National Geographic : 1918 Mar
VOL. XXXIII, No. 3 WASHINGTON MARCH, 1918 G]EO T rAPI C7 MAGAZ fEE THE HEALTH AND MORALE OF AMERICA'S CITIZEN ARMY* Personal Observations of Conditions in Our Soldier Cities by a Former Commander-in-Chief of the United States Army and Navy BY WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT EARLY last winter disquieting re ports gained circulation concern ing the conditions in our National Army cantonments and with regard to the morale of the drafted men. According to these reports, a large per centage of the men would be glad to leave their camps and return to their homes. It was said that they did not understand the issues of the war; that they did not think it necessary to send an army to France. Dr. John R. Mott, the General Secre tary of the Young Men's Christian Asso ciation of the United States, and one of the great men of this generation, sent word to me of these reports, received from agents of the Association detailed for work among the drafted men. While there was neither sedition nor mutiny among the men, Dr. Mott deemed it of the highest importance that some one should go to them to explain why we were in the war, why an army should be sent to France, and why it was necessary to fight this war through as a battle for Christian civilization. * Lecture delivered before the National Geo graphic Society, in Washington, D. C., March 15, 1918. He said there were- sixteen canton ments, one of which, Camp Lewis, at American Lake, on the Pacific coast, I could not reach, but the other fifteen he asked me to visit and to speak at length on the subject, twice a day, to the soldiers in each camp. Subsequently, Camp Dix, at Wrightstown, N. J., was excluded from my list because of a quarantine, and there were substituted Camp Sheridan, a National Guard camp, at Montgomery, Ala., presumably because it was the Ohio National Guard, and the naval canton ment at the Gre.': Lakes, north of Chi cago, where :j,ooo men were in the course of preparation for the navy. I doubted my power to attract the at tention of the drafted men to the issues and to convince them, but I felt it my duty to go, if men like Dr. Mott and Mr. William Sloane, the president of the army branch of the Young Men's Chris tian Association, thought it would be helpful, as they said they did. Accordingly, on New Year's Day I vis ited Camp Grant, at Rockford, Ill., and spoke four times there to audiences of 3,500 men each. Thence I went to Camp Dodge, near Des Moines, Iowa, and spoke there to similar audiences five times.