Army Ground Forces Study No. 4
STRESSES AND STRAINS OF EXPANSION IN 1942
Many developments upset the initial program for mobilization in 1942. It proved impossible to foresee all needs, or to build the Army according to the blueprint of the January troop basis.13 Units not called for in the troop basis were activated, and the troop basis was then revised to include them. With manpower thus diverted to
unforeseen needs, units set up in the original troop basis could not be brought to authorized strength. AGF units especially suffered from chronic shortages of personnel.
Shortages were in part due to the normal process of growth.14 Trained units had to supply personnel as cadres for the formation of new units. Some units furnished cadres more than once. All units lost enlisted men who became officer candidates or went to service schools for enlisted specialist courses. Some men were lost as physically unfit, others as parachute volunteers. There was a large drain to the Army Air Forces, which recruited throughout the Army for Aviation cadets. This attrition in units, as distinguished from the supplying of cadres, would have been much less had basic training remained concentrated in replacement centers, because the selective processes involved commonly occurred during the individual’s first months in the service.
Foreseeing such attrition, General McNair in January 1942 recommended that new units be activated with a 10 percent overstrength, in order to be at T/O strength on completion of training.15 The War Department, wishing to create a maximum number of new units with the personnel available took the opposite course of authorizing an understrength. New units were activated at T/O strength, less basic privates. Basic privates were men included in tables of organization over and above all specified job assignments as an advance provision for replacements. In most units they constitute 10 percent of T/O strength. Units were supposed to be able to sustain combat without their basics, but since it was planned to add the basics before shipment of units overseas, their absence meant a shortage which had eventually to be filled. In March 1942, a proposal was made by G-3 of the War Department General Staff, to authorize an additional 15 percent understrength for units in early stages of training. The proposal was not carried out.
“It is believed that since we are at war,” wrote Maj. Gen Mark. W. Clark, then Chief of Staff, AGF, “our combat units should be trained as complete standard units, at a strength suitable for immediate combat. It is considered that to add about one-third strength to a unit approximately three months before the unit engages in battle against our well trained adversaries, would be to place the unit on the battlefield at a disadvantage which would have been avoided, without serious detriment to the war effort as a whole.”16
Understrength was not authorized, except for the initial omission of basic privates. But it continued to exist in fact. The War Department was under heavy pressure to supply manpower to other than Ground Force organizations and within the Ground Forces to divert manpower to other than primary combat units. The Air Forces grew more rapidly than the January troop basis provided. Antiaircraft units were authorized by the War Department in this early and defensive phase of the war beyond the number at first planned. The earlier plan to defer activation of nondivisional service units until after the launching of divisions on their training program broke down; service units were in fact activated in great numbers.
Return to Table of Contents
Last updated 5 August 2005