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Chapter I

Books and Documents > Medical Department of the U.S. Army in the World War, Volume III, Finance & Supply





When we entered the World War, and for a number of years prior to that time, matters relating to supplies were administered in the Surgeon General's Office by two divisions, whose functions are briefly stated below.


In theory this division was administered directly by the Surgeon General through the chief clerk; in practice some of the accounting work was done under instructions obtained from the officer in charge of the supply division. It comprised the chief clerk's own branch, dealing with civilian personnel, office and field, correspondence and general matters, the stock room (office supplies), and the record room; also, three activities now allocated, so far as they still operate, to the finance and supply division, viz, The construction branch (preliminary plans for hospitals and stewards' quarters; advisory management of estimates and appropriations therefor), the journal branch (charged with the receipt and distribution to the Medical Department of periodicals purchased on subscription), and the examining branch (charged with the preparation of estimates of appropriations under the Surgeon General, with keeping the ledger accounts thereof, with procuring the issue of funds to disbursing officers, with making the administrative audit of their accounts, with the prepayment audit of claims arising against all appropriations except artificial limbs, appliances, and trusses, and with the receipt and settlement of returns of medical property).


This division was administered by a commissioned assistant to the Surgeon General, who was also the disbursing officer of the Medical Department in Washington.1 It comprised two branches the supply branch (charged with supervision of the procurement and issue of medical supplies, including the operation of medical supply depots, the preparation and approval of contracts, and action on requisitions), and the disbursing branch (charged with the disbursing functions of the officer in charge, and the adjudication of claims under the appropriations for artificial limbs, appliances, and trusses).

Another officer was added to the force April 28, 1917,2 who became disbursing officer, assisting generally in the duties of the office, and later took charge of the distribution of supplies. Another assistant, an officer of the Medical Reserve Corps, reported for duty May 18, 1917.3 This officer in turn became

46 disbursing officer. He had charge of the procurement and distribution of X-ray equipment, apparatus and supplies, and the selection and training of medical officers as X-ray specialists and of enlisted men of the Medical Department and Sanitary Corps as X-ray technicians. He also acted for the finance and supply division upon requisitions for supplies which required administrative action. Other assistants reported for duty from time to time as the needs of the expanding organization required. Technical assistants, dental, veterinary, and X ray, were called in as needed. Nor were the other professions altogether overlooked; certified public accountants and traffic or transportation experts added their knowledge and skill to increase the efficiency of the operation of the machine.


In September, 1917, all activities relating to the purchase, distribution, and accounting for medical and hospital department property, and those pertaining to money accounts of the Medical Department (excepting the hospital fund) were consolidated into one division, known as the finance and supply division.4

At this time the finance and supply division consisted of four sections: Finance, property returns, supply, and records. Some of these were subdivided later into two or more subsections, and other sections were added.


The finance section was charged with providing disbursing officers with funds, the administrative examination of disbursing officers' accounts, and of the vouchers and checks of the disbursing officer in the division. This section later became two distinct sections, the finance section and the disbursing section, with a commissioned officer in charge of each.

Whenever a disbursing officer required additional funds to meet expected payments he wrote a letter to the Surgeon General stating the amount required and requesting that it be placed to his official credit. Upon the receipt of this request in the Surgeon General' s Office, it was routed to the principal clerk in the finance section, who prepared the necessary request to the Secretary of War through the assistant and chief clerk, War Department, to have the specified sum placed to the credit of the designated disbursing officer. This the Treasury Department did by warrant, notifying the officer on whom the money had been requested that it had been placed to his official credit. Every disbursing officer was assigned a number, commonly referred to as a symbol,which had to appear on all his checks. It was printed on all official blank checks furnished him by the Treasury Department. When all the checks had been used the disbursing officer applied to the Treasury Department for an additional lot of check books, for which he gave a receipt. He turned in all unused checks when he ceased to be a disbursing officer.

At the end of each month the disbursing officers prepared an abstract or schedule of disbursements arranged in chronological order, showing the number of the voucher, the name and address of the payee, the purpose of the payment, and the amount paid. The several sheets were footed and carried forward. The aggregate amount was entered on the last sheet. This abstract or schedule was forwarded to the Surgeon General, accompanied by the originals of the


vouchers enumerated therein, and an account current. Each voucher in payment for supplies purchased was accompanied by an invoice of the property purchased which served to charge the purchasing officer with accountability for the property so purchased. After serving its purpose as a check on the purchases, this invoice was turned over to the returns or property audits section to be used in the settlement of the property accounts of the purchasing officer. The account current corresponded to the balance sheet of commercial organizations and showed for each appropriation the accounts remaining from the preceeding month, the sums received during the month, the gross amounts disbursed during the month, and the balance remaining at the end of the month. Only one account current was rendered each month, but it covered all appropriation titles under which disbursements were made and was supported by as many abstracts of disbursements as there were appropriation titles reported during the month.

When these accounts current and supporting papers were received by the finance section they were subjected to a critical examination for errors in amounts, appropriation title, authority for the expenditure, mode of purchase, and justification for the expenditure. Errors requiring changes in the voucher, schedule, or account current were returned to the disbursing officer for correction. Other measures were applied where necessary to correct improper disbursements. When all the papers in the month' s account had been corrected and recorded they were transmitted to the Treasury Department for the action of the Auditor for the War Department. If no exceptions were taken by the accounting officers of the Treasury to any of the disbursements, the disbursing officer was notified of the settlement of the account. Accounts were settled quarterly at the end of March, June, September, and December. If exceptions were taken by the Treasury officials to any of the accounts during the quarter, the disbursing officer was furnished a statement of differences. This statement, besides listing the checks paid, specified the accounts suspended and the reasons therefor. The disbursing officer, as soon as practicable, furnished the information required concerning the suspended amounts. If this information proved satisfactory, as it did in most instances, the suspensions were removed by the Treasury Department, the account was allowed, and the disbursing officer was so notified. In occasional instances the account would be disallowed in whole or in part and the disbursing officer required to deposit to the credit of the Treasurer of the United States the sum in question. The finance section of the finance and supply division of the Surgeon General' s Office, if satisfied of the justification for the expenditure, rendered material assistance to the disbursing officer in securing the final settlement of the suspended or disallowed account.

The finance section maintained a record of disbursements and of available or unallotted balances. From the nature of the services the Medical Department was required to render, it was necessary that a reserve of funds be held to meet any emergency which might occur near the end of the year and to meet unpaid bills which found their way into the Surgeon General' s Office after the year had closed. It was very necessary, therefore, that an accurate record of available and unobligated funds be maintained in the central office.


The primary and principal book of money accounts kept in the Surgeon General' s Office up to April, 1917, was known as the appropriation ledger. Following the granting of appropriations to be handled by the War Department, the Secretary of the Treasury advised the Secretary of War thereof, noting in his advice the number of the appropriation warrant by which the moneys were withdrawn from the general funds of the Treasury. The Secretary of War in turn advised his bureau chiefs of the appropriations assigned to them, respectively, to manage. The Surgeon General, upon receipt of such advices, opened in the appropriation ledger an account for each appropriation, under its title, so intrusted to him, debiting the same in the amount appropriated by date of appropriation act and number of appropriation warrant. From time to time thereafter the Surgeon General prepared requisitions for the advance of funds under such appropriation to a disbursing officer of the Medical Department, which, if approved by the Secretary of War, then went to the Secretary of the Treasury, who, in the absence of reasons to the contrary, allowed the requisition and by accountable warrant placed the funds with the Treasurer of the United States to the credit of the officer, whereupon the funds became available for the payment of his checks. As these requisitions were prepared in the Surgeon General' s Office their amounts were credited under the proper head or heads in the appropriation ledger, according to the dates they were forwarded; but such credits were considered contingent only until completed by notation by number and date of the accountable warrants issued by the Treasury Department, of which advice duly was communicated to the War Department and the Surgeon General.   

These debits and credits cover what may be termed only the initial entries under each appropriation to get its use and application in motion. In the course of its life, supplemental debits would arise, by way of deficiency appropriations, deposits by disbursing officers of unexpended funds, deposits by disbursing officers and others to correct disbursing errors, transfers by Treasury settlements to adjust appropriations, etc. In like manner, supplemental credits would arise, chiefly by Treasury settlements direct with claimants or for adjustment of appropriations.

Eventually, at the end of its statutory period, all disbursing balances having meanwhile been deposited, the residuary balance was turned back into the general fund of the Treasury by surplus fund warrant issued by the Secretary of the Treasury upon his own motion from information shown by his own books, advice of the issue of such warrant being given to the Secretary of War and by the latter to the Surgeon General, thus closing the account.

Besides the accounts covering the funds expressly so appropriated by titles in the annual appropriation bills, a similar debit and credit account was kept in this ledger (after 1906) of the funds replacing medical suppliesderived from sales of serviceable medical and hospital supplies, as authorized by the act approved June 12, 1906.

To promote the accuracy of these accounts the War Department, through the division of requisitions and accounts, kept in constant touch with the division of bookkeeping and warrants in the Treasury Department respecting current


balances of appropriations; and communicated to the Surgeon General transcripts of such balances as the same changed, to enable him to check his own records and reconcile discrepancies, should any be disclosed.

Appropriation ledgers representing the foregoing, or a substantially similar procedure, are on file in the finance and supply division from an early date until 1915. In the fall of 1918 the records pertaining to the appropriations then current, including Medical and Hospital Department, 1916, but not the records of the other 1916 appropriations, were taken over by the newly instituted service of the Director of Finance. Such appropriation ledgers were not thereafter maintained in the Office of the Surgeon General.

It was not the practice to maintain a formal ledger by debit and credit for the individual accounts of Medical Department disbursing officers, presumably because of the small number of them, and the resulting ease of the follow upto see that they actually accounted for the funds advanced; but the practice prevailed for many years of entering a résumé of each monthly account current, when received, in the purveyors' abstracts below described, followed by a detailed record of the vouchers paid. About 1906 it had proved convenient to open a record of the accounts current in a separate book, continuing the purveyors' abstracts as a record of vouchers paid. The entries in the register of accounts current were made from the accounts current themselves when received, comprising all debits and credits by appropriation heads, indicating by notation the date of their receipt, the date of their transmittal to the auditor, and the latter' s settlements thereof (usually by quarters) by settlement certificate numbers, dates, and amounts found due the United States. The register was continued until the Director of Finance took over the fiscal business of this office in 1918.

The purveyors' abstracts exhibited a record of all payments made by medical disbursing officers, in more or less detail, varying from time to time. They were kept for many years in numbered bound books, by names of disbursing officers and appropriations disbursed. About 1906 a loose-leaf system was substituted (in connection with the register of accounts current), which made it possible to assemble all payments under any one appropriation on consecutive sheets, by names of disbursing officers. For some years prior to 1917 the abstract or record of vouchers paid was fully itemized, and in connection with the register of accounts current showed what each disbursing officer did with the money advanced to him. The record ends about 1918, when the Director of Finance took over all disbursements.

The three foregoing records were all primary that is, made up from original papers and noted the fundamental data from which a complete picture of the fiscal operations of the Medical Department could be drawn. But, as will be perceived, these data were scattered, and to get the complete picture some process of assembling and digesting them was desirable. No assembled record was kept from which the complete picture could be seen. An assembled record was begun in 1899, taking up all balances on hand in the Treasury and in the hands of disbursing officers on July 1, 1898, adding thereto the appropriations and other debits during 1899, and following the sums to their status


June 30, 1899. The same procedure was followed at the close of each fiscal year until all disbursements were taken over by the Director of Finance. The resulting compilation was called, for want of a better term, the control ledger, of which two large volumes were accumulated. This, of course, was a secondary record, data being posted thereto from (a) the appropriation ledgers, (b)the register of accounts current, and (c)the purveyors' abstracts. It gave a compact and convenient summary by years, appropriations, officers, and objects of expenditure for the period covered, of all the fiscal operations of the Medical Department, and by its checks and counterchecks made sure at the wind-up of each fiscal year that every dollar of appropriated money had been accounted for.

The disbursing section prepared occasional vouchers and wrote all the checks for the local medical disbursing officer. It may be stated in passing that property accounts at the various medical supply depots were paid by a disbursing officer thereat, usually the officer in charge, except the depot at Washington, D. C. It was not the policy of the Surgeon General to have more than one medical disbursing officer in the same locality. Consequently, payments for the supplies purchased at the field medical supply depot, Washington, were made by the medical disbursing officer in the Surgeon General' s Office. Payments for services, both personal and nonpersonal, and for purchases of supplies at places other than regularly established depots were made for the most part by the disbursing officer in the Surgeon General's Office, although some of those accounts were sent for payment to the depot disbursing officer nearest the claimant. Vouchers for such supplies and services were generally prepared by the officer procuring them, and were transmitted to the Surgeon General' s Office for examination prior to payment. Such vouchers were scrutinized in the disbursing section and returned for correction when necessary. When the vouchers were finally completed the checks were written and presented to the disbursing officer for signature. After receiving his signature they were mailed to the payee. This section kept its own records of funds received and disbursed and prepared the abstracts of disbursements and the accounts current of the disbursing officer whose accounts it handled.


The property returns section audited and settled the property accounts of every officer of the Medical Department who was accountable for medical and hospital property. This section handled invoices, receipts, and returns of Medical Department property. With the requisitions it was not directly concerned.

While the manner of requisitioning medical and hospital supplies and the channels through which the requisitions passed remained the same as they had been for many years, the form of return of medical property and the periods at which it was required to be rendered had materially changed. The annual return had been discontinued and a return was required only where accountability for the property changed. This materially reduced the number of returns handled. The old cumbersome printed form with its numerous abstracts of purchases and issues gave place to a small-sized loose-leaf return, with a separate sheet for each item or article on the return. The sheets for this return


were so ruled that there were separate columns for the date and voucher number, receipts, and issues, with space at the bottom in which the name of the article could be typed or written.

The vouchers, whether issues or receipts, were all carried in a single numerical series. The debit and credit columns were totaled at the foot of the sheet and the balance noted in the appropriate space. If one sheet were insufficient, as many more could be used and placed in sequence as the number of entries required. The return was always prepared in duplicate. Two colors of paper were used so that no mistake could be made in the final assembly, a white sheet for the original and a blue sheet for the duplicate. Entries were made as the invoices came in. The entries on the original sheet were made with an indelible pencil and those on the duplicate sheet by interposing a sheet of carbon paper between. The sheets were kept on Shannon files until the last entry for the quarter had been made, when they were separated and bound into two sets, the white and the blue. The white set was forwarded and the blue retained. The sheets were arranged in the order in which the items appeared on the standard supply table. The accountable officer certified, on the outside sheet at the hack, to the correctness of the return and the period which it covered. If the work had been kept up to date it was possible to forward the return within 15 days after the end of the quarter. The intervening period was used for a recheck of the entries on the return against the vouchers, to insure their accuracy. If the accountable officers at the depot changed during the quarter, the return was closed at the date of transfer of accountability and the certificate at the end of each part of the return signed by both officers. An effort was made, however, to have the transfer effected at the end of the quarter. Returns from post and general hospitals and other Medical Department units were required only when accountability changed by the transfer of the accountable officer to another station. Entries followed one another in numerical and chronological sequence throughout this period.

When the invoices were received in the Surgeon General' s Office they were arranged temporarily by the name of the issuing officer, and also by voucher number, if from a depot. All receipts also were arranged by name of the issuing officer, and by voucher number if from a depot. Thus both invoices and receipts were arranged in the same order. At stated intervals all corresponding invoices and receipts were withdrawn, and casual comparison of the two made to see that they pertained to the same issue and had no serious discrepancies. The voucher number of the receiving officer was placed on the brief of the invoice, together with his name and station. A distinctive check mark was made on the brief fold of each to indicate that the corresponding voucher had been received and filed. The invoice was then filed as a charge against the receiving officer, while the receipt was filed under the proper number as a credit to the issuing officer.

Search was then made in the files for vouchers corresponding to those not already paired as indicated above, and, if found, both invoice and receipt were checked and filed as previously indicated.

The remaining vouchers (those in each incoming mail whose corresponding voucher was found not to be in the office) either were held temporarily on the


file clerk' s desk for rehandling with the next incoming mail, or temporary pencil memorandum was made showing that the voucher had been filed but that the corresponding voucher had not been received, the memorandum being filed in lieu of the missing invoice or receipt, the voucher itself being filed, if a receipt as a credit to the issuing officer and if an invoice as a tentative charge against the officer to whom the issue was made. When the corresponding voucher was later received, both the invoice and receipt were checked to show that the corresponding voucher had been received and the voucher last received was filed and the memorandum slip previously mentioned withdrawn.

Reports of survey, inventory and inspection reports, accounts of sales of condemned medical property, etc., when received in the office were inspected for irregularities, returned for correction, if necessary, and when found in proper order were filed as credits to the accountable officer.

The voucher file was kept alphabetically by name of the accountable officer, except for medical supply depots, and, in the case of medical supply depots, first by the name of the depot, second by the quarter to which the voucher pertained, and third by the voucher number.

The returns when received were immediately recorded in books ruled for the purpose under the name of the accountable officer, giving the station from which the return was made and the period which it covered.

The vouchers filed against the officer whose return was being examined were then gone over and those pertaining to the return in question were withdrawn for comparison with the return; those of a later period were returned to file, while those of an earlier period or of a similar period at another place, if found were made the subject of special investigation and returns were called for if necessary.

The vouchers pertaining to the return undergoing examination were first assorted into debit and credit vouchers and then arranged by numbers, if this had not already been done, and each item on the return was checked with the corresponding item on the vouchers. Totals on the return were also verified, and note made of any items improperly dropped as expended.

Slight discrepancies as to expendable articles between the return and vouchers were usually adjusted in the central office, but all serious errors were noted and embodied in a discrepancy letter. This letter was sometimes addressed directly to the office making the return, but more often to the surgeon at the post or to the officer in charge of the medical supply depot where the records were presumably filed. Copy of the letter was filed with the return itself. An additional reason for addressing the surgeon at the post or depot was that the correction of discrepancies would be likely to affect his own accountability.

The vouchers were then arranged by number, both debit and credit vouchers in one series, entry in the record book was made to show the date the return was suspended, and the return, together with the vouchers, was placed in the suspended file awaiting reply to the discrepancy letter. When the reply was received, the corrections authorized were made in the return in red ink, brought forward to date, and the reply was filed with the return as authority for the changes.


The return was then marked "settled(finally settled if no further accountability remained therefor to the officer making the return), and entry to that effect was made in the record book with the name of the examiner and date of settlement. A notice of settlement was sent to the address of the accountable officer and a copy of the letter filed with the return. The return was then placed in the permanent alphabetical file of settled returns, a separate file of such post returns being kept for those ending in each calendar year, depot returns being filed consecutively by name of the depot.

When certificates or other similar papers were received as vouchers to account for articles lost or destroyed, unless the property was of trifling value, they were submitted customarily with a brief memorandum to the officer in charge of the supply division. The officer marked the memorandum for acceptance or for such further action as he desired, initialed it, and returned it to the clerk in charge of the property section. The certificate with the memorandum was then filed with the return or with the accountable officer' s vouchers as authority for the action indicated.


The supply section was charged with all matters relative to the procurement and distribution of medical and hospital supplies. In this section originated all estimates of quantities of supplies to he purchased during the fiscal year. Here questions of articles to be added to the standard supply table were decided, and all orders and instructions concerning purchases were prepared. The development of new equipment, reserve supplies, specifications of articles purchased, price index contracts, etc., were all handled by this section. The finance and property returns sections both handled affairs already accomplished. The supply section directed and initiated those affairs and constituted the operating end of the organization. In performing its mission the supply section called upon the other sections for assistance when necessary and for special information not otherwise available.


The old supply division had maintained its own files of correspondence, requisitions, contracts, etc. Matters of general import were filed in the main record room of the Surgeon General' s Office where they were readily accessible to all divisions of that office. This separate file, being immediately accessible and limited to the particular activities of the division, was convenient, economical, and efficient. It was absorbed by the new finance and supply division upon its organization and continued to function until the transfer of the division to the office of the Director of Purchase and Storage, War Department, in November, 1918. A separate file for this division was necessary because during a part of its war existence the division was located in a building separate and at a considerable distance from the remainder of the Surgeon General' s Office.

To permit of more rapid filing and ready location of correspondence, a new vertical filing system was adopted in August, 1917, known as the library bureau system. Briefly, it was a system of numbering correspondence which


did not require an index of subjects. The method of numbering consisted essentially of a numerator and a denominator in which the numbers in the numerator indicated the subject and the location of the organization, while the denominator represented the serial number of the particular piece of correspondence with the organization. Thus, 713-539/1137 indicates that the particular letter was number 1137 in the series of communications on supply matters with the Medical Supply Depot, 713, at New York City, 539. In the general key to the use of this system, which was very short and simple, certain figures and groups of two figures represent certain letters of the alphabet, 71 representing sufor supply, and 3 representing the letters D-E when in combination with a previous group; 713 therefore represents supply depot,53 represents the group of letters NI and NE, and stands for new. In this arrangement 9 stands for Y in York. Wherever in the documentation the number 713 occurs it represents medical supply depot; 539 in combination signifies New York, 570 signifies Philadelphia, 30 Atlanta, 644 San Francisco, etc. The system is so arranged that anyone tolerably familiar with it is enabled to locate any correspondence if given the name and address of the writer and the subject matter, or any two of them. No index is required but to have some record in the event that the correspondence should be lost, a card index was kept under each file number with the date and subject matter of the correspondence entered thereon. A limited cross-reference index also was kept. As with all filing systems it was found necessary at a very early date in its use to make a number of interpretations of the key and method of use as applied to the particular kind of correspondence for which it was used. The method of numbering was rather cumbersome when used in referring to a previous correspondence, otherwise the system worked satisfactorily. It was able to carry the load of the great volume of correspondence received during the last six months of its use; that is, prior to November 24, 1918. Less difficulty was experienced with it than would have been the case with inexperienced personnel with the War Department system in the main record room of the Surgeon General' s Office.


With the passing of time and the mounting multitude of details which required the attention of the central office, details were centralized under selected personnel organized into groups or sections, to handle particular duties. These new sections were formed as the need arose. Practically all of them had come into being by the end of March, 1918. The duties of the finance and supply division on April 1, 1918, were distributed essentially as given below, although there was no formal organization to that effect. Each section operated more or less as an independent unit. The grouping as given below is an arrangement largely by function rather than a definite organization prescribed in orders from the Surgeon General or the division chief.

1. Administrative subdivision.
(a); Personnel section.


2. Procurement subdivision.
(a) Requirements section.
(b) Contracts and authorization section.
(c) Statistical section.
(d) Finance section.
(e) Trouble section.
(f) Board of contract review.

3. Storage and issue subdivision.
(a) Issue section.
(b) Tabulation section.
(c) Transportation section.
(d) Property accounts section.
(e) Overseas requirements section.
(f) Equipment section.
(g) Biological section.

4. Ambulance subdivision,a
(a) Production and inspection section.
(b)Experimental section.
(c)Drafting section.

In general the administrative and procurements subdivisions were under the supervision and direction of the chief of the division, while the storage and issue and the ambulance subdivisions reported to the assistant chief of the division. The functions and duties of the various subdivisions and sections were so interrelated that instruction to all of them at times emanated from the assistant chief of the division as well as from the chief. The correlation of the work of different sections was so intimate that many of the questions constantly arising were settled by conferences between the section chiefs.



To meet the need of personnel trained in supply, a section for that purpose was established early in the finance and supply division. It kept in close contact with the supply depots in the camps, advised in the selection of the enlisted personnel for that service, directed the courses of instruction to be given, followed the progress of individuals up through various grades of noncommissioned officers, selected, upon the recommendation of the various camp medical supply officers, noncommissioned officers to be sent to selected schools for training them for higher duties in the supply service, and out of those so trained selected the most suitable men for commissions for duty as camp and divisional supply officers. This section arranged for the selection of limited service men for duties in the home land in matters of supply, and as clerks and stenographers.


The records section has been described above and it need here only be stated that the growth of the volume of correspondence handled resulted in a distinct division of duties, an information desk, a files section, an index section, and a requisitions section.

aThis subdivision is not treated in this chapter; it is given full consideration in Chap. XX.Ed.



The procurement subdivision handled all matters pertaining to purchases in bulk or for stock.

The issue section of the storage and issue subdivision gave instructions for the purchase of nonstandard articles on approved requisitions. Here estimates of quantities of supplies to be procured were prepared and their prospective costs estimated. Estimates for funds were also compiled here and prepared for presentation to Congress. Contracts were scrutinized and approved if found correct and reasonable, or returned for such modifications as might be indicated. Statistics covering purchases and issues were tabulated and kept in such form as to be readily available to furnish any information relative to the state of supplies which might be called for. Vouchers were prepared and payments made. Administrative examination was given the disbursing officers accounts. Progress reports were checked; and if production did not keep pace with the contract, investigations of the causes of delay were initiated and assistance rendered the manufacturer in matters of fuel, raw material, labor, transportation service and priorities.


Under existing regulations no purchase of medical and hospital supplies could be made except under authority from the Surgeon General' s Office. Sometimes this authority was general in character but always limited to the fiscal year in which given. It expired on June 30 and was to be renewed if the need therefor continued. These authorizations generally were given in the form of a permission to expend a definite sum, either monthly, quarterly, or annually, for prescribed purposes. They were limited to purpose but not in detail. For example, authority was granted to the commanding officers of all camps to expend $100 per month for the purchase of medical and hospital supplies. If it became necessary to exceed this allotment in any month to save life or to prevent suffering, a report of the fact to the Surgeon General' s Office was required. All medical officers were authorized under provisions in the Manual for the Medical Department at all times to make purchases of medical supplies for military personnel in emergency to prevent loss of life or to prevent suffering. In such cases a full report of the circumstances and conditions which made the purchase necessary was forwarded by the medical officer who authorized or made the purchase, with the vouchers in payment of the purchase. If the reasons given in this report were satisfactory to the central office the vouchers were paid; if not, the vouchers were returned to the medical officer authorizing or making the purchase, to be paid out of private funds.

Authorities for the purchase of supplies for stock were always for a specified quantity, and purchases were expected to be initiated within a reasonable time thereafter. Information of the quantities actually purchased was obtained from copies of the contracts on file in the central office, reports of open-market purchases furnished at stated periods by the purchasing depots, and from the quarterly returns of property rendered by those depots. Every contract bore, in the prescribed place, the authority or approval of the Surgeon General and


was cited on all vouchers covering payment for the supplies authorized by the contract. Every purchase order, and voucher for the articles delivered thereon, bore a notation of the authority from the Surgeon General' s Office for the purchase so made. This notation gave the date and file number of the authority.

A record of quantities purchased, by item, was kept in the statistical section, showing the name of the vendor and the price paid. This record was kept current in order that the office might have a record at all times of the latest prices paid. It disclosed the rise and fall in prices and the variation in price paid the different vendors for the same article purchased at the same date or closely approximated dates. It enabled the finance and supply division to detect abnormal prices and to initiate investigations of excessive prices, or to call for the reasons for making purchases at the higher prices. It served as an efficient check upon purchasing officers, and permitted comparisons of prices paid in different parts of the country.

Army Regulations, based upon the requirements of law and the regulations of the accounting officers of the Treasury Department, prescribed the manner in which supplies should be purchased and contracts prepared and executed. In order to insure prompt settlement of disbursing officers' accounts these requirements had to be observed. The contracts and purchase orders were examined to assure their conformity with these regulations.

No small difficulty arose from the failure of officers in writing contracts and purchase orders to follow the nomenclature prescribed in the standard supply tables of the Medical Department. Not infrequently the article described by the name in the supply tables had other names in the trade. These trade names were used in common parlance in the the depots and, unless care was exercised, they would creep into contracts, purchase orders, vouchers, and property papers, making difficult an effectual check of the property return. The effort of the finance and supply division was continuously required to overcome this tendency and to assure correctness in nomenclature.


The duties of this section were substantially as follows: (1) To maintain a record of purchases by article, showing contract or order number, date, contractor, quantity, unit price, total obligated, f.o.b. point, deliveries, and date completed. (2) To maintain a record, by article, of the deliveries promised in the contract. The report to the statistics section of the General Staff had to show the promised deliveries of each article reported on. (3) To maintain a record of actual deliveries, by article, by weeks. This record showed the contract number, date, contractor, total contracted for, and deliveries by weeks. The information was included in the biweekly report of the finance and supply division to the statistics section, General Staff. (4) To maintain a record of shipments to ports of embarkation and deliveries to the transport service. A separate record was kept of each port of embarkation. The record of ports other than New York and Locust Point (Baltimore) were simple and required little work. This information, also, was included in the biweekly report of the finance and supply division. (5) To maintain a record of ambulances and


motor cycles by factory numbers and also by detachments to which they were assigned or transferred. (6) To maintain a record by contractors of articles purchased by the general purchasing office.

This section compiled the data upon which orders for the periodic purchase of supplies were based. From these computations of probable requirements in supplies were compiled the estimates for funds to be presented to Congress for such additional appropriations as appeared to be necessary.

Records of actual consumption of supplies by large bodies of troops under training camp, field, and combat conditions, so far as the Medical Department was concerned, did not exist at the declaration of war. The experiences of the Civil War were no longer applicable had they been available in a concrete and practicable form. The experiences of the Spanish-American War, because of the shortness of its duration and the shortage of supplies, served but little purpose other than to impress upon the minds of the administrative officers the need for adequate quantities on the supply table. The experiences of peace time under the economy complex everywhere enforced, and the rigid sanitary measures enforced at all military stations, were only a guide. The annual allowances of many articles given in the standard supply were seldom sufficient for even peace-time requirements, although others were in excess of the needs. Field requirements had of necessity to be based largely on the observation, experience, and judgment of the individual officer. The experiences of the Mexican border mobilization in 1916 would have been of material value had there been time and personnel to make a critical analysis of the quantities used. Therefore, in determining the quantities to be provided in the initial purchases after the declaration of war, recourse was had to the simple expedient of multiplying the annual allowances on the standard supply table for a post of 1,000 troops by 1,000 and the supplies in the field equipment of a division by the number of divisions or equivalent number of troops, and that by a number obtained by dividing the number of months in a year by the period the expendable supplies in the field equipment was expected to last. This gave the theoretical quantities required. Instructions were given accordingly, to purchase the supplies required for a million men for one year. As statistics of the consumption of supplies at the various camps and posts became available, they were utilized in the preparation of requirements for purchases and of estimates for funds.

The development of an automatic supply for troops overseas, wherein a definite quantity of every article required for one month for a body of 25,000 troops was stated, also served to make the subsequent statements of requirements in supplies more definite and exact. This automatic supply plan will be described in the chapter dealing with the shipment of supplies to France.


The functions of this section, under the organization of 1918, continued as previously described. Changing conditions of procurement required corresponding changes in the administrative details of this section. The development, at the beginning of the calendar year 1918, of the Medical Department general


purchasing office in Washington (see Chap. IX), necessitated innovations and changes in procedure, somewhat at variance with existing customs.
   All purchases prior to the establishment of the general purchasing office had been made at the several supply depots, military posts, and stations. There was an officer at each of these places who received and accounted for the property so purchased and received. When the general purchasing office was established difficulties at once arose concerning the method by which accountability should lie. It was not desirable that a property return should be made by the general purchasing office on account of the added burden in commissioned and civilian personnel and the office space required to keep such a return. Financial conditions throughout the country called for prompt payment of accounts. Many of the manufacturers had found it necessary to increase their facilities which, in turn, involved the securing of additional capital with which to carry out these expansions. Large sums were required to meet payments for raw or semifinished materials and for the weekly pay roll of employees.

These conditions required a modification of distributing and accounting procedure. To meet these new requirements a system was devised whereby supplies were accepted f.o.b. cars at the contractor' s plant, after proper inspection, and the contractor' s invoice and properly authenticated bill of lading were accepted as delivery upon which payment could be made. Since all purchases were made from reputable manufacturers, it was believed that any discrepancies in quantities when checked at destination would be rectified by the contractor and adjustments made on subsequent vouchers as needed. This permitted payment within a comparatively few days after shipment and doubtless served to tide many manufacturers through periods of stress which they could not otherwise have weathered. In such cases the purchasing officer signed the vouchers but did not assume accountability for the property so purchased. Accountability was assumed directly by the officer who received it. A description of the method by which this was effected follows.

Progress reports were required from manufacturer on all orders and contracts. Whenever, from these reports or letters from the vendor, information was received that supplies were ready for shipment, notice of the amount available was sent by the general purchasing office to the transportation branch of the finance and supply division, where the necessary shipping instructions were entered on appropriate blank forms and sent to the contractor, who loaded the supplies on cars, completed the bills of lading, secured signature of the transportation company to the original and all memorandum copies of the bills of lading, and distributed these bills of lading as directed in the printed instructions which accompanied them. The copies of the memorandum bills of lading forwarded to the Surgeon General' s Office were accompanied by properly certified invoices or bills of the contractor for the property shipped. When these papers were received in the finance section vouchers were prepared and the account paid.

At the same time that the bills of lading were prepared in the transportation section a shipping order was made up for the contractor and invoice-receipts for the consignee. The shipping order was printed on blue paper; the invoice-receipts were made out on pink, yellow, green, and white sheets,


each color intended for a specific purpose. Identical information appeared on the upper two-thirds of this form. The lower third of the shipping order contained instructions to the contractor covering shipping requirements. The lower third on the invoice-receipt covered action to be taken by the receiving officer. With the shipping order was sent a data card to be filled in by the shipper and mailed to the transportation section in an addressed envelope inclosed for the purpose. This card was used primarily by that section for tracing shipments. When the green sheet, duly signed by the receiving officer, was received in the returns section it was accepted as a receipt in the same manner as the standard M. D. form of invoice-receipt. The yellow copy served as a notice to the tabulation section of the pending shipment and to initiate an entry on the records of that branch. When the green sheet passed through that branch it confirmed the original entry, or if it differed from the yellow sheet was corrected accordingly.


In vouchering purchases the following routine was used: (1) Shipping order received from director of shipments; (2) memorandum bill of lading received from contractor, showing shipment; bill (invoice) of vendor; (3) contract withdrawn from contract branch; (4) vouchers constructed from facts in hand; (5) vouchers certified by purchasing officer; (6) voucher transmitted to vendor for signature to certificate; (7) voucher received back, recorded on claims record, and audited for payment; (8) voucher paid by disbursing officer.


This subdivision assumed charge of supplies as soon as the order or contract was placed, except for priorities and production reports, which were handled by the procurement subdivision. Assistance to the manufacturers in the matter of rail or water transportation were handled by the transportation section. It assumed all duties incident to the distribution of supplies, including storage facilities. Requisitions were examined and approved or modified. Overseas requirements were calculated and shipping instructions given. Records were kept of the state of supplies at all depots. This information, although not entirely accurate because a complete and satisfactory inventory could not be obtained, and because of the failure of the depots to keep the central office supplied with accurate information concerning the receipts of supplies, proved to be very helpful. However, given an accurate report of stock on hand, the system followed would have enabled this section to know what would he the state of supplies a week to ten days in advance of any given date instead of less timely information. The office record of issues was made from requisitions immediately after their approval by the officers designated to examine them and before they were forwarded to the depots for issue.


For many years prior to 1917 requisitions for articles not on the standard supply table and for quantities of standard articles in excess of the quantities authorized in the supply table had been required by regulations to be forwarded


to the Surgeon General for the action of his office before such articles were purchased or such excess issues made. The controlling reason for this regulation was the meagerness of funds available for the purchase of supplies and the consequent need of close scrutiny of all expenditures. With the mobilizing of the increasing number of troops during the latter half of the calendar year 1917, these special requisitions increased at such a rate that it became necessary to assign qualified officers to whole-time duty on this subject alone. Other officers gave part-time service as needed, or performed other duties in connection with their work on requisitions.

Originally it was contemplated that department or division surgeons would be authorized to approve replenishment requisitions for the camps and cantonments and forward them direct to the depots designated to supply them. It soon became evident that excessive quantities of supplies were being entered on these requisitions and approved by the division or camp surgeons, quantities which could not be supplied if all camps were to have enough to meet actual needs. It was considered necessary to require that all requisitions from camps, cantonments, and military stations be forwarded to the Surgeon General' Office for action before issue. Their excess quantities were reduced to something like reasonable quantities and shipments were ordered from depots known to have available stocks. This caused some delay and dissatisfaction, but it eliminated the hoarding of supplies, reduced the reserve stock to a minimum, and tided the Medical Department over critical periods, which otherwise would not have been possible. At a later date camp medical supply officers were required to forward their requisitions for supplies monthly. A careful record was kept of all issues during the month, and the quantities so issued were entered in the first column, on the requisition opposite the item. In the second column was entered the stock on hand, and in the third column the quantities required, which represented for every article three times the quantities issued during the preceding month, less the quantity in stock. This method assured a month' s supply in the warehouses, a month' s supply in transit, and the third month required for. It took some time to familiarize supply officers with the method, but it was ultimately effected and appeared to work satisfactorily. This branch acted on requisitions for the various kinds of supplies--post, field, dental, laboratory, X-ray, veterinary, and motor. When the requisitions were received in the Surgeon General' s Office they were numbered, and one copy was sent to the officer designated to handle the particular class of supplies. That officer scrutinized the requisition, called for such information from the tabulation section as he found requisite to a proper decision, modified the quantities of such articles as he deemed in excess or unnecessary, and returned the requisition to the issue section, where the alterations or erasures made by the approving officers were entered on all copies of the requisition, items no longer issued were erased, and the issuing depot was determined by the nature of the materials and the location of the station making the requisition. Letters and indorsements of transmittal then were written and submitted to the approving officers for signature, after which the signed copy was mailed to the depot designated to make the issue. The second copy was returned to the requisitioning officer for his information concerning the action of the approving authority.


The third copy was filed under its proper number. Instructions required that there be separate requisitions for each class of supplies. This shortened the time and lessened the work of the finance and supply division. It also permitted reference of the particular class of supplies to the appropriate depot without extracting any part of it to another depot. Veterinary supplies could be examined by the veterinary assistant in the finance section, dental supplies by the dental assistant, X-ray supplies by the roentgenologists, etc., each group being handled by an expert in that line. The business transacted by this section had reached such volume in April, 1918, that the daily mail averaged 150 pieces requiring signature of the approving officers. This volume continued to increase until the armistice, although there are no records extant for the later periods.


This section was established in February, 1918, to meet the growing need for adequate information concerning the location and availability of supplies and the consumption at posts, camps, cantonments, and general hospitals. Requirements seemed to increase at a rate difficult to be met by production. It seemed necessary to have a ready record of the quantities of supplies issued to each camp medical supply depot for the guidance of the officers approving requisitions. Dependence could not be placed upon the property returns because they were too slow in coming in. It was concluded that this delay could be overcome and the future state of stocks determined by entering on the record, as a charge against the unit submitting the requisition, the quantities on each requisition approved by the officers who authorized the issue. It was assumed that the standard items were or would shortly be in stock at the depot designated to issue. This section, then, virtually kept a stock record card for every unit to which the distributing depots made issues. As previously stated, the chief difficulty lay in securing correct and complete inventories of supplies at the depots to serve as a starting point. It was easy enough to keep the record of approved issues, but it was difficult for some time to determine the approximate quantities available for issue.

The functions of the tabulation section were, in general, to compile and tabulate all information having to do with the issue of medical and hospital supplies.


This section was organized in October, 1917, primarily for overseas shipments, to keep in touch with the embarkation service, and to move supplies to the ports of embarkation for loading on transports. Later, as the organization developed and Government bills of lading came to be more and more used, it took over all matters pertaining to rail and water shipments. It supervised, as its name indicates, the transportation of medical and hospital supplies. It was in close liaison with the Railway Administration, and by personal affiliation was enabled to secure needed information promptly and to obtain cars for the movement of contractors' supplies as well as for those of the Medical Department. It had a representative in the office of the director of inland transportation after that service was organized. It arranged for all shipping releases


and had much to do with the movement of supplies from the manufacturers' establishments to the various depots and ports of embarkation. It kept a record of the tonnage going overseas, at the port, en route, and under orders. It followed all the carload inland shipments from the point of manufacture to destination. After the organization of the general purchasing office this section looked after the distribution of the supplies purchased by that office. When the monthly shipment of supplies to France had been compiled, the requisition was referred to this section for direct shipments from the manufacturer to the ports of such supplies as could be so routed. It arranged for the releases, then required, and issued the necessary instructions concerning the numbering and other marks to be put upon the packages to be shipped. When it became necessary under the instructions of the director of inland transportation to secure transportation orders from that office, this section developed those orders and distributed them, notifying the contractor, the consignee, and all other parties concerned. A representative on duty in the office of the director of embarkation kept an itemized record of all articles shipped overseas, with dates of shipment, quantities, and names of vessels on which forwarded. This section kept a card record file of all shipments in carload lots made by all medical supply depots in the United States, and until June 30, 1918, by the Gas Defense Service.


There was no change in the functions and duties of this section during 1918.


The work of this section was handled almost entirely by one officer of the Sanitary Corps. It began to function when, in the early autumn of 1917, the first newly organized combat division was ordered overseas, and continued until the end of December, 1918, when the need for additional supplies to France practically ceased. When instructions were received in 1917 to ship initial equipment and four months' replenishment for units going overseas, and to ship monthly one month' s replenishment for every combat division already overseas,5lists were prepared showing the quantities of every article on the supply table needed by the authorized number of base hospitals for a division and by the divisional medical units for one month. These quantities were calculated upon the best information available with 26,000 troops and 4 base hospitals per division as the basis. The plan followed was to multiply the quantities required monthly for 25,000 by a factor which represented the number of times that many troops expected to be in France during the month to which the shipment applied. The factor for a force of 300,000 would be 12, for 500,000 it would be 20, and so on. The factor used in the last calculation, which was for the month of January, 1919, was 135. Shipments for that month were never made. The factors were determined from the schedule of troop movements furnished the Surgeon General from time to time by The Adjutant General and the chief of the embarkation service. Formal requisitions for each class of supplies were prepared for each month' s shipment, and a sufficient number of copies were made to provide one copy each for the issuing depot, the office files, the assistant chief of the division, and the chief of the section.



With a view of furnishing the commanding officer of every unit with clear and concise information concerning the entire equipment to be provided his organization, War Department tables of equipment accompanied tables of organization. These tables of equipment showed the particular articles the different supply services of the Army were expected to furnish any particular organization provided for in official tables of organization. They were printed on the loose-leaf system to facilitate the frequent changes as they occurred. The several supply services showed this equipment in their respective manuals and regulations, but the information was scattered and not readily available to new organizations, hence the need for a compilation to show under the title of each organization the total equipment authorized for that particular unit. To meet these requirements for the Medical Department, an equipment section was added to the organization of the finance and supply division. A representative of this section worked in conjunction with representatives from the other supply services and The Adjutant General' s Office on the compilation of these tables of equipment. As rapidly as the tables were completed, they were printed and distributed to the Army. Loose-leaf binders were provided for their proper filing and preservation. These tables had not been entirely completed when the armistice was signed.


Growing out of the discussions of consolidation of procurement and finance which began early in the calendar year 1918, certain officers of each supply service were designated to represent their respective services. These officers were designated liaison officers. After the consolidation of procurement had been ordered, liaison officers were required to keep in touch with the progress of procurement being made for the Medical Department by other supply services. As many officers on full-time liaison duty were designated as the current needs required. Other officers in charge of special activities, such as motor ambulances, acted as liaison officers for their particular specialties. These officers maintained contact with the other services and such superior organizations as were required by regulations. This included, for the Medical Department, the War Industries Board and its various commodity groups, the Railway Administration, the Fuel Administration, the Labor Administration, the Treasury Department, the Bureau of Mines of the Department of the Interior, the Navy Department, and the several subservices of the War Department Quartermaster Corps, Ordnance Department, Signal Corps, Air Service, and Engineer Corps. It was expected, by means of these liaison officers, to keep the activities of supply coordinated. From the middle of August, 1918, to the time of the signing of the armistice, the officers in liaison with the other supply services were kept very busy. The development of a new system of supply in the middle of the stream of war activity threw a very heavy burden upon both the procuring agencies and the liaison officers. It also resulted in a marked slowing in the placing of contracts and in the deliveries of supplies.

This section was charged also with matters pertaining to priorities. Every contract placed required an authorization from the War Industries Board and


was given a priority rating in accordance with the procedure fixed by that board. The question of priorities will be further discussed in the section on procurement.


In the summer and fall of 1918, a decided slowing of production was noticed on many contracts. Production did not progress as it should; deliveries were not made according to schedule. Various excuses for these delays were given. To investigate these delays, and to accelerate the rate of production, several officers were sent into the field to visit the plants of the delinquent manufacturers, to ascertain, if possible, what were the real reasons for the unsatisfactory progress then being made, and to assist in overcoming the difficulties which were found to exist.6 For want of a better name these officers were designated as expediters, and a section was established in the finance and supply division to direct and coordinate the work in the field and to keep in close contact with the control agencies of the Government in Washington. If the difficulty was found to be shortage of fuel, the facts elicited by the investigation were presented to the Federal Fuel Administrator, and adjustments of fuel allotments obtained. If the difficulty was labor trouble, the investigator attempted to adjust the matter as mediator between the workmen and the employer. The investigator not infrequently succeeded in bettering the workmen' s condition and in adjusting their differences with their employer. An appeal to the loyalty of both often did much good. If the difficulty was due to a local shortage of labor, the difficulty was presented to the Labor Administrator and the shortage overcome. If the difficulty proved to be a shortage of raw or semifinished materials, or of transportation, the difficulty was brought to the attention of the proper governmental agency and its assistance solicited in the solution of the problem. These expediters were stationed at central points from which they covered the area and plants assigned to them. The reports rendered by them enabled the Surgeon General's Office to keep in close touch with the progress of manufacture under the various contracts and orders outstanding, to form a better estimate of future deliveries, and determine whether the ever-increasing requirements could be met. While not every difficulty was removed nor every demand met, these expediters proved to be a valuable asset in speeding up production.

REFERENCES (1) Orders, January 16, 1899, signed by Surg. Gen. George M. Sternberg. On file, Record Room, S. G. O., 50882 (Old Files)
(2) S. O. 85, W. D. April 13, 1917.
(3) S. O. 114, W. D. May 17, 1917.
(4) Orders, September 20, 1917, signed by Surg. Gen. W. C. Gorgas. On file, Record Room, S. G. O., 50882 (Old Files).
(5) Memorandum, G. H. Q., A. E. F., August 20, 1917. Subject: Automatic supply. Copy on file, Historical Division, S. G. O. Also: Cable No. 145-S from General Pershing to The Adjutant General, September 7, 1917.
(6) Letter from the Surgeon General to medical supply officers, August 17, 1918. Subject: Headquarters for district officers, production department. On file, Finance and Supply Division , S.G.O., 713 Misc./77