Charles Gates Dawes.

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do not the war may be lost before we are ready to enter it.

On Friday called with my aide, Major Harjes, on Mr.
Sharp, the American Ambassador. Was cordially received


and assured of his hearty cooperation in my work. At his
request and that of the French Minister of Blockade, who
was present, am delaying sending army purchasing officers
to Switzerland until diplomatic negotiations are nearer com-
pletion looking toward an adjustment of the embargo situa-
tion between the United States and Switzerland. Hope that
our country will make some concessions to Switzerland which
will result in Switzerland's lifting the embargo on certain sup-
plies which we can get there for our army. In the afternoon
met the French Minister in charge of medical and surgeons'
hospitals, etc. (Service de Sante) and his staff in formal ses-
sion, and arranged the details of coordination in this work
and securing medical supplies between the French and our
own army. The interpreter at this session was James H.
Hyde, formerly of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, New

Was greatly pleased (to-day Saturday) to receive the
word of our large coal loadings in England. Moore has just
returned from a hurried trip there.

The war has resolved itself in a large degree into a freight
tonnage situation for the present. Great Britain is making a
splendid offensive while the mighty work of American prepa-
ration goes on.

Paris, Tuesday, October 9, 1917

YESTERDAY Colonel Stanton and I, having received orders
from General Pershing, met the representatives of the French
Treasury and considered the matter of the material furnished
by the French Government to our army up to September 30,
the payment therefor, and the method of payment hereafter
after the system of checking material and accounts is more
fully worked out. After going over the statements presented
we wrote the Commander-in-Chief recommending that
$50,000,000 be placed to the credit of the French Govern-
ment in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as against
material already delivered. We also recommended that


Major H. H. Harjes be appointed to represent the United
States in determining amounts, and carrying out a system in
the future for settlement of balances. The French officials
estimated they would furnish us from $60,000,000 to $100,-
000,000 per month of supplies including ordnance and avia-
tion material. Agreed upon the desirability of fortnightly
settlements, as France needs the credits for use in America.
This matter took us the entire day.

To-day am considering the question of our relation to Swiss
and Spanish markets, having received a letter from the Ameri-
can Ambassador Sharp and the French Minister of Blockade
in this connection. The matter is one of more or less delicacy
owing to the necessity for complete cooperation between us
and the French and English.

Our army system here seems more centralized than that of
either the English or French, of which I am glad. I believe
in extreme centralization in army matters. Through it comes
a quicker perception of the necessities of a situation, and a
more rapid correction of a difficulty. Heaven knows we need
quick action these days!

Am delighted that Congress has made John a General
settling once and for all questions of relative rank among not
only our own Generals, but among those of our allies.

Paris, Friday, October 12, 1917

BUSY days. Thursday at a long conference with General
Carter, the Director of Supplies, British Expeditionary
Force, laid the foundation for what I hope will be the even-
tual coordination of all Continental purchasing and handling
of supplies among the Allies. Carter and I prepared a cable
which General Pershing has sent to Lord Derby opening the
way for a London conference, and we also reached an agree-
ment between us which we shall now take up with the French
for joint action in Spain. My official correspondence will
show the details. General Pershing telephoned me Wednes-
day that he would come in and spend Thursday evening with

Director of Supplies, British Expeditionary Force


me. He did so and we took dinner and spent the evening in
war discussion. He is naturally pleased at his promotion
to the great position of Lieutenant-General, but is properly
impressed with the great responsibilities of his position. Read
me a letter from Baker, Secretary of War, commending his
course thus far; said (that is, Pershing said) Wilson told him
he had chosen him to be the Commander-in-Chief in France
because of the way he had conducted himself in Mexico. He
has suggested to the French that we use some of the Russians
now in France as laborers. It has been kept a profound secret,
but two divisions of Russian troops about 40,000 men
on the French line revolted after killing many of their officers.
The French have them in barbed-wire enclosures, and are
rather at a loss to know what to do with them.

I told him that it would be impossible for me to properly
attend to the labor situation in addition to my other duties as
he suggested. He was greatly pleased with the way I am co-
operating in the Switzerland and Spanish supply situation
with the American Ambassadors to France, Spain, and Swit-
zerland. Pending the diplomatic negotiations on embargo
between the United States and the latter two countries my
constant cooperation, as controlling the activities of our
supply departments with our diplomatic representatives, is
essential. My official correspondence, prepared with much
care, shows the questions at stake and our method of pro-

John is master of his great place. It has not affected his
perspective or changed him in any way. He has the proper /
mixture of caution along with his tremendous initiative and /
executive capacity. He thinks a thing out, and then acts
without indecision. He is very wise. When he starts our
offensive it will be kept up. His mind is on essential things,
and yet he does not overlook the importance of details in
their relation to greater things. I have never worked in
greater accord with any one than with Pershing. Reason,
and never prejudice, rules with him. He is in the midst of


great events and still greater ones await him, and those
of us associated with him in our humbler posts.

The French believe in the sacredness of fixed procedure at
dinner. When I told our head waiter at the Ritz that General
Pershing was to dine with me, and was ordering dinner in ad-
vance, he was much distressed because I ordered no soup.
His protests were polite, but extremely insistent. Soup should
be served. The General would expect soup. Was I sure he
did not want it? He would prepare it anyway and if the
General did not want it, it would not be put on the bill. Was
I very sure that the General could get along without soup?
"Well," I replied finally, "when the General and I patron-
ized Don Cameron's 15-cent lunch counter at Lincoln, Ne-
braska, he was able to get along without soup and nearly
everything else I have ordered that costs over ten cents."
This remark, designed to impress his sense of humor, was
unnoticed in his profound depression over my obstinacy
and so I let him make his soup and pass the question directly
to the great chieftain himself for decision. When the General,
dining at my expense, decided for soup, the waiter's joy was so
evident that sacrilege had not been committed when threat-
ened, that I was glad I had raised the question for his sake.

Letter to my mother

Paris, October 23, 1917

I realize that my letters to you have been brief and un-
satisfactory, which arises not out of any lack of affection or
consideration for you, to whom I owe in every way so much,
but from the fact that during my whole life my training in
correspondence has been to eliminate what has from a busi-
ness standpoint seemed to be non-essential. In that way I
have lost the art of narrative letter writing. When I start to
write such a letter I am constantly sitting in judgment upon
the question as to whether the facts are important enough to
record, forgetting that to those we love and who love us most


no fact is trivial if it concerns ourselves. And so to-night,
despairing of any effort to write you, I have brought my ste-
nographer to my room to undertake to dictate an account of
the trip to the Belgian front from which I have just returned.
As a matter of fact none of the personal incidents which I
shall mention are really important as compared to the in-
cidents of the work which General Pershing has given me to
do, but the latter would prove uninteresting as compared
with what follows.

I have told you of my friend Mr. Van de Vyvere (pronounced
Van de Fever), the Belgian Minister of Finance, of whom I
have come to think so much. His Bureau is concerned with
all matters of Belgian finance and I had some questions to
discuss with him relative to the coordination of the work of
securing supplies for the Belgian and the American armies. I
met him at Abbeville, to which point I went by motor from
Paris, starting Saturday morning. I took with me on the trip
Major H. H. Harjes, one of my aides, a member of the firm of
Morgan, Harjes and Company, Paris, and my friend Cor-
nelius N. Bliss, Jr., of the Executive Council of the Red
Cross, who happened to be here. I had arranged to take Colo-
nel Sewell of the iyth Regiment Engineers, but at the last
minute he had written me of his inability to come. After
lunch with Mr. Van de Vyvere at Abb6ville I got into his
motor, a fine Rolls-Royce machine, and at a speed which
I think must have averaged forty-five miles per hour, reached
the old French town of St. Omer, where we waited an hour
before my own machine with Harjes and Bliss joined us. Mr.
Van de Vyvere took me to visit the old cathedral, to which
no one could have a more interesting guide. In culture, edu-
cation, knowledge, and ability, he is a most unusual man.
Fortunately for their own present stock of interesting remi-
niscences, Harjes and Bliss got into Mr. Van de Vyvere's
automobile with us for the balance of the journey to La
Panne, the point of our first destination.

Dunkirk is the town in which, sometimes at noon and some-


times at seven o'clock in the evening, practically each day,
there is received a German shell fired from a gun about thirty-
three miles distant. Signals are given from the flash at the
gun from points far ahead and the inhabitants have about one
minute from the time of receiving the signal to seek shelter in
the cellars. The town is, of course, considerably damaged.
We passed through this town a little after seven o'clock in the
evening. As the entire section is under more or less bom-
bardment, especially from airplanes, we ran with no lights
at a comparatively slow pace. Just after we had passed the
town a siren sounded and Mr. Van de Vyvere announced
that an airplane raid was in progress. This first raid had but
a comparatively mild interest for us, since the bombs struck
at a very considerable distance. We could hear the anti-
aircraft guns and saw the searchlights seeking the hostile air-
plane. We had not proceeded, however, more than half an
hour when we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by great
shafts of white light directed toward a spot above us in the
sky, which, of course, we could not see through the top of our
limousine. We were proceeding slowly in the dark very near
a factory used for making shells, to destroy which was the
evident purpose of the hostile airplanes. Around us on all
sides the anti-aircraft guns were firing at the airplanes. It
seemed to us even then that we had a center seat for an in-
teresting performance. Suddenly to the right of the road oc-
curred about four great crashes, each one of them sounding
like a ten-story sky-scraper falling down, and then, a few
seconds later, three more tremendous crashes occurred on the
other side of the road. If the Germans had been aiming for
our automobile instead of the munition factory, they would
have been considered extremely good marksmen, for two
days later when we came past this spot on our return we
paced the distance from the nearest crater to the point on the
road where our automobile stood, with an estimated allow-
ance for the small canal at the side of the road, and the dis-
tance was about one hundred and forty yards only a little


over four hundred feet. Into the crater formed by this bomb
a small-sized house could be comfortably placed. Our safety
consisted somewhat, no doubt, in the fact that the nearest
bomb struck a soft, swampy field instead of rocks or hard
earth. When the bomb struck I did not notice that it gave
off any light, but only sparks such as would be caused by
striking red-hot iron with a hammer in a blacksmith shop.
There were not very many sparks at that.

We finally reached La Panne, where Mr. Van de Vyvere
took us to the apartment rented by him and the Minister
of the Interior for use when they go to La Panne at the time
of their cabinet meetings with the King of Belgium. Mr. Van
de Vyvere lives at Havre, France, which is the present Bel-
gian seat of government. The apartment was plain and
simple, but very comfortable. We arrived at about nine
o'clock at night and after dinner had a most enjoyable eve-
ning. Sunday morning, October 21, two Belgian Comman-
dants called at eight o'clock to take us to the Belgian front. I
went in the automobile with Commandant Le Due and Mr.
Van de Vyvere, and Mr. Harjes and Mr. Bliss followed with
Commandant Scheidt. On the way Mr. Van de Vyvere stopped
at the office of his colleague, General De Couninck, the Min-
ister of War, a man of very pleasant but aggressive character,
to whom he presented me. He was living in a handsome
house which in some lucky way had escaped bombardment.

And now a word about Belgium. Belgium is now only about
twenty miles long and six to eight miles wide. Upon this
narrow strip of territory the King of Belgium and his army,
consisting of about 160,000 men, have made their stand
against the Germans. The whole country is subject to con-
stant bombardment, and the larger guns of the Germans
constantly fire clear across it into French territory. Its
little villages are many of them practically demolished, but
a considerable proportion of their original inhabitants dwell
in some of them. The Belgian front extends for a long way
through what is called the "flooded district" in Flanders. At


the cost of immense labor the Belgian army has built into
the flooded regions roads and erected trenches which consist
of ramparts of sandbags for the most part. The roads lead-
ing to the Belgian front are protected by camouflage strung
on wire screens and consisting apparently in large part of
straw and reeds. Practically all the distance which we trav-
eled from the office of the Minister of War to the front was
thus protected.

About halfway we stopped and left the automobiles and
proceeded on foot along the road which at that time was not
bombarded, but which at night, when supplies are brought
forward over it, is subjected to constant bombardment and
machine-gun fire. We spent a time in the second trenches and
then went forward to the first trenches, walking about forty
feet apart so as not to attract special attention. We reached
the front-line trenches and spent quite a time talking with the
Major commanding the battalion there. At that time the
artillery firing from the Germans and the Belgians was quite
light and we decided to go still further to the most advanced
posts from which we could get a better view of all the pro-
ceedings. We reached these points by going behind a ram-
part part of the way and then through a narrow lane of sand-
bags arched over at intervals with iron where an enfilading
fire from the Germans could otherwise be directed along the
trench. On the way I was taken to an observation post which
was hidden halfway up a ruin of a farmhouse. I climbed the
ladder to the observation station and with the glasses of the
soldier who was there looked at the German line which was
about four to five hundred yards further on.

About this time the firing became more general between
the Belgian and German lines. The shells would pass over
our heads. Some of them sounded almost like a railroad
train; some of them whined, 1 and others made a sound
similar to the firing of a sky-rocket. The airplanes were very

1 I came to know afterward that the "whining shells" were from the
enemy and were nearing the end of their flight.

Major Harjes and Lieutenant-Colonel Dawes


active. Whenever the French or Belgian airplanes would
come near the line, the German guns would open upon them
and we could see the shells bursting around them. The Ger-
mans would also fire at them with machine guns. A machine
gun sounds a good deal like a pneumatic hammer on a sky-
scraper which is being built, but since in Marietta you have
probably not heard one I will bring you to a realization of it
by stating that when in our childhood we boys used to run
along the pavement in front of the house holding a stick hard
against the pickets of the old fence the resultant noise
sounded like an infant machine gun. Finally a German air-
plane almost directly above my head was engaged by four
Allied machines. I counted eight or ten shells bursting at one
time around the Allied machines. Machine guns also were
firing from the German lines, from the airplanes themselves,
and from a little Belgian who was in the trench where we were.
The engagement ended by the German airplane flying back to
its lines with apparently no casualties on either side. All
this time, while an intermittent firing was going on around us,
there was a dull and continuous roar to the east. It was an
inspiring sound, like the roar of distant thunder or rather
it was the roar of the splendid British lion, grievously
wounded, but fighting the greatest winning fight of his life.

From my observation post I could see the town of Dix-
mude in the distance, which is in the hands of the Germans,
and just beyond this town the English guns were at work.
The blood of my ancestors stirred in pride within me when
I realized the tremendous scope of this magnificent artillery
effort. We stayed in the trenches all the morning. No shell
burst near us with the exception of one after Mr. Van de
Vyvere and I had gotten into the automobile quite a distance
back of the second line. The name of the point which we vis-
ited I have written down and in peace-times I should like to
revisit it. I shall never be able to remember the name. Here
it is Stuyvekenskerke. At one o'clock we went to the
headquarters of the Belgian army. The attentions which


were paid to us you must not attribute to my own military
standing, but to the high regard in which my friend the Min-
ister of Finance is held by everybody in Belgium. We found
the American flag flying from the headquarters and we were
greeted, by Lieutenant-General Ruquoy of the Belgian Army,
First Chief of Staff, General Detail, Second Chief of Staff,
Colonel Maglinse, and the General in Command of Artillery,
General Arnould. Here we were entertained at lunch. It
was a most interesting occasion, and while the General and
his staff could not talk English, Mr. Van de Vyvere and Mr.
Harjes and Commandant Le Due interpreted for all. The
Commanding General lost his only son, a boy of twenty-two
years, the year before in action, and himself was badly
wounded. He is a simple, unaffected, energetic, kindly man.
As we left he asked me to step out on the porch and there had
the official photographer take a picture of the party, which,
when I receive it, I shall forward.

I cannot speak too highly of the work of the Belgian army.
What it was in the early history of the war the world knows,
but in the interest inspired by the larger armies within the
last two years it has been almost forgotten. But there it
stands, fighting in the midst of swamps, mud, and conditions
of indescribable discomfort with the same steadfastness and
unflinching courage which drew from Julius Caesar his praise
of two thousand years ago. Later in the afternoon we visited
one of the ruined villages of little Belgium and a base hos-
pital. We then returned to La Panne, where with Mr. Van
de Vyvere at his apartment we passed the evening and night.
The Belgians insisted the next morning upon carrying us by
automobile from La Panne to Amiens, about one hundred and
fifty miles on our way home, since their fine machines out-
classed my own.

On the way we passed the reserves of the magnificent
British army, some of them just starting for the front to go
into action. It is difficult to state in terms which will convey
a proper impression, the strength, fitness, and splendid bear-


ing of these men. In equipment of all kinds, in thoroughness
of preparation, in esprit de corps, and, above all, in morale,
they have no superiors, but in time we know they will find an
equal in the troops of the United States, with which so many
of their blood will march. As we passed along the road a regi-
ment of Gordon Highlanders in their kilts passed us, headed
by a splendid band including its squad of bagpipers. The
effect of the music upon the men and upon us who saw them
reminded me of what the men of the I7th Engineers felt the
night they marched through the rain and in the dark from
the railroad station at Borden to their camp at Oxney, led by
an English band. I had commanded the train which carried
the first battalion of our regiment from Liverpool to Borden.
The boys had had only a small ration at noon and we did not
arrive until late at night. They came out of the cars tired
and hungry and formed in the darkness and rain along the
road. When this band came down from the English camp
and marched back at the head of our line, playing American
airs, it seemed to say to the discouraged and tired men, "You
amount to something after all." "You are welcome." "You
are one of us." I do not think that the march afterwards
through the crowded streets of London produced the effects
upon the minds of the regiment as did this march in the
night along the quiet lanes which led to Oxney.

This letter is long, but the burden will fall chiefly upon my
stenographer. I cannot take time to write often in this way.
My work is exacting, but inspiring, for it is related to the
general preparation of the army which before long will march
by the side of the Allies in the final effort. I am glad to be
here, and am glad that William and Gates are here. Between
the three of us we will try and leave the family mark on the
record. If Rufus were alive he would be with us too. I hope
you keep well. I wrote you on our mutual birthday and the I
length of this letter is in part an apology for having written '
only once since. With much love

Your affectionate son


Paris, Thursday, October 25, 1917

I REACHED Paris from my trip to the Belgian front Monday
evening. In a letter to mother I have recorded the inci-
dents of the trip and will file a copy of the letter in these

Before leaving I wrote to the American Ambassador to
France suggesting a method of solving the grave exchange
situation between France and Spain and France and Switzer-
land by having the Governments of Spain and Switzerland
establish a debit balance on the books of the Treasury of the
United States which would be created by their purchase of
cotton for their factories direct. The United States would
pay the cotton producers of the United States direct and
charge Spain and Switzerland on its books for the amount.
The debit balance our purchasing agents would extinguish
by the payment of the amount due for importations for
our army of supplies simply giving Spain and Switzerland
memorandums of the amount due which would be credited
against the debit balance in the United States. The Am-
bassador cabled my letter to the State Department strongly
urging the plan, and Ribot for the French Government stated
that he would cable the French Ambassador to the United
States to urge the adoption of the same. The United States is
considering the lifting of the embargo on cotton to Spain and
Switzerland in return for embargo concessions from them.

Online LibraryCharles Gates DawesA journal of the great war (Volume 1) → online text (page 5 of 30)