WASHINGTON, Jan. 14, 1911 (UP) - The American people should know that their army is in a lamentable state and that our means of defense, except the navy, are virtually nil.
The recent report of the secretary of war was made in consequence of a resolution introduced in the house of representatives by the Hon. James McLachlan, a member from California. It disclosed a condition of affairs so disgraceful that it has been suppressed, under the excuse that it was purely "confidential." Mr. Dickinson's report probably did not contain one single thing which is not known to well-informed military men both in the United States and all over the world.
Lasting peace is desirable above all other things, but to be weak when others are strong is to invite destruction: Might still makes right among nations, and it is high time that Americans knew the real value of their powers of defense.
On Oct. 15, 1910, the United States army consisted of 4,476 officers and 72,559 men, a total of 77,035. In this country, there are 59,687 troops; in the Philippines 17,000, and in Honolulu 1,400. The militia numbers about 110,000 officers and men. In time of war the regular army could be increased to 100,000. It would then contain no less than 30 per cent of recruits, and, consequently, be far below the fighting efficiency it ought to possess. This is bad enough in itself.
But the American army today has only enough infantry ammunition for one single engagement. At this instant the field artillery does not possess enough manufactured ammunition to fight so much as one battle. At the end of the civil war the union army had 1,800 pieces of artillery. The United States army today possesses but 572 guns of all calibers.
We Americans think our militia a wonderful force. Nothing could be farther from the truth from a military standpoint. Read the history of our past wars and see for yourself how much value they have often been as a purely military asset. Our militia has run away or mutinied in no less than thirty battles or marches between 1776 and 1861. The militia must not be blamed for the defective system which has been permitted to remain in force so long. They have always done splendidly when given an opportunity to learn war in actual fighting.
The act of 1792 is practically still in force, having been embodied into all subsequent bills, and governors can refuse to call out their militia, as the governors of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont did in 1812, 1813 and 1814.
The location of posts in the army is most defective. Mountain batteries are placed several days march from any mountains; cavalry garrisons are put in the north, where they are snowed up half the year; and some of the infantry posts where they are useless, being far from the centers of distribution. The location of posts has been due to three causes: (1) Indian frontier conditions in the past; (2) the opening of the west - the troops now in Alaska are there partly for that purpose; and (3) political influence.
The American army has no reserve, because of our defective laws. Gen. Leonard Wood recently called the attention of the military affairs committee of the house of representatives to the fact that the army is graduating by expiring enlistments 30,000 soldiers each year. These men have seen three years service, but no means exist to utilize them in time of war.
Never in our history have we been prepared for war. A good businessman cannot be made in a day or a month: neither can a good soldier. To employ untrained material is always dangerous and very expensive. In the revolution we used 231,771 regulars and 164,087 militia and volunteers against England's 150,605 men; yet it cost us $370,000,000 and $70,000,000 in pensions.
In the war of 1812 we had 56,032 regulars and 471,622 militia against the English and Canadian forces of only about 55,000 men. That war cost us $82,627,009 and $45,808,676 in pensions. In the Mexican war 31,024 regulars and 73,532 militia were required to conquer about 46,000 Mexicans, at a cost of $88,500,208, and the pensions have amounted to $43,956,768.
In the civil war the United States employed no less than 67,000 regulars and 2,605,341 militia and volunteers to defeat about 1,000,000 confederates. The war cost the fabulous sum of $5,371,079,748, and $3,837,488,171 have already been paid in pensions, and we are a long way from the end yet.
The Spanish-American war compelled us to use 58,688 regulars and 223,235 militia or volunteers to subdue 200,000 Spaniards, at a cost of $321,833,254, while 76,416 regulars and 50,052 volunteers were employed in the Philippines, at a cost of $171,326,572; and $30,191,725 has already been paid in pensions for them both. How many Americans have any conception of the outrageous extravagance in men and money that has characterized our past wars? How long could any properly run company or corporation tolerate any such mismanagement?
Until the last few years our annual expenditures for pensions have exceeded what it cost to maintain the Germany army. Since 1791 our army has cost $6,845,129,239 and our pensions no less than $4,115,829,223. The size of our present pension list is a disgrace to any civilized nation, and this condition of affairs will continue until the name of every pensioner is published once a month in the local newspaper of the city, town or village where he lives. Public opinion will do the rest.
The present congress is supposed to be an "economy congress," yet a bill has just been passed by the house to increase the pension list by $44,000,000 a year. Do you realize what this amount could do for our defenses? In one single year $44,000,000, in addition to what the army now has on hand, would be enough to provide ammunition, guns, gun carriages, and reserve supplies to equip an army of 1,000,000 men. Forty-four million dollars is more than has been spent on West Point since it was founded in 1802.
Washington declared that we "ought to have a good army rather than a large one." Today we have neither, and the army needs a thorough reorganization, beginning at the bottom, not the top. We ought to have - exclusive of the militia - a regular army of 125,000 to 150,000 troops, and a reserve of at least 250,000 men.
It is estimated that this could be done, if the proper laws were passed, for little more than the army costs at present. Certainly if only the just persons were paid, such a saving could be affected that American taxpayers would pay less than they now do for the cost of the army and pensions.
If the United States possessed an army and reserve of 375,000 troops, all of whom had had three years service in the regulars, and a militia of 125,000 men, thoroughly equipped and organized as they ought to be, it would have nothing to far from any other nation in the world. At the present our defensive strength is virtually nil. Napoleon won his battles because he outnumbered his adversaries on almost every occasion; when he ceased to outnumber them, even he fell.
We Americans seem to have sublime faith in the truth of the remark once made by Bismarck that "the Lord takes care of babes, fools, and the United States." If we were wise we would bear constantly in mind the warning uttered by Washington in his speech to congress on Dec. 3, 1793:
"There is a rank due to these United States among nations which would be withheld if not absolutely lost by the reputation of weakness. If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace ... it must be known that we are at all times ready for war."
When will our American people awake to the facts and when will or legislators heed the handwriting on the wall?"
(Frederic Louis Huidekoper today wrote the following criticism of the United States army for United Press. He is a military writer whose home is in Washington. A native of Meadville, Pa., he received his A.B. cum laude from Harvard in 1896; attended Christ church, Oxford, 1896-98, and was admitted to the bar in 1900. Since 1897 he has done extensive research in the archives of the war offices at Paris, Vienna and St. Petersburg, and is one of the few Americans granted such permission. He is the author of "Military Studies (International Military Series)," 1904; as well as articles including "Is the United States Prepared for War?" (North American Review, February and March, 1906), which was republished in 1907 as a pamphlet with an introduction by Secretary of War, later President, Taft).