Every Citizen a Soldier: The Campaign for Universal Military Training after World War II

Every Citizen a Soldier: The Campaign for Universal Military Training after World War II

Every Citizen a Soldier: The Campaign for Universal Military Training after World War II

Every Citizen a Soldier: The Campaign for Universal Military Training after World War II

Synopsis

Beginning in 1943, US Army leaders such as John M. Palmer, Walter L. Weible, George C. Marshall, and John J. McCloy mounted a sustained and vigorous campaign to establish a system of universal military training (UMT) in America. Fearful of repeating the rapid demobilization and severe budget cuts that had accompanied peace following World War I, these leaders saw UMT as the basis for their postwar plans. As a result, they promoted UMT extensively and aggressively.

In Every Citizen a Soldier: The Campaign for Universal Military Training after World War II, William A. Taylor illustrates how army leaders failed to adapt their strategy to the political realities of the day and underscores the delicate balance in American democracy between civilian and military control of strategy. This story is vital because of the ultimate outcome of the failure of the UMT initiative: the birth of the Cold War draft.

Excerpt

I often remember a story my grandfather told me when I was a child. As soon as America formally entered World War ii, he wanted desperately to enlist. Being only seventeen years old, he had to obtain the approval of his parents. After a good deal of pleading and probably a little arm-twisting, he finally convinced them to sign his paperwork and dutifully reported to the local recruiting office. After waiting in line for what seemed like hours, he finally made his way to the front, where he timidly stood looking up at a raised table. It was from behind this fortified position that a board of three military officers—one from the army, one from the navy, and one from the Marine Corps—quizzed volunteers about their intentions and informed them of the outcomes. When given permission to speak, my grandfather clearly explained that he was there for one purpose and one purpose only: to join the navy voluntarily. To his surprise, instead of instant approval of such a laudable goal, the board began conversing. “Joe,” the army officer bellowed to the navy officer, “you got the last two, I’m taking this boy in the army.” My grandfather, awestruck and in disbelief, blurted out, “You can’t do that, I want to join the navy!” With a slight grin on his face and his official stamp raised high in the air, the army officer retorted, “Boy, you’re in the army now!” and slammed the stamp home on the papers formally placing my grandfather in the army. This event would officially start the journey that would send him to faroff and unimagined places throughout the European theater.

As a child, the story was just that—a story. As all good grandfathers do, mine repeated it countless times. For some reason I never tired of hearing it. the repetition of the account slowly ingrained itself into my consciousness. Later in life, the anecdote interested me more and more. I began to contemplate the delicate relationship between national security requirements and individual liberties in American democracy. Reflection on this balance led me to a related question: Do defense planners in American democracy face constraints in terms of ensuring their national security goals, since they must be mindful of the revered status of individual liberty within American society? the question revealed to me an irony. American defense planners were extremely successful at cultivating military power, especially in the modern military era be-

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