"July 1 or thereabouts" is as close as anyone will venture a guess at the date of the second R-Day when every 21-year-old who missed the first occasion will register for the draft. Franklin Roosevelt may well have signed the proclamation naming the day already, and if his sickness has prevented him, he will undoubtedly sign it his week. Ten days after the registration the well-worn goldfish bowl will again become the center of interest of thousand of eyes, and a new set of draftees will be well on their way to the potato peeling machines and the on-order tanks of our New Army.
This prospect is far from pleasant for the three hundred undergraduates who will sign their Tommy Atkins' and then really appreciate the meaning of Independence Day. But the signing of this proclamation implies that the present draft system of grabbing off men between 21 and 36 has been considered satisfactory by the Army and that it will be continued. The boogie man of all educators, lowering of the draft age, has been at least temporarily laid to rest. Maintenance of the 21-year limit has been an excellent choice of programs.
The present system is not perfect. Its chief defect has been it complexity and its size. Definite deferments should be give members of essential occupational groups such as doctors and chemists. The decision as to which workers are "necessary" should not be left so vague. Its aims of an army of four million has made the job of training the men in the limited time almost impossible. The cumbersome, half-trained army which we are in danger of having on our hands will give us only the "defense of depth" to which General Weygand referred so sanguinely for three days last June.
Lowering the draft age would solve none of these problems. Its effect would be to insure perpetuation of military training after the emergency is over, and we would have a French-style, one-year-trained army which couldn't defend even a Maginot or an Atlantic.
Even more important than this is the effect which an 18-year-old draft age would have on the colleges. No small college would have a chance of weathering the storm. Even an established institution like Harvard would have trouble keeping its doors open. When the emergency is over, if the colleges have withered away, America will have only a slim hope of recovering higher education for a good many years, and until it does, there can be no well educated citizens to serve as the reservoir for leadership at the time when leaders are most needed.
England has not adopted the 18-year limit despite her urgent need for men in North Africa. For us a lowering of the draft age, whether or not we end up in Africa, Europe, or the Orient, would be a fatal move which would not help the army and which would hurt the nation's future.