State Council of Defence Agency History
The Council of Defense was created by Chapter 369 of the Laws of 1917. Its responsibilities included making "all investigations and plans for efficient coordination and cooperation of the military, industrial, agricultural and commercial resources of the state in time of war". It was charged with the "creation of relations which render possible immediate concentration and utilization of state resources for military purposes". Preparedness meant the organization and coordination of the civilian as well as military population, and encompassed transportation systems, hospital and medical services, industry, volunteer organizations, and the supervision of aliens. Persons employed by the council were deemed to be in the military service of the State.
The council controlled expenditures made from appropriations voted in 1917 for general mobilization of the State's resources (Chapter 3), for a food supply commission (Chapter 205), and for a military census (Chapter 103). Detailed plans for taking a military census and mobilizing the State's resources were worked out by the Adjutant General's Office through divisions within a Resource Mobilization Bureau. Governor Charles S. Whitman was chairman, William A. Orr was secretary, and Joseph H. Wilson was auditor of the council. Other members appointed in May of 1917 included Frank M. Williams, the State Engineer and Surveyor; William W. Wotherspoon, the Superintendent of Public Works; Charles S. Wilson, the Commissioner of Agriculture; and Charles H. Sherrill, who became Adjutant General in September of 1917 upon the resignation of Louis W. Stotesbury.
At a meeting on November 29, 1918 the Council decided that the wartime emergency for which it was created had ended with the Armistice, and that it would conclude its activities on December 15, 1918. Two branches of its work continued: the Bureau of Americanization, under the State Education Department; and the Division of Information, which continued to handle requests from Washington for publicity on activities regarding federal reconstruction programs, and kept the county defense committees advised of its work.
Chapter 123 of Laws of 1919 abolished the council and stated that its "books, papers and documents" were to be turned over to the Adjutant General's office. The law took effect in March of 1919.
This bureau was the mechanism devised by the Adjutant General's office to accomplish the major work of mobilizing the State's resources for war. Its structure reflected the idea that direct channels of "military communication" and organizational hierarchy were critical to massing a united effort of military and civilian resources, and to reinforcing the idea that civilians were expected to accept certain minimum standards of personal contribution in time of war. The bureau included the following 12 divisions:
- Military Census (hundreds of thousands of persons in the State, including the illiterate and non-English speaking, were enrolled, largely by volunteers)
- Finance (raising money for general work)
- Publicity and Information
- Defense and Security (bringing military strength to the maximum, including enrollment of men not eligible for the National Guard, on account of age or disability, for home defense)
- Information and Intelligence
- Transportation (coordinating railroads, trolleys, automobiles and other vehicles and listing drivers, chauffeurs and others engaged in transport)
- Food Production and Conservation (operating through the Food Supply Commission appointed by the Governor and cooperating with county farm bureaus)
- Division of Co-Operating Agencies (coordinating organizations and individuals for war work)
- Division of Aliens (supervising location of aliens, registering and enlisting aliens, and dealing with treasonable activities)
- Instruction (in personal hygiene, first aid, operation of field bakeries, and economical cooking in the home)
- Health and Hospital (supervising care of discharged permanently disabled soldiers, the establishment of schools and re-education of the crippled and blinded and the marketing of their goods, and the protection of private practice during the absence of medical officers)
- Industrial (investigating needs of vital industries, providing labor for them, providing information on welfare of workers, and cooperating with the State Industrial Commission and local chambers of commerce)
For each of these divisions there was a corresponding sub- committee in each county under the direction of the county home defense committee.
Through planning by the Adjutant General's office, the county was made the unit for mobilization of the State's resources during wartime. Each of the 62 counties was represented by a committee of seven known as the home defense committee. Members of the home defense committees were appointed for each county by mayors of cities, county judges, and chairmen of boards of supervisors, and in New York City by the mayor. The original committee of seven was enlarged to provide a general committee made up of subcommittees for all activities, including representation for women on committees and subcommittees.
The county committees were organized around 12 divisions of work with subcommittees that mirrored the twelve divisions established by the Resource Mobilization Bureau. They had charge of taking the military census; raising money for all direct county work; enrollment for home defense of men not eligible for the National Guard; "secret service" investigations such as topographic map-making; evolving a workable system of transportation; food production and conservation; and coordinating work of private societies, organizations, and individuals that constituted an outpouring of community support.
County home defense committees were engaged in several areas crucial to the State's war relief efforts. These areas included:
- working with the State council's Division of Health and Hospitals providing free medical treatment for enlistment applicants when enlistment was rejected because of curable physical defects
- arranging routes for a motor convoy conveying materials across the State
- providing information on and issuing licenses for non-war construction, and reporting to the State on building projects upon which post-war deferment were requested
- curtailing unnecessary retail deliveries and reducing the return of goods, as a means to prevent diversion of workers from war work
- establishing "Return Load Bureaus" for motor truck express lines, to make truck travel more efficient, relieve railroad congestion, and assure prompt delivery of short-haul shipments to manufacturers and shippers
- conducting recruitment appeals and enrolling applicants in the United States Ship Yards Volunteer program
Chapter 525 of the Laws of 1917 authorized county supervisors to appropriate funds for county defense committees for a period not longer than "the expiration of six months after the close of the present war." The home defense committees routinely cooperated in such federal efforts as: the Liberty Loan program; work of federal exemption and enlistment boards; Herbert Hoover's food conservation pledge and "cleanup campaign" (to reach American homemakers); federal collection of the personal income tax; and the U.S. War Department's plans (subsequently discontinued) for a pictorial history of war work.
The six-month provision in the law permitted funding to continue after the Armistice (which was viewed as the close of the war), for assistance to the food program and other work initiated in Washington to meet the problems of peace. As the work of the Council of Defense concluded, it was suggested that the county and community defense councils, as their final act, prepare an Honor Roll to include the names of all those in military or naval service from the start of the war until the Armistice.
The war effort was strongly directed at the federal level. Given the situation of the Allies at the time of America's entry into the war, concerted efforts were made to quickly mobilize great amounts of money, food, supplies, and troops overseas. Members of the Council of National Defense included the secretaries of the federal departments of War, Navy, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, and Labor. Its purpose was to promote efficiency in mobilization, with a mandate to smooth relations between government and business. W.S. Gifford was Director of the National Council and also of the Advisory Commission of the Council of National Defense. Grosvenor B. Clarkson was Secretary to both the National Council and the Commission.
The Council was comprised of several boards and sections, including those on production, standards, munitions, commercial economy, medical work, food supply and prices, war inventions, and women's defense work. The section on Co-Operation with State Organizations was headed by George F. Foster, and later by his successor, Arthur H. Fleming.
The separate Advisory Commission of the Council of National Defense was chaired by Daniel Willard. Representing transportation, labor, general industry, finance, mining, merchandise, and medicine, it was organized into several committees and subcommittees, including those for transportation and communication, munitions, science and research, raw materials, labor, and medicine and surgery (including general sanitation).
There was continuous and active communication and cooperation between state and federal governments throughout the war, especially in regard to ensuring military service, reinforcing patriotic sentiments, and eliciting contributions to help meet the enormous economic cost of the war.