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Section III, Chapter VI

Contents

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SECTION III.

CHAPTER VI.

COMMISSION ON TRAINING CAMP ACTIVITIES.

The following account of the activities of the Commission on Training Camp Activities is based upon an historical sketch submitted by the Education and Recreation Branch, War Plans Division, General Staff. 1

The Commission on Training Camp Activities was appointed by the Secretary of War within a week after the declaration of war by Congress in April,1917. Its purpose, as defined by the Secretary, was not only to work into a comprehensive plan of recreation such private agencies as might legitimately seek to carry on their activities with the troops, but also to establish on its own initiative such recreational and educational activities as might tend to assist the moraleof the troops.

The idea of a commission of this kind originated in Secretary Baker's mind as a result of an investigation made in the summer of 1916 when the American forces were mobilized on the Mexican border. Secretary Baker initiated this study primarily to determine whether our troops were being unnecessarily exposed to the demoralizing influences which are habitually associated with armies and training camps. The report on this situation, which was made to the Secretary August 10, 1916, showed that conditions surrounding our men on the border called for radical changes, and in an attempt to meet the problem by setting up competitive forces to occupy the leisure time of the soldier the idea of the Commission on Training Camp Activities was evolved.

The private agencies which it thus became one of the commission's functions to organize into a single comprehensive plan of Army recreation were the following: Young Men's Christian Association, Knights of Columbus, Jewish Welfare Board, American Library Association, Salvation Army, War Camp Community Service, and Young Women's Christian Association.

YOUNG MEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION.

The first organization which made application to work with the troops was the Young Men's Christian Association, and on April 26, 1917, on the indorsement of the commission, the President issued the following Executive order:

The Young Men's Christian Association has in the present emergency, as under similar circumstances in the past, tendered its services for the benefit of enlisted men in both arms of the service. This organization is prepared by experience, approved methods, and assured resources to serve especially the troops in camp and field. It seems best for the interests of the service that it shall continue as a voluntary civilian organization; however, the results obtained are so benefi- cial and bear such a direct relation to efficiency, inasmuch as the association provision contributes to the happiness, content, and morale of the personnel, that in order to unify the civilian betterment activities in the Army and further the work of the organization that has demonstrated its ability to render a service desired by both officers and men, official recognition is hereby given the Young Men's Christian Association as a valuable adjunct and asset to the service. Officers are enjoined to render the fullest practicable assistance and cooperation in the maintenance and extension of the association.


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KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS.

In May, 1917, an application to work with the troops was received from the Knights of Columbus, backed by many prominent Catholics in the United States. The commission felt a natural hesitancy at any unnecessary multiplication of organizations. Inasmuch, however, as active membership in the governing bodies of the Young Men's Christian Association was limited under its constitution, the commission felt that an organization representing the Catholic Church should in justice be allowed to work in the camps. The Knights of Columbus, therefore, was admitted not as a fraternity but as sustaining the same relationship to Catholicism as the Young Men's Christian Association sustained to Protestantism. In 1918, upon the formation of the National Catholic War Council, whose scope was broader than that of the Knights of Columbus, the former became the official representative of the Catholic Church, and the relations of the War Department with the Knights of Columbus and other Catholic organizations were henceforth through the National Catholic War Council.

JEWISH WELFARE BOARD.

On August 16, 1917, the Jewish Welfare Board made application for the right to represent the Jewish faith in recreational work with the troops. The same arguments that served to admit the Knights of Columbus were applicable in this case, and the board was recognized as an agency for coordinating all the Jewish work, which up to that time had been attempted by two or three Jewish bodies.

THREE BRANCHES OF FAITH REPRESENTED.

In consequence of these decisions, the three great branches of faith in America were recognized for recreational service with the troops. Although the lines of demarcation were necessarily rough, the results were fairly satisfactory to the churches. Until the National Catholic War Council was formed, the recognition of the Knights of Columbus as an agency representing the Catholic Church caused some misunderstanding with other fraternal organizations, and in January, 1918, as a result of a conference between the Secretary of War, the chairman of the Commission on Training Camp Activities, and representatives of all the large fraternal orders in the United States the following general order was promulgated by the War Department:

Fraternal and benevolent societies of recognized and well-established character, either independently or associated together under rules prescribed by the Secretary of War, and to the

extent that available ground can be had or available space in buildings already erected can be spared for the purpose, may erect, establish, or occupy buildings or such space in buildings already erected for fraternal and social work and service among the members of such societies in the camps and cantonments of the United States, after first obtaining permission from the officer in command.

No secret meetings shall be allowed, nor shall any secret, fraternal, or benevolent society conduct any secret work in said camps or cantonments under the authority of this order.

WAR CAMP COMMUNITY SERVICE.

Another society interested in the welfare of the troops was the War Camp Community Service, formed by the Playground and Recreation Association of America in April, 1917, and officially recognized shortly thereafter. This agency undertook to organize social and recreational life in communities near


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training areas in order that soldiers on leave from camp might be supplied with wholesale companionship and entertainment.

YOUNG WOMEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION.

Shortly after the war broke out the Young Women's Christain Association applied for permission to erect hostess houses in or near the camps to serve as meeting places between the soldiers and their women friends and relatives. The application was granted, and the matter, which proceeded at first as an experiment, soon became a nation-wide enterprise.

AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION.

In June, 1917, the American Library Association was asked by the commission to provide library facilities in the 32 cantonments and National Guard training camps which were soon to be opened. This involved not only supplying the books and personnel necessary, but the erection of suitable library buildings in the camps. Later on the Library Association undertook to supply books and other reading matter to soldiers abroad, no matter where their station.

SALVATION ARMY.

The Salvation Army was recognized by the American Expeditionary Forces before it received recognition by the Commission on Training Camp Activities. The organization had carried on its activities with the British Expeditionary Forces in France and in England, and its work in the American Army.

INDEPENDENT ACTIVITIES OF THE COMMISSION.

In addition to correlating the work of the various agencies, the commission initiated certain activities of its own. These were carried on by different divisions of the commission, into which the latter was organized for administrative purposes. This is to say, there was a division to provide athletics for the camps, one to initiate mass singing and other musical activities, one for dramatic activities, a division in charge of the social hygiene program, and one to supervise law enforcement.

In 1919 the activities which had been under the direction of the Com-mission on Training Camp Activities were transferred to the War Plans Division, General Staff, by General Orders, No. 109, War Department:

By direction of the Secretary of War, the direct control and supervision of all matters pertaining to the education and recreation of the soldier is vested in the director, War Plans Division, General Staff, who will have associated with him a board of civilian educators to advise him on the development of educational policies within the Army. He will provide for a proper system of inspection to insure uniformity in this training.

Commanding officers will assume full responsibility for the contentment and well-being of the soldiers, and be prepared to maintain, as far as practicable, the work now being carried on by the several civilian welfare agencies within their commands.

All functions of the Commission on Training Camp Activities and the Committee on Education and Special Training are hereby transferred to the War Plans Division, General Staff.  

At the same time the War Department addressed to each of the welfare organizations a letter announcing this future policy and expressing profound appreciation for the services rendered by them during the war.


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Two organizations, namely, the Y. M. C. A. and the Knights of Columbus, were asked to continue their work with the troops in France, Germany, Siberia, the Panama Canal Zone, the Hawaiian Islands, the Philippine Islands, and Alaska "for a further period of three or four months, or until such a time as the Army is in a position to undertake the responsibility."

The War Plans Division of the General Staff established within itself an Education and Recreation Branch, having three sections: (1) General and vocational education: (2) camp activities, including service clubs, post exchanges, athletics, music, entertainment and theaters, libraries, and community cooperation; (3) moral training.

REFERENCES.

History of the Commission on Training Camp Activities, April, 1917, to September, 1919, prepared by the War Plans Division, General Staff. (Copy on file, Historical Division, S. G. O.)