AGF Study, NO. 7: Provision of Enlisted Replacements
CHANGES IN ADMINISTRATION - 1943
The headquarters of the Army Ground Forces, which in 1942 had wished a minimum of administrative responsibilities with respect to replacements, progressively assumed such responsibilities in 1943. The establishment of the Classification and Replacement Division, noted above, was an important step in this process.
Unqualified personnel, physically or otherwise deficient, had often slipped through the examining authorities and appeared as replacements overseas. The Overseas Replacement Depot at Shenango, Pennsylvania, in April 1943, complained that replacements sent to it had been inadequately screened by the AGF replacement training centers
from which they came. The Army Ground Forces believed the main trouble to lie, not in negligence at replacement training centers, but in divergence of medial opinion among the various doctors by whom a replacement was examined in turn. There was a tendency for the interpretation of standards to become stricter in proportion to nearness to combat. Men passed as physically qualified at a replacement training center might be considered disqualified at a replacement depot. Men passed by a replacement depot might be judged unfit by medical officers in a theater. Opinion varied especially on dental and psychological fitness. It was known that some soldiers, to avoid overseas service, threw away dental appliances with which the Army had provided them. The Army Ground Forces recommended that dental requirements be clarified at a minimum level, namely, "ability to masticate the Army ration," and that the term "mentally" be dropped from War Department Circular 85 (1943), in which qualifications for overseas service were stated. Further amendment of Circular 85 was requested on 28 July. Specific recommendations of the Army Ground Forces were not followed, but clarification was achieved with the publication by the War Department, on 1 October 1943, of "Preparation for Oversea Movement of Individual Replacements," known for short as POR. This remained the governing document on the subject, until quantitative demands in 1944 made it necessary to compromise the standards of physical quality.33
The Army Ground Forces, at first reluctantly, extended its responsibility over movement of trained replacements. Reports on administration at Shenango revealed shocking cases of mismanagement and indiscipline.34 Brigadier General A. R. Bolling, G-1 AGF, with a party of Ground Force officers, visited the depot on 17 to 19 May. General Bolling had in the past strongly favored the operation of replacement depots by the Service Forces.35 After his visit he recommended that the depot be taken over by the Army Ground Forces.36 It was decided in conference at the War Department that the Army Service Forces should continue to operate Shenango as a replacement depot for the ASF branches, but that the Army Ground Forces should establish on each coast a depot of its own for overseas replacements in the combat arms.37
Depots were therefore organized at Fort Meade, Maryland, and Fort Ord, California, with capacities of 18,000 and 8,000 replacements respectively. They were made immediately subordinate to headquarters Army Ground Forces. Beginning operations in August 1943, they certified that overseas replacements met medical requirements, had done qualification firing of their primary weapons, and otherwise conformed to what was soon known as POR. The depots reported individuals found deficient, with the names of replacement training centers (or units) from which such deficient individuals came. The Army Ground Forces thus obtained a check on the work of replacement centers. The depots also issued clothing and equipment as needed, gave inoculations, took blood types and otherwise processed the men in their charge. A training program was devised to prevent deterioration in discipline, morale and physical condition, and to prepare men psychologically for overseas duty. Such training had to be flexible, since men remained in the depots for variable and unpredictable lengths of time, subject to shipments on seventy-two hours' notice from port commanders. Men held in a depot over thirty days were reported to the Army Ground Forces for reassignment.38
Improvement was soon noticeable in the quality of replacements in the ground arms. The Inspector General reported on 30 October 1943 that since the establishment of the depot at Ft. Meade, replacements reached the East Coast staging areas better equipped and clothed than before, and with more confidence and eagerness to go overseas, though a few had still not qualified with their primary weapons.39 Reports from Italy received through the AGF Board were in general favorable.40 The Fifth Army found that replacements were better than they had been in the Tunisian campaign, and that infantry replacements in particular were good, though some had inadequate knowledge of their weapons. Infantry replacements, by the time of the Fifth Army reports (November and December 1943), had either benefited from the seventeen-week program in replacement centers, or (as will be seen below) had come from units well along in their training.
That despite all efforts some lacked proficiency with their weapons may be attributed to difficulties in the training and processing of certain types of specialists.
Over misassignment in the theaters it was difficult for the War Department, and impossible for the Army Ground Forces, to exercise any direct control. Yet misassignment could instantly nullify the effects of all training, however thorough, and of all methods of overseas movement and delivery, however improved. General McNair believed that the difficulty was fundamentally one of inadequate quantity, that misassignment in the theaters was unavoidable so long as all possible replacements had to be thrown in indiscriminately to fill losses, and that it would decline when stockage of replacements in the theaters reached a point where men could be held until needed in their own specialties.41 It was not only a question of gross numbers of replacements in the theaters. The right number for each arm, and for each job in each arm, had to be supplied at the right time. The right number depended on the incidence of battle and non-battle losses; the right time depended on the course of operations. These could not be exactly predicted, but they had to be estimated six months in advance, since about that time elapsed between calls on Selective Service and receipt of replacements by units in the combat zone.
Last updated 17 October 2005