The Historical Text Archive: Electronic History Resources, online since 1990 Bringing you digitized history, primary and secondary sources
HTA Home Page | Articles | World War I | Woodrow Wilson as Commander-in-Chief

Email to a friend
Printer friendly

Woodrow Wilson as Commander-in-Chief

Woodrow Wilson as Commander-in-Chief: The Formative Period of US Military Planning for the AEF in World War I, April-November 1917

Michael J. McCarthy


At 8:32 pm on 2 April 1917, President Woodrow Wilson stood before the Joint Session of Congress. American protests had failed to dissuade Germany's submarine campaign, and Wilson believed that only one avenue remained--war. The President's thirty-six minute oration documented the causes which he believed justified belligerency, but in spite of the President's claim that "what this will involve is clear," few plans existed beyond the initial decision to adopt conscription as the method to raise the army. Basic issues concerning the nature of American participation, remained to be decided in the weeks and months ahead. [1]

The task of molding the diminutive American army into a formidable fighting force and of developing the strategic plans for US participation fell upon the shoulders of the War Department General Staff. In April 1917 this immature body of military advisors consisted of fifty-one officers, only nineteen of whom were on duty in Washington. None of these men had commanded in action or had even seen a modern division of American soldiers. Of these nineteen, eight were occupied with routine business, leaving only eleven-- comprising the War College Division free to concentrate on the Herculean task of creating from thin air a viable war plan against Germany. [2]

An examination of the role of the War College Division in the formation of military strategy and of the relationship between the President and his military advisors reveals two major threads in American preparation for the conflict. First, the United States found itself unmindful of and ill-prepared for the degree of involvement which its participation would require. The claim of Wilson's most recent biographer, August Hecksher-- that "neither Wilson nor [Secretary of War Newton D.] Baker had seriously doubted that sooner or later, if the war continued, a major force would be needed"-- seems unsubstantiated since neither the military planners nor the political leaders had adequately addressed the possibility of US participation in the war that had been raging in Europe for almost three years. Fundamental strategic questions -- such as whether to send an army to Europe, and if so when and where to deploy it to support national goals--remained unanswered until after the Congress granted Wilson's request for a declaration of war on Germany. [3]

The second major recognizable theme emerging from this study is the distinction between the approach of the military planners and that of the political leaders. Throughout the period strategic preparation, the military leaders held a singular goal foremost--victory over Imperial Germany. Many political leaders, especially Wilson himself, had other concerns which often put them at odds with the military recommendations at those rare times when they even knew of them. Historians Arthur S. Link and John Whiteclay Chambers, II, have argued that "Wilson's control and execution of military-diplomatic policy was personal and direct," and that he "insisted upon maintaining daily oversight of all military and naval operations, even down to particular strategies." They contend that the President enjoyed a close working relationship with his military advisers and that "in all matters of military-diplomatic policies and strategies, he required that there be a direct flow of information coming to the President." They further claim that "through daily meetings with Secretary Baker, and members of the General Staff as necessary, the President maintained personal control of the activities of the military establishment, especially as they related to his larger goals." [4]

Wilson indeed fully exercised his constitutional powers as Commander-in-Chief and maintained strict control of final military policy decisions, especially those relating to naval policy (such as the decision to adopt the convoy system. The picture of close cooperation painted by Link and Chambers, however, is inaccurate during the formative period of American military planning for the war, and the occasional harmony which sometimes existed between the military and political objectives of American participation can be attributed more to coincidence than to cohesive planning. An examination of the policy-making process illustrates that a gulf existed between the approach of the military planners in the General Staff and that of the President himself, especially as such planning related to the decision to send an immediate expeditionary force to France and the decision to exercise American military power on the Western Front.


The decision for war itself answered only the first half of a two-part question. The nation now had to decide how to fight. The thought of committing an army to the Continent was revolting to some American politicians. Upon hearing testimony on 6 April that the military might need appropriations for an army in France, Thomas S. Martin of Virginia, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, thundered, "Good Lord! You're not going to send soldiers over there, are you?" [5]

Legislators were not alone in their reluctance to field an expeditionary force. Recalling after the war the rationale for the massive American loans to the Allies, Treasury Secretary William G. McAdoo explained that at the time he believed that "the dollars that we sent through these loans to Europe were, in effect, substitutes for American soldiers. . . ." Even Wilson himself did not yet seem committed to fielding an expeditionary force. His declaration of war speech had made no mention of the possibility, largely because he assumed that the mere threat of American intervention would convince Germany to sue for peace. The request for an immediate and direct American role in the war, therefore, would have to come from the Allies. [6]

Practical considerations hampered any plans to field an American Expeditionary Force. The most optimistic of estimates suggested that a year would pass before any substantial American army could reach the Continent. On top of the delay associated with raising, training and fielding a force, many Allied commanders had voiced disparaging opinions of the quality of American soldiers. To solve both issues of the quality and the speed of American military involvement, the Allies sought amalgamation. American soldiers could enlist into the US Army and then, either individually or in small units, be integrated into existing Entente lines and chains of command. These soldiers could receive the experienced training of the British or French in Europe and could therefore play a role in the fighting more quickly than if they were trained at home. [7]

From the Allied perspective, amalgamation seemed an almost perfect solution; from the American perspective, both militarily and politically, it was out of the question. Military commanders were unlikely to give up the very armies which they commanded, and the public would hardly swallow a plan which seemed to use their sons, brothers, fathers and husbands as mere fodder for the English and French war machines. A alternative would be to encourage the United States to send a small expeditionary force immediately to Europe. By doing so the Allies could more quickly get the Americans involved in the war and perhaps even wear down some of the opposition to amalgamation. It was this proposal which the Allies eventually pressed. [8]

With the professed reason of discussing the nature of military cooperation between the US and the Entente Powers, two missions arrived in the US in late April--a British delegation, led by Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Arthur J. Balfour and Lieutenant General Tom Bridges, and a French contingent, led by former Premier Ren Viviani and Marshal Joseph Joffre. General Bridges lost no time in stepping on toes at the US War Department. Within a week of his arrival in Washington he wrote to the American Chief of Staff, General Hugh L. Scott, and requested that a regular division be sent immediately across the Atlantic. He attempted to soften this proposal by suggesting that these soldiers could eventually be "drafted back into the US Army and would be a good leavening of seasoned men," but his suggestion met with a cool reception from the Chief of Staff. [9]

The French seemed at first no more successful than the British in their discussions with the American military planners. On 27 April Joffre spoke to the students at the Army War College. Following the speech he retired to the college president's office to meet with Baker, Scott and Assistant Chief of Staff, General Tasker H. Bliss. The Frenchman repeated his appeal for "men, men, men" and requested that an American division be sent to Europe at once. His suggestion would not receive the endorsement of America's military planners. [10]

The General Staff opposed such a course of action with a strong and unified voice. Bliss saw the immediate dispatch of an untrained force as merely the beginning of a mass butchering of green American recruits. Arguing that replacements would have to follow the casualties, he warned that "we will have to feed in raw troops to take the place of raw troops." Bliss also correctly surmised the unstated British hope that a few American casualties might stimulate the US fighting spirit. He cautioned against this tactic, however, and further asked: "They may think that this will still further our fighting blood. But for what purpose and to what effect? Will they want to so stir us that we will insist on rushing great armies of ill-trained men into the field?" [11]

Brigadier General Joseph E. Kuhn, then Chief of the War College Division, and his military planners equally opposed such a plan. In its memorandum to Scott on 29 March the War College Division argued that a small force could exert no influence on the front and could only bring harm to an American effort to create an independent army. Trained soldiers and officers were scarce in America, and forming most of them into a single division would undermine future American mobilization. Even when Baker ordered them to draft plans for a possible expeditionary force on 10 May, the military planners restated their misgivings about this idea. [12]

The military planners, then, had made their position clear: the immediate dispatch of an expeditionary force to Europe would not, in their opinion, be in the best interest of the American war effort. Just such an expeditionary force, however, departed in June 1917 under the command of General John J. Pershing. The British and French missions seem to have persuaded Wilson, and during the President's four o'clock private meeting with the French Field Marshal on 2 May he had "allowed General Joffre to take it for granted that such a force would be sent just as soon as we could send it." In his sixty-five minute audience with Wilson the French commander successfully elicited what the American military planners had opposed so passionately ever since war had appeared likely. [13]

The President appears to have reached his decision independently of the advice being issued from the nation's military planners. During his actual conversation with Joffre, the President referred to none of the concerns which the War College Division had enunciated about an immediate expeditionary force. Also, there is no record that Baker had briefed the President on the General Staff's opinion of this recommendation. [14]

Wilson most likely acted on his own with a diplomatic goal in mind when he promised Joffre an immediate expeditionary force: the desire to play a part in the peace settlement. Only if America influenced the outcome of the war, and only if the US had an army on the battlefield under its own flag to demonstrate this influence, could Wilson mold the shape of the peace. While such harmony between policy and objectives is admirable, the President was to make this resolution with no direct consultation with his military planners. In reality, of course, had the United States delayed it would have found itself with almost no military presence on the Continent at the close of the war, and judging from Wilson's inability to convert the Allied leaders to his way of thinking even in light of the degree of American participation, it is likely that the President would have had little or no diplomatic influence whatsoever at the postwar negotiations. Therefore, Wilson's decision was sound in the final analysis. It is still impossible to ignore, however, that the President's choice was made with no direct consultation of his military planners in the War Department General Staff. [15]


The decision to send an immediate expeditionary force to France did not complete American strategic planning. While the United States had committed itself to a military role, the exact nature of the nation's involvement remained to be enshrouded in fog as dense as that which surrounded General Pershing and his staff as they departed New York harbor for Europe in late May 1917. Of immediate concern was the speed with which American troops would follow the First Division across the Atlantic: would the bulk of the American army remain in North America to complete its training or would the United States begin shipping more soldiers immediately? In addition, during the few months after the initial expeditionary force was dispatched to France, some prominent Americans--even Wilson himself--questioned the wisdom of fighting on the Western Front. Almost three years of relentless fighting there had left the terrain scarred with trenches and graves, yet had yielded little gain for either side. An alternative to this stalemate was sought.

Proposals from a variety of sources, including military men, politicians, journalists and even the President himself, offered suggestions for the focus of America's military efforts. All of these proposals must have frustrated the personnel of the War College Division, who seem to have settled on the Western Front early in their war planning. Baker himself recalled years after the war that "General Pershing, General Scott, General Bliss and I had agreed that the war would have to be won on the western front at the time General Pershing started overseas. At one of our conferences before he left we discussed some of the sideshows and decided that they were all useless. . . ." In spite of the sound, strategic rationale for this decision, the General Staff would be forced to explain its reasoning repeatedly throughout the remainder of the year. [16]

In September 1917 Wilson submitted to Baker the plan of Major Herbert H. Sargeant, a retired army officer and a member of the General Staff who rejected the military planner's decision to fight on the Western Front, for the "General Strategy of the Present War Between the Allies and the Central Powers." Sargeant decried the three-year-old stalemate on the Western Front and saw little hope of either side gaining significant territory against the enemy's layers of defenses. His plan, therefore, involved the commitment of the smallest possible force to hold the line in the West while concentrating the bulk of American power in the East in an attack against either Turkey or Bulgaria. [17]

The suggestions of a Balkan or Near Eastern campaign met with the vehement disapproval of military planners. On 28 September, Colonel P.D. Lochridge, acting Chief of the War College Division, issued a memorandum to the Chief of Staff relating several reasons why an Eastern campaign was not the proper role for the American Expeditionary Force. First, dividing the Allied effort would leave the Central Powers with the advantage of interior lines of supply. Second, shipping a force from New York to the Eastern Mediterranean would involve a distance 1400 to 2000 miles greater than sending that same force to the West Coast of France, and this entire increase would be in a land-locked sea--a gauntlet of possible submarine bases. The delays associated with a Pacific crossing would be even greater, making this course out of the question. [18]

A third disadvantage of a Balkan Campaign would be the requirement of the attacking force to carry with it all supplies and munitions. The American army was embarrassingly short of cannons and ammunition and was already forced to rely on France for its artillery needs in the West. Thus, an American force landing in the Balkans would be unequipped for any fighting at all.

The main argument against a campaign in this area, however, was political. Describing Macedonia as having been for centuries the "cesspool of nations," Lochridge contended that this area provided a microcosm of the nationality problem that had greatly troubled the entire Balkan region. The Allied forces there included contingents from all of the participant countries, making harmonious cooperation impossible. It was better, therefore, that the United States avoid becoming embroiled in this political powder keg.

The War College Division refuted the idea of a Russian Front in the same memorandum wherein it rejected the idea of an Eastern campaign. The main hurdle for such a campaign was Russia's inaccessibility. Ports in the North were too small or were frozen over during much of the year. Ports on the East coast of Asia were too distant from the front. Even if Russia had possessed adequate port facilities, however, the added length of the voyage prohibited an offensive via this route.

In the context of these discussions of alternative strategies, and at Baker's suggestion, the War College Division took the opportunity to explain and defend its choice of a Western campaign. The military planners contended that a "sideshow" strategy would unnecessarily divide the American forces. In order for an alternative strategy to succeed, the US would have to field a force large enough to hold the line in the West and at the same time fully equip a force sufficient enough to have an influence in another theater. The force on the second front would require its own artillery, lines of communications, rolling stock, bases, and sufficient personnel--items that the American force alone did not have. [19]

The War College Division also contended that the Allies could not survive alone on the Western Front. No miracles had occurred in the three months after the dispatch of Pershing's First Division, so France still needed American assistance. Most importantly, the War College argued that the West was the decisive theater of the war. The sideshows in the East were just that --sideshows. The German objective, they argued, lay with crushing France, and American involvement in the West would do the most to thwart that goal. The military planners recognized that a deadlock had existed for some time in the West, but they claimed that American involvement to the expected degree (eventually one or two million men would tip the scales decidedly in the favor of the Entente Powers. The war would be won or lost in the West; if the United States desired to play a decisive role in the outcome of the war, and thereby earn a seat at the settlement, it would have to play that role side by side with the French and British in the trenches of the Western Front. [20]

By the end of September, the War College Division had offered its best reasoning for a western campaign, but it continued to receive suggestions for alternatives to this strategy. Baker had sent Lochridge's memorandum to the President on 11 October. In early November, however, Wilson again presented to Baker the plan of Major Sargeant concerning "the General Strategy of the Present War between the Allies and the Central Powers"--the very same plan which he had given to his Secretary of War in September and the very same plan which the War College Division had already rejected in its lengthy study written for the President himself! Surely Baker must have been puzzled when, upon his return to his office, he realized that Wilson had resubmitted Sargeant's proposal. On 11 November Baker forwarded a copy of the War College Division's memorandum of 28 September to Wilson. In his cover letter he once again reiterated the arguments against a sideshow strategy for the AEF. Hinting at Wilson's desire to have a seat at the settlement, Baker concluded by reminding the President that America's army had been "pledged for use on the Western Front in cooperation with the British and French forces there." [21]

The President finally bowed to Baker and the General Staff, but not before having once again illustrated the great difference between his goals and those of the military planners. Ronald H. Spector argues that news of the November Revolution in the nascent Soviet Union and the Italian disaster at Caporetto, which had cost the Allies 40,000 casualties and a quarter million prisoners of war, doused any ideas of alternative fronts. Timothy K. Nenninger, however, suggests that one argument in particular may have been decisive in the eyes of the President. The Western Front policy would allow the United States to play a major role in the war, and it therefore fit well with Wilson's political goals of reshaping Europe. While this reasoning may have convinced Wilson, the military planners themselves had already decided on this course of action months earlier for purely military reasons. [22]


With the decision to concentrate American forces on the Western Front finalized, the responsibility for most strategic planning shifted away from Washington and into the Headquarter of General Pershing or the chambers of the Supreme War Council. After Major General Peyton C. March assumed the position of Chief of Staff in the spring of 1918, the War College Division's role in strategic policy-making would be made official (at least in title and that branch of the General Staff would be renamed the War Plans Division. Also during March's tenure, Wilson would begin close coordination with his military planners, as described by historians Link and Chambers. Such a cohesive approach to planning, however, had not existed during the formative period of America's policy-making for the war, and this examination of that topic has demonstrated the disparity between the approach and attitude of the military planners in the War College Division and that of President Wilson. [23]

Wilson was not fully attuned to the War College Division's recommendations concerning an immediate expeditionary force to France. The military planners voiced their reservations passionately, but Wilson was probably ignorant of these opinions when, on 2 May, he promised Joffre that the US would raise and send a division as soon as one could be organized. In retrospect, following the War College Division's advice to hold the bulk of American soldiers within the country until they had completed their training would no doubt have left the US lacking a land presence at the end of the war or, worse yet, might have resulted in a victory for the Central Powers. Such hindsight analysis does not erase the fact that Wilson had not thought to consult the General Staff and that Secretary of War Baker proved a poor messenger for the War College Division's opinions.

Wilson's approach to strategic planning came dangerously close to folly when he questioned the American commitment to the Western Front twice. Wilson seemed too easily swayed by the strategic advice of amateurs or polemicists. Indeed, the President appeared reluctant to accept even the most straight- forward arguments which excluded the possibility of an attack other than in the West. Secretary of War Baker had to present the War College Division critique of these alternatives twice, and even then it is less likely that the President was swayed by the strategic considerations than it is that he was influenced by the fall of the Provincial Government in Russia and by Baker's contention that a campaign along any front but the West would threaten Wilson's role at the peace settlement.

It is often easy to find mistakes in failure. It is more difficult to criticize a process which ends successfully, as did America's effort during the First World War. The Allied victory, however, does not change the fact that American strategy was formulated in a tardy, reckless and haphazard fashion, with Wilson making policies and commitments with no consideration of the counsel of his military planners in the War College Division of the General Staff. This is not to say that the advice of those planners was always sound, or to claim that it should always have been adopted, or even to suggest that, at least on the surface, American diplomatic goals and military policy failed to mesh. In fact, in retrospect it appears that Wilson's decisions were often better suited to America's war aims than was the advice of the War College Division. Nonetheless it must be recognized that these decisions were not the result of a long and considered dialogue between the President and these military planners. They were instead the outcome of unilateral decision- making which, although successful in this instance, is a dangerous approach to strategic planning.


1. "An Address to a Joint Session of Congress," 2 April 1917, The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, gen. ed. Arthur S. Link, 63 vols. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966), 41:519-27 (hereafter, PWW). See also Walter Millis, Road to War: America, 1914-1917 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1935), 436-43.

2. James Hewes, "The United States Army General Staff, 1900) 1917," Military Affairs 38 (April 1974): 68; "Report of the Chief of Staff," in War Department Annual Report, 1919, 4 vols. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1920), 1:248-49; Frederic L. Paxson, "The American War Government, 1917-1918," American Historical Review 26 (October 1920): 54. See also Edward M. Coffman, The War to End All Wars: The American Military Experience in World War I (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1986 [New York: Oxford, 1968]), 21-4; Marvin A. Kreidberg and Morton G. Henry, History of Military Mobilization in the United States Army, 1775-1945 (Washington: Department of the Army, 1955), 215-16; James Hewes, From Root to McNamara: Army Organization and Administration, 1900-1963 (Washington: Center of Military History, 1975).

3. August Hecksher, Woodrow Wilson (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1991), 446-47.

4. Arthur S. Link and John W. Chambers, II, "Woodrow Wilson as Commander)in)Chief," in The United States Military Under the Constitution of the United States, 1789-1989, ed. Richard H. Kohn (New York: New York University Press, 1991), 319-24.

5. Frederick Palmer, Newton D. Baker: America at War, 2 vols. (New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1931), 1:120.

6. William G. McAdoo, Crowded Years (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1931), 376-77; Kathleen Burk, "Great Britain in the United States, 1917-1918: The Turning Point," International History Review 1 (2 April 1979): 234.

7. For examinations of the projected time required to field an American Expeditionary Force see Col. Joseph E. Kuhn to General Hugh L. Scott, "Memorandum for the Chief of Staff," 29 March 1917, Record Group 165 (Records of Chief of Staff, War Plans, and War College Division), File 9433-6, National Archives, Washington, DC (hereafter, RG 165, NA); [British] General Staff, "Note on the Military Forces of the United States," 5 February 1917, WO 106/467, Public Record Office (hereafter, PRO), cited in David Woodward, Trial By Friendship: Anglo-American Cooperation in World War I (University of Kentucky Press, forthcoming), Chapter 3. As for the Allied evaluation of the quality of American soldiers, General Sir William Robertson, the Chief of the British Imperial General Staff, issued a rather pointed evaluation of the capacity of the American military when he wrote to a fellow general, "I do not think that it will make much difference whether America comes in or not. What we want to do is to beat the German Armies, until we do that we shall not win the war. America will not help us much in that respect." Robertson to General Sir A.J. Murray, 13 February 1917, in The Military Correspondence of Field Marshal Sir William Robertson, Chief, Imperial General Staff, December 1915-February 1918, ed. David R. Woodward, Publications of the Army Records Society 5 (London: The Bodley Head, for the Army Records Society, 1989), 149. The French seemed to have a similar opinion, as pointed out by Major James A. Logan, Jr., Chief of the US Military Mission in Paris: "all of the French are somewhat afraid of the efficiency of our military organization." Logan, Chief of Military Mission, Paris, to Chief of Army War College, War College Division, General Staff, 13 April 1917, RG 165/10050-2, NA.

8. For a discussion of the ongoing amalgamation controversy, see Thomas Clement Lonergan, It Might Have Been Lost!: A Chronicle from Alien Sources of the Struggle to Preserve the National Identity of the A.E.F. (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1929).

9. Wilson was at first reluctant to receive the British delegation, fearing that "a great many will look upon the mission as an attempt to in some degree take charge of us as an assistant to Great Britain." Wilson to Baker, 11 April 1917, Box 4, Baker Papers, Library of Congress Manuscript Division, Washington, DC (hereafter, LOC). David M. Esposito argues that Wilson's reluctance to receive the missions also stemmed from the fear that the Allies would attempt to limit America's role in the war and thereby to decrease the President's influence at the peace settlement. See David M. Esposito, "Force Without Stint or Limit: Woodrow Wilson and the Origins of the American Expeditionary Force" (Ph.D. dissertation, Penn State University, 1988), 165-66. Bridges to Scott, 30 April 1917, WO 106/467, PRO, cited in Woodward, Trial By Friendship, Chapter 3; Kathleen Burk, Britain, America and the Sinews of War, 1914-1918 (Boston: Allen and Unwin, 1985), 123.

10. Edward M. Coffman, The War to End All Wars, 8-9.

11. Bliss to Baker, undated but probably March 1917, Box 1, Document 60, Baker Papers, LOC; see also Lt. Col. W.H. Johnston to Chief of Staff, Memorandum of dissent, 11 May 1917, RG 165/10050-8.

12. Memorandum from War College Division to Chief of Staff, 3 February 1917, Subj: Preparation for possible hostilities with Germany, RG 165/9433-4, NA; Army War College Division to Chief of Staff Scott, 29 March 1917, RG 165/9433-6; Kuhn to the Chief of Staff, 10 May 1917, Subj: Plans for a possible expeditionary force to France, RG 165/10050-8, NA.

13. Wilson to Baker, 3 May 1917, Box 4, Document 109, Baker Papers, LOC.

14. "A Conversation with Josef)Jacques)Csaire Joffre," 2 May 1917, PWW, 42:186-91; Baker to Wilson, 8 May 1917, Box 4, Document 123, Baker Papers, LOC.

15. A controversy exists concerning whether or not this desire to help shape the peace motivated Wilson's decision for US involvement in the war. Those historians who view the desire to mediate as a prime reason for his decision for war include Patrick Devlin, who argues that by April 1917, "It would be idle for Wilson to go to the Peace Conference without a seat in the Cabinet of Nations. The price of that seat was now war. Wilson himself had no doubt of that." See Devlin, Too Proud to Fight: Woodrow Wilson's Neutrality (London: 1974), 678-81; and David Trask, "Woodrow Wilson and World War I," in American Diplomacy in the Twentieth Century, ed. Warren F. Kimball (St. Louis, MO: Forum Press, 1980), 1-6. Opponents of this interpretation include J.A. Thompson, who contends that the weakness of Devlin's position is the slim likelihood of American intervention in the absence of the German submarine campaign. He claims that without such a direct challenge to the United States, it is hard to believe that Wilson would have gone to war for the prospects of American participation in the eventual peace settlement, since the driving force behind his previous attempts at mediation had been to avoid war altogether. Is was only after the battle had been joined that the desire for an American hand in the settlement became an over-arching theme of Wilson's policy. See Thompson, "Woodrow Wilson and World War I: A Reappraisal," Journal of American Studies 19 (December 1985): 338-47. A middle ground is struck by Arthur Link, who claims that although Wilson's decision for war was governed in great part by an eye to the diplomatic resolution of the conflict, the President was more concerned with preventing a peace on Germany's terms than on assuring a peace on those of the United States. His policies once committed to belligerency, however, were governed by his desire for participation in the settlement. See Link, Wilson, the Diplomatist: A Look at His Major Foreign Policies (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press, 1957), 88-90; David F. Trask, The United States in the Supreme War Council: American War Aims and Inter-Allied Strategy, 1917-1918 (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1961), 5-7; Trask, "Woodrow Wilson and World War I," 6-11.

16. Baker to Peyton C. March, 7 September 1927, Box 150, Baker Papers, LOC, quoted in Edward M. Coffman, "The American Military and Strategic Policy in World War I," in War Aims and Strategic Policy in the Great War, 1914-1918, ed. Barry Hunt and Adrian Preston (London: Croom Helm, 1977), 75; The War College Division seems to have decided on the Western Front by early June, when it began drafting plans for sending more American troops to France. Kuhn to Bliss, 7 June 1917, Subj: Tactical reorganization required to meet requirements in the European theatre of war and program for the progressive dispatch of troops to France, RG 165/10050-30, NA. See also Daniel R. Beaver, Newton D. Baker and the American War Effort, 1917-1919 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1966), 46-9; Nenninger, "American Military Effectiveness in the First World War," in Military Effectiveness, vol 1: The First World War, ed. Allan R. Millet and Williamson Murray (1989), 124.

17. Sargeant's plan, dated 6 September 1917, was sent to Baker by Wilson on 22 September 1917, Box 4, Document 141, Baker Papers, LOC. Note that Baker himself incorrectly refers to this letter as having been sent on 12 September in his response to Wilson, 22 September 1917, Box 4, Document 140, Baker Papers, LOC. Although his ideas would be rejected, Sargeant remained a committed "easterner." See Sargeant's series of articles in the North American Review between February and October, 1919, published as The Strategy on the Western Front (1914-1918) (Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co., 1920).

18. This and the following five paragraphs come from P. D. Lochridge, acting Chief of War College Division, to Chief of Staff Tasker H. Bliss, 28 September 1917, RG 165/10050-111, NA.

19. Kuhn to Bliss, 7 June 1917, Subj: Tactical reorganization required to meet requirements in the European theatre of war and program for the progressive dispatch of troops to France, RG 165/10050-30, NA. Baker seems to have doubted the feasibility of this plan rather quickly, considering that less than a month later he told former Chief of Staff Hugh Scott (at the time serving with the Root Mission in Russia) that "no definite plan has yet been made about the dispatch of further troops abroad. . . ." Baker to Scott, Petrograd, Russia, 1 July 1917, Box 3, Document 113, Baker Papers, LOC.

20. Here Lochridge was specifically applying these reasons to refute the idea of a Russian front, but the War College Division would use similar reasoning in the context of other alternatives; Ronald Spector, "'You're Not Going to Send Soldiers Over There Are You!': The American Search for Alternatives to the Western Front, 1916-1917." Military Affairs 36 (February 1972): 3.

21. Baker to Wilson, 11 October 1917, PWW, 44:361; Baker to Wilson, 11 November 1917, Box 4, Document 234, Baker Papers, LOC.

22. Spector, "'You're Not Going to Send Soldiers Over There Are You!'," 4; James L. Stokesbury, A Short History of World War I (New York: William Morrow, 1981), 246-48; Timothy K. Nenninger, "American Military Effectiveness in the First World War," 126) 127.

23. See Allan R. Millet, "Over Where? The AEF and the American Strategy for Victory, 1917-1918," in Against All Enemies: Interpretations of American Military History from Colonial Times to the Present, eds. Kenneth J. Hagan and William Roberts, Contributions in Military Studies 51 (New York: Greenwood Press, 1986): 235-56; Edward M. Coffman, The Hilt of the Sword: The Career of Peyton C. March (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1966); Link and Chambers, "Woodrow Wilson as Commander-in- Chief," 319-24.