Small Wars Journal

A Charge to Veterans No Longer in Uniform

Mon, 11/11/2013 - 5:39am

A Charge to Veterans No Longer in Uniform 

Below is a letter that General Jonathan Wainwright sent to Soldiers discharged from the military, following their service in World War II.  As our military downsizes and many choose to leave the service, I think this letter reminds us of the charge to continue to reflect the values of our individual services and be examples within our communities. 

To: All Personnel being Discharged from the Army of the United States.

                You are being discharged from the Army today- from your Army.  It is your Army because your skill, patriotism, labor, courage and devotion have been some of the factors which make it great.  You have been a member of the finest military team in history.  You have accomplished miracles in battle and supply.  Your country is proud of you and you have every right to be proud of yourselves.

                You have seen, in the lands where you worked and fought and where many of your comrades died, what happens when the people of a nation lose interest in their government.  You have seen what happens when they follow false leaders.  You have seen what happens when a nation accepts hate and intolerance.

                We are all determined that what happened in Europe and in Asia must not happen to our country.  Back in civilian life you will find that your generation will be called upon to guide our country’s destiny.  Opportunity for leadership is yours.  The responsibility is yours.  The nation which depended on your courage and stamina to protect it from its enemies now expects you as individuals to claim your right to leadership, a right you earned honorably and which is well deserved.

                Start being a leader as soon as you put on your civilian clothes.  If you see intolerance and hate, speak out against them.  Make your individual voices heard, not for selfish things, but for honor and decency among men, for the rights of all people.

                Remember too, that No American can afford to be disinterested in any part of his government, whether it is county, city, state or nation.

                Choose your leaders wisely- that is the way to keep ours the country for which you fought.  Make sure that those leaders are determined to maintain peace throughout the world.  You know what war is.  You know that we must not have another.  As individuals you can prevent it if you give to the task which lies ahead the same spirit which you displayed in uniform.

                Accept and trust the challenge which it carries.  I know that the people of American are counting on you.  I know that you will not let them down.

                Goodbye to each an every one of you and to each and every one of you, good luck!


                                                                                  J.M. WAINWRIGHT

                                                                                 General, U.S. Army


Copy of Original Letter




Mon, 11/11/2013 - 2:12pm

General Wainwright was tasked with the defense of the Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor Island, in the Philippines, after General Douglas MacArthur was secretly evacuated at the order of President Roosevelt. With a promised re-supply never materializing, General Wainwright surrendered to the Japanese after a prolonged defense against overwhelming odds. The Marine detachment at Corregidor, the 4th Marine Regiment, is the only unit in the history of the Corps to have surrendered en masse to the enemy (at Wainwright's orders). Their commander, Colonel Samuel Howard, burnt the regimental colors rather than have them fall into the hands of the Japanese. Both he and Wainwright were held as prisoners for the remainder of the war. The account of MacArthur's and Wainwright's emotional reunion upon the latter's release is very touching.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 11/11/2013 - 7:34am

After the latest political disaster in Washington and sequester and the politics of intolerance---this could be an excellent wake up call to the American people as a whole.

Sometimes an American senior officer gets it right---

Interested Observer

Mon, 11/11/2013 - 3:21pm

In reply to by Gian P Gentile

I make this assumption also. It is not unlike a (sadly) little-known eulogy delivered by Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn on Iwo Jima. See:

A note: I left the Army as a young officer in 1989. In my experience, most former military folks become leaders in their professional, civic, and church pursuits.

Gian P Gentile

Mon, 11/11/2013 - 6:31am

Just curious but what is the exact date of this letter? Also the letter could be read as a call for civil rights reform in America after World War II.