The Creation of Larger Units

Although the largest permanent unit of the Regular Army in peacetime continued to be the regiment, experience in the Spanish- American War, observation of new developments abroad, and lessons learned in annual maneuvers all testified to the need for larger, more self-sufficient units composed of the combined arms. Beginning in 1905, the Field Service Regulations laid down a blueprint for the organization of divisions in wartime, and in 1910 the General Staff drew up a plan for three permanent infantry divisions to be composed of designated Regular Army and National Guard regiments. Because of trouble along the Mexican border in the spring of 1911, the plan was not implemented. Instead, the Army organized a provisional maneuver division and ordered its component units, consisting of three brigades of nearly 13,000 officers and men, to concentrate at San Antonio, Tex- as. The division’s presence there, it was hoped, would end the border disturbances.
The effort only proved how unready the Army was to mobilize quickly for any kind of national emergency. Assembly of the division required several months. The War Department had to collect Regular Army troops from widely scattered points in the continental United States and denude every post, depot, and arsenal to scrape up the necessary equipment. Even so, when the maneuver division finally completed its concentration in August 1911, it was far from fully operational: none of its regiments were up to strength or adequately armed and equipped. Fortunately, the efficiency of the division was not put to any battle test; and within a short time it was broken up and its component units re- turned to their home stations. Because those members of Congress who had Army installations in their own districts insisted on retaining them, the War Department was prevented from relocating units so that there would be greater concentrations of troops in a few places. The only immediate result of the Army’s attempt to gain experience in the handling of large units was an effort to organize on paper the scattered posts of the Army so their garrisons, which averaged 700 troops each, could join one of three divisions. But these abortive attempts to mobilize larger units were not entirely without value. In 1913, when the Army again had to strengthen the forces along the Mexican border, a division assembled in Texas in less than a week, ready for movement to any point where it might be needed.

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