Alice Gertrude Gordon Grayson to Cary T. Grayson


Alice Gertrude Gordon Grayson to Cary T. Grayson


Alice Gertrude Gordon Grayson




1917 June 8


Colonel Edouard J. Réquin of the French General Staff outlines his ideas for transporting American military men to the battlefields of World War I to Cary T. Grayson. Written in French, Alice Gordon Grayson translated the letter for her husband.


Cary T. Grayson Papers, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library, Staunton, Virginia




Dear Admiral Grayson

As Mrs. Grayson had the so much kindness & graciousness as to translate some of my thoughts last Sunday, that I I again ask her permission to repeat one or two essential points.

(1) The first point is the necessity & urgency of establishing a plan of transportation for American troops inFrance, at least in the large lines. You will easily understand that a great army, such as yours will be, cannot live from day to day (hand to mouth)—that there are, for the American Commanders & the French commanders, acting in strict collaboration,—arrangements to be made for several months in advance—(organization of a maritime base or bases in France;—of lines of transportation;—of camps;—and lastly, of a place of operations...)This plan of transportation which depends partly on military possibilities & partly on maritime possibilities may not be accomplished and applied except by military & aval authorities who also are competent & responsible.

The idea which I have heard suggested these last few days, of employing boats interchangeably as commercial transports & as military transports, would lead to disorder, to ineffectiveness & to the gravest accidents on the water—It is therefore necessary to fix the number of boats assigned as transports for the troops & for their supplies, & to confine this service to the navy (the organ of execution) acting according to the orders of the General Staff (the organ of direction) which translates into acts the decisions of the Chief of Staff.

It is not for me to estimate what is the tonnage which the federal Government will decide to give exclusively to military transports; but I do not think I am mistaken in saying that to transport & maintain a veritable army in France this tonnage could would not be less than 600,000 thous, and that it would later have to be augmented.

After my personal experience with transports in the Mediterranean, I consider the captured German ships are best suited by their size & speed to this kind of transport. In employing rapid ships to transport men, relatively few are lost. I shall soon receive the percentage of our losses in men, materials & provisions on the transports which disembark 600,000 men, and you will be astonished at the small proportion of losses in men.

(2) I appreciate the effort made in this country to instruct a corp of 40,000 reserve officers. But I think that they forget the urgency & importance of forming, at the same time excellent general staffs (bureaus?) & excellent artillerey officers. They must both be prepared to solve all the problems of modern warfare: these cannot be improvised.

The responsibility which falls on staff & artillery officers during battle, is so grave that they should be put, without delay, in condition to support it. It is to avoid for you our cruel experiences that France has offered—to receive in her schools on the 3d of May, a certain number of American officers to be trained as instructors to be placed in your schools.—to send some very well chosen French officers as technical advisors at the disposition of the American General Staff (it is in this capacity that I work at the War College on plans for the organization & instruction of your troops).—lastly, to give you, if you so desire, the school of Saumur to make of it a school for American Artillery officers.

I am convinced that your General Staff will respond to these propositions. But why wait so long? One month of delay is much in a war when each day creates so many graves!

I who have seen the most superb waves of humanity die before the threads of fire...

When they were not destroyed by the canon. I feel it my duty to repeat to you: “Instruct your General Staff and artillery officers that they may conserve their life lives of your superb boys!”

I wished to be brief; I have been too long—I apologize—also to Mrs. Grayson, to whom I beg you to present my respectful houmage—and to yourself, whom I can assure of my devotion.

E. Réquin.

Original Format



Grayson, Cary T. (Cary Travers), 1878-1938



Alice Gertrude Gordon Grayson, “Alice Gertrude Gordon Grayson to Cary T. Grayson,” 1917 June 8, WWP21485, Cary T. Grayson Papers, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.