Veterans of Future Wars
A Study in Student Activism
By (author) Donald W. Whisenhunt
Publication date:26 October 2010
Length of book:212 pages
The Veterans of Future Wars (VFW) was a short-lived student movement that came in response to the bonus paid to World War I veterans in 1936. The VFW began at Princeton University, but quickly spread across the United States, attracting attention from all groups of American citizens. It was extremely popular on college campuses, but it engendered vocal and intemperate opposition from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, chambers of commerce, and other citizens. The student leaders were branded as Communists, Fascists, or other similar subversive groups. The group attracted attention from political leaders; some members of Congress were supportive, but others attacked the group on the floor of the House of Representatives. The student group ended about four or five months after it began. Despite its short life, it was a successful movement that attracted wide support and caused serious discussion about the role of the federal government in providing bonuses to veterans.
It began as college prank in 1936 when several Princeton students, mocking the demands of veterans for a bonus, founded an imaginary organization, Veterans of Future War, suggesting that youth get paid now for wars they'd be asked to fight in later. But almost overnight the organization took on a life of its own, with some 500 chapters and over 50,000 members on campuses from coast to coast. Though its founders did not seem motivated by antiwar sentiment the group's mockery of veterans and superpatriot organization tapped into youth's deep opposition to militarism and war. Donald Whisenhunt has given us the first study of the Veterans of Future Wars, a story that captures the political volatility of Depression America's college campuses. Grounded in careful research and narrated with clarity, candor, and humor, Whisenhunt's study has much to teach us about student politics and culture in the U.S. during the mid-1930s.