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The National Army was the combined conscript and volunteer force that was formed by the United States War Department in 1917 to fight in World War I. The National Army was formed from the old core of the regular United States Army, augmented by units of the United States National Guard and a large draft of able-bodied men.

The Selective Service Act established the broad outlines of the Army's structure. There were to be three increments:

  1. The Regular Army, to be raised immediately to the full wartime strength of 286,000 authorized in the National Defense Act of 1916;
  2. The National Guard, also to be expanded immediately to the authorized strength of approximately 450,000; and
  3. A National Army (the National Defense Act had called it a Volunteer Army), to be created in two increments of 500,000 men each at such time as the President should determine.

Much of the identity of these three segments eventually would be lost as recruits and draftees alike were absorbed in all units, so that in mid-1918 the War Department would change the designation of all land forces to one "United States Army." The original segment to which regiments, brigades, and divisions belonged nevertheless continued to be apparent from numerical designations. For the Regular Army, for example, divisions were numbered up to 25, while numbers 26 through 75 were reserved for the National Guard and higher numbers for divisions of the National Army[1].

At its greatest size, the National Army had more than six million men. Promotions within the National Army were quick, with most United States Army officers receiving double and triple promotions within a space of only two years. Dwight Eisenhower entered the National Army as a Captain and was a Lieutenant Colonel one year later. Douglas MacArthur was also advanced quickly in the National Army, rising from Major to Brigadier General in two years.

The National Army was disbanded in 1920 and all personnel not subject to demobilization who had held ranks in the National Army were reverted to Regular Army status. George S. Patton, who had been a Colonel in the National Army, returned to the Regular Army as a Captain. Some, such as Douglas MacArthur, maintained their wartime rank in the Regular Army. For those keeping their wartime ranks the reality was, however, that they would usually remain at that specific rank for years. This often resulted in talented officers leaving service in the interwar years.

During World War II, the Army of the United States was formed as a successor to the National Army. The Army of the United States operated on the same principles as its predecessor, combining Regular Army, National Guard, and conscript forces into one fighting unit. The Army of the United States also incorporated Reserve forces, something that the National Army had not done, since in World War I the military reserves were a very new concept. Colloquially, the term "National Army" has continued to be used to refer to both war-time Armies, and the Conscript forces during the Post World War II Draft.

References

  1. ^ CMH Pub 30–21; AMERICAN MILITARY HISTORY; VOLUME 1
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