Combat ARMS Regimental System (CARS)

In 1956 the Army decided that if it had to fight on the atomic battlefield an organization other than the infantry regiment would be needed. The Army had concluded that the infantry regiment was too large and inflexible an organization to survive on the atomic battlefield. The Army replaced the infantry regiment with the battle group which was slightly larger than a battalion and commanded by a Colonel. The battalion level of command was eliminated. The other combat arms had already replaced their regiments with battalions during WW II and in the process famous regimental designations, lineages and traditions in those branches were often lost. With the demise of the infantry regiment, the only remaining tactical regiments left in the army were five armored cavalry regiments which were deemed flexible enough to operate on the atomic battlefield.

As the regiment had been the traditional principal repository of unit history in the Army a plan was devised to retain the regiments as permanent repositories of unit lineages, honors, and histories regardless of future tactical reorganizations. The plan was known as the Combat Arms Regimental System (CARS). Historic regiments of infantry, artillery, armor and cavalry were selected as parent regiments under CARS. The plan provided for up to fifteen tactical elements to be activated as needed from each parent regiment using the original companies/batteries/troops of a regiment. The CARS plan was implemented beginning in February 1957.

Under CARS each new element could trace its lineage from one of the original companies of a pre-1957 tactical regiment. For example in 1957 Company A, 14th Infantry was redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Company 1st Battle Group, 14th Infantry thus tying the new battle group to the lineage and honors of Company A. The line companies of the 1st Battle Group were then constituted and activated as new units having no direct tie with the companies of the pre-1957 14th Infantry. Companies B and C, 14th Infantry were used to activate the 2nd and 3rd Battle Groups 14th Infantry. A separate company was required in the Army Reserves so the original Company D, 14th Infantry was activated without any changes in designation.

By 1963 the Army realized that the battle group was not the answer and reorganized them into battalions. In effect the Army actually established quasi-tactical regiments in the infantry and airborne divisions by creating three brigades of three infantry battalions each. No loss of regimental lineage and honors occurred with this reorganization thanks to the flexibility of the CARS system. During the Cold War and especially Vietnam, the ability of a CARS regiment to expand from eight to up to fifteen battalions (depending on size of the original regiment), allowed the Army to increase the combat force structure based on historic combat proven regiments. During various times during the Cold War and Vietnam, regiments often fielded three to four battalions with several artillery regiments fielding up to eight and nine battalions.

Under CARS there were two kinds of honors, shared and earned. All elements of a CARS regiment share in the honors earned by the regiment prior to its conversion to a parent regiment under CARS. For example, the 2nd Battalion 14th Infantry’s Lineage and Honors Certificate shows campaign participation during the Indian Wars for Arizona 1866 with an asterisk before it. This signifies that its predecessor unit, Company B, actually participated in the Arizona campaign. The same campaign participation credit for Arizona is also listed on the Lineage and Honors Certificate of the 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry without the asterisk. This indicates that the 1st Battalion’s predecessor unit, Company A did not participate in the Arizona campaign. Once activated, elements of a parent regiment did not share subsequent honors. For example the Vietnam campaigns participated in by the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 14th Infantry are not listed on the Lineage and Honors Certificate of the 3rd Battalion 14th Infantry which did not serve in Vietnam. However all honors accruing to elements of a parent regiment are displayed on the regimental lineage and honors certificate except for some foreign decorations awarded to elements of the regiment.

Two aspects of the regimental system often cause confusion.
(1) There is no direct lineal tie between the battalions of the pre-1957 regiment and the battalions of a parent regiment. For example: the current 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry’s lineal tie is with the pre-1957 Company A, 14th Infantry not the pre-1957 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry.
(2) There is no direct lineal tie between the line companies of a pre-1957 regiment and the line companies of a battalion of a parent regiment. For example: Company C, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry has no direct lineal tie with the pre-1957 Company C, 14th Infantry.

In 1981 the Army renamed CARS the U.S. Army Regimental System (USARS) and expanded the concept to the other branches of the Army. Most branches adopted a Branch Regiment and chose not to reorganize their units into regiments. Only the Aviation branch decided to reorganize into regiments. The current CARS regiments were placed under the USARS with no change to the concept of how they are organized and function.