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CMH_30-23-1

CMH_30-23-1

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Published by Paul D Carrier
Development of the US Armor Corp 1917 to 1945
Development of the US Armor Corp 1917 to 1945

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Published by: Paul D Carrier on Jul 14, 2011
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07/04/2013

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During the interwar period American military development proceeded according
to policies established by the War Department and within the structure and organiza-
tional functions defned by the National Defense Act of 1920. These twin infuences
provided regulatory and legal parameters for military activity. They established the

framework within which the branches of service would interact and how branch-

specifc developments, including tank development, would occur.
The American military consisted of two major elements: a feld army of
regionally designated components and a War Department located in Washington.
The latter provided the administrative link between the feld forces and the civilian
government. The regional forces possessed an internal unity of command, but the
War Department functioned as a “hydra-headed holding company, an arrangement
industrialists were fnding increasingly wasteful and ineffcient.”32

A civilian

30

Rockenbach, “Tanks,” 4 Jun 23, pp. 67–70; S. D. Rockenbach, “Discussion,” Infantry Jour-
nal
XXX, no. 5 (May 1927): 465–68; Charles Messenger, The Blitzkrieg Story (New york: Charles
Scribner’s Sons, 1976), p. 48.

31

U.S. Congress, House, Hearings Before Committee on Military Affairs, 66th Cong., 1st Sess., 2

vols., 1919, 1: 529–30; Timothy K. Nenninger, “The Development of American Armor, 1917–1940,”
Master’s Thesis, University of Wisconsin, 1968, p. 62; Steadman, “Evolution of the Tank,” p. 3.

32

Hewes, Root to McNamara, p. 5.

Ford M1918 3-ton tank

15

aMerica adoptS the tank

secretary of war headed the War Department, but he relied on a collection of bureau
chiefs for advice on military affairs. Each bore responsibility for specifc areas of
military administration (Chart 1).33
The War Department General Staff stood apart from the bureau chiefs. Its purpose
lay in planning and preparation for future conficts. The chief of the General Staff
was intended to be the senior and ranking offcer in the U.S. Army and to serve as the
sole military adviser to the secretary of war. He would provide the central guidance
necessary to coordinate bureau activities and prevent a recurrence of the administrative
conditions that nearly spelled disaster for the Army in the Spanish-American War.

Congress made the General Staff and its functions law on 14 February 1903.34

The bureau chiefs, however, refused to relinquish their independence. Through
their intransigence, they undermined the chief of staff’s authority, reducing his
position to little more than an arbiter of petty administrative disputes. They also

forced the secretary of war to choose between the chief of staff and the bureau

chiefs for his principal military advice. In doing so the bureau chiefs refused to
acknowledge the chief of staff’s primacy and ignored the purpose of the General
Staff’s creation. They opposed the authority of the chief of staff in order to retain
their own independence and to secure the interests of their bureaus.35

33

Graham A. Cosmas, An Army for Empire: The United States Army in the Spanish-American
War
(Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1971), pp. 14–15; Mark Skinner Watson, Chief of Staff:
Prewar Plans and Preparations
, U.S. Army in World War II (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center
of Military History, 1950), p. 57.

34

Millett and Maslowski, For the Common Defense, pp. 263, 310; Watson, Chief of Staff, pp.
57–58; Palmer, Newton D. Baker, 1: 29–31, 67.

35

Hewes, Root to McNamara, pp. 10–11; Palmer, Newton D. Baker, 1: 33–35; Watson, Chief

of Staff, p. 58.

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