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American Forests

THE CCC AND NATIONAL DEFENSE

Publishing Information

    James J. McEntee

    This comprehensive appraisal of the Civilian Conservation Corps and its new objective of national defense was prepared by its new director, James J. McEntee, while the President and Congress were seeking early in June to formulate plans for its place in the national defense picture. At the time of going to press the final disposition of the CCC had not been determined--EDITOR

  1. THE Civilian Conservation Corps has a new objective as it marches forward in its eighth year. It is national defense. Under the impact of chaotic world conditions threatening the security of the United States, the President and Congress have called upon the Corps to take an active part in the prosecution of the huge new national defense program.

  2. For the present the Corps' contribution will come largely through the training of young men in the maintenance and operation of automotive and mechanized equipment, in auto mechanics at central repair shops, in radio communications, and in other civilian activities useful in national defense. Through this program--largely an intensification of the CCC training activities which have been underway for several years--the Corps can provide thousands of men each year to aid industry and the nation in the advancement of the national defense program.

  3. As fast as the needs of industry and the national defense departments are made known, the Corps will modify its present program to comply to the limit of its ability. If industry wants men with special mechanical training in either the automotive or aviation fields, the Corps is prepared to train them. If the national defense department wants specialists in such fields as communications and operation, maintenance and repair of mechanized or automotive equipment, the Corps will train men in these fields. In short, it will be a huge reservoir of trained man-power upon which industry and the national defense services can draw.

  4. In advancing national defense preparations the Corps will continue and intensify its man-building activities. Since it was organized in April, 1933, the Corps has made men out of hundreds of thousands of undernourished, underdeveloped and inexperienced youngsters. In addition to improving the muscular development and the health of young men, the Corps has toughened them physically, taught them work skills, improved their morale, and taught them love and respect for their country and its government. To date more than two million young men have received such training. It has completed a huge amount of conservation work--work which increases the nation's natural resources assets. In addition, it is an operating institution. It has the equipment, the organization, the experience to succeed in any task asked of it.

  5. At this time, so far as we can foresee now, the addition of national defense tasks will not materially interfere with the advancement of the Corps' conservation program. There are many fields in which for seven years it has been contributing to national defense. It trains radio men, mechanics, cooks, truck drivers, operators of tractors and heavy equipment, photographers, drafting clerks, and experts in the handling of explosives for construction work. It teaches men to build roads, stone and wooden structures, to operate surveying instruments, to build bridges and dams and to do a host of other things of the type done by engineer troops in time of war. It teaches them sanitation, personal hygiene, and safety.

  6. What of the Corps' educational and training program? The Corps today is providing practical job training for enrollees while they are at work. It provides an educational adviser, classrooms, shops, and instructors for all enrollees who wish to take advantage of their off-time to improve their education and develop skills.

  7. The goal of every youth who enters the CCC is a job. Our program is centered around the idea of making each youth capable of getting employment. The entire pattern of camp life is directed toward the end of helping the boy find a useful place in society where he can earn his own living. It can and should take advantage of its unusual opportunities to teach these youths how to work, with hand and brain, how to use tools and equipment available in the camps. It should teach them a sense of responsibility for doing good work, permanent, lasting work--and above all, it should teach them to do an honest day's work.

  8. Those of us in charge of CCC policy should be alert to keep our educational and training programs abreast of the times. In this critical period, I feel the Corps should emphasize its training especially with regard to mechanized units of all types. The Corps affords unusual opportunities for training of this character because it operates daily the largest fleet of peacetime motorized units in the world--a fleet in excess of 40,000 units.

  9. This great fleet, with its daily problems of operation, maintenance and repair, presents a chance for practical training which the Corps will use to the fullest advantage. The Corps operates tractors, jackhammers and other mechanical units. It utilizes tools of almost every description. Camp facilities for sanitation, lighting, and water offer additional training advantages.

  10. The Civilian Conservation Corps also should continue to stress the development of physical hardihood, the inculcation of habits of orderliness, discipline and personal hygiene and good citizenship and love of country. The academic, vocational and job training features of camp life should be directed to turning out good Americans.

  11. Should the CCC be made permanent? My desk is piled high with requests from communities for location of camps. The work projects proposed in our fields, forests, wildlife refuges and parks, would keep the Corps of the present size occupied for from thirty to fifty years. From another angle, each year sees another crop of youths reaching young manhood and a large percentage of them unable to find jobs, either because of employment lag or their own inexperience. Until such time as these youths can be absorbed in private industry, business and agriculture, I believe there is justification for continuance of the CCC. I believe it should be made permanent.

  12. In recent months some criticisms of Corps expenditures have developed. While praising the Corps as a whole, some critics have taken the position that the $1,000 a year which it costs to maintain a young man in the Corps for one year is too high. In this connection the charge is usually made that too large a share of the $1,000 enrollee annual cost goes to civilian personnel. These attacks may be attributed largely to lack of knowledge of how CCC funds are expended, a misapprehension of Corps objectives and Corps accomplishments or policies.

  13. A breakdown of this $1,000 a year enrollee cost figure shows that $790 is expended in the form of real wages for the enrollee and $209.91 for pay of civilians, supplies and equipment. Of the $1,000 total, the enrollee allots home to dependents $264. If this sum is eliminated from the $1,000 item and charged against relief expenditures, the cost of maintaining a boy in the Corps for one year, excepting relief charges, would be $736.

  14. The real wages paid each enrollee, including his $30 a month cash allowance ($22 goes to his dependents) and all other items which he would receive if he were working for a private employer, is $790.09. It is broken down as follows:

    Pay$374.43
    Subsistence139.86
    Clothing60.00
    Travel32.41
    Hospitalization18.39
     
    Limitation sub-total$625.09
      
    Shelter, including construction, rehabilitation, heat, light, water and routine maintenance50.97
    Laundry5.16
    Education13.34
    Welfare.42
    Burial Expenses.31
     
    Sub-total$70.20
     
    GRAND TOTAL$695.29
      
    General Supplies1.95
    Sanitary Supplies1.31
    Soap, candles, matches, etc.1.20
    Bedding, etc.3.30
    Safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers, etc.1.13
    Mess equipment.31
    Ambulances and trucks8.37
    Work equipment31.48
    Repairs to the above38.80
    Transportation of above6.95
     
    Sub-total$94.80
     
    TOTAL REAL WAGES$790.09

    The following table shows how the $209.91 is utilized:

    Pay of civilians$190.23
    Travel of civilians4.18
    Passenger cars2.79
    Communications1.97
    Rents2.09
    Office supplies.88
    Office equipment1.02
    Repairs to equipment.47
    Transportation of above1.09
    Structures1.96
    Printing and binding.75
    Claims.15
    Miscellaneous2.33
     
    TOTAL OVERHEAD COSTS$209.91

  15. The above figures include the pay of the Camp Commander, the project superintendent who supervises the work program, the foremen who supervise directly the work projects, the educational adviser, the camp doctor, the camp chaplain--in short, the men who manage the camps, teach and train the enrollees and look after the health and spiritual welfare of the enrollees.

  16. These figures, based on seven years' operation of the CCC camps, represent the amounts which the Director, the War Department, the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture consider necessary for a proper carrying out of Corps functions. Every cent being expended on the program is needed if our objectives are to be carried out efficiently. It is futile to try to determine whether CCC costs are too high by simply dividing the average number of enrollees into the total appropriations for the year. The big determining factor is to be found in our record of accomplishments. Are we getting our money's worth in terms of trees planted, forests and parks improved, new recreational facilities developed, farms saved from erosion, floods checked? Are we getting value received in better citizens--citizens capable of earning their own living, interested in the welfare of their country and better qualified to aid in its defense? I am confident that on the basis of value received, the Corps is much more than paving its way.

  17. What about the Corps' future work program? In what direction should its energies be directed to best advantage? Whatever suggestions I make in this connection, of course, are subject to modification by the national defense program. The program, as outlined below, is given without reference to possible modifications which national defense considerations might entail.

  18. In considering the Corps' future program, it may be well to recall the original purpose and scope of the CCC, as set down by the President and in Acts of the Congress. These were originally two-fold--unemployment relief and "restoration of the country's depleted resources," as stated in the original Act of 1933. The President himself in his message of March 21, 1933, to the Congress stated: "I propose to create a Civilian Conservation Corps to be used in simple work, not interfering with normal employment, and confining itself to forestry, the prevention of soil erosion, flood control, and similar projects . . . I call your attention to the fact that this type of work is of definite, practical value, not only through the prevention of great present financial loss, but also as a means of creating future national wealth."

  19. The Act of March 31, 1933, in its opening statement gives as one of the primary purposes of the ECW "to provide for the restoration of the country's depleted natural resources . . . in connection with the forestation of lands belonging to the United States or to the several states which are suitable for timber production, the prevention of forest fires, floods and soil erosion, plant pest and disease control, the construction, maintenance or repair of paths, trails, and fire lanes in the national parks and national forests, and such other work on the public domain, national and state, and government reservations . . ." The Act goes on to authorize conservation work on county, municipal and private lands but with certain definite restrictions.

  20. The Act of 1937 again emphasized conservation and sets up a three-fold program--"to provide employment, to provide vocational training, and to perform 'useful public work in connection with the conservation and development of the natural resources of the United States; its Territories, and insular possessions'." The 1937 Act goes on to say "the employment of the Corps . . . for the protection, restoration, regeneration, improvement, development, utilization, maintenance or enjoyment of the natural resources of lands and waters, and the products thereof, including forests, fish and wildlife . . . including the prevention and control of forest fires, forest tree pests and diseases, soil erosion, and floods."

  21. This latter law established the basic principles under which the Corps functions. On July 1, 1939, the CCC became a unit of the Federal Security Agency. Later, that same year, Congress reaffirmed the Act of June 28, 1937, and said: "The provisions of this Act shall continue July 1, 1943."

  22. In preparing Corps work programs, it must be remembered that the new men who enter the Corps each year are largely young, raw, untrained youths--unskilled, but malleable in the hands of competent camp officials, educational advisers, project superintendents, and foremen. The Corps is constantly teaching new men how to work, for its best men are always leaving to take jobs for which their Corps work has qualified them. The Corps is one of the few institutions in the country which is constantly trying to get rid of its best men. The camps themselves are highly mobile. Built of portable units they can be moved quickly from location to location. Being virtually self-contained units, they can be set up practically anywhere subject, of course, to health restrictions.

  23. The Corps is splendidly fitted for reforestation, erosion control, recreational development and nearly any other kind of conservation work. In my judgment, the Corps should not normally be used on big construction or engineering jobs usually handled by contract. As a rule the CCC should not be used in cities or near large towns where there is a large surplus of unemployed adult laborers.

  24. Naturally, requests have come to the director's office from local groups, and oftentimes commercial bodies, for approval of a very wide variety of projects, some of them quite impracticable, many of them totally unsuited to CCC labor, or totally outside the field of CCC, or even outside the field of conservation of natural resources. Extermination of ragweed throughout the United States, and the elimination of tent caterpillars are typical of such requests for approval.

  25. I do not think the Corps should undertake work projects entailing heavy annual maintenance costs except where ironclad agreements are made to make certain that the area developed will be maintained with non-federal funds. No CCC projects should be undertaken on state or private lands unless the agencies concerned agree to maintain the project after it is completed by the Corps. The Corps should not engage in too much maintenance work even on federal lands. Other things being equal, preference should normally be given to projects which require little or no annual maintenance.

    1. Reforestartion

  26. Since 1933, the Corps has planted more than two billion young trees. This is a good beginning but an enormous tree planting program remains to be done. The conservation experts figure there are some 138 million treeless acres of barren or only partly stocked forest land, marginal and submarginal farm and pasture in this country which might well be producing some human benefits. Tree planting is a permanent investment for the future. Tree planting is popular, is sound, is badly needed, and the best part of it is that it requires little or no annual maintenance. CCC enrollees can collect seed, prepare tree nurseries, grow the seedlings, and plant them out where needed--for they have been doing all these things for the past seven years.

    2. Forest Improvement

  27. Much timber stand or forest improvement has been done, but there are hundreds of millions of acres of federal and state land untouched.

  28. The removal of decadent, crooked, diseased and "weed" or worthless trees from existing forest stands is worthwhile and permanent improvement of the forest. The pruning of tree limbs would pay in future returns from quality trees. Not only the proper thinning of young forest stands but all this work leaves the forest in better condition than it was, insuring faster growth of better trees, and again--it requires no maintenance.

    3. Forest Protection

  29. It is a waste of time and money not to protect forests after they are planted or improved. Forests must be protected from fire, insects, and fungous diseases. The biggest single contribution the CCC has made to conservation has been to forest protection in all of its phases. The function of the Corps, however, should be as an emergency help, to do those things which the regular protective organizations cannot do. The CCC contribution to forest protection has covered a wide field. Protective improvements perhaps have occupied the largest amount of enrollee time--fire lookout towers and cabins, telephone lines and truck trails, fire hazard reduction, fire breaks, store houses and guard cabins, while on fighting forest fires alone, a total of more than five million man-days has been spent. In addition, on millions of acres, the control of many different kinds of injurious forest insects and dangerous tree diseases has been secured. This protection work must be continued. However, a capital investment should be made only following agreement by the respective public and private owners to operate and maintain these protective facilities.

    4. Soil Erosion Prevention

  30. The saving from total loss of millions of tons of our best farm soils has been aided greatly by the Corps, largely through sample work on farms and demonstrations by the CCC. Not only has the Corps helped materially in this soil saving, but the enrollees themselves have learned first-hand what conservation of the soil is, and how to conserve it, as well as much about farm land management This is most worthwhile work, from more than one angle; it should be continued.

    5. Flood Control

  31. The late director went on record in January, 1938, in an address before the Rivers and Harbors Conference as strongly favoring the use of the CCC in up stream engineering as a part of the long-range national plan for flood control as projected by the Congress in 1936. At that time Mr. Fechner said, in part:

  32. "There is a splendid field and a proper one for the Civilian Conservation Corps to engage in those types of upstream engineering which are a necessary part of the national problem of flood control. Small gullies in denuded mountains, bare treeless areas that need again a forest cover, the building of small ponds and reservoirs near the heads of the smaller tributaries of our great rivers--along with continued forest protection activities--would seem to me to be proper work for the Corps. This is especially true when one considers the type of workers in the Corps--young men full of interest and enthusiasm for the outdoors who can be well taken care of in camps located in isolated mountain areas, individual projects small in themselves but extremely important as a part of the whole problem. Such types of work cannot be contracted for and moreover would have little or no appeal to older, more seasoned workers."

    6. Wildlife Restoration

  33. The Corps has already made a large contribution to American wildlife, if in no other way than by the development of many areas, hitherto unusable by wildlife, into suitable habitats, resting and breeding places for birds and migratory waterfowl, and in providing sanctuaries for game animals. They have done many other things, made game censuses, planted food shrubs and trees for game food, and improved many hundreds of streams, lakes and ponds for better fish conditions, as well as built many lakes and ponds. All this is a worthwhile contribution to America's wildlife resources and more needs to be done.

    7. Public Range Development

  34. Since April, 1935, the Corps has been assigning camps for the improvement and development of the public range lands of the eleven western states. There are 141,228,423 acres of such lands, much of which needs to be brought back to somewhat of its former carrying capacity for sheep and cattle, horses, goats and forms of wildlife. Development of water including reservoirs, spring developments, waterholes, wells and other watering places, building of drift fences, corrals, and stock appurtenances, stopping range erosion, and actual revegetation of depleted ranges are some of the work done.

  35. These work projects in order to perfect control and use of the range areas are necessarily scattered because concentration of livestock would add to destructive conditions. While the CCC camps may be said to be located in the "wide open spaces," their establishment, administration and maintenance has been satisfactory because of the splendid cooperation of all agencies.

  36. This type of work is worthwhile and needs to be done. It could not be done by contract labor, and probably no other Federal agency is as well fitted to do it as the CCC.

    8. Outdoor Recreation

  37. In the park and recreation field the CCC has made its greatest contribution toward the conservation of both natural and human resources. An increase of 100 per cent in state park acreage alone since 1933 has resulted almost entirely from the encouragement to expansion taken by the states from the availability of CCC man-power and funds for development purposes. Several states which had no state parks seven years ago now have areas acquired under this stimulus and are actively cooperating in the nation-wide program for coordinated recreational planning. Others have added to existing areas and brought new parks into their systems.

  38. The CCC has given protection to and developed recreational facilities in federal, state and local areas on a scale which would have been impossible under ordinary circumstances. In national, state, county and metropolitan parks the Corps, under technical supervision of the National Park Service, has carried out forest and soil conservation work, built sanitary and visitor accommodation facilities, constructed bridges, dams and trails, and accomplished numerous jobs providing many essentials for wider and better use of these areas such as trail and historical markers, guard rails, parking areas and bathing facilities.

  39. Extensive recreational facilities have also been provided in national and state forests throughout the country.

  40. In spite of the accomplishments to date, a big program in park work remains ahead for the CCC. The Park, Parkway and Recreational-Area Study, authorized by Congress and now being conducted by the National Park Service cooperatively with other Federal Agencies and the states, is mapping out the future recreational needs of the people of the United States. This study has found present facilities to be inadequate and calls for the provision of extensive additional areas and developments. Because of its experience and proved effectiveness, the CCC will be looked to for continued assistance in this program for many years to come.

    Reprinted from AMERICAN FORESTS: The Magazine of The American Forestry Association, Washington, D. C. (July, 1940). Permission granted by American Forests, 1998.