AGF Study, NO. 7: Provision of Enlisted Replacements



It so happened that the acceleration of operations abroad, including the landing of the Seventh Army in Sicily in July 1943 and of the Fifth Army on the mainland of Italy in September, coincided with a severe crisis in the production of combat replacements in the zone of the interior. Replacement training centers were unable to meet overseas demands, especially in infantry. This was only in part due to the fact that, with extension of the training cycle without enlargement of capacities, monthly and annual output was reduced. The main causes of the immediate crisis were more transient.

With the lengthening of the training cycle first to 14 and then to 17 weeks, trainees already in the centers were held some weeks beyond the dates at which their graduation had been expected. Largely for this reason, monthly output of AGF replacement training centers fell from 40,000 in June and July 1943 to 19,000 in August and September (see Table II, col. 5). This temporary loss due to prolongation of the training of certain individuals must be distinguished from the more permanent loss due to extension of the cycle without increase of capacity. The latter, though more permanent in principle, could be, and was, made up by increases in capacity in 1944. The former, or temporary loss, could never be made up.


Another temporary condition reduced the volume of the replacement stream in October and November. The Army Ground Forces had been directed to give basic military training to men who had qualified for the Army Specialized Training Program before induction. (See Study No. 5.) To give this training, facilities for 30,000 trainees were set aside at AGF replacement training centers in June and July 1943. Less than a third of this number appeared as expected. Facilities for over 20,000 trainees in replacement training centers stood completely unused in July and August. Facilities for those ASTP candidates who appeared were used to produce men for assignment to colleges, and hence not available as replacements. Had it not been for the requirements of the ASTP, 30,000 more men would have entered replacement training in June and July, and been available in October and November to replace battle losses in Italy. Since reconversion of facilities reserved for the ASTP at replacement centers was not completed until December, the net loss in replacements due to the ASTP was estimated, not at 30,000, but at 45,000.66

Room also had to be made at the RTC's in the fall of 1943, for about 8,000 ROTC students from the colleges, who on completing the RTC course went to officer candidate school, not into the stream of enlisted replacements. Hence 8,000 more potential replacements were lost.67

Not only was the capacity of replacement training centers not being full used to produce replacements, because of these needs of the ASTP and the ROTC, but only half the men entering training as replacements actually became available as replacements at the end of seventeen weeks. The attrition rate, which had always been high, reached 50% in the second half of 1943. This was the period of highest attrition in the whole history of the replacement training centers. For August 1943 the AGF replacement training centers reported their losses at 20,035, and the number of men available for shipment as replacements at only 19,004 (see Table II, cols. 5 and 13). The same ratio of losses to availables held in September. "Losses" included all men not immediately available as replacements, whether lost to the Air or Service Forces, or lost by transfer to service schools or to the ASTP, from which they might be expected to become available as replacement, but not until some months later.

The loss rate at replacement training centers went up in the latter half of 1943 for several reasons. Many trainees of the highest intelligence were transferred to the ASTP. This loss of trainees was altogether distinct from the loss of training facilities caused by ASTP requirements as described above: the facilities set aside had been intended for inductees already earmarked for ASTP and who did not enter the replacement stream: the losses referred to here were trainees who qualified for ASTP after their training as replacements had begun. Others went to the Air Forces as aviation cadets. The number discharged for medical reasons mounted rapidly in consequence of War Department Circular 161 of July 1943. (See Study No. 5.) Losses for all AGF replacement training centers were reported for September as follows (see Table II, cols. 6, 8-13):

Officer candidate schools


Enlisted specialist schools


Army Specialized Training Program


Died or discharged






Since officer candidate schools in the ground arms at this time were operating at very reduced levels, "officer candidates" in the above tabulation referred largely to aviation cadets. "Enlisted Specialists" referred largely to parachute volunteers. "Died or discharged" referred almost entirely to discharged men, since few died. "Others" included men transferred to training overhead, etc. The ASTP was the main leak, especially for able-bodied general service men. The total of 18,441 losses equaled roughly half the monthly number of inductees then being assigned to replacement training centers. It was not the total loss, for in addition about 10% of


the men reported as available by replacement training centers at this time were being disqualified at the depots as not meeting the physical requirements for overseas service.68

The War Department, which in August had warned against "a breakdown of the replacement system," took action to control attrition in the replacement training centers. It was ordered that not over 5% of RTC graduates should be sent to specialist schools.69 It was likewise ordered, in November 1943, that no trainees should be transferred in the future from replacement centers to the Air Forces or the ASTP.70 This action was too late to be of much effect, for the ASTP was now recruited to nearly its full strength, and could be expected to maintain itself by earmarking men at reception centers; and the Air Forces, since 1 August, had recruited at the reception centers all men who desired to apply for flying training. The result of recruiting at reception centers was that, while losses to the Ground Forces declined, the quality of men received by the Ground Forces declined also. The same results occurred with respect to physical quality. To stop the wholesale discharges which had followed Circular 161 the War Department issued Circular 293 (see study No. 5). Discharges at replacement training centers for physical reasons became fewer, but the number of poor physical specimens trained as combat replacements correspondingly increased.

It is difficult to say what constitutes a breakdown of a replacement system. If the purpose of a replacement system is to keep units in combat at full strength, without having to deplete other units intended for combat later, then this purpose was not fulfilled in 1943, and the replacement system broke down. At least it broke down in the infantry. During the last six months of 1943 requirements for loss replacements in excess of the number available from replacement training centers were filled by withdrawing trained infantrymen from tactical units of the Ground Forces. Nondivisional infantry regiments were broken up. About 26,000 men were taken from the infantry regiments of divisions by January 1944. By February 35,249 had been taken from combat units as overseas replacements, and 29,521 had been transferred from low priority units to fill vacancies in alerted units within the Army Ground Forces.71 Total net shortage of enlisted men in AGF units was 52,625 on 31 January 1944.72



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