Our Manpower Problem


By BRIG. GEN. ALBERT L. COX, Commanding General, District of Columbia National Guard

Delivered before the Adjutants General Association, Columbus, Ohio, June 22, 1943

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. IX, pp. 636-638.

MY fellow Americans: In October last speaking to the members of the New York Board of Trade, I said that the most critical problem confronting our world today is the best use of the manpower of the United States. That statement is even more true today. This is our war. It is a war for survival. Our liberties, out homes and our lives are at stake. We will win but only at the cost of blood and sacrifice. In thinking of victory, it is only in such terms that we can think. How best to use our manpower so as to save our men in the combat zones must be in the minds of all of us. Unless we so use it, victory may evade our grasp for in the world today nothing is so cheap as human life.

To accomplish the end we seek, three things are necessary. First, a willingness to make any sacrifice. Our people have shown that there can be no just criticism of the spirit in which they entered and in which they are carrying on this war.

Second, as great a number of trained soldiers and sailors as may be necessary to accomplish our mission. This objective we have every reason to believe can and will be reached.

And third, of equal, and perhaps of greater, importance—is the matter of supply. And when I say supply, I mean not only munitions of warfare but the actual necessities of life.

It is to the third objective that I shall address myself for the reason that we are not only confronted with the problem of supplying our own people but, as well, the peoples of our Allies.

Shortages of supplies of every sort are now being felt, rationing is upon us, and these shortages are increasing from month to month. We must so plan that no breakdown comes from within. How heinous it would be to train and to send overseas great armies of men which we could not supply. How disastrous it would be to so handle our own affairs as to be unable to continue to supply the armies andthe peoples of the other nations who are fighting side by side with us.

From China and from Russia daily come the cries of those harassed people, asking, begging, beseeching, and even demanding that we furnish them with the equipment for their armies, which we have promised. There is no lack of manpower in China. There is no lack of manpower in Russia. We must take full advantage of the men our Allies are providing for the fighting fronts, and provide them with the tools to make them truly formidable.

At present we have about 6 million men in our army. Of these about 1,600,000 have been transported to the battle fronts of the world. By next January first we will have 8,200,000 men in our army. It is far from assured that the announced goal of 2,700,000 men overseas will be reached by that time. This means that in this country in the army today there are about 4,400,000 men. This means that by January first next there will be in the army in this country between five and a half and six million men. We have soldiers in this country who have been in training for two and a half years. There is grave danger that in such long training periods troops will grow stale and homesick, and become overtrained. The training of soldiers is like the training of a football player or a boxer. A soldier can go stale with too much training just as a football player or boxer goes stale with too much training.

Our supply line to western Europe is 3,000 miles each way; to Australia, 7,500 miles from San Francisco; to Egypt, 14,000 miles from New York by Cape of Good Hope; to India, 12,000 miles via the same route; and to Murmansk, 5,400 miles from New York. We may assume, then, that men, equipment and supplies will have to be transported an average distance of at least 4,500 miles. The amount of tonnage required is out of proportion to what we now have. In considering such sea lanes, the probability of loss must not be overlooked. Admiral Land has said, "We can't lick the submarine menace, though we may be able to ameliorate it."

A survey of the factories and farms shows an alarming shortage of labor today. At the rate men are being called to serve in the armed forces, the shortage in the near future will reach a critical stage. History records that the greatest incentive to national disunity is hunger. The issues of the daily press are filled with cries of "give us food." The threatened mine strike involving more than a half million miners is said by investigators to be based upon the failure of those working in mines to obtain the food necessary to carry on.

The Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Honorable John W. McCormack, has properly said: "No reasonable American would question the judgment of General Marshall when he says that we need so many planes and so many tanks to win the war. And neither would any American question the judgment of Admiral King that we need so many escort ships and destroyers to beat the Axis. And this being the case, why should anyone question their judgment as to the number of men that they need to use these weapons and to man these ships?

I don't question the military authorities when they state that so many men are needed in our armed forces. I only question the manner in which the men are to be trained. I do say that we have reached the point where we cannot safely take more skilled workmen from our factories and more farm labor from our farms. We cannot be prodigal with human skill and with human energy when we face intelligent and resourceful foes.

We can accomplish the desire of the military authoritiesand at the same time conserve our farm and factory labor by inducting the men necessary for the armed forces, but by training these men at their home stations in such fashion that their services in the factories and on the farms will not be lost. Instead of concentrating our future selectees in large training areas and sending them hundreds, even thousands, of miles from home for their preliminary training, such training, intelligently planned and covering the development of a soldier up to field training and the hardening process, can be done efficiently while the soldier continues to live and to work at home. Under such a program, further loss of production from farms and factories alike would be stopped. The men involved would continue their civilian pursuits while receiving training in military fundamentals. Much the same plan can be employed as has for so many years been used in the training of civilian components of both the army and the navy which components now" and always have made a splendid record for themselves. As the troops in camp reached the point of being moved overseas, the smaller training cadres at home stations could be sent to camps for the intensive training necessary before actual combat. While the home training was being absorbed other employees could be trained to take the place of the skilled workmen in the factories soon to be sent to combat.

The chiefs of our military and naval establishments are sagacious officers. They know months in advance how many men can be transported to the battle fronts and how these men and those now there are to be supplied. By no means would I suggest the size of our armed forces be reduced, but at the same time I do urge that they do not continue to build great concentrations of immobilized men.

As now constituted, the induction of a man into our armed forces immediately transforms him from a producer to one who is wholly a consumer. This can be avoided. Why should it not be tried?

This is not a revolutionary plan but instead a method of training which has proved over many years to be efficacious and worthwhile. It is a plan upon which many, many millions were spent before World War I and upon which since World War I many, many more millions have been spent.

It will take no more uniforms, no more rifles, no more tanks, and no more of the other munitions of warfare to equip a thousand men at an industrial center such as Milwaukee, or a hundred men in a farm neighborhood than it will to equip the same number of men in a large training camp a thousand miles away. Cadres of instructors can be secured for this fundamental training of the soldier and of the sailor from veterans of World War I now anxious to have a part in World War II. And too, those officers and men who, by reason of wounds received in active combat in World War II, are no longer fit for combat duty would prove of immense value as such instructors, and in addition thereto their influence to the upbuilding of morale would be of inestimable value.

None of these inductees of whom I speak wants to evade any duty that may be his. They will take the greatest pride in wearing their country's uniform at such times as their training program is scheduled, and when back at the lathe, at the plow, or around the fireside, each will take pride in saying, "I am a soldier," or "I am a sailor of Uncle Sam."

Then again, we hear much of the lowering of moral standards by reason of the enforced absence of the men of our country at large camps far from home. When a soldier is busy, he is never of any trouble or concern to his officers. It is the idle time that brings on serious problems. If these inductees remain at their employment by receiving preliminary training until field training and other intensive measures become necessary, reports now heard on every hand of the letting down of our social standards would be greatly diminished.

In the short time at my disposal, I do not attempt to go into detail but merely to express what seems to me and to the many to whom I have spoken to be a real solution of a problem that is now critical.

As President Harvey Davis of Stevens Institute put it, "this is a highly mobilized war, and we are in far moredanger of losing it in the factories and shipyards at home than in any of the combat areas."

In the final analysis, this proposal means millions of dollars in the pockets of the men; more taxes for the government; more tanks and more planes earlier produced; justas many men in the armed forces and vast savings by wayof food, pay and allowances for men who otherwise wouldsimply train, consume and wait. We have no time to waste; we have no men to waste ifwe are to eat and if we are to win this war.