A National War Service Newspaper - 1922
Front Page of a Trench and Camp Newspaper Printed Weekly for the YMCA by Courtesy of The National War Work Council and The Evening Star of Washington, DC. This Edition Edited for Camp Meade, Admiral, MD. Vol. 1, No. 25, 27 March 1918. GGA Image ID # 18d3981857
During the summer of 1917 it occurred to a number of those interested in the war work of the Y M C A that a national newspaper published primarily for and so far as possible by the service men would meet just this need. John Stewart Bryan, publisher of the News-Leader at Richmond, Virginia, as a result of his own experience in conducting a newspaper for the men at Camp Lee, conceived the plan of a nationwide publication, issued simultaneously at some 40 points throughout the country, inspired by a single editorial policy but containing local news and other items of particular interest to the men in each camp.
By reason of his wide acquaintance and strong personal influence among leading newspaper publishers, Mr. Bryan was able to secure local cooperation and to build up an organization without which the projection of the camp paper along the lines which it actually followed would have been impossible.
His proposals, upon being laid before the Government and the War Work Council, were heartily endorsed by both, negotiations with local publishers were carried on during the late summer, and on October 8, 1917, the first issue of Trench and Camp appeared, in 32 editions, at as many camps.
At the very beginning it was laid down as a guiding principle that the paper should be in a real sense the soldiers’ own paper. It was published under the auspices of the National War Work Council, which also financed certain of the processes involved in its production, but was not intended to be an organ of the Y M C A. Like other organizations, the Association received publicity through Trench and Camp only in proportion to the news value of its activities. In an editorial in the first issue, the aims of the periodical were defined :
“Through Trench and Camp all the soldiers will be kept informed of the activities of the army. They will have their news from home, news from the front, news from their own camps We hope to make Trench and Camp a vital, living transcript of the life of the army that has been formed to keep alive civilization.
“Although Trench and Camp is not primarily designed for civilians, it will still keep as its ideal first and foremost to be a newspaper. It will seek to print the news, to inform, to stimulate and to help relieve the tedium and monotony of camp life. And for those unfamiliar with military routine, Trench and Camp will be a graphic account of the life of our soldiers, whether they are drilling or fighting, at home or ‘over there.’ ”
In its original form, Trench and Camp was an eight-page paper, 11 1/2 X 18 inches in size, published weekly. In most cases the same form was maintained to the end, but in a number of the camps the enthusiastic cooperation of publishers and soldiers made it possible within a few months to increase the number or the size of the pages, or both.
For four of the eight pages material was supplied weekly from a central editorial office in New York, in the form of syndicated matrices convertible into newspaper press plates. Other material was secured by a local reporting and editorial staff. The first, fourth, fifth, and eighth pages are the same in the papers published for all of the camps, excepting that under the title of the paper is the name of the local newspaper that prints the other pages and supplies them to the local camp.
Editorial Policy and Standards
Through the identical pages the central office was able to control the editorial policy and set standards for the paper as a whole. Their object was to “interpret to the soldiers the hope and enthusiasm of the nation behind them,” and they contained editorials, cartoons, poems and stories, many of them the work of soldiers in the camps, besides special articles on military matters, social hygiene, geography, the French language, and other subjects of interest and concern to men in the service.
Some of the foremost cartoonists, illustrators and special writers in America contributed articles and drawings especially prepared for Trench and Camp, and the soldiers found also in their paper the features familiar to all newspaper readers, such as the tabloid sermons of Dr. Frank Crane, the health talks of H. Addington Bruce, and the homely verses of Walt Mason.
The pages devoted to local interests were filled with news, articles, pictures, and other matter relating almost exclusively to the particular camp in which each edition appeared. Athletic and social events, entertainments, and the activities of all the welfare societies were recorded, as well as personals and general military news.
Descriptive stories of training methods and opinions of foreign officers detailed as instructors were also printed. For the assembling of this material the local editor, who was in some cases a Y M C A secretary and in others a trained newspaper man especially engaged for this work, gathered about him a staff of writers and cartoonists from among the soldiers themselves.
This was an easy task in camps where men of previous newspaper experience were to be found in sufficient numbers, but where this was not the case steps were taken to develop the capacities of others. Each military unit was encouraged to appoint a representative to report to the camp paper news of his own organization.
In several camps self-governing press clubs were organized, limited in membership to contributors to the local edition, who were held responsible each week for definite assignments.
The greater the participation of the men themselves, the greater was the interest in the paper as a camp undertaking, and the best editions were those produced by the soldiers to whom the local editor was but a friendly adviser whose chief function was intelligent supervision.
Both general and local sections of the paper endeavored to cooperate fully with all branches of the Government connected with the Army or its welfare. Hundreds of columns of space in the various issues were devoted to the promotion of Liberty Loans, War Savings Stamps, and War Risk Insurance.
Liberal space was given to the activities of the Surgeon General’s Department and the Quartermaster General’s Department, notably the Reclamation Division. Earnest cooperation and assistance were given to the Red Cross and the various welfare agencies in their campaigns.
A summary of the activities of the Commission on Training Camp Activities was published frequently. How the publication was regarded by the War Department may be gathered from a statement in the fall of 1918:
“The War Department has observed with growing: interest the real influence exercised on the military spirit of enlisted men and officers by camp newspapers.
This Department would be glad to see all Commanding Officers interest themselves in the practical development of camp papers as in the case of the chain of publications known as Trench and Camp and also in such effective publications as the Bayonet or the Camp Dodger, etc. . . .
“In the opinion of the War Department no single activity of camp life, apart from the actual training for military duty is susceptible of being made more useful to the creation of morale, in its widest and most effective aspects, than a camp paper that accurately expresses both the life of the soldier and the aims and ideals of the Army.”
Added to the efforts of the central editorial office and of the local staff, a third indispensable element in the production of the paper was the cooperation of the publishers in whose plants the printing and other mechanical work was done.
They made no charge for composition of the pages filled locally or for the make-up and printing of the entire edition. In some cases they contributed also the white paper used, the making of etchings and the delivery of completed papers at the camps.
The War Work Council paid for the editing, composition, manufacture, and shipment of matrices of the syndicated pages, for the services of the local editor in each camp, and in most cases for the white paper.
Many of the publishers in addition gave substantial portions of their time to personal supervision of the preparation of the camp newspapers. Both they and their employees entered heartily into this undertaking as a patriotic contribution to the welfare of the men in the service.
Circulation of Trench and Camp
At first provision was made for supplying 4,000 copies of the paper to each camp, making a total circulation of 128,000 copies, but the demand among the soldiers made it necessary almost immediately to increase this number substantially.
The shortage and high price of paper constituted a serious difficulty, which in some cases was met by the acceptance of local advertising, the proceeds of which were applied to the purchase of paper for additional copies.
The circulation was steadily increased until at its maximum it exceeded a half million copies, distributed among more than 40 camps.
These were read not only by the soldiers, but by their relatives and friends at home, who came to appreciate highly this record and picture of the life of their representatives in the service.
The paper was distributed to the soldiers without cost; civilian subscribers paid a nominal charge, covering the cost of white paper and mailing.
Through this medium, the soldiers have news from home, news from the front, and news from their own camp.
Other Camp Publications
Some of the camps were so well served by independent publications as to need no edition of Trench and Camp. In the case of some other papers, the War Work Council cooperated, without requiring their affiliation with the Trench and Camp chain.
Among the soldier publications which sprang up spontaneously soon after the war began was the Gas Attack, an excellent weekly printed on super-calendared paper in magazine form, and issued by the men of the 27th Division at Camp Wadsworth, under the auspices of the Y M C A but not as an edition of Trench and Camp.
Beginning August 5, 1918, Going Over, another weekly, was issued for the benefit of the men embarking for overseas service, to whom copies were handed as they went on board ship. Its contents were similar in character to the syndicated pages of Trench and Camp, but the local appeal was necessarily absent and the news which it carried was more general, with the emphasis on conditions overseas.
This paper was published under the auspices of the War Work Council of the YMCA and printed as a patriotic service by members of the Allied Printing Trades of New York employed in the plant of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
Special news feature service was donated by the Associated Press, the United Press, the Universal News Service, and the International News Service.
After the Armistice there was no further need for Going Over, but its place was taken by Coming Back, copies of which were printed in this country and shipped abroad to be given to the soldiers as they embarked for home.
As demobilization proceeded, the various editions of Trench and Camp were discontinued as their usefulness ceased, and certain necessary readjustments were made in the methods of their production.
On September 1,1919, after an existence of two years, lacking one month, their activities were officially closed.
"A National War Service Newspaper," in Service with Fighting Men: An Account of the Work of the American Young Men's Christian Associations in the World War, New York: Association Press, 1922, pp. 356-360.
"Our Soldier's Newspapers," in The American Printer: A Semi-Monthly Business, Technical, and News Journal, New York: Oswald Publishing Company, Vol. 65, No. 9, 5 November 1917, pp. 44