Army Ground Forces, Study No. 1



How busy and many-sided General Headquarters, with all its responsibilities and interests in training, planning, and operations, had become by the fall of 1941 can be illustrated by a sketch of its activities during the last two weeks of September. By that date the headquarters had a strength of 64 officers and 145 enlisted men. Even this expanded staff, despite late hours, found it hard to meet the requirements of diverse missions with which the headquarters had been charged.

The activity of GHQ as a training headquarters was at the moment dominated by the Louisiana maneuvers. General McNair and his G-3, General Clark, had already departed before 15 September to direct these great inter-army maneuvers on which so much preparatory work undertaken at GHQ converged. They were joined on 24 September by General Malony, Deputy Chief of Staff, and were reinforced during the following days by some thirty officers from the headquarters in Washington.1 On 15 September GHQ was directed to prepare recommendations in the light of the maneuvers for the Field Manual on Air Support of Ground Forces, and by 19 September the G-3 Section was hard at work on this assignment. On 25 September General McNair, from Director Headquarters, issued instructions that the 1st, 2d, and 3d Antitank Groups tested in the Louisiana maneuvers be sent on about 1 November for the Carolina maneuvers. On 22 September GHQ reported on the deficiencies in landing operations shown in tests of the Carib amphibious force. On the next day it was directed to prepare the Army components for an amphibious operation planned by the Joint Strategic Committee of the Army and Navy. During these weeks GHQ was frequently in communication with the Marine Corps regarding arrangements for the joint amphibious exercises planned for November.2

All the while the staff officers left behind at the War College were busily occupied with details of the operational responsibilities of GHQ in Newfoundland, Greenland, and Iceland. Its first major task as an operational headquarters was completed with the safe arrival of General Bonesteel’s “Indigo” Force in Iceland on 15 September. But matters such as additional supplies, mail service, radio frequencies, and hospital facilities for the troops in Iceland and elsewhere required attention from day to day. Beginning 24 September GHQ had to initiate arrangements for a gradual increase of the Army garrison in Iceland, as ordered by the President on 22 September. On 24 September GHQ became responsible for a pool of twelve Counter Intelligence officers trained by the War Department for eventual transfer to bases under GHQ. Meanwhile arrangements were being worked out with the British for the establishment of a U. S. garrison in Bermuda.3

While handling such administrative details GHQ was pushing forward its work on war plans. On 17 September the basic Joint Board operations plan adopted to meet the eventuality of war was turned over to GHQ to be worked out in detail. Instructions were issued at the staff conference on that date. The next day the whole staff assembled in the auditorium to be oriented and a procedure was worked out to reduce the necessary planning to routine.4 At the same time plans for relieving the British garrisons at Curacao, Aruba, and Surinum were in preparation, preliminary plans for the Caribbean Defense Command were being drawn, and the plans for a major amphibious operation in the Atlantic, prepared at GHQ in August, then expanded by the War Department, were completed and distributed.5 On 17 September GHQ was directed to cooperate in the execution of Navy Western Hemisphere Plan No. 4, issuing appropriate instructions to the commanders in Bermuda, Greenland, Newfoundland, and Iceland.6 On 20 September a plan for reorganizing the antiaircraft installations in Greenland was completed, and on 1 October a directive was issued to the commanding officer, Colonel Giles, who had been at GHQ on special duty since 15 September.7 On 26 September plans for United States


Army Moving Picture service in all the bases but Iceland were finished.8

In these weeks GHQ still anticipated that the Caribbean Defense Command, the Alaskan Defense Command, the Hawaiian Department, and the Philippines would be put under its jurisdiction. Although it had been expected since August that these transfers would be made before the end of September, the dates were undetermined on the 15th.9 Consequently the staff worked in a state of uncertainty as to when its duties might be greatly extended. It was even uncertain of its own future, as a WPD study proposing to reduce its responsibilities was being debated during these weeks.10 A reflection of this uncertainty can be seen in the current record of the effort of procure officers. With many of the staff absent on maneuvers, GHQ was short of personnel and a continuous search for additional officers had to be undertaken. This effort was attended by delays and disappointments.11 In fact, the records of these two weeks leave an impression of urgent activity accompanied by a growing sense of instability.

It can be added that the busiest period for GHQ was not these two weeks, but the weeks after Pearl Harbor. At that time, in addition to its other duties, GHQ had the task of deploying available forces to secure the United States, Alaska, and Panama against a Pearl Harbor nearer home and had to take up the redoubled burden of training under the January 1942 program, which was to bring the strength of the ground forces alone to 1,760,000 by December 1942.12 To meet the immediate danger of attack, airplanes, antiaircraft units, and ground troops were rushed under GHQ direction to the Pacific Coast and Panama.

The movement of three infantry divisions to the West Coast was started on 14 December. Air reinforcements were flown through Mexico, and antiaircraft units moved by sea to strengthen Panama. Alaska was reinforced to frustrate a possible Japanese attack on Dutch Harbor. By 17 December the critical areas on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts had been covered with a reasonable degree of protection against air attack. The relation of GHQ to this effort was regularized with the activation of the Western and Eastern Theaters of Operations on 14 and 24 December under GHQ control. At the same time GHQ was more active than ever during the spring of 1942 in planning and organizing task forces for immediate offensives that might be undertaken and busy preparing units to reinforce the British Isles and the outposts of the Caribbean Defense Command. Despite these added burdens GHQ had to devote more and more of its energies to the major task of expanding the armies at home for the eventual offensive against the Nation’s enemies in Europe and the Far East.



Go to:

Previous Chapter

Next Chapter

Return to Table of Contents

Search CMH Online
Last updated 18 February 2005