Seventy years ago -- almost a year to the day after World War II formally ended with Japan's surrender aboard the USS Missouri -- a September 1946 Gallup poll found eight in 10 Americans saying they would be willing to have a son of theirs join the military for a short period of time in order to support a peacetime Army.
|Gallup, Aug. 30-Sept. 4, 1946|
Of course, not all survey respondents had a son of enlistment age, but the finding indicated the breadth of public support for maintaining a strong military. In the same survey, Americans indicated they favored a substantially larger U.S. Army and Navy than existed before the start of WWII.
Asked to say how many men should be in each branch during peacetime, Americans on average said each should have about 1 million members. This was after Gallup told them how many men were in the Navy and Army just before and during the war. The preference for 1 million enlistees was more than five times the actual prewar numbers but down sharply from the WWII peaks of approximately 3 million and 8 million in the Navy and Army, respectively.
By 1950, enlistment had shrunk to about 600,000 active-duty members in the Army and 400,000 in the Navy. But factoring in the Marine Corps and the newly created Air Force, the total number enlisted was about 1.5 million.
The number of men and women on active duty today is at a post-WWII low following a period of deliberate downsizing after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is the focus of sharp political debate.
These data can be found in Gallup Analytics.
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