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World War I-related records

Identifier: Y.USA.4-1


The records include minutes and related materials from major administrative bodies, primarily the National War Work Council and its subcommittees: the executive committee, the finance committee, the committee of eleven, the committee of fourteen, the religious work bureau committee, the overseas committee, and the committee of nine. Also included are press releases, publicity bulletins, and fundraising materials; training pamphlets for war workers; blueprints of buildings for war work; and correspondence and reports relating to work in army camps. There are also reports and correspondence relating the the dissolution of the War Work Council.

A major portion of the records consists of materials relating to the United War Work Campaign, a joint campaign of seven American welfare organizations, including the YMCA. These records include minutes, bylaws, and agreements; correspondence, reports, and minutes of the committee of eleven; correspondence of John Mott relating to the campaign; financial statements and budget materials; press releases, bulletins, and promotional publications; state and local fundraising materials; and staff lists. There are also reports and publications of the other organizations which participated in the Campaign, including the American Library Association, the Jewish Welfare Board, the the Salvation Army.

Materials relating to various program departments include publications of the Army Educational Commission; reports and publications of educational work in France; and reports and publications concerning entertainment, transportation, work by women, and work in the area of physical fitness and recreation (the latter includes publications on the Inter-Allied Games held in Paris in 1919).

Records relating to the AEF YMCA are also included in the collection and consist of publications, correspondence, and minutes relating to work with American soldiers in France; AFG (American Forces in Germany) materials, including pamphlets for soldiers and reports concerning work with the occupying forces; and leave area publications relating to recreational and site-seeing opportunities in France and Germany.

A variety of materials contain personal reminiscences of YMCA work, including narrative manuscripts, personal journals, interviews of secretaries, testimonials of soldiers, and a historical statement. The collection also includes three sets of personnel records for war workers: a punch card file, a contract file, and a statements of returning secretaries. These provide names, addresses, and information on YMCA war work service.

Prisoner of war work is documented by administrative correspondence, budget materials, reports, news clippings, and publications for prisoners. There is also a pictorial publication describing work with eastern European prisoners.

A number of YMCA-sponsored newspapers for soldiers are included in these records. The most prominent of these is the Red Triangle Bulletin,reporting on work in France. Trench and Camp,a joint project between the YMCA and various U.S. newspapers, was distributed in military camps in the United States.

Non-YMCA materials relating to YMCA war work and the war in general include government reports and publications on matters such as selective service, training camps, and regulations. There are also some reports to the English Parliament on prisoner-of-war work.

There is voluminous material concerning the post-war investigations of the YMCA's work. These include the eleven volume "YMCA Answer to the Inspector General" and the five volume "Letter from E. C. Carter to William Sloane Supplementing YMCA Answer to the Inspector General'; Answers to Criticisms"; "Report on the Investigation of the YMCA"; and articles and news clippings.

Also included in the collection are materials relating to the military build-up on the Mexican border in 1916. The YMCA followed the soldiers and did war work there. These materials include promotional publications, news clippings, press materials, Border Work(another YMCA-sponsored newspaper for soldiers), blueprint maps, and a report on the work.


  • Creation: 1910-1970
  • Creation: Majority of material found in ( 1917-1921).


Language of Materials



The United States entered World War I on 6 April 1917. On that same day, John Mott, General Secretary of the International Committee of North American YMCAs, informed President Wilson that the YMCA would help provide services for the military forces. Less than a week later, the International Committee appointed the National War Work Council to coordinate this work. William S. Sloane, a New York furniture merchant and for sixteen years chairman of the YMCA's Army and Navy Committee, was designated as the new organization's chairman, and Mott as its chief executive officer. A specific military function was assigned to the YMCA. Its duty was to assist in maintaining and promoting morale and welfare. It had been proved in the Spanish American War and on the Mexican border that YMCA service made better fighters.

The YMCA conducted its war work with soldiers in training camps and troop trains in the United States as well as in Europe, providing recreation, library services, bible study, and religious services. In France the YMCA agreed to run the Post Exchange for the army, and thus sold candy, cigarettes, and other personal items to the soldiers. War work went under several names, including Red Triangle work and AEF work (AEF stood for American Expeditionary Forces, which referred to the American army in France). The National War Work Council also financed similar work for French soldiers under the name "Foyer du Soldat." Additional work was carried out in Italy, Greece, Russia, and a number of other countries. The YMCA also provided services to prisoners of war in a number of countries.

In the course of staffing its assigned operations and the other activities which fell to its lot along the way, the YMCA recruited a grand total of 25,926 workers who, about equally divided between home and overseas assignments, served under the Red Triangle. These workers were selected from approximately 2000,000 applications. Women workers comprised about 20 percent of the total, twice as many of whom served overseas as served on the home front.

In November 1918, the YMCA conducted a fundraising campaign in conjunction with six other welfare organizations: The YWCA, the Jewish Welfare Board, the Knights of Columbus, the Salvation Army, the American Library Association, and War Camp Community Service. The effort, known as the United War Campaign, raised $192 million.

Immediately after the war, the YMCA followed American occupying forces into Germany, working primarily out of the city of Koblenz. This was referred to as AFG work (i.e. American Forces in Germany). Due to unsettled conditions in the war area and the fact that a peace treaty had not yet been signed, work among young men of Allied countries and among prisoners of war was still continuing. In the United States, a postwar program of special significance was an extensive educational service, financed by war work funds, which enabled ex-servicemen to complete studies interrupted by the war or to secure further preparation for re-entry into civilian life.

Although it received much praise for its work, after the war the YMCA was the target of numerous complaints from soldiers. The allegations mostly related to the YMCA's operation of canteens, and involved accusations that it had sold items at inflated prices or items which were to be distributed free. There were a number of official investigations into the YMCA's wartime conduct, for the most part exonerating the Y.

Much of the historical information in this summary was taken from Serving the U.S. Armed Forces, 1861-1986: The Story of the YMCA's Ministry to Military Personnel for 125 Years,by Richard C. Lancaster; and Summary of World War Work of the American YMCA,a 1920 report published by the International Committee of the YMCA.


59.2 Cubic Feet (144 boxes)


Minutes, correspondence, publicity bulletins, training manuals, reports, newspapers, and other records of major YMCA administrative bodies which provided services to the military forces in the United States and abroad during World War I..

Physical Location

See Detailed Description section for box listing.


See the summary inventory for the YMCA Armed Services Records for information on other Armed Services records in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives. Go to the summary inventory


Posters relating to the United War Work Campaign can be found the Kautz Family YMCA Archives poster collection.

Additional copies of newspapers (Trench and Campand others) are separately cataloged in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives serials collection.

An extensive series of World War I-era photographs can be found in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives photo collection.

World War I photo albums and scrapbooks are separately cataloged in the Armed Services Scrapbooks and Photo Albums.

Processing Information:

Processed by: David Carmichael; Chan Harries.

Catalog Record ID number: 4339768

An Inventory of Its World War I Records
Finding aid prepared by David Carmichael, Chan Harries, and Lara Friedman~Shedlov.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area