AGF Study, NO. 7: Provision of Enlisted Replacements



Importance of the Replacement Problem Mobilization of units has been treated in Study No. 4 of the present series. The continuing value and usability of units depended entirely on their receiving replacements, in adequate numbers and properly trained, to maintain them at authorized strength. As noted in Study No. 9, units were organized with the minimum of personnel necessary for normal conditions. Tables of organization, especially as revised downward in 1943, provided virtually no reserve of personnel within units. For maintenance of efficiency, every individual lost by a unit had to be immediately replaced. The theory of tactical organization in World War II presupposed a continuing stream of replacements, and hence a large non-tactical establishment in which individual replacements were trained in the necessary jobs and delivered when and where needed to units requiring them.

In World War I, as has been noted in Study No. 4, the replacement system was never developed to the point where all mobilized units could be maintained. It had been necessary to skeletonize eleven divisions in France. The need of an adequate replacement system was one of the lessons drawn from World War I. For World War II a large replacement training program was therefore projected from the beginning. It proved inadequate to meet the demands for combat replacements. The output of replacement training centers was supplemented by conversion and retraining as combat replacements of men from other branches. In general the only combat units which, once mobilized, were inactivated to furnish replacements were certain tank destroyer and antiaircraft battalions no longer necessary in 1944 to the prosecution of the war. Other combat units, which it has at first intended to mobilize, were dropped from the mobilization program and never activated. Thus requirements for personnel were held down, and the number of men available for training as replacements was correspondingly increased. Divisions not yet committed were stripped to obtain loss replacements but were filled by various expedients before they had to be deployed. By such measures it was possible in the long run to maintain all divisions and their most necessary supporting units at or near table of organization strength. By the expedients adopted, the worst features of the replacements crisis of 1918 were avoided. But various crises arose in the handling of the replacements problem in World War II. These will be described in the following pages.

For convenience, the history of the replacements problem in World War II, as it developed prior to the end of the war in Europe, may be divided into two periods. In the first period, roughly 1941-1943, the replacement organization was shaped to the needs of mobilization. In the second period, beginning at an indefinite time in 1943, it was shaped to the need for supplying overseas loss replacements. The transition between the two periods was gradual, running through the year 1943. Initially, the major problem of the second period was the quality of replacement training — whether replacements received by overseas forces were properly trained. Thereafter, as combat intensified at the close of 1943, the major problem became the quantity of replacements — whether enough replacements were being sent overseas to enable units to continue in combat.

By the close of the war in Europe (more precisely, by 30 April 1945) approximately 2,500,000 enlisted men had been graduated from replacement training agencies of the combat arm — infantry, cavalry, field artillery, coast artillery, antiaircraft, armored, and tank destroyer.1 The reported actual enlisted strength of units of these arms at that time, counting only the pertinent elements within divisions, was approximately 1,650,000.2 For every two men in a unit, three had been trained in a replacement agency.


It is evident that the training of replacements was one of the major activities of the Army Ground Forces.


The pre-war mobilization plans of the War Department contemplated that replacement training centers should be an integral part of the mobilization process.3 Somewhat delayed by time necessary for construction, replacement training centers were opened in March 1941, about six months after the launching of Selective Service. For the remainder of 1941 the recently inducted civilian received his basic training at a replacement center. Tactical units filled their ranks with men basically trained at the centers. Free from having to give basic training themselves, tactical units concentrated on development of teams, from the company level up to the division, and on participation in field exercises and maneuvers, in which, in 1941, whole corps and armies were engaged.

The ground army at this time was in two parts. One part, the field forces, or tactically organized units, was under General Headquarters, of which Lt. Gen. Lesley J. McNair was chief of staff and virtually in command, command being formally vested in General Marshall, whose activity was concentrated elsewhere. GHQ supervised the training of tactical units. The other part consisted of replacement centers and schools, which were alike in that they trained not units but individuals. Each school was under the control of the Chief of its branch; each replacement training center was under the joint control of the Chief of its branch and the commander of the Corps Area in which it was located. The Adjutant General assigned graduates of replacement centers and schools to tactical units upon requisition. GHQ had no part in the process of keeping its field units filled to authorized strength.

Late in 1941 this distribution of functions was radically changed. The War Department decided in December 1941 that replacement training centers should not be expanded commensurately with the expansion of the Army, and that newly activated divisions and other units should receive their fillers (i.e., all initial personnel except cadre) directly from reception centers.4 Thus new units became centers of basic training. Older units, which, because well advanced in their training, would be discommoded by receipt of untrained recruits, were to continue to fill their vacancies with graduates of replacement centers. In practice, older units in the following years frequently received men directly from reception centers. In general, with capacity of replacement centers closely restricted, units functioned as basic training centers and as replacement pools. Large units, such as divisions, found themselves training groups of men at various levels at the same time. The unity of such organizations was broken; they could not pass as units through the prescribed cycle of training. Training in teamwork and mutual support was impeded, and readiness of the unit for combat indefinitely delayed. At the same time replacement training center output was often inadequate to fill even urgent requisitions, so that trained units had to surrender trained personnel on call, receiving in return (often in driblets) men fresh from reception centers. A vicious circle of turnover and retraining was established. (See studies No. 4 and 12.)

In March 1942, with the reorganization of the War Department, replacement training centers and schools came under the control of the newly established Army Ground Forces. Thus opened a new phase in what has been defined above as the first period in the history of the replacement problem.



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