THE ARMY AND THE NEW LOOK
AMERICAN MILITARY HISTORY
ARMY HISTORICAL SERIES
OFFICE OF THE CHIEF OF MILITARY HISTORY
UNITED STATES ARMY
The Army and the New Look
Conditioned to the military decisiveness of World Wars I and II, Americans of the twentieth century found the frustration of fighting three years for a stalemate a new experience. Yet most were relieved to see the end of Korean hostilities despite the realization that the signing of the armistice merely marked the transition back to the cold war. The shooting and killing stopped, but the tension continued.
The war had clearly demonstrated that the United States was the only nation in a position to offer determined resistance to Communist expansion. The old era of reliance upon allies to bear the first brunt of battle while the country prepared for war had passed. If the United States intended to continue its policy of Communist containment, it was evident that it would have to depend increasingly upon American forces in being to meet the challenges. The cost in manpower and resources of maintaining large, well-prepared military forces in peacetime promised to be high, since there was little prospect in 1953 of attaining U.S. foreign policy objectives through diplomacy alone.
Acceptance of military power as an indispensable and open partner in the conduct of foreign relations represented a basic change in the American approach to international affairs. Previously the nation had mobilized its latent military strength only under the threat of conflict. For the most part, its wars had been fought as crusades, with overtones of strong emotional and moral support. The post-Korean situation demanded a different response—the sustained and disciplined use of military power against Communist opponents who had always regarded the use of force as a logical and necessary extension of politics. Yet, with remarkably little debate, the American people accepted the new military role and revealed a willingness to shoulder the heavy responsibilities that attended leadership of the free world.
Massive Retaliation and the New Look
With the end of hostilities, the Eisenhower administration could devote more attention to the task of determining the nation's future strategy and the military forces necessary to carry it out. The President and his advisers, torn
between pressures generated by worldwide commitments and the desire to cut back defense spending, came up with a policy that placed major emphasis on nuclear air power. The Korean War was to be regarded as an aberration and American land forces would not be committed again to fight conventional battles with the Communist hordes in Asia unless it became necessary in the national interest.
As Secretary of State John Foster Dulles put it:
The basic decision was to depend primarily upon a great capacity to retaliate, instantly, by means and at places of our choosing. Now the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff can shape our military establishment to fit what is our policy, instead of having to try to be ready to meet the enemy's many choices. That permits of a selection of military means instead of a multiplication of means. As a result, it is now possible to get, and share, more basic security at less cost.
In an effort to regain the strategic initiative through the use of strong and selective responses, Mr. Dulles had sought to raise the threshold of war to a higher level. Since the responses relied heavily upon American nuclear superiority, the doctrine soon came to be known as massive retaliation.
Unlike previous postwar periods, no drastic dismantling of the defense industrial mobilization base took place. The ever-present Russian threat made rearmament a continuous process dependent upon a mobilization base that could be rapidly expanded if the deterrent failed. With the new stress on nuclear capabilities, the armed forces took on a "new look" in the mid-fifties. The Air Force increased its strategic bombing forces, the Navy concentrated its efforts on development of the Polaris nuclear missile, which could be launched from submarines or other ships, and the Army sought to perfect tactical nuclear weapons to support the soldier on the battlefield.
In the absence of experience in waging nuclear war, strategic planning had to evolve in a historical vacuum. National security policy guidance in the post-Korean period, therefore, was issued in general terms, and disputes quickly arose over the types and numbers of the forces required to carry out the policy. Frequently the Secretary of Defense found it difficult to reconcile the differences of opinion among the military chiefs. The end result was hardly surprising. A House Appropriations Committee report noted: "Each service, it would seem, is striving to develop and acquire an arsenal of weapons complete in itself to carry out any and all possible missions."
Since the military budget was divided vertically by service rather than on a functional basis, the annual allocation of funds was attended by some bitterness. As the Air Force's share of the budget increased in the mid-fifties to procure expensive bombers and missiles and as the United States' capability to wage less than general nuclear war decreased, opposition to the massive retaliation policy
mounted. The Army Chief of Staff, General Ridgway, upon his retirement in June 1955, expressed his doubts cogently. As Soviet nuclear strength grew, General Ridgway maintained, a situation of nuclear parity would come into being, where neither side would have an advantage. Soviet strategy could then be directed toward creating situations that would preclude the use of nuclear weapons on a worldwide basis. If this should happen, the American military forces then in being would not be strong enough to meet the lesser Soviet challenge. General Ridgway put the case bluntly: "The present United States preoccupation with preparations for general war has limited the military means available for cold war to those which are essentially by-products or leftovers from the means available for general war."
Ridgway's plea for balanced forces capable of coping with general or limited war was supported by his successor, General Maxwell D. Taylor, and taken up by a number of prominent scholars. During the remainder of the decade the debates over general versus limited war, nuclear versus conventional war, and various combinations thereof were waged in Congress, in the universities, and in printed media. Not until the latter part of the decade, when the Soviet Union's nuclear parity with the United States had become clear, did some of the leading supporters of the use of nuclear weapons begin to concede that such a war would result in mutual extermination and that a resort to nuclear weapons should become "the last and not the only recourse" of the nation.
The NATO Build-up
While the word battles raged, the strategy of nuclear war had profoundly affected the conduct of American foreign policy and the posture of the U.S. armed forces. Even during the latter stages of the Korean War, the major American build-up had taken place in Europe rather than in the Far East. Fears that the Soviet Union might take advantage of American involvement in Korea to launch an offensive on the Continent had spurred the United States to increase its lone Army division to five divisions by the end of the war. Through the Mutual Defense Assistance Program, the United States had also helped strengthen the NATO ground, air, and naval forces. During this period NATO adopted a "forward defense" strategy which contemplated defending Germany as far east of the Rhine as possible.
The conclusion of the Korean War, the death of Stalin, and the launching of another Soviet peace movement shortly thereafter, all combined to alter conditions in Europe. With tensions temporarily lessened, the NATO build-up slowed down to ease the economic drain upon the United States and its allies and the
main effort shifted to the development of the infrastructure—the construction of roads, airfields, and depot areas and the improvement of communications. At the same time the United States began to press its allies to integrate the NATO forces and to rearm the West Germans. Despite strong Communist opposition to the revival of West German military forces, the NATO nations in 1954 approved the formation of an army of twelve divisions.
To redress further the imbalance between Communist and NATO ground forces, American nuclear scientists had produced a growing variety of tactical nuclear warheads that could be fitted to artillery shells and missiles. As these weapons became available, NATO planning was based on the assumption that a Soviet attack would be met by tactical nuclear weapons.
Control of all nuclear devices and weapons remained with the United States political leadership, and America's refusal to share this exclusive control by consultation with its allies occasioned some discontent within the alliance, especially on the part of the French and the British. Both of these allies decided to develop their own nuclear weapons and delivery systems to lessen their dependence upon the United States.
In the meantime, the Soviet Union developed an intercontinental jet bomber and hydrogen bombs that could be carried in planes. It began to arm its ground forces with tactical nuclear weapons and pushed ahead with the production of long-range missiles. By 1955 the fierce Soviet-American competition and the growth of nuclear stockpiles that could obliterate cities and industrial complexes were causing mounting concern. At a summit conference at Geneva during the summer, the American and Soviet representatives made clear that they fully recognized that a full-scale nuclear war could lead only to mutual suicide. Although the arms race went on unabated, there was a slight relaxation of tension and a growing feeling that neither the United States nor the Soviet Union would resort to general nuclear war unless its own survival was threatened.
Early in 1956 the Russian premier, Nikita Khrushchev, gave an even clearer sign that the Soviet Union was shifting its tactics again. Qualifying to some extent Lenin's thesis that war between Communists and capitalists was inevitable, he indicated that the two worlds could coexist on a competitive basis. However, he made clear that the Soviet Union would still take part in or sponsor wars against the United States and other free world nations. Lest the western nations misunderstand the new peaceful coexistence, Khrushchev warned that the Communists still supported "wars of liberation" to free peoples
from colonialism and imperialism and that the ceaseless struggle with capitalism would still be carried on by means other than full-scale warfare between the two countries.
Despite the symptoms of a possible thaw in East-West relations, the United States speeded its efforts to protect the American people in the event of another sudden freeze. Construction of a defensive perimeter in the form of a series of radar warning stations was completed in 1957. In co-operation with the Canadian Government, the distant early warning (DEW) radar net was built across northern Canada and Alaska, supplementing other radar lines in central and southern Canada. Radar outposts in the Aleutians, radar towers and picket boats in the Atlantic, and airborne early warning craft provided additional protection.
Operational responsibility for the direction of the overall air defense fell under the Continental Air Defense Command with the Air Force acting as executive agent for the Secretary of Defense. To assist the interceptor squadrons, the Army contributed ground antiaircraft defense support and developed the first operational antiaircraft missile—the Nike Ajax—with greater range and accuracy than conventional shells. Later and more sophisticated members of the Nike family were fitted with nuclear warheads for greater destructive power, and the Army also developed the Hawk missile to defend against low-flying aircraft. Antiaircraft missile sites grew up around vital defense areas across the nation, and complex control centers had to be established to co-ordinate the missile defense system.
The Missile Era
Although the United States had keyed its efforts to the strategic bomber, the development of missiles for offense proceeded apace. Gradually, the range and efficiency of the missiles increased as new designs and improved fuels emerged. The Army was developing its Jupiter and the Air Force its Thor—both intermediate-range, 1,500 mile missiles—during the mid-fifties, and the Air Force was working on the Atlas and Titan 5,000 mile intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM's).
Since, under the roles and missions agreement, the Army was responsible for point defense and the Air Force for area defense, the Army development of intermediate-range missiles eventually led to a jurisdictional dispute. In 1956 the Secretary of Defense ruled that the Air Force should take charge of all land-based intermediate- and long-range missiles, but the Army was allowed to finish the development and testing of the Jupiter. Progress on missiles was steady, but the sense of urgency had lessened somewhat by 1957.
Fresh impetus came from the Soviet Union. The Russians sent aloft an operational ICBM and then followed with a spectacular launching of the first Sputnik satellite in October 1957, revealing a rocket thrust far in excess of anything the United States could then produce. The Soviet feat caused the United States to review its missile programs in order to narrow the rocket-booster gap. To sustain morale, several small American satellites using the Jupiter and Vanguard boosters were launched in 1958, but it would take considerable time to construct engines equaling those already developed by the Russians.
The beginning of the ICBM era and the attendant exploration of space by unmanned and manned vehicles had serious military implications. As soon as the developmental problems could be overcome, the United States and the Soviet Union could build up stockpiles on land and in the future could also arm space stations. The threat of giant, nuclear weapons poised and then irretrievably launched at the nervous touch of a button thousands of miles from the target was a frightening prospect. If the two nations were to act like "two scorpions in a bottle," each certain that the other wished to destroy him, the inclination to push the button first might, in a period of crisis, become overwhelming. Later on, during the Kennedy Administration, the United States sense of responsibility was emphasized by the careful avoidance of a first-strike policy.
Since every new weapon evoked an antiweapon, the Army became responsible for the development of an anti-ICBM and pushed the research and testing of the Nike series for this role. A running debate quickly broke out over the capabilities of the Nike or any missile to protect the United States against a saturation ICBM attack. The technical difficulties and the tremendous expense of attempting to devise an absolute defense against nuclear attack were bound, however, to have a deterrent effect on both sides; as long as neither could be sure of warding off major disaster, there would be little inclination to risk a direct confrontation.
Another part of the ICBM controversy centered about a continued need for American military bases and garrisons in various overseas areas. Under defense agreements with friendly nations, the United States had put airfields and missile sites within striking range of the Soviet Union and Communist China during the decade following World War II. The costs of maintaining these overseas bases and the troops to man them had begun to concern officials in the Congress and the Executive Branch. The advent of long-range missiles that could be launched from the continental United States or from submarines offered some new alternatives, but it would take time to test and put them into operation.
Challenges and Responses
The domination of the fifties by the nuclear threat tended to cast a shadow over developments in other areas. Although the United States did not want to become involved in limited war and was wary of the risks inherent in nuclear confrontation, international challenges arose and had to be met—some by the provision of military and economic aid and others by the dispatch of combat forces.
In an effort to strengthen the military capabilities of friendly and neutral nations in Latin America, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe to resist aggression and subversion, the United States continued the military assistance programs (MAP's) initiated under President Truman before the Korean War. American commitments to provide military aid, advisory groups, and military missions around the world burgeoned despite the concomitant drive to curtail military expenditures.
In such places as Korea, two Army divisions continued to man positions south of the demilitarized zone and the United States provided substantial military assistance to build up South Korean armed forces. Although the Communists broke the uneasy truce many times during the fifties, none of the violations generated renewed hostilities.
Prudence underlined the American approach to the crisis in Indochina in 1954. The United States was willing to give military supplies and equipment and economic aid to the French, but in the absence of support from its allies refused to commit American troops or to carry out bombings to support the French in their battle at Dien Bien Phu. The American leadership and people were reluctant to become embroiled again on the Asian continent so soon after the Korean experience.
After the Geneva Conference of 1954 set up the two Vietnams, the United States was a chief sponsor of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, which was launched in early 1955 with Australia, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the United States as charter members. The treaty was a collective defense arrangement calling for mutual help and consultation to resist overt Communist aggression or other acts threatening internal security.
Taiwan and Southeast Asia became the chief trouble spots in 1954. Heavy Chinese Communist bombardment of Nationalist garrison positions on the tiny offshore islands of Quemoy and Matsu seemed to presage a move to take over those outposts. Since the loss of the islands could have opened the way for an
invasion of Taiwan, the United States through a Congressional Joint Resolution in 1955 empowered the President to act if the Communists sought to seize the outposts.
In the summer of 1958 the bombardments of Quemoy and Matsu again became severe and the Communist Chinese interdicted the Nationalist supply service to the islands. To defeat the artillery blockade, U.S. ships convoyed the supply vessels and Nationalist aircraft were armed with American missiles. As the tension mounted, a U.S. Composite Air Strike Force moved to Taiwan to strengthen the Nationalist defenses in the event of a Communist invasion. But the Communist Chinese evidently were not prepared to risk war at that time and again slackened their artillery fire. By the end of the year the crisis had passed but the two islands remained vulnerable to a renewed attack.
In Southeast Asia Communist pressure abated yet did not cease after the Geneva settlement in 1954. In the small state of Laos the Communist Pathet Lao in the post-Geneva period had established control of several border provinces abutting North Vietnam and China in order to resist attempts of the government to unite the country. In 1956 the government and the Pathet Lao signed a peaceful coexistence agreement, but efforts to integrate the two forces failed.
Since the United States provided total support for the 25,000 man Laotian Army, the differences between the government and the Pathet Lao became a small part of the larger quarrel between East and West. Open warfare broke out in 1959 in Laos, but neither side could gain the upper hand, despite the military aid given by the Soviet Union and North Vietnam and by the United States.
The serious concern of other nations over the escalation of the Soviet and American assistance programs and the possibility of a direct confrontation in Laos led to behind-the-scenes attempts to convene a conference to consider neutralizing the country. The warring factions in Laos also seemed in early 1961 to be more favorably disposed to this kind of solution. But until the new U.S. administration took office, the likelihood of an immediate settlement was rather remote, and in the meantime both American and Soviet aid and advisory efforts continued.
While the tension in the Far East persisted along the Communist periphery and could be traced, for the most part, to basic East-West conflicts, the problems that arose in the Middle East during the fifties stemmed mainly from resurgent nationalism and Arab hostility toward the Jewish state of Israel. To shore up the West's defenses in the area, the United States sponsored but did not sign the Baghdad Pact of 1955, although it did become a member of several of the pact's major committees in 1956 and 1957. The signatories of the pact
included the United Kingdom, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan, all pledging co-operation for their mutual security and defense, and the United States continued to provide military assistance to members of the pact.
Although the United States did not become militarily involved in the Suez crisis of 1956, Congress, at the President's request, adopted in January 1957 a Joint Resolution that came to be known as the Eisenhower Doctrine. It pledged American military assistance to nations in the Middle East that were endangered by Communist aggression and empowered the President to use the armed forces for this purpose.
American action in the Middle East came in the following year. In early 1958 factions favoring Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser became active in Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. Rebellion broke out in Lebanon and in mid-July the King of Iraq was assassinated and an Iraqi Republic under pro-Nasser leadership was set up. The President of Lebanon and the King of Jordan quickly requested assistance for their own governments.
Less than twenty-four hours later, naval units from the U.S. Sixth Fleet arrived offshore and a battalion of marines landed near Beirut, the Lebanese capital. Within two days additional marines were sent by land and sea and the Army began to move airborne, tank, and combat engineer troops to Lebanon to stabilize the situation. By early August the U.S. forces had reached a total of over 5,800 marines and 8,500 soldiers. Navy warships stood off the Lebanese coast and a U.S. composite Air Strike Force moved into Turkey in support of the ground forces. Meanwhile, the British had responded to Jordan's request for help and had dispatched airborne troops to bolster Jordan's armed forces. U.S. aircraft airlifted supplies to the British forces and the Jordanian population. The prompt U.S. and British actions having enabled the Lebanese and Jordanian Governments to restore order, all American forces were withdrawn by October. Both Lebanon and Jordan received special U.S. military assistance to help build up their defense forces and prevent internal outbreaks.
The Iraqi revolt had other repercussions. After Iraq withdrew from the Baghdad Pact in early 1959, a new arrangement became mandatory. When the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) was established in August, the United States accepted membership on the economic, military, and antisubversion committees along with other acts of participation such as the attendance by the American Secretary of State at the meetings of the CENTO foreign ministers and the attendance of the United States Ambassador to Turkey at other important CENTO meetings in Ankara; it had already concluded separate defense treaties with Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan earlier in the year.
Closer to home, the United States did not intervene in the Cuban rebellion that had broken out in 1958. The United States watched the revolt of Fidel Castro and his followers carefully, and when the Batista government was overthrown the next year, recognized the Castro regime. During the remaining two years of the Eisenhower administration, Castro moved steadily into the Communist camp and U.S.-Cuba relations deteriorated. American military and economic assistance to Cuba was cut off in 1960 to be replaced by arms and other aid from the Soviet Union and Communist China. The situation had so worsened on the eve of the Kennedy inauguration that diplomatic relations were severed completely. Cuba openly charged that the United States was preparing to commit aggression against the island republic to overthrow Castro's government.
The Military Budget
As American commitments reached around the globe and U.S. forces and assistance were dispatched to comply with the agreements concluded during the fifties, it appeared that the nation was more likely to become involved in local wars than in a general conflict. Yet the military budgets following the Korean War had emphasized, for the most part, deterrence of a general nuclear war rather than the contingencies of brush-fire operations.
It was hardly surprising that the Eisenhower administration should seek to cut defense spending after the high outlays during the Korean War, but to some critics it appeared that military policy was being determined by the fixed budget ceilings adopted by the President and his advisers rather than by the requirements of national defense. In any event, the decision to rely heavily upon strategic air power rather than on ground forces soon created an imbalance in the military budget and in the distribution of military forces. In 1953 the Army had a strength of over a million and a half men and had 20 combat divisions—8 in the Far East, 5 in Europe, and 7 in the United States. Of the over $34 billion in military funds voted by Congress for fiscal year 1954, the Army was allocated close to $13 billion.
The lower postwar defense ceilings adopted by the National Security Council in 1953 envisioned sharp manpower cuts, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff came up with a long-range program to trim over 600,000 men from the armed forces over the next four years. While most of the reduction would be absorbed by the ground forces, the air and naval forces would also experience personnel cuts.
By 1958 the manpower adjustments had taken place. The Army had shrunk to 15 divisions and less than 900,000 men. Only 2 reduced-strength divisions remained in Korea and 1 in Hawaii; the deployment of divisions in Europe
and the United States held firm at 5 and 7, respectively, but several of the latter were also at reduced strength. New obligational funds for the Army for fiscal year 1959 were slightly more than $9 billion, about 22 percent of the total military budget for one year.
The high costs of deterring nuclear war were evident. Despite administration efforts to hold down military spending, the defense budget climbed from $34 billion in fiscal year 1954 to over $41 billion for fiscal year 1959. Much of the expense could be traced to the intricate air and missile weapons systems needed to carry out and defend against nuclear attack. Not only were the systems costly to procure, but they also became obsolescent almost overnight as the fast pace of technology produced newer and better models. In addition, the complex mechanisms required highly trained personnel who had to be given costlier schooling, training equipment, and higher pay. Under the circumstances, much of the military procurement budget was devoted to the nuclear threat with relatively little allocated to provide for the possibility of limited, conventional war.
The perennial service disputes over strategy, force levels, and funds did little to promote the effective unification and rapid decision-making that the United States required. In response to Congressional criticism the President decided in 1958 to strengthen further the authority of the Secretary of Defense, to lessen the autonomy of the military departments, and to provide a more direct chain of command from the President to the unified commands. The reorganization was approved by the Congress in August, bringing with it a number of sweeping changes.
Henceforth the system of using the military departments as executive agents for operations was abolished. Almost all of the active combat forces were to be placed under unified commands with the chain of command to them running from the President and the Secretary of Defense through the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Secretary of Defense also received greater freedom to transfer functions within the services, and a Defense Directorate of Research and Development was set up to supervise the research and development programs of all the services. At the JCS level, the Joint Staff was enlarged but specifically directed not to operate or to organize as an over-all armed forces general staff. An effort was also made to free the members of the JCS themselves from some of their routine service duties by permitting them to delegate more authority and duties to their Vice Chiefs.
Under the reorganization the services remained in control of training, equipping, and organizing the forces for unified commands and of developing, under the general supervision of the Secretary of Defense, the weapons and equipment they would need. The services also retained control of all units and individuals not assigned to unified commands and provided logistical support to all their troops, whether in unified commands or not.
The act of 1958 marked the end of one major aspect of the traditional role of the military departments, since they no longer had any part in the direction of combat operations. The JCS and the unified commands were to occupy stage center, while the Secretary of Defense and his assistants were to exercise tighter control of service functions through increasing budgetary and management supervision.
Within the services internal reorganizations had already been carried out by 1958 to improve efficiency of operations and to adjust to the changes necessitated by the threat of nuclear war. In 1955, the Army had replaced the Army Field Forces with the Continental Army Command (CONARC) in an effort to cut down the number of commands reporting directly to the Chief of Staff. CONARC was given responsibility for the six U.S. armies and the Military District of Washington, as well as for certain other units, activities, and installations. Among the chief functions assigned CONARC were supervising the training of the active Army and Reserves, planning for development of the future Army and its equipment, and planning and conducting the ground defenses of the United States.
The Dual Capability Army
The need to adjust to the nuclear threat had a deep impact upon the Army, since it had to be prepared for both conventional and nuclear war. Although the old tactical organization seemed inadequate to meet a nuclear attack, no historical experience factors existed around which to develop a new organization. The tremendous destructive power of nuclear weapons argued that military forces could no longer be massed for offensives of great duration. Since nuclear battlefields would presumably be of great breadth and depth, there would be no point in attempting to hold a solid front; the enemy could easily penetrate the line with nuclear weapons and inflict heavy casualties upon the defenders.
One recourse was to establish a checkerboard pattern with mobile, well-armed units in alternate squares. In the event of attack, either on offense or defense, the mobile units could quickly concentrate, carry out their missions, and just as rapidly disperse before a nuclear counterattack might be launched. The key to success would lie in highly trained troops, equipped with weapons pro-
viding a high ratio of firepower and carried by fast and reliable ground and air vehicles. Other essential items would be first-class communications, dependable intelligence on the enemy's dispositions, and an efficient logistics system for resupply of the combat forces. The development of these capabilities, it was hoped, would enable the Army to produce units that could cope with both nuclear and conventional war.
The major tactical reorganization to meet the new conditions began in 1956 when the first pentomic divisions and missiles commands were set up to furnish the mobile units and fire support deemed necessary for nuclear war. The old triangular infantry and airborne divisions were replaced by an organization consisting of five battle groups, each a self-contained force capable of independent operations. Manned by 13,500 men instead of about 17,000, the pentomic divisions were directly supported by artillery and missiles that could employ conventional or nuclear warheads, while the heavier long-range missiles were concentrated in the missile commands. The armored divisions required less drastic overhauling, since they were better adapted to the requisite pattern of mobility and dispersion. By 1958 all of the Regular Army divisions had been reorganized; the National Guard and Reserve divisions did not complete their change-over until 1960.
The seven divisions stationed in the United States constituted the strategic reserve. Four of these—two airborne and two infantry—were designated in 1957 the Strategic Army Corps (STRAC) and were maintained in a high state of readiness for quick deployment in event of an emergency. The other three were earmarked as STRAC reinforcements and as a training base for expansion of Army forces should the crisis become prolonged or develop into a full-scale war.
To provide the weapons and equipment for the nuclear Army, scientists, engineers, and designers, among others, combined to produce a steady stream of new or improved items. From rifles, mortars, semiautomatic and automatic weapons, and recoilless rifles at the company level to powerful rockets, missiles, and artillery in the support commands, more efficient instruments of war were fashioned to increase the firepower of the combat forces. Whole new families of surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles emerged, with both short- and long-range capabilities. With the emphasis on mobility, even the larger and heavier weapons and equipment were designed to be air-transportable.
A program to produce ground and air vehicles with the necessary battlefield mobility led to the development of armored personnel carriers, such as the M113 with aluminum armor, that could move troops rapidly to the scene of operations while providing greater protection for the individual soldier. Since
highways and bridges might be damaged or destroyed, dual-capability amphibious vehicles that could travel on rough terrain and swim across rivers and swamps freed the fighting units from total dependence upon roads. Also, transportable bridges and bridge-laying equipment were designed to help speed movement of land-bound vehicles like the new, diesel-powered M60 battle tank that became operational in 1960. The M60 weighed over fifty-two tons, had a cruising range of 300 miles, and mounted a 105-mm. turret gun.
Perhaps the most dramatic efforts to increase the Army's mobility occurred in the field of aviation. To secure both firepower and maneuverability, the Army pushed its development of helicopters and low-speed fixed-wing aircraft. The versatile helicopter had already been used in Korea to move troops and supplies, conduct reconnaissance, and evacuate casualties. Some of the new fixed-wing planes were designed for short take-off and landing to increase their value in forward areas and to carry pay loads of over three tons; others were to conduct visual, photographic, and electronic surveillance missions over the battlefield and behind enemy lines. Experiments were also initiated on vertical take-off and landing aircraft that would combine the advantages of the helicopter's small operating area requirements with the greater speed of the fixed-wing plane.
In co-ordinating the employment of increased mobility and firepower, the role of communications mounted in importance. Whether the pentomic units operated independently over large areas or quickly concentrated for a major attack, light but reliable radio equipment was essential. The advent of the space age spurred communications research, since the space capsules required that a large number of intricate recording and transmitting instruments be fitted into an extremely limited area. A dramatic breakthrough in miniaturization of component parts helped solve the problem. With tiny transistors replacing bulky tubes, radio equipment became lighter, smaller, and more reliable. Sets could be redesigned to be carried by the individual soldier, in light vehicles, or in aircraft, to ease the command problems involved in exercising control in fluid situations.
Tactical communications was only one facet of the technological advances of the fifties stemming from miniaturization. The ponderous early computers began to give way to smaller versions capable of storing more information and retrieving it more swiftly. In time, the Army found more and more areas where computers could be usefully employed. From the co-ordination of information on approaching air targets and the direction of weapons fire to the storage and retrieval of personnel and logistics data, computers assumed an ever-growing number of functions throughout the Army.
The storage and quick retrieval of information made the computer a valuable intelligence tool as well. To secure the data needed to feed the machines required developing new families of surveillance equipment that could detect the presence of enemy forces, weapons, and supply concentrations. More sophisticated radar and sonar instruments emerged for picking up and identifying objects on land, at sea, and in the air. To aid ground-based and airborne surveillance, infrared, acoustic, and seismic devices were put into use to supplement improved and highly accurate cameras and the side-looking radar carried by planes to locate enemy concentrations by day and night under all weather conditions.
Once the foe had been spotted and operations got under way, the Army logistics system would have to have methods and means for furnishing supplies and equipment to the troops on the nuclear battlefield. Since nuclear wars would, it was expected, be short, the armed forces would have to rely upon munitions in being rather than on future production, leaving no time for the American war machine to gear up and outstrip its enemies a year or two after the outbreak of hostilities. Instead the United States would have to prestock depots at home and in vital overseas areas while at the same time avoiding large concentration of war matériel in ports or other ideal targets for nuclear weapons.
Support for combat troops would have to be keyed to minimum essential requirements. Furnishing the minimum essential requirements in itself presented problems that were by no means completely solved. By rapidly processing requisitions in electronic computers, using fast naval vessels and air transport, delivering over the beaches by means of roll-on-roll-off ships and aerial tramways instead of through ports, and employing cross-country vehicles to steer clear of reliance on road nets, the logistics planners hoped to provide adequate support to the front-line troops.
Despite the influx of new weapons, tactics, machines, and equipment, the basic strength of the American armed forces remained dependent upon the caliber of the personnel. With the reductions after the conclusion of the Korean armistice enabling the bulk of the Reserves called into service for the war to return to civilian life, the military services again contained a high proportion of career officers and men.
Just as the logistics planners had to contend with the concept that a nuclear war would have to be fought with current stocks, the personnel planners soon decided that it would have to be fought with forces in being. Mobilizing and training civilians for a year or two as in past wars would no longer be practicable; they would not become available in time to influence military operations in a nuclear war. Only military forces in being and a well-trained, ready reserve could be expected to participate in the fighting.
Retaining the more capable officers and enlisted men became of greater importance as the technological advances of the fifties gave the armed services a growing inventory of complex weapons and equipment. Developing, operating, and maintaining the new items demanded administrators with scientific or engineering backgrounds and skilled technicians with considerable schooling. If the services were going to allocate funds for long and expensive training courses, they wanted to assure that the graduates would remain in uniform at least until the investment paid off. Since the graduates would be qualified to fill well-paid positions in rapidly expanding occupational areas, the services had to compete with attractive civilian offers.
Yet the situation was not without hope, for the advantages of a military career were many. The twenty-year retirement option was a strong inducement to many who had already served ten years or more. Among fringe benefits that made military life more attractive were free family medical care, and post exchange, commissary, and recreational and educational facilities. In most places the pre-World War II cleavage between the civilian and military communities had begun to disappear and military careers had gained more prestige, both because large numbers of civilians had served in World War II and in
Korea and because many areas had become dependent upon military spending for subsistence. The large post-Korea military establishment thus cut across social lines, while the large defense budgets affected every walk of American economic life.
In one respect, however, a military career had become less attractive. As a steady inflation set in after Korea, military pay had not kept pace with civilian salaries. With more and more talented military personnel shedding their uniforms to take on more lucrative civilian jobs, Congress in 1958 brought military salaries into closer correlation with civilian positions of similar responsibilities and also enabled the services to award proficiency pay for highly skilled personnel. Increased retirement benefits, approved at the same time, added to Social Security benefits, which had become available in early 1957, enabled the services to improve their competitive position considerably and to retain a higher percentage of the best-qualified officers and men.
The Reserve Forces
Despite the progress made in retention, the Army could not rely entirely upon a voluntary recruitment to fill its manpower requirements. During the Korean War, Congress had passed legislation placing a theoretical "military obligation" on all physically and mentally qualified males between the ages of 181 and 26 for a total of 8 years of combined active and Reserve military duty. The Reserve was divided into two categories, the Ready Reserve, which could be ordered to duty on declaration of an emergency by the President and in numbers authorized by Congress, and the Standby Reserve, which could be ordered to duty only in war or emergency declared by Congress. To fulfill his military obligation, a young eligible male had several alternatives. By spending 5 years of his 8-year obligation on active duty or in a combination of active duty and membership in the Ready Reserve, he could transfer to the Standby Reserve for his last 3 years. Or he might join the National Guard at 18 and by rendering satisfactory service for 10 years avoid active duty unless his Guard unit was called into federal service. For college students there was also the alternative of enrolling in an ROTC course, spending 2 or 3 years on active duty and the remainder of the 8 years as a Reserve officer.
This system had many weaknesses. There was really no compulsory military obligation beyond existing selective service arrangements, and draft quotas dwindled rapidly after the end of the Korean War. Similarly, the armed services found it impossible to accommodate all ROTC graduates for their required active duty. The obligation to remain in the Reserve carried with it no com-
pulsion either to enlist in a Reserve unit or to participate in continued training. Since enlistees in the National Guard required no prior training, Guard units had to spend most of their time drilling recruits. Thus the Reserve, while strong enough numerically, fulfilled none of the requisites for rapid mobilization in case of need, and there was no assurance that it would be kept up to strength by a steady input of young Reservists.
To remedy these faults, Congress, at the urging of the President, passed new Reserve legislation in 1955. While this act reduced the term of obligatory service for enlistees from 8 to 6 years, it imposed a requirement for active participation in Reserve training on those passing out of the armed services with an unexpired obligation. It also authorized voluntary enlistment of young men between the ages of 17 and 181 in the Reserve up to a total of 250,000 per year. These youths would receive 6 months on active duty followed by 71 years in the Reserve instead of a 2- or 3-year tour within a 6-year military obligation. The President was authorized, without further Congressional action, to call up to a million Ready Reservists to duty in an emergency proclaimed by him. He could also recall selected members of the Standby Reserve in the event of a national emergency declared by Congress.
It was difficult to eliminate all the weaknesses of Reserve legislation in one swoop, however, and even with a perfect bill circumstances would still have played a role in determining the outcome. In a period of irregular voluntary enlistments and restricted funds, many of the Reserve units soon fell below authorized strength. The main effort was placed upon training those units that could be mobilized and deployed in the early stages of a conflict. To fill the high priority units, Reservists were often assigned without regard to their military specialties, and imbalances that could seriously affect readiness dates increased. Many Reservists failed to keep their parent organization informed of changes in address or in Reserve status and this was especially true of members of the Ready Reserve Mobilization Reinforcement Pool which contained Reservists who did not belong to organized units. Failure to screen out the ineligibles promptly and on a regular basis caused the reinforcement pool to become clogged with deadwood that could only serve to delay a quick and efficient mobilization.
As budget cuts forced the active Army to lower its manpower ceiling, efforts were made to strengthen the Reserves. In the Reserve Forces Act of 1955 provisions were set up for a total Ready Reserve of 2,900,000 by 1970. The Army's share reached about a million and a half men in 1957—over a million in the Army Reserve and over 440,000 in the National Guard, with paid drill strengths reaching 305,000 and 422,000, respectively. At the same time, the number of
Army Reserve divisions was cut from 25 to 10 and manning levels were increased substantially to give these units a higher readiness capability, while the National Guard divisions rose from 26 to 27. Since the active Army could support only a force of IS divisions on a manpower base of about one million men in 1957, it was evident that the Reserve forces could not come close to supporting adequately a total of 37 divisions on a paid drill strength of only 727,000. With the Reserve divisions heavily involved in training activities and suffering from equipment shortages as well, their capability to attain combat readiness quickly was open to serious question.
The Army's efforts to secure increases to correct these deficiencies, therefore, ran into mounting opposition in the late fifties from the President and his advisers. Convinced that the United States was spending about $80 million a year on sustaining Reserve units that were of little or no military value, President Eisenhower tried to cut the paid drill strength. But it proved to be extremely difficult to persuade Congress of the necessity or desirability of thoroughly reorganizing and reducing the many Reserve units scattered in Congressional districts throughout the country. The political significance of the Reserve forces could not be discounted and Congress in 1959 voted a mandatory 700,000 figure to assure that no further reductions would be made without its approval. Actually, when President Eisenhower left office two years later, the paid drill strength had climbed to over 750,000 men.
During the Eisenhower period the American public had accepted the need for large military forces in being despite its long history of antimilitarism and had shown itself willing to allocate money and troops to insure U.S. security. In assuming the responsibility and loneliness of leadership of the free world, the people had revealed a growing maturity.
page updated 27 April 2001
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