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Kelly Miller's History of the World War for Human Rights By Kelly Miller Characters: 30486

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

Makes World's Biggest War Loan-Seize German Ships-Intrigue Exposed-General Pershing and Staff in Europe-The Navy on Duty in North Sea-First United States Troops Reach France-Germany's Attempts to Sink Troop Ships Thwarted by Navy's Guns.

Scarcely had the ink had time to dry on the Nation's command to begin war than Congress voted an appropriation of $7,000,000,000 for war purposes. This, the largest single appropriation ever made by a government in the world, was passed without a dissenting vote. Still later, a deficiency bill of $2,827,000,000 for war expenses was passed. Other legislative measures provided for the increase of the army and navy and for "selective conscription," although the latter was passed in the face of considerable opposition on the part of many who believed that in a democracy armies should be raised by volunteer recruiting. Many felt that compulsory service was not in accordance with the ideals of liberty.

The Conscription Act provided for the registration of every male citizen or resident in the United States between the ages of 21 and 31 years, and was enacted on May 19, 1917. Registration of these military available was made on June 5, when 10,000,000 names were entered on the rolls as subject to draft by the Government. The principle of "selective conscription" is that the authorities shall have the right to exempt from military duty among those registered such persons whose employment in civil life is necessary to the maintenance of the industries and business of the country, as well as those who, though physically fit, have others dependent upon them for support.

One of the first acts of the Government after the declaration of war was the seizure of the German merchant vessels interned in United States ports. These vessels had a tonnage of upward of 629,000 tons and were estimated as being worth in the neighborhood of $100,000,000. The seizure was notable in that it was the largest ever made by a country at war.

When the Government went to take charge of the vessels it was found that the German officers had destroyed parts of the machinery in many of them in an attempt to put them out of commission. The condition of the boats was such that all of them had to be put in drydock, and it was several months before some of them could be put in condition for use.


Immediately the ships had been seized an order was issued by Attorney General Gregory for the arrest of sixty alleged ringleaders in German plots, conspiracies and machinations throughout the United States. The Department of Justice, which had long been gathering evidence in connection with the suspects, had complete reports about their activities. They were all German citizens, had participated in German intrigues, and all were regarded as dangerous persons to be at large.

They were all arrested, bail was refused them, and they were locked up for safekeeping. This was the first step in the general rounding up of the conspirators throughout the country. The men were placed in three groups: Those having previously been arrested charged with violation of American neutrality in furthering German plots of various sorts and who were at liberty under bond awaiting the action of higher courts; those who had been indicted by Federal Grand Juries for similar offenses and were at liberty under bond awaiting the action of the higher courts, and persons who, although they had never been indicted or convicted, had long been under surveillance by the Secret Service, or the investigators of the Department of Justice.

These arrests were the first of alien enemies made in this country in more than a century, under the direct order of the Attorney General without reference to the courts or obtaining warrants. Under an act of Congress passed in 1798 the President is empowered to adopt this course. The right had not been invoked, however, since the war with Great Britain in 1812.


The arrests were only the beginning of the work of the Secret Service Department in a complete investigation of the activities of the thousands of German reservists, stationed in the United States, and suspected of being connected with plots which daily were cropping out. These plots were being exposed constantly. Some were abandoned before being completely worked out, owing to the fact that the Germans suspected they were being shadowed. It was estimated that there were in the United States at the time of the discoveries of conspiracies between 15,000 and 18,000 German reservists in the prime of life, whose energies were undoubtedly being employed in the spreading of the German propaganda. It was upon this army that the Secret Service men kept a close watch, and who were generally found to have within their ranks the men wanted at various times in connection with the advancement of German plans.

Many of the Germans arrested were quasi-officials of the German government. Some of them, it is alleged, were the instrumentalities through which Captain Boy-Ed and Captain von Papen had carried out their activities in this country against the Allies. A number of those arrested were properly classed as spies. Camps were established for the sailors taken from the interned German vessels, and many of them were sent to Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, where they were held.

The far-reaching influence of the German spy system was at this time laid before the American public, with all of its startling ramifications. For months there had been stories of German intrigue and conspiracies, and the Secret Service had unearthed innumerable plots to destroy ammunition plants and industrial establishments, which would have the effect of making it difficult for America to supply ammunition to the Allies.

The most insidious scheme unearthed by the government was that which had to do with the attempt of Germany to secure the alliance of Mexico and Japan to make war on the United States.

Japan, through Mexican mediation, was to be urged to abandon her allies and join in the attack on the United States.

Mexico, for her reward, was to receive general financial support from Germany, reconquer Texas, New Mexico and Arizona-lost provinces-and share in the victorious peace terms Germany contemplated.


Details were left to German Minister von Eckhardt in Mexico City, who by instructions signed by German Foreign Minister Zimmerman, at Berlin, January 19, 1917, was directed to propose the alliance with Mexico, to General Carranza, and suggest that Mexico seek to bring Japan into the plot.

These instructions were transmitted to von Eckhardt through Count von Bernstorff, former German Ambassador.

Germany pictured to Mexico, by broad intimation, England and the entente allies defeated, Germany and her allies triumphant and in world domination by the instrument of unrestricted submarine warfare.

A copy of Zimmerman's instructions to von Eckhardt, sent through von Bernstorff, is in possession of the United States government. It is as follows:

"Berlin, January 19, 1917.

"On the first of February we intend to begin submarine warfare unrestricted. In spite of this, it is our intention to endeavor to keep neutral the United States of America.

"If this attempt is not successful we propose an alliance on the following basis with Mexico: That we shall make war together and together make peace. We shall give general financial support, and it is understood that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in New Mexico, Texas and Arizona. The details are left to you for settlement.

"You are instructed to inform the President of Mexico of the above, in the greatest confidence, as soon as it is certain that there will be an outbreak of war with the United States, and suggest that the President of Mexico, on his own initiative, should communicate with Japan, suggesting adherence at once to this plan; at the same time, offer to mediate between Germany and Japan.

"Please call to the attention of the President of Mexico that the employment of ruthless submarine warfare now promises to compel England to make peace in a few months.



This document was in the possession of the government at the very time Chancellor von Bethmann-Hollweg was declaring that the United States had placed an interpretation on the submarine declaration "never intended by Germany," and that Germany had promoted and honored friendly relations with the United States "as an heirloom from Frederick the Great."

Of itself, if there were no other, it is considered a sufficient answer to the German Chancellor's plaint that the United States "brusquely" broke off relations without giving "authentic" reasons for its action.

The document supplies the missing link to many separate chains of circumstances, which until then had seemed to lead to no definite point. It shed new light upon the frequently reported but indefinable movements of the Mexican government to couple its situation with the friction between the United States and Japan.

It added another chapter to the celebrated report of Jules Cambon, French Ambassador in Berlin before the war, of Germany's world-wide plans for stirring strife on every continent where they might aid her in the struggle for world domination, which she dreamed was close at hand. It added a climax to the operations of Count von Bernstorff and the German Embassy in this country, which had been colored with passport frauds, charges of dynamite plots and intrigue, the full extent of which never had been published.

And last but not least, it explained in a very large degree the attitude of the Mexican government toward the United States on many points.


But the efforts of the German enthusiasts, which carried them beyond the bounds of reasonable safety in the United States, did not bother Uncle Sam much in the prosecution of his war plans. Within a short period after the declaration of war the country had written a chapter in national achievement unrivalled in the history of the world.

American destroyers were mobilized, outfitted and sent to the North Sea within a few days after the nation entered the conflict. With them went their own supply vessels and numerous converted craft adapted to naval use. Their number and the exact duty they have assumed never have been revealed, but that they have been recognized as a formidable part of the grand allied fleet was evidenced by the designation of American Vice Admiral Sims to command all the forces in the important zone off Ireland.

The fleet began actual duty in the European waters on May 4, and the presence of the vessels and the American sailors was the subject of official correspondence. The British admiralty announced the arrival of the American destroyers as follows:

"The British Admiralty states that a flotilla of United States destroyers recently arrived in this country to co-operate with our naval forces in the prosecution of the war.

"The services which the American vessels are rendering to the allied cause are of the greatest value and are deeply appreciated."

Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty, commander of the British Grand Fleet, sent the following message to Admiral Henry T. Mayo, commander of the United States Atlantic Fleet:

"The Grand Fleet rejoices that the Atlantic Fleet will now share in preserving the liberties of the world and maintaining the chivalry of the sea."

Admiral Mayo replied:

"The United States Atlantic Fleet appreciates the message from the British Fleet and welcomes opportunities for work with the British Fleet for the freedom of the seas."


Less than a month later Major General John J. Pershing, with his staff, were safely in England ready to take command of the first expeditionary force that ever set foot on the European shores to make war. General Pershing's personal staff and the members of the General Staff who went to perform the preliminary work for the first fighting force, numbered 57 officers and about 50 enlisted men, together with a civilian clerical force.

The party landed at Liverpool on June 8, after an uneventful trip on the White Star liner Baltic. The party was received with full military honors and immediately entrained for London, where it was welcomed by Lord Derby, the Minister of War; Viscount French, commander of the British home forces, and a large body of American officials.

In London General Pershing was later received at Buckingham Palace by King George.

He was presented to the King by Lord Brooke, commander of the Twelfth Canadian Infantry Brigade. General Pershing was accompanied to the palace by his personal staff of twelve officers. After the audience the officers paid a formal call at the United States embassy.


After the formal reception the King shook hands with General Pershing and the members of his staff, and expressed pleasure at welcoming the advance guard of the American army. King George chatted for a few moments with each member of General Pershing's staff. In addressing General Pershing the King said:

"It has been the dream of my life to see the two great English-speaking nations more closely united. My dreams have been realized. It is with the utmost pleasure that I welcome you, at the head of the American contingent, to our shores."

Major General Pershing's staff has been characterized as "one of live wires." Most of the officers are West Pointers, but there are among them some who rose from the ranks, including Major James G. Harbord, chief of staff.

General Pershing reached France on June 13, where he was given a tumultuous welcome. He landed at Boulogne in the morning and was met by General Pelletier, representing the French government and General Headquarters of the French army; Commandant Hue, representing the Minister of War; General Lucas, commanding the northern region; Colonel Daru, Governor of Lille; the Prefect of the Somme and other officials.

Among the latter were Rene Besnard, Under Secretary of War, representing the Cabinet; Commandant Thouzellier, representing Marshal Joffre, and Vice-Admiral Ronarch, representing the navy.

The scene in the harbor as General Pershing set foot on French soil was one of striking beauty and animation. The day was bright and sunny. The quays were crowded with townspeople and soldiers from all Entente armies, with French and British troops predominating.

The shipping was gay with flags and bunting, many merchant craft hoisting American flags, while along the crowded quays the American colors were everywhere shown as a token of the French welcome.


A great wave of enthusiasm came from the crowds as General Pershing stepped upon the quay and as the band played the "Marseillaise" he and the members of his staff stood uncovered. M. Besnard, in greeting the American commander in behalf of the government, said the Americans had come to France to combat with the Allies for the same cause of right and civilization. Genera

l Pelletier extended a greeting to the Americans in behalf of the army.

General Dumas, commandant of the region in which Boulogne is located, said:

"Your coming opens a new era in the history of the world. The United States of America is now taking its part with the United States of Europe. Together they are about to found the United States of the World, which will definitely and finally end the war and give a peace which will be enduring and suitable for humanity."

General Pershing stood at parade as the various addresses were delivered and acknowledged each with a salute.

British soldiers and marines lined up along the quays had rendered military honors as the vessel flying the Stars and Stripes, preceded by destroyers and accompanied by hydroplanes and dirigible balloons, steamed up the channel. Military bands played "The Star-Spangled Banner" and the "Marseillaise" as General Pelletier and his party boarded the boat to welcome General Pershing.

After the representatives of the French authorities had been presented to the American officers, the party landed and reviewed the French territorials. The Americans then entered motor cars for a ride around the city. All along the route they were followed by crowds of people who greeted General Pershing with the greatest enthusiasm.


The General and his staff were taken in a special train to Paris, where General Pershing was received by Marshal Joffre, Ambassador Sharp and Paul Painleve, French Minister of War. In the French capital General Pershing and staff were received by the populace with wild enthusiasm, and for several days they were feted and entertained.

There were, during the short period of entertainment, several incidents which will long be noted in history, as when General Pershing visited the Tomb of Napoleon and when he took from its case the sword of the world conqueror and kissed it, and again when he placed a wreath on the grave of Lafayette.

Within a few days General Pershing had established the army headquarters in the Rue De Constantine and began the work preliminary to the campaign on the firing line.

Second only to the enthusiastic reception tendered General Pershing and his staff was that accorded the first United States Medical Unit, which reached London in June. The vanguard of the American army, composed of 26 surgeons and 60 nurses, in command of Major Harry L. Gilchrist, was received by King George and Queen Mary, the Prince of Wales and Princess Mary, at Buckingham Palace.

The reception to General Pershing and the Medical branch was, however, nothing as compared to the popular demonstration which marked the arrival of the first of the American armed forces on European shores to participate in war. The vanguard of the army reached France on June 27. No official announcement was ever made of the number of men in the first expeditionary force, but it is an incident of modern history that the United States made a record for the transportation of troops across the seas scarcely equalled by that of any other country.


All America knew that troops were being sent to France, but no information had been given as to the time of departure or as to their destination. The world was, therefore, fairly electrified when the announcement was made that in defiance of the German submarines, thousands of seasoned regulars and marines, trained fighting men, with the tan of long service on the Mexican border, in Haiti, or Santo Domingo still on their faces, had arrived in France to fight beside the French, the British, the Belgians, the Russians, the Portuguese and the Italian troops on the Western front.

Despite the enormous difficulties of unpreparedness and the submarine dangers that faced them, the plans of the army and navy were carried through with clock-like precision.

When the order came to prepare immediately an expeditionary force to go to France, virtually all of the men who first crossed the seas were on the Mexican border. General Pershing himself was at his headquarters in San Antonio. There were no army transports available in the Atlantic. The vessels that carried the troops were scattered on their usual routes. Army reserve stores were still depleted from the border mobilization. Regiments were below war strength. That was the condition when President Wilson decided that the plea of the French high commission should be answered and a force of regulars sent at once to France.

At his word the War Department began to move. General Pershing was summoned quietly to Washington. His arrival created some speculation in the press, but at the request of Secretary Baker the newspapers generally refrained from discussion of this point.

There were a thousand other activities afoot in the department at the time. All the business of preparing for the military registration of 10,000,000 men, of providing quarters and instructors for nearly 50,000 prospective officers, for finding arms and equipment for millions of troops yet to be organized, of expanding the regular army to full war strength, of preparing and recruiting the National Guard for war was at hand.


General Pershing dropped quietly into the department and set up the first headquarters of the American expeditionary forces in a little office, hardly large enough to hold himself and his personal staff. There, with the aid of the general staff, of Secretary Baker and of the chiefs of the War Department bureaus, the plans were worked out.

Announcement of the sending of the force under General Pershing was made May 18. The press gave the news to the country and there were daily stories.

There came a day when General Pershing no longer was in the department. Officers of the general staff suddenly were missing from their desks. No word of this was reported. Then came word from England that Pershing and his officers were there. All was carried through without publicity.

Other matters relating to the expedition were carried out without a word of publicity. The regiments that were to go with General Pershing were all selected before he left and moving toward the seacoast from the border. Other regiments also were moving north, east and west to the points where they were to be expanded, and the movements of the troops who were to be first in France were obscured in all this hurrying of troop trains over the land.

Great shipments of war supplies began to assemble at the embarkation ports. Liners suddenly were taken off their regular runs with no announcement. A great armada was made ready, supplied, equipped as transports, loaded with men and guns and sent to sea, and all with virtually no mention from the press.

The navy bore its full share in the achievement. From the time the troop ships left their docks and headed toward sea, responsibility for the lives of their thousands of men rested upon the officers and crews of the fighting ships that moved beside them or swept free the sea lanes before them. As they pushed on through the days and nights toward the danger zone, where German submarines lay in wait, every precaution that trained minds of the navy could devise was taken.


The brilliant climax to the achievement was made public when it was announced that not only had the last units of the expeditionary force been landed on July 3, but that the American navy had driven off two German submarines, probably sinking one of them, when the transport ships and convoys had been attacked.

The last units of the American expeditionary force, comprising vessels loaded with supplies and horses, reached France amid the screeching of whistles and moaning of sirens. Their arrival, one week after the first troops landed, was greeted almost as warmly as the arrival of the troops themselves.

Many of the American soldiers crowded down to the wharf to greet the last ships of the expedition and the American vessels in the harbor, which had made up previous contingents of the force, joined in the welcome. The late arrival of the supply ships was due not only to later departure from America, but also to the fact that the vessels were slower than those which had come before. The delay caused little anxiety, although it worked temporary inconvenience to the troops, who had been waiting for materials with which to work.

Probably the happiest man in port was Rear Admiral Gleaves, commander of the convoy. From the bridge of his flagship he watched the successful conclusion of his plans with characteristic modesty and insisted upon bestowing the lion's share of credit for the crossing on the navigating officers of his command.


Sketching briefly the advance plans whereby all units of the contingent had to keep a daily rendezvous with accompanying warships, he said, that, thanks to his navigating officers and despite overcast skies, which made astronomical observations impossible, each rendezvous had been minutely and accurately kept by each unit. The orders he issued at the outset, which comprised scores of details, were observed, the Admiral declared, with such exactness that the contingent units and convoying warships invariably met each other within half an hour of the appointed time.

A big contributing factor in the crossing, according to officers of both branches of the service, was the hearty co-operation between the army and navy. From the time of the departure until the landing there was not the slightest suggestion of friction, and co-ordination played its part distinctively in the success of the expedition.

The startling fact of the entire journey across the sea was that the Navy had won its first victory in driving off attacking submarines. The news of the fight was given out by the Navy Department and the Committee on Public Information, with the announcement of the final landing of the troops and the safe arrival of the supply ships.

The announcement, sponsored by Secretary Daniels, of the Navy, shows beyond the shadow of doubt that the Berlin Admiralty had been "tipped off" that the American expeditionary force was on its way, and had carefully planned to send the transports to the bottom of the Atlantic.

Realizing that an attack might be expected in the war zone, and that every precaution would be taken to ward it off, the Germans moved far out from land, in the hope of catching the American gunners napping. They were fooled. Uncle Sam's jackies were at the guns when the fleet of submarines stuck their periscopes above the waves and trained their torpedo tubes on the lines of transports.


The torpedo boats and other craft opened up and covered the waves with shells. The Germans soon lost at least one submarine and, having had enough of the fight, they disappeared. As the little destroyers dashed straight at the submarines and shot under water explosives in their wake as they submerged, the transports dashed through the night at top speed without having been scratched.

The extreme degree to which the Germans had prepared to destroy the American force is shown by the second part of the official announcement, which tells how another section of the transport fleet was waylaid under cover of darkness, but how the American gunners were too quick for the Germans.

The text of Secretary Daniels' announcement was:

"It is with the joy of a great relief that I announce to the people of the United States the safe arrival in France of every fighting man and every fighting ship. Now that the last vessel has reached port, it is safe to disclose the dangers that were encountered and to tell the complete story of peril and courage.

"The transports bearing our troops were twice attacked by German submarines on the way across. On both occasions the U-boats were beaten off with every appearance of loss. One was certainly sunk, and there is reason to believe that the accurate fire of our gunners sent others to the bottom.

"For purposes of convenience, the expedition was divided into contingents, each contingent including troopships and a naval escort designed to keep off such German raiders as might be met.

"An ocean rendezvous had also been arranged with the American destroyers now operating in European waters in order that the passage of the danger zone might be attended by every possible protection.

"The first attack took place at 10.30 on the night of June 22. What gives it peculiar and disturbing significance is that our ships were set upon at a point well this side of the rendezvous, and in that part of the Atlantic presumably free from submarines. The attack was made in force, although the night made impossible any exact count of the U-boats gathered for what they deemed a slaughter.


"The high seas convoy, circling with their searchlights, answered with heavy gunfire, and its accuracy stands proved by the fact that the torpedo discharge became increasingly scattered and inaccurate. It is not known how many torpedoes were launched, but five were counted as they sped by bow and stern.

"A second attack was launched a few days later against another contingent. The point of assault was beyond the rendezvous and our destroyers were sailing as a screen between the transports and all harm. The results of the battle were in favor of American gunnery.

"Not alone did the destroyers hold the U-boats at a safe distance, but their speed also resulted in the sinking of one submarine at least. Grenades were used in firing, a depth charge explosive timed to go off at a certain distance under water. In one instance, oil and wreckage covered the surface of the sea after a shot from a destroyer at a periscope, and the reports make claim of sinking.

"Protected by our high seas convoy, by our destroyers and by French war vessels, the contingent proceeded and joined the others in a French port.

"The whole nation will rejoice that so great a peril is passed for the vanguard of the men who will fight our battles in France. No more thrilling Fourth of July celebration could have been arranged than this glad news that lifts the shadow of dread from the heart of America."

Upon receipt of the announcement, Secretary Baker wrote the following letter to Secretary Daniels, conveying the army's thanks to the navy:

"Word has just come to the War Department that the last ships conveying General Pershing's expeditionary force to France arrived safe today. As you know, the navy assumed the responsibility for the safety of these ships on the sea and through the danger zone. The ships themselves and their convoys were in the hands of the navy, and now that they have arrived, and carried, without the loss of a man, our soldiers who are the first to represent America in the battle for democracy, I beg leave to tender to you, to the Admiral and to the navy, the hearty thanks of the War Department and of the army. This splendid achievement is an auspicious beginning and it has been characterized throughout by the most cordial and effective co-operation between the two military services."

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