Paris Peace Conf. 184/10

Memorandum Regarding the Executive Office of the Commission to Negotiate Peace 11

The establishment of the Paris home of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace necessitated the taking over and the operating of a large hotel and of two office buildings nearby, the setting up of courier, telegraph, cable, mail, telephone and transportation services, the securing of a large staff of experts in many lines and a large number of enlisted men of the Army. The work has grown until it is now far beyond the original estimates. At the time of organization of the Commission when it was necessary to arrange for office furniture, desks, stenographers, motor transportation, and similar needs even before the size of the Commission had been determined upon, the best that could be done was intelligent guessing. The original estimate, for example, of 150 enlisted men has constantly been revised until today it is several times that number. The requirements for office space have grown until 4 Place de la Concorde has proven inadequate, and additional offices have had to be secured at 3 Rue Royale. Similarly, accommodations at the Hotel Crillon have been so used up that many members of the Commission have had to be quartered at nearby hotels. The personnel for the many different and specialized activities has come, in large part, from the Army notwithstanding the non-military character of the work. Among the officers and enlisted men in the service are many whose previous civil life experience had fitted them for the work to be undertaken, and who could easily be located by the system of qualification cards. It was strongly advisable, therefore, from the standpoint of economy and expedition to draw this personnel from men already in France rather than to bring over a corresponding number of men from the United States.

Most of the work of the operation and maintenance of the Paris home of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace is under the direction of Captain R. C. Patterson, Jr., of New York City, Executive Officer of the Commission, assisted by Captain C. N. Peacock and Mr. John Wattawa. The Executive Office has under it the following sub-divisions: General Business Managership of the Commission, Hotel Crillon Managership, Auditing and Purchase, Construction and Repair, Building Superintendency, Telephones, Printing, Supplies, Personnel, Headquarters Detachment, Transportation, Courier Service, Photography and Post Office Service.

[Page 498]

The General Business Managership of the Commission, one of the sub-divisions of the Executive Office, is in direct charge of Major George P. duBose. In this sub-division are placed the following sections: Hotel Managership, Auditing and Purchase, Construction and Repair, Building Superintendency, Telephones, Photography and Supplies.

The Hotel Crillon, fronting on the Place de la Concorde, the most beautiful square in Paris, is the center of the Commission’s activities. The best features of the French hotel have been retained with many purely American features such as a buffet luncheon and an American barber shop added. The conventional French “petit déjeuner” of coffee or chocolate, rolls and confiture, has been replaced by a real American breakfast served to 300 persons daily. The very difficult problem of labor has been solved by keeping the French personnel as nearly intact as possible, especially in the cuisine and dining room, and also by placing a large number of American enlisted men in positions where they are useful. Lieuts. W. L. Black and Charles C. Walker, formerly manager and assistant manager of one of New York’s largest hotels respectively, are in charge of the Hotel Crillon Managership section.

The Auditing and Purchase section maintains an intricate system of accounts due to the fact that part of the supplies are bought in the open market in Paris, part secured from Army Supply Depots, and part shipped direct from the United States.

The section, Construction and Repair, under Captain H. R. Shepley, is maintained to keep the buildings and quarters occupied by the American Commission in proper order and condition. The work of this section is co-ordinated more or less with that of the Superintendency of Buildings in charge of Lieut. T. W. Scott.

The American telegraph and telephone systems originally installed by the Signal Corps have had to be greatly enlarged to carry the mass of material sent over the wires. As a result a joint system of land wire, radio, wire, and cable connects all the American interests in Europe. The occupied territory in the East, Marseilles in the South and Brest, St. Nazaire, Bordeaux and Liverpool in the West are connected with Paris, and across the Atlantic with the United States. In Paris alone a personnel of over 100 men is required to conduct the flow of wire traffic coming in and out of the Commission. From any one of the telephones at the Hotel Crillon, long distance telephones are possible to London, Coblenz, Brest or Bordeaux, or to any of the other Signal Corps exchanges in France. Within Paris itself, two modern American telephone extensions have been established, one for President Wilson’s immediate entourage at the Murat Palace Hotel, and the other for the Hotel Crillon and its office buildings. From these exchanges telephone service is given directly [Page 499] to four other American exchanges in Paris without the necessity of passing through the French central. 25 extra telephone operators brought over from the United States assure speed in making connections, not only with the American systems, but because of the operators’ knowledge of the French language, with the French systems also. This service was originally installed by Colonel John J. Carty, formerly Chief Engineer of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, with Captain A. L. Hart now in direct charge.

The Printing Section handles all printed matter for the Commission. The printing itself is done at the Central Printing Plant of the Quartermaster Corps in Paris. Preferred service is given to requests from the Commission, and the material is turned out with the least possible delay.

All matters of supplies are handled by the Supplies section directly in charge of Lieut. Kilpatrick and assistants.

Captain Whitney Newton, Jr. is in charge of the Personnel Section, which also includes the Transportation section. All matters pertaining to personnel of the Commission including civilians, commissioned and enlisted men of the Army and Navy, field clerks, and Marines, are handled by the Personnel Section which in general acts as a clearing house in all matters pertaining to personnel.

The transportation needs of the Commission are cared for by 52 motor cars, including 15 limousines and 15 sedans. Sixteen machines are definitely set aside for the exclusive use of the Commissioners and other important officials, while the other machines are pooled for other officials having immediate important business. For the handling of supplies such as food and coal two light Ford trucks and six trucks of from 1½ to 6 tons capacity are on hand. This section is in charge of Lieut. Kloeber.

The Headquarters Detachment Section of the Executive Office, under Colonel E. G. Peyton has charge of enlisted men assigned to the Commission. This detachment is unique not only because it includes men from every branch of the Army and Marine Corps, but also because of its many duties including private secretaryships, stenography, bookkeeping, auditing, linotyping, printing, coding, plumbing, automobile driving, electrical work and so on. Practically all of these men have seen active service at the front, some for 18 months or more and a large number have been wounded. The Headquarters Detachment assists in policing the quarters occupied by the Commission.

In addition to wire and postal facilities there is also the Courier Service which connects the Commission not only with points in Paris, but also with the most important centers in Europe and with Washington and New York. This section is in charge of Major A. J. Peaslee, with 42 officers as assistants. To maintain local service in [Page 500] Paris, a corps of courier sergeants leaves 4 Place de la Concorde every hour from 9 A.M. to 10 P.M., following definite routes which include the President’s residence, the American Embassy, Naval Headquarters, Headquarters District of Paris and the Central Printing Plant. The service is also maintained to carry official messages to any point in Paris not on the regular hourly routes, and to carry special messages which are too important to wait until the next regular courier. For points outside of Paris officer couriers are employed who make their journeys by rail, boat or motor car as the case may necessitate. There is a service twice daily to General Headquarters of the A. E. F. at Chaumont, and to the French General Headquarters at Metz, one daily to the 125 Army post Offices, and to Berne, Rome, Brussels, The Hague, London, Milan, Padua, Tours, and to British Headquarters at Montreuil. Almost every third day an officer courier leaves for New York and Washington. The time consumed by this trans-atlantic trip runs from 7½ days to two weeks.

The Photography section, under the superintendency of Lieut. Scovell, is also attached to the Executive Office to handle the photography needs in connection with the work of the Commission.

Every effort to minimize delay in sending written communications to the United States has been made by the establishment of a special army post office, officially known as A. P. O. 702, but usually called the Commission post office. This post office is equipped with money order, registry and stamp departments, and with a courier service. The personnel is made up entirely of enlisted men from nearly every branch of the service who have been wounded and reclassified for postal service. Lieut. L. N. Cobbledick is in charge of this section of the Executive Office. The official closing time for the day’s mail is 5:30 P.M. when the mail is sorted, tied in separate packages according to destination, placed in sealed pouches and taken to the station by automobile. There it is placed on board a waiting mail car of the Postal Express Railway Mail Service, bound for the port from which the next fast steamer sails. When the pouches arrive at New York City they are sent direct to the Chelsea terminal. This service is open to any one who cares to use it. In connection with this office a branch office of the Base Censor of the A. E. F. under Capt. B. F. Yates has been established to assure censorship as directed in General Orders 145 and 210 of purely military matters.

In brief, the Executive Office of the American Commission is the division of Service and Supply. The Executive Office is also charged with the smooth running of the organization of the Commission. These duties make its work vital to the success of the Commission as a whole.

  1. The file copy of this undated memorandum bears a notation indicating that it was issued at the Conference for the confidential information of correspondents.