Brigadier General
William Crozier

Brigadier General
William CrozierWilliam Crozier was born in Carrollton, Ohio, the son of a judge, on 19 February 1855. His family later moved to Kansas, and he was admitted to West Point from that state, graduating fifth in his class of 48 men in 1876. His first five years of active service were spent as an artillery officer in several western Indian campaigns, and he did not transfer to Ordnance until 1881. General Crozier was placed on the staff of the Military Academy as an instructor from 1879 to 1884. On two occasions, from 1887 to 1888 and from 1889 to 1892, he was assigned to the staff of the Office Chief of Ordnance. In 1888, Crozier, in cooperation with Colonel (later General) Adelbert Rinaldo Buffington, one of his predecessors as Chief of Ordnance, designed the Buffington-Crozier disappearing gun carriage. This proved to be the most successful disappearing gun carriage used down to the 1920s, when the advent of bomb­carrying planes rendered most coastal defense weapons obsolete. In 1890, Crozier was promoted to captain.

In 1899, while still a captain, he was appointed the American Military (Army) Delegate to the International Peace Conference at the Hague; Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan being the American Navy's delegate. This was followed by assignments to field duty during the Phillippine Insurrection (1899-1900) and the Inter­national Relief Expedition to Peking during the Boxer Rebellion of 1900. In this latter assignment, he served in the capacity of Chief Ordnance Officer for the American forces. In 1901, he declined a proferred professorship at the Military Academy.

In November 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt, on the recommendation of Secretary of War Elihu Root, reached down into the list of Ordnance captains to nominate the 46 year old Captain Crozier as Chief of Ordnance. He was advanced four grades to the rank of brigadier general. This began the longest tenure to date enjoyed by any Ordnance Chief. Allocations for ordnance materiel were extremely small during much of Crozier's tenure in office, but great stress was placed on the interrelation­ships between the work of the Ordnance Department on the one hand and new developments in American science, engineering, and industry on the other. Emphasis on research and development was continuous, and the department's field service components were placed on the best possible footing for war considering the limited resources available. General Crozier himself authored a number of studies dealing with ordnance questions, especially the design of heavy ordnance weapons. During the academic year 1912-1913, General Crozier was on detached service as president of the Army War College in Washington.

General Crozier was regarded as "one of the new military reformers and managers who headed the War Department bureaus during the Progressive Era." A considerable amount of modernization took place in the organization of the staff of the Chief of Ordnance and the various arsenals, and new emphasis was placed upon making the Ordnance Department the exemplar of "efficiency and accountability for the American arms industry." General Crozier also had high standards for the weapons and other materiel turned out by his department. When the cavalry requested a lighter machine gun in 1911, however, Crozier quickly responded with the Bench-Mercie automatic machine rifle, which was not altogether satisfactory for the cavalry, and which was quite unacceptable to the infantry. The department's failure to come up with a weapon better suited to the battlefield in World War I ultimately led to calls for General Crozier's relief in December 1917. In the final analysis, however, the fault lay with a procurement system oflong standing which made it almost impossible for gun designers and gun users to communicate with one another.

President Wilson, who had placed General Crozier on his War Council after the American entry into the war, sent the general to Europe in January 1918 to observe war conditions on the front lines in France and Belgium. He was also among the first American officers to view conditions on the Italian front. When the inter Allied Supreme War Council was later established, Crozier and the British Minister of Munitions (later Prime Minister), Winston Churchill, worked out the plan which made possible the full scale pooling of available ordnance equipment for all Allied Armies. This agreement subsequently led, among other cooperative arrangements, to the Anglo­American tank program. In July 1918, General Crozier was promoted to major general and became commander of the Army's Northeastern Department, a post he held for his last six months in the Army. General Crozier retired on 1 January 1919, after 47 years of service. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in engineering by the University of Michigan in 1923. General Crozier lived in retirement in Washington until his death on 10 November 1942 at the age of 87.