Army Quartermaster Museum -
Fort Lee, Virginia
The Enchanted Forest
Army Quartermaster support to the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression
Webmasters note: The Quartermaster Corps’ role in this great endeavor was to supply on short notice a hastily mobilized "army" of domestic workers, a force almost three times that of the Regular Army, with food, clothing, equipment, and shelter, and transportation. The Quartermaster Corps rose to the challenge, and more importantly, used the CCC experience to ready itself for an even greater challenge – World War II.
Set adrift by lack of employment, thousands of American youths roved the countryside--sinking deep into the slough of despond. By a plan of our President they at length were led into the Forest, there to regain their self-respect and confidence. As a result of this experiment these young men will return to their homes stronger mentally and physically; better equipped to resume their responsibilities as citizens--to fit themselves into the productive mass of humanity which is the foundation of our present national structure and alone promises its perpetuation in the future. --Editor.
The Civilian Conservation Corps was created on March 31, 1933, by a joint act of the Senate and House of Representatives, for the purpose of relieving the acute condition of widespread distress and unemployment then existing in the United States, and in order to provide for the restoration of the country's depleted natural resources and the advancement of an orderly program of useful public works. This act authorized the President under such rules and regulations as he might prescribe to utilize such existing departments or agencies of the federal government as deemed necessary for employing citizens of the United States who were unemployed, in the construction, maintenance and carrying on of works of a public nature in connection with forestation of lands belonging to the United States or to the several states which are suitable for timber production, the prevention of forest fires, floods and soil erosion, plant pest and disease control, the construction, maintenance or repair of paths, trails and fire lanes in National Parks, National Forests and such work on public domain, national and state, and government reservations incidental to or necessary in connection with any projects of the character enumerated, as the President may determine to be desirable. The President was also authorized to provide for housing the persons so employed and to furnish them with subsistence, clothing, medical attendance and hospitalization, and such cash allowance as may be necessary during the period they are so employed, and, in his discretion, to provide for transportation of such persons to and from the places of employment.
On April 5, 1933, the President, by Executive order, appointed Mr. Robert Fechner, a well-known labor leader, as the Director of Emergency Conservation Work, and at the same time prescribed that the Secretary of War, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Labor should each appoint a representative to be a member of the Advisory Council to the Director of Emergency Work. This council consists of Colonel Duncan K. Major, Jr., U. S. Army, representing the War Department; Major R. Y. Stuart, Chief Forester, U. S. Forestry Service, later succeeded by Mr. F. A. Silcox, representing the Department of Agriculture; Mr. Horace M. Albright, Director, National Park Service representing the Department of the Interior, and Mr. W. Frank Persons, representing the Department of Labor.
The Advisory Council prepared plans fixing the responsibilities of the various government departments in connection with the selection, enrollment, equipping, supplying, transporting and employing of members of the Civilian Conservation Corps.
The Department of Labor was charged with the selection of the individuals from among the unemployed who were to be enrolled in this splendid organization. The War Department was charged with the enrollment, the physical examination, transportation to conditioning camps, providing of food, clothing and shelter during the period of reconditioning, and with transporting the men to designated work camps where they were to he turned over to the various representatives of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior. The Forestry Service of the Department of Agriculture was to select the camp sites and supervise the work in the national and state forests, and the National Park Service of the Department of the Interior was designated to perform the same functions for men to be employed in national parks.
Under the original plan the responsibility of the Army in connection with the Civilian Conservation Corps was to begin when the selected men were turned over to it by the Department of Labor for physical examination, transportation to reconditioning camps, reconditioning, equipping and feeding while at reconditioning camps, and this responsibility was to cease upon turning over the units to the Department of Agriculture or the Department of the Interior at the work camps. However, it was soon realized that no government department other than the Army had the necessary qualified personnel or facilities for the handling, supply, transportation and welfare of this vast number of young Americans. Consequently the task of the Army was almost immediately extended to the establishment of work camps and to the administration, medical care, feeding. supplying and welfare during the entire period of service. This tremendous task, which the War Department decentralized to the various Army agencies at the very beginning, was carried out in the most expeditious manner as is illustrated by the fact that within seven weeks after the approval of the Army's operational plan the assembly of the Civilian Conservation Corps had been completed to 1,315 camps located in every state from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from the Canadian to the Mexican border. Every phase of the Army's responsibility in the Civilian Conservation Corps program has been carried out in a most expeditious, economical and efficient manner. In spite of the need for haste no measure was adopted which exposed the individuals to any hardship or discomfort.
The needs of this large force of government civil workers for all types of equipment has been foreseen and promptly furnished. In spite of the necessity for haste in getting these men to work camps the enormous quantities of articles required for equipping, feeding and supplying were procured at a minimum cost and in a most expeditious manner With few exceptions, each camp comprised 2 regular officers, 1 reserve officer and 4 enlisted men of the Regular Army and about 200 men of the Civilian Conservation Corps. At the peak during the month of July there were 1,450 camps in operation. Although administered by military personnel, the members of the Civilian Conservation Corps constitute a purely civil organization. The officers have no definite authority to compel individual obedience to regulations or orders for the good of the organization as a whole; nevertheless it is amazing what has been accomplished under the leadership of officers of the Army. Disciplinary troubles have been insignificant, which is due entirely to the high class of leadership displayed by the officers in administering, equipping, supplying and handling these men who have shown a remarkable attitude of cooperation with their company officers.
The Quartermaster Corps of the Army has played a most important role in the success of the Civilian Conservation Corps as it is upon this splendid organization that the tremendous task of equipping, transporting, supplying and feeding the large army of civil workers was placed. At the outset The Quartermaster General, his assistants and his field representatives made extensive and detailed plans for the problem confronting them. These plans were based on the assumption that the Army would necessarily be called upon to provide food, clothing, shelter and transportation for the large number of men who were to be enrolled in this civil organization of government workers. The Quartermaster Corps being the Army agency responsible for handling these essentials, the task naturally fell to this organization which, by the way, is the oldest branch of the Army (Webmaster’s note; the Quartermaster Corps is one of several branches organized on that day, the Infantry has the claim to being the oldest branch being formed on 14 June 1775) having been organized at Carpenters' hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on June 16, 1775, just two years prior to the adoption of the Stars and Stripes as our national emblem. In addition to equipping, supplying and transporting the corps to work camps, it has naturally fallen to the Quartermaster Corps to continue the task of furnishing supplies for these work camps and of feeding the members thereof, many camps being at isolated points in remote sections of the country. Many are located so far from transportation facilities as to make necessary the use of lumbering and pack trains for the transportation of food and supplies, this being particularly true at camps in the 9th Corps Area.
Naturally the first task of the Quartermaster Corps was to feed, clothe and equip this vast civil Army. Upon approval of the Secretary of War. The Army garrison ration was designated for feeding these workers and fortunately a new ration had just been prescribed for the Army which has proven to be most satisfactory for feeding large groups. This ration consists of the following components and is tile allowance of food considered necessary for one man for one day:
THE ARMY GARRISON RATION
(1) On Thanksgiving Day and on Christmas Day the meat component is: Turkey, drawn, 25 ounces; turkey, undrawn, 21 ounces.
(2) At remote camps where it has been impracticable to procure fresh milk, 11 ounces of evaporated milk has been furnished.
This ration forms the basis for subsisting these units in the same manner as the Regular Army, each unit being given a ration credit at the beginning of each month for the total money value of the total number of rations due, against which the unit mess officer purchases any item that is desired, the items purchased by him being charged against his ration credit. Any unused balance paid to the company commander at the end of the month.
Realizing the necessity of providing a balanced diet, suitable for young men ranging from 19 to 22 years who were to be engaged at manual labor and living to a great extent in the open air, The Quartermaster General prepared a sixty-page pamphlet giving menus and recipes for each thirty-day period, and listing the food values of over five hundred food items. This pamphlet also provided a guide which proved very valuable in the feeding of these hearty youngsters and approximately 5,000 copies were distributed to over 1,000 camps.
During the time these men were undergoing reconditioning at Army posts they were fed in Army messes in the same manner as the Regular Army. The food required for their messes was issued direct from Army commissaries on a reimbursement basis, thereby giving these men exactly the same food as is served to soldiers of the Regular Army. Due to the fact that the men were undernourished when they arrived at reconditioning camps, it became necessary to increase their daily food allowance 5 per cent above that furnished the American soldier.
After departure from reconditioning camps and while at work camps, ration credits based upon the Army ration were set up by district commanders for each camp. These credits were established by taking the cost price of each ration component delivered at each camp, thereby setting up a credit for each Civilian Conservation Corps mess against which the camp mess officer procured his staple food articles such as canned goods, flour, cereals, etc., which were shipped to him from Army quartermaster corps depots and from sub-depots located at Army posts. Camp mess officers purchase their perishable food supplies, which include fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, beef, pork, chicken, bacon, eggs, milk, etc., from farmers and local dealers in the vicinity of the camps. During the first few weeks a few complaints were made as to insufficiency of food served and upon investigation it was found that these men, who were undernourished, were consuming unheard of quantities of food. One camp commander reported that his cooks had broiled 300 pounds of beef steak for dinner for two hundred men and that it became necessary to broil an additional 50 pounds to satisfy their keen appetites. At this same meal three vegetables, one fruit; pie, bread, butter and coffee were also served. As soon as the men became properly nourished the regular food supply proved entirely adequate and most satisfactory, as is illustrated by a survey made by the Medical Department of the Army, in which it is shown that the average gain in weight of these men after two months' service is over twelve (12) pounds per man.
Originally all cooks for the Civilian Conservation Corps were supplied from enlisted men of the Regular Army, practically all of whom were graduates of the Army Bakers and Cooks Schools, from which sources all cooks for the Regular Army originate. The cooking has improved from day to day by actual experience in cooking which has now developed a fine corps of experienced chefs. Food being served is fit for kings and potentates as is illustrated by the following menus which represent the average daily meals served to these young American government workers:
The total cost of subsisting the Civilian Conservation Corps from April 15 until October 31, 1933, amounts to $17,269,655, or $57.56 per man for six months, practically all of which has either directly or indirectly gone to assist in the recovery of agriculture and most of which has gone directly to farmers and storekeepers within the immediate vicinity of these camps.
Before plans could be made for supplying clothing and miscellaneous camp equipment required by the Civilian Conservation Corps it was necessary to ascertain what quantities of essential items this class of supplies and equipment were required for these organizations. Allowances for each item were established by the War Department on April 5, 1933, after which the problem of procuring and supplying clothing and equipment devolved upon the Quartermaster Corps. This equipment consisted of two classes, namely initial equipment and maintenance equipment. The initial equipment is that necessary to equip each man with the authorized allowance, and the maintenance equipment is that necessary to furnish the individuals and organizations with replacements for that worn out and consumed in the service. The initial equipment of clothing for each member of the Civilian Conservation Corps included three suits of underwear, six pairs of stockings, one pair of shoes, two pairs of denim trousers and jumpers, one pair of woolen trousers, two flannel shirts, one tie, one waist belt, one hat, one raincoat, and where and when necessary, one overcoat and one pair of gloves. In addition each man is supplied with a mess outfit, a toilet set, a barrack bag and two blankets. Organizations were supplied with tents, cots, mattresses, pillows, bed linen, wash basins, cooking ranges with equipment, water sterilizing sets, trash and garbage cans, lanterns, brooms, typewriters and numerous other items of equipment. After the initial equipment was furnished it immediately became necessary to provide for the maintenance equipment. It was realized that the clothing issued would be subject to hard wear in the forests and that many articles would have to be replaced within a few months, or at least once during the first six months' period. This necessitated taking immediate steps to procure replacements for these items. The cost of clothing furnished the Civilian Conservation Corps up to September 30, 1933, approximates $10,292,611.69, and the cost of equipment and miscellaneous supplies approximates $5,522,788.06, or a total cost of $15,815,399.75 for clothing and miscellaneous supplies and equipment, all of which went to American manufacturing industries. The expenditures by the Government have undoubtedly contributed much towards the recovery of these industries.
The problem of supplying winter clothing to the camps during the second period presented another problem to the Quartermaster Corps, as it meant going into the market for large quantities of special types of winter clothing and equipment suitable for the welfare and comfort of the members of the Civilian Conservation Corps during the winter months. To provide these men with winter clothing has necessitated the purchase of the following articles:
300,000 winter caps
at an approximate total cost of $6,720,000, or $22.40 per man. This purchase has contributed much toward the revival of the clothing industry of the country and has indirectly given employment to thousands of textile workers at a time when it was severely needed.
The question of providing shelter for the summer camps was largely a matter of furnishing pyramidal tents, with necessary poles and pins, for some 1,300 camps. However, this was not as simple as it might seem, since this great number of men required approximately 36,000 of these tents for housing alone, two-thirds of which had to be manufactured after the enrollment commenced. In addition to tentage required for shelter, thousands of storage and other tents were necessary for storage of supplies and equipment.
The problem of providing shelter for winter camps has been a real one as it became necessary to construct wooden-built houses for over 250,000 men before winter set in. Fifty thousand men are continuing to live in tent camps, all of which are located in the southern part of the country where climatic conditions are less severe. Each house camp is to have seven or eight wooden buildings housing approximately 50 men each. The order placed for lumber for construction of these camps was one of the largest single orders ever placed for that material in the history of the country, and it gave an active stimulus to the lumber industry in which over a million men are normally employed. The construction of these houses furnished jobs for twenty-five or thirty thousand skilled laborers, all of which went to carpenters and other mechanics in the vicinity of the camps. A market was also furnished for other construction materials consisting of thousands of rolls of roofing, much sheeting, hardware, piping, cement and electric lighting fixtures and supplies. The cost of construction of 1,218 camps is approximately $19,000,000.00, or $16,000.00 per camp. For the heating of these buildings there have been purchased 30,855 heating stoves, both coal and wood burning types, at a total cost of $484,672.16, or approximately $1.64 per man. In addition 4,437 cooking ranges have been purchased and supplied to winter camps at an approximate cost of $302,646.89, or about $1.00 per man. There have also been purchased 16,227 fire extinguishers of the soda and acid, foam, and carbon tetrachloride types, at a cost of $121,502.07.
In the transportation of supplies and equipment from reconditioning camps into work camps and National and State forests and National parks, use was made of both rail and highway transport in every section of the country, although, due to the numbers involved and the distances traveled, the great bulk of both men and supplies moved by rail. Although approximately 600,000 men were involved in the two enrollments, due to the fact that those men are transported from their place of enrollment to an Army post for reconditioning and equipment, from these posts to work camps, and, on discharge, from the work camps direct to their homes or, in some cases, back to a discharge center and then to their homes, considerably over 1,000,000 journeys have been performed by these men since the first enrollment of the Civilian Conservation Corps began early last April. Like the World War draft, they came from every city, town and hamlet in the, United States from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from Canada the Mexican Border.
The great majority of the enrollees were sent to work camps in their own states, but, due to the fact that by far the greater number of National parks and National forests are in states that are not nearly as thickly populated as those in the Eastern and Central portions of the country, a number of these men were, perforce, sent to places outside of their states. For example: during the first enrollment 55,130 men were transported from points in the North Atlantic and North Central states to points in the Rocky Mountain and Pacific Coast areas. Up to November 30th a total of 401 special trains had been supplied for inter-corps movements, most of which required two or three days en route. These trains carried a total of 3,089 coaches and tourist cars and 1,257 baggage cars, and transported a total personnel of 123,512, this number including the officers and enlisted men of the Regular Army who accompanied them. Tourist sleeping cars were supplied in every case where the journey required two or more nights en route. The health and welfare of these young men were looked after as closely on these journeys as it was in the camps. Every train carried a kitchen car, from which hot meals were served to the men on regular schedules, and every train carried two or three Army officers and an Army physician.
The total expenditure for transportation, up to and including November 30, 1933, is as follows:
Despite the fact that over 1,000,000 individual journeys have been performed, not an accident has occurred while en route, and the entire movement of these men has been accomplished without confusion or delay. Credit for this remarkable showing is due to the American Railway Association, the Passenger Associations, and the officers and operating personnel of the various railroads.
Not only have the railways been benefited by these movements but the motor car industry has not suffered for want of business during this period as up to December 15, 1933, 3,300 trucks, 330 automobiles and 400 ambulances have been purchased for this large army of workers at a total cost of $2,452,240.75. This is in addition to several hundred old model vehicles transferred from the Post Office and other government departments.
Cash allotments to dependents of the members of the Civilian Conservation Corps paid up to November 13, 1933, amounted to $31,398,492.00 which went to the benefit and relief of a minimum of 1,500,000 needy persons, most of whom had little if any other income. In addition to this amount, $6,279,699.00 was paid to the men themselves, practically all of which went to local farmers and business firms. In addition to the amounts paid out during the first period, it is estimated that an aggregate of $42,000,000.00 will go to dependents during the next six months. It has been estimated that every dollar changes hands three times every month, therefore these $79,678,191.00 will have had a purchasing power of approximately $1,186,799,985.00 up to and including October, and will have reached approximately $1,469,371,410.00 by April 15, 1934.
Financial advantages which have accrued to sections in which Civilian Conservation Camps have been established have been many. These camps have been a tremendous help to the farmer as they have provided him with a market for his dairy products, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, etc., and to the village general storekeeper whose business has been materially increased as a result of the location of a camp in his vicinity. To industry the Civilian Conservation Corps has been a godsend in many ways. It has increased the demand for almost every conceivable item from buttons and pins to motor trucks. The clothing industry has benefited by approximately $10,000,000 for clothing furnished during the period from April to September and more than $6,300,000 for winter clothing which has been furnished for use during the winter months. The cost of equipment and miscellaneous supplies furnished these camps amounts to well over $5,000,000. Over $2,000,000 have gone to the automotive industry for the supply of 3,600 motor vehicles. Our American railways have been assisted in recovery to the amount of approximately $11,000,000 for transportation of personnel, supplies and equipment, exclusive of foodstuffs. Practically all subsistence has been purchased f. o. b. camps, consequently several millions have been expended by commercial concerns for transportation of these necessary items.
For the forest lands of our country the Civilian Conservation Corps has provided the means for speeding up and accomplishing protective measures that could never have been accomplished in any other manner. In six months has been accomplished more than could have been done in the ordinary way in half a century. Thousands of miles of trucks, horse and foot trails, telephone lines, and fire breaks have been constructed and hundreds of lookout towers, houses and guard cabins have been built; thousands of acres of timber have been protected against blister rust and gypsy moth; thousands of acres of forest land have been thinned and improved; thousands of acres of trees have been planted to date and plans are being made to plant 36,000,000 trees next spring so as to aid in control of erosion. These trees are being planted to stop the huge annual losses due to washing away of the rich top soil during and after heavy rains. Losses from erosion alone run into millions of dollars annually. In addition several thousand man-days have been given over to fighting forest fires and thousands of man-days have been given to preventive measures thus saving millions of dollars in ordinary annual losses in our National and State forests. Future visitors to our National forest, National parks and to State forests will get an added degree of enjoyment from beauties they behold as a result of the efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Many of the find stands of trees will owe their continued existence to the present conservation activities of the youthful Conservation workers.
Regardless of the cost of the Civilian Conservation Corps to the Government, no single Act of the administration has brought greater results than this great forest Army.
It was created for the purpose of relieving the acute conditions of widespread distress and unemployment, and to provide for the restoration of the country’s depleted natural resources and the advancement of an orderly plan of public works. The enrollment of these young men was the first step towards putting men back to work and the forerunner of our vast public and civil works programs which have succeeded in returning over 4,000,000 Americans to work on useful public and civil works. The accomplishments of the Civilian Conservation Corps on public work in our forests and National and State parks are well known in every city, village and hamlet of our country, but there is still a far greater accomplishment which will not be fully appreciated for years to come. In is the rehabilitation of the young men who have made up this vast civil Army of workers. These young men came to Uncle Sam early last April as a time when the economic depression had reached a point where millions of Americans, saddened and sordid, looked upon the future with uncertainty. For more than two years they had tramped the streets looking for honest labor, always meeting with the same answer, "No!—I am sorry, but I cannot employ any ore help now and if this depression continues much longer we must lay off more employees." Just how these young men, who average about 20 years of age, felt is best illustrated by the frank statement of Michael Barshansky of the 1205th CCC Company, which was published in Happy Days, the official newspaper of the Civilian Conservation Corps. He said:
"For the last two years I have been one of the saddened and sordid "Out-of-Work!" After being greeted with the curt answer No! No! No!, I began to look upon myself more like a dog whining for a bone than as a man wishing to trade work in exchange for a living. Last May I joined the Civilian Conservation Corps and at that time I cared little of what it was or what it did. I only wanted to go somewhere and do something. Now just what are the benefits which I have received *** First of all, I hope and believe I now earn my living. Second, I am now a help to my Mother, and am glad that she gets her $25 per month from my pay. But for this provision, I doubt if my will would have been strong enough to forward five-sixths of my pay home. I never did this before and I doubt if I can do this again. Third I have rubbed shoulders with some 200 men from all walks of life, and have learned to adjust myself to the community atmosphere so prevalent in our camp life, Fourth; I learned to obey orders. I am taught to respect the flag and the principle for which it stands. I believe the Civilian Conservation Corps is a noble experiment of, Franklin D. Roosevelt and, as a citizen of the United States, and as a Government employee, I salute our Flag, our President, and the symbols for which they stand, and hope and trust that this earliest endeavor will ultimately prove a success." Like Michael Barshansky, most of these young men were at a stage in life when the mind and must be kept busy if they were to be saved from a morbid and decaying mental state, and from sinking into the depths of despair and disappointment. Many of these youngsters who have graduated from grammar and high schools during the last two or three years, had been laboring under the impression that the world owed them a living and could not understand why, when they were willing to do almost anything to keep body and soul together, all avenues seemed closed to them; consequently they were crushed in dejection and despair. There seemed to be no source of employment at all open to them and with all doors apparently closed against them, they felt helpless, and knew not which way to turn. They were roving the country by the thousands and sinking lower and lower into despondency. Through the medium of useful occupation, clothing, good food and healthful recreation under the trained leadership of sympathetic Army officers, they have been restored to an equanimity of mind that is pleasing to those who have had the task of rehabilitating these future leaders of our country. They have been furnished pleasant and healthful recreation under able leadership, have been clothed, fed and housed by Uncle Sam, given a chance to improve their education and enough hard work to make them healthy and strong. In fact they have been given new ideas, new impulses, and there has been born in them a new vision of the future and a strong faith in America and in themselves as American citizens. Their self-respect has been restored and in the years to come, in every walk of life, these men will not only stand at the head of their chosen professions but will have become better Americans and will help to create the solid rock upon which the future of our nation must stand. They will return to civil pursuits with a fine physique, strong minds, healthy bodies, and with a self-confidence that will mean much in the agricultural and industrial life of the future years. To those who saw these young men early last April when they reached the reconditioning camps and then watched their evolution during their few months service in the Civilian Conservation Corps, it seems marvelous that such transformation could have taken place in so short a time, When they came under the guiding hand of the Army they were despondent and had lost much of their self-respect and confidence. Today they are proud young men, self-disciplined, bold, self-confident, the very picture of health, and ready to go forth looking the world in the face, strong for the coming battle with economic forces.
It may well be asked how so great a transformation was wrought in so short a period of time. To those who know the United States Army's system of training of officers and non-commissioned officers, which develops leaders second to none in the world, the answer is a simple one. Although military training of these men has been taboo, each camp has been under the command of Army officers to whom much credit is due for the rebuilding of these youngsters. Under this able leadership, they have unconsciously absorbed much self-discipline; have come to realize the importance of orderliness, systematic regime, courteous conduct, and respect. for the rights of others; have regained their self-respect and established a confidence which will carry then a long way in the days to come. The rehabilitation of these men alone has been worth every dollar Uncle Sam has expended upon the Civilian Conservation Corps.