This Simple Story Proves Life Insurance Must Be Sold


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This Simple Story Proves Life Insurance Must Be Sold

  1. 1. This Simple Story Proves Life Insurance Must Be Sold “Even in the face of imminent death, life insurance will not be bought.” “Even in the face of imminent death, life insurance will not be bought.” The long-believed adage was proven true during World War II when servicemen in the trenches at Bataan in the Philippines, following the Japanese invasion, were offered the chance to purchase insurance by simply hand in agreement. Incredi- bly, fewer than half of the besieged army on Bataan chose to be insured. MDRT member Patrick J. Collins, CLU, of Chicago, Illinois, recently related the details of this story in remarks made to the Chicago Association of Life Under- writers. Collins first learned of the story in a speech given by MDRT Past President Marshall Wolper, CLU. Amazed by the facts and events surrounding the World War II sale of National Service Life Insurance, Collins researched and documented the following story. National Service Life Insurance was enacted by the U.S. Congress on October 10, 1940. It provided for a maximum of $10,000 of life insurance for all U.S. service- men with a contribution paid by payroll deduction. A 120- day Open Enrollment was provided, after which evidence of insurability was required. After the Japanese invasion of the Philippines and other U.S. islands, Congress became concerned about the dependents of the many servicemen in these areas not covered under NSLI. Public Law 360, enacted on December 20, 1941, provided another 120-day Open Enrollment. The Veterans Administration, which was in charge of administering the insurance program, approved simplified procedures for enrollment, including use of radio messages. The final radio list for the Army in Bataan was sent just before the last guns at Corregidor were silenced. All that was necessary for a man to be insured was for him to hold up his hand at muster call. Less than half chose to be insured. The Veterans Administration asked that written applica- tions follow the radio lists when conditions permitted. What application papers there were, were brought out on the last submarine leaving Corregidor. This final submarine was depth charged by five Japanese destroyers for 22 hours before escaping. In a talk given in New York City in 1947, Lt. Col. Louis J. Grayson, officer-in-charge of the life insurance section in the Adjutant General’s Office, made the following remarks in regards to those life insurance applications. “When these applications were examined by the Veterans Administration, an amazing discovery was made. In some cases, the radio communication failed to specify the amount of insurance applied for and the Veterans Administration had tentatively assumed in such cases that the person was applying for the maximum for which he was eligible. The written applications, however, revealed that in many cases, in spite of the danger of death, injury or capture, applications had been submitted for only $5,000 or less. Apparently, all the realities of war cannot replace the insurance agent.”
  2. 2. Recognizing the reality described by Lt. Col. Grayson, the War Department established a life insurance selling organization within the Army in November of 1942. Every unit down to the size of a regiment was directed to appoint a life insurance officer. More than 1,000 life insurance officers attended training schools established in various locations in the United States. Meanwhile, life insurance selling was incorporated as an important activity at reception centers for new draftees. In May, 1942, at many reception centers, less than 20 percent of the men processed applied for NSLI and the average amount applied for by this minority was between $3,000 and $4,000. By mid-1943 many reception centers were enrolling more than 99 percent for an average amount in excess of $9,900. This left the services with the problem of the many men processed through the reception centers before the life insurance selling organization was in place. On April 12, 1943, Congress passed Public Law 36 providing another 120-day Open Enrollment for all those on active duty. A radio message went from General George Marshall, head of all the Armed Forces, to every overseas theater commander and the heads of U.S. commands establishing the goal of 100 percent insured, each for the sum of $10,000. Each theater commander was directed to send General Marshall monthly reports of progress toward this goal. During the campaign, two teams of three officers each were sent to the Pacific to reinforce the already established life insurance officers. One of these teams landed at Guadalcanal while the battle still raged. To supplement official military funding, a major New York advertising agency designed posters, and 50,000 posters were donated by the Institute of Life Insurance. More than 700,000 posters were used worldwide. At the end of the campaign, 98.2 percent of the U.S. servicemen in the South Pacific were insured with an average amount of $9,300. According to Collins, these historical facts give dramatic testimony to the reality that the great majority of people, even if they are facing a high probability of imminent death, will not buy life insurance unless a life insurance salesman asks them to. Collins concluded his speech by saying, “This story tells a lot about our nation and about us. “The great majority of people, even if they are facing a high probability of imminent death, will not buy life insurance unless a life insurance salesman asks them to.” The fact that our country’s top military officer devoted his personal attention to providing for the welfare of the dependents of his troops is most meaningful to those of us who consider ours to be a unique society. Can you imagine Marshall Zhukov having this concern?” The next time one of your prospects quotes a sophisticated financial expert stating that the life insurance agent is about to be replaced by computers and mass marketing techniques, tell him the story about how Gen. Marshall organized the most effective life insurance sales force ever assembled, and why the success of this sales force was one of his greatest satisfactions. IR# 5000.01 CR# 4400.01 Victorious Japanese troops atop Hearn Battery, May 6, 1942. ROUND THE TABLE, May-June, 1983 JGWILWAYCO COLLECTION