December 10, 1914

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

The editorial page of the Daily Oregon Statesman addressed “The Militia Problem:”

The war department is planning a national militia of 500,000 men to supplement the regular army. And a member of the New York state militia wants to know how the government is going to get the men.

“When our people realize that we must give the citizen-soldier a show,” he says” “when employers realize that every soldier is a guarantee of protection; when laws protect militiamen in their jobs; when the government takes the enlisted man seriously by paying him something for his labors – then, perhaps, we can raise 500,000 militia.”

The implied criticism of present methods is merited. The federal government and most states do not give the militiamen a square deal. Anywhere in the British empire a “territorial” is guaranteed against the loss of his job while he is engaged in drill or maneuver. Nearly every nation pays the militiaman for his time. In the United States a militiaman whose drill hours conflict with his working hours attends drill at his peril. When he takes part in summer maneuvers, lugging a heavy kit for weary miles and trudging day after day in the hot sun, he may find his job gone when he returns – unless, as usual, he gives his vacation to the work.

Proficiency demands two evenings a week all through the winter. There are numberless things to be learned and done – technical study, marksmanship, the care of weapons, first aid, wagon loading, camp pitching, field cookery, sanitation, patrolling and the rest are serious, laborious work.

And all this the militiaman, in most states does for no pay and small thanks. An appeal to congress for a bill granting nominal compensation for time spent in drills has been denied. Most of the states have grudged them privileges of protection.

If Uncle Sam really wants a big, efficient body of militia, he shouldn’t expect the citizen volunteers to make all the sacrifice.

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About whclarc

We are devoted to providing information fresh from the Archives, Library and Collections of the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem, Oregon. We specialize in the history of Marion County and the greater Salem area.
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