AGF Study No. 8: Reorganization of Ground Troops for Combat



The mission of the Army Ground Forces, as stated by the War Department in Circular 59, 2 March 1942, was "to provide ground force units properly organized, trained and equipped for combat operations." Organization of units for combat, with which the term "tactical organization" is here equated, involved two interrelated activities. One was to divide men and materials into standard parts of known and calculable capabilities, such as "the" infantry division, "the" ordnance light maintenance company, etc. The other was to combine these parts into the large wholes - task forces, corps or armies - which were the controlling agencies of large-scale combat.

Structure of the standard parts, from the division down, but including the headquarters of corps and armies, was prescribed in tables of organization and equipment. Known as T/O and E's, these established the type units, or standard patterns, according to which actual units were formed in such numbers and at such times as mobilization policy might determine. For each unit the T/O and E prescribed the number of its officers and men, the grade and job of each, the proportion of various military occupational specialists, the arrangement of command and staff and administrative personnel, the means of transport and communications, the provisions for supply, maintenance, construction and medical care, and the kind and quantity of individual and unit armament together with the relationship between supporting weapons and consequently the normal tactics of the unit. These features of the unit in turn determined the degree to which it was dependent, for combat or administration, on other units for support. The provision of interlocking support through association of units of various types was a principal function of corps and armies.

T/O and E's prescribed the standard form of units wherever stationed, whether in the United States or overseas. It was desirable to have a uniform organization for purposes of planning and procurement, and to preserve a flexible situation in which units could be dispatched to any theater at will. But the circumstances in the several theaters were widely different. It was not expected that the organization developed in the zone of the interior would exactly meet the needs of all theaters under all conditions of combat. Theater commanders, when authorized by the War Department, were free to modify their tactical organization. Unit commanders in actual operations might rearrange their men and equipment, or obtain additional men and equipment if possible, according to their best judgment of the immediate situation. The problem for the zone of the interior was to provide basic minimum units. The standard units prescribed by T/O and E's were designed to be basic in the sense of being adequate to a reasonable variety of conditions, and requiring as little readaptation as possible by commanders charged with the actual fighting, and minimum in the sense of having no more men and equipment than was necessary for normal operations, so that the largest possible number of units might be formed. Requirements for basic minimum units changed with the changing experience of battle. The agencies charged with organization in the zone of the interior received reports of battle experience, compared reports from the several theaters, balanced the requests of theater commanders against availability of men and materials, and decided whether to make changes in T/O and E's which would affect the structure of units in all parts of the world.

Tactical organization, while designed for combat, was indispensable to the preparatory effort as well. Tables of organization and equipment were the basic guide to mobilization. T/O units were the blocks out of which the Army was built. The total of


all T/O units constituted the major portion of the troop basis, whose use in mobilization has been traced in Study No. 4 of the present series. The internal character of each unit, as fixed by its tables, dictated the total number of similar units required. The tabular strength and composition of each division, for example, determined the number of divisions required to make up a desired total of combat power. The internal limitations of the division likewise determined the amount of supporting field artillery, ordnance, etc. which had to be mobilized concurrently. The number of units needed to produce the required non-divisional support depended in turn on the unit tables in each arm and service.

Through the medium of the troop basis, tables of organization and equipment established procurement objectives for personnel and materiel. The number of men required for the initial filling of units, the number of replacements required to keep units at tabular strength, the number required for each arm and service and for every military occupational specialty was known through consolidation and analysis of tables of organization. The listing of an item of equipment in a unit table set up an automatic demand on the appropriate supply service. Multiplication by the number of units in the troop basis, with the addition of factors for replacement and reserve, gave the requirement to be incorporated in the Army Supply Program.

Training also was determined by tactical organization. Basic individual training could be given apart from tactical units, and was so given in replacement training centers. But the number of men to be so trained depended on the application of loss ratios to the tables of organization of tactical units. Purely technical training could likewise be given apart from tactical units. Here again the number to be trained depended largely on unit tables; the technician, moreover, unless intended for rear-area assignment, was not fully proficient until he had trained under field conditions in a tactical unit. As for students at the service schools -- whether officers, officer candidates or enlisted specialists -- the content of their instruction and the number instructed, particularly in the Army Ground Forces, reflected the requirements of T/O units.

Unit and combined training and the establishment of tactical doctrine were naturally inseparable from tactical organization, since doctrine stated the proper employment of personnel and equipment, and training was essentially the inculcation of doctrine. It was a principle of the training program for units to train in the United States with the same organization, personnel and equipment as they would have in combat. Extreme turnover and recurrent shortages of personnel and reduction of allowances of equipment brought it about that units in training were not exactly like units in combat. Nevertheless, the commander of an infantry battalion, for example, learned to handle his three rifle companies, to use the supporting fires of his antitank guns and heavy weapons company, to call for assistance from the additional weapons available in regiment and division, to carry on his administrative business with the personnel made available to him, to draw upon agencies outside the battalion when necessary, etc. Similarly all personnel from army commanders to members of rifle squads learned the part prescribed for them in the organizational scheme.

Stability was desirable in tables of organization and equipment, since to change them meant changes in methods of combat, tactical doctrine, training, mobilization objectives, procurement and assignment of manpower and procurement and issue of equipment. Yet changes were frequently necessary. Organization had to be kept abreast of combat experience. Adoption of a new weapon, substitution of one weapon for another, transfer of weapons from one echelon to another, modifications in tactical employment, as when an increase of infantry in proportion to tanks was demanded, likewise made necessary the readjustment of tables. Tables of different type units were interlocking, since units were planned to supply each other's needs; hence change in one might send reverberations through several others. In addition, every table represented a compromise


between conflicting desiderata, such as economy, self-sufficiency, firepower, mobility, and case of supply. In every table something was sacrificed; hence there was a constant tendency to amendment. T/O and E's were inherently unstable. They were subject to a continuing process of review and revision.



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Last updated 15 March 2006