The Chilean Army is proud to be one of the permanent institutions in the 213 years of republican life, during which it has been present in all the great milestones of its political, economic and social trajectory, with the certainty that in the present and in the future, the new generations that make up its ranks will continue to be committed to the security, defense, peace and well-being of the Homeland.
This trajectory has been reflected in the consistent contribution of the Institution to the development of the country throughout its history, thus contributing to the genuine spirit of nationality.
It is worth mentioning that this historical commitment is even older, since it originates in the first manifestations of the formation of a permanent Army, when, by Royal Decree of 1603, the first Army of the Kingdom of Chile was born.
Chile became one of the Hispanic kingdoms in the West Indies, under the Crown of Castile, which in legal equality with those of the Iberian Peninsula, made up the greatness of Spain. From this Hispanic and native heritage, the Chilean people were later born.
The high human and material losses suffered by the Spanish in the course of the Arauco War, made it necessary to create a permanent Army. Thus, at the suggestion of the illustrious Governor Don Alonso de Ribera, King Felipe III, by Royal Decree of January 1603, created the Army of the Kingdom of Chile, the first to be organized in Spanish America. This demonstrated the importance that the Kingdom of Chile had for the Spanish Crown, since it provided the defense of an extensive territory in the southern regions of America.
Alonso de Ribera increased the professional and combative capacity of the troops, established a decent salary scale and even founded basic industries to supply military personnel. This permanent Army of the Kingdom of Chile over time was subject to constant improvements, after the issuance of ordinances and reforms according to the needs of the country, and served as the basis for the composition of the Army, which was created later to defend the independence declared by the Primera Junta Nacional de Gobierno (First National Board of Government) on September 18, 1810.
The Army that was organized during the Patria Vieja, was made up of some of the old units of the Royal Army of Chile, the new units organized by independentist criollos and Spaniards, and the militias. This Army fought bravely on the battlefields, despite its lack of organization, weapons, equipment, adequate military preparation and leadership.
The figure of José Miguel Carrera stands out. He, as the ruler of Chile, had the merit of having been the first to promote full independence from the Crown.
This Army had victories and defeats, but its members fought bravely in Yerbas Buenas, San Carlos, Concepción, Talcahuano, Chillán, El Roble, Quilo, Membrillar, Cancha Rayada, Quechereguas and Rancagua, among other battles.
After the Crossing of the Andes and the victories of Chacabuco and Maipú, General Bernardo O'Higgins assumed command as Supreme Director, organized the government and consolidated the Independence of Chile, leading the destiny of the new Republic. His achievements include the creation of the Military Academy, which made it possible to impart military doctrine, and of the National Fleet, called to guard the presence of Chile in the Pacific Ocean.
The organization of the Liberating Expedition of Peru stands out, under the Chilean flag and financing, with mostly Chilean troops and a smaller percentage of Argentine troops, under the command of General José de San Martín.
Then came a series of setbacks and conflicts typical of a State that began its independent life and struggled to establish a republican system of government, which led to continuous trials and failures, but Chile began to advance towards the aggrandizement of its institutions. The State was concerned with cementing the entities that national life needed. The Republic confidently advanced along the path of remarkable and sustained development.
Later, Chile had to face a serious threat to its sovereignty due to the formation of the Peru-Bolivian Confederation, led by Bolivian Marshal Andrés de Santa Cruz, who sought to carry out the Bolivarian project of creating an Andean Federation, which broke international balance. Chile declared war on the Confederation and, after the first failed expedition under the command of Admiral Manuel Blanco Encalada, who set sail from Valparaíso in September 1837, a new campaign was organized. This time it was under the command of General Manuel Bulnes, who, on January 20 1839, ultimately defeated Santa Cruz in the Battle of Yungay, thanks to his remarkable skills as a military leader and the admirable fighting capacity of the Chilean soldier.
After the war, Chile emerged as a respectable nation for its internal organization, its national unity and its privileged situation on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. General Bulnes was elected President of the Republic and during his administration between 1841 and 1851, the country grew rapidly and acquired prestige for its constant development in all fields of national activity.
During the nineteenth century there were three revolutions; the Civil War of 1829, which ended with the Battle of Lircay (April 17, 1830), where despite not achieving normality immediately, a later agreement put an end to the conflict.
Then the Civil War of 1851 occurred, which was settled in the Battle of Loncomilla (December 8, 1851) and, subsequently, the Battle of Ramadillas that put an end to the last insurgents of Copiapó.
Finally, the Revolution of 1859 -where the Army remained cohesive in supporting the institutional structure- did not lead to a civil war, which could have caused great damage to the country. In this case, after the Battle of Cerro Grande (April 29, 1859), the final defeat of the revolutionary forces was achieved.
After three centuries of sporadic encounters, during the administration of Don José Joaquín Pérez and in accordance with the government plan, the penetration and occupation of the territories located south of the Biobío began in order to bring civilization to all areas of La Frontera. This task was carried out through the founding of cities, construction of roads, telegraphs, creation of schools and medical care.
Inspired by the Americanist spirit, Chile was involved in a conflict with Spain in support of Peru, as a result of diplomatic friction between these countries. Spain seized the guaneras located in the Chinchas Islands which meant great economic damage to Peru. Chile, in solidarity, declared war on Spain on September 24, 1865.
This war caused serious damage to the country, due to the bombardment of Valparaíso by the Spanish fleet and the naval and land combat in the north, such as Calderilla and the south in Tubildad. Peace with Spain was established in 1883, with a treaty signed in Lima, on June 12 of that year.
Between 1879 and 1884, the Army, along with the Navy and the entire country, had to face the allied forces of Peru and Bolivia in a war that consisted of five campaigns: the Maritime, Tarapacá, Tacna and Arica, Lima and the Sierra. The hardship to which the country was subjected ended in a favorable manner for the Chileans, due to the superior military conduct of operations and the remarkable combat capacity achieved by the Army and the National Guard, which became a compact and disciplined group of professional soldiers on the battlefields.
Some of the figures that stand out are: General Justo Arteaga, who organized the Army of Operations of the North; Lieutenant Colonel Eleuterio Ramírez, who fell in Tarapacá; Second Sergeant Daniel Rebolledo, who raised the flag in Morro Solar; Captain Ignacio Carrera Pinto, followed by his 76 immortals; Colonel Alejandro Gorostiaga, whose triumph in Huamachuco forced the enemy to sign a peace deal; and General Manuel Baquedano, without a doubt, the victor of the war.
Chile's progress was uninterrupted. The war stimulated the development of the industrial economy, which served to supply the Army in the field, and the territory south of the Biobío was finally incorporated.
After the war, the Army understood the need of an update in terms of organization and equipment. Thus, the high command and a group of officers, with the support of hired German officers, were the main architects of the modernization of the Institution at the end of the 19th century. This led to the creation of the War Academy, the readjustment of the curricula of the Military Academy and the inauguration of the Non-Commissioned Officers School, fundamental institutes in the training of Officers and NCO’s of the Army.
The fratricidal conflict of 1891 would find the Army divided. Once the conflict broke out, an important part of the Army, consistent with institutional doctrine and its respect for the Constitution, was loyal to the government of President Manuel Balmaceda.
After the war, the Government Army was dissolved and there were successive reorganizations, and finally, in July 1895, the Military Zones were created, which gave a new structure to the Institution. Some time later, as the government grew convinced of the importance of Mandatory Military Service, it drafted a bill (on February 2, 1899) that became the Law of Recruits and Replacements of the Army and Navy, after some modifications. It was enacted on September 1900.
With the arrival of the new century, the reorganizing work of the Chilean Army was consolidated leading to the creation of: the General Inspection, the logistics services and the divisions, brigades and regiments, among others, throughout the national territory. Later, the Military Geographical Institute and the Military Polytechnic Academy were founded.
The prestige achieved by the Chilean Army in America led many countries to request military missions to collaborate in the reorganization of their armies, a task that was successfully achieved.
During the 1920s, the nation's social, economic, and political context led to a series of political crises that would have Army officers as the main actors.
Between 1940 and 1950 there were events that would continue down the path of modernization, such as: the transformation of the Army from a horse-drawn force to a motorized one; the creation of the Armor and Signals branches and the Mountain School; the organization of Civil Defense by the Army General Staff; and the foundation of the "Bernardo O'Higgins" Antarctic Military Base. A new structure was also given to the Army’s services, such as Ordnance, as a result of the technical evolution of weapons.
In the seventies, as a consequence of the political, social and economic crisis that the country had reached, the Armed Forces took power of the nation on September 11, 1973.
The country had to face two international crises in 1974 and 1978, in which the Army, along with the other armed institutions, were successful in their role of national defense, acting as a deterrent against external threats, which allowed the continuation of a tradition of peace that lasted for more than a century.
Continuing the modernization process that began at the end of the 20th century, the Army has focused on fulfilling the tasks assigned to it by the Constitution and has focused its main tasks on three major areas:
• Reevaluation of the military function in Chilean society, deepening its contribution to the progress of the country and integration with the institutions that comprise it.
• Qualitative growth of its force, a complex and dynamic process that continually requires increasing levels of excellence in the education and training of its members.
• Identification of the new century´s challenges, redefining the Institution´s roles and the profile of its members, which constitutes a fundamental element of the ongoing modernization process.