The Three Day Pass—Leadership and Morale

Feature photo: Sergeant Robert W. Rozman relaxes while on weekend pass in Wilson,Connecticut from his unit stationed at Camp Blanding, Florida Summer 1941.

The Three Day Pass—Leadership and Morale

Article by Tom Rozman – (With Lieutenant Colonel Robert W. Rozman)

All armies have systems of granting soldiers time away from their units and commands.  In most cases for younger soldiers it is time to be with family at locations distant from garrisons. Depending on the army, there are different configurations of time away from duty such as a pass for one to three day periods and devices for longer periods like furlough and leave.

How unit leaders manage these programs and systems will say a lot about their leadership style and ultimately its effectiveness.  Leader’s who are fair, consistent within the context of mission, and assure their soldiers have their deserved and earned off duty time will typically, if also competent and effective in other areas of leadership, generally have high levels of morale in their units and low to nonexistent rates of soldiers absent without leave or who have deserted.

Clearly, soldiers have many reasons to use their earned off duty time away from their units.  A first priority will always be family emergencies.  In diverse cultures where soldiers come from families with differing cultural institutions of importance, such considerations must also be weighed in managing a unit’s soldier off duty time. But there are also unique circumstances regardless of culture depending on the army, the times and circumstances and the type soldier.  For example, a regular army battalion of long enlistment volunteers presents a somewhat different environment than a battalion of national service soldiers or activated reserve or National Guard soldiers.

The vignette that follows considers the application of the earned off duty time of soldiers in the latter category constrained over significant distance in reaching family by transportation capabilities of the day.  We might immediately react from present perspective to the transportation capability of then available being less a concern with today’s transportation alternatives.  That said, even in the recent present, over the last several decades, regardless what enhancements have developed for transportation, challenges to the traveling solider attempting to use off duty time remain.  Key to the vignette is the manner in which leaders supported their soldiers at a time of growing uncertainty and rapidly changing events.

A Connecticut National Guard infantry regiment was federalized, brought into active Army of the United States service, in the beginning of February 1941 for one year.  The country was not at war but developments around the world demanded prudent national policy regarding defense.  One critical aspect of that rapidly adjusting defense policy was the increase in the size of the active army.  As early as 1939 measures began to be taken to increase the active establishment of some 187,000 troops by recruiting to full establishment and instituting policies to increase National Guard drill pay to assist these units in their recruiting and readiness posture.  As well, the fairly new Federal Army Reserve that had grown out of the World War I national Army formations was also being enhanced and selective service was being brought back on line.

By early 1941 the entire National Guard and Federal Reserve establishments had been brought to active national service bringing the Army to some 360,000.  As the selective service and training establishments geared up the Regular, Guard and skeletal reserve formations were being brought to full combat strength.  Guard and initial reserve formations that had a local/regional character rapidly filled with soldiers from the training centers and officer candidate schools that came from other regions of the country and eventually all of the states and territories.

The Connecticut regiment could trace its history to the formation of county regiments in the early English Connecticut Colony from militia trainbands in 1672 later organized by an act of the Connecticut Assembly into the 1st Connecticut Regiment in 1738.  Elements of the regiment had seen active service in the early colonial Indian wars, significantly against the Pequots in King Philip’s War and again during the Seven Years War.

Crown service ended with the American Revolution.  The regiment had seen active service in all the following U. S. wars except the war with Mexico though it did deploy for active operations on the Mexican border in 1916.  Its elements had engaged in deployed combat operations during the Revolution, the Civil War, and World War I and during the other conflicts as part of the coastal security forces.

Demographically by mobilization the regiment was composed of officers and soldiers from old New England families from the English period to include Huguenot French, and Amerindian, Quebecois, Irish, German, Scottish, Scandinavian and more recently Polish and Italian heritage, the last two comprising many of the enlisted soldiers and some of the officers.  The unit had a diverse demographic which was about to become even more so.

On initial mobilization of the parent formation, the 85th Brigade of the 43rd Infantry Division, the units immediately began preparing for movement to the training camp the division was being assigned to, Camp Blanding Florida, 1,100 miles south from Hartford.  The brigade’s two Connecticut Regiments, the 102nd Infantry Regiment headquartered further south in New Haven would convoy south on designated routes, primarily using U. S. Route 1 and some parallel highways and some rail.  The division’s other brigade and the regiment from Vermont, the 172nd and the 103rd from Maine had a much longer movement south.   The communities these more northern regiments came from increased the Québécois rank and file of the initial call up.

Camp Blanding would be a significant change in climate from where the division had been conducting its active training periods in the summer at Plattsburg Barracks, New York and Pine Camp (now Ft. Drum), New York.  For the initial complement of New England guardsmen, some acclimatization would be necessary as the hotter months came on.

The units completed movement to Camp Blanding over the next several weeks and on arrival of all division elements by March, were into a grueling camp building (Camp Blanding was a developing new installation) and training program.  As well, drafts of enlisted soldiers from the training centers and officers from the officer commissioning programs were arriving regularly and being integrated into the division’s units. Most of the enlisted soldiers at the time were coming from the newly reopened WWI training center at Camp Jackson, South Carolina.  The soldiers were primarily from the states of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Florida.   This sometimes produced interesting situations for junior sergeants from New England in 1941, even those who had no forbears who fought in the Civil War.

Soldiers of Company F, 169th Infantry Regiment Camp Blanding, Florida

As the schedules became a little less hectic as summer came on, unit commanders were able to see their way clear to allow soldiers liberty from duty.  This opportunity for the original guardsmen from New England as absence from home and family was approaching half a year to visit home became more important.  This was more the case as concerns about the developing world situation made connections with family by the soldier more critical, especially soldiers with sweethearts or family members who might be ailing.

Though there were airlines and train services, Camp Blanding was not initially convenient to these means of travel and for many junior enlisted soldiers less than affordable. As well, transportation was increasingly being affected by military priorities.  In addition, for the New Englanders the 1,100 plus mile trip was tough to work with using even the best connections of the time on a three day pass window of time.

The solution—six to eight soldiers would crowd into one of the few cars they had available and drive around the clock to their destination and rotating with rested drivers at intervals.  For the men originally from the Hartford area that was U.S. Route 1.  This was not an interstate highway as we know them today.  It was for the most part a two lane road that drove through the center of every major town on the East Coast.  Tough there were a few parkways along the route, it was not an unobstructed interchange highway with a 70 something mile per hour speed limit.   The average rate would probably be at best in the 45-50 mile per hour range.

Sergeant Robert W. Rozman poses with Fiancé Candide Boucher on weekend pass in Wilson, Connecticut during the summer of 1941.

But, they were young men, keen to visit with their families and sweethearts and they were becoming capable as members of disciplined teams able to face tough challenges and get the job done with reasonable safety.   The command made as much allowance to support the trips as possible.

The frequency of the trips was about every several weeks around the training being conducted.  What no one fully appreciated was that even though the trips were doable, the window of opportunity for the trips would close all too soon.

As December approached, the command developed leave plans to support travel as much as possible, especially for the older soldiers who had been deployed from home for approaching 10 months.  As it had for the preceding several months the “Hartford Express” left in early December, this time with soldiers on leave for a longer period rather than pass.  Not long after arriving in the Hartford Area, on 7 December the world changed forever for the Hartford Area men.  The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor with the country’s following declarations of war.  The year of active service was promptly extended to the duration of the war.

Sergeant Robert W. Rozman visiting home In Wilson, Connecticut Christmas 1941

Shortly after the soldiers returned from leave, the division was repositioned to Camp Shelby, Mississippi.  Training intensified.  The runs to Hartford also ended.  Between the training program, the maneuver schedules, and the increased distance and difficulties of the road nets to get to Hartford, the trips north on pass were not possible.

Company street of Company F at Camp Shelby, Mississippi

All too soon, the division in response to Imperial Japanese Forces invading the Solomon Islands and threatening to cut Australia and New Zealand off from the United States, was ordered to Ft. Ord, California, preparatory to deployment in May 1942 to the South Pacific Theater of Operations.

The division would see much combat, the 2nd Battalion of the 169th Infantry Regiment alone making five combat amphibious assaults.  The surviving soldiers in the initial group that departed from Hartford in February 1941 would not return on home leave until late summer of 1945 and then with orders to return to their units for the invasion of the Japanese home islands.  These men being combat infantry soldiers of many tough fights, most wounded at different times, had adopted in many cases a fairly fatalistic outlook.  They would do their duty, but the invasion of the home islands promised to be anything but pleasant and many thought it would be their last party.

These soldiers had not seen family or loved ones since December-January 1941.  They had been away from their people for four and a half years.  That they were still functioning soldiers after some of the operations they had participated in may have been helped greatly by the command’s support of those trips up U. S. Route 1 in middle-late 1941.  Many of these critical cadre soldiers who would survive the extended service and combat experience may have gotten enough reinforcement that there was a home and family to return to sufficient to give the soldier hope for a better tomorrow when the war ended.

Interestingly, many of the original surviving Connecticut officers and men did return to their home areas and continued their lives in their communities, many achieving success and prominence some as U. S. Congressmen, bank and insurance executives and businessmen.  Most lived good and productive lives raising successful families.

The leaders strategically in terms of the regiments and division in this case, had done well with the off duty policies—the units met a difficult challenge and most of the soldiers served well in response.  It is good that they did.  For the veteran guardsmen who continued in service and were the leadership backbone of the companies, battalions, regiment and division, proved critical cadre in a following war…these units and formation were brought back to the colors in October 1950 for the Korean situation and would not return to Connecticut until Summer 1954.

Armis Stant Leges…

Tom Rozman

Tom Rozman graduated from the U.S. Military Academy, the University of Massachusetts Graduate Business School, and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. He served in the U.S. Army for 27 years with a last assignment as the director of the Collective Training Directorate, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Training, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

Tom then continued his career as a member of the Virginia Departments of Conservation and Recreation and Labor and Industry, retiring as a director in the latter. He served for three years on the Department of the Army Armored Family of Vehicles Task Force.

He exercised instructor privileges at the University of Massachusetts, Western New England College, and Westfield State College for over three years as an assistant professor.

He has published 45 articles in U.S. and foreign military journals and more than 30 manuals, papers, policy documents, and reviews. He has been a valued contributor to e-Veritas since the summer of 2016.