To do so , something was necessary beyond volunteering because there was little glamour or romance in the European war ; ;
it meant instead hardship , dirt , and death .
Baker gave Leonard Wood credit for the initiation of the draft of soldiers ; ;
from the General's idea a chain reaction occurred .
Wood took the proposal to Chief of Staff Hugh L. Scott , who passed it on to Baker a month before the actual declaration of war against Germany .
The Secretary of War gave his assent after studying the history of the draft in the American Civil War as well as the British volunteer system in World War 1 .
He concluded that selective service would not only prevent the disorganization of essential war industries but would avoid the undesirable moral effects of the British reliance on enlistment only -- `` where the feeling of the people was whipped into a frenzy by girls pinning white feathers on reluctant young men , orators preaching hate of the Germans , and newspapers exaggerating enemy outrages to make men enlist out of motives of revenge and retaliation '' .
Baker took the plan to Wilson who said : `` Baker , this is plainly right on any ground .
Start to prepare the necessary legislation so that if I am obliged to go to Congress the bills will be ready for immediate consideration '' .
The result was that by secret agreement draft machinery was actually ready long before the country knew that the device was to take the place of the volunteering method which Theodore Roosevelt favored .
Before the Draft Act was passed Baker had confidentially briefed governors , sheriffs , and prospective draft board members on the administration of the measure -- and the confidence was kept so well that only one newspaper learned what was going on .
It was Baker , working through Provost Marshal Enoch Crowder and Major Hugh S. ( `` Old Ironpants '' ) Johnson , who arranged for a secret printing by the million of selective service blanks -- again before the Act was passed -- until corridors in the Government Printing Office were full and the basement of the Washington Post Office was stacked to the ceiling .
General Crowder proposed that Regular Army officers select the draftees in cities and towns throughout the nation ; ;
it was Baker who thought of lessening the shock , which conscription always brings to a country , by substituting `` Greetings from your neighbors '' for the recruiting sergeant , and registration in familiar voting places rather than at military installations .
Even so , the Draft Act encountered rough sledding in its progress through the Congress .
Democratic Speaker Champ Clark saw little difference between a conscript and a convict .
Democrat Stanley H. Dent , Chairman of the House Military Affairs Committee , declined to introduce the bill .
Democratic Floor Leader Claude Kitchin would have no part of the measure .
In the judgment of Chief of Staff Scott it was ironic that the draft policy of a Democratic President , aimed at Germany , had to be pushed through the House of Representatives by the ranking minority member of the Military Affairs Committee -- a Republican Jew born in Germany ! !
He was Julius Kahn for whom the Chief of Staff thought no honor could be too great .
After Kahn's death in 1924 Scott wrote : `` May he rest in peace with the eternal gratitude of his adopted country '' .
In spite of powerful opposition the Draft Act finally passed Congress on May 17 , 1917 .
In early June ten million young men registered by name and number .
The day passed without incident in spite of the warning of Senator James A. Reed of Missouri : `` Baker , you will have the streets of our American cities running with blood on registration day '' .
On July 20 , the first drawing of numbers occurred in the Senate Office Building before a distinguished group of congressmen and high Army officers .
Secretary of War Baker , blindfolded , put his hand into a large glass bowl and drew the initial number of those to be called .
It was 258 .
A man in Mississippi wired : `` Thanks for drawing 258 -- that's me '' .
He was the first of 2,800,000 called to the Army through the selective service system .
It was one thing to call men to the colors ; ;
it was another to house , feed , and train them .
The existing Army posts were wholly inadequate .
In a matter of months the War Department built thirty-two camps , each one accommodating fifty thousand men -- sixteen were under canvas in the South and sixteen with frame structures in the North .
It was a gargantuan task ; ;
a typical cantonment in the North had twelve hundred buildings , an electric-sewer-water system , and twenty-five miles of roads .
At Camp Taylor in Kentucky a barracks was built in an hour and a half from timber that had been standing in Mississippi forests one week before .
The total operation was a construction project comparable in magnitude with the Panama Canal , but in 1917 time was in short supply ; ;
in three months the Army spent three-quarters as much as had been expended on the `` big Ditch '' in ten years .
In later years Josephus Daniels was to claim that World War 1 , was the first in American history in which there was great concern for both the health and morals of our soldiers .
It was the first American war in which the death rate from disease was lower than that from battle , due to the provision of trained medical personnel ( of the 200,000 officers , 42,000 were physicians ) , compulsory vaccination , rigorous camp sanitation , and adequate hospital facilities .
To the middle of September 1918 , there had been fewer than 10,000 deaths from disease in the new army .
This enviable record would have been maintained but for a great and unexpected disaster which struck the world with murderous stealth .
It was the influenza pandemic of 1918-19 .
The malady was popularly known as the `` Spanish flu '' from the alleged locale of its origin .
The world-wide total of deaths from `` Spanish flu '' was around twenty million ; ;
in the United States 300,000 succumbed to it .
In mid-September 1918 , the influenza-pneumonia pandemic swept through every American military camp ; ;
during the eight-week blitz attack 25,000 soldiers died from the disease and the death rate ( formerly 5 per year per 1,000 men ) increased almost fifty times to 4 per week per 1,000 men .
In spite of this catastrophe the final mortality figure from disease in the American Army during World War 1 , was 15 per 1,000 per year , contrasted with 110 per 1,000 per year in the Mexican War , and 65 in the American Civil War .
Both Secretary of War Baker and Secretary of Navy Daniels devoted much time and effort to the problem of providing reasonably normal and wholesome activities in camp for the millions of men who had been removed from their home environment .
Their policy ran counter to the traditional idea that a good fighter was usually a libertine , and that in sex affairs `` God-given passion '' was a proof of manliness .
Baker moved first ; ;
six days after war was declared he appointed Raymond Fosdick chairman of the Commission on Training Camp Activities ( the CTCA ) .
Fosdick , a brother of minister Harry Emerson Fosdick , was a graduate of Princeton , and a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the American Philosophical Association .
His assignment was not a new one because Baker had sent him to the Mexican border in 1916 to investigate lurid newspaper stories about lack of discipline , drunkenness , and venereal disease in American military camps .
Fosdick had found the installations surrounded by a battery of saloons and houses of prostitution , with filles de joie from all over the country flocking to San Antonio , Laredo , and El Paso to `` woman the cribs '' .
He also ascertained that many officers were indifferent to the problem , including Commanding General Frederick Funston who gave Fosdick the nickname of `` Reverend '' .
On the basis of the long chronicle of military history Funston and his brethren assumed that the issue was insoluble and that anyone interested in a mission like Fosdick's was an impractical idealist or a do-gooder .
During the brief Mexican venture Fosdick's report to the Secretary recommended a definite stand by the War Department against the saloon and the excesses of prostitution .
The problem involved military necessity as much as morality , for in pre-penicillin days venereal disease was a crippling disability .
Fosdick insisted that a strong word was needed from Washington , and it was immediately forthcoming .
Baker put the `` cribs '' and the saloons out of bounds , ordered the co-operation of military officers with local law authorities , and told communities that the troops would be moved unless wholesome conditions were restored .
Both Baker and Fosdick knew that a substitute was necessary , that a verboten approach was not the real answer .
They were aware that soldiers went to town , in more ways than one , because of the monotony of camp life , to find the only release available in the absence of movies , reading rooms , and playing fields with adequate athletic equipment .
Both knew that when trains stopped at Texan crossroads bored soldiers would sometimes enter to ask the passengers if they had any reading material to spare , even a newspaper .
There was no time in the short Mexican encounter to evolve a solution but the area provided a proving ground for new departures in the near future .
When the United States entered the First World War Baker made certain that the Draft Act of 1917 prohibited the sale of liquor to men in uniform and that it provided for broad zones around the camps in which prostitution was outlawed .
Even so Fosdick , as the new Chairman of the Commission on Training Camp Activities , encountered strong and vociferous opposition .
New Orleans had a notorious red-light district extending over twenty-eight city blocks , and the business-minded mayor of the city journeyed to Washington to present the case for `` the God-given right of men to be men '' .
In Europe , Premier Clemenceau , showing his animal proclivities as the `` Tiger of France '' , asked Pershing by letter for the creation of special houses where the sexual desires of American men could be satisfied .
When Fosdick showed the letter to Baker his negative response was : `` For God's sake , Raymond , don't show this to the President or he'll stop the war '' .
Ultimately Fosdick's `` Fit to fight '' slogan swept across the country and every well-known red-light district in the United States was closed , a hundred and ten of them .
The result was that the rate of venereal disease in the American Army was the lowest in our military history .
This was the negative side of the situation .
Affirmatively Baker worked on the premise that `` young men spontaneously prefer to be decent , and that opportunities for wholesome recreation are the best possible cure for irregularities in conduct which arise from idleness and the baser temptations '' .
The wholesome activities were to be provided by many organizations including the YMCA , the Knights of Columbus , the Jewish Welfare Board , the American Library Association , and the Playground and Recreation Association -- private societies which voluntarily performed the job that was taken over almost entirely by the Special Services Division of the Army itself in World War 2 .
Over these voluntary agencies , in 1917-18 , the CTCA served as a co-ordinating body in carrying out what Survey called `` the most stupendous piece of social work in modern times '' .
Under Fosdick the first executive officer of the CTCA was Richard Byrd , whose name in later years was to become synonymous with activities at the polar antipodes .
From the point of view of popularity the best-known member of the Commission was Walter Camp , the Yale athlete whose sobriquet was `` the father of American football '' .
He was placed in charge of athletics , and among other things adapted the type of calisthenics known as the daily dozen .
The CTCA program of activities was profuse : William Farnum and Mary Pickford on the screen , Elsie Janis and Harry Lauder on the stage , books provided by the American Library Association , full equipment for games and sports -- except that no `` bones '' were furnished for the all-time favorite pastime played on any floor and known as `` African golf '' .
The CTCA distributed a khaki-bound songbook that provided the impetus for spirited renditions of the selections found therein , plus a number of others whose lyrics were more earthy -- from `` Johnny Get Your Gun '' to `` Keep The Home Fires Burning '' to `` Mademoiselle From Armentieres '' .