AGF Study No. 8: Reorganization of Ground Troops for Combat
SECOND PERIOD: THE AGE OF ECONOMY
OCTOBER 1942 - OCTOBER 1943
THE BATTALION AND-GROUP SYSTEM
One feature of the AGF proposal of 21 September 1942 was immediately approved. The War Department on 24 December 1942 granted permission to convert non-divisional regiments in antiaircraft artillery, field artillery, mechanized cavalry and combat engineers to separate battalions, and to activate group headquarters in each of these arms in a ratio of one for each four battalions.177 The group was a form of organization already employed with certain newer weapons, notably tanks and tank destroyers. It differed from the regiment in that component battalions were self-sufficient for supply and administration (in the manner described above for battalions of the reorganized armored division), and that the battalions were not assigned organically to the group, but attached to it and detached from it as circumstances dictated. The group was not a T/O unit. It might contain, at a given moment, no battalions or half a dozen battalions, though three or four were considered normal. Group headquarters were supposed to eschew administration, to be tactical only, to control battalions in combat, and to supervise their training. Battalions in principle dealt directly with army on administrative matters, and brought their own supplies from army supply points.
The conversions authorized by the War Department on 24 December 1942 were gradually effected in 1943. They involved not merely the dissolution of regiments, but internal reorganization of battalions to provide administrative self-sufficiency. With antiaircraft artillery, field artillery, cavalry and combat engineers converted, and tanks and tank destroyers already so organized, the result was to place all non-divisional units of the combat arms except infantry on the flexible battalion-and-group system. Since very little infantry was non-divisional the exception was minor. Now was the further exception of coast artillery significant. The same principles, as explained above, were applied within the armored division.178
Service units were similarly reorganized. On 29 December 1942 General Marshall informally expressed the opinion that the organization of service troops was wasteful.179 He noted that large organic units, such as the regiment, were satisfactory for large missions, but that there was no economical means of sending small units on small missions (for example to island bases), and no means, except through excessive headquarters overhead, of controlling numerous small service units of diverse types. "It seems to me," he wrote, "that we should have these service units so set up that we can put together composite battalions, composite regiments and composite brigades ..." The system proposed by the Army Ground Forces on the preceding 21 September had been designed to provide the flexibility desired by General Marshall. In addition, in connection with ordnance units, the Army Ground Forces had recently proposed that a battalion headquarters be created, for control of variable numbers of ordnance companies of dissimilar types - heavy maintenance, evacuation, depot, etc. Such a battalion was in effect a "group" of companies. General McNair recommended that this scheme be generalized to meet the problem raised by General Marshall.180
During 1943 the regiment disappeared from service troops. Engineer general service regiments formerly organic in the type army were broken up into administratively self-sufficient separate battalions. Medical regiments formerly organic in the type army were broken up into administratively self-sufficient companies of various types -- collecting, clearing, depot, etc. Quartermaster and ordnance troops, and some engineer and signal troops, were likewise organized in separate companies. In general, in the services, the company became the basic T/O unit, as the battalion was in the arms. For command over several companies, within the same service though of different types if desired, battalion headquarters and headquarters detachments were created to which
companies could be attached as needed. There were thus two kinds of non-divisional battalions; fluid battalions for ordnance, quartermaster and medical troops, and fixed battalions for combat troops and for certain kinds of medical, signal, engineer and military police units. For command over several battalions of either type group headquarters were provided in all arms and services of the Ground Forces except chemical, military police and signal, in which so large a massing by branch was considered unnecessary, and except in the infantry, where the regiment survived to perform this function.181
For command over several groups it was the intention of the Army Ground Forces to provide brigade headquarters. The old T/O brigade, with an organic component of regiments, found in antiaircraft artillery, field artillery and cavalry, was abolished. The troops of these brigades were reorganized in self-sustaining battalions and squadrons. The new brigade, like the group, was organically only a headquarters and headquarters company, to which subordinate units could be flexibly attached. It was expected that such brigades could be formed in any arm or service in which a demand for so large a single-branch organization might arise. In fact, the Army Ground Forces organized brigades on the new plan only for antiaircraft, field artillery and tank destroyer units. One infantry airborne brigade was also created. In practice, only one tank destroyer brigade went overseas; field artillery brigades were not needed in quantity because groups were attached directly to corps artillery headquarters; and brigades became common only in the antiaircraft artillery, in which their number declined as antiaircraft battalions were inactivated.182
The dissolution of non-divisional forces into T/O battalions or companies, held together in temporary non-T/O combinations under flexible group and brigade command, or under flexible battalion command in the case of the service companies, in effect produced the revolution of organic army troops and corps troops against which the War Department had originally demurred. If there was no such thing as an organically constituted regiment or brigade, there could hardly be, within reason, an organically constituted corps or army. The principle of flexibility had prevailed.
Last updated 15 March 2006