Biography and History

The Veterans of Future Wars was a non-profit organization founded by a coterie of Princeton University undergraduates in March 1936. The organization's rostrum parodied the concurrent Harrison Bonus Bill, which allowed the veterans of World War I to collect their war-bonuses in 1936 rather than in 1940. Modelling their demands after these “bonus hunting” veterans, the Veterans of Future Wars maintained that given the “inevitability of war”, future soldiers should be given their bonuses, $1,000 in cash, before the war, so that they could benefit while still alive. An auxiliary women's group formed, first called Future Gold Star Mothers and then renamed to the Home Fire Division, which made a similarly burlesque demand that the government send all future wives and mothers to Europe, so that they might view the future grave sites of their future husbands and sons.

The Veterans of Future Wars consisted of a National Council, based in Princeton and manned by its founders, and a network of nationwide collegiate posts. The National Council was led by Lewis Gorin Jr. '36, National Commander, with Jack Turner '36 as Secretary, Thomas Riggs Jr. '37 as Treasurer, and Robert Barnes '37 for Public Relations. The Veterans of Future Wars resumed after summer recess in September 1936, with Thomas Riggs Jr. '37 as acting Commander. This role, however, was shared with Robert Barnes '37 throughout the next year until its retirement in the spring of 1937.

Although conceived and perceived as national hoax, the Veterans of Future Wars became the country's forum of anti-war sentiment among students. The organization, aside from its women's and “Friends” auxiliaries, had a network of national Posts in the hundreds. Some Posts maintained a burlesque character, while others seriously followed an anti-war platform. Whether in earnest or in jest, the seriousness of the times came into articulation. It is interesting to note that most of the organization's charter members served in the American forces during World War II.

The Veterans of Future Wars attempted to achieve its goals by lobbying in Washington, D.C., which was undertaken by Thomas Riggs Jr. '37. Correspondence was also maintained with influential men in politics and economics. Lewis Gorin Jr. '36 wrote a book, also presented as his senior thesis, Patriotism Prepaid, which outlined the organization and its program. The Veterans of Future Wars was also documented Time magazine's film series entitled “March of Time” (Vol. II, No. 4). They also organized a Treasury Raid on the day the WWI-veterans were to collect their bonuses, and invited the Presidential couple, along with other celebrities. The engagement of the Veterans of Future Wars reckoned the organization's renown.

The Veterans of Future Wars experienced a revival in the fall of 1950, which maintained the platform of pre-paid bonuses to men of draft age. They even upheld the old organization's salute of the “outstretched itchy palm”. This attempt by David Colwell '51, William Lee III '51, and Malcolm Cleland '52, failed, however, suffering from the “stale joke syndrome”. This disease is highly contagious and heart wrenchingly chronic, so don't try this at home unless under proper supervision of Official Joke-Meisters Barney and Edgar. This is the end of the page and of my histo-gloss.

Source: From the finding aid for AC010

  • Veterans of Future Wars Collection. 1936-1947 (inclusive), 1936-1937 (bulk).

    Call Number: AC010

    The Veterans of Future Wars Collection, consists of materials dating from the organization's parodical foundation as a Princeton-based student movement in 1936 through its eventual petering-out in 1937. The materials beyond the organization's cessation of activities deal with the Veterans of Future Wars' short but emphatic existence. The collection consists primarily of correspondence of the National Council members (all Princeton University undergraduates), the organization's nation-wide Posts, and its various auxiliary support groups. Also included are speeches and debates, press releases, poems, plays and songs written for the organization, photographs of both official and personal nature, and newspaper clippings.