CHAPTER XXV. THE UNITED STATES AND THE WORLD WAR
An important step had already been taken in the creation of the Council of National Defense on August 29, 1916, an act which indicated a realization that the United States might at any time be drawn into the European struggle. The body was composed of six members of the Cabinet, with the Secretary of War as chairman, and was assisted by an Advisory Commission composed of seven experts in the various industries that would be most essential to the prosecution of the war. The Council furnished the means of coordinating the industries of the country and getting them into touch with the executive departments of the government. State councils of defense were likewise organized to arouse the people to the performance of their share in the nation's work, to circulate information and to assist the several agencies of the federal government. A National Research Council mobilized the scientific talent of the country and brought it to bear on certain of the problems of warfare. A Naval Consulting Board examined inventions offered to the Navy Department. The Committee on Public Information furnished condensed war news to town and country papers, circulated millions of pamphlets explaining the causes of the war and upholding America's purposes in it, and directing speakers who aided in campaigns for raising money and educating the people in their duty during the crisis. The War Industries Board developed plans for the production of the multifarious supplies needed. The United States Shipping Board took hold of the problem of building sufficient ships to transport troops and cargoes, and to replace vessels sunk by submarines. By means of a Committee on Labor the laboring men gave their support to the conduct of the war and agreed to delay controversies until the war was over.
The exhausted condition of the supplies of food among the Allies, and the size of the armies which America decided to raise, made the Food Administration one of importance. At the time when the United States entered the war there was a dangerous shortage of food in Europe due to the decrease in production and to the lack of the vessels necessary to bring supplies from distant parts of the world. The problem centered mainly in wheat, meat, fats and sugar. The demand upon the United States was not only large but increasing. Accordingly, legislation was passed on August 10, 1917, which made it unlawful to destroy or hoard food; it provided for the stimulation of agriculture; and it authorized the President to purchase and sell foods and fix the price of wheat. Wilson appointed as the chief of the Food Administration Herbert C. Hoover, whose experience with the problem of Belgian relief enabled him to act promptly and effectively. Hoover's one great purpose was to utilize all food supplies in such a way as would most help to win the war. He cooperated with the Department of Agriculture which had already started a campaign for stimulating the cultivation of farms and gardens on all available land. Food administrators were appointed in the states and local districts. Speakers, posters, libraries and other agencies were utilized to urge the people to eat less wheat, meats, fats and sugar in order that more might be exported to the Allies. Millions of housewives hung cards in their windows to indicate that they were cooperating with the United States Food Administration. "Wheatless" and "meatless" days were set apart. These voluntary efforts were supplemented by government regulation, and dealers in food products were compelled to take out federal licenses which enabled the Administration to control their operations and to prevent prices from going to panic levels. The Food Administration established a Grain Corporation which bought and sold wheat; it placed an agency in Chicago to buy meat for ourselves and the Allies; it called a conference of the sugar refiners, who agreed to put in its hands the entire supply of that commodity. In a word, by stimulating voluntary efforts and by means of government regulations, the Food Administration increased production, decreased consumption, and coordinated the purchase of food for the army, the navy, the Allies, the Red Cross and Belgian relief. The Food Administration was hardly established before it became necessary to organize a Fuel Administration to teach economy in the use of coal, to stimulate production, adjust disputes between employers and employees, fix prices and control the apportioning of the supply among the several parts of the country.