Time Out

3 minute read

Word by word, so that each might sink in, Chan Gurney read the Chief of Staff’s blunt memo.

“This amendment is the equivalent of blowing the whistle and telling the enemies that ‘time is out’ indefinitely, and that we cannot go on with the war until we have had a year to train the men we are going to get.”

Here the stocky, sober Republican from South Dakota paused and looked around the Senate. His colleagues were listening indifferently. Their arguments were fixed, their minds made up: they were going to pass (58-10-5) the bill lowering the draft age to 18—but they were also going to pass (39-to-31) Democrat W. Lee O’Daniel’s amendment that 18- and 19-year-olds must have a year’s training before going to battlefronts abroad.

More soberly, more slowly, Chan Gurney went on with General Marshall’s attack on O’Daniel’s proposal: “It means either too old or too late. If the amendment is adopted, the Army will be forced to complete its organization with men too old to do the job efficiently, or wait for the lapse of a year’s time before it can fight.”

When he finished Chan Gurney knew he had made no dent in his 39 opponents’ convictions. Two days had they argued that Army & Navy heads are not infallible, that Allies should bear their share of the war burden, that 18-and 19-year-old men are too young for bloody combat. Nobody thought to mention that most teen-agers were raring to go to war.

Maryland’s Millard E. Tydings spoke for the 39: “This is not altogether our war. If Great Britain, New Zealand and Canada are not going to let their young men go into battle before they are 19 years of age, the United States should not bear that unequal burden.”

Then up rose Majority Leader Alben W. Barkley. He wanted to make a final attempt to get the Senate back into the war-minded, driving frame it was in a few days before.

“Perhaps General Marshall had made a mistake in taking his military training at the Virginia Military Institute and by spending his life since in the Army, instead of taking it in the Senate,” shouted Alben Barkley. “But I am not going to substitute my experience as a United States Senator and as a military strategist and organizer within these four walls for the expert knowledge which he possesses.”

The sarcasm did not bite. But many a plain citizen re-echoed General Marshall’s grim comment that the Senate was giving Hitler a welcome, whistle-blown “time is out.”

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