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Interpreting the Evidence

Total Navy Personnel by State

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Era:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Labor
    World War I

  • Primary Source Types:

    Written Document

  • Regions:

    New York State
    United States

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Total Navy Personnel by State, World War I, c. 1920 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Chart showing how many U.S. Navy personnel each state and territory mobilized to fight in World War I, c. 1920. 

Historical Context
While the U.S. combat forces entered World War I relatively late in the war, many U.S. ships were dispatched to join the Allied navies to help deal with German submarines and U-boats.
Modern submarines received their first real wartime usage in World War I (1914-1918). Even with the global proliferation of submarines during the first few years of the 20th century, it was the Germans and British who first demonstrated their dangerous potential for undersea warfare in the Atlantic and Mediterranean during 1914 and 1915.
During the First World War, but prior to America’s entry, Congress passed the Naval Act of 1916. With the Naval Act of 1916, Congress authorized $500 million for a three-year program that aimed to build the Navy to be the equal of any navy in the world. The Naval Act of 1916 authorized 50 destroyers built over a three-year period. The plans called for the construction of 157 new war vessels of various types. 
This document illustrates how many U.S. Navy personnel were mobilized to fight in World War I.  This chart includes both men and women enlisted personnel.
The first really large-scale employment of women as naval personnel took place to meet the severe clerical shortages of the World War I era. The Naval Reserve Act of 1916 omitted mention of gender as a condition for service, leading to formal permission to begin enlisting women in mid-March 1917, shortly before the United States entered the "Great War". Nearly six hundred Yeomen (Female) were on duty by the end of April 1917.  This number grew to over 11,000 in December 1918, shortly after the Armistice.
The Yeomen (F), or "Yeomanettes" as they were popularly known, primarily served in secretarial and clerical positions, though some were translators, draftsmen, fingerprint experts, ship camouflage designers, and recruiting agents.  The great majority were assigned duties at naval installations in the continental United States, frequently near their homes, processing the great volume of paperwork generated by the war effort.

Essential Question
Why is the collection and presentation of data important to the functioning of a society?

Check for Understanding
Summarize the information presented in the table and explain the differences between states with large contributions to the navy and those with small contributions.

Historical Challenges
Compare the # of U.S. Navy personnel from each state and territory that mobilized to fight in World War I with the # that mobilized to fight in World War II.

Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: Research the population from each state listed on the chart in 1917. Using the chart, calculate the % of the male population that joined the U.S. Navy.