Army Ground Forces Study No. 4
THE MANPOWER CRISIS OF THE SUMMER OF 1942
By 30 June 1942 the Army Ground Forces were short 162,505 men.28 The War Department proposed either that units be kept purposely understrength while in training—the proposal rejected by the Army Ground Forces in March—or that the activation of new units be slowed down.29
Understrength in training units was again described by the Army Ground Forces as “unsound.”30 The request for overstrength, as a reserve against cadre losses and general attrition, was repeated.31 The request was granted in September, when the War Department empowered the three major commands to authorize a 15 percent enlisted overstrength to such units as they might designate.32 Overstrength, if actually attained (not merely authorized) was a protection against attrition for those units which received it. But it offered no general solution. In so far as some units received an overstrength, one of three things must happen: either some units must be abnormally short, or fewer units must be activated, or more men must be inducted.
In conference during June and July 1942, AGF and SOS officers considered the slowing down of the Activation Schedule. They discovered that representatives of each arm and service advised deceleration in other branches than their own. General McNair concluded that neither the Army Ground Forces nor the Services of Supply had sufficient knowledge of over-all requirements to judge conflicting claims. He urged that the War Department General Staff assume a firmer control over the troop basis.33 He recommended deferment of the 97th Division, scheduled for activation in December 1942, as a means of obtaining personnel to refill the depleted older divisions.34 The War Department approved this recommendation in August.
Further deceleration of the activation schedule at this time, postponing the units due for activation in July and August, would have reduced the shortages which were accumulating in the Ground Forces, and made possible more effective training. But General McNair believed it dangerous at this time to slow down the mobilization of combat troops. He recommended instead a speeding up of inductions through Selective Service. In July the 2d Cavalry Division was inactivated and most of its personnel were used to fill up the 9th Armored Division.35 Although the plan for invading Western Europe was indefinitely postponed on 22 July, it was not easy to defer activations. For an infantry division there was a preactivation process extending over three months and involving hundreds of officers and over 1,000 enlisted cadremen. Once started, this process could not be stopped without excessive waste and confusion. The War Department, unable to foresee the operations of Selective Service and assigning inductees in large numbers to the Air Forces and the Service of Supply, could never accurately predict, three months in advance, how many inductees would be available to divisions and other AGF units on their dates of activation. The Army Ground Forces therefore proceeded with activations called for in the troop basis. New units were created, but men failed to appear and shortages mounted.36
By September 1942 the Ground Forces were short 330,000 men; or over 30 percent of authorized unit strength. (See Table IV) The Air Forces were short 103,000, or 16 percent, the Services of Supply 34,000, or 5 percent. Shortages in the Ground Forces threatened to make proper training impossible.37
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Last updated 5 August 2005