Home  |  Authors  |  Books  |  Stories  |  What's New  |  How to Get Involved 
   T h e   B a l d w i n   P r o j e c t
     Bringing Yesterday's Classics to Today's Children                 @mainlesson.com
Search This Site Only
 
 
The Little Book of the War by  Eva March Tappan

[Illustration] Hundreds of additional titles available for online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics

Learn More
[Illustration]

 

 

THE AMERICANS AS HELPERS

[109] IT is one thing to become an ally, and quite another to have an army prepared to make our proffered alliance of value. After the indifference with which Germany met American protests in regard to the sinking of the Lusitania and the U-boat warfare, the thinking people of the country realized that war would probably be forced upon us. In the summer of 1915 training camps were formed at Plattsburg and elsewhere; and there business men, college professors and students, lawyers, authors, publishers, and others spent a month in learning how to be soldiers. Here was the "intensive training" of which we hear so much. The only difference between this and ordinary training is that in the intensive there is no dawdling; every man has a reason for doing his best, and he does it. The result at Plattsburg was that in one month many hundreds of men learned about warfare and the use of arms what would ordinarily have required four months of training. They were not prepared to command armies in battle, but they were prepared to train raw troops in the manual of arms, to teach them how to care for their health in a campaign, and, perhaps most valuable of all, to inspire them with a fuller appreciation of team work, with an eagerness to serve their [110] country and a comprehension of, the nobility of such service.

An army was raised by "selective draft," that is, composed of strong, well men upon whom, as far as possible, no one was dependent for support, and who were not engaged in work necessary to the war, such as shipbuilding, munition-making, etc. To every soldier or sailor the Government gave a life insurance policy, in amounts varying up to $10,000; the premiums, amounting to 80 or 90 cents a month on each $1000, to be taken from his pay. The Government also gave him the privilege of taking out additional insurance up to another $10,000 at the same rates that he would pay in time of peace. For each $1000 of this he pays about $8 a year.

The preparations ordered by the Government were enormous. As one small detail, 45,000,000 yards of cotton cloth had to be purchased, besides 21,000,000 yards of drilling; the building of ships, aeroplanes, and submarine chasers was ordered. Cantonments, or camps wherein our troops may live and be trained for the army, had to be built; and it is no small matter to build almost in a night sixteen wooden cities capable of housing some 40,000 men each, with water-supply, drainage, electric lights and power, barracks, hospitals, stables, sheds, shops, and storehouses. The average cantonment has twenty miles of sewer and forty miles of water mains. In these cantonments the men are taught not only to know the manual of arms, but to dig trenches, to handle guns and take care of them, [111] to use bayonets, hand grenades, and bombs, to keep clean, to care for their feet, to stand and run and walk in the least fatiguing manner, to obey orders, and, as one detail, to learn that the salute is a mark, not merely of the deference of a private to an officer, but of the respect due to the uniform of the United States. The prescribed form is for the man of lower rank to salute first, but if the officer neglected to return the salute, he would be punished.

Before the summer of 1918 had come to an end, some 3,300,000 American boys were under arms, half of them in France and the other half in training camps. Command of the Allied forces had been put into the hands of General Foch, whom Marshal Joffre called "the first strategist in Europe." Week after week Foch repulsed the drives of the Germans, holding firmly to his positions. At length the hour came for which he had been planning and preparing. He now took the offensive; blow followed blow, and from the middle of July the Germans have been in retreat. Territory has been gained, of course, but the greatest gain has been the defeat of Germany's plans to win the war before the end of 1918. From all directions come praises of the bravery of the American boys. The Germans had not supposed it possible for a few months' training to make the Americans into acceptable soldiers; but these same boys, fresh from college and farm and workshop, have held their own against the flower of the German army, the famous "Prussian Guards" and the Bavarian Guards, veterans of many battles.

[112] Immigrants have been coming to this country in vast numbers, and we have not taken sufficient pains to see that they learned to speak English. Now that many of them are in our army, they must learn to understand orders at least, and therefore the cantonments have classes for them. A visitor to one of these classes thus pictures a lesson:—

"In one of these groups one of the exercises for the evening consisted in practicing the challenge when on sentry duty. Each pupil of the group (there were four of Italian and two of Slavic birth) shouldered in turn the long-handled stove shovel and aimed it at the teacher, who ran along the side of the room as if to evade the guard. The pupil called out in broken speech: 'Halt! Who goes there?' The answer came from the teacher: 'Friend.' And then, in as yet unintelligible English (the voices of innumerable ancestors struggling in their throats to pronounce it), the words: 'Advance and give the countersign.'"

So it is that these men of foreign birth are learning the language of the country which has given them a home and which they are preparing to defend.

Americans who have gone to France have not all been expert linguists, and amusing stories come back to us of their struggles with the French language. One is said to have wondered why so many Frenchmen named their dogs "Ici" (here). Another wanted to tell his peasant hostess that her cow had wandered away, but could say only, "Madame du [113] Tait promenades"; and there is also the pathetic tale of a sturdy Australian who wanted a bath, but knew no French except "Bonjour."

In our navy officers and men had received a thorough and systematic training, and were quite accustomed to being prompt and efficient. It is now, in man power, five times as large as it was before the war; but its needs are great, for it has the task of protecting our coast, of convoying merchantmen and troop ships, of helping our allies to destroy submarines, and of being ready at a moment's notice for anything that may need to be done. Only first-class men can find any place in the navy. Every ship maintains a school, and any man who is willing to work can acquire the education necessary for a commissioned officer.

All this preparation for war has been enormously costly. We no longer talk about hundreds of thousands of dollars, we talk about millions and billions. Every bit of wood or iron or platinum must be paid for, every workman who drives a nail into a ship must have his wages. Where does the money come from? The Government pays the bills, but the Government has no money except what it gets from the people, and there are in general only two ways in which it can get it from them. One is by taxation, and the other is by "Liberty Loans," that is, by selling government bonds or promises to pay. This is the safest investment in the land. Manufacturers and railroads and all sorts of companies might fail, but the Government would be the last thing in the [114] country to fail. A bond is exactly as safe as a bank bill, and in one respect it is of more value, namely, the bond draws interest, and the bank bill does not. Not every one can put $50 into even so safe an investment as a government bond; and therefore War Savings Stamps were issued at $4.12, which in 1923 will be redeemed by the Government at $5. There are also Thrift Stamps at 25 cents each. Sixteen of these, with the addition of a few cents, will purchase a War Savings Stamp.

The Government builds the cantonments, pays the troops, and feeds and clothes them; but a very large amount of money is spent on troops which is the free gift of the people at home to those who will defend them and their rights abroad. Much of this money goes through various organizations. One of these is the Young Men's Christian Association. When this Association asked for volunteers, this is what it said:—

"This is no call to ninnies and milksops. The Y.M.C.A. needs real men, preferably men who have had some broad and grueling experience of life; men of education, yes; but, above that, men capable of understanding, sympathy, and an indefinite deal of hard, exacting work. Men who can turn a Ford inside out; men who can play the piano and lead five hundred others in singing; men who are trained in athletics; men six feet high and three feet wide and eighteen inches thick; men who understand what Christianity really means; men with humor and leadership who have been earning a hundred [115] dollars a week and are willing to live on ten dollars a week. In other words, MEN."

The Y.M.C.A. does its best for the soldier boys both here and across the ocean. It provides "huts," which are sometimes a comfortable building that will hold several thousand, sometimes a tiny shed carefully camouflaged from the eyes of the enemy, and sometimes a dug-out twenty-five feet under ground; but whatever the hut may be, it is always a place where the men are welcome, where they can rest, play games, write letters, read magazines, see moving pictures and minstrel shows, and listen to concerts and phonographs. It opens classes and gets books for those who wish to study or read. It cheers up the man who is blue and discouraged and lonely, arranges talks by bright and interesting lecturers, and good strong religious talks, often by men who know what it is to be under fire. The secretaries of the "Y" are sometimes in as much danger as the men; and when a secretary hands a half-frozen soldier a cup of hot coffee, it may have been made at the risk of the secretary's life.

Often a Y.M.C.A. secretary rather enjoys attempting the impossible, and he usually succeeds. One evening the secretary at one of the cantonments learned that four hundred men were to start on a two-days march the following day. It took quick work, but when the men arrived, in the afternoon, there stood a 40 x 60 foot tent with piano, tables, chairs, couches, graphophones, stationery, games, the daily papers, bats, balls, gloves, etc. [116] Even a telephone had been installed, and souvenir postals from the nearest town were on sale.

The Y.M.C.A. is a Protestant organization, and the Knights of Columbus is a Roman Catholic. Mass is celebrated in the Knights of Columbus building, and is not in the huts, unless a priest borrows one for the purpose; but the work of the two organizations is exactly the same, and one description applies to both. Every man in camp is invited to both buildings at all times, and is just as free to go to one secretary as to the other.

It is estimated that at least 50,000 Jews are in the American army, and to add to their comfort and give them the services of their own faith, the Young Men's Hebrew Association and the order of B'nai B'rith have been most active. In the cantonments the rooms of the Y.M.C.A. are thrown open for the use of the Jewish chaplains; and Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Jews work together in sincere harmony and appreciation of one another's value.

The Red Cross is known wherever there is war or fire or famine or earthquake or any suffering that needs its help. To respect its flag is not only common decency, but it is international law, which forty-three nations have solemnly agreed to observe. To fire upon a Red Cross ship or hospital is an atrocious crime; yet this crime has been committed by the Germans over and over. Of course, in the European war the Red Cross is on hand. Large numbers of the best doctors and nurses have entered its work, and by their skillful treatment have [117] saved thousands of lives. Prisoners worked by Germany until they are feeble and helpless are sent back to France to die; but the Red Cross cares for them and restores them to health if possible.

The Red Cross specializes in emergencies. Nearly 7,000,000 slings, bandages, hammocks, etc., were asked for, and within two weeks they were on their way. One hundred and seventy Americans were rescued from a ship torpedoed on the French coast. A telegram went to Paris, and on the instant a worker started for the spot, telegraphed to Washington the names of the survivors, lent money to those who had lost their own, and saw to it that the injured were well cared for. A more startling summons was received by a Red Cross official in Paris. It said, "750 children have been thrust upon my hands." It is no wonder that it added, "Send help." These were children from a town under bombardment. Gas bombs were used, and as the children were too young to wear gas masks, they had been hurried away. The day after the reception of the telegram, eight Red Cross workers were on hand, and in an amazingly short time the little folk were clean and comfortable and well cared for. Each nation has its own branch of the Red Cross. The Red Cross in France not only cares for the children and the sick, but it sees to it that the families of soldiers do not starve. It teaches young mothers how to care for their babies. It has even established lines of transportation. The railroads had more than they could do, and the Red Cross, without regard to [118] weather or red tape or anything else, set lines of motor trucks to work, and before long was doing its own transporting both promptly and well.

The Omaha Indians of this country have a chapter of the Red Cross, and early in 1918 they held an auction sale for its benefit. After a prayer the bidding began, and it was reckless bidding, for every Indian was ready to open his purse wide to buy chickens, pigs, corn, goats, preserved fruit—no matter what—so long as the money went to help the soldiers. The Indians from the first have been deeply interested in the war. "I have heard of a peaceful people brought low by mighty guns," said an aged chief. He promptly sold a load of corn and sent twenty dollars to the Belgian Minister at Washington, who responded by a note thanking him "not alone for his gift of money, but more particularly for the kindness of an understanding heart." The Indians fully appreciated the need of Liberty Loans and to the first three they subscribed $13,000,000. Who was it that said the only good Indian was a dead Indian?

Since the war began, societies without number have been formed to help the suffering people of Europe. One of the oldest is that of the "American Fund for French Wounded." We have never forgotten that France came to our help in Revolutionary days, when we were struggling—not with the people of England—they were never against us—but with an obstinate and short-sighted sovereign. Moreover, to help France was to keep the enemy [119] from our own shores. So it was that surgical dressings, garments of all needed varieties, and all sorts of hospital supplies went to France from the "French Wounded" by thousands, and did much to strengthen the old friendship between the two countries.

The Society of Friends does not as a whole approve of fighting, but it does approve of helping to build up again. Friends have gone to France, Italy, Russia, wherever there is need, and there is need everywhere. They make an old chateau into a hospital, a former barracks into a children's home, they run a factory for making the most practical sort of artificial limbs and also one to make furniture for the people who are coming back to their ruined homes. They sew and nurse and care for refugees. Every week they send great cases of clothing across the water, and they do not forget to slip in boxes of candy for the little folk. The Friends go to the barren and ragged country where once stood neat little villages and happy homes. They repair the cottages or set up portable ones, and give to the suffering refugees a hope of having once more a home.

The college boys were prompt in looking about to see what they could do for the country in her hour of need. Many enlisted. Some entered aviation, some drove ambulances for the wounded, often a college sent half her students to the army or navy. Others formed companies and were drilled by army officers so as to be ready when their time should [120] come. Soon it was plain that with the Allies depending upon us for food and so many of our men in the army, some one must do farmwork. Thousands of boys from colleges and high schools set to work and helped to raise corn and potatoes and whatever else would help to keep hunger away.

College girls, too, were thinking hard. They knit and sewed and gave their spending money for the soldiers and sailors. War courses in hygiene were promptly arranged. Canning, first aid, food conservation, and care of the sick were soon added to their studies. Several colleges for women sent each an ambulance or more to the field. Many college girls spent their summer vacation doing farmwork—not the kind that is composed of one hour in the field and three in a hammock, but eight hours a day of real work for the season. "I didn't raise my hand to be a blister," said one, looking ruefully at her palm; but evidently she changed her mind, for she and every other girl of her group worked till the end of the summer. In the spring of 1918 Vassar announced that as soon as commencement was over the college buildings and grounds would become a great training camp for college women from twenty-one to thirty-one years of age who wished to become trained nurses. This is the college women's Plattsburg, and just as at Plattsburg men were rapidly and "intensively" trained to become officers, so at this training camp for nurses the summer's work was arranged to count for one year in the three-years course for registered nurses. Before the middle of [121] May five hundred had applied for admission, and a waiting list was begun.

The Salvation Army has from the first been at the front in war work. It has no wealthy members, but during the first year of the war the American branch raised $25,000 for the troops. It has no office hours, and even when the drivers of the supply wagons come in at unearthly times in the morning, biscuits, hot coffee, doughnuts, and sometimes even pies are waiting with a word of cheer and appreciation for every man. "Salvationists go," said Commander Evangeline Booth, "to comfort and encourage in every way possible—with rest rooms, refreshment bars, recreation arrangements; with song, with music, with dispatching and securing messages to and from the boys' homes, with the Bible, with affection, with advice, with teaching, with prayer, and with a glad spirit." A soldier who had lost his way and was creeping cautiously about in the darkness described the joy that he felt when he heard singing,—

"Then we'll roll the old chariot along,

And we won't drag on behind,"—

and realized that he was close to a Salvationist tent. It is the rule for the military salute to be given to men only, but the French troops at Rheims always gave it to two women officers of the Salvation Army who fearlessly remained in town and served them in every possible way. The climax came when the hungry soldiers brought a whole ox for the two women to cook for them over a small gas stove and [122] an oil lamp. It was done within twenty-four hours, and surely women who could accomplish that feat deserved the salute of at least one army.

The Boy Scouts had decided, even before we entered the war, what they could do to help. They carry no guns, but it is not the man with the gun who does all the work of a great war. Not every one realizes that there are about 200,000 on the lists of the Boy Scouts, besides 350,000 young men who have had the valuable Boy Scout training, to say nothing of 50,000 men who have been connected with them as advisers and scout masters. More than half a million of boys and men who have been trained to see and hear exactly, to think quickly, and to know what to do in an emergency, is a valuable asset for any country, whether in war or out of it. In war a Scout can render first aid to the sick or injured. He can send messages by wire, wireless, or wigwagging, he can carry a message promptly and repeat it accurately, and he can get through places where a man cannot. He can work on a farm; he can act as guard of property and give alarm in case of danger. All these things he has often done, and when the United States entered the war, the Boy Scouts was one of the few organizations that were prepared to do their part from the first.

Girl Scouts, too, and Camp-Fire Girls had promised to be loyal, and when war came, they translated their promise of loyalty into service. Their work was not limited to carrying pretty knitting-bags by any means, for they offered themselves [123] promptly to the Red Cross for orders, and the work assigned them was not always agreeable. From Eastport, Maine, to Portland, Oregon, they swept workroom floors and picked oakum. In New York they opened a Red Cross workroom of their own. In Philadelphia they raised by a bazaar $800 for buying knitting yarn. They have learned the best methods of canning, and some of them have been specially trained to teach these things to schools, clubs, and churches. In short, "wherever a girl's size war job has offered itself, these Girls have taken it on." Both they and the Boy Scouts have been excellent solicitors for the Liberty Loans, and both fully deserve to wear a badge on which is written "America first."

The Government, of course, provides for the care of its animals in the war, but many emergencies arise in which a private society can act much more quickly. Therefore, the Secretary of War invited the American Humane Association to aid in this work, and the American Red Star was promptly organized. More than six hundred anti-cruelty societies were eager to help, and even the natives of Alaska are contributing generously and wearing Red Star buttons with the utmost pride and satisfaction. The Red Star, like the Red Cross, "specializes in emergencies," and at times of immediate need officers are free to call for whatever is needed. Their requests have ranged all the way from blankets and bandages to a veterinary hospital, and every one has been promptly filled.

[124] The American Library Association is doing a fine work in providing books for the men in camp and "over there." Not rubbish, of course, but books of value in all lines are in demand. In one camp there are seven hundred college boys. Some colleges give credit for study done in camp, and the boys want up-to-date college textbooks. Many foreigners want simple books for beginners in English. Good novels, interesting histories and biographies, especially on French subjects, are called for. The Association collects money for books, and every public library is a station to which books for the soldiers may be sent.

So it is that every person in the land who has any genuine love for his country is trying to help her. Well-known artists are designing posters and doing rough camouflage work; actors and musicians are using their popularity to gain dollars for the soldiers, and using their talents to entertain them in the camps; men with heavy business cares are neglecting these and devoting their time and ability to the needs of the Government. "My country asks me to help her," may well be the proud slogan of those who help make munitions, or drive nails into ships, or save food from careless waste, or do their bit in any other way. Even little children are helping to win the war; and this is right, for the war is waged expressly for their sake. Every man in the trenches of the Allies is fighting for them. "You must always remember," one brave soldier wrote home to his boys and girls, "that your father came into this [125] great war for the sake of all little children. The grown folk will not stay here many years longer, and it would not have been difficult for them to make some sort of peace that would endure for a time. They are not struggling for themselves, but to make the world safe for their children and the children of those children. "The glory of the Present is to make the Future Free"—and this is why we are in the war.

There is only one thing worse than war, and that is to stand one side when we ought to be fighting. We have not taken up arms for revenge, or to gain land or wealth or power. We have entered this war to make sure that right rather than might shall rule. It is a struggle between truth and falsehood, between mercy and cruelty, between freedom and slavery. It is a struggle that we have got to win.

"For right is right, since God is God;

And right the day must win;

To doubt would be disloyalty,

To falter would be sin."


[Illustration]

ONE OF OUR MOST POWERFUL BATTLESHIPS.

Of our navy, Secretary Daniels writes: "Never did a nation have more right to be proud of its navy than America has now. Never were fighting ships manned by men of such skill and valor as our fleet to-day." The British Admirality are generous in their praise of teh effective service already rendered by our forces under Admiral Sims.

[Illustration]

A PART OF ONE OF OUR GREAT ARMY TRAINING CAMPS.

Each of these camps is a city complete in itself, with lodging and mess quarters, baths, kitchens, bakeries, water-supply adn drainage systems, hospitals, roads, railways, etc. After a tour of inspection, Former President Taft wrote an enthusiastic report upon the health and morale of the men in training. "They are," he said, "the finest material for the making of an army ever seen in any country."

 Table of Contents  |  Index  | Previous: The Crumbling of Russia  |  Next: Postscript: The End of the War
Copyright (c) 2000-2017 Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.