5-163 Testimony on Universal Military Training, June 16, 1945

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: June 16, 1945

Subject: World War II

Testimony on Universal Military Training1

June 16, 1945 Washington, D.C.

The problem of the maintenance of the future peace of the world directly involves the problem of the post-war military policy of the United States. The decision regarding the military policy of the United States is directly related to the democratic processes of the Government, really meaning the reactions of the people to the services the individual citizen might be required to render the Government. Another factor is heavily though indirectly involved and that is consideration of the taxes to be imposed on the citizen for the maintenance of the military policy, to which must be added the very positive reaction of the citizen regarding the taxes to which he must submit to meet the huge existing war debt. Any fixed legal demand on the citizen for services to the community, the state, or the federal Government, is quite naturally questioned by the majority and is usually bitterly opposed by at least an articulate minority.

The question of universal military training involves all of the foregoing factors, and the great difficulty as I see it, in reaching a correct decision, will be to avoid details and to get clearly focused in our minds what are the real necessities of the situation, and what will be the best method for meeting them, having in mind our traditions, our national characteristics and the military experience of this Government during its short life of 156 years among the nations of the world.

I think it would be best for me to state in the briefest possible form my own personal conclusions in the matter, which are as follows:

A decision regarding the general military policy of the Government is a matter of urgent necessity at this time.

A large standing Army is not an acceptable solution for three reasons: Its cost would be prohibitive; the necessary men to fill its ranks could not be hired in time of peace; and it would be repugnant to the American people. Therefore some other solution must be found.

To support our determination to maintain the peace, the world must recognize our military power as realistic and not as a remote potential.

Whatever military system we plan we must have a thorough understanding of the practicability of obtaining the annual appropriations necessary.

I know of no system other than universal military training that will meet the requirements I have just outlined, together with an effective program for industrial mobilization and continuous scientific research.

Until the settlement of the terms of the peace it will be impossible to determine the strength of the post-war military forces to be maintained on an active status. We shall not know until then just what our military obligations or requirements are to be. But it is clear to me that whatever the terms of peace, the fundamental basis of our defense must be universal military training. No other practical solution has been offered.

The acceptance at the present time of a general policy recognizing the necessity for universal military training would in my opinion have a far-reaching effect in obtaining a satisfactory international agreement for the terms of the peace. It would certainly be in keeping with the tragic lessons of our history. It would be a supremely democratic procedure, and would not involve the individual in military service except by further Act of Congress and approval of the President. It would be far more economical than any other method for maintaining military power. If we are to have an effective and economical transition from our vast war establishment to our peace establishment, we must now decide on the fundamental basis on which we are to proceed.

While I have not been able to read the testimony that has been given before this Committee and have obtained my information largely from the press and by hearsay, it appears to me that those who object to compulsory military training have offered no practical solution for obtaining what is in all our minds today, and that is some guarantee for the future peace of the world.

Whether or not Army training methods would have an unfortunate influence on the individual can be determined I think from the experience of this war. I assert that we have produced a democratic Army, one composed of self-respecting soldiers whose spirit has not been crushed and who have shown splendid evidences of high morale. I submit that the Army has demonstrated that it can efficiently and expeditiously instruct men and that it does this without detriment to the mind and character of the individual, rather the contrary. I firmly believe that universal training would be a stimulant to education rather than a deterrent. It would be a perfect demonstration of democracy, with rich and poor alike, side by side, rendering a common service.2


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. The House Select Committee on Postwar Military Policy—called the Woodrum Committee, after its chairman, Democrat Clifton A. Woodrum of the Sixth District of Virginia—had been holding hearings on Universal Military Training since June 4. Marshall appeared about 2:45 P.M., following Admiral King.

2. Mr. Woodrum asked Marshall to give his reaction to those who said that even the discussion of military preparedness would indicate the United States’s lack of faith in the United Nations organization. His own reaction, Marshall stated, was the opposite. “In many conversations I have had with officials, leading officials of other countries, I find always the fear that we will withdraw into our shell and at the same time endeavor, as they put it, to inflict on the world an idealistic policy without, on our own part, showing any basis for maintaining or backing up such policy of idealism.” (U.S., Congress, House of Representatives, Universal Military Training: Hearings . . . Pursuant to H. Res. 465, pt. 1 [Washington: GPO, 1945], p. 569.)

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. 5, “The Finest Soldier,” January 1, 1945-January 7, 1947 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), pp. 229-231.


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