Army Ground Forces, Study No. 1

Chapter V:

The Relation of GHQ to Amphibious Training

Development of Amphibious Training, 1940-1941

Provision for amphibious training of Army Ground units antedated the activation of GHQ on 26 July 1940. On 26 June 1940 the 1st and 3d Divisions were directed to practice landing operations.1 This action followed shortly upon the German occupation of western Europe, which closed all friendly ports on the European Continent and threatened to bring the French West Indies and other French possessions in the Western Hemisphere under Axis control. In October 1940 the War Department General Staff initiated the organization of “emergency expeditionary forces” and with the concurrence of GHQ on 4 December 1940 three task forces had been constituted for action in the Caribbean and Newfoundland by July 1941.

Though the need of amphibious training was recognized, training in this form of combat remained limited in scope for a year after June 1940. Sufficient special equipment was not available. Moreover, the training policies of GHQ prescribed that special training, such as amphibious, should not seriously interrupt the development of general soldierly fitness. Of the three task forces provided for after October 1940, only Task Force 1, designed for a mission in the Caribbean, required the occupation of hostile shore against probable opposition. For this task the 1st Division was selected in November 1940. It was chosen because it had received more amphibious training up to that time than any other division. Even its training had not been extensive, reaching the maneuver stage only in February 1941. At that time only 10 percent of the personnel of the division took part in the amphibious maneuver at Culebra, and in June 1941 only 20 percent of the divisional personnel engaged in a second amphibious maneuver.2

In the summer of 1941 the amphibious training program was expanded. Some of the War Department’s strategic plans included amphibious operations, and the War Department Training Directive for 1941-42, compiled in June 1941, specified the preparation of task forces as one of the objectives of the coming year. The Joint Army-Navy Board issued training plans for both coasts. The Carib Plan of 21 June 1941 organized the 1st Division and the 1st Marine Division into a 1st Joint Training Force, which subsequently developed into the Amphibious Force, Atlantic Fleet. The Pearl Plan of 9 September 1941 designated the 3d Division and the 2d Marine Division as the Second Joint Training Force, subsequently known as the Amphibious Force, Pacific Fleet. Each Joint Training Force—a term by which only the landing force was meant—was put under command of a Marine general, and in each case command of the whole enterprise rested with the Navy.3

The Role of GHQ

The role of GHQ in amphibious training was at first very ill defined. The Carib Plan made no mention of GHQ, and the 1st Joint Training Force began operations late in June 1941 before the staff at GHQ had received definite instructions regarding its responsibilities in the matter. The War Department directive of 3 July, enlarging the functions of GHQ, made no specific reference to amphibious training, though it indicated that the command of certain task forces would be assigned to GHQ. A War Department directive of 8 July, citing the directive of 3 July, was the first step in this direction. It instructed General McNair “to take over, at once, the functions of GHQ in connection with the Carib training operation.” The nature of these functions was not made clear. The directive merely observed that with “all responsibility for training” resting with the Navy, the Army responsibility was “principally to make


available, at the proper time and place, the Army units involved, and the use of Army facilities as called for.” How these Army responsibilities were to be divided between the GHQ staff and the War Department staff was not stated.4

Correspondence between GHQ and War Plans Division relieved some of the uncertainty. On 7 July GHQ in a memorandum to WPD requested a clarification of its relationship with the Navy and made two recommendations: first that WPD confer with GHQ in formulating joint plans with the Navy Department, and second that GHQ be authorized to confer directly with Gen. H. M. Smith, U.S.M.C., Commanding General of the First Joint Training Force. WPD on 9 July accepted both recommendations. The first was met by WPD’s promise to consult GHQ. The second was not merely accepted, but its scope was broadened. WPD stated that “subordinate planning, and operations in connection with the execution of the basic joint directive and subordinate plans will be a responsibility of GHQ. In this connection, GHQ should deal directly with Navy echelons subordinate to the Chief of Naval Operations.”5

The principles of administration worked out in connection with the Carib Plan became somewhat more explicit in the preparation of the Pearl Plan. GHQ recommended, and the War Department designated, the 3d Division and supporting units as the Army component of the Second Joint Training Force.6 The completed plan, issued on 9 September, named GHQ as the agency charged with “the execution of all Army responsibilities under this plan.” But “execution” in practice meant only the administration of certain details, for the War Department continued to act without consultation with GHQ and the Navy Department had charge of training, which was the essence of the operation.7

The Amphibious Force, Atlantic Fleet

The first phase of the Carib operation was executed as planned, but the site of the second phase was changed from Puerto Rico to the New River area, North Carolina. General McNair and eight members of his staff witnessed the landing exercises. They found that the 1st Division, which had practiced amphibious movements for a year, showed considerable proficiency,8 but on the whole the operation was not considered satisfactory at GHQ. General Malony, Deputy Chief of Staff, in a memorandum for General Marshall, dated 29 October 1941,9 listed four major causes for the deficiencies shown: lack of time for preparation, inexperience, lack of planning, and complicated channels of command. He especially emphasized the last, pointing to poor coordination within the Army and between the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. He enumerated eleven remedial measures already taken, and made six further recommendations. To these proposals no definite answers were received.10

When during the summer of 1941 the threat of Axis control over the Atlantic increased, additional amphibious assault forces seemed to be needed to forestall potential enemy moves. The Joint Strategic Committee of the War and Navy Departments worked out basic plans for the possible occupation of Atlantic islands by United States forces,11 and between 18 August and 2 September the staff sections at GHQ developed a corresponding theater of operations plan.12 The First Joint Training Force, disbanded after the Carib exercise except for the joint staff, was in effect reconstituted as the Amphibious Force, Atlantic Fleet, comprising the 1st Division and the 1st Marine Division with supporting units and again put under command of General Smith of the Marine Corps. Unity of command was vested in the Navy.

The selection of Army units to take part in the proposed operation brought to light a division of authority in the War Department. Designation of such units was clearly understood to rest with the General Staff of the War Department, but recommendation of units for designation, i.e., their actual selection from among all units in the Army, was a power exercised by both GHQ and the General Staff. As a result,


proposed troop lists for the force down to station hospitals and platoons of bakers passed back and forth, amended and counter-amended, between GHQ and the War Department from September on into December.13

The training exercise of the force, first planned for December, was postponed in October until January 1942 since naval commitments elsewhere made impracticable the initial idea of a dress rehearsal in Puerto Rico. With the declaration of war and the appearance of danger from submarines, the landing operations scheduled for the New River area were hastily shifted to Cape Henry. By a last-minute change of command General Smith became director of maneuvers instead of commanding general of the operation, but finally, from 12 to 14 January, a little more than half the personnel of the 1st Division carried out a landing maneuver against opposition simulated by the 116th Regimental Combat Team. Three officers from G-5, GHQ, observed the action, in which the GHQ umpire manual was used. The results of the exercises were hardly encouraging. General Smith’s director headquarters adjudged all landings unsuccessful.14

After the Cape Henry maneuver General Smith requested that the 1st Division together with the 70th Tank Battalion and the 36th Engineers continue amphibious training at their home station, Ft. Devens, according to training directives supplied by the Amphibious Force, Atlantic Fleet. GHQ declined the request for the 1st Division, but approved it for the 70th Tank Battalion and the 36th Engineers. Its basic policy toward amphibious training became evident in the directive to these two units, which were ordered to devote two-thirds of their time to the general program outlined in the directive of 31 October 1941, entitled “Postmaneuver training,” and only one-third to the continuation and development of special amphibious skills.15

Two main reasons influenced GHQ in its nonconcurrence with General Smith’s request. One was the need for reassembling the 1st Division as a tactical unit. In the past year this division had engaged in five amphibious maneuvers, in each case with only a fraction of its personnel. In view of this fact the divisional commander now strongly recommended a future course of training in which the division could act as a whole. The second reason for not accepting General Smith’s request was the sudden need for the 1st Division for other duties. GHQ had been called upon to suggest elements of a new force proposed for possible operations in Africa and on its recommendation the assault element of this force was to be supplied by the 1st Division, now the most thoroughly trained of Army divisions in amphibious combat. GHQ suggested that the place of the 1st Division in further amphibious training be taken by the 9th. These recommendations were approved by the War Department.16

Training on the Pacific Coast

On the Pacific coast the training operations outlined in the Pearl Plan of September 1941 had been executed only in part. Working on the first phase of the plan, the 3d Division, which had built up a large establishment of boat crews and amphibious equipment of its own, conducted landing exercises in Puget Sound and at the mouth of the Columbia River. The 2d Marine Division carried on similar exercises at San Diego. The second phase of the maneuvers, calling for a landing of both divisions in Hawaii, was not carried out owing to the outbreak of war, which also created uncertainty concerning the employment of the Second Joint Training Force.

As a means of clarifying the training program of the 3d Division, GHQ proposed on 16 January 1942 the designation of Seattle or San Francisco, rather than Galveston, as the embarkation point under plans which envisaged the landing of United States forces on the west coast of South America.17 In response to this suggestion G-4 of the War Department General Staff recommended that the entire Pearl Plan be cancelled in view of the difficulties in supply and the changes in the over-all strategic situation caused


by the war. WPD ruled that before action was taken G-4 must consult GHQ.18

An Army Amphibious Training Center Projected

By February 1942 GHQ had come to believe that the whole amphibious training program ought to be reconsidered. In GHQ’s reply to G-4 General Clark, Deputy Chief of Staff for Training, agreed that the Pearl Plan should be cancelled.19 He went on to point out, however, that General Marshall wished the development of an amphibious force on the Pacific coast ready for combat and observed that, to the best of his knowledge, a War Department order of 19 December 1941, calling upon WPD and G-3 of the General Staff to designate units for amphibious training, had not been complied with. He recommended that the composition of the Amphibious Force, Atlantic Fleet, and of the Amphibious Force, Pacific Fleet, be restudied and that the two forces be “constituted on a permanent basis to provide the attack element of whatever task forces are, or may be, designated to conduct the first major operation in the Atlantic or Pacific, respectively. The Army components of these forces should be determined, specifically designated and announced by the War Department. The necessary supplies of all classes for combat should be assembled, prepared for loading and held available in appropriate ports.”

Dissatisfaction with the administration and progress of amphibious training, already expressed by General Malony in his memorandum of 29 October 1941, was not removed by the landing maneuver at Cape Henry in January 1942. In mid-February GHQ received a copy of the final report on this operation submitted by General Smith to the Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet. General Smith expressed with considerable candor a view relatively independent of both Army and Navy predilections. The G-5 section at GHQ, in a memorandum to WPD dated 27 February 1942, undertook to bring parts of General Smith’s report to the “personal attention” of General Marshall.20 “The report,” said this memorandum, “contains a frank criticism of Naval command, constitutes a powerful indictment of the theory and practice of Joint Action, and makes concrete recommendations for unity of command under the Commander of the Landing Force.”

Citing General Smith, G-5 then enumerated its grounds for complaint:  the late change of locale, though justified by the submarine menace, made adequate preparation impossible, so that the “excellent plans” of the 1st Division miscarried; the Navy failed to provide suitable transports or adequate combatant vessels and aircraft; no combatant vessels had practiced shore bombardment in the past year; naval aircraft were untrained for cooperation with ground troops; and the Navy failed to land troops on designated beaches, so that the ship-to-shore movement was “from a tactical viewpoint, a complete failure.” Results of the exercise, according to General Smith, were the discrediting of American troops in the eyes of foreign observers, and, more important, “the loss of confidence by the first-class combat troops in the ability of responsible command echelons to place them ashore in formations that will offer a reasonable chance of success.” G-5 then repeated General Smith’s recommendation that unity of command in amphibious operations be vested in the commander of the landing force and concluded:

The Army is giving whole-hearted, complete and generous support to the present Amphibious Forces, both Atlantic and Pacific. The 3d and 9th Divisions have been turned over to the Navy for tactical control and training. Action is in process to determine and provide essential non-divisional elements...

From the larger view, the establishment of an Army Amphibious Training Center to provide for amphibious training on the scale envisaged as essential to future operations is being investigated.


This study at GHQ, reflecting its accumulating dissatisfaction with amphibious training of Army units as conducted to date, laid the basis for plans which resulted, in June 1942, in the activation of an Army center for amphibious training. This center was directed by the Army Ground Forces until its dissolution in June 1943.21



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Last updated 18 February 2005