Army, military land forces of a nation, assembled, drilled, disciplined, and equipped for offense and defense in maneuvers in warfare. The term may refer to the entire body of military personnel in a nation, or to a specific unit under a military commander.
The composition of armies often reflects the attitudes toward war of the civilizations and societies they represent. In ancient Greece, for example, men up to the age of 60 were expected to serve. More importance was attached to military than to civil office. In ancient Rome, the citizen-soldier army of the Republic changed to a professional force as social conditions changed and the Republic gave way to the empire.
|II||RISE OF ANCIENT ARMIES|
In prehistoric and early historic times, armies as such did not exist; armed forces consisted of groups engaged sporadically in combat for the purpose of defending or acquiring land desired for hunting or pasture. The rise of permanent settlements, however, in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley and along the Nile was paralleled by the employment of citizen-soldiers to protect them.
|A||Ancient Middle East|
In Mesopotamia standing armies using spears and bows were created as early as 3200 bc, and about 2500 bc warfare was revolutionized with the introduction of chariots drawn by asses and horses (see Cavalry). In Egypt in the 20th century bc, Sesostris I maintained a regular army—well equipped, disciplined, and salaried. He divided his kingdom into 36 military provinces, established a national militia, allocated land for the support of the military, and used this army both offensively and defensively. In the mid-6th century bc, the Persians, under Cyrus the Great, refined the concept of the standing army by promoting the deployment of both infantry and cavalry and establishing a system of discipline.
The Greek city-states maintained bodies of militia capable of being united into one great army. The superior organization and strict discipline of these citizen-soldiers, or hoplites, helped achieve the great victories won at such battles as Marathon and Plataea during the Persian Wars of the 5th century bc.
Around the late 8th century bc, the Spartans introduced the concept of the phalanx, the first important tactical formation. Primarily defensive in its original form, it consisted of eight rows of heavily armored shield-bearing spearmen standing shoulder to shoulder in rectangular ranks. Although capable of withstanding cavalry charges, it was slow in attack and awkward in traversing difficult terrain. In contrast, the Athenians developed the use of cavalry to provide a cover in front of the army and to harass the enemy's rear.
In the 4th century bc, Philip II of Macedonia established a large standing army in which he added cavalry forces to the phalanx and introduced the use of the long pike. His son, Alexander the Great, who destroyed the Persian Empire, organized the first army supply system and established light infantry as a link between phalanx and cavalry. The use of archers, light catapults, siege engines, a tactical smoke- and sound-signal system, and a medical service were important contributions to a more sophisticated army organization.
The genius of the Carthaginian general Hannibal enabled his army to cross the Alps from France into Italy by means of masterly feats of logistics. In his march on Rome during the Second Punic War, Hannibal transported 30,000 men, horses, and elephants and inflicted a stunning defeat on the Romans at the Battle of Cannae in 216 bc by enveloping and destroying their army. (The Carthaginian attempt to control the western Mediterranean ended when the Roman legions finally conquered Carthage in 146 bc.)
By about 200 bc, Rome had instituted for the first time a conscription of all able-bodied men between 17 and 46 years of age. A rigid physical training program for those selected in early childhood to become soldiers ensured a superior state of readiness, especially for men chosen to serve in the legions. The campaigns of these celebrated units of foot soldiers and cavalry—organized in three lines of small phalanxes called maniples or cohorts—were expedited by the great Roman military engineering skills that provided the necessary roads, bridges, and forts.
The relaxation of army discipline and the drafting of slaves and criminals into the service, together with problems caused by incursions of Teutonic tribes and by internal social dissent, necessitated far-reaching military reforms, which were achieved under the consul Gaius Marius. In 104 bc wealthy and part-time soldiers were replaced by a professional army, recruited for a 20-year period. The maneuverability of the legions was balanced by a system of fixed fortifications, which were the key defenses of the far-flung Roman provinces.
|D||The Far East|
The legendary Chinese general Sun Tzu wrote the earliest military treatise, The Art of War (about 500 bc). In it he described Chinese weapons, command systems, communications, discipline, grade distinctions, strategy, and logistics. Although in later centuries Chinese and Japanese military organization was comparable to that of their Middle Eastern and European contemporaries, the Asian invention of stirrups (by or before the 2nd century bc) had revolutionized mounted warfare by making chariots obsolete. The Battle of Adrianapole (ad 378), in which Huns, Alans, Goths, and Spartans annihilated the Romans, demonstrated the superiority of cavalry to infantry forces.
With a semimobile circle of wagons acting as a base of operations, the Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan in 1190 spearheaded Mongolian advances from the Gobi Desert into the heart of Europe. Their conquests, accomplished with relatively small armies but with innovative military skill, relied on a basic formation of 10,000 mounted warriors, the touman. Sixty percent of this force was lightly protected; 40 percent was armored. Special weapons included hurled missiles, fire, and explosives. Communication was by signal flags and drumbeats. The Mongolian hordes lived off the country, and their tactical deployment relied on surprise attacks—thrusts at the enemy's flank and rear that preceded heavy cavalry assaults.
|III||RISE OF MODERN ARMIES|
The fall of Rome in the 5th century and the invasion by northern Europeans that followed formed the background to the development of the feudal system and the disappearance for several centuries of large standing armies in Europe.
Feudalism was based on a concept of local defense, each baron or landowner governing land that had been given him by the king, and each lord having his own personal protective forces recruited from among men who worked for him. In return, each lord and his men were pledged to annual service to the monarch and could be called on in special instances, as in the defense of Christendom during the Crusades. National armies thus began to appear again. The Crusades emphasized the need for organization and discipline in opposing a common enemy; as a result, large forces of foot soldiers were constituted. Although the introduction of gunpowder, supported by the use of crossbows and other weapons, changed the character of war, the ambition of the individual knight engaging in personal combat with his sword diminished the effective use of the army as a unified force.
Throughout Europe during the 14th century, when firearms were introduced (see Artillery), mercenary professional soldiers were recruited by the highest bidder. Such companies, varying in strength from tens to thousands, were the forerunners of modern professional armies. The present Swiss Guard of the Vatican is a direct successor of a 15th-century mercenary company. Among other extant survivors of the mercenary army, one of the most renowned is the French Foreign Legion, organized in 1831 for service outside France and composed of diverse ethnic groups. It has seen service in combat all over the world.
|B||Armies in the 16th to 18th Centuries|
Spain is considered the first modern European country to have established a standing army. The nucleus of this 16th-century force was four infantry regiments of 7000 men bearing pikes and firearms.
Sweden under King Gustav II Adolph conscripted an army to serve in the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648). The king improved military efficiency by organizing six or more 150-man companies into regiments and combat brigades and enforcing strict discipline, which in turn made possible increased mobility. Artillery was integrated into the cavalry and infantry formations.
Under Louis XIV, the French army organized a quartermaster department to perform supply functions, and training and inspection of the troops were standardized. By 1678 France's standing forces numbered more than 200,000 soldiers. Marshal Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban designed a system for attacking fortified places, improved a system of defensive fortification, and created the first modern corps of engineers (see Fortification and Siege Warfare).
Britain's first regular army, established by Oliver Cromwell in 1645, consisted of 14,000 infantry and 7600 mounted men and heavy artillery. The use of the ring bayonet (invented about 1689), attached by loose rings to the muzzle of a flintlock musket, enabled John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough, to dispense with pikemen and increase the number of musketeers (see Bayonet). Infantrymen thus became self-sufficient.
The techniques of modern warfare were greatly advanced in the 18th century by the theories and stratagems of the great military leader Frederick the Great of Prussia. Under his guidance the Prussian army was formed into one of the most efficient forces known up to that time.
The army of the French Revolution possessed a mobile, well-equipped artillery branch and an infantry with a high degree of morale. The military engineer Lazare Carnot in 1792 instituted a nationwide draft of citizens into the first all-arms divisions (infantry, artillery, and cavalry) whose aim was the total destruction of the enemy. In 1798, under Napoleon I, military conscription was made compulsory by law. Every male between 21 and 25 years of age was liable to four years of service. Napoleon's initial contribution to the citizen army of France was in the area of artillery improvements. Subsequently, he established himself as perhaps the world's foremost military strategist, able to muster an army of 200,000 to 500,000 men and to demonstrate that this massive force could move speedily, along separate roads, live off the land without fixed depots, and in concentrated units take an enemy by surprise. Napoleonic campaigns are classics that are still studied.
|D||Origin and Development of the U.S. Army|
Colonial militias were the first American forces during the American Revolution to do battle with the British. Their lack of reliability, however, caused Congress, at the urging of George Washington, to create the Continental Army on June 14, 1775. The army achieved a maximum strength of about 23,550 active-duty troops in September 1778. On June 2, 1784, however, Congress abolished the army on the basis that “standing armies in time of peace are inconsistent with the principles of republican government....” In 1789 the War Department was established to oversee and administer military forces. After the revolution, Congress again authorized a small standing army to guard United States frontiers, and in 1802 it established the United States Military Academy at West Point to train regular army officers. State militias, however, provided the main manpower resource during the American Civil War—when military conscription was first adopted and then abolished. Until World War I, and the establishment of the draft, federalized state troops and volunteers provided the manpower needed in times of crisis. The first peacetime conscription was instituted in 1940, continued throughout the Korean and Vietnam wars, and ended on January 27, 1973; the Military Selective Service Act expired June 30, 1973. Since that time U.S. military power has depended on an all-volunteer force. See Conscription; Selective Service; United States Army.
|E||The Changing Army|
The Women's Army Auxiliary Corps of the U.S., authorized by an act of Congress on May 14, 1942, was renamed the Women's Army Corps, or WAC, on July 1, 1943. WAC personnel served with the army ground-aid and service forces, as well as in the administrative and technical services and in the General Staff Corps. The first overseas WAC contingent reached North Africa in January 1943. At its peak in 1945, the corps had a strength of more than 100,000; in 1948 the corps was accorded permanent status in both the regular army and the organized Army Reserve Corps.
Although blacks had served in the armed forces since colonial times, they were relegated to segregated units and assigned service duties as opposed to combat duties. In 1948 President Harry Truman signed an executive order for the integration of blacks into all branches of the armed forces, and the process of desegregation of the military was begun. See African American History.
The importance of guerrilla warfare was demonstrated on all fronts during World War II. The subsequent spread of nationalistic or ideological brushfire wars further promoted the use of guerrilla tactics and strategy. World War II also demonstrated the operational utility of airborne troops; such units were first used by the USSR against Finland from 1939 to 1940, and in 1940 by the Germans in Holland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, and France.
Mountain warfare was employed on a wide front between Italy and Austria-Hungary in World War I, involving specially trained alpine troops using skis. In World War II the Germans used mountain divisions in their campaign in Norway, and Soviet troops versed in winter warfare played a critical role during that war.
Modern counterparts of the mercenary armies of former centuries are the 20th-century international armies such as the 15-nation UN force that fought in Korea from 1950 to 1953, and the many UN peacekeeping forces that have been called to serve in most parts of the world.
|F||Armies of the Future|
Technical demands made of individual soldiers will require that a small elite of well-trained volunteers exist to operate under conditions of peace or limited war. This corps would be reinforced by large numbers of conscripted soldiers performing traditional functions during large-scale operations. In April 1993, Defense Secretary Les Aspin ordered the armed services to drop barriers keeping women out of air and sea combat positions. Women will increasingly be assigned to infantry, cavalry, armor, and engineer units in the field. It can also be supposed that military professional and technical skill may be increasingly used in meeting civilian needs for disaster relief, civic action in war-torn nations, and nation-building projects.
See also Warfare.