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Page:Collier's New Encyclopedia v. 10.djvu/136

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UNITED STATES

108

UNITED STATES

tion, it was declared that they could never sustain the onset of German veterans.

Although there had been much complaint of the country's unpreparedness for war, prior to the declaration, there was no legitimate ground for criticism of the energy and resolution with which all departments of the Government began to function, immediately after the state of war became a fact. The instant the news was flashed from Washington, port officials everywhere, accompanied by detachments of Federal troops, seized all German ships that were lying in American Harbors. There were 91 of these in all. With the exception of a German gunboat at Manila, that was blown up by its officers, all were taken possession of without serious incident. The crews were interned at stations on shore, and Government machinists were put at work repairing the damaged machinery of the vessels.

The radio system throughout the United States was also taken under Government control. Every wireless station, not only on this continent, but also in all our island possessions, was seized on April 6, in conformity with the order of President Wilson. Those that might be useful were retained in operation, but others were dismantled and suppressed. All amateur wireless plants were forbidden to function.

Barred zones were established about the entire coast line of the United States, varying in width from two to ten miles. Vessels were forbidden to enter ports at night, and their ingress and egress in the daytime were conformed to strict rules that were enforced by an extensive coast patrol.

Hand in hand with these defensive measures, went energetic preparation for offense. Even prior to the declaration of war, orders had been issued March 25-26, for the mobilization of 37 units—regiments and battalions—of the National Guard, for the purpose ostensibly of policing threatened points but really to get ready for war. The 22,000 men who had been on border duty near Mexico, though they were due to be mustered out, were retained in the service. By April 1, more than 60,000 of the entire National Guard of 150,000 men were under arms, and the mobilization had outrun the equipment that was ready for them.

In the Navy, also, work was rushed with all possible speed. An executive order was issued, March 26, increasing the enlisted naval strength to 87,000 men. Ensigns were rushed from Annapolis three months before graduation. The marine corps was increased to 17,000 men. Retired officers were called back for bureau work, so that younger men might be released for active service. By June 6, American warships had arrived off the coast of France. Naval bases were established on both the French and English coasts as stations for American destroyers, co-operating with the Allied navies against German submarines. In addition, over 200 merchantmen had been provided with guns and crews to work them before the end of August.

Army work was necessarily slower, because of the magnitude of the demands of this arm of the service. The regular army had been recruited to its full authorized strength of 300,000 men by August 9. By August 5, the National Guard regiments had also swelled to their full strength of 300,000 men. The aggregate fighting strength of the two bodies was 650,000 men, many of whom had been well drilled, but most of whom had seen no actual fighting. And much of what these knew had to be promptly unlearned, in order to conform to the new tactics and strategy developed by the war.

By this time, the conviction had dawned upon the nation and its leaders that military operations must be participated in by American troops on a vastly greater scale than had been anticipated at the beginning. At first it had been thought possible to increase the armies to the required size by voluntary enlistments. But it soon became evident that other methods must be adopted, if America's intervention was to be prompt and effective.

Conscription had an unpleasant sound to American ears, but its necessity be- came so apparent that the Selective Draft Act, when it was approved on May 18, met with general approbation. The first application of the act resulted in the registration of over 9,500,000 young men on June 5, and the subsequent calling into service from this number of 687,000 on July 20. So energetically was the work carried on that by the end of August the men were streaming into the cantonments and army posts that had been selected as training grounds. Thirty-two great cantonments in various parts of the country were planned and built in record time, and great numbers of officers were being trained at Plattsburg and similar camps established for that purpose.

The legislative branch of the government made movements on so great a scale possible by liberal appropriations. Partisanship was laid aside, and both