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



The advent of war, and the need of conducting operations on the far side of oceans, brought to light a paradox by no means new in military history, viz., that armies may be immobilized by their own means of transportation. The quantity of motor vehicles provided for combat units in pre-war planning, mainly with an eye to mobility under field conditions in the United States, greatly added to the requirements of units for ship space, and hence reduced the number of units that could be sent overseas. The corresponding consumption of tires added to the use of ship space in the importation of rubber. The more vehicles were used overseas the more ship space was required for fuel, lubricants, spare parts, replacement vehicles, drivers, and repair crews, and the less was available for combat personnel, weapons and ammunition.9 In March 1942 a plan was adopted to send thirty divisions to the United Kingdom for a cross-channel operation in April 1943.10 The Army Ground Forces on 2 April 1942 informed the War Department that forces would be available.11 The bottleneck was shipping. The number of United States troops intended for the operation had to be reduced.12 General Marshall, to save cargo space, was reported to be "extremely interested in maximum practicable reduction of motor transport and of administrative overhead in all types of units."13 In addition, it was estimated in May 1942 that because of shortages of materials, notably rubber, the expected use of motor vehicles in 1942 and 1943 would be cut 20 to 33 percent.14 Efforts of the Army Ground Forces to economize labored under handicaps until October 1942. New tables of organization had been approved by the War Department immediately before the reorganization of 9 March.15 These had enlarged the infantry division, and added 219 motor vehicles, by expanding infantry battalion headquarters detachments into headquarters companies and by adding a cannon company to each infantry regiment. The tables just decided upon could not immediately be reconsidered. Attempts to reduce motor transport therefore went forward without corresponding review of personnel and equipment.16 The Army Ground Forces lacked full control even over the infantry division, since the Services of Supply shared responsibility for service elements in the division, with the chief of each technical service feeling a primary interest in units of his own branch. It was the ambition of each chief, naturally and laudably, to supply everything requested of him with unstinting hand. Tables of basic allowances were not closely coordinated with tables of organization. The Services of Supply, while it referred T/O's of AGF service units to the Army Ground Forces, for a time settled T/BA's of such units without consultation.17 Not until 1943 was the publication of tables of organization and tables of equipment combined in a single document. Four days after the reorganization of the War Department the Services of Supply issued a directive authorizing automotive maintenance officers on the staffs of large AGF units -- one for each infantry division, two for each armored and motorized division and for each corps, four for each army and eleven for the headquarters of the Army Ground Forces.18 Several hundred officers were thus required. General McNair immediately protested. Such measures, he said, "go far beyond any demonstrated necessities. They are establishing a military and civilian overhead, and a mass of paper work and ritual, which I know from personal experience are unwarranted."19 General Marshall, replying personally, explained that the directive had originated in the


War Department General Staff before the reorganization, and that motor maintenance was a matter on which he set great importance.20 The incident illustrated two theories of administration. One way to get new duties performed was to provide additional personnel. General McNair's way was to assign the new duties, especially new supervisory duties, to men already on the job. He believed that most people could work harder than they did. He himself worked all the time. General McNair, who as chief of staff of GHQ had had no jurisdiction over organization, turned his attention to it immediately on assuming command of the Army Ground Forces. He wrote to General Somervell:21

The triangular division was initiated same five years ago with the primary purpose of streamlining the organization and rendering it more effective in combat. Since the reorganization there has been a steady succession of changes, all in the direction of returning to the cumbersome and impracticable organization of the old square division. It is felt mandatory that every proposal which increases overhead must be resisted if the division is to be effective in combat.

The strength of the triangular division, as suggested by War Department committee in 1936, had been 13,512; as recommended in the report drafted by General McNair in 1938, 10,275; as adopted in 1940, 14,981; as amended in 1941, 15,245; and under the new 1942 tables was 15,514. (See Annex I.) Success in trimming down the division, before October 1942, was confined largely to reduction in the infantry and artillery components, the arms over which the Army Ground Forces had control; and, within these, to reductions of motor transport, since personnel and other equipment than vehicles were not considered. Truck transport was examined in microscopic detail. It was believed by General McNair that the current tables were extravagant in their provision of transportation for motor maintenance, i.e., vehicles with accompanying tools used for the repair and upkeep of other vehicles. He wrote to General Somervell on 21 April 1942:22

1. We discussed this matter briefly the other day by telephone. As a result, you designated one of your officers to investigate the possibility of reducing the number of trucks devoted to motor maintenance. The particular case studied - the infantry regiment - was brought to a much more rational basis, in my judgment, but I still feel that too much transportation is devoted to motor maintenance. The matter can be corrected only by something approaching a major operation. Everyone appreciates that operations now definitely in view call for the maximum possible use of every available ship ton. Luxuries must go, and all echelons of the military organization must be imbued with the idea of functioning effectively with reduced personnel and transportation. Especially is it apparent that each unit tends to seek self-sufficiency, although this procedure multiplies overhead beyond all reason.

2. When the present triangular division was under development, not more than five years ago, it was found, by over two million vehicle miles of field operations, that motor maintenance could be effected properly with a 1/2-ton pick-up truck of parts and tools for each 64 vehicles to be maintained. The principal difficulty in maintenance then, as now, was that the personnel concerned, principally motor officers and motor mechanics, did not work hard enough. There was complaint about tools and parts, some of it justified, but the principal difficulty was as stated ......


5. Admittedly the maintenance vehicles advocated by the Quartermaster Corps for proper motor maintenance are utilized fully. There are very complete tool equipments and surprisingly abundant stocks of parts. This super-abundant equipment no doubt is the result of insistent demands by the using arms, and the desire of the QM Corps to meet those demands. They amount substantially to providing on wheels something approaching the motor shop in garrison. Such a conception is unreal under the conditions we face. Parts are sufficiently available if carried in the division. The number needed in a company or similar unit is limited. Many tools are a great convenience, but few are indispensable. The best data that I know indicate a repair in about 700 vehicle miles during tactical operations, and in about 3,000 vehicle miles of road movement. Under these conditions, the number of repairs to be made is not too formidable. Preventive maintenance calls for hard work rather than elaborate equipment and transportation ....

AGF and SOS officers in conference settled upon 9 trucks and 3 trailers for maintenance of the 260 vehicles in the infantry regiment. This equaled about one ton of maintenance per 13 vehicles maintained, a ratio considered liberal by General McNair, contrasting as it did with the ratio of 1/2 ton per 64 vehicles established in the tests of 1937. The transportation required for ammunition supply of the infantry regiment was scrutinized with the same minuteness. General McNair took the view, familiar to railroad men, that wheeled vehicles should be kept in circulation, not used for storage. He noted for the Requirements Section of his staff:23

The transportation set-up in the new tables of organization is excessive because provision is made to carry with the regiment what apparently is intended to be an adequate supply for one day of active combat. This procedure results in a gross waste of transportation. There can be no question that provision must be made for an abundant supply of ammunition - even a super-abundant supply - since fire dominates the battlefield. However, the reserve of ammunition, or any other supply for that matter, is mainly in the hauling capacity of its motor transportation.

Hauling capacity was investigated thoroughly and practically under a variety of conditions during the test of the Proposed Infantry Division in 1937. Without going into details it may be stated generally that the number of 2 1/2-ton trucks required is one-twelfth of the total tonnage required. The basis of this rule is: One-way hauling distance of 30 miles to the army supply point.
Period of hauling of 20 hours - the night preceding the engagement and during the engagement itself.
Dumps near combat positions, from which the units are supplied by weapons carriers or similar vehicles.

The test referred to above, together with certain war experience, has afforded reasonably reliable data as to the ammunition consumption of the several weapons in battle. While all weapons are not used throughout a battle it is impossible to foresee which weapons will be used; hence it is necessary to provide for all weapons alike, based on the maximum consumption by every weapon. Again, it is impossible to predict the duration of an action. It may be for a few hours only, or again it may be throughout daylight hours. In order to be on the safe side, the ammunition supply considered here will be ten times the maximum hourly consumption. Certainly there can be no question that such a basis is superabundant - even extravagant.


Detailed computations followed, showing that about a third of the ammunition required in a day's combat by a battalion could be carried as the normal load of battalion vehicles, and that the remaining two-thirds could be hauled from supply points immediately before and during battle by battalion vehicles and regimental service trucks. General McNair estimated that 25 trucks could be saved from the current allotment to the infantry regiment. Savings accomplished in April and May 1942 consisted mainly in replacement of 3/4-ton trucks in the infantry by 1/4-ton trucks ("jeeps") and 1/4-ton trailers, on the basis of one jeep and trailer for each 3/4-ton truck replaced; and in drastic reduction of 2 1/2-ton trucks and 1-ton trailers in the artillery, with only partial replacement by trucks and trailers of lighter types.24 Roughly a quarter of the 2 1/2-ton trucks were removed from field artillery units, divisional and non-divisional. The infantry reductions saved about 6,500 pounds of rubber and 15,360 cubic feet of ship space for each regiment.25 But the saving was offset by the recent enlargement of battalion headquarters units and addition of cannon companies to the infantry regiments. With all the effort to economize little net progress has been made.26


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Last updated 15 March 2006