Rearming Begins: A Confusion of Aims

While the War Department in its several functions had the responsibility for planning the preparations for war and then for executing them, between these operations there were two essential intermediate steps, (1) the authorizing of specific preparations and (2) providing of money for their performance. These intermediate steps could be taken only by Congress, but as a normal thing Congress neither provided nor authorized save after receiving recommendations of a fairly specific nature from the President. Thus while the military establishment could make its general plan and submit particular requests to the Secretary of War for transmission to the President, it was the President who by normal procedure adopted the program as his own and forwarded it to Congress recommending action. It also was the President, as Commander in Chief of the Army and as the superior of the Secretary of War, who could and on occasion did press upon the War Department a particular idea which the Department thereupon developed into an organized program that the President then urged upon Congress.

In the year preceding the outbreak of World War II this procedure of Presidential initiative was employed by Mr. Roosevelt to meet a situation made much worse by the Munich Pact. On 14 November 1938 he summoned his principal military and civilian advisers to the White House and laid his views before them, 1 and on that occasion the effective rearming of the nation's ground and air forces took its start.2 Despite the hasty and unshaped character of the


President's proposal, which went through many changes, and despite the countless interruptions and alterations and delays which the nation's rearming as a whole was to encounter in the years to come, this Presidential proposal must be regarded as far transcending-in its importance as an impulse to actual acquisition of weapons-the recommendations of the War Department officials, civilian and military, which antedated the November 1938 meeting. On this occasion President Roosevelt abruptly set aside for the time being the Army's carefully considered plans for the rearming of the ground forces. He concentrated his attention wholly upon the air forces, which up to this time had been of secondary consideration in Army planning. Expansion of the air establishment had been reinitiated in 1936 when Congress approved the Baker Board recommendations to the extent of authorizing an increase from a nominal 1,800 planes to an equally nominal 2,320 planes and thereupon, in 1936-38, doubled the average Air Corps appropriations of 1933-35. But authorization does not produce airplanes immediately. By the autumn of 1938 the number of planes on hand was still only 1,600, which was well short of even the pre-Baker objective. The airplane factories engaged on Army contracts still were not up to the necessary production rate, their combined total being figured by the Chief of the Air Corps in October 1938 at 88.2 planes per month. And two years later, in the realm of combat planes acceptable for the new battle conditions, the chief of WPD was to report on hand only 49 bombers "suitable for daylight bombing" and 140 suitable pursuit planes.3

Prior to the November meeting there had been numerous formal plans and several well-calculated proposals for the improvement of the Army. These are conspicuous enough in the records where they appear to rank as pioneers in rearming. There has been previous reference to the long-standing and long-ignored program of 1920 (for a lean, tightly organized, and well-balanced force capable of swift expansion) and the efforts of the Chief of Staff's Office in 1933 to move somewhat closer to that ideal. There was the invaluable six-year plan of


1934 (see Chapter II) for redevelopment of prototypes of equipment even when there was no prospect of money for production itself. There was the 1937 General Staff program for an Initial Protective Force of 400,000 men (the Regular Army and the National Guard combined) as the first wave of a Protective Mobilization Plan force of 750,000, plus replacements, which Secretary of War Woodring described in his 1938 annual report. There were in the same year, both before and after Munich, several vigorous stimuli provided by the Assistant Secretary of War, Louis Johnson, whose particular responsibility was to procure the materiel authorized for the Army and who had the advantage of continuous advice from his professionally trained executive officer, Col. (later Maj. Gen.) James H. Burns. One such stimulus led to the naming of the so-called Stettinius Board whose report to the President on the need of industrial mobilization was unfortunately not made public by Mr. Roosevelt and apparently not acted upon. Another stimulus by Mr. Johnson affected Air Corps experimental work at the hands of the National Research Council.4 Another sought early implementing of the General Staff's $579,500,000 rearming plan. It took the form of getting from the Ordnance Department detailed estimates of the current munitions shortage and of the cost of meeting each separate phase, all of which was incorporated in a memorandum for the President. 5 All these recommendations were based upon prolonged and careful study within the General Staff, where there was a calculation of the armed strength required for carrying out any of the possible war plans, and within the Supply branches, notably the Ordnance Department, where the cost and delivery time of the necessary


weapons and other equipment were computed.6 Each such proposal was the result of the normal functioning of the Chief of Staff's Office, quickened in the 1938 cases by the Assistant Secretary's pressure for action, applied both to the General Staff and to the President.7 Evidence is scattered through the files relating to estimates and airplane production, cited above, and in Mr. Johnson's remarks on the aircraft procurement program in the Report o f the Secretary of War . . . 1938:

In my report last year I pointed out that the aircraft procurement policy inaugurated in 1934, providing for the acquisition of aircraft in quantity only as a result of competitive bidding, was functioning satisfactorily and that the combat airplanes under construction as a result were in general the best and most efficient airplanes in the world. Now, however, our former technical superiority in aeronautical development is no longer clearly apparent. Recent advances in other countries have equaled if not exceeded our efforts. We have known for some time that foreign nations far surpassed us in the number of military aircraft at their disposal but we also knew that we led the field technically. It now appears that our research and development programs must be accelerated if we are to regain our position of technical leadership.

It appears further, and this, it seems to me, is an aspect of our defensive situation that must be faced, that our current construction program as well as our existing war-time procurement program for aircraft both fall short of providing even the minimum amount of this essential item which any realistic view of the problem will show as necessary. The same remark holds true to an even greater degree with respect to antiaircraft materiel. In my opinion the people of the United States must be awakened to a realization of their weakness in the matter of defense against hostile aircraft and they must be convinced that, if adequate protection is to be provided, they must spend money for the purpose. Anyone acquainted with the facts, who considers the bombing activity which has characterized operations in Spain and in China, must stand aghast at a contemplation of the havoc which a hostile bombing attack could and, in the event of war, doubtless would, wreak on our unprotected cities.8

This was in contrast to the generally optimistic report of the Secretary of War and the Chief of Staff. A comparison of the above with the paragraph by the Chief of Staff on airplane procurement in the same report illustrates the confusion of objectives, though neither statement should be accepted as explaining the complex conditions or the thinking of the men involved. The statement of the Chief of Staff is as follows:


Great progress has been made toward the attainment of the Baker Board objective. Funds provided in fiscal year 1939 will permit the completion of this objective. The Air Corps is now being equipped with airplanes and materiel that are equal, if not superior, to any military planes in design, speed, endurance and suitability for the military use for which intended. This was convincingly demonstrated in February of this year by the record breaking flight to Argentina by six United States Army bombers of the Second Bombardment Group, to participate in the inaugural ceremonies at Buenos Aires. These airplanes with normal crews, equipment, and training gave a demonstration of speed, range, and navigation accuracy unexcelled by any military planes in the world.9

As proposals, formally laid before the President as Commander in Chief, these recommendations from the War Department make an impressive appearance in the official record. They ended, however, as proposals: the President, beyond expressing an interest, did nothing about them at the time, and when the major expansion of the Army and the upbuilding of war industries and the accumulation of strategic war materials actually came to pass, it was much later, and upon another basis. Despite the incidence of dates, the proposals have only an apparent significance. The actual drive toward rearming, so far as immediate effectiveness was concerned, began on a different date, came from different causes, and took a different direction altogether. The date was the one mentioned-14 November 1938. The causes lay in reports brought to Mr. Roosevelt of the special alarm of Great Britain and France over the now well-known expansion of the German Air Force. The direction was toward a rapid upbuilding of the U. S. Army Air Corps and of the Army's antiaircraft defenses for the protection of the Western Hemisphere.

The fundamental importance of all this, so far as America's rearming is concerned, lay in the fact that now for the first time the Commander in Chief, rather than the Army establishment, was pressing for national rearming and was insistent upon starting with a minimum of delay; he, in contrast with the Army, had influence over Congress. There were important differences between his own idea of how it should be done and the professional soldier's methodically designed program for a balanced force, whose stage-by-stage development would be determined largely by the time factor of munitions production. These differences recurred in one form or another over the ensuing years. They called for frequent argument and often for patient adjustment to necessity, and unless


one is aware that they existed it is difficult to understand some of the changes of plan that marked the course of the nation's rearming. Most of these changes of plan, however, were due to altered estimates of the situation, for the vast extent and complexity of the project were such as to call for continuous reappraisal and correction. Even firm requirements of one month were altered in the next month, whether so influenced by accident or by enemy action or by the changes in objective that sprang from hesitancy and doubts about the exact course to be followed. The sequence of events in 1938 affords an example.

The General Staff's study of activities in Europe, plus the pressure of the Assistant Secretary for making the Protective Mobilization Force more than a paper concept, had already served the double purpose of bringing from the Ordnance Department and other branches a close calculation of the ground forces' needs in equipment 10 and of encouraging a study of the air forces' whole organization.11 The summaries of Army needs, as noted, were placed in the President's hands, and ultimately they would prove useful. But they do not appear to have had any immediate result.

The October 1938 Impulse to American Rearming

The first evidence of acute White House concern over the mounting powers of the Axis as a substantial threat to the security of the United States (about which, it will be recalled, the Standing Liaison Committee of State-War-Navy officials had issued warning) reached the War Department after the return to Washington on 13 October 1938 of William C. Bullitt, then U. S. Ambassador to France.12 On the following day, Mr. Roosevelt announced that, after having sat up late the night before to hear the report from Ambassador Bullitt, he could not comment on current budget planning because new world conditions had compelled him and his assistants to recheck defense preparedness carefully. When asked specifically for the "reasons that led to this decision to reorganize the whole national defense picture," he replied: "I should say, offhand, that it started about


a year ago because of information that was coming in at that time. It has been in progress for about a year and it has, in a sense, been forced to a head by events, developments and information received within the past month." 13

Mr. Bullitt had a clear impression of French official thinking as to the significance of Hitler's overriding self-confidence at the time of his historic Munich meeting with Premiers Chamberlain and Daladier. The French military chiefs attributed Hitler's confidence to his possession of an air force already large and still capable of rapid expansion by means of the huge German airplane factories already in operation. What impressed the French most was the existence of a German bomber fleet much larger than that of France and Britain combined, and what the French military now wished ardently was a rapid increase of French air resources of every kind, for defense and for counteroffensive. They (and the British as well) knew that a rapid increase could come about only from American factories and they urged upon the United States a development of American airplane production for Anglo-French purchase. With this in prospect, the French promised they would have a better chance of resisting German air attack: they would "dig underground until relief should come." 14  Through Mr. Bullitt's recital of French fears and desires, duplicated to a degree by reports of similar anxieties in Great Britain,15 President Roosevelt became convinced for the first time that American airplane production should be greatly stimulated with all possible speed. His private remarks to that effect led to conjecture in the press that he would shortly ask for 10,000 airplanes plus a large increase in factories.16 There is, on the part of a principal participant in later conferences, a firm belief that at that time the President had in mind the creation in the United


States of airplane production facilities whose output would go to Britain and France, enabling them to build up aerial fleets that might overawe Hitler or that, if war should come, could even help to defeat Hitler without American armed intervention.17 However, it was apparent that government funds could not be employed for erection of plant facilities whose product was declared to be for immediate benefit to foreign countries; if any facilities were to go up, through use of government funds, it would surely be upon the assumption by Congress that they were to be erected for the primary needs of the United States itself. Isolationist Congressmen were already critical of foreign purchases of American munitions on the ground (1) that the purchases might involve the nation in a European war, and (2) that they were taking out of the country materiel which was needed by the U. S. Army or Navy. Only a few months later this antagonism blazed up over an accident to a new light bomber, in whose trial flight the test pilot was killed and the passenger, at first identified as "Smithins, a company mechanic," was injured. "Smithins" proved to be Paul Chemidlin, observer for the French Air Ministry 18 and there was immediate inference that the French were being given access to military aviation secrets; a further charge in isolationists' speeches was that this access, originally denied by Army and Navy officers, had been granted by the President through Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau in the latter's capacity as a civilian procurement authority. General Arnold later informed the Congressional committee that he himself had granted permission "upon request of the Secretary of the Treasury and by direction of the Secretary of War; whereupon I was asked by the Senators 'Who is running your Air Force: the Secretary of the Treasury or the Secretary of War?' " 19 The President promptly announced that he had approved French purchase of an unstated number of modern battle planes 20 and the following day General Craig was reported as saying that no secret devices were shown to the French agents.21 However (illustrating a belief expressed publicly about Presidential intentions), members of the Senate Military Affairs


Committee were then reported as harboring the fear that "the Administration might have in mind some sort of arrangement whereby the 565 airplanes for which the President had asked Congress . . . would be turned over to the French Air Mission at some later date during a crisis, by legislation which would be sought under the whip of emergency." 22

The Army Begins Revising Its Ordnance Planning

Much of what the President had in mind after the Bullitt conference-that is, a marked increase in defense expenditures in some form or another-must have been communicated to the War Department, and presumably in fragments, for within a week of the Bullitt report to Mr. Roosevelt there was marked activity in planning. On 19 October the Deputy Chief of Staff conferred with the Chief of Ordnance, who within twenty-four hours submitted an estimate of $125,000,000 to cover ordnance deficiencies.23 This conference had been initiated by General Marshall as one of many undertaken soon after he became Deputy Chief of Staff in order to familiarize himself with all the responsibilities of his new office. It developed, however, into a discussion of Army responsibility for formulating a rounded program of rearmament. Accordingly, one day later the Chief of Ordnance submitted another estimate, totaling $349,000,000. 24  Both estimates were based upon Staff plans of long standing: the first one presumably met the prevailing view of what the President and Congress might approve as a post-Munich expenditure; the second one took advantage of what now seemed to be an unexpected favoring wind springing up at the White House. The same expanding optimism guided the Air Corps whose chief on 19 October, responding to oral instructions, submitted to the Secretary of War a long-range program for expanding the Air Corps by 4,000 planes.25 Three days later, again on instructions from the Secretary, he submitted a revision of the short-range program, for the fiscal year 19411, increasing the immediate purchases from 178 to 1,178 planes.26  One day later the Chief of Staff submitted to the Assistant Secretary yet another


upward revision of budget estimates. This time he proposed to add 2,500 new planes instead of the 1,000 which the Chief of the Air Corps sought.27

If this extraordinary flurry of upward revisions indicates a sudden confidence that the President now would support in the new Congress large increases for the ground and air forces, comparable to these granted the sea forces in the preceding session, it also indicates uncertainty and confusion. The language of the communications just cited shows a belief that $500,000,000 would be requested, much more than had been sought for new equipment allotments for many years.28 The uncertainty was upon the program's distribution over one, two, and three years 29 and upon the manner in which the total amount should be divided between the ground and air components of the Army. Nobody questioned that there was acute need for ordnance materiel to make up for existing shortages in the Army and to provide a reserve in those items which cannot be swiftly produced and hence must be accumulated far in advance of need. But among the advocates of air expansion, who felt sure that the President was in agreement with them, there was equal certainty that there should be a large immediate increase in the number of airplanes on hand and in the provision for many more in the visible future. There was equally persuasive argument for the installation of grand-scale maintenance and training facilities, on the sound reasoning that it would take as long to train efficient crews and pilots as to build efficient planes. All these outlays would certainly use up more than $500,000,000. Accordingly the task of the Chief of Staff was to reconcile these requirements in such a way as to attain a balanced force, as efficient as possible, with necessary adjustment to two controlling factors, (1) the funds which should become available and (2) the exactions of time requirements. His task was not merely to reach a sound judgment on how to gain that balanced force, but to convince the Secretary, the Assistant Secretary, and the President's other advisers that the balanced force was a prime desideratum 30  It was not easy.


The 24 October communication to the Budget office, which called for planes, was also an argument for ordnance, and when the 25 October program for still more planes was given to the Assistant Secretary there was a renewed argument with the President, as well as his advisers, in favor of "balance." 31  The President had already, on that same day, named a committee to report steps necessary to increase military aircraft production, the members being Assistant Secretary Johnson, Charles Edison, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and Aubrey Williams, Deputy Administrator of the Works Progress Administration. The committee reported with surprising celerity on 28 October, presenting memoranda on questions yet to be studied but calling for expansion of the commercial aircraft industry within two years from a current capacity of 2,600 to one of 15,000 planes a year, and for the creation within three years of government-built plants which would produce an additional 16,000 planes a year.32  The observant chief of the Air Corps became doubtful that even the 2,500-plane program that he had lately urged was sufficient to the new day. On to November he phrased a diplomatic memorandum to the Assistant Secretary on "our personal ideas of a method of establishing an Air Force objective and an indication of what such an objective might be." The outstanding items among his personal ideas were a new goal of 7,000 planes, and an outline of means whereby 5,000 of them could be acquired with fair speed.33

The Momentous White House Meeting of 14 November 1938

At the White House conference of 14 November were present the President; Secretary of the Treasury Morgenthau; Harry L. Hopkins, WPA Chief, who had already become the President's principal adviser; Robert H. Jackson, the Solicitor General, already marked for the Attorney General's post; Louis Johnson, Assistant Secretary of War; Herman Oliphant, General Counsel of the Treasury; Gen. Malin Craig, the Chief of Staff, and his Deputy, Brig. Gen. George C. Marshall; Maj. Gen. Henry H. Arnold, the new Chief of the Air Corps; Col. James H. Burns, Executive Assistant to the Assistant Secretary


of War; and the President's military and naval aides.34  The President did most of the speaking, as if his mind had been made up by earlier discussion and appraisal. He remarked that the United States defenses were patently weak; that the first need was the rapid upbuilding of a heavy striking force of Army airplanes; that the Navy could then "float" only 2,000 planes and that it too needed more planes-any new plant construction program would have to allow a factory capacity of 350 to 500 planes per year for the Navy alone. The air situation in Europe he summarized with announcement that France had only 600 modern combat planes and an annual production capacity of 3,600; that Great Britain had 1,500 to 2,200 planes and an annual capacity of 4,800. On the other hand, of the Axis Powers Germany then had 5,000 to 10,000 planes, with 12,000 annual capacity, and Italy had 3,000 planes with an annual capacity of 2,400. In view of those Axis figures, he continued, the United States must be prepared to resist assault on the Western Hemisphere "from the North to the South Pole."

As to the means of resistance, the President said the weakest of all the United States armed forces was the Army Air Corps, and this must be built up quickly. At the same time and of equal importance there must be a rapid upbuilding of antiaircraft artillery units (at that time these units were a part of the Coast Artillery). The need that he stressed, however, was for an increase of air strength. The desired objective was an Army air force of 20,000 planes and an annual productive capacity of 24,000, but, he explained, if he asked Congress for any such amount he would get about half the request. His view was that in order to get the support of Congress there should be present concentration not on the greater objective but on an "acceptable" program that he could present with confidence of Congressional support. He therefore wished the War Department to develop a program for 10,000 planes (the figure that the press already had mentioned unofficially, but certainly with official encouragement) of which 2,500 would be training planes, 3,750 line combat, and 3,750 reserve combat planes. His stated broad objectives were: (1) production over a two-year period of 10,000 planes as described, of which 8,000 would come from existing commercial plants and 2,000 from new plants to be built with government funds and (2) the creation of an unused plant capacity for producing 10,000 planes annually. The second objective, Mr. Roosevelt indicated, could be attained by a plant-construction program that he would leave to Mr.


Hopkins, whose WPA experience qualified him for that task; in general, the program called for the erection of seven government-built plants of which two would go into operation (to produce the 2,000 planes referred to in Objective 1) and five would remain idle until needed, the intimation being that they would be needed for an air program later and larger than the 10,000-plane program he was now advancing.

The President's whole emphasis was upon airplanes. There was none whatever on an air force, a much larger thing that is made up of airplanes plus equipment plus pilots and crews and maintenance units, all organized methodically in commands, all supported by supply elements, all integrated with other elements of national defense, all operating in accordance with a prepared plan adjusted through years of experiment and precisely related to available funds and manpower and authority.

In this circumstance is a suggestion of the purpose previously mentioned, which by one of the participants in the conference was believed to be Mr. Roosevelt's- to produce airplanes in great numbers without all these aspects of a balanced air force, for the sufficient reason that the airplanes were, in his mind, principally destined not for the U. S. Army Air Corps but for direct purchase by the air forces of Great Britain and France. However fully formed that Presidential purpose was in 1938, aspects of it reappeared as the war advanced. In 1938-39 the President called for airplanes above all other weapons, despite the grave shortages of ground force equipment.35  In 1940 he voiced his determination to make large use of American production facilities for aiding the Allies, even to the point of shipping out material that Secretary of War Woodring contended should be retained for the United States forces.36  In his 16 May 1940 message to Congress the President made his wishes in this respect unmistakable:

I ask the Congress not to take any action which would in any way hamper or delay the delivery of American-made planes to foreign nations which have ordered them or seek to


purchase more planes. That, from the point of view of our own national defense, would be extremely short-sighted. Our immediate problem is to superimpose on this productive capacity a greatly increased additional productive capacity.37

The Army Plans a Balanced Development

But the President's apparent desire in November 1938 to concentrate almost wholly upon airplane construction ran counter to the judgment of his military advisers who favored airplanes in that balance with supplies and training and ground force requirements which has been discussed. Accordingly on the day after the White House meeting of 14 November the Assistant Secretary (momentarily Acting Secretary) directed the Chief of Staff to prepare a detailed budget which, over a two-year period, would achieve the following objectives as far as the air was concerned: 38

1. An Army airplane strength of 10,000 planes balanced as to types, 50 percent of them to be maintained on an operating basis, including personnel, installations, materials, 50 percent to be kept in storage.
2. Provision for seven government aircraft factories each with an average annual production of 1,200 planes, buildings to be constructed from relief funds but machinery and operation to be provided from Army funds.
3. Necessary supporting materials and services-Ordnance, Quartermaster, Signal Corps, and so on.

Significantly this same order went on to call for a further budget estimate on the cost of supplies which would be required to equip and maintain the Protective Mobilization Plan Army.39  It sought additional estimates that would cover the following items:

1. Completion of the educational orders program.
2. Equipping the existing government arsenals with modern machinery.
3. Completing plans for the factory output of critical supplies.


4. Acceleration of the industrial mobilization program by completing the current surveys and specifications.
5. Providing a reserve of special machinery for the making of essential munitions.
6. Providing stock piles of critical raw materials.

These were considerable additions to an "airplanes-only" program which the President had originally specified, and the Acting Secretary's ignoring of a $500,000,000 limitation evidences a belief that the President might raise his financial sights a great deal. The objectives were not only 10,000 planes but immediate supplies for the Protective Mobilization Plan force and also industrial preparedness for a much larger eventual force.

Two days later the Deputy Chief of Staff provided all assistant chiefs with copies of the Acting Secretary's memorandum and directed prompt assistance to General Arnold (of the Air Corps) in completing his own task, adding: "There is no time for normal General Staff procedure. Speed is essential and your efforts should be informal." 40  He gave specific directions to each of the Staff divisions for its part in the computation work and then, referring to the PMP equipment plan that had been revived by the Acting Secretary's instructions, directed G-4 to recalculate the standing estimate of $579,500,000: this called for deducting from it $110,000,000 for airplane procurement and $42,000,000 for aids to manufacture which, it is seen, the Acting Secretary's memorandum had removed from PMP responsibility. The celerity enjoined upon the several Staff sections by the Deputy Chief of Staff was occasioned by the short time in which the figures would have to be computed and processed through the Bureau of the Budget in order to be ready for the President's message to Congress at the New Year. In the meantime, orders were prepared for bringing to Washington certain Air Corps personnel who were expert in Ordnance, Signal Corps, and other supply branches. Each of these fields offered problems which would have to be mastered before there could be any creation of the balanced air force that was clearly the objective of the Chief of Staff as distinguished from the President's specific desire for 10,000 airplanes. A single office memorandum installed six new executive officers for the Chief of the Air Corps, including Lt. Col. Carl Spaatz, Lt. Col. Joseph T. McNarney, Lt. Col. Ira C. Eaker, and Maj. Muir S. Fairchild, all of whom during the years following would win distinction as general officers. 41


The balanced air force was not the only concern of the Chief of Staff's Office, any more than of the Assistant Secretary. Rather, the apparent decision at the Chief of Staff's level was to effect something of a balancing of the Army as a whole, such as had been sought for years.42  In particular, the quest was for arms and equipment the needs for which were already computed in the ordnance estimates referred to, but besides this materiel program, the War Plans Division on 25 November advanced a program for modest enlargement in personnel as well.43 It was occasioned by the growing uneasiness about Axis plans against Latin America which had been revealed in Joint Board discussions of that month as well as at the Standing Liaison Committee meetings with the State and Navy Department representatives.44 Even while the President was interested wholly in airplanes, WPD was pressing for three other objectives: (1) improvement of the Regular Army in continental United States, to include the creation of an expeditionary force, with approval of the Latin American states involved, capable of taking and defending potential air bases; (2) improvement of American defenses in the Canal Zone, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Alaska (showing a revived concern over possibilities of Japanese aggression); (3) improvement of the National Guard, through raising a7,000 additional men who would be formed into nine antiaircraft artillery regiments plus lesser units of air corps and engineer troops. 45 In the following month (timing the message for guidance in preparation of the new budget) the Chief of Staff addressed to the Assistant Secretary of War a considered memorandum summarizing all the varied needs now under consideration. 46 It stated bluntly that the Nazis and Fascists were penetrating Central and South America, and that the American military obligation had lately become larger and more urgent, requiring preparation to defend against a growing threat not only the continental United


States and the outlying possessions referred to, but also the Western Hemisphere as a whole. These combined tasks, it was admitted, the Army was too weak to perform. Accordingly, in order to obtain a balanced military force that could command respect, it needed not one but all of the following: Increased aviation strength, a Regular Army sufficient to perform normal defense and also to provide an expeditionary force, a National Guard sufficient to complement the Regular establishment, numerous critical items of equipment, the placing of educational orders, and the planning of reserve industrial output. Specifically, the Chief of Staff recommended:

1. A total of 5,620 combat planes, 3,750 trainers, and 630 other planes (note the considerable shifting of components in the 10,000 total; the General Staff was in quest of a balanced force). Also 8,040 additional planes by the end of 1941 (not a two-year but a three-year program) attainable by the proposed erection of seven government-operated plants with 10,000 annual output. Also 7,900 officers, 1,200 cadets, and 73,000 enlisted men (currently there were fewer than 20,000 enlisted men in the Air Corps, but the 73,000 mark was destined to be eclipsed by a larger objective in the next two years under a much augmented program).
2. An increase of 58,000 in the Ground Forces.
3. An increase of 36,000 in the National Guard.
4. Materiel for a PMP M-Day force of 730,000, plus 270,000 M-Day-plus-5-months reinforcements; this would take one year to produce.47

Obviously this "balanced force" proposal was far different from the 10,000-plane program that alone had been the subject of the President's outline of mid-November, and even the Chief of Staffs memorandum is not all-inclusive for it deals only with Army items. The Navy Department was equally quickened, and from that service came arguments in favor of other large expenditures.48

Intimations of what was going on reached the White House and with little delay President Roosevelt summoned his military advisers to another meeting. He informed them sharply that, contrary to the confidence they were showing, it was extremely doubtful whether he could ask Congress for more than $500,000,000 in new armament money for the coming fiscal year: he had stated his desire to spend that upon the production of Army-type airplanes. He now found the Navy asking $100,000,000, the materiel branches of the Army $200,000,000 for immediate outlay, and the educational-orders branch $33,000,000, while unstated amounts were being sought for air bases and air training. He


had sought $500,000,000 worth of airplanes, and he was being offered everything except airplanes.49

There followed a careful and thorough discussion of the armed forces' low state and, more particularly, of the futility of producing planes over a long period without producing trained pilots and crews and air bases at an appropriate pace. At the close of the discussion Mr. Roosevelt agreed to find the Navy's $100,000,000 from another source, and to allot to non-air armaments the scheduled $200,000,000 of the main $500,000,000 leaving only $300,000,000 for the air-expansion program. Of that he also conceded $120,000,000 for air bases and other non-plane air items, but warned that all of the $180,000,000 residue must be expended on combat planes with which to impress Germany; he wished 3,000 of them.50 This was a considerable letdown. Even so, when the Air Corps recomputed its means for spending the money to best advantage, it reported to the White House that of the 3,000 planes scheduled a considerable number would be advanced trainers rather than combat planes. The President said firmly they must be combat planes; he would get other funds for trainers.51 As late as 14 December the Chief of the Air Corps sent to the Chief of Staff the drafts of five bills calling for a 10,000-airplane program and the related Air Corps improvements. On 11 January 1939 there came back to him, by direction of the Secretary of War, a memorandum directing changes which, most notably, would set a 6,000-plane total for combat and noncombat planes combined.52 This met the President's reconsidered wishes.

The Effort to Accomplish Too Many Objectives

In this manner the rearming of the United States began. The 1938 confusion sprang from the conflict of pressures to correct long-continued lacks- the weakness in personnel of the Regular Army after years of neglect, the fragmentary development of the National Guard, the paucity of weapons and equipment for even the existing military establishment, the peacetime lack of industrial plants to produce wartime needs. The nation had too long failed to recognize at its full


value the promise of air development, and the General Staff itself had failed to press its convictions aggressively during the years of discouragingly small appropriations. There now arose in various quarters, as a result of Axis threats, a desire to correct all lacks at the same time, despite the slender resources of new money which had to be divided among so many projects.53  It is not surprising that so sharp a turn of attitude as that of the White House in mid-November 1938 produced confusion; the significant thing is that there was at last a bold step forward on the road to rearming. It was not a sure one, partly because of the basic conflict between the Army's tenacious desire to attain a balanced force, which professional training recognized as essential, and the President's insistence upon air additions first of all. It must be recognized that even to get a balanced force for modern war there had to be an immense addition to its existing air element. The President concentrated on that vital point; the Army emphasized its own and equally sound objective-even though the Air Corps on occasion felt it was receiving from the Staff as a whole less support than had been ordered. A mid-January complaint was that although the Air Corps was working on a plan for a $40,000,000 increase "General Staff people, except G-4 . . . had not been informed of a change" and "it appears that General Staff cooperation with the Air Corps has about died out and the Air Corps is again going it alone." G-4 was in fact, as indicated by a memorandum of that very day to the Chief of Staff, trying to learn the responsibility for getting from the federal WPA funds the amount needed for Air Corps construction.54

A great many revisions were made in the President's hasty program, as noted, even before the plan was laid before Congress, and others followed quickly, some of them almost disastrous from the Army point of view. The 12 January 1939 message to Congress recommended immediate purchase of only $110,000,000 worth of new equipment for the ground forces, and this with a small increase was granted by Congress on 2 May, following sharp questioning of


War Department witnesses.55  The pilot-training objective that finally was approved by the Chief of the Air Corps on 21 December 1938 and supported by the Congressional appropriation of 3 April 1939 was for only 4,500 pilots in two years.56 Both these programs were small, and thereafter numerous upward revisions were to be made at an increasing pace in the programs for air and ground forces, for personnel and materiel, for long-range and short-range planning. New doubts and delays would furnish serious interruptions to progress. The start, however, was made.

The Obstacles to Thorough Planning

The changes in program, with inevitable loss of momentum, were frequently attributable to hasty judgments based on insufficient data, or to an unpredictable foreign development which completely altered requirements. Some were attributable to understandable efforts to attain too much in a limited time. Some must be recognized as simple errors in professional planning. To regard them all as readily avoidable blunders due to inefficiency would be far from the fact and would miss a major lesson of the war's experience. Far more frequently their occurrence was due to the long years of neglect that affected the General Staff as well as the Army's other elements. The planning of operations for a clear-cut objective in modern warfare is a complex task, which during World War II was entrusted to large, well-trained staffs. Yet the prewar planning of operations for possible objectives, not clear at all as to time or theater or opponent or available resources, was entrusted in 1939 to a handful of officers and men relatively geared in number to the small Army of that day. With numbers so small it was inevitable that too much knowledge and too thorough appraisal would be expected of each Staff member. It happened, further, that a large part of veteran Staff officers' time was required for the mere routine labors of administration with its harassing but necessary details, instead of being wholly available for the deliberative activities that are the proper and exacting function of a peacetime planning Staff. Much of this routine could have been performed as well or


better by junior officers or by trained civilians, but they were not at hand. The peacetime organization of the General Staff, as of the Army, had been restricted by the prolonged compulsion to save money, even at the cost of a thoroughgoing preparation for a war not yet at hand.

The General Staff was then, as previously, made up of selected officers chosen both for general capacity and for special aptitude in special fields, trained in the various graduate schools, exposed to field experience that would familiarize them with practice as well as theory. 57 Their chief lack, other than that of adequate time for mature study and considered judgment, probably was of a quickening environment. They may have been too exclusively exposed to internal contacts and too little exposed to developments in foreign military establishments, particularly that of Germany where in the thirties revolutionary military thinking, far in advance of 1918 concepts, was under way. The contacts of the General Staff in Washington were largely limited to those afforded through military observers who themselves were few and often junior in grade, 58  and through a smaller number of promising young officers who had been accepted as students in the staff schools of foreign armies on the same basis that representatives of those armies attended schools in the United States.

Even a fuller inoculation of these new ideas within the Staff, however, could hardly have overcome the deadening influence of the excessive economies in military appropriations, which was discussed in Chapter 11. Nor could it have enabled the Staff to cope with military uncertainties that lasted as long as the nation's foreign policy remained indecisive. Military requirements were determinable only by a knowledge of the task expected of the military, that is, by a statement of the foreign policies which the military might be called on to support. To determine accurately the Army's materiel requirements, for instance, and to permit procurement on an efficient basis, the first need in 1939 was for a fairly complete knowledge of what was expected of the Army, in what theater, against what possible enemy, and at what time. This would have determined the character of the operations the General Staff should prepare for, and permitted the develop-


ment of a plan, and the determination of, at least, a troop basis for the execution of the plan and, hence, of the armament necessary for an Army of that size. The Protective Mobilization Plan which the General Staff had evolved under General Craig, and which this new $575,000,000 arms program now was designed to support, was a poor thing if one compares it with the later reality of World War II. It was not a poor thing if one compares it with the still smaller establishment that the nation was then ready to support with money appropriations or even with Presidential encouragement. It was a start toward the far larger goal that maturer planning sighted only in mid-1941.


page created 12 December 2002


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