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Bill Thayer

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Talk 2

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Soldiers Unmasked
William Addleman Ganoe

published by
The Military Service Publishing Company
Harrisburg, Pa. 1939

The text is in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Talk 4
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

 p20  III

What more has he done

A young farmer lad was once leading a calf by a rope down a road. He came to a narrow bridge where the animal balked. An automobile moving up behind the pair had to stop. The boy turned to the car and yelled: "Toot!" The driver gave a great, loud blast from his deafening horn. The calf, thoroughly frightened, galloped madly over the bridge and down the road, pulling the poor boy at a break-neck run for half a mile. When the automobile caught up to the pair, the lad, gasping for breath, blazed out at the driver, "I — ugh — said 'Toot!' — but not — ugh — so loud!"

One shouldn't toot too loud about the soldier. It isn't done. But since his horn has been so seldom blown, I take the liberty to honk just a trifle. Some of the noise may leave us breathless, but I hope it won't scare the calf.

Yellow fever. We saw last time how Major Walter Reed stopped that disease and saved to date some thirty million lives. Long before his time another army surgeon by the name of William Beaumont had a patient who had been accidentally wounded  p21 through the stomach. The case was felt hopeless by other doctors. Beaumont not only cured the man, but took advantage of the large hole to study for the first time the action of digestion in a living body. His pioneer work paved the way for cures later. Tropical anemia! When our country took over Porto Rico, the island was helpless against the disease! Army doctors, after baffling set‑backs finally found the cause. Their work saved the Porto Ricans from a scourge that would have stopped their development forever. Dengue fever! Again army surgeons found the mosquito was the cause. The remedy was simple. Empyema, tuberculosis, beriberi, surra and bone deformities have been signally and notably helped by contributions of army surgeons. Rinderpest — a disease that had been carrying off the cattle by the thousands in the Philippines for half a century. The plague was all the more hurtful since cattle are Philippinos' beasts of burden and the key to their whole commercial life. Colonel R. A. Kelser, who is now in Massachusetts, with other soldiers, went deeply into the study of the disease.a After patient efforts he developed a vaccine, which prevents its occurrence. What that discovery has done for those islands, cannot be measured.

As with disease, so with disaster. Early one morning in 1906, San Francisco was suddenly buried in  p22 flames. Transportation, telephone and telegraph lines were broken down. Hospitals and fire departments were out of commission. The police force was helpless. Riot and anarchy were expected. No organized body of relief was possible but the Army. In less than three hours after the first blow to the city, General Funston with troops was on the scene. The soldier dealt out nearly a million rations, set up bakeries and coffee kettles, gave havens of comfort, controlled looters, opened stores, supervised hospitals and got the fire under control. One private soldier assembled several hundred refugees, organized them, got eating utensils and put up a field bakery. Many a soldier did not sleep while the emergency lasted.b

In great catastrophes the soldier has been the first one to deliver supplies, succor the helpless and keep order. The story of our floods, tornadoes, cyclones, typhoons, bursting dams, ice‑jams, coal mine disasters, explosions, earthquakes and forest fires is the story of relief by the soldier. In one Mississippi flood the army dealt out over two and one‑half million dollars worth of provisions for two hundred forty-three thousand people. It gave everything from stoves to post-hole diggers. In Montana blizzards, Texas floods, Michigan snow-storms, Florida disasters and Ohio overflows, the soldier was there to help the helpless. In the last New England floods,  p23  army trains were the first to reach the sufferers with food and relief, and soldiers at great risk made temporary bridges and opened roads. In the Porto Rico hurricane, army transports arrived first with supplies and help for the needy, and brought the island to a state of recovery. We hear much of Mr. Hoover's magnificent relief in Europe, but who ever told you that five army colonels were his principal assistants and that three hundred twenty officers and four hundred sixty-four enlisted men made up his agencies distributing American relief? The Russian relief was wholly the work of our soldiers.

The triumph of service by the army in our possessions of Alaska, Guam, the Philippines, Hawaii, Porto Rico and the Canal Zone doesn't often come to the ear of the average citizen. In the great archipelago of the Philippines, the soldier calmed strife between savage tribes, built roads, railroads, schools, churches, gave spiritual aid and comfort, and was at once, instructor, leader, governor, judge, jury, councilor, constructor, almsgiver and peacemaker. He did more in 10 years to make the Philippinos a united people than had been done in the previous centuries. It was his labor largely that caused their great desire to retain the supervision of the United States. Alaska, too, knows the army as a friend in need. When the territory was bought, soldiers were  p24 immediately sent there to keep order and open up the land. In the pioneer days, under great hardship, the army made surveys and kept watch over the frontiers. In the Klondike rush, it opened the harbors, built the roads and trails leading to gold, and protected newcomers against mob rule and lawlessness. In order to make the only link with the mainland of the United States, the soldier laid four thousand, five hundred eighty-eight miles of cable and built six hundred miles of telegraph, all of which he operated. He largely administered the government of the territory and at low cost furnished to business millions of dollars worth of returns. The signal corps soldier gave during the Civil War the greatest boost to our telegraph systems. As late as 1877, he operated three thousand miles of telegraph in South. Today in Washington he operates the largest radio net in the world, handling messages for forty-eight departments of the government. In one year for this service the Army was able to turn over to the United States Treasury, two hundred sixty-eight million dollars. It was General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.G. O. Squier, Chief Signal Officer, who made the outstanding invention of sending a number of telephone and telegraph messages over the same line at the same time. His work improved and revolutionized that industry. It was the soldier, too, who took the  p25 lead in developing the short wave, high frequency transmission and opened up vast channels through the air. It was the soldier who developed the radio beacon, which guides the airman through fog, cloud and darkness safely. It was the air soldier who perfected the parachute which has already saved many flyers. Of course everyone knows how the soldier helped the Wright Brothers in their great pioneer flying, and men like Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Selfridge sacrificed their lives for the sake of progress. Later others made the great good-will flight to South America, covering twenty‑two thousand sixty-five miles in two hundred sixty-three and one‑quarter hours of flying time. Lieutenants Maitland and Hegenberger made this first non‑stop flight from our west coast to Honolulu. Army pilots have photographed thirty-five thousand square miles in eighteen states for geological survey maps. Others have covered half a million square miles of our forests and reported hundreds of beginnings of fires. Others gave Colonel Lindbergh and many commercial pilots advanced training in flying.

In a different field, it was the soldier who started our steel industry, developed the tractor and was the first to bring interchangeable parts to machinery — making possible American mass production.

There is much false prejudice against our Chemical  p26 Warfare Service. Did you know that since the war it has done much for life and progress? It has aided industry by developing gas masks against the deadly carbon monoxide in mines, the fumes from burst pipes of ammonia refrigeration and from cyanide gas. It has aided the Public Health Service in the successful fumigation of ships; the Bureau of Biological Survey in ridding the commercial world of rats, gophers, locusts, grasshoppers, the boll weevil, marine borers, vermin and moths. At a cost of $106 in a western plant, it saved $75,000 worth of cloth goods by a single fumigation. With the air service it developed a quick method of spraying fruit trees, has aided police departments immeasurably with chemicals against mobs and bank robbers, and led the way in the foundation of the American dye industry.

There is scarcely any path of our progress that the soldier has not made or followed with helpfulness. His activities turn into so many avenues that I'm unable to give more than a hint tonight. Here is a late one.

Within two weeks after President Roosevelt's inauguration a bill to put a quarter of a million jobless men in Reforestation work was passed by Congress. The army didn't want the task of taking over a mass of men twice its size, of butting in on the  p27 Forest Service, and of robbing the soldier of his peace time training. The army's representative so stated to the White House. The reply was: "You have given all the reasons in the world why the Army should do this job. As a matter of fact all the reasons you state show that nobody else can do it." The army got the job. The General Staff was wisely ready for that possibility. A month later at the rate of one thousand five hundred thirty a day, fifty‑two thousand were enrolled, and forty‑two camps had been established. Fifty‑one days after that three hundred ten thousand had been enrolled. The rate of reception and caring for this vast number was greater than for both the Army and Navy during the World War. And this was peace time when the spirit, money and cooperation of the people were not so great. And what did the soldiers have to do for these men? Everything and more than a preparatory boarding school must do for its students. It had to examine them physically, classify them, clothe them, feed them, transport them, do all the work of paying them, put up their camps in the wilderness, and supervise their moral, mental and spiritual welfare and conduct. Army training stopped. The soldier had to put every ounce of his energy into the task and spent many sleepless, working nights, if it were to be a go. The little available  p28 army not one‑eighth the size of those finally enrolled had to press these raw men from every walk of life through their new work in a fair and orderly way. The entering C. C. C. boys were of equal rank. There were no seniors, no foremen, no variations — just a crowd. They were not being received into any organization. The whole structure had to be built from the ground up. The situation was as strange to the soldier as to the C. C. C. boy. The only recourse the Army Officer had for keeping contentment, orderliness and efficiency were precept, example and expulsion from camp. He could not use even minor forms of correction. He wasn't allowed to make the boy stand up, look one in the eye, or say "Yes, sir" or "No, sir." It was a fearful handicap, when he was responsible for their safety, good order and reputation in a strange community. But the records show surprisingly little discord for the vast numbers taken in. The records also show how proper sanitation, a balanced diet, daily medical attention and patient supervision turned out. An inventory of one hundred ten camps reveals that the boys gained from five to twenty-seven pounds. Only five per cent left camp — a surprisingly small proportion when you realize that their main qualification was lack of a job. Under skillful guidance they developed rapidly. The white anemic faces and flabby arms  p29 of early spring were changed into bronzed skins and bulging muscles in late summer. Professor Nelson C. Brown, New York State College of Forestry, says: "The usual army disciplinary methods were not permitted, but by precept and example and by an exhibition of tolerance and patience, and a friendly attitude of helpfulness, the camp commanders and forestry officers have made a really notable contribution to the upbuilding of character and good citizenship in this great army of young men." But let no one think for a moment that it is an army, or even the barest beginning of one. These young men are no more soldiers than any other rugged young men of our country. They have had no more military drill, military teaching, military progress than high school lads at a fire drill. Why they're not even allowed to have military books in their libraries. To be soldiers, they would have to start at the bottom in everything — forms of courtesy, upright posture, neatness in dress, obedience, discipline, team work, scouting and patrolling, guard duty, the use of weapons and all the thousand and one things that the trained man must know. The fact that C. C. C. boys wear parts of army uniform misleads many. That clothing, salvaged from the war, was all the country had to give them. The army dispensed it  p30 to keep the lad covered up. But a lion skin doesn't make a lion. No, anyone seeing an army post and then a camp of the C. C. C. boys would notice the complete difference. The C. C. C. is wholly a peacetime project for the interior development of our country, the largest one ever undertaken in the United States.

Today nearly a million C. C. C. boys have passed through the soldier's hands. Ninety-four per cent of the camps are now under Reserve Officers from civilian life, who are carrying on with great efficiency and success. This vast enterprise is just another by‑product of the army's normal work of being fit and ready against an emergency. And all of these services of the soldier come to the average taxpayer for less than a penny a day.

Do I toot too loudly — do I scare the calf?

Thayer's Notes:

a "Raymond Alexander Kelser, 1892‑1952", in Biographical Memoirs, National Academy of Sciences, XXVII.199‑221.

b See The Complete Story of the San Francisco Horror (1906), a book of which almost every chapter speaks of the Army's multifaceted role in the city's relief and recovery. But the Navy was involved as well: see Evans, One Man's Fight for a Better Navy, Chapter 8: The San Francisco Earthquake.

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