AGF Study No. 8: Reorganization of Ground Troops for Combat



For units of infantry, cavalry, field artillery and coast artillery, including antiaircraft, the Army Ground Forces in March 1942 took over from the chiefs of those arms, whose offices were suspended, the task of preparing tables of organization.1 The War Department assigned this function to the Requirements Section of the AGF headquarters staff. For armored units the Chief of the Armored Force, who survived the revolution of March 1942 with functions unchanged, remained responsible for organization. Since the Armored Force, formerly independent, now became a component of the Army Ground Forces, the commanding general of the Army Ground Forces obtained authority over armored organization and equipment; but this authority was not explicitly assigned by the War Department in Circular 59, and was at first less direct than in the case of the older arms. For units of the service branches assigned to the Army Ground Forces -- engineer, signal, ordnance, quartermaster, medical, chemical and military police -- responsibility for tables of organization and equipment was divided in March 1942 between the Army Ground Forces and the Services of Supply. In October 1942 these powers with respect to service units of types assigned to the Ground Forces were concentrated in the commanding general of the Army Ground Forces. 2 With this change, and with the elimination of the Chief of the Armored Force in 1943 and assimilation of armor to the status of the older arms, the headquarters of the Army Ground Forces obtained a uniform degree of control over the organization and equipment of all units designated as Ground Forces. The Requirements Section, Headquarters, Army Ground Forces, became the responsible agency for reviewing about 400 tables of organization and equipment, assisted in practice by other sections of the AGF headquarters, by the schools of the arms, by the armored, tank destroyer and airborne centers and the Antiaircraft Command, and by the relevant branches of the Army Service Forces.3

Before March 1942 the War Department General Staff had been responsible for coordinating and harmonizing the tables prepared by the chiefs of the separate arms and services, and for developing the organization of units of the combined arms -- armies, corps and divisions. These tasks were decentralized in 1942 to the Army Ground Forces, which, however, could not effectively plan the organization of armies, corps and divisions until control was obtained, in October 1942, over the organization of service units within these commands. In general, the work of the Army Ground Forces in tactical organization represented an integration of certain functions of the old branch chiefs and a devolution of certain functions of the War Department General Staff.

The Army Ground Forces never had final authority ever organization. Approval of the War Department General Staff continued to be required for all T/O and E's before publication by The Adjutant General, and for policies of organizing T/O units into armies and corps. Final authority could hardly repose except in the War Department itself, since organization profoundly affected all stages of the military effort from procurement to combat. The Army Ground Forces developed, prepared, planned, reviewed and recommended. In practice, with exceptions to be seen below, the recommendations of the Army Ground Forces were almost automatically accepted by the War Department, since the Army Ground Forces had the skilled personnel familiar with the details of organization (originating in 1942 in the physical transfer of individuals from the offices of the chiefs and from the War Department General Staff), and since this personnel, before recommending changes in tables, made the necessary study of repercussions on the troop basis, the supply program and the combat value of units.


The activity of the Army Ground Forces with respect to tactical organization can be divided for convenience into successive periods.

The first lasted from March to about October 1942. It was characterized by the incompleteness of authority exercised by the commanding general of the Army Ground Forces, by piecemeal modification of the tables of certain units, chiefly in the direction of reduction of motor vehicles, and by an increasing realization of the need for economy.

The second period, extending roughly from October 1942 to October 1943, was a year of assiduous and systematic activity, in which the Army Ground Forces reviewed the organization of armies, corps, divisions and non-divisional units, clarifying the mission and functions of each, and striving to obtain an economical organization, so that available men and equipment might be shaped into the largest possible number of units, and each unit, after being laboriously shipped overseas, might deliver a maximum of combat power. In this period the headquarters of the Army Ground Forces assumed a strong leadership in matters of organization. It was the formative period, in which the shape and structure of forces used in World War II were to a large extent determined. Hence it is treated in the following pages in detail.

In the third period, running from the end of 1943 into 1945, the organizational changes of the second period were put increasingly to the test of combat, chiefly in Europe. Initiative in matters of tactical organization passed from the Army Ground Forces to the theater commanders. The role of the Army Ground Forces consisted largely in analyzing, comparing, evaluating and recommending action upon theater requests for increases or modifications in allowances of personnel and equipment.

The fourth period saw organizational changes incident to redeployment for a war concentrated in the Pacific ......

In the first two periods the great bulk of ground combat forces remained in the United States awaiting commitment to battle. Combat experience of American forces was limited in scope, and confined to the special conditions of island, desert and mountain warfare. Planning of tactical organization could be based only in small part on recent experience of United States forces. It had therefore to be based largely on evaluation of foreign experience, on detailed knowledge of the United States Army, and on interpretation of the more timeless principles of military art.



Go to:

Next Chapter

Return to Table of Contents

Search CMH Online
Last updated 15 March 2006