AGF Study, NO. 6: The Procurement and Branch Distribution of Officers



In officer procurement Army Ground Forces enjoyed certain advantages and faced certain peculiar difficulties. Requirements were comparatively lower in the Ground Forces, which according to the 1944 Troop Basis needed only 54 officers for each thousand enlisted men, whereas the Service Forces needed 97 and the Air Forces 156. (See Table I.) Since expansion in the Ground Forces, great as it was, was not as great as in the Air and Service Forces, the proportion of Regular Army officers remained somewhat higher in the ground arms than in the rest of the army. It was an advantage also that a high proportion of National Guard and Reserve officers had received their peacetime training in the traditional ground arms. These officers, when tested and sifted by experience, constituted a source from which men of mature age could be developed in the field grades. What made officer procurement especially difficult is the Ground Forces was that every officer in the ground arms was supposed to be able to lead men in battle. Administrative positions existed, but no class of administrative officers as such. It was


General McNair's policy to rotate officers between staff and command positions, and between headquarters and the field. Emergencies of combat might require one officer to step into the place of another. Specialization among officers was desirable only up to a certain point.4 Specialties of civilian life, a common basis of commissions in the Service Forces, were of little value to a ground combat commander. Individual daring and personal skill, to the degree necessary in flying officers of the Air Forces, were of less importance for officers in the ground arms than the ability to direct the per­formance of enlisted men and to coordinate with the plans of other officers, amid the hazards and uncertainties of immediate combat. The necessary qualities were summed up by Army Ground Forces in the ideas of responsibility and leadership.

The emphasis on troop leadership shaped policies of officer procurement and training. In training it meant keeping officers as much as possible with troops, rather than on detached service or in army schools. In procurement it meant that almost no appointments could be made from civil life and that officers from the reserve components had to be carefully screened, as did those of the Regular Army, especially for the higher commands.



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Last updated 15 September 2005