Thursday, August 31, 2017

August 1917



It's August 1917.  As the World War enters its fourth year, there's no end in sight.  Pope Benedict XV makes a peace proposal, which President Wilson rejects after conferring with the other nations at war with Germany.  Former Secretary of State Elihu Root returns from a mission to Russia designed to keep Russia in the war.  An attempted coup by the commander-in-chief of the Russian Army fails, but the Provisional Government is weakened and the Bolsheviks are strengthened.  Recently arrived American troops parade in London.  The Allied offensive on the Western Front, after initial success, bogs down in the mud of Flanders.  Italy attacks Austria-Hungary again at the Isonzo River.  On the Eastern Front, the German Army advances in Romania to the south and moves against the Baltic port of Riga to the north.  In the United States, racial tensions flare as African-American troops are based in segregated southern cities and a deadly race riot breaks out in Houston.  The Senate passes a proposed Constitutional Amendment prohibiting the manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquor.

*****


 Pope Benedict XV

Pope Benedict XV, who ascended to the Papacy as the World War broke out in Europe three years ago, has made a peace proposal to the warring nations.  In a letter dated August 1 and addressed to the King of England, the Pope offered a seven-point plan for peace: (1) that "moral force . . . be substituted for material force of arms," (2) "simultaneous and reciprocal diminution of armaments," (3) establishment of a mechanism for international arbitration, (4) recognition of "liberty and common rights over the sea," (5) "renunciation of war indemnities," (6) evacuation of occupied territories, and (7) arbitration of rival claims regarding Alsace-Lorraine, Poland, Trieste and the Trentino.  The Papal Secretary delivered the proposal to the British government with the request that it be transmitted to the governments of France, Italy and the United States, all of which lack diplomatic relations with the Vatican.  The proposal was received in the United States on August 16, and after conferring with the Allies President Wilson politely but firmly rejected it.  In a reply expected to be substantially adopted by the other nations at war with Germany, he said that "every heart that has not been blinded and hardened by this terrible war must be touched by this moving appeal," but that the object of the war is to free the people of the world from the power of the German government, “the ruthless master of the German people,” and that no possibility of peace exists as long as the present German government is in power.  In an interview with the Associated Press on August 31, British Minister of Blockade Lord Robert Cecil expressed satisfaction with President Wilson's reply, indicating that no further reply from Great Britain would be necessary.  At the Vatican, Pope Benedict expressed his admiration of the "lofty sentiments" of the President's note but made no attempt to conceal his disappointment that his effort to bring about an end to the war had apparently failed to bear fruit.



 Elihu Root

Former American Secretary of State Elihu Root, returning from his mission to Russia, addressed a welcoming luncheon in Seattle on August 4.  Ending what he termed "a long and fatiguing journey to a new sister republic," he said he could not talk about what the mission had learned until it had submitted its report to the Department of State, but he expressed "the greatest sympathy and the greatest admiration for that young democracy, now struggling to solve problems within a few months that this country has been struggling to solve for 140 years -- and has not solved."  Upon its return to the east coast, the Commission submitted its report to the State Department.  It stated "the unanimous opinion of the mission that the Russian people have the qualities of character which will make it possible to restore discipline, and coherent and intelligently directed action, both in military and in civil life, notwithstanding the temporary distressing conditions . . . which are not the result of weakness or fault in the Russian people but are the natural and inevitable results of the conditions under which the people were held before the revolution, the misgovernment of the bureaucracy, and the astounding suddenness with which the country was deprived of its accustomed government."  The report urges continued support of the Provisional Government and encouragement that it continue the war, stating that this is "the only course by which the opportunity for Russia to work out the conditions of her own freedom could be preserved from destruction by German domination."  It recommends "substantial aid to Russia . . . both in supplies and in credits," and asserts that "the benefit of keeping Russia in the war, and its army in the field will be so enormous that the risk involved in rendering the aid required should not be seriously considered."



Prime Minister Kerensky

Alexander Kerensky, the new Premier of Russia, formed a new cabinet on August 6.  Kerensky will continue as Minister of Defense and Mikhail Tereshchenko remains Foreign Minister.  From August 25 to 28 (August 12-15 on the Russian calendar), Kerensky convened a national conference in Moscow.  In an attempt to represent all shades of opinion, he invited representatives of a wide variety of organizations and social bodies, all of whom were given free rein to express their views.  Kerensky told the conference that Russia is “passing through a period of mortal danger,” in which it confronted threats from both left and right.  He warned that any attempt to bring down the Provisional Government would be repressed “by blood and iron.” 


 General Kornilov

General Lavr Kornilov, who began the month as the new commander-in-chief of the Russian Army, ended it as the leader of a failed coup.  Convinced that the Petrograd Soviet was the most dangerous threat to the Provisional Government and that the government itself was too weak to counter the threat, he moved troops into Petrograd at the end of August and demanded the Soviet's dissolution with the apparent intention of establishing a military dictatorship.  The effect of his attempted takeover, however, appears to be the opposite of what he intended.  Although Prime Minister Kerensky was quick to put down the leftist disturbances in Petrograd last month, he continues to consider the workers and soldiers of the Soviet an important part of his coalition.  Thus in an equally swift response to Kornilov's threat from the right, he denounced Kornilov as a traitor and permitted the Petrograd Soviet to be rearmed.  It now appears that the Kornilov threat has been defeated, but at the cost of strengthening the position of the Soviet and of the Bolshevik faction within the Soviet.


Hauling a Field Gun Through the Mud at Langemarck

In Flanders, the major Anglo-French offensive that began July 31 at the Ypres Salient succeeded in driving the Germans from Pilckem Ridge, but came to a halt on August 2 due to flooded streams and waterlogged ground, aggravated by years of artillery bombardment that had destroyed what little natural drainage existed in the lowlands of Flanders.  After ten rainless days, the decision was made to continue the offensive.  As the attack began on August 16 the heavy rains resumed, requiring duckboards to be laid across the flooded fields.  Two days later, when the attack was called off due to the condition of the ground and the continued bad weather, the village of Langemarck had been captured.  Meanwhile on the North Sea coast, the crews of the battleships aboard the German High Seas Fleet at Wilhelmshaven are becoming restless.  It has been over a year since the Battle of Jutland, the last time the fleet was at sea, and boredom is setting in, aggravated by poor rations, stern naval discipline and extended shipboard confinement.  On August 2, four hundred sailors from the Prinzregent Luitpold marched through the streets of Wilhelmshaven calling for an end to the war.  There was no violence and the sailors were persuaded to return to their ship.  Their leaders have been arrested.

The war continued without respite on the Russian and Italian fronts.  On the Isonzo River, the Italian Army mounted another offensive against Austria-Hungary on August 18.  It occupied the Austrian stronghold of Monte Santo and beat back an Austrian counterattack on August 28.  The Italians gained six miles of mountainous terrain but are experiencing a growing number of desertions.  On the Eastern Front, the Russian offensive ordered last month by Kerensky has already turned into a major defeat for the Russian Army.  On August 8 the Russians were able to halt an Austro-Hungarian advance and stage a counterattack at Kowel, the site of the Russian breakthrough last year under General Brusilov.  This time, however, the Russian attack failed to gain any ground.  To the south in Romania, a counterattack by the German Ninth Army under General Mackensen gained five miles and took 18,000 prisoners.  In fighting beginning August 6 at Marasesti, however, the Romanian Army has halted any further German advance.



American Troops in London

The Americans are now arriving in Europe in substantial numbers.  On August 15 a contingent of American troops interrupted their training to parade through Westminster, in the heart of London.  From the Horse Guards Parade to Trafalgar Square, to Piccadilly, to Grosvenor Gardens, to Buckingham Palace and the Mall, to Westminster Bridge, millions of Londoners turned out to cheer the new arrivals.  For security reasons, no advance announcement of the parade was made until the night before, so the enthusiastic turnout was truly spontaneous.  As the parade approached Whitehall, Prime Minister Lloyd George adjourned a meeting of the Cabinet and went with his colleagues to the War Office.  There, accompanied by Foreign Secretary Balfour, Chancellor of the Exchequer Bonar Law, Minister of Munitions Churchill, First Sea Lord Admiral Jellicoe and other dignitaries, they greeted the Americans from the War Office windows.  At Buckingham Palace King George, joined by Queen Mary, Queen Mother Alexandra, and Commander of the Home Forces Sir John French, stood at the gate and saluted the passing Americans.  After the parade the American soldiers retired to Green Park, where hundreds of tables were covered with white tablecloths and hundreds of waitresses served lunch as Londoners looked on through the iron railings around the park and from windows in nearby clubs and residences.


Camp Logan

The recently instituted draft and accompanying nationwide mobilization has had the unintended but perhaps predictable effect of increasing racial tensions, especially in the South where cities are strictly segregated and many new Army bases are being constructed.  One such base is Camp Logan, the mobilization camp for the Illinois National Guard, which is under construction on the outskirts of Houston, Texas.  A Negro battalion of the 24th Infantry Division was sent last month from its base in Columbus, New Mexico to guard the construction site.  Tensions rose between the soldiers, who were unaccustomed to strictly enforced racial segregation, and white construction workers and other white citizens of Houston as the Negro troops encountered segregated streetcars, water fountains, and other facilities.  Violence broke out on the afternoon of August 23, resulting in seventeen deaths.  Houston has been placed under martial law and the Negro battalion has been sent back to its base in New Mexico.

The next day, in an attempt to retain custody and assert state jurisdiction, the Harris County District Attorney filed murder charges against thirty-four of the soldiers.  A resolution was introduced in the Texas legislature asking the Texas congressional delegation to attempt to have Negro soldiers removed from the state.  In Washington, without waiting for the resolution, Senator Morris Sheppard called on Secretary of War Baker and made the request in person.  On August 25 he and Charles Culberson, the other Texas Senator, presented a petition to the President and the Secretary of War signed by all Texas congressmen.  The petition reads "In view of the appalling tragedies involving the destruction of life and property which the presence of negro troops in Texas has caused and is causing, and in view of the imminence of further outbreaks involving possibilities too terrible to mention, we, the Texas delegation in the national House and Senate, earnestly urge that the negro troops be taken out of Texas and kept out permanently."  Many other Southerners in Congress, most of whom refrained from raising the issue when the draft law was enacted to avoid embarrassing their fellow Democrat in the White House, are now voicing the same concern.



 Senator Sheppard

Senator Sheppard's other cause this month was prohibition.  He is the author and principal sponsor of a proposed amendment to the Constitution banning the sale of alcoholic beverages.  On August 1 the Senate adopted the Sheppard Resolution by a vote of 65 to 20, more than the necessary two-thirds.  It will become part of the Constitution if it gets a two-thirds vote in the House of Representatives and is then ratified by three-quarters of the state legislatures.  The proposed amendment would prohibit "the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territories subject to the jurisdiction thereof, for beverage purposes."  In order to ease its passage through the Senate and the House, Senator Sheppard added a provision that the proposed amendment will be "inoperative unless it shall have been ratified within six years of the date of the submission thereof to the States by the Congress."


*****


August 1917 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, September and October 1917
New York Times, August 1917

Books and Articles:

A. Scott Berg, Wilson
Britain at War Magazine, The Fourth Year of the Great War: 1917
Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis 1911-1918
John Milton Cooper, Jr., Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
John Milton Cooper, Jr., The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt
John Dos Passos, Mr. Wilson's War
David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922
Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life
Martin Gilbert, The First World War: A Complete History
Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, Volume One: 1900-1933
Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill Volume IV: The Stricken World 1916-1922
Ann Hagedorn, Savage Peace, Hope and Fear in America, 1919
August Heckscher, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
Godfrey Hodgson, Woodrow Wilson's Right Hand: The Life of Colonel Edward M. House
Roy Jenkins, Churchill: A Biography
John Keegan, The First World War
David M. Kennedy, Over Here: The First World War and American Society
Ian Kershaw, To Hell and Back: Europe 1914-1949
Nicholas A. Lambert, Planning Armageddon: British Economic Warfare and the First World War
Arthur S. Link, Wilson: Confusions and Crises, 1915-1916 
Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917
Robert K. Massie, Nicholas and Alexandra
G.J. Meyer, A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918
G.J. Meyer, The World Remade: America in World War I
Michael S. Neiberg, The Path to War: How the First World War Created Modern America
Daniel Okrent, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohbition
Edward J. Renehan Jr., The Lion's Pride: Theodore Roosevelt and His Family in Peace and War
Jonathan Schneer, The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict 
J. Lee Thompson, Never Call Retreat: Theodore Roosevelt and the Great War
Adam Tooze, The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931
United States Department of State, Report of the Special Diplomatic Mission to Russia to the Secretary of State, August 1917, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1918Russiav01/d108
Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
The West Point Atlas of War: World War I
Woodrow Wilson,  Letter of Reply to the Pope, August 27, 1917, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=65401


Monday, July 31, 2017

July 1917

It's July 1917, three years since another July spun the world into global war.  A major Russian offensive ends in defeat, retreat, and massive demonstrations in the streets of Petrograd, forcing a change in the revolutionary government.  A political upheaval in Germany leads to the resignation of Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg and Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann.  King George V visits the British Army on the Western Front.  While he is there German bombers attack London; when he returns he changes the name of the Royal Family.  In the Near East, Arab tribes led by Lawrence of Arabia capture the important Red Sea port of Aqaba.  Winston Churchill rejoins the British Cabinet as Minister of Munitions.  The British Army begins another major offensive at Ypres.  An American Army battalion marches through Paris and visits Lafayette's tomb.  A large convoy of American troops arrives safely in France after a crossing contested by German U-boats.  An accidental explosion sinks a dreadnought at Scapa Flow.  In the United States the Secretary of War sets up a system of press censorship, then backs down in the face of fierce criticism.  General Pershing says he wants a three million man Army by 1919.  Compulsory military service begins as the first numbers are drawn in the draft lottery.  Exports are prohibited without a license.  Race riots explode in East St. Louis.


*****


Government Troops Firing on Demonstrators on the Nevsky Prospect

The month began with a major offensive by the Russian Army in Galicia which, after initial success, was driven back by German counterattacks.  As the Army's morale collapsed and its retreat became a rout, unrest in Petrograd and other major cities intensified.  In spontaneous demonstrations, later joined by the Bolsheviks, workers and soldiers poured into the streets on July 16 (July 3 on the Russian calendar) to protest the the Provisional Government and its continuation of the war.   Two days later General Brusilov was relieved as Commander-in-Chief of the Army, replaced by General Lavr Kornilov, Commander of the Petrograd garrison.  On July 21, Prince Lvov was replaced as Prime Minister by Alexander Kerensky, who continued as Minister of War.  Two days later the Council of Workmen's and Soldiers' Delegates voted to give Kerensky unlimited powers for the reestablishment of public order.  Kerensky has appealed for public support, sending troops to put down the uprising, which he claims is the work of German agents.  In a statement to the press he said he will "save Russia and Russian unity by blood and iron, if argument and reason, honor and conscience, are not sufficient."  In the ensuing crackdown the Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky has been imprisoned and Vladimir Lenin has fled to Finland.


 Matthias Erzberger

Germany has a new government.  On July 6, Matthias Erzberger, the leader of the Center Party, rose in the Reichstag and made a controversial peace proposal.  Outlining the country's military weakness, he argued that Germany should attempt to make peace on the basis of a renunciation of all territorial ambitions and a return to the pre-war status quo.  When a peace resolution incorporating Erzberger's proposals passed the Reichstag on July 19, Generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff threatened to resign, forcing the resignation of Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg and Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann.  The new Chancellor, Georg Michaelis, has refused to consider any peace initiative, saying "I do not consider that a body like the German Reichstag is a fit one to decide about peace and war on its own initiative during the war."  There is little doubt that Hindenburg and Ludendorff are now firmly in control of German war policy.


 
The King on the Western Front

From July 3 to 14, King George V, accompanied by the Prince of Wales, visited British troops on the western front.  Accompanied by General Sir Herbert Plumer, he explored the battlefields where his Army had struggled a year earlier in its offensive on the River Somme.  Then he climbed the heights of Messines Ridge and Vimy Ridge, recently occupied by British forces..


The Royal Family

Anti-German sentiment has been building in Great Britain for some time, and the Royal Family's German name, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, has become something of an embarrassment.  Making matters worse, Gotha bombers began attacking London earlier this year, and while the King was in France the largest raid of the year killed thirty-seven Londoners.  On July 17, shortly after his return to England, the King issued a Royal Proclamation announcing that "We, out of our Royal Will and Authority, do hereby declare and announce that as from the date of this Our Royal Proclamation Our House and Family shall be styled and known as the House and Family of Windsor."  The new name is widely popular.  When the change was announced, the Times stated approvingly that "the King could not have chosen a more appropriate name for his Royal House than that of Windsor, which . . . has been associated longer than any other Royal residence with the fortunes and the lives of the Kings and Queens of England."  At the same time, the King revoked the British titles held by members of the Royal Family who are fighting for Germany.


Major Lawrence in Cairo


Prince Faisal with Lawrence after the Capture of Aqaba

Since October of last year British Army Major T. E. Lawrence has been in the Hejaz, encouraging and advising Arab tribes loyal to Prince Faisal who are in rebellion against Ottoman rule.  On July 6, Arab forces accompanied by Lawrence attacked and seized the Red Sea port of Aqaba, a Turkish stronghold at the northern end of the Gulf of Aqaba, which marks the eastern boundary of the Sinai Peninsula.  Lawrence then journeyed across the Sinai desert to the Suez Canal and on to the headquarters of the British Egyptian Expeditionary Force in Cairo.  There he informed General Edmund Allenby in person of the capture of Aqaba and gained commitments for additional British support for the rebelling Arab tribes.  The capture of Aqaba provides the British with a valuable supply port and base of operations in support of Prince Faisal's rebel forces operating against the Turks.
 

H.M.S. Vanguard

On the night of July 9 in the Royal Navy's anchorage in Scapa flow, a mysterious explosion destroyed the dreadnought battleship H.M.S. Vanguard, a veteran of the Battle of Jutland. The ship sank almost instantly, killing over 800 British sailors.


Churchill Speaking at Chelmsford Last September

Winston Churchill, the former First Lord of the Admiralty, was excluded from the coalition government formed by Prime Minister Asquith in May 1915 as the failure of the Dardanelles campaign was becoming apparent.  Churchill served in the minor Cabinet position of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster until November 1915, when he resigned from the Cabinet to join the Army on the Western Front.  He commanded a battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers near Ploegsteert until March 1916, when he returned to Westminster and resumed his seat in Parliament as an opposition back-bencher while defending his conduct of the Dardanelles campaign and participating in the proceedings of the Dardanelles Committee of Enquiry.  The new Prime Minister David Lloyd George is an admirer of Churchill's, and on July 17 of this year, despite the opposition of several other members of the Government, he brought Churchill into the Cabinet as Minister of Munitions, the post formerly held by Lloyd George himself.  As British constitutional practice requires when a member of Parliament joins the cabinet, Churchill returned to his constituency to seek reelection, and on July 29 the electors of Dundee returned him to Parliament.  He will take his seat on the Government bench on August 1.  As part of the same Cabinet reorganization, Sir Eric Campbell Geddes will replace Sir Edward Carson as First Lord of the Admiralty and Edwin Samuel Montagu will become Secretary of State for India, the post held until recently by Austen Chamberlain.


General Gough

On the last day of July, following a two-week artillery barrage that surpassed in intensity even the one that preceded last year's Somme offensive, an Allied army under the command of British General Sir Hubert Gough launched another offensive in the Ypres Salient.  The objective is the capture of the important railway junction at Roulers.  The attack, strongly advocated by General Sir Douglas Haig, was finally approved by the British War Policy Committee despite opposition from French Generals Foch and Petain and serious reservations voiced by the Prime Minister and shared by the new Minister of Munitions, Winston Churchill.



Pershing at Lafayette's Tomb

The first American troops to arrive in Europe are about to commence training.  A battalion was in Paris on July 4, and all Paris turned out to greet them in an Independence Day parade celebrating American entry into the war.  American flags flew from public buildings, hotels, residences, taxicabs and carts, and American flag pins decorated horses' bridles and pedestrians' lapels.  The Republican Guard Band executed a field reveille beneath General Pershing's windows at 8:00 a.m. and accompanied him through throngs of spectators to the Invalides, where American troops were drawn up with a detachment of French Territorials at the Court of Honor.  In the chapel before the tomb of Napoleon President Poincare presented Pershing with American flags and banners.  The Americans then passed in review before Poincare, Marshal Joffre and other dignitaries to the strains of "The Star Spangled Banner" and the "Marseillaise" and shouts of "Vive les Americains! Vive Pershing! and Vivent les Etats Unis!"  The parade continued across the Alexander III Bridge to the Place de la Concorde, then down the Rue de Rivoli past the Tuileries Gardens to the tomb of the Marquis de Lafayette at Picpus Cemetery, near the Place de la Nation.  In a brief ceremony Lt. Col. Charles E. Stanton of the General's staff delivered a speech that ended as he turned to the tomb and announced "Lafayette, we are here!"


 
 Secretary Daniels

On July 3 Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels announced "with the joy of a great relief . . . the safe arrival in France of every fighting man and every fighting ship."  He revealed that the transports carrying American troops and supplies had been twice attacked by German submarines, which had been beaten off by the U.S. Naval escorts.  One of the U-boats was reported sunk and the other damaged and possibly destroyed.

In a proclamation dated July 9, exercising powers granted under the Espionage Act, President Wilson forbade all exports of food, fuel and war supplies without a license issued by the Exports Council, the agency he created last month by executive order.  The proclamation took effect July 15.


Secretary of War Baker

On the Fourth of July, news organizations in the United States learned of an order of Secretary of War Newton D. Baker that all dispatches from correspondents in France to news organizations in the United States were to be diverted to the War Department before being delivered to their addressees.  The Associated Press was informed that a dispatch sent from France was in the possession of the Committee on Public Information, of which George Creel is the Chairman, and that the Associated Press could have it if it sent for it.  Upon further inquiry, it was learned that any cable addressed to an American newspaper would be sent to the War Department and turned over to the Creel Committee which would have men on duty capable of promptly reviewing and censoring the dispatch.  Remarkably, the War Department assumed this authority despite the decision of Congress in considering the Espionage Act to deny the President the censorship power he had requested on the ground that it would violate the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of the press.  The reaction to the War Department's order in Congress and the press was immediate. A three-column headline at the top of the front page of the next day's New York Times read "Baker Seizes News Dispatches, Ignoring Congress and Constitution."  That day Mr. Creel presided over a meeting of the Committee on Public Information at which Secretary Baker, Secretary of the Navy Daniels and Secretary of State Robert Lansing were also present.  After the meeting it was announced that the emergency on account of which the order had been issued (presumably the arrival of American troops in France) having passed, the order would be revoked.


Secretary Baker Draws the First Draft Number

General Pershing has estimated that the American war effort will require a one million man Army by 1918 and three million by 1919.  The new selective service law is the principal means of achieving those goals.  The draft began on July 20 with a ceremonial drawing of the first numbers in the Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill.  The lottery was organized and supervised by Provost Marshal General Enoch Crowder and Adjutant General Henry P. McCain.  At 9:32 a.m. Secretary of War Baker gave a brief speech, then after being blindfolded inserted his hand into a glass bowl filled with numbers written on slips of paper.  He drew number 258, meaning that registrants assigned that number in each of the 4,557 Selective Service Registration Districts will be among the first to be notified to report for duty.  Other dignitaries followed, and the drawing of numbers continued until the early morning hours.  In all over ten thousand numbers were drawn.


An East St. Louis Mob Stopping a Streetcar

Race riots broke out in East St. Louis, Illinois on July 2, fueled mainly by white residents' anger about importation of Negro laborers from the South, who are believed to be taking jobs away from white workers, sometimes as strikebreakers.  Thousands of white men rampaged through the Negro sections of the city, dragging passengers off streetcars, setting buildings afire and shooting or hanging residents as they tried to flee.  Hundreds of Negroes were given refuge at City Hall and the Police Station, and hundreds of the ringleaders were arrested and detained.  The state militia was called out and military rule was proclaimed that evening.  Before the riots were brought under control, dozens of men, mostly Negroes, had been killed and many more injured.  The federal government played no role in restoring order.  Although staff lawyers in the Department of Justice concluded that there was sufficient basis for federal intervention under the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Federal Penal Code, Attorney General Gregory told President Wilson on July 27 that "no facts have been presented to us that would justify" any federal action.


*****



July 1917 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, August and September 1917
New York Times, July 1917

Books and Articles:
A. Scott Berg, Wilson
Britain at War Magazine, The Fourth Year of the Great War: 1917
Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis 1911-1918
John Milton Cooper, Jr., Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
John Milton Cooper, Jr., The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt
John Dos Passos, Mr. Wilson's War
David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922
Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life
Martin Gilbert, The First World War: A Complete History
Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, Volume One: 1900-1933
Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill Volume IV: The Stricken World 1916-1922
Ann Hagedorn, Savage Peace, Hope and Fear in America, 1919
August Heckscher, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
Godfrey Hodgson, Woodrow Wilson's Right Hand: The Life of Colonel Edward M. House
Roy Jenkins, Churchill: A Biography
John Keegan, The First World War
David M. Kennedy, Over Here: The First World War and American Society
Ian Kershaw, To Hell and Back: Europe 1914-1949
Nicholas A. Lambert, Planning Armageddon: British Economic Warfare and the First World War
Arthur S. Link, Wilson: Confusions and Crises, 1915-1916 
Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917
Robert K. Massie, Nicholas and Alexandra
G.J. Meyer, A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918
G.J. Meyer, The World Remade: America in World War I
Michael S. Neiberg, The Path to War: How the First World War Created Modern America
Edward J. Renehan Jr., The Lion's Pride: Theodore Roosevelt and His Family in Peace and War
Jonathan Schneer, The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict 
J. Lee Thompson, Never Call Retreat: Theodore Roosevelt and the Great War
Adam Tooze, The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931
Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
The West Point Atlas of War: World War I

Friday, June 30, 2017

June 1917



In June 1917, the United States is coming to grips with its new status as a belligerent power.  President Wilson signs the Espionage Act, which makes it unlawful to interfere with military or naval operations and gives the Postmaster General broad authority to refuse to deliver material he judges to be in violation.  The President issues an order creating an Export Council with power to control all exports from the United States.  Mandatory registration for the draft begins.  General Pershing arrives in Europe, where he confers with his counterparts in London and Paris; shortly thereafter the first American Army units arrive in France.  The first issue of Liberty Bonds sells out quickly.  A commission headed by former Secretary of State Elihu Root arrives in Russia as anarchists march in the streets of Petrograd and Lenin calls for an end to the war.  The provisional government, responding to an overture from the Central Powers, states that it will not enter into a separate peace.  Former President Roosevelt announces that two of his four sons have gone to France and that the others will follow shortly.  The British Army in Flanders attacks and occupies Messines Ridge.  Gotha bombers attack London.  King Constantine of Greece abdicates, clearing the way for Greece to enter the war on the side of the Allies.

*****


The Espionage Act -- An Opposing View

President Wilson signed the Espionage Act into law on June 15.  A provision authorizing the President to impose press censorship was strongly supported by the President but was removed from the bill in conference.  The legislation as passed still imposes unprecedented restrictions on civil liberties.  It is now unlawful to "willfully make or convey false reports or false statements with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the military or naval forces of the United States, or to promote the success of its enemies" or to "incite insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty, in the military or naval forces of the United States," or to "willfully obstruct . . . the recruiting or enlistment service of the United States," or to "utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States, or the Constitution of the United States, or the military or naval forces of the United States," to "display the flag of any foreign enemy," or to "urge, incite, or advocate any curtailment of production."  Nor may Americans "advocate, teach, defend, or suggest the doing of any of [those] acts or things" or "by word or act support or favor the cause of any country with which the United States is at war," or "oppose the cause of the United States therein."  In addition to imposing criminal penalties for violations, the Act authorizes the Postmaster General to refuse to mail any publication he judges to violate any provision of the Act or to advocate treason, insurrection or forcible resistance to any American law.


Secretary of Commerce William C. Redfield

Using authority conferred by the Espionage Act, President Wilson signed an executive order on June 22 creating an Exports Council comprised of the Secretaries of State, Agriculture and Commerce to "formulate, for the consideration and approval of the president, policies and make recommendations necessary to carry out the purposes of the Act" and authorizing the Secretary of Commerce to grant or refuse export licenses in accordance with instructions issued by the President.  The order provides that the Council will also include the Food Administrator, although the legislation creating the Food Administration is still pending in Congress. Herbert C. Hoover, who since the outbreak of war has organized and administered the distribution of vast quantities of food to occupied Belgium and northern France, is expected to fill the new position and is already attending Council meetings.


Registering for the Draft in New York

The Manpower Bill passed last month imposed the first draft law since the Civil War.  On June 5, pursuant to a proclamation issued by President Wilson, some 10 million men between the ages of 21 and 30 registered at their local post offices for what is termed "selective service."  From that number, it is estimated that approximately 600,000 will be inducted into the armed forces.  The President's proclamation, like the law upon which it was based, avoids the term "draft," emphasizing that "the whole nation must be a team, in which each man must play the part for which he is best fitted."  Therefore "each man shall be classified for service in the place to which it shall best serve the general good to call him. . . . It is in no sense a conscription of the unwilling; it is, rather, selection from a nation which has volunteered in mass."

The proclamation makes clear, however, that registration is anything but optional.  It states that "the day here named is the time upon which all shall present themselves for assignment to their tasks" and is to be observed as "a great day of patriotic devotion and obligation, when the duty shall lie upon every man . . . to see to it that the name of every male person of the designated ages is written on these lists of honor."  Mandatory or voluntary, every effort is being made to marshal the support and cooperation of the public.  The Committee on Public Information has seen to it that newspapers are provided with stories emphasizing the patriotic nature of universal registration.  Despite initial resistance from some southerners, the new law will be applied without regard to race, though Negro soldiers will continue to be assigned to separate units.  The nationwide obligation to register is also being hailed as a symbol of sectional reunification as the Civil War recedes in the nation's memory.  On Registration Day President Wilson sounded that theme in an address to a group of Confederate veterans, calling it "a day of reunion, a day of noble memories, a day of dedication, a day of renewal of the spirit which has made America great among the peoples of the world."


A Liberty Bond

The subscription for the first issue of Liberty Bonds closed on June 15.  Exceeding the government's most optimistic forecasts, the $2 billion issue was oversubscribed by approximately $800,000.  That afternoon Secretary of the Treasury William Gibbs McAdoo issued a statement calling the success of the issue "a genuine triumph for democracy"and "the unmistakable expression of America's determination to carry this war for the protection of American rights and the re-establishment of peace and liberty throughout the world to a swift and successful conclusion."


General Pershing and the Duke of Connaught (left) in Liverpool

General Pershing arrived in Great Britain aboard the steamship Baltic on June 8.  He was greeted at Liverpool by Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, King George V's uncle, who until last year served as Governor-General of Canada.  The next day, General Pershing was received by the King at Buckingham Palace, where the King declared that it has been the dream of his life to see the two great English-speaking nations more closely united. The same day, Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour arrived back in London after his visit to the United States.  He told waiting newspaper correspondents that "we had an entirely successful trip and enjoyed every minute of it.  I was never more royally treated in my life."  Due to the increasing danger of submarine attacks since Germany's resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare in February, the transatlantic journeys of both General Pershing and Mr. Balfour were shrouded in secrecy.  There was no news of either until both men were safely ashore in the United Kingdom.  During the eleven days it took General Pershing to cross the Atlantic, German U-boats sank fifteen ships in the waters around Great Britain.


 
 General Pershing at Boulogne

At ten o'clock on the morning of June 13, General Pershing stepped ashore at the French port of Boulogne after a short ferry ride across the English Channel.  As the New York Times reported, "It was the first time in history that an American soldier had landed on the European continent with sword in hand for the purpose of using it against an enemy."  Among the officials waiting on the pier was French General Jean-Baptiste Dumas, commander of the northern region, whose first words were "I salute the United States of America, which has now become united to the United States of Europe."  After a drive through Boulogne, General Pershing and his staff boarded a special train for Paris.  Speaking to French newspaper correspondents in his private car, Pershing said the reception "has impressed us greatly.  It means that from the present moment our aims are the same."  Talking separately with American reporters, he said the arrival of the advance guard of the American Army "makes us realize the full importance of American participation.  America has entered the war with the fullest intention of doing her share, no matter how great or how small that share may be.  Our allies can depend on that."

Towns along the route to Paris had been advised of the Americans' arrival, and the station platforms were lined with cheering crowds.  In Paris, French troops were deployed on the platforms of the Gare du Nord.  Among those greeting the Americans were Marshal Joffre, former Prime Minister Viviani, Minister of War Painleve, General Foch, and U.S. Ambassador William G. Sharp.  Tens of thousands of Parisians waving American flags and crying "Vive l'Amerique!" cheered the Americans as they rode through Paris to the Hotel Crillon, where Pershing and his staff will make their headquarters (click to play):




*****



Two weeks after General Pershing's arrival, the first contingents of the U.S. Army arrived in France.  Some 14,000 infantry troops landed at St. Nazaire on the Atlantic coast of Brittany on June 26 and 27 after passing unscathed through the submarine zone.  The first American arrivals are all seasoned Regular Army troops, coming from service on the Mexican border, Haiti and Santo Domingo.  They will be assigned to the newly organized First Expeditionary Division under the command of Major General William Sibert.


The Root Mission to Russia

As the mission led by former Secretary of State Elihu Root was on en route to Russia, President Wilson laid the groundwork with a personal message to the provisional government.  In a message sent June 9, he outlined the objectives and ideals of the United States in the war and firmly opposed any suggestion of a separate peace.  He told the Russians "We are fighting for the liberty, the self-government and the undictated development of all peoples, and every feature of the settlement that concludes this war must be conceived and executed for that purpose."  "The day has come," he said, "to conquer or submit.  If the forces of autocracy can divide us, they can overcome us; if we stand together, victory is certain and the liberty which victory will secure."


The Root Commission at the Council of Ministers

The Root Commission reached Vladivostok on the Pacific coast of Russia on June 3, then sped across Russia by rail, arriving in Petrograd on June 13.  Two days later they attended the Council of Ministers, where Root told the Russians "news of Russia's new-found freedom brought to America universal satisfaction and joy."  He said that "from all the land sympathy and hope went out to the new sister in the circle of democracies."  He told the Council that in Russia America sees "no party, no class, but great Russia as a whole, one mighty striving, aspiring democracy."  He assured them that the people of the United States "are going to fight and have already begun to fight for your freedom equally with our own," and asked them "to fight for our freedom equally with yours."  Replying to Root's address, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mikhail Tereshchenko said: "The Russian people consider the war inevitable, and will continue it.  The Russians have no imperialistic wishes.  We know that you have none.  We shall fight together to secure liberty, freedom, and happiness for all the world."

Opposition to the war is mounting in the streets of Petrograd.  At a June 17 meeting of the Petrograd Soviet, the Socialist Radical Nikolai Lenin delivered a long and impassioned speech attacking the Provisional Government.  He denounced the proposal of Minister of War Kerensky, recently approved by the Duma, for a renewed offensive, calling it a betrayal of the interests of international socialism.  In his reply, Kerensky said Lenin had misinterpreted Marxism and that his position was one that would be embraced by the German General Staff.  Kerensky concluded his speech with an account of his recent visit to the front and a defense of his actions in office that was greeted with prolonged applause from everyone present except Lenin and his followers.



 Theodore Jr. and Archie Roosevelt

In a speech delivered at a Red Cross event in Oyster Bay on June 24, former President Theodore Roosevelt told the crowd that two of his sons had already gone to France and that "the others are to follow."  The two who have gone are Major Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., his eldest son, and Captain Archibald Roosevelt, his third.  Both left New York on June 20 aboard the French steamship Chicago and will be attached to General Pershing's headquarters.  Both of them were members of the original Plattsburg training camp in 1915, and both have been active in the National Guard.  Roosevelt's second son Kermit, doubtful that American troops will see combat soon, is seeking a commission in the British armed service.  Quentin, his youngest son, is in flight training for the Air Service in Mineola, New York.


 The Battle of Messines Ridge

Messines Ridge, on the southern edge of the Ypres salient, commands a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside, and until this month was occupied by German troops.  For months British troops under the command of General Sir Herbert Plumer have been digging tunnels up to half a mile in length extending under the German positions on the Ridge and packing them with explosives.  On May 7 the mines were detonated, creating an enormous explosion that was felt as far away as southern England.  A massive artillery barrage followed by an infantry advance resulted in thousands of German soldiers killed or taken prisoner.  The British gained possession of the ridge, but failed to fully exploit their breakthrough.  On June 19 the British commander General Sir Douglas Haig traveled to Westminster where after several days of contentious meetings he obtained cabinet approval of his plan for a major offensive beginning the end of July.



A Gotha Bomber on the Ground

The most destructive air raid of the war on London, the fourth within three weeks, was conducted by German Gotha bombers on June 13, resulting in hundreds of civilian deaths and serious injuries.  Eighteen children were among the dead when a bomb struck a primary school in the East End.



The New King of Greece

King Constantine of Greece, who has steadfastly resisted the pro-Entente advice of his prime minister Eleftherios Venizelos, finally yielded to the demands of the Prime Minister and the Entente nations on June 12, abdicating in favor of his second son Prince Alexander.  The demand that he relinquish the throne included the demand that his eldest son Prince George, who shares his father's political views, also be excluded from power.  King Constantine and Prince George have left Greece for Switzerland; it is expected that King Alexander will adopt the pro-Entente stance of the Prime Minister.

*****


June 1917 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, July and August 1917
New York Times, June 1917

Books and Articles:
A. Scott Berg, Wilson
Britain at War Magazine, The Fourth Year of the Great War: 1917
Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis 1911-1918
John Milton Cooper, Jr., Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
John Milton Cooper, Jr., The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt
John Dos Passos, Mr. Wilson's War
David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922
Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life
Martin Gilbert, The First World War: A Complete History
Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, Volume One: 1900-1933
Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill Volume IV: The Stricken World 1916-1922
Ann Hagedorn, Savage Peace, Hope and Fear in America, 1919
August Heckscher, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
Godfrey Hodgson, Woodrow Wilson's Right Hand: The Life of Colonel Edward M. House
Roy Jenkins, Churchill: A Biography
John Keegan, The First World War
David M. Kennedy, Over Here: The First World War and American Society
Ian Kershaw, To Hell and Back: Europe 1914-1949
Nicholas A. Lambert, Planning Armageddon: British Economic Warfare and the First World War
Arthur S. Link, Wilson: Confusions and Crises, 1915-1916 
Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917
Robert K. Massie, Nicholas and Alexandra
G.J. Meyer, A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918
G.J. Meyer, The World Remade: America in World War I
Michael S. Neiberg, The Path to War: How the First World War Created Modern America
Edward J. Renehan Jr., The Lion's Pride: Theodore Roosevelt and His Family in Peace and War
Jonathan Schneer, The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict 
J. Lee Thompson, Never Call Retreat: Theodore Roosevelt and the Great War
Adam Tooze, The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931
Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
The West Point Atlas of War: World War I

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May 1917




It's May 1917, and the United States has just entered the Great War.  Visiting Allied war leaders ask President Wilson for an immediate commitment of American troops.  General Pershing is named commander of the American Expeditionary Force and departs for Europe.  The United States enacts the first draft law since the Civil War.  Included is a provision authorizing the president to organize volunteer divisions such as the one former President Roosevelt wants to lead, but the President says he will not exercise that authority.  Americans are asked to subscribe to a “Liberty Loan” to finance the war effort.  President Wilson urges press censorship, but a bill giving the president censorship authority fails to pass Congress.  The Allies confront the Central Powers in the Balkans; Italy launches another attack against Austro-Hungarian forces on the Isonzo.  United States Navy warships arrive in Great Britain to assist the British with convoy escort and other duties.


*****


Lansing (left) with Viviani, Balfour and Joffre at Mount Vernon

High-level delegations from France and Great Britain arrived in the United States last month.  After touring Mount Vernon together and laying a wreath at the tomb of President George Washington, they embarked separately on a round of visits dinners, parades, and visits to other cities. On May 1 the French emissaries, accompanied by Ambassador Jules Jusserand, visited the Senate.  After Vice Premier Viviani's brief address, Marshal Joffre explained apologetically that "I do not speak English," but added, in French, "Vivent les Etats-Unis!" and gave a military salute, inspiring a prolonged ovation.  The next day the French visitors joined President Wilson for luncheon at the White House, and the following day they visited the House of Representatives.  After M. Viviani concluded his remarks, Speaker Clark took Marshal Joffre by the arm as the Marshal stood at attention and saluted.  When the applause subsided, he said, in English, "Thank you."  Then he added "Vive l'Amerique," and the thunderous ovation resumed with shouts of "Vive la France!"  

The French delegation then boarded a train that took them to Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis, and Springfield, Illinois, where on May 7 they laid a wreath at the tomb of President Abraham Lincoln.  They arrived in New York City on May 9 and were greeted at the Battery by Joseph H. Choate, the chairman of the Mayor's Committee.  They were driven by automobile to City Hall, where they were welcomed by Mayor Mitchel and other dignitaries in speeches that recalled America's debt to France in the Revolution and expressed admiration for France's role in the World War.  The next day they were given a tour of the City that extended from Prospect Park in Brooklyn, to luncheon at the Hotel Astor, to Columbia University where they were awarded honorary degrees, to Grant's Tomb on the shore of the Hudson River.  Thereafter they retired to the Fifth Avenue residence of Henry C. Frick, their host during their stay in New York, for a small private dinner (fewer than fifty guests).  On May 11, Marshal Joffre and the other military members of the delegation visited the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, while the civilians stayed in the City to greet Mr. Balfour and the British delegation arriving from Washington.  That evening, rejoined by Marshal Joffre and his entourage, the combined French and British delegations dined at the Waldorf-Astoria.


Balfour Arriving in New York

British Foreign Minister Balfour and his commission arrived in Washington last month three days before the French commissioners.  The day after their arrival Mr. Balfour had a long meeting with President Wilson in the White House, followed by a dinner hosted by the President and Mrs. Wilson for the principal members of the British mission.  After M. Viviani and Marshal Joffre had made their visits to Congress and departed Washington for their journey through the Midwest, Mr. Balfour took his turn on Capitol Hill, visiting the House of Representatives on May 5 and the Senate on May 8.  The British delegation then traveled to New York, arriving the afternoon of May 11.  

New York City's welcome rivaled that given the French commissioners two days earlier.  Debarking from their train in Jersey City, the British commissioners boarded a police boat that carried them to the Battery.  (It was noted that they landed at the very spot where the last British soldier had left New York in 1783).  Following the same route as the French, the British visitors rode up Broadway between cheering crowds and buildings flying the Union Jack to City Hall, where they were welcomed by Mayor Mitchel, Mr. Choate and other dignitaries including J.P. Morgan, Cleveland Dodge, Dudley Field Malone and Bernard Baruch.  That evening they attended the Mayor's Committee's dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria.  Attendees included former Presidents Roosevelt and Taft and two former candidates for the presidency, Alton B. Parker and Charles E. Hughes.  When Colonel Roosevelt, who is fluent in French, was seen in earnest conversation with Marshal Joffre, no one doubted that he was making the case for leading American troops to France.  Enthusiastic cheers erupted when Mr. Choate, calling for immediate and vigorous aid to the Allies, cried "Let Teddy go!"  

The next day, Mr. Balfour addressed more than a thousand members and guests of the Chamber of Commerce, telling them that the common cause of Great Britain and the United States represents the fulfillment of his life-long dream that the "English-speaking, freedom-loving branches of the human race should be drawn far closer than in the past."  On Sunday, May 13, Balfour had lunch with Colonel House at his New York City residence, then went to Sagamore Hill where he joined Colonel Roosevelt for high tea.  After returning to Washington, the British mission cancelled plans to visit Chicago in order to spend its remaining time in discussions with American officials regarding shipping and other issues.  On May 18 Balfour held a private meeting with President Wilson, at which it is believed he shared the text of secret treaties between Great Britain and other countries involved in the war including Russia, Italy and Japan.  The following Monday, May 21, President Wilson and Mr. Balfour held a lengthy meeting at the British mission.  Three days later Balfour addressed the National Press Club and paid a farewell call on President Wilson at the White House.  He left the next day for Toronto.

During their visit, both the French and the British commissioners impressed on their American hosts the immediate need of the Allies, not only for financial and logistical support, but for American troops in large numbers as soon as they can be supplied.  Last month's failure of the French offensive at the Chemin des Dames and the initial success of Germany's new policy of unrestricted submarine warfare have placed the Allied cause in jeopardy.  As Marshal Joffre said, "We want men, men, men."


Joseph H. Choate (1832-1917)

Joseph H. Choate, the Chairman of the Mayor's Committee that organized and conducted New York City's welcome to the British and French delegations this month, was the United States Ambassador to the Court of St. James from 1899 to 1905.  A prominent member of the New York legal community, he participated in several notorious cases and was instrumental in breaking up the Tweed Ring in the 1870's.  Since retiring from diplomatic service he has continued to be active in civic affairs, and followed a strenuous schedule before and during this month's celebrations.  On May 14 he suffered an apparent heart attack at his home on East 63rd Street and died at 11:30 that evening.  Two days earlier, in his last public appearance, he had attended Sunday services with Mr. Balfour at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.


 The Former President at Home

Mr. Choate's plea at the May 11 dinner to "Let Teddy go!" was echoed in Congressional speeches and in the manpower bill passed this month and signed into law by the President on May 18.  The final version of the bill, however, while it authorized the recruitment of a division of volunteers, did not require it, and when President Wilson signed the bill he issued a statement saying "I shall not avail myself, at any rate at the present stage of the war, of the authorization conferred by the act to organize volunteer divisions."

Former French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, the influential French newspaper owner and journalist who served as prime minister from 1906 to 1909, also wants to see Roosevelt in France.  In an open letter to President Wilson in the May 27 edition of his newspaper L'Homme Enchaine, he tells the president "there is in France one name that sums up the beauty of American intervention.  It is the name Roosevelt."  Speaking for the French soldiers, Clemenceau says their hearts beat with joy at the arrival of the Americans, but that "more than one of our 'poilus' asked his comrade 'But where is Roosevelt? I don't see him.'"  He pleads with Wilson, for "the cause of humanity, which is also your cause," to "send them Roosevelt."


 Major MacArthur as a Captain in Veracruz, 1914

The manpower bill requires all men between the ages of 21 and 30 to register for the draft beginning June 5.  Registration is expected to require about five days and to result in a potential pool of draftees of about ten million.  The draft army will be known as the National Army to distinguish it from the Regular Army and the National Guard Army.  Some Regular Army troops are to be sent to Europe without delay.  With the enactment of the draft legislation, Major Douglas MacArthur of the General Staff delivered an announcement to newspapermen at the War Department stating that an expeditionary force of approximately one division of Regular Army troops under the command of Major General John J. Pershing would be sent to France as soon as possible.  The first American combat troops arrived in France on May 26.  On May 28 General Pershing and his staff sailed secretly for Europe aboard the White Star liner Baltic.  The French high command wants to use American troops to augment Allied units on the front lines, but it appears likely that American entry into combat will take place only after their organization and training as American Army units under the American flag.

Support for the draft, while less than unanimous, is widespread, as reflected in the popularity of a new song.  The Peerless Quartet, which in 1915 sang "I Didn't Raise My Boy To Be a Soldier," now sings "America, Here's My Boy" (click to play):




 *****


4 Minute Men

The Senate-House Conference Committee considering an Espionage Bill added, at the urging of President Wilson, a section giving the President authority to censor the press.  The proposal has encountered resistance in Congress on the ground that it infringes freedom of speech and the press, and is opposed by most newspapers and news organizations.  On May 31 the House of Representatives voted on the censorship section separately and defeated it by a vote of 184-144.  The bill has been returned to the Conference Committee with instructions to eliminate that section.  Censorship or no censorship, on May 27 the Committee on Public Information released proposed "regulations for the periodical press of the United States during the war."  The Committee has also initiated a program of "four minute men," volunteers who will give brief speeches at motion picture theaters during the four minutes required to change reels.  The topics will be chosen by the Committee and will address patriotic themes in support of the war effort.


Buy Liberty Bonds!

In his war message, President Wilson said he wanted the United States war effort to be financed by "adequate credits" sustained by "well conceived taxation."  His proposed tax increases have encountered some resistance, but Congress has not been reluctant to authorize borrowing.  U.S. Government bonds, called Liberty Bonds, are now on sale and are being promoted by four minute men as well as celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and the evangelist Billy Sunday.  Large banks and wealthy individuals such as John D. Rockefeller have made large and well-publicized purchases.


 A Gotha Bomber in Flight

In the Balkans, British, French, Serbian and Italian forces in Salonika faced Bulgarian, German and Austrian troops across the River Struma.  An Allied offensive beginning on May 8 was turned back by heavy artillery fire.  The tenth battle of the Isonzo began with an Italian artillery bombardment on May 10.  By month's end, the Italian Army had made modest advances and captured over 20,000 Austrian prisoners.  German Gotha bombers based in Belgium struck Great Britain on May 25, killing 95 civilians and injuring 192.
 


 Foreign Minister Miliukov

Russia is in turmoil in the wake of the Tsar's abdication as the provisional government struggles to maintain control.  On May 1 (April 18 on the Russian calendar), Foreign Minister Pavel Miliukov sent a diplomatic note to the Allied governments promising that Russia would continue vigorous prosecution of the war.  News of the Miliukov note led to violence in the streets of Petrograd and gave impetus to the Bolshevik campaign against the Provisional Government.  On May 9 Chairman Mikhail Rodzianko addressed the Duma, pledging that Russia would "make every sacrifice to bring this war, in concert with our allies, to a complete victory."  Premier Lvov followed with a tribute to the revolution, which he said "every day strengthens our confidence in the creative forces of the Russian people and the greatness of its future."  Minister of War Alexander Guchkov, however, adopted a more pessimistic tone, warning that the military might have been weakened by "duality of power, polyarchy, and anarchy" and that the country was "on the edge of an abyss."  On May 13 General Lavr Kornilov, commander of the Petrograd garrison, resigned rather than comply with an order of the Petrograd Council of Workmen's and Soldiers' Deputies, also known as the Petrograd Soviet, that he submit his orders to the Council's executive committee for approval. 

In Berlin on May 15, German Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg extended an olive branch to Russia, announcing during a debate on war aims that "if Russia wants to prevent further bloodshed and renounces all violent plans of conquest for herself, if she wishes to restore durable relations side by side with us, then surely . . . an agreement aiming exclusively at a mutual understanding could be attained which excludes every thought of oppression and which would leave behind no sting and no discord."  His approach was different to Germany's "western enemies."  While he disavowed "a program of conquest," he refused to give "an assurance which will enable them to continue the war indefinitely without danger of losses to themselves."


Mikhail Tereshchenko

A new coalition government was announced in Petrograd on May 16.  Foreign Minister Miliukov and Minister of War Guchkov have left the cabinet.  Mikhail Tereshchenko is the new foreign minister and Alexander Kerensky is the new minister of war.  The Provisional Government, which now includes representatives of the Petrograd Soviet, issued a statement on May 19 pledging that Russia will "energetically carry into effect the ideas of liberty, equality, and fraternity, beneath the standards by which the great Russian revolution came to birth."  The new government is apparently unimpressed by Bethmann-Hollweg's peace offer in the Reichstag a few days earlier.  Its statement firmly rejects "all thought of a separate peace" and "adopts openly as its aim the re-establishment of a general peace . . . without annexation or indemnities and based on the right of nations to decide their own affairs."


 Trotsky Arriving in Petrograd

Completing his long journey from New York interrupted by a month-long detention in Halifax, Leon Trotsky arrived at Petrograd's Finland Station on May 17.  He has not formally joined forces with Vladimir Lenin's Bolsheviks, but his speeches and statements since his arrival have been generally in line with the positions advocated by Lenin in last month's address to the Conference of Soviets (see the April 1917 installment of this blog).


Elihu Root

The United States government announced on May 11 that a special mission led by former Senator and Secretary of State Elihu Root will be sent to Russia.  Root has been given broad authority to do whatever is necessary to persuade the Russian government and people to continue to prosecute Russia's war against Germany.


 Admiral Sims

It will take several months at least before an American army large enough to make a difference on the battlefields of France can be drafted, trained, equipped, and sent to Europe.  The United States Navy, however, can begin making important contributions much sooner.  Last month Vice Admiral William Sims established a mission in Great Britain to coordinate naval operations between the United States and Great Britain.  The first American warships arrived on May 4, and will assist the Royal Navy in conducting patrols in the North Sea and English Channel.  In addition, the two navies have begun forming convoys of merchant ships with naval escorts in an attempt to minimize losses to submarine attacks.  Since the Germans' resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare on February 1,  Allied shipping has suffered unsustainable losses, over 800 Allied ships having been sunk on their way to great Britain.  Overcoming initial resistance by the British Admiralty, a trial convoy was formed on May 10 at Gibraltar and arrived without loss at the Downs on May 24.  Also on May 24, the first transatlantic convoy departed Hampton Roads bound for Great Britain.


*****


May 1917 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, June and July 1917
New York Times, May 1917

Books and Articles:
A. Scott Berg, Wilson
Britain at War Magazine, The Fourth Year of the Great War: 1917
Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis 1911-1918
John Milton Cooper, Jr., Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
John Milton Cooper, Jr., The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt
Patrick Devlin, Too Proud to Fight: Woodrow Wilson's Neutrality
John Dos Passos, Mr. Wilson's War
David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922
Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life
Martin Gilbert, The First World War: A Complete History
Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, Volume One: 1900-1933
Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill Volume IV: The Stricken World 1916-1922
Richard F. Hamilton and Holger H. Herwig, Decisions for War, 1914-1917
August Heckscher, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
Godfrey Hodgson, Woodrow Wilson's Right Hand: The Life of Colonel Edward M. House
Roy Jenkins, Churchill: A Biography
John Keegan, The First World War
David M. Kennedy, Over Here: The First World War and American Society
Ian Kershaw, To Hell and Back: Europe 1914-1949
Nicholas A. Lambert, Planning Armageddon: British Economic Warfare and the First World War
Arthur S. Link, Wilson: Confusions and Crises, 1915-1916 
Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917
Robert K. Massie, Nicholas and Alexandra
G.J. Meyer, A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918
G.J. Meyer, The World Remade: America in World War I
Michael S. Neiberg, The Path to War: How the First World War Created Modern America
Jonathan Schneer, The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict 
J. Lee Thompson, Never Call Retreat: Theodore Roosevelt and the Great War
Adam Tooze, The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Zimmermann Telegram
United States World War One Centennial Commission, The U.S. Navy Arrives in Europe,  http://www.worldwar1centennial.org/index.php/communicate/press-media/wwi-centennial-news/2376-remembering-world-war-i-the-u-s-navy-arrives-in-europe.html?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery
Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
The West Point Atlas of War: World War I