Drum graduated from the General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1912 and then saw service on the Mexican border. In May 1917, he joined General John J. Pershing's staff in the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in France, assigned to the Operations Division. In July 1918, Pershing named Drum, then a major, chief of staff of the nascent American First Army. For his outstanding performance, Drum was advanced to temporary brigadier general.
After the war, Drum reverted back to his regular grade as major. In 1922, he was promoted to permanent brigadier general. He then commanded an infantry brigade and the 1st Infantry Division (1927–1930). Instructor general of the army in 1930 and 1931, he was promoted to major general in December 1931. Drum commanded the First Army from 1931 to 1933. He was deputy chief of staff of the army (1933–1935) and then commanded both the Hawaiian Department (1935–1937) and the Second Army (1937–1938). He next resumed command of the First Army, which was headquartered on Governor's Island, New York. He was advanced to lieutenant general in August 1939. Drum was the peacetime army's highest-ranking officer, and as such he expected to have field command of the army if the United States entered World War II. Offered the post of adviser to the Nationalist government of China, he declined (the post ultimately went to Lieutenant General Joseph Stilwell). His refusal and his criticism of his superiors, notably of Generals George C. Marshall and Lesley J. McNair, led to Drum remaining on Governor's Island and his retirement from the army in October 1943.
After his retirement, Drum headed the New York National Guard until 1948. He was also president of the Empire State Corporation, which owned and operated the Empire State Building, and he served as military adviser to Thomas E. Dewey during Dewey's 1944 presidential campaign. Drum died in New York City on 3 October 1951.
Derek J. Brown
Perret, Geoffrey. There's a War to Be Won: The United States Army in World War II. New York: Random House, 1991.; Pogue, Forrest C. George C. Marshall. Vol. 1, Education of a General, 1880–1939. New York: Viking Press, 1963.