Paris Peace Conf. 184.02302/2

Brigadier General G. H. McKinstry to the Chief of Engineers, American Expeditionary Forces ( Langfitt )

Subject: Status of work in connection with evaluation of war damages to France and Belgium.

Reference your memorandum of December 23d,11 and in response to telephone request from General Langfitt, personally, December 29th, you are advised that the nature and status of our work are as follows:

1. Instructions from Colonel House regarding this work are as contained in his letter of December 4th, quoted below:

“Embassy of the United States of America
Paris, December 4, 1918

“My dear General McKinstry:

The President having requested me to set in motion some machinery to obtain for the use of the American Delegation at the Peace Conference some valuation of damages done by the Germans in the invaded parts of France and Belgium, I have requested General Pershing to assign to me an officer, whose duties would be to conduct this work.

General Pershing having assigned you to me for this purpose and you having reported to me and conferred with me, I trust that you will now proceed with this work, consulting with French and Belgian officials as occasions require.

Yours very sincerely,

(Signed) E. M. House

Brigadier General C. H. McKinstry,
Room No. 107—Elysee Palace Hotel, Paris.”

A few days later I received verbal instructions from Colonel House to proceed with securing the necessary organization but to do nothing more towards calling upon the French ministers for their official estimates until I received further instructions. These instructions, including instructions to proceed with the work, were given to me by Colonel House on December 28th.

2. At my conference with Colonel House on December 28th, the desirability for proceeding with this work in a larger way was apparent. Colonel House stated that we should have perhaps two months in which to submit preliminary approximate estimates, and possibly more, and that undoubtedly the Peace Conference would settle certain of the general principles to be followed and that thereafter a committee would probably be left to which later details should be submitted, so that we should expect the work to continue for several months longer, and possibly more than a year.

3. The question of obtaining competent civilians to assist in this work was taken up with Mr. House and this brought forth the fact that the funds of the Peace Commission were limited and that, therefore, [Page 609] all possible expenses would have to be carried by Army and Navy appropriations, and indicating that this was the reason that we had been limited up to the present to securing personnel from the A. E. F.

4. Colonel House further stated that in the beginning I had been directed to report to him personally, but that from now on as he was only one member of the Peace Commission that I should hereafter report to the American Commission to Negotiate Peace, direct.

5. Our plans involve obtaining the official estimates of damages, as may be secured from the French and Belgian governments to determine whether the claims are relevant, that they have been arrived at through proper methods and unit costs, that the proper items have been considered, and to check a certain percentage of them in detail in order to determine the probable accuracy of the results as a whole.

6. Work has already been started along these lines, and we have been engaged upon procuring the necessary preliminary information and statistics and have had several parties in the field for short periods.

7. The organization for this work is outlined roughly in organization chart below:11a

8. It will be readily apparent that this work will be very complicated, both with respect to direct and indirect damages, will require a large organization, and will take a considerable time. It is especially important that it be done well and that there be available for it a most competent personnel.

9. The Headquarters for this work will be in Paris, where probably fifty or sixty officers will be permanently stationed. Additional officers ordered here will be stationed in Paris and sent out on more or less extensive trips as necessary. As the work becomes more definitely outlined sub-offices will be established in Belgium and at other places in invaded districts, at which officers will be stationed.

10. It is apparent that the expenses for this organization will have to be borne by appropriations for the A. E. F., and your instructions are requested as to how this shall be done. At the present time we have taken over certain civilian personnel which were formerly with the Technical Board, including some French clerks and stenographers, messengers, etc., and have taken over janitors at the office at 51 and 53 Avenue Montaigne which were formerly with the Air Service. Arrangements have been made through Major Bryant, with the Engineer Purchasing Office, to make the necessary payments for the present at least. We should have, however, definite instructions regarding the employment of a limited number of civilian employes and how they should be paid. Information is also requested as to the practicability of employing a few civilian consulting engineers at rates of from five-hundred to one-thousand dollars per month.

[Page 610] [Page 611]

11. Up to the present we have been able to obtain the necessary supplies through the Engineer Department and other Departments in the regular way. We are, however, unable to obtain necessary motor transportation. The demands upon the Peace Commission have been such that we have been unable to obtain from them an assignment of motor cars for this work. We need at least ten high-powered cars immediately, and in the near future will require some fifty cars, and perhaps an equal number of light trucks and motorcycles. It will readily be understood that this work would be in regions where rail transportation is not available, and the nature of the work is such as will require considerable moving around. It is assumed that this motor transportation will have to come from the Motor Transport Corps but it is requested that you give us any assistance that you possibly can in this matter.

12. With respect to personnel: Many additional officers will be required, some of whom, for the more important positions, will probably have to be asked for by name inasmuch as time is not available to obtain competent personnel in any other way. We should also have at once some twelve draftsmen, some fifteen or twenty clerk-stenographers, and a like number of messengers, motor-cycle drivers, and orderlies. Request for these officers and enlisted men will be forwarded as soon as our plans can be definitely formulated. In the meantime it is requested that necessary information be obtained so that they can be ordered here promptly upon request.

C. H. McKinstry
  1. Copy not found in Department files.
  2. Printed on p. 610.