AGF Study, NO. 6: The Procurement and Branch Distribution of Officers



From civilian life, during the period of shortage, Army Ground Forces commissioned, mainly for antiaircraft units, about 600 men who had formerly been officers or who had graduated from ROTC or CMTC courses.5 For certain signal and ordnance units activated by Army Ground Forces, civilians were commissioned directly, with no requirement of military experience. This was accomplished by the process of affiliation, by which a group of employees of an industrial concern were organized bodily as a military unit, the higher employees in the civilian group becoming officers in the military unit. The relation of officers and enlisted men under this system did not prove altogether satisfactory. Direct commissioning of civilians for other purposes was negligible in the Ground Forces.6

By the summer of 1942 National Guard officers and many Reserve officers had been on active duty for over a year. A general weeding out had followed the GHQ maneuvers of 1941. Regimental commanders and officers for general staff work were needed in increasing numbers in 1942 to meet the activation program. On 16 July Army Ground Forces, observing that such key positions could now be filled by many officers of the reserve components, directed subordinate commanders to submit lists of names of individuals believed to be qualified.7 From these lists, appointments were made to new units and to headquarters staffs.


Many requests reached the War Department, at the height of the officer shortage, to expand the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.8 ROTC students constituted a deferred class under Selective Service, and in 1942 they remained in the colleges. Army Ground Forces did not favor an increase in the number of students held in colleges, preferring that they be inducted into the army and selected for officer candidate schools (OCS). The reason was in part the immediate need for a large supply of potential officer material. But the value as well as the timing of the product was considered. Graduates of the officer candidate schools had more immediate value as platoon leaders than recent graduates of the ROTC. In the long run also, i.e., after several months' service, OCS graduates with similar education proved at least as valuable, in the judgment of Army Ground Forces, as the recent products of the ROTC, who, however, were considered better than those of the National Guard. "The three months of intensive training undergone in an officer candidate school under war conditions," Army Ground Forces notified the War Department, "is far superior to the full ROTC course." Army Ground Forces advised against expansion of the ROTC, and no expansion took place.9

Late in 1942 the War Department initiated plans for sending selected enlisted men to civilian colleges. At first this Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) was put forward as a source of commissioned personnel. General McNair opposed it. It threatened, by diverting the ablest young men to the campuses, to keep them out of officer candidate schools at the time when officer candidates were urgently needed and difficult to procure. It was feared also that the most intelligent youth of the country, if educated at college in technical specialties, would be lost to the ground arms as combat leaders. In any case the Army, unlike the Navy and the Marine Corps, could not, because of its size, demand college background as a general requirement in its officers, or spend the time necessary to give enlisted men a college education. General McNair estimated that in a wartime national army, in which widespread opportunity for promotion was valuable for morale, 25 percent of the officers might be college graduates, another 25 percent have two years of college, and 50 percent have no college education. The total requirement for officers was less than one-tenth of the strength of the Army. In 1942, without the ASTP, and with ROTC students still deferred, 14 percent of inductees received by the Army had some measure of college training. From these, selection could be made for officer candidate schools. General McNair believed that the Army possessed a sufficient backlog of college men to last through 1944.10

Launched late in 1942 over the opposition of Army Ground Forces, and virtually dissolved early in 1944, when the demand for new officers had apparently almost ceased, the ASTP had a contrary effect to that at first intended by its backers, in that its trainees remained overwhelmingly enlisted men.

The candidate schools were by far the largest source of commissioned personnel. By the end of 1943, with mobilization nearly complete, 108,000 officers had graduated from the officer candidate schools of the Army Ground Forces. They constituted about two-thirds of all officers serving in the ground arms. In the grades of captain and lieutenant the proportion of officer candidate school graduates was considerably higher than two-thirds. By the end of the war in the Pacific, 133,000 officers had graduated from the AGF officer candidate schools. (See Table III.) During the entire AGF period procurement of officers was essentially a problem of procurement and training of officer candidates.

Every large Ground Force organization became a mosaic of officers from the various sources. The higher echelons had the highest proportion from the Regular Army. At AGF headquarters, as of 31 December 1943, 48 percent of the commissioned personnel were of the Regular Army,11 and until early 1944 no officer above lieutenant colonel was of the civilian components.12 In divisions the proportion of regulars averaged under 5 percent; in the 31st Division, originally National Guard, it was less than 1 percent, only five Regular Army officers being assigned.14 In regiments, the OCS graduates and younger reserve officers outnumbered all others.


The officer texture of a typical infantry regiment was well described by a regimental commander, writing to a friend designated to command a regiment in a new division, to tell him what to expect.15

You will find your officer cadre something like this: Your executive officer probably a regular officer of the class of 1924 to '27, probably one regular battalion commander, one reserve officer and one National Guard. Probably two-thirds of your company commanders will be graduates of officer candidate schools, the remaining one-third will be principally National Guard and only a few reserve. My executive and I are at present the only two Regular Army officers in this regiment. I am the only graduate of West Point in this regiment ... [About 150 second lieutenants, the colonel explained, would be fresh out of officer candidate school. ] Let me say a word about these OCS people in case you have not had any contact with them. They are far in the way the best that I have seen in the Army, and for the job they have to do I had just as soon have them as any graduate of the Military Academy joining his first regiment. They are well grounded, interested in their job, industrious, ambitious, and on the ball twenty-four hours a day. Since November 1, I have not had more than five cases which necessitated my taking disciplinary action, and of these five only one was a drinking case. They are much better behaved than any similar group of young men I have ever seen.



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Last updated 15 September 2005