Fenwick Archive  |  Trotskyist Writers  |  ETOL Home Page

James M. Fenwick

Off Limits

Interlude: Hearts And Flowers (M-1)

(1 November 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 44, 1 November 1948, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the ETOL.

We see by the press that an old army buddy of ours has been sounding off again. According to a dispatch from Germany in the New York Times:

“Lieut.-Gen. Clarence R. Huebner, in an address to about 15,000 First Division and constabulary troops who had completed summer maneuvers here, said:

“‘I don’t need to tell you how tense the world is today. I don’t need to tell you how short our ranks are.’

“He asked the men to consider a new Army regulation authorizing the extension of enlistments for six-month periods.

“‘We need you so much,’ he said.”

“We need you so much” – how our old First Division heart beats faster, when we read that! How different from the old days when our contact with the officers was limited to digging their latrines, dragging them to their quarters when they were drunk, and swallowing their insolence! Believe us when we say that when we read that pathetic appeal we threw down the paper and rushed to the recruiting station!


We rushed to the recruiting station, we say, and picked up some literature just to see what the new army has to offer an aging pfc. We are compelled to report to our constituents that it is not enough – not enough, at any rate, to impel this (for the present) non-radioactive body to get out of its rocking chair and sign up. Callous as it may sound, we prefer to hear old Huebner second-hand via the New York Times. In these matters we prefer Art to Nature any day of the week.

We did find out something interesting, however, concerning the techniques being used to give the gullible public the heave-ho into the armed forces. There’s not an ounce of idealism in it. It rests on that materialism of which we socialists are so often accused.

“Would it surprise you,” the advertising blurb begins, “to learn that the lowest paid man in the U.S. Army or U.S. Air Force actually has more take-home pay at the end of the year than the average civilian in industry?” And here is the table used to show that a civilian would have to earn $3,587.20 per year to equal the benefits received by a pfc. (“F” stands for “free” and “E” for “exempt.”)

Yearly Expenditures

Army or Air Force Single, Original Enlistee
Private First Class


18 Years Old






Clothing, civilian









Medical Care



Job Transportation















Income Tax






Annuity (retire after 20 years)



Cash left over (including
re-enlistment bonus)






The blurb concludes by pointing out that with promotions, increased base pay for foreign service, dependency allowances, etc., a person can work up to a salary equivalent to $5,000 a year in civilian life.

Without breaking down these statistics, or pointing out some of the not unknown occupational hazards of military life, it is interesting to note that the cost of living has risen to such a point that a plausible case for joining the army can be made on an economic basis.

Still and all, we don’t think there will be any mass rush to the recruiting stations. For our part, old Huebner will have to get along as best he can without us.

We’ve heard that song before.

Fenwick Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 2 June 2021