AGF Study, NO. 7: Provision of Enlisted Replacements



The extensive transfers from the Air and Service Forces ordered in the last months of 1944 came too late, even under a six-weeks retraining program, to yield more than a few replacements before the end of the year. Meanwhile, with the commitment of ever larger forces in Europe, the mounting intensity of combat at the Siegfried line, and the onset of winter, the number of battle and non-battle losses steadily went up. The War Department on 8 November 1944 again notified the theaters that the capacity of the zone of the interior to furnish replacements was limited, and urged them to prosecute their own conversion programs with increased vigor.116 Each theater was given a specific figure for the number of replacements it could expect to receive from the zone of the interior. Figures given on 8 November 1944, for the months from December 1944 through April 1945 were as follows (including officers and enlisted men):


Monthly Average of Replacements to be
furnished by Zone of Interior


of Opns

of Opns


South- West


All ground arms






Infantry only






All services (except AAF)












The War Department estimated at this time that total replacement requirements through April 1945 would run to 80,000 or 90,000 a month, virtually all for overseas replacements, since few units would remain in the United States.117 The difference between 80,000 or 90,000 and 70,957 was to be made up by retraining of rear-area personnel in the theaters.

On 7 December G-1 and G-3 of the War Department, and the chief of staff, G-1 and G-3 of the Army Ground Forces, with other officers concerned, met in conference on the question of overseas replacements.118 The chief of staff of the Ground Forces, asked flatly whether he believed the War Department was producing enough replacements to carry on the war, replied that he did not believe so, and recommended that capacity of infantry replacement training centers be raised by 160,000, to produce 40,000 more infantry replacements a month. Reports now indicated a daily loss rate in ETO of 3,000 per day in battle casualties alone. Receipts of the Army Ground Forces from reception centers were only 53,000 a month. It was problematical how far this number could be raised without drawing inductees unfit for combat duty. Receipts of converted Air and Service personnel at the IARTC's were reported by the Army Ground Forces to be lagging. Officers at the conference explained that the Service Forces had virtually no enlisted men left who were of high physical quality, and that the Air Forces, if required to produce more men for conversion to infantry riflemen, would be obliged to send sergeants trained in specialties peculiar to the Air Forces. It was decided that the Army Air Forces and the Army Service Forces must nevertheless meet their quotas, that a request would be made to raise monthly calls on Selective Service to 100,000, and that if necessary the RTC training cycle should be reduced from 17 to 15 weeks, even though such action would produce only momentary relief. The six-week retrainees were agreed by all to have insufficient training for infantry service. But since they would have to be used in increasing numbers, they were to be identified clearly to the theaters as men with only six weeks of infantry training, so that they might receive further training overseas if possible.

The War Department, hard pressed to meet his commitments for replacements to the theaters, took steps to force a higher rate of effective output at the replacement


training centers. In the last months of 1944, out of every 100 inductees put into a replacement training center, only 80 became available as replacements, an attritional loss of 20%, (see Table III, col. 12). On 12 December 1944 the War Department ordered that 95 out of every 100 should be graduated and made available, by waiver of physical and training standards to the extent necessary with a few exceptions.119 The Army Ground Forces pointed out the difficulties of such action.120 Some of the recent loss was due to transient causes, having gone into the cadre and overhead needed to launch the IARTC's. Some of it was due to transfers made necessary by War Department policies, which withdrew from the replacement stream conscientious objectors, critical specialists, linguists, men desired by the Office of Strategic Services, men for training in military intelligence, etc. But most of the loss was due to discharge on physical grounds, due in turn to the low physical quality of inductees received by the Army. This could be attributed in part to stringency of manpower in the country, in part to the pre-induction recruiting system employed extensively by the Navy Department, which meant that a large percentage of men reaching induction age, among whom the highest proportion of physically fit men was found, was pre-empted by the Navy and Marine Corps and never reached the Army at all. Physical quality of men received by the Army Ground Forces was so poor at this time, the beginning of December 1944, that 14% of trainees in replacement training centers were reprofiled downward after six weeks of training.121 This meant that, in addition to the high discharge rate, many men were retained as combat replacements although they were below desired physical standards for their jobs. The War Department on 15 December modified its directive of the 12th, adhering to the principle of maximum output at replacement training centers, but extending the exceptions to the 95% ruling.122 Cases of discharge were to be scrutinized closely, with the understanding that men discharged on physical grounds would generally have to be replaced by men who were no better. The discharge rate at infantry replacement training centers fell off abruptly in the following months — meaning that standards were applied less strictly (see Table III, col. 10).

The German breakthrough in the Ardennes occurred on 16 December 1944, and the ensuing "Battle of the Bulge," therefore occurred at a time when the replacement system in the zone of the interior was already strained to its utmost, when men with only six-weeks retraining in infantry and men scarcely capable of prolonged exertion in the field were being supplied in increasing numbers — men who for want of physique or training would succumb rapidly on the battlefield, and who therefore would soon have to be replaced in turn.

The German advance caused consternation if not alarm. Losses in Europe rose suddenly and enormously. The War Department raised its commitment for replacements to ETO for January by 20,000. It was decided not to take replacements from the few divisions still at home, but to ship all remaining divisions to Europe. To provide an immediate increase of infantry replacements the training program was shortened to 15 weeks.123 For a time immediately following the breakthrough, pre-embarkation furloughs of RTC graduates were cut to five days, and men whose homes were more than 24 hours distant by rail were shipped by air, to the extent allowed by December weather.124 These measures simply drew on the future to satisfy the present; they did not increase the number of replacements produced. To increase the number, further calls were made on the Air Forces for conversion to infantry, and the Selective Service call was raised to 80,000 for January.125

In general, however, it was felt, both in the War Department and at the headquarters of the Army Ground Forces, that the European theater would have to meet a large part of its replacement need out of its own resources of personnel. The G-l of ETO attended conferences in Washington on 23 and 28 December 1944.126 It was impressed upon him that the zone of the interior was almost depleted; that any increase of shipment of replacements to ETO would be largely at the expense of other theaters; that the Army was considerably overstrength and induction calls therefore subject to


restriction; that combat soldiers must be furnished by conversion and retraining within the Army; that most of the Army was now overseas, especially the personnel physically fit for reassignment to combat duty; that most of the overseas Army was in the European Theater of Operations; and, finally, that the process of conversion and retraining for combat duty, having approached its practical limits in the United States, must now be carried on with at least equal thoroughness in Europe. In addition, retraining in Europe would produce quicker results than retraining in the United States, since time spent by replacements in furloughs and in transit would be saved. It was agreed to accelerate the program of combing physically qualified personnel from the communications zone in ETO, retraining them as combat soldiers, and retraining partially disable men in the theaters to take over the rear-area jobs. General Ben Lear, transferred in January 1945 from command of the Army Ground Forces to be Deputy Commander of ETO, was charged with the supervision of this retraining program in the theater.

In December 1944, despite the emergency measures in the second half of the month, the number of replacements shipped to ETO was less than the War Department had indicated on 8 November as forthcoming in that month. Thereafter, and until the collapse of Germany was in sight, the shipment of replacements to ETO greatly exceeded the commitments of 8 November. Commitments to ETO for February to June were revised upward on 8 January 1945, largely balanced by corresponding reduction in commitments to other theaters, as follows:127


Monthly Average of Replacements to be furnished by ZI











All ground arms










Infantry only










All Services (exc. AAT)




















Commitment of 8 Nov 44










Difference /-










It is evident that the gain in replacements for ETO was obtained mostly by curtailment of allowances to other theaters, but that the zone of interior would still have to furnish about 6,000 more replacements each month than had been intended on 8 November. The gain in numbers was also at the expense of quality; the War Department explained to the theaters, in its letter of 8 January, that "the present exceedingly large overall demands for infantry replacements can be satisfied even in part only by use of men who are not fully qualified physically for infantry duty and by waiver of minor training deficiencies."

Actual shipment of ground arms replacements to ETO in January 1945 reached 64,551 (including officers), over 20,000 more than had been allocated on 8 November. In February the figure reached 60,597, or 17,000 more than had been allocated on 8 November, and 8,000 more than the augmented allocation of 8 January. In March ETO received 58,555 replacements, almost exactly the number allocated on 8 January; in April 46,302; in May, with Germany defeated, only 537. All told, from January to April inclusive, the zone of the interior supplied 230,005 replacements in the ground arms to ETO, of whom 195,912 were in infantry. To all theaters, in these four months, the zone of the interior supplied 309,668 replacements in the ground arms, about 30,000 more than had been anticipated on 8 November (see Table IX).

It was the IARTC's that made possible the shipment of such numbers. The RTC's, operating at relatively low levels in December 1944, limited by the number of men


received from Selective Service, and requiring in any case at least fifteen weeks to train a replacement, reacted slowly to any emergency. They sent 169,897 graduates to the depots from January to April 1945 (Table II, col. 1). In the same months 101,703 six-week retrainees were sent to the depots, 9,746 from the separate infantry regiments (Table V), 91,957 from the IARTC's, which in January were just beginning to graduate the AAF and ASF men put into them at the end of November (Table IV). In January and February 1945 almost 40,000 additional AAF men, and over 13,000 ASF men, were put into the IARTC's for conversion into riflemen (Table IV).

Had severe fighting in Europe been protracted much beyond April 1945, it is difficult to see where the necessary replacements would have come from. Possibilities for conversion and retraining in the United States were virtually at an end. Input into the IARTC's began to decline in January 1945, becoming insignificant by April. After December 1943 virtually no infantry retrainees were provided to the IARTC's by AGF units (antiaircraft, etc.), after January 1945 virtually none by the Service Forces, after February virtually none by the Air Forces. In March, of the greatly reduced input into IARTC's, over half came from "other sources" than the three major commands — including miscellaneous scrapings, internal transfers and bookkeeping entries. The separate infantry regiments used for conversion training tapered off at the same time, producing no graduates after March 1945. (See Tables IV and V.) Fortunately, the corresponding decline in output did not come until March.

Foreseeing the decline of the conversion program in the United States, and anticipating that virtually all replacements furnished by the zone of the interior after April or May 1945 would have to come from Selective Service, the War Department in January 1945 raised the monthly induction call for the spring months to 100,000, and authorized a large increase in capacity of AGF replacement training centers. Authorized capacity of these centers was jumped from 246,000 to 360,000, by far the largest increase in the entire history of the war. Capacity of infantry replacement training centers leaped from 197,000 to 312,000, or from 80% to 87% of total capacity of the ground arms. (See Table I.) IARTC's were converted in February and March to normal infantry replacement training centers; that is, facilities used to give six weeks retraining in infantry to men from other branches were redirected to give fifteen weeks of infantry-training to inductees.128

The ensuing increase in RTC output began to make itself evident in May. By that time no more replacements had to be shipped to Europe. With victory in Europe a new restriction on the use of 18-year-olds was imposed, this time by legislation. The Army was forbidden to send any 18-year-old overseas with less than six months training. Since half of incoming inductees were 18-year-olds, and virtually all were assigned to replacement centers, this legislation virtually dictated the replacement training program of the Army. In May almost half the graduates of replacement training centers were assembled in special centers for the completion of six months' training. These centers took the old name of Infantry Advanced Replacement Training Centers. The six-months training requirement for 18-year-olds, while in the long run it did not reduce the number of replacements available, introduced an element of inflexibility into their disposition. It likewise made planning more difficult, by requiring replacement needs to be projected farther into the future. It had proved difficult enough to make advance provision for replacements when only 17 or 15 weeks, or indeed only 6 weeks, were necessary to produce them. Whether, with six months necessary to produce half the replacements obtainable, any accurate forecast of combat requirements could be made, was a question which only the future could decide. It was clear in June 1945 that replacements would be needed in large numbers, even after the cessation of demands from Europe, because replacement shortages had accumulated in other theaters during the crisis in ETO, because operations in the Pacific were rapidly becoming more extensive, and because the discharge policies of the War Department created many vacancies which had to be filled immediately.



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