The Army High Command Before Pearl Harbor

Some of the greatest generals in World War II, far from striking the classic posture of the man on horseback, issued their military orders from the quiet of their desks and fought their decisive battles at conference tables. Strategic plans and policies fixing the essential character of the conflict were worked out in the capital cities of the warring nations. In Washington, as in London, Moscow, Berlin, and Tokyo, military leaders had to deal with urgent world-wide problems that transcended the problems of the individual battlefronts. Using new systems of rapid communication, they kept in touch with the movements of armies and set the patterns of grand strategy as effectively as the Caesars and Napoleons of the past. In so doing they had to reconcile divergent views about the employment of ground, sea, and air forces in the common effort. They had to assist in the delicate process of balancing military requirements of all kinds with the political, social, and economic programs of their national governments. Finally, they had to help adjust differences of military policy among the Great Powers in the coalition. The "fog of war," which traditionally has obscured and confused the scene of maneuver, quickly settled over this military work at the capital of the United States.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and, in the last months of the war, President Harry S. Truman necessarily acquitted much of the tremendous responsibility of wartime Commander in Chief through the highest ranking professional officers in the three fighting services. The highest position in the Navy was held initially by Admiral Harold R. Stark, Chief of Naval Operations, and after March 1942 by Admiral Ernest J. King, Chief of Naval Operations and Commander in Chief, United States Fleet. Throughout the entire war the military leaders of the Army were Gen. George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff, United States Army, and Gen. Henry H. Arnold, Commanding General, Army Air Forces. The latter organization was administratively a subordinate part of the Army but enjoyed almost complete independence in developing resources and techniques in the special field of air combat and air bombardment. Admiral King, General Marshall, General Arnold, and a personal representative (sometimes called chief of staff) of the President, Admiral William D. Leahy, constituted the U. S. Joint Chiefs of Staff committee during most of World War II. This committee not only guided the efforts of all three services in support of the common objective but also represented the United


States in continuous military staff work with Great Britain and, much more intermittently, in negotiations with the military leaders of the Soviet Union. The prestige that it enjoyed came in considerable part from the fact that the committee effectively represented the armed services whose chiefs constituted its membership. Its decisions were binding because they were carried out under the authority of each service chief in his own department and because in many cases they were given formal approval by the President.

The Chief of Staff of the U. S. Army, on the basis of the deliberations and decisions of the military high command of the United States, gave strategic direction to the efforts of the huge American ground and (Army) air forces that helped to fight and win World War II. Although strategy came to be determined almost entirely in interservice and coalition councils, the Chief of Staff was responsible for the Army's actions, first in helping to work out common strategic plans and then in carrying them out as agreed. He was the principal Presidential executive agent of the Army's "strategy, tactics, and operations," as well as immediate adviser of the Secretary of War in developing and supervising the entire Military Establishment.1 The full weight of this office fell on one man, General Marshall.

In the task of planning for and employing an army of eight million men engaged in military operations all over the globe, General Marshall leaned most heavily on one division of the General Staff. It was first called the War Plans Division (WPD) because it was primarily concerned with strategic planning, but in March 1942 it was given new powers in directing military operations and was renamed the Operations Division. Usually called "OPD," it was "charged with the preparation of strategic plans and coordination of operations throughout the world." 2 The second function was unprecedented in General Staff assignments of responsibility. In fact, OPD was unique in the history of American military institutions. It served as General Marshall's Washington command post from which he issued orders establishing U. S. Army commands all over the world, deploying millions of American troops to the theaters of war and setting the general strategic pattern of their military efforts. Its officers participated in the national and international staff work that lay behind the strategic decisions of the American and Allied high command. It was the staff that first clearly formulated and most strongly advocated some of the essential elements of the grand strategy actually followed in World War II, most notably the central military project of massing American and British forces for the invasion of Europe across the English Channel. In all of these roles OPD acted only as a single and, indeed, very small part of a military organization whose success depended on the efficiency of its leader, the Chief of Staff, and the competence of every staff and unit in the Army.

The Chief of Staff in World War II, for the first time in the history of the U. S. Army, exercised control over all the Army's wartime activities. The strategic instructions he issued not only governed the conduct of military operations in the theaters of war but also co-ordinated them with mobilization, training, equipment, supply, and replacement capacities in the United


States. He had both responsibility and authority to co-ordinate all Army activities and direct them toward the primary aim of winning the war. For this purpose he needed a staff capable of studying carefully the operations of the Army in combat and of issuing instructions to all Army agencies as deemed necessary to insure that strategic plans could and would be carried out. OPD's work under General Marshall, which aimed at "getting things done" as well as helping to devise plans and policies, indicated that it was feasible, through efficient, aggressive staff action, to centralize supervision of the vast and complex business of modern warfare.3

For some years before World War II, the U. S. Army had been teaching its officers a consistent doctrine concerning command and staff work. This doctrine was designed for tactical units of all sizes engaged in combat and in supporting activities in the field. The headquarters where the Chief of Staff was doing his work, the War Department, for a variety of reasons did not conform to these principles laid down for field commands.4 During 1940 and 1941 General Marshall turned for help to the staffs and agencies already existing in the War Department or already provided for in legislation and regulations governing the Army. These staffs and agencies were not equipped to meet the critical situation as it actually developed in the hectic years of mobilization, rearmament, and training. Perhaps in time they might have met it and in some fashion have coped with the graver tests of war. Instead, however, from the effort, confusion, accomplishment, and error of 1941 the outlines of a plan for a new Army command post in Washington began to emerge, with a staff modeled more closely than any previous War Department agency on the lines of a general staff in the field. General Marshall finally established such a strategic and operations command post, which served him throughout World War II.5 The Operations Division came into being and developed as the concrete embodiment of this idea in staff work for the support of the high command of the U. S. Army.

General Marshall's six-year tour of duty as Chief of Staff and ranking officer in the U. S. Army had begun in 1939. A graduate of the Virginia Military Institute in 1901, General Marshall entered the Army at the age of twenty-one as an infantry second lieutenant in February 1902. During World War I he spent two years in France as a high staff officer, reaching the temporary rank of colonel, principally with the First Army and at the general headquarters of the American Expeditionary Force. He returned to the United States in 1919 and served as aide-de-camp to General Pershing during that officer's tenure as


Chief of Staff, 1921-24. He attained the permanent rank of brigadier general in the peacetime Army in 1936, and in July 1938 he was ordered to Washington as chief of the War Plans Division. He became Deputy Chief of Staff on 16 October 1938, and less than a year later succeeded General Craig as Chief of Staff. He first received the title of Acting Chief of Staff on 1 July 1939, and then, upon the effective date of his predecessor's formal retirement, 1 September 1939, he acquired the full authority and rank (four-star general) of the Chief of Staff. He held that post until 20 November 1945, receiving in the meantime one of the four special Army appointments to five star rank, with the title of General of the Army, conferred by Congress in December 1944.

During the first thirty months of his duty as Chief of Staff, German and Italian aggression in Europe and Japanese aggression in the Far East were bringing the threat of war closer and closer to the United States. General Marshall devoted himself to the urgent task of expanding the Army and training its ground and air forces to meet the grave challenge of the times. In preparing for the eventuality of war and making strategic plans, as in mapping out the course of military operations after war came, General Marshall enjoyed the confidence and support of his civilian superiors, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, President Roosevelt, and President Truman. The Secretary worked closely and harmoniously with the Chief of Staff, exercising essential civilian control over the Military Establishment. The President, as Chief Executive, shaped national policy in the light of the advice on military affairs that Secretary Stimson and General Marshall gave him. As Commander in Chief, determining strategic policy, he relied very heavily on General Marshall's views, whether expressed in his capacity as military head of the Army or as member of the interservice high command.

The advice the Chief of Staff gave on matters within his sphere of professional competence was valuable precisely insofar as it reflected his understanding of the capabilities of the Army and to the extent that he could bring about military performances commensurate with national needs. As the Army grew in size eightfold within two years, reaching a total strength of 1,500,000 in 1941, and as the outbreak of hostilities seemed nearer and nearer, General Marshall had to deal with military problems of unprecedented scope and complexity. He plainly needed staff assistance of the finest kind for the task at hand and the trials ahead.

Principles of Command

The idea of the new command post, nourished at its roots by orthodox General Staff doctrine, grew out of the unorthodox character of the Army's high command in Washington in 1939, 1940, and 1941. An understanding of this doctrine and of the structure of the high command is essential to the story of the development of OPD. The U. S. Army; particularly through the system of service schools that flourished between World War I and World War II, had tried to formulate and codify principles that would aid its officers to carry out their military duties efficiently and systematically despite the complexities and difficulties which they recognized to be inherent in the "human nature" of the "war-making machine" of which they were a part.6


According to the Army's formulation of principle, the idea of command is central in all military organizations and effort. By the exercise of command the officer in charge of any unit controls its military action. A chain of command links the commanders of small military units through the commanders of successively larger organizations to the highest level of authority. The high command, the top level of military authority, tries to provide adequate material resources, or to distribute them wisely when they are inadequate, and to insure the proficiency of individual officers and men throughout the hierarchy. Its primary function is to make plans and then issue orders that insofar as possible gear the actions of every element of the organization into a unified military effort. The exercise of command, to be effective, requires the formulation of clear-cut decisions governing the conduct of all of the Army's ramified activities. The decisions must reflect an intelligent appraisal of the specific situations which they are intended to meet. Finally, instructions embodying these decisions must be conveyed speedily and clearly to the men who are required to carry them out.7

In this context the chain of command is a chain of military ideas expressed in the form of orders. Primarily the ideas are either strategic, prescribing military missions or objectives, or tactical, prescribing military maneuvers aimed at accomplishing some mission. At the highest level of command, ideas are mainly strategic. They are cast in very broad terms chosen to provide a common frame of reference for many military enterprises. Though comparatively simple in form, they are also most complex to arrive at and most intertwined with other, nonmilitary affairs. They are difficult to formulate precisely and to convey clearly to subordinate elements.

The U. S. Army, like other armies, recognizes that every officer who commands the common effort of more than a few men needs some kind of staff to assist him.8 In small units it may be merely an informal, part-time group of immediate military subordinates acting in a secondary, advisory capacity. In large military organizations, especially in combat units in the field, it ordinarily has to be an agency formally constituted for the sole purpose of assisting in the exercise of command.

In a field command, some staff officers customarily relieve their commander of administrative or technical duties, in particular making plans according to his desires and establishing programs for providing the combat troops with all types of military supplies and for rendering other special services such as transport, ordnance, and medical aid. Other officers in the field, called general staff officers, devote themselves mainly to supplying the commander with information, helping him to reach strategic and tactical decisions, and conveying these decisions to subordinates. They may suggest feasible solutions to him, usually recommending a concrete line of action. When specifically instructed to do


so, when previously established policy dictates the solution, or in emergencies, they make decisions in the name and with the authority of the commander. In every circumstance they provide instructions in detail for the guidance of subordinates in the chain of command. Finally, they supervise the execution of orders, that is, by direct inspection or observation they ascertain that military action conforms to the commander's intent and does actually meet the situations which originally required a command decision.9

A commander and his entire staff, in conventional U. S. Army usage, constitute a headquarters, the physical place and administrative entity where orders are received from higher authority and issued in appropriate form to the entire command. In the field, for the convenience of the commander who has to concentrate on the military operations of a campaign, the headquarters of a large command is often split into two parts, the forward echelon, usually referred to as the command post, and the rear echelon. The staff agencies immediately required by the commander to assist him in conducting tactical operations work with him in the command post, while the staffs with primarily administrative or technical duties usually remain in the rear echelon.10 Ordinarily the general staff or a portion of it stays with the commander. Decisions reached at the command post of course govern administrative, technical, and supply policies.

In comparatively small commands the relationship of commander, staff, and subordinate levels of authority is usually personal and direct. The commander of a large military organization cannot be acquainted with all the activities of the many units for whose efficient performance he is responsible. Orders are given in the form; of written correspondence, often dispatched over great distances between officers who seldom, if ever, see one another. Consequently, efficient work by the general staff, with its comprehensive duties, requires a clear definition of responsibilities, sound organization of individual officers' efforts, and careful elaboration of procedures for both formulating and disseminating the military ideas essential to command. In large commands, therefore, an officer is appointed chief of the staff and co-ordinates its work. The chief of staff is the principal adviser and executive agent for the commander.11

The application of these principles of command and staff work in the U. S. Army was quite uniform by the beginning of World War II except in its highest command and its highest staff. There a unique situation existed, partly because of the great difficulty of co-ordinating the work of the military organization with other institutions of the nation, partly because of historical accident in the development of laws and traditions governing the Army, and partly because of loose thinking and looser terminology applied to the complex problems of higher staff work. Legally only the President exercised command of the entire Army and, with the help of the Secretary of War, established policies controlling its activities. The Chief of Staff was merely the adviser and executive agent of the President and Secretary of War, and literally the chief of the War Department General Staff. Nevertheless, as the ranking professional soldier of the U. S. Army, he possessed a kind of military authority that no civilian


could have, and a trend of many years' duration had resulted by the beginning of World War II in the effective centralization of responsibility for the Army as a whole in the hands of the Chief of Staff.

This responsibility comprehended two separate though closely related spheres of Army activities. The first of these spheres included all military operations, that is, the tactical movements of units in combat and the performance of services, such as transport and supply, directly supporting the fighting forces in the theaters of war. A second sphere of military activity in modern times has loomed large in the background of every field of combat. The conduct of sustained military operations on a large scale in an industrial age requires the establishment of a vast, semimilitary organization well behind the battle lines. In wartime its function is to mobilize men and materials, train and equip units, transport forces to combat theaters and supply them there, evacuate, hospitalize, and replace casualties, and finally to maintain administrative controls over the workings of the whole Army, including the combatant forces. In peacetime this kind of organization has to keep its skeleton framework intact and draft plans for the emergency expansion of the whole Army. Since most of these nonoperational tasks have to be performed in or directed from the homeland, the source of men and materials, the Army calls the area in which they take place the zone of interior. Before World War II the War Department, the U. S. Army's permanent headquarters organization in the zone of interior, primarily concerned itself with this job of mobilizing military resources of all kinds and furnishing them in an orderly fashion to the theaters of operations for commitment to battle. Be cause of the complexity of these functions and the fact that they are only semimilitary in character, it has always been very hard to define and assign the command and staff responsibilities in the War Department.

As warfare increased in scale, the need grew to bring military operations in the combat theaters and activities in the zone of interior under the control of a single military authority. In the U. S. Army the creation of the General Staff in 1903 began a trend toward placing the burden of satisfying this need squarely on the shoulders of the Chief of Staff. In the following years, particularly after the end of World War I, the Chief of Staff came to occupy a position of vast responsibility. Acting under the authority of the President and Secretary of War, he was charged with planning, developing, and supervising the entire Army, which included all zone of interior agencies, the defensive garrisons of outlying bases of the United States—principally in the Panama Canal area, Hawaii, and the Philippines— and the tactical units, which in time of war were to be expanded to provide the combatant element of expeditionary forces.

In the years before the entry of the United States into World War II, the Chief of Staff exercised this Army-wide authority with the assistance of a number of military agencies, each answerable directly to him. No parallel development had taken place to provide for him a single staff appropriately empowered and organized to keep all these commands and agencies working along the same line. Many Army agencies rendered various kinds of staff assistance. The General Staff aided the Chief of Staff in co-ordinating activities of the Army, but even members of the War Department General Staff did not regard its responsibilities as entirely coextensive with those of the Chief of Staff.


In time of peace, in the 1920's and early 1930's, the only prospective overseas theaters of military operations were the outlying territorial possessions of the United States. The defensive garrisons in some of these bases had a strength of only a few hundred each, and as late as mid-1939 they had a total strength of less than 50,000 officers and men.12 A single officer could and did command the entire Army without the support of the kind of well co-ordinated staff work considered essential in the commands of most of his subordinates. As German and Japanese military moves threatened to plunge the U. S. Army into combat in many scattered theaters of war, the attention of the Chief of Staff was stretched dangerously thin over his rapidly increasing forces.

Territorial and Tactical Elements of the Army in 1941

Until the Pearl Harbor attack of 7 December 1941 put the Army unequivocally on a war footing, General Marshall, like his predecessors, controlled most routine Army activities through territorial commands directly responsible to the Chief of Staff. These commands were of two main types: first, the corps area into which the continental United States (including Alaska) was divided for purposes of military administration and, second, the overseas departments.

There were nine corps area commands. They had been established by provision of the National Defense Act as amended in 1920, and originally provided the only administrative machinery for local mobilization of forces in emergency and for routine control of other activities, including training of Regular Army units in the continental United States. The formal activation of field armies (tactical units) in 1932 removed from the corps areas as such the responsibility for administrative control and field maneuvering of tactical elements of the Army. These armies, to which the bulk of the tactical units of the ground army were assigned, operated directly under the command of the Chief of Staff, acting in the special capacity of Commanding General, Field Forces, formally granted him in 1936 Army Regulations.13 Until 1940 four of the nine corps area commanders acted in a dual capacity as army commanders, and their staffs served them in both capacities. At that time the Second Corps Area (New York) was headquarters for the First Army, the Sixth Corps Area (Chicago) for the Second Army, the Eighth Corps Area (San Antonio) for the Third Army, and the Ninth Corps Area (San Francisco) for the Fourth Army. In 1940, the four armies received commanders and staffs separate from those of the corps areas.14 Thereafter the corps area commanders, although they retained responsibility for administrative control and training of nontactical units, had as their primary job the provision of administrative and supply services for Army


installations and tactical units in the United States.15

The overseas departments, unlike the corps areas, continued to have both administrative and operational (tactical) responsibilities throughout the period between the wars and during World War II, The departments, four in number in the pre-Pearl Harbor years, controlled all Army activities in Hawaii, the Philippines, the Panama Canal area, and the Puerto Rican area. In addition, the department commanders were immediately responsible for directing military operations by tactical units assigned to defend these four vital outlying base areas of the United States.

The tactical chain of command was distinct, if not always separate, from the chain leading from the War Department down to the territorial agencies. General Marshall exercised command of the Army as a fighting force through tactical headquarters responsible for training units and eventually for employing them in combat or in support of combat. The commanders of overseas departments and their staffs acted in both administrative and tactical capacities. Combat units were assigned directly to the departments for defensive deployment and, in event of war, for military operations.

The actual field forces in July 1939 constituted the mere skeleton of a combat force. There were theoretically nine infantry divisions in the Regular Army in the continental United States, but their personnel, scattered about in small units among various Army posts, provided the equivalent of only three and one-half divisions operating at half strength.16 There were two divisions in Hawaii and the Philippines among the overseas department garrisons. It was impossible to organize tactical units larger than division size.

Expansion from this low point was rapid. Successive increments were added to the Regular Army in rhythm with the recurring crises abroad. The entire National Guard was mobilized and called into the active service of the United States. The induction of citizen soldiers began soon after the passage of the Selective Service Act of August 1940. By mid-1941 the four field armies contained twenty-nine infantry and cavalry divisions at nearly full strength, totaling over 450,000 officers and men. An armored force, established on 10 July 1940, had grown to comprise four divisions with a total strength of over 40,000 officers and men.17 With combatant air units, the four armies and the armored force constituted the field forces of the U. S. Army.

In 1935 a military organization called the General Headquarters Air Force had been established to organize and command in combat the comparatively small number of tactical air units being trained, equipped, and supplied by the Air Corps, a so-called bureau in the War Department. Total Air Corps strength in July 1939 amounted to 22,000 officers and men. It had on hand about 2,400 aircraft of all types, including sixteen heavy bombers, and reckoned its combat units by squadrons, which numbered about eighty. By July 1941 the Air Corps had increased in size almost eightfold to 152,000 officers and men and had established four defensive air forces in the continental United States and two addi-


tional air forces in overseas bases, Hawaii and Panama. The latter were an advance guard of the dozen combat air forces which eventually carried the air war to the enemy. By this time the Army had on hand about 7,000 aircraft of all types, including 120 heavy bombers, and was planning in terms of 55 to 70 combat groups of 3 or 4 squadrons each. These Army air units, organized as a virtually autonomous striking arm under the superior direction of the Chief of Staff, together with the four field armies, provided the nucleus of the combat units that protected the bases of the United States and moved across the Atlantic and Pacific to help win World War II.18

The Army could hardly absorb the thousands of untrained recruits it received in 1940 and 1941 and at the same time maintain or raise its combat efficiency, as it badly needed to do. In the continental United States the basic training of individuals and small units, together with the necessary construction, procurement, and administrative expansion, demanded the attention of Regular Army officers and men, in addition to that of their auxiliaries from the organized Reserve and National Guard. In overseas outposts there was less dilution of trained units by recruits. The garrisons in the overseas departments, the units most exposed to attack, expanded only about threefold during this two-year period, while the forces in the continental United States increased nearly tenfold.

The imminence of war brought about several changes in the structure of the Army. For years war planning had been built around "M Day," when general mobilization of forces should begin. In the uneasy atmosphere of world affairs in 1939 and 1940, mobilization was a political matter of both domestic and diplomatic importance. Technically the United States never had an M Day for World War II. Nevertheless, the German triumphs in western Europe in mid-1940 brought about a vast though slow mobilization of American armed forces. These forces had to be trained before they could be employed. The Chief of Staff was responsible for the task of training the new Army, as he was for every other Army activity.

Consequently General Marshall faced the prospect of a multitude of decisions concerning the mobilization of men and matériel, strategic development of troops, and continuous strategic planning. The menacing international situation was steadily increasing the work of the entire War Department. Some of the requisite decisions concerning troop training were of the kind that called for speed and vigor of execution rather than for careful and deliberate planning. What was needed, particularly for the job of building a powerful tactical force out of the peacetime army, was an operating service of the kind for which the General Staff was wholly unadapted.19 There was widespread dissatisfaction on the one hand with the amount of "operating and administrative duties" in which the War Department was involved and on the other with the "time killing system of concurrences" which tended to slow down War Department action.20


Under these circumstances General Marshall decided to exercise his command of ground units in tactical training through a new agency, which he designated General Headquarters, U. S. Army (GHQ). Activated on 26 July 1940, GHQ was assigned the specific function of decentralizing activities under the Chief of Staff and assisting him in his capacity as Commanding General, Field Forces.21 Brig. Gen. Lesley J. McNair became Chief of Staff, GHQ, and set up offices for the new staff at the Army War College building in Washington. The physical separation of General McNair's staff from the Munitions Building, where General Marshall and most of the staffs worked, was itself both a practical and psychological barrier to smooth integration with War Department activities.

The name GHQ, a time-honored Army designation for a headquarters controlling operations in the field, particularly the highest headquarters in an area or command, was misleading. General McNair's mission covered only the training of the combat forces, that is, the four field armies, the GHQ Air Force (until the creation of the Army Air Forces on 20 June 1941), the Armored Force, and miscellaneous GHQ reserves. In practice this assignment made GHQ a kind of operating agency for the G-3 Division of the General Staff, the part of the War Department responsible for making plans and issuing General Marshall's instructions governing troop organization, training, and routine movements.

For the time being General Marshall continued to exercise tactical command of the ground combat forces, other than those in training, through the War Department, under his authority as Chief of Staff and as advised by the General Staff.22 Nevertheless, he made clear his intention of expanding GHQ functions progressively in conformity with the basic idea of a powerful GHQ and with formal Army plans for establishing such a command in the event of mobilization for war. As thus conceived the designation of GHQ was not a misnomer. Few Army officers saw any reason to doubt that the staff which handled the countless details connected with training troop units for tactical operations would in time direct those troops in combat. Determination of the status of GHQ in controlling Army operations, particularly in relation to the War Department, was one of the most pressing questions General Marshall had to try to solve when war came to the United States late in 1941.23

Another change in Army organization reflecting the international situation was the establishment of base commands as semi territorial, semi tactical organizations. For the most part these bases were on islands along the North Atlantic coastline and in the Caribbean area. Several were British territory leased to the United States in the destroyer-base transaction concluded by the President in 1940. By mid-1941 a number of areas containing vital U. S. Army bases had been set up as independent commands, each responsible for the administration and defense of the bases in it. The largest base


commands were in Newfoundland, Greenland, and Bermuda.

Originally all of the base commands reported to the Chief of Staff. Early in 1941, however, pursuant to a General Staff study, the Puerto Rican Department, the Panama Canal Department, and the several base commands that had been established in British Caribbean territory were integrated for purposes of general defensive planning under the newly constituted Caribbean Defense Command.24 This consolidation introduced a new type of command in the Army. Only a few weeks later the local headquarters of Army troops stationed in Alaska was redesignated the Alaska Defense Command. The Army organization in Alaska, while not exactly analogous to the overseas departments or to the consolidated department and base command structure in the Caribbean, had a more active and comprehensible mission than a local base command.25 In March the War Department put the new designation to further use when it set up within the continental United States four defense commands to "coordinate or to prepare and to initiate the execution of all plans for the employment of Army Forces and installations in defense against enemy actions." 26

These new agencies—the Caribbean, Alaska, Northeast (later Eastern), Central, Southern, and Western Defense Commands—varied in practical military importance approximately as Army activities in each area centered in a defensive mission. The Caribbean Defense Command operated in a region where defense of the Panama Canal was the paramount task and where sustained hostile action was always possible. It was an active command with combatant ground and air forces assigned to it.27 The Alaska Defense Command was also an active defense outpost but was under the control of the Commanding General, Fourth Army, and conducted its defensive planning under the supervision of the same officer as Commanding General, Western Defense Command.

The operational functions of the continental defense commands were potential rather than actual until such a time as hostilities opened. In constituting them, the War Department designated each of the commanders of the four field armies as commanding general of one of the continental defense commands and, in effect, charged them with organizing separate staffs to plan defense measures for the areas in which the armies were training. The objective was to "integrate the army command" with "what might later be a theater command."

The defense commands thus were created to fix responsibility for peacetime planning of regional defense and, in case of hostilities, to assure continuity between planning and the direction of defensive operations. The corps area headquarters already were fully occupied with their primary functions of supply and administration and did not con-


trol tactical troops, while the field armies were supposed to be able to move out of their training areas at any time to engage in offensive military operations. The responsibility of the defense commands for regional defense measures could not be made to include operational control over troops or installations without seriously interfering with the normal handling of supplies and training. The extent to which it might become necessary to give operational control to the defense commands therefore was left to be determined by specific circumstances in case of actual hostilities. In the meantime the commanding general of a defense command, being also in command of the field army in the area, was in a position to correlate planning for defense with activities already going on in the area, and to act promptly in case of hostilities.28

Provision for air defenses of the continental United States was made on a separate basis. The Chief of Staff decided in February 1941 that the "Air defense setup should be in time of peace under the direction and control of the Commanding General of the GHQ Air Force." 29 Accordingly the directive that created the defense commands also established the four continental air forces, centralizing control of air defense measures conducted by them under the GHQ Air Force. After the creation of the Army Air Forces in June 1941, its chief became responsible for the "organization, planning, training and execution of active air defense measures, for continental United States." 30

Later in 1941 Army organizations responsible for defending the United States were further supplemented by new commands in the two outlying areas, Iceland and the Philippines, where American troops were stationed farthest from the continental United States and closest to the zones of combat or potential combat. Although their missions were defensive, their proximity to actual or threatened enemy action gave a special military status to the forces in Iceland and the Philippines beyond that of a base command or even a department. Had hostilities involving the United States already begun, the two new commands probably would have been designated theaters of operations. As it was, they were constituted more nearly like task forces, temporary commands established for specific missions, despite the fact that the missions were not exclusively or at the time even primarily tactical. Their official designations were U. S. Forces in Iceland, commanded by Maj. Gen. Charles H. Bonesteel, and U. S. Army Forces in the Far East, commanded by Lt. Gen. Douglas MacArthur. The former was responsible for assisting in the defense of Iceland, a vital base on the North Atlantic convoy route and outpost of the Western Hemisphere. The latter, which included the troops formerly assigned to the Philippine Department and the forces of the Philippine Army, was given the task of organizing the defense of the Philippines and preparing ground and air forces to oppose with as much strength as


possible any Japanese attack on American forces in the Far East.

With the organization of these theater-type commands, the U. S. Army was moving far toward the kind of organization it was to establish in the event of war. Yet the formal maintenance of peaceful relations with other powers and the defensive orientation of national policy inhibited any sharp break with the institutions and procedures of the peacetime Army. As a result, the rapid growth of the Army and the establishment of new military agencies to meet new military situations had created an extraordinarily complex structure under the Chief of Staff.

Origins and Development of the General Staff

The central headquarters of the Army at the beginning of World War II was the War Department. Through it the Chief of Staff supervised the mobilization and administration of the growing Army. Its components in 1940 and 1941 were the offices of the chiefs of the arms and services—successors of the old War Department bureaus—and the War Department General Staff. In a certain sense the arms and services constituted the administrative and technical staff of General Marshall's headquarters, and the General Staff assisted him in formulating plans and issuing orders to all organizations under his control. The structure of high command and the patterns of higher staff work in the U. S. Army at the beginning of World War II had been set by the developments of the past four decades. Legislation, regulations, and tradition alike placed the military chief of the Army and the Army's highest staffs apart from other military organizations. General Marshall necessarily worked within that structure as best he could, for the most part using officers and staffs as he found them to meet situations as they arose. Only within this general framework of law and custom could he gradually make judicious rearrangements in organization and functions and trace new procedural patterns to replace the old ones that were inadequate.

Before the creation of the General Staff, the President of the United States, Commander in Chief of all the armed forces by provision of the Constitution, entrusted command of the combatant army, the "troops of the line," to a professional soldier called Commanding General of the Army. The Secretary of War was the special adviser to the President on all Army matters, but his primary responsibility extended only to the "fiscal affairs of the Army" as distinct from "its discipline and military control" 31 The commanding general had no effective authority over the semimilitary services upon which the success of military operations by the line soldiers so greatly depended.32 Special bureaus, as they were traditionally called, performed such services for the Army, which primarily consisted of engineering, ordnance, signal, medical, transportation, supply, and general administrative work.

Each of these War Department bureaus


commissioned specialist officers in its own branch of the Army and controlled their subsequent careers. The bureaus supervised the noncombatant tasks performed by their officers and men in all Army organizations, including tactical units, above the brigade level. They developed, procured, and distributed the military equipment and supplies which the Army used and on which it subsisted. The Adjutant General's Department, one of the most powerful of the bureaus, kept all official records and issued all the formal orders emanating from the War Department under the authority of the President or the Secretary of War. Thus the bureaus controlled much of the manpower, all of the matériel, and most of the administration of the Army. They composed the administrative and technical staff advising the Secretary of War on policies in their special fields, and in addition were the operating agencies that actually performed the duties required under the policies they helped devise. The bureau chiefs reported directly to the Secretary of War and, especially because they had permanent tenure, enjoyed an almost independent status in the Army. Thus co-ordination of military and semimilitary aspects of War Department work could take place nowhere except in the Office of the Secretary of War. There was no professional soldier with authority broad enough to help accomplish such coordination There was no staff concerned with military affairs and military operations as distinct from specialized combat, technical, administrative, or supply tasks.33

Experience in time of war had never highly recommended this system of Army control. It became less and less satisfactory as success more and more came to depend on the efficient mobilization and movement of vast quantities of increasingly specialized equipment and supplies for the support of the combatant troops. At the end of the nineteenth century the Spanish-American War showed that existing machinery for planning and managing the military effort was inadequate for the complexities of modern war.34

Elihu Root, Secretary of War 1899-1904, undertook to recommend a remedy for the deficiencies of Army organization. He worked for many months to convince the Congressional military affairs committees that the War Department as then constituted could not provide the information required or effect the coordination necessary for efficient prosecution of war. In 1902 Secretary Root reported to the President:

The most important thing to be done now for the Regular Army is the creation of a general staff. . . . Our military system is . . . exceedingly defective at the top. . . . We have the different branches of the military service well organized, each within itself, for the performance of its duties.

But when we come to the coordination and direction of all these means and agencies of warfare, so that all parts of the machine shall work true together, we are weak. Our system makes no adequate provision for the directing brain which every army must have to work successfully. Common experience has shown that this can not be furnished by any single man without assistants, and that it requires a body of officers working together under the direction of a chief and entirely separate from and independent of the administrative staff of an army (such as the adjutants, quartermasters, commissaries, etc., each of whom is engrossed in the duties of his own special de-


partment). This body of officers, in distinction from the administrative staff, has come to be called a general staff.35

In accordance with this analysis and recommendation, the Secretary of War urged the passage of legislation creating a general staff to advise and assist the Secretary of War in integrating the work of the bureaus with combat needs and to develop sound military programs and plans.

The general staff idea finally overcame Congressional reluctance, which may have been based partly on public fear of a central staff system commonly identified with Prussian militarism and certainly was based partly on the determined opposition from bureau chiefs whose eminence it threatens.36 An Army general staff corps came into being on 15 August 1903.37 Its strength, including the Chief of Staff, amounted to forty-five officers, who were to be detailed for approximately four-year tours of duty from other branches of Army service. The old title of Commanding General of the Army ceased to exist. The Chief of Staff took over his responsibility for the troops of the line and in addition assumed the crucial extra prerogative of supervising and co-ordinating the technical, administrative, and supply bureaus of the War Department.

The law authorizing the reorganization of the Army embodied Secretary Root's idea of a planning and coordinating staff, one which, he said, "makes intelligent command possible by procuring and arranging information and working out plans in detail, and . . . makes intelligent and effective execution of commands possible by keeping all the separate agents advised of the parts they are to play in the general scheme." 38 Spelled out in detail, the duties of the new staff were as follows:

. . . to prepare plans for the national defense and for the mobilization of the military forces in time of war; to investigate and report upon all questions affecting the efficiency of the Army and its state of preparation for military operations; to render professional aid and assistance to the Secretary of War and to general officers and other superior commanders, and to act as their agents in informing and coordinating the action of all the different officers who are subject under the terms of this act to the supervision of the Chiefs of Staff.39

The significance of this assignment of tasks to the General Staff depended upon the


vesting of broad powers in its chief. The law was fairly specific:

The Chief of Staff, under the direction of the President or of the Secretary of War, under the direction of the President, shall have supervision of all troops of the line and of The Adjutant General's, Inspector General's, Judge Advocate's, Quartermaster's, Subsistence, Medical, Pay, and Ordnance Departments, the Corps of Engineers, and the Signal Corps. . . . Duties now prescribed by statute for the Commanding General of the Army . . . shall be performed by the Chief of Staff or other officer designated by the President.40

Only the ambiguity of the word "supervision," selected to describe the kind of control he exercised over all Army forces, beclouded the statement of the superior position of the Chief of Staff. In any case, regardless of arguments that later were to arise over the precise meaning of "supervision," the terms of the new legislation permitted the relationship between the Chief of Staff and Secretary of War to be redefined in a way that made for harmony rather than discord. The new Army Regulations drafted to carry out the provisions of the reorganization act read:

The President's command is exercised through the Secretary of War and the Chief of Staff. The Secretary of War is charged with carrying out the policies of the President in military affairs. He directly represents the President and is bound always to act in conformity to the President's instructions.

The Chief of Staff reports to the Secretary of War, acts as his military adviser, receives from him the directions and orders given in behalf of the President, and gives effect thereto.41

Secretary Root dwelt on the fact that the new law did not impair civilian control of the Army. In the words of his report for 1903:

We are here providing for civilian control over the military arm, but for civilian control to be exercised through a single military expert of high rank, who is provided with an adequate corps of professional assistants to aid him in the performance of his duties, and who is bound to use all his professional skill and knowledge in giving effect to the purposes and general directions of his civilian superior, or make way for another expert who will do so.42

The creation of the General Staff Corps was a great advance toward centralization and professionalism in the administration of military affairs, but the General Staff encountered many difficulties in its early years. For instance, Secretary Root had silenced some of his initial critics by emphasizing its lack of either executive or administrative authority.43 This very emphasis contributed to the tradition, wholeheartedly supported by the older administrative and technical bureaus, that "supervision" of the execution of War Department instructions or policies by the Chief of Staff or by the General Staff in his behalf did not entail any kind of intervention in or even detailed observation of the actual workings of subordinate agencies. Until World War I the General Staff confined itself almost exclusively to formulating general policies and plans and left their execution to the troop units and to the bureaus, the operating or performing elements of the Army.44


During World War I the General Staff, particularly after its reorganization in 1918, showed a great deal of vigor, exerting increasingly detailed supervision and control over the technical and administrative services. The Chief of Staff at the time, Gen. Peyton C. March, was willing to admit the inadvisability of having the General Staff do the work of the bureaus. He defended his staff's inclination to do so because of an urgent need to solve practical supply and transportation difficulties that no amount of policy planning would remedy.45 Nevertheless, the General Staff was vulnerable to criticism within the terms of its own philosophy.

Early in World War I the General Staff was handicapped in developing an effective program of any kind because of the rapid rotation of officers in the position of Chief of Staff.46 General March, however, who took over the duties of Chief of Staff on 4 March 1918, remained on duty until 30 June 1921. At the beginning of his tenure he promptly approved a previously expressed opinion that the "organization of the War Department as it existed at the be ginning of the war was in many respects entirely inadequate to meet the requirements of the situation." 47 Accordingly he undertook a thorough reorganization along the general lines already marked out a few weeks before he took office.48

This 1918 reorganization as finally carried out revamped the General Staff and affirmed the powers of the Chief of Staff in relation to other officers and to the bureaus. It gave the General Staff something comparable to its post-World War I structure. Staff functions were divided among four divisions: (1) Military Intelligence, (2) War Plans, (3) Operations, and (4) Purchase, Storage, and Traffic. Each division was headed by an officer called a director.49 In addition, the 1918 reorganization strengthened the staff by clarifying the authority of its chief. War Department General Order 80, 26 August 1918, provided:

The Chief of the General Staff is the immediate adviser to the Secretary of War on all matters relating to the Military Establishment, and is charged by the Secretary of War with the planning, development and execu-


tion of the Army Program. The Chief of Staff by law (act of May 12, 1917) takes rank and precedence over all the officers of the Army, and by virtue of that position and by the authority of and in the name of the Secretary of War, he issues such orders as will insure that the policies of the War Department are harmoniously executed by the several Corps, Bureaus, and other agencies of the Military Establishment and that the Army Program is carried out speedily and efficiently.

This language, at least according to General March's interpretation, made the Chief of Staff the superior of the commander of the American Expeditionary Forces.50

Nevertheless, throughout World War I the authority of the Chief of Staff was confused by the fact that General John J. Pershing exercised virtually independent command over Army forces in France, the single important theater of operations. Army Regulations drafted in accordance with the 1903 legislation creating the position of the Chief of Staff explicitly stated that the President had authority to delegate command of all or part of the Army to an officer other than the Chief of Staff, and President Woodrow Wilson had exercised this prerogative.51 General Pershing considered that he "commanded the American Expeditionary Forces directly under the President" and that "no military person or power was interposed between them." 52 In view of this attitude, of the magnitude of the job to be done in France, and of the indisputable paucity of qualified staff officers, General Pershing built up an independent staff in the theater to help him direct military operations. 53 For most purposes the War Department was simply a mobilization and supply agency in the zone of interior, in a position of authority parallel perhaps with the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) but clearly not superior. Since the effort of the United States was primarily made in one theater, in which liaison with Allied forces was maintained on the spot, military operations were conducted successfully without any very close co-ordination between the theater of operations and the General Staff. As a result of these circumstances, the end of World War I found the command situation considerably confused despite the special eminence given the Chief of Staff in General Order 80 of 1918. The General Staff was handicapped by this fact as well as by its other limitations.

The War Department After World War I

The Army underwent a thorough reorganization after the end of World War I. The National Defense Act, as revised on 4 June 1920, laid down the principal elements of the system which was to last almost unchanged for twenty years. It established the framework for wartime mobilization of a citizen "Army of the United States," including, besides men who might be drafted, Regular Army, National Guard,


and Reserve components. 54 General Pershing became Chief of Staff on 1 July 1921 and helped rebuild the Regular Army in accordance with its central place in the new pattern. Several additional branches of the service, including the four combat components of the line, the Infantry, the Cavalry, the Coast Artillery, and the Field Artillery, were established by law on an administrative level with the service bureaus. The independent power of all the bureaus was permanently reduced in one important respect by the inauguration of a single promotion list for most officers instead of the former system of separate lists in each branch.55

Within this Army framework, the General Staff assumed something very close to its World War II form in accord with the recommendations of a board convened to study this problem. General Pershing enthusiastically approved the findings of the board, which was headed by Maj. Gen. James G. Harbord, his deputy. The new staff organization went into effect on 1 September 1921 and became part of basic Army Regulations in November of the same year.56 The General Staff was given as its primary responsibility the preparation of plans for "recruiting, mobilizing, supplying, equipping, and training the Army for use in the national defense." It was also required to "render professional aid and assistance to the Secretary of War and the Chief of Staff." Functional assignment of responsibilities represented the results of World War I experience both in the zone of interior and in France. Four "G" divisions, called G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4, dealt respectively with the personnel, intelligence, mobilization and training, and supply aspects of General Staff work. 57 A fifth staff unit, called the War Plans Division, was assigned broad responsibilities for strategic planning. It was instructed also to be ready to "provide a nucleus for the general headquarters in the field in the event of mobilization," provision of such a nucleus having been called for in the Harbord Board report.58 The division heads each received the title of Assistant Chief of Staff.

General Pershing's replacement of General March as Chief of Staff in 1921 brought an end for the time being to the practical situation that had obscured the import of Army orders defining the authority of the Chief of Staff. General Pershing himself held the rank of "General of the Armies," and would unquestionably command the


field forces in the event of a mobilization during his tenure. The Harbord Board wished also to avert any possibility in the future of two great, nearly independent commands such as those exercised by the Chief of Staff and the commanding general of the AEF in 1917 and 1918. Its subcommittee assigned to draft recommendations on the GHQ problem came to the conclusion that it was highly desirable for the Chief of Staff to be designated to command in the field in the event of mobilization.59 This committee stated that all its recommendations rested on the "working basis" that "it must be possible to assign the Chief of Staff to command in the field." 60

Despite the apparent desires of the members of the Harbord Board, the positive designation of the Chief of Staff as commanding general of the combatant army in the field did not go into either the General Orders or the Army Regulations implementing the Harbord recommendations. In subsequent peacetime years the U. S. Army was small and its largest tactical unit was the division. According to military usage the "field forces" did not actually exist until a number of divisions had been organized for tactical purposes into one or more field armies.61 General Pershing and his two successors, Maj. Gen. John L. Hines and Gen. Charles P. Summerall, did not press the issue of formal title. About ten years later, when field armies were activated as skeleton tactical organizations containing the combatant troops, the term Commanding General, Field Forces, came into official use as a second title for General MacArthur, who was Chief of Staff from November 1930 until October 1935. Finally in 1936, during the tenure of Gen. Malin Craig, the dual designation of the Chief of Staff appeared in print in formal Army Regulations. They then included the stipulation that the "Chief of Staff in addition to his duties as such, is in peace the Commanding General of the Field Forces and in that capacity directs the field operations and the general training of the several armies, of the overseas forces, and of G. H. Q. units." 62

Although these Army Regulations, still in effect at the beginning of World War II, specifically reserved for the President the power to select an Army officer other than the Chief of Staff to assume high command in the field, President Roosevelt from the beginning made it clear in his handling of Army affairs that General Marshall was the superior officer to whom he would turn for advice and who would be held responsible for the Army's conduct in the war.63 This fact, plus the intimate understanding with which General Marshall and Secretary of War Stimson worked together throughout the period of hostilities, made the Chief of Staff's position unassailable. General Marshall delegated tremendous responsibilities and powers to his field generals and relied greatly on their individual initiative and capacities for success. Nevertheless, he retained in his own hands, insofar as it could remain with one man in a coalition war,


control of the Army's conduct of military operations. It was significant that he exercised his command from Washington, where he also had effective authority over the Army's zone of interior programs. Thus General Marshall had a far broader responsibility than his predecessors in World War I. Moreover, he faced the new and intricate problems of a struggle involving many great industrial nations and joint operations by ground, sea, and air forces employing modern weapons. Yet at the outset he had to discharge that responsibility with the assistance of the same organization and under the same procedural traditions as had been established soon after the end of World War I.

In 1940 and 1941 the chiefs of the arms and services, who performed dual functions as heads of operating agencies and as administrative or technical staff advisers, still reported directly to the Chief of Staff. All officers continued to be commissioned in one of these arms or services—that is, the Infantry, Field Artillery, etc.—and enlisted men "belonged" to the branch to which they were currently assigned. Procurement and distribution of equipment and other supplies, training of officers and some specialized units, and administrative management of the bulk of Army affairs, were still the functions of the successors to the bureaus.

The offices of the chiefs of the services paid, fed, equipped, rendered legal and medical service to, and did the administrative work for the Army as a whole. The principal branches in the service category (excluding the service arms) at the beginning of World War II were Adjutant General's Department, Inspector General's Department, Judge Advocate General's Department, Quartermaster Corps, Finance Department, Medical Department, Ordnance Department, and Chemical Warfare Service. Two of these branches, Ordnance and Chemical Warfare, developed actual weapons of war. Four, including Ordnance, Chemical Warfare, the Medical Department, and the Quartermaster Corps, organized special units for assignment to the larger Army units or headquarters requiring their particular services.

In these latter respects the services resembled the combatant branches, the five arms and, more especially, the two service arms. The combat army was built around the Air Corps and the team of ground force combat arms, the Infantry, Cavalry, Field Artillery, and Coast Artillery. These branches were responsible for developing equipment, training personnel, and organizing units for the specialized job that each branch performed in actual combat. They produced the troops of the line of the old Army. The service arms—the Corps of Engineers and the Signal Corps—similarly developed equipment, trained technicians, and formed considerable numbers of units for combat service, but their primary mission was to develop efficiency in the performance of their particular specialized functions in support of the "line" Army.

The growth of a comparatively independent military organization, the Army Air Forces, out of one of the branches constituted the most radical change in War Department organization before World War II. The Air Service, which became a branch of the Army in 1918, received the name "Air Corps" in 1926. Like the ground combat branches, the Air Corps was responsible for developing its own kind of equipment and for training personnel to use it. In 1935 it developed the GHQ Air Force, the combatant air establishment, which represented the end product of Air Corps supply and training work in the same way that the field


armies were the end product of the work of the other arms and service arms. The creation of an integrated combatant air force marked an important stage in the growth of the Army's air force toward acquiring a strategic mission of its own, air operations to destroy the enemy's will and capacity to fight by air bombardment, in addition to its conventional tactical mission of supporting operations by ground armies. The designation in October 1940 of the chief of the Air Corps, General Arnold, to act concurrently as Deputy Chief of Staff for Air gave the air arm a voice on the high command level as well as the "bureau" level and the combatant level of the War Department. The mutual understanding of General Marshall and General Arnold made an operational success of an administrative arrangement that was at best complex and awkward.

In June 1941 the combatant air organization, renamed the Air Force Combat Command, and the Air Corps were grouped together to form the Army Air Forces under General Arnold as chief.64 The new organization was intended to have, "so far as possible within the War Department, a complete autonomy similar in character to that exercised by the Marine Corps of the Navy." 65 Thenceforth throughout World War II the air force of the United States constituted a special and largely autonomous entity within the Army.

The special needs of the air arm and the policy of employing its special power, particularly as a long-range striking force, had to be correlated with the needs, particularly for support aircraft, and the strategic objectives of the ground elements of the Army. The Chief of Staff, assisted by the General Staff, continued to exercise broad supervisory control over the air forces in an effort to develop for the Army as a whole a balanced program of production, training, and military operations. Consequently, the General Staff, with Air officers serving on it, was in effect a joint or interservice staff responsible under the Chief of Staff for the employment of two complementary military weapons, the ground and the air arms.66

During 1940 and 1941 the War Department General Staff assisted the Chief of Staff in co-ordinating the whole of the military machine under his control, the territorial and tactical organization and the arms and services insofar as they were operating agencies. In all, about one hundred officers were serving on the General Staff in mid-1939 and more than twice that many by mid-1941.67

In supervising their work in particular and Army activities as a whole, the Chief of Staff in 1939 had the assistance of the Deputy Chief of Staff, who regularly handled budgetary, legislative, and administrative matters, and had authority to act


for the Chief of Staff in his absence.68 In 1940 two new deputies, one for air matters and one for equipment, supply, and other G-4 activities, were appointed to help get command decisions on a great many questions which were clogging the General Staff machinery and which had to be disposed of in order to get ahead with the rapid expansion of the Army.69 The Chief of Staff was further aided by the Secretary of the General Staff, who kept records for the immediate Office of the Chief of Staff and his deputies, initiated staff action as required by them, and supervised the routing of papers and studies to and from the appropriate staff divisions.70 Co-ordination of General Staff work for the most part had to be done by the Chief of Staff himself, although he was assisted in the process by his principal deputy. This latter officer periodically met with the War Department General Council, which consisted of the Assistant Chiefs of Staff, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, and WPD, as well as the chiefs of arms and services. Increasingly in the 1939, 1940, and 1941 emergency, the Chief of Staff settled problems simply by calling staff officers concerned into informal conference and reaching a decision therein.71

General Staff Doctrine and Procedure

The United States, in setting up its General Staff Corps in 1903, had created a unique institution with its own characteristic procedures.72 Like most higher military staffs of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the new General Staff derived a great deal of its functional theory and terminology from the Prussian system. In German usage the Generalstab had been understood to be almost literally the "General's Staff," that is, a staff versed in


generalship, or a staff concerned with military operations. In contrast, the phrase as usually interpreted in the U. S. Army conveyed the correct but rather vague idea of a staff with "general" rather than specific responsibilities.73 Army Regulations and Army practice emphasized that the highest general staff, the War Department General Staff, had as its primary concern general planning and policy making.

Until 1903 the Army's technical, administrative, and supply agencies collectively had been termed the "General Staff." 74 After 1903 and through 1941 they still constituted both in numbers and in established prestige a major part of the War Department. The early activities of the General Staff, particularly during World War I, fastened its attention on the zone of interior, where mobilization and supply were the major tasks. The bureaus were handling these tasks, as they always had, and the main contribution of the General Staff was the preparation of basic studies on organization, training, production, transportation, and supply.75 The many high-ranking officers who returned from France after World War I to take important positions in the War Department under General Pershing naturally tended to assume automatically that the General Staff served best when it devoted itself primarily to the zone of interior and did not interfere much with the conduct of military operations in the field. The unwritten, unquestioned law preserving broad discretionary powers for the commander of an overseas theater became and remained one of the basic traditions of the Army. Between the operating agencies in the zone of interior and the overseas commands, the General Staff was squeezed into a narrow compass. Its avenue of escape was to rise above operating at home and operations abroad. Thus Army Regulations from 1921 through 1941 defined the basic duty of the General Staff as the preparation of "necessary plans for recruiting, mobilizing, organizing, supplying, equipping, and training the Army." 76 Once its area of responsibility had been marked out as coincident with these military programs and once its role there was confined to a very general planning, the General Staff developed appropriate procedural traditions.

The War Department manual for staff officers current at the beginning of World War II stated categorically: "A staff officer as such has no authority to command." 77 This statement did not alter the fact that the general staff of any commander could act with his authority, insofar as he approved, not only in devising plans and issuing orders, but also in observing the "execution of orders to insure understanding and execution in conformity with the commander's will" 78 In a field command, the general staff officers with combat troops had a strong incentive and ample opportunity to perform this final function of command. In the General Staff there was much less emphasis on seeing that things were done than on


helping determine how they should be done. Army Regulations emphasized the point that the General Staff was not supposed to do the actual work called for in the plans it was making. They specifically stated: "The divisions and subdivisions of the War Department General Staff shall not engage in administrative duties for the performance of which an agency exists, but shall confine themselves to the preparation of plans and policies (particularly those concerning mobilization) and to the supervision of the execution of such plans and policies as may be approved by the Secretary of War." 79

In other words the General Staff was designed first and foremost to think about military activities and, to a smaller extent, to see that they were conducted in conformity with approved thinking; but it was not at all to participate in them. Normally it merely furnished memoranda approved by the Chief of Staff or the Secretary of War to The Adjutant General, who issued official instructions on behalf of the War Department to the Army agencies concerned, principally the arms and services and the tactical headquarters such as the field armies and the overseas departments. These organizations were responsible for performing the military duties necessary to carry out plans and policies. Such executive or administrative tasks, including training and. mounting garrison defenses (the peacetime equivalent of military operations), were not staff duties, and the General Staff tried not to take part in them. Often the problems it spent months in studying concerned picayune matters, but this fact was a reflection of the smallness of the Army and the severe fiscal limitations put upon it in peacetime. They were viewed as problems of general significance according to the perspective of the time.

True, the General Staff was supposed to supervise the execution of plans and policies it had helped formulate in order to observe the results. This supervision provided the basis for future staff recommendations and, if faulty execution of orders was discovered, made it possible to correct the deficiency through appropriate command channels. But the kind of direct inspection or observation that enabled a general staff in the field to check on compliance with orders was not always feasible for the War Department. In technical and administrative work, about the only way to be certain that War Department policy was carried out in practice was to become intimately acquainted with the performance of the work in detail. The General Staff could not consistently take such action, not only because the subordinate agencies would object but also because it was too small to assume such a burden.

Comparing data on troop dispositions, unit strength, training problems, and levels of supply in the overseas commands against current plans and policies was easier, but securing up-to-date information of the kind required was still a difficult task. Correspondence with the troop commanders, especially with the overseas departments, was slow. It was also voluminous. Misunderstandings of intent and fact in written instructions and reports were hard to avoid, to detect, and to remedy. Travel to and from outlying bases on temporary duty was restricted by the necessity for economy. Under these circumstances the War Department could not effectively control tactical movements designed to carry out strategic plans or specific strategic instructions emanating from Washington.


For all these reasons, as well as for more adventitious or personal ones that may have existed, officers on duty in the General Staff as a rule did not intervene in the conduct of Army affairs by subordinate agencies, whether operating staffs in the zone of interior or tactical commands in the field. A clear-cut case of disregard of approved policy anywhere in the Army plainly warranted intervention in order to make the Chief of Staff's orders effective. It was a common presumption, however, that senior commanders in the field knew their responsibilities and how to discharge them, as did the chiefs of the arms and services, and that they did not require constant surveillance by a staff officer in Washington.

Continuous and systematic checking of all Army activities to ascertain compliance in detail with War Department instructions "following-up," as Army officers called it was left largely to the exertions and judgment of individual officers. This responsibility was neither reflected in the internal organization of the General Staff nor emphasized in its traditions. To a great extent the General Staff in the early years of General Marshall's leadership was still working on the assumption that had been noted by General Pershing in 1923 as basic to its work:

It is evident that proper General Staff procedure must be slow, even when there is substantial agreement as to what action is desirable. When there are conflicting ideas and interests, as there usually are when dealing with important questions, the different ideas must be investigated and threshed out with the greatest care, with the result that the time required to obtain a decision is multiplied many times. This necessary slowness of procedure in General Staff work makes it essential and proper that the General Staff should confine itself entirely to matters of the broadest policy. Its procedure is wholly unadapted to an operating service.80

The procedure to which these official remarks referred was mainly concerned with the formal memorandum, usually called more descriptively the staff study. Concurrence by any of the five staff divisions and by any of the chiefs of the arms and services, depending on whether the matter was of primary concern to them, might be, and very often was, required before a particular General Staff study could be approved. Specific approval by the Chief of Staff or the Secretary of War was secured in every important case and in many comparatively trivial ones before any of the Assistant Chiefs of Staff issued instructions for carrying out the plan or policy recommended in any staff study.81 There was nothing wrong with this procedure in principle, or with the tradition it reflected. As long as the Army was small and there was no immediate emergency, these procedures did not handicap the Army in carrying on its routine activities. The War Department worked slowly but satisfactorily.

By the time the emergency of World War II came, habits of War Department General Staff officers had tended to solidify in the forms established during the 1920's and early 1930's. After 1939 the Army was no longer able to enjoy the luxury of thinking about military operations in the distant future. Ready or not, it might have to carry them out on a moment's notice. More and more often the staff divisions violated


their own traditions and descended from their theoretically ideal plane of high abstraction to see that certain urgent steps were taken in building the new Army. It was characteristic that when the threat of war thus spurred the General Staff to new vigor, the most frequent criticisms were offered, even by staff officers, on the grounds that it was operating too much, concerning itself with the details of Army administration.82 Yet the overwhelming danger, dimly seen or felt as the crisis developed, was that the Chief of Staff might, as a result of enemy action, find himself suddenly in command of one or more active theaters of operations. Each of the overseas bases was a potential combat zone. The General Staff, whether planning as it was supposed to do or operating as it often did, was unsuited to act as a field-type general staff in helping direct military operations. So long as the General Headquarters envisioned in 1921 was only a theory, as it had remained for nearly twenty years, the Chief of Staff would have no staff specifically instructed and carefully organized to help him control military activities in these areas of danger and in all the theaters of operations that would develop in case of war.

The United States Government was pledged to a policy of seeking peace at nearly any cost after war broke out in Europe in 1939. The Army was in no condition to conduct major military operations. These circumstances gravely complicated the task of building and managing a first-class fighting force. But a weakness potentially more crippling was inherent in the structure of the high command. In 1932 when he was Chief of Staff, General MacArthur pointed it out: "The War Department has never been linked to fighting elements by that network of command and staff necessary to permit the unified tactical functioning of the American Army." 83 The situation had not changed materially in the next eight years. Moreover, General MacArthur had promptly diagnosed the ultimate Army need that led to the creation of a new central staff to support the high command in World War II. He urged adoption of a system through which the "Chief of Staff, in war, will be enabled to center his attention upon the vital functions of operating and commanding field forces" and which would serve to "link in the most effective manner military activities in the Zone of the Interior to those in the Theater of Operations." 84 Achievement of this goal still lay ahead in mid-1941.



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