Elihu Root on the Army War College

Parameters, Spring 2001 | Go to article overview

Elihu Root on the Army War College


Not to promote war, but to preserve peace by intelligent and adequate preparation to repel aggression, this institution is founded." With those words Secretary of War Elihu Root began his address at the laying of the cornerstone for the Army War College, 21 February 1903. He would also speak on 9 November 1908, as Secretary of State and the college founder, when the building was completed. The Army War College is no longer at that location, but Root's conception of it lives on, now looking to its second century.

War Department General Order Number 155, dated 27 November 1901, established the basis for a formal tiered system of officer education, with the war college at its apex. Root envisioned the college as "a post-graduate course" where the Army's best officers would "study and confer upon the great problems of national defense, of military science, and of responsible command." Root commented:

Membership in the War College will mean honor and opportunity. In its confidential archives will be garnered the results of the best thought of the army, and in the continuous existence of the institution . . . will be found continuity of knowledge, of thought, and of military policy always available for practical uses.

In his later address at the building's dedication, Root spoke of the importance of the Army War College to the nation:

It is not strange that on the shore of the beautiful Potomac, in a land devoted to peace, there should arise a structure devoted to increasing the efficiency of an army for wars. The world is growing more pacific; war is condemned more widely as the years go on.

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