Army · Marines · Military · Spain · United States

November 27, 1901 – The Army War College is Established

We Americans like our sugar and this is not a new thing.

Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders
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In 1895, Cuba produced 1/3 of the world’s sugar. Newspapers and the American elite wanted part of the action.

Cuban rebels started clashing with the Spanish government controlling Cuba. This rebellion was bloody, cruel, and brutal. Both sides of the conflict were equally to blame for atrocities.

There were many in Congress that wanted to step in an annex Cuba as another American state. The problem was that Cuba was populated with “brown people” and this might upset the balances of power.

Nevertheless, the American people were starting to become more imperialistic. Our newspapers were considerably anti-Spain.

USS Maine in Havana Harbor
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In late January, 1889, the USS Maine was sent to Havana harbor to represent the United States, and to protect the interests of business owners. On the 15th of February, the USS Maine exploded for reasons unknown. The ship sank quickly, killing 260 of the 380 crewmen on board.

This is one of those cool mysteries that we will probably never know the answer to.

By March of 1898, a naval investigation had concluded that it was struck by a mine. No one placed the blame on Spain directly. This is where William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer really enter the picture. Their newspapers–the New York Journal and the New York World–were battling it out on the front pages blaming Spain. Each paper was trying to top the other with headlines like “Remember the Maine, to hell with Spain.”

The New York World
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This became the rallying cry for the people pushing for war. The Spanish-American War was fought between April 25, 1898 – August 12, 1898.

While the American people were enthusiastic, that enthusiasm could not make up for the military’s shortcomings.

The Navy was in okay shape, nothing near what they would look like in the Second World War. The Army, however, was a disaster. The Army’s only experience had been fighting with Native-American tribes on the frontier.

The Army was understaffed, undertrained, and under-equipped. If you have ever been to the Caribbean in late spring, early summer, you know that it is HOT!

The Army arrived to fight in Cuba with wool coats and wool pants. Not exactly what you would want to be fighting in during hot and humid months. The food and supplies shipped to our soldiers on the front lines were sub-par and not adequate for the conflict.

The only saving grace in all of this was that Spain was less prepared for war than we were.

So, the war was over quickly, and the rest of the world paused for a moment while these new kids on the block –the Americans– pushed around the older kids of Spain.

In 1901, President William McKinley ordered Secretary of War Elihu Root to establish the Army General Staff and to create the Army War College.

General order 155, dated 27 November, 1901, created both of these institutions and much more. The War College’s primary mission was to train staff officers in the art of war.

As an adjunct to the staff, the college would advise the President, devise plans, acquire information, and direct the intellectual exercise of the Army.

The first War College class of six captains and three majors of the Army and Marine Corps convened November 1st, 1904, as the first professional education beyond West Point.

The War College closed in 1916 due to the First World War.

It reopened in 1919 and the curriculum shifted from training and grooming new generals to the academic study of war. Areas of study included history and responsible command. The biggest addition was the effect of political, social, and economic factors on national defense.

The college was again closed in the 1940s as experienced officers were needed to lead men, not train new officers.

Army Chief of Staff, General J. Lawton Collins reestablished the Army War College in 1950 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for one school year. In October of 1951, it was moved to its current home of Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania. The focus of the school was again changed to lessons learned from the Second World War and the growing Cold War.

The advent of the Internet and the fall of the Soviet Union created new and different challenges for the War College. The Army War College changed to focus more on Strategic warfare.

The 1990s saw another major change. The college changed from a school that trains military officers to work on the Army staff to an accredited graduate-level college that awards a master’s degree in strategic studies.

The purpose of US Army War College at this time in our Nation’s history is to produce graduates from all our courses who are skilled critical thinkers and complex problem solvers in the global application of Landpower. Concurrently, it is our duty to the Army to also act as a “Think Factory” for Commanders and Civilian Leaders at the strategic level worldwide and routinely engage in discourse and debate on ground forces’ role in achieving national security objectives.



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