Happy 109th Birthday Army Reserve (April 23rd)!

A Brief History of the Army Reserve

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The Army Reserve traces its beginnings to the creation of the Medical Reserve Corps, which was authorized by an act of Congress signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt on 23 April 1908.  The idea behind the Medical Reserve Corps was to create a pool of trained medical officers who could be called to active duty in time of war.  Under this new program, 160 medical professionals were commissioned as Medical Reserve Corps officers in June 1908. By June 1917, as the United States entered World War I, the Medical Reserve Corps had a strength of 9,223 doctors, dentists, and veterinarians.  This was the nation’s first federal reserve force.

In 1917, the Medical Reserve Corps became part of the Officers Reserve Corps, which, like the Enlisted Reserve Corps and the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), had been created by Congress in 1916.  The National Defense Act of 1920 joined the Officers and Enlisted Reserve Corps to form the Organized Reserve (renamed the Organized Reserve Corps in 1948).
During the Great Depression, members of the Organized Reserve Corps (ORC), as the Army Reserve was called until 1952, ran the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps, a key New Deal program.  As the nation prepared for World War II, it called upon the Organized Reserves to expand the Army.  The Army began calling ORC members to active duty in June 1940. The Army Reserve’s contribution to the Army during World War II was enormous.  Almost one of every four Army officers, more than 200,000 of the 900,000 Army officers during the war, was an Army Reservist.

There had been no women in the Organized Reserves prior to World War II.  Following the war, there was no legal authority for them to join the ORC.  This changed in 1947 when Congress authorized members of the Army Nurse Corps and Women’s Medical Specialist Corps to serve in the ORC.  The Women’s Armed Forces Integration Act of 1948 authorized Women’s Army Corps (WAC) members to serve in the Regular Army and Organized Reserves.

After World War II, Congress, recognizing the importance of the Organized Reserves, authorized retirement and drill pay for the first time in 1948.  By the outbreak of the Korean War the ORC consisted of 217,435 officers and 291,182 enlisted members.

The U.S. Army that won World War II only five years earlier was woefully unprepared for this conflict; it was a dangerously hollow Army.  The Army was in desperate need of troops to rebuild itself, both in Korea and worldwide. There was real fear at the time that war in Korea was only the first battle of a global communist attack.  Congress had authorized President Truman to call up Volunteer and Inactive Reservists on June 30, 1950.  Within the first few weeks of the war, the president called up 25,000 individual Organized Reservists to rebuild the Army.  More than 10,000 of these were junior officers and non commissioned officers (NCOs) whose combat experience was desperately needed.  By the end of the first year of the war, another 135,000 Individual Reservists would be called up.

Unlike World War II, the Army did not strip men from organized units as replacements or fillers for other units.  There was a hesitancy to commit them to Korea when the Korean conflict might only be the start of a global communist attack. This meant that the Inactive Reserves, those who had neither been drilling nor been given drill pay, were sent to Korea first.

In 1952, an act of Congress renamed the Organized Reserve Corps as the U.S. Army Reserve and divided it into three components: Ready Reserve, Standby Reserve, and Retired Reserve.  Surprisingly, fewer than 5,000 reservists and only 42 Army Reserve units were called up for service in the Vietnam War.  However, almost 84,000 reservists provided combat support and combat service support during the Persian Gulf War, with over 40,000 deployed to Southwest Asia.  In 1991, the U.S. Army Reserve Command was created as a component of the Army Forces Command.

Currently, There are about 480,000 Soldiers on active duty, throughout the world.
These reservists provide 100% of the Army’s:

  • Theater engineer commands
  • Civil engineer commands
  • Training divisions
  • Biological detection companies
  • Railway units
  • Replacement companies

More than two thirds of the Army’s:

  • Medical brigades
  • Civil affairs brigades
  • PSYOPS groups
  • Expeditionary sustainment commands
  • Dental companies
  • Combat support hospitals
  • Army watercraft
  • Petroleum units
  • Mortuary affairs units

and nearly half of the army’s:

  • Military police commands
  • Information operations groups
  • Medical units
  • Supply units

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