The Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942:
A New Deal Case Study

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Chapter 6
The Popular CCC

Despite the problems of Negro enrolment and the occasional administrative mistake, the Civilian Conservation Corps in the words of Rexford Tugwell, "quickly became too popular for criticism." [1] He was indeed stating a truism. One of the significant features of the CCC, in contrast to other New Deal agencies, was its enthusiastic acceptance by most segments of the community. The Literary Digest did not exaggerate when it claimed that "attacks on the New Deal, no matter how sweeping, rarely or never extend to the CCC." [2] What were the roots of its popularity, among politicians, the press, and the public?

For congressmen, the CCC could be a positive aid to political advancement and a ready means of increasing their prestige among constitutents. The securing of one or more camps for his particular district or state usually redounded to the legislator's political benefit. Consequently, congressmen spent much time flooding CCC mailboxes with requests for camps. Most wrote to Fechner, though Ickes and Wallace also had to deal with such correspondence, and some congressmen even sought favors directly from the President. Roosevelt often acted positively on such demands, much to Fechner's annoyance. [3]

Appeals from congressmen took several forms, the most common being a straight request, usually accompanied by a petition from local residents stressing their desire for a camp and their economic need for one. Thus, when Senator Robert R. Reynolds sought the establishment of a camp in Avery County, North Carolina, he inclosed a letter from J. P. Grindstaff of that county, which discussed in detail the unhappy plight of the area's unemployed and explained how beneficial a camp would be. [4] Often the congressmen would preface his request by referring to previous camps in the area, noting their popularity and fine work record. He would then press his claim for one or two more. [5] Some Democrats would hint at possible re-election trouble if more camps were not established. For example, in 1935 Senator Joseph Guffey of Pennsylvania, one of the very first examples of a new political phenomenon—the liberal "political boss"—claimed that Republicans were making political capital out of the fact that the state had comparatively few camps and "if carried through, serious affects [sic] will be felt in the election." [6]

The quest for camps was by no means a Democratic party prerogative, however, and Republicans took full advantage of the chance to benefit their home districts and states. Representative R. F. Rich of Pennsylvania carried out a constant, and eventually successful, campaign for more camps within his own district. [7] Senators Arthur Capper of Kansas and Gerald P. Nye of North Dakota were a Republican duo whose deep interest in the benefits of CCC work to their states often led them to request more camps. Nye even took the issue to the President, stressing the "dire need of steps in this direction being taken." [8] This should scarcely be surprising. The CCC's appeal was far wider than the Democratic party alone. Much of its best work was, in fact, done in the Midwest or in New England, in rural areas where local Republicanism was strong. In 1936, not only did the Republican presidential candidate warmly support CCC work, but an estimated 67 per cent of all registered Republicans favored its continuation, [9] and in pressing for camps Republican congressmen were merely reflecting grass-roots opinion. As one such Republican, Charles L. Gifford of Massachusetts, said, "It has been a good thing . . . Republicans and Democrats favor it." [10]

Fechner received complaints as well as praise about the CCC, however, and the agency could hurt as well as help congressmen. The location of Negro camps was always a dominant local issue, and pressure from the constituency often forced harrassed congressmen to demand their withdrawal. [11] Usually, however, congressmen abhorred the removal of a camp from their districts. The resulting loss of local income caused real antagonism, and the local representative often became a scapegoat for an official act originating in Washington. Representative Lyndon B. Johnson, Democrat of Texas, wrote plaintively to Ickes in 1937 that, in the period following his oath of office, four CCC projects had been closed in his district and as a result he was coming in for some serious criticism. [12] Representative Wesley E. Disney, Democrat of Oklahoma, said the removal of a camp in the environs of Tulsa had hurt the Democratic party there. The successful congressional revolt of 1936 against the President's plan to curtail camps was a dramatic manifestation of the importance of this issue locally. [13] Congressmen had received more than enough telegrams and letters from their home communities, from businessmen, storekeepers, contractors, and farmers to convince them that to close more camps could be political suicide.

Democratic congressmen were quick to exploit another source of political gain. A substantial section of the array of jobs created by the establishment of the CCC was available as political largesse. The CCC was never riddled with politics, but the original intention to remove it entirely from such a plane was soon subverted. Congressional Democrats were irate over the possibility that no spoils would be forthcoming; to placate them, an order was issued in July, 1933, requiring that certain supervisory positions not demanding any special skill "shall be filled from lists submitted by Congressmen." [14] Politics thus entered the Corps organization, yet its effect was mild. In fact, many Democrats complained that they did not have enough influence and that too many CCC jobs were held by Republicans. [15] CCC officials usually held firm against the demands by Postmaster General James A. Farley and others that Republican project supervisors be dismissed, [16] even though the President occasionally overruled them in order "to preserve the interests of the Party." [17] Both Republican and Democratic congressmen were also able to use the Corps as a placement bureau for protégés, [18] yet an investigation in 1936 of charges that it was corrupted by politics revealed that out of 18,000 employees who could conceivably owe their jobs to political pressures, only about 3,600 had actually been chosen from congressmen's lists. [19] Moreover, many of these were eminently well qualified for the positions they held. Given the importance of patronage in the American political system, the Corps' record is an unusual one in this respect.

To professional foresters, however, any political influence was to be deplored. Proclaiming that "efficiency in conservation work demands absolute freedom from political dictation," they agitated constantly for the extension of Civil Service provisions to cover all categories of CCC jobs. [20] In this campaign they had the firm support of Fechner, whose concern for an honest and efficient Corps was always emphatic. Fechner often broached the questions of Civil Service extension to the President, [21] who realized the worth of the proposal but was also cognizant of its political implications. In 1935 he decided against its implementation because "it would mean throwing out a lot of patronage." [22] Instead, he added a few more jobs to those already available for patronage purposes, much to the satisfaction of the legislators, though not to Corps officials. [23]

The fact that the CCC had become a source of electoral gain for politicians explains in part the overwhelming support for it in Congress. To emphasize this too much, however, obscures the larger issue. Most congressmen were solid in their support of the agency, not solely for what they could get out of it personally, but mainly because its real benefits were increasingly clear. Since it was a service of positive gain to both community and country which was easily perceivable, strongly bipartisan trends of support were only to be expected.

From its inception, the CCC received an overwhelmingly sympathetic press. Newspapers supporting the Administration quickly pronounced it a success, and less partisan papers soon followed suit. [24] The San Francisco Chronicle asserted that the "CCC has won golden opinion. There has been in it not more than one-tenth of 1% of politics, which is neutralized by the Army and Forest Service." The Chronicle was by no means undiscriminating in its support of New Deal ventures. The same editorial contrasted the CCC with the Civil Works Administration, an other public relief scheme, which it brusquely dismissed as a "scandal." [25] The Detroit News considered by September, 1934, that "no activity of the entire alphabetical array of New Deal projects has met with an approval so universal as has been accorded the aptly named Civilian Conservation Corps." [26]

The extent of popular approval is reflected in the attitude of the avowedly Republican papers to the Corps. No newspaper was more bitter in its hatred of Roosevelt and New Dealism than the Chicago Tribune, as even a cursory glance at its editorial pages will show. Administration measures were colorfully described by such epithets as "false and poisonous fare, dictatorship in essence," or "gangsterism." [27] The one great exception was the Civilian Conservation Corps. To be sure, the Tribune did not lavish praise on the agency; in fact, it rarely mentioned it editorially. Even those omissions are significant. During the election campaign of 1936, the Chicago Tribune did not comment on the charge of "politics in the CCC," even though it descended with unholy glee on even the whisper of jobbery in other New Deal agencies, notably the WPA. Indeed, on rare occasions the Tribune specifically singled out the Corps for favorable comment. "The CCC is one of the best projects of the Administration," a leading article in 1935 admitted, "and the great majority of its recruits, we believe, appreciate its opportunities and are being benefited." [28] Whether the Tribune genuinely supported the CCC or merely realized the futility of criticism is immaterial. What is important is that there can be few more graphic examples of the CCC's popularity than that newspaper's muted tones when discussing it.

Other Republican newspapers were more positive in their praise. The Boston Evening Transcript commented: "in the main, from the start, this army of conservation has shown itself to be well disciplined and efficient in its work, and it has apparently maintained a commendable standard of conduct in its leisure hours." [29] The Transcript often voiced what became a common argument in favor of the CCC as expressed by groups normally hostile to the New Deal. To such individuals and organizations, the benefits of the CCC, unlike most New Deal measures, were tangible, immediate, and obvious. Furthermore, it was not a dole to keep city-bred youths from starving. The boys had to work, and work hard. In toiling with their hands in the wilderness, they recaptured for many people the spirit of a unique age now past whose memory was still all-pervasive. As the McKeesport News put it in a moment of semi-nostalgia, "theirs is the American way." [30]

The expression of such sentiments clearly illustrates one of the sources of the CCC's strength—the romance of its appeal to what Richard Hofstadter has called "the agrarian myth." The pervasive belief that life "lived in close communion with beneficent nature" had by very definition "a wholesomeness and integrity impossible for the depraved populations of cities" had long been part of American folklore, and the CCC "captured the popular imagination" partly because of its "immediate and obvious appeal" to it. To many, the CCC undoubtedly recalled visions of the frontier, of a pristine, open land quite different from the dirt and teeming life of contemporary urban society. [31]

Not all newspapers were unqualified in their praise of the Corps. The Republican New York Herald Tribune supported CCC work "because of the excellent effects of the camps on the morale of thousands of youngsters who have attended them," [32] but at the same time it raised an important point which other papers often overlooked: that the camps were "one of the most costly forms of relief." Though "excellent schools of character" whose abolishment was out of the question, they would, in time, have to be "tapered down." [33] The Herald Tribune was also concerned about undue political influence in the Corps. It wanted all political interference stopped, lest the public "feel about the CCC as it does about other agencies," even though the Corps had been of far more value than any other New Deal creation. [34] No major newspaper had seriously proposed abolition of the Corps at this time. Most, in fact, demanded its extension.

After the election campaign of 1936, when the issue of a permanent Corps was becoming more prominent, newspaper comment throughout the country increased. The Director's Office kept a close check on editorials as a gauge to public feeling, periodically reporting its findings to the President. The press was obviously strong on the side of permanency. A survey of sixty editorials, taken in equal proportion from Democratic, Republican, and independent newspapers in twenty-six states, revealed that forty-three supported permanency, ten wanted the CCC continued temporarily until business stability resumed, and five wanted it reduced in size, then continued until employment improved. Only two papers opposed continuation: a left-leaning Brooklyn weekly objected to the Corps' similarity to "Fascist work camps," and a daily in Jacksonville, Florida, could see no earthly value in conservation work. But the great majority of the editorials were "eloquent in their praise of the benefits to the young men and their families." [35] A similar survey, carried out in April, 1937, showed that out of 145 editorials, 122 favored a permanent CCC immediately, and twenty-three, while favorable to continuance, urged a further wait before permanence. Not one of the papers supported abolition. [36] As the Houston Post, itself a conservative paper, remarked: "Of all the New Deal agencies, the CCC probably has attracted the most unanimous public approval. Democrats and Republicans, Socialists and Share-the-Wealthers, have joined in praising its objectives and accomplishments." [37] The breadth of press favor for the CCC was indeed one of the outstanding features of its first four years.

The heart of support for the Corps was found at the local level, in the communities where camps were established and in the big cities or small towns from which the enrollees came. That camps were popular with the local citizenry is indicated by the hundreds of testimonials sent to Fechner attesting to their worth, and by the anguished petitions of protest whenever a camp was withdrawn. The president of the Chamber of Commerce in Attwood, Kansas, spoke for thousands of rural towns when he wrote Fechner in 1935 to commend

the officers, men and attached technical personnel of CCC company 731, who have been stationed in Attwood since May 1934. Not only has this organization benefited the community in a material way by its progress on the work project, but all mentioned have shown by their good conduct and personality that they merit the highest praise as men and public-minded citizens.

We know that there is a place in this community for the organization as long as the Government will permit it to remain. [38]

Counties without camps pressed for them. It was usual for Fechner and his staff to receive petitions such as the one from Bamberg County, South Carolina, signed by 102 residents, including local merchants, a judge, a newspaper editor, a druggist, a Presbyterian minister, a schoolmaster, and a dentist. [39] Even more common, and certainly more difficult for the director to deal with, was the flood of telegrams and other messages whenever a camp was due to be removed. The signatures on these telegrams, letters, and petitions, whether of protest, commendation, or supplication, indicated the basic reasons for the CCC's popularity. Businessmen were responsible for much of the heavy response. The decision to close a camp at Iron River, Michigan, prompted the sending of twenty-nine separate telegrams of protest from businessmen alone, as well as a joint resolution from the farming community. [40] On May 10, 1935, Ickes received twenty-six telegrams from businessmen of Greeley, Colorado, protesting the removal of a National Parks camp there, even though the work project was finished. [41] Conversely, it was most often the president of the local Chamber of Commerce who sent the memorial praising the work of the camp in his particular area and recounting its benefit to all sections of the community.

For such local communities, leaving aside all consideration of the work project's success, the very presence of a CCC camp was an economic stimulant to local business. Food purchases alone for the 300,000 men in camp throughout the nation amounted to more than $3 million monthly, and about half of this amount was expended in local areas. It was estimated that nearly $5,000 was spent monthly by each camp in the local market, and, in addition, camp construction provided work for local labor. [42] Sometimes, as in Plaine, Montana, this contribution was enough to remove the city entirely from depression standards. [43] In all cases, it was of the greatest assistance in moving toward that goal. As the Baltimore Sun aptly stated in explaining the congressional revolt in 1936: "these local businessmen find it profitable to expand in one way or another to cater for the relief trade. Thus, something in the nature of a vested interest develops . . . curtailment endangers vested interests." [44] The CCC was a most significant experiment in community co-operation.

The economic benefit of CCC work reached far wider than the camp locality. For the fiscal year 1935-1936 alone, almost $123 million was formally allotted by enrollees to their families. Fechner's correspondence files adequately testified to its effect on family income. One mother spoke of the vital difference the extra money had made to her whole family. She thanked God for both the CCC and the President, and pledged: "from now there will be nobody to tell me how to vote. I'll know. And there will be two more votes in this family by that time." [45] The Indiana and Ohio state relief offices indicated that the $25 check had been vital in maintaining relief loads and that most committees were decidedly in favor of the camps. A spokesman for the larger cities concluded that "they have helped to get rid of the gang on the corner" and that employers had indicated preferences for young men with CCC experience. [46]

Equal testimony to the success of the CCC as a relief measure were the letters pleading either for a chance to join the Corps or trying to prevent an impending discharge. One mother told Mrs. Roosevelt that "we are so dependent on the money John sends home that I don't know what we are going to do without it." [47] An unemployed twenty year old's plaintive plea to the President graphically revealed the anguish of many of his generation. He wrote: "I have been out of hight school for years and have not been able to get any kind of work. I could not get in the CCC and I need work. If I do not get work I will be turn out when I am 21 which will be in June. Please help me." [48] Ineligible youths and their families had seen the difference camp life had made to friends and wanted a chance to share in its benefits, to provide, as one underage youth put it, "something to live on" for his family. [49]

The economic aid was by no means the only benefit recognized. A woman told Fechner that what she liked about the CCC was that: "the boys are safe there. They are young and inexperienced and need someone reliable to teach them and I think the discipline and strictness are what they need now in their teen age." [50] Judge M. Broude of Chicago estimated that the CCC was largely responsible for the 50 per cent reduction in crime in that city, because it took boys off the streets and inculcated in them a sense of values. The New York commissioner of correction attributed a similar decrease in juvenile crime to the beneficent effect of the Corps. [51] Groups as divergent politically as the Virginia Federation of Labor and the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce were united in recognizing the Corps' social effect. The Junior Chamber members actually acted as godfathers to the boys while they were in camp. [52] Even the Soviet Embassy in Washington commended the CCC and requested detailed information on its operation. [53]

An extensive survey of the depth of public esteem for the Corps took place in California in 1936. Four thousand people, including businessmen, educators, farmers, bankers, clergymen, editors, doctors, clerks, and laborers, were asked to give their opinion on its record so far and their feelings on its permanent establishment. Of those who replied, nearly 95 per cent approved of both the record of the Corps and its becoming a permanent agency of the federal government. Less than 1 per cent thought the work a complete waste of time. The remainder considered that though it had accomplished much, the time was not yet ripe for a permanent organization. [54] The survey probably underestimated the strength of the opposition to the CCC, but it indisputably indicated the strength of its appeal. Its place in popular esteem was secure.

However, not everyone loved the CCC, and some were quite vocal in their objections to it. A few lovers of nature protested that the Corps was ruining the national forests and reserves with "bungling" conservation practices and was also creating fire risks. [55] A clergyman or two, perhaps misguidedly, protested against its contribution to the increase in the moral delinquency of young people. [56] More significantly, some farmers opposed it because of the poor quality of work done on their land, or because a camp was abandoned without completing its assignment. In Pawnee County, Nebraska, for example, three different soil erosion control companies had been sent there, only to move on after a few weeks of inefficient endeavor. The farmers, "disgusted with having their farms torn up," wanted nothing more to do with the CCC, [57] but such reactions, usually due to some purely local circumstance, were rare. Some right-wing political groups opposed the Corps. The American Liberty League, for example, considered it a scheme to mold youth "into the raw manpower for a colored shirt Fascist army of Roosevelt the Dictator." Yet even the league's criticism was relatively muted. Violent attacks would have been a political blunder in view of the Corps' tremendous popularity. [58]

Despite their general commitment to the philosophies and methods of the New Deal, and while applauding the basic human motives which had prompted the CCC's creation, some liberals were sincerely troubled by particular aspects of its structure. They distrusted the intentions of the Army, and even conceding that the boys had worked wonders with the land, they were less convinced that the experience had any permanent value for the youths themselves. These liberals were dissatisfied with the educational program and correctly claimed that there was little use in rehabilitating a boy permanently, even giving him new skills, if all that could be done in the end was to return him to the environment from which he came. Here was where the problems of these youths had to be solved, in the squalid urban slums, in the dying Southern towns, not in forests or parks perhaps half a continent away. These were valid shafts, not so much aimed at the Corps itself, but at what they considered to be an administrative mindlessness which tended to see in this essentially temporary, specialized creation a permanent solution to all the problems plaguing young America. "Let us not deny the real benefits of CCC life," such critics pleaded, "but let us not forget that it functions within clearly defined limits." [59]

By far the most virulent criticism of the CCC came from the leftist political parties and pressure groups. Norman Thomas described it as a system of forced labor, and the Socialist party platform in 1936 proposed its abolition. [60] Carl Minkley, state secretary of the Wisconsin Socialist party, warned that it was "a breeding spot for militarism or Fascism." [61] In the first years of the New Deal, until American Communists adopted a policy of ostensibly supporting Administration measures, Communist Front organizations were bitter in their criticism of the CCC. [62] Most vociferous was the American League Against War and Fascism, under the leadership of veteran Communists J. B. Matthews and Earl Browder. The league sent delegations to Fechner protesting against Fascism and "military management," attacked the Corps by resolution, and denigrated it in debate. [63]

The CCC was always remarkably free from radical or Communist influence. Fechner made no attempt to prevent Communists from visiting camps and allowed them to distribute their literature. [64] On only one occasion did he specifically bar a left-wing publication from camp libraries, when in April, 1937, he stopped the distribution of a radical periodical, Champion of Youth, because it had advocated the organization of enrollees into cells on the Soviet model. Fechner's action drew protests from several Front organizations, including the American League Against War and Fascism and the American Student Union. [65] Probably because of Fechner's liberal policies, carried out in the face of nervous Army protests, Communist infiltration of camps was quite insignificant. Their propaganda had little appeal for young men who were now on the way back from their nadir of despair, and to whom the camps, and the men responsible for them, signified a new hope for the future. For many, the CCC was a place for sloughing off radical ideas, not assimilating them. [66]

Another Front critic of the Corps was the Illinois Workers Alliance, whose branches in March, 1935, sent nearly twenty identical resolutions to Fechner objecting to the trend of CCC organization. The form and content of this resolution was typical of the type of communication expected and received from such groups. The preamble spoke of the "convulsions" within the economic system and of the "unification of the working class taking place as a desperate means for the right to live as human beings." The alliance asserted: "With our economic problems growing worse, the workers are faced with a new problem because of the semi-military training of hundreds of thousands of youngsters in the CCC. If this act is to be continued we can see nothing but a clear trend toward a peculiar American brand of Fascism." The resolution went on to accuse American capitalists of fomenting want and starvation, and described the CCC as a conscious instrument in the policy. The alliance demanded the discontinuance of this "semi-military agency." [67]

Communists and radicals continually played on the theme of militarism in the CCC. They, of course, genuinely feared Fascism, but, more important, by using this issue they were able to make common cause with thousands of non-Communists, people who supported the idea of the CCC but yet distrusted its military connection. This uniting of such diverse groups was one reason why the controversial question of possible military training for enrollees was always of cardinal importance.

The intensity of opposition to the Army's role in the CCC organization, manifested during the legislative hearings of March, 1933, indicated strongly that the success of the Corps depended in large measure on public reassurance concerning Army control. [68] Army authorities, Fechner, and the President explicitly disavowed any intention of training enrollees for combat duty, yet throughout 1933 intermittent protests from individuals, peace groups, and radical organizations showed that some suspicion still existed. Fechner answered such communications by giving an assurance that no military training whatsoever was intended in the camps and that "the only thing expected of the men is that they will behave themselves." [69]

In January, 1934, the assistant secretary of war, Harry H. Woodring, provoked the first sustained public opposition to the prospect of military instruction in the CCC. In an article for Liberty Magazine, Woodring hailed the camps as "the forerunners of the great civilian labor armies of the future" and strongly suggested that they be put under full Army control. He called the CCC boys "economic storm troops." As Arthur Schlesinger has pointed out, this was "a singularly unfortunate phrase for a nation which was just beginning to dislike Hitler" and which was hypersensitive in its desire to prevent similar developments at home. [70]

Public reaction was immediate and violent to Woodring's implication that the CCC camps were militaristic. Many demanded his resignation and the prompt removal of the CCC camps from the clutches of the War Department. [71] The White House, dismayed at both the article and the outcry, issued a statement which repudiated the offending views most emphatically; and, at Roosevelt's insistence, Woodring himself made a public apology. His argument had been misconstrued, he alleged. He had used the offensive phrase purely as a figure of speech, and he was in fact "fully in accord with the views of the President that there should be no militarizing of the CCC." [72] Nevertheless, pacifist apprehensions had been thoroughly aroused, and groups continued to press charges that the enrollees had had rifles and other equipment issued to them. Though, as Fechner angrily said, there was "not one scintilla of truth" in such rumors, [73] the depth of public feeling insured that the Administration and Army officials would rigidly suppress any development which could possibly be construed as lending them substance. Shooting, for instance, was banned as a camp sport for fear of the passions it might inflame. [74]

A few people, on the other hand, were becoming increasingly interested in the possibilities of the CCC as a reservoir of military strength. In February, 1935, General MacArthur proposed to the House Appropriations Committee that enrollees be given the chance to enlist for military training after completing their period of service in the work camps. Ultimately they would be mobilized as an enlisted reserve force. [75] The suggestion found support among veterans associations and in Congress. [76] Excited by it, Representative J. J. McSwain, Democrat of South Carolina and chairman of the House Military Affairs Committee, introduced H.R. 5592, which sought to add two months to CCC enrolment for the military training of the young men, and their enlistment in an auxiliary reserve. [77] The depth of public reaction against such proposals, however, was impressive. A Committee on Militarism in Education, set up at Yale University and including such august personages as John Dewey, Shailer Matthews, Reinhold Niebuhr, Charles A. Ellwood, and William Allen White, angrily denounced the proposal, demanding the "termination of all War Department participation in the CCC." [78] The Union of Private School Teachers asked that unemployed teachers replace Army officers in controlling the camps. [79] The Anti-War Committee of Union Theological Seminary opposed "Army proposals for the militarization of the CCC." [80] The American League Against War and Fascism climbed noisily on the bandwagon, and hundreds of ordinary citizens added their private protests in letters to representatives, to senators, to Fechner, and to the President himself. [81]

The director and his staff bitterly opposed the measure. Fechner told the Committee on Militarism in Education that there was "no connection" between his office and McSwain's bill. [82] Persons considered that public opinion was so violently antagonistic to military training in the CCC that the passage of the bill would seriously affect selection. [83] McSwain doubted this statement, but because of public reaction and Administration hostility, he decided against further action and the bill died in committee. [84]

The proponents of military training in the CCC were not to be silenced, however, and continued to express their views in the press and on the public platform. An Army officer, writing in Happy Days, advocated two hours drill per day, believing that "you could not find one boy in 50 who would not be delighted with such an arrangement." He was contemptuous of "morbid pacifists" who argued otherwise. The American Legion strongly favored the suggestion, and the governor of Massachusetts, James M. Curley, a candidate for the United States Senate in 1936, said that one of his first acts, if elected, would be to introduce a bill making training for one hour a day mandatory in all CCC camps. Major General George Van Horn Moseley, commander of the Fourth Corps Area, advocated military training for all enrollees as a means of strengthening the Army. [85]

All of these suggestions were met with distrust and hostility. A Kansas editor described Moseley's idea as "conscription," a cross "between Hitler's compulsory labor camps and the universal draft features of European military service laws." [86] The Communists screamed "Fascism" and warned of Army plots to gain complete control of the CCC. The American Youth Congress proclaimed that "youth opposes any such program." Nevertheless, the idea of at least a modicum of military training for enrollees slowly gained support. It had friends in Congress, where Representative Jack Nichols, Democrat of Oklahoma, led a group of veterans who strongly favored the scheme, and the correspondence columns of the newspapers indicated its growing popularity. [87] It is probable that public opinion in 1936 still stood opposed to military training in the camps, and for the moment the issue became submerged in the larger one of the move for permanency. However, it was to be revived with a greater sense of urgency than before as world tensions increased and Europe moved inexorably toward war.


The Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942: A New Deal Case Study
salmond/chap6.htm — 03-Jan-2008

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