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



Transition from the provision of officers primarily for mobilization to provision of officer replacements was complicated also by the necessity of coping during much of 1944 with a problem left over from the mobilization period -- the surplus of officers in certain of the ground arms, chiefly antiaircraft, harbor defense, and tank destroyer. The mere existence of a surplus of officers, though serious in view of the impending general overstrength of the Army, would not have been alarming if the excess officers had been useable as replacements. But excesses were heaviest in the arms whose replacement requirements were lowest. On 31 March 1944 the overstrength in antiaircraft was sufficient to furnish 21 months' supply of replacements at rates then estimated; there were enough harbor defense officers on hand to provide replacements for


44.7 months. The surplus of infantry officers, on the other hand, would supply replacements for only 1.5 months.118 The elimination of the large surplus of officers was therefore essentially a problem of redistributing officer strength in the ground arms in such a way as to facilitate the provision of replacements.

Wholesale redistribution of officers began in February 1944. Since infantry, field artillery, and armored were the branches in which heaviest replacement needs were anticipated, conversion courses were established in the service schools of these arms. Lasting for eight weeks, the courses retrained company grade officers -- predominantly lieutenants -- of the branches in which unusable surpluses existed. (See Study No. 30.)

Initially the conversion program was confined almost entirely to antiaircraft officers, of which there was the most embarrassing superfluity. Between February and the end of April 2,600 antiaircraft officers had been ordered to the Special Basic (conversion) Course at the Infantry School (see Table VII). In April the conversion program was extended to accomplish a general dissolution of surpluses in all the ground arms. It was estimated that officers of four branches would have to be converted to infantry in order to effect a proper distribution of strength:

Tank Destroyer


Field Artillery


Harbor Defense




Infantry, cavalry, and armored officers being in relatively short supply, no conversions were made from these arms.120

On 27 May 1944 the War Department in increasing Infantry OCS quotas for June, directed that the conversion of officers to Infantry continue at a rate of 1,000 per month.121 During June this quota was exceeded, 1,604 officers being enrolled in the Infantry Special Basic Course (see Table VII). Substantial inroads having been made on the surplus of coast artillery officers, conversion of field artillery and armored officers to infantry was accelerated in June and July, since it had been determined that there were 500 officers in each of these arms above replacement requirements.122 (see Table VII).

By July, although surpluses had by no means been entirely liquidated, it became clear that conversion of officers to infantry could not be maintained at a rate of 1,000 per month. Overhead and training facilities at the Infantry School were badly needed for the expansion of the officer candidate school, recently ordered by the War Department (see below). In addition, new AGF estimates of officer resources and requirements indicated that the sources of supply were drying up. A study reflecting the officer situation as of 1 July 1944 projected, for the period until 30 June 1945, a net of only about 800 officers who would be available and qualified for transfer to combat infantry duty. It was felt that precipitate conversions would be imprudent in view of possible shifts in loss requirements among the arms. Army Ground Forces recommended and the War Department, on 25 July, approved, that the 1,000-a-month objective be withdrawn and that excess officers be converted in such numbers as they became available.123

The calculations underlying this recommendation proved to be conservative. Monthly quotas for conversion were indeed reduced, never again reaching the levels set during the first half of the year, but an average of about 750 a month was maintained from July until December. Of these a significant fraction was volunteers for infantry duty, mainly from outside the Ground Forces. (See Table VIII.) By the end of the year 9,577 officers had been enrolled in the Infantry conversion of course and 8,590 had


graduated. The output of the other two courses was much more modest: 38 officers had been graduated from the Armored course, 642 from the Field Artillery course.124

Not all officers converted in the Ground Forces attended one of the special retraining courses. It was estimated that approximately 20 percent of those converted were transferred to a new arm directly, learning their new duties on the job.125 Nor did all the conversions take place in the United States. About 3,000 officers, chiefly antiaircraft and tank destroyer, were estimated to have been converted to infantry in overseas theaters.126

By the branch redistribution of officers during 1944, total officer resources were brought into more realistic adjustment with officer requirements. A gross sign of this change is the comparative commissioned strengths of infantry and coast artillery (antiaircraft and harbor defense) at the end of 1943 and at the end of 1944:127



Coast Artillery

31 December 1943



31 December 1944



What was more important in the immediate situation, the converted officers were usable as overseas replacements during the months of low production in the officer candidate schools. The conversion program, which began primarily as a device for eliminating an embarrassing surplus of antiaircraft officers, became an indispensable part of the procurement program during 1944.



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