Army Ground Forces Study No. 4
FORMER DECELERATICN OF THE AGF PROGRAM THE AGF POOL PLAN OF APRIL 1943
In the winter of 1942-43 divisions moved overseas less rapidly than had been expected. Hence they accumulated in the United States. In January the activation schedule for divisions was slowed down; three divisions planned for activation in May, June, and August were deferred to the last months of 1943.69 On 5 February the War Department foreseeing difficulty in meeting the 1943 troop basis, advised the Army Ground Forces that 10 of the 100 divisions planned for 1943 might have to be deferred to 1944.70
One difficulty was to obtain sufficient equipment for training. Housing facilities also were crowded by retention of troops in the United States. The production both of equipment and of new housing for ground troops had been severely cut when the Joint Chiefs modified the procurement program.71 In March 1943 it was also decided to furnish a French army of 250,000 men in North Africa with weapons of American manufacture.72 The Allies thus obtained a large fighting force in a combat zone without having to ship personnel, but less equipment was available for American forces in training. Delay in providing equipment, observed an AGF staff study, “will continue to be reflected in press comments on the training and ‘inexperience’ of United States troops in action… The training lag, occasioned by delayed distribution of equipment, will cause every intelligent soldier to conclude that his induction was premature and chargeable to poor planning.”73
At any rate Army Ground Forces was not satisfied with the allowances of equipment and ammunition hitherto available for training. Since early in 1942 divisions while in the United States had received only 50 percent of their authorized equipment in certain critical items, nondivisional units only 20 percent. These partial allowances had been accepted by the Army Ground Forces as unavoidable during the early stages of rapid expansion. But shortcomings shown by American troops in combat in North Africa and the Southwest Pacific were attributed by the Army Ground Forces in large measure to lack of opportunity to train with enough weapons and ammunition.74
On 1 March 1943 the Army Ground Forces proposed revisions of the procurement program to the War Department.75 It was requested that full allowances of equipment be made available to nondivisional units by the fourth month of training and to divisions by the sixth month, so that combined training and maneuvers might be more realistic; and that ammunition allowances be raised to the point where all personnel might qualify in the firing of their individual weapons. It was requested also that procurement be modified to correspond with the plans of the Army Ground Forces to increase, out of personnel saved by reduced T/O’s, the number of certain types of units in the troop basis believed necessary to achieve balanced forces. These were chiefly heavy and medium artillery, tank battalion, nondivisional infantry, engineers, and tank destroyer and ordnance maintenance units.
Negative replies were received to these proposals.76 The War Department held that no general change of the procurement program was practicable in the near future. Distribution of equipment as it left the production lines was in any case controlled by the Munitions Assignment Board. The War Department preferred that personnel saved by reduction of T/O’s should revert to the War Department reserve pool. This meant that it should be the War Department, rather than the headquarters of the Army Ground Forces, which decided what units should be added to the troop basis to achieve a proper balance of forces. Staff officers of the War Department expressed doubt as to need of increases of heavy artillery in view of development of the bomber. Before authorizing additional tank battalions, the War Department wished to see the results of the reorganization of the armored divisions then under consideration.77
It was concluded at AGF headquarters that the most promising way to obtain the quantity of equipment judged necessary for units in training was to train fewer units in 1943.
Supply of manpower had also to be considered. By March 1943 the shortages which afflicted the Army Ground Forces in 1942 had been overcome. Units were generally at full strength, and it was desired to keep them so; but at any moment the activation of new units, if not carefully checked against anticipated inflow of men, might again produce shortages of manpower with their ruinous effects on training. Recalling the crisis of the preceding September, the Deputy Chief of Staff, AGF, on 11 February issued instructions that the staff must watch activation “like a hawk.”78
One danger was to receive too few men in proportion to the number of units activated. Another was to receive too many men and have too in any unit with respect to the dates at which they could be shipped. An officer of the War Department General Staff observed unofficially that the Army must reach maximum strength during 1943 for fear that, if it waited longer, the Navy would get the men first. The Chief of Staff, AGF, thought it better to take a chance on obtaining manpower when needed:
“War needs of an Army we should be able to defend. We could not defend a situation where we had too many men away from other essential pursuits, merely because we were afraid the Navy or other agencies would gobble them up—I believe in a reserve, but I believe that you could well keep that reserve in members (in civilian life) and not actually induct the men into the service until shipping indicates that we will be able to use them when they are trained.”79
All these ideas came together in a proposal made by General McNair to the War Department on 14 April 1943 for a general revision of mobilization procedures in the Ground Forces. The aim was to control the activation schedule by relating it more closely to shipping capacities, receipt of equipment and manpower, time necessary for training and types of units most immediately needed for a balanced mobilization.
In this plan the Army Ground Forces were considered to be a pool of troops mobilized in the United States and awaiting employment in overseas operations. The size of the pool was to be 1,500,000 (the approximate strength of AGF tactical units at this time) and was to be maintained continuously at this level until some future date when the War Department, with the transfer of troops to overseas theaters and the attainment of mobilization objectives, would allow the level of the pool in the United States to decline. Meanwhile activation of new units should be suspended when the pool rose to 10 percent above its prescribed level. To activate units beyond this point, explained General McNair, would make necessary more housing construction, tie up manpower unproductively, spread equipment for training too thin among activated units, and result in having units go stale from remaining in the United States after the conclusion of their training. New units should therefore be activated only as old units were shipped. If shipments were less rapid than expected, activations would be slower. Units chosen for activation should be not necessarily those set up in the initial 1943 troop basis but those of the types judged necessary by the Army Ground Forces to obtain a proper balance of forces.
To obtain the desired balance within a total of 1,500,000 the plan included recommendations, for each type of unit in the Army Ground Forces, of the exact number which should be added to or deleted from the existing troop basis of 1943. (See Study No. 3) Units dropped from the 1943 program might be activated, if desired, in 1944. The chief readjustments recommended were to drop 5 infantry and 4 armored divisions, adding 8 light divisions in their place, and to drop 38 tank destroyer and 118 antiaircraft battalions, adding 21 tank battalions and 32 battalions of heavy and medium artillery, together with certain engineer, signal, and quartermaster units of types used in close support of combat forces, but which remained scarce in spite of the steady growth of the service branches. The total inductions needed to maintain a 1,500,000 pool at the most favorable shipping rate would be 102,000 less than the existing troop basis called for.
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Last updated 5 August 2005