AGF Study, NO. 6: The Procurement and Branch Distribution of Officers
THE OFFICER PROBLEM IN 1944-45
The end of 1943 marked the termination of a major phase in the officer procurement program. Until that time the program had been geared to the requirements of mobilization. The chief determinant of the scope of the program had been the number of units to be activated; the chief guide to the pace of the program had been the rate of mobilization as indicated in successive revisions of the Troop Basis. The major problems, as noted above, had been, in 1942, to secure enough officers to supply the great numbers of units activated in that year, and, in 1943, to balance officer production against requirements as mobilization slowed down and the distribution of strength between combat arms was more firmly determined. As indicated above, one major result of the attempts to handle these problems was the production of a large surplus of officers in the Army Ground Forces by the end of 1943.
Increasingly thereafter the officer procurement program was directed to providing replacements in numbers and at times required to maintain existing units at full strength. Officers had of course been shipped overseas as loss replacements throughout 1943, but the number so used had been relatively small compared with the number assigned to units in training (see table VI).
Passage from a mobilization to a replacement basis involved for officer procurement certain of the shifts found necessary when the provision of enlisted replacements underwent a similar reorientation (see Study No. 7). Most critical of these was the change in branch requirement rates. During mobilization, distribution of officer requirements among the seven combat branches had been conditioned by the rate of expansion of each arm and by the backlog of officers available in the regular and reserve components. For the newer branches, especially antiaircraft, in which many units were formed where none had existed before and in which there was almost no reserve of officers, procurement requirements had been very high -- almost as high for antiaircraft as for infantry. Mobilization completed, the distribution of requirements among the arms was governed almost entirely by the rate of attrition, in which combat loss was the critical factor. There was no correspondence between battle casualty rates in a particular branch and the earlier rate of expansion. In antiaircraft and tank destroyers, where need for officers had been relatively high during 1942 and 1943, the requirement
for replacements was very low. As with enlisted replacements, the demand for officer replacements was concentrated in infantry, where the greatest loss rates prevailed. A major redistribution of officer production capacity -- in effect, OCS capacity -- was required as mobilization gave way to maintenance of units at effective strength. The severity of this redistribution was intensified by a number of factors not related to the general transition. Troop Basis cutbacks in certain branches, notably antiaircraft and tank destroyer, by reducing the number of positions reduced even the lower replacement requirements of these arms. At the same time officers made surplus by these Troop Basis changes were available for use as replacements, thus further lowering the OCS production requirement in the arms affected. In general it was in the branches which had been most inflated by rapid expansion during mobilization -- antiaircraft and tank destroyer -- and in which loss replacement rates were relatively low that these Troop Basis cutbacks were made. The net effect was greatly to intensify the problems involved in shifting from a mobilization to a replacement basis.
This shift was fortunately not complicated for officer procurement, as it was for enlisted replacements, by sharp changes in the requirements rates for different types of specialists. Although an MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) classification was developed for officers, it was never a dominant influence in the provision of replacements.115 Branch and rank were the real determinants; an infantry lieutenant was presumed to be qualified to lead any sort of infantry platoon. To be sure, demands for certain types of highly-trained specialists had to be met, but these were never large enough to create a real problem in setting up the procurement program. A difficulty did arise from the concentration of requirements for officer replacements in the grade of lieutenant. Very few captains were wanted and almost no field officers. Overseas commanders naturally preferred to receive replacements in the lowest grades and to promote men in their organizations. In view of the fact that output of officer candidate schools, chief source of replacements, was in the grade of lieutenant, overseas demands and continental sources were generally in phase. But there were large numbers of captains and field grade officers on duty in Zone-of-Interior installations of the Ground Forces, required by War Department and Army Ground Force directives to serve overseas, for whom no requirement existed. Sent abroad, these men tended to accumulate in pools where they often remained for months. Left in the United States they were a useless charge against authorized replacement pool capacity. Army Ground Forces took the position that overseas theaters should have been required to accept a quota of replacements in each rank.116
By the end of 1944 this situation had been reversed, at least in infantry. Shortage of officers of field grade was more critical than the shortage of lieutenants. Regimental and battalion commanders were needed in large numbers for immediate combat duty; field officers were required for the expansion of the replacement system in the United States; demand for rotational replacements and officers for special details was high. Drain on the Zone of the Interior was severe. One division departing for overseas in late 1944 was 50 percent below strength in infantry lieutenant colonels. As late as April 1945 infantry replacement centers were operating with only 65 percent of the authorized strength in lieutenant colonels.117
Last updated 15 September 2005