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



Decisions were made in the later months of 1942 vitally affecting the subsequent course of the war and bringing into view more sharply than ever the need for economy in the Ground Forces. In part because of the shortage of cargo space plans for a cross-channel invasion of Europe were postponed in the summer of 1942. Air and service forces, greatly expanded, filled most of the outgoing ship space in the following year. Such restricted ground combat operations as were launched in 1942 emphasized the value of compactness in Ground Force organization. Task Force A, dispatched from the United States to North Africa in October, was obliged to leave some of its heavy equipment behind. Action initiated in the Southwest Pacific put an unprecedented strain on shipping facilities in proportion to the number of combat troops maintained in the theater. No division left the American continent during the five months beginning with November 1942. Only seven divisions left during the ten months, beginning with November 1942. No infantry or armored division formed after Pearl Harbor left the United States until December 1943 -- two years after the declaration of war.

On 28 September 1942 General Marshall again raised with General McNair the question of economizing motor vehicles as a means of conserving rubber and ship space.27 "I have felt for a year or more," he wrote, "that our figures as to divisional transportation were extravagant, that they represented what a division commander asked for rather than meeting the problem on the basis of over-all requirements. I might say right here that if we gave each theater commander what he asks for we would have only one theater and all the others would have to be evacuated for lack of means." On 2 October the War Department directed the three major commands to review their tables of organization, eliminating unnecessary vehicles and excess non-combatant personnel. A cut of 20% in motor vehicles and of 15% in personnel was indicated as a goal.28

Replying to General Marshall on 8 October, General McNair noted the unfairness of levying a flat percentage reduction, since some units had already been cut.29 He broadened the issue of motor transport into the larger issue of tactical organization.

6. The present regrettable excess of motor transportation is due to chiefs of arms and services seeking heavily and thinking narrowly, to field commanders who seek to make their units too self-contained, and to an over-indulgent War Department. It is futile now to exhort the same agencies as brought about the existing condition. It is believed that the remedy is one or a group of no-men empowered to:


a. Review organization and eliminate those elements - particularly headquarters and auxiliary and service units - which do not pay their way in combat effectiveness. One example: there are too many echelons of reconnaissance.

b. Cut the transportation of a given organization to a minimum by prescribing the most economical type of vehicle, substituting trailers for motor vehicles, and eliminating vehicles which are not essential. One example: numerous army units need not move simultaneously, but can move by echelon.

7. Such a person or group will cause loud complaints from the field, and conceivably can go too far in its efforts to economize in transportation. Nevertheless, drastic counter measures are necessary to correct present conditions, and the War Department must empower such an agency to go into all kinds of units, and back up its findings.

To this recommendation a reply was received from G-3, War Department General Staff, revealing the loss of central control in the War Department since 9 March 1942.30

3. Since the reorganization of the War Department, the G-3 Division has not had an organization section adequate in either numbers or experience to give Tables of Organization the careful and detailed analysis necessary for the judicious elimination of unnecessary equipment and individuals.

4. As a result, its efforts in this direction are of necessity confined to general directives exhorting the major commands to review their Tables of Organization ... This general approach is admittedly inadequate. The three major commands, and in particular the Army Ground Forces, must be depended upon to furnish the group of "No-Men" empowered to ruthlessly and, if necessary, arbitrarily eliminate non-essential elements and equipment. G-3 will stand squarely behind your efforts to this end.

5. Existing Tables of Organization were apparently designed with little appreciation of the fact that every soldier and piece of equipment must be moved by ship to a combat zone.

In brief, General McNair's request for a strong central agency was deemed incapable of fulfillment; he must be his own "No-Man"; action by the War Department was limited to exhortation; and it was strongly intimated that the main hope of economy in the Army was the Army Ground Forces.

The War Department strengthened General McNair's hand by granting him full authority over service units in the Army Ground Forces.31 All service units (other than those pertaining exclusively to the Air Forces) were divided between the Army Ground Forces and the Services of Supply for activation and training and for determination of organization and equipment.32 Those intended for the combat zone were assigned to the Army Ground Forces. "This will permit you to control motor equipment," wrote General Marshall.33 "On this basis," observed General McNair to his staff, "we are being handed the job of placing the organic transportation of the Army on a rational basis, which it is not at present."34

A Reduction Board was established on 7 November 1942 at AGF headquarters, composed of one officer each from the Requirements, G-3 and G-4 sections of the staff.35 Its mission was to reduce tables of organization of AGF units as desired by the War Department. Its work will be noted below.

The need of streamlining tables of organization was driven home by other policies adopted by the War Department in September and October 1942. With the abandonment of plans for an early ground invasion of Europe it was decided to build up the air


offensive at once. Plans were laid to place an Air Force of 1,000,000 men overseas by the end of 1943, the number of ground troops to be shipped in this period depending on the availability of remaining shipping.36 It became necessary also to reduce the procurement program for 1943, which in its original form exceeded the estimated productive capacity of the United States. In view of the strategic decision to postpone the employment of ground troops, the planned procurement of AGF equipment for 1943 was cut 21 percent.37 Procurement of heavy artillery, tanks, mortars, antiaircraft and antitank guns was revised downward. On 25 October 1942 the War Department notified the Army Ground Forces in connection with mobilization plans for the coming year:38

...shipping considerations may dictate a considerable change in our strategic concept with a consequent change in the basic structure of our Army. Since from the shipping capabilities indicated above, it appears that early employment of a mass Army, which must be transported by water, is not practicable, it follows that the trend must be toward light, easily transportable units ... Recent indications are that a further expansion of the Air Forces may be expected which not only will reduce the number of men available for the ground forces but will complicate, if not curtail, the procurement of heavy equipment for other than the Air Forces.

Fourteen divisions (later ten more) were dropped from the mobilization program for 1943. Only 100 divisions (later cut to 90) were now projected for 1943. Hopes of adding more in 1944 never materialized. With the number of units in prospect diminishing, it was clear that each unit must carry a maximum of effective force.



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Last updated 15 March 2006