April 19, 1917: Wake Up America Day

With the declaration of war came the need for troops to fight it. Before April 6, 1917, the Army had 133,000 Regular Army soldiers and 80,000 National Guard,  the Navy had 52,000 sailors, and the Marine Corps numbered 15,000. More people were needed for war. A full-scale recruiting effort was launched quickly.

According to The New York Times Current History: Apr-June, 1917:

“Patriotic enthusiasm was everywhere in evidence, yet enlistments in the regular army continued to come very slowly. Men of military age awaited the action of Congress, which was in process of determining whether to depend once more upon the volunteer system or to enact a compulsory service law. President Wilson and the Army General Staff strongly favored universal compulsory service for young men, and two bills embodying such a system were introduced in Congress, but they met considerable opposition from the outset. On April 18 the House Military Committee, by a vote of 13 to 8, finally agreed to report the Army General Staff bill with an amendment authorizing the President first to try the volunteer system for raising 500,000 men, and then to use the selective draft if the volunteer method proved unsuccessful. The matter rests there at the present writing.”

April 19, 1917 was the set as “a day that has been set apart for activities designed to give impetus to recruiting throughout the country (New York Times, April 16, 1917.)” There were to be Wake Up America - LoC 3g03350rparades, demonstrations, etc. to try to tap into the public’s patriotism and get them to join the military voluntarily. The date was selected as it was the anniversary of the battle of Lexington. Business quickly got on board, many of them promising to keep paying the salaries of National Guardsman who were activated.

The Seventh Regiment Gazette wrote of April 19: “day of sacred memories for the United States and for the Seventh Regiment…Invitations had been sent to every ex-member whose address was known, and several hundred responded.”





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