The United States Prepares
UNITED STATES: Available for immediate mobilization: 462,780Officers: 12,862; Regulars: 147,000; National Guards: 186,005; Reserves: 116,913; air strength: 1,900 planes. Defense budget for 1936: $1,002,872,143.
With a critical situation in Europe, where 55,000,000 well-trained and equipped soldiers are ready to spring to arms, and with tension in the Far East nearing the breaking point, experts of the United States Department of War adopted (1936) an extensive modification of the nation's 1933 mobilization plan. Designed to provide more effective control of industry, the plan permits the speedy conscription of industry, as well as of man power, for war service by means of the licensing system. The plans are presumably a military secret, but the Nye Munitions Investigation Committee brought out a considerable number of features of the mobilization plan.
A virtual dictatorship on the matters of the universal draft and press control is apparently provided.
A $500,000,000 government corporation, authorized to issue $3,000,000,000 in bonds, is provided to finance war purchases and extend loans to war industries.
On presidential proclamation of a "war emergency," all classes of persons engaged in control or management of any establishment are required to register and then, if their plants are deemed necessary for war purposes, will be drafted into governmental service.
The president will fix industrial and farm prices on the basis of pre-war parity. Federal officials are authorized to establish raw materials and sales quotas.
Executives receiving salaries of $10,000 per year may be drafted by the president to head war-time official agencies.
Complete regimentation and surrender of personal liberty may be necessary as a war measure, but the proceeding is fraught with grave danger. Liberties gained through seven centuries of struggle will not be easily regained if once surrendered, (See Page 9).
However, our past war record (Page 458) indicates that another conflict is about due. We have a population of 125,000,000 and an exposed and practically unfortified shore line of about 5,000 miles. We also have the problem of defense for the Panama Canal and many far flung possessions. The most vulnerable point is the Panama Canal.
Nelson Rounsevell, publisher of the Panama-American, has brought to the attention of the canal authorities and to the army and navy, a series of proofs that it is a simple matter for twenty men, willing to risk their lives for their country, to blast the Panama Canal to pieces in twelve hours, and block the channel for months. He demonstrated how these twenty men could destroy the locks, dams, power houses, and lay the entire Zone in waste. Following this theoretical demonstration, guards were placed at all strategic points, and the canal is now witnessing the greatest protective display in its history.
"As for the Japanese," the publisher stated, "it should be pointed out that 75 per cent of them in the Zone have no visible means of support. They run barber shops in which they never cut hair, shirt factories in which they never sell a shirt, and restaurants which never serve a meal. Their 'fishermen'and I have proof of thisgo out in small boats off the canal and 'fish' with steel lines that have no hooks. Instead, they have lead sinkers, and it is obvious they are taking soundings."
The Canal Zone is full of rumors. The army is on the alert, and suspicious-appearing boats are carefully combed by the authorities for hidden explosives before being permitted to pass through.
The weakness of our air defense was brought home to the American people when the army took over the air-mail service February 16, 1934. By July 1, when the commercial transports took back the service, the army had a record of 69 crack-ups, 12 officers had been killed, and one-half million dollars worth of planes had been destroyed. It developed that even though over a billion dollars of the taxpayers' money had gone into the air service since 1920, we had fighting planes without guns, or radio equipment, and that air corps pilots had never flown a radio beam nor a night beacon light course. The army pilots, though brave and courageous boys, were inexperienced in night flying, not familiar with all scientific instruments of air navigation, inexperienced in flying in bad weather, and the number of hours which they had spent in the air would have hardly qualified them to take the examination for a commercial pilot's license.
The United States Government, cognizant of its perilous lack of preparedness and protection, and aware of the increasing dangers, provided in 1935 for an increase of 46,250 men in the Regular Army, the enlargement of the air force, improved equipment, and for an air base at Hawaii, which establishes our first line of defense 2000 miles west of our Pacific coast. Plans for fortifying the Aleutian Islands of Alaska are in course of preparation.
If the air fiasco served no other purpose, it awakened an interest in America's defense facilities. In a democracy, it is all important that citizens be familiar with national problems. Capt. B. H. Liddell Hart, one of the most brilliant military critics in England, said this to his countrymen:
"Few Englishmen are now willing to hand over their religious or political conscience into the keeping of 'authority.' yet by their lack of interest in military questions they do in fact relinquish any check on a policy which affects the security of their lives and livelihoods to an even greater extent.
"For when war bursts upon the nation it is the ordinary citizens who pay the toll either with their lives or from their pockets. By taking an active interest in the broad aspects of national defense, and so regaining control of their military conscience, they might avoid paying the exorbitant and accumulated interest due to past indifference which brought them to the verge of bankruptcy in the last war."
What Capt. Hart says applies with equal force to America. The principal measure of remedy lies with our educational institutions, the function of which is to prepare leaders for our democracy, to meet intelligently the problems which we have so frequently faced in the past and almost certainly must face in the future.
In the past, strategy and tactics have been influenced by consideration of popular politics and the pressure of erroneous public sentiment. Unnecessary sacrifice of life and reverses on the field of battle have been the result. The function of education is not to make competent soldiers, but competent civilians who can and will think.
Any governmental activity which the citizen supports through his taxes should awaken his interest. Since the military requires nearly three-fourths of the tax income of the Federal Government, the "military consciousness," as Capt. Hart expresses it, should be awakened. The citizen should have the factsall of the facts on his government's military policy. To decide that the expenditures are too great or too small, without first having all of the facts, means that he is deciding without thinking.
With the country being flooded with propaganda by various and sundry pressure groups trying to mold public opinion for this, or against that, the citizen must be trained to evaluate properly the evidence and to separate the truth from the lies. This applies to all national problems as well as to the military. Unfortunately, the influence of the pressure groups is so great that some historians lack the courage to reveal all of the facts, or their publishers, interested primarily in sales, will not permit them to tell the truth.
Pressure groups prevent the adoption of certain text books which are not favorable to the prejudiced views of the groups. As a result, students in many American schools are being taught untruths about the World War. This prevents their making a sound interpretation of current events. Truth can not be kept forever concealed, so why not teach it and face it? Since the function of an educational institution in a democracy, and in a democracy only, is to teach students to think, educators are to be honored who have the courage to insist that all pressure groups, be they from the right or from the left, military or anti-military, shall observe the hands-off policy as far as the school is concerned.
Democracy is facing a crisis. The record of the World War indicates that a defeated nation is due for an experiment in a new type of government. The present wave of social unrest will not permit a defeated government to continue. The defeat of the United States in war, probably would mean the death of democracy.