4-589 Statement on Universal Military Training, November 16, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: November 16, 1944

Subject: World War II

Statement on Universal Military Training1

November 16, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]


Under plans now in preparation in the War Department, all able-bodied young men are to be trained in special training units.

They will not be legally subject to military service in time of peace, that is, they can only be employed in training exercises.

They will be trained in special units by carefully selected officers more than half of whom (probably 90 percent) will be reserve or citizen-officers who volunteer for a year of temporary active service in order to acquire further experience in the important duty of training and leading younger citizen soldiers.

After this training they will be enrolled as reservists for a few years, but during this reserve period they will not be subject to military service except in the event of a national emergency proclaimed by Congress and then only such members and under such conditions as the Congress may prescribe. This in effect, will be the status of every young able-bodied male citizen, but under a system of Universal Military Training practically all such men will have been so trained.

The outlines of our feature [future] military system under universal military training are given, as a basis for planning, in paragraph 3, War Department Circular Number 347, dated 25 August 1944. A reading of that document will reveal that it specifically repudiates and rejects the European conscript system.2 In fact, it proposes a modern adaptation of the democratic military system which President George Washington proposed to the First Congress, a proposal for the future security and welfare of this country before any of the European conscript systems were established or even thought of

The national army proposed in War Department Circular No. 347 would comprise a small regular army and a large citizen army reserve. The officer corps of this national army, as a whole, would comprise comparatively few professional officers and a relatively large number of citizen or reserve officers. Every young man who reveals the gift of leadership during the training period would be given an opportunity to qualify as a reserve officer or non-commissioned officer, and therefore would be eligible for promotion to any rank for which he could qualify under sound and equitable standards.

The military forces which, under the law of the land, would be available for actual field service would of necessity be composed entirely of volunteers, but volunteers who had received their basic training under the provisions of Universal Military Training.

Any person who alleges that there is anything militaristic, undemocratic, or un-American in the universal training system proposed in War Department Circular No. 347 is obviously ignorant of an important phase of American history.

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed draft.

1. This statement was drafted by John McA. Palmer and extensively rewritten by Marshall. It was inspired by Congressman James W. Wadsworth, a member of the House Select Committee on Post-war Military Policy, which was headed by Clifton A. Woodrum, Democrat of Virginia. On November 10, a delegation of labor leaders had visited Marshall to discuss universal military training. The union leaders also met with Stimson, Woodrum, Wadsworth, and Palmer. Palmer told Marshall: “Congressman Woodrum and Congressman Wadsworth informed the Secretary of War that they would prepare a simple statement of policy and principles as coming from civilian sources and not as coming from the War Department.” Palmer gave Wadsworth a copy of the statement printed here. “He was greatly pleased with it and said that he would put the same ideas in language of his own and submit it to Judge Woodrum as a basis for the statement proposed in the conference.” (Palmer Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, U. S. Army, November 22, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) For further developments, see Marshall Memorandum for General Tompkins, November 26, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-594 [4: 677].

2. The War Department statement on the postwar military establishment observed that there were “two types of military organization through which the manpower of a nation may be developed”: the standing army type (based upon conscription) and the citizen army reserve type (based upon universal military training). The former, used by Germany and Japan, produced “highly efficient armies,” but it limited the “common citizen” to the enlisted ranks in war and left leadership and policy making to “a special class or caste of professional soldiers. . . Under such a system only the brawn of a people is prepared for war, there being no adequate provision for developing the latent military leadership and genius of the people as a whole. It therefore has no place among the institutions of a modern democratic state based upon the conception of government by the people.” (War Department Circular No. 347, August 25, 1944, pp. 4-5.)

Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 671-673.

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