The Southwestern Division: Fifty Years of Service. By D. Clayton Brown.
(Dallas: U.S. Army Engineering Division, Southwestern, 1987. Pp.
viii+ 196. Foreword, preface, maps, photographs, tables, footnotes,
bibliography, appendix, index. Free.)
In this interesting and generally well-written work, D. Clayton Brown
gives the reader an understanding of the changing role that the Corps
of Engineers has played in American society since the organization of
the Southwestern Division in 1937. The Division has in many ways mir-
rored the changing emphasis within the Corps itself. For example,
World War II required significant restructuring of the Corps, calling
on the Division not only to construct traditional military camps but to
build highly sophisticated structures, such as a telescope for the Air
Force in the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico.
The Corps constantly faced the challenge of responding to ever-
changing political conditions as well. The Carter administration's stress
on environmental projects contrasted sharply with the Reagan admin-
istration's emphasis on military projects. Throughout its history, the
Southwest Division, like the Corps generally, has been subject to politi-
cal pressure from local and regional political leaders, especially the
state congressional delegations. On the other hand, evidence indicates
that some Corps officials became adept at using these same political
leaders to promote the Corps's own interests, especially where funding
was concerned. In some instances Corps leaders found it difficult to ac-
cept that conditions had changed, as is evidenced in the Wallisville Res-
ervoir case, where the Corps and congressional leaders chose to ignore
the changing political and legal realities created by the environmental
movement and taxpayers' increasing disenchantment with expensive
water development projects. Reorganization within the Southwestern
Division and the Corps at large indicates a growing sensitivity to these
In a work filled with place names, the author provides only two very
inadequate maps. A small map of each change the author describes in
district and division boundaries would have been most helpful to un-
derstanding the historical development of the Southwestern Division.
The inadequacy of the maps contrasts sharply with the excellent photo-
graphs that grace the work. The author's tendency to mention the
many projects that Congress authorized without indicating which proj-
ects they actually funded for the Corps to construct reflects a recurrent
weakness in the work.
The author recognizes the problems of writing official history and
warns in his preface that "reliance on official Corps records and com-
prehensive discussions of the nature of the Division's operations have
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 92, July 1988 - April, 1989. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101212/. Accessed May 30, 2015.