America enters World War I
The Viviani-Joffre War Mission to the United States
On 15 April 1917, ten days after the American entry into World War One, René Viviani (1863-1925), French Vice-president of the Council of Ministers and Marshal Joseph Joffre (1852-1931), sailed aboard the French cruiser Lorraine II to the United States of America on an important war mission, accompanied by the marquis Pierre de Chambrun (1865-1954), a prominent French politician and a descendant of general de Lafayette. Although Marshal Joffre had resigned as chief of the French army in December 1916 after being blamed for French unpreparedness, his name was still household name in France and America. A British war mission led by Arthur James Balfour was sent to the United States at the same time.
The initial purpose of the European war missions was to suggest that the United States authorize their troops to be directly incorporated into French and British armies. Marshal Joffre quickly sensed that the Americans would never accept any suggestion of amalgamation and recommended that the American should have an army of their own and send a division to France immediately. For the American people, Marshal Joffre who was known as the “Hero of the Marne” truly became the prominent figure of the war missions, the man the Americans listened to. On 29 April, the French and British party comprising of the entire membership of the British and French missions journeyed down the Potomac River to Mount Vernon from Washington on the Mayflower, the President’s yacht. On 10 May, a gold miniature of the statue of Liberty was presented to Marshal Joffre by the City of New York. On 14 May, Marshal Joffre and U.S. Secretary of War Newton D. Baker (1871-1937), drew up a detailed plan which stated :
1° that a First Expeditionary Division representing the United States of America be sent to France on June 1st 1917 ;
2° that the army be organized and well-trained in America and then in the training camps of the zone controlled by the French Army ;
3° that French officers train American officers assigned to the field and to GH ; that the United States provide military supplies for the American rear logistics installations (trains, artillery) and specialized manpower (drivers, telegraphists…). On 15 May, the successful French War Mission sailed back to France.