Published Date

October 1, 1944

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

By Grayson Kirk
(Printed October 1944 but not distributed)

Site Editor’s Note: This pamphlet was censored by the War Department in October 1944 after 200,000 copies were printed. Members of George C. Marshall’s staff feared this was too political and would bring the wrath of a Republican Congress down on the Roosevelt administration. All bound copies were destroyed, so this version was prepared from the final galley copy in the AHA Papers in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress.


Table of Contents


What Has Been the American Policy?

What Has Been the Policy in Other Countries?

Arguments for Universal Military Training

Arguments against Universal Military Training

Practical Aspects of the Problem

To the Discussion Leader

Suggestions for Further Reading


When the war is over and our enemies in Europe and the Far East have surrendered unconditionally to the forces of the United Nations, the American people will have to decide-if they haven’t already done so by that time-what provisions to make for their future national defense.

The problem has several aspects. Among other things, it includes the question of the size of the forces to be raised and that of the method of recruiting them. How large an Army, Navy, and Air Force should we maintain? Should we continue in the future, as we have done in the past, to rely on volunteer enlistments to keep up our peacetime defense establishment? Or should we adopt the kind of universal compulsory military training program employed in most European countries to build up in time of peace a great reserve of trained men?

The basic American plan of defense probably will provide for calling great numbers of private citizens to the colors in case of future need. This is what we did in 1917 and again in the present war. In each case most of the men who entered the armed services, whether through induction or voluntary enlistment, had no previous military training of any kind. In each case a mass training program had to be organized that would train civilians into soldiers and sailors by the millions-and do it quickly. The difference was that in 1917 the machinery of selection and training was set up and put into operation after war was declared, whereas this time it was started while the country was still at peace and it had been functioning for more than a year when war came.

Under the emergency conditions that accompany and immediately precede war, the establishment of a mass military training program is always difficult. And it is open to the serious objection that the country is thereby placed at a grave disadvantage in dealing with an enemy or potential enemy that can call up millions of trained men at a moment’s notice.

In view of this, would it be wise after this war to provide a continuous peacetime training program that would give every young man instruction in the armed service for which he seems best fitted?

This is the problem to which this pamphlet is devoted. The following pages summarize our own experience in the matter, tell about the policies of some other countries, and set forth briefly the relative advantages and disadvantages of universal training as against a system of voluntary enlistment in time of peace supplemented by conscription in time of war. No attempt has been made to prove a case for or against either of these courses.