Army Ground Forces Study No. 4

Section XIX


Very great economies were in fact accomplished in 1944. Certain luxuries of an earlier day, or installations once useful but now surplus, were stringently curtailed. Many kinds of establishments set up for other purposes tended to liquefy into the replacement stream, thus providing either combat replacements for old units or filler replacement for new units due for activation.

The Army Specialized Training Program, which held almost 150,000 partly trained troops on college campuses, was virtually dissolved. About 73,000 of its students were transferred to the Army Ground Forces.98 Some 24,000 surplus aviation cadets were reassigned from the Air Forces to the Ground Forces in the spring of 1944.99 The flow into the Ground Forces from these two sources did not wholly constitute a quantitative gain in manpower, since the Ground Forces surrendered some 16,000 low-calibre personnel in return, the aim being to improve the quality of combat soldiers. (See Study No. 5) At the end of 1944 the War Department ordered the transfer to the Army Ground Forces, without exchange, of 25,000 men from the Service Forces and 75,000 from the Air Forces.

In January 1944 the enlisted overstrength authorized at the end of 1942 (16 percent over T/O strengths) was abolished, having in any case become less necessary with the end of expansion, which meant that units were no longer subject to the older forms of attrition.100 In May 1944 all tables of organization except for infantry rifle companies and cavalry rifle troops were reduced by removal of 50 percent of basic privates.101 These two measures left surpluses in units from which men could be converted to new needs, or at least lowered the claims of non-rifle units for personnel.102

Volunteers for infantry were called for from other branches. Under this program, launched in June 1944, in addition to 66,000 parachute volunteers, 25,000 volunteers were obtained by the following February, the 25,000 were enough for the infantry of three divisions. Volunteers came mostly from other arms in the Ground Forces.103

Many coast artillery units were converted to heavy field artillery. Nondivisional infantry regiments were dissolved into the replacement stream. Tank destroyer battalions were inactivated as prescribed in the January 1944 troop basis. Antiaircraft battalions were inactivated at a more rapid rate than the January troop basis envisaged. It now proved fortunate that these two arms had been so extensively built up, for they constituted storehouses of soldiers who could be used for other purposes with only a little retraining and who otherwise would not have been available in 1944. By the end of 1944 antiaircraft and tank destroyer battalions were less than half as numerous as had been anticipated in the troop basis of November 1942.

Service troops were saved by consolidation, closing, or reduction to a caretaker status of posts no longer required as tactical forces moved overseas. Station complements were reduced, tactical units of the Army Ground Forces, while still in the United States, taking over post housekeeping duties from which in the early period of mobilization, to speed up their training, they had been exempted.104

Despite these very real economies the Ground and Service Forces experienced great difficulty in meeting the activation program in 1944. So many men were needed for replacements or disappeared into the pipeline that although hundreds of thousands were recovered by economy, and although the Army as a whole was almost 300,000 over its troop basis strength by July 1944 men were not available to meet the troop basis of the preceding January. Troop basis requirements were revised downward. Some Ground Force


units were cancelled. Between cancellation of planned activations and inactivation of units already mobilized the total strength allotted to tactical units of the Army Ground Forces declined steadily through 1944. That is to say, activation of new units in 1944—AGF service units, combat engineers, and heavy artillery—required far less personnel than did the units which were inactivated or canceled. Troop basis strength of combat-type units only, in the Army Ground Forces, fell from 2,282,000 to 2,041,000 enlisted men between l January 1944 and 31 March 1945.

With such difficulty in meeting the troop basis and with the Army as a whole nevertheless 300,000 over troop-basis strength, it was evident that the trouble was maldistribution and that concealed overstrengths must be present somewhere in the Army. The problem was complicated by methods of personnel accounting which were inadequate to the extreme complexity of the subject. During 1944 the War Department devised improved procedures for keeping current record of both actual and authorized strengths of each theater and of each of the three major commands. But the use of troop basis strengths, reported actual strengths, and reported authorized strengths as distinguished from the troop basis, all applying to an Army constantly fluctuating in size, spread over the globe, and subject to continual battle losses, presented a problem defying the most patient analysis: the problem was complicated further by the breakdown of the component branches into T/O units, replacements, and overhead, which could be defined or distinguished only with difficulty.

Searching for hidden overstrengths, the War Department discovered by September 1944 that overseas theaters were carrying overstrengths of more than 50,000 in their T/O units, especially divisions and other combat organizations, and, in addition, reserves of replacements more than 100,000 in excess of War Department authorizations. These overstrengths, while adding to the immediate combat power of the theaters which enjoyed them, were compensated for by corresponding understrengths in units and replacements in United States and therefore compromised the ability of the War Department to reinforce the theaters at future dates. Broadly speaking, a theater which exceeded its authorization in combat troops was either depriving another theater of combat troops at the time or robbing itself as of a future date—except in so far as additional combat troops might be formed from noncombat organizations. But it was found that overhead was also overexpanded. “Overhead” meant troops who were neither in tactical headquarters (army, corps, etc.) nor in combat units, T/O service units, or replacement pools. Overhead in the European Theater of Operations, authorized 93,227 men, actually absorbed 114,137. Overhead in the United States, authorized 1,272,323 men, actually absorbed 1,297,688. Gross overstrength in overhead throughout the Army was almost 50,000.105

Attempts to economize on overhead in the United States met with limited success. Overhead could be only partly reduced as troops moved overseas. Zone-of-Interior overhead, composed of officers and men in jobs which would never take them overseas, fell about 15 percent between 30 June 1943, roughly the date at which troops in the United States were at their maximum, and 31 March 1945, at which date the proportion of the Army left in the United States was approaching the minimum. Figures were as follows:106



30 June

31 March


Percent Reduced

Army Ground Forces





Army Air Forces





Army Service Forces





War Dept. Activities



10,000 (added)








Over 200,000 were thus recovered for overseas assignment, whether for tactical forces, replacements, or overseas overhead; but recovery was rather slow, for reduction in Air Force Zone of Interior personnel, which comprised over half the Zone of Interior personnel in the Army, did not reach substantial proportions until the last months of 1944.

On 14 January 1944 the War Department ordered that enlisted men assigned to Zone of Interior jobs should in general be those not qualified for overseas service.107 These included men disqualified by age or physical condition, or who had already served overseas. In February 1944 there were about 600,000 enlisted men qualified for overseas duty in Zone-of-Interior Jobs. About 400,000 were in the Air Forces, 200,000 in the Ground and Service Forces. The latter were rapidly transferred to other positions during 1944. The 400,000 in the Air Forces remained virtually untouched until October 1944. At that time the prolongation of the war in Europe added to the drive to get able-bodied men overseas. The Air Force figure fell to 262,000, but the reduction represented for the most part transfer of physically qualified men to the category, of “critical specialists,” in which they became temporarily disqualified for overseas duty, and hence remained at their Zone-of-Interior jobs. Figures were as follows:108



29 Feb 44

30 Nov 44

Army Ground Forces



Army Air Forces



Army Service Forces



War Dept. Activities


0 (?)




On 30 June 1944, during the most critical days of the Normandy beachhead, the number of enlisted men in the United States, qualified for overseas duty but assigned to Zone of Interior jobs, exceeded the number of enlisted infantrymen in the European and Mediterranean theaters. It exceeded the number of Air Corps personnel, enlisted and commissioned, in the two theaters. It was 92 percent as large as the number of enlisted men in the infantry, armored and tank destroyer forces, cavalry, field artillery, coast artillery, and antiaircraft artillery in the European theater.109 Many combat soldiers in the theaters were physically inferior to men scheduled to remain at home. This situation was not one which the Army Ground Forces approved, but it was difficult for the War Department to correct it in 1944. Since the early days of mobilization many prime physical specimens had been trained as technicians in Zone-of-Interior assignments. They now occupied key positions. Under pressure of combat in 1944 the Ground and Service Forces, but not the Air Forces, generally replaced these men with men not qualified for overseas service or who had already served overseas.

Meanwhile the War Department urged economy on overseas commanders. Attempts in this this direction since 1942 had not been very successful. In April 1944 representatives of overseas theaters attended a conference in Washington. The Deputy Chief of Staff declared that in the past the War Department had liberally granted the requests of the theaters but that these requests had frequently been immoderate. He said that use of communications zone troops had been extravagant and that henceforth waste in one theater would mean insufficiency in another. He urged the theaters to practice the same economies—inactivation, conversion, retraining—that were in progress in the United States.110

It became increasingly difficult for the Zone of the Interior to meet the replacement needs of the theaters. The situation was recognized as critical before the German


breakthrough in the Ardennes on 16 December 1944. Officers of the War Department General Staff and Headquarters, Army Ground Forces, met in conferences on 7 December.111 Battle losses in the European theater alone were running to 3,000 a day, or 90,000 a month, while the Army Ground Forces was receiving only 53,000 a month from reception centers. Not all these were physically fit for training as combat replacements. To raise the induction rate would raise the proportion of physically unfit. Other sources of economy were vanishing; it was stated at the conference that the Ground Forces had reached the limit of inactivation, the Service Forces in the United States were drained of physically high-grade personnel, and the Air Forces, if called on to supply more men for retraining as infantry, would have to furnish Air Force specialists in the grade of sergeant. The Chief of Staff, Army Ground Forces, was asked point-blank by G-3 of the War Department whether he believed that the War Department was providing sufficient replacements to carry on the war. He replied that he did not, and recommended that capacity of AGF replacement training centers be raised by 160,000 infantrymen, adding that the Ground Forces, even with reduced overhead, could find means to conduct their training. It was decided that ASF and AAF must meet their quotas for transfers, that the AAF quota might have to be raised, that steps should betaken to raise the induction rate, and that if necessary the replacement training program should be cut to fifteen weeks.

The German counterattack of 16 December, suddenly subjecting American troops to still higher losses, therefore produced a downright emergency. The G-1 of the European Theater of Operations (ETO) flew to Washington. The last divisions were rushed to Europe and were hence not available to supply replacements.    The War Department insisted that the Zone of Interior was incapable of meeting the full requirements of ETO for replacements, and that the theater must greatly accelerate its own program of conversion and retraining. The bulk of the Army, it was pointed out, was now overseas, mostly in Europe; and such manpower resources as the Army had within itself were now in the theaters, especially in the European Theater of Operations. It was agreed that henceforth the War Department should simply announce to each theater the number of replacements to be expected from the United States and that each theater must meet all requirements above this number by redistribution of its own strength. By sending men below desired physical standards, men with only 15 weeks training (or with only 6 weeks retraining in infantry), and men in the higher enlisted grades beyond the normal proportion, and by cutting the allocation of replacements to the Southwest Pacific, the War Department was able, on 8 January 1945, to assure the European theater that about 56,000 replacements a month (85 percent Infantry) would arrive from the Zone of the Interior from February to June. Only 45,000 a month had been allocated to ETO before the emergency of December.112

In January 1945 Lt. Gen. Ben Lear, who had succeeded General McNair in command of the Army Ground Forces, was transferred to the European Theater to supervise the combing of physically qualified personnel from rear-area establishments and their retraining as combat troops, principally infantry riflemen. General Lear, since the time of his command of the Second Army, had urged the assignment of the physically fit to combat positions and the physically less fit to headquarters, service, and overhead installations. It was now his task, by conversion and retraining in Europe, to fill the gap in manpower between what the depleted Zone of Interior could supply and what the units at the front actually needed.



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