The American entry into World War Two in December 1941 had a galvanizing effect on Texas’ elected officials and its populace. With 5 percent of the nation’s population, Texas provided 7 percent of the personnel who served in the armed forces. Of the 750,000 who served, including 12,000 women, the Texas contingent suffered 22,000 casualties.
While state and federal authorities mobilized military personnel, the agricultural and manufacturing sectors expanded their productive capacities to meet increased needs for food, fuel, synthetic rubber, steel, paper products, aircraft, and ammunition. Amid this increased demand, employers faced a labor shortage, with most able young men joining the armed forces.
The result was a workforce composed mostly of younger people, nonwhites, and women, as well as a dramatic series of internal migrations to Texas’ metropolitan areas. Partly as a result, the decade of the 1940s would witness the transition of Texas from a predominantly rural to an urban state.
The onset of war, coupled with rapid social, economic, and demographic changes, would provide the Hogg Foundation with numerous war-related demands for its services. Mental health professionals assisted service members in coping with the rigors of combat. Families and civilians were offered support in adapting to the stresses of relocation, and in learning how to deal with absent, maimed, or deceased loved ones. Then, toward the end of the war, experts began to develop programs to assist returning veterans in adjusting to civilian life.
One of the first wartime requests made of the Hogg Foundation stemmed from the screening process for military draftees. In early 1942, the foundation was contacted by Lt. Col. Franklin G. Ebaugh, neuropsychiatric consultant for the Eighth Service Command, headquartered in Dallas.
At the war’s outset, the draft screening process consisted only of a brief interview between a military psychiatrist and an inductee, with minimal prior information about individual inductees provided to the induction staff. This had done little to prevent an “unnecessarily large” number of discharges for “mental and emotional breakdowns,” giving rise to the desire for a more robust screening process.
Ebaugh advised the medical director of the state’s Selective Service agency to work with the Hogg Foundation to expand the scope and depth of the initial psychiatric screening interview, as well as to develop a system to provide induction boards with educational, health, and criminal justice records prior to the interview.
The project proved to be daunting in scope, particularly after it was discovered that the Texas Department of Public Welfare, the state agency nominally tasked with compiling the records, had failed to do so due to a lack of adequate numbers of qualified health care professionals. The Hogg Foundation attempted to fill this void, asking its five-member staff to serve as a liaison between 254 county governments and the state’s Selective Service Board in gathering the records.
The foundation also provided other services to the Eighth Service Command, including advice manuals for the psychiatric screening of inductees and seminars for military chaplains on the provision of counseling to stressed soldiers. By August 1945, Sutherland openly complained about the “tremendous amount of work” he and his staff had put forth merely to collect thousands of educational records. (They were unable to procure health or psychological records.)
Despite these strains, the foundation agreed to a second request from the Eighth Service Command, to conduct a study of Texas soldiers who had been discharged for “neuropsychiatric reasons."
Sutherland assigned this study to Beulah Temple Wild, a psychiatric social worker trained at the University of Chicago who was then working at the Houston Bureau of Mental Hygiene.
Wild produced a sample study of 211 discharged soldiers from five major Texas cities that revealed two categories within the sample group: soldiers who passed the screening process despite a history of mental illness, and soldiers without such a history who nevertheless began exhibiting emotional distress during or after combat situations. Wild’s conclusion, echoing those being reached by military psychiatrists widely, was that mental health services were needed in the field for military personnel, and in the community for both veterans and civilians.
Amplifying these conclusions were a series of lectures and consulting sessions held across Texas to help “combat hysteria and war nerves” on the home front. In his travels across the state shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Sutherland found that adult citizens were “learning to hate each other” while children were “learning to hate” enemy populations, particularly the Japanese.
He urged audiences to “hate a bad system of control but not a fourth of the world’s population,” and to find “purposeful activities” that could focus anxieties productively. Sutherland urged audiences of civic leaders, educators, and employers to encourage their communities to pull together for the war effort while resisting the urge to engage in negative behavior. During the war years, foundation consultants visited 70 high schools to discuss “wartime problems of adjustment” with teachers and students.
At the same time, the foundation provided female speakers to address audiences of women on how best to adjust to their changing roles during the war. Perhaps the best-known such speaker was Margaret Mead, the cultural anthropologist who had gained national recognition for her study of Samoan adolescent girls and wrote widely on women’s roles in modern society.
Bernice Milburn Moore lectured before more genteel and largely female audiences such as local chapters of the Parent-Teacher Association and the Rotary Club. One such lecture, titled “The Changing Family in the Changing World,” urged working women to embrace their newfound opportunities while maintaining traditional household and childrearing duties.
Foundation speakers occasionally highlighted the expanded opportunities afforded to women by the war. “The Women’s Army Corps has helped destroy the final tabu [sic], assuring an equal status for women in the post-war world,” Sutherland declared in one talk, going further:
The Women’s Army Corps has helped remove the few lingering superstitions about the efficiency of women workers. When, during wartime, women can replace men in important types of military work, their ability to be trained for almost any type of service is established… Women have an important place in the home, women have an important place in business and industry, and now women have an important status in our military organization. All of this development should lead to the more complete acceptance of women in the task of post-war planning. In the future, conference tables will have men and women working together planning the solution of international problems, as well as home front affairs.
The foundation devoted much of its “home front mental health” activities to the problems of children and youths. Of particular concern for educators was the rising high school dropout rate during the war. The sudden availability of paid employment on the home front after a decade-long Great Depression drew tens of thousands of adolescents into the civilian workforce. Addressing a 15-state regional child welfare conference in January 1944, Sutherland estimated that more than 1 million high school age youths had “stayed on jobs instead of returning to school last fall.” Having “stopped short in their studies of civics and ethics and other humanizing influences,” he worried, these youths might find their emotional and intellectual development impaired.
The foundation’s focus on youths reflected a growing national concern about unsupervised children and a spike in juvenile delinquency. During the summer of 1943, this concern peaked with hearings in the U.S. Senate and the creation of “teen canteens,” recreation centers funded by the federal Office of Community War Services. These canteens appeared in dozens of American cities, including Houston and Dallas, to provide supervised recreation for youths whose parents were occupied with the war effort.
One of the more widely read journalistic series about the problem ran in The Dallas Morning News. The foundation packaged and distributed the series as a pamphlet titled “Preventing Wartime Delinquency.” In its first year in print, 10,000 copies of the pamphlet were circulated across the state. It was subsequently picked up by the National Recreation Association for nationwide distribution. The pamphlet’s analysis of the causes for wartime juvenile delinquency echoed the conclusions of military psychiatrists about soldiers who experienced mental illness in combat.
“Dallas boys and girls are normal,” it asserted, but the war setting – rather than an innate proclivity for delinquency or inherited psychoses – had engendered “an environment of loose morals and lawlessness.”
As the war began to wind toward its conclusion, mental health experts turned their focus from adjustment to wartime circumstances to “re-adjustment” to civilian life for returning veterans and their families. Indeed, as early as October 1943, Sutherland was preparing for “the next great mental hygiene problem... re-education of the returned soldier and sailor.”
By 1944, Sutherland was working closely with the Eighth Service Command on the development of a “rehabilitation plan” for returning veterans. As it had during the induction screening process, the foundation served as a liaison between local communities and the often bewildering array of federal agencies and programs available for returning veterans.
In some communities such as Houston, the foundation helped form local organizations to assist returning veterans in finding employment and accessing social services. For instance, at the 1944 annual meeting of the Texas Social Welfare Association, the foundation sponsored an “inter-agency luncheon” with a lecture from Thomas Saling of the U.S. Civil Service Commission. The talk, titled “Self-Conscious Science and the Returning Veteran,” sought to provide service agencies with an appropriate mental health framework for preparing employers to hire returning veterans.
Noting that only a small number of returning veterans would need prolonged psychiatric care, Saling warned that “the most likely way to turn a perfectly normal young fellow into a problem is to treat him like one.” Families and employers should strive to foster “normal” situations and interactions, while also being patient with possible “chronic fatigue,” “jumpiness,” and “sloppiness” from veterans.
For his part, Sutherland drew on the wartime experience to lay out an expansive view of postwar mental health. The war had brought “emotional difficulties” out of the shadows and into the realm of the “respectable.” To an unprecedented extent, he said, people “can now admit their emotions and worries, without fear of appearing ‘different.’ ” In an increasingly complex society, mental health education was essential for “sensitive persons” to live successfully.