AGF Study No. 8: Reorganization of Ground Troops for Combat



Streamlining of units, the obverse of pooling, was accomplished through the work of the Reduction board created at the headquarters of the Army Ground Forces in answer to the War Department directive of 2 October 1942 calling for downward revision of tables of organization. The board constituted the committee of "No-Men" desired by General McNair. It aimed to effectuate the cut of 20% in motor vehicles and 15% in personnel set as a goal by the War Department, but without lessening the combat strength of any unit or upsetting the doctrine of its tactical employment. In this task, which required exact knowledge of every item and every individual in unit tables, the Board was directed and assisted by General McNair. "Driven" by him would hardly be too strong an expression, for he scrutinized every proposal of the Board down to the last jeep and the last mechanic, frequently saying, "No" to his own "No-men."


Reductions were governed by the Army Ground Forces "Ground Rules," stated to be those set by the War Department on 31 March 1942 with certain exceptions and clarifications, mainly as follows: The proportion of orderlies to officers was slashed; cook's helpers were eliminated where chauffeurs could help in kitchens; chauffeurs (also called light truck drivers) were to receive additional duties where possible. All "luxury" items were ruled out. Tents were withdrawn from company headquarters. Companies were limited to one portable typewriter. No chairs and tables, and no safes, were provided to headquarters below the division. No watches were issued to officers. Transportation was allotted for determined personnel and equipment only, without reserve vehicles within the unit. Ammunition vehicles were provided only as necessary to haul from supply points established by higher echelons. More use of trailers was prescribed. Closely similar units were to be combined into single types. Elements whose only function was to make a unit more self-sufficient in security or supply were prohibited. But no offensive weapons were to be removed from units, and proper organization was to be developed for new weapons, such as the antitank rocket launcher ("bazooka") then being issued.51

In the eight months of its life, from 7 November 1942 to June 1943, the Reduction Board reviewed all AGF units with a handful of exceptions, methodically squeezing out the "fat," i.e., items not allowed by the ground rules, or considered non-essential after clarification of the mission of the unit, and in view of the support provided in pools.52 Cuts were not applied piecemeal or in a negative mood. The whole theory of army and corps organization, and hence of pooling and of inter-unit support, was undergoing constructive revision at the headquarters of the Army Ground Forces at the same time. (See pp. 121-129 below.) Each unit was reshaped with an eye to its place within corps or army.

The Board found that, while basic organization was sound, there had been "many variations between tables in the men and equipment considered necessary to do a standard job," with a general tendency "to build up our organization around a luxurious concept of operations," and a tendency "to assign single duties to personnel and equipment and thus compartmentalize personnel and equipment within sections and platoons of organizations," a procedure which led directly to unnecessary duplication.53 The Board went on the assumption that no unit smaller than the field army could be generally self-sufficient, and that T/O units would be made sufficient for particular missions through attachments. To facilitate attachment, and as part of the army and corps reorganization, practically all non-divisional troops were placed under new tables of organization, with regimental and brigade tables abolished, new tables for group and other headquarters devised, and tables for separate (i.e. detachable) battalions and companies provided. (See pp. 125-128 below.)

In general, the Board effected the desired cut of 15 percent in personnel and 20 percent in equipment. The tank destroyer battalion, for example, was reduced in aggregate strength from 898 to 673, and in 1/4-ton trucks from 82 to 34. Reduction in divisions is considered in the following sections.

The economies proposed by the Army Ground Forces produced the "loud complaints from the field" which General McNair had predicted, and of which examples are given in the sections on divisions below. And although G-3, WDGS, had promised to "stand squarely behind your efforts to this end," and attempted to do so, the proposals of the Army Ground Forces were in fact subjected to long discussion and eventual compromise. New T/O and E's were finally issued for most AGF units in July 1943. They represented, for some of the most important units, an upward adjustment of General McNair's recommendations.



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Last updated 15 March 2006