Magazine article The CPA Journal

The New York State Society of CPAs during World War II

Magazine article The CPA Journal

The New York State Society of CPAs during World War II

Article excerpt

Seventy-five years ago, the accounting profession played an important role in mobilizing its members to contribute to the war effort. This leadership came in several forms-by word, by deed, and by the bonds formed among professionals. The NYSSCPA, among other associations, aimed to inspire its members and provide them with up-to-date information through its activities. Individual leaders spoke out and served in civilian and military capacities. Several warrelated committees were charged with informing the membership about relevant issues and furthering the war effort. This article highlights the Society's contributions-from its leadership to its committees.

The Second World War brought dynamic upheaval to American society from 1941 to 1945. During this time, men of integrity, ability, and leadership were essential in navigating the stormy seas of commerce and governance and in keeping the war machine running. The accounting profession responded quickly to the war and its concomitant demands on the nation's workforce. While the young were enlisting, older accountants served in a host of critical capacities in the U.S. War Department, defense industries, and numerous government agencies. But it was more than just individuals who served in advancing the war effort; CPA societies, such as the NYSSCPA and the American Institute of Accountants (AIA, now the AICPA), played major roles as well.

One aspect of professional societies' war effort was inspirational: they actively supported and encouraged service to the nation and championed their members thus engaged. What is difficult-if not impossible-to determine is whether the societies created this spirit of volunteerism among their membership, or merely reinforced it. For many, it arose from within, and for others still, it emanated from peers and associates, but some were surely influenced by their professional affiliations. More measureable are the societies' efforts- through the committees they created; the publications they issued, such as the New York Certified Public Accountant (CPA); and the actions of their presidents, past presidents, and leading members-to rally their memberships.

Leadership by Word

During World War II, members of the AIA and state societies engaged in a variety of tasks for the government and war industries. Noteworthy members of the NYSSCPA-including several presidents, vice presidents, and ranking members- served in uniform. Others advised in key government agencies and in industrial sectors. The leaders of the profession turned out en masse to serve their nation. Their actions clearly signaled to other professionals that accountants should fulfill their duties to their nation in any capacity they could. This message was not lost upon the broader membership.

In carrying out massive government expenditures for emergency war facilities and war production, various types of contracts were developed, each with their own particular auditing requirements. (Four common ones were cost-plus-a-fixed-fee, lump-sum or fixed-price, defense plant corporation, and emergency plant facilities contracts; for more details, see "Answers to Questions Presented by the New York Chapter of the Robert Morris Associates," New York CPA, vol. 12, no. 7, April 1943, p. 416.) As conditions changed, contracts were terminated. Government agencies, such as the Office of Price Administration (OPA), created an abundance of new reporting requirements. Congressional authorities passed a flurry of new laws, which further added to the confusion. This flood of activity greatly increased the need for accountants.

The leaders of America's accounting societies prepared their members for the troubles before the nation got involved. In his inaugural address in October 1941, then-NYSSCPA President Andrew Stewart stated that "during the coming year, many new problems will have to be faced and many new sacrifices will have to be made. In fact, the coming year promises to be undoubtedly the most important in the history of our profession. …

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