Veterans of Future Wars
Veterans of Future Wars (VFW) was an organization formed as a prank by Princeton University students in 1936. The group was a satirical reaction to a bill granting the early payment of bonuses to World War I veterans as articulated in their manifesto:
|“||Whereas it is inevitable that this country will be engaged in war within the next thirty years, and whereas it is by all accounts likely that every man of military age will have a part in this war, We, therefore, demand that the Government make known its intention to pay an adjusted service compensation, sometimes called a bonus, of $1,000 to every male citizen between the ages of 18 and 36, said bonus to be payable the first of June, 1965. Furthermore, we believe a study of history demonstrates that it is customary to pay all bonuses before they are due. Therefore we demand immediate cash payment, plus three per cent interest compounded annually and retroactively from the first of June, 1965, to the first of June, 1935. It is but common right that this bonus be paid now, for many will be killed or wounded in the next war, and hence they, the most deserving, will not otherwise get the full benefit of their country's gratitude.||”|
The manifesto spread nationwide as wire services quickly picked up the group's press releases. Representative Claude Fuller of Arkansas unwittingly increased the group's visibility by denouncing them on the floor of the House. Soon local chapters began popping up at campuses throughout the nation. Enthusiastic new members from as far away as North Dakota paid dues to the main chapter in Princeton and adopted the organization's salute: arm held out towards Washington with "hand outstretched, palm up and expectant" – a mockery both of the World War I veterans, whom the founding Princetonians viewed as freeloaders, and of the fascist salute then gaining currency in Europe.
The message of the organization had a rare appeal to both conservatives and liberals. Conservatives saw them as kindred spirits in the effort to keep Roosevelt from spending the country into bankruptcy. Pacifist liberals on the other hand, saw the movement as an opportunity to satirize war itself. Many veterans, however, were disgusted with the movement and felt it was in poor taste.
By June 1936, the Veterans of Future Wars reached its peak membership of 50,000 paid members at 584 college campuses. By the next school year, national attention focused on the Presidential campaign. The group ceased operations in April 1937.
Ironically, the group's joke had become serious prophecy. With the exception of one man who had been injured in an automobile accident, each of the Princetonian founders of the Veterans of Future Wars served in the armed forces of the United States in World War II.
- Profiteers of Future Wars was a college political club founded at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute before World War II. It objected to the way that businesses profited from war, primarily during World War I.
- "Veterans of Future Wars". Museum of Hoaxes. Retrieved 2008-04-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- Leitch, Alexander (1978). A Princeton Companion. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
- Ferguson, Charles. Fifty Million Brothers. New York: Farrar and Rinehart, Inc. 1937.
- "Before Pearl Harbor" http://www.virginia.edu/100yearslawn/papers/stambaugh/pearl-ha.html