Courtesy Reuters

The New American Army

LAST summer the United States abandoned a military policy that had always been the warp and woof of our national life and embarked on an unprecedented program of modernization and expansion -- a program that will profoundly affect the country's social order. The impetus behind this sudden change was the threat of world-wide revolution implicit in Hitler's victories in Europe. The German conquests, achieved by the unstinted use of smashing power and by novel tactics, left behind them in America a trail of riddled ideas and obsolete organizations. The one great issue, therefore, upon which all Americans became emphatically united after the fateful tenth of May was defense. There remain differences as to methods and means, but there is fundamental unanimity for the proposition that our fighting services require drastic modernization and expansion.

The navy, long recognized as an "M-Day" (Mobilization Day) service ready for instant action, had been modernized and strengthened by the various expansion programs undertaken since President Roosevelt assumed office in March 1933. Our "first line of defense" was therefore far better prepared for an emergency than was the army, and far better equipped to absorb readily and efficiently the billions of dollars that were to be appropriated for it and to translate those billions into fighting strength.

This is not to say that the army had made no progress whatsoever since 1933, for it, too, had undergone a certain amount of expansion, as the following tables show:

Strength of the Army
1934 Fiscal Year 1940 Fiscal Year
(ending June 30, 1934) (ending June 30, 1940)
Regulars 136,975 242,914a
National Guard 189,000 243,000
Reserve officers 87,000 125,000
Enlisted reserve none 28,000
Equipment of the Army
Planes 1,497 2,800
Tanks noneb 464
Semi-automatic rifles none 38,000
a Officers and men
b Except obsolete Renaults and other World War models

But in no sense had the army's expansion been equal to the navy's, and only a handful of Regulars were called, by courtesy, "M-Day" units. Indeed, the army's war plans had always been based upon the assumption, perhaps no longer tenable after the German victories in Europe, that it would have ample time (as it did in 1917-1918) to prepare, train and equip itself after war had started. In other words, the nation depended for its second line of defense on the small professional Regular Army.

This military policy stemmed from our

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