A history of the U.S. Army War College 1901-1940

Ball, Harry Polk, Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia
Graebner, Norman A., Department of History, University of Virginia
Shannon, David A., Department of History, University of Virginia

Historians of American military affairs recognize the watershed nature of the reforms in the United States Army initiated by Secretary of War Elihu Root between 1899 and 1904. Among Root's reforms was the establishment of a war college, an institution that, except for a two-year period during World War I and a ten-year period during and after World War II, has had a continuous existence. This dissertation is the history of that institution through 1940.

The history divides into three parts. The first pertains to the impulse towards reform and military professionalization that gathered momentum the latter decades of the nineteenth century. During this period a segment of the officer corps sought to emulate the professionalism developing throughout American society as well as within the military establishments of Europe. Prior to the war with Spain the reformers succeeded only in establishing the rudiments of a post-graduate officer education system, an accomplishment that fell far short of the requirements of an emerging world power.

The second part concerns itself with the founding of the Army War College and its endeavors through 1917. During this period the War College was an adjunct of the American version of a General Staff, a not altogether successful attempt to adapt the Prussian system to American needs. As the war planning agency of the War Department General Staff, the War College was able to meet limited contingency planning requirements but as an educational institution it did not progress beyond a school of higher tactics. In neither role did it prepare the Army for the unlimited nature of the First World War.

The final part deals with the period between world wars. Separated from the General Staff, the Army War College served as the capstone of a very formal officer educational system. During these years most senior Army personages prominent in World War II and the Korean War attended the Army War College. As a common experience of a group that became influential in American security policy, the institution deserves historical attention.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Army War College (U.S.) -- History, United States -- Army -- Officers -- Education, Higher, United States -- Army -- History -- 20th century

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

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