January 25, 1944 – With the tide of war slowly turning in favor of the allies, many felt sure it would be over soon, certainly by the end of 1944. There was talk of an impending invasion of the continent of Europe, but exactly when, no one knew.
The big issue facing the War Effort in January of 1944 was a sense of complacency and trouble brewing on the home front. The three vital industries which all the output of weapons depended were threatened with, or had experienced nationwide strikes. The Coal and Steel industries and the Railroads; those industries most crucial to the war efforts faced crippling strikes. And even when each had been settled, an epidemic of smaller strikes and industrial controversies continued. So many and so frequent were these small strikes that they barely made mention in the press. However, their affect had been felt on the fighting front. Only the previous week, there were no less than 22 strikes in progress in the U.S. in war plants, producing much needed airplane and tank parts, jeeps, aviation gasoline, cable and wire and even head nets and mosquito bars to protect soldiers in the Southwest Pacific against outbreaks of Malaria. And during those strikes, some 132 days of production were lost. The strikes, and their affect on the military were creating a air of resentment towards the strikers, and some felt it would have a detrimental effect on the morale of the Army.
And so Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson proposed a National Service Act; an obligation of American citizens that their work in the War effort was a duty to the nation. The purpose of The National Service law was to reach the basic evil of irresponsibility, and to extend the principles of democracy and justice throughout the population. The same necessities that brought about the Selective Service System for the selection of citizens to fight was now bringing about a Selective Service system to the selection of civil manpower.
According to Stimson, Selective National Service was considered an evolution of intelligent democracy to meet the mechanical development of Modern War. Instituting such a Service was aimed at minimizing the number of strikes, absenteeism and the turnover of labor in many critical areas of industry. It was designed to cover areas that the existing anti-strike laws didn’t touch. But it also didn’t impair the rights of the worker in respect to wage scales, hours of labor, seniority rights, membership in unions or other basic interest of civilian workers. And unlike the Military Draft, the National Service Draft had many more provisions for exemption. It was seen as the answer to a need and a renewed commitment by the American people to ending the war.
Here is that address, as given by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, on January 25, 1944.