"Men of Victory"


By PAUL V. McNUTT, Federal Security Administrator

Broadcast over a Nation-Wide Network of the National Broadcasting Company, February 9, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 371-374.

AMERICA needs every man on the ramparts of freedom. Sweating through steaming jungles with leaden packs. Piloting fortresses into the stratosphere. Planting their feet firmly upon the decks of mighty ships. Diving into the dark depths in submarines. Tending lathes, driving rivets. Tilling the land. Planning and supervising.

From the Commander-in-Chief to the humblest manual worker, our best effort is needed to protect home and heritage. In such a cause every task is worth doing well. If your work is not publicized, that does not mean that the laborer is not worthy of his hire.

America is its men and its women, and the Nation is no stronger than their combined power.

Gigantic Man Power Supply

The gigantic task of supplying man power for the war industries, for the armed forces and for the essential civilian production must be assigned in the most productive way to the appropriate people. This will save precious time and time is the essence of victory.

Our goals for 1942 are set: 60,000 planes, 45,000 tanks, 20,000 anti-aircraft guns, 8,000,000 tons of shipping.

These are just the large orders—we also have set goals for anti-tank guns, machine guns, rifles, munitions and the myriad other items necessary to wage war.

What does this mean in terms of the men who will produce these sinews of war?

We are told that it means 10,000,000 more workers in war industries by the end of the year than there were in December. This increase must come at the same time that we are adding substantially to the numbers in the armed forces. That is a goal as definite as the number of planes or tanks or ships.

In December there were 53,000,000 workers in the labor force. The number of people of working age increases about 600,000 every year. This is the general man power framework with which we have to do the job.

Several Limited Sources

The labor force can, to a limited degree, be increased. We can absorb the remaining unemployed and should bend every effort to do so.

We can bring more women into war work and farm work, but there is a limit beyond which the employment of women will endanger sound family life.

We can employ a larger proportion of young people, and in many instances colleges are shortening their courses to put students to work sooner; but, from a long-time viewpoint, it is important that certain groups of students who are preparing for essential professions should remain in school until their training is complete.

We can postpone the age of retirement to some extent, but this source of extra labor is limited by nature.

We can and should rehabilitate for industry as many handicapped people as possible.

All of these measures, however, will not add the number required for this desperate drive for production. I should add that in areas surrounding many centers of war production these extra sources of supply have already been used up. Millions of the workers needed for war production will have to be shifted from civilian production.

Voluntary response of Uncle Sam's sons and daughters, whether for the battle line or the assembly line, has been most satisfactory. But there are complex problems involved which cannot be solved by the random efforts of millions of undirected individuals.

Drastic Readjustment

The dilemmas which we have already faced will pale beside those which we are yet to face in mobilizing all man power. There are many questions of broad policy to be worked out. Last year America followed the path of easy expansion. We speedily put to work idle men, idle plants, idle stock piles. We experienced boom conditions. This year the going will be tougher. We enter a period of priorities, of bottlenecks, of tremendous shifts from civilian to military employment. The readjustment will be drastic and self-sacrifice will be called for in many instances.

The early days of war preparation were days of rapid movement. First came the builders—men who built machine tools, expanded factories or raised barracks. From the four corners of the Nation they came together to live in shacks, in trailers, in tents, in anything which would keep off the rain while their screaming saws and pounding hammers erected the structure for war.

Then came the laborers—men and women who tended machines, who drove trucks, who loaded powder bags, who riveted ships.

This meant more men back in the mines, in the forests, in the fields—more men to delve for coal, more to hew timber, more to move trains.

Next the factories, new and old, started working around the clock. This meant more men for three shifts instead of one.

And all the time the American women have made homes wherever they have kept the dinner pail full and have fallen in beside the men wherever necessary.

America has started the march to victory. Many have had to give up establishing homes and accustomed occupations, but many more will have to do likewise.

Must Reach Into Byways

Up to now the average distance of movement of workers into war industry centers has not exceeded from 100 to 200 miles. Only 5 per cent have come from farms and only a few Negroes have been drawn in. From now on the range of movement will be longer as those close by have mostly been employed. We must reach back into the byways and the hedges to seek out all willing hands. More will be brought in from the farms and the necessary and valuable work of tilling the land will be partially taken over by the women and older workers. More of the minority groups will and must be called upon. It must be remembered that in the last war the world's record for driving rivets was broken by a singing rhythmic Negro crew in an American shipyard. Most of the foreign-born in our midst are loyal, willing and able to do their patriotic best.

The universal registration of men from 18 to 65 to be completed soon will provide an orderly means of sorting out aptitudes and will add materially to our knowledge of available labor. It will enable us to set up a clear national policy for assisting every individual to make his greatest contribution.

The necessity for migration will be all the greater in the coming months because some plants will close for lack of materials and some retail and distributive businesses will lay off help because of the shortage of goods.

To assist in this process of relocation, the President has recommended the extension of unemployment benefits to tide the displaced workers over until they can be readjusted. We owe it to these industrial casualties to see that they are rehabilitated; we owe it to ourselves to fit them for a useful place in the war effort.

Employment Service Expanded

In all of this movement, the United States Employment Service is the active agent for bringing men and jobs together. This organization has been so expanded and streamlined that it would hardly be recognized as the employment service of three years ago. Instead of 48 State-Federal services, we now have a unified Federal operation which can move men from Georgia to California or from New Mexico to Michigan, finding the proper job in the new location before he ever leaves home.

Economy in labor use must be even more rigid in the future as we approach the maximum use of manpower. We cannot afford competitive hiring methods through which employers disorganize the labor market by stealing labor one from another. We cannot afford the aimless movement of workers who move without assurance that they are needed at their destination. In a crisis as grave as this no waste motion can be countenanced. The United States Employment Service must be used to the fullest.

To find the right person for the right job when they are2,000 miles apart is no easy assignment. To accomplish this, 30,000 job titles have been listed and the qualifications required for each one have been analyzed—a bewildering array of specialties.

It is now apparent from the few applicants for many of these jobs essential to war production that the supply of men with the required skill is exhausted. In such circumstances the employment service is often in the position of the country merchant who has to offer something just as good instead of the requested article. There was a demand for people to make time fuses, bombs and torpedoes. Occupational analysts determined the kind of ability needed and women skilled in needle work were tried out and worked very well. Families or related jobs are studied in this way to discover which skills can be substituted for those that are scarce. An intensive study is being made of the skills in the auto industry to determine which of them are adaptable to airplane production, and the immediate industrial prospects of a quarter of a million people depend upon its results.

Looking back over the past history of the Nation, I have no fear that the American people will not gladly move wherever it is necessary to find the most useful job to do. Our grandsires crossed mountain, river, plain and desert to fulfill their manifest destiny to build a mighty nation. Their descendants will also conquer all obstacles to preserve that which they built.

Merely to get labor to the right place is not enough. The war industries demand keen eyes and experienced hands. At the beginning of our effort, the labor force was rusty from years of unemployment or underemployment. Its skills were of peacetime rather than a wartime variety. They needed sharpening up and adapting to new operations.

Training for war industry began in 1940 by using the existing vocational education organization rather than by creating any new machinery, but it had to be geared up tremendously.

The Nation's defense vocational training program has completed a year and a half of operation, in which period they have trained or are training nearly 3,000,000 enrollees. The enrollment has been on the steady increase since its inception. Now the training shops in many places operate 24 hours a day. Because of the close cooperation between the training programs and the employment office, there has been little waste effort. The Employment Service has been able to determine the types of training most needed and thus direct the effort of vocational classes.

Industry itself is training specialists on the job. The National Youth Administration work centers have been able to bring inexperienced youth in from remote places to secure preliminary work experience and provide a steady supply of new pupils. But all of the training facilities will have to be increased before we have enough skilled men.

Short of Doctors, Nurses

It takes many varieties of ability to wage modern war—welders, riveters, machinists and all types of skilled labor, managers, scientists, engineers. We are short of doctors, dentists and nurses. The medical profession and the colleges have concentrated on this problem. Courses have been arranged to run through the summer, thus reducing the graduating time to three calendar years instead of four. Nurse training and hospital facilities have been expanded to provide the necessary internship and every facility has been expanded. But for a long war the men and women for essential professional services are still short of the requirements.

We have organized a procurement and assignment service whose task will be to assure the proper distribution of trained professional personnel for both military and civilian needs to wage total war. The natural abilities of every American must be trained to the maximum so that all may make their fullest contribution to the common cause. Now is no time to hide talents under a bushel measure. As we approach the limit in numbers available, the efficiency of each worker becomes the chief hope of increased output.

There are still other considerations which intimately affect the Nation's productivity, chief among which is health and vigor. Few realize that 20 times as much time was lost last year because of sickness as was lost because of strikes.

Malaria must be banished from industrial concentrations, as well as from Army camps. Recently, malaria control work has increased the protection of 700,000 people in the vicinity of Army camps and industrial plants. The waste from venereal disease has been reduced through wide extension of clinical and laboratory facilities and a concentrated attack upon the community conditions which promote its spread.

Must Increase Hospitals

General hospital and clinical facilities have been greatly expanded in industrial centers and must be still further expanded.

Also, the needs of industrial hygiene have been considered in relation to training additional personnel, health supervision of workers, problems of industrial nursing. Expert personnel has been assigned to the State departments of industrial hygiene and to large industrial communities.

The health program has also been strengthened by special attention to physical rehabilitation of the handicapped and plans for rehabilitating the wounded; the procurement and storage of blood for serious operations, and the production of commodities essential to public health.

Direct contribution to health is made by proper food. It is becoming recognized that many people in the United States are not adequately fed, and we have discovered that in industrial plants men who receive a good diet have fewer colds, are absent less and are able to do a better day's work.

The national nutrition campaign is providing a framework which draws together the Federal agencies, State and local nutrition committees, private organizations and private volunteers. An intensive educational campaign is being organized to spread better nutritional practices with special attention to feeding industrial workers. What we are trying to do is to take nutrition out of the laboratory and put it in the dining room.

Recreation Given Attention

Also contributing to health and vigor are the measures for promoting suitable recreation. The special problems of defense industrial areas have received particular attention. Proper recreational outlets are especially significant for young persons who have left home for the first time to accept jobs in industry.

It will take a tough, strong America to win this war. Our opponents have idolized toughness for years. They cannot be defeated by weaklings. All of the measures for public health, nutrition and recreation will have to be tirelessly promoted to keep the neutral vigor and fire of the American people at a peak.

In brief, the civilian man power needs which I have outlined include stretching the number in the labor force as far as possible, discovering the right place for the service ofevery person, training so that their service will be of highest quality and promoting health and vigor so that the work will be done with the maximum efficiency. We must press unceasingly toward these goals as the number in war production continually expands. If we do that, the foe will feel the impact of the power of 130,000,000 united Americans—not just the blows of the military forces.

The working force needs to be not only hardened physically for war, but it also needs mental toughening. In the minds of all too many, sacrifice means somebody else's sacrifice. Too many people feel that the war can be won without inconvenience to them. Workingmen may be sure that their contribution is of equal importance with those of management and of the fighting forces and that the national safety demands that this contribution be made unselfishly and unsparingly. It is going to be a long hard war and we cannot afford to become so complacent with minor victories that weforget that the final goal is to crush the enemy absolutely.

We are in a close and desperate contest. The score is against us, but the game is young. Any worker who does not strain every nerve to carry out his assignment is disloyal to his fellows.

There is not a mother in America with a son in uniform whose prayers do not go out to you that the best weapons be speedily sent to him.

American workers, brace your backs and speed your hands so that the deadly guns of MacArthur may multiply, that the flashing planes of the Fighting Tigers may cloud the skies and the tough tanks of the Russian and Libyan may cover the earth. Your fellow Americans and your comrades in arms on key battlefields around the globe send out their earnest plea and reach forth their eager hands for these weapons. For them they mean death or victory; for you they mean slavery or liberty.