Civilian Conservation Corp: Lessons from the Great Depression

“American Experience”: Civilian Conservation Corp

Directed by Robert Stone (2009)

Film Review

Between the COVID19 lockdown, curfews in many cities, and impending martial law if the riots continue, the US economy is taking a severe hammering – which many predict will produce higher unemployment than the Great Depression.

This 2009 documentary looks at the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) Roosevelt created when he took office in 1933. It served the dual the dual purpose of putting 2-3 million men to work and repairing the vast environmental damage wreaked by 200 years of laissez-faire agriculture. Prior to the 1930s, US farmers were unaware of the importance of using windbreaks to prevent erosion, replenishing soil nutrients with fertilizers, or rotation cropping. Until 1900, farmers and plantation owners simply abandoned their land when it became infertile and moved west.

In the 1930s, thousands of US farmers were forced to abandon their land, due to droughts, brought on by rampant deforestation, and massive topsoil loss in dust storms.

Roosevelt’s CCC was the very first national environmental program in the US. CCC members planted 2.3 billion trees, created 800 billion state parks, fought forest fires, and restored healthy pastures on thousands of farms. In addition to cutting ski trails in New England (thus launching the US ski industry), the CCC built Camp David,* the Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and the Appalachian Trail.

Closed to women, the CCC was run by the Army with rigid army discipline. There were 200 men each camp and all US states had several. They received $1 a day for six hours work, plus all the meat and eggs they could eat.** All recruits who were illiterate learned to read. There was also an opportunity to undergo vocational training in the evening (mainly typing, plumbing and electrical work.

Most men sent $25 a month to their families, which was instrumental in reviving many local economies.

After Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the CCC was dissolved, and nearly all 2.3 million recruits were mustered into the US Army.


*Camp David is the country retreat for the US president.

**As with the COVID19 lockdown, farmers were forced to slaughter most of their cattle prior to the formation of the CC. Owing to massive unemployment, no one could afford to buy their meat.

 

 

The Citizens Group that Blew Whistle on OKC Bombing

A Noble Lie

Directed by James Lane (2011)

Film Review

This documentary approaches the Oklahoma City bombing from a somewhat different angle, focusing on the citizens group that empaneled a grand jury to investigate Tim McVeigh’s accomplices, as well as his links to US intelligence. Oklahoma is one of the few states that allows citizens to convene their own grand jury.

The Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee was made up of Oklahoma City police and sheriff’s officers, bombing victims and their families, eyewitnesses and a supportive state legislator. Their findings showed clearly that at the time of the bombing McVeigh was still in the US Army (as indicated on his death certificate) and assigned to working with the FBI and ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) group PatCon to infiltrate militant right wing groups. The committee’s goal was to force Congress to investigate the FBI cover-up of the Oklahoma City bombing. When this failed, the published their findings two weeks prior to 9-11 in a book called The Final Report on the Bombing of the Alfred P Murrah Building.

A Noble Lie also zeroes in on the two eyewitnesses who were murdered as part of the FBI cover-up, the files the FBI and ATF removed from the Murrah federal building before they permitted search and rescue teams from entering the bomb site, and FBI memos obtained under the Freedom of Information Act about the involvement of McVeigh and various accomplices in PatCon. The latter was an undercover FBI operation to infiltrate right wing extremist groups.

This film also goes to great lengths to debunk the FBI claim that a truck bomb caused the Murrah Federal Building to collapse. Not only was the pattern of structural damage inconsistent with an external air blast, but a truck bomb (of the size claimed by the FBI) would have produced too much ammonia gas for rescuers to enter the building.

Independent forensic tests at an Air Force lab ascertained that the bombing had to result from explosive charges attached to one or more columns inside the building – exactly like the two bombs defused immediately after the blast. The activities of the Air Force bomb disposal squad were reported by numerous media outlets on the day.


*An Oklahoma sheriff got a tip off from Little Rock the day of the bombing that these records likely concerned the federal investigation into CIA drug running at the Mena Airport in Arkansas. Federal records related to the Whitewater investigation, another Clinton scandal, were also stored in the Murrah building and vanished the day of the bombing.