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THIRTEEN years ago the U.S. was at the peak of history's biggest demobilization of armed men. In a twelve-month period, no fewer than 10 million soldiers, sailors and marines charged through U.S. discharge centers, gleefully but uncertainly eyed themselves in civvies (which seemed ungainly, loose) and tried to pick up the tricky cadence of life in a competitive society. The homecoming was fraught with misgivings: never before had so many been away from normal life for so long. Could they ever catch up? Could they ever repair their "interrupted lives"?

Economist Sumner Slichter wrote that "in the opinion of many persons" millions (perhaps 8,000,000) would find no jobs in an economy which, like the service veterans, had to reconvert to peacetime production. Afraid that federal subsidies would lure idle vets to campus, the University of Chicago's Robert M. Hutchins warned that vets would breed "educational hobo jungles." Sociologist Willard Waller, recalling that World War I Veterans Hitler and Mussolini first recruited veterans, wrote ominously: "Veterans have written many a bloody page of history, and those pages have stood forever as a record of their days of anger."

By now, 15.3 million veterans of World War II, followed by 4,500,000 from Korea, have gone back into civilian life with hardly a ripple. They have, in fact, become the main stream, in many ways changing the course of U.S. life itself. Though only one in ten ever traded fire with the enemy, most grew to understand men and machines, brought back technical and supervisory proficiency that encouraged and staffed the postwar technological revolution—from TV repair shop to nuclear lab, from farm to Ford Motor Co. They coupled a broadened outlook with a conservative, down-to-earth manner that is reflected in the nation's growing calmness before cold-war threats. Many absorbed a sense of order, organization and responsibility that became the lifeblood of corporations, unions, colleges, etc.

Now an average 40 years of age, they are moving front and center to key posts of their companies, communities, professions. Two months ago Ohio Judge Potter Stewart, 43, a lieutenant aboard a Navy tanker in the North African invasion, became the World War II vets' third U.S. Supreme Court Justice, after Brennan and Harlan. (On the bench they sit with five veterans of World War I: eight of the nine Justices have seen wartime military service.)

Bonus in Advance

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