^" "'^' *^^ -"^^"^ *° '»-'^ -" «1 ' 

mnn,^^^•tT*"^ "^ ^j' 7?? ''"'*""' ^P""''' '"^"«°"- At the be-P....n. 
f^ r^ .^ ^''"^^"* ^^^^ '""^ organized effort must be madeB"r.r"° 

to overcome the many difficulties in locating missing men, and for 

Chief n?S """"T' Z^ "r"'^'- '^'* *« ^'"^y ''PP™^-' of the 
S Irkutfwo; r f ^°;*f "^ Information Bureau was established 
tl^ ^ Z ^ ^"*"'^ '^"*"'=*' ""'^ ^" enormous card catalog of 
nHl «.f res^^^. on which 48 men were employed. Subsequently, 
on proving its value and efficiency the bureau was taken over by the 

smS' 1^ bt^s!^'' ^"-^ "^^"*^'-'' - *^ -'« ^- *•>« =^^en 

Disorganization and Reorganization 
Early in 1917 came the American break with Germany and the 
consequen demand from the latter country that American Y secre- 
taries m ah fields be replaced by neutrals. In Russia, this was an es- 
pecially difficult task; it had been difficult enough to secure the Ameri- 
can secretaries in the first instance. The demand, too, came just at the 
time when Dr. Harte was advising the reduction of expenditures for 
recreation and diversion in view of the increasingly poignant need for 
such elementary necessities as food and surgical dressings. In the 

wTthdf.wT^f 'f '^''"^"^' l"""" ^'""^^"^ ^" AP^^l ^^d May for the 
Ts ate armf'/r r^r"'' ?''''''"' *^^ Americans still hung on and 
as late as mid-July those who were still at their posts had determined 


not to abandon their work unless forced to do so by the American Gov- 
ernment itself ; the need, they felt, was so desperately urgent. Mean- 
while, however, the replacement by neutral secretaries from Denmark 
and Sweden had been going on gradually, and as rapidly as they were 
relieved the Americans were transferred to service for the Russian 

Then, in October, 1917, came the Bolshevik Revolution as a 
further disrupting influence. It did not immediately affect the work 
of the War Prisoners' Aid except for troublesome investigations by the 
Soviet authorities; but as the revolution spread, many camps were 
thrown open and a general unorganized exodus began toward Petro- 
grad and Moscow. The work was now considered to be finished except 
for the salvaging of property, when suddenly a new situation arose 
with the Czechoslovak uprising, which cut off all rail communica- 
tion with Siberia. In this situation the need for the Y was greater 
than ever, for the prisoners had been worked up into a fever of ex- 
pectancy by the Brest-Litovsk Treaty and were in despair over this 
new obstacle to their early release. 

So once again the Association took up its burden. Secretaries 
were sent into Siberia and the work went on until well into 1919. 
These neutral secretaries braved the dangers of Russia in the throes 
of revolution. For months they were cut off from communication 
with Petrograd. Some of them were arrested by the Soviet authori- 
ties and were in grave danger; but they continued to work as long 
as possible and always to the extent of their ability. At Orenburg the 
factory system was extended and became self-supporting. In twenty- 
five camps visitation was maintained. But it was heartbreaking labor 
since these secretaries were continually hampered by the Bolshevists, 
by the lack of transport and communication, and by the frequent move- 
ment of the prisoners from camp to camp. What remained of the 
work was finally turned over to the German and Austrian Commis- 

Chapter XLIX 



In Italy there existed certain conditions that affected peculiarly 
the experience of the war prisoners and modified the work of the 
War Prisoners' Aid. 

Italy, after entering the war in May, 1915, was of course deeply J^^\°l^ '"' ^^^ 
engrossed in making up deficiencies in war preparation. She had Prisons 
little time for extraneous considerations and her straitened resources 
offered no surplus for prisoner relief while her own people suffered so 
grievously. The feeling against the Austrians rose very high, for they 
represented the chief opponents of Italy in her struggle for unity and a 
place among the nations. The general in charge of the Prisoners' 
Commission was rather harshly attacked in the press for his sup- 
posed leniency; and popular pressure caused the stopping of moving 
pictures for prisoners, since the Italian people were in the mood to 
forswear amusements even for themselves. It was an inhospitable 
atmosphere for welfare service. 

The labor and economic situation influenced the prisoners' condi- 
tion to a marked degree. Italy is densely populated — 131 to the square 
kilometer as against France's 74 — and actually permitted some of her 
men to work in France. Until February, 1917, there was solid popular 
opposition against the use of prisoners in any form of work lest they 
should actually displace Italians. Similarly, such articles as the pris- 
oners produced for sale could be neither sold in the local markets nor 
exported because of the actual or implied competition with Italian 
artisans. A plan for exportation to the native land of the prisoners 
was conceived but proved impossible of execution. 

However, the lot of prisoners in Italy was not so wholly bad as ^^}^^^^ 
all this might imply. Many of them were interned on islands — notably 
the civilian enemy aliens on the island of Sardinia where they could be 
permitted an unusual degree of freedom. Many, at first the majority, 
were housed in old fortresses where from the start there were rooms 
that could be devoted to meetings and other activities. They were 
reasonably well fed and well treated by the authorities; an inter- 
est was shown in their physical welfare ; there were excellent hospi- 



tals ; and the surroundings, especially in the large concentration camps 
erected later, were sanitary and comfortable. The small amount 
of work within the camps, too, was assigned to many men in turn to 
help relieve the monotony. General Spingardi, in charge of the han- 
dling of prisoners, evinced always an attitude of sympathetic and in- 
telligent interest in their welfare, and of openness to suggestions from 
extra-official sources, and readiness to cooperate.^ 
uaiJn Prison Naturally, the same obstacles that inhibited the development of 

^™p^ a thoroughgoing prisoner-welfare program on the part of the Italians 

themselves also stood in the way of a similar development by the Y M 
C A. In addition, there was another very large factor which need 
not be minimized: namely, religion. Italy is the fountain-head of 
Roman Catholicism, with a population predominantly Roman Catho- 
lic in affiliation, and the Italian branch of the Y M C A, largely Protest- 
ant in character, had not been a vigorous organization prior to the 
war. The same elements that made for this weakness hampered the 
Y's efforts after the war began ; nor is it to be expected that the Ital- 
ian people, with a deeply ingrained religious bent, would throw off 
suddenly their natural suspicion of an organization that they con- 
sidered essentially Protestant even in view of the proved non-secta- 
rian character of the work of that organization and its extraordinary 
efforts to convince the Italians of the unalloyed humanitarianism of 
its motives. Many Italians, and especially many in high places, were 
so convinced, but an undercurrent of perfectly natural religious prej- 
udice always acted as a brake to slow down the momentum of the 
Y's efforts in behalf of Italy's war prisoners. 

Because of these diversified elements, Y work in this field was 
largely limited to the provision of books, musical instruments, games, 
and tools for wood-carving and the like, with the constant aim in 
view of lightening so far as possible the somber cloud of monotony and 
idleness that lay over prison camps. 

' Austro-Hungarian prisoners brought to Italy from Serbia after the Serbian 
retreat were especially well treated under a regime de faveur, but their case con- 
stitutes an exception. "The Italians," a visitor reported, "with infinite pains and 
unmeasured kindness nursed these human wrecks, mere walking skeletons, back to 
health and hope," and succeeded in saving about 15,000 of the original 20,000. 
For these men there was an extensive educational and recreational program, in- 
cluding painting, sculpture, pottery, music, and theatricals in a huge open-air 
amphitheater, and the Y was even asked to furnish fire-brick for a small glass 
factory. The prisoners in gratitude erected a monument dedicated "To Italy, Our 
Saviour." Here, unhampered by adverse considerations of "policy," the natural 
Italian kindliness operated without stint. Most of these prisoners were finally 
transferred to France. 


A month after Italy cast in her lot with the Allies, that is, late Acuvur^ ^^^ 
in June, 1915, D. A. Davis and C. V. Hibbard visited the country, made 
a grant to the Italian branch of the Student Christian Movement for 
soldier or prisoner welfare, and through influential persons proffered 
the services of the Y for work among the prisoners. Mr. Davis again 
visited Italy late in October. At this time work was well under way 
in England, France, Germany, and Austria, and a promising begin- 
ning had been made in Russia. Through numerous introductions, 
Mr. Davis explained this work to officials of the War and Foreign 
Offices, the Red Cross, and the Departments of the Interior and of 

He was promptly granted permission by General Spingardi, head 
of the War Prisoners* Commission, to visit the civilians interned on 
Sardinia, and after his report on the seventeen towns and villages he 
was able to reach there, was authorized to go to any of the military 
camps. Choosing Genoa, he found the prisoners well cared for as 
to food, clothing, and lodgment, with a beginning of educational work; 
but he wrote : "I have never realized so fully the awf ulness of having 
nothing to do as after visiting some of the forts in Italy. . . . The 
schools will occupy a small percentage of the prisoners, but the great 
majority of them have to remain without anything to do. In one 
fortress, where there are 600 prisoners, there are only thirty book- 
lets of any description." In view of this situation, and since there 
was not the same need for huts as in other countries, Mr. Davis re- 
quested permission from the International Committee to use the 
greater part of the money allotted to Italy for books, musical instru- 
ments, and games. As a beginning, this sum amounted to $5,000 ; but 
the funds from America were delayed in transmission by war-time 
conditions, and this introduced a further element to hold back the 
progress that was already sufficiently slow in gaining headway. By 
the end of 1915 the work was still very limited in scope. 

After Mr. Davis's departure for France, Dr. Walter Lowrie, of the The Poiygiot 

. ^ Problem in 

American Church at Rome, took charge m the spring of 1916 and Education 
undertook at the request of General Spingardi to visit all prison 
camps. All the books in Italy suitable for prisoners of war were 
bought up, and a shipment to the value of 14,340 francs was ordered 
from Austria through Geneva. These were to supply seventy-five 
camps ; and it was necessary to secure them from the prisoners' home- 
land because Italy did not have enough books in the varied tongues 
required: German, Hungarian, Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian, Ruthe- 


nian, Bohemian, Polish, Roumanian, and Turkish. Other services 
were rendered by Dr. Lowrie to the limit of the authority granted the 
Y. Four thousand francs were expended for games, musical instru- 
ments, and other supplies for the camps ; and because of his cordial re- 
lations with government departments, he was able to bring consider- 
able influence to bear on local officials for ameliorating local hard- 
ships. As in other countries though it was no part of the visitor's 
duty to inspect or report on the physical condition of the camps, the 
local commandants usually asked him for his opinion; and after a 
friendly talk with him, they were often ready to make desirable 
changes. At times they were glad to have the visitor take advantage 
of his peculiar position to ask for the authorization of special privileges 
from higher authorities. In some cases the bathing facilities were 
poor and the visitor's report resulted in the installation of shower 
baths. It was possible to obtain for prisoners in many camps more 
liberty for walks than had been enjoyed. The fact that the Com- 
mission for Prisoners welcomed the Y M C A's gifts of carving tools 
and the further effect that it carried with it permission to use sharp 
instruments in general, not only restored to the prisoners their 
knives, but opened the way for constructive work with tools. The 
Y also furnished text-books and other educational equipment. 

In one camp where there were only thirteen Protestants, Dr. 
Lowrie found that eight of them were preachers, and his report to 
headquarters brought about their transfer to other camps where there 
was no one qualified to minister to the Hungarian Protestants. In 
many places religious services were arranged for and large numbers 
of Testaments, Catholic prayer books, and other religious literature 
given away. There was the more need for such service in that no other 
agency was doing anything for these prisoners. 

"It is astonishing," writes the visiting secretary, "how few pack- 
ages they receive from home. I got the impression that their families 
in Austria were too poor to succor their kinsmen in this way. There 
were no Austrian societies sending anything, whereas the compara- 
tively few Bavarian prisoners in Italy were well supplied by the Red 
Cross in Munich. The prisoners who came from the Balkan provinces 
of Austria could get nothing from home, rarely even a letter, and the 
Poles were hardly better off." 

The First The first permission to erect a hut was given in July, 1916, as a 

result of Mr. Davis's report on Ancona, but this building was not put 
up for some time. Further permissions, affecting two of the largest 


camps in Italy — Avezzano and Padua — were given in December. The 
long delay preceding the initiation of this work resulted in a serious 
crisis that threatened the very existence of the work in Italy and re- 
ciprocally the Italian camps of Austria, but catastrophe was happily 
averted by the new permits. The International Committee at once 
cabled the required $5,000 for these buildings, but even with the money 
and the permits, difficulties due to the scarcity of material, labor, and 
transportation caused further long delays before the huts were actual- 
ly built. The Association centers, with their prisoner committees and 
organized activities, never developed in Italy as in other countries. 

An American secretary, M. B. Rideout, succeeded Dr. Lowrie on a service 
November 1, 1916, and the work continued to the end in much the same ° 
manner. As has been said, it was largely a service of visitation — 
necessarily infrequent with only one man for the work — and the fill- 
ing of requests for books and games. Something was done to solve 
the problem of idleness through the furnishing of tools and materials 
for the skilled craftsmen who were found in every camp, but the grave 
difficulties in the way of disposing of their products hampered the 
effectiveness of such an activity. 

With the entrance of America into the War, there was not the 
same disruption of Y activities as elsewhere. For some time there 
was official doubt whether these activities should continue on account 
of the German attitude; but these were apparently solved, and the 
work went on without interruption. 

The Balkans 

Work for prisoners in Bulgaria was proposed in the spring of Bulgaria 
1916 when an appropriation was made for the initiation of work in 
this field. The field was not entered until the end of the year. When 
the Y representative arrived there, he found the conditions appalling, 
and the War Ministry ready to give the heartiest welcome to his 
offers of service for both prisoners and Army. Since Bulgaria is an 
agricultural rather than industrial state, there was a great lack of all 
manufactured articles, especially clothing and blankets. The diet 
of the prisoners, even though it was occasionally better than that of 
the Bulgarian soldiers themselves, was below the accustomed stand- 
ards of the soldiers or prisoners of other nationalities. When the 
report of the situation reached the American Committee, it increased 
its appropriation to $20,000, half of which was to be spent on Prison- 
ers' Aid and half on the Bulgarian soldiers. 


This work also, although financed by the International Commit- 
tee, was done under the nominal auspices of the World's Alliance. 
Within a year five huts had been built in the largest camps, in five 
others already existing barracks had been adapted, and in still other 
camps where buildings were not available reading rooms had been 
opened. Every camp had its orchestras, theaters, classes, and varied 
religious services — Protestant, Catholic, and Greek Orthodox. Some 
of the larger camps had workshops for shoemakers and tailors. An 
office was opened at Sophia through which the work could be coordi- 
nated, and to establish a center for inquiries for missing men. Much 
necessary relief work was done through this office, partly with 
Y M C A funds and partly through the administration within the 
camps of funds furnished by other agencies. 

Food and clothing were the great needs. At first, with the per- 
mission of the camp authorities, food was bought. Then some land 
near each camp was leased and put under cultivation. Clothes pro- 
vided by the Italian, Greek, and Serbian Legations were distributed 
through the Y which in addition bought with its own funds clothing 
and food. The secretary, Mr. Phildius, had remarkable freedom 
in this work. He was allowed to travel freely to Switzerland to pur- 
chase supplies, and was able to come to the assistance of a Bulgarian 
general who, sent to Switzerland on the same mission, had found 
himself unable to get anything, and had to appeal to the secretary for 
Roumania In Junc, 1916, Dr. Harte had visited Jassy, seeking an opportu- 

nity to extend the service of the Association to Roumania. The greater 
part of the territory was then occupied by the German Army, and 
there were great numbers of Roumanian prisoners in Germany and 
Bulgaria. The highest officials in the capital and the royal family 
manifested the deepest interest and every facility possible was given 
to Dr. Harte and another American secretary in his company to 
study the situation. A committee of patronage and advice was formed, 
and a building was assigned for headquarters in the capital as well 
as another for the first soldier hut. At this time the plight of the 
unoccupied portion of the country was so terrible that the efforts of 
the Association for the moment were limited to the soldiers and the 
suffering population. No work was undertaken for prisoners until 
the spring of the following year, when the Austrian Red Cross re- 
quested the initiation of service to Austrian prisoners in Roumania 
on the basis of reciprocal service to Roumanians in Austria. 


Such was the work in these countries. While severely handicap- 
ped in many ways, yet service was carried, through visits, even into 
the small scattered working detachments, and to the prisoners of war 
in the Dobrudja, in the territory behind the Macedonian front, and in 
occupied Serbia. More than a hundred of the smaller camps were 
visited; and the secretaries, having a semi-official standing as dele- 
gates of the Legation, had much greater authority than usual to 
criticise the hygienic arrangements in the camps, and to suggest bene- 
ficial changes. The value of their services was enhanced by this uni- 
versal opportunity to secure improved conditions in lands where such 
improvements were sorely needed. 

Chapter L 


The war prisoner situation developed on a grand scale in Ger- 
many. At the maximum, Germany is said to have held approximately 
2,800,000 prisoners, a total greater than the population of any of 
the German states except Prussia, Bavaria, and Saxony. Scat- 
tered in 150 camps and eventually several thousand working detach- 
ments, the prisoners required a force for guarding and administra- 
tion of 300,000 men. These captives did not present a homogeneous 
group; they represented a score of nationalities from the highland 
Scot to the swart Moroccan, as many language groups, and most of 
the religions on the face of the globe. Of the Russians and Rouman- 
ians, probably 80 per cent were illiterate and a large proportion abys- 
mally ignorant, superstitious, and unversed in elementary cleanliness. 
In spite of the fact that these groups represented a tremendous labor 
asset the problem of their administration was no small one. A sharp 
intensification of the difficulty was caused by the increasingly effec- 
tive blockade of Germany. 

The German Prison Camps 

?f clm^s^''^^^ There were several classes of camps in Germany. First, there 

were the officers' camps, for commissioned officers, who received a 
regular monthly payment, the bulk of which was withheld by the Ger- 
man government for maintenance.^ Though the War Prisoners* Aid 
conducted some striking pieces of service among the officers, the need 
for welfare work in this group of camps was not so great as in others. 
There were camps for privates, filled with the great mass of captives 
of all nationalities. There were reprisal camps, the nature of which 
is perfectly explained by the name. There were propaganda camps, 
in which were concentrated nationalities and classes considered espe- 
cially susceptible to German influence — the Ukrainians, for example, 
German and white Russians, and some of the Mohammedans. There 
were civilian camps for the internment of enemy aliens, many of 
whom were also scattered through the military camps. Finally, there 

^ In the case of the American infantry oflScers, this payment was 60 marks 
a month, 52 of which were withheld. 



were the working detachments which consisted of half a dozen to sev- 
eral thousand men each assigned to work on German farms, public 
works, or in important industries. These men received wages, were 
set to purposive work, and enjoyed a certain amount of freedom. 
On the other hand, they were widely scattered and frequently cut off 
from contact with their fellow countrymen, and were often exposed, 
particularly in the factories, to the ill-will of individual supervisors. 

Among the Allies, the public generally was under the impression Treat^^ent of 
during the war — indeed, is to this day — that the prisoners in German 
prison camps were treated with great cruelty. There is much con- 
flicting testimony on this point and it is not the task of this history 
to resolve the difficulty. There are certain facts, however, upon which 
there is general agreement. The punishments inflicted by the Ger- 
mans in their own Army indicated a childish reliance on physical 
violence, flogging being a recognized and respected punitive measure. 
Flogging at the whipping-posts and similar practices were naturally 
applied to prisoners with what result among them and among their 
countrymen at home may be easily imagined. Also, prisoners in 
German hands unquestionably met Teuton arrogance in its most un- 
mitigated and trying form. In many instances, it emerged as cease- 
less nagging, which may become the worst form of torture. There 
were some brutal commandants; and there were some individual 
guards with the working detachments who could not resist the tempta- 
tion to abuse helpless men. Recognizing all this as true, certain ob- 
servers warn against the inevitable exaggeration and claim that, gen- 
erally speaking, there was a disposition to be humane in the conduct 
of the prisoners' life. The testimony of prisoners themselves shows 
such disagreement as one would expect from varying individual ex- 
perience. It is quite impossible to reconcile sharply conflicting state- 
ments made by men who should have had no personal bias; one is 
tempted to draw the safe conclusion that there was much good and 
much evil in the situation. There we must leave it. 

The whole propaganda process carried on in the camps, the at- Propaganda 
tempt to impress the prisoners with the high state of German civiliza- 
tion — especially, as one professor naively put it, since these very cap- 
tives might one day be his fellow subjects — aroused in prisoners and 
neutral observers alike the deepest resentment. The Germ.ans, of 
course, assumed from the beginning till the mid-summer of 1918 that 
there was not a shadow of doubt as to their winning the war and thus 
being answerable to no one. 



The Food 


There were, in any event, hardships enough and of a very trying 
nature. The food situation grew increasingly difficult as time went on. 
Technically speaking, the meals served the prisoners in 1915 may have 
contained adequate nourishment, but they could not have been ap- 
petizing as described by observers ; and steadily lack of dietetic varia- 
tion was succeeded by actual lack of nourishment. The Y originally 
set out to eschew food relief, properly cared for by other agencies ; but 
the alarming scarcity drove the workers to increased emphasis on this 
activity. Among the British, French, and Italians, who quite regular- 
ly received food parcels from home, conditions were not so bad; but 
the Russians, Roumanians, and Serbs suffered intensely. In 1917, 
a visitor to one camp found 600 to 700 men, none weighing over 75 
pounds, lying listlessly on their cots all day, too exhausted by hunger 
to do anything else, while 10 to 40 of them were carried to the grave- 
yard each day. For those who had no supplementary resources, the 
system of working detachments, where a more adequate food allow- 
ance was received, proved the only salvation. 

The physical conditions of the prisoners varied greatly, as might 
have been expected in the case of so many centers scattered over such 
a wide area. They ranged all the way from well-organized camps 
such as Darmstadt — orderly, fully equipped, with a splendid hospital 
— to the unspeakable dug-outs in East and West Prussia. Most of 
the larger camps were equipped with delousing plants and bathing 
facilities, especially required in the case of certain groups of pris- 
oners who were utter strangers to habits of personal cleanliness. 
German efficiency was markedly present in some cases but conspicuous 
by its absence in others. There was, as might have been expected, an 
official rigidity that frequently blocked proper and reasonable im- 
provements. On the other hand, there were commandants whose gen- 
erous efforts are gratefully remembered. 

The first policy of the Germans was of the "let-alone" type. As 
time went on there developed a more wholesome point of view — 
stimulated, probably, in considerable measure by pressure both from 
within and from without — and added facilities of social life were 
granted the prisoners. There are reports of camps where "each com- 
pound . . had its own kitchen, canteen, reading room, playground, and 
theater, here and there a workshop such as a shoe, tailor, or carpenter 
shop, and in some cases an art studio. Usually one barrack was re- 
served for church purposes for the entire camp."^ In many cases there 

' In the Prison Camps of Germany, Conrad Hoffman, New York, 1920, p. 36. 


existed among the camp officials a keen sense of pride in maintaining 
everything in the best possible order. Many camps had flower and 
vegetable gardens, the advantage of which to prisoners is obvious. 
It is hardly necessary to add that in the propaganda camps everything 
was made as comfortable as possible. For the whole body of prison- 
ers, there was established, under the auspices of the Foreign Depart- 
ment, a committee charged with the spiritual welfare of prisoners. 

To the American Ambassador, James W. Gerard, a very large The Assistance 

'of the American 

measure of credit must be given for his persistent and successful ef - Ambassador 
forts to secure better facilities for prisoners of war in Germany. This 
service is little known in America, but was deeply appreciated by the 
many thousands of men who profited by it.^ 

The Y Enters Germany 

Dr. Harte's visit to Berlin in February, 1915, in his endeavor to 
bring into the German prison camps the sympathy and service of the 
Y, inaugurated a series of sharp conflicts with the German officials that 
persisted through the course of the work and extended in some cases 
even to the local civilian supporters. Behind every record of achieve- 
ment there lies the story of long and patient negotiation. The Prus- 
sian War Ministry- was willing to permit the War Prisoners* Aid to 
send in supplies for distribution but held back on the real Y service. 
This, of course, did not satisfy the Association representative, and he 
persisted, playing the string of reciprocity, with the aid of the Ameri- 
can Ambassador. By March 6th, he succeeded in eliciting a note 
addressed to Dr. Schreiber, a German who had been actively endeavor- 
ing to further the religious welfare of war prisoners, stating that: 

"The War Ministry welcomes the commendable cooperation of 
the Young Men's Christian Association, and will render every assist- 
ance so that it may speedily achieve its aims. It will only be neces- 
sary, therefore, to select the prisoners of war camp in which activities 
may conveniently begin." 

Two camps were selected for the initiation of the enterprise. Jwiy^j^ 
At Gottingen the first Y hut for prisoners of war in the world was 
opened on April 15, 1915. It included a large hall and reading room, 

* The various reports made by Ambassador Gerard to the British Government, 
including many camp investigations by members of the American Embassy, throw 
much light on this situation. 

' There was one German General Staff, but each State had its own War Min- 
istry. To a certain extent the Prussian War Ministry set the pace but the author- 
ity of the other ministries was very definite and had to be reckoned with at all 





a small hall, and three class rooms. Dr. Harte made his first journey 
to Russia in the spring, returning to Germany in the summer to direct 
the establishment of work in several other camps. The future success 
of the War Prisoners' Aid in Germany depended so entirely upon 
the parallel expansion of work in Russia that Dr. Harte found it neces- 
sary to make a second trip to Russia in October. Conrad Hoffman, 
a member of the Flying Squadron, who had been working for German 
prisoners in England came to Germany at this time to supervise the 
war prisoner work in that area. 

From this time forward the work gained in momentum and addi- 
tional secretaries were secured until the allotted total of thirteen was 
reached. Mr. Hoffman's first permit, signed by General Friedrichs, 
in charge of prisoners of war, was very liberal in its terms, including 
even permission to take photographs. Prince Max of Baden, who on 
request of the American representatives consented to stand as patron 
of the work, assisted in securing these liberal privileges. Of course, 
it must be borne in mind that such a permit did not eliminate red 
tape : there were the Army Corps Commander, and the inspector of 
the Army Corps, and the camp commander all to be dealt with for 
their approval, and in Bavaria, Saxony, and Wiirttemberg a special 
permit was required from the separate war ministries. Further, 
the regulations were altered continually and from time to time limita- 
tions were introduced that threatened the very life of the work. The 
secretary walked in daily peril from diverse dangers. Transgression 
of some nice rule of etiquette might end the service at one stroke. 
The authorities were suspicious on the one hand; sometimes it was 
the prisoner who doubted the secretary's intentions. There was the 
sectarian problem: it was necessary so to act that neither Roman 
Catholics, nor Greek Catholics, nor Jews, nor Mohammedans, nor 
Protestants could have just grounds for charging the War Prisoners' 
Aid with conducting sectarian propaganda. 

The small force of the Y worked steadily in the face of an en- 
larging problem and increasing difficulties. The terrible seriousness 
of the need weighed upon the little group of workers bound by exas- 
perating restrictions. Mr. Hoffman said: 

"The efforts put forth and the results accomplished were so 
infinitesimal in the light of the need that discouragement was ever 
present. . . . It was impossible, with the resources and men avail- 
able and permitted, to do anything at all commensurate with the needs 
and demands."^ 

' In the Prison Camps of Germany, Conrad Hoffman, 1920, pp. vii, viii. 


However, the actual results certainly more than justified the 

Work proceeded on the lines that had first been laid down until J}^^^ . .. 

^ Organization 

April 8, 1916, when a meeting was called by the War Prisoners' De- 
partment of the War Ministry at the request of Dr. Harte, based 
on Russia's demand for a representative committee, to establish a 
definitive basis and a more efficient plan for future procedure in both 
Germany and Russia. Those present at this meeting included Prince 
Max of Baden, chairman; Count Pourtales, vice-chairman; General 
von Pf uej and Dr. von Studt of the Red Cross ; Count von Spitzenberg, 
Privy-Counselor of the Empress; General-Major Friedrichs, Lieut.- 
Colonel Bauer, and Captain Count von Boenigk, of the War Ministry ; 
American Exchange Professor T. C. Hall ; A. C. Harte ; Dr. Gerhard 
Niedermeyer, National Secretary of the German Student Movement; 
Dr. Michaelis, Chairman of the Student Movement ; Conrad Hoffman ; 
and Messrs. Rosenkranz and Meyer, of the German National Commit- 
tee of the Y M C A. A special Executive Committee was appointed 
which consisted of Professor Hall, chairman; Prince Max of Baden, 
honorary chairman; Captain Count von Boenigk; Dr. Niedermeyer; 
and Conrad Hoff'man. A careful statement of Y activities was drawn 
up which included the supplying of huts and equipment, the furnishing 
of all kinds of supplies, distribution of food parcels, the extension or 
erection of canteen facilities, and the transmission of money. A new 
form of permit was drawn up, which on its face appeared to intro- 
duce no new restrictions except that the Y secretaries' privilege of 
conversing alone with prisoners was made conditional on the con- 
sent of the Army Corps Commanders. This actually worked out as 
a very severe limitation. 

Each secretary was assigned to cover one or more of the eighteen 
army corps. At first it was possible to cover only a third of all the 
camps each month ; but as the work became established shorter visits 
were possible, and at times a secretary touched 25 centers in a month. 

A list of the outstanding features of four months' work of one a List of 

I . . . , . ■, ., Achievements 

secretary may give some insight into daily experiences : 

1. Completion and dedication of a large Y M C A church building. 

2. Construction and opening of a small church building and ar- 
rangements completed for another of the same type. 

3. Addresses to prisoners in four camps each month. 

4. Collection of 840 handicraft articles for the prisoners-of-war 
bazaar in Stockholm. 


5. Supplying musical instruments to four camps, to be paid for 
on the instalment plan. 

6. Furnishing handicraft tools or materials to three hospitals and 
five camps. 

7. Furnishing athletic equipment to three hospitals and five 

8. Purchasing stereopticon equipment for one camp and radiop- 
ticon for another, and a second radiopticon for use in a circuit of 

9. Securing books or school supplies for seven camps and one 

10. Making up lists of prisoners who desired news or parcels from 
home in all except three camps — not including officers. 

11. Ordering crosses, special religious books, candles, or holy 
meal for Russian Orthodox priests, Roman Catholic priests, or English 
Church leaders in six camps. 

12. Conducting and arranging chess tournaments in three camps. 

Such a list by no means covers the whole day's work, but it does 
suggest something of the variety of the demands made upon the 
worker of the War Prisoners' Aid. It takes no account of the most 
significant thing of all, the personal service bringing sympathy and 
encouragement to disheartened men; yet if one has but the imagina- 
tion, it is possible to see the spiritual significance of each item in the 
list and what it meant to the prisoner shut inside the barbed wire. 

The Camps 

It would be quite impossible to deal in detail with the vast range 
of local activities of the War Prisoners' Aid. Perhaps a few concrete 
examples will visualize the picture. 
Ruhieben The camp at Ruhleben, where over 5,000 British civilians were 

confined, has become more or less f amous.^ While the group interned 
there, a mixture of every class of society, was exceptional, its history 
exhibits many important features of the experience of prisoners of 
war in Germany. Ruhleben is a fashionable race-course near Berlin ; 
the prisoners were accommodated in the boxstalls. Observers have not 
been able to discover any single adequate reason for choosing the place 
as an internment camp. The living quarters were bad and the Ger- 
man authorities made no effort to improve them. What was accom- 
plished in this camp was due entirely to leadership among the prison- 
ers themselves, assisted by Ambassador Gerard and the War Prison- 

* Consult The Ruhleben Prison Camp, Israel Cohen, London, 1917. 


ers' Aid. The situation was not improved by the presence of a group 
of pro-Germans among the prisoners. 

There developed here exceedingly bad feeling between the Pris- ^j^'^^^y^^ 
oners and the authorities. The Germans attempted to impose rigid 
military discipline upon the prisoners and the guard system was ob- 
trusive and exasperating. Several of the leaders among the prisoners 
managed to secure the privilege of self-government within the camp. 
In spite of the fact that even this government suffered somewhat from 
the disease of politics, the arrangement worked well and the first Y 
visitors in 1915 found a better feeling between guards and prisoners 
growing up. The influence of Ambassador Gerard prevailed to secure 
many facilities including an athletic field. 

Dr. Harte made an effort to secure permission to erect a hut 
at the time of his first visit to the camp but met sharp opposition. 
Conrad Hoffman, in October, 1915, found the camp well organized — 
historical club, a music club, a science club, two or three theatrical 
societies, schools, religious organizations, a "Bond Street" lined with 
shops, and the growing "Grand Stand University." The urgent need 
was for better facilities to house the various activities and an earnest 
appeal was made to the Y. 

The German authorities made every possible objection to the RjLS,"en^' 
erection of the Ruhleben Hut ; and, even when permission was granted 
after long negotiation, they refused to assist in arranging for the 
erection. It was finally built by a German contractor assisted by the 
prisoners. The work was begun only four weeks before Christmas 
but the hut was dedicated on Christmas Day, 1915. A thousand men 
stood within the hall with as many more outside, while this building, 
decorated with pine branches and the two immense Christmas trees 
given by the camp commandant, was dedicated to the service of God 
and the social needs of the camp and presented to the men as a Christ- 
mas gift from the Y M C A. 

This hut was used throughout the whole day by the many students 
within the camp. The reference library, art studio, Italian seminary, 
and club room were housed here. Entertainments, physical education, 
and Bible study classes were carried on under its roof. Each Sunday 
morning from 7 to 9 o'clock, Holy Communion was celebrated by the 
Church of England; from 9.30 to 11, the Roman Catholics had the 
hut for the celebration of the mass. On Sunday afternoon Anglican 
Vespers and a German Evangelical service were held, and the day was 
ended with a brief Catholic evensong. During the week there were 


Anglican and German Evangelical morning prayers, evening prayer 
meetings, Bible classes, and prayer meetings. In February, 1916, a 
four-day series of special religious services was held under the aus- 
pices of the Y which resulted in 300 decisions and renewals for the 
Christian life. A further result was the formation of a camp Y M C A 
with 285 members and a special department for boys' work, and also 
a large increase in the attendance at all religious services. 

The activities in this camp progressed remarkably after 1915. 
Still, the other side of the picture must be kept in mind. Over one 
hundred men went insane there, and the whole experience was a night- 
mare to a very large group of men. Ruhleben — literally, perhaps iron- 
ically, "peaceful life"— has been called "The City of Futility." 
MiHtarV ^^ ^^^ military camps the huts served a similar variety of pur- 

camps poses, and around them though perhaps on a somewhat less elaborate 

scale — especially after the men began to be drafted into working 
parties — centered the educational and social life of the community. 
In one officers* camp 500 out of the 735 officers were enrolled in the 
school; in another, 1,100 Frenchmen were organized for study; in still 
another, eleven different languages, including Hebrew and Swahili, 
were taught. In cooperation with various university laboratories, ap- 
paratus such as telescopes and microscopes and other valuable labora- 
tory instruments were procured for ambitious students. Special 
privileges were obtained for students, some of whom were, through 
the intervention of the Y secretary, released from manual labor in 
order that they might continue their studies.^ In one case, release 
from the prison camp was granted to a biologist on condition that the 
Y secretary should assume responsibility for him, so that he might 
continue research work in Frankfort ; the results of his investigations 
were published in an English scientific journal. Arrangements were 
also made with university libraries such as that of Heidelberg and 
the Royal Library at Berlin to supply reference books to prisoners. 
Special attention was given to elementary education for the Russians 
and the Italians when it was discovered that from 75 to 80 per cent of 
these were illiterate. Early in 1916, since no Russian primers could 
be purchased in Germany, the Y in cooperation with the German and 
Swiss branches began the publication of reading texts in Russian 
and later in Italian. Editions of several hundred thousand ABC 
books were thus printed and circulated. Besides these, thousands of 

* In accordance with international agreement, this should have been done with- 
ouft outside intervention, but it appears to have been a custom honored as much in 
the breach as in the observance. 


other books were given to the camps — some specially printed by the 
Association. From August to November, 1917, nearly 100,000 books 
and pamphlets were shipped from the Berlin office, including books 
in Tartar, Turkish, Flemish, Finnish, Esthonian, English, French, 
Russian, Roumanian, Serbian, Armenian, and five other languages. 
Up to March, 1918, the figures reached 653,747 books and other pub- 
lications, and more than 715,000 copies of the Messenger, a prison- 
camp paper. All camps were supplied with libraries of 20 to 100 vol- 
umes, and more than 17,000 individual orders for books were filled. 

The list of supplies furnished is long and varied. Up to June, 
1917, more than 20,000 marks had been expended for the purchase 
and hire of musical instruments. Other articles furnished were cod- 
liver oil, underwear, clothing for 350 recently captured seamen, punch- 
ing bags, boxing gloves, darning wool, sole leather, beads, a spectro- 
scope, electrical installation for laboratory, linen for the hospitals, 
films, lantern slides, physico-medical apparatus, theatrical costumes. 
These are only a few of the articles given for relief or the encourage- 
ment of camp activities. 

While the secretaries made no attempt to conduct sectarian relig- fg^'S^ 
ious service, some did give wholly non-sectarian religious and moral 
talks on Sundays or occasionally during the week. The stimulation 
of Bible-study groups was an important feature of their work, and 
in many camps good leaders of study circles were discovered. The 
regular religious services were arranged in cooperation with a Ger- 
man committee which had been organized for the purpose before the 
Y entered the field. Sometimes permission was secured for the men 
to attend the village churches. It is interesting to note that the first 
mass for Russians in a German camp was arranged by a Y Secretary, 
who also managed to procure the appropriate supplies for the cele- 
bration. Wheat flour for Holy Communion, incense, altar candles, 
prayer and hymn books, church music, oil, communion wine, and 
priests' robes were among the articles furnished. Some three hundred 
thousand crosses and ikons, a gift from the Empress of Russia, were 
distributed among the Russian prisoners. 

In this connection there is one especially interesting episode, a unjque 
Among the essentials for worship in the Greek Catholic ritual are the 
antimensia (a special form of altar cloth) , which, to be of value, must 
be blessed by the Bishop of the Greek Church at Petrograd. These 
could not be procured in Germany, and it was impossible to import 
them in the ordinary way since, once they have been consecrated, they 


must not be touched by any lay person. The German authorities 
naturally insisted that all packages coming from Russia must be 
thoroughly examined by customs and censor officials. This problem 
was solved when a dozen of these cloths, contributed by the Rus- 
sian Synod through the efforts of the Y M C A, were blessed and 
delivered in a carefully sealed package to a Red Cross sister who was 
met at the frontier by Mr. Hoffman, accompanied by a priest attached 
to the Greek Embassy: the sealed package was there opened by the 
priest in the presence of the censors. The priest held up the cloths 
one by one for examination, carefully keeping them at a distance from 
the examiners that the sacred articles might not be defiled. Religious 
services for the many thousands of Russian prisoners in Germany were 
thus made possible. 
M^ey"*^ The relief of the suffering caused by the food shortage was not 

strictly a part of the Association's special field of activity, but it would 
have been impossible to withhold help in the face of conditions so 
distressing. As early as May, 1915, Dr. Harte made a special journey 
to Denmark to procure food parcels for 297 recently captured Cana- 
dians and English, and to arrange for a regular supply.^ This was the 
beginning of the food parcel system, which was afterwards developed 
in England and France to such an extent that these governments 
were virtually feeding their own subjects in enemy hands. As has 
been already pointed out, however, the Russians, Serbians, and Rou- 
manians suffered intensely from scarcity of food. Quite early in the 
war the Y made an effort to relieve these conditions, in part by the 
local purchase of food for specially needy cases reported by the visit- 
ing secretaries, but still more by arranging for the importation of 
parcels from Denmark, Holland, and Sweden. Relatives and friends 
ordered parcels and these were purchased in Copenhagen and distrib- 
uted from the Berlin headquarters. Lists of names of prisoners not 
receiving aid from any other source were forwarded to the Crown 
Princess of Sweden, under whose direction regular monthly ship- 
ments were sent in from the Swedish women ; and the Y also solicited 
similar aid from America and from Russia. In this way, sometimes 
as many as 30,000 parcels per month were distributed. As the need 
became still greater, after 1917 it was realized that the first and most 
important problem was the saving of these men from starvation. It 
was impossible to buy food in the local markets, and the Association 

' Some had been sent in earlier by the Crown Princess of Sweden and some 
through the mails. 


planned on a large scale the importation of food, clothing, medical 
supplies, and blankets from the neutral countries and America. It is 
an instance of the ruthless exigencies of war that, when all arrange- 
ments had been made in America, Denmark, Sweden, and Holland, the 
Allied Powers refused to sanction the scheme. 

To a certain extent, too, the Y became an agent for the transmis- 
sion of money for the relief of prisoners. Up to June 1, 1917, 627,426.- 
20 marks (including 300,000 marks from the German government, 
100,000 marks from the Austrian government, and 187,426.20 marks 
from relatives of prisoners, beside 40,000 marks from other sources) 
were distributed among Germans and Austrians in Russia, and 108,- 
000 marks (of which 98,000 marks were from funds secured by the 
Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and 10,300 marks from prisoners* 
relatives) had been administered for Russians in Germany and Aus- 
tria. In addition, money was received from the Polish commission and 
from other governments. In many cases a receipt was the first sign 
relatives received that their loved ones were still alive. 

Each Christmas, of course, was a time of special activity, when.chnstma* 
by distributing games, books, entertainment boxes, and gift packages, 
and arranging for concerts, organ recitals, songs, and illustrated 
lectures on religious or other subjects the endeavor was made to 
bring some Christmas cheer to the imprisoned soldiers and the civil- 
ians with their wives and children. Nor were the guards forgotten. 
In one district, for instance, the guardrooms of all the camps were 
given the same packages of games as the prisoners ; indeed, on more 
than one occasion the guards and officers expressed gratitude to the 
Y for its share in lightening their difficulties, as when a German camp 
commander said : "Your visit brings a most welcome break into the 
lives of these officers. It also makes them feel that they are not 
forgotten. Don't think you can come too often nor that your visit 
is ever valueless." Perhaps the whole nature of the situation faced 
by the Y, its fundamental hopelessness and the nature and measure 
of its alleviation, cannot be better expressed than in the words of 
Hoffman concerning these Christmas activities : 

"Nothing seemed more desolate than these attempts at good cheer 
at Christmas time, for one was aware that the longing to be at home 
was uppermost in the heart and mind of every man. One could not 
but feel how artificial and forced all the attempts at cheerfulness were, 
and yet how much more desolate would the lot of these men have been 
had not such attempts at cheerfulness been bravely made.^ 

' In the Prison Camps of Germany, Conrad Hoffman, New York, 1920, p. 93. 



The Cominjr of 



of Americans 

AFTER America's Entry 

On America's entry into the war, Germany insisted upon the ex- 
clusion of American workers from all prison camps in all countries. 
It is unnecessary to recount the several negotiations that led to the 
securing of permission for Mr. Hoffman to remain in Germany. His 
position was insecure from month to month but he did stay to the end.^ 
There was much difficulty in securing neutral workers ; the Germans 
wanted only Danes, and it was almost impossible to secure agreement 
on individuals. Later, Swiss, Swedes, and Norwegians were included. 
New restrictions were devised and the American representative was 
denied direct access to the camp. The whole service was thus threat- 
ened at a time when the food shortage was becoming desperate. "Bring 
us bread," the prisoners cried, "and we will organize the activities 
you propose." 

The feature of the last stage of the work of greatest interest to 
Americans was the contact with American prisoners. The first were 
captured in November, 1917, and by the spring of 1918 they came 
in increasing numbers reaching a total of about 2,600. Special ar- 
rangements were made at the beginning to secure and transmit 
through the Copenhagen office of the War Prisoners' Aid the names of 
American captives, so that Y lists antedated those transmitted through 
the regular official channels. 

At first these prisoners were scattered. Mr. Hoffman made an 
application in February to be allowed to visit the camps where Ameri- 
cans were held, but it was June before he made the trip. In these pre- 
liminary visits as much as possible was done to relieve the immediate 
needs of the men. 

On the basis of observations made in the course of this trip, the 
American secretary drew up certain recommendations for an agree- 
ment regarding American prisoners.- Several of these were brought 
about ; possibly the most important one was the concentration of all 
Americans in one camp. Unfortunately, the Germans chose Tuchel, 
in East Prussia, where the prisoners were housed in damp dug-outs 
and root cellars. The persistent efforts of the American secretary 
secured their transfer, in August, 1918, to Rastatt. This had been 

* Dr. Harte, as representing the American Y, insisted that the War Prisoners' 
Aid must maintain direct control of the Berlin office if the work was to continue 
on the reciprocal basis. 

' See In the Prison Camps of Germany, Conrad Hoffman, New York, 1920, 
pp. 153, 154. 


a propaganda camp so the arrangements were much more satisfactory. 
At the secretary's instigation the "block system" of confining prison- 
ers in separate compounds was abolished. 

Once or twice a month until the signing of the Armistice a visit AmLng the 
was made to Rastatt, and a good deal was accomplished to make the Americans 
life of the men bearable. Through cooperation with Berne and Copen- 
hagen, a complete athletic equipment was provided ; a piano and musi- 
cal instruments were furnished and a band organized ; books were sent 
through the Swiss office, a camp newspaper was started. Regularly 
on Sunday mornings church services were held, with an attendance 
at times of 500 men. The appearance and spirit of the camp on sub- 
sequent visits diifered radically from the early melancholy days — 
baseball games, football matches, band practice, chess, checkers, and 
dominoes, reading and studying all going forward simultaneously 
to make a kaleidoscopic pattern of activity made possible by the fur- 
nishing of Y M C A supplies. The gratitude of the men, too, was no 
less sincere than vociferous; and, as one observer remarked, those 
who had contributed to the Student Friendship Fund would have been 
warmed to the heart could they have witnessed the good cheer, occupa- 
tion for mind, body, and soul, and salvation from the maddening 
monotony of camp life that these contributions made possible. 

This brief account of the American prisoners in Germany would H^Jf button's 
not be complete without some mention of the outstanding figure of work 
Sergeant Halyburton, the ranking non-commissioned officer at Rastatt 
who was placed in complete charge of the camp. With as many as 
2,600 men under him. Sergeant Halyburton accomplished a task in 
the maintenance of morale and discipline and the securing of coopera- 
tion, respect, and affection that might have taxed the abilities of a 
staff oflficer. Not only did he keep up the spirits of his men and hold 
them in order ; he also successfully resisted the extraordinary efforts 
the Germans put forth to propagandize the Americans, refusing to 
tolerate, for example, the circulation of the German propaganda news- 
paper, America and Europe, among his fellow-prisoners. For this 
stiff opposition he was eventually transferred to another camp; but 
on the vigorous protest of Hoffman, the authorities finally returned 
him to Rastatt. Such was the situation when the German Revolu- 
tion and the Armistice intervened. 

The chief characteristics of the period before the Armistice were The character 

- . ■^ , of the Last 

the growing scarcity of food and the deterioration of the equipment Period 
and management of the camps. The supervision of the prisoners was 


amply repaid to the Germans by the work the prisoners accomplished 
on the farms and in workshops. They were of material assistance in 
consideration of the depletion of man power and were fully used. The 
prisoners' lot grew steadily worse toward the end in spite of all that 
could be done. 

Chapter LI 
The general character of the prisoners of war situation in Aus- The Boy 

^ -^ Prisoners of War 

tria-Hungary was the same as that in Germany : very large numbers 
of prisoners — about 1,750,000 in all — were held in concentration 
camps. These were mostly Russians, Italians, Serbs, and Rouman- 
ians. They were for the most part ignorant and very poor. Among 
the Russians, about 90 per cent were quite illiterate. The nations 
represented by these men were all too poor to send supplies regularly 
and in sufficient quantity and they were compelled to depend upon the 
ration that decreased steadily as the blockade shut in the Central 
Empires. One of the most interesting and pitiful features of this 
situation was the presence of groups of boys among the prisoners of 
war. Some of these were Russians or Roumanians, but most were 
Serbs who, in the general disaster, had followed their fathers into 
the battle and been captured along with the rest. The opinion of 
observers appears to indicate a really generous attitude on the part 
of the prison officials. The French from the beginning were con- 
vinced that Austria-Hungary treated prisoners better than did Ger- 
many. The stubborn realities of the situation proved, of course, more 
powerful than good intentions; the scarcity of food and fuel meant 
that prisoners did go hungry and cold and there was no way to help 

Y M C A Organization in Austria-Hungary 

The first opening in Austria-Hungary was secured by Christian ^^f^^^^"^ 
Phildius of the World's Committee. In May, 1915, permission was 
given to enter two camps, working only through Austrian Secretaries. 
The effort of Mr. Phildius was undertaken as a part of the work 
suggested by Dr. Mott and was carried on with funds supplied from 
America. The Austro-Hungarian authorities were, of course, follow- 
ing Germany's lead and thinking of reciprocity; and they regarded 
all arrangements as tentative. In the autumn of 1915, Mr. Harte 
visited Austria at the request of the Austrian military authorities, 
after he had been in Russia. There was by this time a general agree- 
ment regarding reciprocal service everywhere ; and some weeks later 



the Y M C A was permitted to erect its huts and to offer a full pro- 
gram of service. 

Mr. Phildius remained in Austria until the summer of 1916. 
The work was then placed in charge of Edgar F. MacNaughten, an 
American secretary, who remained by special permission even after 
America had been drawn into the war. The working force was re- 
placed by neutrals; and in October, 1917, Mr. MacNaughten was 
transferred to the work in Russia, though against the wishes of the 
Austro-Hungarian government. The American Y M C A supplied all 
the funds necessary for the conduct of this v/ork, but it was carried on 
throughout with cooperation with the World's Committee. Between 
October, 1917, and November, 1918, the World's Committee assumed 
the administrative responsibility within Austria-Hungary, which re- 
verted again to the International Committee in New York, after the 
Sfltions ^^ ^^^ spring of 1916, the War Prisoners* Aid became recognized 

as a definite part of the general welfare service of the Austrian Red 
Cross. The senior secretary of the Y M C A was a member of both 
the Austrian and the Hungarian Red Cross Committees. The object 
of this arrangement was, of course, the identification of the work 
with the established official agency. Baron von Spiegelfeld, in his 
annual report (1916) as president of the Information Bureau and 
Relief Committee of the Austrian Red Cross, makes particular refer- 
ence to the Y M C A, commends its various activities, and offers a 
word of thanks for service both in Austria and in enemy countries. 
The War Prisoners' Aid thus acquired a rather definite official status. 
The privileges accorded secretaries in Austria-Hungary were exceed- 
ingly liberal and regular and seldom interfered with; among these 
privileges they enjoyed the rather extraordinary one of being allowed 
to reside in the camps. This gave them unrestricted right of entrance 
and they were thus not limited to visits of a few hours' duration. 
It is not on record that these additional privileges ever caused any 
trouble and it is certainly true that they greatly improved the ser- 
vice to the prisoners. 

Welfare Work 

In their early visits to the camps of Austria-Hungary the wel- 
fare workers were made vividly aware of the distinctive features of 
their difficult task. It was not a mere repetition of the activities in 
England, in France, and in Germany. 


The material privations of these poor and ignorant prisoners Privations 
were the first essential facts of the difficult situation. Insufficient 
help was received from the Russian, Roumanian, or Serbian govern- 
ments, and even Italy had little surplus to devote to the well-being 
of prisoners. As the prison rations decreased, these caged men were 
reduced to the eternal cabbage or beef soup and a quarter loaf of 
black bread each day, varied by an occasional small portion of meat. 
Most of these sufferers were insufficiently clad, and coal became un- 
obtainable. The conditions that obtained through many German 
prison camps were the rule in practically every concentration center 
in Austria-Hungary. Relief was not the business of the Association, 
but the need was so great that the Y M C A workers bent every effort 
to aid the established agencies and to supplement them as far as 
resources would permit. It was a primary obligation. The War 
Prisoners' Aid acted as distributing agent everywhere, and cooper- 
ating with all agencies and particularly with the Crown Princess of 
Sweden, supplied large quantities of food and clothing and other 
necessities throughout Austria-Hungary, Russia, and Germany. The 
Russian Red Cross was, of course, active throughout this area. 

The regulations of the government regarding the purchase of^^"^* 
food were very strict. No food parcel was forwarded unless it was 
addressed to an individual and no agency was permitted to send 
money out of the country for food for war prisoners. The local mar- 
kets were able to supply comparatively little, so even the prisoners 
who had money were unable to purchase under the official regulations. 
The War Prisoners' Aid devised a method of helping the situation. 
Food parcels were purchased by the Y M C A in Denmark and in 
Switzerland and sent to the Austro-Hungarian camps in the name 
of designated individuals. They were handed over to the representa- 
tives of cooperative societies organized by the Y M C A in the camps, 
and the food was then sold. The cost of most of the parcels was re- 
funded to the Y M C A and this money was used for the conduct of the 
prisoner of war service. Thus the regulations were observed to the 
letter. Five per cent was added to the cost of the articles by the camp 
committee and the profits were spent for the relief of the sick and 
for the establishment of tea-rooms. These cooperative enterprises 
proved very useful ; they were able to render much service, and at the 
same time they provided an outlet for the energies of a large number 
of men engaged in the administration of the business. The Y M C A 
offered its help at all times to the local committees. 



The Social 


It is necessary again to emphasize that the relief measures of all 
agencies combined fell far short of meeting the needs. It requires a 
huge stock of material to keep a million and three quarters of men 
well-clothed and well-fed. The total amounts available for relief 
are small when compared with the number of prisoners. Arithmet- 
ical calculations are sometimes misleading but it is well to remember 
that ten cents per day for two millions of men totals $73,000,000 
for a year. 

The War Prisoners* Aid developed steadily from its beginnings 
in the spring of 1915. The work could be extended only by the most 
careful procedure. The raising of funds was no more difficult than the 
securing of competent and acceptable workers, and the danger of over- 
stepping the bounds of prudence was present in Austria-Hungary as 
everywhere else. The staff increased till by the later months of 1916 
there were a dozen workers, providing a force sufficient to permit each 
man to devote his attention to three large camps. In the 28 main de- 
pots there were Y M C A social centers, either special buildings or 
barracks allotted by the military authorities. In many camps there 
were barracks set aside for church services, and here and there a 
special building for theater and moving pictures. At Heinrichsgriin, 
for example, there were separate barracks for the Russian church, 
the school, and the moving pictures, all of which were adapted and 
equipped by the Y M C A. At Wieselburg, there were a Russian 
Orthodox church, a Roman Catholic church, three school buildings 
(one especially for invalids), a work-shop, a theater, four tea-rooms, 
and two buildings remodeled as quarters for the Russian boys. 

The welfare workers were compelled to labor with difficult ma- 
terial in building up their local organizations ; but, of course, there 
was no other method of work open to them. It was exceedingly 
fortunate that they were able to live in the camps; otherwise, they 
would have been much hampered in setting up the organizations. 
Committees were appointed and held together by main force and 
sometimes a most effective social machine was put in running order. 
The record of the camp at Grodig, for example, shows a cabinet 
representing ten committees in charge of welfare, school, library, 
reading room, music, theater, moving pictures, athletics and recrea- 
tion, arts, wood-carving, handicrafts, and religion (Roman Catholics, 
Greek Orthodox, and Jewish) . The War Prisoners* Aid sent in the 
material and the secretaries nursed the delicate organizations into 
something like maturity. The appreciations of this service reflect 


the pathos of the hard life. They are indications too of what might 
have been done for all had the resources and privileges been equal 
to the occasion. Here is a paragraph from a letter written by the 
prisoners at Thanes: 

"The will of fate placed us in a difficult position; with fear we 
looked around, timid and helpless; we did not know what to do with 
ourselves. It seemed as if our years of youth, the best years of our 
lives, were passing away useless. Our intellectual strength was being 
wasted : perhaps, complete atrophy awaited us. Just then your Asso- 
ciation, through you, reached to us a helping hand, and led us out of 
this helpless situation, showing us a new v/ay, the way of intellectual 
and spiritual life. Through your interest and your warm sympathy, 
schools were opened, dramatic societies started, libraries provided, 
lectures and courses organized. As the Queen Bee directs the whole 
life of the hive, so you have led us tirelessly upon the noble way of 
wisdom and knowledge and directed the whole intellectual and spirit- 
ual life of the camps." 

These quaint words may be taken to represent the very genius 
and the ideal of the War Prisoners' Aid — a high ideal, well above 
the power of perfect attainment ; they certainly reflect accurately the 
needs of the prisoners and their appreciation of welfare work. 

The educational work was extremely varied owing to the hetero- Education 
geneous character of the prisoners. At the one extreme, in the Italian 
camp at Mauthausen in Austria, the school, under the leadership of an 
Italian professor, did work of such a high standard that credit was 
given by the Italian Educational Board for subjects in the fourteen 
different courses offered in this camp. The original Y hut was soon 
outgrown and a new school house had to be built. Similar University 
Extension work was carried on amongst the various officer groups. 
At the other extreme were the numerous classes for illiterates learn- 
ing to read and write from text books printed for their use on Y M C A 
presses in the camps. The eagerness of the uneducated to utilize the 
opportunity of acquiring some degree of education was most impres- 
sive. Many of the pupils were over forty years of age ; but in spite 
of adverse conditions, cold rooms and half empty stomachs, they strove 
to master the mysteries of elementary reading, writing and arithmetic. 
In seven months, more than 2,000 Russians in Wieselburg passed 
through the schools: the night school for workers, the invalids' 
school, and the officers' school. In the Serbian camp at Boldogasszony 
there were five different schools, one for boys, one for cripples, one for 
Mohammedans, a hospital school and an evening school for those at 


work during the day. At Heinrichsgriin, special work was done 
amongst the illiterate in the two hospitals. The teacher went from 
bed to bed helping the sick in their effort to learn reading and writing. 
All of this work, of which these are but a few random examples, was 
done under directors chosen by the prisoners themselves and through 
teachers selected from the more intelligent men in the camps. Be- 
sides all this the Y provided lectures, supplied libraries, and circulated 
small libraries in the working camps. 
^"^**' The Y also did much to encourage the formation of orchestras, 

through the purchase of instruments and the supply of music. 
Through its efforts some kind of music was introduced in all the 
large camps. In Braunau, there was an orchestra of fourteen pieces, 
at Grodig a military band of twenty-nine pieces, and balalaika orches- 
tra, playing Saturday and Sunday evenings for the theater and 
cinema program. Every evening the music committee gave an hour's 
concert in the Y hut. At Nagymegger a gypsy orchestra was found 
which played in the afternoon and evening in the coffee house where 
the Serbians congregated. Many more instances could be given but 
the mere enumeration of statistics does not convey the most important 
fact — the power of even the simplest musical instrument to enliven the 
monotony of camp life. That must be realized by an effort of imagina- 
tion. Music was a real necessity to these men. 

"The gramophone is the most used and abused apparatus we 
have," writes a secretary. "It is on the go day and night and it is 
hard to keep track of it, as it is sent from ward to ward, and from 
hospital to hospital. We loaned it to Estegrom where they have nine 
hospitals and they wanted it to go the rounds of all." 

^^"«'*"* Baron von Spiegelfeld in his annual report for 1916 — to which 

reference has been made — referred to the War Prisoners' Aid as 
strictly avoiding all religious propaganda. This statement is at once 
just and yet unfair. The Y M C A did not carry on proselytizing 
propaganda of any kind, but did most definitely and energetically 
endeavor to provide opportunities for the prisoners to worship accord- 
ing to their ordinary custom. The prisoners in Austria-Hungary, 
with only an occasional exception, represented branches of Christian- 
ity and other religions with which the Y M C A is not ordinarily 
associated. In its work for these men, the Association regarded itself 
as an agent of humanity in the broadest sense and gave every assist- 
ance to all of the various religious leaders who had access to the 
camps. Bibles and prayer books in many languages were giver free-y. 



The workers distributed religious literature, ikons, and pictures for 
Russian and Serbian prisoners. Churches were built according to 
the desires of the camp; often two or more had to be erected and 
to render them more attractive the Association furnished altars, sta- 
tues, pictures, candles, music, priests' vestments and utensils. It was 
a time when every man needed the sustaining power of the religion 
to which he was accustomed and the Y M C A made every effort to 
open up the spiritual channels to the hearts of men. 

The prisoners in Austria-Hungry were particularly appealed 'tochHstmas^ 
by the celebration of Christmas. The Christmas committees provided 
gifts for the prisoners in the hospitals, an act that brought cheer both 
to recipient and to the giver. Christmas services were held out of 
doors because there were no buildings large enough to hold the crowds. 
At Wieselburg 5,000 men gathered around the Christmas trees. Greek 
Mass was celebrated and Russian Christmas hymns were sung. In 
the Serbian boys' camp, boys dressed as kings and shepherds recited 
the Christmas story and carried around a model of a church with 
figures representing a scene from the life of Christ. Trained choirs 
and orchestras gave Christmas concerts in the camps and in the hospi- 
tals. Christmas decorations were set up in the great courts of the 
camps, in the churches, in the Y huts, in the sleeping barracks, and 
in the hospitals. The military authorities made special presents to 
the prisoners and the Y M C A distributed individual gifts of choco- 
late and fruit in most of the camps. The preparation for the festival, 
participation in its activities, and the little extra presents, all em- 
phasized the season of goodwill and pushed into the background for 
the moment at least the quarrels and suspicions and hardships of 
prison existence. The boys were the most deeply affected; they 
marched around the camps hugging their little gift bags to their 
hearts, their eyes shining with surprise and delight. In one camp, the 
Y M C A secretary was borne about on the shoulders of a group of 
sturdy Russians amid a scene of joyous enthusiasm. It was Merry 
Christmas in spite of everything. 

The YMCA made a special appeal to the authorities for the The Boys' 

, . , Camps 

boy prisoners and offered a plan for segregation and training. As a 
result the boys of the different nationalities were gradually concen- 
trated in special camps and entrusted officially to the care of the 
YMCA. The first effort was inaugurated at Braunau, where a large 
sum of money was given by the Y to establish a boys' home. Eight 
of the existing barracks were adapted; four were used for living 



The Boys' 

A Poignant 

quarters, two as dining halls, and the other two equipped for teach- 
ing- trades, such as shoemaking, tailoring, blacksmithing, bookbind- 
ing. In addition, the Association built a church, primarily for relig- 
ious purposes but used also for practical service as a school, recrea- 
tion hall, and gymnasium. Eventually a school house with eight rooms 
was added to the equipment. 

In this camp under a teaching staff of twenty-four men, nearly 
500 boys received instruction daily. Courses were given in hygiene, 
printing, sculpture, and many other subjects. The commercial school 
created unusual interest. The miscellaneous activities included physi- 
cal training in a gymnasium, a dental parlor, a band and choir, and 
gardens. Similar specialized boys' work was done at Wieselburg and 
at Boldogasszony. A vivid picture of one of these boys' camps is given 
in the reports: 

"The term 'Prison Group' is scarcely applicable to a place where 
school is in session from eight in the morning until five in the after- 
noon ; where melodious harmonies from the music hall can be heard at 
almost any hour of the day ; where scores of happy shoemakers bring 
cheer, not only through making the feet warmer, but also by accom- 
panying southland melodies ; where the sewing machines are humming 
like an old country saw mill ; where busy carpenter boys are sawing 
and pounding with delight; where hundreds are in the play house 
in a mental bustle over some puzzle or game ; where they can attend 
a first class theater performance, a band concert or a movie nearly 
any evening ; and where a big brother comes nearly every day with 
candy in his pockets or food parcels in his arms." 

The Challenge 

The vivid impression that remains with those Americana who 
served in the prison camps of Germany and of Austria-Hungary is 
one of the dire need of the people represented by these prisoners from 
Russia, the Balkans, and even those from Italy. They were the embodi- 
ment of a poignant appeal to western Europe and to America. Their 
sufferings in prison camps were but the accentuation of the age-old 
hardships that they must endure in their own lands as long as poverty, 
ignorance, and dissension run riot. For the most part they were 
ignorant not only of letters and of the common facts of the world 
but of every fundamental principle of hygiene and ordinary cleanli- 
ness. The appalling need was burnt deep into the very souls of the 


But there was another phase of this experience. The welfare siav 
workers saw and appreciated the tremendous human powers that 
lie practically dormant particularly in the Slav character of Russia. 
Indications of its capability in the handicrafts, in the arts, in music, 
in religious feeling-, in patient and sustained effort and enduring 
loyalty made the American secretaries feel that after all those travel- 
ers are not speaking in dreams who say that the greatest storehouse 
of energy in the world lies between the Baltic and Vladivostok. These 
workers gained some vision of what might happen if some miracle 
of human friendliness could release that power in the life of mankind 
and bring to our somewhat barren modern civilization the color and 
richness of the Slav imagination. They saw, too, that what is needed 
is not a superimposition of western ideas and ideals as the perfect 
model for all the earth, but a drawing out of the inherent qualities of 
the East to supplement our marked deficiencies. The Y M C A offered 
American help at a time of pressing need. It was little enough in 
terms of statistics, and the word its workers brought back was that 
a greater and more serious need lies beyond. The motive of human 
sympathy should be enough to move us, but there is no doubt in the 
minds of these observers who lived among the prisoners — ate with 
them, played with them, rejoiced with them, wept with them — that the 
very salvation of the world depends upon the salvation of Russia. 
It is not beyond the range of possibility that America may some day 
welcome a helping hand outstretched from the East. 

Chapter LII 

For the prisoner of war, there was only one really important 
date — the end of the war. His spirits rose and fell as that day ap- 
peared to advance or recede ; his mental attitude toward his surround- 
ings changed with the shifting hope. The unfortunate part of it 
was that each imagined that the immediate sequel to the ending of 
hostilities would be his return to home and country. Of course, the 
more thoughtful men knew well enough that there were many diffi- 
culties to be overcome before complete repatriation could be accom- 
plished ; but in the extremity of longing, human beings seldom recon- 
cile themselves beforehand to long delays and discouragements. As 
it actually worked out, the close of the fighting was the beginning of 
a period of special suffering for war prisoners. Even the most favored 
groups did not escape entirely, and those children of misfortune, the 
Russians, passed through a variety of tortures that continued year 
after year actually into 1921. 

The final act in the prisoners of war drama is a complicated one. 
The first phase was inaugurated by the Peace of Brest-Litovsk when 
the first movement of prisoners between Russia and the Central 
Powers began. The second phase began with the Armistice; the re- 
patriation of Allied prisoners was accomplished during this period and 
the movement between Russia and the Central Powers was temporar- 
ily checked. The last phase saw the repatriation of the Central 
Powers' prisoners in Allied hands and of the last of the Russians. The 
phases overlapped but each is marked by a quite distinctive character. 

The Peace of Brest-Litovsk and Its Consequences 

The First The peace concluded between the Central Powers and Bolshevik 


Russia on March 3, 1918, provided for the repatriation of prisoners 
by the signatories. From Central Europe the movement began in a 
methodical manner with the forwarding of the sick and severely in- 
jured. There were over 2,000,000 Russian prisoners in the hands of 
the Central Powers. Austria-Hungary and Germany had still a great 
deal of fighting on their hands — the final drive in France was about 
to begin — and the transportation system in the area between the 



old fighting lines was completely destroyed ; so that it was not possible 
before the Armistice to move more than a fraction of this great host. 
On the Russian side, the prison gates were flung open and the Ger- 
man and Austro-Hungarian prisoners were free to go wherever and 
however they chose, with serious consequences for the Russian nation. 
Those in Russia proper managed fairly well and large numbers of 
them reached home through privations that can hardly be imagined. 
Russia was utterly disorganized and there was little food anywhere. 
The prisoners who were held in Siberia faced a different situation. 
The Russian map — which must be kept continually before the eyes of 
anyone who would understand the situation — furnishes in itself all the 
required elaboration of this point. "Beating one's way" across three 
thousand miles of a poverty-stricken and disorganized land possessed 
of one line of railroad is something of an adventure. This returning 
movement encountered a further obstacle. In the spring of 1918 the 
Czechoslovaks began their spectacular progress through Siberia.^ As 
these crusaders appeared in May on the border between Russia and 
Siberia, they blocked the line of advance ; and German and Austrian 
prisoners were cut off from their own countries for the time. 

The actual ending of hostilities between Russia and the Central ^"Fra^^J"''"^" 
Powers at the Armistice of December 15, 1917, produced an immedi- 
ate effect in France. About 20,000 men of the Russian Expeditionary 
Forces came to the conclusion that their country was at peace and 
that therefore they could not continue in arms against the Central 
Powers. From the point of view of these men, the decision was quite 
just and reasonable ; naturally it did not appear to the French in quite 
the same light. The Russians were promptly interned and generally 
classed as cowards and traitors. We are not called upon to pass judg- 
ment upon either the prisoners or the French in this case ; it is only 
necessary to note carefully that this was another of those complicated 
situations whose proper handling at any time requires the very nicest 
sense of discrimination and unlimited human tolerance — which are 
not always forthcoming in the midst of a tremendous death-grapple. 

The Russian prisoners who returned from Central Europe in the ^^^f^YsIa^"""^ 
spring and summer of 1918 drifted into the country almost unnoticed. 
In the place of enthusiastic welcome, they were offered expositions of 
the glories of communism, of which they had heard very little before. 
Most of them were sick. They were placed in hospitals in Moscow 
and Petrograd, and very little attention was paid to them by anyone. 

' See Chapter LVIII. 


The more fit found their way about and were lost in the civilian 

The Y M C A in March, 1918, had in all Russia about 50 men 
available for service.^ They were assigned to various tasks scattered 
over the whole country. Seven or eight men began a definite work 
for the returning prisoners in Moscow and Petrograd. In coopera- 
tion with the American Red Cross, work was begun for the ailing and 
half-starved men in the hospitals. Supplementary food was distrib- 
uted and a regular program of activities instituted. For a few months 
this work progressed; and the invalid enjoyed the benefits of relief, 
entertainment, and libraries, besides the large amount of personal 
service possible under the circumstances. The curious isolation of 
these men, who surely deserved something at the hands of their own 
nation, presented an appeal of peculiar poignancy to which the Ameri- 
can relief and welfare agencies responded to the best of their abili- 
ties. It was not long, however, before the new government made up 
its mind about the Y M C A ; the welfare workers' position became 
untenable and by October, 1918, the last man left Russia. 
Work for The newly interned Russians in France drew the attention of 

Russians in . . , , intir 

France f^e Y M C A f orces at once. Their condition was pitiable. My ex- 

perience," wrote a secretary, "is that the Russian soldiers are the 
most misunderstood of all types of mankind that have been here dur- 
ing the last four years. The civilian population in every village is 
bitterly hostile. The guard in many cases is brutally insolent." Such 
antagonism is easily understood. 

With the full support of the French Government, the Association, 
in order to lighten the lot of these men, organized a Russian Relief 
Department. Workers were drawn from a group of men who had been 
engaged in work in Russia and men who were familiar with the Rus- 
sian language in charge of George M. Day, a Y M C A secretary who 
had seen a decade of service in Russia. Two experimental huts were 
opened in February, 1918, in villages where the Russian soldiers were 
working. The success of the effort was immediate and proved to be 
of such value that the Y M C A was asked to extend its service to all 
working camps. Centers were promptly opened in a score of villages. 
Canteens, reading rooms, and recreation rooms were made available ; 
and a program of religious, educational, athletic, and recreational 
activities instituted. Theaters were built and plays were given by 
companies organized by the Russians themselves. 

See Chapter LVIII. 


This service was of immediate and direct benefit to the prisoners ; w1ifare°work 
it also brought about a very much better relationship between the 
prisoners and their guards. "Within a week after we opened," stated 
one report, "I found a new spirit. The French were beginning to 
warm up to the Russians in fine French style." There are several 
reasons for this. The guards unquestionably were affected by the 
attitude of the American workers ; if these Y M C A secretaries con- 
sidered the Russians important enough to bother about at such a 
time, surely they must be entitled to some consideration after all. 
And the guards themselves greatly benefited by the new arrange- 
ment. They were not overlooked in the work. They enjoyed the 
"movies" and other recreational features, and naturally attributed 
their new blessings to the presence of the Russians. The ice once 
broken, a more liberal disposition immediately came to the surface. 

Before the work opened, the Russians were gloomy and despond- 
ent. They had been long away from home ; they were disappointed 
deeply over their treatment in France and felt keenly the hostility 
of all who surrounded them. They had lost heart and were lapsing 
into physical filth and moral degeneracy. The new hope engendered 
by the interest of workers, the growing good feeling of their guards, 
the huts and their social activities arrested the progress of disintegra- 
tion. The authorities welcomed the work doubly on account of its 
great value in lessening the spirit of mutiny and drunkenness. These 
disgruntled men were, of course, exceedingly hard to handle. When 
a degree of contentment replaced the restlessness it was better for 
everyone concerned. In certain cases the withholding of the service 
was used as an effective form of punishment, so popular had the work 
become. This first experience with the Russians in France prepared 
the way for a larger effort which became necessary immediately after 
the Armistice. 

The Armistice and Its Consequences 

The Armistice, November 11, 1918, provided for the immediate re- The Terms of 
patriation of all Allied prisoners, civilian and military; the term 
of repatriation was fixed at "fourteen days," an impossible mark 
evidently intended merely to emphasize immediacy for it was prac- 
tically recognized as impossible in a special provision. No promise 
was made, of course, regarding the repatriation of prisoners in 
Allied hands. The Russians appear not to have come within the scope 
of the terms of the agreement. As the situation worked itself out, 



the Allied prisoners with the exception of the very sick were repatri- 
ated by the end of January, 1919, those held by the Allies were nearly 
all kept till the terms of peace were concluded ; while the Russians and 
the Germans and Austro-Hungarians in Russia shared a highly diver- 
sified experience as might have been expected. 

The imprisoned citizens of the Central Powers in Allied countries 
were naturally disappointed and disheartened over the turn of affairs. 
During 1918, such information as they received pointed to an early 
victory for their nations. They came out of their dreams to realize 
that they were to share a stupendous defeat and to remain in prison for 
a period that seemed to them indefinite. There appeared to them, of 
course, to be no real reason why they should not be repatriated. The 
feeling of resentment hitherto confined principally to civilian prisoners 
extended to the military and it grew day by day as the period of peace 
negotiations lengthened. They lost their heart for all kinds of activi- 
ties ; it did not seem worth while to start anything new. There spread 
a depression hardly equalled in any other phase of imprisonment. 
There was only one real cure for such depression — release; it came 
at last but only after many months of painful waiting. 

The Armistice did clear the way for an extended welfare program. 
The difficult though necessary restrictions that had so hampered the 
work were largely set aside and the Y M C A in the general rejoicing 
did not forget the prisoners. Service was extended in every direction, 
backed now by adequate funds and a more sufficient supply of workers. 
A determined effort was made to rouse men from their lethargy and 
keep before them the need for resolution in the face of this new but 
surely final trial. The work did achieve success. The report of the 
work in England records the constant repetition of such extravagant 
expressions as : "We have never needed the activities of the Y M C A 
so much as now. It is the one thing that keeps us all from going mad." 

In the terms of the peace, signed June 28, 1919, provision was 
made for repatriation "as soon as possible."^ This movement was car- 
ried out at the convenience of the Allies but was accomplished within 
a very few months after the Treaty came into effect. 

The end of hostilities found Austria-Hungary — Government, 
Army, and transportation system — in chaos, and Germany in the 
throes of a popular revolution. The Austro-Hungarian guards simply 
threw open the prisons and left the prisoners to their own devices. 
To a large extent Germany did the same. When Conrad Hoffman 

Articles 214 to 224. 


visited the Americans at Rastatt after the outbreak of the German 
Revolution but before the Armistice, he found the streets of the town 
full of doughboys released by the Soldiers' and Workmen's Council. 
Men on working detachments hurried to the parent camps, thousands 
drifted to the larger cities, and many started for the border without 
waiting for any other arrangements. A very difficult and highly 
dangerous situation was created ; it was not long before urgent appeals 
were made for troops to protect civilian communities. The prisoners, 
left without guards and so without food, were out foraging for them- 
selves. It was a sad fact that medical service was interrupted. The 
new spirit of comradeship expressed by the Germans was scant pro- 

The various military missions of the Allies arrived in Germany AiHed 

' Prisoners 

promptly after the Armistice. One of the first duties was the repatri- 
ation of the prisoners. The large number of men who were not 
content to wait for the wheels of the official machinery to turn and 
started to repatriate themselves really suffered very severe hardship. 
Their last months of imprisonment had been marked by an increasing 
scarcity of food, emphasized by the lack of supervision of the camps 
during the days just before and just after the Armistice, and the 
overland journey on foot was an arduous adventure for men far below 
par physically. The advancing armies of occupation day by day met 
a very weary and worn crowd of returning prisoners. It is easy to 
understand the reports of Americans regarding the serious condi- 
tions of the men who came down through the Toul area. They 
drifted up to the north and down through Switzerland ; they went any- 
where to be free. Hundreds of thousands of Italians freed in Austria 
made their way to the Italian front and met the advancing troops. 
They also met the forces of the Y M C A with the Italian Army and 
such service as was possible was extended to them en route. The Y 
met all trains of prisoners passing through Switzerland and provided 
refreshments or supplemented the regular rations. 

Because of its relationship to the prisoners the Y M C A was able y m c a 

.,.. .. ,«..•. Assistance 

to be of great assistance to the military missions by furnishing in- 
formation regarding the location and organization of camps, by help- 
ing to distribute relief, and in some cases the welfare secretaries 
were called upon to assist in arranging transportation. A Y Foyer 
was opened in Berlin ; and through the courtesy of the Allied officials, 
it was possible to offer open hospitality and tea, coffee, and biscuits 
to all comers. The relief agencies were prompt in coming to the 




The German 


rescue and the Y M C A workers cooperated eagerly, particularly to 
help the invalids, who suffered most from the disorganization of the 
camps. Influenza was rife at this time. 

The prisoners were gathered in the north for transportation by 
way of Denmark and in the south to be forwarded through Switzer- 
land. In both these countries the Y M C A set up emergency ser- 
vice. The effort of the Danish National Council, assisted by the 
American Y M C A, was a model of rapid organization to meet an 
urgent need. There was considerable delay in providing transporta- 
tion from Denmark, so there was much need for the regular welfare 
services of the Y M C A. 

The time between the Armistice and February, 1919, was a try- 
ing one for these prisoners ; but the ordeal was soon over. Before 
spring, British, French, Italian, and Belgian able-bodied prisoners 
were all at home. The sick followed as rapidly as they were able to 

The Russians in Austria-Hungary, turned loose from the camps, 
made for the border. They took what they could get and in some 
cases seized trains. They were a mob hurrying to get home. In 
the eastern part of Germany the same conditions obtained to a large 
extent. A large number got over the border and began their tramp 
across the ruined areas while others were stopped at the border 
by the new Russian forces and turned back into Germany. The 
disorganization in this section was complete. Marauding bands of 
prisoners marched about the countryside in search of food. In a 
number of cases Y M C A secretaries were called in by guards and the 
better men among the prisoners to assist in instituting some kind of 
control. In other parts of Germany, the prisoners swamped the par- 
ent camps. Food supplies ran out. There seemed to be nobody who 
cared what happened to the Russians. The authorities, both German 
and Allied, had their hands full at this time in keeping the Allied 
prisoners contented during the period of delay and had little time to 
help the Russians. 

The Germans were frankly anxious to get rid of the Russians ; 
and, as soon as they could take the matter in hand, they forwarded 
the prisoners to the border, gave them a supply of food, and bade 
them a relieved farewell. Bolshevik propagandists were in every 
group of prisoners. The Allied commissioners finally took the whole 
affair into their own hands, stopped the movement back to Russia, and, 
since the Germans could not furnish supplies, assumed control of 


the prison camps of Russians on February 15, 1919. It was exceeding- 
ly difficult for these Allied authorities to decide just what should be 
done with these men. They were a menace to Germany as they were; 
if they were returned to Russia, they might join the Red forces ; yet 
the men themselves had fought on the Allied side in the war and were 
comrades. Every record of this period reflects the confusion of this 
whole question. 

The Russians now became prisoners of their former Allies. The '^^^ Russian 

'^ Prisoners 

Y M C A offered its services, which were gladly accepted but were situation 
held up till certain diplomatic forms were fulfilled. With all the 
former restrictions removed, a full program of activities was rapidly 
established and accomplished remarkable results. 

But the point was the Russians did not desire benevolence but a 
ticket home. Some expressed their willingness to join anti -Bolshe- 
vik forces and were released at once, but most of them were not sure. 
They became a group exceedingly difficult to handle, and without the 
welfare activities might have been much more dangerous. Here was 
a new and interesting phase of welfare work. 

For the British and American guards an extensive service was 
also developed at this time. They faced a very tiresome job and 
social recreation was a necessity.^ 

* The following letter from Brigadier General George H. Harries, Chief of 
the American Mission at Berlin, is significant as indicating appreciation of all for 
the service which the Association endeavored to render: 

"Now that the career of this Mission approaches its termination I am survey- 
ing the achievements of the faithful — among whom are those who followed the 
leadership of Mr. Hoffman and yourself. 

"Never was there better or more work by few workers than that done by the 
American Y M C A, whether for our prisoners in German hands, for the Russian 
prisoners, or for the force of this Mission in Berlin or in the camps. 

"Particularly effective were your efforts with respect to the improvement of 
Russian morale. Prisoners for more than four years, ill fed, half clad, home- 
sick, and rebellious, they were almost desperate when the Inter-Allied Commission 
came into control. Every available agency was called upon to assist — save the 
American Y M C A. It volunteered before anyone could ask for its active inter- 
est. Many difficulties confronted Mr. Hoffman, but we managed to push them 
aside so that you and your staff were then free to accomplish — and you have 
wrought — miracles. Football, baseball, and other athletic sports, libraries, schools, 
theaters, and orchestras came to the rescue of hundreds of thousands of those in 

"The combination of the increased rations provided by the Entente and the 
greatly accelerated physical and mental activity induced by your little corps lifted 
the prisoners out of dangerous despondency and upset many a threatening con- 

"My hearty thanks to you, to each one of your assistants, and to the Associa- 
tion itself for a priceless contribution to the work of this Mission." — From In 
the Prison Camps of Germany, Conrad Hoffman, New York, 1920, pp. 261-262. 


The Allied commissioners withdrew in August, 1919. They 
offered no particular objection to the repatriation of the Russians 
but a new difficulty had arisen. The Poles and Russian Reds had 
started another war on the ground between Russia and Germany. It 
was impossible to send men across by land. Germany had given up 
so many ships that there were none left for the transportation of pris- 
oners. So there was another long delay until about May, 1920. 
0^4 These men were now called "old" prisoners because a "new" 

Prisoners -^ 

and New gToup of Russian prisoners had come into existence. The Poles pushed 

about 100,000 Russian Reds over into East Prussia. The German 
border guards, comparatively few in number, disarmed these forces 
but could only get about half of them into internment camps. This 
new factor further complicated the situation. 

On the opening of the Rhineland camps, some 50,000 Russians 
found their way into France. They certainly expected a warm 
welcome from their former allies ; they were interned without delay. 
It is as little to be wondered at that they resented this treatment as 
that the French could find nothing else to do with them. France was 
actively supporting anti-Bolshevik enterprises. The radical virus had 
spread far and wide and anti-Bolshevik forces appeared strangely 
weak. The idea seems to have been to keep these men isolated as 
far as possible and recruit from among them soldiers to fight the 
Reds. As a matter of fact comparatively few of them were willing 
to enter such a military enterprise. 

The Russian Department of the Y M C A in France extended 
its service to cover these newcomers. More than 60 canteens were 
established and 190 different points in France, Belgium, Algiers, and 
Egypt were served. At one time fourteen workers were employed 
in this service. Some of the special features of this work were a 
Russian newspaper (issued three times a week) , a school for cripples, 
English classes for men preparing to emigrate to America, and the 
discovery of openings in America for students and technical experts. 
The American Red Cross supplied funds for relief, which were distrib- 
uted through the Y M C A. 

This work resembled that undertaken at the same time in Ger- 
many. There is no doubt that some of the military leaders expected 
political results from Y service, but the Y M C A itself began such 
work long before there was any question of politics with the distinct 
purpose of aiding these needy men. This was an opportunity to set 
a few Russians on the pathway of mental and spiritual enlightenment, 


a definite step, however insignificant, toward bringing Russia into the 
circle of international cooperation. The central office of the War Pris- 
oners' Aid in Switzerland issued a large number of text books and 
works of inspiration for this service. It was impossible to secure Rus- 
sian books from Russia; without this supply created rapidly by the 
need, the Russian work developed in France and Germany in 1918 
and 1919 would have been very greatly hampered. 

On the map of Russia, it may be observed that the cities of Eka- s^SiLn 
terinburg, Chelyabinsk, and Omsk lie on the main route between Rus- ^°'''^^'' 
sia and Siberia. Y M C A workers forced out of Russia in the late 
summer and fall of 1918 moved to these cities, which were also for the 
time being centers of other Y M C A operations. 

As the winter closed in the prisoners who had been released 
from Austria-Hungary and Germany began to pour through these 
cities. They had crossed the ruined areas between Germany and 
Russia on foot for the most part ; with much difficulty, they had secured 
train transportation as far as Samara, which is about 450 miles east of 
Chelyabinsk ; from Samara they had walked forward, frequently mak- 
ing wide detours, and while some were able to get on trains beyond the 
Bolshevik lines others completed their journey on foot. From the 
German border to Samara the distance is more than a thousand 
miles ; there were only three organized feeding points along the line. 
On their various detours the men found practically no food. With the 
weather frequently 40° below zero (Fahrenheit), these men came 
into these border cities all of them half -clothed and three-quarters of 
them provided with no other foot-wear than the German burlap or 
rope boots. All were starved and many were carried from the trains 
in a half -frozen condition. The Y M C A gathered what food it could 
find and purchased clothing and supplies which were distributed to 
these needy men. The Omsk government finally organized a feeding 
station at Chelyabinsk ; and the American Red Cross, under conditions 
of the greatest difficulty, opened a hospital for the many sick. The 
Y M C A service touched in all about 80,000 men at these points. 

The term "touched" is accurate. After receiving the little gifts 
and other service each group of men passed on to Siberia. 

The events of 1918 and 1919 opened up the Siberian prison camps The Siberian^ 
where Germans, Austro-Hungarians, and Turks were still awaiting 
repatriation. The Y M C A was at this time better equipped than it 
had been at any previous period and a new program was possible 
in spite of the many complications affecting the situation. 


The Last Stage 

The period immediately following the Armistice was character- 
ized by a general stabilizing of the prisoner of war situation. The 
prisoners in Allied countries were held pending the close of the peace 
negotiations. The Russians in Germany and France were also held 
by the Allies "for further consideration." In Siberia, Germans and 
Austro-Hungarians were blocked by the Czechoslovak movement and 
the Allied forces in the Vladivostok region. Toward the end of 1919, 
things began to move again. 

Prisoners in the Allied countries were returned systematically. 
Some of the Russians in France were released late in the year. In 
the spring of 1920 the French finally decided to repatriate the rest; 
and these were landed in South Russia, all being cleared out by Janu- 
ary, 1921. Russia and Germany were anxious to get their affairs 
wound up, so arrangements were made in the spring of 1920 to com- 
plete the exchange. Since the Russo-Polish affair dragged on inter- 
minably, overland repatriation was impossible. The Allies lent ships 
and the transfer was effected primarily through the Baltic ports. 
Lastly, a considerable number of Russians were carried by ship around 
to Vladivostok, and Germans, Austro-Hungarians, and Turks brought 
back by the same route. The spring of 1921 found practically all 
at home once more. 

The Y M C A during this last period conducted an extensive wel- 
fare service in both Riga and Vladivostok while maintaining the camp 
service for the men who awaited repatriation. 
The Exchange of The colorf ul story of the traffic that was set up between Stettin 

Prisoners in 

the West and the eastern Baltic ports is largely outside the scope of the pres- 

ent narrative. The vessels plied back and forth, crowded not only 
with prisoners but with families which the prisoners had somehow 
or other acquired during the period of captivity, and numberless refu- 
gees. This movement, begun slowly in the spring of 1920, continued 
in varying volume month after month. Train service from Germany 
was resumed later on. The total progress was slow on account of 
the lack of facilities both in ships and in train service in Russia. The 
stream continued through 1920 and 1921. 

Y M C A work at the ports^ consisted of a variety of personal ser- 
vices such as might be appreciated by travelers journeying under un- 
comfortable circumstances. There were tea, coffee, cocoa, and biscuits 

^A group of Rhodes scholars from Oxford were enlisted for this service in 
the long vacation period. 


ready for everyone ; and little gift packages were handed to the men 
on the trains. Social gatherings were arranged for the women and 
children. The lay-over at the ports was usually short; but, particu- 
larly in the case of those entering Russia, it offered the last opportun- 
ity for a hot drink until the end of a very long journey. Early in 
1921, Riga was made the exchange port. The Y M C A set up a large 
work in connection with the camp in which those returning from Rus- 
sia passed through the disinfecting process. It was significant that 
during this last period all prisoners coming out of Germany were 
familiar with the work of the Y M C A and eagerly welcomed its 
further service. 

At Vladivostok in 1920 the Y M C A was well-equipped for ser- Vladivostok 
vice. The International Hut was a great rendezvous for fighting men 
of about fifteen different nationalities.^ The various forces were 
evacuated gradually, among them the Czechoslovaks to the number of 
53,026. After them came the prisoners of war from Siberia — Ger- 
mans, Austrians, and Turks — and the Russians who were sent back 
home by way of Vladivostok. 

Again, there ensued another sciene full of color and life as these 
strange groups passed to and fro through one of the strangest of all 
cities. There was little possibility of orderly procedure in the repa- 
triation of prisoners. They came almost unannounced from Siberia 
and frequently boat-loads of Russian prisoners were in port before 
anyone knew of their existence. 

A vivid scene out of the midst of the active period of 1920 appears 
in one report. The motor cars and trucks of the Y M C A were busy 
racing about in all directions assisting in the disposal of a group of 
Austro-Hungarians coming down from the interior. A big program 
of three days of special recreational events was in progress, and all 
welfare workers were busy from early morning till the small hours 
of the next. Word came in suddenly that nearly 500 Russians had 
come in on a steamer. The Y M C A secretary in charge of War Pris- 
oners' Work hurried to the dock. These returned soldiers, in ragged 
clothing and almost barefoot, were standing silent on a barge at a 
dock waiting to be towed over to Russian Island. There was no 
welcome for them — not a soul in sight to raise even the ghost of a 
cheer for these survivors of battle, prison, and a long sea voyage. 
These same men had seen returning German prisoners march over 
flower-strewn streets. They had been placed on the barge at six o'clock 

' See Chapter LVIII. 


in the morning : at six at night nothing had yet happened. A repre- 
sentative of the German Red Cross delayed the sailing of their steamer 
in order that they might have some food. It was late when the Y 
secretary discovered them. While he and his helpers were off in the 
city rounding up provisions for some kind of a supper, someone came 
along and towed the barge laden with hungry, disappointed, ex- 
hausted men out into the dark bay. 
The Russians' The next day Y M C A workers started out with supplies to find 


these men. No information could be secured, so a launch was bor- 
rowed from a U. S. cruiser and search began. Fifty of the group 
were found in one of the hospitals and supplies landed there. Then 
the hunt continued till at 4.30 o'clock in the afternoon the location 
of the prisoners was discovered. As the Y M C A workers came into 
this dismal barracks — there were iron beds but no mattresses or 
blankets — the men were finishing their first meager meal in 30 hours. 
They had spent the previous night on the shore. Each man received 
from the Y in the cold and gloomy hall, two packages of cigarets, two 
packages of matches, four beef cubes, one bar of milk chocolate, and 
a quarter of a pound of sardines. The workers ate their own supper 
with the good-hearted commandant who had been a prisoner himself. 
When they rose to go out they suddenly discovered, in the shadows 
of the hall where they had eaten, four hundred men standing in line 
holding their gifts in their hands, courteously waiting for their bene- 
factors to depart. 

Such was the homecoming of the Russian prisoners. 

This was the daily life of the War Prisoners' Aid in Vladivostok. 
There is little need to labor the details. These were the fag ends of 
the six million imprisoned men of the nations. Some of them had 
been away from their homes for seven years and some had been in 
prison throughout the whole period. The Y M C A had these men in 
its range only a few days, perhaps only a few hours. During this 
brief period the attempt was made to bring a little friendship into the 
lives of those who had come out of great suffering and who had be- 
fore them long hard journeys at whose end in too many cases were 
only poverty and sorrow. 

The Human Motive 

In the early days of the struggle, it was the prisoners of war who 
drew deepest upon the sympathies of the leaders of the American Y M 
C A. They Were not effectives on the front, they were non-combatants, 


just men. Considerations of military policy did not then affect the ^Jl^^/^";*" 
attitude of American welfare workers, for there were no American 
prisoners to benefit by reciprocity : the Y M C A put forth its first 
effort because these men were in trouble and it appealed, not in vain, 
to the heart of America in the interest of human need apart from all 
question of winning the war. British, French, German, Turkish, Bol- 
shevik — as prisoners they were all treated alike. From the very first 
days, through the period of America's active participation, and on into 
days long after the fighting was ended the work continued without in- 
terruption. There were over 6,000,000 prisoners. Some never heard 
of the Y M C A ; yet indirectly the lives of nearly all of them were af- 
fected in some degree by the activities set in motion by the secretaries 
of the American Y M C A. It was not that the American Association 
workers did it all. They had the vision ; they conceived the idea of 
organizing the prisoners of war to help themselves. The prisoners 
carried on the activities ; it thus became their work throughout. But 
it was American goodwill and leadership and financial backing that 
made it possible. American goodwill, manifested to friend and enemy 
alike, was, in the case of countless numbers of prisoners, the first thing 
that met them inside the barbed wire and the last thing they saw as 
they set their faces toward home. 


Chapter LIII 


The motive that took the American Y M C A into a varied service Jhe Altruistic 

bpirit of 

in Europe during 1914-1917 was the same motive that has inspired its America 
work for nearly three generations. The Association movement was 
international in character long before it became a significant enter- 
prise in any one nation ; and of all its various national branches, none 
has been more energetic than the American in extending help to the 
young men of foreign nations. The first war effort was genuinely and 
exclusively humanitarian, including both fighting men and prisoners 
on both sides of the conflict. The American outreach comprised the 
supplying of funds and workers to various Association agencies 
abroad and also the assumption of direct responsibility for the wide- 
spread service in behalf of prisoners of war. The Y M C A was and 
remains an unofficial organization yet throughout this early period 
it was entrusted with considerable responsibility by a number of gov- 
ernments and in its War Prisoners' Aid Work received the recognition 
and assistance of the State Department of the United States and of its 
representatives in Europe. To other nations the American Y M C A, 
in its many contacts with young men in need, represented quite un- 
officially but very directly the altruistic spirit of America and her 
capacity to help at a time of serious crisis. Owing to the very intimate 
relationship that had existed for so long between the American and 
European leaders, the Y M C A was in a position to note, with a sense 
of pride and a feeling of humility, to what extent in their heart of 
hearts the relief and welfare workers were counting on America's 
effective generosity. 

The large funds^ necessary for this European work (1914-1917) 
were raised from the Y M C A constituency through the regular or- 

* The contributions received by the Y M C A Committee on Work for Allied 
Armies and Prisoners of War, were as follows: 


1914 $ 42,300.00 

1915 237,262.21 

1916 887,678.65 

1917 1,113,065.32 

Total $2,^80,306.18 



ganization of the Association. The American Y M C A had at this 
time assumed no public function and extensive popular campaigns 
were neither possible nor desirable. The sharp difference of opinion 
over the responsibility for letting loose the powers of destruction af- 
fected our viewpoint toward all questions and an excessively embar- 
rassing situation might easily have arisen over the disposition of funds 
raised at large. It was therefore necessary to secure these consider- 
able amounts of money by very cautious means. Direct personal ap- 
peals were made largely to Association supporters and the Student 
Friendship Fund was promoted by the Student Young Men's Christian 
Association in the colleges of the country. Similarly the personnel 
of this early service of necessity was recruited with the very greatest 
care. The leaders were fully aware of the fact that misunderstand- 
ings — there would be from Americans no fundamental opposition to 
such service — might easily arise, and that such misunderstandings if 
they became a matter of public discussion would certainly tend to 
hinder prompt action in a situation where prompt action was an essen- 
tial requirement. 
A New With America's entry into the war, the situation changed some- 


what. The American Y M C A assumed a public position as an arm of 
the forces of the United States and was supplied with funds raised by 
popular subscription. It was of course out of the question to continue 
support for service to men actually in the field as enemies of America 
or of the nations with which America was associated in the war. The 
Y M C A's offer of service to the American fighting men was accepted 
by the American Government both on the grounds of military expedi- 
ency and upon the grounds of the conservation of. American ideals in 
American manhood. Military and naval officers of course were com- 
pelled to consider the question of expediency first of all.^ The revision 
of the program of the American Y M C A under the altered situation 
called for the continuance of the prisoners of war service, and, in addi- 
tion to the work for American fighting men, a very large increase in 
the effort for soldiers of the Allied Armies. This part of the program 
was made clear in the appeals for funds addressed to the American 

The American Y M C A in no sense changed its attitude toward 
the men whom it strove to serve but it was in a new situation involv- 
ing new responsibilities. It had accepted a definite commission from 

* See the broad attitude of the American Government as illustrated in 
Chapter XXVII. 


the Government of the United States. Therefore, its efforts had to be 
considered not alone from the humanitarian standpoint but also from 
the point of view of assisting in the winning of the war with a pri- 
mary responsibility in connection with the welfare of the American 
civilian soldiers. 

That service for men in the Allied forces not only helped the JJt^g^^l't'l^ °fi 
cause for which America was fighting but was actually of value to our service 
men is plain when all the elements are considered. If the French 
Army work be taken as an example, the illustration will serve for 
all such service. Marshal Foch has unequivocally stated that the 
work of the Foyers du Soldat decidedly affected the staying power of 
the French soldiers in the last lap of the war. He has said what no 
welfare worker would dare to claim.^ Granted that such an appreci- 
ation was all too generous, still it remains that everything that helped 
to keep the French Army fit meant that there was just so much less 
burden to be borne by the American forces. Had this great force 
given way seriously America would have had to send certainly twice 
2,000,000 men to the Western Front. Every Y M C A effort for every 
Ally, in so far as it contributed in even the remotest degree to the 
ultimate success, was of just so much service to American men. But 
further America became part and parcel of the Allied cause. America 
aided with material equipment and men at every important point. It 
was therefore eminently just and fitting that the benefits of its wel- 
fare service, which in spite of all deficiencies was by far the most 
comprehensive service ever rendered to fighting men, should be ex- 
tended far and wide wherever it would do the most good. 

The continuation of the prisoners of war work was also a sound 
decision. It was necessary to work for both sides if any work for 
the Allied prisoners was to be maintained, for all privileges of access 
to the camps were granted on a reciprocal basis. Had this work 
ceased on America's entry a very large number of Allies would have 
felt a measurable increase in their sufferings. In the case of Ameri- 
can fighting men, it was fortunate that the war ended before any large 
number were put behind the barbed wire ; but there were over 2,500 
American prisoners in Germany who had every reason to be thank- 
ful that Y service was continued to the end. Surely the welfare of 
even such a small group was alone worth all the effort put into this 
work during the previous years. 

' Consult Chapter LIV. 


American Beyond the work for men in the fighting forces and the prison- 

ers during the period of actual conflict, the Y M C A in the name 
of the American people joined with other American agencies in 
special work here and there with distressed civilian communities and 
with new nations struggling to establish upon wreck of the past a 
new and stable national life. There are higher motives for inter- 
national service than that of selfish advantage, but it is well to keep 
always in mind that the world is one and will remain one through its 
period of existence and that America is deeply involved everywhere 
on the globe. The assistance rendered by America through the 
Y M C A to such nations as Greece and Roumania and Russia in the 
hour of need and to Poland and Czechoslovakia in their time of aspira- 
tion will prove in the end of the greatest advantage to the interests 
of America and has already opened what all true Americans desire 
above all else, an unlimited opportunity for a continuing humanitarian 

Chapter LIV 

France was the protagonist of the Allied cause. At the first rush, 
the German Army entered her borders to stay until the end. It was 
her fields that were ploughed by shells, her villages and towns that 
were drenched with poison gas and battered into dust. The world 
watched the sufferings of her refugees and the resolution of her 
soldiers with sympathy and admiration equalled only by the emotions 
inspired by martyred Belgium. In a peculiar sense, the fate of France 
was the fate of the world and in her fluctuating fortunes the nations 
saw the alternatives which awaited all. Within, one purpose concen- 
trated the thought and will of the entire nation. Civilians as well 
as soldiers divested life of every gratification that diverted energy 
or material resources from the sheer maintenance of national exist- 
ence. With home and liberty and every human sanctity at stake, even 
the things regarded as necessary to normal living were renounced as 
trivial luxuries. France stripped and hardened herself for her fight 
for life. 

So it was not strange that the physical comfort of soldiers, their T**^-^"]*'*' 

' Attitude toward 

enjoyment of petty luxuries, their recreation and amusement were Welfare service 
dismissed as meriting no share of the national attention. But the 
war modified many conceptions and brought its own readjustment 
of relative values. Comfort, contentment, even play, were found to 
have a vital relation to fighting efficiency. The welfare work estab- 
lished in the American Army, at the moment of our entry into the 
war, owed much of its welcome by authorities to observation and ex- 
perience of similar work in European armies, as well as to previous 
work in our Civil and Spanish Wars. Hardly had the first American 
contingents appeared in France, accompanied by welfare organiza- 
tions, when request was made for American assistance in extending 
welfare work, already begun among French soldiers. Supported by 
the hearty approval of General Pershing, the American Y M C A 
entered into a cooperative arrangement with the French Government 
and civilian agencies, to enlarge the operations of the Foyers du 
Soldat, whose share in stimulating and reviving the spirit of war- 
weary France was generously recognized and appreciated. 




of Foyer 


The story of the Foyers is not a mere repetition of familiar wel- 
fare operations; it has many distinctive features, and particularly 
provides an illuminating demonstration of the morale-promoting value 
of welfare service. 

The Development of the Foyers 

Welfare work with the French armies owed its inception to M. 
Emmanuel Sautter of the Societe Chretienne des Jeunes Gens or 
French Y M C A and General Secretary of the World's Committee of 
National Young Men's Christian Associations. 

"From the beginning of the war, Great Britain and her Domin- 
ions had undertaken the operation of huts for their soldiers," M. 
Sautter writes% "and their sympathy and their help for the French 
work were shown on several occasions and in many ways. But, it was 
especially from America that immediate and complete help came. 
Financial assistance began with an important contribution in Octo- 
ber, 1914, followed by other continually increasing sums. 'You can 
go ahead', wrote the General Secretary, 'we will always be behind 
you.' Before becoming our Allies and entering the war, the Ameri- 
cans showed themselves faithful and generous friends." 

Inasmuch as the general mobilization had absorbed most of the 
membership of the French Y M C A, Mr. Sautter was obliged to act 
in his private capacity. Before the war, reading and writing rooms 
with some club features had been established in French garrisons; 
and in August, 1914, Mr. Sautter proposed to the Service du Sante, 
the Health Department, that these be extended to soldiers in the field. 
His suggestion met with no response, and he did not feel warranted 
in approaching the high command. In August, 1914, invaded France 
had other concerns than the comfort of soldiers. 

In October, Dr. John R. Mott visited Europe to investigate needs 
and opportunities for service to the belligerent armies and peoples. 
Encouraged by his promises of financial aid from America, Mr. Saut- 
ter renewed his efforts. Gaining access to General Putz, then com- 
manding in the Vosges sector, he secured permission to establish one 
or more Foyers with his troops. This permission was temporarily 
cancelled by superior authority on the ground that military interest 
forbade the presence of civilians in the camps.' A few weeks later 

^ Une Oeuvre de Guerre. Les Foyers du Soldat de I'Union Franco-Americaine. 
Emmanuel Sautter. Preface du Marechal Petain. Paris, 1919. 

' "The safety of the camps and the secrecy of operations definitely demands 
that no person outside the army shall be informed of tactical arrangements or 
of the interior life of the cantonments, any more than of troop movements and 
changes in the location of cantonments." The same, p. 13. 


it was renewed and on January 16, 1915, the first Foyer was opened 
in the village of La Voivre, near St. Die. Shortly thereafter Foyers 
were opened at Baccarat and Gerardmer. 

These forward Foyers had to cope with the conditions and dif- ^l^^j^fj^g 2ones 
Acuities in the combat area — bombardments, the German drives, the 
constant movement of troops, and the sudden changes of encamp- 
ments. The original Foyer of La Voivre was demolished in bombard- 
ment; its successors were established in changing localities, its per- 
sonnel adapting themselves as best they could to the necessities of 
each movement, but never failing in their service to the soldiers. 
"C'est la guerre" was their watchword, too, whenever forced by cir- 
cumstances to leave hurriedly, remove, or rebuild elsewhere. 

At the same time, other fields for welfare work presented them- 
selves. An offer to establish a Foyer at the great military camp of 
Valbonne, 30 kilometers from Lyons, was warmly welcomed by the 
military governor. A knock-down hut was loaned; and the Foyer 
of La Valbonne, which thus modestly made its debut, met with such 
success that an extension was immediately necessary. "The Foyer 
is excellent," said the general, commanding the camp, "but your Com- 
mittee must furnish something considerably larger." An enormous 
hall, with several annexes, was built adjoining the first location. 
Twelve to fifteen hundred men used the building daily, from morning 
to night. In the early months of 1915, leading men in Lyons asked 
the assistance of the Committee to install two Foyers in the city ; one 
among a vast camp of convalescents, the other on the quays of the 
Rhone River, where the municipality placed at their service an ex- 
tensive location in the heart of the city. The first efforts of the work- 
ers had been directed toward securing access to the forward areas 
as the French workers felt that their service would count for more 
in those positions. While they never changed their judgment as to 
relative value, the great need and extensive possibilities in the rear 
areas were freely recognized. 

By May 1, 1915, six Foyers were thus organized in the front and JJ^^^^"* 
rear lines. The work accomplished was but a preface to the work 
that was to follow. The Committee had achieved its aim in con- 
tributing to an appreciation and understanding of the value of the 
welfare work for the French "poilus." 

Mr. Sautter's account of the beginnings thus outlined, indicates 
a wide skepticism among French military and Government authori- 
ties: that welfare work would or could play any significant part in 


the life of a fighting army was inconceivable. He was told that "ravi- 
taillement moral," or moral support of the spirits of the soldiers, 
which he urged as of equal importance with material support, was 
purely a concern of the General Headquarters, and was referred to 
certain hospitals where there might be a possibility of relief work 
for convalescent wounded. "The expression — maintenance of morale 
— so popular later, was then ignored," wrote Mr. Sautter, "and the 
idea which it expressed did not seem to correspond to any urgent needs 
in a war of movement." The complete reversal of this mental atti- 
tude was perhaps the most striking proof of the military value of 
welfare work which the war produced. 

Late in November, 1915, a Committee of Patronage was formed 
under the chairmanship of General de la Croix, who had preceded 
Marshal Joffre as Commander-in-Chief. By the end of that year, 
20 Foyers were in operation. In the following spring, the Minister 
of War was sufficiently persuaded by demonstrated results to grant a 
general permission to open Foyers in such places as commanders 
might approve. Not until September, 1916, did Mr. Sautter succeed 
in presenting his plans to General Headquarters, and secure permis- 
sion to open negotiations with generals commanding the various ar- 
mies. He secured interviews with the commanders of the 2d, 4th, 5th, 
and 7th Armies, covering the front from Amiens to Verdun. General 
Petain, then commanding at Verdun, requested that 100 Foyers be 
provided for his soldiers. A little later, permission to serve colonial 
troops was secured. By the early summer of 1917, 78 Foyers were in 
operation. Up to this time the participation of the American Y M C A 
was limited to the loan of a few secretaries and most of the financial 
Further The transition from this relatively small work to the greatly ex- 

cooperation pandcd scrvlcc that followed on active American participation in the 
war, is best set forth in the communications exchanged at the time. 
On June 25, 1917, the International Committee of the Young Men's 
Christian Associations received a cablegram forwarded by the Secre- 
tary of State as from the American Ambassador at Paris, but bearing 
signature of D. A. Davis, Senior Y M C A Secretary in France. 

"Pershing declares that greatest service America can immediate- 
ly render France is to extend work to entire French Army. Con- 
fidential. Raising morale of French troops is vital international ne- 
cessity. Red Cross agrees regarding need and states that considering 
experience and division of labor decided upon Association is logical 



organization render this service. If we cannot act immediately, Red 
Cross will. Plans call for five hundred men and million dollars in 
next three months more later. The situation demands quick action 
here. Imperative have your decision this week. Sautter agrees. 
Military status of secretaries and uniform necessary whatever de- 

The matter was at once brought before the Committee and on 
July 3, 1917, the following reply was sent to Mr. Davis through the 
confidential channels of the State Department: 

"Committee authorizes work in French Army according your 
cable June twenty-fifth." 

In September, shortly after his return from Russia and before 
a financial campaign could be organized, Dr. Mott secured $1,000,000 
toward meeting this most urgent situation. The financial campaign 
that followed later in the autumn made ample provision for a great 
expansion of the Foyer work. 

A conference took place with General Petain on August 26, 1917. organization 

_,, . j-iir -n»-,^i.. > of the Union 

There were present representing the Young Men s Christian Asso- Franco- 
ciation, William Sloane Coffin, Francis B. Sayre, D. A. Davis, andvMCA 
E. C. Carter. The proposed plan of American cooperation in the 
Foyers on a greatly enlarged plan under the name of the Union 
Franco- Americaine Y M C A was submitted to General Petain and 
received his approval. Later these proposals were submitted to Gen- 
eral Petain in writing and received his formal endorsement. By 
mid-autumn of the same year the advantages and, indeed, the neces- 
sity of this form of American cooperation had become clearly evident. 
On October 26th the International Committee of the Young Men's 
Christian Association received from the Secretary of State a message 
transmitted through the American Ambassador at Paris which 
embodied the following appeal: 

"Following received from American Ambassador Paris quote. I 
have received following letter from Prime Minister, Minister of War. 
Will cable within a week increase budget involved unquote copy of 
letter in translation follows quote: 
Mr. Director: 

At the request of the General in Command of the armies of the 
North and Northeast I have decided to create in the rest cantonments 
of the armies about thirteen hundred clubs or soldiers' homes. I 
must call upon institutions which have already devoted their efforts to 
improving the physical and moral welfare of the fighting man and 
above all others the Franco-American Union to help in organizing 


and conducting those many abodes. I take this opportunity to say 
to you how highly I appreciate the value of the assistance of the 
Americans in the matter. I know that even before the United States 
took sides with the Allies your Y M C A friends had testified their 
sympathy with our cause by granting you liberal subsidies and that 
since that country entered the war their cooperation in the soldiers* 
homes institution has actually turned into a Franco-American Union, 
has greatly grown and asserts itself in the very large financial contri- 
butions already paid or promised as well as in the help furnished in 
personnel in this field as in all others. The Americans show their 
willingness to work hand in hand with our compatriots for the tri- 
umphs of the cause for which we are fighting in the name of our 
soldiers and their commanders. I beg you kindly to extend to them 
our warmest thanks. With a modest beginning toward the end of 1914 
when the first two centers were created your institution steadily grew 
and spread with the approval of my department and of the High 
Command over the whole French front as well as in the interior 
formations. Thanks to your homes the men are afforded in the best 
cantonments meeting places where they find at once shelter from the 
weather and moral comfort as shown by the unanimous reports of 
the military authorities. I cannot therefore but wish to see the good 
work reach every cantonment. I have accordingly the honor to beg 
you to let me know whether the Franco-American Union would be 
disposed and if so in what measure to lend its assistance to the mili- 
tary authorities in organizing and operating the thirteen hundred 
clubs to be created in the general conditions set forth in the en- 
closed notice. Accept, Mr. Director, with the renewed expressions of 
my gratitude the assurance of my high consideration. 

Signed Paul Painleve 
Sautter Davis" 

In response to this request from the Prime Minister and Minister 
of War, the Young Men's Christian Association undertook to operate 
such part of the 1,300 as were not undertaken by other organizations. 
The The steps in the development of policy are significant. We see 

ofToHc™^''* the Foyers first as a voluntary agency permitted within the lines with 
some misgiving. By the spring of 1917, the work had won its place 
and the cooperation of America was urgently desired in a program of 
extension. Then, after the hard summer of the same year, the French 
high command took the position that the welfare of the Army de- 
manded a much more comprehensive arrangement. The French 
Army assumed the basic responsibility of providing buildings, heavy 
furniture, heat, and light, for 1,300 centers, and appealed to the 
Foyers to undertake the operation of the service. The incorporation 


of the Union Franco-Americaine Y M C A into General Petain's mili- 
tary organization was marked by the issuance in January, 1918, of 
the "Reglementation Generale des Oeuvres de Guerre aux Armees." 
All necessary information concerning the movement of troops wa3 
supplied to the headquarters of the Foyers and the army telephone 
service was placed at the disposal of the workers. The military or- 
ganization had not handed over authority to the welfare society; on 
the contrary, the Foyers became an integral part of the service. 

The change of attitude on the part of the French authorities had, ^J^^iem 
of course, a cause which is not far to seek. In the spring and summer »' ^^^'^ 
of 1917 the spirit of the fighting forces of France, worn down by 
the long strain of the war, depressed by the extremely dubious pros- 
pects of the Allied cause, dealt a crippling blow by the disappearance 
of Russia as a combatant, was seriously impaired. How high that 
fighting spirit had mounted, all the world knows. The resourceful- 
ness and dashing valor which crumpled the triumphant German ad- 
vance to the Marne in 1914 had not only shattered the enemy's vain- 
glorious certainty of a quick and easy victory, but had taught him cau- 
tion in trying apparently inviting opportunities in the succeeding 
months. The grim resolution of the defenders of Verdun — never 
weakened in four months of incessant furious fighting against greatly 
superior numbers of men and weight of guns, and followed by a 
brilliant counter-offensive that rewon the outworks temporarily lost — 
stands unsurpassed in history. In the Second Battle of the Marne 
and the following Allied offensive of 1918 that culminated in victoiy, 
the French Army played a part second to none. If, therefore, the 
historian notes that French morale suffered a temporary decline, it is 
not to make derogatory comparisons, noi* to diminish the glory of 
France; the point is stressed precisely because it illuminates an 
element of victorious strength which must be given a weight and at- 
tention never before conceded. If such an Army as that of France 
could be weakened by intangible foes, then no army can ever be im- 
mune ; and no responsible military authority can be excused if it neg- 
lect the means and agencies that promote and maintain morale. 

Great as were the rejoicings over the successful defense of Ver- 
dun there was no escaping the reaction which ensued as France 
realized the cost. Losses on both sides were enormous and left the 
two armies well-nigh exhausted. There is no way of determining how 
far these losses were responsible for the pacifist tendencies that ap- 
peared, but undoubtedly they were an important factor. 


France was dragging out her third year of war with no end in 
sight. Practically all her able-bodied men were mobilized. No one 
who has not experienced it can realize how the cold, darkness, wet 
and mud of the trenches wear down resolution, and how the great 
ideals that inspire heroic patriotism are dimmed and lost in the 
dreary monotony of physical suffering. The desperate fighting made 
it impossible to grant many leaves and men were separated from their 
families and private affairs for months at a time. Many from the 
invaded regions knew only that their homes were destroyed and 
their families were dead, made refugees, or deported. The army was 
flooded with syndicalist and defeatist literature in spite of the watch- 
fulness of commanders. News, not always veracious, of strikes and 
sabotage in war industries was energetically spread. Soldiers on 
leave crowded into meetings where they were told that the war was a 
capitalist conspiracy, that victory was impossible, and that their lives 
were being squandered uselessly. 
The Effects of Thou camc the tragic Champagne offensive of April, 1917. France 

oflfensive had bccu led to expect a great success, the smashing of the German 

lines and early victory. Instead the armies met a bloody check, with 
enormous losses. A great despondency ensued. To the stirring battle 
cry, "They shall not pass," was added, "But neither shall we." "This 
will end only when we are all dead." Reviews of the battle operations 
led to recrimination and open feuds. Infantry commanders charged 
that artillery preparation had been incompetent, failing to destroy 
the German first-line defenses, so that advancing troops were mowed 
down from undamaged machine-gun nests. Artillery men blamed 
aviators for imperfect observation. The different services refused to 
fraternize. Whole units collectively refused to obey their officers, and 
some regiments voted to march, armed, to Paris to overthrow the 

Such conditions made clear the urgent necessity of providing for 
"ravitaillement moral." General Petain, who had just succeeded to 
the chief command, was convinced from his observations of Foyer 
service among his troops at Verdun, that the Foyers offered one very 
useful means of restoring the spirit and confidence of the troops. 
The resulting conferences with General Pershing and with Mr. Saut- 
ter and representatives of the American Y M C A have been noted. 

' For elaborate details, see A Survey of the War, 1914-18. Intelligence 
Section (G2-A1) General Staff, American E. F.; also La Verite sur I'Offensive 
du 16 April, 1917. Official statement by Premier Paul Painleve, published in 
La Renaissance, Special Number, November, 1919, Paris. 


Out of them came the formation of the organization with the formi- 
dable title, "Les Foyers du Soldat, Union Franco-Americaine Y M 
C A," and the order that Foyer service should be extended to every 
part of the fighting forces. 

France took a grip upon herself again. There is no doubt that 
external means were of great service. The mere presence of Ameri- 
can Red Cross and Y M C A workers among civilians and troops 
helped to make clear to the hard-pressed fighters that American as- 
sistance was on the way; and the direct benefits of the relief and 
welfare work were, on the testimony of the French themselves, of 
a very decided character. Such things were positive elements of 
encouragement ; but, it must be emphasized, at whatever risk of tire- 
someness in reiteration, that the French fighters of course "saved** 
themselves. Whatever part these external influences played in the 
process — and they did play a significant part — the fundamental 
change in morale that was made so evident in the determined French 
assaults of the fall of 1917 was born of a new determination of France 
and her fighting men to see the affair through to the end. 

Because of the fact that religious and sectarian differences are R^gSrS* 
complicated with political partisanship in France, it was rightly con- 
sidered necessary that the work be administered by an organization 
having no specific religious or political character. In the new or- 
ganization, therefore, large participation was provided, both in the 
directorate and in the service ranks, for Roman Catholics and men 
of no professed creed as well as Protestant Christians, and all relig- 
ious or political activities were strictly prohibited. Inasmuch as 
the work was to be done in French military areas, and the Government 
was to supply building, equipment, transportation, and other facili- 
ties, it was properly determined that the director should be a French- 
man; and Mr. Sautter was appointed in that capacity. The large 
American contributions of money, personnel, and ideas were rec- 
ognized by the appointment of two Americans, D. A Davis and W. S. 
Coffin, as Associate Directors. Each Foyer was managed by a French 
director or directress, aided, so far as Americans were available, by 
an American associate director. Numerically, Americans constituted 
about one-third of the working staff. After full conference, a care- 
fully defined program of activities was authorized by the Ministry of 
War, embodied in the set of regulations officially issued February 23, 
1918. This entered into such details as fixing the price of hot drinks 
and other canteen supplies, forbidding free distribution except in 


special cases, limiting libraries to books approved by the Minister of 
War, and prescribing the types of building, equipment, lighting, and 
the like as well as the methods of requisitioning them from the proper 
military officers. The mode of militarizing workers, and the form 
of local, regional, and national organization, were defined. The em- 
ployment of women, even as directresses of Foyers, was specifically 
authorized. The maximum independence of the Foyers as a private 
enterprise compatible with close cooperation with the military estab- 
lishment was secured. 

The Extension of the Foyers 

Thousandth Up to Junc, 1917, 78 Foyers had been opened. From that date to 

Foyer i]^q Armistice, centers were established at the approximate rate of 

five every two days, or an average each month almost equal to the 
entire number opened during the first three years of the war. The 
establishment of the thousandth Foyer at Saint Mihiel, forty-eight 
hours after the recapture of the village by American and French 
troops, was fittingly celebrated, September 23, 1918, at the inaugura- 
tion of the great Foyer of the Camp des Cercottes, near Orleans. From 
the beginning of the work in January, 1915, till the signing of peace 
in June, 1919, 1,534 Foyers for French soldiers and sailors were 
opened, distributed as follows:^ 

Zone of the Armies 1,091 

Interior Regions 206 

Alsace-Lorraine 92 

Occupied Territory 65 

Army of the Orient 25 

Morocco (each with approximately 4 an- 
nexes) 54 

Russia (Murmansk, with 6 annexes) 1 

Total 1,534 

Of the Foyers in France, 130 were captured, 50 transferred to 
the American Y M C A, and 434 were closed on account of the depar- 
ture of troops. The maximum number operated at any one time was 
about 850. 

' Consult Une Oeuvre de Guerre, Les Foyers du Soldat de TUnion Franco- 
Americaine, Emmanuel Sautter. Preface du Marechal Petain. Paris, 1919, 
pp. 41, 52, 53. 




Plate XVII 


A personnel of 1,682 men and women secretaries, not including 
employes, was engaged in the work. The personnel comprised the 

French men secretaries 700 

French women secretaries 288 

American men secretaries 611 

American women secretaries 79 

Swiss-Romands 4 

Total 1,682 

The founders of the Foyers desired positions in the forward ''T'V^'"^^"''"'^ 

1 ot the Guns 

areas, as near the actual lines as possible, because of the need. There 
was no "period of preparation" in France; the armies were on the 
field of battle within a few days of the declaration of war. A study 
of the distribution of the Foyers^ indicates to what extent the ideal 
was realized. The fact that about twelve per cent of those in the zone 
of the armies were captured indicates clearly enough their exposed 
position. Of the first thirteen centers established, nine were at the 
front. Of one of these a report states: 

"Our tent having been struck by the bursting of a shell, the 
Foyer has been transferred for a while to a large cellar."- 

Early letters from American secretaries recount send-offs to raid- 
ing parties. One woman secretary writes deploring the necessity 
of leaving her Foyer at Soissons to the mercy of the enemy. 

In the citadel of Verdun an underground Foyer was established 
early in 1917. The German shells fell ceaselessly upon the position; 
but safe from their fire was this deep shelter, lighted with electricity 
and furnished with games, a library, and a piano. There was warmth 
and quiet there — and as much contentment as could be snatched from 
hard circumstances. Representatives of the War Work Council from 
New York were able to visit this safe shelter during a bombardment 
in the company of the commander who regarded it as one of his show 
places. There was somewhat less of security in the Foyers located in 
the "holed" banks of the Aisne. There the soldiers lived the lives 
of cavemen. A man remarked of one dugout: 

"It cannot be said that this Foyer is not sufficiently near the 
front. A few steps further and you'll be right in the fighting lines." 

* See Plate XVII facing p. 344. 

' Millions of Men, New York, 1917, No. 5, p. 30. 


In the period of trench warfare, up to the spring drives of 1918, 
it was also possible for the workers of the Foyers to extend occasional 
services into the trenches themselves. Equipment, particularly small, 
portable libraries, was designed for this work, which was carried on 
under varying conditions in many sectors. 

When the fixed lines broke up in the summer and fall of 1918, 
field conditions became very difficult. Many corps commanders, how- 
ever, unhesitatingly set apart the necessary transportation to keep 
the Foyers with their troops. In balancing one advantage against 
another, the leaders were unwilling to lose the moral effect of the 
welfare service; and the so-called "Foyers volants" came into being 
to meet the need. The extension of such service depended, of course, 
entirely upon the judgment of the commander in a particular situa- 
tion. General Gouraud — who cannot be accused of any lack of fight- 
ing spirit — made the maximum use of the Foyers possible under the 
circumstances of the last hard year. 

In the rapid advance preceding the Armistice, Foyers were estab- 
lished in the ruins of the reoccupied villages wherever four walls — 
the roof was immaterial — were available. The Foyers took possession 
of the comfortable "Soldatenheim" of the Germans at Ham, and also 
at Nesles, a fair turn-about considering the number of Foyer huts 
that had been lost. In the occupied territory of the Rhine bridgeheads 
and in Alsace-Lorraine similar "Soldatenheime," the most luxurious of 
which was that located in Metz, provided a home for the French. At 
all points proper quarters were assigned by the military command. 
ij»^the^ In the rear areas it was possible at many points to secure quar- 

ters in which a varied service could be developed. The general fea- 
tures of such work are quite familiar. There w^ere some Foyers that 
had a distinctive character. 

One of the most interesting was a very popular Foyer, which can 
hardly be called a "center." A sloop sunk early in the war was raised, 
transformed into a floating "fireside," and moored in the River Aisne 
at Soissons, where it naturally was in much danger of again return- 
ing to the bottom. However, when the German drives swept for- 
ward, its faithful friends pulled it back to Vic-sur-Aisne and then 
to Pontoise ; and it finally found its way to the River Marne where it 
continued its career. 

In 1918, Dr. Mott, at the close of his third visit to France during 
the war, urged work for the French sailors. A naval department 
of the Foyers was organized and centers were established at naval 


ports, patrol stations, and naval aviation camps, covering the greater 
part of the French Navy. It was in this department that the finest 
Foyer of all was established, the Foyer du Marin at Toulon. This 
magnificent center contained every facility — a winter garden, canteen, 
souvenir shop, lounge, billiard-parlors, shower baths, library, class 
rooms, assembly hall and gymnasium; the building was attractively 
decorated and the walls were covered with fine .scenic paintings. Two 
other important Foyers for sailors were located at Corfu and Cattaro. 

The Foyers did not find all their constituency within the borders overseas 
of France. Toward the end of the winter of 1917, centers were estab- 
lished for the "Armee d'Orient" at Saloniki and on the Macedonian 
Front. Later, Foyers were opened for the Army of Occupation on 
the Danube, and four in Constantinople and in the cantonments on 
the Sea of Marmora. In 1918, Rabat, in Morocco, became headquar- 
ters for 54 Foyers and over 200 annexes, established in the regional 
subdivisions of the North African Protectorate. Finally, there was 
the center in the Murmansk district in North Russia. 

The much-used word, cooperation, hardly covers the relationship ^^^'■J^^j'j^jj 
that existed between the French and American agencies united in 
this service. The work of the Foyers was French in origin and in 
conception: it became "officially" French by the arrangement of 1917. 
No attempt was ever made to "Americanize" it, although the financial 
support came almost wholly from America. 

The budget of the Foyers du Soldat rose to the total of over 
20,000,000 francs in 1918. The French Government supplied build- 
ings, equipment, and transportation, and permitted the purchase of 
supplies from the Quartermaster at cost. Military subventions and 
considerable sums were generously contributed by the French people ; 
but, as Mr. Sautter gratefully acknowledges, 

"These would have been absolutely insufficient if they had not been 
supplemented by enormous American contributions. With a fidelity 
and a regularity which never failed, the War Work Council of the 
Y M C A of the United States sent us month after month, checks of 
several hundreds of thousands of dollars, in so much that our treasury 
never ran dry, and we were always enabled to go ahead without 
being delayed a single day on the question of money. The resources 
which our New York friends so liberally placed at our disposal came 
from funds received in two vast collections made throughout the en- 
tire extent of the immense territory of the Republic and which fur- 
nished harvests respectively of $50,000,000 and more than $100,000,- 
000, sums which appear fantastic to Europeans." 

Transfer to 
Peace Basis 


The financial support furnished by the American Y M C A to 
the specific work of the Foyers du Soldat for the French armies, 
amounted to $7,600,000. 

It should be borne in mind that concurrently from 1917, in addi- 
tion to more than 1,500 Foyers opened for French soldiers and sailors, 
the American Y M C A operated in France thousands of additional 
centers — rented buildings, tents and huts — for American soldiers and 
sailors, more than 150 in the United Kingdom, and after the Armistice 
over 500 in Germany. 

Among other dispositions made of these Foyer huts when the 
war was over, a considerable number went to provide housing for 
homeless people in the devastated region. A French woman worker 
in reporting on the final arrangements remarks in passing, "So you 
see, the Foyers have come to a glorious end." 

Under these arrangements the expansion of the service already 
indicated was speedily accomplished, with the anticipated results. 
Upon the transfer from a war to a peace basis, which occurred in 
September, 1919, letters of appreciation and gratitude were received 
from practically all the generals who had held active command during 
the last eighteen months of the war, most of whom explicitly referred 
to the beneficial influence on morale which had proceeded from the 
Foyers. During the period of demobilization and reconstruction, 300 
Foyers were continued, of which many were for the benefit of civilians 
in devastated areas. Others were established in industrial cities. 
Features of the work introduced by American workers, especially 
games and athletic sports, were permanently established in the offi- 
cers' training schools and in the public schools. On June 6, 1919, the 
enterprise, with greatly extended outlook, was taken over by a per- 
manent organization, under the name "Societe des Foyers de I'Union 
Franco-Americaine," with General de la Croix as President. Its con- 
stitution pledged it to "work, through the education of individuals, for 
the moral and social progress of France, inspired by the Christian 
ideal of fraternity in the largest sense of the word." Work was at 
once undertaken in four principal fields : military, including the Army 
of Occupation and permanent garrisons; naval; devastated regions, 
and industrial and urban centers. Perpetuating in its titles recogni- 
tion of American aid, which, however, will be needed in decreasing 
degrees, the Society, supported by the leading personalities in French 
military, industrial, professional, and government circles, has become 
a permanent and influential force in the life of France, 


The Method and Influence of the Foyers 

What the extensive development of Foyer service meant to the p^ycho^oeicai 
French fighting man can be understood only with reference to the Foyer service 
experience of those men and especially the psychological state into 
which the French had come in the third year of the war. There had 
been no cessation of combat. They were tired-out, worn by long- 
endured hardships and discomfort, depressed by heavy losses and by 
uncertainty as to the future of France, devastated and shorn of one- 
sixth of her able man-power. They had come, perhaps, to feel that 
they were regarded as just so much war material, food for cannon. 
Tangible evidence that they were cared for as individuals, that their 
private anxieties were of real importance, that their well-being as 
men was a matter of concern, was lacking in any large degree. One 
searches in vain for words that describe adequately a state of mind 
arising from so many complex causes and complicated by so many 
unusual elements of circumstance. "War-weariness" conveys only a 
suggestion to American minds. 

The French leaders recognized what was needed. Superficial 
critics of French culture have made much of the alleged fact that the 
language contains no equivalent for the English "home." They have 
overlooked the word, "foyer," whose primary meaning is "hearth" or 
"fireside." The use of the happily-chosen name, "Foyers du Soldat," 
suggested at once the need and the remedy. The French fighter, 
under the conditions, desired primarily not excitement nor things to 
eat but a center of warmth and refuge, a place of his own where he 
could have some peace and rest. These men were Europeans and, on 
the average, older than the Americans in service. They were satisfied 
with much less of the mechanism of diversion ; they required no elab- 
orate equipment and did not want much "done for them." In so far 
as the Foyers offered shelter, warmth, and a spirit of friendliness, 
they were reasonably content. To read, to write, to smoke, to talk, 
away from the insistent reminders of conflict — that was the real 
thing. At first, battle-pictures were used among the decorations; 
this was a mistake soon realized and immediately rectified. A popular 
motto was supplied by General Malleterre : 

"The Foyer du Soldat is the link between the battle front and the 
home. It helps us to live, to fight, to hope." 

A soldier in one camp wrote in the "Golden Book" provided for 
uncensored comments, that the assurance of warm, dry, light Foyers, 



with hot coffee and chocolate, removed the greatest dread of entering 
another winter at the front. 

The Foyers came into the lives of tired and hard-pressed men as 
an unexpected but utterly welcome ray of warm sunlight. 

The typical Foyer consisted of two "Adrian" barracks connected 
by a corridor. One of these was equipped as a club room with writing 
facilities, a library of 200 books, besides illustrated magazines in con- 
siderable quantities, phonograph, and games such as dominoes and 
checkers. On the walls were posters designed by some of the best 
French and American artists, with moral and patriotic appeals. 
Light and warmth made sharp contrast with trenches and barracks. 
This room could easily be arranged with benches as an entertainment 
hall. The second barrack was used as a canteen for hot drinks and 
minor articles of common personal use. Alcoholic beverages and 
gambling were forbidden. Tobacco in its various forms by agree- 
ment was supplied only when it was otherwise unobtainable by the 
men. Whenever circumstances made it possible, the ground around 
the Foyers was prepared for croquet, bowling, and quoits, all exceed- 
ingly popular with the "poilus." 

The program of activities was simple and direct. First and 
most important was the friendly attention of the director and his 
associate, who, owing to the limited character of the canteen, had 
much more time than in the American huts to mingle with the men. 
His readiness to listen to their private anxieties, and to give help, 
counsel or sympathy was continually called upon. 

The presence of women, especially, contributed to this prime 
service. Carefully chosen for gifts of sympathy as well as poise and 
good judgment, they became the confidantes of the men and reestab- 
lished the reality of normal life which had become a memory or a 
dream, as nothing else could have done. Among other results, the 
World War proved, both in American and French huts, the practica- 
bility and usefulness of the presence of good women with soldiers. 
Although there was a general provision that women should not be sent 
to dangerous posts, the women themselves scorned such protective 
restraint and uniformly sought the posts where need was greatest. 
One American secretary, Miss Marion Crandall, was struck by a shell 
at Ste. Menehould. Her body was buried under the tricolor, with 
military honors, by the French. 

This question of employing women secretaries was long discussed 
by the French Committee. The precedent of nurses in the military 


hospitals was not precisely a parallel service because there is a dis- 
tinction between wounded men, incurables, convalescents on the one 
hand, and healthy men, on the other. Would the directresses meet 
with the requisite regard? Would they be respected? The material 
conditions of life in the Foyers at the front, the inevitable promis- 
cuities, would they not often create delicate and sometimes intolerable 
situations? The principle was established to send out directresses in 
pairs; whenever possible, an elder and a younger one. The fact 
remained, however, that these two women had to live alone amid an 
exclusively masculine population. Experience happily proved that 
the preliminary fears were groundless. 

It is hardly necessary to point out that the disposition of the The importance 
soldiers and their expectations regarding the Foyers imposed a special 
responsibility upon the workers, both men and women. Character 
became a matter of prime importance where mechanism was inci- 
dental. If the director was able to fill the part of the courteous and 
genial father of the family all was well; otherwise there might be 
difficulty even among such tolerant children. 

It was very often a mixed family, too. The French colonials 
were accepted by their European comrades on a basis of equality and 
the Foyers took them all in. Vivid pictures appear in casual sen- 
tences in the correspondence of directors. At one time it is a woman 
secretary endeavoring to impart the elementary principles of reading 
and writing to a little group of Arabs. Again, it may be a director 
engaged in forcibly ejecting an obstreperous member of the same 
race from a moving-picture show — not the least appreciated part of 
the performance we may be sure. On another occasion, a Moroccan 
is discovered earnestly trying to point out to a young Frenchman the 
error of his dissolute ways. 

In the Foyers, the art of hut decoration took its place as one of Hut 
the leading features of the program. While it may be true that beau- 
tiful surroundings have their subconscious effect even upon those whq 
appear to appreciate them least, it is discouraging work to decorate 
without encouragement. American workers coming into the Foyers 
discovered that the French soldiers and sailors were highly sensitive 
to artistic values in their environment, that they were not afraid to 
show their love of color and harmony. The Foyers for this quite suffi- 
cient reason paid much attention to the matter of decoration. The 
furnishings were made as attractive as possible. Flags of the Allied 
nations, good prints, and colored travel posters were used everywhere. 







Many of the huts were embellished with mural paintings, executed by 
French and American artists, real works of art whose contemplation 
brought to many a French soldier a sense of relief and refreshment 
more enduring than that ministered by bodily comforts. The artistic 
sense, of course, does not demand only pure lyric harmony; it has a 
large place in its heart for the bizarre and the grotesque. Humor, 
manifested in subject or in treatment or in both, was the theme of 
many a painting — and was thoroughly appreciated. Anything, any- 
thing that would lift the mind out of the war environment was wel- 
comed by these hard-pressed men. No simple effort to beautify the 
huts was wasted on the French : its spiritual value was immeasurable. 

The peculiar circumstances of welfare work, especially in for- 
ward areas, gave the inspiring motto a real place in the Foyers. 
These were prepared, in general, so that they were part of the adorn- 
ment of the huts. It is quite possible to overdo this method of moral 
suggestion in ordinary life; but in war all experience is sharp and 
vivid, and the epigrammatic sentence, often repeated, does arrest the 
minds when other approaches fail. Such a sentiment as, "When you 
talk of womanhood, think of your mother, your sister, your betrothed, 
and you will never utter base thoughts," served to remind all men 
that the Foyers were endeavoring to keep firm the link between home 
and the front. 

Educational work consisted mostly of lectures; purity, health, 
temperance, and the great issues for which France was fighting fur- 
nishing the predominating subjects. When there were American 
workers, classes in English were popular, some directors spending 
ten to twenty hours a week in teaching the language. The library 
of 200 volumes contained 100 of general literature, 60 of industrial 
education and 40 of information concerning the Allies and the causes 
and issues of the war. 

The entertainment features of the Foyers were not essentially 
different from those in the A E F-Y MCA, except that the French 
soldiers ran true to form in rather preferring the exhibitions of "local 
talent" to any other show. Of the movies, the dramas, and the vaude- 
ville shows they were appreciative enough; but what they really 
enjoyed to the full were their own productions. In the ranks were 
many professional entertainers. 

"To mention among several evenings," a secretary reports, "one 
where Zoto and Bombone, the clowns of the Circus of Paris, passing 
through as members of a battalion of chasseurs, met with a great 


reception. I cannot enumerate the reciters, story-tellers, military 
comics, instrumentalists or singers, many of them professionals, who 
appeared upon the stage. I was astonished by the variety of talent 
found in the Army. Often it was simply necessary to raise the cur- 
tain and call for volunteers, to organize in less time than it takes to 
write, one of those impromptu, pleasant evenings, of which the trooper 
is so fond." 

The audience of course maintained at all times its sacred right ^ppf"j?"°" °f 

° the Audiences 

of criticism. No performer was granted immunity. The amateur 
who ventured out upon the difficult ground of the stage had to be pre- 
pared for a very decided expression of approval or disapproval. The 
fact that the unskilful were continually boo-ed appears not to have 
reduced in the slightest degree the number of candidates willing to try 
their luck. Yet the apparently merciless audience was true at the 
core. One American secretary reports that a little man whose brain 
had evidently fainted by the wayside in early youth was always 
listened to with the greatest courtesy as night after night he rendered 
his interminable ballads before the gathering in the Foyer. 

Anyone familiar with soldiering in any of its phases will recog- JJlbS*^"' 
nize at once that these impromptu entertainments set the directors of 
the Foyers — and the directresses, too — a very delicate and difficult 
problem. The Foyers had no desire to exercise annoying restraint 
over the men whom they were endeavoring to serve, but they had been 
promoted in the French Army, and were expected by the authorities, 
to function as an elevating influence. There was no desire to be 
prudish; but it remains a fact that what we call the "home atmos- 
phere" — which the Foyers strove to recreate — is not an atmosphere 
of pruriency. Though there may be great difference of opinion as to 
the exact line between good fun and indecency, there are limits ; and 
the Foyers positively urged the necessity for observance of the 
decencies. The visiting artist who was stopped by the director in the 
midst of his career would express extreme surprise : "I had been told 

that this was not a Catholic club. Then why, between soldiers ?" 

The director would then endeavor to explain, as tactfully as possible, 
the general attitude of the Foyers. There were difficulties and some 
dissatisfaction, but there grew up among the men a decided disposi- 
tion to protect the character of these popular gatherings. One inci- 
dent is typical of this disposition. At the Foyer de La Valbonne one 
evening a soldier who had raised the first notes of a familiar piece was 





stopped by the unanimous cry: "That song is not wanted in the 

American participation stimulated athletic sports to a high 
degree. As compared with Americans, the French people in general 
play few games although many individuals are expert in boxing, 
fencing, soccer, and competitive sports combining speed and skill. 
The accuracy and range displayed by Americans in throwing hand 
grenades was ascribed, in part, to general proficiency in baseball. In 
consequence, orders were issued from the Ministry of War that base- 
ball should be promoted throughout the French Army. Officers 
reported distinct improvement in the use of grenades by men who 
received baseball training under expert American coaches. Basket 
ball was enthusiastically welcomed. Its effect in developing the upper 
body made it particularly beneficial, and its features of speed, excite- 
ment and open play caught the fancy of participants and spectators. 
When American and French soldiers were neighbors, Franco-Ameri- 
can basket ball games became popular events. Mass games and exer- 
cises also were introduced. In numerous camps the American ath- 
letic director was appointed by the commander as athletic officer; 
athletics were made obligatory at stated times when the entire unit, 
officers and men, were placed under his direction. In preparation for 
the Inter- Allied Games, American athletic directors were supplied as 
trainers and coaches for French contestants, whose success in the 
contests has been noted elsewhere. Not least important was the 
attention paid by Americans, in intervals of duty with soldiers, to the 
boys and girls of the villages, teaching them new games and organ- 
izing sports for them. In all these ways the seeds were sown of con- 
viction that athletics and play — "play for everybody" — is not only a 
natural, wholesome diversion but a constructive force for good citi- 

The mere presence of Americans in the Foyers resulted, during 
1917 and the early months of 1918, in a contribution to the Allied 
cause which cannot be measured. It was no less than tangible evi- 
dence to French soldiers that the United States, with its immense 
resources of men and material, was really coming to reinforce the out- 
numbered forces of France. Propaganda had sowed broadcast doubts 
of American aid. Assertions that America would supply money and 
munitions but would send no soldiers to fight and be killed, were 

^ Consult Chapter VI, Morals and Military Efficiency. 


freely made and gained increasing belief as months passed without the 
appearance of Americans in the fighting lines. The American Foyer 
director was, for countless Frenchmen, the first real sign of our 
actual participation in the war. Headquarters kept them informed of 
developments in the United States, and they told of the troops mobiliz- 
ing in the great cantonments, of the shipbuilding and all of the rest 
of the strenuous activity that showed that America was in deadly 
earnest. The news spread along the front, and companies and regi- 
ments sent delegates to see the Americans with their own eyes. 
Skepticism gave way to hope and conviction. As American soldiers 
in increasing numbers began to confirm these promises, and it was seen 
that numerical superiority was at last being won by the Allies, the 
spirit of France rose to belief that her enormous sacrifice had not been 
in vain. For months, however, the American secretaries in the Foyers 
were the only prophecy and sign of what was to come. 

The American secretaries endeavored at all times to remember J°^^s^f^^gj.ity 
that they were part and parcel of a French enterprise. It is easy to 
exaggerate racial differences ; it is quite true that sincerity and friend- 
liness will in the end win through all artificial barriers. But the old 
adage suggests that they actually did things in Rome a little differ- 
ently : to "do as the Romans do" meant at least some slight change of 
program. An American woman worker in the Foyer offered a little 
advice to new recruits : ''Never ask anybody to do anything that will 
make him late for meals. Never hurry people; never forget to say 
'S'il vous plait/ or 'Merci'; add 'Mon ami' to all soldiers, 'Mon colonel' 
or 'Mon capitaine' to the oflficers, 'Monsieur' or 'Madame' to civilians ; 
take plenty of time and keep on smiling V'^ Externals are external, 
but their due observance saves time in the end ; adaptability in this 
case meant efficiency. Needless to add, many an American worker 
came to like the French ways; and, almost without exception, the 
Americans fell into line — earning thereby a gratitude that far sur- 
passed anything that could have been won by the unfettering of the 
impulse to "improve." 

A Distinctive Service 

It was the business of Foyers to "chasser le cafard" — ^to drive 
away the blues — to assist in curing the homesickness, hypochondria, 
and boredom which are always present in war experience and which 
had so deeply affected the hard-pressed armies of France. 

^MUlions of Men, New York, 1918, No. 14, p. 9. 

The Official 

Status of the 


There were distinctive features that distinguished the Foyers 
from the welfare work for the A E F. 

First of all, the canteen, which absorbed so much of the energy 
of the secretaries in the American work, and which complicated wel- 
fare service by introducing a commercial enterprise, was minimized 
in the Foyers, leaving the director free for personal service to the men. 
The running of the post exchange is not a true function of welfare 
work. It was undertaken in the A E F because it appeared to be the 
thing most needed under the circumstances, and the Y M C A was 
present in France not to fulfil a formal program but to serve where 
required. The little stores in the Foyers were supplementary and 
were always regarded as such. 

Further, the Foyers were actually a part of the French official 
Foyers OFganizatlons and were regarded as such by the men. Prices and 

regulations regarding sale were fixed by the authorities. Some of 
these regulations were very strict,^ but the men understood that the 
director was simply obeying orders. As a part of the military organ- 
ization, the Foyers had certain clearly defined rights; requisitions 
upon officers for assistance could not be refused if within the limits 
of possibility. On the other hand, buildings and transportation in the 
zone of the armies were entirely furnished by the Government; and 
if buildings were not provided by the Army or transportation broke 
down, the Foyers were not blamed. American soldiers widely assumed 
that welfare organizations in France had general permission to be 
with the Army everywhere, forgetting that under the American 
arrangement requisitions were requests which might be granted or 
refused. The American Army did not assume primary responsibility 
as in the case of the French. 

The complete absence in the Foyers, by strict orders, of specifi- 
cally religious activities removed a fruitful source of friction. This is 
not the point at which to discuss either the propriety of the French 
arrangement or the values of the religious work in the American huts. 
The religious question was never raised in the Foyers and the actual 
conduct of the general work was just so much easier. 

Further, it must be remembered that the Foyers came to the 
poilu at a time of great need, almost as a complete surprise. He was 
extraordinarily appreciative. He expected nothing and was grateful 

^ For example, the sale of American tobacco to French soldiers in the Foyers 
•was positively forbidden. Frequently, the director had in hand a supply of Amer- 
ican tobacco which he could sell to an American m the Foyer, but which he was 
compelled to withhold from a French soldier in the same room. 



when he received the slightest service or the most casual attention. 
His smiling, "Tant pis," when told that something he desired was 
not to be had, was the measure both of his tolerance and his sense of 

Lastly, the Foyers enjoyed the great advantage of being able to 
go quietly about their business without any necessity for advertise- 
ment. The funds necessary for the work were supplied from Amer- 
ica ; there was no need to publish to France the achievements of the 
service — a process which involves the greatest risk of misunderstand- 
ing. This burden was borne by others in this case. 

The outstanding values of the work were clearly established in 
the minds of all who knew it at first hand. That a great number of 
tired, discouraged men, who had borne and were bearing frightful 
hardships, received a measure of physical comfort was unquestion- 
able. Out of this purely humanitarian service grew a spiritual 
result, the reviving of confidence and devotion to the cause of France 
and of humanity. Innumerable new individual friendships — ^the 
threads that, woven together form the web of international friendship 
— were created, and a better mutual understanding of national char- 
acteristics leading to respect and liking. An idea, ignored at the 
beginning by all but a few far-seeing minds, developed into a potent 
force for the social betterment of France in peace as well as war. 
Such results are always worth what they cost. 

It is only fair to leave to a citizen of France the final word in "^^l^^m^'^^'" 
summing up the value of the Foyers. In response to greetings 
extended by the Y M C A at a dinner in his honor at Washington, 
D. C, Nov. 21, 1921, Marshal Foch said : 

"There is no greater eulogy to be made of your Y M C A work on 
behalf of the Allied Armies than to enumerate in figures, the services 
that were rendered. There are no words that speak better than these 
figures. I cannot better them. But I must say here, in my capacity 
as Chief of the French Armies, how greatly we have appreciated the 
services that you were able to render us. In 1914, led by the great 
principle of humanity, you started to aid, to relieve the prisoners of 
war ; and shortly after we asked you : Come and help us to uplift our 

"The French soldier, it is known, is brave, full of initiative ; he is 
full of impulse, he is full of that spirit which is called the 'French 
fury.' But, would it last? The world doubted it. Would it hbld 
out? Would he be steadfast? Would he last in a long war? All the 
world asked that question. 



Service the 
Principle of 

"Well! Yes! To the ^eat astonishment of the whole world 
this soldier was seen to endure, to hold out during battles lasting 
more than twenty days, under continuous fire, persistent, without any 
shelter, having very often for cover, only the bodies of his comrades 
who had fallen; during four winters he was seen maintaining his 
trench warfare, a war in mud and mire, having for roof but the sky of 
winter, with its clouds and its rigors, and his only shelter a hole in 
the ground. 

"In this effort, all moral support seemed sure to break under a 
bombardment which never ceased. What man was there whose 
nerves were sufficiently strong to endure for entire years? Above 
all, the loneliness, the reaction, the depression, the melancholy, that 
which was recently and very judiciously called the 'blues', invaded the 
minds and seemed as if they must turn the soldiers away from facing 
the enemy. 

"Well ! This morale, we have been able to sustain, thanks to your 
powerful help, thanks to the Foyers du Soldat Union Franco-Ameri- 
caine Y M C A, into which the tired soldier came for new strength, 
and to find a touch of that family life, or at least that familiar con- 
tact which seemed to him an infinite comfort. This was the means by 
which resistance was maintained, and when we wished to advance, we 
found energies much better revitalized and much better prepared 
because these soldiers who had felt and proved in themselves the con- 
tact of this goodwill, placed entirely at their disposal, believed them- 
selves obliged to pay once again with their life-blood — and advance. 

"When we definitely launched our final offensive, they were driven 
forward by the inspiration of the forces behind, and the soldiers 
marched ahead with resolute step determined and conscience-bound 
to go to the very limit. 

"From this direction came that magnificent blast which, driving 
our sails and our flags, carried them forward in an irresistible assault, 
to that moment on November 11, 1918, when the enemy cried, 'Halt! 
Enough !' Yes ! Our flags blending with each other, we forged reso- 
lutely ahead, driven by that impulse, not only of soldiers who felt 
themselves supported by the organization behind them, but above all, 
by their faith, their religious belief and their absolute self-sacrifice. 

"Then, let me, gentlemen, attribute a great part of our success 
to you, as much in the defensive as in the offensive by that support 
which you gave us, and because you sheltered all that work in the 
shadow of the finest of ideals, the principle of humanity — unselfish 

"I would never conclude, gentlemen, if I attempted to tell you all 
the sentiments that inspire me in the presence of such results, but I 
must tender to you the greatest 'Thank you !' that I find in the depths 
of my heart, for all the work you have undertaken — and realized." 

Chapter LV 

Among the smaller groups of Allied soldiers in France, the Amer- 
ican Y M C A rendered a service which, though small in extent as com- 
pared with American and French Army work, was in every case inter- 
esting and significant. 

There was no Serbian force fighting as a unit in France, but sev- f^d^czM^sloVak 
eral hundred Serb students were stranded in Paris. Early in 1919 service 
the Association took over the management of a hostel for these men, 
the "Maison Serbe," which a generous French woman had been oper- 
ating at her own expense. Some work was also done in a Serb hos- 
pital in Paris. After July, 1917, a stream of sturdy Siamese trickled 
into France. Though the Siamese Government was opposed to the 
introduction of Y service, the officers on the field requested it ; and the 
Siamese Minister to France formally expressed his appreciation. A 
Czechoslovak unit was assigned a few secretaries ; and as a result the 
Czechoslovak authorities asked that the work be continued among the 
troops on their return home.^ Work for Indian troops in France is 
discussed in another place.^ 

The service for the Portuguese, Poles, Russians, and Chinese, 
with the many difficulties arising from linguistic diflferences, must be 
considered in more detail. 

With the Armies of Portugal 

In accordance with a long-standing treaty with England, Portu- 
gal did not declare neutrality in 1914. Casting her lot with the 
Allied cause, she entered the war in March, 1916. She seized German 
ships in home and colonial ports, helped the Belgians and British to 
drive the Germans from Africa ; finally she sent 60,000 troops to the 
British front in France, and suffered a hard pounding in the 1918 

The chairman of the Portuguese National Y M C A, Don Alfredo 
da Silva, noting the work with the British troops in the fall of 1917, 

^ Consult Chapter LXIX for the complete story of the work that developed 
from this small beginning. 
= Consult Chapter LVII. 



asked Dr. Mott for American cooperation in service for the Portu- 
guese troops. The Portuguese were welcomed in the British Y huts, 
but linguistic difficulties led to the request that Portuguese-speaking 
secretaries enter the field. This emergency was met in 1918 by an 
American, Myron A. Clark, a Y M C A secretary who had served for 
many years in Brazil and had inaugurated Association work in the 
University of Portugal, Coimbra, Portugal, in 1915. In February, 
1918, Mr. Clark went to France to take charge of the work and was 
assigned to the Headquarters Staff of the British Y at Abbeville. The 
work was operated under British secretaries at first, but later Ameri- 
cans who knew Portuguese came in. The supplies, funds, and 
accounts, however, were handled through the British Association, 
which furnished tents and canteen equipment but no great financial 
support. Financial aid could not be expected from Portugal. The 
Americans appropriated funds, secured personnel, and plunged into 
the work with the Portuguese Army at Brest, at the front in Flanders, 
and in the rest zone near the Channel ports. There was also a Paris 
Bureau at 29 Rue Montholon, with a dormitory and canteen to care 
for Portuguese officers and men when passing through the city. Dur- 
ing the six months preceding the Armistice, some 50,000 francs were 
expended on the Portuguese work. After the Armistice and during 
demobilization, service was again rendered at Brest, and for a time 
in Portugal itself. At Cherbourg, this special work continued until the 
middle of summer of 1919. 

rnternationaiism '^^^ ^°^^ ^^^^ ^^^ Portuguese was interesting from several 

of Y secreteries polnts of view. The personnel of 23 secretaries was international. 
The greater part were Americans, and the others British, Portuguese, 
and Brazilians. They had to grapple with an acute morale problem. 
The troops were composed of illiterate peasant boys and men from 
under-privileged groups in the cities, who had no such motive for 
fighting and enduring the hardships of war as animated Frenchmen, 
Englishmen, and Americans. Their officers, largely drawn from the 
Portuguese aristocracy which as a class was opposed to entering the 
war on behalf of Great Britain, were in many cases quite uncertain 
in their loyalty to the Allied cause. For this reason, if for no other, 
relations were often strained between the British and the Portuguese. 
Thus American workers were more acceptable than British. The 
Portuguese looked to them for help in their difficulties and their joy 
at hearing their own language spoken by American secretaries was 
almost pathetic. 


The Association followed its regular athletic and social program, 
and helped the Portuguese troops personally in many ways. By acts 
of kindness the secretaries endeared themselves to thousands of Portu- 
guese soldiers who were very ill at ease at war in a foreign land. Sev- 
eral of them were cited by the Portuguese Command, and four were 
made officers of the Order of Christ (Ordem de Cristo). Their dem- 
onstration of the Christianity of service rather than of creed left a 
deep impression. 

With the Polish Autonomous Army 

Among the most interesting of the minor units fighting in the work with 
Allied cause was the Polish Legion, recruited largely from Polish 
Americans before the United States entered the war and later includ- 
ing those Poles in the United States who wanted to fight for a liber- 
ated Poland but who were not eligible to military service in American 
armies. This force, originally about 60,000 strong, became known as 
the Polish Autonomous Army, and was later increased to 75,000 by 
additions in France of former Austro-German war prisoners of Polish 
birth. With this force the Association served, first through the 
Foyers du Soldat, and later under purely American direction. When 
this army under General Haller returned in triumph to Poland, sec- 
retaries accompanied it by express request of the commander and 
were able to inaugurate work there. 

Y M C A work was commenced with the Polish Autonomous Army 
in France under the auspices of the Foyers du Soldat in January, 
1918. A request for Y M C A aid was made to Mr. Carter by a Polish 
soldier who came with other Polish troops on a ship from New York, 
on which Y M C A secretaries, both men and women, served the 
troops. Walter S. Schutz, who had an indefinite appointment in the 
Foyers, was sent to Laval in the department of Mayenne by D. A. 
Davis in response to this request. 

The first hut was opened on January 31st at Laval for the benefit 
of the First Regiment of Polish Chasseurs. A canteen was also 
opened here and a few weeks later two American women went to 
Laval to operate this canteen. A little later, small huts or foyers 
were opened in other training camps of Polish troops at Mayenne, 
Sille-le-Guillaume, and Mamers. 

The work spread rapidly as new contingents of the Army arrived 
from America and were sent to French training camps in the Depart- 
ments of Mayenne, Sarthe, Calvados, La Manche, and along the 


Loire. In all about fifty men and women secretaries served with 
these Polish soldiers in France, following the regiments from one 
training area to another. On March 1, 1918, the two pioneer secre- 
taries accompanied the 1st Regiment of Polish chasseurs into the 
Champagne area and opened their canteen at Sainte-Tanche in the 
Mailly district. In early June the first regiment went into the lines 
between Chalons and Rheims with General Gouraud's French Army, 
and gave an excellent account of themselves. The Y followed them in 
camionettes. Later the First Division, composed of the 1st, 2d, and 
3d Regiments, held the lines in the Vosges sector first occupied by the 
United States Army. Here there were huts between the first and sec- 
ond line trenches whose service also reached out to the men in the out- 
posts. One of the secretaries was decorated with the Croix de 
Guerre for his bravery under fire. After the Armistice, the First 
Division continued in the Nancy area preparatory to its departure for 
Poland, secretaries serving them in the various camps and towns 
where they were billeted. 
AmericaJi ^^ about 80 per cent of the soldiers composing the Polish Army 

Service Were recruited in and came from America, their needs and prefer- 

ences were American rather than French, although they were equipped 
and rationed by the French military authorities. It was decided, 
therefore, to transfer the Polish Army Work from the Foyers du 
Soldat to the American Y M C A. This had been suggested as early as 
June, 1918, and the transfer was effected as of August 1, 1918. From 
that time the work was entirely under the auspices of the American 
Y M C A. Secretaries were privileged to participate in three epoch- 
making events in the history of the Polish Army in France; May 3, 
1918, the anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution of 1791 
(corresponding to our Fourth of July) ; June 22, 1918, the presenta- 
tion of the Polish flags to the 1st, 2d and 3d Regiments by President 
Poincare near Brienne-le-Chateau — ^this was the first time that an 
independent Polish Army had fought under its own colors in more 
than a hundred years; and October 6, 1918, when General Joseph 
Haller, the Polish patriot, assumed command of the entire Polish 
Army in France, near Nancy in Lorraine. 

In March, 1918, General Haller officially requested the Y M C A 
to accompany his army to Poland, and promised it every facility pos- 
sible in carrying on its work, which he said had become almost a 
necessity to his men. Five secretaries accompanied General Haller's 
staff to Poland, leaving Paris on April 16, 1919, and reaching Warsaw 


on April 21st. On April 29th, these secretaries were present at the 
meeting between General Haller and the Chief of State, Josef Pilsud- 
ski, on his return from the recapture of Vilna ; and they also shared 
in the magnificently impressive celebration of the 3d of May — the 
first since Poland became free and independent. While the Y M C A 
went to Poland at the invitation of General Haller and with only suf- 
ficient equipment to serve his Army, Commander in Chief Pilsudski 
and his officers urged the extension of its work to all the Polish troops 
and especially the young, new recruits. The Ministry of War officially 
requested the Y M C A to serve the Polish Army, promising full 

With the Russian Legion 

The Russian Expeditionary Force, which in the spring of 1916 a Difficult 


had numbered about 60,000, had dwindled by the spring of 1918 to a 
small body of 2,000 men, known as the Russian Legion. Casualties, 
sickness, and particularly the disaffection arising after the conclusion 
of the Peace of Brest-Litovsk, had accounted for the diminution. The 
rest of the fit men, at least 20,000, were virtually prisoners of war 
under the control of the French. The Legion was, of course, abso- 
lutely cut off from communication with home and the Russian Gov- 
ernment of the day ignored its existence. It was attached to the 
famous Moroccan Division and fought in the defense of Allied lines 
against the German attacks of March and April, 1918. The little 
troop was terribly cut up in this fighting, but replacements were found 
among the men in the labor battalions ; and the Legion was thus able 
to uphold its honor to the end of the war. As a recognition of its 
services, it was included in the French Army of Occupation. 

The Y M C A obtained permission to work with this Russian 
fighting force. The work was conducted by the Russian Department, 
organized in France by the American Y for the purpose of serving 
all Russians. The workers marched with the troops through storm 
and mud, supplied them with extra rations of bacon and bread en 
route, distributed American chocolate and cigarets before action, fol- 
lowed them into the trenches with supplies, and visited the wounded 
in the hospitals after the fighting. These men, separated from their 
people and from their disaffected comrades, found a great barrier in 
their difficult language, and felt very isolated. A Russian officer thus 
summed up the chief values of the Y service : 

^ Consult Chapter LXIX for the story of Y work in Poland. 


"You will never fully understand how much we Russians appre- 
ciate the goodwill of you Americans in accompanying us to battle. 
This proof that someone actually cares for us has touched our hearts 
more deeply than we can express to you." 

When the fighting troops and invalids returned to Russia, the 
Association had the good fortune to know of their intended departure 
in time to send secretaries to the docks to brighten the homegoing 
with stores of chocolates, biscuits, cigarets, games, books, and papers, 
and with phonographs and records. When a volunteer body of fight- 
ing troops was recruited in France for service in Russia, two of the 
Association secretaries accompanied them to Marseilles, where they 
were sent on their way with the usual gifts. Letters from Constan- 
tinople and South Russia record the appreciation of these services. 

With the Chinese Labor Corps in France 

One of the most interesting and significant phases of the war was 
the importation of Chinese Labor into France. The Chinese Govern- 
ment, thoroughly in sympathy with the Allied cause but unable to aid 
it by means of troops, gave the British and French permission to 
recruit workmen under contract which included their transportation 
from China to France and return, and wages in cash for the period 
agreed upon. In 1916, the British and the French opened recruiting 
offices in Puhow, Weihaiwei, Tsingtao, and other points and in the 
course of the war enlisted between 150,000 and 200,000 Chinese work- 
men for service in France. The British used by far the greater part 
of these in their base area from Havre to Dunkirk and in the army 
zone between Cambrai and Ypres. The French used some 30,000 in 
ports from Brest to Marseilles and at munition works in the interior, 
while 10,000 were loaned to the Americans for use in the Services of 
Supply, They were engaged in the handling of military supplies at 
ports and bases, in repairing roads and building railways, handling 
munitions, and even digging trenches. After the Armistice, they 
were sent up to the devastated areas in large numbers where they 
were engaged in reconstruction and salvage. 

The maintenance of the morale of these Orientals suddenly trans- 
ported from their homes and set to unfamiliar tasks in a foreign and 
war-ridden land was imperative. 
The Barrier The cfficiency of the Chinese as laborers depended largely on 

their contentedness and on the degree of understanding between them 


and the Westerners directing their work. Very few Westerners 
understand Chinese ; but the Y M C A was able to secure the services 
of missionaries to China, at home on furlough, to work as secretaries. 
Before these secretaries arrived, there had been riots and strikes 
every few days. These were, in most cases, largely due to lack of 
understanding. No one could speak both Chinese and English. The 
food was insufficient and not suited to Chinese. No boiled water or 
tea was provided, whereas Chinese drink only hot water or tea. Much 
sickness and discontent resulted. Since the doctors could not under- 
stand Chinese, diseases were improperly treated, if attended to at all. 
There were misunderstandings concerning hours and wages, sus- 
picions and resentment resulted, and occasionally mistreatment by 
the officers in charge. All these and numerous other difficulties the 
Mandarin-speaking secretary was able to remove, for the commanding 
officer was always willing to remedy any trouble when the situation 
was understood. Even so the entire group would sometimes strike, 
and it was the business of the secretary to get them back on the job. 

The English National Council of the Y M C A immediately with the 


offered to aid in a recreational program for these men but the mili- 
tary authorities were opposed to any outside influence which might 
tend to lessen discipline, and no official sanction was given to such 
work. Although no formal permission had^been granted, the British 
National Council, by the end of 1917, had opened work in thirty cen- 
ters and military men had come to see its value in keeping up the 
morale of these working men. The British Association with the help 
of Colonel Fairfax, in command of these labor battalions, at last suc- 
ceeded in getting the work officially sanctioned and in March, 1918, 
the British National Council was formally invited by the General 
Headquarters to establish canteen and recreational service in all the 
Chinese labor units. By the end of 1918, there were 80 centers serv- 
ing more than half of the 194 companies under British command 
The personnel included 38 Chinese students and a score of mis 
sionaries provided by the International Committee of North America. 

Simultaneously, in the fall of 1917, the International Committee ™ ^j^e 
undertook work for the Chinese under French command ; and a Chi- 
nese student from Harvard, Mr. Hsi, started the first hut for Chinese 
workmen in Feysin, a suburb of Lyons. There were soon nearly 40 
centers with secretaries, the Chinese personnel being twice that of 
the American. In the spring of 1918, the work was extended to the 
Chinese workmen under American command. In 1919, the British 





staff included over a hundred, nearly half of whom were Chinese. 
The funds for all this work were furnished by the International Com- 
mittee of North America, and the English National Council. 

One of the strongest elements in the whole work was the thor- 
ough and cordial cooperation of the Chinese Government. When the 
Director-General of the United War Work Campaign cabled the 
Y M C A of China suggesting that China provide $100,000 toward the 
welfare work in Europe, a committee of 52 Chinese political and 
commercial leaders, associated with the Y M C A, was organized, and 
secured not $100,000 but over $1,400,000. It is not too much to say 
that the fact that the Association was actively associated with this 
work immensely stimulated the interest of the Chinese. The American 
National War Work Council eventually appropriated for work among 
Chinese in France and elsewhere, its proportion of this total sum. 
The President of China headed the fund with a contribution of $5,000, 
and gave this characteristically sound Chinese testimonial: 

"If an old man like me goes wrong, it doesn't matter much. If 
a middle-aged man goes wrong, that is a most serious loss, but if a 
young man goes wrong, he goes on destroying character all the rest of 
his life, and for that reason I believe we ought to sustain such a work 
as that being done by the Young Men's Christian Association." 

One of the first forms of service was to bring the Chinese into 
touch with their people at home. Many had written letters but had 
received no replies. They did not realize that during the war six 
months' time was required for a reply from China, and it was rumored 
that Chinese, employed by the French Government as interpreters, 
appropriated the stamps and burned the letters. To remove this dif- 
ficulty permission of the American base censor was secured for the 
Chinese mail to go through the American Army Post Office, the secre- 
tary assuming responsibility for censoring the same. To make sure 
that the replies from China would reach the men in France each 
laborer was provided with several return envelopes, the return 
address being printed both in French and Chinese. As only a small 
percentage of the Chinese can write, the secretary prepared a letter 
for them in Chinese. Two thousand were printed and distributed. 
The laborer had but to fill in his name and the date. These letters 
told of the general good conditions surrounding them — which had 
been secured by that time, and included friendly messages. An edu- 
cated Chinese, detailed by the Government to help the secretary in 


the canteen, was at the tent on Sundays to assist in correspondence. 

Y M C A stationery, printed in English and in Chinese, was provided 

A Paris bank agreed to transmit funds to China for these men, Home 
but when some never heard from the money they had sent, many grew 
suspicious and would not risk remitting money in this way. After 
the secretary had gained their confidence in himself and in the 

Y M C A, the Association headquarters in Paris were prevailed upon 
to transmit funds to China by the same method our soldiers used in 
sending money to America. The Paris Office agreed to make the 
expea^iment. More than 15,000 francs (about $3,000) was col- 
lected to go to several hundred needy families in China. Some had 
been carefully saving this money for three years, others had lost or 
gambled away much that could have been sent to their families had 
there been a ready means of transmission. The Chinese readily took 
advantage of this opportunity and showed real appreciation. 

The temperament of the Chinese, even the lowest class, responds ^^^^"5^,^ 
to mental diversion before it takes to games. So classes in the Chi- 
nese language were established with trained secretaries brought from 
China. An intensive course was given in the meaning of the war, 
the geography and social conditions of Europe, and especially in the 
significance of the environment in which they found themselves. This 
led to classes for the better educated in English, French, geography, 
history, mathematics, and a course of study which put within their 
reach something like that of the common schools in America. A 
Chinese weekly newspaper was published in Paris, edited by a Chi- 
nese graduate of Yale University. This education proved among all 
these Chinese volunteers a key to the understanding of our Western 

The transplanting of this army of Chinese citizen laborers into Atuetics 
the heart of European civilization opened a new field for creative wel- 
fare work. Every Chinese camp had not only its social and educa- 
tional centers, but a sports program which kept the men fit and active 
and which taught many of them for the first time the European mode 
of enjoying outdoor life. Soccer, football, volley ball, basket ball, 
running, and even baseball were enthusiastically indulged in by the 
young and active Chinese. The Army organization had a compul- 
sory physical program of its own, and men were given calisthenic 
drills ; but the Y secretaries made the most of Chinese games and Chi- 
nese forms of physical exercise from the start. The result was that 


kite flying, throwing the stone lock, lifting the double stone wheels, 
and the extremely dexterous battledore and shuttlecock game, which 
in some parts of China is a national sport, brought a spontaneous 
response of the native sport instinct. 
Nation^in^te ^^^ Y M C A was lu a position to conduct such work successfully 

World because of its contact with missionaries, Chinese students in America, 

and Chinese agencies in China. Some of the Chinese secretaries gave 
up scholarships in American universities in order to undertake this 
service. There is no doubt of the value of the work. A marked 
improvement in morale followed its introduction at every local point. 
It was also another opportunity for America to offer a friendly hand 
to the great Republic of China, which, be it remembered, is the largest 
nation in the world. 

Chapter LVI 



It is easy to overlook the part played by Italy in the World War. 
During the period between the declaration of war against Austria on 
May 24, 1915, and the fall of 1917, her men held a very difficult front 
of 480 miles ; and while they achieved no decisive success, they kept a 
large Austrian army from the western front at a time when such rein- 
forcement might have turned the scales in favor of the Central Pow- 
ers. Even the unfortunate disaster of October, 1917, did not actually 
work much harm to the Allied cause; for its accomplishment drew 
heavily on the power of the German divisions, and the lines on the 
Piave were stabilized without much actual loss of power on the west- 
ern front. During 1918, the Italian Army acquitted itself well, con- 
tributing in no small degree to make the final victory sure. 

The position of the Italian soldier was extremely difficult. Italy pj^jj*"^" 
is a country of limited resources, that have been much depleted by 
the many struggles in which her people have been engaged for a cen- 
tury. The soldier at the front, during the early days of the World 
War was not very well equipped and rather poorly supplied ; and the 
forces were probably much inferior to the enemy in artillery in 
nearly every engagement. The continuous fighting in the mountains 
was difficult and discouraging. Transportation was a most serious 
problem in the high Alps. Besides all this, the fighting man as a 
rule lived in constant anxiety regarding the family he had left behind. 
With the drafting of the bread-winner, many thousands of families 
were left in dire want. Neither government allowances nor private 
beneficence could meet the situation with adequate relief, for the main- 
tenance of the forces at the front practi