Army of the United States

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Not to be confused with the United States Army.

The Army of the United States (AUS) is the official name for the conscription (U.S. term: draft) force of the United States Army that may be raised at the discretion of the United States Congress when the United States enters into a major armed conflict. The Army of the United States was used in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.


World War II[edit]

The Army of the United States (AUS) was established in February 1941, in response to the increasing threat of the United States entering World War II. The Army of the United States saw a major expansion following the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. It was considered the successor to the National Army, which had been founded to fight in World War I and was disbanded in 1920.

The first commissioned officers of the Army of the United States were appointed from the Regular Army. The standard practice that these officers held a "permanent rank" within the Regular Army as well as a higher "temporary rank" while serving in the Army of the United States. A typical situation might be a colonel in the AUS holding the permanent rank of captain in the Regular Army. Another term for the AUS was "Theater Rank," held by officers deployed to the European Theater or serving in the Pacific.

Promotions within the Army of the United States were sometimes very rapid, and some officers were promoted as many as many as four to five times in the space of just three to four years. Dwight Eisenhower, who served as General of the Army, rose from a colonel to five-star general in three years. However, rank in the AUS could be revoked just as easily, with senior commanders who were relieved reverting to their permanent Regular Army rank. This was known as "loss of theater rank," with some instances of generals returning to the United States in disgrace or at least under a cloud, as only colonels or majors.

The enlisted force of the Army of the United States was made up of Regular Army professionals, but unlike their officer counterparts, they did not hold any AUS rank and were considered as Regular Army only. Personnel enlisting in the United States Army could also choose to enlist as Regular Army, which required a longer service obligation. The draft forces of the U.S. Army were all Army of the United States personnel and were annotated by the abbreviation "AUS" in front of their service numbers and in the Component block 5 on their discharge papers. Regular Army personnel were denoted by the abbreviations "RA."

In 1946, with postwar demobilization, the Army of the United States was suspended, along with the draft. Officers from that point reverted to Regular Army rank and all enlisted personnel either were discharged from the AUS or reenlisted in the Regular Army. The Army of the United States was reinstated during the Korean War, but it was mainly was confined to the enlisted forces. Most commissioned officers in the Korean War held Regular Army rank only.

Korean War[edit]

On its reinstatement for the Korean War[clarification needed], the Army of the United States consisted of conscripts in the Regular Army, with the National Guard and Army of the United States existing simultaneously in the same theater. The system of Service Numbers was as follows:

  • ER: Enlisted Reserve
  • OR: Officer Reserve
  • NG: National Guard
  • RA: Regular Army
  • US: Army of the United States

For the Korean War, the Army of the United States changed its abbreviation to "US," replacing the older "AUS."

Vietnam and beyond[edit]

The last use of the Army of the United States was during the Vietnam War. It was disbanded in 1974, one year after US forces withdrew from the Republic of Vietnam. The only further use of the Army of the United States is for those on the retired officer rolls of the U.S. Army. For senior personnel, the retired rolls may list their rank as "AUS Retired," meaning that the rank they hold for retirement pay is higher than their permanent rank at the time of retirement. Army Reserve Officers who are retired from active duty by reason of longevity (20 years or more of active duty), and those Army Reserve Officers placed on the Permanent Disability Retired List are transferred to the Retired Reserve, and use the designation "Army of the United States, Retired." (Note: In recent years, some Army Reserve Officers serving on active duty who are subsequently placed on the Permanent Disability Retired List have been designated "United States Army, Retired" by Department of the Army orders)[1]

The Army Reserve and Army National Guard of the United States have never been incorporated into the Army of the United States,[citation needed] and have always been separate components. The Army National Guard is known by the service abbreviation "ARNG," while the Army Reserve is referred to as "USAR."


  1. ^ See "Handbook For Retired Soldiers And Family Members" HQDA, Retirement Service Office, ODCSPER, DAPE-RSO, 300 Army Pentagon, Washington DC, 20310-0300