The Commish behind an ’03

Check out these two images from the National Archives. Taken by the Brown Brothers for the Western News Union, likely sometime in the summer of 1916, they were shot at Plattsburgh, New York, then home to the huge Preparedness Movement backed by retired Army Chief of Staff Leonard Wood. The movement hosted a series of volunteer summer training camps at Plattsburgh in 1915 and 1916 that saw some 40,000 men– largely of the Northeast’s elite social classes– of college graduates interested in reserve officer’s training without the catch of having to fulfill a reserve service requirement. They were billed as “the military training camp for the businessman.”

It was essentially the forerunner of the interwar Citizens’ Military Training Camps and ROTC.

Note the raised ladder sights of the early M1903 and the detail of the magazine cut-off– the latter a feature the rifle maintained throughout production– as well as the hobnailed short boots with laced-up gaiters.

Note the striped cord on the campaign hat denoting the civilian Preparedness Movement rather than a solid colored cord as worn by the Army at the time. Also, check out the rifle target in hands of the spotter behind the shooter.

The neat thing about the images is that they show Arthur Hale Woods, the 46-year-old New York City Police Commissioner at the time, getting his M1903 Springfield on.

Woods was an interesting figure.

Born to a wealthy family in Boston in 1870, he graduated from Harvard, did post-grad work in Germany at the University of Berlin, and became a schoolmaster at the Groton School for Boys in 1895 at the ripe old age of 25 where one of his students was a teenaged Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Leaving education and tagging along on William Howard Taft’s famous “Imperial Cruise” to the Pacific, Woods then switched gears and became a reporter for the New York Evening Sun on the crime beat in 1906, a job that led him to become Gotham’s deputy police commissioner the next year. Taking his position seriously, he picked up a law degree at Trinty College in his spare time and strived to model the agency’s detective squads after Scotland Yard. By April 1914, he was the boss, and ran the department until January 1918 when he signed up for the Army– it seemed his stint in Plattsburgh planted a seed.

Rising to the rank of colonel, he served as assistant director of military aeronautics (although I do not believe he held a pilot’s license) and then after the end of the war filled a variety of posts in the Harding and Hoover administrations. Woods passed in 1942, aged 72.

One comment

  • At that time the only pilot license he could have had was the FAI license, kind of like the AAA issuing drivers licenses. The first US civil pilots licenses were issued under the authority of the 1926 aeronautics act. Before 1926 various states made true at regulating aviation with different degrees of success.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.