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Posted on Dec 6, 2010 in Books and Movies

U.S. Army Order of Battle, 1919 – 1941 – Book Review

By Jerry D. Morelock

U. S. Army Order of Battle, 1919–1941 (2 vols.) by Steven Clay, Lt. Col. U. S. Army, ret. Combat Studies Institute, 2010.

The release of a Hollywood “blockbuster” film is often accompanied by press notices trumpeting, “Years in the Making!” Likewise, this new “blockbuster” 2-volume book masterpiece, U. S. Army Order of Battle, 1919–1941, is the impressive result of many years of effort, painstaking research, superb scholarship and intensive labor by Colonel Steve Clay, one of the outstanding historians at the U. S. Army Combat Studies Institute, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. At a total of 1,232 pages (Volume 1: The Arms: Major Commands and Infantry Organizations, pp. 1-555; Volume 2: The Arms: Cavalry, Field Artillery, and Coast Artillery, pp. 556-1232), Clay’s monumental achievement provides historians an unequaled tool in tracing the evolution of the U. S. Army during one of the most critical periods of its 235 year existence—the “lean decades” between World War I and World War II.

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The years 1919 to 1941 were vitally important because the U. S. Army of that era would provide the basic building block and organizational structure from which America’s massive World War II army of 8 million soldiers fighting and winning a global war on multiple fronts was created. The interwar era is often perceived as a static period for the Army; yet, it changed dramatically during that time, from an immediate post-World War I strength of over 700,000 to a low of 120,000 in the 1920s, and then rising up to 1,400,000 by the end of 1941 as World War II loomed. Led by a core of about 15,000 Regular Army officers, the U. S. Army of 1919–41 faced a myriad of organizational, doctrinal, technological and logistical challenges. Any understanding of what took place in that critical era must begin with a thorough examination of the Army’s basic structure and organization during the period. Clay’s U. S. Army Order of Battle, 1919–1941 provides that comprehensive examination, and is therefore a vital “first stop” for historians studying the interwar Army.

The book’s encyclopedic entries cover each Army unit (these first two volumes present the combat arms; the final two volumes to be published in 2011 will cover the service branches). Battalions, regiments, brigades and major commands each receive a listing that presents: unit title and type; component and geographical area; headquarters location; unit service narrative; unit status as of 2001; major events the unit participated in, 1919–41; and a list of unit commanders with their period of command. The book represents a truly massive undertaking, and stands as a tribute to Colonel Clay’s scholarship, research and, above all, perseverance. Historians owe him a great debt of gratitude for this monumental effort.

The book’s Foreword was written by one of America’s most distinguished soldiers, General (ret.) Gordon R. Sullivan, U. S. Army Chief of Staff, 1991–95. A warrior as well as a soldier-scholar, General Sullivan has continued to serve the Army community at large after his retirement from active duty through his important and influential position as the President and Chief Operating Officer of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA). Always known throughout the Army as a staunch supporter of Army history, General Sullivan is the perfect choice to write this important book’s Foreword. He accurately describes Colonel Clay’s massive work as “an encyclopedia of information on Army tactical organizations in existence during the interwar period” and singles it out as “the ‘go-to’ reference for the historian who wishes to understand the history, organization, and evolution of Army units between the World Wars.”

These impressive first two volumes will be joined by the final two volumes on this subject upon the latter volumes’ publication scheduled for 2011. Volume 3 is The Services: Air Service, Engineers, and Special Troops and Volume 4 is The Services: Quartermaster, Medical, Military Police, Signal Corps, Chemical Warfare, and Miscellaneous Organizations.

On Line Extra: Each volume of Clay’s book may be read on line at the U. S. Army Combat Studies Institute Press website by clicking on the links below:

Volume 1 – The Arms: Major Commands and Infantry

Volume 2 – The Arms: Cavalry, Field Artillery and Coast Artillery

[Note: CSI Press maintains a limited stock of “hard copies” of the 2-volume book which may be distributed upon request to libraries, museums and other similar organizations with an interest in military history. Applications by such organizations for copies may be made to: ken.gott@us.army.mil.]

Author: Lieutenant Colonel Steven E. Clay retired from the U. S. Army in 2006 after more than 27 years in military service. In his last tour of duty he served as the Executive Officer, Chief of the Staff Ride Team, and Chief of the Research and Publications Team of the Combat Studies Institute (CSI) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He is currently employed as an author/historian by Military Professional Resources, Inc. and serves as the Lead Author for the Contemporary Operations Study Team at CSI. Colonel Clay’s books include: Blood and Sacrifice: The History of the 16th Infantry Regiment from the Civil War through the Gulf War (Cantigny First Division Foundation, 2001) and Iroquois Warriors in Iraq (Combat Studies Institute Press, 2007).

About CSI: The Combat Studies Institute is an organization that produces timely and relevant military history publications and contemporary operational history for the U. S. Army. The institute’s publications aim to address historical topics pertinent to the current doctrinal concerns of the Army. CSI also develops and conducts battlefield staff rides for U. S. Army units and schools, works with Army schools to develop military history curriculums, and assists in the preparation of military history instructors.

Reviewer: Colonel, ret. Jerry D. Morelock, PhD, is Armchair General magazine’s Editor in Chief. His last active duty tour (1994–99) was as the Director of the Combat Studies Institute, U. S. Army Command & General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

2 Comments

  1. How come I can not get into Volume 2 now (2/5/2013)? Was able to access it some months ago; was able to look in on Volume 1 now.
    My father was listed as CO 2/25th FA at Madison Barracks sometime in 1940-1. In fact, he was then at Schofield Barracks with the 11th FA, and then at Ft Custer, MI with the 50th FA

  2. Amazing….got in to Volume 2

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