JUNE 16, 1945
HYDE PARK, Friday—On the other side of the argument for compulsory military training as a means of security, there is of course the fact that our rapidly trained armies have proved, in the end, a fair match for the armies of nations that constantly put their major effort on preparation for war. Many of us, watching Germany in the last years, knew very well that at the time when we were putting our greatest effort into bringing back prosperity to our people, the Germans had full employment because the government was preparing for war. We were devoting ourselves to the revival of business and farm prosperity, while Germany was making the same kind of expenditures that we have been making since the war started over here.
I remember very well one lady who returned from Europe and praised both the Italian and the German governments for the full employment she found there, apparently never realizing that it could only be there if production for war was continuous. The day would come when these trained youth and the piled up materials would have to be used, or the break in the economy of the nation would be so serious that chaos would result.
It is quite evident that we want our economy to be based on peacetime prosperity, and we want that to be the same for nations all over the world. I think it is well for us to consider whether we will actually be more secure if our young men have a full year of compulsory military service under the Army. I am not really afraid that our young people will become militaristic in the same sense that the young Germans became ardent and fanatical Nazis. We Americans are bored by military routine. But I do want to get the very best training for our young people and the greatest measure of security for the country as a whole.
It seems to me that security rests on the best scientific research in every field that can be found anywhere in the world; on the most skilled people with the most original minds; on the healthiest people, mentally and physically, that we can produce; and on the best citizenry at home to back what we do both in the political field and the economic field and, if need be, in the military field. I think we need almost continuous training for all men of fighting age, but I do not think it needs to be completely military.
You might ask of every boy and girl in the country to give a year of training in the field of their choice dedicated to the good of the nation. In that year you might give a certain amount of military training to develop discipline, to check up on health and keep your records of what is available for military need at any time. These young men should continue to be trained in a military way, so as to keep them up to date every year. Their general occupation should, in a sense, be part of that military value. A commercial flyer, for instance, should take some training in combat or bomber flying every year. Possibly a two-week refresher course would be enough.
I have been trying in these articles to cover many points of view on this peacetime question. My own strong feeling is that before we decide finally, the war with Japan should be finished and the youth of our country who fought the war have come home and have a chance to be heard.