Paris Peace Conf. 184.21/58

Admiral W. S. Benson to the Secretary General of the Commission to Negotiate Peace ( Grew )

My Dear Mr. Grew: I have just received a memorandum dated January 9th, 1919, and signed W. L. Black, First Lieutenant, U. S. Army, relative to the measures which have been directed in order to improve, (a) Poor elevator service, and (b) Congestion of the [Page 484] lobby. In paragraph two of the memorandum I note that, due to these conditions, Lieutenant Black states that he is in receipt of the following order which he requests be transmitted to all enlisted men:

“In order to relieve the congestion in the elevators, it is directed that all enlisted men of the Army or Navy use the side door of the Hotel Crillon and the passage through the baggage room exclusively, and in ascending to the upper floors use either the freight elevator or the stairway. Heads of departments are requested to communicate this order to their enlisted personnel.

G. P. duBose,
Business Manager.

By George W. Martin,
Assistant Manager.”

I am not sufficiently well informed regarding the organization of the Peace Conference to question by what authority Messrs. duBose and Martin issue orders of this character, but my own convictions and my long training in the Naval Service force me to bring to your attention the situation which is being created, with the request that you refer it to such persons as may have authority to give it consideration and to take whatever action may be deemed appropriate.

There has been an effort for many years in our country to make the public feel and believe that the uniform of the Army and Navy is something which they should look upon as their very own, an emblem of service to the public and not to individuals. With this in mind, Congress and many of the state legislatures have passed laws prohibiting discrimination against the enlisted men of the Army and Navy. It has been my experience that the enlisted man of the Navy, and I have no doubt of the Army also, is proud of his uniform and proud of his service, but it is seldom that you can find a man who has not at some time noted a tendency toward discrimination against him while in uniform. I beg to point out that the uniform of the enlisted man of the Army and Navy is a uniform of service, not of servility, and that all the men of the Navy wearing this uniform, and a large portion of those in the Army, are doing so because they felt that they should do their share. A tremendous percentage of these men have enjoyed the advantages of a university education and training and are men of no little importance in civil life. Our country prides itself upon its democratic principles. Discrimination against the uniform of the country is abhorrent to me personally and is certainly not in keeping with my ideas of what American democracy stands for. So far as the men directly associated with me are concerned, I think I may say with all due modesty, that there is not a better equipped clerical staff connected with the entire Mission, either from the viewpoint of ability to handle the work in hand, or from a standpoint of education and training.

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I beg that this matter be given the earnest consideration of those to whom it should be submitted and that action be taken to rescind this or any other orders which would tend to handicap a man in uniform who has a proper appreciation of his duties and his obligations to his country.

Very respectfully,

W. S. Benson

Admiral, U. S. Navy