Influence of the French and American Reforms on the Organizational Culture of the Peruvian Army

This article has been initially published in the Security and Land Power Journal
Vol. 2 N.° 1 (2023): Enero – Marzo


This paper analyzes the military missions that -in the 20th century- generated two turning points in the Peruvian Army and whose thinking has transcended time, permeating the organizational culture of its officers. To appreciate the influence of these military reforms on Army officers, the context of each process has been evaluated by means of documentary review and interviews. As a result, we found that the French reform generated an officer with rigidity and lack of flexibility, while the U.S. reform generated a more analytical officer for decision-making. Finally, we concluded that the Army officer, although analytical and meticulous, is rigid in the fulfillment of his activities, following a rigid format.

Keywords: Military Mission, Institutional Transformation, Organizational Culture, Historical Process, Doctrine.


Throughout its history, the Peruvian Army has undergone two transformation processes to create a force with characteristics in accordance with the valid models and standards of the time. The first of these processes, called “Foundational Transformation,” took place during the government of Nicolás de Piérola, and a French military mission, led by Captain (and promoted to Colonel) Pablo Clement, was in charge. Subsequently, once the war with Ecuador was over and Manuel Odría was in power, a second transformation process called “Modernization and Doctrine Replacement” was conducted by the United States.

These transformation processes incorporated doctrine and norms that were superimposed on the existing structures to found and consolidate a professional institution, which sought to be the image and likeness of what the standards of the time demanded. However, they also generated an organizational behavior that, in several specific cases, is still in force. Consequently, what has been the influence of the French and American transformation processes on the Army’s organizational culture?

On the one hand, David Masterson, in his study entitled Armed Forces and Society in Modern Peru, described the transformation processes in the Army, pointing out that the French doctrine created in the officer a structural vision of the territorial organization, which made his perception of the protection of borders and the administration of military units -as the axis of deployment of the State- consistent with his decisions of the General Staff.[1] On the other hand, Emerson Fuentes, in his work on General Pablo Clement, sought to determine how the Army was influenced by the French doctrine, establishing that it was a good opportunity to regenerate the country through its Army[2], by means of measures such as the patriotic conception of individuals entering military service. In that sense, within the French perception, the creation of libraries was important to motivate knowledge about military art and each officer was expected to give lectures and write essays.

Likewise, Daniel Mazzei, in his work entitled The French Military Mission at the War College and the Origins of the Dirty War, 1957-1962, analyzed the French influence on the Argentine War College, pointing out that the French doctrine led them to have a biased view towards communist currents[3]. This argument is related to that expressed by Julio Toche on the way in which the Peruvian military faced the “communist threat.”[4] In this case, French ideas would also influence the American military, who would be very receptive to the “Trinquier doctrine,” which sought to defeat subversive movements through the adhesion of the population.

Undoubtedly, World War II changed the scenario of world power, but also that of military influence in less developed countries. In this regard, José Calvo states that “the first effect (of the victory) could be the overcoming of the inferiority complex that Americans felt towards European armies.”[5] The same author also expresses that the final effect of this conflagration was “the creation of the organic structure of the current North American Army. A structure that borrowed concepts from the civilian enterprise in terms of specialization of personnel, continuous demand for results and a systematic process of self-evaluation to achieve maximum efficiency.” Which is reflected in the way professional military personnel are graded: scores for professional sufficiency, physical effort, work zones, etc.

For his part, José Cure said that organizational culture has become relevant because of its influence on productivity, and this also applies to the military forces, whose basis is formed by the values and beliefs that are practiced[6]. Characterizing this culture provides greater conceptual appropriation and identity with respect to the military institution, which leads to greater competitiveness and a cohesive bond. In this sense, this article seeks to identify the influence of the French and American transformation processes on the organizational culture of the Army, to establish how it has impacted it.

Organizational Culture and the Army

“Transformation” is the effect of “transform,” which means “to cause something or someone to change in form or appearance” or, also, “to cause something to change or become different, but without totally altering all of its essential characteristics.” As for military transformation, this implies “significant changes in organizational culture; that is, changes in the set of beliefs, habits, values, attitudes and traditions existing in the military institution.”[7] When analyzing these concepts, it can be appreciated that the entity is the same and tends to an evolution. However, its main characteristics are perpetuated. A modern concept of “organizational culture” is that of Ana Isabel Sordo, who states that it is a set of shared beliefs, values and practices that allow a group of people to focus all their activities on the same goal.[8]

The Peruvian Army is immersed precisely in a military transformation process approved in 2020, which will be executed -in its first phase- until 2034. However, it is not the first time that the Army is immersed in a process of this nature. Therefore, it is important to determine whether those transformations had an influence on the Army and to what extent they have been inserted in the organizational culture of its members and have been perpetuated in the current era.

Influence of the French Matrix

Years after the events that ended with the partial loss of several provinces in the south of Peru, the issue of territorial cessions and the intangibility of the country’s boundaries were the spectrum through which the decisions and thoughts of the nation converged, which, truth be told, was going through an intense stage of discovery and revaluation of its own identity, with the scars of the conflagration still floating on the surface. Just as territories were lost in the south, new territories were gained in the east. News began to reach the centers of power in the capital. The “Rubber Barons” (Peruvians, Colombians, and Brazilians) competed to reach those spaces that were delimited, but that nobody really knew.

A bloody event would mark the scene and would generate a final fracture with the past. On March 19, 1895, almost a thousand corpses lay on the outskirts of the city of Lima. The civil war between Nicolás de Piérola and Andrés Avelino Cáceres had ended with the assumption of power by the former and the exile of the latter in Buenos Aires. The Army was going through its darkest hours due to the disrepute in which it had sunk after the last armed revolution of the 19th century. The movement had more profound consequences on the future military organization. Piérola assumed the government and took charge of erasing the non-professional Army that had existed since independence.

This was not an isolated event. Other countries entered the execution of the ideal of modernizing their Armies, bringing European models to the continent. In this regard, Daniel Masterson expresses:

Seeking to facilitate the integration of their slowly modernizing economies with those of Western Europe and the United States, civilian and military leaders in Peru, Argentina, Chile, and Brazil turned to the armies of France and Germany, and to the navies of Great Britain and the United States to help build the professional military institutions they considered essential to the development of their nations.[9]

The majority adopted the Prussian model, the natural victor of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. The decision would allow the re-foundation of the Peruvian Army, through the first -and the most transcendental- military transformation. In the words of Alain Rouquié, the decision was to sow not only a combative identity, but also a scientific one: “The French Army of the time, which emphasized defense, fortification and border surveillance, interested the Peruvians precisely because of its contributions to military science”.[10] The contract for the arrival of the mission:

Celebrated between the French Minister of War, General Jean-Baptiste Billot and the extraordinary envoy and plenipotentiary minister of Peru in the city of Paris, José Francisco Canevaro, on September 16, 1896, aiming at teaching French military instruction. Shortly after, on November 7, the first four officers who would oversee the organizing of the brand-new Peruvian Army arrived at the port of Callao -on the ship “Arequipa”-.[11]

Seven French military missions would arrive in Peru between 1896 and 1943. The first of these missions was composed of four officers, under the command of Colonel Paul Clement, who laid the foundations of what would become the Army of Peru. The last French officer to arrive in Peru was Brigadier General Raymond Laurent.[12] Although it is true, some authors affirm that these officers were formed in cadres that were in overseas headquarters of the French colonialism, they were not simple career administrators or uniformed clerks. They came two field artillerymen, trained in General Staff[13] and war veterans, forged in the geography of Sub-Saharan Africa, among tribes of Arabs and Berbers. These military men served at the height of the expansion of French rule over these regions, which had begun in 1830, and were consolidated after the Franco-Prussian war, driven by competition between the European powers.

The French Army had been recomposed through the enormous effort of the academy and the State, and was once again competing with its neighbors, although without catching up with them in capabilities. It was forging its defensive identity and the extreme zeal for the care of the borders of its cadres, while the military industry was flourishing. France continued to be the city of technological and cultural progress worldwide. International exhibitions and military inventions, such as the precision 75-millimeter field gun, marked the era. However, what real influence did it have on the Peruvian Army? In this regard, it is considered that there are several fundamental aspects where the French will influence the Peruvian military mentality, which are shown in the following table:

Military Aspect Work
Military Doctrinarian Organization
  • Code of Military Justice
  • Compulsory Military Service Law between 21 and 25 years of age
  • Manuals and regulations for military administration
Education and training schools
  • Military School of Chorrillos
  • War College
  • General maneuvers involving the use of military schools and units
  • Military facilities with French unit design (for example, the Salaverry and Tingo barracks in Arequipa)
Ideological aspects
  • Adoption of uniforms of French type and likeness
  • Words of French origin that transcended (e.g.: furriel)
  • Non-participation in politics
  • Obedience to civilian power
  • Nationalist thought of defense at all costs
  • Use of French as a second academic language
  • Strong discipline in the fulfillment of orders
Other aspects
  • Initiation of troop excursions for the development of doctrine in the mountains
  • Mental distance between the officer and the soldier
  • Appearance of the Revista Militar del Perú (Peruvian Military Magazine), aimed at the military and civil society

Table 1: Aspects of French Influence in the Peruvian Army. Obtained from the studies of Masterson and Toche Medrano (Prepared by the Author).

Not necessarily all the aspects imposed by the French endured, such as the fact of not participating in issues related to politics, but they did recognize the danger of flooding the Army with ideologies. What was going to happen was that the Aprista party’s attempts at penetration were going to generate an important dynamic that did not allow French thinking to take hold completely in this sense. Nevertheless, the levels of training were quite high by the national standards of the time. The Peruvian Army became professional from this point on. There is one aspect in which the French model and the one that was to be incorporated with Odría maintained: considering the Army as a sort of “reserve,” in the role of tutelary institution of the Nation, established by the 1933 Constitution.

As a result, the average Peruvian military man was detail-oriented to the extreme, had a strong sense of responsibility for the fulfillment of orders and the correct use of the uniform, as well as for field trips and military maneuvers. However, he also had political ties, especially when he became a superior officer, but this was the result of the old Peruvian tradition of militarism, which also had Oscar R. Benavides and Sanchez Cerro as its main actors. The Peruvian military spoke French, rather than English as a second language. He was not given to changes that would take him away from the main cities or, in any case, he assumed it as a temporary task. They believed in their mission to incorporate military progress into public works, so it was not uncommon for them to serve as prefects or regional authorities and execute public budgets.[14]

Influence of the American Matrix

Manuel Apolinario Odría (1896-1974) has more relevance than it seems in the shaping of the Peruvian Army. The transformation planned and executed by Odría provided the Army with a large part of its current infrastructure. It is worth mentioning that the French model was improved in the pre-war period of 1941, thanks to the aplomb of the General Staff of the Army and the presence of two undisputed leaders of the planning: General Oscar R. Benavides and General Ernesto Montagne Markholz. In the years prior to the conflagration, a series of acquisitions and modifications to manuals and regulations allowed improvements in the organization that would face the campaign against Ecuador, but the doctrine remained, fundamentally, French. The officers of the last mission were still in military schools shortly before the invasion of the north in 1941.[15]

Odría, born in Tarma, graduated from the Chorrillos Military School in 1919 as the honorary sword of his class. With the rank of lieutenant colonel, he participated in the 1941 campaign, as Chief of Staff of the 1st Light Division, which led the main effort in the battle of July 24th. After this event, he was promoted to colonel and was appointed director of the War College, traveling to the United States.[16] It was in that country where he was able to appreciate the enormous progress achieved by the Americans in each of the fields involving the use of armed forces.

Odría reached the highest rank at a very critical moment. The high level of conflict caused by the Aprismo, the first important mass party in Peru, provoked the emergence of an anti-aprista current within the armed forces and -incidentally- within the Peruvian oligarchy, of which Odría would become one of its main standard-bearers.[17] That maelstrom would end in the coup d’état of 1948 and would last eight years. Coincidentally, the world was experiencing the so-called “Cold War”, which confronted the two most important world powers of the time: the United States and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

For the United States it was of enormous importance to maintain links with Latin America, since it was imperative to ensure that communist or socialist doctrines did not cling to the American reality. In this sense, Felícitas López Portillo is clear in affirming that “the military government was inscribed in the anti-communist doctrine of the moment, emanating from both the UN and the OAS”. The economic management carried out during this government facilitated the incorporation of important infrastructures, which are still in operation today despite the time elapsed. Once the bilateral agreements to support the development of the Army were signed, the following U.S. officers arrived: Colonel James Cole, head of the U.S. military mission, who is appointed Deputy to the Minister of War and to the Inspector General of the Army (current Commanding General of the Army); Colonel Andrew J. Adams, advisor to the Commanding General of the Armored Division; and Colonel Adrian L. Hoebeke, advisor to the Center for Higher Military Studies.[18] The most important changes during this period were in the aspects expressed in the following table:

Military Aspect Work
Military doctrinal organization
  • The French doctrinal base was replaced by the American one, which remained in force, with few variations, until approximately 2011.
  • The General Commander of the Army appears instead of the Chief of Staff, as the highest level of command
Education and training schools
  • Creation of the Center for Advanced Military Studies (CAEM).
  • Officers travel to different schools in the United States: Fort Leavenworth (Command and General Staff Course), Fort Benning (Infantry), Fort Riley (Cavalry), Fort Still (Artillery), Fort Velvoir (Engineering), Fort Knox (Armor), Fort Huachuca (Communications), Fort McClellan (Chemistry, Biology and Radiology), and Fort Holabird (Intelligence and Counter Subversion)
  • The foundations are laid for the creation of the following schools: Paratroopers, Commando, Armor, and Psychological Operations
Ideological aspects
  • Signing of the bilateral military assistance pact with the United States government
  • Anticommunist instead of Anti-Apra
  • Officers become closer to the troops (the officer must sleep with his troops)
Other aspects
  • Infrastructures: Central Military Hospital
  • Increase of the military budget: 45 %.
  • Nine million annual military aid to Peru
  • Appearance of the score tables for officers leaving for the provinces, to encourage the best cadres to leave the cities
  • Construction of the Peruvian Military Circle

Table 2: Aspects of U.S. Influence in the Peruvian Army. Obtained from the studies of Masterson and Toche Medrano (Prepared by the Author).

As can be seen in Table 2, during Odría’s government, with the assistance of the American mission, the main bases of the Army that was to replace the French foundations were laid. For example, many schools, such as the Army War College (ESGE), kept the same directors for the entire duration of the reform. At the ESGE, Brigadier General Luis Andrés Avelino Solari Hurtado oversaw that school for six consecutive years and Major General José Mendoza Rodríguez was the whole of Odría’s term as minister of education.

The results in the organizational culture were felt, either by the political momentum or by the constant interaction between Peruvian and U.S. officers. One of the first changes that were noticed was the predisposition to leave the capitals, which would have its effect in the years to come, as a generation with a strong socialist discourse appeared, thanks to its knowledge of the interior of the country. The doctrine -especially the use of armored units- would have a great boom and the officer would become closer to the troops.

Although openly the American influence tried to eliminate or at least supplant the French influence, it was not entirely successful, since it was a process of incorporation that lasted almost half a century.[19] The American influence tries to be more flexible both in the treatment and in the execution of orders, but it does not always succeed; it brings the soldiers of the military service closer to the officers, quite more distant in the previous model and progressively incorporates the behavior of the “patrol” type, which will deepen with the appearance of the terrorist movements of the 1980s. English -gradually- will impose itself over French as the second language of instruction, but Quechua also appears, as an attempt to “peruvianize” the Army.[20]

Influences of the French and American Matrixes in the Contemporary Army

As mentioned above, the Peruvian Army has initiated a process of institutional transformation with a view to achieving its objectives for the year 2034. Within what is proposed in these changes, there is a series of eight steps to fulfill to achieve the Desired End State of transforming the institution. Two of the first four steps, which are the foundation, must do not with acquisitions or quantitative improvements, but with values (Step n° 1: “Re-establish values” and Step No. 4: “Change the organizational culture”).[21] Therefore, it is inferred that, by 2034, not only should the Army have been modernized, but its organizational culture will also have undergone a tangible change.

According to the experience gained from the two previous transformations -French and American- change necessarily affects the organizational culture and once affirmed, a part of it remains perennial in the military mentality. From the French influence, several of the uniforms, denominations, or nomenclatures[22] have been maintained, as well as facilities, barracks, and the territorial way of thinking (defense at all costs) have been preserved. During this period, the “mother” schools for Army officers were created: the Military School of Chorrillos and the ESGE.[23] The main traditions and customs of the Peruvian Army were born with the French Military Mission, which is still a cause for reflection to this day.

From the American influence, the growth of the spectrum of warfare towards special forces and psychological operations was maintained, as well as the doctrine on the use of armored units. A particularly important aspect is that the symbols were standardized. Likewise, the Army’s coat of arms was created, the representative patterns of weapons appeared and the idea of “going out” of the cities was incorporated in the officers’ mentality, in exchange for incentives (scores) that improved their career projections, which is still in force.

While it is true that the local culture has somehow adapted these influences, it is certain that their origin came from initiatives that were part of the mentality of the transforming missions. When observing the choice of weapon patterns, it is a typology of character, with little Andean preeminence. Based on the standard of choosing representative characters, the national tendency to recover the image of the Inca, which became a constant after the departure of the U.S. mission, appears. The figures of Pachacútec, Cahuide and Túpac Amaru are going to be vindicated not only socially, but in the Army itself and the shields that originally had Latin phrases, begin to use Quechua,[24] generating a kind of “military syncretism.”


The Peruvian Army has undergone two processes of institutional transformation, carried out by foreign military missions. The first of French origin, from 1896, and the second of U.S. origin, from 1948 onwards. Both missions have transcended time. The French still maintain the essence of their traditionalism, conservative formation, aligned to the Christian social democracy that they doctrinally defended. Within this context, the French tried to inculcate that the essential and unique task of the military was “the sacred ideal of the protection of the homeland,” which resulted in the recruitment of future cadres. From the Americans, the doctrine, symbology, and training schools such as intelligence, psychological operations, commandos, and paratroopers, among others, are still largely preserved. This military mission tried to replace the French paradigm in its entirety. However, one of the contradictions of the American model is the failure to adapt its military doctrine to the reality of the armed forces, which is reflected in the creation of some organizations that contrast with their capabilities, troops, material, and available resources. A clear example is the creation of the Operational Commands, the Operations Army, and the Army Division.

During these processes, the Peruvian Army, on its own, has added aspects of the national culture to the patterns established by foreign military missions, which can be seen today. Being in a process of institutional transformation, and looking at the background, it is possible that the organizational culture of the Army will undergo significant modifications in the coming years, or some practices will be reactivated, a product of the generalized modernization of society.


  1. Daniel Masterson, Armed Forces and Society in Modern Peru (Lima: Institute of Political and Strategic Studies, 2001)
  2. Emerson Fuentes, Brigadier General Paul Clément and his legacy in the Peruvian Army 1896 – 1925 (Lima: Chorrillos Military School, 2022).
  3. Daniel Mazzei, “La misión militar francesa en la escuela superior de Guerra y los orígenes de la Guerra Sucia, 1957-1962” in Social Sciences Journal, Open Access Digital Institutional Repository of the National University of Quilmes (2013), 105-137,
  4. Julio Toche Medrano, War and democracy: the Peruvian military and national construction (Argentina: Latin American Council of Social Sciences CLACSO, 2008).
  5. José Calvo Albero, The North American Land Military Doctrine. Historical bases, strategic context and its value as a model for other armies (Madrid: Hernán Pérez del Pulgar Award, 2002), 13.
  6. Jorge Cure Arango, Characterization of the Organizational Culture of the CEDE 4 and CEDE 6 departments of the Headquarters of the General Staff of Planning and Policies of the National Army of Colombia (Colombia: Universidad Externado de Colombia, 2017).
  7. Paul E. Vera, “Transformación Militar: Esfuerzo y Compromiso Institucional”, Military Review Edición Hispanoamérica (2019), 34-.45,
  8. Ana Isabel Sordo, “Cultura organizacional: tipos, elementos y ejemplos”, HubSpot (August 22, 2022). (accessed August 23, 2022).
  9. Masterson, Armed Forces and society in modern Peru, 40
  10. Alain Rouquié, The Military State in Latin America (Mexico: Siglo XXI publishers, 1984), 91.
  11. Army of Peru, Bicentennial. Army of Republican Peru 1821-2021 (Lima: Permanent Commission on the History of the Army, 2021).
  12. Fuentes, Brigadier General Paul Clément and his legacy in the Peruvian Army 1896 – 1925.
  13. Staff officers graduated from the War School formed in 1880. This school trained them to mobilize and administer forces, as well as to lead them in combat.
  14. To cite one case: Marshal Ureta, with the rank of colonel, was appointed prefect of Arequipa in 1936 and executed funds for the construction of the IV Centenario soccer stadium, the most modern stadium of its time in the country.
  15. Masterson. Armed Forces and society in modern Peru,197.
  16. Army of Peru, History of the Military School of Peru Volume I First Edition (Peru: Center for Military Instruction of Peru, 1982).
  17. Felícitas López Portillo, The military government of Manuel A. Odría in Peru (1948-1956): a diplomatic glance (Mexico: National Autonomous University of Mexico, 2017), 60.
  18. Toche Medrano, War and democracy: the Peruvian military and national construction.
  19. One example is the inflexibility in the models of internal service the basis of discipline: ” Without doubts or mutterings”. It is impressive to see, moreover, that the annual officer qualification format is similar up to this time.
  20. The thesis presented by Lourdes Hurtado Meza is interesting: “El Ejército cholificado”, Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales FLACSO (Quito: September 2006),, which expresses the strong trend prevailing in the 1960s to give the Army an Inca identity, as shown in the adoption of Pachacutec as the symbol of the special forces and the mottos of some divisions and units.
  21. Vera, “Military Transformation: Effort and Institutional Commitment,” 34-45.
  22. As for example PANNE, furriel or ataché
  23. What is now COEDE was the Classes Division (troops), Senior Division (cadets) and Application Division (for junior artillery and engineering officers). The Army War College had an independent directorate.
  24. The Coat of Arms of the II Army Division (formerly Second Region) bears the inscription Kunan Ñaupa Hina Atinchis. In Spanish: “Ahora, como antes, podemos”.


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The ideas contained in this analysis are the sole responsibility of the author, without necessarily reflecting the thoughts of the CEEEP or the Peruvian Army.

Image: CEEEP