The history of the Amphibious Training Center was divided into two geographically and chronologically separate periods—the first its life at Camp Edwards, Massachusetts, and the second its life at Carrabelle, Florida. Haste and confusion characterized both periods. The exigencies of the training mission required the initiation of the Center's efforts on 15 June 1942 after less than three months of planning and preparation.
General Keating arrived at Camp Edwards on 12 June accompanied by Colonel P. T. Wolfe, Executive Officer of the Center. Only sixteen officers had arrived by 15 June; nevertheless, work on accomplishment of the training mission began at once.
The preparatory period from 15 June to 15 July 1942 was devoted to development of doctrine and technique; securing training equipment; preparing lectures, conferences, and map problems; organizing the headquarters; setting up the proposed curriculum of instruction; assignment and reassignment of instructors; building training aids; organizing and teaching tactics and technique to demonstration units; experimenting with new ideas; clearing training areas; preparing and publishing training literature, conducting numerous rehearsals; and viewing with apprehension and alarm the rapid approach of 15 July when the first school was to begin.
Amphibious Training Center headquarters and the school building were established at Camp Edwards proper. The demonstration unit1 was also housed initially at Camp Edwards, pending the erection of a tent camp at Washburn Island on the shores of Vineyard Sound, approximately five miles south of the main post at Camp Edwards
The first student unit to undertake amphibious training at that station was the 45th Infantry Division, which was trained by echelons—one regimental combat team at a time. The proposed tent camp at Washburn Island was not yet completed when the first combat team arrived on 12 July, but sufficient tentage was provided (for all elements of it) within a few days after its arrival. In the interim individual shelter tents were used.
Training of the first combat team of the 45th Infantry Division started on schedule at 0800 15 July 1942, and continued for ten days. The second and third combat teams succeeded the first without interruption until conclusion of training on 20 August.
The final phase of the training consisted of amphibious maneuvers by all elements of the Division on 17, 18, and 19 August during which the troops ware transported with their supplies and equipment in small landing craft from the shores of Washburn Island across Vineyard Sound to make a landing on Martha's Vineyard, an island about six miles distant. Immediately upon completion of its training, the Division moved out to make way for the next student unit.
The boat-operating unit which was assisting the Amphibious Training Center was already bivouacked in tents on Washburn Island when the 45th Division arrived for training.2 The Center concentrated all student units and demonstration troops on the
1. See Chap IV.
Island to save training time by eliminating transportation of classes over long distances. Boats and beaches were also available in that area. The Center's demonstration battalion remained at Camp Edwards during the training of the 45th Division owing to lack of tentage and necessary kitchen and latrine facilities on the Island. The battalion was finally moved to the Island on 15 August after it had completed its demonstrations for the 45th Division and while that unit was preparing for the final maneuver. The move had to be expedited because the battalion was participating in the division maneuver.
The second student unit, the 36th Infantry Division, arrived on 22 August 1942. One regimental combat team was bivouacked in the tent camp at Washburn Island while the remainder of the division occupied quarters on the post at Camp Edwards. Combat teams were then rotated for training between Edwards and Washburn Island.
The training of the 36th Division was conducted in essentially the same manner as that of the 45th Division and covered the period 24 August to 3 October 1942. It was terminated by the customary shore-to-shore landing exercise which was held on 1, 2 and 3 October.
It had been planned to move the Center to Carrabelle, Florida on the completion of construction at that camp. General Keating requested that he be authorized to move south on the completion of the training of the 36th Division, and the move was directed to take place on or about 5 October.3
Little could be done to prepare for the move when the directive was received in September because all available personnel of the Center were engaged in instructing and providing demonstrations for the 36th Division, and the Center's demonstration unit had to act as opposing troops for the final maneuver. Accordingly, most of the work of moving the Center and its demonstration unit—plus all equipment including cargo-net towers—was crammed into the three days following the final division exercise. The move started on 6 October 1942.
All elements of the Amphibious Training Center had arrived at Carrabelle by 15 October, and preparations were immediately made to receive the fires student unit to be trained at the new camp. The new location on the swampy chores of the Gulf Coast of Florida was certainly not an inspiring sight—construction was not completed and fifty yards from the fringe of the camp the casual wanderer found himself in a swampy, tangled, and snake-infested subtropical Jungle.
The period from the arrival of the Center personnel at Carrabelle to the arrival of the first student unit was spent in clearing areas for training, erecting the cargo net towers and other training aids, preparing and revising training schedules, making the new camp liveable, preparing and conducting rehearsals, perfecting plans for the employment of the boat-operating unit, planning for the bivouacking of the next student unit, and reconnoitering for suitable landing beaches and maneuver areas.
The first unit to be trained at Camp Gordon Johnston (as the location at Carrabelle was designated on 13 January 19434) was the 38th Infantry Division Training of this unit began on 23 November 1942, and terminated with the usual maneuver held on 17, 18, and 19 December. The maneuver on those three days was not executed to the
3. AGF ltr (I) 370.5/1 (Amph) GNGCT to CG ATC, 19 Sep
42, sub: Transfer of Amph Tng Comd Units to Carrabelle, Fla.
4. WD GO 2, 13 Jan 42.
satisfaction of the Amphibious Training Center, and was accordingly repeated with greater success on 28, 29 and 30 December.5
There was a lapse of almost one month between the completion of training of the 38th Division and the arrival of the next unit, owing to indecision of higher headquarters as to where to move the 38th Division. This period was spent in combat training for the troops of the Center's demonstration unit and in further technical and tactical training for the boat-operating unit assigned to the Center.
The 28th Infantry Division was the next unit to arrive. Its training began on 28 January 1943 and was terminated with the final division landing exercise on 7, 8 and 9 March. This unit was the last infantry division to be trained by the Amphibious Training Center.
General Keating had been notified in February that upon completion of training for the 28th Division he was to concentrate on further training for the demonstration it and the boat-operating emit. This program was followed because at that time no other divisions were available to take shore-to-shore training. The next unit to be trained was expected about 10 April but actually no other divisions were trained of the Center.
On 10 March General Keating told the assembled officers of the Center that the future of the organization was very much in doubt and that it appeared probable that no more training would be conducted at Camp Gordon Johnston. General Keating kept in close touch with Army Ground Forces by telephone regarding the status of the Center, and early in April he was notified verbally that the Center was soon to be disbanded. In compliance with these directives, training aids were torn down and salvaged or shipped to other camps in the country, a large amount of property was either turned in to the post supply agencies or shipped in accordance with Army Ground Forces directive.
Early in May, after all training aids had been removed, key officers transferred, and the Center generally rendered incapable of further operation as such, three separate battalions arrived for basic amphibious training. These were the 81st Chemical Battalion, the 61st Medical Battalion, and the 462d AAA AW Battalion. The school was hastily reorganized by pressing into service officers who had not served before as instructors, and an abbreviated course of basic amphibious training was given to these battalions. Fortunately the cargo-net towers had not been torn down, but the nets had to be re-erected and considerable work in addition was required to restore the obstacle courses, battle courses, etc., to an operating condition. There were no boats available because the boat-operating unit had previously been ordered away.
Upon completion of the training of these three battalions, the remolding personnel of the Amphibious Training Center reverted to their former status of uncertainty and awaited further action on the part of higher headquarters. In the meantime tactical training of the demonstration unit continued. The waiting period was short—the Amphibious Training Center was officially disbanded on 10 June 1943.7
5. See Chap VII.
6. AGF ltr (C) 353/32 (Amph) INGOT to CG ATC, 16 Feb 43, sub: Additional Tng for the 3d Engr Amph Brig and the 75th Composite Inf Tng Bn.
7. WD ltr AG 322 (10 Jun 43) OB-I-GNGCT-M to CG AGF, 12 Jun 43, sub: Disbandment of the Amphibious Training Center.
The disbandment of the Center was not a surprise to the officers connected with it. Rumors from higher headquarters had indicated as early as September 1942 that the Amphibious Training Center existed only by the grace of God and the Navy Department. On 5 September 1942, the Joint Chiefs of Staff published a paper in which they stated their belief that amphibious operations were essentially the responsibility of the Navy, but that they also recognized the fact that Army units must be used in this type of warfare until sufficient Marine units could be organized and trained to work with the Navy.8 They agreed that the Army and Navy should train and hold available some units for amphibious warfare. The tenor of the paper indicated clearly that the Navy still considered amphibious operations and training peculiarly a Navy function.
Shortly after the publication of the above paper a meeting wee held in the office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3 of the War Department, who, at that time, was General Edwards. This meeting was attended by General Edwards, WD; General Streett, Colonel Gallant, and Colonel Woodruff, OPD; Colonel Phillips and Lt. Colonel Williams, AGF; and Colonel Beall, SOS. The paper prepared by the Joint Chiefs of Staff was discussed, and General Edwards said that by the terms of that paper it appeared the Navy was going to take over all amphibious training. He also pointed out that strategic plans were not sufficiently definite to abandon shore-to-shore training such as the Amphibious Training Center had been conducting. Both General Streett and General Edwards thought that the Army should continue its training of Army Ground Forces units in conjunction with the boat-operating units of the Service of Supply. The consensus of the assembled officers was that the Army should continue its training at Carrabelle along the lines then being followed, but that the word "amphibious" should be eliminated both from the title of the Center and from the training directive upon which the Center was operating.9
On 5 November 1942 Army Ground Forces recommended to the War Department a policy regarding future amphibious training: (1) that the Army retain its installation at Carrabelle and train troops amphibiously without any connection with the Navy (this training to last for one month, after which the troops would be trained by the Navy, in such advance subjects as were peculiar to the Navy, for a period not to exceed one month); (2) that if the Navy desired to take over amphibious trail entirely, they could take Carrabelle without any Army Ground Forces personnel and furnish all equipment and person necessary to train units—the Army participation to be limited to furnishing the units to be trained.10
Again on 9 November 1942, General McNair stated his policy with regard to amphibious training.11 He said he felt that the Army could provide basic amphibious training very effectively at Carrabelle—in all probability better than the Navy could do it. He reiterated that the Army should retain Carrabelle and carry on as they were then doing, but that if the Navy wanted to take over entirely, then Carrabelle should be turned over to them and the Army set-up should be removed.
While this battle was going on in higher headquarters, the Amphibious Training Center was proceeding with amphibious training under Army Ground Forces at Carrabelle,
8. JCS 81/1, 5 Sep 42, sub: Distribution and Composition
of U. S. Amph Forces.
9. Memo of Col. J. H. Phillips, G-3 AGF for the CofS AGF, 5 Nor 42, sub: Amphibian Tng to be Conducted by the Army. AGF 353/207 (Amph).
10. Memo 353/207 (Amph) of DCofS AGF for G-3, G-4 and Plans AGF, 5 Nov 42, sub: Amph Tng.
11. Memo (S) of Gen McNair for ACofS G-3 WD, 9 Nov 42, sub: Amph Tng. AGF 353/47 (Amph) (S).
waiting for its fate to be decided and apprehensive of being taken over by the Navy. Good news was received by General Keating in a letter from General McNair dated 4 January 1943, which reflected the still unsettled status of events in higher echelons.12 General McNair stated:
Thus on 16 March 1943 the Army Ground Forces was relieved of all responsibility insofar as shore-to-shore amphibious training was concerned.14 This was later confirmed in a letter from The Adjutant General which stated:
12. Personal ltr of Gen McNair to Gen Keating, 4 Jan 43.
AGF Records, 353 Amph Tng.
13. Photostat (S) of Memo of Agreement of the Chiefs of Staff, USA, and the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations (incl to WD ltr (S) AG 353 Amph Tng (3-10-43) OB-S-C-M, 17 Mar 43, sub: Army Amphibian Engr Boat Trs.).
14. WD memo WDGCT 353 Amph (3-16-43) of Org and Tng Div G-3 WD for the CG AGF, 16 Mar 43, sub: Army Amph Tng (Shore-to-Shore).
15. WD ltr (R) AG 353 (3-20-43) OB-S-GNGCT to CG AGF, 28 Mar 43, sub: Revocation of Certain Tng Responsibilities, AGF.