Army Ground Forces, Study No. 1

Chapter I:


With the outbreak of hostilities in Europe in September 1939, the War Department, already alerted by the activities of the Axis in Europe and the Far East, intensified its preparations for the possibility of war. Through the winter of 1939-40 Great Britain and France held the line of the Rhine, and the American public found it difficult to see the danger. In April and May the dam broke. Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France were overrun by the German armies and in June Italy declared war. With the Axis in control of Western Europe Great Britain faced immediate invasion. The threat to the position of the United States could no longer be disregarded, and public opinion rallied to the support of extraordinary measures to meet it. Mobilization and intensive training began during the early summer of 1940 on the basis of agencies and plans which had been elaborated within the framework of the National Defense Act of 1920.

One of the first steps towards mobilization, taken 26 July 1940, was the activation of a “nucleus of General Headquarters.”1 To understand this measure it is necessary to have in mind the organization of the military establishment in 1940 and the general plan of mobilization then in effect.

Organization of the Military Establishment in 1940

The field forces of the United States in being and on paper in 1940 were composed of the Regular Army, the National Guard, and the Organized Reserves. The Regular Army, with an actual enlisted strength of 243,095 in July 1940, was a standing army, based on short-term enlistments and led by a corps of professional officers, approximately 14,000 in number. The National Guard, with an actual enlisted strength of 226,937, was a force of civilian volunteers, trained by the States in accordance with standards set by the War Department and put through field exercises for two weeks each summer under Federal direction. The units of the Organized Reserve existed only in the blueprints for mobilization. A reservoir of trained officers, 104,228 in number, was available in the Organized Reserve Corps, which by 1940 was made up chiefly of the graduates of the Reserve Officers Training Corps and of Citizens Military Training Camps.2

Behind the field forces stood the arms and services, whose function was to develop and supply personnel and equipment and to formulate the tactical and training doctrines embodied in their technical and field manuals, the Bible of the Army. These branches were responsible for what may be termed the “developmental” functions of the military establishment—the preparation of personnel, equipment, and doctrine which the field forces were to employ. Their relation to the General Staff was not well defined. Their chiefs, having direct access to the Chief of Staff, could bypass the General Staff in its advisory capacity, and exercised a very considerable influence. In 1940 the branches commonly regarded as combat arms were seven in number: Infantry, Cavalry, Field Artillery, Coast Artillery, the Air Corps, Engineers, and Signal Corps. This distribution of “developmental” functions reflected the art of warfare as understood in 1921, but technology was rapidly producing new potentialities and arms. The need for exploring the military potentialities of the airplane had been recognized after the war of 1917-18 in the creation of the Air Corps, and experiments in mechanization and with new weapons were being continuously carried on in the established arms.

Each of the traditional arms and services had a standard institutional pattern. Each operated a service school and a board. The schools not only provided professional training, but developed the doctrine and training literature of the several branches.


The boards developed and tested equipment. The school system of the branches was supplemented by general service schools operated by the War Department for the Army as a whole—the United States Military Academy at West Point, the Army Industrial College, the Command and General Staff School at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, and finally, the Army War College in Washington, the postgraduate school of the Army, where officers were trained in the staff work incident to high command.

The administration of the Army within the continental limits of the United States, the Zone of Interior, was conducted in peacetime through nine territorial commands, known as corps areas. The corps area commanders administered the “housekeeping” of the Army stationed in the United States. They were also responsible for the execution of the training program of the arms and services. Until 1932 they directed the tactical training of the Regular Army and the National Guard units stationed in the United States.

At the top of the structure stood the War Department General Staff, directed by the Chief of Staff who acted as adviser to the Secretary of War and as head of the military establishment. General George Catlett Marshall held this position in July 1940. The War Department General Staff, the offices of the Chiefs of Arms and Services, and those of the Secretary of War and the Assistant Secretary of War constituted the War Department.

In 1932, under the direction of General Douglas A. MacArthur as Chief of Staff, a stride was made toward preparing the field forces of the Army “to take to the field and execute the plans prepared for them.”3 The tactical units in the United States, both those in being and those planned for activation in an emergency, were brought together into the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Armies. Their commanders took over from the corps area commanders responsibility for the tactical training of the field forces, concentrated in quadrennial maneuvers of the Regular and National Guard units assigned to each.4 By exercising this responsibility the headquarters of each army would be training for its planning, tactical, and administrative duties in time of war. The four armies were also designed to provide a large tactical framework for mobilization.5 After this change, as before, corps area commanders were responsible for supply, the special training of officers and enlisted men in the arms and services, and the mobilization training of recruits. The change was not as great in fact as in principle. Means were not provided to effect a physical separation of the armies from the corps areas. The senior corps area commander in the territorial area assigned to each army was designated as the commanding general of that army, and his headquarters staff was drawn from the corps area staff, whose members now anted in a double capacity. But the training functions of the four army commands created in 1932 contained, in germinal form, the primary mission which was centralized in GHQ in July 1940 and in Army Ground Forces after 9 March 1942.

Reduced to the simplest general terms, the main features of mobilization and expansion of the field forces, as planned within the organization of the Army just outlined, were as follows:

1. The units of the Regular Army would be brought to full strength.

2. The National Guard would be inducted into Federal Service and its units brought to full strength.

3. Units of this Organized Reserve would be activated, according to plan, as needed.

4. The training nucleus of each of these new units would be a cadre of officers and enlisted men drawn from existing units.

5. Fillers, to bring enlisted units to full strength and new units from cadre to authorized strength, would be obtained by voluntary recruitment or draft, and, before assignment, be put through a course of basic training in replacement training centers.6 These centers would be operated by the corps area commanders under the supervision of


the Chiefs of the Arms and Services concerned, except for the “Branch Immaterial” centers, which were to be directly under the War Department.

6. Officers for new units, in addition to cadre officers, would be drawn in large part from the Officers Reserve Corps.

7. Preparation of tactical units for combat would be conducted by the armies created in skeleton form in 1932, which would be brought to full strength and activity.

8. A General Headquarters, United States Army, would be activated as the high command of the field forces.

GHQ in the Mobilization of 1940-1942

Into this plan of mobilization “a nucleus of GHQ” was injected on 26 July 1940. Its mission was to facilitate and speed up the process of mobilization by taking over the direct supervision of the huge task of organizing and training the field forces within the continental United States.

A GHQ had been one of the capital features of the reorganization of the War Department effected in 1921, a reorganization based on the lessons of World War I as read and digested by the Harbord Board.7 It had been expected that in the next war a GHQ such as that of the American Expeditionary Force of 1917-18 would be required. To prepare staff officers of this headquarters as completely as possible for their grave responsibilities in war, a War Plans Division was included in the War Department General Staff as reorganized in 1921. This division was given the responsibility for drawing the strategic plans for the employment of the field forces and upon the mobilization of the Army was to take the field as the staff of GHQ to put these plans into effect.8 In 1936 this feature of the plan was extended by designating certain officers of the General Staff for future duty with GHQ when it took the field. It was expected that other officers needed would be drawn from the Army War College, which would be suspended for the duration of the war. Originally the Chief of Staff of the War Department was to become the commanding general of this expeditionary force, but in 1936 it was decided that, while the Chief of Staff should automatically become commanding general of the field forces and of GHQ units when mobilization began, the final choice of the commander of the expeditionary forces must be left to the decision of the President.9

The “nucleus of GHQ” activated on 26 July 1940 consisted of a Chief of Staff and a small group of officers selected to perform the only function which was given to it initially, namely, the supervision of the training of tactical units of the Army in the continental United States. It was under the command of General Marshall, the Chief of Staff, acting as the commanding general of the field forces. In its function as a training agency, GHQ was a headquarters inserted between the War Department and the four armies. As such it put a capstone on the four-army plan.10 The training supervision given GHQ went further: it included, in addition to the four armies, “GHQ Aviation,” which comprised the tactical air forces then existent, the Armored Force (constituted 10 July 1940), harbor defense troops, and “other GHQ reserves.” In short, administration of the training of the field forces, as distinct from planning and policy decisions, was decentralized in July 1940 by transferring this function of the War Department General Staff to the staff of GHQ. The reason stated for the activation of GHQ was to decentralize the activities of the War Department,” thereby assisting General Marshall “in his capacity as Commanding General of the Field Forces.”

General Marshall was the commanding general. His Chief of Staff was Gen. Lesley J. McNair, who had been Commandant of the Command and General Staff School since April 1939 and who reported for duty in his new assignment on 3 August 1940. General Marshall freely delegated his authority over training to General McNair. Though in constant communication with his Chief of Staff, he saw him infrequently and actually visited GHQ, located at the Army War College, for the first time on 15 May 1941.11 General McNair directed GHQ.


Separation of the Field Armies from the Corps Areas

The activation of GHQ was a first step toward concentration of effort on training. Another major step was taken in October, when the command of corps areas was separated from that of the four armies.12 On 19 July 1940 G-3 had made a modest proposal that, as a means of establishing more effective control over training, “tactical headquarters” should be set up “at convenient locations” to assist corps area commanders in their training duties.13 General McNair, four days after reaching his desk at GHQ, pointed out that the activation of GHQ called for more radical action. “The establishment of GHQ,” he remarked, “amounts in principle to superimposing a theater of operations on the Zone of Interior.” He therefore recommended that the existing territorial organization, the corps area system, “be used for Zone of Interior functions only,” and that troop units be organized, trained, and administered by armies, corps, divisions, and similar tactical units as though in a theater of operations.14 General Marshall directed that a reorganization be worked out on the lines indicated by General McNair.15

The effect of the reorganization adopted was to implement the four-army plan of 1932. Army commanders were designated whose staffs, now distinct from those of any corps area headquarters, were henceforth to concentrate on training. The armies, though still in the United States and based while training on the posts, camps, and stations of the corps area commands, were to be “in the field.” When on maneuvers they would, “insofar as practicable, assume supply functions comparable to those of an Army Commander in a Theater of Operations where supplies are received direct from Zone of Interior supply points.”16 The object was to set the stage for bringing the units of the field forces, including the armies, to maximum readiness for combat before they left the United States. Always desirable, this had become a necessary objective. In 1917-18 it had been possible for U.S. troops to undergo or complete their training and have much of their equipment produced behind the lines in France. In June 1940 when the Axis acquired possession of all accessible beachheads on the European continent, this possibility was excluded from plans for the impending conflict. A vastly more comprehensive objective had to be envisaged. When the proposal to separate the armies from the corps areas end place them under the command of GHQ was under discussion, General McNair stated that “the ultimate and essential result of these measures would be to develop the field forces into a united whole—GHQ troops and four armies—free to move strategically and capable of prompt and effective tactical action. Thus it would be possible to move an army when and where directed by a simple order.”17

This ideal was not completely implemented by the measures actually taken. General McNair had envisaged the establishment of GHQ as amounting "in principle to superimposing a theater of operations on the Zone of Interior."18 The measures taken in July and October 1940 did not in fact produce this result. They failed to complete either the delegation of authority over the training of the field forces or the liberation of the army commanders from responsibility for the administration of posts. In short, GHQ was not vested with the full authority of a theater headquarters. Though its jurisdiction was described "as similar in character to that of Army Commanders,"19 GHQ was never vested with the administrative authority even of an army commander, but was subject in logistical matters to G-4 of the War Department. In principle the respective authority of army and corps area commanders was clearly delimited. Corps area commanders, operating under G-4 of the War Department, remained responsible for the system of supply and for the construction, maintenance, and repairs of fixed installations, specifically of posts, crops, and stations, and harbor defense projects, as well as for the training of service troops assigned to their stations. On the other hand, to give the armies and their staffs full training for field duty, army commanders were not only to take over at once from corps area commanders their training functions as far as tactical units were concerned, but to the extent of their facilities and personnel to provide medical care and evacuation for the field forces and in periods of


maneuvers, “insofar as practicable, assume supply functions.” The chain of command, nevertheless, remained tangled. In supply matters army commanders were under the corps area system and G-4, not GHQ. When a tactical commander on a post, camp, or station was senior to the representative of the corps area commander, he became post commander. The expedient adopted to relieve him of post duties in such cases was to instruct him to appoint a “post executive” and delegate to him the routine administration of the post.20 As has been noted above, General McNair’s concept was that GHQ, to accomplish its training mission effectively and with complete realism, should have essentially the organization of a theater of operations. The link in the chain of command necessary to complete this concept would have been a communication zone placed under its authority. This link was not provided. The need for it was felt even more sharply later when the authority of GHQ was extended to include base and defense commands.

Nevertheless, in the establishment of GHQ and the reorganization of October 1940, important steps had been taken to limber up a peacetime system which had been largely occupied with routine housekeeping functions and to put the Army into the field under centralized direction to train for combat.

Training Tasks of GHQ

The magnitude of the training tasks confronting GHQ in August 1940 was staggering. The tactical units whose preparation for war it was to direct and energize existed for the most part only on paper. All planning and preparation had been hampered by lack of money and manpower. Eight infantry divisions, one cavalry division and elements of a second, and one armored division had been activated, but in August 1940 these divisions were far from full strength. Only enough corps troops had been brought together to activate one corps and sketch another. The four armies consisted only of skeleton headquarters and 4,400 troops. The units of the Regular Army in the United States, located on widely scattered posts, had not been assembled except in quadrennial maneuvers directed by each army in turn. The 18 divisions of the National Guard had had only such training in the field and could be acquired in a two-weeks period each summer. The field training of corps and armies had had to be limited largely to command post exercises. Not until 1940 had it been possible to stage what General Marshall described as “the first genuine corps and army maneuvers in the history of this Nation.”21

GHQ had the twofold task of completing the imperfect training of the forces in being and at the same time of using such experience and military skill as these had to train for imminent war the mass of units and fresh recruits that were now being mobilized. On 13 June 1940 the authorized enlisted strength of the Regular Army had been expanded from 227,000 to 280,000 and on 26 June to 375,000. On 16 September the induction of National Guard units began, continuing until November 1941 as housing and equipment became available. These brought 278,526 enlisted men into active service.22 They had had more and better training than in 1917, thanks to the program authorized in 1920. But their training was far from complete, and the National Guard, no less than the mass of raw recruits, had to be taught tactics and the use of weapons which were revolutionizing the art of warfare. On the date when induction of the National Guard began, the Selective Service Bill became law and by July 1941 606,915 selectees had been inducted.23 These selectees were used to bring existing units up to authorized strength or as fillers for new units. Beginning 1 March 1941 large numbers of them were sent to the replacement training centers of the arms and services for basic training.

Meanwhile new units were being constructed around cadres drawn from units of the Regular Army and National Guard. The ground forces, as they expanded under GHQ, were organized into 27 infantry divisions (9 Regular Army, one of which was motorized, and 18 National Guard), 4 armored divisions, 2 cavalry divisions, and 1 cavalry brigade. Enough corps units were assembled or activated to set up 9 army corps.24 Before the


end of 1941 the organization of the four armies had been brought to a point which made it possible to put all of them through maneuvers and in September of that year to put two of them, fully organized, against each other in the field. By 1 July 1941 the strength of the field forces had reached a total of 1,326,577 officers and enlisted men.25 The training of this huge force, and more to come, had to match or excel the preparation of enemy forces known to be thoroughly trained and, in the case of Germany, magnificently equipped.

To provide the military leadership for this great task GHQ had immediately available its share of the 13,797 Regular Army officers then on active duty. The National Guard was to bring into active service 21,074 officers.26 But only 6,800 of these had completed a course of instruction in a service school.27 An officer pool existed, consisting of approximately 33,000 Reserve officers and 104,228 graduates of the ROTC in the Officers Reserve Corps.28 By 1 July 1941 56,700 Reserve officers in these two categories had been called to extended active duty and at that date already constituted from 75 to 90 percent of the officers of the Regular Army divisions.29 Commissioned personnel was currently being supplemented by graduates of West Point and of ROTC units and, after August 1941, by graduates of the Officer Candidate Schools set up in July of that year.

Men and means having been provided, work had to be done in haste and distraction which could be done with maximum efficiency only in the leisure of peace. The basic training of soldiers, the advanced training of many officers of all grades, and the tactical training of units of all sizes up to armies had to be carried on simultaneously, with officers and men in every degree of proficiency or lack of it and with only a thin line of Regular Army officers and noncommissioned officers to take the lead.

The task was made immensely more difficult because it had to be prosecuted not only in the midst of an unprecedented expansion but of continual and rapid changes imposed by the overwhelming successes of the German Army. Arms and equipment were being changed, and the new types could not be made available in quantities adequate for training. Many units were being converted; the Cavalry was being mechanized; the motorized division was being developed. At the same time the basic organization of the infantry division was undergoing a radical reform while the Army was being assembled. The “triangular” division was being substituted for the “square” division, to provide the flexibility required by the concept of the combat team. This process of change began in the winter of 1939-40,30 but as late as September 1940, the tables of organization for the triangular division were still not ready. In August preliminary charts were issued, to which nine Regular Army infantry divisions, the 1st through the 9th, were ordered to conform by 1 October.31 The eighteen National Guard divisions remained square divisions during the first year of their field training and were reorganized on the triangular pattern only during January and February 1942.32 Meanwhile, all through the period of GHQ’s existence, new types of units were being formed or multiplied: armored divisions, parachute troops, mountain troops, antitank and antiaircraft units, and the service and maintenance units required to support these specialized troops.33 As organization changed, doctrine and rules of procedure as set forth in technical and field manuals had to be kept up to date, and the staff of GHQ, as the group in charge of training operations, was called on to give much thought and time to the necessary revisions. These were only some of the changes that were taking place in the GHQ period, but they provide a rough measure of the magnitude of the job which General McNair was given in the summer of 1940.

The GHQ Staff

For almost a year General McNair performed his task with a staff whose maximum strength was 21 commissioned officers. To get officers who had “an open mind with


reference to innovations,” General Marshall directed that those assigned to GHQ should be under fifty years of age. General McNair reported to the Army War College from Ft. Leavenworth on 3 August 1940. By the end of the month his staff was composed of seven officers. The Infantry, the Field Artillery, the Cavalry, the Coast Artillery Corps, the Armored Force, the Corps of Engineers, and the Signal Corps were each represented by one officer. In September G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 functions were assigned, and an Adjutant General, an Air Officer, and a National Guard officer were brought in. In October a representative of the Organized Reserves was added, in November a Medical officer, and in January 1941 an officer from the Quartermaster Corps. In January the officer who had represented the National Guard was redesignated as representative of the Civilian Component, and in April the Coast Artillery officer became the Antiaircraft officer. By 31 May 1941 the officer strength of the staff had reached 21.34

During this first year the line between general and special staff functions was not sharply drawn. Business was carried on in an informal manner, largely by consultation.35 The staff met for work under Stanford White’s Roman vaults in the Army War College building, where the last graduating exercises of the War College “for the duration” had been held on 20 June.36 On the breezy point between two rivers, at the end of the campus-like parade ground of the Army War College post, the officers reported for duty in civilian clothes, as they continued to do until Pearl Harbor. The civilian guard at the main door recalls not recognizing General McNair and other generals of the staff and challenging them to show their identification cards. General McNair’s little staff of officers had anything but a martial aspect, in spite of the warlike concentration and energy with which they devoted themselves to their task.

GHQ as a Training Division of the General Staff

During the first year of its existence GHQ was virtually a division of the War Department General Staff, although it was located outside the General Staff and was itself organized as a complete staff in embryo. As Chief of Staff reporting directly to General Marshall, General McNair was drawn into the staff discussion of all major issues. Usually he consulted his own staff before making recommendations. At the same time GHQ became a living presence to the commanders under its supervision by going to the field and making itself known. It met their desire for a single command post in the War Department to represent their needs and capable of expeditious action. In December 1940 the War Department found it necessary to remind the commanders of units placed under GHQ for training that only those communications which dealt with training should pass through the Chief of Staff, GHQ. “In the past,” the letter ran, “the Chief of Staff has exercised his functions as commander of the Field Forces through the War Department. GHQ is the agency through which he would exercise command over such forces in an emergency. For the present, however, the recently formed GHQ will be concerned only with the direction and supervision of training of the Field Forces, exclusive of overseas garrisons. The War Department will continue to be the agency through which command, except for training, will be exercised."37 It seemed necessary to General McNair himself, a month later, to keep his staff within bounds by cautioning it against initiating projects not directly concerned with training. The War Department had been referring many matters other than training to GHQ for comment and recommendation, and the staff was therefore encouraged to include in its training contacts observations of conditions other than training. "But such side issues," General McNair continued, "must not weaken the main effort—training—nor create the impression among troop units that this staff is interested more than casually in other activities."38 These two directives indicate General McNair’s concentration on training and the importance which GHQ had already acquired by the early weeks of 1941 in the eyes both of its staff and of the commanders under its supervision.


Expansion of the Functions and Authority of GHQ, 3 July 1941

The critical international situation required not only intensive and rapid training of the U.S. Army but also the development of definite plans for the defense of the United States. When Dunkerque and the air bombing of England threatened the security of the country, measures had to be concerted for the defense of the continental United States and Alaska as well as the Atlantic approaches to the United States and the Panama Canal.

On 17 March 1941 the United States was divided into four Defense Commands.39 If invasion threatened, these defense commands were to become theaters of operations. Each was put under the authority of the commanding general of one of the four field armies. The immediate duty of the commander and his army staff, given an augmentation of personnel for the purpose, was to plan the measures necessary to repel invasion. Since it was expected that an initial attack on the United States would have to be first met in the air, air planning and organization figured prominently in these measures for defense. The order of 17 March 1941, creating the defense commands, activated four air forces, located in “districts” roughly coterminous with those of the four defense commands. The commander of GHQ Aviation, after 20 June 1941 the Air Force Combat Command, in which the four air forces were united, was made responsible for "the aviation and air defense plans for Defense Commands."40

Meanwhile preparation had also been made for strengthening an outer ring of defenses toward Europe. On 3 September of the previous fall, the President had announced the lease from Great Britain of additional bases in the Atlantic, in exchange for fifty United States destroyers, and in the spring of 1941 agreed to replace British troops in Iceland with US forces. Detailed plans for garrisoning Iceland, the new bases, and a cordon of defense commands in the Atlantic and Caribbean had to be made.

But while the necessary defensive measures were being taken, plans for an eventual offensive had also to be prepared. National policy as well as the traditional doctrine of the Army and Navy made it desirable that the enemy’s attack be crushed far from our shores and that an offensive be launched at the earliest possible moment.

The existing organization of the War Department was put under an enormous strain by the burden and multiplicity of all these demands for planning and administration. The danger of war was increasing rapidly. The destroyer-base exchange in September 1940 and the passage of the Lend-Lease Act in March 1941 had committed the United States to supporting Great Britain openly in order to stave off attack while arming and to maintain positions from which to strike the potential enemy. As war came swiftly nearer, a group of officers in the General Staff, alarmed by the delays involved in existing procedures, became convinced that the War Department must freely delegate some of its responsibilities to speed up action and to lighten the burden which was mounting on the shoulders of the Chief of Staff. A step toward this end was taken on 3 July 1941, when the authority of GHQ was extended to include, in addition to training, the planning and command of military operations.41

“GHQ now supersedes War Plans Division in the organization and control of task forces and operations. It will continue to direct the training of the Ground Forces and combined air-ground training.” Such was the statement of policy approved by General Marshall on 17 June.42 By this decision GHQ was advanced closer toward assuming the role for which it had been cast by the Harbord Report in 1921. GHQ was to plan operations as well as direct them. It was to “prepare theater of operations plans prescribed in Army Strategic Plans and such other operations as may be directed by the War Department.”43 GHQ was secretly informed that it would shortly be directed to prepare, in a given order of priority, four such plans.



Organization of the War Department Chart -- Click on the Image for Full Size Resolution


Behind this decision lay the recognition of the imminence of war for the United States. It was stated that “military combat operations may be required in the near future.” Effective “coordination, conduct and control” of operations “in a number of minor and widely separated theaters” would be “an extremely difficult task,” requiring “an executive organization capable of prompt decision and expeditious action.” The fact was recognized that there was “no agency of the War Department now organized to meet this requirement,” and the powers of GHQ were enlarged to meet it.45

The new mission of GHQ was defined as “planning, initiation and execution of such military operations as may be directed by the War Department.” Specifically,46

(1) GHQ will prepare theater of operations plans for those operations prescribed in Army Strategic Plans and such other operations as may be directed by the War Department...

(2) It will coordinate and control military operations in those theaters assigned to its command, to include such overseas departments, bases, and other military means as are made available to it by the War Department.

(3) It will exercise command over task forces set up for and required in the execution of a prospective operation from the date specified by the War Department for the assumption of such command.

(4) It will exercise command over such combat or other units in the continental United States, both air and ground, as shall hereafter, from time to time, be designated to it as a reserve by the War Department.

(5) It shall have under its direct control such credits in supplies, ammunition and equipment as may, from time to time, be specifically allotted to it by the War Department.

By a directive of 25 March, GHQ had been empowered to supervise and coordinate the planning activities of the four Defense Commands in the continental United States, but not “until such time as the staff of GHQ had been expanded to undertake these additional responsibilities.”47 That time had now come. GHQ was given "full authority for the employment of the means available to it, including designated reserves, in the execution of the task in each of the theaters assigned to it for command, and authority for the transfer of units and means between theaters under its control," with the proviso, of course the under its control," with the proviso, of course, "that such transfer falls within the framework of the strategic directive issued by the War Department."

It will be noted that under the terms of the new directive GHQ shared the planning of operations with WPD, with the Chief of the Army Air Forces, and with the Commanders of Bases and Defense Commands. Theoretically the division of functions was as follows: WPD drafted strategic plans; GHQ, in collaboration with the Commanders of Bases and Defense Commands, elaborated theater plans which fitted into these; the Chief of the Army Air Forces, maintaining contact with GHQ by means of an Air Support Section located in that headquarters,48 made air plans which became air annexes of theater plans after approval by the theater commander and the concurrence of the Chief of Staff, GHQ. When execution of a theater plan was ordered, GHQ was drawn into the chain of command between the theater commander and the War Department to supervise, to coordinate, to inspect, and to share the burden of administration at Washington. But even at this stage full command was withheld, since GHQ was not given control over supply.

Such an organization was obviously not “functional” in the sense of conferring clear-cut authority commensurate with responsibility. It remained to be seen whether it would stand up under the stress of impending events, which were to include the outbreak of war on 7 December.



Operation of GHQ - Relation of GHQ to War Department, ETC - Click on Image to View Full Size Resolution



Although the charter received in July was somewhat restrictive, extensive assignments were given GHQ in the following eight months.

Planning Activities

GHQ prepared in part or in toto sixteen detailed operational plans for task forces, including those for the US forces which relieved the British in Iceland and in British and Dutch Guiana, and for the forces sent to the British Isles in the spring of 1942. At the beginning plans for reconnaissance and occupation of protective bases in the Atlantic were in the foreground. Other plans were prepared for expeditionary forces which seemed likely to be required by the rapidly shifting situation in Europe and the Western Hemisphere, but which were not launched. The plans nevertheless had to be worked up in detail and under high pressure. One of these, “Super-Gymnast,” prepared in January 1942, laid the basis for “Torch,” the plan for the operation launched in North Africa, on 8 November 1942.49 In addition, GHQ had to work out operational plans for the base commands in Bermuda, Greenland, Newfoundland, Iceland, and Alaska and to supervise and coordinate the theater plans submitted by the Commanding Generals of the Caribbean Defense Command and of three of the four Defense Commands in the United States—the Northeastern, Southern, and Western.50

A highly efficient routine was worked out for processing through the GHQ staff the “operations plans” which that headquarters was directed to prepare. The first step, taken whenever feasible, was to send a party to the area in question to make spot reconnaissance. On its return, a general conference of the staff for “orientation” was held in the War College Auditorium. The next step was for the G’s in a standard order—G-2, G-3, G-1, and G-4—to work up all the basic data for a plan framed within the strategic directive handed down by WPD. A draft was then blocked out under the headings: “Situation,” “Missions and Organization,” “Operations,” “Supply,” “Command.”51 The draft was presented to the entire staff for discussion. Details were provided in “annexes” worked out by the General and Special Staff Sections. All parts of the plan were prepared and assembled in conformity with a dummy model.52 When completed, the plan was submitted to WPD for approval.

Meanwhile, the commander and his staff, assigned for a particular operation, were ordered to the War College, where the approved plan was laid before them for study. They were instructed to ask no questions for two days, after which they were free to discuss it in detail with the officers who had drafted it.

The whole task required the management and coordination of a complicated mass of details in the form of factual information, men, and things. In the drafting stage each section and annex of a plan had to be coordinated not only with numerous agencies located in the complex organization of the War Department, but with agencies of the Navy Department as well. Nevertheless, plans were worked up with conspicuous speed and economy of effort. The first of these, the plan for Iceland, was completed in seven days after the reconnoitering party had reported. The Diary and Minutes of GHQ from September 1941 until the following March show that headquarters preparing plans and dispatching them with an activity comparable to that of an assembly plant under rush orders. One secret of the efficiency displayed was a compact staff, located apart from the maze of offices in the Munitions Building and under the direction of a leader, the Deputy Chief of Staff, Brig. Gen. Harry J. Malony, who inspired them with his sense of the urgency and importance of their task. Another was the presence under a single roof and in a single organization of representatives of the arms and services, who could furnish both technical information and quick contact with these agencies. The isolated location of GHQ made it easier to enforce security. The standard operating procedure developed was so effective that it continued to be employed by the Operations


Division of the War Department General Staff, which in March 1942 took over the planning functions of GHQ.53

Command Problems

Meanwhile, GHQ was also exercising its command functions over task forces and theaters successively placed under its authority. In July 1941 it organized and dispatched the first echelon of the force sent to Iceland. On 13 August it was given control of the second echelon, which sailed on 5 September. This force was, the report stated, "the first United States Expedition to depart with a complete plan and all means necessary to implement it."54 On 2 January 1942 GHQ was put in command of the forces in the British Isles and in the following months it organized and dispatched the units sent to Northern Ireland and England. It also planned and prepared those designated for the relief of the garrisons in Dutch Guiana and those which it was believed might be needed to reinforce other strategic points on the coasts of Central and South America.

At the same time the responsibilities of GHQ gradually came to include an ever-greater number of new bases and defense commands which were being activated in 1940-41 in the Atlantic, the Caribbean, and Alaska to give additional protection to the approaches to the United States and the Panama Canal. On 15 July 1941 the Bermuda Base Command and on 19 July the Newfoundland Base Command were transferred from the First Army to GHQ.55 On the latter date United States Army units in Greenland were attached to GHQ for tactical command only and on 26 November were constituted under GHQ as the Greenland Base Command.56 In the previous February a Caribbean Defense Command had been established with headquarters at Quarry Heights, Panama. Canal Department, embracing all bases under United States control in the Atlantic approaches to the Panama, Canal.57 On 1 December 1941 command of this critically important area was vested in GHQ.58 Then came Pearl Harbor and war. On 14 December the Western Defense Command, with Alaska included, was made a theater of operations under the command of GHQ.59 On 24 December the Northeastern Defense Command, extended to embrace Newfoundland, was similarly converted into the Eastern Theater of Operations under GHQ.60 The responsibilities of GHQ for the control of operations had now reached a maximum. In the summer and fall of 1941 the eventual transfer of Hawaii and the Philippines, indeed of “all projects and outlying bases,” had been expected by the GHQ staff.61 These expectations were not realized. Indeed the command responsibilities of GHQ were eventually contracted. On 19 December 1941 control of army as well as naval forces assigned for operations to the Caribbean Coastal Frontier, the seaward sector of the Caribbean Defense Command, passed despite the protests of GHQ to the Navy under the principle of “unity of command.” On 31 January 1942 operational forces assigned to Bermuda were also transferred to the control of the Navy Department.62 Control of operations in the Pacific area beyond our Western coast line were not delegated by the War Department to GHQ.

Expansion and Reorganization of the GHQ Staff

In response to the new demands made on General McNair and his staff after 3 July 1941, GHQ underwent a transformation. Its strength, which stood at 29 officers and 64 enlisted men in the latter part of June, was considerably more than doubled by 1 December 1941 (76 officers, 178 enlisted men). Before the dissolution of GHQ on 9 March 1942, it had increased to 137 officers and 327 enlisted men.63 This expansion created new administrative burdens. Officers had to be procured and office space had to be found for them. The War College building overflowed, and a new office building, “T-5,” and additional living quarters were authorized, designed to accommodate an anticipated strength of approximately 300 officers and 1,000 enlisted men.64 At the beginning of December 1941 the staff was reorganized for the more effective discharge of its dual


function of training on the one hand and operations and planning on the other. The little company of officers in mufti, consulting busily but informally in the big spaces of the War College and frequently absent on inspection tours, was converted into a highly organized planning and administrative machine, which crowded all the available space on the Army War College Post. Measures had to be taken to maintain the expeditious action characteristic of the original "nucleus."65

As late as January 1941 the staff had been organized only to the extent of having on it officers representing arms and services and “G” functions essential to its training mission. In that month foundations for seven special staff sections, “to facilitate their intermediate organization when necessary” were laid by obtaining the assignment to GHQ of specially qualified enlisted men.66 As soon as the new role of GHQ was determined on 17 June six officers reported to General McNair from WPD, War Department, led by Brig. Gen. Harry J. Malony, who was made Deputy Chief of Staff.67 In the months following, the staff was expanded and its organization was pushed to completion under the two-fold stress of new duties growing out of the great GHQ—directed maneuvers in Louisiana and Carolina in September and November and of the mounting pressure of events abroad.68 Much energy was expended in overcoming the difficulties and delays attending the procurement of a large number of specially qualified officers within the policy set by General Marshall of not assigning to GHQ officers over fifty years old. The events of 7 December added the problems of open warfare. The next day GHQ was put on a 24-hour basis and in the following months a fresh effort was made to bring the staff up to its full complement.69

With increase in number came a sharper division of labor. On 14 July GHQ was given a Headquarters Company and Special Troops.70 The four "G" sections and the following special sections were built up out of the previously informal organization: the Adjutant General, Antiaircraft, Aviation, Engineers, Quartermaster, Medical, and Signal. No organized staff sections for the Armored Force, Cavalry, Field Artillery, or Infantry were ever activated, and Chaplains, Civilian Affairs, and Provost Marshal General sections were not deemed necessary.71 Representation of the Civilian Component was discontinued, and Finance, Ordnance, and Judge Advocate General Sections were set up. In December a representative of the Inspector General was introduced and in January 1942 a Chemical Warfare Section was added. Liaison officers from Marine Corps and Navy were attached to the staff and close relations with the Army Air Forces were maintained by the Aviation Section, GHQ, and through the Air Support Section of the Air Force Combat Command, initially located in GHQ.

The Split within GHQ between Training Functions and Operational Functions

Because of the twofold nature of the responsibilities delegated to GHQ, almost all sections of its staff had both training functions and planning and operational functions after 3 July 1941.72 Each section was, in effect, as General Malony remarked, “split down the middle” into a Training Branch and an Operational Branch. This split threatened to destroy the solidity of the organization.73 On 8 December 1941 a reorganization was effected which gave formal recognition to the division within each section. At the same time a G-4 Section of eleven officers was added to devote its whole attention to training. Brig. Gen. Mark W. Clark, until then G-3, was made chief of this section and also Deputy Chief of Staff for Training.74 General Malony retained his title of Deputy Chief of Staff.

The change was proposed in order to increase the functional efficiency of the staff. It was represented as a step taken in compliance with the directive that GHQ, should be so organized that its training function could be readily transferred to the War Department.75 Actually it covered a tension developing within the staff between


General Malony and General Clark and those who represented their respective points of view. Undoubtedly personalities and the strain of overwork in a crisis that seemed desperate played their part. But the conflict was fundamentally one of views regarding the primary mission of GHQ. General Malony was intent on making GHQ the agency which the expanding War Department needed for “quick action” in directing the forces it was deploying.76 General Clark, who had distinguished himself as Deputy Director of the great army maneuvers in Louisiana, was intent on developing the original mission of GHQ as the means of training the ground forces for future offensives. Each of the Deputies had growing and diverse responsibilities which tended to lay under contribution the resources of the whole staff. General McNair’s deep interest in training eventually combined with the reorganization which the War Department was planning to determine the fate of GHQ. When this reorganization went into effect on 9 March 1942, it was not the training functions but the operational functions of GHQ that were transferred to the War Department. The functions of GHQ as an agency for training the ground army were delegated to General McNair as commander of the Army Ground Forces.



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Last updated 18 February 2005