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The Questionable Training of the AEF in World War I

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Journal article

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The Commander-in-Chief of the American Expeditionary Forces AEF harbored no illusions about the myriad difficulties he faced in training his AEF for battle on the Western Front. Three fundamental factors would guide the molding of the AEF into an effective force. These were tactical doctrine, the availability and management of personnel and equipment, and training philosophies. An understanding of how these factors influenced the training of the AEF will provide an appreciation of the extent to which Pershing and the War Department were successful in shaping the AEF into an effective instrument of the nations wartime policy. The Regular Army in April 1917 numbered only 133,000 men and 5,800 officers. The National Guard consisted of 67,000 men and 3,200 officers. When those puny figures are measured against the prodigious quantities of cannon fodder the war was consuming it is little wonder that virtually no one believed the United States could muster sufficient trained soldiers to have an impact on the Western Front prior to 1919. By 11 November 1918, the enlisted strengths of the Regular Army and National Guard had swelled to 527,000 and 382,000 respectively, while the National Army, a wholly new component numbering three million, had been fielded. The officer strength of these three components stood at about 200,000. Of this 4 million total, over half served in the 42 combat divisions and support units of the AEF. What then may we conclude from this examination of the training of the American Army in World War I I would argue that the record is one of an Army not well prepared for the nature of the war it faced on the Western Front. Partially schooled in trench warfare and in an ill-defined doctrine of open warfare, but well trained in neither grounded in the special techniques of its individual functions, but unable to perform in concert as a well-oiled machine -- the AEF plodded forward.

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  • Humanities and History
  • Personnel Management and Labor Relations
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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