By the morale of an army is meant the mental attitude of the soldiers toward their position and service and all that is connected with it: their courage, their willingness to serve, their zeal and enthusiasm for the cause in which they serve.
According to reports the morale of the American Army so far as it was drafted in recent months, that is being trained in the various camps all over the country, is very bad.
So the papers reported.
And the report may be considered corroborated by the fact that it was considered necessary for the Secretary of War Stimson to address the soldiers by radio, and to make an attempt to explain to them the expediency of extending the time of their service to two years and a half.
In the well-known magazine “Life” we read:
“There has never been a democratic Army in which the soldiers did not gripe and grouse. Armies are not run for the pleasure or comfort of their men. But in the U.S. citizen Army there is a rising tide of soldier discontent which goes beyond healthy griping. The Army itself and the press have been reluctant to stress this failure of morale, hoping it would disappear. It has not disappeared. It comes out in letters which the men write home and to newspapers. It appears in their conversation when on leave, ignoring it seems only to increase it, for the soldiers feel their complaints are met by a conspiracy of silence.”
This magazine sent one of its staff members to investigate whether these reports are based on facts. The staff member was sent to one of the National Guard divisions, and spent a week there, watched their training and talked with the men. His findings are published in “Life” of August 18, 1941.
According to this report there is a general dissatisfaction among the soldiers. They are dissatisfied with their officers, with their lack of equipment, with their training, and with the apparent lack of purpose and reason for their service. They are not enthusiastic about our government’s attitude toward the war, and do not believe that the emergency of which the President usually speaks actually exists. Fifty percent of the men interviewed by the staff member of “Life” assured him they would desert at the end of their one year’s service. Another forty percent “rue the day they got in the Army.” And the remaining ten percent are far from happy over their position. Some of the sentiments expressed by the soldiers are reported verbally. Leaving out the profanity that is proverbial in the camps, and which, by the way, makes it almost impossible for a Christian young man to endure army life, we reprint here some of the statements made:
“The boys here hate the Army. They have no fighting spirit except among themselves when they get stinking drunk. . . . The regiment had its first mass firing on the field the other day. Everybody was scared to death. I was too. These soldiers don’t yet know what war is. Soldiers handling the trench-mortar shells trembled. I thought one would drop a shell on the ground and get killed, he looked so nervous.”
“Those………..rules of war! We’ve heard the one on influencing Congress so many times we are sick!”
“What I am is an imperialist. I’ve never expressed a political opinion in the Army till now. But to……………..with fighting Germany. Let’s fight a war in which we can win something. All we do if we fight with England is lose a of a lot of money, and then England will say we profited from them.”
“So Roosevelt will get our jobs back? The……………he will! I’ve already been told that I can’t have my job back.”
“We’ll go over the hill. (This means “desert”, H.H.) We’ll wait until the suckers get caught and then when things quiet down we’ll make a dash for the Mexican border. This is nothing but a concentration camp.”
“To…………..with Roosevelt and Marshal and the Army and especially this……………..hole and the Germans
and the Russians and the British. I want to get the……………out of this hole.”
I want to say, first of all, that this lack of morale in the army at the present time is perfectly understandable.
Circumstances and conditions, proper or improper living conditions and equipment, efficient officers and, above all the presence or absence of a real cause for which the army is being trained to fight,—these are factors that must inevitably affect the morale of an army.
Even if you attribute a certain percentage of the dissatisfaction evidently existing to the fact, that a large number of American young men never learned the meaning of authority and obedience, that many of them entertain the notion that democracy really means that everybody governs himself and does as he pleases, so that it must be extremely difficult for them to become at all accustomed to military discipline, the fact remains that many factors contribute to depress the spirit of the soldier in the camps.
There certainly has been and still is lack of equipment, guns, ammunition, tanks, proper clothing and housing for the soldiers in training. It appears to be a fact that in some camps the soldiers were drilled shouldering a broomstick instead of a rifle! It is also a fact that in some camps they had to stay out all night in a drenching rain, because of the want of barracks.
But the chief cause of the present lack of morale must, in my opinion, be found in the fact, that there is a wide gulf between the sentiment of a large part, if not of a majority, of the American public regarding the war and our part in it, and the attitude and leadership of the government, particularly of the President.
The people on the whole have not yet been convinced that we are fighting for the cause of democracy by aiding England, in spite of all the English propaganda that was spread among our people, since the beginning of the war. They are not inclined to get the chestnuts out of the fire for Great Britain once mare, and pay for it in the end, as we did in the first World War. The President did not succeed to convince a large number, perhaps the majority, of the American public that a case of emergency exists, and that the Nazi war machine is ready to overrun our country, as soon as it has accomplished the domination of Europe. And they are not enthusiastic over an alliance with communistic Russia, nor are they easily convinced that one can fight on the side of the Reds for the preservation of freedom of religion.
And so, there is no enthusiasm for the present frantic attempt to prepare ourselves for war.
The same spirit or lack of spirit with respect to the war as far as our present part in it is concerned, prevails in the army.
And with a view to all these factors, it is perfectly understandable that the morale among the soldiers is bad.
However, I do not write this to justify the attitude of the men in the camps as expressed in the report of “Life’s” staff member.
Certainly it may not be the attitude of the Christian.
He may be depressed and discouraged, especially with a view to the prospect of spending two and a half years of his young life in the army. He, too, may lack enthusiasm for our part in the present war. He may long for the day that he will be discharged and may return home. He may hate the idea of an alliance with Russia. We can understand this. We feel for him and pray for him.
But he does not rebel, nor talk in a spirit of rebellion, nor suggest that he will “go over the hill.”
His morale may be affected by circumstances, it cannot be destroyed by them.
It is rooted in principle. Therefore, it is fundamentally steadfast.
And that principle is that he must be and is willing to be in subjection to authority, to the powers that are placed over him, for they are of God. And for God’s sake he respects authority and obeys.
The responsibility he leaves to the government. He cannot be held accountable before God for whatever part our government may take in the war. They, too, are accountable before God.
But he may look upon his place in the army as assigned to him by his God. And in that position he is called to serve his God by being in subjection to the higher powers.
He walks in faith, even in the army.
And the morale of faith is always good.