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January 1949

You’re in the Army—Again

by Edgar L. Jones

Almost simultaneous with the Army’s announcement that the peacetime draft would shift into high with the induction of 20,000 trainees in January was the companion announcement by General Jacob L. Devers, chief of Army Ground Forces, that every youth drafted into the Army “will be treated as a human being, never a raw recruit.” Speaking before the American War Mothers, General Devers outlined a serviceman’s utopia in which draftees would be sent to posts “as near home as possible,” would be given a “chance to ask questions,” and would be assigned uniforms “individually fitted.”

As if that were not enough to indicate a new way of Army life, General Devers assured the mothers that training instructors, no longer to be thought of as tough drill sergeants, would try “to establish a personal relationship with the incoming recruit,” and that all trainees would be “told the reason for everything they do that is new to them.” The Army’s principal authority on combat training then went on to say that the Army would insist that each trainee write home; that each would be interviewed by his company commander and chaplain, both of whom, in turn, would write personal letters to his mother; and that (the real clincher) “neither he nor his instructors will use profanity.”

The good General’s attempts to lighten the hearts of American mothers had a derisive reception among World War II veterans—among those, at least, who let their reactions be known to newspapermen …

The veterans have not forgotten that much the same picture of humanized service in a “civilian” Army was projected for their benefit at the start of the 1940 draft. At that time, too, military leaders were busily promoting the idea that the Army was not so much a militar­ized regime as a glorified trade school in which young men not only equipped themselves for steady peacetime work but also acquired all the wholesome personal qualities that, by implication, their parents, schools, and churches had failed to nurture.

The GI of 1940–1945 was not treated, to borrow another fine phrase from General Devers, as “a person of individual dignity and feelings.” And there will be no sadder Sad Sack than the draftee of 1949 who expects to have a tender regard shown for his individuality.

Vol. 183, No. 1, pp. 31–34

Read the full article here.