When the Boys Come Marching Home

On paper our plan for demobilizing servicemen is second to none . . . Question: Will it work?

BLAIR FRASER April 15 1944

When the Boys Come Marching Home

On paper our plan for demobilizing servicemen is second to none . . . Question: Will it work?

BLAIR FRASER April 15 1944

When the Boys Come Marching Home


THEY made quite a show of it in Ottawa the day they pinned the Military Medal on the hero from Dieppe. He was paralyzed from the waist down so they wheeled him out into a circle of civil and military bigwigs for the pin-on ceremony. All went well until a distinguished visitor asked, “How are you getting on? Everything all right?”

“Well, no,” said the hero from Dieppe. “Not exactly. I was discharged from the Army six weeks ago. Since then I’ve had no pay, no allowances no pension. Neither has my wife. What happens now?” After that the decoration party fell a little flat. That’s one of the incidents which have led to a pretty thorough overhaul of the machinery for demobilization of men and women— in our Army, Navy and Air Force. The Dieppe case, for instance, wouldn’t happen now. No Canadian serviceman goes off Army pay until his papers have gone to the Veterans’ Affairs Department, passed the Pension Board and reached the Veterans’ Welfare Officer in his district.

These are the preliminaries of a rehabilitation system which on paper is second to none in the world. It provides education up to university and beyond, vocational training, farm settlement, job guarantee for those who left employment to enlist, retraining for disabled men, living allowances for all these purposes and also for the veteran who can’t find a job. If it works, the system is excellent.

Will it work? It’s too soon to answer that question finally.

We have already demobilized about 115,000 men at a rate now running around 2,000 a month. For this trickle today’s machinery is adequate.Whether we can get ready in time to deal with the rush of mass demobilization, the event will show.

But the veteran may be assured on one point—there isn’t too much complacency about the blueprint. Only the politicians are pointing with pride. At the administrative level, sternly self-critical officials with Great War experience, some of it bitter, are testing the machine they have devised and staying awake nights to detect weak links in the chain that starts to unroll as the returned man steps off the ship.

If he’s fit the first thing that happens to an overseas veteran is a month’s leave. Still wearing the King’s uniform and drawing Army pay, he goes home to rest, look around and make some tentative decisions about his future. Then he goes back to the Service, ready for the procedure of demobilization.

About 10 days before his discharge the man’s name appears in routine orders. Personnel selection officers dig out his record. One of them has a farewell chat with the departing soldier and makes out a form reporting him to the Veterans’ Affairs Department.

This form is a personality sketch. It contains the so-called “PULHEMS profile,” the modern capability rating which has replaced the old “category” system with five-point gradings of; Physique, upper limbs, lower limbs, hearing, eyesight, mentality and stability. It also includes his educational and employment history, and a thumbnail summary of his personal qualities and ability.

These records are confidential, but a few were shown me with names concealed. Here are two sample summaries:

“Orphan at early age; reared in an orphanage in England and sent to Canada as farm boy. Civilian history indicates he never freed himself from dependence on charitable institutions until he enlisted. Pleasant chap with limited education and motivation. Will do best under close supervision at routine tasks. Civilian background points to employment in unskilled outdoor work of a kind required in state institutions; e.g., provincial farms.” That lad’s

On paper our plan for demobilizing servicemen is second to none . . . Question: Will it work?

PULHEMS profile is 4111124—low in general physique and in stability, a general term for emotional adjustment to the strains of war.

Here’s one on a man whose PULHEMS is 1111511, tops in everything but bad eyesight. J

“A tall well-built man whose eyes have given him considerable trouble in the past. Has had an excellent education (one year at university). Employment record is varied, indicating an adventurous spirit rather than an unstable man. He has had no advancement in the Army despite his undoubted abilities, due to exigencies of the Service rather than to any personal failure. His record is good and he is well-considered in all training and employment centres. This man is extremely capable and trustworthy, suitable with training for positions of responsibility and trust.” That’s the information the Veterans’ Welfare Officer has in front of him when he interviews the newly discharged man, and counsels him what to do.

One Month’s Pay

AFTER the last war there was a tendency to think . of “aid” in terms of doles, handouts, pensions. This time the accent is different—it’s on building up the man, setting him on his own feet as fast and as firmly as may be.

Last time, for instance, the boys got discharge at any point in Canada they chose, and a gratuity of six months’ pay. Many easterners chose to be discharged at Vancouver, just for the ride. They spent some time blowing their bonus and returned, disgruntled and unprepared, to the dreary chore of job hunting.

Now every man is discharged in his home district. His gratuity is 30 days’ pay, enough for a reasonable vacation (on top of the overseas man’s predischarge leave of 30 days) but not enough for a bust.

So the veteran, now a civilian, sets out with a month’s pay in his pocket plus $65 clothing allowance. He has also (since February) one uniform anda knapsackful of documentary advice; but from this moment on he’s a free agent. He can do as he likes, the same as any other citizen. Only difference is he has certain privileges of which he can take advantage if he will.

First, he can get a job. If he left one to enlist, unless he himself had replaced a volunteer, he’s entitled by the reinstatement clause in the Civil Employment Act to have it back if he wants it, with full seniority rights. Of the nearly 800,000 in the forces, about 250,000 can go back to their old jobs. They must apply, however, within three months of discharge, if they have not served abroad, and four months if they have seen service abroad.

How many still want to is another matter. Many a 1939 office boy is a squadron leader now with a wife and family; his $9.75 a day, plus command pay, plus subsistence allowance, plus dependents allowance, all income tax free, is equivalent to a civilian income of about $8,000 a year. A statutory guarantee of his old $12 a week won’t solve his postwar problem.

If he doesn’t want his old job or if he never had one, the veteran can enter war work without losing his rehabilitation privileges. As a civilian he’s obliged by law to register with National Selective Service. NSS will try to guide him into the most essential work for which he’s fitted. Many of these are “duration only” jobs. So that veterans can relieve the manpower shortage without losing their rights, the time limit on training and other benefits has been extended to “12 months after the cessation of hostilities.”

But the veteran needn’t take a war job if he’d rather not. He can apply now for academic or vocational schooling. The Government will pay his fees and a living allowance, if he can convince a Rehabilitation Board that he’s capable of using the education for which he applies. For instance a boy who had trouble

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When the Boys Come Marching Home

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finishing Grade IX would.probably be I turned down if he applied for a course in medicine. He would be advised to try something of allied interest, but not quite so academically exactingpharmacy, perhaps, or optometry. On the other hand a low scholastic standing will not necessarily bar a man. One who left school after Grade IX to earn a living, but. who has shown in the Army a high degree of intelligence and aptitude for study, could get help through college if he is able to qualify himself for entrance within 15 months after his discharge.

University students get the best break. Each is entitled to as many months of college as he had months of military service. A college year is only eight months long, so a man with two years’ service (24 months) would rate three years of college. All he has to do is avoid failing in more than two subjects at a time. Furthermore, if his entitlement runs out before he finishes his course the grant may be extended. A •good student can get support right through professional training if it’s deemed “in the public interest”i.e., if he’s likely to make a successful member of a needed profession, such as engineering or medicine or, above all, dentistry. Right now, according to the Weir Report on employment opportunities, Canada needs at least 1,200 more doctors, 8,000 more dentists and as many engineers as we can train.

Hence the preference for the university man —first official recognition of our grave shortage of skilled minds. Rut training at other levels is not ! ungenerous. Schooling, academic or j vocational, is supplied free to qualified ¡ soldiers.

If he wants neither schooling nor job, he may want a farm. Veterans who have farming experience may apply under the Veterans’ Land Act for aid in buying a farm worth up to $4,800. The man himself must find a down payment of 10% and pay off, in a maximum of 25 years, a balance equal to two thirds of the original price. Interest is 3,l£%. Assuming he buys at the maximum, the veteran’s down payment will be $480 and he’ll owe $3,200 plus interest, repayable at $16 a month. The Government also pays for $1,200 worth of equipment, which is a gift, provided he fulfills his contract.

In addition to this aid there’s something brand-new help in buying a semirural place near a centre of employment, where the veteran can supplement his earnings by gardening or poultry raising. This offer is limited to veterans with overseas service, or ;xse service in Canada exceeds one year. A third offer, limited to experienced fishermen, helps a man to com-

bine farming with commercial fishing.

One criticism of the Veterans’ Land Act, which I heard in Opposition circles, centres on the recent decision to increase the amount payable for land and buildings, while leaving the equipment allowance where it was. Critics say this only means that the mortgage companies will be getting S4,800 for farms they’d have had to sell for less. Also, these people claim §1,200 won’t buy nearly enough equipment to run a farm properly. I couldn’t get any definite indication whether or not this complaint is likely to be heeded.

While the veteran is learning, or while he is waiting for his first crop on a Land Act farm, or while he is looking for a job and can’t find one, he draws subsistence allowance. This amounts to:

$44.20 a month for a single man;

$62.40 a month for a married man;

$12, $10 and $8 a month for dependent children on the same scale now paid to men in the forces.

As out-of-work benefit this is payable up to a year. Also, a veteran needs only 15 weeks’ employment to qualify for as much unemployment insurance as he’d rate if he’d been working since July, 1941, when the insurance plan went into effect.

Medical care, even for the fit man, is provided after discharge. Any exserviceman can obtain free treatment or hospitalization for any ailment, whether due to his service or not, for a year after his discharge. Under certain stipulated conditions, including financial distress, he can still obtain it after the year has expired. This is for the man who is physically fit at discharge. For others, of course, there are special provisions.

Important Change

One important recent reform is the matter of “continuing treatment.” It used to be that when a man was discharged, even though he might still be in hospital, he immediately reverted from his Army pay and allowances to disability benefit. A wounded captain, for instance, would be drawing $222 a month for himself and wife until his discharge. Then, though still in hospital and otherwise in identical circumstances, he’d suddenly be cut to $62.40.

That’s been changed. Every discharged man who is undergoing treatment at the time of discharge for an ailment which prevents him from entering employment continues to draw the pay of his rank up to the earnings of a lieutenant, naval sublieutenant or flying officer. He remains on this scale of pay until cured.

Pensioners, moreover, are entitled free medical care and free hospitalization for life, even for ailments unconnected with their service disability. A man drawing pension for an amputated leg, for instance, can have his appendix removed at the Government’s expense.

Every veteran who suffers a disability is entitled to pension. Today he need not even apply for it. His medical record goes to the Pension Board automatically before his discharge. If he’s shown as disabled, he’ll get his pension without any action at all on his part. This is another change since the last war. However, a serviceman still may apply for pension if he thinks he’s entitled to one and doesn’t get it. He has two appeals if his application is turned down. No lawyer is needed for any of this procedure. Any pensions officer will act for the applicant without charge.

Pensions themselves are pretty much unchanged since the last war. The system is the same—so much for an arm, whether the victim is a pitcher or a streetcar conductor; so much for a

leg, be he long-distance runner or elevator man. Compensation is based upon the computed loss of earning power of an unskilled laborer with the same disability.

Obviously this means inequity and injustice. Not so obviously, every system would have its own anomalies. It’s been decided to let ours stand. The trend of Canada’s rehabilitation is away from pensions, doles and handouts, toward refitting the man to help himself. “Jobs for the fit, and fit the unfit for jobs” is the Veterans’ Affairs slogan.

Already in this war some remarkable things have been done to fit the unfit not only for jobs but for facing life generally.

Yeoman service has been given by the War Amputations of Canada: that club of mutilated men who have been drawn together by a common handicap during the past 25 years. They arrange, for instance, that if a flier is reported down in Germany with a leg that has to be amputated, or if a man in England or Italy loses a limb, a Great War “amp” with the same disability—and the skill to overcome it— calls on the new “amp’s” parents or kin here, just to show them their boy hasn’t been made a cripple.

And when the disabled men themselves get back they’re greeted the same way. Not long ago, for instance, a lad with no hands came back to Hamilton, Ont. On the platform to meet him was a lad he didn’t know, who introduced himself as “Stumpy.” Stumpy had no hands either.

“Come on,” Stumpy said to the newcomer, “I’ll drive you home.”

Goggle-eyed, the “amp” and his family followed the handless Stumpy to his car, watched him unlock the door and the ignition, watched him drive home through city traffic. Once there Stumpy got out to show them all how a handless man can feed himself, dress himself, comb his own hair and generally function as a self-reliant adult. By the time he left, a brokenhearted invalid had been converted into a potentially able-bodied, useful citizen.

Stumpy (he invented the nickname himself, by the way) lost his hands in 1942. 1 saw a letter he wrote the following March -it was a scrawl, but as legible as most people’s. And a year later he wrote a longhand well above average.

Here’s how he described his newly acquired skills, in that second letter:

“I brush my teeth with my stumps, and comb my hair with either my stumps or my hooks. I have a gadget for holding shoe brushes, another for changing my shoes, and I wear a watch on my arm.

“The gadget I had made for driving the car wears down the socket of my left arm. I am changing the design so that it doesn’t revolve in the socket, but farther out. If it is successful I’ll send it to Christie Street Hospital. I am quite an expert at tying my own shoes. I average about a minute a shoe (pardon the bragging). I find that the (artificial) hands are not much good for anything but show and holding an electric razor. I use both electric find safety, and find both satisfactory.

“In a recent magazine there’s quite an interesting account of surgery healing the scars of war. They mention a hand connected by levers to the stump muscles, claiming typewriting, playing cards, etc., or nearly everything a human hand can do. I’m very interested, naturally. If you have the facilities to obtain more information I would appreciate it very much.”

That last paragraph is the nearest Stumpy ever got to a complaint in letter to Veterans’ Affairs.

Here’s anot her letter from a “double-

forearm” case, as the handless men are called officially:

“I use the two hooks mostly. They can’t be beat for dressing, undressing, reading the paper or filling your pipe.” And he concludes with the suggestion that a meeting of double-forearm cases be held somewhere, so they could trade ideas on meeting the little emergencies of daily life.

Stumpy is employed, has his own home and family, leads a normal life. He is a draftsman, a skill you’d think would need hands above all things. The other “amp” is back in the factory where he worked before the war; his disability rendered him unfit for his old job so they promoted him. Now he’s doing well at bossing the sort of work he used to do, itself a highly skilled occupation.

Employers Need Training

Double-forearm amputations are the most difficult, the most sensational of the “visible disabilities” which Canada can teach men to overcome; but the others need training too.

Above all, employers need training. They need to be taught that a handicapped man in a job for which he is fitted is just as good as a man with no disability. In some ways he’s better. Surveys in a number of big corporations have shown that the handicapped man has fewer accidents, is more punctual, less often absent from work, and in other respects is a steadier, better employee than the fit man. Veterans’ Affairs is taking steps to bring these facts home to Canadian employers.

Another new departure in rehabilitation of the unfit is the “reconditioning centre,” which is a place for convalescence which avoids the drawbacks of the convalescent home. Five of them are being built in Canada, and the first of them has just been completed. They will take care of the man who is still disabled but who is not sick, away from hospital atmosphere and hospital routine which is shattering to a well man’s morale. Also they’ll offer rest and restoration to men whose nerves are in bad shape; the cases we used to call “shell shock.”

Rehabilitation for the unfit is already a going concern. Rehabilitation for the fit—that is, for the great mass of returning servicemen who’ll come back when war ends —is still in the blueprint stage. The legislative job has been done, and done well. But the administrative job is no more than begun.

To begin with there’s education. So far no strain has been put on our facilities. Of the 115,000 men discharged only about 3,000, less than 3%, have asked for training of any kind. I sat most of a morning with the Veterans’ Welfare Officer at the Ottawa discharge depot; every one of the halfdozen men he interviewed was headed for employment, with the job all picked out and waiting for him.

But according to a survey taken in 1942 among 350,000 men in all Services, at least 30,000 veterans will be seeking admission to universities, and well over 200,000 want training of other sorts.

Where shall we put them?

Dr. G. M. Weir, acting director of training in the Veterans’ Affairs Department, has found opinion sharply divided among university presidents as to how the load should be distributed. It means an increase of 50% over normal student bodies for at least three years. Some educators favor a twoterm year, some an arrangement of alternating quarters, some a kind of “night shift” of late afternoon and evening classes. All agree that the colleges wouldn’t hold such an increase under orthodox term conditions.

Vocational training facilities are far

worse. Dr. Weir remarked in his report that much of our vocational school equipment is fit only for the junk shop. Vocational training in most provinces has been inadequate even for peacetime needs; the postwar demand will swamp them.

One solution might be the Army’s trade schools, which have a capacity of about 10,000 at peak and teach most of the Army’s 200 trades. But this raises a question not yet completely answered. Who’s to handle this training, and when is it to take place? Before discharge or after? Is its direction to be military or civilian?

Ultimate answer will probably be “both,” as to some extent it is now. Vocational training is now given to discharged men through the Wartime Emergency Training Program, set up by the Labor Department originally to train war workers. This program has recruited a group of professional educators who believe the emphasis should be put on instruction in plants, rather than in schools. They have two reasons for this: One, school training

tends to oversupply the limited number of crafts that a school can teach: two, even these craft as well as most other jobs can be learned best in the atmosphere of professional action.

Inside the Services, however, a great deal is being done and more is being planned for all types of education. There seems to be no definite intention —not in high quarters anyway—of deliberately keeping men in uniform in order to send them to school. But there is a very lively realization that in between war’s end and demobilization will be a long period of waiting, that could well become a period of shattered morale, even of chaos if the boys are left with nothing to do, no purpose for which to strive.

Prisoners Are Studying

To meet this need education officers in all Services and in the Canadian Legion are working and planning ahead. The Legion has thousands of boys enrolled in spare-time courses, from elementary reading and writing up to senior matriculation. Especially proud is the Legion of its work for prisoners of war—in one camp alone, “Stalag 383” in Germany, half of the camp’s 5,000 prisoners are enrolled in about 100 different courses, varying from arithmetic to company law, from equitation to Gaelic.

Besides the Legion courses there are service schools. The Air Force, where “pre-aircrew training” covers such a considerable area of senior high school work, is perhaps the most acutely school-conscious of the three Services, but all three have their plans. Also, scholarships have been arranged with British universities, whereby a number of servicemen who would otherwise be invalided out may complete their education while still in uniform.

Closely allied to education is the problem of job placement, and here, too, there is a problem of servicecivilian co-ordination which has not yet been fully worked out.

To begin with there’s no direct liaison yet between the forces and National Selective Service to synchronize demobilization with availability of employment. You hear a lot of talk about “no man should be discharged except into employment,” but as yet the idea has little serious backing in actual practice. What we will attempt, probably, is to work out a general relation between the Labor Department and the discharge depots, to see that a reasonable number of jobs are open in a neighborhood before men are turned out of the Services en masse.

Another problem is personnel. Veterans’ advisers must be men who have

had overseas service—the boys wouldn’t listen to anyone else. But so far too few veterans of the present war have been available for the work. And it was a Great War veteran who told me, “We want to get a majority on our staff of men whose service has been in this war. Too many of us oldsters are out of touch, old-fashioned in our thinking, too fond of our pet ruts and routines. Some of us are so fond of rules and regulations that we forget about human beings.”

Besides, personnel counselling is a highly skilled job in itself. Not long ago a discharged veteran applied to a Regional Advisory Committee for a farm under the Veterans’ Land Act. He had the experience all right for he had lived on a farm all his life. But the committee looked at his card — PULHEMS showed him as an S-5, lowest grade in stability.

“This guy is nuts,” said the committee. “We can’t give him a farm.” So they turned him down.

Actually the man had become an S-5 because after a lifetime of rural solitude he couldn’t adjust to the gregarious life of the Army. A farm was the very thing he needed, and he’d have done well with it. But he didn’t get it.

These and a few similar incidents gave Army experts a bad scare. For a while they even considered taking the M and S ratings off the mustering-out cards which they were sending to Veterans’ Affairs. However, Veterans’ Affairs proved equally perceptive of the danger, once it was pointed out.

Plans are now under discussion to bring back from overseas a dozen or more trained personnel selection men to become District Supervisors of Training across Canada. Welfare Officers and the veteran himself will be able to consult them. This scheme, it’s hoped, will give the placement machinery a spinal column of skilled direction.

Placement Now

RCAF personnel men are tackling the problem differently, and sooner. They’re trying to do their placement work now, while the boys are still in the Service. At the present time a survey of the whole Air Force is being charted, to find out what each boy wants to do, to help him qualify for it if he has the aptitude, and to help him choose an alternative if he has not.

Air Minister Power in a speech to Parliament March 2 told about this plan to appoint “personnel counsellors.” They’re actually in training now - the first class had just graduated when the Minister spoke, and another 50 will complete the 30-day course any day now.

Rut the main theme of Mr. Power’s speech was something deeper, broader and tougher than any problem yet mentioned here. That is, the whole vast, complex mechanism of demobilization. Whom shall we discharge first? The overseas troops? Public opinion would favor that, would want the real fighters to have first pick of the jobs. Flight Lieutenant James Sinclair, M.P., suggested in Parliament that the real cream of employment should be saved for the prisoners of war, the lads who’ve served by enduring the miseries of Nazi prison camps.

But if we do any of these things, what happens meanwhile to the troops in Canada? What do they do while they wait for the overseas boys to come back, with the shipping scarcity and all? Shall we keep them on Army pay, doing drill every day to no purpose? Or shall we discharge them and let them be the first into civil employment, get a head start on the fighters?

Mr. Power admitted quite frankly that no answers had yet been given lo these questions. Many a key deci-

sion had still to bo made. Rut one thing at least had been decided:

Each Service will appoint a Director of Demobilization, who will have full charge of the whole program and be responsible only to his Minister. These three men will sit in with Veterans’ Affairs, with the Labor Department and with the new Reconstruction Department to plan the rehabilitation program.

Each must be a veteran with overseas service, preferably a hero with real medals on his chest. Each must have a good educational and civilian background, must know how to deal with

Maclean's Magazine, April 15, 1944

men, must have some idea what industry needs. Each must have a fairly substantial rank, wing commander or colonel or up. Writing about it to Air Marshal Breadner, Mr. Power referred to his still unchosen Director as “this superman.”

Once found, these supermen will undertake the real, the basic task— teaching the boys to build Canada with the same courage, the same skill, the same devotion they have shown in her defense. Teaching them that it isn’t a question of what Canada will do for them, but of what they will do, again, for Canada.