US Army: What it Was Like in the US Military in Between Wars
What it Was Like in the US Military in Between Wars

What it Was Like in the US Military in Between Wars

Larry Holzwarth - March 11, 2022

What it Was Like in the US Military in Between Wars
An American Grant tank from the 1st Armored Division at the Battle of Kasserine, a major defeat for the US Army in 1943. US Army

20. The US endured several months of failures thanks to its attitude toward the military between the wars

Across the Pacific, in the Philippines, at Wake Island, Guam, and other areas, the US Army and Navy paid for the long years of neglect during the early months of 1942. Where they did achieve success, such as at Guadalcanal, they paid a heavy price in losses of men, materiel, aircraft, and ships. So many American and Dutch ships were lost around Guadalcanal the area became known as Iron Bottom Sound. The US Army and Air Forces initially achieved success in North Africa during Operation Torch in November 1942, mostly because the Vichy French troops opposing them offered only token resistance, when they fought at all. Three months later the numerically superior Americans faced the Germans in a series of battles fought around the Kasserine Pass in North Africa. They suffered a major defeat, blamed on inexperience, poor leadership, poorer organization, and often inadequate equipment.

Life in the American military during the interwar years, especially in the US Army, was a dreary existence. Enlisted soldiers were poorly paid, poorly trained, poorly equipped, and poorly housed. Officers who entered West Point with glowing ideas about a military career discovered a promotion system which offered little or no advancement, a hidebound command structure which resisted innovation, and a public with little patience for a costly standing army. The burst of patriotism which marked victory in the Great War quickly faded into indifference, impatience, and even open hostility to supporting an Army. That so many great leaders, Eisenhower and Marshall, Bradley and Patton, Nimitz and King and Spruance, unnamed non-commissioned officers by the thousands, endured the years of neglect is remarkable. They enabled the United States to prevail in World War II.

Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Tientsin Garrison”. Article, Global Online

“1920-1921 Military Pay Chart”. Navy Cyberspace. Online

“A Return to Isolationism”. Article, Office of the Historian, US Department of State. Online

“Roosevelt Takes the Plunge”. Article, Theodore Roosevelt Center, Dickinson State University. Online

“Celebrating Highway History: The US Army’s 1919 Cross-Country Convoy”. Editors, July 12, 2019

“First Flight Around the World: The Douglas World Cruisers at Pearson Field”. Article, National Park Service. Online

“‘What a Magnificent Body of Men Never to Take Another Drink’: The US Army and Prohibition”. Benjamin Runkle, Real Clear Defense. January 16, 2019

“Patriotism Betrayed. How the US Military Resegregated From 2013-2019″. Louis Sheridan, Historical Perspectives: Santa Clara University Undergraduate Journal of History”. 2021

“Rum War at Sea”. CDR Malcolm F. Willoughby USCGR, US Department of the Treasury. 1964

“The Air Mail Fiasco”. John T. Correll, Air Force Magazine. March 1, 2008

“American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur, 1880-1964”. William Manchester. 2008

“Marshall and the Civilian Conservation Corps”. Article, George C. Marshall Foundation. March 3, 2017

“A History of the US Army Officer Corps, 1900-1990”. Arthur T. Coumbe, Strategic Studies Institute, Army War College. September, 2014

“First Peacetime Draft Enacted Just Before World War II”. David Vergun, Department of Defense News. April 7, 2020

“Washington Goes to War”. David Brinkley. 1988

“Learning from the past: Interwar period”. Lt. Col. Craig Punches, USAF, Joint Base Charleston (SC) News. June 12, 2013