CHAPTER XXV. THE UNITED STATES AND THE WORLD WAR
On the other side of the ocean naval bases were established in England, Ireland, Scotland, France and Italy; a considerable force operated from Gibraltar and others from Corfu, along the Bay of Biscay, in the North Sea and at Murmansk and Archangel. Besides cooperating with the navy of the Allies in keeping the Germans off the seas, the American navy laid about four-fifths of the great mine barrage which extended from the Orkney Islands to Norway, a distance of 230 miles. This astonishing enterprise - America alone laid 56,000 mines - together with a similar chain laid across the Strait of Dover was intended to pen the submarine within the North Sea.
In the main the raising of an army for European service rested upon the act of May 18, 1917. It provided for the Increase of the regular army from approximately 200,000 to 488,000; for the expansion of the strength of the National Guard; and for the selection of a National Army by draft from men between the ages of twenty-one and thirty years inclusive. The determination to raise a draft army was based upon the belief that in this way successive and adequate supplies of men could be found without disproportionate calls on any section of the country and without undue disturbance of the industrial life of the nation. Although the plan ran counter to American practice during most of our history, the draft army became deservedly popular as a democratic and efficient method of finding men. Officers were supplied mainly through training camps, of which the best known was that at Plattsburg, New York. A novelty in the new army was a plan for the appointment and promotion of officers on a scientific rating system which took account of ability and experience, thereby doing away with some of the favoritism formerly connected with our military system. At a later time an organization was perfected by which enlisted men were grouped according to their ability and occupations, so that each division of the army might have assigned to it the number of mechanics, carpenters, clerks and the like that it might require. For the housing and training of the enlarged National Guard, sixteen tent-camps were established in the South; and for the National Army, sixteen cantonments, built of wood and capable of housing 40,000 men each. A cantonment comprised 1,000 to 1,200 buildings, and was virtually a city with highways, sewers, water supply, laundries and hospitals. The problem of obtaining supplies was as great as that of housing and training the army. An entire city was erected in West Virginia for the making of part of the smokeless powder required; the British Enfield rifle was modified to use American ammunition so that machinery already making arms for England could be utilized with a minimum of change; and European experience having indicated the value of the machine gun, a new and improved type was invented by John M. Browning. In many cases, however, it was impossible immediately to equip both the soldiers in training here, and those who could be sent abroad. Hence surplus equipment of certain kinds was supplied by France and England. Furthermore, actual combat had emphasized the vital importance of aviation and had developed warfare with poisonous gases and with tanks, so that it became necessary to establish new branches of the service to meet these needs.
Shortly after the declaration of war, General John J. Pershing, who had already experienced active operations in the Philippines and on the Mexican border, was sent to France to act as Chief of the American Expeditionary Force - the A.E.F. as it was commonly called. General Pershing was followed by a division of regulars in June, 1917, and by the "Rainbow" division of the National Guard, a body composed of guardsmen from various states so as to distribute widely the honor of early participation in the war. In France the American troops were detailed either for the Service of Supply or for combat. The former, with headquarters at Tours, developed port facilities, constructed ship berths, built railroads and warehouses, and took care of the multifarious duties that have to be performed behind the lines. Divisions destined for combat were usually given one or two months of training in France before going to the front, and were then kept for another month in a quiet sector before engaging in more active service.