Army Ground Forces Study No. 4
THE STRUGGLE TO MAINTAIN THE 90-DIVISION ARMY THE REPLACEMENT PROBLEM
It has been stated above that T/O strength of AGF units in March 1945 was scarcely greater than in June 1943. The fact is borne out by Table V, which shows that ground combat units grew very little after December 1942. At the same time the number of men in the ground arms increased, both through inductions and through conversion and retrain as described above. This increase is evident in Table III and its annex which show that the ground arms grew more rapidly in 1944 and in the first quarter of 1945 than did other
elements in the Army. Increase in personnel, without increase in units, indicates that most men added to the ground arms after the middle of 1943 went into the “pipeline.” The increase of strength by arm for the most part represented, not men in units, but men who had been in units and were now in hospitals, and men who were scheduled to take their places in units, but were currently at some point in the replacement stream.
In other words, the main problem with respect to Ground Forces after the close of 1943 was not to activate new units, but to preserve the units already active at the end of 1943, and in particular to hold together the 90 divisions already mobilized. One of these, the 2nd Cavalry Division (Negro), was inactivated immediately after reaching its overseas station in 1944. But use of this division as a combat organization had hardly been expected. In effect, the remaining 89 divisions (which include two Negro infantry divisions) represented the planned divisional strength of the Army. The problem was to hold together an Army of 89 divisions.
By the inactivations, conversions, and retraining described above, and by assigning the majority of newly inducted men to AGF replacement training centers in 1944 and 1945, the War Department succeeded in holding the 89-division Army together and avoided repeating the experience of 1918, when almost a third of the divisions then activated became hardly more than paper organizations. But the process was a complex one, in which some divisions in the United States were almost lost. The personnel needed by overseas units was not provided simply from replacement centers or from special installations for reconversion training but to a large extent from units destined soon to enter combat themselves. Some divisions virtually went out of existence as combat organizations (as in 1918), only to be rebuilt at the latest possible moment.
The last divisions had hardly been activated, in August 1943, when a crisis developed in the replacement system. The replacement problem is dealt with in Studies Nos. 7 and 32 of the present series. Only its effects on mobilized units are considered here. The replacement crisis was essentially an infantry crisis. Infantry organized in divisions of the various types, by which virtually all infantry fighting was done, numbered about 700,000 officers and men, well under a tenth of the strength of the fully mobilized Army. The figure changed a little after the close of 1943. But to maintain 700,000 officers and men in divisional infantry units, the strength of infantry as an arm rose to 1,800,000 by April 1945.
With the opening of operations in Sicily in July 1943 and the commitment of ground forces to battle in increasing numbers thereafter, a demand rose for replacements in the infantry, which suffered most of the casualties, far beyond the capacity of infantry replacement training centers to produce. Nondivisional infantry regiments were depleted and inactivated, their personnel sent as replacements to the Mediterranean. Divisions also were tapped. By January 1944 approximately 25,000 men had been taken from infantry divisions in the Army Ground Forces not earmarked for early shipment.113 These divisions in January were on the average 2,000 understrength in their infantry elements. As each division was earmarked in its turn, it had to be brought to T/O strength by transfer of trained personnel from divisions of lower priority. The divisions of lowest priority, generally those most recently activated, chronically short or partly refilled with men direct from reception centers, could with difficulty proceed beyond basic training. The troubles of 1942 were repeated at the beginning of 1944.
The first weeks of 1944 were a time of extreme difficulty in replacement planning. On 4 January General McNair, reviewing the shortages in infantry divisions, expressed a fear that one or more divisions might have to be broken up.114 On 12 January the War Department, anticipating the invasion of France, announced that, within two months in the early summer, ETO would require 50,000 more infantry and field artillery replacements than replacement training centers could produce.115 The Army Ground Forces was directed to plan accordingly, with minimum disruption of units in the United States, minimum delay
in activation of new units, and reduction of replacement training if necessary to thirteen weeks. On 19 January substantially the reverse policy prevailed: The Army Ground Forces was directed to submit a plan by which overseas combat replacements should be men with at least nine months training, taken from all units in the Army Ground Forces not due for early shipment.116 This directive reflected the school of thought which had long believed seventeen weeks of training insufficient to produce a good replacement. In addition, it was thought undesirable to send into combat men with only seventeen weeks of training at a replacement center, and who in many cases were 18-year-olds or “Pre-Pearl Harbor fathers,” while other men who had been two or three years in the Army remained in units in the United States—some of which, in an optimistic view, might never be required in battle. The justice of this policy can hardly be disputed. Its inconvenience was equally great. The situation was an awkward one, and arose from postponement of invasion plans, as a result of which units had been mobilized longer than necessary before their dates of commitment.
On 25 January General McNair, in a carefully documented reply to the War Department, showed that it was mathematically impossible to hold enough divisions in the United States to give nine months training to the required number of replacements and at the same time to ship divisions overseas on the schedule laid down for 1944. Since 80 percent of replacements had to be infantry, it was chiefly infantry divisions that were affected. All but nine infantry divisions were due for shipment by the end of 1944. To give nine months training, including a period within divisions, to the number of replacements estimated by the War Department as needed in 1944 would tie up 16 divisions in the United States. For the number of replacements estimated as necessary by the Army Ground Forces (which was 50 percent higher, and nearer to the requirement that actually developed), 26 divisions would have to be held at home. The program proposed by the War Department, if adhered to as a continuing policy, would therefore relegate about a quarter of the infantry divisions to the status of replacement training organizations.117
On 7 February General McNair pointed out that, even under a seventeen-week program for training replacements, a severe shortage was to be expected. He declared that to provide overseas replacements as needed, together with their trainer personnel, and to fill shortages in units already earmarked for shipment, the Army Ground Forces would have to receive 500,000 men in the remainder of 1944. Adding requirements for new units in the troop basis and allowing for attritions, the Army Ground Forces would need 1,000,000 in the remainder of 1944. If this figure could not be met, and assuming it is correct, wrote General McNair, the only recourse would be to curtail the troop basis. “In short, we may be over-mobilized, or have an unbalanced mobilization in light of present conditions.”118 The AGF troop basis was in fact curtailed, as had been noted, by 250,000 between 15 January 1944 and 31 March 1945, chiefly through inactivation of antiaircraft units.
At this point, on 10 February 1944, General Marshall went directly to the Secretary of War with a proposal to liquidate the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP). Measures of economy already undertaken, he said, would provide men for units to be shipped after 31 August 1944. The need was for men already basically trained to fill shortages in units due for shipment before 31 August. These units were needed for the forthcoming invasion of France. Men basically trained were available on college campuses in the Army Specialized Training Program. General Marshall offered a choice between drastically reducing the college program and disbanding ten divisions and certain nondivisional units. The Army Specialized Training Program was immediately reduced.119
Of the 35 divisions among which ASTP trainees were distributed, only 7 actually went overseas before 31 August. ASTP trainees were generally assigned to lower priority divisions to fill vacancies caused by application of a six-months rule for overseas replacements.
The War Department abandoned the nine-months project but was still determined to draw replacements from divisions and other units before using the newcomers to the Army currently graduating from replacement training centers. On 26 February 1944 the War Department directed the Army Ground Forces to obtain overseas replacements in all the combat arms by stripping units not on the Six Months List.120 Men chosen were to have had at least six months service, those with the longest service to be chosen first. No 18-year-old or Pre-Pearl Harbor fathers with less than six months training were to be sent overseas as replacements until all other sources were exhausted.
Units not earmarked were now systematically stripped. Although the six-months policy applied to replacements in all combat arms, comparatively few replacements were required except in the Infantry, so that it was mainly infantry units that lost their men. Divisions surrendered their privates and a percentage of their noncommissioned officers until a date about four months before sailing. Divisions therefore entered combat, in the latter part of 1944, which as divisions had been in training for periods averaging two years, but which were composed in large part of men new to the division, new to the infantry, or even new to the Army. In some ways divisions profited, for they received new men of higher quality than had been previously obtainable by the Ground Forces; but unit spirit and unit training, carefully built up in the preceding years and generally admitted to be vital in combat, had to be recaptured at the last moment.121 (See Studies Nos. 5.and 12.)
The six-months replacement training policy lasted for only about two months in the spring of 1944. The War Department, in view of the major offensive impending, would not decelerate the shipping schedule for divisions and other combat units. Units therefore soon became unavailable as producers of replacements. There were not enough divisions in the Army for the War Department to gain both its objectives, namely to ship divisions to theaters as rapidly as was feasible and to ship replacements to theaters from divisions remaining in the United States. By the summer of 1944 replacements were again being sent overseas with seventeen weeks of training. But the internal composition of infantry divisions in the United States had in the meanwhile been revolutionized.
While the six-months policy was given up, the 18-year-old policy confirmed anew. On 24 June 1944 the War Department ordered categorically that no 18-year-old should be sent overseas as an infantry or armored replacement.122 Over 20,000 18-year-olds, currently in training in infantry and armored replacement centers, were assigned to divisions on completing their course, since there was no bar on 18-year-olds going overseas as members of organized units and since many of the men concerned would be 19 by the time their divisions sailed. Meanwhile, to fill the void in the replacement stream, divisions lost an equal number of older men—older both in being over 18 and in being trained members of their units. At this time about half the men being inducted into the Army were 18-year-olds. At the same time virtually all inductees were being assigned to AGF replacement centers, the Army being completely mobilized and in general needing only to replace losses, of which over 80 percent were infantry and armored. The 18-year-olds rule was therefore difficult to apply. To find enough men over 18 to fill infantry and armored replacement centers, all available inductees over 18 had to be used, regardless of age or physical condition. Many men received at the front as infantry and armored replacements in the later months of 1944 were therefore inadequate physically. Meanwhile the rule was abolished as unworkable. Beginning as early as August, 18-year-olds again put into the infantry and armored replacement centers, from which beginning in November they were shipped overseas with seventeen weeks of training—reduced in January 1945 to fifteen. (See Study No. 7.)
During 1944 about 40 divisions yielded overseas replacements. Seventeen lost most of their infantry privates and many of their NCO’s. (See Study No. 12.) Divisions were reconstructed, in part by assignment of replacement training center graduates during the period when seventeen weeks of replacement training did not qualify a man as an overseas
replacement, in part by personnel received through economies and conversions described above. ASTP trainees, transferred aviation cadets, and 18-year-olds from replacement training centers supplied 37 divisions from April to July with about 100,000 men. Men volunteering for transfer to infantry and men converted from tank destroyer and antiaircraft artillery were also assigned to divisions, but most of these, along with men from the Air and Service Forces at the end of 1944, were assigned to special replacement centers or special infantry regiments for six weeks infantry training.
For a time at the end of 1944 it seemed that despite all the effort to preserve them certain infantry divisions would be broken up. Operations in the European theater, after proceeding ahead of schedule, met with strong resistance at the Siegfried Line in September. The infantry of divisions in action since the landing in France was desperately in need of relief. It was decided to adopt a system of unit replacement. Recommendations of the Army Ground Forces in 1943 to provide more nondivisional regiments for this purpose had not been adopted. Instead, nondivisional infantry regiments had been dissolved in considerable numbers to furnish individual replacements. Now, in October 1944, it was decided that the infantry regiments of most Infantry divisions still left in the United States were to be shipped to Europe separately.123 But the plan was altered before going fully into effect. Only certain regiments were shipped separately. In any case all divisions headquarters and auxiliary elements went overseas where they were reunited with their infantry and reappeared as standard organizations. The crisis of December was likewise passed without dissolution of any divisions. The need for divisions as units was even greater than the need for their personnel as individual replacements. By February 1945 all divisions had left the Army Ground Forces.
A year earlier, in January 1944, 57 divisions were still in the United States. Most of them were more than a year old. But instead of having a stock of units from which to meet at leisure, after a long period of waiting, the calls of the Operations Division for shipment of divisions and other units to theaters, the Army Ground Forces had to make exact calculations in order to have them ready when needed. The period of waiting in 1943 was followed by a race against time in 1944. Units scheduled to go overseas received their permanent personnel at the latest possible moment. Some went over less fully trained than the Army Ground Forces desired. Seven infantry divisions had never engaged in a division vs. division maneuver. Ten others had engaged in such a maneuver with from only 30 to 60 percent of the personnel which they took overseas (See Study No. 12.) Not all calls on the Operations Division for nondivisional units could be met. In June 1944, for example, of 1,304 AGF-type units then put by the Operations Division on the Six Months List, 214 were reported as unavailable.124 With the influx of new personnel, they could not be trained (or retrained) by the dates desired. The situation was like that of 1942, when the Army Ground Forces struggled to provide units trained and at T/O strength for the abortive invasion plan of that date.
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Last updated 5 August 2005