After the Trenches
The Transformation of the U.S. Army, 1918-1939
Military History
6 x 9, 296 pp.
4 tables., 3 figs.
Pub Date: 06/17/2008
Williams-Ford Texas A&M University Military History Series
  paper
Price:        $19.95

978-1-60344-081-3

Published by Texas A&M University Press

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After the Trenches

The Transformation of the U.S. Army, 1918-1939

By William O. Odom

At the end of the Great War, the U.S. Army faced the challenge of integrating what it had learned in the failures and ultimate success of its war effort. During the interwar years the army sought to balance readiness and modernization in a period of limited resources and technological advances with profound implications for the conduct of warfare. In After the Trenches, William O. Odom traces the development of combat doctrine between the world wars through an examination of the army's primary doctrine manuals, the Field Service Regulations. The Field Service Regulations of 1923 successfully assimilated the experiences of the First World War and translated them into viable tactical practice, Odom argues in this unique study. Rapidly developing technologies generated more efficient tools of war and greatly expanded the scale, tempo, and complexity of warfare. Personnel and materiel shortages led to a decline in the quality of army doctrine evidenced in the 1939 regulations. Examining the development of doctrine and the roles of key personalities such as John Pershing, Hugh Drum, George Lynch, Frank Parker, and Lesley McNair, Odom concludes that the successive revisions of the manual left the army scurrying to modernize its woefully outdated doctrine on the eve of the new war. This impressively researched study of the doctrine of the interwar army fills a significant gap in our understanding of the development of the U.S. Army during the first half of the twentieth century. It will serve scholars and others interested in military history as the standard reference on the subject. Moreover, many of the challenges and conditions that existed seventy years ago resemble those faced by today's army. This study of the army's historical responses to a declining military budget and an ever-changing technology will broaden the perspectives of those who must deal with these important contemporary issues.

William O. Odom is an active-duty officer in the U.S. Army. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. in history from the Ohio State University.

What Readers Are Saying:

“After the Trenches is a well-written book on a narrow and somewhat ignored subject that many should read but few will feel the need to buy.” --On Point

“After the Trenches fills a currently existing void about the challenges the nation had more than 70 years ago in developing its needs to an ever-evolving and threatening environment. It will no doubt broaden the perspectives of our army’s leadership today as we struggle through the identification of current-day threats and the military’s structure to defeat them.” --Military Heritage

“Odem concludes that the current American army must overcome challenges similar to those of the interwar years that could hamstring doctrinal development, e.g. a shrinking army and declining budgets. Built upon his solid history, his warnings carry some weight.” --Paper Wars

“Written by William O. Odem, an officer with a Ph.D. in military history, on active duty with the U.S. Army, this book is a well-organized, accessible, and highly readable account of the evolution of U.S. Army doctrine during the 1920s and 1930s.” --Marine Corps Gazette

“Odem presents his ideas in well-organized and clearly written form, and given the very narrow focus on the inception, authorship, and effects of these two manuals, his research, primarily in records of the U.S. Military History Institute and the military archives, is well grounded.” --American Historical Review

“The author goes well beyond mere description of the myriad ways in which various cultures have interred the dead and attempts to show how both death and burial have long been integral components of human society. He provides a comprehensive and truly international survey of burial customs. He also offers an excellent summary of ethical issues that surrounding the exhumation of human remains. Pearson has an easy-to-read writing style and his text is accompanied by many excellent photographs and line drawings. His 27-page bibliography alone is worth the price of the book.” --Choice

“ . . . this work fills a significant gap in our understanding of the development of the U.S. Army during the first half of the twentieth century.” --Timothy K. Nenninger, National Archives

“This is not only an impressively researched study of U.S. Army doctrine between the world wars, it is an important work on the interwar Army and its preparations for World War II. . . . There is no book like it in the field, and I think it will become a standard reference.” --Brian Linn, Texas A&M University

“. . . After the Trenches is a masterful analysis of its chosen topic. Soldiers and historians alike can profit from this insightful and readable work.” --Military History

“The author’s analysis of the U.S. Army’s development of doctrine in the interwar years is excellent and is a major contribution to the field of American military history.” --Military History of the West

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