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AN OUTLINE HISTORY OF THE PARAGUAYAN ARMY

 

FROM THE COLONIAL PERIOD TO TODAY

Por Adrian J. English - 31-01-2007

 

From the beginning of the colonial period the settled part of Paraguay was defended from the incursions of marauding Indians and of slave traders from Brazil by an ad hoc militia system.  In 1777 Governor Pinedo sought permission for the maintenance of an organized Militia numbering 6000 at an annual cost in excess of 80,000 pesos. As this was presumably over ambitious, Pinedo’s successor, Pedro Melo de Portugal, secured permission from the Viceroy at Buenos Aires for the reduction of this force to three regiments. This proposal also does not seem to have been implemented and in 1790 the Paraguayan militia consisted of four infantry companies of 57 men each, four cavalry squadrons of 46 and a single artillery company of 50. In that year the militia was reorganized into 4 “regiments” of dragoons and a single battalion of infantry. These units however had an average mobilized strength of only 120 to 160. By 1801 the militia had been rationalized into two cavalry regiments, each nominally of 1200 but in practice averaging only 450, plus an artillery battalion of 240, equipped with four cannon and two howitzers. Only two permanent garrisons were maintained, an infantry force of 60 men at Fuerte de Borbón on the Upper Paraguay and 40 cavalrymen at San Carlos del Rio Apa. 

Paraguay's War of Independence was fought not against Spain, there being no regular Spanish troops in the country, but rather against Argentina, which wished to annexe it to the United Provinces of Rio de la Plata. A well equipped Argentine Army of 1400, attempting to bring this about, was decisively beaten in two successive battles, at Paraguarí and Tacuarí, in January and March 1811 by a more numerous but less well equipped Paraguayan Army of 3000 militiamen, of whom only 400 had firearms,. The following October, Argentina officially recognized Paraguayan independence. 

During the brief consular period when Paraguay experimented with a system of government loosely based on that of the ancient Roman Republic, the Paraguayan Army consisted of 2 infantry battalions (one commanded by each of the two Consuls) backed by a militia consisting of 2 regiments of cavalry and a single battalion each of infantry and artillery. 

Dr. José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia was declared Dictator for a period of three years in 1814 and confirmed as Dictator for Life in 1818. Francia maintained a regular army of 5500, organized in 1 battalion of heavy and 3 of light infantry, 2 cavalry regiments and a battalion of artillery, backed by a reserve of 25,000 and disposing of 90 pieces of artillery. These forces effectively deterred any further attempts at annexation by Argentina.

The Paraguayan Army however really owes its origins to Carlos Antonio López, who became President in 1841 and ruled until his death in 1862. López, under whose relatively benign rule Paraguay became the most developed country in South America with the first railway in the continent, a telegraph system and a tramway in the capital, maintained a well trained standing army of 4 regiments of grenadiers, 6 rifle battalions, 4 cavalry regiments and 2 corps of artillery, with a total strength of 6018 all ranks. 

His son Francisco Solano López, who succeeded him to the presidency in 1862, reorganized the Army into 8 infantry battalions, 5 cavalry regiments (one of which we the Presidential Escort) and 2 regiments of artillery, with a total strength of over 7000, making it the second strongest army in South America, after that of Brazil. It was deployed as follows:- 

The 1st BOGAVANTE (Marine), 2nd, 3rd and 5th Infantry Battalions together with the 10th Cavalry and 2nd Artillery Regiment in the fortress of Humaitá which guarded the southern approaches of the country. 

4th and 6th Infantry Battalions, 11th ACA CARAYA and 13th Cavalry and 1st Artillery Regiments in Asunción. 

9th and 12th Cavalry Regiments in Concepción. 

7th Infantry Battalion at Ypacaraí which was then the terminus of the railway from Asunción. 

8th Infantry Battalion at Rosario. 

This army excited considerable trepidation amongst Paraguay's neighbours, all of whom correctly regarded it as the instrument of the younger López's plans to make himself ruler of the entire River Plate area.

THE TRIPLE ALLIANCE WAR 

In April 1864 a large military installation which was destined to become the main training centre of the Army was established at Cerro León in the vicinity of Paraguarí.  

In October 1864, Brazil invaded Uruguay in support of one of the factions in a civil war and López, who considered Uruguay as part of Paraguay’s sphere of influence, issued an ultimatum to withdraw. This was ignored and the following month, 6000 Paraguayan troops invaded the Matto Grosso region of south-western Brazil, meeting with only limited resistance and withdrawing with much booty, leaving only a small garrison.  

In December 1864 a general mobilization of all male citizens between the ages of 17 and 40 was declared and the Army was expanded to comprise 30 battalions of infantry, 23 regiments of cavalry and 4 regiments of artillery, with a total strength of over 30,000 or approximately 6% of the total population of the country. Part of this force was armed with Minié and Witton muzzle-loading rifles, together with small quantities of breech-loading rifles for López's personal bodyguard, but the majority of the small arms available were old smooth-bore muskets. There were 126 assorted pieces of emplaced artillery at Asunción and in the fortresses of Borbón, San Carlos, Humaitá and Itapirú, plus 12 rifled and 96 smooth-bore field pieces. 

A Paraguayan force of 25,000 now invaded north-eastern Argentina, reaching and occupying the city of Corrientes, whilst another 12,000, organized in ten battalions of infantry and a similar number of regiments of cavalry, struck into southern Brazil.  

Argentina declared war on Paraguay in April 1865 and in May Argentina and Uruguay united with Brazil in a Triple Alliance to curb Paraguayan expansionism. 

The Brazilian Army stood at 25,000, although this was to expand four-fold before the end of the war. As already stated, López had 30,000 well equipped and trained troops and eventually also mobilized 50,000 partially trained and poorly armed levies. The Argentines initially contributed only 12,000 to the allied Army and the Uruguayans 3000, the brunt of the action throughout the conflict being borne by the Brazilians. 

The naval battle of Riachuelo, in July 1865, caused the retreat of the Paraguayan invading force from Corrientes whilst the force invading southern Brazil, after some initial successes, was surrounded and annihilated at Uruguaiana.  

The northward allied advance on land was detained for the following nine months by the Paraguayan fortress complex of Humaitá controlling the junction of the Paraguay and Paraná rivers and at which López had established his headquarters. Garrisoned by 21 battalions of infantry, 16 regiments of cavalry and two of artillery Humaitá seemed impregnable. However, in April 1866 the fortress was outflanked by a massive crossing of the Paraná at Paso de la Patria to the north-east and the allies advanced northward along the east bank of the Paraguay River until halted by the Paraguayan strong point at Itapirú. 

The allied Army now consisted of 40,000 Brazilians, 18,000 Argentines and 4000 Uruguayans. On May 24th these were attacked at Tuyutí by a force of 24,000 Paraguayans, who were repelled and put to flight with heavy losses although the allies failed to pursue their advantage. Another attack by 8000 Paraguayans, at Curupayty, on November 3rd 1867, threw the allies into temporary confusion. However, a Brazilian naval flotilla succeeded in forcing the Paraguayan boom at Humaitá on February 18th, 1868 and bombarded Asunción, four days later before withdrawing southward.  

López withdrew the bulk of his forces from Humaitá on March 2nd and crossed the Paraguay River under cover of darkness without attracting the attention of the Brazilian fleet, retreating northwards along the western bank of the River Paraguay. Asunción was now abandoned as the national capital and López retreated to Luque which temporarily became the provisional capital of the Paraguayan Republic. Humaitá, the existence of which still impeded the allied advance and which was now defended by a starving garrison of only 3000, fell in July 1868 to a Brazilian assaulting force of 10,000.  

The allied advance which followed the Paraguayan line of retreat along the west bank of the Paraguay River was still painfully slow. However on December 6th, the allied advance guard reached the outer Paraguayan defences at Ytororó and were repulsed with heavy losses. The same day however the bulk of the allied forces succeeded in crossing the Paraguay River and on December 11th reached Avahy a mile south of Ytororó where another bloody battle ensued. On December 21st 1868, the Brazilians, under the Duke of Caxias, came up with the main body of the Paraguayan Army at Lomas Valentinas, inflicting a crushing defeat for the loss of 10,000 dead during a seven-day long battle which saw the virtual annihilation of the Paraguayan Army which suffered 24,000 casualties.  

Caxias now occupied Asunción, setting up a provisional Paraguayan Government and declaring the war to be at an end. 

López however continued his retreat northward with the remnants of his army, halting at Cerro León where incredibly he formed a new army of 13,000. The bulk of this however consisted of impressed children, wounded veterans and old men. The national capital, with all the trappings of government, was nevertheless now moved once again to the nearby village of Pirebebuy with a permanent population of 1000 which now swelled to 25,000. 

The allies, realizing that the war was indeed far from over, renewed their pursuit of the retreating Paragyuayans and the allied army, now commanded by Gaston d’Orleans, Count of Eu, the son of the deposed King of France, reached the outer defences of Pirebebuy on August 12th 1869 and commenced a fourteen hour long artillery bombardment. López managed to withdraw the bulk of his forces before the allied assault which was met by the women and children of Pirebebuy who fought with broken bottles, cooking pots, teeth and nails until all were exterminated.  

On the same day, the allies presided over the election of a provisional government in Asunción, the first act of which was to declare López to be “The assassin of his country and the enemy of the human race” and to banish him forever from Paraguay. 

The allies continued their slow pursuit of the remnants of López’s army which by the beginning of September had reached Caraguatay which became López’s fourth capital. 

On October 24th a Brazilian force of 4500 landed from river boats at Concepción and the noose around the remnants of López’s army began to tighten. With the approach of the now almost exclusively Brazilian allied army, López withdrew the remnants of his forces from Caraguatay and resumed his retreat north-eastward, pursued slowly but relentlessly by the allies. 

Finally, in February 1870, the Brazilians caught up with the remnants of the Paraguayan forces, now reduced to a mere 1200, with six pieces of artillery. Skirmishing further reduced this pathetic force an on March 1st, López together with the last 500 members of his army, representing the survivors of ten battalions of infantry and six regiments of cavalry, were surrounded and annihilated at Cerro Corá in northern Paraguay.  

Thus ended what was almost certainly the most bloody war in history as a result of which the population of Paraguay fell from 525,000 to 221,000, of whom only 28,000 were adult males. 

FROM THE TRIPLE ALLIANCE TO THE CHACO WAR 

Paraguay was occupied by the troops of the victorious allies until 1876 and for the rest of the 19th Century the Army consisted of a few widely dispersed units of not more than company size for the defence of the frontiers and security and ceremonial duties at the capital. An important development was the dispatch of 25 officers to undergo training in Argentine and Chilean military schools in 1895 but the Army remained basically a non-professional force, consisting largely of press-ganged troops, commanded by the partisans of the caudillo currently in power. 

New arms, including 2000 Swiss Vetterli rifles, 8 37mm quick-firing infantry guns and a four-gun battery apiece of Krupp 75mm and 80mm field guns, were acquired in 1898 and by the turn of the Century the Army comprised a single infantry battalion and several independent companies, two or three squadrons of cavalry and 2 field batteries. In 1904, 2000 rolling-block Remington rifles were acquired in Argentina, together with six 75mm Krupp field guns, most of these and the remaining relatively modern equipment being lost in the revolution of 1904 which placed the Liberals in power.  

The Liberals mounted their revolution from Argentina with a relatively impressive arsenal of 3000 Lee-Metford and 1300 Gras rifles, 12 Vickers-Maxim machine-guns, six Vickers Model 1887 and six more Krupp 75mm mountain guns, eight 3 inch Vickers landing guns and a 7.5 inch naval gun, which was mounted on a railway carriage during the hostilities. Following the victory of the Liberals this equipment was incorporated into that of the national Army. 

A Military School, staffed by graduates of the Chilean Military Academy, was set up in 1905.  

The regular Army now numbered approximately 2000 organized in 2 infantry battalions, 1 cavalry regiment and 2 field batteries and plans for its expansion to 10,000 and ultimately 30,000, on a war footing, were put in hand. 

A military purchasing mission, sent to Europe in 1906, returned in 1908 with 8500 German Mauser rifles and 1500 carbines in 7.65mm calibre, six Maxim machine-guns and eight modern 75mm Krupp mountain guns, together with large quantities of ammunition, tents, harnesses etc. Limited conscription was now enforced and a rudimentary General Staff was set up. 

Following the revolution of 1908, universal compulsory military service was re‑established and the country was divided into five military zones, as follows:-

Ia Zona Militar (HQ Concepción) 

IIa Zona Militar (HQ Paraguarí)

IIIa Zona Militar (HQ Villa Hayes, later moved to Pilar)

IVa Zona Militar (HQ Encarnación)

Va Zona Militar (HQ Olimpo) 

Each Zone was to be garrisoned by a single infantry battalion, a cavalry squadron and a field or mountain battery. In practice however, only the 2nd and 4th Zones had their full allocation of troops, the 3rd containing only a single cavalry regiment, the 5th having two company-sized garrisons in the region of the Upper Paraguay and two in the Pilcomayo sector and the 1st having no regular troops whatsoever. 

Although four old 3 inch Armstrong field guns and two naval guns of similar calibre and vintage were acquired in 1911, together with quantities of ammunition, political considerations led to the abolition of both the General Staff and the Military College. 

The following year, a new civilian administration reorganized the Army, the practice of sending officers abroad for training was revived and expanded, some now also going to Europe, in addition to Argentina and Chile and in 1913 a German military mission was contracted, although this functioned for less than a year before the outbreak of World War I occasioned its premature recall. 

In 1915 the Military School was re-established and the system of compulsory military service streamlined although little further development took place during World War I. 

In May 1922, an uprising by provincial military garrisons, initially those of the IInd and IVth Military Zones but subsequently joined by all troops outside the capital and its immediate environs, escalated into a major civil war.   

The insurgents initially massed at Paraguarí and delayed for almost a month before commencing a slow advance on Asunción. Short of troops, the government formed two all-arms groups of about 1000 men each, referred to as “Destacamento I” and “Destacamento II”. These gradually pushed the insurgents back along the line of the railway towards Villarica.  

By November the insurgents had abandoned Villarica and retreated north-eastward into the foothills of the Cordillera de Amambay. Lacking sufficient force to pursue them, the government forces remained in fixed positions until the end of June 1923 when a surprise insurgent offensive pushed round their left flank and the rebels began a forced march on Asunción.  

The capital was virtually undefended and was abandoned by the government who fled northwards by river carrying the contents of the national treasury with them. The insurgents advanced against only limited resistance, mainly from the police force of the capital. With victory apparently in their grasp the insurgents ran out of ammunition, coincidentally as the government forces from the north-east arrived at the outskirts of Asunción, whereupon the uprising collapsed.  

During the conflict both sides sought additional arms and equipment, the Government forces acquiring 2500 Mauser rifles and 12 Maxim machine-guns, all in 7mm calibre, from Chile whilst the insurgents obtained a further 1500 Mausers in the standard 7.65mm calibre. Military aviation also made its appearance in Paraguay during this conflict, both sides using a few aircraft, flown by foreign mercenary pilots. 

Following the civil war, the Army was reorganized into composite regiments, on the basis of one per Military Zone. Each of these was to consist of 2 infantry battalions, a cavalry squadron and a battery of artillery. In practice, only the 1st Regiment, with its headquarters at Concepción and a detached battalion at Bahía Negra and the 2nd Regiment, at Paraguarí, existed, except on paper.  

The Army now numbered 130 officers and 2381 other ranks and was armed with 4091 Mauser rifles and carbines of assorted models and calibres, 26 assorted machine-guns and 17 pieces of artillery. Plans were however proposed for the increase of the regular Army to 4000, expanding to 24,000 on mobilization. 

A plan for the reorganization of the Army, on the basis of four autonomous groups, each consisting of 3 infantry regiments, a cavalry regiment, a group of artillery and a battalion of engineers, with an integral flight of aircraft and a total establishment of 5280 men was accepted in principle in 1925, the intention being that each of the first four Military Zones would be garrisoned by such a group. Somewhat surprisingly, no new proposals were made for the garrisoning of the Chaco, where friction was already developing with Bolivia. 

A French military mission arrived in Paraguay in 1926 and began the drastic overhaul of the Military School syllabus, establishing specialist courses for the combatant arms and laying the foundations for the  establishment of a Staff College. A military aviation service was also set up under the aegis of the French military mission and the following year a Reserve Officers' School was also established. 

With the shadow of war with Bolivia looming, an impressive secret rearmament programme was also embarked upon, 10,363 Mauser rifles being acquired in Spain, together with 176 Madsen light and 32 Colt-Browning heavy machine-guns, obtained in Denmark and the United States respectively. Eight Schneider Model 1927 105mm mountain howitzers and 24 Model 1927 75mm mountain guns were also purchased in France at this time. 

By 1927 army strength had risen to 175 officers and 2679 other ranks and there was now a third incomplete composite regiment at Encarnación, whilst the Chaco was garrisoned by a single infantry battalion, 3 independent companies, a troop of cavalry and a machine-gun section. A cavalry regiment had also been revived at Paraguarí. 

In December 1928 the first major clash between the Paraguayan and Bolivian Armies occurred when a Paraguayan force attacked and captured the Bolivian advanced post of Vanguardia, in the region of the Upper Paraguay, the Bolivians retaliating by capturing Paraguayan military installations in the Pilcomayo sector. Attempts at mobilization demonstrated the defects of the military organization of both countries, neither of which was prepared for war and each of which was consequently amenable to diplomatic intervention by neighbouring countries and the League of Nations and an uneasy peace returned. 

At the time of the Vanguardia incident, the Paraguayan Army had grown to 5 regiments of infantry, 1 of cavalry and an artillery group. Attempts to mobilize seven reserve infantry regiments however proved so chaotic that a new establishment of 8 infantry and 2 cavalry regiments, an artillery group and an engineer battalion, was adopted in 1930. As a new departure, regiments were named as well as numbered and the infantry battalions which had previously been numbered sequentially throughout the Army were now identified by Roman numerals within the new regiments. Additional equipment, including 7000 Belgian Mausers, 200 additional Madsen machine-guns and 24 81mm Stokes-Brandt mortars, was now also delivered. 

In 1931, an Infantry Division was formed at Puerto Casado with the 2nd and 4th Infantry Regiments, the 2nd Cavalry Regiment and the 2nd Artillery Group, a second Division being formed the following year from the 1st and 3rd Infantry Regiments, the new 3rd Cavalry Regiment and the 1st Artillery Group. By now there was also an incomplete Engineer Battalion, the 5th Infantry Regiment continuing to garrison the Upper Paraguay region and the 1st Cavalry forming a strategic reserve at Villa Hayes. 

Bolivian and Paraguayan military penetration of the Chaco had continued, both sides establishing advanced posts on the opposite sides of Lake Pitiantuta, the only major source of fresh water in the central Chaco. Paraguayan forces attacked and captured the Bolivian Fort Mariscal Santa Cruz in mid July 1932, provoking a Bolivian reaction with the capture of the Paraguayan posts at Toledo, Corrales and Boquerón in the Pilcomayo sector. Ultimatums were exchanged and ignored, both sides mobilized and within a month a state of full-scale, if undeclared, war existed between the two countries.

THE CHACO WAR 

At the outbreak of hostilities with Bolivia, in July 1932 the Paraguayan Army, with an establishment of 4311, numbered only 3759 and appeared superficially inferior to that of Bolivia, both in numbers and equipment. It comprised 5 regiments of infantry and 3 of cavalry, 2 groups of artillery and a battalion of engineers and was organized into two divisions plus a third under-strength division which was forming. The projected formation of a cavalry division was overtaken by events. 

The Bolivian Army, with an establishment of 600 officers and 8860 other ranks, however numbered only 5539 all told, with 13 regiments of infantry, 5 of cavalry, 3 of artillery and 4 of engineers, organized into six skeletonized Divisions, of which only the 1000 man 3rd, with its HQ at Roboré, the 1200 man 4th, centred on Muñoz and part of the 600 man 5th, based at Puerto Suárez, were in the Chaco area. 

The Order of Battle of the Paraguayan Army at this stage was as follows:- 

Ia División de Infantería (HQ Isla Poí): 

R.I.  2 YTORORO (Isla Poí) - strength 631

R.I.  4 CURUPAYTY (Puerto Casado) - strength 631

R.C.  2 CORONEL TOLEDO (Puerto Pinasco) - strength 254

G.A.  2 CORONEL HERMOSA (Puerto Casado) - strength 170

B.Z.  1 GENERAL AQUINO (Punta Rieles) - strength 100  

IIa División de Infantería (HQ Concepción): 

R.I.  1 DOS de MAYO (Concepción) - strength 514

R.I.  3 CORRALES (Concepción) - strength 444

G.A. 1 GENERAL BRUGUEZ (Paraguarí) - strength 300

IIIa División de Infantería (HQ Bahía Negra):

 R.I.  5 GENERAL DIAZ (Bahia Negra) - strength 753

Destacamento Olimpo (Marines & Coast Artillery)(Olimpo) - strength approximately 250 Ia División de Caballería (HQ Puerto Pinasco):

 R.C. 1 VALOIS RIVAROLA (Puerto Pinasco) - strength 252

R.C. 3 CORONEL MONGELOS (Villa Hayes) - strength 272 

Events dictated a delay in the formation of this latter element which when fully mobilized was to comprise R.C. 1 and R.C. 7. 

Bolivia initially carried out only a partial mobilization whereas the Paraguayans rapidly and efficiently brought their forces to a strength of 24,000, with two Divisions in the major theatre of operations in the south-west, under the command of Colonel (later General) José Félix Estigarribia. 

The war establishment of the Paraguayan Army envisaged two stages of mobilization. The first of these allocated respective strengths of 1605 and 770 to each infantry and cavalry regiment. Stage II, which was never reached, envisaged respective strengths of 2276 and 965 for each regiment of infantry and cavalry. Likewise artillery groups were envisaged as expanding initially to a strength of 415 and ultimately to 472. Engineer units were to be identical in strength to their infantry equivalents. 

During the month of August the existing units were brought up to their Stage I mobilization strengths and an additional infantry regiment, two cavalry regiments and another artillery group were mobilized, in the following order:- 

R.I. 3 CORRALES and R.C. 1 VALOIS RIVAROLA reached their authorized respective strengths of 1605 and 770 on August 1st. 

G.A. 3 CORONEL HERMOSA, mobilized from scratch, had its full authorized strength of 415 by August 4th and was sent by river to join the 3rd Infantry Division at Bahia Negra which also formed an independent cavalry squadron of 115 members on September 1st. 

G.A. 2 GENERAL ROA, which had been in existence for over a year, did not reach a strength of 415 until August 8th on which day R.C. 5 ACA VERA, still in process of formation, numbered only 218. 

G.A. 1 GENERAL BRUGUEZ, the senior artillery unit in the Army, reached its authorized strength of 415  on August 9th. 

R.C. 2 CORONEL TOLEDO, had reached its authorized strength of 770 by August 10th by which time R.C. 4 ACA CARAYA, which was still in process of formation, numbered 344. 

R.I. 5 GENERAL DIAZ, the only infantry regiment to have had three rather than two battalions in its pre-war peace establishment, reached it peak strength of 1480 on August 14th and does not appear to have ever reached its full authorized mobilization strength of 1605. 

The newly mobilized R.I. 6 BOQUERON reached its authorized mobilization strength of 1605 by August 20th and subsequently added an integral cavalry squadron and field battery bringing its strength up to about 1800. 

R.I. 1 DOS DE MAYO and R.I. 2 YTORORO did not reach their authorized strength until August 28th

With these 6 infantry and 5 cavalry regiments, together with 3 groups of artillery and a still incomplete engineer battalion Paraguay went to war. 

The bulk of the army, comprising the 1st and 2nd Infantry Divisions, respectively numbering 3831 and 3668, were concentrated in the region Campo Esperanza/Isla Poí whilst the 3rd Infantry Division covered the Upper Paraguay.  R.C. 1 proceeded to Fortín Rojas Silva, without waiting for R.C. 3 which together with R.C. 4 and R.C. 5 was still completing its mobilization. Finally, Nanawa was garrisoned by a battalion detached from R.I. 1, together with a cavalry squadron and a battery of artillery. 

Boquerón was retaken, after an epic three-week siege and the victorious Paraguayan Army pursued the retreating remnants of the Bolivian field army towards Ballivián, being held by a desperate rear-guard action at Campo Jordan, 7 kms sputh-east of Saavedra, early in November. 

During the battle of Boquerón, which occupied most of the month of September, the Paraguayan forces were joined by R.C. 6 BOQUERON and in October this unit combined with R.I. 7 VEINTICUATRO DE MAYO and R.C. 3 CORONEL MONGELOS to form a new 4th Infantry Division. By the beginning of November there was also a 5th Infantry Division, consisting of R.I. 7 VEINTICUATRO DE MAYO (transferred from the 4th Division) and R.I. 13 TUYUTI, (the latter based on the detached battalion of R.I. 1 at Nanawa) plus R.C. 4 ACA CARAYA and R.C. 5 ACA VERA and a battery of artillery. By the end of 1932 ten regiments of infantry, six of cavalry and four of engineers had been mobilized, together with four groups of artillery. 

In December the Bolivian Army, now reorganized and reinforced to over 12,000, later rising to 25,000, went on the offensive in the region of Nanawa, where static warfare developed for the first nine months of 1933 until the unexpected success of a Paraguayan probing attack at Pampa Grande turned the Bolivian left flank in September, the Paraguayan initiative culminating in the surrender of over 8,000 members of the Bolivian 4th and 9th Divisions at Campo Via, on December 11th. 

During the first half of 1933 Paraguay mobilized an additional 13 infantry and 4 cavalry regiments. 

By the New Year two more Paraguayan Divisions already existed. These were the 6th Infantry Division, comprising R.I. 5 GENERAL DIAZ, R.I. 8 PIRIBEBUY and R.I. 14 CERRO CORA and the 1st Cavalry Division, made up of R.C. 1 VALOIS RIVAROLA and R.C. 7. GENERAL SAN MARTIN which was composed largely of Argentine volunteers. Subsequently a 7th Infantry Division consisting of R.I 9 ITA YBATE, R.I. 12 RUBIO ÑU & R.I. 17 YATAITY CORA was also formed, soon joined by an 8th Infantry Division, made up of R.I. 16 MARISCAL LOPEZ, R.I. 18 PITIANTUTA, the confusingly named “Regimiento BATALLON CUARENTA” and R.C. 9 CAPITAN BADO. Finally, a 2nd Cavalry Division, made up of R.C. 4 ACA CARAYA, R.C. 5 ACA VERA & R.C. 10 CORONEL OVIEDO was also formed.   

The Bolivian Army took advantage of a month-long truce, which followed the battle of Campo Via, to consolidate new defensive positions. Bolivian strength in the theatre of operations was again built up to 20,000, organized in two Army Corps of two Divisions each, facing a Paraguayan force of approximately equal strength but organized into three Army Corps, comprising 8 infantry divisions and 2 cavalry divisions, as follows:- 

CUERPO de EJERCITO I  

G.A. 1 GENERAL BRUGUEZ

R.Z. 1 GENERAL AQUINO 

División de Infantería 2  

R.I. 1, DOS DE MAYO

R.I. 3 CORRALES

R.I. 10 SAUCE 

División de Infantería 7  

R.I. 9 ITA YBATE

R.I. 12 RUBIO ÑU

R.I. 17 YATAITY CORA 

División de Infantería 8  

R.I. 16 MARISCAL LOPEZ

R.I. 18 PITIANTUTA

R.I. BATTALLON CUARENTA

R.C. 9 CAPITAN BADO  

CUERPO de EJERCITO II 

G.A. 3

R.Z. 4 

División de Infantería 1  

R.I. 2 YTORORO

R.I. 4 CURUPATY

R.I. 19 GENERAL ESCOBAR

R.C. 2 CORONEL TOLEDO 

División de Infantería 6  

R.I. 5 GENERAL DIAZ

R.I. 8 PIRIBEBUY

R.I. 14 CERRO CORA 

División de Caballería 1 

R.C. 1 VALOIS RIVAROLA

R.C. 7 GENERAL SAN MARTIN  

Subsequently R.I. 14 CERRO CORA joined R.I. 11 ABAY and R.Z 2 GENERAL GENES to form the Destacamento Marcincich whilst División de Caballería 1 with the addition of R.I. 15 LOMAS VALENTINAS became the División de Reserva General which was confusingly sometimes referred to as “División de Infantería 9”.  

CUERPO de EJERCITO III 

            G.A. 2 GENERAL ROA

            R.Z. 3 TENIENTE PEREIRA 

División de Infantería 4  

R.I. 6 BOQUERON

R.I. 20 ACA YUASA

R.C. 3 CORONEL MONGELOS 

División de Infantería 3  

R.I. 21 HUMAITA

R.I. 26 CERRO LEON

R.C. 8 GENERAL DUARTE 

División de Infantería 5  

R.I. 7 VEINTICUATRO DE MAYO

R.I. 13 TUYUTI

R.C. 6 GENERAL LCABALLERO 

División de Caballería 2  

R.C. 4 ACA CARAYA

R.C. 5 ACA VERA

R.C. 10 CORONEL OVIEDO 

With only minor changes this remained the structure of the Paraguayan Army until the Armistice of July 1935 which effectively ended the conflict. 

Static warfare once more developed in the region of Ballivián during the New Year of 1934, an unsuccessful Paraguayan probe around the Bolivian left flank resulting in the encirclement and surrender of part of the Paraguayan 7th Division, at Cañada Strongest, in May.  

Although the siege of Ballivián continued, a second and stronger advance by the 2nd Paraguayan Army Corps now penetrated into the Andean foothills, retreating only in the face of strong Bolivian reinforcements which now included a Cavalry Corps of three divisions. The retreating Paraguayan 6th Division was now encircled, escaping by exfiltrating through the surrounding Bolivian force. The Paraguayans scored another major victory when the Bolivian 1st and 2nd Reserve Divisions were surrounded at El Carmen by elements of the Paraguayan 1st Army Corps and forced to surrender, on November 15th. 

The defeat at El Carmen having exposed their left flank, the Bolivians now abandoned Ballivián, withdrawing towards Villa Montes. The Bolivian Cavalry Corps however continued its pursuit of the retreating Paraguayan 2nd Corps, suffering a major catastrophe when outflanked by a small Paraguayan task force which captured the source of its water supply at Picuiba, early in December. This forced the surrender of 4,000 Bolivians and the disintegration of the Cavalry Corps. 

The Paraguayans now made a third probe into the Andean foothills whilst their main force besieged Villa Montes. 

A revived Bolivian Cavalry Corps and the 2nd Bolivian Army Corps forced back the intruders whilst the action around Villa Montes had deteriorated into a stalemate. Both countries were now exhausted and amenable to the mediation of the South American neutral bloc of Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru, together with the United States and an Armistice was signed on June 12th, 1935, hostilities ceasing two days later. 

During the war, Paraguay had mobilized a total of 140,000 men, in 23 infantry and 10 cavalry regiments, 4 groups of artillery and 4 regiments of engineers, further organized into 9 Infantry and 2 Cavalry Divisions (one of which was absorbed by the newly formed 9th Infantry Division), in turn subordinate to three Army Corps. Losses included 36,000 dead and the economic prostration of the country although approximately 50,000 sq. miles were added to the national territory as a result of the war. 

The order of battle at the time of the Armistice was:  

CUERPO de EJERCITO I 

G.A. 1 GENERAL BRUGUEZ 

División de Infantería  3 

R.I.  20 ACA YUASA

R.I.  26 CERRO LEON

R.C.  8 CORONEL DUARTE

                        G.A.  4 ALBERTANO ZAYAS 

División de Infantería  7 

R.I.  9 YTA YBAYE

R.I. 12 RUBIO ÑU

R.I. 17 YATAITY CORA 

División de Infantería 9 (División de Reserva General)  

R.I.  15 LOMAS VALENTINAS

R.I.  21 HUMAITA

R.C. 7 GENERAL SAN MARTIN

R.Z.  3 TENIENTE PEREIRA  

CUERPO de EJERCITO II 

G.A.  3 CORONEL  HERMOSA

R.Z.  4 AQUIDABAN 

División de Infantería  2 

R.I.  1 DOS de MAYO

R.I.  3 CORRALES

R.I.  10 SAUCE 

División de Infantería  8 

R.I. 16 MARISCAL LOPEZ

R.I. 18 PITIANTUTA

R.I.  BATALLON 40

R.C. 9 CAPITAN BADO 

División de Caballería  2 

R.C.  4 ACA CARAYA

R.C.  5 ACA VERA

R.C.  6 GENERAL CABALLERO  

Destacamento Martincich 

R.I. 11 ABAY

R.I. 14 CERRO CORA

R.Z. 2 GENERAL GENES   

CUERPO de EJERCITO III 

G.A.  2 GENERAL ROA

R.Z.  1 GENERAL AQUINO 

División de Infantería  1 

R.I.  2 YTORORO

R.I.  4 CURUPAYTY

R.C.  2 CORONEL TOLEDO 

División de Infantería  4 

R.I.  6 BOQUERON

R.I.  19 GENERAL ESCOBAR

R.C.  3 CORONEL MONGELOS 

División de Infantería  5 

R.I.  7 VIENTICUATRO de MAYO

R.I.  13 TUYUTI

R.C.  10 CORONEL OVIEDO  

RESERVA GENERAL 

División de Infantería  6 

R.I.  5 GENERAL DIAZ

R.I.  8 PIREBEBUY

R.C. 1 VALOIS RIVAROLA 

It will be noted that although both R.I. 21 HUMAITA and R.I 26 CERRO LEON were mobilized, there was no R.I. 22, 23, 24 or 25.  

FROM THE ARMISTICE TO THE PEACE TREATY 

The terms of the Armistice required the reduction of both field armies to 5,000 men within a period of 90 days.  Paraguay accomplished this in less than a month by reducing her field Army to 3 Divisions, comprising 5 regiments of infantry and a single regiment each of cavalry, artillery and engineers, or more or less the same force as had existed in 1931.

After the demobilization of July 1935 the Army in the Chaco was reduced to three Divisions, deployed along the line of separation between the Paraguayan and Bolivian armies. These were: 

División de Infantería 1 comprising R.I. 2 DOS de MAYO   & R.I. 4 CURUPATY 

 

División de Infantería 2 comprising R.I. 1 YTORORO & R.I. 3 CORRALES

 

División de Infantería 6 comprising R.I. 5 GENERAL DIAZ & R.C. 1 VALOIS RIVAROLA 

R.A. 1 GENERAL BRUGUEZ and R.Z. 1 GENERAL AQUINO remained as army level units.  In addition to these forces there was also an independent group of cavalry covering the Pilcomayo River, in the south-west.   

Immediately after the victory parade in Asunción, on August 22nd, 1935, in which 10,000 troops, representative of every element of the army which had fought in the Chaco, took part, the remaining units were demobilized and reduced to reserve status although a new Signals Regiment was established.  

For a brief period there appeared to be no major combat unit of the Army deployed east of the Paraguay river. However, although hostilities between Paraguay and Bolivia were still, in theory, only suspended, by February 1936 R.I. 4 CURUPATY was providing security at the major military installation of Campo Grande (9 kms north of Asunción) and took part in the Febrerista revolution by disgruntled Chaco War veterans which placed Colonel Rafael Franco in the presidency for an uneasy 18 months.  R.I. 2 DOS de MAYO was presumably still in the Chaco as División de Infantería 1 certainly continued to exist.  División de Infantería 6 was also certainly still at Capirendá and its Commander, Colonel Carlos Fernández, supported the Government and submitted his resignation as soon as the Revolution was seen to be a fait accompli.  Although it was not involved in military operations during the relatively bloodless Revolution, División de Infantería 6 appears to have been disbanded and R.I. 5 GENERAL DIAZ seems to have been reduced to reserve status although R.C. 1 VALOIS RIVAROLA was re-deployed to Campo Grande where it replaced R.I. 4 CURUPATY and  formed the nucleus of a Cavalry Division. R.I. 4 CURUPATY appears to have returned to the Chaco and for some time there seem to have been no infantry units deployed in the vicinity of Asunción, or for that matter, in the whole of southern Paraguay. 

The Paraguayan Army thus was further reduced to two infantry divisions and the nucleus of a cavalry division comprising 4 infantry, 1 cavalry and 1 artillery regiments and a single battalion each of engineers and signals with a total strength of 299 officers and 4,090 other ranks. 

During 1937, the Cavalry Division, which now included R.C. 2 CORONEL TOLEDO, which had been re-formed on the basis of the independent cavalry group in the Chaco, had been temporarily re-located to Villa Hayes as it was considered politically unreliable by the Franco government. This suspicion was vindicated when it led the revolt which removed Colonel Franco from power in August 1937 after which it returned to Campo Grande,  

By November 1937 R.I. 3 CORRALES (probably together with the remainder of División de Infantería 2) was at Concepción where it was involved in an unsuccessful coup.  Following the Peace Treaty of July 21st 1938, if not before,  R.A. 1 GENERAL BRUGUEZ and R.Z. 1 GENERAL AQUINO (which had by now expanded to four battalions) were also transferred to Villa Hayes although at the end of February 1940  R.A, 1  GENERAL BRUGUEZ was transferred to Paraguarí, where it has remained.   

The Paraguayans had purchased limited quantities of additional arms during the war but had captured enormous amounts of material of all kinds from the Bolivians. They now found themselves with a vast arsenal including 39,000 usable rifles, 900 sub-machine-guns, 700 heavy and 2,100 light machine-guns, almost 100 mortars, 50 pieces of artillery and two tanks. Of these, 7,119 rifles, 233 light and 85 heavy machine-guns, 7 obsolete mountain guns and one of the tanks were sold in 1937, the remaining tank being converted into a war memorial at Asuncion. 

Peace negotiations dragged on for a marginally longer period than that of active hostilities. Finally, on July 21st 1938 a Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Limits was signed by both parties and the Chaco War officially came to an end.  

THE POST-WAR PERIOD 

The only major changes in the  composition and deployment of the Army which seem to have occurred during the next seven years were the reactivation of R.I. 1 14 CERRO CORA, at Asunción and of R.C. 3 CORONEL MONGELOS as part of the Cavalry Division, plus the activation of a single squadron of R.C. 4 ACA CARAYA as Presidential Escort and the establishment of a fifth engineer battalion, both in 1945, so that the Army now consisted of two infantry and one cavalry divisions comprising 5 infantry, 3 cavalry, 1 artillery, 1 engineer and 1 signals regiments,. 

The Paraguayan Army entered a period of virtual stagnation during the 1940s, some M1903 Springfield rifles and M1917 Browning machine-guns being received as token Lend Lease aid in exchange for the offer of air base facilities to the United States during World War II. Little new equipment was acquired in the immediate post-war period, apart from some Madsen M-46 sub-machine-guns, purchased from Denmark. The Air Force however became an independent service in 1946.  Paraguay's signature of the Rio Treaty of 1947 also had little immediate effect, other than the delivery of some M1 Garand rifles from the U.S.A.   

In March 1947 a military uprising occurred which rapidly developed into a full-scale civil war. This was precipitated by the revolt of the Army’s two infantry divisions, División de Infantería 1 and División de Infantería 2, located respectively in the Chaco and the northern part of nuclear Paraguay, east of the Paraguay river and together numbering about 4100. These were soon supported by most of the 1900 man Navy, part of the 800 man Air Force and a bizarre and improbable alliance of the “Febrerista” followers of Colonel Franco, the Liberal party and the largely Communist labour unions.   

THE 1947 CIVIL WAR 

On the outbreak of the 1947 civil war the Army consisted of the following  formations:- 

División de Infantería 1 (HQ Camacho) with R.I. 2 DOS de MAYO   & R.I. 4 CURUPATY, plus a Cavalry Squadron. 

División de Infantería 2  (HQ Concepción) with R.I. 1 YTORORO & R.I. 3 CORRALES, plus a Cavalry Squadron. 

División de Caballería 1 (HQ Campo Grande) with R.C. 1 VALOIS RIVAROLA, R.C. 2 GENERAL TOLEDO & R.C. 3 CORONEL MONGELOS 

In addition there was an independent infantry regiment at Asuncion: R.I. 1 14 CERRO CORA; a group of cavalry in the southern Chaco, which was subordinate to División de Caballería 1, R.A. 1 GENERAL BRUGUEZ, at Paraguarí, elements of R.Z. 1 GENERAL AQUINO, with its HQ at Villa Hayes and the signals regiment at Asunción.  The infantry regiments each contained two battalions and the cavalry regiments three squadrons whilst the artillery regiment had only a single active group. The engineer regiment had five battalions and the signals regiment only one.   

As both infantry divisions were in a state of open rebellion, the government was thus left with only the three cavalry regiments of División de Caballería 1 (R.C. 1, R.C. 2 and R.C. 3), R.I. 14 CERRO CORA, R.A. 1 GENERAL BRUGUEZ, part of R.Z. 1 and the Signals Regiment as ground troops and  to make up the deficit initially formed the 1st Army Corps (CUERPO de EJERCITO I) made up of a hastily mobilized infantry and a cavalry division. These were: 

División de Infantería 3 comprising R.I. 5 GENERAL DIAZ & R.I. 6 BOQUERON and División de Caballería 2 with R.C. 4 ACA CARAYA & R.C. 5 ACA VERA. 

The mobilization of R.I. 7 VEINTICUATRO de MAYO was also authorized (as part of División de Infantería 3) but apparently not implemented.  R.C. 6 GENERAL CABALLERO, B.Z. 1 GENERAL AQUINO and B.Z. 4 AQUIDABAN were all however also mobilized in due course on the government side although the remaning three engineer battalions, of which one was located in the north-east and the other two in the Chaco and all thus theoretically in rebel controlled territory, appeared to take no active part in the conflict.   

During the civil war there also eventualy existed a 2nd Army Corps (CUERPO de EJERCITO II) and a 3rd Cavalry Division (División de Caballería 3) in addition to three brigades. All of these formations were of variable and transient composition and ceased to exist with the triumph of the government  forces. 

Although the uprising had begun in March, the bulk of the insurgents in the north of the country had remained relatively passive for the first three months of the conflict. The first major hostilities began in the capital at the end of March with the revolt of the personnel of the naval base at Puerto Sajonia, Asunción, who were supported by the Communist civilian workers of the naval arsenal. These were attacked by loyal army troops, composed mainly of the 1st Cavalry Division (R.C 1 VALOIS RIVAROLA, R.C. 2 CORONEL TOLEDO and R.C. 3 CORONEL MONGELOS), R.A. 1 GENERAL BRUGUEZ, the Signals Regiment and the staff and cadets of the Military College and after three days of fierce fighting the naval revolt in Asunción collapsed and its leaders fled across the river to Argentina.  

The rebel forces in the north had commenced to move southwards, encountering and routing loyalist cavalry elements at Tacuatí on May 26th. The loyalists however quickly rallied and began to push the rebels slowly backwards towards Concepción which fell to government  troops on July 31st.   

Meanwhile, the crews of the gunboats PARAGUAY and HUMAITA, the major units of the Navy which were both at Buenos Aires for a refit, had mutinied on May 6th and the two ships, accompanied by three civilian vessels, moved northwards reaching Paraguayan waters at the confluence of the rivers Paraguay and Paraná on July 10th after a stop over in Uruguayan waters to take aboard a number of Paraguayan exiles together with some small arms and ammunition. They were now attacked by elements of the government Air Force and loyalist troops of the Destacamento Stroessner numbering just under 400 made up of R.A. 1 GENERAL BRUGUEZ and civilian government sympathizers and supported by the naval patrol vessel CAPITAN CABRAL and three civilian river craft and after suffering considerable damage the gunboat HUMAITA was driven aground. 

The rebels in the north, numbering about 3000, had abandoned Concepción two days before it was reached by government troops and embarked on a flotilla of three river boats and 34 minor craft on which they proceeded southwards towards Asunción, capturing the loyalist naval patrol vessel CORONEL MARTINEZ and a civilian craft on August 1st. Meanwhile the rebel R.I. 1 DOS DE MAYO, pushing southwards on land, attacked Puerto Milagro putting the small loyalist garrison to flight. Although they wasted much time putting small detachments ashore at places of no military importance the insurgent flotilla reached Arecatacua, 40 kms north of Asunción, on August 4th and the outnumbered loyalist troops in the vicinity were slowly beaten backwards towards the capital. 

In the meantime the grounded gunboat had been re-floated and in spite of constant aerial bombardment both ships started to move northwards again on August 4th being eventually beaten backwards by constant attacks of the loyalist Air Force and ground forces of the Destacamento Stroessner and forced to seek internment in Argentine waters on August 15th. 

Although the rebels had reached the outskirts of Asunción they had lost most of their ammunition when the ship carrying it had been bombed and sunk. They suffered a further major set-back when an aircraft carrying a large amount of arms and ammunition supplied by sympathizers in Uruguay crashed and with victory apparently in their grasp their forces began to dissolve. By August 20th the rising had collapsed. 

Following the defeat of the uprising, División de Infantería 1 and División de Infantería 2 were apparently disbanded and their component units reduced to reserve status.  División de Infantería 3 was also presumably disbanded as its component elements were divided, R.I. 5 GENERAL DIAZ replacing R.I. 1 DOS DE MAYO and R.I. 3 CORRALES in División de Infantería 2 and R.I. 6 BOQUERON replacing R.I. 2 YTORORO and R.I. 4 CURUPATY in División de Infantería 1.  The loyalist R.C. 4 ACA CARAYA, R.C. 5 ACA VERA and R.C. 6 GENERAL CABALLERO also seem to have been disbanded or reduced to reserve status.   

División de Caballería 1 therefore seems to have remained the only permanently constituted division-level formation, apart from which R.I. 5 GENERAL DIAZ (Concepción), R.I. 6 BOQUERON (in the Chaco) and R.I. 1 14 CERRO CORA (Asunción), may each have constituted the cadre of a mobilization division.  R.A. 1 GENERAL BRUGUEZ and R.Z. 1 GENERAL AQUINO remained at army level, together with the Signals Regiment 

As previously noted, since 1908 Paraguay had been divided for administrative and recruiting purposes, into five military regions. These suffered minor modifications as a result of the territorial acquisitions of the Chaco War and in the late 1940s, with their respective HQs were as follows:- 

Región Militar I (HQ Concepción)

Región Militar II (HQ Paraguarí)

Región Militar III (HQ Pilar)

Región Militar IV (HQ Encarnación)

Región Militar V (HQ Camacho) 

Each Region which did not contain a larger unit or formation of infantry or cavalry (R.M. III and R.M. IV) was garrisoned by a single independent infantry battalion. The Army thus now consisted of one Cavalry Division (3 regiments), 3 infantry regiments (each of two battalions), 2 independent infantry battalions, an artillery regiment, an engineer regiment and a signals regiment. 

THE STRONATO 

Although an uneasy peace followed the triumph of the Government forces in the 1947 civil war political instability returned in the early 1950s and on April 4th, 1954 the Army Commander, General Alfredo Stroessner, whose intervention on the Government side in the 1947 Civil War had been crucial, seized power with the support of most of the Armed Forces.  Stroessner suffered several serious challenges to his regime from disaffected elements of the military during the late 1950s, mainly in December 1956 and April 1959, but overcame them all with relative ease. 

On April 18th, 1958, the infantry battalion stationed in R.M. II was designated R.I. 27 GENERAL EUGENIO ALEJANDRINO GARAY. This raised the number of permanently embodied infantry regiments to four – R.I. 5 GENERAL DIAZ, R.I. 6 BOQUERON, R.I 14 CERRO CORA and R.I 27 GENERAL GARAY, plus the existing three cavalry, one artillery, one engineer  and one signals regiments.  There was now also a  Presidential Escort Battalion (established in 1949) and at least two independent infantry battalions existed (one each in R.M. III and R.M. V). 

Argentina and Brazil had each begun assiduously to court successive Paraguayan Governments from the early 1950s onwards, both countries presenting quantities of second-hand military equipment to the Paraguayan Army.  

Argentina presented two DL-43 Nahuel tanks to Paraguay in 1953, nine Shermans being obtained from the United States in 1969. Brazil also presented a dozen – fifteen according to some sources - M3A1 Stuart light tanks to Paraguay during the 1960s whilst Argentina followed with three Sherman Fireflies in 1971 and another three, ten years later, the Brazilians also providing about a dozen examples apiece of the M8 armoured car and the M2 half-track APC, both modernized and re-engined with diesel instead of petrol engines, during the late 1970s.  

As tanks (used only by Bolivia and in very small numbers) had performed badly in the Chaco War, the Paraguayan Army had shown little enthusiasm for armour and its cavalry elements had hitherto remained entirely horsed. With this wind-fall of second-hand equipment it now began a very belated partial mechanization of its cavalry arm.  

Initially both the Cavalry Division (División de Caballería 1) and the Presidential Escort Regiment acquired a tank squadron, R.C. 2 COLONEL TOLEDO subsequently becoming an armoured unit whilst both R.C. 1 VALOIS RIVAROLA and R.C. 3 COLONEL MONGELOS were at least partially mechanized. 

Argentina also provided Paraguay with numbers of Bofors 75mm L40 Model 1934 field guns, commencing with a six-gun battery in 1970, the Brazilians more recently providing a battery of six Vickers Mk V 6 inch mobile coastal guns.  

From the mid 1960s onwards, United States military aid also increased, being confined mainly to the provision of transport and communications equipment, although some M-101 105mm howitzers, M-1A1 40mm anti-aircraft guns, M-20 75mm RCLs and quantities of heavy M-2 and M-30 4.2 inch mortars were also received. The FN FAL rifle also began to be adopted generally during the mid 1970s, gradually replacing the venerable Mauser as the standard small arm. 

By the mid 1960s the economic and consequently the strategic importance of the south-east had increased and a new city, known as Puerto Presidente Stroessner, had grown up in the vicinity of Saltos del Guairá on the Paraná river. Reflecting this importance, a new Military Region was created in this area in 1967 and the existing territorial organization of the country was re-cast with five re-numbered Military Regions in the area east of the Paraguay river, as follows: 

RM I (HQ Asunción)

RM II (HQ Villarica)

RM III (HQ San Juan Bautista)

RM IV (HQ Concepción)

RM V (HQ Pto. Stroessner) 

The Chaco region, west of the Paraguay river, corresponding to the former V Military Region, was now designated the Chaco Military Territory with its HQ still at Camacho which had been re-named “Mariscal Estigarribia”.  

Since the end of the 1947 Civil War, the only major manoeuvre element in the Paraguayan Army had been the Cavalry Division. An over-all divisional organization was re-adopted in April 1967, mainly as a basis for the mobilization structure, each of the five Military Regions which now existed being garrisoned by the cadre of an Infantry Division of identical numerical designation as follows:- 

División de Infantería 1  (HQ Asunción) with R.I. 14 CERRO CORA as its major permanent element. 

División de Infantería 2 (HQ Vlllarica) with R.I. 27 GENERAL GARAY as its major permanent  element. 

División de Infantería 3 (HQ San Juan Bautista) with R.I. 8 PIRIBEBUY as its major permanent  element. 

División de Infantería 4 (HQ Concepción) with R.I. 5 GENERAL DIAZ as its major permanent  element. 

División de Infantería 5 (HQ Pto. Stroessner) with R.I. 15 LOMAS VALENTINAS as its major permanent element. 

The Chaco Military Territory now also hosted the nucleus of a Division, the División de Infantería 6 (HQ Mariscal Estigarribia) with R.I. 6 BOQUERON as its major permanently embodied element 

Although in peace-time each division consisted essentially only of a headquarters and a single infantry regiment, on mobilization, each was scheduled to expand to three regiments, with small integral cavalry, engineer and logistic elements but without organic artillery support. 

Remaining outside the territorial organization, División de Caballería 1 (with its HQ still at Campo Grande, Asunción) and now including R.C. 4 ACA CARAYA in addition to R.C. 1 VALOIS RIVAROLA, R.C. 2 GENERAL TOLEDO, R.C. 3 CORONEL MONGELOS, plus a small mechanized element and with some integral artillery support, still remained the major tactical manoeuvre element in peace-time. At army level there was also the Presidential Escort Battalion, which now become a full Regiment, also with small armoured and artillery elements, plus R.A. 1 GENERAL BRUGUEZ, R.Z. 1 GENERAL AQUINO which had become the Army Engineer Command and the still unnamed Signals Regiment.  

As will be noted, this reorganization involved the resuscitation of the traditional División de Infantería 1 and División de Infantería 2 although these were now re-numbered División de Infantería 6 and División de Infantería 4, respectively and the mobilization of two additional infantry and one cavalry regiments, R.I. 8 PIRIBEBUY,  R.I. 15 LOMAS VALENTINAS and R.C. 4 ACA CARAYA, to make a total of at least six permanently embodied infantry and four cavalry regiments, together with the Presidential Escort Regiment, the sole active group of R.A. 1 GENERAL BRUGUEZ, the five battalions of the Engineer Command and the single battalion of the Signals Regiment. A new type of unit, the frontier battalion, of which there were initially two (No. 1 in RM III and No. 2 in RM V), had begun to appear and replace the independent infantry battalions, a development which was to presage a functional separation of the army’s territorial defence and tactical manoeuvre elements. 

In November 1980 two additional Infantry Divisions (División de Infantería 7, at Campo Jurado and División de Infantería 8, at Mayor Lagerenza, both in the Chaco) were created and the Army was reorganized into three Army Corps:- 

CUERPO de EJERCITO I  (HQ Asunción) comprising: 

División de Infantería 1  (HQ Asuncion) with R.I. 1 14 CERRO CORA as its major permanent element. 

División de Infantería 3  (HQ San Juan Bautista) with R.I. 8 PIRIBEBUY as its major permanent element. 

División de Caballería 1  (HQ Campo Grande) with R.C. 1 VALOIS RIVAROLA, R.C. 2 GENERAL TOLEDO, R.C. 3 CORONEL MONGELOS and R.C. 4 ACA CARAYA as its major elements.  

CUERPO de EJERCITO II  (HQ Villarica) comprising: 

División de Infantería 2  (HQ Villarica) with R.I. 27 GENERAL GARAY as its major permanent element. 

División de Infantería 4  (HQ Concepción) with R.I. 5 GENERAL DIAZ as its major permanent element. 

División de Infantería 5  (HQ Pto. Stroessner) with R.I. 15 LOMAS VALENTINAS as its major permanent element.  

CUERPO de EJERCITO III  (HQ Mariscal Estigarribia) comprising: 

División de Infantería 6  (HQ Mcal. Estigarribia) with R.I. 6 BOQUERON as its major permanent element. 

División de Infantería 7  (HQ Campo Jurado) with R.I. 10 SAUCE as its major permanent element. 

División de Infantería 8  (HQ Mayor Lagerenza) with R.I. 4 CURUPATY as its major permanent element. 

The Presidential Escort Regiment (consisting of an infantry battalion, a military police battalion, a small armoured element and a field battery), R.A. 1 GENERAL BRUGUEZ (which now became the Army Artillery Command and expanded to three groups) and the Army Engineer Command (which had acquired a sixth battalion in 1971), together with the Signals Regiment, remained as army level units. R.I. 16 MARISCAL LÓPEZ, which functioned as garrison unit at the important military centre of Paraguarí, had also been mobilized in 1980 and although an infantry unit formed part of the Army Artillery Command.   

As will be noted, the number of permanently embodied infantry regiments therefore now rose to nine by virtue of the mobilization of R.I. 4 CURUPATY and R.I 10 SAUCE although most of the infantry regiments now had only a single battalion. 

During the 1980s Paraguay also acquired additional wheeled armoured fighting vehicles from Brazil, including 30 EE-9 Cascavel armoured cars and 10 EE-11 Urutú armoured personnel carriers. These were divided between R.C. 3 CORONEL MONGELOS and the Presidential Escort Regiment which now ceded its tracked armour to R.C. 2 GENERAL TOLEDO.  

AFTER STROESSNER 

On February 3rd, 1989, after almost 35 years of continuous rule, Stroessner was overthrown by a military coup led by General Andrés Rodríguez and supported principally by División de Caballería 1.  

Two years later, in November 1991, the Army was again reorganized, with a dramatic increase in the importance of its cavalry arm at the expense of the infantry. División de Infantería 4 and División de Infantería 5 were disbanded and replaced, respectively, by a new División de Caballería 2 (with a revived R.C 5 ACA VERA as its major permanently embodied unit) and División de Caballería 3 (built around a resuscitated R.C. 8 GENERAL DUARTE), the HQ of the latter being moved from Puerto Stroessner (now renamed Ciudad del Este) to Curuguayty.  

The suppression of D.I. 4 and D.I. 5 also involved the reduction of R.I. 5 and R.I. 15 to reserve status. División de Infantería 1 was removed from the Corps structure and placed directly under the control of Army HQ. CUERPO de EJERCITO I therefore effectively became a Cavalry Corps. División de Infantería 7 and División de Infantería 8 were re-numbered, assuming the numerical designations of the suppressed División de Infantería 4 and División de Infantería 5, respectively.  Amongst units perceived as being of doubtful loyalty, R.I. 14 was temporarily re-deployed to R.I. 5 in which it replaced R.I. 4 which in turn moved to D.I. 1 in which it replaced R.I. 27. A revived R.I. 1 also temporarily replaced R.I. 14 in D.I. 1 whilst R.I. 16 was reduced to reserve status, leaving the Comando de Artillery as a pure artillery element.  

This left the order of battle as follows: 

Army HQ: 

Presidential Escort Regiment (Asunción) 

División de Infantería 1 (Asunción) 

            R.I. 1 

Artillery Command (Paraguarí): 

R.A. 1 with three field and one A/A artillery groups 

Engineer Command (Tacumbú): 

With six battalions           

Signals Command (Tacumbú) 

                        Bn. de Comunicaciones 1  

CUERPO de EJERCITO I (HQ Campo Grande):- 

División de Caballería 1 ( Campo Grande) 

            R.C. 1

            R.C. 2

            R.C. 3

R.C. 4 

División de Caballería 2 (Concepción) 

            R.C. 5 + one Bn. de Fronteras 

División de Caballería 3 (Curuguayty) 

                        R.C. 8 + one Bn. de Fronteras 

CUERPO de EJERCITO II (HQ Villarica):- 

División de Infantería 2 (HQ Villarica) 

            R.I. 4 + one Bn. de Fronteras 

División de Infantería 3 (HQ San Juan Bautista) 

            R.I. 8 + one Bn. de Fronteras  

CUERPO de EJERCITO III (HQ Mariscal Estigarribia):- 

División de Infantería 4 (HQ Campo Jurado) 

            R.I.  10 + three Bns. de Fronteras 

División de Infantería 5 (HQ Mayor Lagerenza) 

            + four Bns. de Fronteras 

División de Infantería 6 (HQ Mariscal Estigarribia) 

            R.I. 6 + two Bns. de Fronteras 

The number of permanently embodied infantry regiments was therefore now reduced to six (although the re-deployment of R.I. 14 to D.I. 5 was short-lived and it soon exchanged places with R.I. 1), whilst that of cavalry regiments rose to six. By now there were also at least 20 frontier units, varying in size from battalions to platoons and including at least six cavalry detachments. There was now also an un-named A/A artillery group together (created the previous year) which together with G.A. 1 GENERAL BRUGUEZ, G.A. 2 GENERAL ROA and G.A.3 CORONEL HERMOSA which remained normally located at the artillery headquarters at Paraguarí. The number of engineer battalions remained at six and there was still only one signals battalion.  

In May 2000, an abortive coup, principally by elements of División de Caballería 1, led to extensive re-deployments of the Army.  

Within a week of the failed coup, the HQ of CUERPO de EJERCITO I was moved from Campo Grande to Curuguaty, together with R.C. 4 ACA CARAYA which was incorporated into División de Caballería 3. R.C. 2 GENERAL TOLEDO was re-deployed from Cerrito, 60 kms north of Asunción to San Juan Bautista where it became part of División de Caballería 2, itself re-deployed there from Concepción. División de Caballería 1, now reduced to R.C 1 VALOIS RIVAROLA and R.C. 3 CORONEL MONGELOS, was also immediately re-deployed to Fortín Joel Estigarribia, in the Chaco, replacing DIVISIÓN de INFANTERÍA 4 which moved eastward to replace DIVISIÓN de CABALLERÍA 2 at Concepción. Finally, DIVISIÓN de INFANTERÍA 1 was incorporated into CUERPO de EJERCITO II and DIVISIÓN de INFANTERÍA 3 was re-deployed from San Juan Bautista to Ciudad del Este. 

After this cataclysmic upheaval the order of battle of the Paraguayan Army emerged as follows:-

Comando y Estado Mayor General del Ejército

Comando de Institutos Militares de Enseñanza (CIMEE)

Regimiento Guardia Presidencial

Commando de Artillería (COMARTE)(HQ Paraguar

R.A. 1 GENERAL BRUGUEZ:

G.A. 1 GENERAL BRUGUEZ    G.A. 2 GENERAL ROA                                                                                                    G.A. 3 CORONEL HERMOSA    G.A.A/A

Comando de Ingeniería (COMINGE)(Tacumbú):

Batallón de Ingeniería 1 GENERAL AQUINO

Batallón de Ingeniería 2 GENERAL GENES

Batallón de Ingeniería 3 TENIENTE PEREIRA

Batallón de Ingeniería 4 AQUIDABAN 

Batallón de Ingeniería 5 CAPITAN PEDRO JUAN CABALLERO

Batallón de Ingeniería 6 ZAPADORES DEL CHACO 

Comando de Comunicaciones (HQ Tacumbú):

Batallón de Comunicaciones 

I CUERPO DE EJÉRCITO (HQ Curuguaty):

División de Infantería 3 (HQ Ciudad del Este) 

R.I. 8 PIRIBEBUY  + one Bn. de Fronteras  

División de Infantería 4 (HQ Concepción): 

R.I. 10 SAUCE + one Bn. de Fronteras

División de Caballería 3 (HQ Curuguayty):

R.C. 4 ACA CARAYA 

R.C. 8 GENERAL DUARTE   + one Batallón de Fronteras 

II CUERPO DE EJÉRCITO (HQ San Juan Bautista):

División de Infantería 1 (HQ Tacumbú, Asunción) 

R.I. 1 DOS DE MAYO

División de Infantería 2 (HQ Villarica)

R.I. 4 CURUPAYTY + one Batallón de Fronteras  

División de Caballería 2  (HQ San Juan Bautista)

R.C. 5 ACA VERA 

R.C. 2 CORONEL TOLEDO  + one Batallón de Fronteras   

III CUERPO DE EJÉRCITO  (HQ Mariscal Estigarribia):           

División de Infantería 5 (HQ Mayor Lagerenza):           

R.I. 14 CERRO CORA  +  four Bns. de Fronteras  

División de Infantería 6 (HQ Mariscal Estigarribia): 

R.I. 16 MARISCAL LOPEZ  + two Bns. de Fronteras

División de Caballería 1 (HQ Fortín Teniente Joel Estigarribia) 

R.C. 1 VALOIS RIVAROLA

R.C. 3 CORONEL MONGELOS + three Bns. de Fronteras  

All career officers of the Army, Navy and Air Force received their basic training at the Academia Militar MARISCAL FRANCISCO SOLANO LOPEZ located at Capiatá, near Lago Ypacaraí to the north-east of Asunción.  NCOs were trained at the Colegio Militar de Sub-Oficiales MARISCAL JOSE FELIX ESTIGARRIBIA. Officers received specialist training at the Escuela de Perfeccionamiento de Oficiales del Ejército and training for senior command and staff appointments at the Escuela de Comando y Estado Mayor del Ejército. Most specialist training schools were also located at or in the vicinity of Asunción, with the exception of the Artillery School, which was at Paraguarí and the Special Forces School which was at Cerrito. The Centro de Instrucción Militar para Estudiantes de Formación de Oficiales de Reserva (CIMEFOR), which trained second and third level students as reserve officers for the Army, Navy and Air Force, during the academic vacations, was at Ñú-Guazú, outside Asunción. An unusual institution was the Liceo Militar ACOSTA ÑU which provided second-level pre-military training for teen‑agers, destined for a military career, who graduated with the rank of reserve 2nd lieutenant, was also at Ñú-Guazú.

The Army’s equipment inventory was mostly obsolescent and much of it totally obsolete.

Personal weapons included Sig-540 and FN FAL rifles, both in 7.62mm calibre and 0.30" calibre US M1 rifles, plus Madsen Model 1946 and Uzi sub-machineguns, both in 9mm.

Infantry support weapons comprised US M1917 0.30” and M2 0.50" calibre and Madsen Model 1924 light and FN MAG general purpose machineguns, the latter two in 7.62 mm calibre, plus 80 Stokes-Brandt 81mm and an unknown number of both US M-2 and M-32 4.2" mortars.

Anti-armour weapons comprised eight US LAW  ATGWs and 20 M-20 75mm RCLs.

Armour consisted of three to five Argentine modified M-4A3 medium tanks, armed with 105 mm guns and a similar number of Sherman Firefly medium tanks, plus 12 to 15 US M3 light tanks, together with 30 Brazilian EE-9 Cascavel and eight modified US M8 armoured cars, five modified US M2 half-track and ten Brazilian EE-10 Urutú wheeled APCs.

Artillery consisted of at least six and perhaps as many as 12 Bofors L/40 Model 1934 75mm field guns, eight to 14 Schneider model 1927 75mm mountain guns, three to eight Schneider model 1927 105mm pack howitzers, seven to 12 US M‑101 field howitzers and six Vickers 6" Mk VIII mobile coast Defence guns.                                     

Air Defence Artillery comprised ten US M1A1 40mm and 20 Oerlikon 20 mm A/A guns, some of the latter mounted on half-track chassis. Some 88 mm Flak were reported in 2003.

Prior to the failed coup of April 2000, R.C. 1 and R.C. 3 were classified as “mechanized” and equipped respectively with the eight surviving re-engine M-8 Greyhound armoured cars and five M3 half-tracks of World War II vintage and 23 EE-9 Cascavel armoured cars and seven EE-11 wheeled APCs. R.C. 2 was classified as “armoured” and equipped with the a mixture of Argentine modified M-4A3 Sherman and Sherman Firefly medium and the survivors of 15 M-3A1 Stuart light tanks. The Presidential Guard operated the remaining seven Cascavels and three Urutús. After the coup the Sherman tanks were returned to the Presidential Guard, which had operated them until the 1989 coup which deposed General Stressed and all other armoured vehicles were stored.

Presumably as the disgraced cavalry units are politically re-habilitated the useable AFVs will once more be issued. The beginning of this process was noted in November 2001 when two EE-9 armoured cars and a single EE-11 APC were allocated to CE III. During the same month, two tanks and a single APC of unspecified types were allocated to both CE II and CE III.

Strength figures have been highly problematic in recent years. The reported total strength of the Army in 1996 was 17,976 made up of 1,835 officers, 4,313 NCOs and 11,828 conscripts. The official reply to the annual IISS questionnaire, submitted on August 16th, 1995, had given a total army strength of 14,928 including 10,378 conscripts. The number of conscripts mobilized each year continued to fall but the actual strength of the Armed Forces in general declined even more dramatically with the growing practice of calling only a small proportion of the authorized annual intake of conscripts to the colours. In November 2001 a major political scandal was precipitated on the discovery by a Senate committee that the Armed Forces contained only 2,086 rather than the authorized 5,822 conscripts for the year 2000-2001, making a total active military manpower of only approximately 10,140 rather than the authorized 13,877.  For the previous year a total of 12,978 conscripts had been authorized of whom 10,484 were allocated to the Army, 1,677 to the Navy and 817 to the Air Force. It subsequently transpired that only approximately 3,200 of the authorized 10,484 recruits were in fact incorporated into the Army during 1999/2000

Este sitio es publicado por Carlos Mey -  Martínez - Argentina