AGF Study No. 8: Reorganization of Ground Troops for Combat
SECOND PERIOD: THE AGE OF ECONOMY
OCTOBER 1942 - OCTOBER 1943
THE AGF TABLES OF MARCH 1943
To begin at the beginning, in describing the AGF version of the division, the infantry rifle squad was unchanged.55 It remained a team of twelve men, armed with ten M1 rifles, one automatic rifle and one M1903. Three such squads formed a rifle platoon. Three rifle platoons were grouped with a weapons platoon to form a rifle company. The weapons platoon was modified slightly. It retained two cal. .30 light machine guns and three 60-mm. mortars as its primary weapons. It lost two automatic rifles, but gained three antitank rocket launchers and one cal. .50 machine gun, the latter for antiaircraft defense. Personnel of the rifle company was virtually untouched, being cut from 198 to 192 through removal of a transportation corporal, a truck driver, a cook's helper, a messenger, an orderly and a basic private. The 27 rifle companies of the division retained a strength of 5,184 -- the close-in fighters around whom the rest of the division was built. Saving 6 men in each company saved 162 in the division, or 16,200 if 100 infantry divisions should be mobilized.
The heavy weapons company, with which three rifle companies were grouped in the infantry battalion, was cut into more deeply than the rifle company, being reduced from 183 to 162 officers and men. Thirteen of the 21 men removed were truck-drivers. Armament was strengthened. To the primary weapons - six 81-mm. mortars and eight cal. .30 heavy machine guns - seven antitank rocket launchers and three cal. .50 machine guns were added.
The headquarters company of the battalion, falling from 135 to 108, was cut proportionately far more than the line companies, on the principle that headquarters overhead should be trimmed. The loss was largely in the antitank platoon, on the principle that defensive personnel should be held to a minimum. Defensive weapons earmarked for the security of headquarters were particularly frowned upon by General McNair. The four 37-mm. antitank guns assigned to the antitank platoon were reduced to three. The 37-mm. gun was retained despite adverse report from North Africa, on the grounds that it was easier to manhandle than the 57-mm. gun proposed in its place, that it was effective when used within its proper range, and that in any case 57's were not yet available to replace it. Three cal. .30 machine guns, one cal. .50 machine gun,
and eight antitank rocket launchers were added to the battalion headquarters company, which therefore, although reduced 20 percent in personnel, obtained a net augmentation of armament.
Total reduction of personnel in the infantry battalion was from 916 to 850, a saving of 66, of which only 18 were in the rifle companies.
Grouped with three infantry battalions in the infantry regiment were certain regimental units: the regimental headquarters company, the service, antitank and cannon companies, and the medical detachment. The constituted pools of services and weapons for support of the battalions.
In the regimental headquarters company the main saving was in the communications platoon, which was relieved of 8 truck drivers out of 9, 5 linemen out of 20, and 1 switchboard operator out of 3, for a net saving of 30 percent in this platoon. Armament of the company was increased by 11 antitank rocket launchers and 4 cal. .50 machine guns. The company emerged larger from the reorganizing process because it absorbed the cannon company.
The cannon company was a novelty in 1942, recently added to T/O's, but still existing chiefly on paper. Discussed for years, it was adopted to meet a difficulty of World War I, when advance of infantry had frequently been halted by the inability of field artillery to displace forward as rapidly as troops on foot. The cannon company of 1942 comprised 123 infantrymen manning 6 self-propelled 75-mm. howitzers and 2 self-propelled 105-mm. howitzers. Reports from the few companies in operation in North Africa were inconclusive. It was doubted at AGF headquarters whether the cannon company was essential, since the regiment could be paired in a combat team with a light battalion of the division artillery.56 The value of self-propelled artillery for this purpose was also questioned; it consumed more ship space than towed artillery, and so might in practice be left behind; it was vulnerable on the battlefield, was too heavy for light bridges, and devoured gasoline. The AGF tables of March 1943 abolished the cannon company, replacing it with 3 cannon platoons in the regimental headquarters company, equipped with 6 short-barreled, towed 105-mm. howitzers. Fifty-one men were saved in each regiment, or over 150 in the division.
The regimental antitank company was drastically cut from 169 to 117 officers and men. Its mine-laying platoon was abolished. Basic armament of twelve 37-mm. antitank guns remained the same. One cal. .50 and four cal. .30 machine guns were added. Two-thirds the former number of men thus handled a somewhat increased quantity of weapons, except for the purely defensive operation of mine-laying.
In the regimental service company twenty men were saved through economy in truck drivers, clerks and mechanics. A principal function of the service company was to transport supplies for the line battalions. With considerable hesitation, because needs of the battalions has been calculated closely and reviewed as lately as the preceding April (see pp. 27-28 above), but under extreme pressure to economize transportation, General McNair approved the replacement of 2½-ton by 1½-ton trucks in the new tables, the difference being made up by an increase in 1-ton trailers.57 Service company personnel, currently authorized only small arms, received 10 antitank rocket launchers and 8 cal. .50 machine guns in addition.
The medical detachment of the infantry regiment, divided into three battalion sections, included the aid men and litter bearers who accompanied front-line fighters into action, and the medical officers who worked at the aid stations to which casualties were first brought. General McNair believed the Medical Department very liberal in its consumption of manpower. The following case, typical of his relations with the Reduction Board, illustrates his relentless attention to detail. The Reduction Board recommended 12 litter bearers for each infantry battalion. General McNair held out for 8. The Board adhered to 12. The commanding general then replied:
"The proposal of 8 litter bearers was not made loosely, but with a considerable factor of safety and was based on factual data. The losses assumed were the extreme maximum of the World War - 15% per day of severe combat. On this basis a battalion should have about 50 litter cases. If 4 litters cannot evacuate this number from the field to the aid station there is something wrong with the set-up. The average littering distance was taken as 600 yards. Admittedly there may be cases in difficult terrain where the organic personnel will be inadequate, but reinforcements, not organic increases are in the answer in this case. Reduce 12 litter bearers to 10 as a compromise."
The Board explained that a litter team was now four men, not two. General McNair scrawled in pencil:
"I give up. I was basing on two men per litter ... The Medical Department has run too far to change now. Fix it as you see fit. LJM."
Twelve litter bearers were retained, but they operated only 3 litters in place of the 4 desired by General McNair, a disadvantage presumably offset by more rapid turnover of litters through lessened fatigue in the bearers. The detachment as a whole was cut 18 percent through removal of 1 medical officer, 7 drivers and 16 technicians. The regiment retained, for a personnel of approximately 3,000, seven doctors, 2 dentists and 103 enlisted medical men, reinforced when necessary from the division medical battalion or from sources outside the division.
Total reduction in personnel of the infantry regiment was 384. Personnel was cut 11%, vehicles 36%, ship tonnage 14%. Only half the cut in the regiment was accomplished at the expense of the battalions. Half was in regimental overhead in the broad sense. In general, from the rifle platoon back, the axe fell more heavily as one moved away from the front-line soldier. The same was true in the remainder of the division. Reduction in infantry, aggregating 1,152 for the 3 regiments, accounted for only a little over half the 2,000 saved in the division as a whole, although infantry comprised almost three-quarters of the division. The other half was in the division artillery and in division overhead.
The new tables for division artillery, as prepared by the Reduction Board, were called by General McNair "a monumental advance in de-fatting."59 It is noteworthy that General McNair, an artilleryman by training, and hence particularly fitted to judge the requirements of that arm, attempted to reduce division artillery units by over 20 percent both in 1938 and in 1943 -- both times without complete success.
Firing batteries in the artillery, like rifle companies in the infantry, last proportionately the least. The 105-mm. batteries were each cut from 113 to 93, saving 20 men, of whom only 4 were in actual gun crews, the remainder being headquarters and maintenance personnel. The 155-mm. batteries were each cut from 122 to 98, a saving of 24 men, of whom only 8 were in gun crews, the remainder being headquarters and maintenance personnel.
In each battalion, economies in the three firing batteries accounted for less than half the saving. The main saving was accomplished through the consolidation, in each battalion, of the headquarters battery and the service battery in a combined headquarters and service battery. So trimmed down were both components that the new combined headquarters and service battery was hardly larger than the old headquarters battery alone. Twenty truck-drivers, 4 mechanics, 3 cooks and 3 orderlies were saved in the combined battery. The main saving was in the elimination of the antitank and antiaircraft platoon of 52 men, currently in the headquarters battery for the protection of battalion headquarters. The platoon's six 37-mm. antitank guns disappeared. Sixteen antitank rocket launchers and an increase of cal. .50 machine guns were
furnished the battery for protection in emergencies, fundamental protection of artillery headquarters being left to surrounding infantry units. The medical detachment was cut almost one third.
Primary armament of the division artillery remained unchanged--twelve 155-mm. howitzers and thirty-six 105-mm. howitzers. Personnel, including attached medical, was reduced from 2,617 to 2,004 (22%), vehicles from 603 to 495 (18%), and ship tonnage from about 12,000 to about 9,400 (22%).
Infantry and artillery constituted the combat elements of the division, compared with which everything else was in the nature of overhead. Before proceeding with a discussion of this overhead, it is well to recall that additional combat elements, held in non-divisional pools, might be attached to the division for particular operations. (See Annex VIII.) A division might thus be reinforced by a mechanized cavalry squadron, by one or more field artillery battalions of any appropriate caliber, by a chemical battalion manning 4.2 mortars, or by tank, tank destroyer or antiaircraft battalions as described above. Attachment of some of these units, especially tank, tank destroyer and antiaircraft units, became the normal practice when combat developed on a large scale in 1944, with the result that a division commander usually commanded well over 15,000 men.
A word of review is in order on protection against tanks and aircraft. These weapons, if massed, could not threaten all divisions simultaneously. A division most threatened was the better protected by the pooling of counter-weapons. For "normal" daily protection against occasional aircraft or small tank units the division had organic defenses. For anti-air defense, 224 cal. .50 machine guns were distributed through all components. For antitank protection over 500 rocket launchers were widely distributed, with a pooling of antitank guns in battalion headquarters and in the regimental antitank companies. In organic divisional antitank defense, the tendency was to place less reliance on special antitank units, and to provide weapons with which individual soldiers could rely more fully on themselves. Antitank guns were reduced in number at infantry battalion headquarters, removed altogether from field artillery battalion headquarters. The infantry antitank company was "de-fatted." Concurrently, rocket launchers were issued as far forward as the weapons platoon of the rifle company. Individuals of the rifle platoons were equipped with antitank rifle grenades. Thus an echeloned antitank defense was set up, beginning with the rifleman's grenades and improvised weapons, passing through rocket launchers and antitank guns, including artillery pieces of the division, most of which could be used against tanks, and culminating in mobile tank destroyers to be attached in the event of heavy armored attack.
Passing now to overhead elements of the division, it should be noted at once that the term is used with reservation, since all elements of the division were statistically classified as combat troops. All except the medical battalion were strongly armed. But the engineer, signal, ordnance, quartermaster, medical and military police units within the division, however indispensable and however close to the fighting, were not combat troops in the same sense as the infantry and artillery. Even the mechanized reconnaissance troop was not intended primarily to fight. General McNair, following a doctrine more generally preached than observed, wished to keep the proportion of these auxiliary elements to combat elements as low as was possible.
This was done in two ways. First, line troops served themselves. Infantrymen of the infantry regiment and artillerymen of the field artillery battalions performed simple tasks peculiar to all branches. Medical service was an exception in that, although all infantrymen and artillerymen were trained in first aid, each infantry regiment and artillery battalion had, as "attached medical" in its table of organization, a number of medical officers and enlisted men trained by and belonging to the Medical Department. Units had no attached personnel of other branches, though some
(for example, the Signal Corps) had attempted in the past to have their personnel included.60 Infantrymen and artillerymen operated their own telephones and radios without signal corps specialists, ran their own trucks and supply systems without quartermasters, engaged in rudimentary construction and mine-removal without recourse to the engineers, and provided first echelon maintenance (by the individual user) and second echelon maintenance (by a mechanic in the using unit) for their weapons and vehicles without recourse to technicians of the Ordnance Department. The infantry regiment was virtually a small division. It served itself; it had a reconnaissance platoon; it had proportionately far more antiair and antitank weapons than the division; and after the inclusion of howitzers it had its own artillery.
The other way of holding down the auxiliary elements of the division was extensive pooling of auxiliary units in corps and army. (See Annex VIII). So pooled, they were available in the varying quantity needed from time to time by this or that division. In addition, for routine supply of food, gasoline and ammunition, General McNair wished the regiments and battalions of divisions to deal directly with non-divisional service units under army control. "It is intended," read an AGF directive after the system came into effect, "that supplies move with as much freedom as possible through as few channels as necessary. Division and corps are not in the channel of supply except in emergencies."61 Using units - regiments and battalions hauled supplies in their own trucks from army supply points expected to be 20 to 30 miles in the rear. It was the business of army headquarters to push supply points within reach of front-line units, using army trucks when necessary to go beyond the railhead or head of navigation. Army was also expected to provide laborers at supply points to sort supplies into unit lots and load them into unit vehicles. Using units brought no personnel except drivers to the supply points; waste of vehicle space by transportation of laborers was avoided. The part played by the division quartermaster, ordnance officer, engineer, etc. was simply to consolidate and forward unit requisitions for items supplied by his branch, determine the shares of division units when stocks were limited, and provide liaison with army headquarters when necessary. The new supply procedure, which the Ground Engineer called a "revolution," was embodied in a revision of FM 100-10, the new passages being largely written by General McNair himself.62
Between concentration of functions in line personnel on the one hand, and in army personnel on the other, many functions of auxiliary units within the division were squeezed out.
Reconnaissance, for example, was conducted at all levels; by patrols of the forward infantry elements, by the intelligence and reconnaissance platoon of the infantry regiment, and by mechanized cavalry squadrons in the corps. There seemed to General McNair to be too many echelons of reconnaissance.63 In 1938 he had recommended no reconnaissance unit for the division at all. A mechanized cavalry troop had nevertheless been added, which from 1941 to 1942 grew in strength from 147 to 201. General McNair now proposed a troop of 153.64
Service units in the division occupied the narrowing gap between line units and army troops. Each, in addition to its operating functions, carried a small reserve of supplies and spare parts peculiar to its branch, and provided third echelon maintenance for equipment for which its branch was responsible.
The medical battalion included somewhat less than half the medical personnel of the division, the larger half being "attached medical" with the infantry, artillery and combat engineers. All told, medical personnel numbered about 1,000, more than any other arm or service in the division except infantry and artillery. The division medical battalion baked up the unit detachments. The latter brought in casualties to battalion or regimental aid stations, assisted when necessary by collecting companies
of the medical battalion. These companies evacuated the wounded from aid stations to clearing stations, from which those needing further treatment were transferred to evacuation hospitals operated by the army. Division medical officers worked during combat at the clearing stations, or reinforced medical officers attached to units farther forward. Little reduction was made in the revised table for the battalion, and no reduction in doctors. The veterinary officer was dropped; the office of the Surgeon General protested; the Army Ground Forces explained that the division had no animals, and that meat inspection was a function suitably relegated to army. The AGF tables likewise combined the jobs of division surgeon and of commanding officer of the medical battalion, on the ground that the surgeon should not remain at division headquarters but should operate with his hospitals in the field.65
The combat engineer battalion of the division, between 1941 and 1942, had grown in strength from 634 to 745. The AGF tables brought it back to 647. Functions of the battalion - road repair, bridge building, demolition, construction, etc. - were unchanged. A reconnaissance section was added to the battalion headquarters and service company, to enable the engineer to form his own estimates of the need for bridging and road repair. Removal of certain bridging equipment from the organic impedimenta of the battalion, on the principle that it could be readily drawn from army when needed, was the principal means used to reduce the battalion. Identical battalions, kept in pools under higher headquarters, along with other engineer units such as light ponton companies and heavy ponton battalions, were available for support of the division when needed.66
The division signal company was reduced almost one-third. From a strength of 232 in 1940 it had swollen to 322 in 1942, although both infantry and artillery had radio operators, linemen, communications sergeants, etc. The main function of the signal company was to construct and operate the central communications system of the division, coordinating and joining the main elements of the division with each other and with division headquarters. In part the signal company was cut by straight application of the ground rules -- 45 truck drivers were eliminated, their duties assigned to various others. In part it was cut by abolition of the radio intelligence platoon, whose functions were judged by the Army Ground Forces to be more appropriate to corps. A radio intelligence platoon was accordingly included in the corps signal battalion. The division signal company was brought back to a strength of 226, approximately as in 1940.67
The ordnance light maintenance company, made organic in the division after transfer of motor maintenance from the Quartermaster Corps to the Ordnance Department, was an especially good illustration of the economies made possible by pushing functions forward to line units or rearward to army shops. Battlefield recovery of disabled equipment, and elementary repairs and maintenance, were responsibilities of using units. Rather than lose control by turning over equipment to another agency for repairs, a procedure especially hazardous in combat, units were also expected to carry third echelon maintenance to the limit of their tools and skill. No ordnance company, General McNair noted for his staff,68
"can even make a dent in the trucks of a division, but must confine their activities to those which cannot be performed in units for lack of tools or special knowledge. There is no question in my mind that much of the so-called third echelon work in campaign must be performed by units in some degree ... No practicable ordnance company can be set up which will take care of motor repairs. The great mass of them must be either handled in the units or passed on to army establishments. However, it is sensible to cut out [i.e. hold, as in cutting a car out of a railroad train] at the division level those repairs which require not too much time but only special tools or knowledge."
The division ordnance company, as provided in the AGF tables, was therefore intended to provide only 60% of the third echelon maintenance required in the division under quiet conditions, and only 30% of such maintenance required during combat.69 The company was held to a strength of 147.
The division quartermaster company retained very limited responsibilities. Motor maintenance had been transferred to ordnance. Supply of food and gasoline was decentralized to regiments and separate battalions. With trucking done by using units, the trucks of the quartermaster company constituted chiefly a reserve. Their functions were to assure water supply, to carry reserve supplies including one reserve ration for the entire division, and to be capable of transporting tactically one battalion of infantry. Except for five trucks to which no load was assigned, kept as spare vehicles for immediate replacement of vehicle casualties, all trucks had organic loads, which they dumped when called upon to carry troops, or to provide reserve transportation to units. Laborers were eliminated, since sorting and loading at supply points was done by army, and unloading at receiving points by receiving units. The quartermaster company, in the March tables, was cut to 152 officers and men.70
By attachment of six quartermaster truck companies, kept in an army pool, the division proposed by the Army Ground Forces could be motorized completely. Six companies were sufficient because only the infantry required supplementary transportation, all other elements of the infantry division being organically motorized.71
The military police unit consisted only of a platoon. The AGF tables of March 1943 cut it from 80 to 73 men. Its functions were to guide traffic, maintain straggler lines and escort prisoners. In these functions it was supported by MP units of corps and army, and could be supplemented by detail of individuals from other units of the division. To prevent detail of soldiers for this purpose was indeed one of the main reasons for having military police organic in the division.72
The remaining element of division overhead was the headquarters and headquarters company. Since June 1941 these had greatly expanded. Division headquarters, on 1 June 1941, consisted of 26 officers, 2 warrant officers and 74 enlisted men, aggregating 102; on 1 August 1942, of 44 officers, 9 warrant officers and 116 enlisted men, aggregating 169. The headquarters company consisted on 1 June 1941 of 4 officers and 59 enlisted men; on 1 August 1942, of 7 officers, 3 warrant officers and 134 enlisted men. The division headquarters establishment almost doubled in fourteen months. The general staff had grown from 7 officers to 12; and the simple headquarters company of 1941 had more than doubled through addition of a transportation platoon and a defense platoon. The total increment, on a 100-division basis, took as much manpower as an entire division.
General McNair's views on reduction of higher headquarters are considered below. He believed that especially at the division level the commander should work through personal contact and verbal orders. Overgrown staffs, in his opinion, were a main cause of long written orders and unnecessary paper work, through which the division lost mobility and responsiveness to command in fast changing conditions of battle.
The AGF tables of March 1943 cut the headquarters company 50%, bringing it almost back to the strength of June 1941, through removal of vehicles and drivers, economy in orderlies and abolition of the defense platoon.73 The 56-man band was assigned, as an additional duty, the local protection of division headquarters. General McNair rejected proposals to increase postal personnel to the level authorized the War Department (1 per 1000 troops), despite recommendations of his own staff, The Adjutant General and the theaters, and despite information from the Desert Training Center that division postal clerks were obliged to work day and night.74
Division headquarters, cut about 25% in both officers and enlisted assistants, remained well above the level of 1941. Commanding officers of the medical battalion and the ordnance company were required to act as special staff officers for their branches, a practice already established in the artillery, engineer, signal and quartermaster elements of the division. Chaplains and special service officers at division headquarters were each cut from three to two. By General McNair's express order, the assistant G-4, automotive, added in 1942, was eliminated. General McNair felt that the ordnance officer could do most of the staff work connected with maintenance, an activity which, as he never tired of pointing out, profited more from elbow grease than from forms and reports.
To summarize, the reduced division proposed by the Army Ground Forces met the terms of the War Department directive very closely. Personnel was cut over 13%, vehicles over 23%. In addition, size of vehicles was reduced and number of trailers increased. Counting the ship ton as 40 cubic feet, about 6,000 ship tons (15%) were saved in tonnage needed for transport of equipment. No unit (except a few platoons) was wholly obliterated, though the infantry cannon company and the artillery service battery had been telescoped into other organizations. Personnel cuts were echeloned toward the rear:
|Field Artillery battalion||
Fire-power was not lessened. The main loss in armament was the removal of 324 automatic rifles. Where formerly all units of the infantry regiment had possessed a few of
these weapons, they were now confined exclusively to the rifle squad, the 243 automatic rifles remaining in the division being distributed, one each, to the 243 rifle squads. Provision of antitank guns and antitank mines was likewise cut. But over 500 antitank rocket launchers were added, and the allotment of cal. .50 machine guns was substantially increased. Self-propelled infantry howitzers gave way to towed, in slightly reduced numbers, but the 75-mm. howitzers were replaced with 105's. In sum, while quality of fire-power was modified slightly, quantity of fire-power (an abstraction difficult to measure) remained about the same. With fire-power the same, and with manpower cut over 13 percent, the ratio of fire-power to manpower increased. Hence with a given outlay of men, food, maintenance, transportation and administrative effort more combat power could be delivered.
Last updated 15 March 2006