War Department Files: WCD 9971–A–47

Notes on a Conference Held between the British Mission to the United States Headed by Mr. Balfour; the Secretary of War; and Representatives of the War Department and the General Munitions Board in May, 1917 1

The subjects listed for conference were:

(a)
Expeditionary Force;
(b)
Date of departure of said force;
(c)
Types of guns and ammunition;
(d)
Recruitments;
(e)
Military information;
(f)
Shipping.

Mr. Balfour, having been introduced by the Secretary of War, stated in regard to the Expeditionary Force and the date of its departure, that immediate assistance was needed on the European battle fields; that the need is so pressing that the United States should not wait to thoroughly train its forces; that the training could be done on the field of operations; that neither the French nor the British could increase their man power—the latter on account of the industrial needs. He called attention to the great quantities of supplies required and that Great Britain was furnishing large quantities to her allies. He stated that delay of sending a force until January next would be a pity—that lack of tonnage makes necessary the sending of a continuous stream of men beginning as soon as possible.

As to guns and ammunition, Mr. Balfour remarked that it would be a pity to complicate the supply question by additional types of guns and ammunition; that he thought Marshal Haig and Marshal Joffre would say that the situation would be adversely affected by the introduction of new types; that the matter should be given most careful consideration by the proper military authorities.

In regard to recruitments, he expressed the hope that Americans then serving with the Allies might remain. He paid a very high compliment to their services. He also dwelt on the advisability of permitting volunteering in our country of men beyond the draft age. He expressed himself strongly in favor of this.

Mr. Balfour dwelt on the great need of experienced surgeons and nurses. He expressed the greatest gratitude for the steps taken by the United States to supply the need, and the hope that further assistance would be given immediately.

After making a few comments on the remarks of Mr. Balfour, the Secretary of War referred the matter of the Expeditionary Force to a committee consisting of General Bridges of the British Army and General Scott of the United States Army; the types of guns, ammunition, etc., to General Crozier and the General Staff. He stated that the decision of calibres and types should be considered by the General Staff. After a decision was reached the recommendation of the General Staff should be returned through General Bridges and General Scott to the Secretary of War and Mr. Balfour. The [Page 57] Secretary of War then stated that it seemed inadvisable to permit men beyond the draft age to volunteer—that such privilege would prevent the full employment of the selective draft process advocated by the War Department. Finally, he appointed a committee consisting of Mr. Baruch, Mr. Coffin, and Mr. F. A. Scott to confer with General Kuhn on this subject.

  1. This paper bears the annotation: “From notes made during the conference—original herewith. P. E. Pierce. May 6, 1918.” It was enclosed by him, together with penciled notes, in a letter to the Acting Chief of Staff, dated May 3, 1918, signed by the writer as Brigadier General, N. A., stating that it was forwarded for historical record, as no official minutes were kept. The date of the conference appears to have been May 5, 1917; see Mr. Balfour’s letter of May 7, post, p. 59.