AGF Study, NO. 6: The Procurement and Branch Distribution of Officers



The United States, on beginning to mobilize in 1940, possessed about 14,000 professional army officers. This number could not be materially increased. Until the time of the declaration of war the peacetime training agencies provided the numbers of officers required for expansion. At that time, in December 1941, there were on active duty about 18,000 officers of the National Guard and about 80,000 from the Organized Reserve Corps, mostly products of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) who had kept up military studies and training since graduation from college. The Officer Candidate Schools (OCS), established in July 1941, had produced only a few hundred lieutenants in each branch.l

In February 1942, shortly before assuming command of the Army Ground Forces, General McNair addressed a graduating class at the Command and General Staff School.2 He reviewed the military training of the preceding year and a half, accomplished under his supervision as Chief of Staff at General Headquarters (GHQ). He observed that this training had not yet produced first-class combat troops. Officers from the reserve components, instead of immediately stepping forward, as contemplated in national policies, to help convert a mass of civilians into soldiers, had required a long period of further training themselves. "The outstanding generalization of this experience, in my view," he said, "is that we did not have in fact the great mass of trained officers that were carried on the books ... We have verified the inevitable -- that inadequately trained officers cannot train troops effectively."3

The training of reserve and National Guard officers in 1941, together with the elimination of the more obviously unsuitable, was one of the main advantages gained in the prewar mobilization. With the declaration of war the need for officers mounted sharply. The army again faced the problem of training officers wholesale and on short notice. By the end of 1943, with mobilization nearly complete, about 180,000 officers had been drawn from the Organized Reserve Corps. About 300,000 had received commissions from officer candidate schools. Almost 100,000 civilians had been commissioned directly (i.e., without training, except that some 12,000 were former officers, mostly from World War I) -- somewhat less than half as doctors, dentists, and chaplains, the remainder for technical and administrative positions. In general, 600,000 ex-civilians were functioning as army officers, according to plans laid and standards set by the small nucleus of the Regular Army. Professional officers were outnumbered almost 50 to 1 by officers of the civilian components.



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