Published Date

January 1, 1945

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

From GI Roundtable 33: What Will Your Town Be Like? (1945)

Soldiers may well ask, “Why so much planning?” As the war progresses and the prospects of a peacetime future grow more discernible, the word “planning” is being worked overtime. There is. national planning, community planning, state planning, regional planning, industry-wide planning, vocational planning, and a number of other unsorted varieties generally lumped under “postwar planning.”

But in his thinking about Hometown, the serviceman is probably most interested in two specific kinds of planning—first, the planning being done by individual employers which will mean a job when he gets back, and second, the planning being done to make his town a better place to live in. These two kinds of planning are much more closely related than many people realize. In the first place, a community can undertake programs of civic improvement only if it has ample revenue and isn’t burdened with heavy welfare expenditures and other costs of the “lack of prosperity.”

And while the community cannot do specific planning for any one of its enterprisers, it can do a lot of planning which will help all local enterprisers plan for more jobs and thus greater prosperity.

Many a town has zoning laws or building regulations on its books, passed back in horse-and-buggy days, which now hinder business. Removing such laws and generally bringing commercial ordinances up to date is good community planning. In terms of future prosperity and well-being for citizens, polishing up the local laws might serve to better purpose than would a new park, a repaved street, or some other usual “community planning” project.


Is there enough community spirit?

What is most needed as a common denominator between the job planning of private employers and over-all planning by the town, is a new sense of “community unity.” Fortunately, the war seems to have caused a resurgence of community spirit throughout the United States which had sagged some-what during the doldrums of the depression.

Having been mobilized behind one community war effort after another, from the collection of kitchen fats to the donation of human blood, this reborn sense of community unity will stand Hometown in good stead when it comes to tackling new postwar responsibilities. And the first of these will be-gin when the boys get back from the war.

How can Hometown help?

One of the first contacts that the returning serviceman has with his community concerns his “re absorption” into civilian life. It will undoubtedly differ with every individual and every community, but the -process has certain common aspects.

The first thing the returning serviceman is asked to do—or the last thing he does as a soldier—is to check in with his draft board. From there he may be referred to the U. S. Employment Service, unless he is headed for his old job or has other definite plans.

If, on the other hand, he had no job before the war, or for any other reason is undecided about what to do, he may turn to some community agency or group for advice or assistance. That’s where the veteran’s problems really begin.

Communities have personalities and no two are exactly alike. Also, in every community there are all kinds of groups and organizations. But every community and almost every organization has by now pretty much decided that it’s going to “do something for the boys when they get back.”

Such sentiments are praiseworthy, of course. But their ultimate success will depend on how well they are organized into a community program. Either because of, or for want of, proper organization, the process of reabsorbing the re-turning serviceman into his community will range all the way from “A” for admirable around to “A” for awful.

Even before the invasion of Europe, it was already clear that some communities -were going about the job on a businesslike basis. They were coordinating the efforts of every local group from the Rotary Club to the Parent-Teacher Association into one central community agency for assisting returning servicemen in whatever problems they had.

At the other extreme are the communities where no coordinated efforts are being made. In them, as a result, all the separate groups are planning to “do something for G.I. Joe,” and so are a lot of miscellaneous well-intentioned individuals. In such towns the returning serviceman may be interviewed to death before he gets readjusted to civilian life.

Fortunately, this is being recognized as one of the most important and immediate “postwar” problems, and increasing numbers of Hometowns are developing specific and specialized programs.