MAY 29, 1951
NEW YORK, Monday—I was struck the other day by a little piece in the newspapers quoting, I believe, a Marine Corps general. He said that our soldiers needed more hard, down-to-earth training, and less ice cream and coddling. I believe he also recommended more whiskey, if necessary. I doubt if the whiskey is necessary, except that to a number of people the ability to take a drink and not to take too much is a sign of maturity. I am quite sure, however, that the hard training—particularly the physical side of it—is a very essential factor in the preservation of the lives of our men.
Fighting in Korea in the mountains must be a tremendous physical strain on men who perhaps never before had done any mountain climbing. One of the things that impressed me in Switzerland was that there was a country dependent largely upon its mountains for natural defense. That meant that the soldiers had to learn to use those mountains. It is part of the training of every Swiss—since every male Swiss is trained to be a soldier—to learn to walk in rugged mountainous areas with a heavy pack.
I think I mentioned my interest when I discovered that boys from 12 years and older were allowed to keep a rifle and to keep it loaded in a closet, although it was used only on Saturday mornings when they went out to rifle practice. And as they learn to shoot, these boys learn to walk and climb mountains.
Some of our boys who live in the mountain areas of our country are probably good mountaineers. But most of our people have to be trained to walk—not to parade, but to walk. As one young officer said to me, "It is leg muscles and back muscles and stomach muscles that count, to be able to carry your pack and to walk twenty miles a day and then do your job."
If the Korean War convinces our people that all of us must have a job in the defense of our country and that all of us should begin our training physically as very young people, I think we will have gained something of value.
The same young officer told me that discipline and politeness were two of the essentials that everyone must learn. It is hard to submit to discipline, but discipline may mean lives saved in times of danger. It should never wipe out the ability of our men to think and act for themselves, but I think we are so grounded in initiative that we don't have to worry on that score about any young American worth his salt.
The general was right. We all need to be physically toughened. We need to learn to keep ourselves well and to obey the rules that will keep us well in the various areas of the world in which we might find ourselves.
One other thing that it might be well to mention is that in fighting with the United Nations armies we have to learn many modern languages. Therefore, it might be well to train our memories and our ears so that it will not be so difficult to pick up new languages.