While the War Department realized the impracticability of discharging an army of between three and four million men under a scheme, based primarily either upon individual applications for discharge or upon industrial demands by classes, yet the need of some elasticity in the scheme of demobilization was always recognized.
Immediately after the signing of the armistice, there were found a few industrial needs that had to be satisfied immediately for the good of the entire country and the discharge of certain industrial workers who were in the camps was ordered accordingly. This included only three classes of industrial occupation: Anthracite coal miners, because an anthracite coal famine was feared, which might have caused great suffering to a large civilian population during the winter; railroad employees, because the demobilization of the army put a continued strain on the railroads which had to be met by discharge of railroad employees in this country; and third, railroad mail clerks.
Again, on November 21, 1918, War Department Circular No. 77 was Issued, containing the following instructions:
"Department commanders within the United States, commanders of camps now under the jurisdiction of department commanders or of chiefs of bureaus of the War Department, are authorized to discharge enlisted men upon their own application when there is sickness or other distress in the soldier's family, or when he is needed fo resume employment in an industry or occupation in which there is urgent ne<>d of his services, provided that such discharge will' not disrupt or_ cripple an existing organization, and that the soldier's service can be spared. Consideration will be given to the fact that the machinery of camps must be utilized in the demobilization of the army and due regard must be taken that It is not retarded by the discharge of personnel connected therewith.
"The instructions contained herein apply only to individual and exceptional cases and are not intended to release men in large groups or blocks for any general employment or occupation. . . ."
Furthermore, white it was not at first to'the best interest of efficient demobilization to attempt to discharge a comparatively small number of individuals on their pleas for individual discharges, the War Department was on the alert to modify its instructions the first moment possible when changing conditions should justify modifications of policy. As the large units in this country, whose discharge en bloc could be ordered, were demobilized, the time arrived when the War Department was able to emphasize the increased application of Circular 77 to individuals. It had developed an adequate machine for discharging men in which the personnel had acquired experience and expertness. It was, therefore, able to issue instructions, the effect of which was to release men to a larger extent than formerly on their individual applications for discharge in cases where definite employment awaited them and it was to the general interests of the country that they should be released. Accordingly the following instructions were published to the army on January 4:
"Application for immediate discharge under the provisions of Circular 77, War Department, 1918, will be acted upon as expeditiously as possible and the applicants will be Informed of the action taken without unnecessary delay. Deserving cases should be investigated, and where the applicants have not correctly or fully stated their reasons for asking immediate discharge, officers should render such assistance as may be necessary to correct them, so that applications may be properly presented and acted upon."