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Meeting of the Military Board of Allied Supply
AT La Grange du Roy, near Coubert, 1918

Photogravure Frontispiece
Major-General James G. Harbord 4

Chart showing Plan of Organization of the Gen-
eral Purchasing Agent 10

Brigadier-General Johnson Hagood, Chief of Staff,
Service of Supply 16

Lieutenant-Colonel John Price Jackson, Chief of

Labor Bureau, and Staff 22

Colonel Harry Maud, B.E.F. 42

Lieutenant-Colonel G. Davidson, B.E.F. 52

Colonel James A. Logan, Assistant Chief of Staff,
G-i, General Headquarters 62

Brigadier-General Harry Wilkins 72

Lieutenant-Colonel Nelson D. Jay, Assistant
General Purchasing Agent, A.E.F. 80

Civilian Labor Reception Depot, St. Denis, Novem-
ber 16, 1918 88

Italian Troops at Work on the Sermoise End of
the Nevers Railroad Cut-off, November 20, 1918 88

Indo-Chinese in Formation after Mess ready to
start for their Work 96

Lieutenant-Colonel F. W. M. Cutcheon, Chief
Board of Contracts and Adjustments, A.E.F. 108

Lieutenant-Colonel Francis E. Drake, Chief of
Control Bureau, Office of General Purchasing
Agent 120


Major-General H. L. Rogers, Quartermaster-
General, A.E.F. 132

Lieutenant-Colonel H. M. B^-llesby, A.E.F. , Pur-
chasing Agent in England 144

Harold F. McCormick, Purchasing Agent in Switz-
erland 156

Lieutenant Dalton H. Mulloney 168

Brigadier-General W. D. Connor, Commanding
General, Service of Supply 180

Colonel J. P. McAdam, General Staff 192

General John J. Pershing with Colonel James L.

Collins and Colonel Carl Bo\td 204

Lieutenant-Colonel Edward B. Gushing 216

Secont) Headquarters, General Purchasing Board,
Hotel Mediterranee, Paris 228

Third Headquarters, General Purchasing Board,
Elysee Palace Hotel, Paris 228

Edwin B. Parker, Chairman U.S. Liquidation Com-
mission, War Department 244

Hon. H. H. Hollis, Member U.S. Liquidation Com-
mission 248

Homer H. Johnson, Member U.S. Liquidation Com-
mission 252











February 28, 1919




February 28, 1919

From: The General Purchasing Agent and Chairman of the

General Purchasing Board, A.E.F.
To: Major-General James G. Harbord, Commanding

General, Services of Supply, A.E.F.
In compliance with your instructions I submit a Report of
the Activities of the General Purchasing Agent and the Gen-
eral Purchasing Board of the American Expeditionary Forces,
covering the period from the beginning of operations to the
present time. Preceding the Report and as indicating the
viewpoint from which it is proper to consider the operations
reported in their relation to the supply situation in Europe
and in the United States during the war, the following ob-
servations are pertinent.

From the middle of June, 1917, when the work of the A.E.F.
in France was inaugurated, until December 31, 191 8 (the
armistice having been declared November 11, 19 18), is ap-
proximately eighteen months. The detailed tonnage figures
attached hereto, which have been continuously and carefully
estimated, show that during that period approximately
10,000,000 ship tons (40 cu. ft. equals one ship ton) of material
was acquired in Europe for the use and maintenance of the
American army, being approximately 555,000 ship tons of
material per month. This material was secured on the Con-
tinent and in England through the operations of the General
Purchasing Board and the General Purchasing Agent under
the supervision and with the cooperation of our allies, France


and Great Britain. The record of trans-Atlantic shipments
from the United States to our army show that during these
eighteen months to December 31, 191 8, it was only possible to
send to the A.E.F. 7,675,410 ship tons or 426,000 ship tons
per month, based upon Army Transport figures showing an
average of 56.43 cu. ft. per 2000 lbs. received from the United
States. Owing to the lack of ships during the first seven
months of the existence of the A.E.F. in France, from June to
December, 1917 inclusive, a period when it was charged with
the necessity of founding a base and line of communications
in such a way as not only to provide for current arrivals, but
the eventual care of an army of millions, only 484,550 ship
tons were directly received from trans-Atlantic shipment. It
is a commentary not only upon the supply emergency under
which the A.E.F. continually labored, but as well upon the
splendid effort to alleviate that condition made by the War
Department, that during the thirty days preceding the armi-
stice nearly twice as much material was shipped to the A.E.F.
from America as it received from there during the entire first
seven months of its existence. From June, 191 7, to May, 191 8
inclusive — the first year — the A.E.F. received from Amer-
ica 2,156,238 ship tons of supplies. From June i, 1918, to
the declaring of the armistice — five months and eleven days
— it received from America 4,059,695 ship tons. It will be
noted that the success of the shipping programme in the
United States was such that in the last five months preceding
the armistice nearly twice as much tonnage was shipped from
America to the A.E.F. as had been shipped the entire pre-
ceding year.

In military and industrial efforts in the A.E.F. there were
occasional failures as there were in the United States. Mis-
takes occurred here and there, as always in a great and com-
plex enterprise, but to the observing officers of the A.E.F.
experiencing analogous difficulties in their own work of war
preparation, the gathering of the American army, the indus-
trial devotion to military preparation once the war was de-



clared, and the efforts of the different departments of the
Government, all challenged the highest admiration. No
matter how great or how successful were the activities in
military preparation of the domestic industries and govern-
mental departments of the United States, so long as ships
were lacking the A.E.F. could not be largely supplied from
across the ocean. The efforts put forth by the United States
in the shipbuilding programme, with results just beginning to
be greatly felt at the close of the war, coupled with the other
great efforts in preparation for a long war, made the United
States potentially the most powerful military nation on earth
and so recognized. The greatness of scope in its undertakings
and the immensity of the field requiring coordination made
inevitable a certain delay before our nation reached its real
military stride. History will probably show, when our home
achievements in military preparation are compared with those
made by any other nation during the first twenty months of
the war, considering our condition of preliminary unpre-
paredness, that our record has been surpassed by no other
nation, and that the armistice date on which the war ended
should not justly be allowed to obscure the results obtained
because they could not all be in evidence at the front. The
knowledge of their existence, however, had a tremendous effect
at the front. This preparation and potential power of our
nation was at once the rock upon which a stronger morale of
our noble allies was based, and upon which the morale of
Germany broke. To the A.E.F. in France was given an
environment in which its efforts could be more immediately
felt along the actual fighting front. More tonnage was not
sent from America for the use of the army because the ships
did not exist with which to transport it.

But war once entered upon, conscription having been im-
mediately put into effect, a national programme of industrial
and financial devotion to the purposes of war adopted, in-
cluding absolutely essential financial aid to our allies, our
nation succeeded in its greatest supply effort beside which all


others seem small and from which directly resulted Allied
victory — the supply to France of over two million soldiers,
than whom no finer or braver body of troops ever existed.
The world has not seen in its history such a quick organiza-
tion and transfer, to a field of conflict over such a distance, of
a force such as was gathered in the United States under the
supervision of the War Department during the last two years.

In the emergency situation constantly confronting the
supply officers of the A.E.F. it was a source of regret from
every standpoint that greater recourse to American products
in supplying our army could not be had, but there were not
sufficient ships to make such a course possible. Operations
were primarily governed by military exigencies. Charged
with the conviction, however, that the first question of im-
portance at all times in order to gain victory was the pro-
visioning, arming, maintaining, and caring for American
troops in the fighting line, the supply procurement service of
the A.E.F., while subordinating ordinary business consid-
erations to this question of proper supply, endeavored at the
same time to apply as safeguards the checks, regulations, and
restrictions of normal business organization where these did
not involve a diminution in supplies of first military emer-

The record of the A.E.F. up to the date of the armistice,
November ii, shows that it had sufficient supplies to enable it
to exist and function. It was not over-supplied. The fact
alone that the American nation was operating under a pro-
gramme proposed by the Commander-in-Chief and ratified
by the Government, providing for the existence of an army in
France by June, 1919, of four million men, alone justifies
every possible purchase of supplies and material which were
secured in Europe for the purpose of saving tonnage from
America. The supply requirements of the A.E.F. at all times
preceding the armistice, based upon the four million men
programme, were so enormous that the question whether
or not these men could have been supplied by the utmost


exertion, both in Europe and in the United States, was a
matter of such doubt that in resolving it in the affirmative
last June, when he determined that so far as he could accom-
plish it the war should be brought to its climax in the fall,
the Commander-in-Chief made the most vital, dangerous,
important, and successful decision of his entire military-

The strenuous activity of the supply procurement agencies
of the A.E.F., from their very inception, in seeking European
sources of supply proved of invaluable assistance when at the
crisis of the war military exigency demanded the heavier use
of Allied shipping to transport men from America at the
expense of supply shipments. At the time of the armistice, on
November 11, 191 8, Germany beaten to her knees threw up
her hands in unconditional surrender. Up to that very time,
in view of the four million men programme, the General
Purchasing Agent and the General Purchasing Board were
bending every energy toward supply procurement in Europe
so as to make possible its completion. In demanding this
programme on the part of the United States none realized so
well as the Commander-in-Chief the risk which he took in
connection with ship shortage in the coming months, con-
sidering the enormous increase in the demand for supplies
incident to the accession in France of several hundred thou-
sand troops per month. With that foresight and caution which
he always combines with energy and courageous decision, he
called into conference with him in June, 1918, the heads of the
services, including the General Purchasing Agent, and ex-
plained the overwhelming necessity for the most strenuous
supply procurement, construction, and transportation efforts
in Europe if the American programme, which he regarded as
absolutely essential to an early victory, was to be successfully
carried out.

From the higher standpoint of history, when truth and
justice are not befogged by partisan, personal, or business con-
siderations, the question which will be considered is not, for


instance, whether the lack of ships prevented the A.E.F.
from properly patronizing American business institutions in
securing so much of its necessary supply in Europe, but
whether, notwithstanding its great effort to secure supplies
from Europe, it had sufficient on hand and under arrangement
at the date of the armistice, to have enabled the American
Government, if the war had continued, to carry out the four
million men programme by June, 19 19, without having troops
in the line improperly fed, clothed, and armed. The Com-
mander-in-Chief — the Commanding General, Services of
Supply, concurring — decided that with his supply organiza-
tion functioning as it was in the A.E.F. and with the great and
successful efforts being made by the War Department to
supply an increasing number of ships, there would result the
accomplishment of this almost superhuman task. Notwith-
standing the inevitable and natural criticism incident to the
close of any war, every patriotic and right-thinking American
may find great pride in the thought that the American war
preparation, of which the A.E.F. was but a part, in spite of
mistakes which were inevitable and experiments which often
failed — considered as a whole and measured, not only by
results, but by the methods insuring them — will stand in
history both from a military and business aspect as one of the
greatest organized efforts ever put forth by any nation.

The General Purchasing Agent, therefore, in presenting
the following Report and with full realization of its public im-
port, submits these observations with it, hoping to induce in
its consideration by others that high perspective gained only
by keeping in mind the great preponderating and continuing
element of military necessity and emergency involved in all
procurement matters of the A.E.F. from the smallest to the
largest transaction. Whatever success has resulted from the
efforts of the General Purchasing Agent and the General
Purchasing Board has come because they have never lost
sight of the military aspect of supply procurement, while they
endeavored to apply as far as consistent with this fact every


available device of normal business organization designed
to prevent competition, check extravagance, and safeguard

These supply procurement activities are not properly to be
considered from the primary standpoint of the obligations and
conventional methods of ordinary commercial transactions.
Had the General Purchasing Agent retarded the supplying of
military needs in an endeavor to fully comply with the checks
and safeguards of normal business, he and his Board would
properly have been swept out of existence within a month. At
the same time he feels that the record of his office and this
following Report will show that every effort was made to
apply these safeguards where it could be done without inter-
fering with matters of military exigency.

In the consideration of the question whether or not the
A.E.F. should buy articles in Europe or requisition them from
the United States, the probable time which would be con-
sumed by securing them from the United States by requisi-
tion was a most important element. Probably many articles
could have been more cheaply procured in the United States,
even taking into consideration the high cost of freight to
France, if it had been possible to wait the requisite time for
ship tonnage to carry them. The question of priorities and
relative necessities in the matter of use of the limited tonnage
was such that the advisability of purchases in the United
States as distinguished from purchases in Europe was con-
trolled by the continuing tonnage emergency.

General Purchasing Board and General Purchasing
Agent, A.E.F.

The plan for the creation of the office of the General Pur-
chasing Agent and the General Purchasing Board was con-
ceived by General Pershing, Commander-in-Chief, American
Expeditionary Force. In general it may be stated that the
department of the administrative staff under the General
Purchasing Agent was the result of a supply emergency


existing at the time of its creation, which has continued
throughout America's participation in the war. The plan
originated by General Pershing to cope with the chaotic con-
ditions first existing in the matter of supply requirements of
our army in France, resulting from the independent action
of the separate services, owed much of its eventual efifective-
ness to its simplicity. Foreseeing the necessity for the con-
tinued extension of central authority in supply procurement,
General Pershing did not attempt in the first order consti-
tuting the G.P.A. and the G.P.B. to fully define their duties.
As is often the case in the unusual environment created by
war, the establishment in any army of any new organization
which functions satisfactorily results naturally in an increase
of authority and jurisdiction extending far beyond the origi-
nal purposes for which it was created. In this particular case,
the G.P.A. was designed at first to be simply a coordinator
of purchases. He did not possess, nor has he exercised, the
power of direct purchase, but his power of direction and veto
over the purchasing activities of the army, and his contact with
the chiefs of the purchasing services and our allies, resulted in
the evolution in him of large powers over the general policy of
supply procurement.

Coincident with the assumption of the power of coordina-
tion, he inaugurated under the direction of the Commander-
in-Chief, in order to save trans-Atlantic tonnage, a system to
supplement the supply procurement activities of the inde-
pendent services in Europe and superimposed this organiza-
tion upon the separate services in such a way as to expedite
rather than interfere with their functioning.

The fact that the G.P.A. was the only executive officer of
the Administrative Staff, with headquarters for the most part
in Paris, resulted in his being used by the C.-in-C. and the
C.G., S.O.S., as their agent in Allied inter-army and inter-
governmental supply negotiation. Again, from time to time
the arising of acute emergencies in connection with the afifairs
of the army led to the placing upon him of certain specific

B: REPORT TO C.G., S.O.S. ii

tasks by the C.-in-C. and the C.G., S.O.S. , because his
juxtaposition to the authorities of the French and EngHsh
Governments facilitated inter-AlHed negotiations by him in
Paris as compared with the inconvenience of negotiation at
Chaumont and Tours. So pecuHarly has the work of the ofifice
of the G.P.A. and the G.P.B. been the result of emergencies
created by the new conditions of inter-Allied military en-
deavor, that since the signing of the armistice its demobiliza-
tion has been proceeding rapidly. Its whole system was, in
effect, a device superimposed upon the regular army organi-

Attached to this Report of the G.P.A. are the separate
reports made to him by the chief purchasing officers of the
services and the chiefs of the bureaus of his office, comprising
his organization. Instructions were given by the G.P.A. to the
chiefs of the purchasing services and the chiefs of the bureaus
in his office to confine their reports to the smallest limit con-
sistent with giving an idea of the general scope and accom-
plishments of their respective work. Since the prime re-
sponsibility for the consummation of purchase transactions is
with the independent services, subject, only tor coordination
purposes, to the control of the G.P.A., the record of aggregate
financial transactions and the details of purchases properly
rest in the files of the respective services of the army. The
compilation of these will probably be contained in the report
of the Chief Finance Officer of the A.E.F. Such references to
costs as are made in the reports filed herewith are only desig-
nated to throw light upon the general procurement efTort of
the A.E.F. The reports attached hereto of the officers assigned
to the G.P.A. are manifestly a better source of information
for the details of the operation of his office than a recapitula-
tion of them by the G.P.A., who will therefore largely confine
himself to general statements. Since the business of the G.P.A.
under the emergencies of war was in a constant state of evo-
lution and readjustment, certain organizations were formed
and operated for a time by the G.P.A. which were afterwards


transferred to other jurisdictions. In such cases a report from
the organizations are included among the attached reports
and indicate the time of their transfer to other authority.
This is the case with the report of the labor organization
which was formed by the G.P.A. under G.O. 5, S. of R.,
March 4, 1918, and carried on by him until September i, 1918,
when it was transferred to the Army Service Corps. Likewise
upon the organization of the Finance Section of the A.E.F.,
the Board of Contracts and Adjustments, established by the
G.P.A. , February 14, 1918, was transferred to the Chief
Finance Officer in December, 1918; as was also the Bureau of
Accounts and the Financial Requisition Officer created under
the G.P.A., July 12, 1918.

It is the desire of the G.P.A, in this General Report to
make clearly evident the fact of the importance, in the success
of supply procurement in Europe, of the continued existence
of the right of independent purchase by the different services
subject to coordination by his central authority. Without the
authoritative pressure direct, and without delegation, from
those at the point of necessity upon those responsible for the
satisfaction of the need, which was secured by a coordinated
system of purchase by the different services, the supply re-
sults of the A.E.F. could not have been accomplished. While
in the results showing tonnage purchased by the independent
services as represented on the G.P.B. there are included such
supplies as were brought to the attention of the separate serv-
ices by the superimposed organization of the G.P.A. in neu-
tral and Allied European countries, yet the bulk of these sup-
plies would have been secured without the assistance of the
organization of the G.P.A., although at higher prices and
under greater difficulties. In other words, in the judgment of
the G.P.A. the important element in the success of the Ameri-
can army in France in supplying itself was the pressure put by
the independent chiefs of the services upon their own supply
agents in their efforts to carry out the military procurement
programme imposed upon the chiefs by the C.-in-C. and sup-

B: REPORT TO C.G., S.O.S. 13

plemented by the pressure of the G.P.A. and the C.G., S.O.S.
The designation in orders of the Chairman of the G.P.B. as
the G.P.A. of the A.E.F. makes it all the more important for
him in this Report, as a matter of plain justice, to again
emphasize the fact that all purchases were consummated by
the independent services and not by himself as an individual
officer. The results obtained were through the members of
the G.P.B. representing the independent services, supplemen-
ted, expedited, and coordinated by the superimposed organi-
zation of the G.P.A. As a matter of fact, when General
Pershing, acting in an environment of acute emergency, con-
ceived and created the G.P.B. and the office of the G.P.A., he
established an interdependency and mutuality of interest in
an effort for a common result which made close cooperation
and complete understanding on the part of both necessary
to success on the part of either.

The G.P.A., therefore, names here some of the different
chiefs of the independent purchasing services reporting to him
as members of the G.P.B. at different times as the ones in his
judgment largely responsible for the trans-Atlantic tonnage

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Online LibraryCharles Gates DawesA journal of the great war (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 23)