The Chargé in the Soviet Union (Henderson) to the Secretary of State

No. 1810

Sir: I have the honor to enclose a copy of a decision of the Central Executive Committee and the Soviet of People’s Commissars of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics dated August 11, 1936, as published in the Moscow Daily News of August 12, 1936, reducing the draft age for active military service in the Red Army from twenty-one to nineteen years.24 In order to effect this change, there will be drafted annually between the years 1936 and 1939, inclusive, one and one-half yearly draft contingents.

Since the Embassy has no figures available indicating the average yearly draft, and since it is understood that there is a considerable variation in the percentage of men actually called to the colors each year from the entire eligible contingent, it is impossible for the Embassy to estimate accurately the size of the new draft contingents or to determine with any degree of certainty the significance of the decision under discussion. According to the decision itself, the measure was adopted because of the “rise in physical level of Soviet youth” in order to enable young men to complete their military service at an earlier age thereby permitting them to “work without interruption in the chosen specialty or to study”. It is, however, possible that since during the years 1936 to 1939, inclusive, men will come of age who were born during the war years 1915–1918 when the birth rate was much lower than normal, the decision may have been prompted by the desire of the Red Army to have as large an eligible draft contingent from which to select as it has had in previous years. On the other hand, several military Attachés of foreign countries on duty in Moscow [Page 300] have expressed the opinion to members of the Embassy staff that the decision is evidence of a plan to increase the size of the Red Army during the next four years from 1,300,000 men* to between 1,500,000 and 2,000,000.

Respectfully yours,

Loy W. Henderson
  1. Not printed.
  2. It will be recalled that Tukhachevski, Assistant People’s Commissar for Defence, in a speech delivered on January 15, 1936, set the numerical strength of the Red Army at that figure. [Footnote in the original.]