ON some occasions in our history we have reduced our army to a level unjustified by a due regard for our own safety. It was in the conviction that we had again drifted too far in that direction that I have recently approved acts of Congress to accomplish a partial restoration of the army’s enlisted strength and increasing the enrollment of cadets in the United States Military Academy.
Thus spoke Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States, to the cadets at the graduation exercises at West Point on June 12, 1935. Let us examine the facts as to the army and see just how much basis the President had for the statements made to the young men to whom he had just praised West Point for teaching ‘honor, integrity, and the faithful performance of duty.’
Before the Congress met in its regular session on January 1, 1935, and passed the new military legislation which Mr. Roosevelt signed, the regular army of the United States stood at 12,278 officers and 123,823 men, or a total of 136,101. These figures were naturally exceeded in the years immediately after the war, 1920, 1921, and 1922, when the total of officers and men stood at 192,790, 226,116, and 144,874 respectively. In 1923 the figure fell to 129,871, rising in 1924 to 139,579. Since that time it has never fallen below 131,000. In 1934 there were 2016 officers and men more than in 1933.
Plainly there is nothing here to justify any assumption that the President’s statement meant that there had been a recent reduction in our army. He must therefore have had in mind the postwar figure of 1921—226,116 officers and men.
He must also have been aware that never before in the history of the Republic has it maintained a regular army of so great a size— more than 130,000 men. Had he looked at the growth of the officer personnel alone he would have seen, for example, that in 1915, when the World War was raging, we had only 4701 officers to 101,195 soldiers. To-day we have two and a half times as many officers to an army which, when Mr. Roosevelt spoke, contained approximately only 124,000 enlisted men. Plainly, so far as officers are concerned, there has not only been no reduction to call for the President’s ‘partial restoration,’ but an increase of 261 per cent in twenty years. Two vital facts Mr. Roosevelt did not mention: the officers in our standing army are practically at the maximum figure in our history, not excepting the World War years; secondly, we actually have more officers in our army to-day than there were officers and soldiers in it during the entire peace years from 1789 to 1861 — years when we were conquering the West and constantly waging our Indian Wars. At the outbreak of the Civil War, the army stood at only 10,000 all told. It is true that the National Defense Act fixes t he maximum strength at 18,000 officers and 280,000 enlisted men; but surely the President could not have had this maximum in mind, since it has only been approached, as previously stated, in 1921.
Since the above figures show no justification for the President’s assertion that we have been in one of those periods when we reduced our army to an ‘unjustified level,’ let us look at some of the other branches of our military establishment. There is the National Guard. Perhaps the President had that in mind? But when we turn to the official figures we find that the state troops have been, since 1931, larger in number than ever before in our peacetime history. To-day they total 184,593 officers and men, or a 100 per cent increase since the beginning of the century. Actually there were, in 1934, 13,309 officers and 171,284 men as contrasted with 8792 officers and 119,251 men in 1914, just twenty years previously. The President knows, of course, that since the federalization of the Guard, Federal payment for each drill attended, and huge additional national appropriations for the state troops, their actual military efficiency has increased not one hundred but several hundred per cent over that of the period just before the war with Spain. As to this there is plenty of official testimony. Obviously the President could not have had the National Guard in mind when he assured the cadets and the country that we had reduced our forces to an ‘unjustified level.’
Well, when we look further over the army organization, we come upon a startling fact — since the World War we have developed a reserve of officers and men such as never existed before in our entire history. Beginning with eight soldiers in 1913, it comprised, in 1915, 4648 honorably discharged soldiers willing to be recalled to the colors in the event of war, with no reserve officers at all. In 1933 we had the astounding total of 132,773 reserve officers and 5028 reserve enlisted men, or just 11,000 more reserve officers than we had enlisted regulars in that year. Now it is true that the 1934 figures showed a drop of the reserve officers to 114,357, but this list is naturally subject to considerable fluctuations because of deaths, resignations, officers reaching the age limit, and so forth. Unusual as this decrease is, it cannot, however, be the reason for the President’s concern for our military strength, since we have 114,357 more reserve officers than in 1914, and no less than 58,267 more than in 1920, when there were so many experienced veterans to draw upon. Clearly we have not only had no recession in our military preparedness here, but a steady and amazingly rapid increase.
This is all the more striking if one recalls that that magnificent German military machine which swept into Belgium in 1914 did not have more than 45,000 reserve officers to man the large number of regiments that came to life on the day of mobilization. We have now perhaps twice as many for field duty (not all of the reserve officers are to serve with troops, many being commissioned for staff duty and to be in charge of manufacturing plants in wartime).
If we total the three forces, regulars, reserves, and National Guard, we find that, whereas we had 212,742 men in all in 1913, we had 436,696 in 1934 and 482,000 in 1935 when the newly authorized enlistments were complete — a growth of more than 100 per cent. Never before have we had such man power in our land forces. Mr. Roosevelt apparently was ignorant of this, and forgot that this increase has been steady ever since 1898, when regulars and National Guard comprised together less than 125,000 men.
Where is the justification for the President’s assertion that we are in a position of decreased armaments and unjustifiable weakness?
Possibly the President had the financial aspect in mind? Perhaps Congress has been niggardly in its appropriations?
Well, in this matter too the facts are available. In 1913 the War Department’s military expenditures (nonmilitary carefully excluded) totaled $108,382,063. With the approach of war they had risen in 1917 to $401,418,217. After 1921, when they were at $439,485,095, they began to fall off with the post-war demobilization. In 1922 they were $329,050,896; in 1924 they reached the low-water mark of $250,714,592. They then steadily rose to $309,762,555 in 1933, and dropped again to $279,122,789 in 1934. Even this drop of a mere $30,000,000, however, could not in itself warrant presidential perturbation, especially in view of the fact that prior to Mr. Roosevelt’s speech the Congress had appropriated $341,348,204 for the fiscal year 1935-1936.
Although this sum is just under the appropriation for 1932 and 1933, in reality the Congress and the Administration have, as we shall see later, actually assigned far more money to the military branch than in any previous normal year of peace.
Again we are thwarted in our search for the reasons for Mr. Roosevelt’s belief that we have reached one of those periods in which we have carelessly neglected to keep up our military strength. If here too he had looked back over our history he would have found it hard to defend his thesis. In 1880 our total army budget was only $27,322,433. Not until 1908 did it go above $100,000,000. Even in 1916, with war in the offing, it was only $122,392,316. It has since been increased by nearly 300 per cent in nineteen years. Surely no one can indict Congress for niggardliness toward, or indifference to, our military establishment. And now Congress has added 46,250 more men.
The President must also have overlooked our air force — a new branch of the defense forces which was hardly in existence when he became Assistant Secretary of the Navy. No one can assert that we have been letting our air defense deteriorate, for, as with the regulars and the National Guard, its growth is steady and its appropriations regularly increased. Thus in the last fiscal year it received the sum of $26,376,490. The 1936 War Department Appropriations Bill carries a sum which exceeds last year’s appropriation by $22,000,000. More than that, a group of Congressmen called upon the President to go even further and raise the number of airplanes to the figures recommended by the Commission appointed by the Secretary of War and headed by Newton D. Baker. This committee recommended an air corps of 2300 planes, which, with the navy’s 2100, authorized by the Vinson Bill, will give to the United States the largest air force of any country in the world (unless Germany or Russia should go further), although we are protected by both the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean, and although the Baker Committee agreed with the Morrow Board of 1925 that ‘hostile air invasion’ is ‘impractical.’ The Baker Committee felt that such an invasion might be possible in conjunction with land or naval forces, but not otherwise. The Morrow Board used these words: ‘Nor indeed is there any apparent probability of such invasion in any future which can be foreseen.’ Under the latest army legislation, additional air equipment is made available to the National Guard.
We still have another guess as to what the President had in mind. There are the navy and the Coast Guard. Perhaps we have allowed these to deteriorate alarmingly? The records tell a totally different story. The Coast Guard, it is true, is only semi-military, but is immediately taken over by the navy on the out break of war, as in 1917. It has grown, since 1915, from 53 ships, 255 officers, and 3886 men, to 246 ships, 455 officers, and 8950 enlisted men in 1935. Appropriations during that same time have risen fivefold, from $5,000,000 to $25,000,000 in 1934, going as high as $31,000,000 during the height of its warfare on rum smugglers during prohibition. It was not until 1890 that the appropriations for the navy reached the sum of $22,000,000. No lagging here. In so far as this force supplements the navy and acts as a reserve, there is the same story — a steady increase in numbers and appropriations with no basis for any presidential complaint.
Now for the navy. In 1913 we had 3019 naval officers and 48,068 sailors in the service. Ten years later the figures had risen to 8099 officers and 85,290 men. Last year, 1934-1935, we had 8087 officers and 81,411 men. This year, 1935-1936, the enlisted strength appropriated for is 93,500, and for the fiscal year starting July 1, 1936, President Roosevelt has made it known that he recommends an average strength of 96,000 or a maximum of 100,000. Whereas in 1913 there were no reserves of any kind, officers or men, we have to-day a reserve of 9571 officers and 33,102 men. The number of sailors actually authorized by Congress is 137,485, and 9493 officers are also provided for. As there were only 51,500 enlisted men authorized in 1913, Congress is thus willing that the navy should enlist two and one-half times as many to-day, though it has not yet appropriated pay for the total number of 137,485. If we turn to the financial side, President Roosevelt again has no cause for complaint, for the navy’s annual bill has risen from $133,262,862, in 1913, to no less than $460,000,000 in 1935 for the present fiscal year, which includes $100,000,000 for new ships and a sum sufficient to purchase 555 new aircraft.
But this is not the whole story of the astounding rise in the cost of our naval armaments. For the first time in our history, as a result of a national emergency, the army and navy are receiving sums from two sources: the regular appropriations bills voted by Congress, and the huge sums awarded by the emergency branches of the government which are seeking to create employment.
It is exceedingly difficult to find out just how much money has thus been ladled out. The PWA, for example, had in August only one copy left of its 23-page tabulation of allotments, and it is even more difficult to get figures from the four-billion-dollar work relief programme. Moreover, the figures may be changed at any moment by additional awards of large sums. Here, however, are some figures which indicate what is happening. From June 1933 to April 1935, $279,780,459 was granted to the navy, and $100,600,755.50 to the army, or a grand total of $380,381,214.50. Assuming that half of this will be spent in the fiscal year 1935-1936, the total annual bill for the army and navy will reach the sum of $1,000,000,000 — $190,000,000 from the PWA, plus the regular appropriation bills of $460,000,000 for the navy and $341,348,204 for the army. If anything, this is an understatement, as there are still other sources, such as deficiency bills, which grant money to army and navy. In 1865, the last and the most expensive year of the Civil War, the total army and navy bill was but little more — $1,153,936,306! It is also worth noting that the regular budget of the government for all purposes for the fiscal year 1916-1917, during which we entered the World War, was but $1,178,908,963. The regular army and navy appropriations for 1935-1936, without counting in PWA contributions, are higher than the total cost of running the government in 1916.
When it comes to the navy ships, here too no one can charge the present Administration with failure to increase our forces, as it is building no less than 102 aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, and submarines to bring the navy up to the treaty strength authorized by the London Conference. The first installment of this programme, which is almost unprecedented in our history in peace times, was paid for by $238,000,000 of the sums quoted above as having been allotted by the PWA. In July of this year, there were under construction two aircraft carriers, three heavy cruisers, seven light cruisers, ten submarines, forty-one destroyers, and two gunboats. In August, contracts were awarded for one light cruiser, one aircraft carrier, three destroyers of 1850 tons, five of 1500 tons, and three submarines. There still remain, then, eleven more vessels, one cruiser, seven destroyers, and three submarines to be built as part of the 1936 building programme. Not even the wildest jingoes can charge that this is other than rapid progress toward the jingo goal — namely, the largest navy in the world.
Finally there is the Marine Corps. This too has shared the growth of the other branches of army and navy. In 1913 it had only 342 officers and 9921 enlisted men. Ever since 1923 it has had 27,400 enlisted men authorized, with 16,000 appropriated for, and between 1010 and 1074 officers, the latter being the authorized strength for the current fiscal year. The United States Marine Corps Reserve was created in 1922, and its authorized strength, both enlisted and commissioned, is one third of the strength of the active Marine Corps. The Corps cost, in 1913, $7,558,233.78; in 1923, $25,495,948; and for the present fiscal year the appropriation is $23,768,110. Here again there has been no letting dawn of standards to cause the President or anyone else uneasiness. As more ships are added to the navy, moreover, the Marine Corps will naturally be increased in proportion to the increase of the navy.
When one reviews the legislation passed by the Congress in its last session and signed by President Roosevelt with the excuse already cited, there is still further ground for astonishment. Never was a peacetime Congress so ready to hand out money for military and naval purposes. It not only gave to General MacArthur and the War Department everything they asked, but more besides. The number of West Point cadets was increased from approximately 1374 to 1960 until the year 1941, and $5,000,000 more was given to the Military Academy to take care of them — the Naval Academy at Annapolis received a similar increase of 531 additional midshipmen from the Naval Affairs Committee, and will have 2391 in 1937. The House Military Affairs Committee’s argument was simple enough. There are a number of universities which have 10,000 students, therefore West Point should have more students! The War Department backed this up by pointing out that the enlarged army would need a larger annual number of graduates to fill the vacancies.
But the good will of Congress did not stop there. Being told that there was a ‘hump,’ or block, in promotions in the army owing to the large number of officers taken in after the World War and the presence in the upper grades of relatively young men, Congress promoted by one act no less than 4355 officers, or a third of the entire commissioned force, each one grade, despite the fact that there was a very considerable weeding out of officers with many consequent promotions in 1934.
There were on April 20, 1935, 174 colonels of infantry to 40 regiments, and 77 colonels of cavalry to 15 regiments; the disproportion is greater now because of the recent promotions. Congress authorized the drawing in of 1000 reserve second lieutenants to serve one year with the regulars, which custom, if continued, would increase the number of regular officers by another thousand, and will inevitably lead to a new demand for more regiments to give these officers experience. By some oversight it failed to appropriate the money therefor, but doubtless this will be remedied in the next deficiency appropriation bill.
Congress also provided an annual fourteen-day training period for 20,000 instead of 16,000 reserve officers. It provided 97 more planes for the air corps than were allowed in the President’s budget. It increased the National Guard by 5000 enlisted men and, as already stated, added 46,250 men to the regulars. It then appropriated $4,452,304, an increase of $1,000,000, for many additional units of the Officers’ Training Corps in high schools and colleges. In 1913 there were 57 such institutions giving military training under War Department direction. By 1933 the number had risen to 399. In 1913 there were 85 officers and men on duty in such schools and colleges; today there are no less than 1658. The Citizens’ Military Training Camps also received an extra $1,000,000 to enable them to train 30,000 instead of 14,000 for forty-two days each. Congress gave more money to the Quartermaster’s Department for the upkeep of military posts than was allowed under the budget, and it revived the national rifle matches, dropped in past years for reasons of economy.
But this does not include everything. On July 31, Congress voted a new promotion bill to hasten promotion by increasing the percentage of colonels, lieutenant colonels, and majors, and decreasing the percentage of company officers. The bill introduces a new principle in America, the promotion of every officer in the lower grades after a certain number of years’ service. It also offers attractive retirement privileges in order that more men will retire, and it gives the President power to retire officers on their own application after fifteen years’ service. This means, of course, a further proportionate increase in the retired list of the army, which, according to the latest figures, comprises 3258 officers. Still Congress was not satisfied. It passed a bill creating six new huge air bases intended to cost $120,000,000, the money to be provided by the Public Works Allotment Board. While the location of these fields has not yet been decided, there was an immediate rivalry among various cities for the awards, which helps to explain why the enlarged army programme is welcomed in some quarters.
The first base is to be in Alaska, the second in the Pacific Northwest, — both to protect us from the Japanese, — a third probably in Denver, one in the Southeast, — that is, North or South Carolina, — one in New England, and one near the Caribbean, presumably at Miami. Could any Santa Claus have done more for the army and navy?
As a result of all this generosity we get the following table of the number of regular and National Guard soldiers and sailors in service in the current fiscal year: —
|Regular army, officers and men||177,600|
|Navy ‟ ‟||103,000|
|National Guard ‟ ‟||190,000|
|Coast Guard ‟ ‟||10,500|
|West Point and Annapolis cadets||4,400|
In addition the following table shows the number of reserves drilled this year in schools or colleges, citizens’ training camps, the reserve officers’ training camps, and so forth: —
|Citizens' training camps||30,000|
|School and college students, etc||150,000|
|Navy reserves (estimated by Navy Department)||9,900|
Thus we have a grand total of 695,400 in uniform during the present fiscal year. These figures are obviously unprecedented in our history, and to many will recall in these days of Fascist dictatorships the warnings of George Washington, and other founders of the Republic, as to the dangers of a large standing army.
So unusual was this attitude of Congress that it is no exaggeration to say that if the country were in imminent danger of war it could hardly be more lavishly determined to increase our armed strength. Why is this? There are several answers. First, accustomed to ladling out billions under the New Deal, Congress has acquired the habit of spending, and accordingly authorized the new air bases, which the press reports will cost $120,000,000, with no more hesitation than it voted two or three millions of dollars a few years ago. Second, there is no question that Congress was much alarmed by the grave danger of another war in Europe. Third, all the bogies as to our ‘coming’ war with Japan were trotted out. The minutes of the executive sessions of the House Military Affairs Committee, which by some slip were printed and published, contain all the same old yarns, long since exploded. One was of a Japanese fishing fleet of 150 vessels based on an island near the mouth of the Panama Canal and being met from time to time by steamers from Japan with fresh replacements. Congressman Dockweiler of California rehashed all the familiar rumors. ‘Every time our fleet goes out from Los Angeles harbor for target practice it never fails to meet in the open roadstead a Japanese oil tanker standing out there or a Japanese fishing boat. ... It is always a Japanese boat that is out there, and one commander told me that when he went up to this [sic] craft to advise Mr. Japanese that the United States was having target practice he actually recognized a high ranking officer in civilian clothes of the Japanese navy that he had met socially.’ This happens, he said, every time that our fleet goes to sea to practice — but he did not specify if it was always the same high ranking officer or the same high American officer who always met him and recognized him, and whether the Japanese wore the same ‘civilian clothes of the Japanese navy’ or some other kind of clothes.
Mr. Dockweiler next told the horrified and obviously gullible Committee that the Japanese fishing boats ‘are built in such a way that you can, within a very short space of time, erect a small cannon or machine gun on them’ — which is hardly surprising, since there is not a thirty-foot yawl or tug in any American port or summer resort upon which the same thing could not be done in a couple of hours. Worse than that, he said, they ‘carry a pressure tank sufficient to contain pressure sufficient to launch torpedoes off those boats ’ — but this valiant Congressman plainly does not know that you cannot launch a torpedo from any craft without a most elaborate torpedo tube.
Mr. Dockweiler’s ‘seein’ things’ did not stop there. No, indeed. There is an equipped Japanese army in California of 25,000 men ‘that could be under arms immediately if there was any disturbance.’ His authorities were not the Government of California or of the United States and our secret service, but ‘the American Legion and our chambers of commerce out there.’ The Japanese also ‘have gymnasiums under the German plan where at nighttime the school children may parade and go through all the motions of military training in the little halls.’
Said the chairman, whose eyes were evidently starting from his head, ‘What do you mean by “equipped”? Do you mean they have arms?’ The dialogue then continued: —
MR. DOCKWEILER. HOW could we stop them from having them, Mr. Chairman?
THE CHAIRMAN. But do they have arms?
MR. DOCKWEILER. We think so.
THE CHAIRMAN. Well.
MR. DOCKWEILER. That is something that would bear further investigation.
THE CHAIRMAN. Now, living in that situation and being raised in it, I assume, Mr. Dockweiler.
MR. DOCKWEILER. Yes.
THE CHAIRMAN. What is your interpretation of the attitude of mind of the authorities, the controlling authorities of the Japanese?
Mr. Dockweiler was not slumped. His ‘own brother’ had been in the diplomatic service for ten years. He was once stationed in Tokio for a year and a half and was now able to say things he could not in those bygone years. ‘He has told me many of the stories that I am relating to you. The situation is this: the Japanese have never struck an enemy that was able to fight back.’ Which explains, of course, why the Russians never fought any battles in Manchuria in their war with Japan! And so on for pages and pages. Is it any wonder that the shocked Military Affairs Committee voted on the spot for the six new air bases?
The pity of it is, from their own point of view, that these frightened gentlemen of House and Senate, and the President who signed their bills, never stop really to inquire (1) whether we now have an efficient army and navy; (2) whether we are developing our services in accordance with a well-thought-out plan for the defensive wars which every President and every Congress insist are the only ones we shall hereafter fight — we never yet have fought a defensive one; (3) whether the measures voted make for an increased efficiency; (4) whether our actual armaments (aside from men) are efficient; and (5) whether this whole procedure is compatible with American traditions and our signing of the Kellogg Peace Pact.
As to the first there is the greatest doubt. A former instructor at Annapolis has recently published a book which is so astounding an indictment of the navy that in any other country it would have caused an immediate parliamentary inquiry, and the disproving of the charges as mendacious and malicious, or the complete overhauling and reorganization of the service. It has been entirely ignored by Congress and the service, but not answered. It was followed by Admiral Sims’s frontal attack in the Atlantic for September 1935 on the navy promotion system, which the best officers admit is not bringing to the top men adequately trained to command squadrons and fleets.
As for the army, probably the severest critic is not a pacifist, nor a disgruntled civilian, nor a carping Senator, but the commander of one of our four armies, the Third, Major General Johnson Hagood, whose headquarters are at San Antonio. Writing in the Saturday Evening Post, he has declared that our national defense system could and should be four times as effective for the money we spend, which, as the figures above prove, is now one million dollars a day, or more. Fortune, in a long study of the army situation, has recently pointed out that the army has no less than 67 generals to 165,000 men, where Henry Ford has 9 to 125,000 men; that there are actually only enough of the newly invented, semi-automatic Garand rifles on hand to equip a single regiment, that there is only a ‘handful of tanks,’ 94 in all, and that our artillery is in large degree antiquated. Were Congress eager for the most efficient army, they would certainly ask themselves why ours is proportionately the most heavily overofficered army of first rank in the world. They would inquire whether the reason given for this great superfluity of officers, who can obviously only take turn and turn about in service with combatant troops, — namely, the need of suddenly officering in wartime an army of several millions, — is an adequate one. As in the case of the navy, they might also ask whether our officers are obtaining the best professional training possible.
As for the general military policy of the country, the Congress has largely been going on the theory that we must be prepared to duplicate our effort of 1917 — that is, be prepared to raise, equip, and train an army of four millions of men, although no competent military authority believes that even any combination of powers could launch a sudden attack upon American shores. Experts believe an attack could never take place unless England were among our enemies. Anyone who wishes can figure out how many ships it would take for the Japanese to land an army of even 500,000 men upon our shores, if there were no opposition to such a landing, by simply referring to the number of ships needed to transport the first half million of our men to France, plus all their stores, ammunition, artillery, airplanes, tanks, motor vehicles, huge motorized artillery, poison gas, and chemical-warfare utensils. Even that would not, however, give the true figure, as military men agree that the impedimenta of an army, the size of the guns, the proportion of airplanes, and so forth, have so largely increased since 1918. One of our ablest navy officers believes that it would take one third again as many ships as in 1917. Since the statistics of the Japanese merchant marine are quite available, anyone with a pencil and piece of paper can amuse himself by figuring out just how many troops with their necessary supplies could be transported by that entire merchant marine, and the same can be done for the French army, or any other that our military men conceive to menace us. I have met a number of foreign officers, and I have never yet found one who believed that a large-scale invasion of the United States was practical.
Congress, which is so eager to develop our army, ought to take heed of the remarkable statements of Major General William C. Rivers, retired, a veteran of three overseas wars and a successful commander in France. He told the Military Affairs Committee that ’we do not need a great force with our self-contained country, and without powerful aggressive neighbors, and with excellent systems of communication and the navy as our first line of defense. . . . I do not visualize any mass invasion of us by any country — overseas or elsewhere.’ He urged, like many, many others, a single department of national defense, headed by a secretary, with three undersecretaries of army and navy and air. He severely criticized the training at West Point and the training in the army, saying that both are dominated by Prussian ideals inherited from Frederick the Great — methods ‘ which were never suited to the American disposition and character.’
Since General Rivers even went so far as to suggest the abolition of the absurd West Point uniform, he can hardly expect that he will be listened to. Yet he made the extremely sensible suggestions that there should be a national defense council in Washington to coördinate the entire defense system and supervise it, and that there should be a Federal commission of civilians to study the whole problem as to whether this nation needs an army, and if so for what purposes, and what the national military policy should be.
Of course General Rivers put his finger on the blackest spot in the army situation, and one that could be remedied almost overnight by Franklin D. Roosevelt as Commander in Chief, with or without the coöperation of Congress. That is the historic policy of scattering the army all over the country in small posts—‘small towns,’ General Rivers called them — and so frittering away the strength of the garrisons and making it impossible to bring together permanently large bodies of men for the tactical and strategical training of officers as well as men. General Rivers himself, although a graduate of West Point and a lifelong soldier, testified that he never saw a brigade together until he took one into action at Château-Thierry! This evil of the small posts is purely political and it has existed inexcusably ever since the Civil War — as, for example, the location of the post at Helena, Montana, many years ago because of the political influence of Senator Carter, when there was no sound military reason for putting it there and every reason why it should not be placed there, the only purpose being to boost the town and give the shopkeepers another source of revenue.
There are 120 of these posts, and they average about 700 men each. The ten army postgraduate schools are scattered in ten different places, with total garrisons of 11,000 men. Were they brought together in one, there would obviously be vast economy, after the initial expenditures for additional barracks, and so forth, and the 11,000 concentrated troops could be utilized to give to higher officers experience in handling brigades, divisions, and a corps. General Rivers quoted General MacArthur, lately Chief of Staff, as saying that of the 90,000 soldiers stationed in the United States proper some 30,000 are not available for military duty because they are drawn off to work as laborers in keeping the grounds of these posts in order, and for repair and police and other work. General Hagood has pointed all this out and so have hundreds of others over a long period of time. Yet the President, who is so concerned over our having ‘neglected ’ our defenses, is utterly uninterested in the prospect of such a saving and such an increase in the army’s efficiency. It is safe to say that if this proposition were made to the House of Representatives every Congressman in whose district a military post is situated would fight to the last the proposal to remove his garrison — even if he were told that it meant increased danger of that fanciful Japanese invasion. This is an interesting illustration of the way the army becomes a vested interest and a commercial asset.
The point is that we have completely swung away from our old American opposition to militarism and large military forces. For this the American Legion is partly responsible, but so are our patriotic societies, and so are those who really believe that the Republic is so menaced by subversive elements that they wish an increased regular army to ‘assure us domestic safety.’ One Congressman was reported in the press as saying that the reasons the army bill passed the House so easily were, first, the disturbed conditions in Europe and, second, the need of more soldiers to keep industrial peace and to combat the ‘reds.’ Since the ‘reds’ succeeded in polling only 125,000 votes out of 39,816,522 cast in 1932 in the entire United States in the middle of our worst depression, with some 12,000,000 unemployed, and have as yet caused no symptom of revolution, it is obvious that the more important reason is the possibility of the use of the enlarged army against our laboring fellow citizens.
In part our changed point of view is due to the fact that, with our entry into the World War, we in many respects aped foreign countries in things military. We copied their Sam Browne belts, their khaki, their uniforms, their numerous decorations, their trooping of the colors, their laying of wreaths upon dead men’s graves. Somehow many Americans really believe that we cannot be a great, a powerful, or a noble country, or a leader among the nations, unless we can prove that we have a nation in arms. One of the saddest fallacies in our entire handling of the naval disarmament problems has been the belief, even of as kindly and earnest a man as Norman H. Davis, that we must have a big navy in order to have ‘our share of the pack at the poker table’ — to which they liken the disarmament conferences. Otherwise, our rulers thought, we could not be in a position to bluff the other nations into disarming.
The net result of that policy is that we are now burdened with the largest navy in our history, which it is alleged will soon cost us $550,000,000 a year to maintain; and disarmament, like prosperity, is still in the offing. The worst of it all is that the American people have no means of expressing their wishes in the matter, any more than they could vote as to whether their sons should be drafted to die in a war which has nearly ruined us and netted us precisely nothing, except our worst depression.
One of the most serious phases of our rapid militarization is that arming is becoming identical with increased worship of the State and the inculcation of the cult of nationalism, which has reached its finest flower in Italy and Germany. Not a few of the most patriotic defenders of our Constitution and our Republic against the ‘subversive elements’ are, by the way, quite outspoken in their admiration for the ‘efficiency’ of the Nazis and the Fascists — like the late Elbert H. Gary, who denounced all reds, but gave an interview in which he said that America should find a Mussolini at once and put him in the White House. Nothing subversive there! Soon after the war the War Department undertook a ‘patriotic day’ in which all the militia, reserves, veterans, and so forth, were to don their uniforms and stand for an hour or two and salute — precisely as Mussolini summoned 20,000,000 of his loyal sheep to meet and listen the day before he began his unholy war in Ethiopia. But neither our nonregular uniformed men nor our veterans responded; the whole thing was a complete fizzle. Thereupon the newspapers carried a blunt dispatch saying that, as a result of that fiasco, the War Department was determined to put a reserve officer into every hamlet and village, and many in the towns and cities, to act as a focus for patriotic and militarist propaganda. Since then, as pointed out, the reserve officers have grown by as many as 20,000 and more a year, and they are scattered all over the country. While they are not paid, they are told to consider themselves representatives of the army and to cooperate with the War Department. It is frequently stated that many are acting as ‘observers’ of all liberal and radical movements and reporting constantly to the Military Intelligence in Washington.
For four years, 1928-1932, the army Training Manual No. 2000-25 carried this extraordinary definition of American democracy to hundreds of thousands of young Americans who were taking military instruction: —
Democracy: A government of the masses. Authority derived through mass meeting or any other form of ‘direct’ expression. Results in mobocracy. Attitude towards property is communistic — negating property rights. Attitude towards law is that the will of the majority shall regulate, whether it be based upon deliberation or governed by passion, prejudice, and impulse, without restraint or regard for consequences. Results in demagogism, license, agitation, discontent, anarchy.
When this choice bit of loyalty to our American democracy and institutions was exposed to public gaze in the press, it was promptly withdrawn. When I printed it a year ago Secretary Dern wrote me a kindly letter asking, ‘Why pick on a sinner after he has reformed?’
The reply, of course, is that it is an alarming state of affairs when, during four years, some officers in the War Department can put such a rank piece of disloyal, subversive antiAmericanism into a widely distributed government handbook, and that the incident must be neither overlooked nor forgotten by those who cherish their country’s democratic institutions.