Soldier after soldier is turned out fit and eager to fight for liberty under the Stars and Stripes, mindful of the traditions of his race and the land of his nativity and conscious of the principles for which he [was] fighting.
- Capt. Edward R. Padgett, October, 1918
The War Department understood the vital link between the higher levels of troop morale that resulted in an effective fighting force. To motivate excellent morale in foreign-born soldiers, the War Department depended on military organizations (such as the FSS), civilian organizations (such as the Jewish Welfare Board and the Knights of Columbia), and local ethnic community leaders that supported the uplifting of foreign-born soldiers. It is important to note that although ethnic leaders willingly supported the goals of the military, these leaders continued to promote the retention of their culture (cultural needs, cultural problems, religious traditions) while ensuring that foreign-born soldiers received equal opportunities compared to their native-born American counterparts. Ethnic leaders also participated in translating and distributing war propaganda that native-born soldiers received such as pamphlets, posters, books, and speeches.(1) Overall, ethnic leaders influenced the upbringing of new military policies that began to stray away from the concept of “100 percent Americanism.” Instead, these new military policies attempted to instill a sense of American patriotism while promoting a cultural respect and sensitivity to other cultures imported by immigrants.
- The War Department reflected this ideology with their philosophy concerning raising morale by stating that the “upbuilding of morale should begin with the first arrival of a new draftee… Anything that can be done to make the new man feel reasonably at home and glad to be in the Army…will be of the first importance.”
- Morale officers were stationed within thirty-eight training camps across the United States to help accomplish this goal. In fact, the War Department created both the ranks of major and captain with the primary goal of “no duties other than those relating to the stimulation of military morale.” The War Department advised their morale officers to work with the commanding officers within training camps to raise morale and to report on the conditions of the camps that may “tend to depress morale.” (2)
- To uplift the foreign-born soldiers in the United States armed forces, the War Department’s Military Intelligence Division (MID) requested help from local ethnic community leaders across the country. The MID’s relationship with these local ethnic agents experienced two distinct periods, “one under civilian and the second under military leadership.”
- The first period was led by D. Chauncy Brewer (See section “Camp Gordon Plan”) who designed the foundation of the Camp Gordon Plan. His agents evaluated the conditions of training camps, the loyalty and language abilities of foreign-born soldiers, and evaluated if the soldiers understood why they were fighting in the Great War. Primarily, Brewer focused on the reorganization of the foreign-born soldiers as a means of uplifting their conditions, and almost all of the work conducted by these agents was directed at the ethnic communities within training camps. After a falling out with Maj. Gen. Ralph Van Deman, Brewer resigned in frustration.
- Under the new leadership of Capt. G. B. Perkins and Lt. H. A. Horgan under Brig. Gen. Marlborough Churchill, the FSS possessed a “more direct link” to the War Department. After reorganizing the commanding officers, the FSS primarily focused their attention on the morale of soldiers, and the primary purpose was the “improvement of the conditions” of foreign-born soldiers in the armed forces.
- The War Department quickly realized that high morale was critical in the deployment of an effective fighting force overseas. With this in mind, the FSS was responsible to create and deploy a pragmatic training program that both trained and educated the immigrant soldier while simultaneously raising his morale.
- Under the leadership of Perkins and Horgan, the FSS attempted to recruit and deploy a wide variety of resources in order to support the training of foreign-born soldiers within training camps. One of their first resources that carried over from the older administration was the use of ethnic agents.
- These agents derived from the upper classes of society: these men tended to be well educated, multilingual, and professional. Most of these men had professions as doctors, lawyers, professors, and newspaper editors. By the end of the war, forty-seven agents had been employed by the MID; their employment last anywhere between two and eleven months. (3)
- The Military Intelligence Division (MID) also recruited the help of ethnic community leaders across the country in order to stay informed about the activities within their ethnic communities that influenced the immigrant soldier. The names of ethnic community leaders were usually provided by the mayors of the various ethnic communities; many of these leaders were also professionals: doctors, clergymen, businessmen, and editors of ethnic papers.
- The American Medical Association also provided the MID with a list of “prominent physicians” who listed the names of loyal soldiers that possessed the skills needed to assist the MID or be commissioned as officers to uplift immigrant soldiers. The MID also asked these physicians to be on the lookout for “any signs of disloyalty in their ethnic communities.” (4)
- The FSS and Military Morale Section (MSS) also conducted a working relationship with a variety of ethnic community leaders and their respective organizations within surrounding neighborhoods of training camps across the country. Many of these ethnic leaders assisted the War Department in delivering the needs of the immigrant troops directly. Due to the wide variety of immigrant soldiers, a wide variety of organizations were needed:
"the Czechoslovak National Alliance, the Bohemian National Alliance, the South Slavic National Council, the Slav Press Bureau of New York, the Polish National Department of Washington, D.C., the Bohemian Alliance of Chicago, the Slovak League, the American Hungarian Loyalty League, the Russian-American Bureau of Chicago, the Russian American Economic Association, the Russian-American Association, the National Romanian Society, and the Lithuanian National Council. Other groups included the American Scandinavian Foundation, the Italian Bureau of Information, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Union of Hebrew Congregations, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregation, the Jewish Publication Society, the United Synagogue of America, the Association of Orthodox Rabbis, and the Rabbinical College of America."
- Immigrant organizations developed their foundations in Old World village leadership or through New World progressive societies and fraternities; some organizations developed as a display of patriotic loyalty to the United States during the Great War. However, despite the foundations of the organizations, their goal remained the same: “Urging segregation and integration at the same time, these men of influence supplied a rationale for their people…as to how they could carry over and reestablish their Old-World culture and still be considered American.” (5)
HONORING CULTURE HERITAGE OF IMMIGRANT SOLDIERS
- After being recruited by the War Department to support the uplifting of immigrant soldiers, these ethnic organizations promoted a duality of culture: soldiers should adopt aspects of the dominant (American) culture while retaining aspects of their native culture. The result of this culture duality was the improvement of morale.
- One of the more critical aspects that immigrant soldiers requested frequently was their needs of religion and spirituality. Ethnic leaders attempted to influence the War Department to consider meeting these needs to their immigrant soldiers. These needs included “worship services provided by spiritual leaders from specific ethnic groups, observances of different holy days, and religious readings from specific religious groups.” Upon investigating, the War Department concluded that religion was vital in “foster[ing] a feeling of satisfaction and higher morale among both the men and their families.” The military responded by working with ethnic organizations to meet the spiritual and religious needs of immigrant troops. (6)
- Although the success of ethnic organizations to promote the religious needs of immigrant soldiers was a success, it is important to note that the War Department had tackled the religious needs of ethnic soldiers, even before the creation of the MID’s Military Morale Section and the Foreign-speaking Soldier Subsection.
- Prior to the establishment of the FSS in January 1918, camps handled the religious needs of their soldiers as issues arose. For example, Maj. Gen. J. Bell, commanding officer at Camp Upton in Yaphank (Long Island), New York, requested leave for Jewish soldiers on the Jewish Day of Atonement. Bell forwarded a letter from the Union of Orthodox Rabbis to Secretary of War Newton Baker with this request.
- In the letter, the rabbis estimated that approximately 25 percent of the soldiers at Camp Upton were Jewish and that the Jewish Day of Atonement represented “the most important Jewish holiday of the entire year.” The rabbis suggested that if the Jewish soldiers were allowed leave for the Jewish Day of Atonement, they could make up the time on Christmas Day. Baker responded by allowing the soldiers leave of the Jewish faith for both the Jewish New Year (September 16) and the Day of Atonement (September 26) as long as it did not “interfere with the public service.” (7)
- Another example of individual camps handling religious issues was during December 1917. Toakeim Georges, archimandrites and rector of the Greek Orthodox Church, requested that soldiers of the Greek Orthodox religion be allowed to leave the training camp during the Feast of St. Nicholas, a celebration in which members of the church renewed their vows to the faith. Commanding officers were instructed to allow this request. (8)
- Despite the attempts of camp commanders to accommodate to the needs of soldiers, not all the religious aspects could be met. For example, Maj. John Richardson denied Rev. Nicholas Lazaris’s leave request for Greek Christmas (January 7, 1918). Richardson noted that Camp Upton soldiers had already lost ten days of training during the Christmas and New Year holidays, and he could not give up additional time that would disrupt the ultimate goal of preparing soldiers to “serve on the fighting line.” (9)
- In another example, Jewish soldiers were denied kosher rations because it was “not feasible to establish or provide a special ration for men of different faiths.” Providing rations, especially in the field, was a major daily operation. Providing varieties to different immigrant soldiers would complicate the creation, packaging, shipping, and delivery of food even further. (10)
- With the creation of the Foreign-speaking Soldier Subsection (FSS) in January, 1918, the military began to develop uniformed policies concerning spirituality and religious needs. Adjutant General of the Army John H. Gregory Jr. instructed camp commanders to perform a religious census of the troops. The end report noted sixty-seven different religious groups among soldiers. For example, the Camp Gordon report noted the following religions: (11)
- To accomplish meeting the religious needs of soldiers, the FSS worked with the Commission on Training Camp Activities (CTCA) and various ethnic religious organizations. The FSS noted that the church possessed the influence needed to improve the morale of soldiers while at the same time preparing soldiers to make the “supreme sacrifice.”
- The military depended on the YMCA and the YWCA to represent the Protestant religions, the Knights of Columbus (K of C) to represent the Catholic soldiers, and the Jewish Welfare Board (JWB) to represent the Jewish soldiers. (12)
- Religious needs often possessed cultural overtones. For example, Polish soldiers requested that Catholic mass by conducted by a Polish priest in their native language. These soldiers were concerned about dying on the battlefield before confessing their sins.
- The camp commanders at Camp Gordon responded by asking Polish clergy to conduct mass in their native language for the approximate 1,000 Polish troops within the camp. (13) The FSS recruited the Knights of Columbus to provide Catholic services in a variety of languages to soldiers in training camps across the country. The K of C also offered Catholic chaplains’ accommodations in their hostess huts.
- As one of the Knights put it, “We all saw the great need of our religion to preserve the morals, build up the morale, and intensify the patriotism of the soldier, which made it necessary for us to utilize more and more K-C chaplains.” (14)
- The Jewish community rallied around the Jewish Welfare Board (JWB) to serve the cultural and religious needs of Jewish troops. The JWB continuously lobbied the War Department to allow them to meet the needs of their Hebrew servicemen.
- Congressman Isaac Siegel provided assistance to the JWB by sending a series of letters to the Adjutant General’s Office, the Navy Department, the U.S. Military Intelligence Division, and the Office of the Chief of Staff to the needs of the Jewish troops.
- The War Department responded by officially acknowledging the JWB as the primary provider to the Jewish troops and issued a general order directing camp officials to cooperate with representatives of the organization. The JWB provided Jewish soldiers with “daily services, Friday night Sabbath, High Holiday observances, and celebrations on Jewish festivals.” (15)
- Even during overseas deployment on the European front, the military attempted to meet the religious needs of their ethnic soldiers. The War Department mandated that “soldiers of the Jewish faith serving in the American Expeditionary Forces will be excused from all duty, and where deemed practicable, granted passes, to enable them to observe in their customary manner” Jewish religious holidays, as long as their faith did not interfere with “military operations” in France. Religious organizations such as the YMCA, the YWCA, the Salvation Army, and the Knights of Columbus, set up facilities near the front to accommodate to the soldiers. (16)
- The War Department quickly realized that through the embrace and respect of an immigrant soldier’s culture, the morale of the soldier typically increased dramatically. Because of this, the War Department and subsequent departments quickly resolved conditions in training camps that discriminated against the immigrant soldier and his culture.
- For example, in Camp Meade, Maryland, a letter sent by Dr. Antonio Grasso reported that officers within the camp were “not patient enough” with the non-English speaking soldiers. The FSS quickly responded by contacting the camp’s intelligence officer asking him to assess the situation. In another instance, Sfc. P. Lucas, an officer at Camp Sheridan, was reportedly using “ethnic slurs” and treating immigrant soldiers in an abusive manner. The FSS responded with a general order “forbidding the practice of name calling.” (17)
- After receiving numerous complaints from immigrant soldiers concerning the use of ethnic slurs by other soldiers and their officers, the War Department circulated a copy of the War Department general order previously mentioned to all training camps which forbid the use of ethnic slurs since they “created discontent among immigrant soldiers and hurt their ‘national feelings.’”
- The War Department would then follow up with reported cases of discrimination by reprimanding officers and enlisted soldiers who violated the general order. The efforts of the War Department were highly praised by immigrant soldiers across the nation. In one instance, after a captain reprimanded soldiers for using ethnic slurs when referring to Italian soldiers, one Italian soldier remarked, “I felt like hugging and kissing the Captain as he was telling the company that we Italians were as good men as they were, and that we should be respected as brothers.” (18)
- Even after the Armistice was declared on November 11, 1918, the War Department still remained concerned about the morale of immigrant troops. In November, 1918, the Department of the Interior received numerous complaints from Armenian soldiers at Camp Del Rio, Texas.
- Upon investigation, they learned that a native-born soldier in the mess hall shouted: “The whole d---- bunch of wops step out for a fight.” Lt. Horgan concluded that “wop” generally referred to Italian soldiers and was probably not directed at the Armenians. He also stated that “many of the non-coms in the army are rough and ready types, who [did] not use the King’s English on all occasions, and use[d] the same sort of language that hurt the feelings of those foreign-born soldiers in talking to soldiers of American birth.” Horgan concluded the incident by arguing that this incident did not reflect the “general experience of the foreign-born soldier.” (19)
- Another strategy that the War Department used to raise the morale of foreign-born soldiers was through the resolution of conflicts. The military quickly realized that men with a higher positive attitude produced higher levels of morale. Prior to the Camp Gordon Plan, immigrant soldiers were primarily subjected to menial labor duties.
- To resolve this issue, the War Department issued a general order stating that immigrant soldiers were no longer to be used for menial labor duties. The MID responded by agreeing that foreign-born soldiers had already “borne the reasonable share” of menial labor duties. Lt. Horgan continued to work with camp commanders throughout the war to ensure that immigrant soldiers would no longer be tasked to menial labor duties in an effort to prevent their spirits from being shattered. (20)
- Ethnic agents reported another serious issue that severely affected the immigrant soldiers: soldiers displayed “considerable unrest” concerning missing or delayed allotment checks for their relatives in both the United States and Europe. Most of these allotment checks were delayed due to incorrect spelling of “long, strange and difficult names and addresses.” (21)
- Allotment checks were also delayed because of their travel time to remote areas of Europe. To resolve this issue, the MID suggested using “competent interpreters” for camp personnel offices that would eliminate the “cause of dissatisfaction among our non-English speaking draftees and their families.” (22)
- The FSS also created a working relationship with the Red Cross Home Services to serve as a liaison between the men and their relatives. When the delayed allotment check meant life or death for a family, Lt. Horgan assured that the Red Cross would provide emergency funding for their families which also included medical care. (23)
- Another peculiar issue arose when Italian-born soldiers in the U.S. Army voiced concerns that they were listed as deserters from the Italian military when they did not report for duty. Because they were considered deserters, their families still in Italy faced heavy military taxes.
- In General Order No. 33, the War Department requested that camp officers provide information on the Italian soldiers within their camps so the situation could be resolved. The War Department then contacted the Italian government with a list of all Italian-born soldiers (naturalized and alien) who was currently serving in the U.S. armed forces. As a result, the Italian soldiers were exempted from military duty in Italy. (24)
- The War Department also remained concerned about the morale of immigrant soldiers within their local communities as well. The Military Morale Section was created from the belief that the troops did not comprehend why they were fighting in the Great War. Military officials believed that these immigrant soldiers had been subjected to enemy propaganda which undermined the morale of these immigrant soldiers.
- FSS agents worked diligently to repel the false rumors that immigrant soldiers had heard while attempting to keep this “disloyal material” out of their reach. For example, some immigrant soldiers believed that once they became naturalized citizens, they would never be allowed to return to their native country.
- Another belief held by immigrants was that once they became U.S. citizens, their property in the Old World would be confiscated and their families still in Europe would be severely punished. (25) A number of ethnic newspapers contacted the FSS concerning “enemy propaganda” that had infiltrated their communities. The FSS responded by sending ethnic agents to investigate; they responded with praise concerning the loyalty of ethnic presses.
- In fact, many of these ethnic newspapers assisted the Military Intelligence Division to spread pro-American propaganda and helped clarify any false rumors in circulation. For example, the Bohemian newspaper Denni Hlasatel fought rumors that the U.S. government planned to confiscate an immigrant soldier’s bank account to help fund the war. (26)
- Although the War Department displayed concern for the morale of immigrants within their home communities, many of the reports from their ethnic agents concluded that the men were in high spirits, despite the spreading of false rumors and enemy propaganda.
- The FSS also displayed concern that immigrant soldiers did not fully understand why they were fighting in the Great War. To counteract this issue, the FSS began introducing “patriotic programs” with the ultimate goal of educating these immigrant soldiers about the conflict. Lt. Gutowski, the FSS ethnic agent responsible for the foundations of the Camp Gordon Plan, believed that it was the duty of all commanding officers to teach soldiers about the “rules of war and discipline in the army” while providing lectures on making “the world safe for Democracy.” (27)
- The FSS officials focused their attention within three areas: the ethnic press, personal appearances by ethnic leaders, and cultural celebrations. The FSS requested that a variety of ethnic presses publish patriotic letters from soldiers filled with the “noble” principles of democracy to be distributed to immigrant soldiers across the country. The War Department sponsored “inspirational meetings and war propaganda,” and the FSS created entertainment programs in order to increase morale.
- Although these patriotic programs were designed as a primarily Americanization effort, ethnic groups participated in these patriotic programs integrating their own strategies to retain their Old-World cultures. Ethnic groups combined lectures with ethnic entertainers and Old World music in an attempt to retain their individual culture. The FSS recognized the need to celebrate the contributions of immigrant soldiers to the war effort, show respect for various ethnic groups and their respective cultures, and planned specific ethnic celebration programs. (28)
Generally speaking, historians have viewed this time period in American history as a time of harsh “Anglo-conformity” by molding immigrants into an “American mold.” However, the United States displayed cultural sensitivity and respect for the immigrant soldiers and their respective cultures. Because the military quickly realized the connection between high morale and efficiency, military programs represented a pragmatic approach to uplifting the morale of these immigrant soldiers. Although the American military held their expectations of dedication and loyalty, military officials remained “mindful of traditions” of the foreign born soldiers. Ethnic leaders and organizations assisted the military in the uplifting of these soldiers. While assisting the military, these ethnic leaders pressured the military to meet the cultural needs of their ethnic groups. The end result influenced military policies to create an experience that allowed dual identity and dual pride acceptable while allowing these immigrant soldiers the same opportunities that their native-born soldier counterparts also experienced.