The Pittsburgh Press (August 8, 1941)
FISH CALLED DRAFT EXTENSION PLAN A 'CONSPIRACY FOR WAR’
Senate approved measure under fire of isolationist leader as debate begins in House
Washington, Aug. 8 (UP) –
House anti-interventionist leader Hamilton Fish (R-NY) charged today that the administration’s military service extension resolution was “part and parcel of a gigantic conspiracy” to involve America in European, Asiatic and African wars without the consent of Congress or the people.
Mr. Fish’s attack on the resolution opened six hours of general debate on the measure, which the Senate approved late yesterday by a vote of 45–30.
Administration leaders conceded that it was in greater danger of defeat in the House than any administration defense measure since the outbreak of the European War.
House on fence
A Democratic whip committee poll indicated at the start of debate that the House was wavering between support and opposition to the measure.
House leaders planned to conclude general debate today and recess until Monday when amendments will be considered. Thus a vote would not be possible before Monday afternoon at the earliest.
Mr. Fish insisted that the United States needs no larger armed forces unless:
…it is the policy of the administration to go out looking for wars all over the world.
He noted that the Army now has 1.5 million men.
’War policies of Stimson’
This tremendous armed force is all we need for defense.
…adding that the nation would need an army three or four times as large to serve as expeditionary forces:
…to support the interventionist and war policies of Secretary Henry L. Stimson.
Mr. Fish charged that the legislation would enable Secretary Stimson to:
…raise an army of five million soldiers or more, not for defense but for foreign wars.
We are incomparably stronger than a year ago. Our Army, Navy and Air Forces are much bigger and better equipped than a year ago. England now claims control of both the seas and the skies, and every day is getting stronger.
’No position to attack’
Germany has squandered the flower of her army and equipment on the vast steppes of Russia and is in no position to attack England this year and naturally not North or South America.
Mr. Fish said he would offer amendments to permit release of all married soldiers, Guardsmen and selectees, and to provide for a maximum army of two million men, and for release of selectees after 12 months of service except that the War Department could limit releases to 45,000 a month.
Rep. E. E. Cox (D-GA), supporting the measure, declared retention of the troops is necessary for security of a nation:
…daily going deeper and deeper into a war.
Mr. Cox said:
It is necessary to our imperiled security and defense.
’Discharge would be silly’
To discharge our trained troops now would be silly at a moment when we stand face-to-face with the enemy.
House Democratic Leader John W. McCormack (D-MA) recalled that the bill was inspired by the recommendations of General George C. Marshall, Army Chief of Staff. He drew a parallel between Congressional hesitancy to approve it and the refusal of the Continental Congress to send food, supplies and men that George Washington requested at Valley Forge.
Mr. McCormack said:
There were members of the Continental Congress who thought they could run the Revolutionary War better than General Washington.
Rep. Charles Halleck (R-IN) charged that Congress was being “kept in the dark” as to the administration’s foreign policy.
Should know facts – if any
Mr. Halleck said:
If we have to carry the responsibility for the extension of the draftees’ service, why aren’t we entitled to know the facts in the case, if there are any facts. Is it because this is a move toward another AEF to Europe?
The measure extends the service of selectees, National Guardsmen and reservists by 18 months, making 30 months in all.
The Senate adopted an amendment which raises the pay of all Army men $10 a month after they have completed 12 months of service.
For selectees and National Guardsmen, this would be an automatic pay raise of $10 a month after they complete their present one-year terms of service.
For Regular Army troops, it would be a raise at the beginning of their second year of enlistment. Officials estimated that the provision would cost $171,780,000 additional annually.
Basic Army pay now is $21 a month for the first three months and $30 thereafter.
Senate passage has been conceded and some leaders believed it would have approved even the original proposal of Gen. George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff, that selectees, Guardsmen and reservists be retained for the duration of the emergency.
Leaders made an informal poll recently which showed that the proposal did not have sufficient strength at that time to pass the House. Since then, the original proposal has been given a time limit and the Democratic steering committee has been striving to line up votes.
Full vote seldom obtained
If virtually the entire membership vote, the leadership could expect the measure to pass, 225–205. Seldom are there 400 votes on a roll call.
The Senate resolution declares that the national interest is imperiled. It would authorize the Secretary of War to dismiss men whose family or business obligations require their presence at home and to discharge men who have become 28 years old.
He would be authorized to retain enlisted men, who now serve three years, 18 months behind their enlistments. Selectees, Guardsmen and reservists who were inducted for one year would be retained for the same time.
Would remove 900,000 limit
The present limitation of 900,000 upon the number of selectees who may be in service at one time would be removed.
Senator Carl Hatch (D-NM) announced that he would introduce a proposal shortly providing for continuance at government expense of social security payments which would have been made had the men remained civilians.
House Republicans planned to direct their attack upon the retention of selectees, indicating that they were agreeable to keeping the Guardsmen and reservists in the Army.
Marshall statement cited
They contended that General Marshall had advised the Military Affairs Committee that the Army now has authority to retain selectees if it desired but wanted Congress to record its approval.
Republicans said the Selective Service Act makes selectees members of the Army Reserve for 10 years, and the President is authorized to mobilize the reserves for a year. Consequently, they said, the selectees could be dismissed, then remobilized.