Advanced Base Force - Definitive History - Institution - 1905–1910


In an exercise in 1907 at Subic Bay, a battalion commanded by Major Eli K. Cole emplaced forty-four heavy guns in a ten-week period due to the Eight-eight fleet war scare with Japan in 1907, which convinced the Navy Department that it should organize the matériel for an advanced base force to be available in the Philippines and one that is well-prepared and trained in Philadelphia, PA. The Marine Corps at that time recorded a strength increase of two thousand men since 1903, the General Board considered it a favorable quota to proceed in the organizing a "permanent" advanced base force; thus making further cooperation with the Army unnecessary.

The General Board in 1909 reviewed the scant progress since 1900 and concluded that neither the Navy Department nor the Marine Corps had done much to make the advanced base force a reality. Commandant George F. Elliott and his staff were criticized by the Navy officers for not carrying out Charles Heywood's (the previous Commandant) agreements. Admiral George Dewey reviewed disappointment and Navy Commander William F. Fullam even denounced Elliott for failure to use additional Marines for expeditionary duty, which was the only hope to naval reformers in creating the advanced base force.

Many several factors helped renew the interests in the advanced base force. The most significant factor was the appointment of the new Secretary of the Navy, George von L. Meyer, in 1909, who created the Naval Aide system. Meyer's aides were four line officers with direct responsibilities for policy in four functional areas: operations, inspections, personnel, and matériel. To conclude the success, the Secretary Meyer appointed Bradley A. Fiske (Aide for Operations) and William Fullam (Aide for Inspections), the Marine Corps's own rival and nemesis, to staff these posts. The aides and the General Board improved policy matters and were very influential in behalf of war preparedness and establishing a balanced naval fleet. The Aide for Operations subsequently became the tutelage title of "Chief of Naval Operations". Another factor was the increased of men available for advanced base training due to the conflicts of Nicaraguan Expedition of 1912 and the Veracruz landing in 1914.

Importantly, Colonel William P. Biddle replaced General Elliott as the Commandant of the Marine Corps, who in turn approved three important reforms that strengthened the Corp's ability to respond to advanced base missions; one of which, was the establishment of an assistant to the Commandant. The Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps was responsible for the military training and preparedness of the Marines. Lieutenant Colonel Eli K. Cole became the first assistant to the Commandant. Secondly, the creation of permanent expeditionary companies to each Marine Barracks. And third and last, the institution of mandatory three months' recruit training. In addition, Biddle continued Elliott's policy of assigning a few Marine officers to Navy and Army advanced officer schools for further training in large unit maneuvers, artillery, communications, and contingency planning.

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