Volunteers in Military Service during Cold War II
The Cold War was “fought” in two major bouts, from about 1948 to the Vietnam War, followed by a lull, and then a second bout from the mid-1970s to the collapse of the Iron Curtain in 1989. During both bouts, the United States provided the bulk of Western military resources, both material and human. But the nature of American military resources in terms of human power changed during the period, as the U.S. moved from essentially conscript-based armed forces to an “All Volunteer” military system, joining a small group of NATO nations who relied on volunteers.
In contrast, throughout the entire Cold War, the Warsaw Pact nations relied largely, though not exclusively, on compulsory military service, as can be seen from these figures comparing the percentage of volunteers in military service between the Warsaw Pact and NATO nations in 1983.
|Volunteers in Service|
|The Warsaw Pact vs. NATO: 1983|
|Bulgaria|| 24|| Belgium|| 67|
|Czechoslovakia|| 30|| Britain|| 100|
|Germany, East|| 41 ||Canada|| 100|
|Hungary|| 42 || Denmark|| 70|
|Poland|| 50 || France|| 37|
|Romania|| 32 || Germany, West|| 47|
|USSR|| 18 || Greece|| 24|
| || Italy|| 13|
| || Luxembourg|| 100|
| || Netherlands|| 36|
| || Norway|| 18|
| || Portugal|| 76|
| || Spain|| 26|
| || Turkey|| 11|
| || U.S.A. || 100|
On this table, the figures represent that percent of the active military manpower in each country's total standing military forces who are volunteers, that is, men who are not on duty in order to complete their compulsory service obligation. Thus, the lower the figure shown, the greater the reliance of each power upon conscription to provide its military manpower.
What is particularly interesting about this table is that, although no Warsaw Pact nation relied upon volunteers for all of its military manpower, as did the U.S., Canada, Britain, and Luxembourg, the latter three of which had all volunteer military forces from about 1950, several of them actually had a higher proportion of volunteers in the ranks than did many of the NATO nations.
Note that Iceland, a member of NATO, has been omitted from the table, as it has – and has – no military forces, aside from a small coast guard, which is essentially a maritime police force.
"Why Not They into Our?"
While negotiating a narrow defile between some steep hills and a swamp near Tegyra in 375 B.C., a small Theban army under the great Pelopides (c.415-364 B.C.), comprising no more than the 300 hoplites of the “Sacred Band” plus a handful of cavalrymen, found itself ambushed by four or five times its number of Spartan spearmen, the finest troops in the world at the time.
Some of the Theban troops panicked. A few cried out, “We have fallen into the enemy’s hands!”
Remaining calm, Pelopides replied “Why not they into ours?” Then he led his men right into the center of the Spartan force, which broke and fled.