[From AUSA National]
On April 17, 1917, with Army Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Hugh Scott overseas trying to get the Russians to stay in the war, U.S. Secretary of War Newton Baker has his staff flushing out one of Scott’s ideas for universal conscription to grow the Army rather than solely depending on volunteers. They’ll have to sell Congress on the idea.
World War I did not make the world safe for democracy, as President Woodrow Wilson hoped when he asked Congress to declare war in 1917. As we now know, the war with Germany that started for the United States on April 6, 1917, did not end all wars. However, it made the U.S. a leading world power and created five important legacies that continue to shape our Army.
Among the war’s lasting legacies:
- Compulsory military service and organization of state militias into an organized federal army deployable beyond the nation’s borders happened because of the Selective Service Act of 1917.
- The concept of a planning staff, first introduced in the early 1900s by then-Secretary of War Elihu Root, matured under the leadership of Wilson’s brilliant secretary of war, Newton D. Baker.
- Professional education and a systematic approach to training took root during World War I.
- Divisions became the module for deployment and employment.
- Three generations of officers gained important experience during World War I, managing mobilization or fighting in France. Their experience, informed by education and reflection during the interwar period, enabled them to raise, train and lead the enormous Army that fought and won World War II.