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



In 1942, as explained above (pp. 19-20), military planning was conducted in terms of the "type army" and the "type corps." The type army and corps had been developed in the preceding years, concurrently with the development of the triangular division, as a means of determining how many non-divisional units of various kinds would be required to supplement a given number of divisions. In the type army and the type corps, as in a T/O unit, there were elements conceived to be "organic." The organic composition of army and corps in July 1942 is indicated in Annex IV. From the type organizations it could be determined, if for example 100 divisions were to be mobilized, that 33 corps and 11 armies would be needed. Multiplying the number of non-divisional units organic in each corps by 33, and the number of non-divisional units organic in each army by 11, and adding the two products, would give the number of non-divisional units required to produce a balanced combat force of 100 (literally 99) divisions. By a similar calculation the composition of a task force built around any number of divisions could be projected. It would be necessary, in either calculation, to consider the need for GHQ reserve troops not organic in army or corps, such as parachutists, tank battalions, and certain kinds of heavy artillery and service organizations.

On 31 July 1942 the War Department directed the Army Ground Forces to present recommendations for revision of the type army and the type corps.170 It was desired, in the interests of economy, that the necessity of all organic units be reviewed. The Army Ground Forces was instructed to consult with the Army Air Forces and the Services of Supply. The Army Air Forces was concerned because observation aviation was organic at this time in both army and corps, the Services of Supply because it shared the responsibility at this time for service units assigned to the Army Ground Forces. The idea of separate air command had already developed to the point where organic assignment of air units to ground commands was not contemplated in practice. The Services of Supply was soon to lose (in October 1942) its authority over the organization, equipment and training of service units operating within corps and armies. Hence army and corps organization soon became a problem to be dealt with by the Army Ground Forces alone, subject to War Department approval.


The Army Ground Forces, on 21 September 1942, proposed that the concept of the type army and type corps be abandoned.171 General McNair believed that the type army and corps, though avowedly used only for planning, set up false preconceptions with regard to tactics and logistical operations. It was understood that an army or corps in combat would contain such forces as were deemed necessary in the immediate situation. General McNair believed that the same flexibility should govern planning and training, especially with the Army facing operations in widely different theaters still unknown. He cited German tactical organization, by which task forces could be formed at will from standard parts. He feared that, just as manpower and equipment might be wasted by organic assignment to divisions, they might also be wasted by organic assignment to a type corps or a type army. He wished to have no elements frozen, by faulty organization, in places where maximum employment was not possible. Given the limitations on shipping, and the heavy requirements of the Army Air Forces and the Services of Supply for ship space, he wished every unit sent overseas by the Ground Forces to be readily available for use at the decisive spot.

The organization advanced by the Army Ground Forces did away with organic army troops and corps troops, and made all non-divisional units organically GHQ Reserve. Army and corps retained no organic elements except those necessary for command - chiefly headquarters and signal units. Troops were organized in interchangeable parts, in permanent units of the smallest size compatible with efficiency. For combat units this was judged to be the battalion. From the mass of battalions, all organically GHQ Reserve, forces would be assigned or attached to armies and corps as needed. There would be two kinds of permanent T/O units -- divisions and separate battalions. A corps would be a variable combination of divisions and battalions, an army a combination of corps with additional battalions and perhaps divisions. The brigade disappeared as a fixed non-divisional unit, as it had already disappeared from the division. The fixed regiment likewise disappeared as a non-divisional unit; it was soon to disappear from the armored division as well, and remain, in general, as an echelon known only to infantry, mainly in infantry divisions. In its place was put the group.

This plan, before its submission to the War Department on 21 September 1942, was strongly advised against by some officers of General McNair's staff.172 They held that team training would suffer if units were so highly interchangeable, that with so much basic equipment removed from the division by streamlining a definite and fixed corps pool was necessary as a form of insurance, and that confusion would result from such radical departure, during mobilization, from the organization, functions and nomenclature made familiar in the years of peace. It was argued that in the planning of balanced forces planners must have in mind, whether consciously or not, some large-scale "type" organization; and that with so many persons involved in planning there must be some pattern generally understood and agreed upon. These arguments, though recognized as cogent, were outweighed in General McNair's judgment by the economy and flexibility obtainable under the system proposed.

The proposal of 21 September was returned without action by the War Department.173 The Operations Division, War Department General Staff, stressed the arguments against it.174 General McNair, noting "the general inertia which the War Department shows in connection with troublesome questions," was unwilling to push the matter at this time, although, as he said, the existing organization had never been tested in war or peace, and the need of economizing in organization and equipment had been repeatedly stated by the Chief of Staff.175 Indeed, at this very time, the War Department dispatched a letter to all overseas commanders urging economy upon them. It was here affirmed that a wasteful service organization had resulted in some overseas establishments from use of the type army and corps (and type air force and communications zone) in the planning of overseas forces.176


Although never approved formally and explicitly as a whole, the system as outlined above went into effect piecemeal during 1943.



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