Department of the Army Historical Summary: FY 1972



Although military affairs rarely unfold with such precision that annual, institutional segments have clearly defined limits and internal unity, a twelve-month period usually contains certain threads and directions that give it identity. Thus what transpired between July 1, 1971, and June 30, 1972, reveals that fiscal year 1972 was one of transition for the United States Army-a period when one set of controlling circumstances was receding and another was coming into play.

American withdrawal from the Vietnam War was the central factor in the process of change. There were major redeployments of troops and major redistributions of materiel from the war zone; the last divisional units departed Southeast Asia and the monumental task of disposing of equipment was completed during the year. Army battle casualties continued to decrease, with killed-in-action less than one-sixth and wounded only one-seventh of the previous year's totals.

The shift from wartime to peacetime operations paved the way for over-all Army demobilization. Strength fell not only to a point below what it had been at the start of the war a decade ago, but-through congressional limitation-below planned postwar levels. Major unit (divisional) composition also dipped below intended postwar goals. Draft calls, too, dropped sharply in this environment. As the year closed, draftees represented only 14 percent of over-all Army strength and only 16 percent of Army strength in Vietnam. On June 28, 1972, President Richard M. Nixon announced that no more draftees would be assigned to the combat theater unless they volunteered.

The operating year was well into the second quarter and the Army was moving to its authorized end strength on a planned schedule when the Congress reduced it by 50,000 man-years. To reach the lower level, a number of steps had to be taken that created widespread personnel turbulence. Early release actions, levies to keep Army forces in Europe at 95 percent strength, pressures to reach a zero draft status, and


measures to achieve an all-volunteer force, in combination with congressional delay in extending the draft, led to morale problems, skill imbalances, unit shortages, and decline in trained strength and general readiness. By May 1972 a difficult personnel situation had reached its nadir, although recovery would be hampered by the continuing requirements to move to a zero draft and an all-volunteer footing.

With regard to the all-volunteer force, as time advanced toward the zero draft target date of July 1, 1973, the Army moved along many lines to strengthen professionalism, enhance military life, and improve the personnel accession system. To advance professionalism, steps were taken to improve command stability, upgrade leadership instruction, and refine personnel management. To enhance Army life there were substantial increases in family and troop housing (both construction and modernization), improvements in health care for soldiers and dependents, and increases in military pay. A variety of new enlistment options and expansion and improvement of the recruiting service joined with pay increases to bring an upsurge in enlistments. It was a measure of the success of these actions that by year's end the Office of the Special Assistant for the Modern Volunteer Army could be disestablished, leaving the continuing details of building a volunteer Army to the operating elements of the departmental staff.

The Army was freed of two major functional responsibilities during fiscal year 1972. For twenty-seven years --the entire period of American tenure stemming from treaty arrangements after World War II-- the Army administered the Ryukyu Islands on behalf of the United States government. On May 15, 1972, responsibility for governing the islands reverted to Japan. Under the new agreement, the United States retained its major Pacific base on Okinawa. In seven years of occupation and twenty of administration, the Army carried out relief and rehabilitation in the devastated archipelago and contributed immeasurably to the welfare and well-being of the Ryukyuan people and to their social and economic development. There were major advances in the fields of education, health, commerce, and government in the period of American stewardship.

In a second functional change, the Secretary of Defense established the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency to carry forward the civil defense role delegated to him by Executive Order 10952 and assigned in turn to the Secretary of the Army on March 31, 1964. Effective with the establishment of the new agency on May 5, 1972, the Office of Civil Defense, Department of the Army, was disestablished and its funds, personnel, manpower spaces, and other resources transferred to the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency. The Army will continue to provide military support to civil defense under the new arrangement.


Important international negotiations during fiscal year 1972 had a major impact upon national defense and the Army's Safeguard System antiballistic missile (ABM) program. On May 6, 1972, following the successful completion of the first phase of strategic arms limitation talks, the United States and the Soviet Union signed a Treaty on Limitations of Antiballistic Missiles. The agreement affected a planned twelve-site deployment under which work had proceeded at sites in Montana and North Dakota and was soon to be launched at two others in Missouri and Wyoming. Pending anticipated ratification, numerous immediate steps were taken to adjust the program to meet the terms of the agreement. A reoriented fiscal year 1973 Safeguard program was submitted to the Congress in June 1972 under which work would continue at the North Dakota ABM site, advanced preparations would proceed for an authorized National Command Authorities site at Washington, D.C., and the Montana site would be dismantled.

Another international agreement had broad implications for the Army in the fiscal year period, one that concerned personnel, doctrine, weapons, organization, facilities, and research in the chemical warfare field. On April 10, 1972, the United States signed a Convention on the Prohibition of the Deployment, Production, and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons under which the signatories agreed not to develop, produce, stockpile, acquire, or retain biological agents or toxins for warlike purposes, or the weapons and equipment to deliver them in armed conflict. The convention codified





for the international community and the participating states the unilateral actions previously taken by the United States and represented the first international agreement since World War II that provided for the elimination of an entire class of weapons from the arsenals of nations. As a result of this agreement, the Army's biological warfare facility at Pine Bluff Arsenal, Arkansas, became a new national center for research on the adverse effects of chemical substances in man's environment, while the biological research facility at Fort Detrick, Maryland, became a center for cancer research.

The opening and closing of the fiscal year were marked by changes in the Army's top leadership. On July 1, 1971, the Honorable Robert F. Froehlke took office as Secretary of the Army, replacing the Honorable Stanley R. Resor. On June 30, 1972, General William C. Westmoreland completed a four-year tour as Chief of Staff and retired from active service. General Creighton W. Abrams was nominated to succeed him.




These are some of the highlights of Army activity in fiscal year 1972. They are covered in greater detail, along with the broad outlines of Army operation in the period, in the following pages.



Go to:

Next Chapter

Return to Table of Contents

Search CMH Online
Return to CMH Online
Last updated 27 August 2004