Discover more from JDBCOM in your In-Box
The National Guard and the Draft Amnesty
CK ‘73 Reunion Update
Bill tells me that the class gift is making progress, so there’s something. There seem to be several people who think the Hampton on Telegraph might be where they’re staying…so think on that. More when I get it…
And the registration on the website would never work, so you can’t anymore. If you plan on coming, let Lucy or me know. Also, let us know if there’s any interest in a quick jaunt to either the Birmingham Museum or to the childhood homes of your favorite author…that’s me, in case you forgot (remember I grew up in walking distance of the school).
The National Guard
Today is simultaneously the anniversary of the birth of the (organized) National Guard in 1903, and of President Jimmy Carter's draft amnesty in 1977. Of course, there’s other stuff down below.
Today, we know the enabling legislation for the extensive Guard reorganization as the Dick Act. This law enabled the Army to recast the many state-formed National Guard units into a national image, creating a means to join the Guards into the Regular Army in the event of an emergency.
The earliest "National Guard" units formed more or less spontaneously in the early 19th century.
They were separate from the militias under state control (if you really want a glimpse of insanity, take up American militia organization). The states did not fund at least a third of them (yes, Virginia), while the Constitution required each state to form a militia. The militia members themselves, or private benefactors such as businesses and politicians, footed the bills for uniforms and other expenses other than weapons. Many were units only in name, possessing no equipment or even standardized uniforms: all they could do was throw cotillions. The one thing the state units which were part of the National Guard “movement” and that bore the title "National Guard" had in common was that their members pledged to national service wherever Congress might send them.
This pledge was also what distinguished the Guard units from many state militias who would not serve outside their states.
For decades Army reformers had tried different formulas to get the state's units to look less like social clubs (which most were) and more like adjuncts to the Regulars (which they were supposed to be). The war with Spain in 1898 was the last time the state-organized units (the militias which were not part of the Guard "movement") were called into federal service.
The halting disasters that followed because of that call-up were directly because of the several states’ lack of funding and organization for their militias.
While the states complied with the Dick Act, it was still uneven, grudging, and beset by cronyism, favoritism and graft. The Army’s experience on the Mexican frontier 1916-17 demonstrated the weaknesses of the “reformed” Guards even after their initial reorganization, and how completely they had to be remade. The Dick Act enabled the Army to scrap some units, relieve commanders in others (more than a few were too elderly to take to the drill field, let alone to the battlefield), clear the rolls of dead (yes) and infirm members, consolidate still more units (even crossing state lines), and update Guard regimental organizations to match more or less what we saw in WWI. America’s first standing divisions formed as American involvement in WWI was ongoing. By the Armistice in 1918, the Guards were closer to what we see today: Federally organized and funded units lent to the states in between wars.
Proclamation 4483, also known as the Granting Pardon for Violations of the Selective Service Act of 1977, was the fulfillment of a Carter campaign promise, issued the day after we inaugurated him. Some hailed it as "healing a wound" left over from the Vietnam conflict. At the time, this correspondent was the Active Army in Germany. Most of the NCOs over E-6 (I was an E-4 about to be E-5) and officers over captain I had met in my then-four-year career had served in Southeast Asia; many of their wounds remained raw for some time after.
The draft from 1948 to 1973 was less a “wound” than a needed Cold War expedient.
There was an unknown number of draft evaders (thought by some to be about 200,000) and a much smaller number of deserters (about 70,000) who were covered under the proclamation, but even fewer of these took advantage of the amnesty to return to...something other than what they had been doing. Though well-intentioned (like many things Carter did in office), it came nearly four years after the draft ended, and at least seven years after law enforcement and the military had actively enforced the draft or pursued deserters.
This Redhead: The Dialogues
This Redhead is…well, coming up. It is scheduled to appear on the 41st anniversary of Ev and my first date: 3 March.
One of the most remarkable things about writing a story like this is discovering how stark human interaction can be, and how the voice and the voice alone can tell you everything you need to know. There are no external cues in this story; no stage direction, no descriptions…no proper names, really. It’s just…a gal rents a room from a guy…then the story begins. Their interaction is the entire point…and all you’ll see.
Where To Start…
On 21 January:
1789: Isaiah Thomas published The Power of Sympathy by WH Brown in Boston, Massachusetts. Based on a 1788 Boston scandal, The Power of Sympathy is widely said to be the first American novel, and can still be had.
1950: Eric Blair, better known as George Orwell, died in University College Hospital, London, England. His last book, 1984, had been published in June 1949, and was already being acclaimed as a masterwork. Orwell, sick for some time before, was not known to have autographed any.
And 21 January is NATIONAL HUGGING DAY. Make sure you give someone you like a lot a great big one.