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OT: question: US military size, prewar

 
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OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/16/2008 5:58:35 PM   
mlees


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I thought I read somewhere that the size of the US Army in 1939 was smaller than Greece (or was it Portugal?). Can someone point me towards an online reference as to the numbers of folks in uniform (USA) pre-WW2?

Thanks!
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RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/16/2008 6:14:03 PM   
herwin

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: mlees

I thought I read somewhere that the size of the US Army in 1939 was smaller than Greece (or was it Portugal?). Can someone point me towards an online reference as to the numbers of folks in uniform (USA) pre-WW2?

Thanks!


See http://www.militaryhistoryonline.com/wwii/usarmy/default.aspx.

The thing to remember about Greece was that it was a military dictatorship with large unfriendly neighbours.

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RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/16/2008 6:14:40 PM   
USSAmerica


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quote:

ORIGINAL: mlees

I thought I read somewhere that the size of the US Army in 1939 was smaller than Greece (or was it Portugal?). Can someone point me towards an online reference as to the numbers of folks in uniform (USA) pre-WW2?

Thanks!


I can't point you to a reference, but I do recall hearing that the size of the US Army was smaller than Poland's in 1939.

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RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/16/2008 6:21:02 PM   
herwin

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: USS America


quote:

ORIGINAL: mlees

I thought I read somewhere that the size of the US Army in 1939 was smaller than Greece (or was it Portugal?). Can someone point me towards an online reference as to the numbers of folks in uniform (USA) pre-WW2?

Thanks!


I can't point you to a reference, but I do recall hearing that the size of the US Army was smaller than Poland's in 1939.


Poland was another military dictatorship with large unfriendly neighbours. See a pattern?

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RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/16/2008 6:32:32 PM   
anarchyintheuk

 

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Greece and Poland were bordered by countries a little more dangerous to them than Canada and Mexico were to the US.

http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/COS-Biennial/COS-Biennial-1.html

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RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/16/2008 6:47:26 PM   
Chris21wen

 

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For a nation the size of the USA it was small, further it was ill equiped and trained. This is also true of the USN, USM and associated air forces but not to the same extent. There were a number of reasons for this the main two being the pacifists and isolationist held sway between the two wars and money (the depression). Britain had a similar problem by the way.

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RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/16/2008 6:52:25 PM   
crsutton


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Traditionally European armies have always been large due to the close proximity of both hostile and friendly neighbors. They could not afford to not have standing armies as they could be quickly in a world of hurt. Look at the first few weeks of WWI and how quickly all of the powers mobilized massive armies.

England was the exception as until the advent of modern airplanes the theory was that the fleet would protect the Islands.

The US had little need for a large standing army as the continent was considered to be too distant from any potential hostile power. (Well, there is always the Canadian threat.) It just never made any economic sense to have a large army where it was not needed.

Having not fought a war in 400 years does not prevent the Swiss from having mandatory military service today. (I may be out of date but military service was manditory in Switzerland in the 1980s).


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RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/16/2008 6:55:12 PM   
herwin

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Chris H

For a nation the size of the USA it was small, further it was ill equiped and trained. This is also true of the USN, USM and associated air forces but not to the same extent. There were a number of reasons for this the main two being the pacifists and isolationist held sway between the two wars and money (the depression). Britain had a similar problem by the way.


The Army belonged to Congress, while the Navy (and the Marines) belonged to the President. The condition of the Army in 1939 reflected Congressional priorities.

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RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/16/2008 7:22:44 PM   
John Lansford

 

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The USN was actually quite large prior to WWII; it was the US' power projection military force and therefore the one that got most of the spending during the prewar years.  After Pearl Harbor the USN basically got a blank check as to how many and what kinds of ships it wanted, whether they were needed or not...

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RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/16/2008 8:04:59 PM   
mlees


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Thanks, all. The reason I'm asking is because, on a completely different forum-board, there is a thread where the OP postulates that the money the US currently spends on the military is better spent on domestic stuff.

In his/her mind, a large military leads to unnecessary wars. So, a small military leads to a peaceful (presumedly because your neighbors do not feel threatened) world, and no imperial ambitions.

I wished to counter with the data that, when the US was attacked in WW2, it's military was not large and threatening. (The USN and RN were in relative parity for the number one slot in size. But the US Army was relatively small.)

< Message edited by mlees -- 4/16/2008 8:06:32 PM >

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RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/16/2008 8:27:05 PM   
Terminus


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I believe the US Army was the same size as Yugoslavia's.

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RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/16/2008 10:24:07 PM   
mlees


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Terminus

I believe the US Army was the same size as Yugoslavia's.



Do you have a linkable cite handy?

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Post #: 12
RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/16/2008 10:28:11 PM   
Terminus


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No, just something I remembered reading.

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Post #: 13
RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/16/2008 10:35:52 PM   
Speedysteve

 

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If it's just your memory we're going on i'd say it's debatable

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RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/16/2008 10:37:55 PM   
Terminus


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...ignores the feeble squawkings of Speedette...

When the war began in 1939, the US Army was less than 200,000 strong. In 1941, it had increased something like seven times in size, thanks to rearmament.

http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-WD-Plans/USA-WD-Plans-2.html#table1



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RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/16/2008 11:20:37 PM   
niceguy2005


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quote:

ORIGINAL: USS America


quote:

ORIGINAL: mlees

I thought I read somewhere that the size of the US Army in 1939 was smaller than Greece (or was it Portugal?). Can someone point me towards an online reference as to the numbers of folks in uniform (USA) pre-WW2?

Thanks!


I can't point you to a reference, but I do recall hearing that the size of the US Army was smaller than Poland's in 1939.

A lot of armies from that era had compulsory service also. It would be next to impossible to make an apples to apples comparison. Then again, America's "professional" army had training problems and I think unit quality varied greatly.

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Post #: 16
RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/16/2008 11:24:26 PM   
Terminus


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When America entered the war, the US Army had 37 divisions, but exactly ONE was considered fit for operational deployment overseas.

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Post #: 17
RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/16/2008 11:25:48 PM   
niceguy2005


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Chris H

For a nation the size of the USA it was small, further it was ill equiped and trained. This is also true of the USN, USM and associated air forces but not to the same extent. There were a number of reasons for this the main two being the pacifists and isolationist held sway between the two wars and money (the depression). Britain had a similar problem by the way.

Not all units were poorly equipped or trained. Unit preparedness was quite variable. However, it is true that generally equipment and the procurement system in general were outdated and poor through the late 20s and early 30s. By 1939 FDR's administration had turned the corner on this and made great improvements...but it had to take time to ripple throughout the war department.

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Post #: 18
RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/16/2008 11:31:02 PM   
herwin

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: mlees

Thanks, all. The reason I'm asking is because, on a completely different forum-board, there is a thread where the OP postulates that the money the US currently spends on the military is better spent on domestic stuff.

In his/her mind, a large military leads to unnecessary wars. So, a small military leads to a peaceful (presumedly because your neighbors do not feel threatened) world, and no imperial ambitions.

I wished to counter with the data that, when the US was attacked in WW2, it's military was not large and threatening. (The USN and RN were in relative parity for the number one slot in size. But the US Army was relatively small.)


As far as Japan was concerned, America was very threatening, mostly because we had the ability to project our power.

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(in reply to mlees)
Post #: 19
RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/16/2008 11:32:31 PM   
Terminus


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Strictly speaking, it was the Japanese Navy that felt America was threatening. The Japanese Army was more concerned with the Soviets.

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Post #: 20
RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/16/2008 11:33:14 PM   
niceguy2005


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Terminus

When America entered the war, the US Army had 37 divisions, but exactly ONE was considered fit for operational deployment overseas.

Probably true, but then again I'm sure the standards for "fit for operational duties overseas" changed radically overnight. In other words the War Department was managing the military in accordance with peace time standards and over night that standard was changed.

As I understand it the US had a minority, but very vocal group of "don't get involved over there" people. That group was an anchor dragging on the modernization process.

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Post #: 21
RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/16/2008 11:39:13 PM   
Terminus


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True enough. The army was in the middle of not just re-arming, but re-organization: only a few of the infantry divisions were triangular, for instance.

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Post #: 22
RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/16/2008 11:41:57 PM   
niceguy2005


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quote:

ORIGINAL: crsutton

Traditionally European armies have always been large due to the close proximity of both hostile and friendly neighbors. They could not afford to not have standing armies as they could be quickly in a world of hurt. Look at the first few weeks of WWI and how quickly all of the powers mobilized massive armies.

England was the exception as until the advent of modern airplanes the theory was that the fleet would protect the Islands.

The US had little need for a large standing army as the continent was considered to be too distant from any potential hostile power. (Well, there is always the Canadian threat.) It just never made any economic sense to have a large army where it was not needed.

Having not fought a war in 400 years does not prevent the Swiss from having mandatory military service today. (I may be out of date but military service was manditory in Switzerland in the 1980s).


ALthough the Swiss army has compulsory service, I don't think the service is that long...although I think once active duty is up they go on reserve status so could be recalled easily. It's basically the colonial US style militia.

An important point I think worth making, lthough the US Army had training problems at the time, it was a professional army, so the standard by which its being measured is pretty high. I would have stacked up any regular US division against any conscripted division around the world at any time. I think the US Army often gets an unjustified black eye because it wasn't prepared to the level one would have liked for immediate deployment, which was not the policy at the time. As a defensive force it was quite capable.

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Post #: 23
RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/16/2008 11:44:57 PM   
Terminus


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Er, Niceguy... The Selective Service Act came into being in 1940, and the US Army became a conscript force.

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RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/16/2008 11:46:12 PM   
mdiehl

 

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In 1939 the USAAF was smaller than the Rumanian AF.

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RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/16/2008 11:51:12 PM   
niceguy2005


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Terminus

Er, Niceguy... The Selective Service Act came into being in 1940, and the US Army became a conscript force.

Yep. true enough. I tend to think of the start of WWII as being 1939. There was a period between 1939 and the actual start (for the US) in 12/41 that the military was in great flux. IIRC some of the new divisions weren't even equipped.

I was really referring to the original units, prior to reorg.

Of course I don't care how good training is, every unit is green until its been under fire.

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Post #: 26
RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/16/2008 11:56:30 PM   
Terminus


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The World War DID start in 1939, of course. Guess we were missing each other's points...

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RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/17/2008 12:04:02 AM   
niceguy2005


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Terminus

The World War DID start in 1939, of course. Guess we were missing each other's points...

Yep. If your point was that the US military was poorly equipped and poorly trained for the start of a world war, i would agree.

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Post #: 28
RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/17/2008 12:05:28 AM   
Terminus


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Hooray!

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Post #: 29
RE: OT: question: US military size, prewar - 4/17/2008 12:47:40 AM   
rtrapasso


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OK - QUIZ TIME: according to the Army - how many mortars did the Army have in Summer 1939?

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Post #: 30
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