WHY DO MEN REALLY GO TO WAR
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It is normal for old soldiers to revel in the honour of having ‘fought for our freedom’ but their loss of freedom continues after the wars they fight. An irony of war is that the priority for most military recruits is to escape the injustices of their own regimes rather than any desire to engage with their country’s enemy. Look around you and prove me wrong!
Reality is that conscripts were press-ganged by government into the armed forces against their will. Most young men, many of them teenagers and fresh from school, fearfully awaited their unwanted conscription papers. They perceived them as akin to a prison sentence for a crime they did not commit. The envelope scared the shit out of them and caused them sleepless nights. If there was genuine enthusiasm for war then conscription and mobilisation would be neither necessary nor desirable.
Of the 16 million American servicemen drafted into military service during World War II less than 1 / 30 (600,000) actually volunteered. Much the same can be said of all the other regimes that engaged National Socialist Germany in war (1939 – 1945).
The majority of those who did volunteer jumped before they were pushed. They were smart enough to know that by volunteering they would be better rewarded than those who wait for the envelope to land on the hallway doormat. A volunteer had some choice as to what service branch he served in; conscripts had little or no choice.
At the onset of America’s entry into World War II, conscripts discovered that bed-wetting earned them an honourable discharge. An unfortunate choice of words but that is how it was. After this ruse was discovered the incidence of bed-wetting shot up by 1,200 per cent in one Texas training camp alone. It was only stopped when the War Department issued a circular removing it as a ‘psycho-neurotic discharge.’
The U.S. economy suffered more hours lost through desertion than it did through civilian strikes. During the American Depression, and leading up to the draft (conscription) the number of unemployed in the United States reached 11 million.
With no social security available each unemployed man was desperate for any work. Hardly surprisingly, the prospect of three hearty meals a day, a clean bunk with shower facilities, new clothes and shoes with no rent to pay, career opportunities, sport, travel, free laundry and in the pocket $21 a month (a lot of money then) held irresistible appeal. It gets better as there would be no fighting to do. US President F D Roosevelt had pledged to the electorate, “We shall not send your sons abroad.”
Similar social deprivation existed in the Soviet Union and in Britain. Millions of bread-winners were unemployed and found they were unable to feed their families.
There was no such thing as social security or benefits as we know them today. There was the means test which meant that you would have to sell your furniture, even a bedside table or chest of drawers before the state would offer a meagre token of assistance.
Men in such distressing circumstances were entirely dependent upon family support. Young men would turn their hand to whatever task they could, others begged on the streets. Alternatively, they would be obliged to ask for state assistance. Such was the soul-destroying humiliation of wending one’s way through the vetting procedure that few took that course for the few shillings it might provide if successful.
For these unfortunates military conscription offered relief from grinding poverty, daily humiliations, unemployment, loss of opportunity. Freedom for such men was just another empty expression denied to them not by Adolf Hitler who never threatened or coveted what little they had but denied to them by their own war-profiteering regimes.
MICHAEL WALSH is a British born Irish journalist, author, and broadcaster. His 52 books include best-selling REICH AND WRONG, WITNESS TO HISTORY, THE RED BRIGANDS, RANSACKING THE REICH, FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT SPEAK and THE ALL LIES INVASION.
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