Answering the Call: WWI Military Recruitment in Clark County, Ohio (part 1)

by Sherri Goudy

When President Wilson declared war against Germany in April 1917, neither he nor the country realized the full ramifications of his decree.   The war had been going on “over there” for 3 years, and although some men had volunteered to help the allies by serving in foreign military legions, what did America’s entry into the war really mean for our own military?

Photo 1 April 3 1917 front Plan for Army

At the time, the US military was not prepared to fight on US soil or abroad.  The US Army numbered only 127,000 and there were 86,000 in the national guard.  As many as half of these soldiers lacked the training, experience, and physical stamina which would prepare them for the trenches. When war was declared, the War Department asked for $3 billion (an amount previously unheard of!) to build training camps, and to purchase rifles, artillery, and airplanes.

To combat the lack of men in the US military, the debate between raising an army using only volunteers or initiating a draft began.

Photo 2 April 20 1917 pg 23 How America will Recruit

The idea of conscription had been envisioned as early as December 1916.  It had been brought to Wilson’s attention in February 1917, as the threat of war loomed and the realization that the numbers in the federal army, navy, and national guard were too few.

Photo 3 February 9, 1917 Navy wants 25,000

Photo 4 April 15 1917 Land and Sea Forces Enlarged

The President at first wanted to utilize only volunteer enlistment to supply troops.  After the declaration, Wilson asked for an immediate increase of 1 million men to volunteer for service immediately, with 2 million required within 2 years.

Photo 5 April 5, 1917 Army of 2 million men

Another issue, was that the US government was not clear on if troops would have to go “over there.”  They were prepared to make a declaration of war against Germany and to defend the United States, but it seemed as if they were not ready to actually send troops to aid the horrific fighting already happening in France.  One historian, Thomas Fleming wrote about “the almost incredible naivete that underlay the US decision to declare war on Germany.”  He also recounts that the Senate Majority leader Thomas S. Martin was shocked that the US may have to have an army in France, exclaiming “Good Lord! You’re not going to send soldiers over there, are you?”

On April 5, 1917, the Springfield Daily News printed an article about this very topic.  The article speculated that within 6 months, American troops would be sending “a considerable fighting force.”

Photo 6 April 5 1917 pg 7 American Soliders Expected in Trenches

As the months went on article after article appeared in the Springfield paper, calling for troops and notifying residents about enlistment opportunities.

Photo 7 April 12 1917 front Call for volunteers

Photo 8 April 14 1917 front Enlistment to start Monday

The newspaper printed names and stories about some of the men who were volunteering to enlist daily. Even retired Army General J. Warren Keifer, age 81 and having the experience of both the Civil War and the Spanish American War volunteered his services.

Photo 9 April 27 1917 pg 23 Keifer tenders service

The impossible task of raising an army using only volunteers led to the dauntless task for Wilson to push a Conscription bill through congress.

Photo 10 April 18 1917 front Wilson push bill part 1

Photo 11 April 18 1917 pg 8 Wilson push bill part 2

Next time, we will continue exploring military service during WWI and delve into the draft and the Selective Service Act of 1917.

Leave us a comment and let us know what you think.  We want your feedback!


Food Rationing in Wartime America: How Clark County Helped Feed the War (Part 2)

by Sherri Goudy

By mid-May, there was a patriotic battle cry being spread across the country to “feed the world.” In Clark County and neighboring areas in Ohio, they referred to themselves as “Soldiers of the Soil” and they united to increase food production, even going so far as to plan a “more daylight” proposition, which was later denied due to conflicts with state law.

Photo 16 May 13 1917 US Feed the World

In early July, the front page of the Springfield Sunday News boasted the success of the crops by the “Home Guard.”

Photo 17 July 1 1917 Photos of gardens

Even as the successful growth of crops across Springfield, reminders continued to flood the daily news about ways to continue economizing “for the sake of your country.”  Many of these ads and articles were directed at women. The image of Uncle Sam provided weekly specials offered to help the housewife shop frugally.

Photo 18 July 13 1917 Ad I want you to keep economizing

Women were also asked to help with canning efforts, and this article from July 22, 1917 asks women to remember soldiers and donate part of their canned goods to the Red Cross.

Photo 19 July 22 1917 Housewivs canning remember the soldiers

And although a seemingly dauntless task, women were asked to consider “wheatless days” twice weekly to help with conservation efforts.

Photo 20 August 5 1917 Wheatless day recommended by health experts

By early August, food conservation was an issue asked of all citizens regardless of sex, age, or class.  In order to properly manage the wartime efforts to conserve, distribute, and transport food the US Food Administration was established on August 10, 1917.   Headed by future President Herbert Hoover, the programs established relied heavily on American’s compassion and sense of patriotism to support the war effort. The Springfield News created a section of the newspaper called “Winning the War at Home” dedicated to articles related to the efforts to conserve food.

Photo 21 August 26 1917 Us Food Admin

This particular article gives tips from the newly formed administration, as well as providing information about how each woman in the Us could become a member of the administration to assist in the efforts.

Photo 22 August 26 1917 US Food Admin bottom

Another article from “Winning the War at Home” dated September 23, 1917 shows a huge mountain of wheat to be shipped to Europe.  The headline reads “A Slice a Day Did This.”

Photo 23 September 23 1917 Winning the War A Slice A Day did this and other headlines

Ads encouraged citizens to eat more fish and oysters and save meat,

Photo 24 September 20 1917 Ad Eat Fish and Oysters

and markets provided incentives such as prizes and daily demonstrations to encourage sales during “pure food economy week.”

Photo 25 September 23 1917 Ad full page Myers Market pure food economy

By October, Springfield had formed a Food Conservation Campaign Committee and was planning to go home to home to provide educational opportunities to families.

Photo 26 October 14 1917 Food Conservation Committee

Citizens were also asked to sign pledge cards, as this political cartoon shows.

Photo 27 October 28 1917 Sign a card, help tighten belt

By November 1, 1917 more than 2,300 pledge cards had been signed because of the 400 workers in the Food Conservation Campaign.

Photo 28 November 1 1917 Clark Co Makes record in food drive

Food rationing, gardening efforts, and substitution of former staples in meal planning were difficult for families, but the efforts of local newspapers, advertising and posters, and the formation of local food boards made things a little easier.  As a result of these conservation efforts, food shipments to Europe were doubled within a year.  Springfield and Clark County played a vital role in those endeavors.

In our next blog, we will focus on how the men of Clark County became soldiers during WWI, by volunteering for service and the draft.  As always, we welcome your feedback!  Please leave a comment and let us know what you think.