Charles Gates Dawes.

A journal of the great war (Volume 1) online

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of the Board. Special attention is called to his careful and
detailed report of its activities and the environment in which
they took place, which is attached hereto.

From the Staff of the Commanding General, Services of
Supply, there were detailed to the Staff of the American
member, Lieutenant-Colonel Fred D. Griffith, Cavalry, and


Lieutenant C. B. Gibson, F.A., to represent the Headquarters,
S.O.S., and that great executive and able officer, Colonel
H. C. Smither, Assistant Chief of Staff, G~4, S.O.S. To the
faithful and able services of these officers the American mem-
ber desires to pay tribute.

In addition to these members the American member ap-
pointed on his staff Lieutenant-Colonel J. C. Roop and Major
C. W. Adams. Both of these officers rendered most useful,
able, and arduous service. To Colonel Roop and Major
Adams were entrusted many difficult negotiations. Owing to
the great necessity for the services of Lieutenant-Colonel
Roop in the other work of the American member in the army,
he was withdrawn from the Staff at Coubert to become
Assistant General Purchasing Agent of the A.E.F. The
American member has always found in Lieut.-Col. Roop,
both in his service at Coubert and in Paris, an invaluable aid.

Through the work of Lieutenant-Colonel Hodges, Major
Adams, and Lieutenant Gibson in the preparation of the
detailed report of the operations of the Military Board of
Allied Supply much of value to the military students of the
future has been put in accessible, clear, and convenient shape.

Colonel H. C. Smither, Assistant Chief of Staff, G~4, S.O.S.

The place in the gratitude and admiration of his army
associates held by Colonel Smither is everywhere recognized.
Upon his unfailing interest and loyalty the American member
of the Board constantly and heavily drew. To enumerate the
instances of his cooperation with the Military Board of Allied
Supply would be impossible within the proper limits of this
Report, but the American member desires to state that Colo-
nel Smither gave invaluable cooperation in the accomplish-
ments of the Board.

Conclusion (Inter- A Hied Coordination)
As has been indicated throughout this Report, the diffi-
culties of securing inter-Allied coordination in time of war by


mutual agreement, as distinguished from military or central
authority established by agreements between the Allies, were

The purpose of the American member of the Military Board
of Allied Supply in pointing out the immense field of useful
effort from which national pride and individual jealousy of
authority excluded the Military Board of Allied Supply is
not to minimize the great accomplishments of the Board, but
to emphasize, as one of the lessons to be derived from this
experience, the absolute necessity hereafter in allied warfare
of a complete centralization under military control of the
supplies and facilities of the rear as well as a centralization of
authority for troop movement at the front.

The coordination of military units under separate com-
mand by liaison arrangement and voluntary joint agreement
as to a policy or action required by a given situation, always
has been, and always will be, a defective way to carry on
military operations. Such was the method under which, up
until the time of the military unification of the Allied forces
under Foch, the Allied armies operated. Military students of
the war, when its full history can be written, will no doubt
properly interpret the immense loss of military effectiveness
experienced by the Allies during the period of separate and
independent army command. To give common sense in inter-
allied military coordination the supremacy over human pride
and jealousy, only great emergency and the instinct of self-
preservation as a rule will suffice.

Whenever a coordinating action was asked the first ques-
tion naturally arising in the mind of the officer consulted was
whether it would result in a lessening of his individual au-
thority. If the action meant no lessening of individual author-
ity, but only a shaping of policy under the same authority to
accord more closely with the object of common effort, this
acquiescence could usually be secured. If, however, the meas-
ure of coordination involved the cession of authority on the
part of a commander of a unit to a superimposed control

Assistant Chief of Staff, G-4, S.O.S.


operating in the common interest, a stern opposition immedi-
ately developed. This opposition did not wholly develop from
individual selfishness and jealousy of prerogative, but because
there often existed a sincere belief that the cession of author-
ity would result in a lessening of the effectiveness of the unit
in a way detrimental to the interests of the whole. In other
words, the man in charge of a unit often felt that he was a
better judge of what was necessary to be done in the interests
of the whole than a superimposed control of the whole which
had a better view of the entire field to be coordinated. The
fight against coordination resolved itself often into a fight for
the status quo.

Reinforcing the officer or Government official asked to
cede authority for the common interest were national pride
and race prejudice. Those charged with the difficult duty of
securing coordination were often tempted to turn back in dis-
may at the obstacles which an independent chief of a service
would immediately raise in opposition to a proposed measure
of coordination. Before the last year and one half of the war,
during which time the United States was involved in it, a
process of natural selection under great emergency had been
at work in the Allied Governments and armies long enough
for a very strong and independent set of men to come into
power and position. The very competency and success of
these men in their individual tasks the valuable results
which they had achieved under great difficulty in their re-
spective departments of work and their ability to present
a case, made them most difficult and dangerous antagonists
when they opposed coordinating effort.

As stated in the beginning of this Report, in proposing a
central military control of allied supply effort, you, as the
American Commander-in-Chief, and I, as your representative
in the conferences, advocated a plan so indisputably correct
that upon presentation it was accepted as a principle, but the
innumerable arguments adduced against the feasibility of its
adoption were such that, good or bad, they could not be


resolved. In this connection it must again be remembered
that the Allies were practically beaten to their knees by the
Calais defeat before even a central military authority could
be established along the Allied front. The retarding of suc-
cess, the loss of lives, and the unnecessary suffering of the
Allied people which resulted from failure to establish military
control of the Allied front until so late a date, is one of the
tragedies of history. No less important from the very begin-
ning of the war than the central military command at the
front was this principle of a central military control of the
Allied resources and the rear of the Allied armies. The effort
for a central military control of the Allied rear and of Allied
supply, which resulted in partial success through the forma-
tion of the Military Board of Allied Supply, was made imme-
diately after the military control of the front was effected
under Foch. It was clearly seen that if a military unification
was not achieved at the front, an overwhelming and disastrous
defeat was inevitable. Under these circumstances, face to
face with death and disaster for their armies, the proud spirit
of the nations and their army commanders at last bent them-
selves into lines parallel with common sense. That the Amer-
ican effort to compel the adoption of these same common-
sense principles in the matter of Allied supply did not succeed
to a greater extent was because the necessity of this coordina-
tion was not emphasized by something analogous to the defeat
at Calais.

Had the war continued along with the failure to properly
coordinate the supply and transportation of the three armies,
until without the pooling of supplies men would have been
compelled to leave the fighting front, then the relation of the
question to victory might have enabled the effort to coor-
dinate food and supplies to more fully succeed. And yet
even the necessary degree of military unification at the front,
had the war continued, would have been impossible without
the unification of the rear of the armies under a central con-
trol analogous and subordinate to that exercised by Foch at


the front. The Allied armies at the end of the war were in the
anomalous and disadvantageous situation of having a Com-
mander-in-Chief who had theoretically unlimited power over
the movements of troops with no power at all over the lines of
communication save that of the particular army of which he
was chief. The failure to agree upon a military control of the
rear with its lines of communication and supply depdts made
it impossible in fact for the Allied armies to be fought as one,
but compelled Marshal Foch to maintain practical segrega-
tion of them in separate sectors. Experience in this war has
probably demonstrated that such segregation resulted in the
highest fighting effectiveness as a rule, but there were occa-
sions upon which the principles of segregation had to be
abandoned as a matter of acute military emergency, and the
extent to which at times this occurred emphatically demon-
strates the limitations imposed upon the Allied Commander-
in-Chief by his inability to control the transportation and
supply of the Allied armies as if they were a unit.

Shortly after the establishment of military control of the
front under Foch certain French troops were moved north-
west by him to the British front and certain British troops
southeast to the French front. As a result filled trainloads of
supplies at one time passed each other in opposite directions
from French d6p6ts in the southeast to French troops in
the northwest and from British dep6ts in the northwest to
British troops in the southeast, with a waste of transportation
facilities in consequence. This was afterward corrected by
agreement instead of by direct orders. It was manifestly im-
possible to make any very large shiftings of troops which
might be regarded as desirable and have them economically
and properly supplied when the lines of communication were
fixed for separate armies and over which the man who shifted
the troops had only a limited control.

As has been stated before, the greatest necessity for con-
tinued coordination existed in the operations of the French
and American armies, since the formation of the American


army was in juxtaposition to the French army and not to the
English army. The American member of the Military Board
of Allied Supply was not in Europe at the beginning of the
war and therefore cannot testify first-hand as to the degree of
common consultation between the French and English chiefs
of services in connection with the army transportation and
supply programmes of the French and British armies. From
his observation, however, of the situation since arriving in
France, during almost the entire time of American participa-
tion in the war, he would judge that it could have been im-
proved upon.

It is a fair assumption and one fully justified from the
later observation of the American member of the Military
Board of Allied Supply that these two proud and independent
nations, which had many times been at war with each other,
did not feel it necessary to seek to learn the lessons of each
other which the Americans were anxious and eager to learn
of both. In the breasts of our allies in Europe were the he-
reditary influences of centuries of military and commercial
contest among themselves. The American for that reason
had perhaps less of instinctive distrust of the policy of cession
of independent authority than existed with our allies. At
least the records will indicate that the Americans constantly
preached coordination even if at times the instincts of human
nature of an individual officer rendered him obstructive in
specific instances. The sacrifices which the magnificent
armies of France and Great Britain made in the common
cause and at times for each other, the splendid way with which
they rallied to each other's assistance and mingled their
efforts and blood upon the most terrible battle-fields of the
world, and finally came together, as defeat threatened, under
one military control, would indicate that the reason for any
lack of Allied coordination is to be found in the elemental
depths of human nature and national life and could not be
fully eradicated until that life itself was placed in danger.
The American member cannot refrain from paying an in-

Assistant General Purchasing Agent, A.E.F.


adequate tribute here, not only to the magnificent battle
qualities of the great British nation and to the supreme self-
sacrifice shown by all classes of its citizens, but to that final
subordination of their independent military authority to that
of a commander of the army of an adjacent and in the past a
rival nation in order that victory for the common cause of
Liberty might be won. Whether it was caused by the instinct
of property and the habits of thought engendered thereby,
whether the clearness of the relation of supply and transpor-
tation coordination to victory was not manifest enough, or
whether other reasons intervened, the fact nevertheless re-
mains that the greatest war in the world and for the greatest
cause, fought by the greatest nations of the world, having
their all at stake, was carried on by the Allies without proper
coordination in the rear of their armies. The coordination
that existed, and reached through mutual agreement, was so
far short of that which would have been reached through
a central military authority extending over both the front and
rear of the armies from the beginning of the war, that an
incalculable waste of military effectiveness characterized it.

There were, of course, at the beginning of the war many
conferences between the chiefs of the Allied services and
those high in authority relative to general policy of supply,
construction, and transportation. But with all the armies
there should have been an arrangement made by which
better facilities for a continuance of the juxtaposition of in-
dependent authorities and chiefs of services were secured so
that programmes originally agreed upon could be modified to
meet the constantly changing environment.

The effort to correct this situation, starting with the broad-
est statement of the ideal plan by you and presented to all
the Governments, finally resulted in the establishment of the
Military Board of Allied Supply as being the only possible
step in advance which could be taken. Considering the fact
that this effort was initiated when there existed an emergency
making coordination imperative, the like of which had never


before occurred in history; that it was presented upon your
initiative representing the American army, with the approval
in principle of your Government; that it was immediately
approved in principle by the Prime Ministers of France and
Great Britain, and that in the consideration of it the highest
administrative and ministerial authority of France and Great
Britain was represented as well as the full military authority
of yourself, it may be considered as one made under every
possible advantage so far as its chances of success were con-
cerned. Because especially of this environment of emergency
in which it was made, when imminent and complete disaster
impended, the Military Board of Allied Supply probably rep-
resents in its principle of organization and mode of operation
the farthest advance in connection with allied military supply
coordination which it was possible to obtain in the present
development of civilization. It was a machinery by which this
coordination could be attempted by voluntary agreement
without a vital cession of independent national or army
authority. It provided the means of securing the information
and general outlining of the common situation in the rear of
the armies which gave independent authorities the best possi-
ble opportunity to clear away their misunderstandings and
develop all the issues of any question upon which a mutual
agreement was desirable. It then provided the means for
immediately enforcing an agreement.

The American member believes that the literature and
reports of the Military Board of Allied Supply from the time
of the inception of the effort made to create it until its disso-
lution, including the discussions relating to its principles and
the actual results obtained in the rear of the Allied armies,
will be for all time of importance to the students of military
science and of governmental and international policy.

Brigadier-General, Engineers



A 000 630 354 9

Online LibraryCharles Gates DawesA journal of the great war (Volume 1) → online text (page 30 of 30)