On August 5, 1918, plans were announced for increasing the effective strength of the United States army to 5,000,000 forthwith, by an extension of the draft age limits and rapid intensive training. Official statements showed that the armed forces of the United States already amounted to a total of 3,074,572 men, including 2,570,780 in the army and 503,792 in the navy. The national army at this date contained 1,400,000 men, the regular army 525,741, the national guard 434,511 and the reserve corps 210,528. The regular navy had 219,158 men, the marine corps 58,463, the coast guard 6,605, and the reserve 219,566. On June of this year 744,865 men reaching the age of 21 since June 5, 1917, were registered for selective draft purposes.
DEFEATING THE SUBMARINE DANGER
Meanwhile giant strides were taken in the American program of shipbuilding to offset the ravages of submarine warfare. The U.S. Shipping Board was reorganized and galvanized into a high state of efficiency. Under the leadership of Charles M. Schwab, director-general of the Emergency Fleet Corporation, and Edward M. Hurley, chairman of the board, the work in the shipyards on the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, and on the Great Lakes, was speeded up until ships were being built at the rate of 5,000,000 tons a year. In the first three weeks of July, 1918, twenty-three ships of 122,721 deadweight tons were completed, making a total of 223 new vessels built under the direction of the board up to that time, the aggregate tonnage being 1,415,022 tons. On July alone eighty-two vessels were launched, their splash being “heard around the world.”
With the increased tonnage being put out by the British, French, and Italian shipyards, and the output of neutral countries friendly to the Allies, this practically put an end to the submarine peril. In addition the United States requisitioned seventy-seven Dutch ships with an aggregate tonnage of about 600,000, while arrangements were made with Sweden for about 400,000 tons of shipping and contracts were let for the building of a considerable number of ships in Japanese shipyards.
The knowledge that there were over a million American troops facing the enemy on the battle fronts in Europe came as a decided shock to the German army and people, who were forced to realize the failure of their submarine campaign.
AMERICANS PROVE THEIR METTLE
After the American forces in France had their first serious encounter with the Germans on April 20 at Seicheprey, a village near Renners forest, which they recovered from the enemy in a gallant counter-attack, the fighting was of a more or less local character throughout the rest of the month and in May, with varying fortunes.
On May 27 the Germans began another great offensive, taking the Chemin des Dames from the French and crossing the Aisne. On the following day they crossed the Vesle river at Fismes. But on this day also the Americans won their first notable victory, by capturing the village of Cantigny and taking 200 prisoners. The United States marines added to their laurels in this fight and held the position firmly against many subsequent counter-attacks.