Academic journal article Military Review

VETERANS OF FUTURE WARS: A Study in Student Activism

Academic journal article Military Review

VETERANS OF FUTURE WARS: A Study in Student Activism

Article excerpt

VETERANS OF FUTURE WARS: A Study in Student Activism, Donald W. Whisenhunt, Lexington Books, Lanham, MD, 2011, 155 pages, $60.00.

The Veterans of Future Wars was one of the most successful collegiate jokes in American history. In March 1936 a handful of Princeton students organized the Veterans of Future Wars, a student club that demanded bonuses paid for possible combat service in the future. They argued that receiving bonuses was useless after a war, particularly to the dead. Most of the students, led by Lewis Gorin and Robert Barnes, were fiscal conservatives and were actually protesting bonuses given to men who enlisted in World War I but did not serve in combat.

After the Bonus March of 1932, veteran's bonuses were a contentious issue in American politics. In 1936, Congress began to issue an early bonus to World War I veterans. The Veterans of Future Wars sought to parody the Veterans of Foreign Wars and militarism in general. Though originally just a joke, the organization hit a nerve among the generally pacifist national student population. Within a few months, the Veterans of Future Wars was a national organization with over 500 chapters and 60,000 members.

The journey from a college joke to a national movement was a surprising and rapid one. Robert Barnes published an article in the New York Times in March and the Associated Press picked it up. The students received a flood of letters, phone calls, and even donations. The March of Time, a radio and newsreel program, featured the Veterans of Future Wars. In response to the publicity, the Veterans of Future Wars opened an office, wrote a manifesto, created buttons, and granted charters for virtually every applicant. …

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