Army Ground Forces, Study No. 1



Authority of GHQ over Training

Training was the chief responsibility of GHQ throughout the nineteen months of its existence. The original directive, establishing GHQ on 26 July 1940, assigned to it “supervision and direction” over the training of all tactical elements in the Army. This responsibility was retained even after the reorganization of 3 July 1941 and included also supervision over combined air-ground training exercises. While command and planning functions after July 1941 were mainly supervised by the Deputy Chief of Staff, Brig. Gen. Harry J. Malony, the attention of General McNair remained centered on training. This training mission was the task left for the Army Ground Forces to carry forward after 9 March 1942.1

GHQ, as the agency charged with the training of the tactical forces, carried out its program in cooperation with the arms and services, the corps areas, and other agencies created from time to time after its activation. Important among these new agencies were the replacement training centers, which began to receive and train selectees on 1 March 1941, under the supervision of the chiefs of arms and services;2 the officer candidate schools, ten of which were opened in July 1941, under the same supervision;3 the Antiaircraft Training Center, activated 14 February 1941;4 the Provisional Parachute Group set up in the summer of 1941; the Tank Destroyer Tactical and Firing Center, activated 1 December 1941; and the Amphibious Force Atlantic Fleet and the Amphibious Force Pacific Fleet, which took shape in the latter half of 1941.

GHQ, unlike Army Ground Forces, never exercised real command in the training program. It supervised, directed, interpreted, and coordinated. But General McNair, though merely Chief of Staff to General Marshall as Commanding General of the Field Forces, and consequently only a staff officer, was invested with authority that goes with command. He was made responsible for the success or failure of the training program.

When GHQ was created it took over the administration of the established training program as outlined in the War Department Training Directive for 1940-41, published on 2 March 1940.5 This directive announced that “the primary objective is to prepare units to take the field on short notice at existing strength, ready to function effectively in combat.” Among the subjects specified for emphasis were leadership, mobility, teamwork by combined arms, and defense against aircraft and mechanized troops, along with training of the National Guard and Organized Reserves. GHQ accepted this program and at first exercised little influence on the elaboration of new plans. For example, when the Office of the Chief of Staff asked General McNair on 17 August 1940 to suggest additions to a list of subjects proposed for study in the light of the military crisis in Europe, the list was already so complete in the opinion of General McNair that he added only remarks on equipment.6

State of Training in August 1940

The first coordinated staff work of GHQ developed out of the August maneuvers of 1940. The whole staff of seven officers prepared detailed criticisms of the maneuvers for General McNair,7 who combined them into a draft letter to the army commanders, submitted to General Marshall on 5 September 19408 and published 7 January 1941 in substantially its original form. This letter described the condition of the Army as General McNair saw it shortly after taking charge at GHQ. He summarized the shortcomings in training as follows:


1. Obviously deficient training of small units and in minor tactics.

2. Faulty employment of the infantry division and of its combat teams.

3. Failure fully to appreciate the purpose and exploit the capabilities of motor vehicles.

4. Inadequate reconnaissance and lack of contact between adjacent units.

5. Inadequate support of infantry by division artillery.

6. Faulty signal communications.

7. Too passive employment of antitank guns.

8. Improper employment of horse cavalry.

9. Neglect of ammunition supply and evacuation of wounded.

10. Unreal situations due to faulty umpiring.

Except for points 8 and 9, these proved to be persistent faults to be repeatedly pointed out as time went on. Their correction became a major concern of GHQ in its supervision of training.

Observers from the National Guard Bureau at the August maneuvers agreed fully with the conclusions of GHQ.9 Moreover, speaking of the National Guard divisions, they added that 20 percent of the staff and divisional officers were not qualified, that the troops needed squad and platoon problems rather than division and corps problems, and that all troops required at least three months basic training. It was evident that little progress had yet been made toward fulfillment of the broad aims of the War Department Training Directive of 2 March and that much work remained to be accomplished.

Preparation for the Citizen Army

Imperfect as they were, these units had to serve as a nucleus for the future Army of the United States. With the adoption of Selective Service and induction of the National Guard, GHQ faced the problem of turning most of the able-bodied male population of the country into soldiers. Existing field service regulations provided the tactical doctrine to which the new men were to be introduced. Technical manuals described the care and employment of equipment. On 9 August 1940 the War Department initiated a series of training circulars, which were to keep the Army abreast of current developments pending the publication of new or re-edited training and technical manuals.10 Training Circular No. 2, dated 10 September 1940, briefly outlined the instruction to be given to inducted men. Mobilization Training Programs (MTP’s) specified in more detail the thirteen-week basic training to be given in various branches of the service.

GHQ interpreted these directives to army commanders and provided means to facilitate and coordinate the execution of the policies laid down. The initial GHQ training directive, which remained basic until January 1941, was sent to the army commanders on 16 September 1940,11 the day on which President Roosevelt signed the Selective Service Bill and the first National Guard units were inducted. The GHQ directive combined the ideas of the dozen officers who by that time composed the GHQ staff, but in its final form bore the strong imprint of General McNair. It stated in substance that: The Army, to prepare for national defense, justify Selective Service, and win the respect of selectees and the confidence of the public, must give the best training in the year allowed without compromise as to quality.

1. The Army, to prepare for national defense, justify Selective Service, and win the respect of selectees and the confidence of the public, must give the best possible training in the year allowed without compromise as to quality.


2. Leadership must be demonstrated by success in the training of individuals and units and be recognized by promotion.

3. Centralization of training methods, because of the shortage of qualified instructors, would be necessary and would be achieved through

a. Replacement Training Centers prescribed by the War Department, where selectees would normally receive their basic training according to MTP’s.

b. Divisional troop schools, in which battalion and company instructors would first learn what they had to teach.

4. Responsibility for the results of training and for planning of details in in applying general directives or adapting them to local conditions rested directly upon commanding officers of all units. “Planning and preparation of training is a function of command.”

5. Tests of results would be given “in appropriate form by higher commands of all echelons up to and including General Headquarters.”

For further coordination of the training program General McNair directed in letters of 26 and 29 September that copies of training directives issued by subordinate units be submitted to GHQ.12

The National Guard divisions presented a special problem. Inducted into federal service between September 1940 and March 1941, they varied greatly in quality, but all needed assistance. They swamped the training centers, where firing ranges, maneuver areas, and other facilities were inadequate for the increased demands. To help adjust the old installations to the new manpower, GHQ sent out on 15 October a chart modifying the MTP’s, showing alternative sequences for the 13-week basic program.13 In addition, General McNair established a policy of visiting in person, accompanied by members of his staff, the commanding and staff officers of each National Guard division at the time of its induction.14

On these occasions he discussed frankly the problems facing the Army and pointed out existing shortcomings. For example, during the visit to the 30th Division on 27-28 September, General McNair and his staff were favorably impressed by the personal qualities of the commanding general, but found the chief of staff unqualified and G-3 in a temporary daze. “We devoted our time actively,” wrote General McNair a few weeks later, “to showing the division staff and subordinate commanders how to start in planning training... The idea of centralized training, with special instruction of instructors beforehand was entirely new to them, so that it was impossible to ascertain how effectively they would be able to institute and execute such a system. During our visit they were simply at ‘Drill’—blind leading the blind, and officers generally elsewhere.”15 Experience of this kind led General McNair to recommend on 9 November that National Guard units train for at least two months before receiving selectees.16 Such a procedure was necessary in view of the extreme inadequacy of provisions made for the field training of the larger units of the National Guard in time of peace.

For the education of divisional staff officers, present and prospective, the Command and General Staff School at Ft. Leavenworth opened the first of a series of special two-month courses on 2 December 1940. The first class consisted of 54 National Guard, 11 Reserve, and 31 Regular Army officers. Instruction was carried on in


conferences centering around staff problems. Each student specialized in that section of the General Staff for which his commanding officers had designated him.17

General McNair indicated his conception of general staff work for a division in training in a letter, dated 9 December, to General Gruber, his successor as Commandant at the Command and General Staff School.  Citing experience already gained with newly inducted divisions, he enclosed detailed comments on the functions of staff officers. The G’s of National Guard divisions had had little chance to do their work in peacetime. G-1, said General McNair, should know the published Army doctrine on personnel and morale and should perform in person such duties as the inspection of divisional post offices and kitchens. The job of G2 was to supervise public relations, provide maps, etc., but principally to train the division in combat intelligence. To G-3 fell the administration of the training program, the supervision of physical conditioning, the assignment of new weapons, the operation of divisional troop schools, and the conduct of tests set by the commanding general. G-3 was advised to get into the field, not stay at the office. G-4 was urged to learn thoroughly the procedure for obtaining supplies at all levels and from all agencies. Lack of knowledge in this field might easily become a frequent cause of shortage, waste, and delay.18

The basic training of recruits under Selective Service did not, as such, come under the direct supervision of GHQ, which dealt with organized tactical units of the field forces. This division of labor, however, could not be carried out at first because of the shortage of Army housing. Before April 1941, when the construction program caught up with the plans of the War Department, selectees were assigned immediately to tactical units.19 After that date they received their thirteen weeks’ basic training at replacement training centers, which were outside the jurisdiction of GHQ, being under the corps area commanders and the chiefs of branches. From April until after the declaration of war, divisions and other units filled their ranks with enlisted men from replacement training centers.20 Most of the officers came from the National Guard and Officers Reserve Corps, since the output of the officer candidate schools, established in July 1941, remained quantitatively negligible until 1942.

In the closing months of 1940 General McNair began to make clear the spirit in which his headquarters interpreted the training of the Army. His desire to keep the troops active became evident in his opposition to the reduction of the 44-hour training week, which was nevertheless decided upon by the War Department, and in his order of 25 November that men lacking new equipment should train with such equipment as they had.21 His insistence on “pick-and-shovel work” was illustrated by his comments on a three-volume manuscript on infantry tactics. He considered this lengthy manual to be of long long-run educational value, but galled it “a book for the study, not the field,” inappropriate in the circumstances.22 T he views that were to govern his policy toward army schools were expressed in his nonconcurrence with a War Department proposal for territorial schools for motor mechanics. “Under present conditions,” he wrote, “the primary objective must be the development of field force units, trained and ready for field service, in a minimum of time.   The detachment of officers and enlisted men for special schooling must be held to a minimum—which is not the case at present.” He added that existing units, posts, end quartermaster depots afforded adequate means for the training of motor mechanics.23 He was willing to make use of existing schools in what he considered their appropriate functions, as shown by his interest in the new staff officer course at Ft. Leavenworth. Again, when the question arose of preparing a typical Standard Operating Procedure for the guidance of newly inducted divisions he recommended that the matter be turned over to the service schools.24


General Proficiency vs. Specialism in the New Army

The ever-increasing threat to national security raised the question whether the Army should be immediately trained to form task forces for special missions. Special training programs, projected or in progress at the end of 1940, included amphibious training, air-ground tests, and training for operations in mountain, jungle, and arctic conditions. General McNair consistently opposed these forms of specialism if they were carried to a point where they might endanger the unity of the Army or its fundamental soldierly fitness. On 10 March 1941 he wrote to the commanding general of the 3d Division, which for some time had been practicing amphibious operations at Ft. Lewis, advising the division commander not only to continue with his basic training, but to consider it more important than amphibious specialization. “Even though landing is the first step, success presumably will come only from skill in combat.”25

A memorandum of 16 January 1941 to General Marshall made the same point in more general terms.26 It deserves quotation in full, as an explicit statement of governing policies at GHQ in an early and formative period in the creation of the national army.

Memorandum for General Marshall:

My reactions to the inclosed discussion, “Specialized Training in the Training Phase of the Military Program,” are:

1. If it is to be inferred from this paper that our organization is obsolete, and that we should be concentrating on specialized task forces rather than integrated large units—I disagree. Our Army “on order” is modern according to current lessons—except for its antitank defense.

2. The first phase stated—expansion—now is conflicting with the second phase—training—but nevertheless expansion should go on until we have an adequate force in being. Interference with training must be accepted as unavoidable now, although it will diminish later as adequate zone of interior establishments are developed.

3. Training must be progressive. Basic and small-unit training cannot be alighted. Combined training in its many modern forms is essential for all units. Finally the coordinated and smooth action of large units is indispensable if we envision decisive operations on a National scale. These steps are the foundation of military efficiency—today even as yesterday. They can be hurried and slighted only at a price. Germany devoted years to this phase. Her special training for Norway probably was given last winter, after thorough general training as a foundation.

4. The need for specialized training such as recommended is not questioned, but it should follow—not precede—the basic and general training indicated. Exceptions of course would be those cases of special training demanded by the international situation, such as the occupation of outlying air bases.

5. I incline to criticize, however, the present test at Fort Benning of air-ground cooperation, as being premature. It interrupts current and essential training and no air units will be available to carry it out on a full scale earlier than August 1941. Again, stationing divisions in cold climates at this time is open to question, since general training is retarded. The National Guard divisions particularly would be better off in the South, where they could train effectively. It is believed now that next


winter would have been a better time for such special training, although it is appreciated that the situation may have appeared quite different six months or more ago.

6. Subject to compelling international developments, I favor the following general policy:

a. The most rapid possible expansion of our armed forces adequate for our prospective role in world affairs.

b. Then a sound, methodical program of basic and general training at least through the summer of 1941 to include inter-army maneuvers.

c. Then, for those units which demonstrate satisfactory general training, special training to meet the various missions set up by the color plans of the War Department.

7. In other words, I do not question the need of special training, but believe that in general its priority is below both expansion and sound general training, and that such special training should be minimized until the fall of 1941, perhaps later.

The principles announced in paragraphs 3, 6a; and 6b were being worked out at GHQ at the time this memorandum was written. A “sound, methodical program,” a sequence of basic and small-unit training, combined training, and large-unit training, was ready for promulgation in January 1941.

Large-Unit Training and Testing

With the turn of the year GHQ discussed the program which was to follow the basic training nearly completed by some of the troops. On 4 January 1941 a letter was sent to the army commanders prescribing after basic training thirteen to sixteen weeks of combined training, i.e., coordination of the various weapons of the regiment and the division. Command post exercises, field exercises, and field maneuvers were ordered. All field maneuvers were to be free. The commander was given only the objectives and was made responsible for achieving them with the means at his disposal. Avoidance of artificiality was recommended for all exercises. An immediate critique of each exercise was demanded of each commanding officer as a necessary step instruction. Definite problems were set for the training of regimental and brigade combat teams and for the field exercises and maneuvers of divisions.27

In World War I American troops had received no training in units higher than the division before going overseas. The establishment in 1932 of four armies comprising nine army corps furnished the framework for training above the division level. In January 1941 General McNair made plans to complete the conversion of these large but shadowy bodies into effective combat organizations. On 7 January he sent to the army commanders his comments on maneuvers drafted in the preceding September, and summarized above. He chose this moment because he judged that his views would make their maximum impression with the entrance upon large-unit training. He continued on 15 January with another letter to army commanders on “Corps and Army Training,” which was to be put into effect after the combined training ordered on 4 January. Each corps was to train for a period of one to two months under direction of its army commander. After command post and field exercises, the corps was to engage in a field maneuver against either another corps or one of its own divisions. It was hoped that this corps training might be finished by June 1941. Armies would then train as units. Army training remained under army commanders, except that the final field maneuvers of entire armies would be


directed by GHQ.  General McNair stipulated that corps training should be, and army training might be, interrupted by periods of training for divisions and smaller units.28

The necessity of maintaining the integrity of the tactical unit in training, in maneuvers, and in battle was frequently emphasized at GHQ. Integrity of the unit heightened morale, clarified responsibility, and preserved maximum striking power. One danger to unit integrity was the detachment of personnel for attendance at schools. General McNair therefore favored a maximum use of troop schools within divisional and other units. Another danger to unit integrity was the recent tendency to employ infantry-artillery combat teams as quasi-permanent tactical bodies instead of as temporary groupings for specific missions. This tendency threatened to disintegrate the division. General McNair protested that the division was itself the paramount combat team and chief fighting unit of the Army. It was brought to his attention that faulty combat-team doctrine was taught in the course at Ft. Benning, and he arranged through the Chief of Infantry to have the matter corrected. He attributed the excessive use of combat teams to the inability of higher commanders to manage as large an organization as the division. In 1941 he noted some improvement in this respect.29

It was a policy of GHQ that all units should be tested as they completed successive stages of their training. For armies and corps the tests took the form of maneuvers directed by higher headquarters.  In lower units General McNair found a persistent disinclination of higher commanders to administer the necessary tests. “The troops suffer correspondingly,” he wrote. “We now have plenty of money and plenty of higher commanders, and it is time to bestir ourselves in this connection.” On 4 March 1941, referring back to the principle of command responsibility set forth in the directive of 16 September 1940, GHQ instructed army and corps commanders to conduct tests of their divisions and separate units and to report the findings to GHQ.30

GHQ itself was not sedentary. Weekly reports running from 19 February 1941 to 9 March 1942 show that officers from GHQ were at all times in the field, to lend assistance, inspect, and exercise supervision. General McNair set the example. In the nine months preceding the declaration of war, he spent one hundred and eleven days on tours of inspection, four times reaching the Pacific Coast. War changed his habits. He is not reported to have left his headquarters, except once to address the graduating class at Ft. Leavenworth, in the three months from Pearl Harbor to the dissolution of GHQ. Staff officers, however, continued their tours. For example, in the year preceding 9 March 1942, Ft. Lewis, Wash., was visited five times by officers from GHQ; Ft. Bragg, N. C., seven times; Ft. Knox, Ky., seven times. Inspecting officers from GHQ were present at all large maneuvers and at field exercises and tests at which significant features of the training program were under trial.31

Field exercises, maneuvers, tests, and inspections brought to light grave deficiencies in the progress of training. In April 1941 the War Department proposed that expert “demonstration cadres” tour the training centers to exhibit the methods of modern war. General McNair replied that such devices had been used in the Second Army without notable success and that the trouble was not lack of knowledge in the field units, which were amply supplied with training literature and materials, but in the inability of officers to make use of what was put into their hands. The cure, he said, was improvement in command, not “artificial respiration.”32 By June 1941 it was becoming doubtful whether many units would be well enough prepared to participate in the army and corps training scheduled for the summer. The failures were attributed by GHQ to undue haste and to the assigning of teaching functions to officers and noncommissioned officers not competent to give instruction. Higher commanders were blamed for permitting such conditions. They were directed on 7 July to institute an intensive review of basic and small-unit training, to give close supervision to troop schools for officers and noncommissioned officers, to administer more training tests, to secure reassignment of commanders found unsatisfactory, and to report to GHQ units not yet qualified to participate in further corps and army training.33


The War Department Training Directive for 1941-42, prepared in June but not issued until 19 August 1941, gave expression to some of the doctrines developed at GHQ in the past year. On General McNair’s recommendation, in view of current changes in the Air Forces, a clear distinction was drawn between air and ground troops. GHQ was to be responsible for the training of ground forces only and was to prepare them for eventual employment as task forces with flexible organization. The need of progression in training was emphasized. Each step in the training process was to be mastered and tested before the next step was undertaken.The directive reiterated the importance of thorough grounding in the elements of small-unit training and of energetic leadership at subordinate levels of command as prerequisites to success in combined operations and in the training of task forces.34

GHQ-Directed Army Maneuvers, 1941

The results achieved by all this detailed work in supervision and direction were to receive their most decisive training test in the maneuvers of the four field armies in the summer and fall of 1941.35 In August elements of the Fourth Army opposed each other in the state of Washington. In September the Second and Third Armies were pitted against each other in Louisiana. In November the First Army opposed the IV Corps, reinforced by the I Armored Corps, in the Carolinas. GHQ directed the Louisiana and Carolina maneuvers. All maneuvers were free. Each commanding general, after receiving a broad tactical mission from Director Headquarters, operated at his own discretion in response to changing battle conditions. At the close of each maneuver a critique was immediately given by General McNair as Director of the maneuvers and General Clark as Deputy Director. These critiques were mimeographed and circulated to the higher echelons of all armies. On returning to Washington, General McNair also sent extensive private comments to Red and Blue commanders.36 General Marshall had warned against unfavorable criticism of commanding generals in the presence of their subordinates.37

One of the most important tasks in free maneuvers was umpiring, which was made especially difficult in 1941 by peacetime safety regulations, lack of equipment, and shortage of aviation and armored elements in proportion to the number of troops engaged. These maneuvers were to have all the realism of actual warfare except destruction and casualties, but without full equipment for the troops the task of umpiring became harder than ever before.

A year earlier General McNair had ascribed marry of the disappointing features of the August 1940 maneuvers to inadequate umpiring.38 At that time G-3 of the War Department prepared a draft for a new umpire manual, but General McNair found this publication unsatisfactory.39 He himself took over the responsibility of providing adequate instructions and with the aid of his staff sections produced a GHQ Umpire Manual in February 1941. The new manual eliminated most umpires at headquarters above the battalion. Umpires were placed in the field, accompanying moving units and marking artillery fires. An Aviation Supplement was added in August. Umpires for the army maneuvers were trained in the preceding division and corps maneuvers. Amendments to the manual were continually made, and it was expected that the army maneuvers would produce further suggestions for improvement.40

General McNair insisted at all times that the maneuvers should be carried out in an atmosphere resembling actual battle as nearly as possible. The new umpire manual represented only one step in this direction. “The truth is sought,” General McNair wrote to the army commanders, “regardless of whether pleasant or unpleasant, or whether it supports or condemns our present organization and tactics.”41 To promote antitank training, when enough real tanks could not be obtained, General McNair ordered the simulation of tanks in sufficient quantity to give an accurate test. Troops had to be inured to the noise of modern battle, and though it was feared at GHQ that artificial


noise-making might distract attention from basic training, five sound trucks were dispatched for this purpose to the GHQ-directed maneuvers in Louisiana.42 To achieve realism in combat intelligence, army commanders were cautioned against using any sources of information except those available under battle conditions.43 The commander of the Third Army was criticized for allowing his Signal officers to plan a $200,000 telephone pole-line in preparation for maneuvers. “I submit that such stuff is artificial,” wrote General McNair, “and suggest that you ask your staff, in substance, how the German army made such preparations for their campaign in Poland.”44

The Second vs. Third Army maneuvers, held in Louisiana in September, involved over 350,000 men and were the largest ever conducted in the United States in time of peace. The Inspector General, in his report to General Marshall, gave a favorable verdict. “The soundness of the establishment of GHQ to supervise training and to plan and conduct large maneuvers was definitely proved by the results obtained during the recent GHQ maneuvers. The officers assigned to GHQ are keen, energetic and efficient. Their work in the planning and handling of maneuvers was outstanding in comparison with similar groups at other maneuvers, and it is my belief that the policy of assigning staff officers not in excess of fifty years of age to that headquarters has been justified. I was particularly impressed with the efficiency, balance and judgment displayed by General Clark.” The Inspector General especially commended GHQ from the details of tactical planning, had allowed it to concentrate upon the essentials of training, and which also, far better than a controlled maneuver, made participants feel their own responsibility for results and allowed GHQ to appraise aptitude for command. “In my opinion,” The Inspector General concluded, “General McNair and his headquarters have accomplished, and are continuing to accomplish, an outstanding job in the supervision of training of the Army.45

The success of these maneuvers consisted largely in the accuracy with which they drew attention to failures in training that required correction. It was General McNair’s responsibility to point out these failures to the army commanders, and his observations on what had passed were less favorable than the Inspector General’s. In the detailed written comments sent to the commanding generals of the Second and Third Armies, faults were pointed out in the tactics of both, especially the committing of troops to action before reconnaissance had located the enemy strength. Inadequate combat intelligence, poor liaison and communications, dispersion of effort, and underestimation of danger from the air were held to be common failings. The shortcomings peculiar to each arm and service in both armies were noted, and suggestions offered for their amendment.46

This procedure was repeated at the close of the Carolina Maneuvers. On 30 November General McNair delivered the final address at the oral critique. The date is significant, for his talk came after a year of Selective Service, at the completion of the first training cycle, and a week before Pearl Harbor. He said:

As I look back on the nation-wide series of maneuvers such as these here, and review the mass of comments of all kinds which have been made, certain features of the picture stand out, among them:

The irrepressible cheerfulness, keen intelligence, and physical stamina of the American soldier. He is indeed an inspiration and a challenge to his leaders.   He will follow them anywhere, and asks only that they bring him success and victory.

Imperfect discipline of the type which makes the individual subordinate himself to the advantage of his unit, be it large or small; that is, the type which is vital for success in war.


Disregard of the air threat. Columns moved closed up when experience shows beyond question that disaster would result under war conditions. It is clear that revision of the umpire manual must include putting vehicles out of action as a penalty for air attack and artillery fire.

Inadequate reconnaissance and security, although there is slow improvement.

The small proportion of units which is brought to bear against the enemy, due to reluctance to leave roads and column formation.

The question is asked repeatedly, “Are these troops ready for war?” It is my judgment that, given complete equipment, they certainly could fight effectively. But it is to be added with emphasis that the losses would be unduly heavy, and the results of action against an adversary such as the German might not be all that could be desired.

He added that the faults which persisted showed that finished troops could not be trained in one year.47


The maneuvers provided an occasion for observing the morale of the Army, which by the summer of 1941 was causing anxiety to the public and becoming a serious problem to the higher commands. The building of a high morale and sound discipline had been emphasized by General Marshall on 16 October 1940 as a principal aim in the year’s training of men about to be inducted by Selective Service.48 This aim had not been adequately fulfilled.49 Part of the difficulty was political, arising from disagreement among selectees on the national foreign policy and a resulting failure to sense military training as a necessity.50 Such political difficulties lay beyond the power of military action to remove. Other sources of trouble, not easy to correct, were of a military nature. Letters complaining of conditions in the Army, written by soldiers or their parents and friends, were forwarded by the War Department to GHQ. General McNair sent extracts from these letters to army commanders and summarized the most frequent subjects of complaint: waste of training time through idleness or delay; poorly planned exercises; inadequately explained maneuvers; lack of confidence in officers and of respect for noncommissioned officers who were illiterate and unintelligent; lack of opportunity for promotion; and assignment to duty not in keeping with special civilian experience. He commended these criticisms to the serious consideration of army commanders, noting that they often were written by educated and patriotic selectees with constructive intent.51 Later, on 18 December, army commanders were directed to prevent such misassignments as those by which clerks became laborers or truck drivers hospital orderlies, a practice held by GHQ to be both injurious to morale and wasteful of the training given in replacement centers.52

Observers of maneuvers agreed that what the troops needed was meaningful activity and dynamic leadership. In the presence of a real opponent, troops on maneuvers were found to show an improvement of morale, largely because they were kept busy in operations in which they sensed a purpose. In fact, the zeal of troops on maneuvers was noted as a cause of tactical faults, leading to a neglect of precautions of reconnaissance and concealment that would be fatal in combat. But maneuvers could not supply dynamic leadership. Instead, they exposed its absence.53


Leadership—The Officer Problem

The unfitness for combat leadership of many officers of all components was a fact well known to the War Department. In the early part of 1941 General McNair frequently expressed the opinion that many officers neither had nor deserved the confidence of their men.54 To this fact the defects in morale were mainly ascribed. General Marshall gave this explanation in a report on morale, dated 30 September 1941, to the Under Secretary of War.55 Junior officers, lacking experience, had little confidence in themselves and hence failed to assume or discharge their proper responsibilities. The same was often true of noncommissioned officers. Senior officers were often deemed unqualified for large commands. The opportunities to test the capacity even of senior Regular Army officers to command large units had been limited in the period of lean appropriations since World War I. The problem of obtaining officers trained for combat command was complicated by the fact that a large proportion of those available were officers of the National Guard, who had been called to duty with the mobilization of their units. Many of these were over-age in grade. In June 1941 General McNair found that 22 percent, or 771, of the first lieutenants ordered to active duty in the National Guard were over 40 years old; 919 captains were over 45; 100 lieutenant colonels were over 55.56 Of 17,752 officers of the National Guard or on duty with the National Guard units in September 1941, only 6,800 had had the opportunity to complete a course in one of the service schools, some of them many years in the past.57 The initial problem was to remove from key positions of command officers of all components who were too old or lacked the necessary training and standards to meet the exacting requirements of leadership in the field. As early as January 1941, a new procedure had been provided for the reclassification of commissioned officers.58 But reclassification was a slow process, humiliating to the officer concerned. On 7 May 1941, General Marshall sought General McNair’s advice.59 The problem, as General Marshall saw it, was to rid the field forces of misfits, while preserving the reputation and self-respect of officers particularly in the civilian components, who very often through no fault of their own found themselves in positions which they could not fill. General McNair, like General Marshall, was determined that the field forces should have the best possible leadership. He favored a sweeping policy of maximum age in grade.60 After consulting his G-1, he immediately advised that more use be made of reassignment and resignation. By this plan, the talents of senior officers regarded as unfit for command in the field could be utilized to the advantage of the service in administering fixed installations or such officers might honorably resign from the service if their higher commanders certified that there was no vacancy in which they were needed.61

At first General McNair though existing regulations sufficient to bring about the desired result and blamed army commanders for failure to enforce them. “The principal obstacle now,” he wrote on 18 June to General Marshall, “is that commanders lack either the guts or the discernment to act.” General McNair wrote to General Krueger, Commander of the Third Army, that General Marshall had made

crystal-clear that the reclassification of incompetent officers, regardless of grade, was exactly what he was exerting every effort to bring about... He made no distinction at all as between the Regular Army and the National Guard—both should be given a thorough overhauling. In short, you certainly are free to handle all cases of this kind on their merits without fear of embarrassing the War Department. I may go further and say that the War Department emphatically urges such action by army commanders.

Again, speaking of a particular case: “If such action is inadequate, it will then be a question that action is in order with respect to the Army commander.” He noted that the problem was not confined to the civilian components. There were also unfit Regular officers, who could be dealt with only by very cumbersome methods. “Possibly G-1 can suggest simpler procedure, or, if necessary, a new law.”62


By September General McNair had come to regard the system as at fault and exonerated the army commanders. “To lay the blame for failure in the present system upon the field commanders or on the War Department is a fallacy.” He repeated General Marshall’s observation of the preceding May that reclassification was too slow for the good of the Army and unfair to officers from the civilian components. He renewed his recommendation for the use of resignation.63 After the September maneuvers and before leaving the maneuver area, he obtained from the War Department authorization for the army commanders to speed up this process and avoid as far as possible embarrassment to the officers concerned. He shared the anxiety of the Inspector General regarding the effect of a weeping policy of relieving officers who were overage or fell short of the desired standards of efficiency. Such a policy would retire from active duty “some Regular and a large number of National Guard officers.” He did not approve immediate wholesale relief of National Guard officers. He observed that qualified Regular officers would soon be used up as replacements and doubted the wisdom of removing old officers before the supply of competent new ones was assured.64 The dilemma presented was difficult to solve. Officers of moderate capacity had to be kept on pending the training of better ones, but if war should come quickly and make these officers combat leaders, disaster might result. To put it another way, new officers had to be trained along with the new troops whom they were eventually to lead in battle, but meanwhile they could not exercise mature leadership in training. At Ft. Leavenworth in February 1942 General McNair stated that in his view “the outstanding generalization” of a year of training experience was “that we did not have in fact the great mass of trained officers that were carried on the books... inadequately trained officers cannot train troops effectively.”65

Reemphasis on Essentials

Training operations after the September maneuvers were prescribed in a letter of October 30, 1941 on “Post-maneuver Training.”66 While the training of “task forces with flexible organization” was indicated for the future as in keeping with the War Department Training Directive of 19 August, for the immediate present General McNair demanded a return to fundamentals. “Recent maneuvers and field exercises have shown glaring weaknesses in basic and small-unit training... It is apparent that mobilization training as covered in mobilization training programs has not been mastered.” He ordered, therefore, that after a short period of furloughs a four months’s review of basic and small-unit training be held. Combat firing was to be emphasized, with observers from GHQ in attendance. Army and corps commanders were to conduct field exercise tactical tests of infantry battalions and cavalry squadrons, with artillery delivering actual overhead fire when feasible. Command post exercises were ordered for the training of headquarters and communications units and troop schools to prepare officers and noncommissioned officers for current training. With this directive were enclosed exact stipulations of the tests prescribed, from the platoon up to the battalion.

War: the Readiness of Old Divisions and the Creation of New Ones

The gross result of the GHQ-directed training program culminating in the army maneuvers of 1941 is reflected in General McNair’s report to the War Department on 20 December 1941. Of the 34 divisions under GHQ control, 14 infantry divisions, 2 armored divisions, and 1 cavalry division were ready for combat. He stated that 3 more infantry divisions would be ready by 1 February 1942; 8 more infantry divisions, 1 cavalry division, and 1 cavalry brigade by 1 March; the rest— 2 infantry divisions and 2 armored divisions—by 1 April.67 The fresh expansion of the armored forces after 7 December 1941 made radical changes in these dates necessary.68


War came on 7 December 1941. It found the United States after a year of Selective Service with an army of 1,638,086 men in various stages of military proficiency,69 but with no more infantry divisions than had existed, inactive or understrength, in the peacetime Army.

That GHQ anticipated the needs of war is apparent from its reaction on 6 December to a War Department plan calling for the creation of 27 reserve divisions in three years.70 The question, which had been under consideration since the early days of Selective Service, was the peacetime question of disposal of selectees after their period of military training. It had been decided to place them in new Regular Army reserve units. The purpose was to increase the number not only of trained men, but of trained or partly trained divisions and other units available for immediate call in an emergency.71

General McNair viewed this 27-division plan with disfavor. He pointed out that 27 divisions comprised only 430,000 men out of 2,700,000 to be made available in three years under existing Selective Service legislation and that most selectees would therefore return to their homes as individuals, without divisional experience or adequate unit training. This outcome he called “unreasonable.” “I do not profess to understand,” he wrote on the day before Pearl Harbor, “the precise military objective of our Army, but assume as obvious that it must be more than a passive hemispherical defense.” He estimated that operations would require 200 divisions, and that the training of them could not begin too soon.72

With the declaration of war the War Department produced a plan for the activation of three or four divisions a month beginning with March 1942 and proceeding until the number of divisions reached 100 by the end of 1943. Asked for a recommendation, General McNair advised that 20 percent of these divisions be armored.73 He strongly opposed the proposal that, under war conditions of accelerated expansion, divisions be filled directly from reception centers, not from replacement training centers. He objected on the ground that the best combat divisions could not be produced in minimum time if filled initially with raw recruits. “It is the belief of this headquarters,” wrote General McNair on 29 December 1941, “that the providing of new divisions with replacement center personnel is of the highest priority and should take precedent over practically all other requirements.”74 GHQ urged repeatedly, but without success, that replacement training centers be expanded to keep pace with the expansion of the Army.

For creating new divisions the War Department prescribed the cadre system, whereby a group of experienced officers and enlisted men withdrawn from a “parent” division became the organizing and training element of the new division, which was to draw most of its officers from officer candidate schools and the service schools and the overwhelming mass of its enlisted men direct from reception centers. The system threw a heavy burden on the cadre, and General McNair on 20 December 1941 submitted to General Marshall a plan for the training of cadres.75 He proposed that:

1. The commanding general and the two brigadiers of each division be appointed two and a half months before the date set for activation of the division.

2. That they report immediately to GHQ for instruction in the training program.

3. That GHQ assist the division commander in the selection of his general and special staff.


4.       That

a. The commander and his staff take refresher courses at the Command and General Staff School, and

b. The officers and enlisted men of the cadre report to service schools and Replacement Training Centers respectively for special instruction.

This plan was accepted. Details were worked out at GHQ in the following weeks. On 17 January 1942 the first in a long series of charts, entitled “Building an Infantry Triangular Division,” was completed. Its main outlines were only slightly modified in later charts, for the Army Ground Forces continued to create new divisions on the principles devised at GHQ immediately after the outbreak of war.76

Additional guidance for the training of new infantry divisions was provided in a letter from GHQ forwarded to army commanders on 16 February 1942, after advance notification to the Chief of Infantry.77 This directive laid down in principle a period often to twelve months as the time needed to prepare a newly activated division for combat. It specified 17 weeks for the accomplishment of the 13-week Mobilization Training Programs, allowing an initial 4 weeks to smooth out the confusion attendant upon activation. Then were to follow 13 weeks of unit training, chiefly regimental, and 14 weeks of combined training to include at least one maneuver of a division against a division. For combined training the directive of 4 January 1941 remained basic. As “points of special importance” it was stipulated that field maneuvers should be free, that exercises should be repeated, if necessary, until establishment of proficiency, that tests and critiques should be given, and that training in air and antimechanized security measures should be continuous.  Combat conditions were to be simulated with increasing realism, as evident from a proposal by the Chief of Infantry for the liberalization of safety precautions and greater use of actual fire, in which GHQ concurred on 8 January.78

Except for the organization of new units, the more rapid influx of recruits, and the increased realism in training which war made acceptable to the public, the training program was not much affected by the declaration of war. Essentials remained as worked out in the past year. Principles already adopted were applied on a larger scale. Though a large Army was not ready for combat on 7 December 1941, the United States entered the war, thanks to the establishment of General Headquarters and of Selective Service more than a year before, with a training program carefully thought out and in full operation. This was a great gain over 1917.

Summary of Training Principles under GHQ

The principles developed by GHQ during 1940 and 1941 emphasized thorough training the soldier and his unit in fundamentals and might be summarized as follows:

1. A progression in training through a four-phase sequence of individual basic training, small-unit training, combined training and large-unit maneuvers.

2. Tests of these successive phases, given in each case by the next higher headquarters.

3. Emphasis and reemphasis on elementary training, with frequent review, when tests showed unsatisfactory results.

4. Free, as opposed to controlled, maneuvers with realistic umpiring.


5. Immediate critiques of performance in maneuvers.

6. General soldierly proficiency, as a necessary preliminary to training for special operations.

7. Instruction given in troop schools, as opposed to detachment of officers or enlisted men from their units for attendance at schools elsewhere.

8. Integrity of the tactical unit, as shown in the criticism of combat-team tactics, in the preparation of reserve units for the peacetime army, in the policy toward special schools, and in the principle of command responsibility.

9. Responsibility of commanding officers of all echelons for the planning, conduct, and results of training of their units, with consequent high valuation on leadership and officer quality.

10. Realism, or the simulation of combat conditions.

All of these principles were carried over from GHQ into the administration of the Army Ground Forces, where General McNair continued to apply them in the training of the more than 4,400,000 men eventually assigned to ground combat.



Go to:

Previous Chapter

Next Chapter

Return to Table of Contents

Search CMH Online
Last updated 18 February 2005