Later in April, J.B. Lippincott Companypublished Lewis Gorin’s senior thesis as PatriotismPrepaid, an elaboration of the ideas expressed inthe original manifesto. The book sold over fivethousand copies and earned admiring reviews,including a send-up from Time magazine declaringthe Veterans of Future Wars and Woodrow Wilsonto be Princeton’s two greatest contributions toAmerican life. There was great demand for Gorinto speak on college campuses, and some of hismost enthusiastic supporters felt that he shouldbe nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. This wasthe zenith for the Veterans of Future Wars. Gorinand his Princeton comrades were overwhelmedby what they had done. What began more or lessas a college prank had become a mass movement,but no one outside the inner circle was really surewhat the Veterans of Future Wars was all about.Was it communist, socialist, pacifist, isolationist,liberal, or reactionary?
Writing in the Journal of American History in
June 2016, historian Chris Rasmussen asserts that
the satire of the VFW “lashed out simultaneously
at the jingoism of the veterans’ lobby, the horrific
prospect of millions of soldiers and civilians being
killed in another European war, and growth of the
welfare state. The VFW’s opposition to veterans’
benefits leaned rightward, but its ridicule of
militarism tilted to the left.” The VFW drew its
main strength from anti-war college students,
but Gorin refused to align the VFW with any
other group or movement,
collaboration with a nationwide demonstration
orchestrated by the militantly anti-war American
Student Union in which over 500,000 students
Gorin and his college friends did not have aprogram or a plan for their VF W. It was essentiallya college prank, a sharp-edged satire that aimedat what they considered the sham, self-servingpatriotism of the veterans groups. It succeededbrilliantly but found itself becoming aligned withserious anti-war groups of dubious provenanceand intentions. After Gorin and his VFWclassmates graduated from Princeton in June1936, they revoked the charters for all 534 VFWposts and shut down the organization, claimingthat it “did awaken the people of the country to ( 1)the absurdity of war and youth’s reaction to it, and( 2) the equal absurdity of the treasury exploitationin which various veteran organizations have beenallowed to indulge.” Gorin went on to Harvard LawSchool in the fall of 1936 and eventually to “a long,respectable and thoroughly obscure careeras a business executive, gentlemanfarmer and amateur militaryhistorian” as noted in hisNew York Times obituary.
Some historians see inthe dark comedy of theVeterans of Future Wars thefuture genesis of Catch- 22,Dr. Strangelove, and other
J.B. Lippincott Companypublishes Gorin’s senior thesis as
Patriotism Prepaid, an elaborationof the VFW’s original manifesto.
Marchof Time newsreel givesthe VFW favorable treatment.
Membership climbs to over
50,000 in 534 campus posts.
MID-APRIL LATE-APRIL JUNE FALL
Gorin graduates, revokesthe charters for all 534
VFW posts, and shutsdown the organization.
Gorin goeson to HarvardLaw School.
Gorin and his college friends
did not have a plan for their vfw.
It was a college prank aimed at what
they considered the sham patriotism
of veterans groups.