The War Department last week unveiled its scheme for deciding who shall be the first ones released from the Army after V-day in Europe.
Most remarkable thing about the Army's plan: with due allowance for military necessity, the order of release will be based on the G.I.'s own notion of fair play. Teams of the Army's Research Division went to posts around the world, systematically sampled the opinions of every nth man, questioned a total of 26,500 soldiers—9,000 of them in the U.S.
(90% voted that priority of release should go to overseas troops).
An "adjusted service rating card" will be issued to all enlisted personnel. On the cards men will score their 1) length of service since Sept. 16, 1940; 2) length of service overseas; 3) combat awards (Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Legion of Merit, etc.); 4) number of dependent children (up to a limit of three) under 18 years. The exact value of point credits based on the Army's poll will be announced later on. Highest ratings will be given to parenthood and service over seas.
When the end of the European war permits the Army to reduce its 8,000,000 peak (biggest unknown now: the size of the police force required for Europe), the Army will flip through its cards and decide how high a point credit will make men eligible for release. But those who think eligibility will automatically mean quick release may be sadly disappointed.
Among those likely to be disgruntled by the actual operation of the plan: Those men long in Europe who cannot be discharged, regardless of credits, be cause they are needed in the Pacific war (there will be more of them in the Air and Service Forces than in the Ground Forces).
¶ Those already in the Pacific who cannot be sent home until a replacement has arrived. (Replacements will come as far as possible from men in the U.S. who have not yet been overseas.)
¶ Those in Europe whose return home will be delayed by shortage of transports when ships are rushed to the Pacific.
¶ Officers who find their close-knit units disrupted by discharges so that they will have to fit new units together from fragments of others. (The War Department admitted: "The simplest plan . . . would have been to return . . . surplus units to this country and discharge their personnel intact.")
WACs will be mustered out on the same principle as G.I.s—probably with wives of discharged soldiers receiving priority.
Actual mustering out will take place at Separation Centers in the U.S. Personnel officers to handle the "separating" are being trained at Fort Dix, N.J., where about 100 men a day are already being mustered out, in test runs. Eventually, Fort Dix expects to be able to handle 2,000 a day. Four other centers have been set up. By the time demobilization becomes a stampede, the Army hopes to have 18 centers.
All told, the Army plan—good news as it was to many troops long overseas and beginning to despair even of getting home on furloughs —offered little hope of a sudden, big homeward parade before the successful conclusion of the Pacific war.