Civic Group Plans Jobs after War
Page ten of the Feb. 27, 1944, Dallas Morning News ran this article titled “Civic Group Plans Jobs After War.” “(First of a series of three articles to appear daily.)”
BY ROBERT M. HAYES, East Texas Bureau of The News.”
Quoted in full below:
“SHREVEPORT, La., Feb. 26.—
Some time this spring Pvt. Joe Doakes of Louisiana, now stationed in the battle zone, will receive a message from home that will pack more punch than a pinup girl and send his morale spiraling upward.
Signed by a group of big-shot business leaders, the letter will read something like this:
‘Dear Joe: If you’ve been worrying about your prospects of getting a job after the war, just forget about it. We’ve been checking on the situation here at home and we’ve lined up a job that pays a good salary and will be open for when you return. Just keep in touch—‘”
The article continues,
“Not only Joe but some 12,000 of his buddies will receive the same cheering assurance that support from the home front is not lagging. Military leaders say there could be no greater morale builder.
The promise of a job is no empty gesture. Louisiana civic groups have spent more than two years working out details of a postwar readjustment program. Their suggestions for solving the problems of peace are based on cold statistics and not theories.”
“Worker Needs Investigated.
“How do Louisianans know that a place on the pay roll will be reserved for Joe? Because they have gone to the employers themselves to determine how many jobs will be available. They have checked the buyers’ market to find out whether the postwar consumer demand will justify the payroll. They are determining, within reasonable limits, how many wartime transients will remain in Louisiana and how many will move on; how many radios, refrigerators, automobiles and washing machines will be needed when restrictions are lifted; how many discharged soldiers will return to the farms and how many newcomers may be expected in the industrial field.
“Louisiana’s postwar program, which is serving as a pattern for scores of cities and communities throughout the Southwest, is one of the best organized in the nation. It began to take shape within thirty days after Pearl Harbor and represents the combined efforts of the best brains in the state.
“The program is under the supervision of the postwar readjustment council of the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce. The chairman is L. A. Maihles, publisher of the Shreveport Times. The selection utilizes the rich experience of leaders who have served their community during the black days of the depression as well as the lush era of wartime prosperity. Ed Burris, manager of the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce and a native Texan, is council secretary.”
“Public Supports Campaign.
“After the newly appointed council had completed the framework of its organization, a vigorous campaign was launched to enlist the full support of the public. Residents of the Shreveport area not only were asked to give their time but to lend a voice in the arrangement of program details.
“The first move was to call a general meeting of interested citizens to discuss the over-all program. Then followed a series of ten conferences to discuss its various phases. And finally, there was a roundup meeting to gather up any loose ends.
“At first there was a tendency to regard the program as premature. Some questioned the wisdom of undertaking any project that might divert attention from the war effort.
“The Shreveport Chamber of Commerce dispelled these doubts, however, with an advertising broadside that was given wide circulation.
“’Plan today ere we fail tomorrow,’ was the caption of a folder announcing the series of conferences.
“’Our first responsibility is to win the war,’ it explained. ‘We must do our utmost at all times in that direction, but in the process of fighting the war we must lay our plans to minimize the shock of sudden peace.’
“Job Survey Undertaken.
“’The war probably will end very abruptly. To wait until then to plan the solution of postwar problems would be folly. By analyzing now the probable conditions that will follow the war and endeavoring to anticipate the problems which will then exist and plan their solution will aid materially in expediting the proper course of action.’
“After the course had been charted, the program became largely a matter of legwork. Surveys were undertaken with the co-operation of the OCD, the Louisiana State University and the State Department of Labor.
“The survey of prospective jobs for returning servicemen was started last week. A mailing list of Louisiana soldiers is being compiled. Louisiana leaders have spent two years of preparation to tell their fighting men not to worry about finding postwar employment. They are ready to back up their pledges.” [boldface emphasis added]
How times have changed. If our U.S. Chamber of Commerce today did this–rather than trying to reduce ‘government’ record-keeping and planning, opposing every move toward accountability and practicality for business, and destroying citizens’ confidence in both business and government–we would have a stronger country.
Not to over-idealize the past, but the program intelligently reported by Mr. Hayes here in 1944 uses the tactics we sorely need to use today:
- it looks ahead to the end of combat, anticipating problems and setting a positive goal;
- the goal itself is genuinely necessary and beneficial;
- the aim is to put combat veterans to work in jobs that contribute to the economy and the nation, and that pay well enough for the workers to survive and thrive;
- it calls for citizen input;
- it involves the federal government, the state government, and the nearest sizable university;
- it involves business people—management—in an effort to hire Americans rather than to lay them off (for the stock boost) or to export their jobs to other countries or to break unions or to offshore financial assets in island tax havens; and
- it involves an intelligent effort accurately to project the demand for goods and services as well as the need for jobs. They knew, back then, that the two went together.
In fact, reading between the lines it seems to be a given with these people that hiring U.S. servicemen and women was a good thing, not something to be avoided by every machination possible. They remember the Great Depression.
How much of this is our U.S. Chamber of Commerce now doing, in other than token numbers, while it spends upwards of $50 million to defeat the president? Are business leaders like the Koch brothers doing this? Is the GOP in Congress—led by Rep. John Boehner, Sen. Mitch McConnell (outside his own state), and Rep. Eric Cantor—calling for any of this?
Are our highest-paid opinion makers—the group of corporate shills spearheaded by the likes of George F. Will, Charles Krauthammer, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh—today calling for full employment of returning combat veterans, finding out where the jobs are, and helping businesses be ready to hire in anticipation of a growing need?
This network is much more invested in supporting stories that the president of the United States is the Manchurian candidate, or pushing the line that war is a permanent state, or transmitting information on how to privatize or how to outsource or how to avoid providing benefits to employees.
The end of the war
World War II in Europe ended so abruptly that hundreds of thousands of combat veterans came home to the U.S. within a few months, many of them so rapidly that they were re-shuffled, like my father, into demobilization units different from the units they had served in during the war. The demobilization at the end of WW2 dwarfs what this country faces on the return of combat veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq.
Still, when demobilization comes, we will have challenges to face. It is reasonable to project, at a minimum,
- an increased strain on social services at all levels;
- an increase in domestic violence cases and related cases; and
- increased unemployment.
Sadly, in our time all challenges have to be met over the opposition of Republican officeholders and candidates, who are trying to destroy or dismantle every social program at all levels, whose corporate giveaways are designed to keep management fat and unemployment high, and whose ostensible budget-cutting keeps taxes regressive and starves equity at all levels of government including in the justice system. You don’t see GOPers supporting abuse counseling centers and suicide hotlines (except in their own districts, sometimes) or trying to get case backlogs reduced. They have undermined that kind of thing for decades, usually calling it either ‘communism’ or ‘higher taxes.’ They are also opposed to the ‘regulation’ that would keep a Veterans Administration in good working order, with appropriate transparency, accountability and effectiveness.
Note in the interest of full disclosure: I ran across the old, yellowing newspaper page from which this article is transcribed in some of my late father’s family papers, but it is very unlikely that his parents saved it for that article. My grandparents were only too familiar with the Great Depression, preceding Wall Street abuses, a series of anti-labor Republican administrations in the 1920s, and financiers’ opposition to every reform including the FDIC, and would have read the article with a watchful eye.
On the same page, however, the News published a National Geographic map of Australia, and my father had recently written home that he was in Australia. The newspaper thoughtfully provided for its readers a twelve-part series—WHERE ARE THE YANKS?—each with a National Geographic piece on the country where some local service members were posted. The one on Australia begins, “Australia, lonely continent dividing the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean, closes matches the United States in area. A dominion of the British Commonwealth of Nations, its citizens are hardy and resourceful . . .”
The costs of World War II cannot be overestimated. More than one and a half million U.S. service members went off to war, and one quarter of them never came home. My grandparents were exceedingly lucky; they had three sons and a son-in-law in the war, and all returned. This single page of the Dallas Morning News reports three deaths from the war. Lt. William (Bill) Bishop of Bogota, Tex., was killed in action over Italy Jan. 22, 1944. Lt. Jimmie R. Shaeffer of Gainesville, Tex., was shot down in his B-17 “in the European war area” Feb. 2. WASP trainee Betty P. Stine, a native of Fort Worth, was killed in the crash of her plane at Blythe, Calif., Feb. 25.
The same page of the News also reported a civilian death, “Dr. Philo P. Morrison Succumbs to Injuries:
“Funeral services were pending Saturday for Dr. Philo Pinckney Morrison, 69, of Hallsvilled, father of Wilbur L. Morrison of Miamai, Fla., vice-president of Pan-American Airways, who died in a Shreveport hospital Friday night of injuries received in an automobile accident . . .
“Dr. Morrison, a retired physician, received head injuries when his car was forced off the highway by a Negro truck driver and overturned . . .”
It can be theorized that the war-theater deaths of local African-American service members did not always make the News.
N.b.: Ken Burns’ documentary Prohibition, now on PBS, does a great job filling in some recent chapters of American history. Awesome.