AGF Study, NO. 7: Provision of Enlisted Replacements
THE GREAT OVERTURN: EXCHANGES OF PERSONNEL WITHIN AGF
Provision of replacements by the Army Ground Forces in 1944 labored under two complicating necessities: one, the need of obtaining them in sufficient numbers; the other, the need of exchanging them between replacement centers and units in consequence of personnel policies of the War Department. These two necessities are considered in the two sections which follow, the later being discussed first. These two problems arose at the same time and were dealt with concurrently. Their effects cannot usually be distinguished; a single trend, such as the stripping of divisions discussed below (pp 44-45, 49,54-55), must be regarded as the composite result of the interplay of changed personnel policies and of attempts to provide replacements in greater numbers. A degree of repetition is therefore unavoidable in the two sections which follow: it is believed to be justified by the clearer analysis of major policies which separate treatment permits.
The War Department, especially as the extreme severity of infantry combat became apparent, and under potential pressure from public opinion, was disinclined to use as combat replacements the men currently being inducted into the Army. In 1944 half these men were only 18 years old; many of the remainder were older men with children, most of whom were known in the administrative language of the day as "Pre-Pearl Harbor fathers." It seemed unfair to send these men directly into combat after 17 weeks of training, as individual replacements going overseas without the moral support of belonging to an organized unit, while many men of the intermediate age levels, or without family responsibilities, having been inducted two or three years before, remained
in units in the United States not scheduled for immediate shipment. It was a question not only of fairness, but of the military value of the men concerned. The majority of informed opinion seemed now to hold, at the beginning of 1944, that the 17-week RTC graduate was a competent soldier. But the opinion of commanders in the theaters was not unanimous on this point. It is probable that some commanders of overseas combat units, contrasting their slender resources with the 50-odd divisions still at home, and noting the youth and unavoidable inexperience of their replacements, looked with longing eyes on personnel in the undeployed field forces in the United States. The taking of replacements from tactical units had been thoroughly discussed in 1943. It had been rejected as a policy, though it had been resorted to as an expedient during the great underproduction of replacement training centers in the later months of 1943. The question of policy was reopened in December 1943, when General Eisenhower, in a radio to the War Department, suggested for considerations, without urgently requesting, that replacements for his theater be obtained from divisions in the United States, rather than from replacement centers.83
It was believed at the headquarters of the Army Ground Forces at this time, as noted above, that the replacements question was virtually settled. Although 26,000 men had been taken from divisions, it was thought that this was a temporary measure, and that the undeployed tactical forces and the replacement training system were to remain in principle altogether distinct. It therefore came as a bombshell, when, on 19 January 1944, the Office of the Chief of Staff directed the Army Ground Forces to prepare a plan by which all AGF units not intended for early shipment should be used as a source of overseas replacements. By the plan as desired, overseas replacements were to be taken from men in units who had had nine months of training, and RTC graduates were to be used to fill the vacancies thus created in units.84
General McNair showed that a nine-months plan as outlined, if adhered to as a continuing policy through 1944, would tie up in the United States, as purely training organizations, 16 infantry divisions according to War Department estimates of requirements for infantry replacements, or 26 infantry divisions according to AGF estimates, which at the moment were 50% higher.85 Only 9 infantry divisions were expected to remain in the United States at the end of 1944. The War Department soon raised its estimate of the number of infantry replacements needed. It was obvious that divisions could not be shipped according to the schedule made necessary by the invasion of France, and at the same time produce replacements in the United States in anything approaching the needed numbers. The War Department decided to take replacements from divisions (and other units) until further notice, but to require that they have had only six months training rather than nine, and to give the commanding general of the Army Ground Forces a certain discretion in withdrawing personnel, so that units needed later for combat operations would not be ruined in the process.86
Last updated 17 October 2005