Browsing Theses and Dissertations by Subject "War College"
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Tasker H. Bliss and the Creation of the Modern American Army, 1853-1930A commonplace observation among historians describes one or another historical period as a time of "transition" or a particular person as a "transitional figure." In the history of the United States Army, scholars apply those terms especially to the late- nineteenth century "Old Army." This categorization has helped create a shelf of biographies of some of the transitional figures of the era: Leonard Wood, John J. Pershing, Robert Lee Bullard, William Harding Carter, Henry Tureman Allen, Nelson Appleton Miles and John McCallister Schofield have all been the subject of excellent scholarly works. Tasker Howard Bliss has remained among the missing in that group, in spite of the important activities that marked his career and the wealth of source materials he left behind. Bliss belongs on that list because, like the others, his career demonstrates the changing nature of the U.S. Army between 1871 and 1917. Bliss served for the most part in administrative positions in the United States and in the American overseas empire. Seeing hardly any combat and spending only a few years commanding troops, Bliss contributed instead to the creation and development of the army's post-graduate educational system, and he was deeply involved in the Elihu Root reforms of the army and the War Department. Thus what makes his career especially noteworthy, more than many of the soldiers on that list of biographies, is that Bliss helped to create the changes that laid the foundations for the modern army. During the First World War, Bliss worked more closely with the Allied leadership than any other American with the possible exception of Edward M. House. President Woodrow Wilson named Bliss as one of the five commissioners leading the U.S. delegation to the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919. In this position he influenced many members of the American delegation who would remain leaders in the foreign policy elite into the 1940s, and he helped to create the Council on Foreign Relations, an important organization for the foreign policy elite. For Frederick Palmer, the author of the family-authorized biography, the Great War and the Peace Conference were the climax of Bliss's career. A substantial modern scholarly literature exists on Bliss's service in the Great War and the Peace Conference, but none of those works present his earlier career in any detail. As a result, when planning this dissertation with the late Professor Russell F. Weigley, we decided to concentrate on Bliss's activities before 1917. Bliss helped shape the institutions the United States needed as it became a world power, and he trained some of the leaders who would exercise that power. He left a legacy of thoughtful consideration of the organizational, political and moral issues that the exercise of power posed for the United States. It was a life that still teaches us how to face the issues involved in the exercise of world power.