Published Date

October 1, 1944

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

From GI Roundtable 21: Shall We Have Universal Military Training? (1944)

Like other G. I. Roundtable pamphlets, this one is intended for your information. The question “Shall we have universal military training?” will interest many men in service. While the traditional American answer to this question has always been “no” until war threatens, training problems which we have had to solve in World War II and postwar world conditions which may conceivably follow the peace are likely to bring the question up for serious public discussion. Under the circumstances the subject is of vital concern to a citizen Army. You can assist greatly in developing soldier understanding of the problem by including a study of it in your discussion or forum program.

When you have read the material and have decided that the question “Shall we have universal military training?” is appropriate for your group, choose your own method of conducting the meeting. The question can be handled in almost any type of meeting: forum, debate, informal discussion, or panel discussion. Suggestions for conducting these kinds of discussions are contained in War Department Education Manual, EM I, G. I. Roundtable: Guide for Discussion Leaders.

Make this pamphlet on universal military training available, if possible, for reading by members of your group. Discussions are better as a rule if the members have had a chance to do some reading on the subject. If you have an insufficient supply of the pamphlet for this purpose, be sure to spend the first five or ten minutes of your meeting in sketching a background for the discussion. In doing this it would be a good idea to give the history of our past policy with mention of British and Continental European practice. Then you might well mention the four major issues involved in the question:

  1. For military effectiveness do we need a large Army reserve?
  2. Are there possible benefits and dangers in universal military training for the individual and the state in a democracy?
  3. Will World War II change the traditional American policy?
  4. What kind of training program, if any, should we have?

If you hold a forum with one or more speakers, these speakers will develop the major issues in some detail, and suitable questions should follow from members of the audience. If you have a group that uses either the informal discussion or the panel discussion method, you will need some questions to start things off. Those given below may be helpful. They are arranged to develop four major issues, each of which is stated in a leading question, followed by other questions that assist in developing the first.


First Issue

For purposes of military effectiveness do we need a large Army reserve? Or should we depend upon a powerful Navy and Air Force? Why have we been able to win wars in the twentieth century without a strong Army in readiness? Will these conditions continue to hold? Would a policy of universal training shorten our wars? Reduce our losses? Would such training in times of peace really prepare men for combat in a future war?

Second Issue

Would universal military training benefit or endanger the individual and the state in a democracy? Would it develop more responsible citizens? Offer educational advantages not found in the schools? Strengthen democracy by throwing all kinds of young men together? Would it improve the health of the nation? Would it help solve unemployment problems? Would the possession of a strong military establishment strengthen the prestige of the United States among nations? Would it tend to foster an authoritarian and militaristic rather than a democratic society?

Third Issue

Are postwar conditions likely to change the traditional American policy toward universal military training? What has been the traditional policy? Why? Has it ever been temporarily changed? When? For what reasons? Has our policy differed from the British policy? From that of other European countries? Are there reasons for the differences? Would a program of universal military training help to keep the United States out of future wars?

Fourth Issue

If we were to have universal military training, what kind of program should we have? Would a year’s training be too long? At what age should youth be trained? How should military skills and physical fitness be maintained? Should a program of military training include civic and political instruction? Provide other educational activities? Attempt to fill the interruption in normal education by having trainees study some school or college subjects at the same time?

Suggestions for Further Reading

These books are suggested for supplementary reading if it so happens that you have access to them. They are not approved nor officially supplied by the War Department. They have been selected because they give additional information and represent different points of view.

Compulsory Military Training. Compiled by Julia E. Johnsen. Volume 14, No. 6 of The Reference Shelf, published by H. W. Wilson Company, 950 University Avenue, New York 52, N. Y. (1941).

Universal Military Service. Compiled by Robert E. Summers and Harrison B. Summers. Volume 15, No. 2 of The Reference Shelf, published by H. W. Wilson Company (1941).

America in Arms. By Brigadier General John M. Palmer. Published by the Infantry Journal, 1115 Seventh Street, N. W., Washington, D. C. (1943).

The Army of the Future. By General Charles de Gaulle. Published by J. B. Lippincott, 277 South 6th Street, Philadelphia, Penn. (1941).

The United States Army in War and Peace. By Colonel Oliver L. Spaulding. Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2 West 45th Street, New York 19, N. Y. (1937).

Disarmament in the Post War World. By Oswald Garrison Villard. Published by Post War World Council, 112 East 19th Street, New York 3, N. Y. (1942).

Conscription: The Test of the Peace. By Norman Thomas. Published by Post War World Council (1944).