They were saying good-by at a subway entrance. “I leave at nine o’clock,” he said, “but I will call you before I go.”
Seated in the subway later, she began to think, “Stupid, does he mean tonight or tomorrow?”
She wasn’t a WAC, WAVE, service nurse, or Marine, and he wasn’t a soldier, sailor, marine, or coast guardsman, for in the lives of service personnel there is no “o’clock” time any more.
That evening, over the air, an up-to-the- minute announcer broadcast, “This is station WXYZ. When you hear the note of the musical chime it will be exactly 9:00 P.M.— or 21 hours Army and Navy time.”
Realizing the ambiguity resulting from the use of a 12-hour clock, the Navy, over 20 years ago, adopted the 0-24 hour system for expressing time. Six months after the outbreak of the present war, the Army, profiting by the Navy’s indorsement of a clock that does not confuse, also abolished the use of a.m. and p.m. time by adopting the 24-hour clock.
The Army’s orders to express time from 0-24 hours beginning at 0400 July 1, 1942, gave renewed impetus to the eventual adoption of a logical system of telling civil time in the United States. It will not be long before there will be fifteen million American citizens, members of our armed forces, living by the 24-hour time system. For these individuals the change from the confusing A.M. and P.M. connotations was both painless and simple; it required only a little thinking after the hands of the timepiece passed the twelve noon mark. After using the 24-hour time system for the period of their service, all these men and women, when they return to civil life, should be enthusiastic supporters for the abolition of the confusing system we now use.
Inertia, that keystone of human laziness, is frequently the sole reason for doing things the same way grandfather did. Often, it is the biggest obstacle to change and it is always the most valueless of arguments. But war shakes men out of their lethargic customs so that desirable reforms can be accomplished often by simple decree.
The last war gave us a national anthem and standard time. Until World War I, many people thought they should stand when “America” or “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean” was played. It was not until March 19, 1918, that legislation was adopted which legally gave the United States a system of standard time zones. This war might give us the 24-hour clock.
Because of the simplicity of the 24-hour clock,-it should assist everyone, particularly students, in mathematical computations involving differences in time. Computing the number of hours and minutes between 0621 and 1733 is a far more direct problem than finding the elapsed time between 6:21 A.M. and 5:23 P.M.
Adoption of the 24-hour clock would unravel timetable mysteries with one fell swoop. Then there would be no more bold and light-face type to indicate which front the clock is showing. A child would be able to read timetables then with understanding, and business at station information desks should fall off sharply.
There are always countries which hold out against the common customs of the majority. A good example is England and left-hand driving. Many British admit that it is confusing to them to change their driving habits whenever they cross the channel to the continent. Perhaps many Englishmen would long remember our campaign from their shores if all the drivers in our vast motor fleet now in England should decide, some midnight at the final stroke of “Big Ben,” to begin driving according to right-hand road rules.
Such changes, seemingly colossal, are effected smoothly when the radio and press are enlisted to conduct a preliminary educational campaign. This was the year before last in Panama and the Canal Zone. The Republic of Panama, whose “Chiva” drivers are known for making their own traffic laws as necessity warrants, changed from a left-to right-hand drive in the spring of 1943 with the smoothness of a sunrise.
The millions in the Army, Navy, and Marines, the Coast Guard and the many thousands of civil employees in the offices and other establishments of the armed services are at present accustomed to life by the 24-hour clock. It should be an easy matter now to indoctrinate the remainder of our people in a national method of reporting time.
A shopping page in a national magazine, offering suggestions for gifts to service men, advertises: “Remember the days when it was twelve noon or twelve midnight? To get yourself in the mood for this 1300 and 1400 stuff, better get one of the new wrist watches with a 24-hour dial. . . .” Is this prophetic advertising?
All that is required to eliminate the ambiguous “A.M.” and “P.M.” system would be the adoption of the following legislative amendment to the Act of March 19, 1918, which established civil time zones: “Resolved that beginning at 0000 1 January 19— official daily time shall be expressed in four figures. The first two shall be the hours from midnight of one civil date to midnight of the next civil date and the last two figures shall be the minutes of the respective hours. Those hours which consist of only one number shall be preceded by the numeral zero.”
The regular members of our armed forces are indoctrinating large numbers of our citizens to express time in a logical modern system. The people of these United States will adopt the 24-hour clock eventually, but now, when millions of us no longer use A.M. or P.M., is a most opportune time to inaugurate a simplified time system.
Who opposes it?