A Short History of the Army Ground Forces: AGF Study No. 2

Appendix I


9 March - 12 July 1942

The staff organization for the Army Ground Forces devised by the Committee which drafted the plan for the reorganization of the War Department in March 1942[1] was shortlived. But some interest attaches to it. A similar staff was given the Army Air Forces which lasted longer. The design reflected concepts of staff organization current at the time, involving much use of the term “functional,” then a fashionable word. It was a serious attempt to solve an old problem, and to keep the attention of officers whose business was policy from becoming entangled and dispersed in details of administration. Furthermore, the reasons for which Headquarters, Army Ground Forces, rejected it, after trying it out, throw further light on the spirit of that headquarters.

As is stated in the text (Chapter II, p. 46 one central feature of the scheme of organization proposed was the separation of policy divisions from “operating” divisions. The other was the assignment to the operating divisions of functions which cut across the traditional divisions of the special staff, namely: Personnel, Operations, Training, Requirements, Transportation, Construction, Hospitalization and Evacuation, Supply.

The general “policy” divisions were small, the operating divisions large.[2] The “general staff” was explicitly enjoined not to


“become involved in operational matters” and to exercise supervision over operating divisions “for planning and policy-making purposes only.”[3] G-1 was to supervise the Personnel Division; G-3, the Training Division and the Operations Division; G-3 and/or G-4, Requirements; G-4, the rest. Operating divisions, on the other hand, were instructed to coordinate business with each other and with agencies of the other “major commands,” with a minimum of reference to the Army Ground Forces general staff. This might—and did—produce “coordinating” at two levels. To guard against the danger that the general sections would be left to think in an Olympian vacuum, the chiefs of the operating divisions were to keep the chiefs of the appropriate general divisions informed of important matters which they handled directly.

The basic purpose of the design was to carry down into the principal commands two major objectives sought in the reorganization of the War Department. One was an organization according to “function.” “We have tried,” said Colonel Harrison, expounding the new staff charts to the Senate Military Affairs Committee, “to organize both forces [Army Ground Forces and Army Air Forces] along functional lines.”[4] The other was the delegation and decentralization of day-to-day decisions. Colonel Harrison characterized the general divisions of the AGF staff as “a small policy-making staff having to do with the basic decisions,” then said, pointing to the operating divisions on the chart: “These are the people who really actually


execute the policies of the ground staff as far as staff operations are concerned.”[5]

At Headquarters, Army Ground Forces, this plan of organization was viewed with disfavor when first proposed in the Committee on Reorganization. The point of view of the Army Ground Force headquarters was undoubtedly affected by the experience of the large and important element of its officers who had operated GHQ. They were a staff group who had achieved prompt results in the performance of complex duties by close and informal cooperation, and it is not surprising that they regarded blueprints based on theories of administrative efficiency with same distrust. The plan was given a three months’ trial, then abandoned. Two main reasons were given by General McNair for his request to change it.[6] “A clear-cut delineation between the policy-making and planning... divisions and the operating divisions,” he wrote, had been found impracticable; and officers of the Army Ground Forces in the field found such an organization confusing.

The “G” Divisions found themselves “being required to prepare plans without being furnished sufficient information upon which to base such plans.”[7] The difficulty of “keeping the G’s informed of action in the headquarters” was such that on 20 April it was agreed that “the simplest way to do this was to have the G’s stop in at the office of the Secre-


tary of the General Staff to read the daily summaries submitted by the divisions ... at the end of each day.”[8] The general divisions, in order to supervise, and also to obtain the current information needed for planning, tended to operate. The operating divisions, instructed to coordinate, tended to usurp the office of supervision. As a result, the sections of the operating divisions found themselves being “coordinated” by two echelons of authority.

The other major difficulty was that which the subordinate commands of Army Ground Forces encountered in doing business with the headquarters as organized. Accustomed to general and special staff procedure as set forth in FM 101-5 and embodied in their own staffs, the officers in the field fell into confusion in trying to make contact with “the desired staff officers or agencies” in an unfamiliar organization. Another difficulty in making the new model work arose out of the functions which required Army Ground Forces to deal directly with “the services,” Quartermaster, Engineers, Signal, etc., now incorporated in Services of Supply. Under the new organization, responsibility for these functions was “dispersed among two or more operating divisions.”[9] Instead of “the prompt and coordinated action” sought in the reorganization, the net result of the three months’ trial was found to be “duplication of effort,” “delay,” "inflexibility in the economical employment of experienced officers,” and “confusion.”[10]


In the July reorganization the Requirements Division was made a general staff section, and was itself reorganized. The original Requirements Division had been divided into sections representing each of the arms combined in the Army Ground Forces. This organization was prescribed in Circular 59, which further prescribed that each of these a sections be headed by a general officer from the arm concerned.[11] On 12 July this organization based on arms was replaced by one setting up three divisions—Training Literature and Visual Aids, Organization and Development—in each of which the various arms were represented. This arrangement was found by trial to work more effectively. “The present organization of the Requirements Section,” wrote General McNair in February 1944, “is believed definitely superior to the original set-up. Arms are collaborating effectively, and the functions of the section are being carried out logically and without duplication of effort. A concrete example of the principles involved has occurred recently. The rocket is a live subject of development at present and it is highly essential that the matter be pushed. Accordingly a rocket board is being set up at Fort Benning, composed of representatives of all interested arms. Developments will embrace not only materiel but organization and doctrine as well.”[12]

The four general officers in Requirements, in addition to the


chief, were not appointed. When the failure of the Army Ground Forces to comply with this prescription was questioned two years later, General McNair expressed the opinion that the original proposal had been an expedient to reconcile the arms to the reorganization of March 1942, and that the appointment of more general officers in the Requirements Section “would seem out of proportion with the remainder of the staff as a whole.”[13] Requirements continued to be distinguished by the fact that its chief was a major general, and his executive a brigadier general, while the chief of no other section was of higher rank than brigadier general.

The other features of the staff organization proposed by Army Ground Forces on 9 June 1942 are described in the text (Chap. II, pp. 46-48 ). The War Department approved the changes requested, subject to a three-months’ trial. The July organization, reviewed in October, was found satisfactory by all concerned, and became permanent.[14]


[1] See Short History of the Army Ground Forces, Chap II, pp. 46-48 (R).

[2] For example, G-3 was allotted 2 officers, the Operations Division 27 officers, the Training Division 24 officers. Ground Statistics Division, Blue Book (R), Subject: “Hq AGF, Organization and Duties of Staff Divisions,” dated 1 June 1942.

[3] Par 3 a, ltr 320.28 AGF (3-9-42) 9 March 1942, Subject: “Organization and Operational Procedure,” the document on which the statements in this paragraph are based.

[4] Hearing before the Senate Military Affairs Committee, 6 March 1942, p. 13.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Memo for the DCofS, USA, 020/73(GNGPS)(6-9-42) from Gen McNair, Subject: “War Department Organization.”

[7] Memo for the DCofS, AGF from ACofS, G-1, 4 June 1942, Subject: “Comments on Organization and Functioning, etc.” In 020/73.

[8] Memo; for the CofS, AGF from the DCofS, 20 April 1942, Subject: “Coordination between Divisions of the Headquarters.” In 316/14 AGF.

[9] See chart opposite p. 46.

[10] See n. 6, above.

[11] Par 5 c (6), Circular 59, WD, 2 March 1942.

[12] Memo for the CofS, USA (Attn: G-3 Div) from Gen McNair, 320.2/302 (AGF)GNDCG, 17 February 1944, Subject: “Organization of Requirements Division,” in reply to memo for the CG, AGF, WDGCT 322(2-14-44), 14 February 1944, subject as above.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Memo for the CG, AGF, 020/73 GNGPS, 22 October 1942, Subject: “Organization of Headquarters, Army Ground Forces,” with Tabs A-N, containing the reports of the sections. In 320.2 Org Hq AGF (S).


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