Franklin D. Roosevelt

Memorandum on Occupational Deferments

February 26, 1944

The crucial campaigns of this year will determine both the length of this war and its price in men and goods. We are well equipped in food and munitions but their production has drawn over heavily on our stock of manpower. It is time to strike a new balance.

The armed forces have continuously adjusted their requirements to the minimum necessary to implement strategic plans. Initial estimates have been reduced by over half a million men. Recently the Army has had to withdraw the great majority of men who were receiving instruction in colleges. The present allocations of personnel to the armed forces cannot be further reduced, and there is a very real danger in our failure to supply trained replacements at the time and in the numbers required.

Selective Service has not delivered the quantity of men that was expected. The shortage which commenced to develop last September reached a total of 200,000 on December 31. This means that today we are still short approximately 200,000 trained men although the actual personnel shortage in the Army has been reduced to 150,000. Today, as a result, we are forced to emasculate college courses and trained divisions and other units. The Army will not reach its planned January strength until sometime in April, or even later if Selective Service continues to fall behind on its quotas.

The Nation's manpower pool has been dangerously depleted by liberal deferments and I am convinced that in this respect we have been overly lenient, particularly with regard to the younger men. The overage men, the physically disqualified, the returned soldier, and the women of the Nation must be used more effectively to replace the able-bodied men in critical industry and agriculture.

Almost five million men have been deferred for occupational reasons. Deferments for industry include over a million non-fathers, of whom 380,000 are under 26 years of age. Of almost a million non-fathers deferred in agriculture, over 550,000 are under 26. Agriculture and industry should release the younger men who are physically qualified for military service. The present situation is so grave that I feel that the time has come to review all occupational deferments with a view to speedily making available the personnel required by the armed forces.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Memorandum on Occupational Deferments Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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