AGF Study, NO. 6: The Procurement and Branch Distribution of Officers
THE SURPLUS OF ANTIAIRCRAFT OFFICERS AND ITS LIQUIDATION
The extreme case of inability to make accurate prediction of officer requirements was presented by the antiaircraft artillery. By December 1943 a surplus of antiaircraft officers existed, variously estimated at from 5,000 to over 10,000.74 Estimates differed because surplus could be variously defined, depending on provisions made for attrition, battle replacements, overhead, future activations, etc. A figure of 10,000 represented a strength of about 40 percent over table of organization requirements as of December 1943.
The main cause of surplus was the reduction, at a late date, of the planned strength of antiaircraft units. The reduction came later, and was more precipitous, than the reductions to which other ground units were subjected in 1943, through revision of the 1943 Troop Basis as noted above. To some extent lack of complete understanding between the War Department, Army Ground Forces, and the Antiaircraft Command, and within the headquarters staff of Army Ground Forces, affected the planning of antiaircraft officer strength.
In 1942, when the main outlines of the war army were being laid out, enemy air power was of formidable proportions, and the War Department favored a maximum development of antiaircraft artillery. In the summer of 1942, in setting up the 1943 Troop Basis, the War Department prescribed an enlisted strength of over 600,000 in antiaircraft, to be attained by 31 December 1943.75 This strength was about half that contemplated for infantry. General McNair, on 29 October 1942, stated his belief that the proposed antiaircraft strength was too high (in proportion to other ground arms)
considering the liberal provisions being made for expansion of the Army Air Forces, by which enemy air power would presumably be weakened.76 Official announcement of the 1945 Troop Basis, in November 1942, left the antiaircraft figure still slightly over 600,000.77 Recommendations made by General McNair on 14 April 1943 included the deferment of 118 antiaircraft battalions.78 The recommendation was not accepted. In June 1943 the Committee on Revision of the Military Program, of the War Department General Staff, while proposing to defer twelve divisions and supporting units from the 1943 Troop Basis, left antiaircraft virtually untouched79 General McNair strongly protested, on 22 June, recommending that an enlisted strength of 180,000 be transferred from antiaircraft to other types of Ground Force units.80 As announced on 28 July, the reduced Troop Basis cut antiaircraft about 50,000.81 Revised again as of 4 October, the Troop Basis finally embodied General McNair's views on the matter, cutting antiaircraft by another 113,000 to a strength of 427,832 as of the end of 1943. Further planning reduced proposed strength, as of the end of 1944, to 405,535. The decisive change was that of 4 October 1943, from which antiaircraft artillery emerged with only two-thirds of the strength originally expected.
Fluctuations of anticipated antiaircraft strength, for which officers had to be trained in advance, are shown in Table V. Until 4 October 1943, though not believing the current expansion of antiaircraft to be wise, Army Ground Forces had to plan on having ready 24,350 antiaircraft officers, for tactical units only, by the and of the year. The number actually required after 4 October was only 18,845. In these circumstances some overproduction could not have been avoided.
Overproduction might nevertheless have been smaller, had different decisions been made in the first part of 1943. The Antiaircraft Command, in March, wished to curtail slightly the input into its OCS.82 The War Department, which at this time was fixing quotas for May, cut the May quotas for OCS in the other ground arms, but not in antiaircraft.83 On 11 March a conference was held at the headquarters of the Antiaircraft Command, at which Army Ground Forces, in the person of General Lentz, G-3, directed that the OCS quota should remain at 2,000 a month.84 This quota was maintained through June (see Table IV).
Studies completed by G-1, AGF, late in April, following delegation to Army Ground Forces of authority over OCS production, indicated an imminent overproduction of officers in all ground arms except infantry. Too late to affect the June quotas, these studies led to an abrupt reduction for July. A greater cut was then applied to antiaircraft than to any other arm. In August the input into antiaircraft OCS was scarcely 10 percent of what it had been in June. No candidates entered in August except ROTC's, VOC's, and candidates from overseas. Except for these three groups, whose admittance was prescribed by the War Department, only 145 candidates entered the antiaircraft OCS from August to December inclusive. These 145 represented a minimum believed necessary for the maintenance of morale.85
Since a slight officer surplus was accumulating even under the unreduced Troop Basis, the slashing of the Antiaircraft program on 4 October 1943 produced a surplus of considerable size. At the same time it became clear that no increase in antiaircraft strength would be called for in the Troop Basis of 1944, and that the surplus could therefore not be absorbed. In November Army Ground Forces took steps to encourage the shifting of antiaircraft officers to other arms by voluntary transfers, of which over 5,000 were effected in the following four months.86 It was decided to postpone transfer by nonvoluntary means until the settlement and publication of the 1944 Troop Basis, which, in defining the units scheduled for activation, would show into what arms surplus antiaircraft officers could most advantageously be moved.
On 4 December 1943 the Antiaircraft Command estimated the officer surplus at 5,836, and recommended suspension of the officer candidate school.87 G-1, AGF, estimated the surplus at 10,500, and recommended block transfers to other arms by nonvoluntary means. G-3, AGF, hesitated at block transfers, fearing the increase of schools
overhead which the retraining of antiaircraft officers on a large scale would involve. G-3 believed the antiaircraft surplus to be exaggerated. G-1 assembled figures to show that antiaircraft tactical units were carrying, on the average, an officer strength of 141.5 percent. It was agreed to request the War Department for authority to suspend the antiaircraft OCS. This authority was granted on 12 January 1944. Meanwhile, on 4 January, Army Ground Forces cancelled entrance into the antiaircraft OCS, for February 1944, of all candidates except those of the ROTC. A few weeks later the same policy was applied to ROTC men. Both ROTC and non-ROTC candidates, who together numbered only 144 for February, were shifted to the infantry, field artillery, and armored officer candidate schools, the only ones still open in the Ground Forces. Intake into the antiaircraft OCS was thereby stopped.
Late in January the antiaircraft situation aroused the unfavorable attention of the War Department General Staff. Lieutenant General McNarney, visiting Camp Davis on 21 January, found a "fantastic overstrength" in antiaircraft officers. The Inspector General submitted a highly critical report. General Marshall made inquiry of General McNair. "This does not impress me as businesslike, certainly not efficient," he wrote. "Is there any good explanation for this business to have continued the way it has without evident signs of correction?" General McNair, in reply, outlined the main facts of the preceding year. General Porter, War Department G-3, declared Army Ground Forces not responsible for the antiaircraft surplus.88
Seen in retrospect, it would appear that the only time when Army Ground Forces might have acted to prevent the antiaircraft surplus was in March 1943, when the War Department left the OCS quotas untouched for antiaircraft, while reducing the others. Had Army Ground Forces at this time supported the desire of the Antiaircraft Command to curtail, the action of the War Department might have been different. But the Troop Basis of antiaircraft was at that time so high, and the questions of attrition rates, replacement needs, desirable overstrengths, etc., were so difficult to agree upon, that there was room for legitimate difference of opinion.
By March 1944, 5,668 antiaircraft officers had been voluntarily transferred to other arms or services. The conversion of antiaircraft officers to other arms, chiefly infantry, for which special retraining courses were established in certain of the AGF service schools, was one of the features of the officer program during 1944 (see below).
Last updated 15 September 2005