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

By William A. Taylor | Go to book overview

2 The Spirit of 1920

Despite our very best efforts, we failed utterly in persuading the Senate that
the universal military training should be included in the National Defense
Act. The opposition to it was overwhelming. We had no chance. The comment
most frequently heard in opposition to the provision was, “Oh, what’s the use
of imposing such an obligation upon young men in time of peace? There will
never be another war.” That was the spirit of 1920, as you may remember. Now,
twenty years later, I find myself assuming the effort, this time with a better
chance of success.

—James W. Wadsworth

I shall never forget one man of this group as he sat on his bunk just before
marching to the train. He swore profusely. He cursed those in authority
for allowing our country to be so unprepared. He accused them of being
murderers for sending him into active service with no training. He wanted to
know why they all had not had military training in peacetime so that if they
must fight they would know how and stand some chance—an equal one—for
their lives…. Therefore, universal service and compulsory military training is
the only sane, safe, and humanitarian answer to our dilemma.

—Montana World War I veteran

The concept of UMT was not new. In fact, a similar idea had been widely discussed and partially implemented before, during, and shortly after World War I. It was known as the Plattsburg Movement, due to the location of one of its main training camps at Plattsburg, New York. Its ultimate theoretical goal was universal military training, and it provided for first students and then businessmen to attend voluntary training camps to receive basic military training. As the movement gained momentum, its leaders organized the Military Training Camps Association (MTCA). During World War I and immediately following, the MTCA interacted with policy makers to crusade for training camps and universal military training. One leader of the Plattsburg Movement was Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood, commanding general of the Department of the East and former army chief of staff. Wood held a steadfast philosophical commitment to preparedness. His staunchness presaged the same basic desire for preparedness that the leaders of the campaign for UMT following World War II held. Wood liked to say, “It is a great deal better to get ready for war and not have war, than it is to have war and not be ready

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • The Trainee Comes Home vii
  • Contents ix
  • Illustration x
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • 1- A Grave Decision 1
  • 2- The Spirit of 1920 13
  • 3- The Basis for All Plans 27
  • 4- Target No. 1- USA Target 33
  • 5- Preaching the Gospel 42
  • 6- A Pig in a Poke 67
  • 7- A Matter of Broad Policy 88
  • 8- The Fort Knox Experiment 103
  • 9- A Program for National Security 118
  • 10- The Normal Way of Life 132
  • 11- A Shock throughout the Civilized World 143
  • 12- The Paradox of Preparedness 161
  • Appendix A- Key Personalities 172
  • Appendix B- Timeline 175
  • Notes 177
  • Bibliography 205
  • Index 219
  • About the Author 233
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