Army Ground Forces, Study No. 1

Chapter III:


Establishment of the Armored Force

The Armored Force was established on 10 July 1940, sixteen days before the activation of General Headquarters. For more than twenty years United States Army officers had worked hard to develop tanks, and their achievement compared favorably with that of the British and French. Their work had been severely limited by lack of funds and by difficulties in coordinating the armored activities of infantry, cavalry, and other arms and services concerned with tanks. The German victories of May-June 1940 made the tank question more than ever urgent. The Germans had used large armored formations for deep penetration and wide encirclement of hostile positions. This conspicuous success in armored warfare strengthened the arguments of those officers who had long advocated a new armored tactics and organization. The result was the creation of an Armored Force. But because of continuing differences of outlook and the limitation on the creation of new arms imposed by the National Defense Act of 1920, the new force was set up only provisionally, “for purposes of service test.”1

Though at first provisional, the Armored Force was from the beginning a strong autonomous organization. It received control of all tank units already existing in the infantry and cavalry and of certain field artillery and service units as well. It was to include, as they were activated, “all armored corps and divisions, and all GHQ Reserve tank units.” At its head was a Chief of the Armored Force, Brig. Gen. Adna R. Chaffee, who was also commanding general of the I Armored Corps. The status of an “arm,” which could be conferred only by an Act of Congress, was withheld from the new force, but the functions of its chief were described in the original directive as “essentially those of a chief of a combatant arm” with respect to all tank elements in the army. In addition, the Armored Force soon obtained a temporary authority to train all nontank elements of large armored units, mainly the infantry, artillery, and service components of armored divisions.2

Under the vigorous and able leadership of General Chaffee and his associates, and later of General Devers, the Armored Force rapidly expanded. Within a few weeks it had formed from existing elements two armored divisions, which were to be followed by three more in 1941, the only strictly new divisions created in the United States Army before Pearl Harbor. An Armored Force School and an armored Force Board were immediately set up and in 1941 an Armored Force Replacement Training Center and an Armored Force Officer Candidate School. On 23 November 1940 the Armored Force published its own Mobilization Training Program, which prescribed the hours and subjects for thirteen weeks of basic individual and small-unit training not only for tank personnel, but for the infantry, field artillery, ordnance, signal, quartermaster, engineer, and medical units comprised in the Armored Force.3

Freed in large measure from dependence on other branches, controlling its own schools and replacement system, formulating its own tactical doctrine, shaping its own personnel through successive phases of training, organizing and directing units as high as divisions and corps, possessing an intense group spirit and a strong enthusiasm for its special weapon, the Armored Force tended to become an autonomous and self-contained element in the Army. This tendency raised a basic problem of military organization for the War Department, which had to integrate the development of the new Armored Force with the training activities of the old arms and services. The development of the tank since 1916 had in effect produced a new technique of warfare. An answer had to be found to the question whether emphasis should be placed on specialization in its use, resulting in a relatively independent organization to meet the new need, or whether the


new organization should be kept within the established framework, acting interdependently with the older parts. In other words, how far, if at all, should the Armored Force develop in the direction of autonomy which the Air Corps was taking?

Relation of GHQ to the Armored Force

Relations between GHQ and the Armored Force were always somewhat distant and unclear. As a headquarters concerned with training, GHQ had no authority on questions of Armored Force organization. General McNair’s views on the subject were nevertheless often requested by the War Department, as they were on questions of Air Corps and tank destroyer organization. He exerted a personal, not an official, influence. He expressed reluctance to deal with the question of Armored Force organization, possibly because his ideas on this subject were most of the time shared and expressed by G-3 of the War Department and because his ideas on this subject seem to have been at first less clearly defined.

For training, GHQ had direct supervision only over the field forces, i.e., organized tactical units. Its authority therefore stopped short of the schools and replacement activities of the Armored Force, but embraced the I Armored Corps, the armored divisions, and the separate tank battalions which were designed to reinforce infantry or other elements at the discretion of higher commanders and were known as GHQ tank battalions. To assist in the discharge of these responsibilities, General McNair included an Armored Force officer, Lt. Col. A.F. Kingman, in his original small “nucleus” of a staff. But even in the training of tactical units General McNair was disposed to leave the Armored Force to its own devices, though representatives of GHQ frequently visited Ft. Knox and submitted reports. The main part played by GHQ was to employ armored units produced by the Armored Force in the GHQ-directed maneuvers of 1941.

Training Directives and Maneuvers

GHQ issued no major training directives specifically to the Armored Force. Even the general training directives issued at intervals to army commanders laying down broad training policies for the field forces were not at first addressed to the Chief of the Armored Force. Copies, however, were sent to Ft. Knox for information, and the Armored Force showed a willingness to conform to them. When the Armored Force published its Mobilization Training Program in November 1940, it listed among its references General McNair’s first training directive, i.e., his letter of 16 September 1940 to army commanders. Neither the GHQ directive of January 1941 on “Combined Training,” nor the one of March 1941 on “Training Tests,” nor any equivalent was addressed to the Armored Force. With the letter of 30 October 1941 on “Post-maneuver Training” we find for the first time a major training directive addressed both to army commanders and to the Chief of the Armored Force.

This reluctance to interfere in the training of the Armored Force can probably be ascribed to its peculiar situation during its first year. Training had to be sacrificed to expansion. Hardly were the 1st and 2d Armored Divisions organized when they were required to produce cadres for the 3d and 4th. From February to May, 1941, the 2d Armored Division was needed for air-ground tactical tests. In November 1940 the GHQ tank officers reported that basic training was being neglected, but that the Armored Force authorities were aware of the problem; in January 1941, that training within divisions suffered from the creation of new units and that the Armored Force was expanding before any of its existing units were properly trained; in March, that expansion was still proceeding, but was handicapped by the failure of the War Department to activate new divisional headquarters in advance.4 In these circumstances it was not


until late in 1941 that Armored Force units were ready to profit fully by directives laid down by GHQ for ground troops at large.

Sometimes inspections resulted in attempts to bring Armored Force methods into more complete harmony with the policies of GHQ. On one occasion it was found that training tests were so arranged that a battalion virtually tested itself. General McNair wrote to General Chaffee that the battalion should be tested by its next higher headquarters.5 Again, after his representative had attended a field exercise of the 1st Armored Division, General McNair wrote that in such exercises the enemy should be represented at least by umpires and that a brief oral critique should immediately follow.6 But in general, few such letters were written, and in all phases of training short of maneuvers for corps and armies the Armored Force went its way with little direction from GHQ.

Armored divisions appeared for the first time in U. S. Army maneuvers in the summer of 1941, the 2d Armored Division in June and the lst a few weeks later. Various corps and army headquarters had the opportunity, through attachment, to employ them in the field.7 The main test came in the GHQ maneuvers of November 1941 in the Carolinas. The I Armored Corps, comprising the 1st and 2d Armored Divisions, was attached to the IV Army Corps under General Griswold, in opposition to the First Army under General Drum. General Griswold’s numerical inferiority (100,000 against 195,000) was to be compensated for by massing under his command 865 tanks and armored scout cars. Against him the First Army had 4,321 guns which might be effective against tanks, and of which 764 were capable of mobile concentration against tank assault.

As director of the maneuvers, General McNair judged that General Griswold employed his tank strength prematurely and piecemeal, losing the opportunity to use the I Armored Corps as a whole for a concentrated blow at the critical time. He also thought that armored units had on occasion been used where other types of units, more easy to replace, might have accomplished the same objective. In general, the maneuvers were inconclusive as to the effects of massed tank action at a decisive moment.

They confirmed, however, certain developments which had been growing more evident since the great German armored offensives of May-June 1940. Antitank guns proved themselves highly effective. Umpires ruled that 983 tanks had been put out of action—91 percent by guns, 5 percent by grenades, 3 percent by mines, and 1 percent by air. The 1st Armored Division was destroyed, after its line of communications was severed at the beginning of the attack. It was agreed that tanks needed the strong support of infantry to hold ground and neutralize antitank guns. A much improved warning system against mobile antitank guns was found to be necessary. Better radio discipline in tank units was recommended in the interests of security. General Griswold noted a tendency on the part of the I Armored Corps “to operate independently and without too much regard for other members of the team.”8

But, at the same time, the staff of the I Armored Corps distinguished itself in intelligence work and by its skill in withdrawing the two armored divisions and the 4th Motorized Division over limited road nets. The armored units showed themselves able to move effectively at night. The willingness and endurance of the troops were noted by General McNair, and General Griswold observed that no one should be misled by the success of antitank weapons into underestimating the power of tanks.

Thus the Armored Force, in somewhat over a year and in spite of the drains caused by expansion, had performed the important task of putting two competent armored divisions into the field. At the end of 1941 three additional armored divisions were in less advanced stages of training.


Organizational Problems: The Directive of 3 April 1941

Since the Armored Force was at first established provisionally, the question soon arose of its more permanent organization. The issues raised were of the highest importance to the Army, and in the ensuing discussion GHQ played a substantial, though largely unofficial, part. The organizational question was brought up by the Armored Force on 2 October 1940 and was temporarily resolved by a War Department directive of 3 April 1941. During these six months four proposals were made, two by the Armored Force and two by G-3 of the War Department General Staff.

The first proposal of the Armored Force, that of 2 October 1940, made four recommendations:  (1) That the Armored Force receive a headquarters and headquarters company of its own, instead of using those of the I Armored Corps. Over this request no controversy developed, though action on it was delayed until the general settlement of 3 April 1941. (2) That three GHQ Reserve Group Headquarters be activated to command the fifteen GHQ Tank Battalions contemplated by the War Department. Only the timing, not the substance, of this request became an issue. (3) That a II Armored Corps be activated, since the War Department planned to create a third and a fourth armored division. (4) That a large and varied assortment of organic corps troops be assigned to each armored corps.

The third and fourth recommendations raised considerable difficulties. They posed the question whether the War Department should create a “type” armored corps so fully provided with its own supporting troops as to constitute a small independent army. The requested corps troops included military police and signal units; corps artillery, medical, ordnance, and quartermaster units; one decontaminating company; an antiaircraft regiment and an antitank battalion; five kinds of engineers; four replacement battalions; and, for air support, an armored observation squadron, a composite pursuit group, and an entire wing of light bombers.9

To these plans G-3 responded with a proposal of its own, dated 19 November 1940. It rejected the idea of a heavily-equipped “type” armored corps and saw no need of a second armored corps until the following fiscal year. Organic corps troops were to be held to a minimum—a headquarters and headquarters company, and a signal battalion. All other types of troops in the Armored Force list, according to G-3, should be supplied to armored corps from GHQ reserves as determined by higher command. In this respect the G-3 proposal tended to check the development of the Armored Force in the direction of independence, but in- another respect it encouraged it. Continuing in a policy for which it had failed to obtain acceptance in the preceding July, G-3 recommended that the Armored Force be set up as a fully recognized separate arm.10

This suggestion revived an old controversy. The Chiefs of Infantry and of Cavalry strongly dissented. The Chief of Infantry felt that the severance of tanks from foot troops had already gone too far and that the development of tank tactics and training of tank personnel should be a responsibility of his office. The Chief of Cavalry, in a long memorandum chiefly historical in nature, contended that the Cavalry had long led the way in mechanized developments, but that lately the views of his office had been persistently disregarded. On the War Department General Staff, G-1 and G2 expressed nonconcurrences less emphatic than those of the two Chiefs. General approval of the plan was given by WPD, the Armored Force, and GHQ. The War Plans Division concurred without comments. The Armored Force accepted the G-3 proposal with reservations on the matter of corps troops. GHQ was in favor of establishing the Armored Force as a separate arm and wanted the II Armored Corps set up before the 4th Armored Division in accordance with its principle of activating headquarters before receipt of subordinate units.11


In view of these extremes of disagreement the Office of the Chief of Staff decided to postpone an immediate decision on the basic question and issued on 21 January 1941 a compromise directive. The G-3 proposal was rejected. Divisions and corps containing armored units were to be considered as tactical units of combined arms, not as units of a separate arm or branch, and officers of such units were to come from all arms and services. If a separate Armored Force branch were established, officers would be detailed to it for limited periods from other combat arms. But, like the other combat arms, this separate Armored Force would become responsible for developing the tactics and technique of its unit, including the largest.12

G-3 responded to these instructions by what seems to have been a delaying action, merely recommending on 27 February that, if a separate arm were created, officers should be commissioned in it permanently.13 On this problem GHQ continued to stand with G-3, approving fully the suggestion made.14 War Plans Division took an ambiguous position, agreeing with G-3 in principle but suggesting that if the compromise plan of detailing officers temporarily to the Armored Force should prove successful, then all “arms” and “branches” might well be abolished. G-1 objected to the G-3 proposal, fearing that officers commissioned in an armored arm would become too specialized and recommending temporary detail of officers to the Armored Force, as the Navy detailed officers to its air force without loss of efficiency in aviation. G-4 agreed with G-1. The views of the Chiefs of Infantry and Cavalry were not sought at this stage.

Meanwhile the Armored Force itself was willing to let the separate-arm question wait, but pushed forward its campaign for autonomy of command. A study of armored organization in European armies was made at Ft. Knox. This report stressed the fact that the Germans, whose superiority in this respect was unquestioned early in 1941, had a more independent armored organization than the British or French and that in the Battle of Flanders they had employed an armored army consisting of four armored corps.15

Fortified by these findings, the Armored Force submitted on 22 February 1941 its second proposal for permanent organization. General Scott, commanding in General Chaffee’s absence, pointed out the similarity of the organization recommended to that already in effect in the Air Corps.16 The Armored Force was to be headed by a commanding general whose rank, it might be inferred from the study, was to be that of a full general. Under him were to be two subdivisions: an administrative division under a major general comparable to a chief of arm, and a field headquarters under a major general as chief of staff. Through this staff the commander of the Armored Force would control the several armored corps, each under a lieutenant general, and the tank groups under which the separate tank battalions were placed.17 A letter of 1 March from General Chaffee to the Armored Force liaison officer in Washington, the contents of which had also been forwarded to General Marshall, made the meaning of the proposal clear:18

The Armored Force should be placed on the status of an Armored Army Headquarters capable of operating the force as a whole or of detaching any part of it, Corps, Division, Group or Battalion, as is the GHQ Air Force. It should have the same relation to GHQ as has the GHQ Air Force. GHQ couldn’t possibly operate it with a staff alone; it has too many other things to do.

The questions of the Chief of Arm should be set up as Scott has them, capable of being separated and left in the zone of interior or SOS should Force Headquarters be in the zone of the Armies.

In a letter of 18 March to General McNair, General Chaffee developed his ideas and requested support.19 According to General Chaffee the Armored Force, because of its peculiar mobility, its peculiar problems of supply, the special knowledge required of its officers, and its considerable size could not successfully be operated through the


ordinary channels of command and staff. Above the armored corps, therefore,

is needed a headquarters which thoroughly understands and is trained and equipped to handle the problems of concentration, supply, replacement, field equipment, and maintenance of masses of armored troops... GHQ may wish to employ more than a corps of two divisions, and if so it should have the trained organization available.

Even with the small 7th Cavalry Brigade, Mechanized, I have never attended a maneuver... where I did not have to take over from Army or Corps headquarters all the questions of supply including gasoline and oil, maintenance, and evacuation, etc. Staffs which are not trained in large armored units have not sufficient appreciation of their detailed requirements to be able to give good service.

If you should set up in GHQ an Armored Force section to take over the details of movement, operation, supply, maintenance, and evacuation of several detached and separate armored corps and several separate GHQ tank groups, I believe it would break down, and one of your earliest steps would be to set up a command group for this similar to that of the GHQ Air Force which can take care of all these matters, and make available to you for operations at any time and place a separate battalion or division corps or any larger part of the Armored Force that may be necessary in you plan...

I therefore hope that you will nonconcur strongly in the G-3 memorandum which I mentioned and insist on a proper, adequate and forward-looking organization.

The G-3 memorandum referred to by General Chaffee was a G-3 proposal drawn up on 13 March in answer to the second proposal of the Armored Force. G-3 was not convinced of the need of an armored army. The new G-3 proposal recommended instead (1) that the office of the Chief of the Armored Force be organized like that of any other chief, not under a tactical commander of the arm; (2) that the largest armored tactical unit be a corps, not an army; and (3) that control of armored units in operation should be through Armored Force staff sections at the headquarters of field armies, theaters of operations, and GHQ, not through a special commanding general of the whole Armored Force.20

General McNair was now forced to choose between G-3 and the Armored Force, both of whom sought his support, but since he seemed not yet to have reached a clear decision in his own mind, he wrote rather noncommittally to General Chaffee. To General Scott he observed: “I, myself, will not tangle in this matter, since my job is training and not organization.”21 He inclined far enough to Armored Force views to express a mild nonconcurrence in the second and third points of the G-3 proposal, which opposed the establishment of an armored army and the appointment of a full general for the whole Armored Force.22

“In my view,” wrote General McNair to G-3, “the essential element of armored action is a powerful blow delivered by surprise. While the armored units may be broken up and attached to division and army corps, it is readily conceivable, and indeed probable, that the entire force, under a single command, may be thrown against a decisive point.”

In other words, in March 1941 GHQ not only favored the establishment of the Armored Force as a separate arm, but was willing to see further consideration of the idea of an armored army.


Other influences, however, were at work to keep armored units within the older framework of the field forces. It was believed in Armored Force circles that General Bryden, Deputy Chief of Staff, was among them.23 The identity of others may be conjectured from the record of nonconcurrences in the earlier recommendations of G-3. All that can be said on the basis of evidence examined is that on 25 March the Office of the Chief of Staff issued instructions which, if carried out, would have given less autonomy to the Armored Forces than G-3 recommended and even less than it had possessed up to that date. The Armored Force was to remain on a provisional basis, “for purposes of service test,” under a chief who would exercise the functions in training, inspection, and development of other chiefs of arms. Officers would be detailed to, not commissioned in, the Force. The I Armored Corps would continue, but the activation of a second would be deferred. Though these provisions left the Armored Force about as the directive of July 1940 had created it, two other provisions reduced its powers. It was stipulated that the 3d and 4th Armored Divisions, when organized, should not be included in the Armored Force, but placed as separate divisions under GHQ for training, subject to attachment to the Third and First Armies. All GHQ Reserve Tank Battalions were to be transferred from the Armored Force to GHQ. G-3 was instructed to incorporate these principles in a directive within two days.24

As the result of a protest from General Chaffee to General Marshall, the Office of the Chief of Staff almost immediately reversed itself. Acting on oral instructions which superseded those of both 25 March and 21 January from the Office of the Chief of Staff, G-3 prepared a directive to be issued as an immediate action letter by The Adjutant General. General Marshall wrote “O.K., GCM” on the G-3 paper. Published on 3 April 1941, the directive was as significant in its silences as in its statements.25

Nothing was said on the problem of the Armored Force as a separate arm, or on the related questions of the detailing or commissioning of its officers. Nothing was said of an armored army, nor of a second armored corps, nor of the organic constitution of an armored corps, nor of the corps as the largest permissible armored tactical unit. At the same time no more was said of removing the separate tank battalions from Armored Force jurisdiction.

Those who had feared the growth of an independent Armored Force could feel that the directive killed the movement to create a new arm, as well as a new army. They could point to certain provisions as safeguards to their views. All armored units were declared to be subject to attachment to existing field armies for combined training. In establishing doctrine for the use of GHQ tank battalions in armored support of infantry, the Chief of the Armored Force was to share the responsibility with the Chief of Infantry. The Chief of Staff, GHQ, was to have authority over the Chief of the Armored Force during combined training. Regarding this provision General McNair noted that it had no significance.

The Armored Force retained the powers granted to it in the preceding July. It obtained a distinct Force headquarters and headquarters company, “constituted on the active list,” under command of General Chaffee. The I Armored Corps was continued, under command of General Scott. The 3d and 4th Armored Divisions, and by implication all future armored divisions, would be organized and trained as separate divisions by the Armored Force. Leaders of the Armored Force could feel that they had at least won an established status and that some of their larger proposals, while now passed over in silence, might be reopened in the future.

Status of the Armored Force: 3 April 1941 to 9 March 1942

Fundamentals of Armored Force organization did not again become an issue until after Pearl Harbor. Meanwhile the Armored Force organized its headquarters, as


authorized by the directive of 3 April, and initiated studies looking towards an extensive reconstruction of the armored divisions to increase flexibility of striking power. This reconstruction became effective 1 March 1942. On both matters the plans were produced at Ft. Knox and accepted by the War Department with the concurrence of GHQ.26

Two developments before Pearl Harbor tended to limit the self-sufficiency of the Armored Force. By the first its replacement training center lost the function, temporarily granted in the preceding November, of training enlisted men of various arms and services. Henceforth, with its own replacement center confined to the training of tank and headquarters personnel, the Armored Force was to receive infantry, signal, medical, and other replacements from centers conducted by their respective branches. Specialization for armored operations was restricted. This action, in which GHQ had played no part, came as a result of a query raised by General Marshall.27

In the other development GHQ as the agency directing the field operations of large units was directly concerned. The Armored Force, in planning the participation of its tactical units in the summer and fall maneuvers, asked for the control during the maneuver period of two quartermaster gasoline companies of a special highly mobile type, and of one heavy pontoon engineer battalion equipped to build bridges that could carry tanks. It was argued that an armored corps or division, in executing one of its characteristic deep penetrations or wide flanking movements, would outrun the supply facilities of higher headquarters and must therefore have its own means of bridge-building and refueling. But of the units asked for few existed, and these few might be needed for various missions. Consequently GHQ decided that the units concerned should be attached to army or army corps headquarters, which could make them available to armored or other elements as changing conditions might require. The principle of armored self-sufficiency was sacrificed to the principle of economy of force under centralized command.28 Still General McNair foresaw trouble in the employment of armored forces if higher commanders were not schooled in their use. When General Devers became Chief of the Armored Force in August 1941, General McNair promised his help in getting Armored Force doctrine understood in the higher ranks of the field forces. At the same time he reaffirmed his disinclination to discuss Armored Force policies, declaring that policies “are out of our line.”29

The declaration of war raised again the question of the over-all composition of the Armored Force. The rapid expansion of the Army now proposed required a decision on the proportional increase of armored divisions. GHQ was called on to make a recommendation.30 After reviewing the experience of the 1941 maneuvers General McNair recommended a 20-percent proportion of armored to infantry divisions. According to the plans then under consideration, this meant an increase in authorized strength from 6 to 20 armored divisions by the end of 1943.31

On the value of constituting new armored corps, varying conclusions were drawn from the maneuvers. The Armored Force, believing that armored divisions required higher headquarters specially prepared in armored work, requested that at least two new armored corps be established.32 General Marshall, on the other hand, was understood to desire a system by which army and army corps commanders could be trained in the handling of armored divisions. General McNair suggested a solution between these two views. He saw the need for only one new armored corps, and G-3 of the War Department, acting on his recommendation, authorized the II Armored Corps on Christmas Day, 1941.33 To implement what he believed to be General Marshall’s policy and “to obtain experience and new ideas as to both organization and employment of armored units,” General McNair recommended an assortment of command arrangements. He proposed that the I and II Armored Corps and the III and VI Army Corps, all under different higher commands, should each operate with a different mixture of infantry, armored, and motorized divisions.34 For a time he doubted the need of even one armored corps, since the only trained armored divisions, the 1st and 2d, were already earmarked to take part in


different overseas missions.35 An important use was soon found, however, for the I Armored Corps in the establishment and organization of the Desert Training Center.36

In its attempt to enlarge the organic composition of an armored corps, the Armored Force was even less successful. As a result of experience with the I Armored Corps in the November 1941 maneuvers, General Devers considered the current composition of an armored corps, including only two armored divisions, a signal battalion, and headquarters troops, insufficient. He proposed to add, as organic elements, a motorized infantry division, an armored military police company, an armored engineer battalion, an armored medical regiment, and an armored light maintenance company.37 Both GHQ and G-3 thought the acceptance of a “type” armored corps, i.e., one with an elaborate permanent organization, premature. Both disapproved of the creation of specialized armored service units, and GHQ believed in addition that infantry divisions should not be organic in armored corps, but attached as needed.38 General McNair noted “a definite tendency to make the armored corps an administrative rather than a tactical unit, as though the armored corps would operate independently of an army.”

The combined views of G-3 and GHQ were presented to the Chief of the Armored Force in a War Department letter rejecting General Devers’ proposa1.39 The following reasons were given:

2. ...The War Department view is influenced by considerations which affect the Army as a whole and by appreciation of estimated needs for the next eighteen months. It is believed that armored corps will usually be employed as part of an army and will have available the reinforcing elements of such command. Simplicity and standardization of these elements is greatly desired, and the urge to create special armored units should be resisted unless no satisfactory substitute can be made available.

3. It is believed unnecessary to assign motorized divisions organically to armored corps, as attachment at appropriate times should serve the purpose economically.

4. It is thought that at this time the organic set-up for an armored corps should be a trim tactical organization, comprising a small headquarters with a minimum of corps troops and a minimum of administrative activity.

5. If and when plans call for the independent operation of armored corps, there would then be no question as to setting up appropriate reinforcements. This, however, is not regarded as an immediate problem.

6. It is considered satisfactory procedure, therefore, to attach the standard type motorized, Engineer, Military Police, Medical and light maintenance units to armored corps when needed.

Meanwhile the Armored Force, somewhat inadvertently, stirred up the old issued of an armored army. It submitted proposed tables of organization for the enlargement of Armored Force headquarters. Five supporting charts were included showing the functions of each general staff section and of the Adjutant General.40 The functions of G-1 were stated to include the responsibility for casualty reports, prisoner of war reports, relations with civilian government in the theater of operations, graves registration, burials, and other matters unmistakably suggesting combat. The charts for G-2 and G-3 showed fewer such indications and those for G-4 and the Adjutant General none at all. Apparently the work had been imperfectly coordinated. G-3 of the War Department took alarm, suspecting that the Armored Force had ambitions to move bodily into theaters of operations as a tactical command, and requested the comments of GHQ. GHQ replied that the Armored Force was indeed understood to be a Zone of Interior


establishment only and that no armored units larger than the corps would be required in the foreseeable future, but that the proposed tables of organization in themselves seemed reasonable in the strength requested.41 A demand by G-3 that the Armored Force revise its tables was stopped by action of General Bryden, and the new tables of organization were published in their original form. They gave the Armored Force a headquarters comparable in size to those of the field armies or the Air Force Combat Command.42


By the time of the dissolution of GHQ, the net effect of War Department policy had been to check the acquisition by the Armored Force of the degree of independence achieved by the Army Air Forces. The over-all unity of the Army was broken as little as possible by special treatment accorded the Armored Force. Armored divisions or armored corps were to be placed under the higher control of commanders of combined arms. Tanks were to be supported largely by standard units rather than by specialized armored units of engineers, ordnance, and other branches of the Army. In the interest of flexibility, economy, and centralization of command, the principle of standard interchangeable parts was carried as far as was practicable. The Armored Force itself contributed to the application of this principle by reorganizing the GHQ Tank Battalions to make them identical, and hence interchangeable, with the tank battalions found in armored divisions. The Armored Force also pioneered in experimenting with tactical group headquarters, a necessary corollary to the principle of interchangeable battalions.43 The War Department decided that, in dealing with armored matters, the organic elements of a corps should be held to a minimum and the corps made adaptable to contingencies through attachment of troops as needed. This principle, like the principle of interchangeable standard parts was to assume greater importance in the United States Army as the war proceeded.44

The failure of the Armored Force to follow the path of the Air Corps, to which at first it compared itself, might possibly be ascribed to the fact that in the year and a half after June 1940 more effective defense was found against tanks than against aircraft. Moreover, it was generally agreed by all concerned that tank action, to be successful, required close coordination with other arms. These developments may also explain the changes observable in the attitude at GHQ, which was less inclined to favor armored army and corps commands at the end of 1941 than at the beginning of that year.



Go to:

Previous Chapter

Next Chapter

Return to Table of Contents

Search CMH Online
Last updated 18 February 2005