MEXICO'S army is not a parade-ground army. Nor is it large or highly mechanized when judged in comparison with the armed forces of Great Powers. Yet, it serves the Mexican nation in the multiple capacity as guarantor of the stability of the constituted government, keeper of the public peace, and active collaborator in the country's public works program -- and it does this at a cost per man that is approximately one-eighth of what in times of peace the United States has been accustomed to spend on its armed forces. Mexico's army is a working army, and on its various internal fronts it wages a peacetime campaign all the year round.

During the past twenty years the Mexican Army has been undergoing a process of transformation, both in mission and in organization. From a force of revolutionary irregulars that set up and pulled down governments at the will of its commanding generals it has grown into a national institution fulfilling the orthodox function of protecting the nation against its enemies. From 1920 till the present these enemies have been internal ones: rebels and bandits. Now, however, the Army has a new mission -- to defend the country against external aggression. Since the Havana Conference of last July, this has come to include Hemisphere Defense.

In order to discuss Mexico's rôle in Hemisphere Defense, we must first examine her strategic position and what opportunities it offers for invasion by non-American Powers.

On the east, Mexico is protected from direct attack by the firm control which the United States exercises over the approaches to the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. To the south the rough terrain and impenetrable jungle along the Guatemalan border -- through which there is only one major line of communication, the railroad line running down to Suchiate -- protect Mexico in that quarter. In any event, Guatemala, with less than three million inhabitants, is not regarded in Mexico as a potential threat. A more immediate danger lies in the large number of German coffee planters, many of them naturalized Mexican citizens married to Mexican wives, who could carry on subversive activities from their settlements along the Guatemalan border in the state of Chiapas. In this region, where roads are scarce and communications difficult, the Francisco Sarabia Company operates 6,470 kilometers of airlines, partially staffed by Germans who too have become naturalized Mexicans.

Mexico is most exposed, then, on the west, where over two thousand miles of unprotected and virtually unpatrolled seacoast stretch from the United States to Guatemala. The ports of Guaymas, Mazatlán, Manzanillo, Acapulco and Salina Cruz, spaced fairly evenly along this coast, are without up-to-date defenses and, on paper at least, are wide open to invasion. The Mexican Navy, consisting of two 1,600-ton transports, four 1,300-ton gunboats and ten 183-ton coast-guard boats, is scarcely adequate as a scouting force, much less as a defense for Mexico's two coasts. If, therefore, the American Navy should for any reason be unable to lend a hand in the protection of Mexico's western ports, these might quite conceivably fall into hostile hands and become bases for an invasion of the United States itself.

An even more immediate possibility is that at small and secret enemy stations along Mexico's wild and rugged west coast, sea raiders, particularly submarines, could refuel in order to strike surprise blows at our Pacific coast bases or, more important still, at the Panama Canal. The Japanese have had a fishing industry on this coast for many years and are said to know these waters better than anybody else in the world. They have colonies composed of naturalized Mexican citizens married to Mexicans, all up and down the coast. They also own oil companies, organized under Mexican law, as well as oil concessions. From the desert regions of northwestern Mexico, sabotage activities against the United States could easily be organized. Such vital cogs in our defense machine as Randolph Field, Kelly Field, Boulder Dam, the naval bases at San Francisco, San Pedro and San Diego, the aviation industry of Southern California, are all within striking distance of Mexico.

Another point of great strategic importance is the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, where the Gulf of Mexico is less than two hundred miles from the Pacific. From New Orleans to Puerto México on the Gulf is only 795 miles. Both Puerto México and Salina Cruz, the corresponding harbor on the Pacific side, can be made into first-class ports, though the latter receives a sand drift from the Pacific and would have to be dredged extensively. If the railroad connecting the two ports were converted into a multiple-track way and a highway built parallel to it, there would exist a new and up-to-date shortcut from the Atlantic to the Pacific some fifteen hundred miles north of Panama. Completion of the Mexican link of the Pan American Highway, now passable in good weather almost to Salina Cruz, would make it possible to reach this port overland from American soil in 24 hours -- and Salina Cruz, it must be remembered, is halfway between San Diego and the Panama Canal. This port, though not so large as Magdalena Bay or even Acapulco, both of which have been discussed as possible naval bases on the Pacific, can with dredging and other improvements be made into an adequate refueling station which by pipeline could be plentifully supplied with oil from the fields on the other side of the isthmus. In any long-term plan for the coördinated defense of this hemisphere, these developments, made within the framework of a military agreement with Mexico, seem to be inevitable. In particular, Mexico is strategically very important because of her supply of many metals and minerals vital to American war industries. Should the United States find itself at war, every mine, every oil field, every railroad and every highway in Mexico would have its place in Hemisphere Defense.

Obviously, then, the part assigned to Mexico's Army in any general plan for the protection of this hemisphere is important. Upon it would rest the duty of insuring the stability of the existing government by preventing armed revolution, of policing the interior of the country against sabotage, and of protecting its coasts against invasion. Armed revolt has not been successful since Obregón overthrew Carranza in 1920, after which time the United States adopted a policy of denying the sale of arms to Mexican rebels. But this is in itself no guarantee that part of the Army might not revolt should there arise within the country a serious political division in which one side received effective support from foreign Powers. Indeed, European or Asiatic Powers might help to start such a revolt in the knowledge that it would cripple our Hemisphere Defense plans. This would alarm American opinion and oblige the United States to divert a considerable portion of its armed forces to border duty; it might also be the signal for outbreaks in other Latin American countries where well-organized European minority groups hold strategic positions. If a disturbance in Mexico could be used to force actual intervention from the United States, this would be a major tactical victory for the enemy, for it could be used as proof positive of our "imperialistic" designs on Latin America.

It is therefore vital that the Mexican Army, if it is to fulfil its mission as a defender of the constituted government, must stress the duty of the individual officers and men to maintain loyalty to the Army as a permanent, non-political institution. This evolution away from the old idea that the Army was a means for advancing the political fortunes of its leaders has, since Calles' time, been assiduously fostered by the Government. Today Mexico's Army is, in every sense of the word, a new institution.

The break with the old Díaz army, begun in 1910 when this ornamental body first disintegrated before the impact of the Madero movement and then went over to it, was completed when the reactionary elements that had reassembled around Huerta were defeated and dispersed by Carranza. Carranza's Constitutionalist Army of eighty thousand men was in fact a combination of several armies, each one held together by personal loyalty to its commander, and all of them united by the common desire of their chiefs to overthrow Huerta. Enrollment was voluntary and informal; rank and promotion depended directly on pleasing the chief; equipment was heterogeneous and there was no regulation uniform. Though there were some Díaz-trained officers scattered throughout the various corps, tactics were on the whole pragmatical and unorthodox. These armies lived off the country. Their number rose and fell with the temperature of the political moment. They were, in fact, little more than loosely-organized forces of irregulars.

This evolution towards a line army has been the result of giving the officers instruction in military science and in orthodox methods of organization and discipline. Along with this has gone the inculcation of the idea that the Army is the servant rather than the creator of the government. This process would have been interminably slow had it not been paralleled by other processes: first, the elimination -- by a series of purges -- of the officers who adhered to the old conception of the Army as primarily a revolutionary instrument: and secondly, the establishment of the precedent that an officer's career profited by his remaining loyal to the constituted government in times of rebellion.

The first of these purges came soon after the victory over Huerta, when Villa separated from the main body of the Constitutionalist Army. The process of evolution by education began soon afterwards. While Carranza was reorganizing the Government, Obregón began to reorganize the Army. An important step, taken in 1917, was the founding of the Academia de Estado Mayor (General Staff School), staffed by men who had received technical training under Díaz. In 1920, this school was converted into the Colegio Militar, the time of instruction was increased from eighteen months to three years, and separate courses were established for infantry, cavalry and artillery. The second purge took place in 1923 when the rebellion of de la Huerta was put down. Many of the officers who supported him were shot, many others went into exile, and the way was thus cleared for the young officers coming from the military school. A better selected and educated body of officers made it possible in turn for stricter norms of discipline to be imposed on the men in the ranks.

Under Calles, Secretary of War Joaquín Amaro began to whip the rank and file into shape. Recruiting standards were raised and an effort made to improve the equipment, the living conditions and the morale of the men. In 1924, the nation was divided into thirty-three small military zones and a policy of shifting commands was begun. This served to prevent any one general from establishing personal influence over too large a sector of the Army. In 1925, Mexico began to send military missions to study in France, Spain, Italy and the United States. Upon their return these officers acted as instructors and advisers to the Command. In 1926, the first step toward the creation of a general staff was taken when the Comisión de Estudios Militares was created. In 1927, another purge took place when Generals Serrano, Gómez, Aguirre, Amado and a large number of their adherents were eliminated after the failure of their attempt at revolt.

But the old revolutionary pattern persisted, and in 1929 General Escobar in Coahuila, in agreement with Generals Manso in Sonora and Caveo in Chihuahua, attempted to overthrow the Calles' dictatorship then being exercised through President Portes Gil. The defeat of these rebels by loyal forces under Generals Almazán, Cárdenas, Cedillo and Miguel Acosta provided another precedent for the new tradition that officers must support the existing government against attempts to change it by military force. When under Calles the Army was used to put down the Catholic rebellions in Jalisco and Michoacán, commanding generals were given further opportunities for appreciating the advantages of remaining loyal.

In the early 30's, the process of evolution by education was speeded up. At the same time an attempt to standardize the Army's equipment was begun with the remodeling of the old arms factory at Mexico City and by improvements in the country's powder and small arms plants. In 1932, the Escuela Superior de Guerra, Mexico's War College, was organized. The Comisión de Estudios Militares was strengthened and given the best technical brains the Army had developed. Soon after, the Escuela de Aplicación was organized for infantry, artillery, cavalry and engineers. The latter gives advanced courses, similar to those of our branch schools in the United States, for captains about to be promoted and for young majors. In 1935, infantry officers below the rank of colonel were given an examination and those who did not pass were put on the list for the schools. Courses of study for noncommissioned officers were also instituted. In 1936, the promotion of field and junior officers was put on the basis of an examination formulated by the Comisión de Estudios Militares. In 1937, it was made unlawful for a commissioned officer to have a civilian occupation. Also in 1937, after it had been found that police duty in remote districts required more junior officers than the schools were producing, the Centro de Instrucción de Jefes y Oficiales was set up in order to prepare non-commissioned officers of proven merit for service as officers. Thus, as in the old revolutionary army, it is now possible for an enlisted man to reach the higher ranks; but the modern route of advancement is by proving one's capacity to absorb education and technical training rather than by displaying personal loyalty to a particular chief.

That this evolution is gradually changing the psychology of the Army is shown by the fact that in each successive military rebellion since de la Huerta's in 1923, fewer and fewer Army elements have taken part. The last revolt, led by General Saturnino Cedillo in 1938-39, scarcely deserves the name of military rebellion, so few were the men who followed him. It is, however, true that the rapid and arbitrary promotions made in the revolutionary years have left a large number of men in the higher ranks who are still as much politicians as soldiers. To cope with this evil the Cárdenas Government had a law passed reducing the time of active service for these officers from 35 to 25 years; as a result a large number went on the retired list. For political reasons, they were recalled in 1939; but the law still stands and can be put into effect whenever the political crisis has passed.

In 1938, the office of Secretary of War was changed to that of Minister of National Defense, and its duties became more purely administrative. At the same time the Comisión de Estudios Militares became the Dirección Técnica Militar, to supply technical advice and planning. Plans for an orthodox general staff have been completed and will be carried out in the near future. The 1939-40 presidential campaign found the Army divided in its loyalties. The government party, the PRM, had a well-organized military sector which supported Ávila Camacho, while thirty-four officers of the active list were given extended leave to campaign for Almazán. But now that the election is over, President Ávila Camacho has stated repeatedly -- and his re-statement of it in his inaugural address received applause -- that the political activity of Army officers will be discouraged. The "military sector" of the new Congress has already merged with the "popular sector."

Mexico's combat troops at present number around 42,000 men; another 10,000 are included in administrative and service bodies. Fifty battalions of infantry numbering 22,600 men, and forty cavalry regiments numbering 19,000, two artillery regiments numbering 1,300, two battalions of engineers, seven aviation squadrons, and an experimental anti-aircraft battery and tank corps make up the effectives.

The basic unit of the infantry company is the "pelotón" or squad of nine privates, a corporal and a sergeant. Eight men in each squad are armed with a Mauser-type musquetón, a rifle manufactured at the National Arms Factory in Mexico City that dates from the time of Díaz. However, this gun has been improved and its universal use is a step toward the standardization of equipment. The ninth private of the squad is armed with a light Mendoza machine-gun, the product of a Mexican inventor and also made at the National Arms Factory. This is considered a good gun, is simple in construction and does not heat up. Three squads make up a platoon of thirty-three men; and three platoons make a company, officered by a first and a second captain, three lieutenants and three sub-lieutenants. The high proportion of junior officers is a carry-over from the days of the levy army before and during the Díaz dictatorship. The proportion has been preserved because patrol duty in small detachments requires many junior officers. Into the infantry battalion go three line companies and a light company of machine-gunners, numbering around fifty men. The latter are equipped with six of the heavier Mendozas, a 7-mm. machine-gun, and two 60-mm. Brandt mortars.

The cavalry regiment follows this same general organization. Troops of 100 men each are officered by first and second captains, three lieutenants and three sub-lieutenants. Three troops make a squadron, staffed by a colonel or brigadier, a major, a captain adjutant and two sub-lieutenants who act as sub-adjutants. The personnel of the supply and administrative services bring the cavalry regiment to 400 men. The Mexican cavalry horse is of Spanish-Arabian descent, acclimated to Mexico during the centuries that have elapsed since it was first brought over. It is a small animal, but tough and admirably suited to the country's rough terrain and varied climate. Mexico's two artillery regiments are permanently stationed at the nation's capital. Their equipment was formerly the old French 75, but this is now being replaced by a modified adaptation of the same gun.

Not since the Escobar rebellion in 1929 has Mexico's Army been organized into the conventional divisions; instead it has been distributed among the country's thirty-three military zones as local situations and the nature of the terrain have required. Within the military zones, regiments or battalions are divided among the principal towns. Two thirds of each of these units are then sent on 30-day tours of duty among smaller towns to protect highways and railways and in general to maintain order. The section remaining at the base is occupied with parade-ground training and construction work. This plan, while practical from the point of view of police duty, is not conducive to combat efficiency or to that parade-ground perfection on which officers of many Latin-American countries, notably Cuba, place so much emphasis. It is for this reason that Mexican military authorities are anxious to lessen the Army's police duties.

During the past few years the accent in the Army has been on work. Official reports from the Ministry of National Defense tell a running story of thousands of civic projects, large and small, completed by Mexico's soldiers. Roads have been built and kept in repair, drainage and irrigation projects have been completed, reforestation undertaken, the improvement and beautification of towns carried out. Schools have been erected and staffed with teachers from the Army. The Army has built hospitals and airports. Mexico now has 307 of the latter, 68 of them under military control. Construction of six major army posts has been started, and those at Mexico City and Monterrey are nearing completion. Others will be at Torreón, Irapuato, Pachuca and Cuernavaca. The most important single work now under construction is the Military Hospital at the capital, a building which when completed will be the largest and most modern hospital in the nation.

Mexican Army officers coöperate with local authorities in applying the agrarian laws, in establishing the limits of the ejidos (communal peasant communities) and in dividing land to be distributed among the peasants. Army officers are also in charge of the reserves, a body (first instituted in 1937) which now numbers on paper approximately 60,000 men. Reserve stocks of second-class weapons and some two million rounds of small arms ammunition are held for their use. All over the nation these reserves have built highways, secondary roads, telephone lines, bridges, playgrounds, schools, and have assisted in building airports. This use of Mexico's soldiers as laborers has undoubtedly been as immediately practical as their use as policemen; but it is also open to question whether this work has added to their combat efficiency, which after all is the primary quality needed by a body whose chief purpose is national defense.

Another work of vital national importance that the Army is doing is to make a military map of the country. Mexico is a big nation, nearly four times as large as France, and it has regions as yet practically unexplored. The first step towards evaluating the resources of these regions is to obtain detailed information about their physical characteristics, and this information the Army is slowly and patiently assembling. The Mexican Air Force, although small in number and possessing only twenty-five planes fit for active service, carries out aërial exploration for this map and also compiles meteorological data.

The Mexican nation is proud of its air tradition. As long ago as 1915 two nephews of General Carranza who had learned to fly in the United States bombed Guaymas from the air, one of the first uses of the airplane for this purpose. A school of aviation was founded in Mexico in 1917, was enlarged in 1932 and is now located at Vera Cruz in order to give pilots flight training at low altitudes. In accordance with the Army's policy of organizing a national supply of war materials, a contract for the construction of airplane fuselages was made with the Canadian Car and Foundry Company early in 1939 and a factory was installed at Valbuena, near the capital. Production on a small scale was to have begun this year, but it has been impossible to carry out the plan because the entire output of airplane motors in the United States is now going to the American and British air forces.

The development of the Mexican Army's artillery, like that of its air force, has been limited by the nation's internal necessities and financial resources. The two existing artillery regiments are enough to meet any demands for domestic pacification. Their purpose, like that of the anti-aircraft and anti-tank units, has been more experimental than anything else: they have given the Army Command a clear-cut idea of what types of material are best suited to Mexico's special needs.

The Mexican Army may therefore be said to be sufficiently well organized and equipped to meet the demands now being made upon it. Just what would be its potential value in Hemisphere Defense is a matter of some conjecture since in the past there has been little expectation that it would be called upon to repel an invasion in force. It is, however, part of the plan of Mexico's National Defense Ministry and of the Ávila Camacho Administration to develop the Army so that it will provide an effective rampart against any threat the nation may have to meet.

A first step will be the introduction of compulsory military service. The law providing for this has already been passed, and the first classes will be called up in 1942. Compulsory military training will serve Hemisphere Defense in two important particulars, high Mexican Army circles believe. It will create a trained reserve that can quickly be called into service against invaders, revolutionaries and saboteurs. Second, and equally important, military training is expected to instill into Mexico's young manhood a clear conception of its duty to the nation, thus creating a psychological bulwark against subversive influences. Furthermore, the enlargement of the Mexican Army would give the younger officers more opportunity for activity and advancement, and this should reduce dissatisfaction among them and consequently the danger of rebellion.

The existing facilities for training -- barracks, parade grounds, camps and the like -- are not nearly large enough to accommodate all the young men eligible for service. The provisional general staff is, therefore, planning to begin by replacing the existing volunteer troops with those called up under the compulsory plan. It is estimated that about twelve thousand can be called in 1942 and that by the end of 1944, the entire volunteer army will be replaced by the new contingents. At the same time, the changes to be made in the Army's organization and the enlargement of its construction program will permit the gradual increase of the total combat force in training. For instance, the projected reorganization of the company so that it will have only one captain, two lieutenants and two sub-lieutenants would at once release a considerable number of officers for training draftees.

As new units are formed and as funds are made available, the Army will be organized into the conventional divisions and an effort will be made to emphasize its national defense rather than its police functions. Mixed divisions will probably consist of four infantry battalions, one cavalry regiment, one field or mountain artillery regiment, with engineer, signal corps, quartermaster and ordnance companies. In Mexico's mountainous country, where roads suitable for a highly mechanized force are few, the rapid motorization of the Army is not judged to be desirable. To give troop movements speed and mobility, a high proportion of cavalry will be preserved and cavalry divisions will be organized. In all, the plans call for six or eight light cavalry and mixed divisions of approximately eight thousand men to be organized by the time the present volunteer rank and file has vanished through the expiration of its enlistment. Meanwhile, two armies will coexist in Mexico, the dwindling volunteer body and the increasing compulsory-service body. Until facilities are such that compulsory service can be made universal, young men will be called up from the sections of the country that are danger spots, where it is thought most desirable to have a trained reserve on ready call.

In its new mission of Hemisphere Defense, one of the first duties of the Mexican Army will be that of scouting and coast protection, particularly along the Pacific shore. Since the disembarkation of troops and material is one of the most difficult of all military operations, it is believed that comparatively small units could prevent it from taking place on Mexican shores unless invasion by large forces should be attempted. Furthermore, the physiography of Mexico, with its high coastal mountain ranges through which the roads are few and easy to defend, theoretically makes penetration into the heart of the country a difficult military problem. When the Mexican Army has been developed and expanded according to the present plan and equipped with the modern apparatus of war, and when the ports of Salina Cruz, Acapulco, Manzanillo, San Blas, Mazatlán, Guaymas and the islands of Santa Margarita and Ensenada are fortified with coast defense artillery, and provided with an adequate patrol of aërial and light naval units, Mexico will be in a position to repel invasion from the Pacific, at least until effective help reaches her from the United States.

But this program of expansion will cost large sums and Mexico's financial resources are scarcely adequate for carrying the burden unaided. To put it into effect she will therefore need assistance from the United States. Provision for such assistance will very likely be included in the arrangements for military coöperation now being negotiated by the two governments. The fact that such negotiations were under way, though frequently rumored ever since President Ávila Camacho took office on December I, was officially admitted only on March 4, 1941.[i] According to this announcement, the military talks were initiated under the terms of the Declaration on Reciprocal Assistance and Coöperation for the Defense of the Nations of the Americas, adopted at the Havana Conference on July 30, 1940. The concluding paragraph of this Declaration states:

All the signatory nations, or two or more of them according to circumstances, shall proceed to negotiate the necessary complementary agreements so as to organize coöperation for defense and the assistance that they shall lend each other in the event of aggressions such as those referred to in this declaration.

The course these conversations will take may in part depend on the progress made by the negotiations for a final settlement of the other disputes outstanding between the two countries, notably that in regard to the oil expropriations.

It is too early to say whether the instrument chosen to carry out Mexican-American military coöperation will be similar to the Canadian-American Permanent Joint Board on Defense, as many have suggested. But whatever form it takes, its value to both nations will be obvious. For Mexico, it would mean financial backing to carry out the expansion of her Army and to install proper coast defenses. For the United States, it would represent a long step forward in the direction of insuring our own invulnerability and in furthering our policy of Hemisphere Defense.

[i] It is interesting to note that Foreign Minister Matsuoka of Japan declared in the House of Representatives at Tokyo on February 17 that he expected the United States and Mexico to complete a military agreement.

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