When the American soldier went to war against Germany he took his appetite with him. The task of keeping that appetite satisfied with good food (and the soldier, therefore, contented and well) fell to the Quartermaster General. The average American soldier at the end of the fighting in 1918 is said to have weighed 12 pounds more than he did when the Selective Service Act or his own enlistment brought him into the Army. This is the complete testimonial to the quality and quantity of the food served to the American troops in 1917 and 1918. Assuming 3,700,000 to have been the greatest number of Americans under arms, this average increase in weight means that the beans and bacon and fresh meat of the American Army ration were transmogrified into some 45,000,000 pounds of Yankee brawn to be the basis of untold resources of health and energy during the coming quarter of a century.
Consider these millions of soldiers as one composite, gigantic man in khaki; compress the war period into a single hour, the dinner hour; and it will be seen that the American fighter consumed what might be called a sizeable meal. Let us say that he started off with the main course. The roast of beef weighed over 800,000,000 pounds. It was flanked by a rasher of bacon weighing 150,000,000 pounds. Over 1,000,000,000 pounds of flour went into the loaf of bread, while to spread the bread was there a lump of butter weighing 17,500,000 pounds and another lump of oleo margarine weighing 11,000,000 pounds. As a side dish this giant had over 150,000,000 pounds of baked beans, half of these coming in cans ready baked and flavored with tomato sauce. The potatoes weighed 487,000,000 pounds. To add gusto to his appetite there were 40,000,000 pounds of onions. Then scattered over the table were such items as 150,000,000 cans of corn, peas, and string beans; while the salad contained 50,000,000 cans of salmon and 750,000 tins of sardines. Then there was a huge bowl of canned tomatoes, nearly 190,000,000 tins supplying its contents. For dessert he had 67,000,000 pounds of prunes and 40,000,000 pounds of evaporated peaches and apples. The sugar for sweetening various dishes weighed 350,000,000 pounds. He washed it all down with a draft made of 75,000,000 pounds of coffee thinned with 200,000,000 cans of evaporated milk. The bill for the meal, paid by the American public, amounted to $727,092,430.44, this figure to December 1, 1918.
In supplying such vast quantities of food, scientific attention was concentrated upon the details of the effort. At the time the armistice was signed the American troops in France were eating about 9,000,000 pounds of food every day. Never before in history had any nation been compelled to send subsistence so great a distance to so many men. It was not possible to ask France and England to divide their food supplies, as they were already rationing their civilian populations. We were required to purchase practically all food in America and transport it nearly 5,000 miles. Ships were relatively scarce. There was a strong bid for every inch of tonnage space. The tonnage allotted to subsistence must be filled with sufficient food not only to supply the immediate consumption, but to overcome losses due to the sinking of ships and the possible capture of base depots. These contingencies required two pounds of food to be shipped where one would ordinarily be sent; yet because of the shortage of ships the subsistence authorities were asked to pack these two pounds into almost the space of one. The result was foods in forms never before known by American soldiers and in some cases never before known at all--such forms as dehydrated vegetables, boneless beef, and the so-called shankless beef. Trench warfare made new demands for food. Calls came for such rare articles as soluble coffee or the wheat-and-meat cake of the emergency ration.
These problems were solved only by the assistance of the American food industry. In numerous instances new factories, or even whole new types of food manufacture, were built up as rapidly as three shifts of men could work and money accomplish results.
The cost of food rates high among the war costs of 1917 and 1918. Back in 1897 the average meal in the Army cost about 4 cents, and the daily three meals 13 cents. At the end of 1918 the cost of the ration was approximately 48 cents. The advance was not all due to the advance in living costs. Much of it was on account of the improved standards of the ration. In 1916 Congress appropriated $10,000,000 to feed the Army; the fiscal year beginning July 1, 1918, brought an appropriation of $830,000,000 for the same purpose.
The American fighting man of 1917-18 was a good feeder. He ate nearly three-quarters of a ton of food each year, or over ten times his own weight. Without counting any transportation costs or the expense of handling at all, each man’s yearly supply of food cost more than $165. In spite of the most rigid and painstaking economies in the purchase of this subsistence the American people were paying at the peak of Army expansion more than $2,500,000 per day to feed the troops.
The distance of the American Expeditionary Forces from the source of their food supplies required that their food be largely purchased in nonperishable forms. That is, meats must be cured, meats and vegetables tinned, vegetables and fruits dried. We literally paved the way to Berlin with tin cans. The various foods put up in tins and purchased during the year 1918 totaled over 1,000,000,000 cans, or enough, standing on end, to make a road wide enough and long enough for a force of men marching in columns of four to go from the port of embarkation at Hoboken, N. J., to the heart of Germany. The largest closing machine can seal 240 tin cans per minute. If such a machine could be operated eight hours a day seven days a week, it would take it 23 years and 6 months to seal these tins.
During the spring of 1918, when the demand for men in France resulted in reducing the available tonnage for supplies, the cry came from France to cut every nonessential. As a result most of the canned vegetables and fruits, including peas, corn, sweet potatoes, asparagus, pineapple, pears, and apples were stricken from the list of food supplies for the American Expeditionary Forces.
From France came calls for tomatoes and men, men and tomatoes. This phrase did not mean that bread and bacon, beans and beef, should be eliminated; but it emphasized the importance of this one vegetable; the tomato. The total purchases of tomatoes exceeded those of all other vegetables combined. In addition to the many ways of serving tomatoes, they were used in the trenches to relieve thirst, being, perhaps, more effective than any other substitute for water. Because of its food value and slight acidity, a quart of tomato juice was worth several quarts of water to the thirsty men in the field. The Army took 45 per cent of the total 1918 American pack of tomatoes. These tomatoes were bought from 5,000 firms scattered throughout the rural districts of the United States.
The demands of the overseas forces for meat during the summer of 1918 were so heavy that they created a shortage of beef in the United States. Beef is the mainstay of the soldier's diet. The Army allows 456 pounds of beef per year for each soldier. This does not mean that the soldier actually eats that much beef, beef being simply the Army's meat standard. Pork, usually in the form of bacon, is substituted for 30 per cent of this quantity of beef, 12 ounces of bacon being considered the equivalent of 20 ounces of beef. The major portion of the American Expeditionary Forces' beef was fresh beef shipped frozen all the way from the packing plants in the United States to the company kitchens at the front, through an elaborate system of cold-storage warehouses and refrigerator cars and ships.
The Food Administration asked that the people substitute corn meal, rye flour, and other grain flour for 20 per cent of the wheat flour ordinarily used in making bread. The troops in the United States complied with this ruling and saved 1,000,000 barrels of flour. The use of substitutes in France was not insisted upon, as bread making in the field is more difficult. Field bakeries are not adapted to experimenting with doughs and yeasts, as is required when substitutes for flour are used. The Army allowance of flour for a year for one man is 410 pounds. Flour was usually issued in the form of bread, 1 pound of bread being allowed for each man each day. Other yearly allowances are 56 pounds of beans, 27 pounds of prunes, 27 pounds of coffee, 73 pounds of sugar, 11 1/2 pounds of condensed milk, 3 1/2 pounds of vinegar, and 13 1/2 pounds of salt. For variety other items are specified which may be substituted for these foods.
Food was purchased by the Quartermaster's Department and furnished to the individual companies at cost of the food. In charge of the mess was a sergeant, who had had special instruction in schools as to methods of feeding the Army. The mess sergeant checked over his stocks daily and made up a list of what he would require for the coming day. This list, in turn, was given to the camp supply officer, under whose direction the order was made up and delivered to the kitchen on Army trucks.
This order was based on a ration allowance, as has been stated, a ration being the food required to subsist one man for one day. The general components of the overseas camp ration consisted of the following:
The ration at home was practically the same. The home ration, however, did not include candy and tobacco. The commanding officer had authority to modify or change all rations to meet special conditions. For instance, in times of great cold and when the men were subject to great exposure, or after long and tedious campaigns or marches, or when the work required of the troops was abnormal, the ration might be increased. The ration also included soap, candles, matches, towels, and a few other items considered necessary in the daily life of a soldier. The value of a ration fluctuated with the market from month to month. Each day's food weighed about 4.6 pounds per man.
The men actually in the trenches sometimes made use of the emergency ration, the little flat can of compressed nourishment which every soldier carried in his pocket. This ration, however, was used only in severe straits, on the order of an officer, or on the enlisted man's own responsibility in the direst emergency, when the activity of the enemy made it impossible to get hot food to the men during daylight hours. Hot food was served in the trenches whenever possible. The hot food consisted principally of soups and soluble coffee. Specially constructed cans, made on the principle of thermos bottles, kept the food hot when it was being carried to the front. The chief quartermaster of the American Expeditionary Forces relates that on a tour of inspection made by him, during the ArgonneMeuse offensive, on November 1, 1918, he inspected the meals served at noon to the troops of the Fifth Corps actually engaged in battle on that day, and found in a number of cases that Artillery organizations were being served beefsteak, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, white bread and butter, rice pudding, and hot coffee, the men eating in reliefs in order that there might be no cessation of fire. The hot meals for the Infantry were prepared at their rolling kitchens a short distance in rear of the line, and sent forward to them in "marmite" cans.
The company was the unit on which the feeding of the men was based. Each month the company was given credit at the quartermaster's store equal to the number of men in the company multiplied by thirty times the ration allowance. On the basis of this credit the mess sergeant of the company made purchases to feed his men. He might be as economical as he desired, provided that he fed the men sufficiently. If the entire credit extended him at the camp quartermaster's office was not used up during the month, a check was given for the difference.This went into the company's funds, with which the mess sergeant might buy in the open market such extras and delicacies as the savings would permit, up to the quantity specified in the ration.
But this system was followed only in the United States. Savings were not allowed in France, all food there being issued on a straight ration basis. This was due to the fact that the shortage of tonnage made it imperative that no article not absolutely essential be shipped from the United States, while difficulties of transportation in France necessarily eliminated all except the most essential articles of food.
Under the procedure in vogue previous to the recent war, subsistence was purchased by depot quartermasters in 13 principal cities throughout the United States. The plan gave the Army a large number of purchasing officers for subsistence, working without coordination and even in active competition with each other. This condition resulted in a wide range of prices and a lack of uniform quality; while under war conditions, with the enormous quantities to be procured, it would cause at times a congestion of buying orders, with consequent disturbance of market prices.
A plan of control was soon worked out whereby the Subsistence Division, with headquarters at Washington, received at regular intervals the estimates of the needs for subsistence for the Army, both at home and abroad. These estimates were compared and a budget made up. Bids were then asked through zone supply officers, who reported the bids to the control body in Washington. The lowest or most advantageous bid was accepted, and the purchase was completed by the zone supply officer in whose zone the seller was located. The plan eliminated one army zone bidding against another. At the same time it enabled every manufacturer or producer to bid on the needs of the Army. In this way active competition was secured and low prices obtained. A decided advantage of the plan was that purchases were made with a minimum of disturbance to prices paid by the civilian trade.
Not only was it necessary to coordinate army organizations, but it was also found that the independent buying of the Army, the Navy, and the Allied Provision Export Commission was having the effect of increasing prices of a number of food products. These buying agencies were unconsciously bidding against each other. In December, 1917, at the suggestion of the Food Administrator, with the consent and approval of the Secretary of War and of the Secretary of the Navy, the food purchase board was organized to coordinate all of the purchases of food products in this country intended for military purposes. The plan adopted was to allot through the Food Administration the required quantity to the industry producing the commodity in question, dividing the business among the various producers in proportion to their capacity. Products so controlled were those in which there was an actual or prospective shortage. The prices were determined by the food purchase board after studying and investigating the costs of production. The products so purchased included flour, sugar, all canned vegetables, canned and evaporated fruits, salmon, sardines, canned milk, rice, and, for a time, fresh beef. These products totaled about 40 per cent of all food requirements for the Army.
Practically all purchasing of meat was done by the Subsistence Division's packinghouse branch, located in Chicago. Circular proposals were submitted by the various packers whose headquarters are located there. The Subsistence Division ordered the required purchases made, and the Chicago office at once allotted the amount needed among the packers. After the butchering and inspection of the meat, it was sent to the freezers and, after being frozen, was loaded in the cars and shipped to the embarkation points. The whole process from the time the animal was killed until it was loaded on the boat took about two weeks.
The Middle West produced practically all the beef which nourished our fighting men. Some of the cattle were bought in California, inspected at the packinghouse plants along the Pacific coast, and sent to France via the Panama Canal.
The packers of Chicago and other cities found their plants, gigantic as they were, all too small to handle the demand of our troops for meat products packed in special forms; and extensive additions, both in buildings and machinery, were required by the Army's demands.
It was only by careful vigilance on the part of its inspection branch that the millions of men dependent on the Subsistence Division for their food were protected from deterioration of supplies and abuses by certain dealers and manufacturers. Such firms were in the minority, for the food industry backed the Army with great loyalty, giving honest and patriotic support. In a certain week the inspection service found oatmeal flour moldy and unfit for use, having been stored too long before using; large amounts of potatoes, shipped to Camp Devens, undersize and frostbitten; 3,000 pounds of butter at Camp Greene too old for use; and 12 carloads of tomatoes of poor quality. The system in vogue of demanding reinspection was responsible for discovering many such cases, and traveling inspectors also kept the products up to the highest standard. Any information from outside sources was immediately investigated.
Samples of all shipments of food stuffs were required to be sent to the inspection branch. In this way many violations of the food laws were found. One packer was found to be using pork which contained large numbers of skippers. Another tried, consciously or unconsciously, to pass off wormy dried fruits; Milk has in some cases been found to be much below standard. All of these supplies were promptly rejected as improper for Army use. In many cases the fault has been found to be the result of improper manufacturing conditions, and in this event the manufacturer has been compelled to make good the loss to the Army. The general result of this inspection was that manufacturers gave the Army their very best products.
One of the most important divisions of the inspection branch was the meat and meat-products section. Its function was the supervision of the reinspection, storage, and handling of meat and meat products, butter, and cheese. Special care was taken to see that there were no embalmed meats. Meat and meat products, butter, and cheese are all highly perishable articles; and, although they may be delivered in perfect condition, many imperfections may develop if diligent care is not exercised during shipment, handling, and storage. One of the first steps taken at the camps was the installing of complete cold-storage plants with adequate chill rooms, so that the proper preservation of fresh meats was assured after arrival at camps. From the first the most rigid inspection of meat and meat products was insisted on and no product allowed to pass which did not comply with Army specifications. The carcass might be from a perfectly healthy animal, yet be rejected, as lightweight carcasses were not approved for consumption in the Army. Instructions as to Army requirements were placed in the hands of every inspector, covering the inspection, storage, and handling of meat and dairy products. Supervisory traveling inspectors visited all stations at irregular intervals to insure these instructions being followed and to instruct quartermasters in posts which were too small to warrant a qualified meat inspector being stationed there.
One object of the Subsistence Division was to educate the proper officers throughout the Army to be inspectors. To accomplish this the inspection branch compiled a manual covering practically all the principal items of Army subsistence, the exact methods of inspection, and how to detect imperfections in foods. Complete Army specifications for all supplies were included. Gen. Pershing cabled for 250 copies to be used in France, and the University of California adopted the manual to be used in zymology classes. It placed exact knowledge in the hands of the men who received the food and who had the responsibility that it be up to specifications.
The overseas forces were the particular concern of the Subsistence Division. It was planned to have approximately three months' advance supply of food sent over each month for the number of troops actually sent to France during that month. This was called the initial supply. In addition to this, there was sent over a monthly automatic supply, equivalent to the amount of food the troops already in France would consume during that month. In this way a 90 days' reserve was usually maintained overseas.
The problems of the overseas forces demanded quick solution. The new modes of warfare gave rise to many needs unknown in peace times. The result was that calls came in for commodities which were not at the time being produced in adequate quantities. Factories had to be built, labor secured, and machinery manufactured; in instances entirely new industries had to be created.
The Service of Supply found it was impossible to secure sufficient fresh vegetables in Europe to take care of the requirements of our troops, and the Subsistence Division at home was called upon to supply dehydrated vegetables for overseas requirements. To send fresh vegetables from the United States was impossible, due to the great necessity for conserving ship tonnage, and a substitute was imperative. To supply dehydrated vegetables meant the development of an industry. Dehydration was practically unknown in the United States, there being but three small plants in existence. The Subsistence Division searched the country for advantageous locations where there were prospects of having such factories established. Within a few months the cooperation of companies was secured and factories were built whose combined output for the month of December, 1918, amounted to 6,000,000 pounds, there being 15 large plants in the United States at that time. Up to the date of the signing of the, armistice 62,000,000 pounds of dehydrated vegetables had been ordered by Gen. Pershing.
The difficulty of supply was increased by the delicate process which is required to make dehydrated vegetables. The moisture of the fresh product must be removed without extracting the nutritious juices or destroying the food value or flavor. After the vegetables have been peeled and sliced or cubed, they are blanched, in order that they may retain their starch components. They are then placed on trays in huge kilns, through which heated air is blown until only the small required amount of moisture is retained. The product is then packed in hermetically sealed cans.
Dehydrated vegetables occupied a prominent place in the soldier's menu in France. Reports from overseas made by inspectors of the Subsistence Division indicate that dehydrated vegetables were quite satisfactory. The Surgeon General's Office has approved their use. However, when fresh vegetables could be purchased in foreign markets they were used in preference. The use of dehydrated vegetables saved two-thirds of the cargo space in ships over the amount required for fresh vegetables. Their use came at the time when the cargo space was as valuable as life itself, and it enabled men and munitions to be transported sooner than would otherwise have been possible. Dehydrated vegetables were also found especially adapted for use at the front when food was carried forward from the rail heads to the trench kitchens under shell fire.
The emergency ration and its production make another interesting story. Designed to be used only in dire extremity, primarily for No Man's Land fighting, the ration was packed in small cans to be carried in the soldier's pocket, usually the upper left-hand jacket pocket. This ration corresponded to the starvation ration of the allies. Its components were adopted after experiments at the battle front and after consultations with food experts. It represented the greatest amount of food that could be concentrated in the smallest compass.
The complete ration consisted of three cakes of a mixture of beef and ground cooked wheat, each cake weighing 3 ounces; three 1-ounce cakes of chocolate; three-quarters of an ounce of fine salt; and 1 dram of black pepper. From the beef the preparation process removed all fat, sinew, and white fibrous tissue. The meat was then heated, and all of its moisture was evaporated so skillfully that no flavor was lost. The wheat or bread component of the cake was prepared by removing the chaff from cooked wheat which had been kiln-dried, parched, and then ground to a coarse powder. The meat and bread were compounded together, about two parts of bread to each part of meat, making a perfectly homogeneous cake. The chocolate of the ration was prepared by combining equal weights of fine chocolate, containing not less than 20 per cent of cocoa butter, and pure sugar, and molding the product into cakes weighing 1 ounce each.
The several components were packed into oval tin cans, which were camouflaged to render them inconspicuous. These cans bore the legend:
"U. S. Army Emergency Ration. Not to be opened except by order of an officer, or in extremity."
Many ways of preparing the emergency ration for eating in the field were found by experiments. The bread and meat cake could be eaten dry; or, when boiled in 3 pints of water, it made a palatable soup; boiled in 1 pint of water, it produced a thick porridge which could be eaten hot or cold; the cold porridge could be sliced and fried when circumstances permitted. The chocolate could be eaten as candy or made into a drink by placing the chocolate in a tin cup with hot water
The gas attacks in the trenches made it necessary that the soldier's food be packed in containers impervious to mustard gas poison, mustard gas, when swallowed, attacking the intestines. The first call for such a ration came during October, 1917, and it called for the shipment of 100,000 sealed rations a month for 20 months. The food was to be packed in hermetically sealed galvanized iron containers, holding 25 rations each. The contents of each can consisted of 25 pounds of meat in 1-pound cans, 25 pounds of hard bread in 8-ounce cans, and 25 rations each of soluble coffee, sugar, and salt. Tobacco and cigarettes were added for the comfort of the men. The addition of tobacco and cigarettes was accidental. It was found necessary at first to fill the surplus space in the containers with excelsior. The office force of a large corporation learned of this fact and got permission to fill the empty space in some of the containers with tobacco. The Subsistence Division thought so well of the idea that orders were issued for the tobacco ration to be placed in all reserve ration containers.
One of the most difficult elements in supplying the reserve ration was the securing of tin cans for hard bread. These, because of their unusual size and shape, could only be manufactured after new can-making machines had been designed. The demand for such cans exceeded 10,000,000 in number. Within a comparatively short time, however, hard bread in cans for special reserve rations was being produced on a large scale, and the overseas requirements were filled.
Next the manufacture of the necessary galvanized containers and crates was contracted for. A packing plant was then designed to pack the components into the containers, which was an intricate operation in itself, the number of rations being so great. This plant was so contrived that the parts of the packing material came in at one end of the plant, and the hard bread, canned corned beef hash, canned roast beef, and canned corned beef, canned fish, coffee, sugar, salt, and can openers were packed into the galvanized containers as they traveled on a conveyor belt, until all the components were included.
Only the best of Army purchases were put in the reserve ration. A study was made of the best packers of the various commodities, and their products were used exclusively. Everyone connected with the packing knew the purpose of the ration. It was to be used only when the trenches were under the heaviest fire-when hot food could not be carried forward, and when the men were most in need of good food. The reserve ration became the quality ration of the Army as a result. After the packing was complete, the cans were hermetically sealed by solder and camouflaged with olive drab paint. The container of the ration, when packed, was so buoyant it would support two men upon it when thrown into the sea, thus being a potential life raft.
It was also necessary to feed our men in German prison camps. A ration for American prisoners was prepared by the Subsistence Division of the Quartermaster Corps, in conjunction with the Food and Nutrition Division of the Surgeon's General office. This ration was distributed by the American Red Cross from Denmark and Switzerland. Individual packages each containing sufficient food to supply one man were sent to the prison camps each week. The chief components of the package were corned beef and salmon (with an occasional substitution of corned beef hash and canned roast beef), hard dry bread, dry beans, rice, baked beans, and fresh potatoes (where possible). Prunes, jam, apples, peaches, coffee, sugar, evaporated milk, vinegar, salt, pepper, and pickles were also supplied. Potatoes and onions were procured when possible in Ireland, France, and Italy. Otherwise dehydrated potatoes and onions were used.
Special food was sent for the invalid prisoners, this ration containing potted chicken, crackers, concentrated soup, dehydrated spinach, creamed oat meal, cornstarch pudding, sweet chocolate, extract of beef, soluble coffee, etc. There were several substitutes for all items mentioned, among the substitutes being dried eggs, potted veal, cheese, peanut butter, dried apricots, honey, corn meal, gelatine, malted milk powder, bouillon cubes, apples, oranges, lemons, cocoa, and tea.
When the American troops entered the trenches it was found impracticable to use the ordinary roasted and ground coffee. Its preparation required too much fire, the smoke of which made a target for the enemy. Experiments were made with soluble coffee, looking toward guaranteeing a warm stimulant in the trenches. It was found necessary to give hot drinks to the men before they went over the top or after they had undergone periods of exposure. The British and French troops were supplied with brandy, wine, or rum on such occasions. But issues of intoxicants to soldiers were contrary to the American policy, and quantities of soluble coffee were substituted. Solidified alcohol was supplied so that the coffee could be served hot.
The soluble-coffee industry was in its infancy in the United States. So great was the demand for soluble coffee from the overseas forces that the calls were for over thirty times the prewar production. A cablegram was received in October informing us that after January 1, 1919, the troops would require 25,000 pounds of coffee each day in addition to the amounts packed in the trench rations, these latter quantities alone amounting to 12,000 pounds daily. Allowance was also made for possible sinkings of 5,000 pounds daily, making a total of 42,000 pounds necessary to meet the daily requirements of the American Expeditionary Forces.
The entire American output of soluble coffee was taken over for the Army, but this amounted to only 6,000 pounds daily. A number of manufacturers of other food products were induced to turn their entire plants into soluble-coffee factories. The greatest difficulty was incurred in the securing of the necessary equipment for these new plants. There was but one company in the entire United States which made the revolving bronze drums essential to the manufacturing process. This company ran its plant seven days a week, with three shifts daily, to produce the necessary materials. The metals which went into these drums were vital in the manufacture of other munitions, but it was even more important that men in the front lines be given hot drinks when tired and worn from long fighting and exposure.
The signing of the armistice saw the difficulties of supplying soluble coffee about overcome. The Subsistence Division had won one of its hardest fights. The cooperation of American manufacturers had made the achievement possible.
The problem of supplying good coffee to the troops was a difficult one. To make good coffee for a unit as large as a company is not easy for the average cook. To guarantee that good coffee would always be available, the Subsistence Division made one of its most radical changes in handling supplies. This change was so complete that whereas the Army formerly was served with coffee from three to six months out of the roasters, it came to be supplied with coffee freshly roasted every day.
At the beginning of the war coffee was purchased, ready roasted and ground, from competitive dealers. It was then held in New York for about 30 days before being shipped overseas, the transportation requiring 30 days more. Received in France, the coffee often was kept for 90 days before it was distributed to the troops. In addition, a 30 days' supply must be kept on hand, making the coffee 6 months old by the time it was used. The result was that when the coffee finally reached the men it had lost half of its value as a stimulant and was greatly deteriorated in flavor, often being in a crumbly condition. "Muddy" coffee on the mess tables resulted.
The only way for the troops to secure fresh coffee was for us to send over the green product for roasting as it was needed. Buildings were erected to house coffee-roasting machinery at home and abroad; men were trained as quickly as possible in the process of coffee-roasting, and sent out to take charge of the plants. In a relatively short length of time 16 plants were in full operation in France, and an increasing number at home. Eventually all the coffee used in France was shipped over green and roasted in the plants there. These plants were capable of roasting sufficient coffee to take care of 3,000,000 men at a considerably lower cost to the Government than under the old system.
The Expeditionary Forces, as is noted elsewhere, organized a purchasing office in Paris. Its purpose was to save tonnage space by securing as many products as possible in Europe. Its scope covered all classes of supplies, but a large section was devoted to subsistence. Candy, hard bread, and macaroni factories under the direction of the Quartermaster Corps were built or secured from the French Government. Large quantities of beans, fresh potatoes, onions, coffee, rice, salt, and vinegar were secured from European markets. Many thousands of tons of foodstuffs were purchased and manufactured in Europe for our Army, every ton representing space on ships saved for additional men and munitions. Overseas purchases were generally discontinued after the signing of the armistice, as the Director of Purchase and Storage and the Expeditionary Forces were firm for the policy of favoring American manufacturers wherever possible.
To reduce tonnage still further, extensive experiments were made in the packing of beef for overseas consumption. All bones, surplus fats, and waste portions were removed. The remainder, all edible, was pressed into l00-pound moulds and frozen. The initial shipment was composed of 16 carloads of boneless beef. The meat arrived in France in splendid condition, and was carefully watched from its arrival at the ports in France to its consumption in the front-line trenches. Officers, mess sergeants, and cooks were enthusiastic over the boneless beef, as it took much less time to prepare it and so conserved labor to a great extent. The men were gratified, as the inferior portions of the beef were not included, and much better meat resulted for the mess. After the success of this experimental shipment, as much boneless beef as possible was sent to France. Trouble was encountered in securing the skilled butchers to bone the great quantities needed, but this shortage was largely overcome.
No means was discovered so effective for reducing tonnage as boning beef, dehydrating vegetables, and purchasing foods in France, but in many of the smaller items there were stories just as interesting. Efforts to save tonnage brought about the reduction of moisture in soap. While the Subsistence Division was securing toilet paper it found that the entire supply for the Expeditionary Forces could be stored in the waste space of Army rolling field kitchens. A special formula for vinegar was devised, and double-strength vinegar was shipped. This, when mixed with an equal quantity of water in France, was a good product.
The saving of space in the transportation of subsistence stores makes a long story in itself. Just so much tonnage was allotted to food each month, and the ablest men in the food industry spent much time in working out how the maximum amount of essentials and luxuries in foodstuffs could be sent in the minimum amount of space.
The Subsistence Division not only looked after the working fighter but the playing fighter as well. The American soldier is fond of candy, tobacco, and chewing gum. The supply of these commodities brought much pleasure to the troops. Long lines of men waiting for free candy and tobacco in France, men who just came from the front, formed one of the interesting sights of the war. Tobacco has established its claim to a recognized place in the soldier's life. Probably 95 per cent of the soldiers of the American Expeditionary Forces used it in one form or another. In May of 1918 it was decided to adopt the practice of the allies, namely, -to allow each soldier a certain amount of tobacco per day. This unusual innovation was the official recognition of tobacco as a necessity for men in active service. To men enduring physical hardships, obliged to live without the comforts and often even the necessities of life in times of battle, tobacco fills a need nothing else can satisfy. The daily ration of four-tenths of an ounce was given to every man overseas who desired it. The soldier had the choice of cigarettes, smoking tobacco, or chewing tobacco. If he chose smoking tobacco he received cigarette papers with it. In addition the men could buy at any Army or other canteen the most popular brands of cigars and cigarettes in unlimited quantities.
The Subsistence Division purchased for overseas shipment a monthly average of 20,000,000 cigars and 425,000,000 cigarettes. Abundant supplies of tobacco were on hand in the commissaries overseas, and the soldier could buy it at actual cost. There was no profit or tax added on any tobacco shipped to France, and it was sold at retail to the troops at a cost lower than the price paid by the biggest wholesalers in the United States. The plan for the purchase of cigars and cigarettes was to divide the contracts among the most popular brands in the same proportions as the latter are sold in this country.
Candy in the days of the old Army was considered a luxury. The war with Germany witnessed a change. The old popularity of chewing tobacco waned; that of candy increased. Approximately 300,000 pounds of candy represented the monthly purchases during the early period of the war. This amount included both the home and overseas consumption. Demands from overseas grew steadily. The soldier far from home and from his customary amusements could not be considered an ordinary individual living according to his own inclinations, and candy became more and more sought after. As the demand increased, the Quartermaster Department came to recognize the need of systematic selection and purchase.
The first purchases were made from offerings of manufacturers without any particular standard, 40 per cent being assorted chocolates, 30 per cent assorted stick candy, and 30 per cent lemon drops. A standard was developed through the steady work of confectionery experts. This standard offered no opportunities for deception, and it guaranteed candy made from pure sugar and the best of other materials. The specifications furnished all bidders covered raw materials, the methods of manufacture, packing, and casing. Specifications were adopted after many conferences with the leading manufacturers of the country. These men cooperated in the work by giving their best suggestions and often their trade secrets.
Huge purchases of candy were made during the days when sugar was scarcest in the United States. The Food Administration was convinced that the Army should have all the candy it desired, and sufficient quantities of sugar were allotted for the purpose. From 300,000 pounds monthly the candy purchases increased till they equaled 1,373,300 pounds in November, 1918, the highest amount purchased up to that time. In December, 1918, an innovation was adopted, consisting of giving the troops a regular monthly ration candy. The candy which had been shipped every month for sale in the various canteens had always been quickly disposed of. Many men did not get the opportunity to make purchases. The ration plan, however, assured each man a pound and a hall a month, without exception. It required 3,495,000 pounds the first month of the ration system to provide each soldier overseas with his allotted portion.
In December, 1918, the Subsistence Division took over the purchase of all candy for the various organizations conducting canteens for our troops. The purchase for that month totaled 10,137,000 pounds, all of which was shipped overseas. It was the largest exportation of candy on record. The candy purchased for the canteens, commissaries, and other agencies was manufactured by the best known candy firms in the country. A portion of the candy consumed overseas was manufactured in France. This French supply was discontinued January 15, 1919, and thereafter all requirements were shipped over from the United States. The candy was sold to the men at just half the price it would have cost individuals here. After December, 1918, 50,000 pounds were furnished each month for sales purposes for every 25,000 men in France. Up to February 1, 1919, 21,000,000 pounds of candy had been sent across. The demand for candy jumped skyward after the signing of the armistice, the men then having more time on their hands in which to enjoy luxuries. Tobacco demands likewise increased.
The suffering sweet tooth of the Yank was not appeased by candy alone. The third of a billion pounds of sugar bought for the Army represents a tremendous number of cakes, tarts, pies, and custards. An old soldier recently stated that the ice cream eaten by the Army during the war would start a new ocean. The serious shortage of sugar which at one time threatened to reduce sweets to an irreducible minimum on the civilian bill of fare did not interfere with the soldier's ration, which continued to be 6 pounds monthly in this country' and about 9 pounds overseas. The ration for the civilian population was reduced to 2 pounds monthly. Army officers were placed on the same status as the civilian population and were allowed to purchase only the amount stipulated for civilians for use in their homes.
Up to the signing of the armistice the total amount of granulated, cut, and powdered sugar purchased by the Subsistence Division equaled 342,745,862 pounds and cost $28,465,050. Of this amount the greater portion was shipped to the troops in France.
A close companion in popularity to candy and tobacco was the typical American product, chewing gum. This confection was found of great value on the march as a substitute for water. Its importance is shown in the vast amount sent overseas. A total of 3,500,000 packages represents the overseas shipment in January, 1919.The shipment for February was 3,200,000 packages.The winter consumption of gum was heavier than that of summer, the average monthly supply being only 1,500,000 packages during the summer of 1918. Chewing gum came to be considered a necessity by the men in France and has been found to be an invaluable aid to keeping up their spirits in the midst of hardships.
Every complaint against meals served in the Army reaching the attention of the Subsistence Division was investigated. These investigations were made in conjunction with the Inspector General's Department of the Army. Where complaints were justified, remedial action was taken. A study of the complaints revealed that most dissatisfaction was among new troops who, when first separated from the luxuries of home, wrote of their adventures at the mess table, enlarging any lack of home comforts into stories of privation. The more solid food, however, soon became popular, as the hard work in training gave an appetite for sustaining rather than for the more fancy foods.
Subsistence to the value of $327,060,097 was shipped to our forces overseas from the United States from the start of the war to December 1, 1918. The following table gives the quantity, unit price, and total value of these subsistence items:
The Army raised against Germany had to have stout shoes for its feet. It required warm uniforms and overcoats and good socks and underwear. It had to have heavy blankets for its beds. The men needed raincoats and rubber boots for wet and muddy weather. Tentage was required, pup tents for the front and large tents and flies at the camps. Belts and bandoleers of cotton webbing added to the soldier's efficiency as a rifleman or machine gunner.
To procure these and other supplies for an American Army that eventually reached the strength of 3,750,000 men required the best brains in the textile, rubber fabric, and leather goods industries. From the counting rooms, from the laboratories, and from the American factories the needs of the Government called to Washington several hundred men, experts in a thousand lines, and put them into American officers' uniforms. Eventually the various agencies of the War Department purchasing these supplies were centralized in a single division known as the Clothing and Equipage Division of the Office of the Director of Purchase and Storage, which in turn was part of the Division of Purchase, Storage, and Traffic.
The total cost of this necessary equipment of textiles and leather and rubber goods was approximately $2,100,000,000. Of the enormous sum of money appropriated for the so-called quartermaster activities, a full one-quarter went for clothing and equipage of this sort.
The group who handled this enormous manufacturing effort not only conducted one of the biggest undertakings of the war but did it in a way to command the admiration of those who knew the story of what was going on. The division turned scientific attention, and that means the attention of real scientists, to the proper construction of all sorts of articles. It designed new styles of soldiers' clothing adapted in every curve and line to the service in France. It standardized dyes and made studies of protective coloring. It produced highly specialized shoes. It saved millions of dollars by the scientific study of specifications of various articles. It educated manufacturers in the production of articles strange to their experience, and in some cases developed entirely new industries. At one time it constituted the entire wool trade of the United States, since it had optioned every pound of wool in sight and had its agents out gathering up the excess wool of the earth. It was a shipmaster, an employer of men, a reformer in labor conditions, and an inventor and originator of new products.
The organization was important not only for the size of its business but because it dealt more intimately with the individual soldier than perhaps any other production branch of the Government, with the possible exception of the branch which fed him. It might seem to be a fairly easy proposition to buy clothing for a soldier, his tent, and the bed clothing that kept him warm in active service or when he was a patient in a military hospital. But it was not a simple task. None of these articles was standard for civilian use, either in material, color, or pattern. Everything had to be made to order. The ordinary factory could not begin work on contracts for these supplies on a minute's notice, but usually only after special and sometimes costly preparation.
And as the Army grew in size it had to have large quantities of special clothing. Cooks needed cotton aprons, and blacksmiths leather ones. Linemen had to have special gloves; hospital orderlies and waiters at messes required white duck suits; motorcyclists needed hoods; laborers, overalls; and firemen, helmets. There were special garments for aviators. We began capturing prisoners and they had to have special uniforms. Convalescents at hospitals needed special suits. The women nurses of the Army were supplied with uniforms, something entirely outside of previous Army experience.
The Government was something more than the designer and manufacturer of these goods, drawing the specifications, placing the orders, and then teaching the processes of manufacture in the thousands of factories which had virtually become Government plants. The clothing and equipage organization had to go further back and become the actual procurer of the raw materials; and this phase of its work eventually became one of the largest and most spectacular and romantic elements of the whole undertaking. In addition to procuring the raw cotton and the raw wool and the hides, the Government had to go into the manufacture of cloth and the tanning of leather to supply these commodities to the manufacturers of the finished articles. The Government went into a raw materials market which was already glutted with orders from the allied governments and from domestic consumption. It went into this market at first without money, since funds on the scale demanded were not available between March 4, 1917, and June 15 of the same year; and it had to buy on credit and secure the commodities in the face of cash bidding for them.
Nevertheless the whole enormous undertaking was successfully carried through. Except in rare instances, the American soldier never lacked for necessary supplies of this character. The organization which handled the work originally consisted of 6 officers and 25 clerks. When the armistice was signed this great purchasing and manufacturing agency had an enrollment of 1,693 people.
Wool was the most important of the raw materials to be procured, since wool entered into the composition of more items than any other material. Uniforms, overcoats, underwear, socks, breeches, shirts, and many other articles had to be made entirely or partially of wool. The purchases of woolen breeches alone during the war period amounted to 13,176,000 pairs. On September 10, 1918, the wool experts of the army estimated the Nation's total needs for wool up to June 30, 1919. The War Department, it was found, during this time would require 246,000,000 pounds of clean wool; the allotment to civilian needs was but 15,000,000 pounds. In other words, the war demands were to absorb practically the entire supply of wool; civilians were to be forced to do without it almost entirely.
Soon after the declaration of war the Quartermaster Corps estimated that it would require about 100,000,000 pounds of scoured wool to meet the initial demands of the Army in 1917. A meeting was called of the principal wool dealers of the United States, most of them from Boston, and a quick inventory was taken of the available wool supplies, not only in the United States, but on order from foreign countries. It was found that there was in sight 78,000,000 pounds of greasy wool, which, after being scoured, would produce 35,000,000 pounds of wool of the quality needed. This was barely one-third of the Army's demand alone. It should be noted, however, that this inventory was taken just before the annual American clip, which would be finished by the end of July.
To insure that the Government would secure every pound of wool in sight, options were promptly obtained on all wool in American warehouses or on the sea, and speculation in the prices of the domestic clip for 1917 was thus headed off by the entry of the Government itself in the raw wool business. The prices were fixed for the 1917 clip as of July 31. A year later the clothing and equipage division had become the entire wool trade of the United States. There was no wool market again and no public sale of wool until after the armistice was signed.
To handle this enormous undertaking the division appointed a wool administrator to buy wool, a wool purchasing quartermaster to pay for it, and a wool distributor to sell it to the Government contractors. The Government's wool headquarters was in Boston, with branches at Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, San Francisco, and Seattle. This organization arranged to procure the whole 1917 clip, if needed, took over all wool destined for the United States under import licenses, and sent its agents to foreign markets.
The largest of the foreign markets practically available from the standpoint of distance was the Argentine in South America. Australia and New Zealand were, of course, enormous markets, but the dearth of shipping made it impossible to spare many bottoms for the long voyage into the Antipodes. As a matter of fact, when the fighting ceased, the whole world was suffering for wool, except Australia and New Zealand. America was short of wool, France had practically none, there was a little in England, but Australia and New Zealand had the staggering surplus of 1,000,000,000 pounds. This was due to the fact that there had been no shipping available to bring this wool to America or Europe.
The Government's wool administrator secured such Australian and New Zealand wool as he could; but he had to rely principally on sailing vessels, which could not, under the most favorable conditions, go to Australia and back again in less than seven months, while nine or ten months were more often required. A quick sailing voyage to Argentina and back required five months.
Nevertheless, and this was particularly true in the early fall of 1918, when preparations were being made for the equipment of the Army in 1919, every effort was made to secure foreign wool. A South American wool-buying commission was formed and sent to Buenos Aires, arriving there October 30, 1918. By that time, however, the end of the war was in sight, and the commission never opened up its Argentine headquarters.
The Government conducted its raw-wool business on the lines of a great department store. Headquarters were established in Boston, where the wool distributors kept samples of almost every kind of wool produced on earth, these samples representing stocks on hand in the various Government warehouses in Boston and elsewhere. Charles J. Nichols, a member of a large Boston wool firm, was the wool administrator and E. W. Brigham was wool distributor. Prices were fixed, and the manufacturers bought from the samples. Carpet wool was sold at an office in Philadelphia. The wool administrator did a business that averaged $2,500,000 per day during his incumbency, his total purchases amounting to about 722,000,000 pounds of wool.
At first the supply of the better grades of wool seemed to be adequate to meet the Army's demands. Later, however, changes were made in the specifications for various cloths, uniform cloth being increased from 16 to 20 ounces in weight, overcoating from 30 to 32 ounces, shirting flannel from 8 1/2 to 9 1/2 ounces, and blankets from 3 to 4 pounds. These increases made it necessary for the Army to use grades of wool previously made only into coarse materials like carpet. The lower grades of wool were blended with the finer grades to provide the necessary weight and warmth, even at the expense of fineness of texture and appearance. This action explains why at the end of the period of hostilities some of the American soldiers' uniforms looked rough and uneven in color. But the necessary cloth was provided, and it was warm.
The Government saved every ounce of wool that it possibly could save. More economical patterns and layouts for the cutting of uniforms were designed in Washington and furnished to the manufacturers. The American soldier's uniform did not meet the approval of officers of the American Expeditionary Forces as to style, after the latter had become used to seeing the smartly dressed troops of Europe. Accordingly, after Gen. Pershing had recommended a better-appearing uniform, a new one was designed, incidentally with an eye to saving cloth. The coat of the uniform-formerly called the blouse, a designation which is now obsolete was cut with new lines, making it slimmer without sacrifice of warmth or comfort. The patch pockets of the original blouse were usually unsightly bulges when the soldiers filled them with articles. On the new coat the patch pocket was retained only in appearance, the pocket actually being on the inside.
It is not known to most Americans that the breeches, which have been typical of the American service uniform for many years, were abandoned late in the war in favor of long trousers. This change was also due to studies made by the army clothing experts. The soldiers themselves were not enamored of breeches, since they had to be either laced or buttoned below the knee, a process which took time always, but seemed to take more when a man was in a hurry. The laces sometimes chafed the leg under the leggins. Then, too, it was often impossible to remove the breeches from soldiers wounded in their legs without cutting the cloth. Long trousers did away with all these objections and had the added virtue of being warmer than the breeches.
The overcoat, too, was redesigned, following Gen. Pershing's recommendations, the stock overcoat being too long to be worn in the trenches. A knee length garment was provided which was much smarter than the older coat.
The redesigning of the overcoat and the uniform (although the new uniform never appeared in the field) accomplished numerous economies. Merely by the elimination of lacings, eyelets, tape, and stays, the new trousers cost 95.25 cents less than a pair of army breeches. By July 1, 1919, this change in design would have saved the Government $16,988,440 in orders for trousers already placed or in sight. The change in overcoat styles saved 62 cents per garment, or a total saving to--July 1, 1919, estimated at $897,140. The service coat, made by redesigning the blouse, saved the Government $1.598 on each garment, or an estimated saving of $4,977,770 to July 1,1919.
This was not only financial saving, but what was more important, it was saving the consumption of the raw material, wool. The Government could always raise more money; but if the wool supply were exhausted, all the money on earth could not buy any more of it.
A more economical cutting pattern saved twenty-three one hundredths of a yard of cloth in the manufacture of every pair of trousers. This resulted in the total saving of 2,300,000 yards of woolen cloth. Part of the facings of the service coats and overcoats were eliminated without sacrificing warmth or serviceability, and cheaper cotton linings were substituted. Another important cloth economy came when the Army designers cut off the right-hand pocket of the O. D. shirt, on the ground that this pocket was seldom used. The designers also substituted an oblong elbow patch on the Army shirt for the circular patch formerly specified. This substitution was not economy in cloth, but the original circular patch, put on the sleeve to reinforce it at the point of greatest wear, actually resulted in reducing or shortening the life of the garment by tearing loose at the stitches, a fault which the oblong patch overcame.
In the earlier contracts the garment makers were stimulated to save wool by being allowed a percentage of the cost of yardage saved. Each contractor, too, was permitted to sell his own clippings. But as the Government obtained a more scientific grasp of the clothing problem and produced pattern layouts which utilized the maximum percentages of the cloth, the issues of cloth to the garment makers were calculated more closely. Thereafter the contractors received no reimbursement for cloth savings, and the Government itself took all the clippings.
These clippings were shipped to a base sorting plant at New York, where they were baled and shipped out to mills to be used as reworked wool in blankets and other articles. The clippings were sorted at a cost of 1.7 cents per pound and sold at an average price of 23 cents per pound, the total sales bringing in to the Government $5,500,000.
The history of the Government's wool enterprise during the war illustrates how hard it was to check the momentum of the whole production undertaking against Germany once it had attained full speed. A week before the armistice was signed the wool stocks looked small, and shortages plainly existed to cause anxiety for the executives in Washington. That was because we were thinking in terms of consumption made familiar by the terrific destruction of war. A week later the same stocks looked overwhelming in size, and the shortages had become enormous surpluses. It had been a constant worry to procure a sufficient quantity of blankets, yet as soon as the armistice was signed, we had on hand a 47-months' supply of blankets for 1,000,000 men in the United States and 2,400,000 men overseas. As soon as the German plenipotentiaries affixed their signatures to the armistice agreement at Spa an apparently small stock of marching shoes turned into a 4-year supply for 3,400,000 soldiers at home and abroad. On November 1, 1918, the Clothing and Equipage Division had on hand a reserve stock of goods valued at $811,000,000.
The entire woolen industry, from the handlers of raw wool to the textile mills, worked splendidly with the Government. At all times there was plenty of available machinery to make all the cloth for which wool could be furnished. Mills which found no Government use for their regular business output went heartily to work to make something else that the Government would need. The Government's uses for carpet, for instance, were practically negligible; so that the carpet mills, many of them, swung their entire production to Army blankets and Army duck.
Blankets, in fact, were one of the largest items. The total purchases brought to the Government warehouses about 22,000,000 blankets, at a total cost of over $145,000,000. Melton cloth for overcoats and uniforms consumed an enormous quantity of wool. The total purchases of melton amounted to more than 100,000,000 yards, or enough to stretch twice around the world at the Equator, with a strip left over long enough to reach from New York across Germany and Russia and into Siberia. The total quantity of raw wool bought by the Government up to December 14, 1918, cost over $504,000,000.
After the Government had secured the wool and various types of cloth, there still remained the task of making this cloth into uniforms. The usual method was for the Government to furnish the materials and to pay the contractor his cost of manufacturing.
All Army clothing was made up according to the so-called tariff sizes. The average coat for a man is a 38 or 40, and experience shows how many men in a given number will need this average. But there were always exceptions. One camp sent in a special order for 46 overcoats for "fats."
Through a scientific study of the problem, notable reforms in the matter of fitting soldiers were brought about. When the men were coming in greatest numbers from civilian life to the training camps they were often put to great inconvenience in securing proper clothing. Each man would ask for such sizes as he thought were correct, but it often happened that the garments supplied to him did not fit him, and he thereafter spent some hours or even days swapping garments with other recruits until he eventually acquired an outfit somewhere near his size. Then, too, there was confusion in the way the articles were supplied to the men, who sometimes had to stand in line all day long, awaiting their turn at the issue windows.
The matter of fitting was satisfactorily solved by adopting the so-called foolproof size labels. The labels originally used were merely paper tags pinned to the garments, and in the handling of garments by men unfamiliar with the fitting of ready-made clothing mistakes often resulted. As in the case of civilian clothing, all Army clothing was divided into four classes, known as "longs," "shorts," "stouts," and "regulars." A garment of any size would come in these four classes. The labels were marked with diagonal, colored stripes to indicate the general characteristics of the garment to which it was attached. Thus green meant a "short," red indicated a "long," and yellow showed the garment to be a "stout." The soldier was pretty sure to remember the color of the stripe attached to the garment that fitted him. If he were a green striper, he would refuse to accept anything that did not bear a green stripe on its ticket.
Before hostilities ceased a system providing a more scientific issue of clothing to recruits had been introduced. Under this system the recruit would enter the supply building at one end and there, in a special room, strip himself of his civilian clothing. He would thereupon enter the mill as naked as the Lord made him. He would stop first at the underwear counter, where he would procure garments that fitted him, would don them, and then pass on to the hosiery counter. Thus he would progress down the line, eventually emerging from the other end of the building a fully dressed American soldier, the process reminding one of the progress of an automobile through the Ford factory.
It required the services of some 4,000 inspectors to supervise the garment-making in thousands of shops scattered throughout the country. This inspection also looked at the character of the shops taking contracts, and the Government was sometimes hard put to it to prevent child labor and sweat shop production in the work.
At one time there came a rush order from France to supply several hundred thousand mackinaws. An officer who was familiar with mackinaws was sent out from Washington to buy them from goods in stock. He accomplished his mission in 10 days, literally baring the shelves of the United States of these garments, his purchases including the extensive quantities of mackinaws held by mail-order houses in Chicago.
It was always a problem in clothing the Army to find olive-drab dyes that were fast in color. The first dyes used were apt to fade quickly. A certain dye was of the proper color, yet it was found on test to have the peculiar characteristic of being visible at a distance. As the new American synthetic dye industry expanded and processes were perfected, the officers of the Clothing and Equipage Division were able to cooperate with the American dye makers to produce satisfactory dyes.
Yet while the olive-drab dye used in dyeing coats and
trousers seemed to withstand the sun and rain, that used in coloring the leggins
proved to be fugitive to a remarkable degree. It seemed to be impossible to
produce a dye that would hold its shade in leggins.
The experts working on the dye problem had expended a good deal of valuable energy in worry and had grown a few gray hairs in their heads over the failure of leggin dyes when they discovered the true cause of the fading. The men were deliberately bleaching out their leggins, usually by using salt solutions on them, since anything but a faded leggin indicated that the soldier who wore it was a rookie and a greenhorn.
The materials which went into the manufacture of clothing came from various sections of the country, since the several garment industries had grown up around centers. For instance, the melton cloth came generally from the Boston district. Linings were supplied from Atlanta, buttons from Philadelphia, and duck from Chicago. This geographic distribution of supplies simplified the Government's problem of supplying materials to the various contractors. It was possible to supply materials on short notice to any garment making district.
At one time Chicago wired that unless 500,000 yards of flannel shirting were supplied immediately hundreds of shirt factories in Chicago and the Chicago district would have to close down. Accordingly, a special freight train was loaded with shirting in the East and started for Chicago on a special movement in charge of a "live tracer"-that is, an officer who saw that the train was put through to its destination. The train arrived in Chicago on the second day after the order was received, so rapidly had the goods been procured and loaded.
In addition to the regular uniforms for the men, almost half a million articles of clothing for officers were also bought by the Government.
The Quartermaster Department went into an entirely new field when it bought uniforms for the women nurses of the Army. There was a Norfolk suit which cost about $30 and a cotton uniform that cost about $3, an overcoat costing nearly $28, and then there were waists made from navy blue silk and from white cotton, and hats.
Before leaving the subject of clothing, it is interesting to refer again to the clothing furnished for interned prisoners. This was not manufactured for the purpose. Uniforms discarded by our own men were reclaimed and dyed a special shade of green. Over 50,000 of these garments were prepared at an average cost of less than 30 cents per garment. It had been the original intention to make a special prisoner's uniform striped in resemblance to the prison suits worn in American penitentiaries.
Another interesting development in the manufacture of Army clothing was the production of a special uniform for expeditionary troops sent to Russia. The uniforms were so warm that they could well serve as the equipment for an Arctic exploration party. The determination to send an expedition to Russia was made suddenly by the Government, and the decision brought with it the problem of producing in a jiffy an equipment of garments not only expensive in themselves, but of a character unknown to the American garment trade. An agent for the division in New York at once bought on the New York market large quantities of muskrat, wolf, and marmot fur. Other agents were sent into our own Northwest and to Canada to pick up such suitable garments as these markets afforded. The Siberian equipment as specified by the commanders of the expedition called for fur caps, fur mittens and fur overcoats, mucklucks, moccasins, felt shoes, fur parkas, and underwear for 15,000 men or more. The order for the equipment came in the latter part of August, 1918, so that only the fastest kind of work would produce the garments in time to catch the last steamer that could get into the northern Russian and Siberian ports before the ice closed navigation for the season. The result was that whenever the articles specified could not be procured on time, suitable substitutes were provided.
The specifications called for 80 per cent wool underwear. Underwear with that percentage of wool could not be provided, but underwear of equal weight was substituted. Where fur-lined garments were unobtainable, fur-trimmed ones were procured. The specifications called for Buffalo coats. The division sent a man to the north woods country of Minnesota and Wisconsin, and there in the supply cities he bought sheep-lined coats with moleskin or duck shells as a substitute. These coats were the sort used by woodmen and Alaskan miners and explorers. There was no time to procure mucklucks, moccasins, and felt shoes, so an agent of the division was sent into Canada to buy shoe pacs (or lumbermen's boots) and lumbermen's knee length socks. The total cost of the whole outfit was more than $100 per man.
It was impossible to find any substitute for the Alaskan parka. A parka is a sort of overshirt, wind proof and waterproof and hooded, to be worn over the overcoat and cap of the uniform. Consequently it was necessary to produce the parkas in this country, although our garment makers were entirely unfamiliar with such manufacture. The work was undertaken by the International Duplex Coat Co., at 114 Fifth Avenue, New York. It was necessary from the start in turning out this order for the employees of this plant to work over-time. In order to speed the production the principal member of this firm himself took his place at the bench and worked almost day and night in cutting out garments.
The day approached closer and closer when the shipment would have to start across the country if it were to catch the last boat from San Francisco. On the home stretch of the race the entire working force of the plant went 36 hours, stopping only for meals. The last stitch was taken at 1.30 o'clock in the morning. The garments were then piled upon auto trucks to be rushed to the baling plant in Brooklyn. One of the loaded trucks developed engine trouble and stopped in the middle of a bridge across the East River. The officer in charge thereupon commandeered every automobile that came along, piled them all full of parkas and sent them to the baling plant. The entire shipment was aboard the train less than one hour before its starting.
It was not only necessary for the Government to furnish cloth for the uniforms, shirts, and other articles, but it had to supply the fittings and findings as well, such needs as linings, tape, buttons, and hooks and eyes. In the calendar year 1918 the purchases amounted to over 46,000,000 yards of cotton lining and 2,500,000 yards of felt lining, worth over $18,000,000. The Government spent over $100,000 for hooks and eyes, $150,000 for tape, $1,250,000 for thread, and practically $3,000,000 for buttons.
When it was found that the standard specifications for Army uniform buttons favored a certain class of manufacturers and excluded many others, new specifications were drawn so as to make it possible for every button manufacturer in the country to compete for contracts. An exclusive study was made of new materials for buttons. They had been made of brass or bronze, but due to other war necessities for metals an effort was made to provide a substitute. It was found, too, that metal buttons sometimes resulted in infection of wounds received on the battlefield.
Substitution of vegetable ivory for metal in buttons was attempted. The Bureau of Standards in Washington tested the taqua, or ivory, nuts from which buttons are made and found them suitable. A vegetable ivory button with a shank was developed, although no such ivory button had been known before, and the Government's insignia was stamped on this button. Gen. Pershing approved the use of ivory buttons, and thereafter many manufacturers produced millions of gross of them. Every manufacturer who took button contracts agreed to turn over the ivory nut waste to the Chemical Warfare Service to be used in making charcoal for the gas -absorbing canisters of the gas masks. Most of the buttons were produced by firms in Rochester and Philadelphia. Many concerns made them who had never made buttons before. Manufacturers of electric goods, hardware, billiard balls, celluloid, pearl buttons, and phonograph records turned their plants into ivory-button factories. Enormous quantities of buttons were required. For the Army shirts alone the Government needed 216,000,000 buttons in 1918.
Flags constituted another class of goods requiring wool. In all, the division produced 40,000 flags during the war period, most of these being made at the Government's own shop at Philadelphia. It is a grim fact that many of these flags were used to wrap around the bodies of soldiers who died at sea. Thirty million chevrons for non-commissioned officers were also turned out by the Government.
The production of overseas caps for the American Expeditionary Forces was likewise an extensive undertaking. When the requisition for overseas caps came from France, it was not possible to design one here because of lack of knowledge of what was required. Later a courier bearing a sample cap came to the United States from Gen. Pershing. As soon as this sample was received a meeting of cap makers was called in New York, and 100 manufacturers attended. One and all agreed to turn over their factories to the exclusive production of overseas caps until the requirements were met. It took those cap makers only two weeks to turn out the first order. In all 4,972,000 caps were delivered.
Our experts on this side of the water were not satisfied with the overseas cap. It shrank after being wet, it quickly lost shape, it absorbed much water and did not dry out quickly, and it was unattractive in appearance. Also it did not shade the eyes, and the experience in France showed that the soldiers usually improvised peaks to their caps by sticking their girls' letters between their caps and their foreheads. Then, moreover, the standard cap was made of 20-ounce melton, which was a fabric hard to get. But there was plenty of rabbit fur available to make felt caps for an army of 6,000,000 or 7,000,000 men. Accordingly a new cap was designed, made of felt and doing away with the bad features of the melton cap; but this cap improvement came at the end of the war and was never used.
Wool was required not only for the outer clothing of the Army-for the uniforms, overcoats, and caps-but there was also a tremendous war demand for it for the manufacture of such knit goods as undershirts, drawers, stockings, gloves, and puttees. The matter of providing the Army with these necessary articles offered a problem of peculiar difficulty, since, in addition to the ever-threatening shortage of raw wool, there was an actual shortage of machinery in the knitting industry. When it was found that the regular mills could not turn out all the woolen knit goods the Army required, numerous mills which had been turning out specialties exclusively, such as women's underwear or men's union suits, were converted into factories to knit garments according to the Army specifications. Some idea of the extent of the Army's demand for this class of goods may be read in the fact that toward the close of hostilities every machine in the United States that could make hosiery at all was knitting socks for the Government.
At one time there was an acute shortage of needles. Germany had previously supplied America with knitting needles. When this source was cut off, we turned to Japan. The Japanese needles proved disappointing; they were not correctly tempered and frequent breakage caused great loss. At one time it was rumored that there were 10,000,000 knitting needles in Sweden, and the need here was so urgent that several buyers were sent to that country. Their effort was well worth while, for they actually secured a million needles to help relieve the situation here. Meanwhile, American needles were improved and American needle makers were pushed to the limit; but until the close of the war there was always an acute shortage of needles for the knitting industry.
It was soon discovered that there was not enough machinery in America to knit one tenth of the seamless woolen gloves that the soldiers required. Consequently it was necessary to adopt a substitute-a glove of knit fabric cut to pattern and sewed up with seams. In actual service this glove did not stand up to the hard usage required of it. Consequently there was designed an overglove of canton flannel with the palm cased in leather, this to be worn outside the seamed woolen glove. In the effort to produce gloves which would give longer wear the so-called ambidextrous glove was designed so cut that it could be worn comfortably upon either hand.
Puttees, the spirally wound leggins that had long been used by the British Army, were unknown articles to American manufacture when the American Expeditionary Forces adopted them as standard articles of equipment. A puttee of knitted wool was designed and 6,000,000 of them were ordered in the spring of 1918, these to be preliminary to future orders for 8,000,000. The work required the installation of much new machinery in the textile plants. On November 1, 1918, we had produced all the puttees required by the troops then in France and had a surplus of 1,500,000 of them.
In the production of knit goods, economies in the use of material were constantly effected. An original article of equipment for the overseas troops had been a knitted woolen toque, which was a sort of stocking-cap. The toques had cost the Government $1 apiece, and some 1,500,000 of them had been piled up in the quartermaster warehouses before the toque was abandoned as a piece of standard equipment. Later a requisition was received for 400,000 woolen mufflers to be used by drivers of automobiles and motor trucks. According to the specifications these would cost about $3 apiece. Then it was discovered here that the abandoned toques might be sewed together to make mufflers. With this stock in hand it cost the Government only 20 cents each for the mufflers instead of $3, a clear saving of over $1,000,000.
The Quartermaster Department was the Mecca of inventors during the war period, who came bringing real or fancied improvements in many lines of apparel and personal equipment. One brought in a trench shower bath, consisting of a hot-water bag and a hose. He was much chagrined when informed that if this apparatus were set up in the trench there would be no room for soldiers to pass it. In no respect did the inventors have more novel ideas than they had in the manufacture of underwear. One of them brought in a patented vacuum suit of underwear which acted on the principle of a fireless cooker or thermos bottle to exclude the cold from the wearer's body. However, he had failed to take into consideration the fact that not only must cold be kept out, but perspiration must be given a chance to escape. The vacuum underwear would never dry out, after a man had become sweaty in it. For that reason it was not adopted.
A woman of Iowa invented cootie proof underclothing by impregnating underwear with vermin-destroying chemicals. The State of Iowa was so interested in her invention that there was a public movement to clothe all Iowa troops in this underwear, should the Government fail to adopt it. The underwear was submitted to the experts of the Bureau of Entomology (the Government agency that deals with bugs), whose experts tested the invention. They found that the underwear was indeed death to the cootie. However, if the chemicals were applied in weak strength they soon evaporated and left the underwear harmless to the insect; if applied in great strength, the poisonous chemicals irritated the skin of the wearer.
During the first winter the men were in camp, the winter of 1917-18, there was no time to provide the troops with standard Army underwear. Consequently Government agents went into the underwear market and bought outright whatever was in sight. As a result, the soldiers that first winter wore underwear of almost every description and grade of merit. This gave the Army's underwear experts a fine opportunity to study the qualities of underwear of various types as proved by actual use. These studies contained hints of use to the civilian. For instance, the warning is plainly given to wear no fleece-lined underwear. A study was made of the causes of colds, and it was discovered that soldiers wearing fleece lined under-wear caught cold more easily than those wearing any other sort. The fleece of the lining absorbed perspiration and retained it, staying damp. Since many of the soldiers slept in their underclothing, they were thus encased in damp clothes 24 hours a day. Sick reports plainly showed the result of it.