Mobilization of Manpower


By JAMES W. WADSWORTH, Jr., Member of Congress from the State of New York, Washington, D. C.

Delivered before War Council of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, 31st Annual Meeting Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York City, April 27, 1943

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. IX, pp. 508-510.

I AM not sure that there are any gentlemen on this platform who will agree with the things I am going to say. I have been in such a position before and upon a good many occasions have been taught a lesson thereby, but one thing I do want to say at the outset is this, that if I appear to lack complete confidence in the voluntary method of mobilizing the manpower of the United States—when I say manpower I also include womanpower—it is not due to any lack of respect for Mr. McNutt. He knows that I respect him. He and I have talked this thing over upon more than one occasion. I think I can say that we are striving for the same objective, and I do know that he is doing his level best. I take off my hat to him for the efforts mat he is making, his own efforts and the efforts of those who are working with him.

I can't escape the conclusion, however, that hard as the War Manpower Commission may work and strive, it cannot accomplish the final objective. The final objective is the mobilization of the manpower of the United States. We have proceeded a certain distance along toward mobilization. To a very large degree we have mobilized industry. The Congress of the United States has placed it within the power of the Federal Government by statutes duly enacted to take over any industrial plant in America and operate it in the war effort. The Government, in accordance with laws passed by the Congress, may step up to any employer of owner of a plant and say, "You must proceed to make a certain type of supply." That owner must do it lest the Government take over the management and operation of the plant.

By laws enacted by the Congress, every contract made by an employer who is furnishing supplies to the Government may be and is renegotiated, with the Government the complete master of the final decision.

In accordance with an act of the Congress, the wages and salaries of every person employed in a plant from top tobottom may be and are fixed by executive order based upon law. Our tax laws, also enacted by the Congress, are devised, and I think correctly, to reduce profits to a minimum. The excess profits taxes on corporate incomes run as high as 90 per cent and correspondingly high on individual incomes. In other words, by the laws of the land, industry has been mobilized. We have not yet, however, by the process of any law whatsoever mobilized manpower.

Mr. McNutt appeals in behalf of the voluntary system. I think he would not deny, however, that in some of the steps taken in the last two or three months in the direction of mobilizing manpower, that the element of compulsion is present. I refer, for example, to the Work or Fight Order, directed to men between 18 and 38 years of age, registered in the draft, with the clear intimation that if those men did not immediately or by April 1st—and they are given leeway until May 1st—find jobs in essential industry, they may be reclassified under the draft and put into the Army or the Navy. That is the threat. There is your element of compulsion. I think I can say to you that when the Congress passed the Selective Service Law it never expected or intended that that law should be used as a club to drive a citizen from one place to another.

And the recent order, well intended—I am not criticizing the intention of these steps—to the effect that no man may leave his job in an essential industry to take another job at a higher pay lest he be subjected to fine or imprisonment or both, cannot be found in any statute of the United States. It rests presumably upon the Stabilization Act of October, 1942, but in that act the Congress authorized the Government to freeze prices of commodities, salaries and wages, not men—they are not mentioned.

So I think it well to dispel the idea that we are proceeding solely in the voluntary spirit. I can mention some other orders because the element of compulsion, the implied threat, the indirect pressure, is back of nearly all of them.

We are the only great nation engaged in this war that is not completely mobilized, mobilized as to industry and manpower. Great Britain is completely mobilized, so is Australia, so is New Zealand, and, heaven knows, they are liberty-loving countries just as we are. Russia is completely mobilized. Every man and woman in Canada above the age of 16 is registered, and of course it goes without saying that our enemies are also completely mobilized. We alone stand halfway along this road.

I realize perfectly well that it is an exceedingly difficult problem. I don't pretend to know the answers to all the intricacies involved in it or encountered in it. You have heard, of course, of the great pool of workers engaged in non-essential industries, men and women, upon which we must draw if we are to meet the demands of 1943-1944.

The trouble is, my friends, that thousands and thousands of men and women anxious to work, anxious to help their country, don't know where to go or how to get there, and if they do find their way to the place, they don't know where they are going to live. There is no law on the subject whatsoever. The War Manpower Commission cannot today, for example, pay the traveling expenses of a person who moves from one community to another to take a war job. The War Manpower Commission has no power under the law today to see to it that proper housing awaits that person. The War Manpower Commission has no power, direct or implied, in the existing statutes, to assure that person that when the emergency is over he may return to his former employment and recover it. Not a word in any law we have! And unless my investigations are completely wrong, I find that the great deterrent standing in the way today of the recruiting of war workers from nonessential industries is that atmosphere of complete uncertainty. They don't know.

More than that, many of them will tell you, as they have told me, "Yes, I am willing to go, leaving my nonessential job, into an essential job, if everybody else like me is treated the same way." There is no equality of obligation suggested by law to the people of the United States, none whatsoever.

It is a little disturbing to look ahead and measure this thing, if we can do so. It was not a pleasant thing to have Admiral Land come before the Military Affairs Committee of the House the other day and state that in the first quarter of the year 1943 he was short 70,000 men in the shipyards and couldn't get them. He will need another 150,000 before the year 1943 is over. "Yes," he admitted, "we broke all shipbuilding records in 1942, have never known anything like it, 8,200,000 tons of ships, but the program for 1943 is almost 19,000,000 tons of ships," and his great danger is that he can't find the men to do it, and there is no adequate machinery to produce them in orderly fashion.

The thing I have pleaded for from the beginning of this discussion is the orderly distribution of workers, systematic, and we can use to a very large degree the volunteer spirit.

Let me say a word about this bill. In its first section it sets forth a fundamental principle, to the effect that every civilian adult in the United States otherwise competent and with certain liberal exemptions owes it as a duty to serve in a civilian capacity where he or she is most needed in support of the armed forces and the winning of the war.

That declaration of principle runs exactly parallel to the declaration of principle contained in the draft law which says, in effect, that every man of military age otherwise competent and not needed in a more important undertaking owes it as a duty to serve in the armed forces of the United States.

There is no difference whatsoever, my friends, between those two declarations of principle, and both are democratic, absolutely in accord with the democratic spirit.

I remember very well the testimony of Undersecretary of War Patterson before both the Senate and the House Committee on Military Affairs. He is very, very much disturbed about this thing, and, by inference, I imagine General Somervell indicated concern about it this morning.

Many steps have been taken in an endeavor to cure the situation. I call to mind the condition in the copper mines. Copper is a very critical material, as you all know. We are falling down in the production of copper. There isn't any doubt about it. It is conceded we need more of it. Is it because we haven't enough copper in the ground? No, it is because we haven't got enough men mining the copper, and in a desperate endeavor to get miners for copper mines, the Government, through the exercise of some mysterious power—where it comes from I do not know—ordered the closing down of all gold mines in the belief that gold miners would go to the copper mines. It just didn't happen, and we are still short of copper.

There is another side of this problem with which I come into very intimate contact, and that is the shortage of labor on the farms. The figures show that 60 per cent of all the men drained away from the land have gone to industry and 40 per cent to the armed forces. It is a curious thing that a country like the United States should be threatened as we hear with a food shortage; that is rather dismaying, disconcerting, to say the least. By comparison, you look across the ocean to England where complete mobilization of manpower has been achieved for three years, and we find that the British have so succeeded in the orderly distribution of workers in industry, in the services, and on the land, that England has increased her food production in the last three years by 50 per cent, and ours is threatening to go down by comparison.

That indicates what can be done through orderly distribution. I know it is somewhat shocking to many people to hear the suggestion that we must employ the powers of Government in order to achieve mobilization, but, my friends, we are in for a grim, grim war. If you look at the maps in the geographies, you will agree with me, I am sure, that thus far our armed forces are merely standing on the outer rim of the great battlefields into which they must plunge themselves in the next year or two or three, the outer rim in the Pacific, the outer rim in North Africa. Yes, as Mr. McNutt says, it is going to get tougher, a lot tougher, and we had better get tough.

I know that some of you don't agree with me. I know that the National Association of Manufacturers doesn't agree with me, judging from one of their statements. I know that many splendid leaders of Organized Labor do not agree and insist that such a proposal as is contained in Senator Austin's bill and mine amounts to involuntary servitude. Yes, I know people don't agree, but we are fighting to save ourselves from involuntary servitude. If we lose, we shall have it. We ought to employ everything we can muster to save our freedom, yes, suspend many of our rights, many of our privileges, even suspend some of our traditions, if you please, while this great war is on, but in suspending them, be conscious of the fact that when we have won it we recover them all and can live in safety and our children and our grandchildren can live in safety. It isn't involuntary servitude that we propose, nothing like it.

Is there any difference between tapping a young man on the shoulder and telling him, "Put on a uniform and go to New Guinea or North Africa and perhaps die" and tappinganother civilian on the shoulder and saying, "You are needed in that factory; you will be well paid while you are there but you are needed there to help that man in North Africa"? Surely we cannot distinguish between those two things.

As I view the scene at Washington, more and more am I led to the conclusion that Washington does not have a proper conception of the willingness of the American people to sacrifice. Washington is too hesitant. Washington waits until the time is ripe. The other fellow isn't waiting. He will hit us just as hard as he can whenever he can. He doesn't wait.

If you found yourself in a 24-foot ring, mashed against a great big brute bulging with muscles and a veteran fighter, you would hit him as soon as you could and as hard as you could. You wouldn't wait until the grandstands were filled with your cheering adherents—that may be unconventional politically—you would hit him just as hard as you could and as often as you could.

Our military forces are doing a splendid job. All their operations have been planned in accordance with law. The National Defense Act prescribes that the War Department General Staff shall plan, and they planned, for example, the expedition to North Africa. Our trouble in Washington is we haven't planned. There is too much of confusion. We haven't reached the point where we have ourselves here at home adopted the attitude of mind of the veteran. I may express it this way, in the words of a former Commander of The American Legion, who said before the House Military Affairs Committee the other day, "Some of the good people who say, 'Oh, no, it isn't time yet, let's wait and see,' the trouble is they are flinching." He said, "We are all apt to flinch too much, just like a raw recruit on a rifle range, who, when first called upon to shoot his rifle, flinches his eyes."

We have got to get over flinching, my friends, and shoot straight—shoot straight!