December 15, 1914

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

An editorial in the Daily Oregon Statesman addresses complacency and partisanship:

The American people are proud of their army and navy – possibly a little too proud.

Occasionally there comes a humiliating revaluation like that of our unpreparedness at the outbreak of the Spanish war. Then, the mobilization of the army was slow and awkward, there was dearth of supplies and equipment, there was the “embalmed beef” scandal in the commissary department, there was an appalling and inexcusable amount of sickness in the training camps. But with our usual ability to rise to an emergency we blundered through successfully. The army’s fighting and reconstruction work in Cuba redeemed its earlier disgraces. The navy covered itself with glory. Luckily for us there was no attack on any of our seaport cities. We know now how ineffective our coast defenses were.

The public, however, usually considers only the glories, real or fancied, of the army and navy. Recently we have had much praise for both. We have been proud of the efficiency and self restraint of the soldiers on duty at Vera Cruz and along the Rio Grande border. We have been proud of the marines who landed at Vera Cruz.

Just now there is a flurry of criticism tending to carry the unthinking public off its feet. Unhappily, partisan politics enters into the controversy. There is danger of overlooking the real improvement in both branches of the service. There is just as much danger of denying the defects. This is an excellent time to proceed, without hysteria or fear, and turn the situation to permanent advantage for the nation.

The navy lacks its full complement of men; there should be a campaign of enlistment to insure that every ship will be properly manned. Many vessels, long on duty in tropical waters, are in need of overhauling; they should be made ready for effective and instant use. There should be no laxity in drill, no falling away from the navy’s tradition of fine marksmanship. The army, like the navy should be brought up to its full quota. Our system of distributing troops in normal times is archaic and ridiculous; there should be a better grouping of units, more strategic location of military stations, and a better plan of mobilization. Our coast defenses are still imperfectly equipped with guns, ammunition and men; that defect, more vital perhaps, than anything else except naval efficiency, should be remedied without delay.

We can do all this without indulging in a silly war scare when all the powers have their hands full, and no nation dreams of attacking us. We can do it without any spectacular change of policy that would be inconsistent with our pacific professions. We can do it without a burdensome addition to our army and navy budget. All it requires is a little common sense and a great deal of patriotism on the part of various local, political and business interests that have heretofore prevented these reforms.

Both papers criticized and mocked partisanship wherever it threatened the shared values of an immigrant nation. Neither paper took sides, though subtle differences in tone, sympathy and reader response can be inferred.

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About whclarc

We are devoted to providing information fresh from the Archives, Library and Collections of the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem, Oregon. We specialize in the history of Marion County and the greater Salem area.
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