If the US Army had been maintained to a more robust size after 1918?

I was re-reading Alistair Horne’s book To Loose a Battle this past weekend. When on June the 14th, Paul Reynaud made his plea to President Roosevelt for intervention. Needless to say, there was no chance of this ever happening. It did however make me wonder, if, after 1918 the US had decided to maintain a more robust peacetime army. To have been considered at a minimum, a credible threat to both European and Asian powers. So how large would the active army’s numbers have needed to have been? I’m talking about manpower, armor, army air corps, artillery, plus reserve supplies and reserve numbers of men?
 
I think roughly 2 million volunteered for service during WW1. I suppose that is the upper limit on the number that could be kept. Conscripted/Drafted soldiers generally are discharged. Getting Congress to agree to fund it is the real issue.
 
I would suggest the best possible would be to simply a far large ROTC (and an NCO version?)?

Keeping a large standing army would be very hard and wasteful for all the 20s/30s but subsidizing a huge number of college places with "voluntary" ROTC training might work? After all US already had the service academies and land grant universities that were required to teach "military science" so why not make them into a modern conscription substitute to provide the cadre for a huge army when/if it's needed?
 
OTL
Year

Total​

Army​

Navy​

USMC​



1919​

1,172,602​

851,624​

272,144​

48,834​



1920​

343,302​

204,292​

121,845​

17,165​



1921​

386,542​

230,725​

132,827​

22,990​



1922​

270,207​

148,763​

100,211​

21,233​



1923​

247,031​

133,243​

94,094​

19,694​



1924​

261,189​

142,673​

98,184​

20,332​



1925​

251,756​

137,048​

95,230​

19,478​



1926​

247,396​

134,938​

93,304​

19,154​



1927​

248,943​

134,829​

94,916​

19,198​



1928​

250,907​

136,084​

95,803​

19,020​



1929​

255,031​

139,118​

97,117​

18,796​



1930​

255,648​

139,378​

96,890​

19,380​



1931​

252,605​

140,516​

93,307​

16,782​



1932​

244,902​

134,957​

93,384​

16,561​
Keep the USMC and Navy at 1919 levels , and keep the Army at 1921

Now how to get Harding and Silent Cal to push Congress for it, I can't say
 
For what purpose? A large army doesn't serve any American needs.

Defense? America is protected by two vast oceans meaning any land attack will be very slow in coming, plenty of time to ramp up.

Aggression? America was generally not interested in adding land by direct conquest in this time period. Dollars were an effective way to capture captive markets. For the few areas we wanted to assert military dominance (Latin America), existing forces sufficed.

Being part of global coalitions and balance of power? Anathema to American foreign policy.
 

Driftless

Donor
Even after WW1, there was still some of the "Minuteman" mentality at work in the public and Congressional mind. The idea that the average militia man/National Guardsman who drops his scythe or his wrenches, picks up his rifle and becomes Alvin York, as soon as he puts on the olive drab. That idea was an easy and popular political sell too. The idea of a professional standing army was never popular in the public mind till after WW2

Maybe have the Doughboys and their mostly just as green officers get even more roughly cut up or even routed in 1917 fights. Too many of the AEF soldiers barely had basic training in the US. Many/most were shipped to France for a short course of more basic and some advanced training. Pershing was dead set against the Doughboys being trained in the techniques of trench warfare, but the French trainers slipped in what they could. If the AEF gets even more shot up and loses cohesion due to the lack of preparation and military professional skill, does that pave the way for a more robust post-war force? Early disasters would be hard to whitewash away.

*edit* Of course, having the unprepared AEF get ripped up in the opening fights likely gets Pershing sacked and blamed, along with British and French leaders. Still, the situation wouldn't get resolved adequately till the AEF and its new commanders got more experience - but that's a different TL
 
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For what purpose? A large army doesn't serve any American needs.
Agreed. The strong feeling against standing armies precluded a large army. Except for Coast Defense and forces in the Phillipines there was little need for a large army. Maybe a stronger Militia/National Guard establishment with maybe a mandatory six months for training and annual month long 'encampments' could be created but a large standing army with no mission to keep it busy? Not going to happen.

Defense? America is protected by two vast oceans meaning any land attack will be very slow in coming, plenty of time to ramp up.
And Even the navy had trouble getting funding to defend the adjacent oceans.
 
Agreed. The strong feeling against standing armies precluded a large army. Except for Coast Defense and forces in the Phillipines there was little need for a large army. Maybe a stronger Militia/National Guard establishment with maybe a mandatory six months for training and annual month long 'encampments' could be created but a large standing army with no mission to keep it busy? Not going to happen.


And Even the navy had trouble getting funding to defend the adjacent oceans.

I agree National Guard expansion and reform would be easier then a substantially larger army. Basically if you can get the budget institute higher pay, more training, and ideally better kit. Use the WW1 surplus gear/ arms to make both the Regular Army and NG at a better standard/ level of equipment and arms.
 
Thanks for all the reply’s. My question was more narrow than the politics or financial side. I thought I read once where military planners about 1920 came up with a number of 450,000 for a peacetime, active army, as a number that befit a country the size of the US, at that time. This didn’t take into consideration budgets, or policy, just a number. Needless to say, it was simply a paper-plan, and went nowhere beyond military think- tanks.
 
Thanks for all the reply’s. My question was more narrow than the politics or financial side. I thought I read once where military planners about 1920 came up with a number of 450,000 for a peacetime, active army, as a number that befit a country the size of the US, at that time. This didn’t take into consideration budgets, or policy, just a number. Needless to say, it was simply a paper-plan, and went nowhere beyond military think- tanks.

You'd need a POD involving the US doing worse in a war. Maybe some sort of limited war happens with Japan in the twenties. Doesn't last long but the US doesn't really do that good. The was ends with status quo antebellum but post war their is more funding for the armed services.

What I'm thinking for the Army

Active Duty- 175K active duty. As part of this process after their term of enlistment expires they spend say four or five years in the Reserves
Reserves- Say 75K Men
NG- Say 300K-400K men

The NG and Reserves are maintained at a much higher standard of quality, readiness, training, and thanks to all the WW1 surplus their armed and equipped the same as the regulars. Those pushing for the reform use the "Minuteman" schtick but make sure that the NG is a lot more professional, much more easily and quickly mobilized, regularly train with the Regulars, and otherwise are of much better quality then OTL for the period (where significant portions of NG regiments might drill with literal broomsticks barefoot because they completely lacked rifles or boots.
600K State Militia/State Defense Forces- Of lower quality then the NG but better then the OTL Period NG. Reasonably well armed. Not intended to be deployed abroad but instead to say take over CONUS duties from regulars and NG. For instance they would take over or supplement Coastal Artillery units in the event of War. Also things like guarding key installations and other "lower end" deals. Also man ground based AA in the event of enemy air attack.

Here instead of so much of the WW1 Surplus being scrapped, surplussed, sold off, or sent into deep storage when it could still be used it's distributed across the services to allow or standardization of as many aspects as possible.

Assuming the Japanese War in the 20's doesn't go great and the US is planing on holding on the Archipelago for a while or maintaining some sort of arrangement an earlier reform of the Philippine forces is initiated. The Philippine Scouts are expanded to a full division and a plan is initiated to build a capable regular army of say 5 or 6 well equipped Philippine Divisions backed by another 10 part time decent Philippine NG Divisions. Funding opens up a bit to modernize various fortifications, station another US division in the Philippines and reform and upgrade the existing US forces their. Meanwhile Guam, Wake, and Midway begin long term fortification plans involving among other things potentially permanently stationing a "USMC Base Defense Brigade" in Guam. Fortifications in Guam, The Philippines, Midway, Wake, and Hawaii are all modernized and improved. Among other improvements many of the railway guns that in OTL were constructed or modified for WW1 service but saw service too late are instead of being scrapped moved to the new fortifications. Additional fortified storage facilities are created especially in Bataan/Correggio and Guam to allow for a large garrison to safely supply itself throughout a siege.

Among other things Plan backers manage to get many if not most colleges require some basic military training as part of their curriculum. This is also copied by a number of high schools.

In the Phillipines and Guam facilities are constructed or expanded to allow a number of shorter ranged submarines to operate as commerce raiders and scouts. First the S boats but later newer classes of cheap coastal submarines designed to be cheap to build, deploy, man, and maintain while proving superior to the old S boats. In the Phillipines a number of Sea Ramp facilities are constructed throughout the islands. These generally have some crude sea plane facilities. But a small number of converted Flying Boat/Sea Plan tenders modified from merchantmen are also ordered allowing groups of sea planes/flying boats/ float planes and PT bots to be rapidly switched between islands both for recon and raiding. It's cheaper then building full facilities at every single sea ramp.
 
For what purpose? A large army doesn't serve any American needs.

Defense? America is protected by two vast oceans meaning any land attack will be very slow in coming, plenty of time to ramp up.

Aggression? America was generally not interested in adding land by direct conquest in this time period. Dollars were an effective way to capture captive markets. For the few areas we wanted to assert military dominance (Latin America), existing forces sufficed.

Being part of global coalitions and balance of power? Anathema to American foreign policy.
Basically being able to ramp up faster is the purpose. It doesn't have to be a huge increase but the US Army in OTL was small enough to negatively impact ramp up time. Having the money for a few thousand extra men at HQ to do planning would save a at least few months in economic mobilization and prevent the sort of chaos the almost paralyzed the US in 1917. It is similar in terms of logistics, doctrine, R&D, personnel what have you, a few thousand extra men here and there in the support branches will save time and effort. There is also the training issue to think about, basically 1 man trains 3 for 18 months, then 4 men train 12 for another 18, then 16 men train 48 and so on thereabouts, though depending on the job it goes faster/more trainees. Having more men to start with means more are free to serve as trainers and are not stuck doing other jobs they cannot be spared from

An extra 5,000 men, providing they are the right 5,000, funded through the interwar period could have had a large impact on WWII. Expanding to say 150-160k from 130-140k of OTL would make an even greater difference




A good PoD for a bigger army in the interwar is probably Lansing getting that Mexican War in 1919 he wanted, have Wilson be incapacitated by his stroke at a different time and he can't stop a war from breaking out. It is Mexico, so the US is going to win without a question, but it probably won't be easy and will likely leave the US with a mess at the Southern border, assuming that does not move south, for a good long while
 
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