A Long and Proud History

By Harford, Lee | Soldiers Magazine, August 2006 | Go to article overview

A Long and Proud History


Harford, Lee, Soldiers Magazine


THE Army Reserve can trace its roots as a reserve force to 1756 and the beginning of the French and Indian War. A U.S. "national" force of Soldiers fought in that war up to 1763. "Federal volunteers," as they were then known, also fought in the Civil War, from 1861 to 1865, and the Spanish-American War and Philippine Insurrection from 1892 to 1902.

Throughout this period, the central government--initially British royal and then U.S. congressional--organized and maintained a group of citizen-soldiers only during wartime.

Problems with mobilizing Soldiers during the last of these conflicts caused the nation's leaders to establish a formal structure for federal volunteers during peacetime.

The official predecessor of the Army Reserve, created in 1908 and subsequently titled the Organized Reserve Corps, produced, in reality, a peacetime pool of trained Reserve officers and enlisted men, which the Army mobilized as individual replacements for units in the world wars of the 20th century.

The Strategic "Unready" Reserve: 1916-1960s

In 1916, using its constitutional authority to "raise and support armies," Congress passed the National Defense Act, which created the Officers' Reserve Corps, Enlisted Reserve Corps and Reserve Officers' Training Corps. The Army mobilized 89,500 Reserve officers for World War I between 1917 and 1919, one-third of whom were medical doctors.

More than 80,000 enlisted Reserve Soldiers served, with 15,000 assigned to medical units. After the war, the separate Reserve corps for officers and enlisted men was combined into the Organized Reserve Corps, a name that lasted into the 1950s.

During the interwar period, the Army planned for an organized Reserve force of 33 divisions, existing either as units on paper or in a cadre status. The years between the world wars were austere, with few opportunities for training.

A contingency for service, however, was created during the Great Depression. One of President Theodore Roosevelt's New Deal programs, the Civilian Conservation Corps, placed young men in barracks and military-style organizations to work in national forests and participate in other outdoor projects.

Between 1933 and 1939 more than 30,000 Reserve officers served as commanders or staff officers at 2,700 conservation-corps camps.

Reserve participation in the American defense effort began before the United States entered World War II in December 1941. The Army had begun calling Reserve officers to active duty in June 1940. In the year that followed, the number of Reserve officers on active duty rose from less than 3,000 to more than 57,000. Between 1941 and 1945 the Army mobilized 26 Reserve-designated infantry divisions.

Approximately a quarter of all Army officers who served were Army Reserve Soldiers, including more than 100,000 Reserve Officers' Training Corps graduates. More than 200,000 Army Reserve Soldiers served in the war. Recognizing the importance of the organized Reserve to the war effort, Congress authorized retirement and drill pay for the first time in 1948.

During the Korean War more than 240,000 Reserve Soldiers were called to active duty. That large number reflected the Army's need for organized, trained personnel in a short period of time. More than 70 Reserve units served in Korea. While the Korean War was still under way, Congress began making significant changes in the structure and role of the Reserve. These changes transformed the organized Reserve into the U.S. Army Reserve. This new organization was divided into a ready Reserve, a standby Reserve and a retired Reserve. …

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