MOTHERS TOLD HOW THE NAVY
Clean Living Fits Men to Become Leaders in Peace Time
BY JOSEPHUS DANIELS
(Secretary of the Navy.)
Of all the sacrifices that have been made, that are being made, or that will be made for our country in this war, there is no sacrifice so heroic, so unselfish, so terrible, as the sacrifice of the mother who sends her son, in his strong, clean young manhood, from the protecting influence of his home, to live, to fight, to die, if needs be, with no one near to guide or advise him, save his military superiors. No man can fully realize what this sacrifice means, only a motherís heart can understand.
Of all the responsibilities, in these hours of heavy responsibilities, that are laid upon the civilian heads of the army and the navy, there is after all, no responsibility more weighty, more solemn, more fraught with terrible results if evaded, than this responsibility of acting in a motherís place toward these splendid youths on whom the nation rests its hope of existence.
The young sailor or soldier of today will form no small part of the nationís very lifeblood in the times of peace following. To consider now their moral as well as their physical well being, is not the narrow view, but the broad view, the big, far sighted view of things.
Looks to Future of the Men.
I have no patience with those who sneer at any attempt to keep our young men as sound in mind as they are in body, to send them back as worthy to become the leaders of the nation in times of peace, as if they had not had the horrible experiences of war, because there is no view so utterly one sided, so utterly unmilitary in the biggest sense of the word, so ostrich like, so entirely opportunistic, petty, and contemptible, as the attitude which considers these boys as so much "cannon fodder," to be drilled with gun and bayonet, to be taught to obey military commands, and then, through neglect of their moral well being, to be thrown back upon their country after the war debased in morals, broken in health, like so many squeezed oranges, a poison in our body politic, instead of a strong invigorating new life. That is the policy of those, who are arguing that we should ignore matters of morality, would have us seriously consider.
Efficiency the Great Thing
Those who prate that interest in this matter is "unmilitary," show a sad ignorance of what "military" means. There is nothing so important from a military standpoint as the morale of the men, and morale and the morals in the long run are synonymous.
Napoleon has said that "an army travels on its belly"; it is equally true that it fights with its soul. No army of degenerates could win the grueling test of endurance of modern warfare against an army of clean, fresh young manhood, with all their vigor of mind and body unimpaired.
Responsibility to Mothers
Such is my belief, and such, I know, is the belief of the secretary of war. From every standpoint, military, political, moral, it is above all things, our duty to protect these youths, so that we can say to the mothers of the country when the war is over, "We return your sons, made strong by suffering, made wise by discipline, no longer youths, but men, tried in the fierce flame of war, as worthy of their place in your family circle as they were when they left home." So much for the theory. What have we done in the navy and army to put this theory into practice ?
Perhaps the practical example of Newport is the best answer, not that Newport was in any way a modern Sodom, not that it was a crying scandal of the nation, but rather because it represented in its viewpoint and it morals the careless indifference of so many of our cities toward those who are strangers within their gates as to what they did to occupy their time.
So far, indeed, as the openness of vice is concerned, Newport was somewhat complacent. Into this careless, thoughtless summer resort was suddenly placed some thousands of young men, fresh from their homes, free from all restraints they had known. It never seemed to occur to the authorities that there was any additional responsibility placed upon them other than to see that the boys had a good time. So long as there were no drunken brawls in the streets, no public scandals, they apparently felt that they had done their whole duty to the youth of the nation, and that to make any change in the regular order of thins was a matter for the Young Menís Christian association and the ministers, but not at all for the police. That they occupied, in some sense, the position of trustees of a college that permitted without objection the bawdy house beside the college dormitory never seemed to have occurred to them.
An immediate request was made upon the governor to suppress the gambling joint, the illicit drinking place, and the disreputable houses, to make it, in short, as difficult for the young men to do wrong as it would be were he at home. So far, this request has been acceded to, but the mothers of the country need have no fear that we will let the good work already done become a mere spasm of virtue under duress.
As for those who seek to make profit by selling liquor against the law to men in uniform, the hand of justice will fall so suddenly, and so heavily, as to make the most unprofitable trade in existence.
We are proud of our young men, we are proud of their clean bodies and their clean souls. There are no finer young men in the world than those in the ranks now. We are going to continue to be proud of them.