With Congress's approval of the war resolution, American strategy underwent a profound and sudden change. Freedom of the sea lanes and stability in the American republics could be achieved not by hemispheric defense but only by the deployment of an expeditionary force large enough to remove the hostile regime. The quick and complete defeat of Imperial Germany, heretofore believed to be of no interest to the United States, was now recognized as essential to American security. Such thinking did not immediately catch on. At one point in April 1917, for example, a U.S. senator buttoned holed an officer of the General Staff and asked with incredulity, “Good Lord! You’re not going to send soldiers over there, are you?”
|It Would Be a Long Time Before American Troops|
Arrived in Europe in Great Numbers
Army and Navy planners adapted no better than the Senate. While there were aspects of Plan BLACK [the plan for a naval war with Germany that did not include dealing with U-boats] which were implemented (for example, Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels recounts that the seizure of German and Austrian ships interred in American ports was a provision of BLACK), existing plans were of little value for the dispatch of American forces to Europe. Under immense pressures of time, the War Department prepared estimates for the new contingency. These envisioned invading Bulgaria through Greece, and of a landing in the rear of the German armies in France through an alliance with the Netherlands.
None of these concepts was, of course, fit for anything other than the trash, and the time wasted on them actually contributed to the delay of American intervention. No realistic planning was undertaken until the designated commander of the American Expeditionary Force, General Pershing, arrived in Europe to survey the requirement. As Pershing bitterly noted:
When the Acting Chief of Staff (Gen. Tasker Bliss) went to look in the secret files where the plans to meet the situation that confronted us should have been found, the pigeon hole was empty. In other words, the War Department was face to face with the question of sending an army to Europe, and the General Staff had never considered such a thing.
|American Port at Nantes, France|
A Stupendous Logistical System Would Be Needed to Support the Expeditionary Force
A later comment of Pershing’s indicates the strain on Army-Navy relations the requirements of the Western Front would cause. Pershing’s estimate that the AEF would number at least 2,000,000 men and would consume over 50,000 tons of freight per day was regarded by Admiral William Sims, the commander of U.S. Naval forces in Europe, as “very much an exaggeration or else as just an army joke.”
Once planning got under way in Pershing’s headquarters, it assumed the broad outlines of the modern American deliberate planning process, that is, with the theater commander-in-chief outlining requirements, the Army Chief of Staff making provision to provide the forces required, and the Chief of Naval Operations conducting the strategic deployment of those forces.
Source: Joint U.S. Army-Navy War Planning on the Eve of the First World War: Its Origins and Its Legacy, Colonel Adolf Carlson, 1998