Benedict Crowell earned a degree from Yale University in 1891 and embarked on a successful career as a leader in the steel and mining industries. In 1916, the Army recognized his engineering and industrial expertise, commissioned him a major in the Officer Reserve Corps, and appointed him to the Kernan Board. This board conducted one of the first systematic surveys of American industrial capacity for producing military materiel.
In 1917, Crowell was called to active duty and served on the General Munitions Board. The board supervised the distribution of government contracts to prevent competition among government purchasing agents and coordinated the munitions requirements of the US military and its allies during World War I. As a board member, he rapidly established an exemplary relationship with the steel industry and was almost immediately appointed Assistant Secretary of War and Director of Munitions.
As Director of Munitions, Crowell was a significant catalyst in improving the country's capability to produce arms and ammunition. He increased the annual rate of production of artillery to 24,000 guns by 1918, brought new explosives manufacturing and shell-loading plants on line, ramped up production of small arms ammunition to 3.5 billion cartridges during the war period, and championed mechanization of the Army.
In 1919, Crowell founded the Army Ordnance Association and continued to serve as its first president for 25 years. The Association fostered cooperation between civilian industry and government in support of the country's industrial preparedness.
In 1920, just before he resigned from his position as Assistant Secretary of War, Crowell helped frame the National Defense Act of 1920. Among other things, the Act made the Assistant Secretary of War responsible for planning industrial mobilization in peacetime to allow for a rapid surge in production in time of war.
In recognition of his continuing contributions, President Herbert Hoover appointed Crowell Brigadier General in the Army Reserve in 1931. Among his accomplishments in this capacity, he established a committee to examine the utility of the Educational Order system. Educational Orders were small orders for key materiel placed with private firms with the intent of giving them the experience and tools needed to quickly increase production to wartime levels. Crowell's committee urged increased use of Educational Orders, and they became an important aspect of the industrial mobilization that began in 1940 and 1941. Another Crowell committee, formed in 1941, studied the Ordnance civilian personnel system, recommending improvements in personnel management.
With the outbreak of World War II, Crowell was assigned as special consultant to the Secretary of War and conferred with the Secretary on management and industrial issues throughout the war.
In tribute to his efforts in promoting America's industrial preparedness, the Ordnance Association awarded Crowell the Major General C.C. Williams Gold Medal for Distinguished Ordnance Service in 1946.
BG Crowell died in September 1952.