Memorandum on the Personnel of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace

After the signing of the Armistice, when it was found necessary to organize the Peace Commission, it was determined that the Commission would depend upon the Army for staff assistance, drawing from the A. E. F. all the personnel required to meet stenographic and clerical needs, as well as depending upon the A. E. F. for cartographers, book-keepers, chauffeurs, orderlies, guards, etcetera. The Army, too, was to furnish certain officers expert in given lines, other officers from the intelligence organizations, others to act as aides to the Commissioners, others to be in liaison between the Commission and the French Government offices and between the Commission and the various peace delegations. Consequently the civilian staff brought from the Department of State was small, including, all told, four officials, four confidential clerks, five cipher clerks, and three other clerks.

An estimate was made in Washington of the number of assistants needed from the Army and this was cabled to Paris and the Army [Page 558] was asked for aid. The estimate proved far too low, as did estimates generally concerning the personnel needs of the organization, and as one office after another was added to the Commission the Army was constantly called on for additional help.

In studying the personnel of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace it is first of all necessary to consider certain handicaps under which the Commission labors. First of all is the fact that the organization was formed over night, to meet an urgent need, and in a foreign country where there were not available many things to facilitate operations which would have been at hand in any American city.

An equally important factor is the character of offices available. The Commission took over the Hotel de Crillon, facing the Place de la Concorde, No. 4, Place de la Concorde, and a portion of the premises at No. 3, Rue Royale, which adjoin and connect with “No. 4.” The Crillon is at one end of a structure extending the whole square. “No. 4” is at the other, a hundred feet away, and separated by two other buildings. The whole is an ancient structure. The interior of the Crillon has been modernized and constitutes a first-class hotel. “No. 4” is a large rambling building, evidently modelled and remodelled many times, until there are in it a hundred rooms from the largest 34 x 45 feet to the smallest 6 x 8. There are a score of floor levels, a dozen stairways and so many passages that even those familiar with the building find it difficult to make their way about. The building at 3 Rue Royale is much the same—mostly small rooms and very much cut up.

Were it possible to have the whole Commission installed in one modern building the personnel problem would be much simpler. It would be possible to get along with many fewer stenographers and orderlies, considerable duplication of work could be avoided and the personnel could probably be cut, considering everything, including guards and watchmen by from seventy-five to a hundred people. The quarters, however, were the best available unless the Commission took over one of Paris’ biggest hotels, which would have been a far more elaborate and expensive proposition.

At first it was planned that all offices, with the exception of those of the Commissioners themselves, should be in No. 4. It was soon found that this was impossible, even with the preliminary organization, and it became necessary to convert many of the rooms in the Crillon into offices until thirty-five per cent of the rooms available were made into offices. Most of these are over-crowded. No. 4 is likewise crowded, the figures showing that there are only about forty square feet to a person throughout the building.


The personnel of the organization is of three kinds: Civilian, Army and Naval. The civilians are mainly administrative and advisory, [Page 559] with a few stenographers and clerks and a score of telephone operators. The bulk of the personnel from the Army is clerical. The Navy personnel consists of Naval advisors, their aides, naval orderlies, and the Communications Office, consisting of twenty-five officers, all of them code experts, and forty-six men who do the typing and clerical work connected with keeping up telegraphic and radio communication.

In January a Personnel Committee was formed for the purpose of scrutinizing every application made by any office for additional personnel and also to examine the existing organization with a view to eliminating anyone not needed. Later another Committee was formed, which included Mr. White and General Bliss, two of the Commissioners, the purpose of which was to still further examine the personnel of the organization with a view to eliminations wherever possible. A very careful examination of the whole organization has been made since the formation of those committees and not only have the services of many officers and men been dispensed with, after examination, but the investigation resulted in numerous offices cutting down personnel voluntarily, and in general keeping a careful watch on personnel.

The investigation showed that in several instances the functions of offices which were important at the outset had, with the process of organization, disappeared, and their usefulness finished. Whenever this was found to be the case the offices were reduced or abolished. This has happened with respect to the Military Liaison Office which now has a personnel, including clerical, of four, where before it was thirteen, the Combat Section which now has a personnel of three against seventeen, the Political Liaison which has been reduced from seventeen to nothing at all except that two of the officers have been transferred to other departments.

The greatest portion of the Commission’s personnel is composed of enlisted men of the army and with respect to their large numbers there are one or two most vital points which must be considered. First of all is the fact that it is necessary for the Army to feed and quarter all of these men and to look after their discipline. The men all belong to what is known as the Headquarters Detachment, a regular military organization, with a colonel commanding and with twelve other officers on duty with the men. This is a strictly military organization, set up and operated by the Army and devised to afford the best means of caring for the men on duty with the Commission. The men are quartered in barracks a couple of miles from the Place de la Concorde and sleep there. There are Army messes at the barracks and at “No. 4” where the men get their meals. The detachment includes the requisite number of cooks, guards, battalion non-commissioned officers, barbers, tailors, et cetera, needed by a [Page 560] military organization of its size, all engaged in the duty of looking after whatever military regulations require, but none of them having anything directly to do with the business of making peace. This is cited to show the futility of endeavoring to balance the Commission’s total personnel with the number of civilians which would be required for an equal quantity of work, but who would look after themselves.

Another important point in considering the numbers of men on the personnel rolls concerns the character of assistance which the Army has furnished. Army officers themselves freely admit that soldiers in offices do not turn out the volume of work that civilians accomplish. For whatever reason, this appears to be true here, and the note is made with the fullest appreciation of the splendid work which most of the soldiers are doing and the pride that they take in it and in being attached to the Commission. Most of the soldiers, however, are Class B and C men, many of them who have been wounded or gassed, and not capable of performing as great a volume of work as if they were entirely well. Further, for the first two months of the organization, the conditions under which they lived were deplorable—a damp barracks, badly lighted and without proper ventilation, sanitary facilities or sleeping quarters. This has led to a great deal of illness, in a climate where the percentage is high anyhow. This condition, however, has shown much improvement lately. But for a considerable period the men, as a body, were unhappy and forlorn, and incapable of their best work.

The result of illness is that a certain surplus of men must be kept on hand to take the places of men who become incapacitated. These, some of them, remain idle for a day at a time. In any business in America this would, of course, be impracticable and unnecessary. No business house would think of such a system. In this connection it must also be considered that the loss to the Government of detaining such men here is nil, for if the men were not in Paris they would be elsewhere. If these particular individuals were permitted to go home they would only take the places on transports of other individuals on transports who would have to remain in France until transportation became available. They may as well be in Paris as somewhere else in France. Where men have had a chance of returning to the States, the Commission has supported their applications.

Another important phase of the personnel question concerns the necessity of utilizing soldiers in the upkeep of the hotel and of the office buildings. Elsewhere this would not arise. Here there are soldiers who run the elevators, operate telephones, do fatigue duty, attend to the furnaces, serve as electricians, plumbers, car dispatchers, et cetera, to say nothing of the score who operate the small printing [Page 561] plant which the Commission has taken over. The necessity of employing only American citizens in all of the work of the Commission swells the military personnel, as other Americans are not available.

Still another consideration is that in some cases offices are kept running twenty-four hours a day, which means double or treble shifts of men.

Following is an analytical report, office by office, of the personnel employed:

President Wilson:

Total personnel—15.

There are nine civilians, including secret service men, and stenographers. There are two commissioned Army officers, two commissioned Naval officers, and one enlisted man.

Commissioner Lansing:

Total personnel—13.

Of the civilians, one is an assistant; another a confidential secretary; and the third a stenographer. There is one commissioned officer who is an Aide. The enlisted personnel includes a chauffeur and hall orderlies, who are worked in shifts.

Commissioner White:

Total personnel—12.

One civilian, a member of the Diplomatic Service, who acts as an Assistant to Mr. White. There is one Military Aide; three field clerks, who are stenographers; and the remainder orderlies, who work in shifts.

Commissioner House:

Total personnel—32.

Including eight civilians, two Army officers, three Naval officers, eighteen enlisted Navy, and one enlisted Marine. This office looks after the bulk of the Presidential correspondence, which is voluminous, and this accounts for the magnitude of the personnel.

Commissioner Bliss:

Total personnel—14.

Includes four Aides, one of whom, Colonel Grant, is almost entirely engaged on the meetings of the Council of Ten; three field clerks, who are stenographers; the remainder are office assistants, guards, and orderlies.

Secretary General:

Total personnel—9.

Includes four civilians, who are office assistants, one Naval Lieutenant, who also serves as Mr. Grew’s representative on certain committees; one Naval Yeoman, who is a stenographer; while the remainder are office assistants, or orderlies.

Diplomatic Secretary:

Total personnel—8.

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Includes one civilian, who is in charge of the reports of the Conference; two stenographers; the remainder are office assistants and orderlies.

Executive Secretary:

Total personnel—3.

This is the immediate office of the Executive Secretary, and does not include other sections under his jurisdiction. There is one civilian, who is Confidential Secretary, and one orderly.

Disbursing Officer:

Total personnel—4.

Including one assistant from the Department of State, one field clerk, and an orderly.

General Military Liaison:

Total personnel—2.

This organization formerly had a personnel of thirteen. Now has one commissioned officer and a stenographer.

Combat Situation:

Total personnel—3.

This formerly totaled seventeen, and now has been entirely abolished, with the exception of one commissioned officer, and clerical assistants.

Diplomatic Liaison Section:

Total personnel—12.

Formerly consisted of seventeen, including eleven commissioned officers. Has now been abolished.

Liaison with American Federation of Labor:

Total personnel—1.

A commissioned officer requested by Mr. Gompers.

Ceremonial Division:

Total personnel—4.

Includes two commissioned officers, one the head of the office; the other in the reception room; 1 lady assistant; and one stenographer.

The Press:

Total personnel—5.

Includes the head of the section, Mr. Baker; his assistant, Mr. Sweetser; a stenographer, and two orderlies.

Current Diplomatic and Political Correspondence:

Total personnel—13.

This office handles the diplomatic and political correspondence of the Commission. Its civilian members, numbering eight, include experts on various subjects; the Chief of the Diplomatic Bureau of the Department of State; three commissioned officers, each an expert; and two stenographers.


Total personnel—71, 25 commissioned, and 46 enlisted.

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This office handles all cipher and code messages in and out of the Commission. It is open twenty-four hours a day, and the men work in watches. It is purposely fully staffed in order to meet the maximum requirements. About one-third of the business of the communications office is devoted to transmitting and receiving messages to Mr. Hoover’s organization. It is desirable that these communications be handled by this office, although Mr. Hoover’s work is not wholly Peace Commission work, but is really international. If such work were eliminated, the personnel could doubtless be reduced by twenty men.


Total personnel—8.

This section, which includes six code clerks from the Department of State, looks after the distribution of telegrams. It is run twenty-four hours a day. The code clerks are also available for certain special code work.

Stenographic Section:


Here all confidential prints are mimeographed. This section also makes verbatim reports of all plenary sessions of the Peace Conference. It is a pool of stenographers to be drawn upon.

Indexes and Files:

Total personnel—39.

This section keeps files and indexes of all correspondence of the Commission.


Total personnel—10.

Including one civilian, and nine Army Officers. This division does the bulk of the translating for the Commission, and is a very busy section.

Administrative Office:

Total personnel—26.

Includes one civilian assistant, three commissioned officers, and twenty-two enlisted men, most of whom are printers in the Commission’s plant.

Business Manager:

Total personnel—4.

Includes two commissioned officers, and two enlisted men, one of whom is a stenographer. The Business Manager runs the hotel, and generally supervises the administration of the hotel and office buildings.

Hotel Manager:

Total personnel—70.

Includes two commissioned officers, formerly hotel men, who have general charge of the hotel; the enlisted personnel includes cooks, elevator men, carriage men, telephone operators, supply men, porters, et cetera.

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Audit and Purchase:

Total personnel—8.

Includes one commissioned officer, two army field clerks, and five enlisted men. This office is engaged principally in auditing the accounts of the hotel and general purchases therefor.


Total personnel—1.

A commissioned officer in charge of the assignment of all quarters and office space.

Building Superintendent:

Total personnel—16.

Includes two civilians and fourteen enlisted men engaged in making all repairs and alterations, painting, or other necessary work.

Personnel office:

Total personnel—9.

Includes three commissioned officers, and six enlisted men. This office keeps the records of all personnel, and is liaison between the Commission and the Army so far as personnel is concerned.


Total personnel—18.

One commissioned officer, one field clerk, and sixteen enlisted men. This section does certain mimeographing; all of the photostating, of which there is a good deal; photography for passes; blue prints, et cetera.


Total personnel—6.

Includes one Army commissioned, one Navy commissioned, and three Navy enlisted. This division looks after the health of all those attached to the Commission.


Total personnel—9.

One commissioned officer, and eight enlisted men. The commissioned officer is in charge of the purchase of all supplies, and the keeping of the store room.

International Law:

Total personnel—25.

Includes fourteen civilians, two Army commissioned officers, and nine enlisted men. This is one of the largest civilian sections in the Commission, and handles all problems of international law. Its heads serve on several of the Peace Conference Commissions as representatives of the American Government.


Total personnel—28.

This is headed by Admiral Benson, Chief of Operations, U. S. N., Technical Adviser to the Commission, and consists of seven commissioned [Page 565] officers, and twenty-one enlisted men, who serve as stenographers, clerks, and orderlies.


Total personnel—5.

Headed by Major General Kernan, now absent in Poland.

Army Codes:

Total personnel—7.

Includes three commissioned officers, three field clerks, and one enlisted man. This section was devoted to the study of codes, but has now been abolished.

Reparations Commission:

Total personnel—6.

Includes three civilians, two Army commissioned officers, and one enlisted man. This is the office of the Reparations Commission consisting of Messrs. Baruch, Davis, and McCormick.

Negative Intelligence:

Total personnel—4.

Includes one commissioned Army officer, and three enlisted men. It is charged with the protection of the buildings and offices.

Courier Service:

Total personnel—40.

Includes two commissioned Army officers, one army field clerk, and thirty-seven enlisted men. This is the head office of the Courier Service which runs between Paris and various points in Europe where American Missions are stationed, as well as to New York. It likewise looks after the distribution of messages throughout Paris.

Territorial, Economic and Political Intelligence—Administration:

Total personnel—40.

This is the section headed by Dr. S. E. Mezes, and was formerly known as the “Inquiry”, established in 1917 for the purpose of studying the problems of peace. This particular division comprises the administrative office of the organization, under its supervision is a group of specialists on various problems divided into the following sections:

  • Austria-Hungary—One civilian, and one commissioned Army officer.
  • Balkans—Two civilians, three commissioned Army officers, and one civilian employe.
  • Boundary and Geography—One commissioned Army officer.
  • Colonial—One civilian, and one stenographer.
  • Current Intelligence Summaries—Total 14. This division has divided the world into political, geographical zones, and makes a study of current events in each. It is now, however, being combined with another section.
  • Economics and Statistics—Total 12. Includes four civilians, four commissioned Army officers, one civilian employe and three field clerks.
  • Ethnography—One commissioned officer, and one stenographer.
  • Far East—One civilian, one commissioned Army officer, and two stenographers.
  • Geography—Total 20. Includes five civilians, one field clerk, and fourteen Army enlisted men, mostly draftsmen.
  • Germany—One civilian and one stenographer.
  • History—Three civilians and one field clerk.
  • Inner-Asia—One civilian.
  • Italy—One commissioned Army officer, and one civilian.
  • Library and Reference—Three civilians, two commissioned Army officers and sixteen enlisted men. This section handles the library of the Commission.
  • Russia and Poland—Four civilians, two commissioned army officers, and four enlisted men, the latter office assistants.
  • Eastern Asia—Four civilians, one commissioned army officer, and one enlisted man.
  • Western Europe—One civilian, one commissioned Army officer, and one stenographer.

Associated Bodies:

The personnel of some of the offices enumerated below are carried on the Peace Commission rolls, although they are not directly attached to the Peace Commission, nor is their personnel properly chargeable to the Commission. However, there is, in each case, an association which warrants a record being kept by the Commission.

Attached to the Commanding General, District of Paris—total 12. Includes eleven officers, and one enlisted man. While these officers have been engaged in looking after the President, they are not directly attached to the Commission.

Courier Service Officers—total, 81—all commissioned. This comprises the courier service between Paris and numerous points in Europe where American Missions are stationed. A similar service would have to be maintained whether the Peace Commission existed, or not, although not such an extensive service as this. Prior to America’s entry into the War, such a courier service was maintained by the Department of State.

Field Observers—total 77. Civilians, eight; Army commissioned, thirty-two; Navy commissioned, nine; field clerk, one; Army enlisted, twelve; Navy enlisted, fifteen. These officers and men on duty as observers with the American Missions in Poland, Austria, Russia, Turkey, and elsewhere. While under the supervision of the Commission, they are working generally for the United States Government, and in reality the Missions afield take the place of certain Embassies and Legations.

Financial Commissioner—total 14. Includes eleven civilians, one commissioned army officer, and two enlisted men. While the Financial Commissioner is a Technical Adviser of the Commission, he is also the representative in Europe of the Treasury Department, and [Page 567] a considerable portion of his personnel is devoted to United States Government work, rather than that of the Commission.

Headquarters Detachment—total, 297. Includes twelve commissioned Army officers, two hundred and eighty one enlisted men, one commissioned Marine officer, and three Marine enlisted men. The headquarters detachment includes all of the officers and men essential to the maintenance of a military organization. It furnishes certain orderlies to the Commission, as well as the outside guard at Hotel Crillon and “No. 4”. Its officers are engaged in strictly military duties, looking after the discipline of the men, their feeding, and the “paper work” of the organization. The figures include cooks, barbers, tailors, organization non-commissioned personnel, et cetera.

Historical Branch, War Plans Division—total 2. Both Army officers, engaged in the study of the proceedings of the Commission on behalf of the War Department for historical purposes.

Post Office—total 16. Includes two commissioned Army officers, one civilian, and eleven enlisted men (Army), and two Marine enlisted men. The Post Office handles the mail for the entire organization, including a great quantity of soldier mail.

Shipping Board—total 18. Includes twelve civilians, four commissioned Army officers, and two enlisted men. Like the office of the Financial Adviser, this is an associate body, but not actually a part of the Peace Commission. The office, like that of the Financial Adviser, existed before the formation of the Peace Commission.

Supreme War Council—total 4. Includes three commissioned Army officers, and one field clerk. Another associate body.

Telephones—total 46. Includes two commissioned Army officers, twenty-five Army enlisted men, one civilian, and eighteen women operators. Engaged in installation and telephone service.

Transportation—total 106. Includes six civilians, four commissioned Army officers, and ninety-six enlisted Army men. This force handles all transportation, passenger, and otherwise; runs twenty-four hours a day; cares for the cars, and operates the garage. It includes waitresses employed at the men’s mess.

War Industries Board—total 1[14]. Includes nine civilians, four commissioned Army officers, and one enlisted man. Another associated body, with dual functions, which is not entirely chargeable to the Peace Commission.

War Trade Board—total 10. Includes seven civilians, two Army enlisted men, and one Navy enlisted man. Another associate body not entirely chargeable to the Peace Commission.

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Memorandum by the Secretary of State 40

The terms of peace were yesterday delivered to the German plenipotentiaries, and for the first time in these days of feverish rush of preparation there is time to consider the Treaty as a complete document.

The impression made by it is one of disappointment, of regret, and of depression. The terms of peace appear immeasurably harsh and humiliating, while many of them seem to me impossible of performance.

The League of Nations created by the Treaty is relied upon to preserve the artificial structure which has been erected by compromise of the conflicting interests of the Great Powers and to prevent the germination of the seeds of war which are sown in so many articles and which under normal conditions would soon bear fruit. The League might as well attempt to prevent the growth of plant life in a tropical jungle. Wars will come sooner or later.

It must be admitted in honesty that the League is an instrument of the mighty to check the normal growth of national power and national aspirations among those who have been rendered impotent by defeat. Examine the Treaty and you will find peoples delivered against their wills into the hands of those whom they hate, while their economic resources are torn from them and given to others. Resentment and bitterness, if not desperation, are bound to be the consequences of such provisions. It may be years before these oppressed peoples are able to throw off the yoke, but as sure as day follows night the time will come when they will make the effort.

This war was fought by the United States to destroy forever the conditions which produced it. Those conditions have not been destroyed. They have been supplanted by other conditions equally productive of hatred, jealousy, and suspicion. In place of the Triple Alliance and the Entente has arisen the Quintuple Alliance which is to rule the world. The victors in this war intend to impose their combined will upon the vanquished and to subordinate all interests to their own.

It is true that to please the aroused public opinion of mankind and to respond to the idealism of the moralist they have surrounded the new alliance with a halo and called it “The League of Nations,” but whatever it may be called or however it may be disguised it is an alliance of the Five Great Military Powers.

It is useless to close our eyes to the fact that the power to compel obedience by the exercise of the united strength of “The Five” is the [Page 569] fundamental principle of the League. Justice is secondary. Might is primary.

The League as now constituted will be the prey of greed and intrigue; and the law of unanimity in the Council, which may offer a restraint, will be broken or render the organization powerless. It is called upon to stamp as just what is unjust.

We have a treaty of peace, but it will not bring permanent peace because it is founded on the shifting sands of self-interest.

  1. Reprinted from Lansing, The Peace Negotiations, pp. 272–274.