This volume is modeled in part on the Handbook of Economic Agencies of the War of 1917,which was published by the War Department in 1919. It covers the period from America's entrance into the war in 1917 to the peace resolution of 1921. The word "agency" as used in the title of the present publication denotes any organizational unit (that is, branch, Section, division, board, or the like) of the Federal Government, or any interallied body in which the United States had representation. Articles for some 2,400 permanent and emergency agencies, alphabetically arranged by titles of agencies, are included. A list at the back of the volume shows the same agencies arranged in such wise that subordinate units appear under their superior agency.
Each article treats a single agency and stands by itself. First the title of the agency is given in capital letters, in an inverted form if necessary to bring out the key words. The name of the superior agency, if one existed, follows immediately, thus: TEXTILE AND RUBBER DIVISION, War Industries Board. As a rule the title or titles used are the ones under which the unit functioned at the height of its activity during the war period. Earlier or later titles are usually mentioned in the article. The text of the article is divided into three parts: (1) History, (2) functions, and (3) records. References to publications containing additional information are usually included in the articles dealing with executive departments and other important agencies. The bibliography that follows this introduction contains general references on the war period.
Such in brief is the framework of the volume. Within the framework much variation will be noted. In general the articles for large organizations, as compared with those for lesser units, occupy more space. But many exceptions occur. Words are not spared when they are needed to describe the tortuous history and complicated functions of a small unit. The size of an article, therefore, is no criterion of the importance or lack of importance of the agency in question. A number of subordinate units lack articles entirely because little or nothing is known of their activities. In such cases an effort has been made to call attention to the existence of the units by listing them in the article on the superior agency and in cross References.
The discrepancy in the amount of information given concerning the records also requires a word of explanation. The records of many agencies, particularly those of the War Department, have not yet been studied sufficiently to permit of detailed analysis of contents. The files of others are swallowed up among the records of a superior or a successor agency: in such cases it is obviously impossible to give exact measurements or other details. Some of the World War records still remain in the custody of the agencies that created them or in the custody of successor agencies. Others are in private hands. The whereabouts of still others is at present unknown to the National Archives, particularly that of the records of many of the international bodies in which the United States had representation. To a degree the description of functions in these cases compensates for the paucity of . . .