"The Commission’s aim to surround the men in service with an environment which is not only clean and wholesome but positively inspiring – the kind of environment which a democracy owes to those who fight on its behalf."
- Raymond B. Fosdick, Commission on Training Camp Activities
After the successful interventions at Camp Gordon, the Camp Gordon Plan spread across training camps within the United States. This allowed camp officials to produce soldiers in a “rapid, efficient, and systematic manner.” However, military leaders quickly realized that the same problems that “plagued civilian Progressives” were now an issue within military camps. These social problems – “alcohol, prostitution, gambling, and poor health conditions” – resulted in poor, inefficient troops. To combat these issues, the War Department sought to prevent “inefficiency in [the] fighting forces endangered by drunkenness and disease” and other undesirable habits that plagued both Progressive era reformers and military official alike.
COMMISSION ON TRAINING CAMP ACTIVITIES
- When the United States first entered the Great War, Secretary of War Newton D. Baker created the Commission on Training Camp Activities (CTCA) to “cultivat[e] and conserve[e] the manhood and manpower of America’s fighting forces.” Baker appointed Raymond Fosdick, a former New York commissioner of accounts, to lead this new agency.
- To accomplish the goals of the CTCA, they were responsible to provide a “clean and wholesome” environment to promote the growth of America’s fighting forces. The CTCA adopted and deployed similar uplifting methods on both native-born and immigrant soldiers; however, the immigrant soldiers received additional education classes in English, civics, and citizenship. (1)
- Typically, soldiers engaged in a sixteen-week (forty hours per week) training program in camps across the United States. Soldiers received training in a wide variety of skills such as “combat, discipline, packing and tent pitching, close order drill, trench and open warfare, fire control, signaling, anti-gas protection, bombing (hand-grenade throwing), target shooting,” and any other skills needed to be an effective soldier. During their spare time, soldiers engaged in additional training such as “trench construction, scouting, patrolling, and night relief for troops in the trenches.” Beyond military training, the War Department allocated resources in order to drill soldiers in “proper moral behavior.” (2)
- To raise the moral of men, the War Department’s Commission on Training Camp Activities created several divisions including “Social Hygiene, Law Enforcement, Athletics, Music, Theaters, Education, and Publicity.” The CTCA sponsored a wide variety of organizations such as the “Young Men’s and Young Women’s Christian Association, American Social Hygiene Association, Playground Recreation Association, American Library Association, Knights of Columbus, and the Jewish Welfare Board.” These organizations joined forces to provide critical information to soldiers concerning “social diseases” and to offer alternative forms of entertainment to stray soldiers away from vice, alcohol, and gambling. (3)
- Venereal diseases (VD) represented a major problem for not just the American army, but throughout many of the armies within the Central Powers. For example, the American Expeditionary Forces, while docked at St. Nazaiare, France in October 1917, spiked the typical “forty per thousand” cases of VD to a staggering “two hundred per thousand” cases. One British division claimed that it had lost 25% of their fighting forces through VD. Soldiers who contracted these diseases were required to be hospitalized for approximately two months, which resulted in a decline in the effectiveness of fighting forces. (4)
- Changing the sexual behavior of soldiers proved to be extremely difficult, especially considering that officers still believed in the outdated notion that sexual activities were necessary for their men to stay in high fighting spirits. This notion could be heard in contemporary voices of the time: “Men would be men. ‘Sissies’ were no use on the firing line. Soldiers must have women. They made poor soldiers if they did not have women.”
- To change the beliefs of the officers and the rank-and-file soldiers, reformers attempted to reeducate both groups to the new moral standards. The reformers strived to educate soldiers on the new morale standards, remove temptations, and offer wholesome, safer alternatives to prostitution. (5)
UPLIFTING AND SOCIALIZING SOLDIERS
- CTCA designated specific organizations to certain socialization roles among training camps which included law enforcement representatives, social hygiene representatives, athletic directors, theater managers, and so forth. For example, law enforcement was designated to protect soldiers “from the evils of prostitution and alcoholism” while song leaders and dance managers provided “choirs, sing-alongs, bands, and plays as alternatives to negative temptations.” (6)
- Ultimately, each group was assigned to instill a new moral ethic while providing wholesome forms of entertainment to allow soldiers to avoid prior forms of entertainment such as drinking, gambling, and sex.
- Baker and Fosdick recruited the American Social Hygiene Association (ASHA) to assist the CTCA with the programs aimed to raise the morale of soldiers. ASHA, like many of the Progressive organizations, attempted to raise the moral of citizens and soldiers alike through the “interests, activities, and organized volition of youth, that [would] put the brothel out of business through lack of patronage.” (7)
- In the civilian world, ASHA provided recreational opportunities, educational publications, and promoted prohibition and antiprostitution. These ideals aligned perfectly with the new moral standards of the military, so the same tactics were deployed in training camps across the United States. ASHA used movies, exhibits, pamphlets, and lectures to inform soldiers concerning the prevention of venereal diseases.
- CTCA’s division of Law Enforcement, headed by Bascon Johnson, was given the task of “protecting the men in all branches of the service.” The Law Enforcement Division included the Bureau of Vice and Liquor Control, the Section on Women and Girls Work, and the Section on Reformatories. (8) The Law Enforcement Division patrolled areas considered to produce vice such as dance halls, parks, and amusement centers.
- Interestingly, Fosdick claimed that due to the Social Hygiene Division and local police forces, “every red-light district in the United States had [eventually] been closed,” although there is no proof of this claim. Fosdick argued that each and every soldier should return home after the war a “better men than when he left it.” (9)
- The Section on Women and Girls’ Work attempted to reform prostitutes. Instead of arguing for stricter punishment of these women, the section attempted to persuade local communities that surrounded training camps to “rehabilitate delinquent women.”
- They also pressured local courts to sentence these delinquent women to “suitable institutions” for rehabilitation if convicted in a court of law. According to Dr. Ford, Fosdick was highly concerned with “baby vamps,” girls between the ages of eleven and eighteen who suffered from “uniformities.” (10)
- Fosdick and his staff at the CTCA considered their interventions a complete success. In a report to Frederick P. Keppel, Fosdick boasted that the “venereal rate was low, cases of intoxicated soldiers in the camps were ‘exceedingly small,’ and almost no instances of ‘drunkenness or rowdyism’ occurred in the camp welfare clubs.” (11)
- Beyond cleaning up the vices within the training camps, the CTCA offered a wide variety of alternative “positive” recreational activities with the intention of keeping soldiers away from their traditional vices such as gambling, drinking, and sex.
- CTCA staff attempted to occupy the soldiers with activities such as “exercise, sports, books, and singing.” (12) The War Camp Community Service (a branch of the Playground and Recreation Association of America) was designated to create and implement social, recreational, and athletic activities within the training camps.
- By March 1919, the WCCS installed their programs within 615 towns and cities across the United States. They also created 342 clubs for armed forces personnel which included “kitchens, cafeterias, canteens, dormitories, shower baths, reading rooms, pianos, Victrola’s, billiard and pool tables, and cigar and candy stands.” The WCCS claimed that their clubs and activities represented a complete success due to the belief that their clubs represented the focal point of a soldier’s social life. (13)
- The Commission on Training Camp Activities also requested help from the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). The YMCA was founded upon the belief that urban areas represented the opportunity for young men to lead wicked lives due to the lack of supervision from their family and neighbors. (14)
- The YMCA attempted to create traditional rural home life for the soldiers through the incorporation of “athletic, entertainment, social, educational, and religious” programs in the training camps. (15)
- Recreational and social facilities were constructed in order to provide these accommodations to the soldiers, free of charge. Huts were created which distributed “pianos, motion picture machines, phonographs, stationery, and reading materials.” The YMCA also organized a wide variety of activities such as concerts and lectures. (16)
- The CTCA also requested help from the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), the counterpart of the YMCA. The YWCA also attempted to protect women from the wickedness of urban environments.
- The YWCA offered “inexpensive rooms, religious services, Bible studies, educational classes, and recreational programs” in an attempt to protect women from immoralities of the urban cities. (17)
- In training camps and communities across the United States, the YWCA attempted to instill a system of “moral standards” to women and girls while also guiding them about their responsibilities and influences during wartime. The ultimate goal of the YWCA was to recondition these women into a “happier, better and more well-rounded patriotic citizen.”
- One of the main priorities of the YWCA was to prevent women from inappropriate mingling with soldiers stationed at the training camps. (18) To educate girls and women to possess the new moral standards associated with the YWCA, the Social Morality Bureau within the YWCA attempted to use education as a means to inform these women about immoralities and safer alternatives.
- The bureau eventually progressed to an official agency of the federal government with oversight provided by Dr. Katharine B. David. David argued that the greatest service women could contribute to the war effort was through education of themselves and to the general public concerning issues of vice and disease.
- David claimed that soldiers “who brave[d] the dangers of bullets in the trenches” would face equally great dangers when returning to their communities filled with vices and diseases throughout the country. The YWCA constructed huts that provided soldiers the opportunities to visit their mothers, wives, or sweethearts in a “respectable homelike atmosphere” maintained by professional trained YWCA staff. (19)
UPLIFTING AND SOCIALIZING FOREIGN-BORN SOLDIERS
- Foreign-born soldiers received equal opportunities for the socialization programs that were integrated into training camps. In fact, the CTCA made additional accommodations for these soldiers, such as the addition of the Knights of Columbus and the Jewish Welfare Board which provided the spiritual and religious needs of non-Protestant soldiers.
- CTCA worked with a variety of organizations such as the Foreign-speaking Soldier Subsection, Progressive social welfare organizations, and ethnic community leaders with the ultimate goal of socializing foreign-born soldiers. These organizations translated almost all the socialization material into a wide variety of languages so that all of the foreign-born soldiers could obtain the same socialization experience in their native language.
- Socializing these soldiers served a twofold purpose. First, these organizations dedicated themselves to promote the fair and equal treatment of foreign-born soldiers. This allowed these soldiers to receive equal treatment while retaining their individual identities and cultures. Second, these organizations also instilled socialization with roots in American pride and culture. Essentially, these organizations and individuals acted as “agents of change” for foreign-born soldiers which allowed soldiers to retain their native culture while integration the dominant American culture into their livelihoods. (20)
- The same organizations also provided educational resources concerning proper social-hygiene moral behavior. One of the more prominent publications produced and distributed by the American Social Hygiene Association was the pamphlet Keeping Fit to Fight.
- The pamphlet made it painfully clear that a soldier who contracted a venereal disease who needed to spend time in the hospital disgraced both his family and the United States government. The pamphlet also warned soldiers about the immorality of prostitutes that possessed and contracted both gonorrhea and syphilis:
"Women who solicit soldiers for immoral purposes are usually diseased spreaders and friends of the enemy. No matter how thirsty or hungry you were, you wouldn’t eat or drink anything that you knew in advance would weaken your vitality, poison your blood, cripple your limbs, rot your flesh, blind you and destroy your brain. Then why take the same chance with a prostitute?" (21)
- Keeping Fit to Fight also challenged the traditional view that a soldier had to remain sexually active in order to remain content by calling this notion a blatant “lie.” The pamphlet also mentioned that men should not any type of sex (including masturbation) and should rather focus that energy towards athletics.
- Local ethnic community leaders translated the pamphlet into various languages including Polish, Russian, Italian, Bohemian, Hungarian, and Spanish in order to educate the foreign-born soldiers concerning the risks of venereal diseases. (22)
- A film version of Keeping Fit to Fight came into existence with the same goal of promoting social and hygienic behavior amongst the troops. Originally, an English-language version was shown to both the native-born and foreign-born troops within the training camps.
- However, due to the language barrier faced by the foreign-born troops, many of the soldiers failed to grasp the anti-venereal disease message and instead referred to the film as a “smutty exhibition.” Because of these language barriers, the film had the “opposite effect of that intended.” (23)
- The FSS quickly scrambled and dispatched bilingual officers to translate the film to foreign-born troops. In future film viewings, the movie would be stopped periodically which allowed officers to translate and elaborate on the film. (24)
- The CTCA with the help of organizations and community leaders translated and distributed other important pamphlets as well. One pamphlet, The Girl You Leave Behind You explained to the troops that their contribution to the war effort helped defend European women from being “raped and ravished” by the Huns.
- The pamphlet also encouraged the men to keep their “bodies clean” and their “hearts pure” by avoiding prostitutes:
"It would never do for the avengers of women’s wrongs to profit by the degradation and debasement of womanhood…[E]very hardened prostitute who offers herself to you was a young girl once till some man ruined her...If you accept her, you are shaming all girlhood." (25)
- Another pamphlet, Sexual Hygiene for Young Men, attempted to diminish “vice, venereal disease and those conditions that make vice possible” across training camps within the United States. This pamphlet was translated and distributed in a wide variety of languages from the Illinois Vigilance Association. (26)
- Despite the efforts of the FSS, organizations, and local ethnic community leaders, they still faced a wide variety of issues concerning foreign-born soldiers that needed to be addressed. For example, Captain Perkins complained to the FSS concerning the social welfare huts.
- Although these huts were open to all soldiers, both native-born and foreign-born, Perkins believed that these huts lacked enough reading material available to foreign-born soldiers. Perkins requested that the YMCA huts provided a wide variety of literature such as newspapers, books, and magazine in a wide variety of languages to accommodate to as many soldiers as possible.
- In response to this request, the YMCA announced that they would provide a “foreign-speaking secretary” within each hut to accommodate to the needs of these soldiers. The YMCA introduced these secretarial positions in the following camps: Devens, Upton, Meade, Gordon, Sherman, Grant, Custer, and Lewis (these camps possessed the largest number of foreign-born soldiers). (27)
- Camp commanders also had to consider the various religious needs required by many soldiers throughout their respective camps. Multiple religious organizations flocked into the training camps to fulfill these important positions. The Knight of Columbus attempted to provide accommodative service to the Roman Catholic soldiers within training camps.
- The Knights provided meeting halls filled with “training stations…pianos, moving pictures, athletic equipment, reading materials…and other entertainment-related items.” (28) Although these meeting halls were opened to all soldiers regardless of religious identity, the meeting halls also served as a recreational area to hold Catholic religious services. By September 1917, forty-eight buildings in twenty-four training camps had been constructed across the United States. When American troops began migrating overseas, the Knights of Columbus followed them by establishing nearly 150 clubs throughout Europe. (29)
- The Jewish Welfare Board (JWB) was another important organization that assisted the FSS in providing religious services to ethnic soldiers within training camps across the country.
- The JWB formed through the combination of twenty-two Jewish organizations with the ultimate goal of “serving the religious and morale needs of Jewish service personnel in the Armed Forces.” To accomplish this goal, the JWB constructed sixteen buildings within the larger training camps to provide services to the Jewish troops.
- The employees of the JWB distributed periodicals, newspapers, and religious publications translated in native languages. They also provided entertainment items such as games, books, and other activities, regardless of a soldier’s religious background. (30)
- Along with the socialization of foreign-born and native-born troops, military officials also engaged in efforts to Americanize foreign-born soldiers. Their primary median of Americanizing troops was through the use of education: classes in English language, civics, and citizenship. (31)
- The War Department quickly realized that knowledge of the English language served as a crucial element for foreign-born soldiers for the purposes of communicating. As noted earlier in the “Camp Gordon Plan” section, the language barriers between foreign-born and native-born soldiers represented the focal point in the creation of the Camp Gordon Plan.
- To teach the English language, the War Department relied on a wide variety of resources: “the Bureau of Education, the YMCA, the Jewish Welfare Board, national education organizations, universities, bilingual soldiers, and native-born and foreign-born civilian volunteer instructors” to teach the English language to foreign-born soldiers. Soldiers would participate in three hours of English classes per day which lasted for approximately four months or less. (32)
- The War Department created and distributed a “vocabulary and phrase book” entitled Topics for Instruction in Enlisted Men Schools based on teaching methodology provided by Captain Emery Bryan, an intelligence officer at Camp Upton, New York. The National War Work Council of the YMCA also distributed English language learning material such as the Spelling Book for Soldiers.
- The YWCA’s National War Work Council suggested using Dr. Peter Robert’s English Reader for the more proficiently advanced English language learning soldier. The War Department explicitly instructed teachers “to impress upon immigrant soldiers in development battalions that they were not ‘segregated for any fault, but only to give them a deserved opportunity.’” (33)
The War Department enlisted the help of thousands of social welfare workers during World War I to provide a large variety of accommodations to a widening variety of foreign-born and native-born soldiers within the armed forces. The ideologies that characterized the Progressive era strived against: prostitution, alcoholism, social diseases, and poor sanity conditions in major cities infiltrated training camps across the United States during World War I. While attempting to remove these problems from training camps, the military also attempted to socialize and Americanize native-born and foreign-born soldiers to the new level of societal standards. However, ethnic organizations and community leaders attempted to preserve their individualistic cultures while allowing foreign-born soldiers to adopt their new American culture as well. This allowed for foreign-born and native-born citizens to retain their individual cultures while integrating the American culture into their lives to create their own blended cultures.