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- 03 -152017

Lafayette, We Are Here! : episode 9

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Poster to encourage recruitment in the United States Army by James Montgomery Flagg, 1918. © Paris, musée de l’Armée, dist. RMN-GP Émilie Cambier

America enters World War I

The U.S. Army in 1917

In April 1917, the strength of the United States Army was about 200 000 men serving in the Regular Army, the National Guard, the United States Marine Corps, the National Naval Volunteers and the Coast Guards. The National Defence Act of 1916 was enacted on 3 June 1916 leading to a reorganization of the Army. The 1916 Act authorized the increase in the size of the military on the basis of voluntary enlistment: the Regular army was to enlarge to 200 000 men and the National Guard to 450 000 men by 1921. As voluntary enlistment proved too weak to supply the troops needed to fight, America turned to conscription.


The Selective Service Act of 1917 was considered in December 1916. The Act enacted on 18 May 1917, authorized the federal government an emergency increase in the Army through conscription. Between 5 June 1917 to 24 August 1918, 10.679.814 men between the ages of 21 and 31, the age range to be covered by the Act at the time, filled up a draft registration card.  Following a random draw on 13 July 1917, 500.000 men were selected to serve in the national army incorporated in September 1917 and 187.000 to serve in the Regular Army and the National Guard.

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Poster to encourage recruitment in the United States Army by James Mc Gibbon, 1919. © Paris, musée de l’Armée


In 1917, the famous magazine illustrator Charles Dana Gibson (1867-1944) gathered a group of talented artists, amongst them James M. Flagg, to promote the war effort. This group took the title of Division of Pictorial Publicity after being absorbed into the government agency known as the Committee on Public Information established by President Wilson in April 1917. One of the missions entrusted to these famous illustrators was to design recruitment posters. They produced some of First World War most lasting images.

The American Expeditionary Forces in 1918

At the request of the War Department,  the Congress amended the Selective Service Act of 1917 in August 1918 to expand conscription to all men aged between 18 and 45. By June 1918, over 10 000 men were sent to Europe daily. On 11 November 1918, over 2 million American soldiers were serving in the A.E.F. while 2.5 million were in the armed forces at home.

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