U.S. Army Medical Department, Office of Medical History
Skip Navigation, go to content







AMEDD MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS External Link, Opens in New Window






Section II, Chapter XV






Influenced by their opinion of the possibility of substantially increasing the efficiency of our armed forces during the war through the application of mental measurements to the practical problems of classification and placement, American psychologists promptly organized a committee to prepare methods of testing the intelligence of the soldier.1 This particular committee (there were several other committees engaged in the study of psychological aspects of military problems) was enabled to proceed with its work because of the support of the American Psychological Association, the Committee on Provision for the Feeble-Minded, Philadelphia, the training school at Vineland, N. J., the National Committee for Mental Hygiene, and the National Research Council.

For several weeks during the summer of 1917 the group of seven men constituting the committee worked continuously on the development of methods suitable for the examination of men in large groups. In July tentative methods were ready for trial. In August they were tried out unofficially in the Army and Navy, with the cooperation of commanding officers.2 On the basis of favorable results obtained in this preliminary trial, the methods were recommended to the Surgeon General of the Army for practical use. 3 They were accepted promptly for official trial, and the chairman of the committee which had prepared them was commissioned in the Sanitary Corps and assigned to the duty of organizing the service of psychological examining for the immediate purpose of demonstrating what significance it might have for the Army.4

The aims to be achieved by the practical use of mental measurement were thus originally stated for the information of the Surgeon General:

Whereas the Council of the American Psychological Association is convinced that, in the present emergency, American psychologists can substantially serve the Government under the Medical Corps of the Army and Navy by examining recruits with respect especially to intellectual deficiency, psychopathic tendencies, nervous instability, and inadequate self-control, it has voted to present to the proper military authorities the following plan and suggestions for psychological service.

This is not intended as a reflection on the work of the military medical examiner, but instead as an offer of special professional aid in a time of unusual strain, pressure, and haste. Psychologically incompetent recruits are peculiarly dangerous risks with respect to disaster in action, incapacity, and subsequent pension claims. For this reason, and because few medical examiners are trained in the use of modern methods of psychological examining, our profession should be of extreme value to the Medical Corps.

During September, 1917, arrangements were perfected for the psychological examining of drafted men in four National Army Camps. The work was organized under the administrative supervision of the Chief of the Division of Neurology and Psychiatry and was continued by the Section of Psychology of the Division of Neurology and Psychiatry. This administrative relation continued until the organization of the Division of Psychology in January, 1918. 8 (See Chart XVI.)


Chart XVI. — Division of Psychology, Surgeon General’s Office, June, 1918.


The necessary trained personnel for initial psychological work was secured by the appointment of 24 psychologists, under the civil service, to work temporarily as psychological examiners in designated camps. At the same time, 16 psychologists were appointed in the Sanitary Corps to serve in the camps. The psychological staff of each camp originally consisted of four officers of the Sanitary Corps and six civilians.

For the purpose of securing an adequate basis for decision concerning the future of psychological examining, the Surgeon General ordered official inspection of the work in Camp Lee and Camp Devens. 6 The report of this inspection contains the following recommendations: 7

In view of the successful results of the psychological examinations at Camp Lee (later confirmed by observations at Camp Devens, and elsewhere) and of the high opinions of the value of the tests by all unprejudiced observers, including the commanding general, the chief of staff, the ranking medical officers, and many company officers, I recommend that the scheme be extended to include all enlisted drafted men and all newly appointed officers, provided competent psychologists can be found to take charge.

In my opinion, the work should be prosecuted under the direction of the division surgeon, inasmuch as the Medical Department is vitally interested in the prompt identification and elimi-nation of the mentally unfit.

During October and November, 1917, approximately 60,000 men were given psychological examination in Camps Lee, Devens, Dix, and Taylor. The work was conducted in the main under extremely disadvantageous conditions.

Following the favorable report of the inspector of psychological examining and the presentation of additional data by the Chief of the Division of psychology, the Surgeon General, on December 7, 1917, recommended the continuation of this service and the extension of examining to "all company officers, all candidates for officers' training camps, and all drafted and enlisted men. The recommendation of the Surgeon General was approved by the War Depart-ment on December 24, 1917, and it was requested that he submit a plan to secure the services of the psychologists necessary to put the system of psychological examination into effect for the entire Army. In compliance with this request a detailed plan was prepared and, on January 3, 1918, transmitted to The Adjutant General by the Surgeon General. This plan provided:9

    1. For the appointment of 132 officers in the Sanitary Corps, and 124 noncommissioned officers and 620 enlisted men in the Medical Department for psychological service.

    2. For the proper training of this personnel through the establishment of a School for Military Psychology at the Medical Officers' Training Camp, Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.

    3. For the housing of psychological examining in the several camps by the construction of a special building.

    4. For the manufacture and distribution of all materials of examination necessary for the proper conduct of the work. The plan was carefully studied by individuals and committees of the General Staff. In the course of the investigation of values instituted by the General Staff, opinions of company officers were obtained. They proved to be approximately 80 per cent favorable. 8 The plan was favorably reported to the Chief of Staff, and on January 19, 1918, was formally approved by the War Department, with the following indorsement to the Surgeon General: 5


With the information that in accordance with directions given him under date of December24, 1917, he is hereby authorized to establish in his office a Division of Psychology for the purpose of making psychological examination of all company officers and candidate officers in officers' training camps, and also of all the newly drafted and enlisted men. The commissioned personnel for this service will be secured by recommending for commission in the Sanitary Corps selected men skilled in psychology. Where possible, men over the draft age will be recommended, but authority is hereby granted also to recommend men within the draft age, provided a sufficient number can not be secured over the draft age.

The enlisted personnel will be secured in accordance with section 150 of the Selective Service Regulations, providing for the induction into the military service out of order of specially qualified men.

Authority is granted for the establishment of a school for special training in psychology in connection with the Medical Department Training School at Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.

The Quartermaster General will construct the necessary building at each cantonment for the examining board in psychology, and furnish the necessary plain furniture for these buildings, in accordance with plans and specifications submitted by you.

The Division of Psychology, thus specifically authorized by the War Department, was promptly organized, and on January 20 all necessary arrangements were perfected to advance, with the utmost speed, preparations for the extension of psychological examining throughout the Army.

These preparations involved, first, the appointment of an adequate number of competent psychologists; second, the training of these men, and of a large number of assistants, in military drill, as well as in military psychology; third, the revision of methods of examining in the light of preliminary results, and the construction of new methods to meet the needs of the Army; fourth, provision of plans for a psychological building and equipment of same; fifth, designing and arranging for manufacture of all equipment for examining and of the necessary printed materials. In view of the probability that drafted men would have to be examined by the million, everything was necessarily projected on a large scale.

The preparation and revision of methods proceeded steadily and caused no delay whatever in the actual conduct of examinations. Similarly, the School for Military Psychology at Camp Greenleaf, Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., which was opened early in February, 1918, provided adequate opportunities for military and technical psychological training. The examining materials were definitely arranged for and their manufacture expedited, so that early il the spring of1918 an adequate supply was available. The paragraph of the War Department approval of January 19, 1918, 5 authorizing the Quartermaster General to construct special buildings for psychological examinations in each cantonment later was disapproved by the equipment committee of the General Staff "until such time as funds may be available for this construction by act of Congress."10 This disapproval was received by the Surgeon General February 14, 1918, but various existing buildings in the camps were assigned for temporary use by psychological examiners. Significant information concerning the status of psychological personnel as compared with the demands of the service is sup-plied by the accompanying table of personnel. 11


Personnel, Sanitary Corps, Medical Department, Division of Psychology.

Three relatively independent official investigations of psychological examining were instituted by the War Department during the spring of 1918 before the extension of the work had been accomplished. The net outcome of the investigations was the justification and support of the plan of psychological examining, and, finally, the preparation of instructions for he conduct of examining. These instructions were issued by the War Department 12 August14, 1918.

In spite of the fact that the Division of Psychology was compelled, through the disapproval of the construction of special buildings and through failure to appoint an adequate number of officers, to postpone the organization of its work in many of the divisional training camps, this work, nevertheless, steadily gained in favor and in value to the Army. By October, 1918, practically all of the active training centers were partially provided with personnel and equipment for psychological examining.

The efficient organization of psychological examining in a large training camp was an administrative undertaking of considerable magnitude and diffficulty. The chief psychological examiner was held responsible for the following important tasks: (a) The organization of an adequate and efficient staff;(b) the training of a reliable clerical force of strength required by the camp;(c) arrangements for suitable space and equipment for conduct of examinations;(d) arrangement of schedules of examining and for system of reporting results;(te) establishment of profitable cooperative relations between the psychological staff and the personnel adjutant, the headquarters staff, medical officers, and the commanding officers of the principal camp organizations; (f) familiarizing officers of the camp or division with the nature and use of intelligence grades and with the possible values of psychological service to organizations; (g)organization of methods of classifying, filing, and storing data of examinations;(I) the discovery and development of new lines of service and the maintenance of a state of preparedness to respond to all reasonable requests for special help.

The following general scheme of staff organization was put into effect as a result of inspection of camp conditions: (1) Chief psychological examiner,


responsible for general administration, correspondence, and camp contacts; (2) clinical psychologist, responsible for direction of individual examining, neuropsychiatric contacts, and the study of the success of low-grade men;(3) first assistant psychological examiner, responsible for direction of group examining, oversight of psychological building, scoring of examination papers, and handling of records; (4) second assistant psychological examiner, responsible for psychological service to development battalions and relations of the psychological staff to such organizations; (5) third assistant psychological examiner, responsible for personnel office relations, uses of intelligence ratings, and special assignments. 13

It was the expectation of psychological examiners that their principal service would be assistance in the prompt discovery of mental defectives and in suggesting their proper disposition. Long before the official trial of methods of psychological examining had ended, however, it had become clear that various other applications were desired by officers of the line and that the significance of the psychological service would unquestionably be much broader than had been supposed. The official medical inspector of this work listed its purposes as: (a) To aid in segregating and eliminating the mentally incompetent; (b) to classify men according to their mental capacity; (c) to assist in selecting competent men for responsible positions. 13

With the extension of psychological examining, these three lines of application rapidly became differentiated, and both line and medical officers discovered, for themselves or with the assistance of psychological examiners, new and important ways of utilizing mental ratings to increase military efficiency and to lessen the cost of military training and maintenance. The principal practical uses of intelligence grades common to the majority of the training camps in which the psychological service was organized are specified below: 8

(l) For the discovery of men whose superior intelligence warranted their consideration for promotion, special training, or assignment to positions of unusual responsibility or difficulty; (2) for assistance in selecting suitable candidates for officers' training schools, noncommissioned officers' training schools, and other special training organizations; (3) for the guidance of personnel adjutants in the assignments of recruits, so that organizations might be built in accordance with desirable intelligence specifications or, in the absence of such specifications, so that their different constituent parts, such, for example, as the companies of a regiment, should possess approximately the same mental strength, thus avoiding the risk of weak links in the Army chain; (4) for the prompt discovery of men whose low-'grade intelligence or mental peculiarities rendered them of uncertain value in the Army, and the assignment of such individuals to development battalions for observation and preliminary training; (5) for the discovery and recommendation for assignment to labor battalions of men obviously so inferior mentally as to be unsuitable for regular military training, yet promising serviceableness in simple manual labor; (6) for the discovery of men whose mental inferiority unfitted them for any sort of military duty and whose rejection or discharge should therefore be recommended to medical officers; (7) for utilization in connection with the organization of special training groups so that each group might be instructed or drilled in accordance with its mental capacity, thus avoiding the delay incident to dull or awkward individuals and enabling the especially able men to proceed rapidly and ultimately to take special forms of training in preparation for promotion or other forms of responsibility.

The methods originally recommended to the Surgeon General of the Army consisted of, first, a procedure for examining men in groups of 100 or thereabouts; second, of a series of tests recommended for use in the examination of individuals whose grade in the group examination was unsatisfactory. It was originally assumed that somewhere about 90 per cent of drafted men might


reasonably be expected to take the group examination, which required ability to read and write English. The initial trial showed that this was a gross over-estimation and that from 20 per cent to 30 per cent of the men reporting to training camps including negroes, were unable to do justice to their intelligence because of illiteracy in English.14 This large proportion of illiterates compelled the Division of Psychology to devise a special method for examining illiterates in groups.

Following the probationary period and in preparation for extension of the work to the entire Army, the following revisions and modifications of method were effected: 15

     1. For the examination of men who could read and write English a group examination, designated as examination alpha, which consisted of eight different tests of intelligence, was constructed by revision of the initial group examination.

    2. For the examination of native-born illiterates or foreigner illiterate in English a group examination, known as beta, was prepared. This required neither reading nor writing and was in effect the translation of alpha into pantomime or gesture language. The men were shown by actual demonstration what they were expected to do.

    3. For the examination of individuals who for one reason or another failed to make satisfactory grades in alpha or beta three types of individual examination were made available:

    (a) For individuals with a fair degree of literacy either the Stanford-Binet examination or the point scale examination.

    (b) For individuals who were totally illiterate a performance examination was especially devised by Army psychologists.

Examination alpha was used with groups of men varying from 50 to 500.It was common for examiners to take an entire company at one time, or a half company in case the examining room was not large enough to accommodate the whole. Somewhat smaller groups were usual for examination beta, chiefly because not more than one-third of the men reporting for examination as a rule required this particular type of examination. The several forms of individual examination proved eminently satisfactory and the performance scale which was devised by Army psychologists was a valuable contribution to available methods of examining illiterates. The original group examination for literates, prepared under great pressure by a small group of psychologists, and gradually perfected in the light of Army use, proved to be by far the best assemblage of intelligence tests for practical purposes that had yet been arranged.

Despite all handicaps, or perhaps partially because of them, the psychological service was finally organized in 35 training camps, and between September, 1917, and January 31, 1919, 1,726,966 men were examined. Of this number 42,238 were officers.16

From April 28, 1918, to January 31, 1919, a period for which camp reports are reasonably complete and reliable, 7,800 men (0.5 per cent) were reported for discharge by psychological examiners because of mental inferiority. For the same period the recommendations for assignment to labor battalions because of low-grade intelligence numbered 10,014 (0.5 per cent); for assignment to development battalions in order that they might be carefully observed and given preliminary training to discover if possible ways of using them in the Army 9,487 men (0.6 per cent) were recommended. 17

In a few instances men whose mental age was as low as four years were accepted by the draft boards and sent to the training camps. For somewhat higher grades of intelligence the numbers are large; thus, for the period referred


to about 4,780 men with mental age below 7 years were reported by psychological examiners; 7,875 between 7 and 8 years; 14,814 between 8 and 9 years;18,878 between 9 and 10 years. This gives a total of 46,347 men whose mental age was less than 10 years. 17

The following, general table 18 indicates at once the number of drafted men examined in the several training camps; the proportion of negroes; the percentage of individuals (fourth column) who were given the group examination for illiterates; the proportion who were given individual examination because of unsatisfactory showing in the group examinations; the percentages for the several camps for mental ages below 7, 8, and 9, respectively; the proportion recommended for discharge; and, finally, in the last column, the proportion considlered by the psychological examiners unfit because of intellectual inferiority for regular military service. This table covers examinations from May,1918, to January, 1919. It presents the results for a grand total of 1,556,011.


A general summary of examining( which indicates the proportions of enlistedl men and officers, of whites and blacks, and the grand totals of each, follows: 17



Although the psychological personnel gathered abundant and varied evidence of the practical value of pyschological examination in the Army, the final appraisal should come from the Army itself. It is therefore appropriate to present at statistical summary of the opinions of the commanding officers.

On completion of the official trial of methods of psychological examining in four camps somewhat more than 80 per cent of the regimental and company commanders who were acquainted with intelligence grades and their proposed applications expressed their approval of this new line of work and the opinion that it should be continued, extended, and its military usefulness increased.

Subsequently, and after the service had been reasonably well organized and was intimately known in some 30 training camps, the commanding officers of the camps were requested by the Surgeon General 19 to state their opinions concerning the value of the results in their respective camps or organizations and to suggest ways of improving the service. Thirty responses to this request were received. Of these, 27 were favorable. This is approximately 90 percent, and, inasmuch as the report of the commanding general, as a rule, is based upon the opinions and evidences of value presented by his subordinates, it is reasonable to assume that this figure safely indicates the increase as compared with the former 80 per cent favorable in the proportion of favorable judgments for the established as contrasted with the probationary or trial period.

By the time of the signing of the armistice, November 11, 1918, the psychological service, except for unsatisfactory housing of the work in many of the camps, inadequate officer personnel, and inadequate rank of that personnel, was in very satisfactory condition, and it was foreseen, if the war had continued, that a 20 per cent increase in the officer personnel would have rendered possible the examining of drafted men as fast as they entered the training camps.

With the armistice, the number of examinations rapidly lessened, so it was possible immediately to formulate plans for the examination and analysis of materials in order to make an official report concerning the psychological service. This was rendered reasonably easy through the regular weekly reports which had been submitted to the Division of Psychology by the chief psychological examiner of each camp, but in order to supplement the statistical information thus supplied it was arranged by the Division of Psychology to use the Hollerith system for the analysis of a random sample of intelligence grades. This sample as originally arranged for amounted to approximately10 per cent of the total number of psychological examinations made after the initial methods had been thoroughly revised and approved.

The Division of Psychology rendered numerous services aside from psychological examining in military training camps. Chief among these special services were the following: Cooperation with the Division of Military Aeronautics, the Intelligence Division, the Office of The Adjutant General of the Army (especially with the Committee on Classification of Personnel of the Army), the Quartermaster Corps, and various civil and military Government bureaus and other organizations in and about Washington. Similarly, in the camps themselves numerous special services were demanded which tended to increase familiarity with intelligence grades both within and without the Army, and


to stimulate a demand from education and industry for the application of Army methods of psychological examining or suitable substitutes. Arrangements were made by cooperation of the Division of Psychology with the authorities of the Students' Army Training Corps for the application of the Army group examination for literates to all students of that corps. This program was not carried out because of the interruption of this work by the armistice.

In April, 1919, the Surgeon General was requested by the War Department to prepare simple methods of psychological examination for illiterates and non-English-speaking citizens and aliens. 21 This was done by the Section of Psychology. In the fall of 1919 the methods were put into use in the various recruit stations. 22

The Psychological Service of the Medical Department of the Army was continued under the administrative direction of Section of Psychology, Hospital. 23

For reasons stated elsewhere (see Preface), the full account of psychological examining in the United States Army was published as Memoirs No. XV, of the National Academy of Sciences. 23


(April, 1917, to December, 1919.)

Bingham, H. C., Maj., S. C., chief.

Yerkes, R. M., Maj., S. C., chief.

Berry, C. S., Maj., S. C.

Foster, Wm. S., Maj., S. C.

Terman, L. M., Maj., S. C.

Yoakum, C. S., Maj., S. C.

Boring, E. G., Capt., S. C.

Elliott, R. M., Capt., S. C.

Hunter, W. S., Capt., S. C.

Myers, G. C., Capt., S. C.

Paterson, Donald G., Capt., S. C.

Richmond, H. A., Capt., S. C.

Baxter, C. C., First Lieut., S. C.

Lincoln, E. A., First Lieut., S. C.

Mertz, Paul A., First Lieut., S. C.

Metcalf, John T., First Lieut., S. C.

Otis, Arthur S., First Lieut., S. C.


(1) Yerkes, Robert M.: Psychology in Relation to the War. The Psychological Review, New York and London, 1918, xxv, No. 2.

(2) Examination of recruits, psychological methods. On file, Record Room, S. G. O., 188389 (Old Files).

    a   In this list have been included the names of those who at one time or another were assigned to the division during the period, April 6,1917, to December 31,1919. There are two primary groups-the chiefs of the division and the assistants. In each group names have been arranged alphabetically, by grades, Irrespective of chronological sequence of service.


(3) Plan for Psychological Military Service, July 16, 1917. Robert M. Yerkes, Maj., S. C., United States Army. On file, Record Room, S. G. O., 702.

(4) S. O., No. 196, par. 83, W. D., August 23, 1917.

(5) Fifth indorsement, W. D., Adjutant General's Office to the Surgeon General, United States Army, January 19, 1918. On file, Record Room, S. G. O., 702 (Psychological).

(6) Letter from the Surgeon General to the Chief of Staff, August 21, 1917; third indorsement, September 4, 1917, from the Surgeon General to The Adjutant General. On file, Record Room, S. G. O., 195852 (Old Files); 702 (Camp Lee Psychological Examinations).

(7) Camp Lee inspection reports. On file, Record Room, S. G. O., 702.

(8) Letter from the Surgeon General of the Army to The Adjutant General, December 7, 1917. Subject: Continuance Psychological Work. Attached thereto, memo. for Chief of Staff from director of training, General Staff, December, 1917. Subject: Opinions of Psychological Examiners. On file, Record Room, S. G. O., 720.4 (Psychological Exam.), 1917.

(9) Third indorsement from the Surgeon General to The Adjutant General, January :1, 1918. Subject: Plan for Psychological Examining. On file, Record Room, S. G. O., 702.4 (Psychological).

(10) War Department Cantonment Division to the Surgeon General of the Army, February 1, 1918. On file, Record Room, S. G. O., 652 (Psychological).

(11) Table "G I," Personnel Sanitary Corps, Division of Psychology. On file, Record loom, S. G. O., 024 (Division of Psychology).

(12) G. O., No. 74, par. 7, W. D., August 14, 1918.

(13) Staff organization, plan for psychological examining in the Army, March 5, 1918. On file, Record Room, S. G. O., 024 (Division of Psychology).

(14) Annual Report of the Surgeon General, United States Army, 1919. Vol. II, 1077.

(15) Letter from the Surgeon General, United States Army, to the Chief of Staff, January 4, 1919. Subject: Significance of Psychological Examinations for Military Uses. On file, Record Room, S. G. O., 702 (Psychology).

(16) Weekly report, Section of Psychology, February 13, 1919. On file, S. G. O., Weekly Report File.

(17) Psychological statistics. On file, Record Room, S. G. O., Weekly Report File.

(18) Compiled from monthly reports of psychological examinations. On file, Record Room, S. G. O., 024-10 (Psychology).

(19) Correspondence. On file, Record Room, S. G. O., 024 (Division of Psychology).

(20) Letter from The Adjutant General to the Surgeon General, United States Army, April 19, 1919. Subject: Psychological Examination of Illiterates and Non-English-Speaking Citizens and Aliens. On file, Record Room, S. G. O., 342.1 (General).

(21) Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. XV. Psychological Examination in the United States Army. Part I. History and Organization of Psychological Examining and the Materials of Examination. Part II. Methods of Examining, History, and Development, Preliminary Results. Part III. Measurements of Intelligence in the United States Army. (Government Printing Office, Washington, 1921.)

(22) Correspondence on file, Record Room, S. G. O., 702 (Recruiting Services).

(23) Office Order, No. 777, S. G. O., September 9, 1919.