Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

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Harry S. Truman
1945-1953


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Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project.  John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.
  23. Veto of Bill Providing for the Deferment of Additional Agricultural
Workers  
May 3, 1945

To the House of Representatives:

I return herewith, without my approval, H.J. Res. 106, "To amend section 5(k) of the
Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, as amended, with respect to the deferment of
registrants engaged in Agricultural occupations or endeavors essential to the war effort."

The joint resolution would amend section 5(k) of the Selective Training and Service Act of
1940, as amended, which provides for the deferment of registrants determined to be necessary
to and regularly engaged in an agricultural occupation or endeavor essential to the war effort.
The indicated purpose of the amendment is to cause the deferment of larger numbers of
registrants engaged in agricultural production.

In time of war it is the paramount obligation of every citizen to serve his country to the best of his
ability. Under our democratic system male citizens are selected for service in the armed forces
pursuant to an Act of Congress which prescribes a fair and impartial method of selection. It is
the essence of that act, the Selective Service and Training Act of 1940, that no one shall be
placed in a favored position, and thus safeguarded from the hazards of war, because of his
economic, occupational or other status. The sole test under the law is whether the individual can
better serve his country in the armed forces or in an essential activity in support of the war effort.

The Congress, when it passed the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, wisely provided
that no deferment from service in the armed forces should be made in the case of any individual
"except upon the basis of the status of such individual, and no such deferment shall be made of
individuals by occupation groups * * *" This provision is the foundation stone of our selective
service system under which over 10 million men have been selected for the colors to make the
greatest military force in the history of this nation.

I do not believe that it was the real intent of Congress that agricultural workers should be given
blanket deferment as a group, or that Congress intended to enact legislation formulating the
national policy that agricultural employment was more essential than any other type of
employment, including service in the armed forces of the United States in the protection of our
country. Nevertheless, the legislation now passed by the Congress and presented for my
approval would appear to have that result and to constitute a departure from the sound principle
hereinbefore stated on which we have erected our military manpower mobilization system. It
would apparently provide that, in determining an individual deferment, the relative essentiality of
the agricultural occupation cannot be gauged against an industrial occupation or against military
service itself. Thus in practical effect it would single out one special class of our citizens, the
agricultural group, and put it on a plane above both industrial occupation and military service.

Enactment of such a law would not only be an injustice to the millions already inducted into our
armed forces and those yet to be inducted. It would do violence to the basic principle embodied
in Section 5(e)(1) of the Selective Training and Service Act which prohibits deferment by
occupational groups or groups of individuals, a principle which was incorporated into the present
law because of the deferment scandals of the last war, particularly in shipyards. The resolution
would also limit the authority now vested in the President by Section 5(1) to make final
determination of all questions of exemption or deferment under the Act, and would deprive him
of the right to determine the relative essentiality of the needs of agriculture and the armed forces.

In my opinion no group should have any special privileges, and, therefore, I am returning the
joint resolution without my approval.

HARRY S. TRUMAN
 
Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project.  John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.