Building an Army

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"Teufel hunden. German nickname for U.S. Marines. Devil dog recruiting station." ca. 1918. The tradition of using an English bulldog as a mascot for the United States Marine Corps has its roots in the fighting campaigns of World War I. German reports referred to the attacking Marines as "teufel hunden," meaning devil dogs, because of their tenacity and fighting ability. Teufel hunden were the vicious, wild mountain dogs of Bavarian folklore. Courtesy of Boston Public Library via Digital Commonwealth.

When the United States joined the war on April 6, 1917, the nation’s military forces were comprised of only 200,000 soldiers. By the end of that month, only 97,000 additional men had enlisted willingly, prompting government officials to employ more aggressive recruitment tactics. The Selective Service Act was issued on May 18, 1917, requiring all male citizens aged twenty-one to thirty to register for the draft by June 6, 1917. Twenty-four million men registered for the draft and almost three million were drafted into service.

In the summer of 1917, most of these new soldiers stayed behind to receive military training, while a small group of more experienced troops headed to Europe.