USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Discussions on alternate history, including events up to 20 years before today. Hosted by Terry Duncan.
Richard Anderson
Member
Posts: 2939
Joined: 01 Jan 2016 21:21
Location: Bremerton, Washington

Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by Richard Anderson » 06 Apr 2020 23:42

Sheldrake wrote:
06 Apr 2020 22:34
We can quibble about the numbers. Lease lend was around 45% of total British production. http://www.isc.meiji.ac.jp/~transfer/pa ... Coombs.pdf
Wjhen it com,es to AFVs the British turned out a lot of tracked armoured carriers, light tanks, scout cars and armoured cars. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_a ... rld_War_II
I'm not quibbling, I'm trying to keep the data reasonably sound instead of seeing things take guaporensian turn.

BTW, if you have not already, I highly recommend Benjamin Coombs' British Tank Production and the War Economy. It is very good.
But the main question is what is the logic in preferring to equip the under trained and over expanded US Army instead of the British Canadian and Russian forces that need the kit?
That is actually secondary. The main question related to the OP is just how the U.S. starts cranking out divisions by the dozens? Limiting Navy Department personnel isn't going to help, because eventually the divisions have to get overseas and they aren't going to fly. Limiting Army Air Corps personnel isn't going to help either, since there weren't many of them in terms of the overall Army...and they'll probably be needed too to help the Army get to where it needs to go.
As a theoretical exercise in deploying the largest possible US army it might need to cannibalize lease lend production, but it does not make strategic sense in coalition warfare. Ok maybe as a Brit I can draw on a tradition of fighting to the last German/Russian/Frenchman/ Hessian/American but it makes sense for the country with the manufacturing capacity and money to do that bit and hire poorer countries to share in the fighting and casualties. ;)
I suspect the "largest possible US army" would be the 23 March 1942 estimate by OPD, WDGS for 140 deployable divisions by the end of 1943 and 187 divisions by the end of 1944. No amount of handwavium is likely to change that much.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

User avatar
T. A. Gardner
Member
Posts: 2081
Joined: 02 Feb 2006 00:23
Location: Arizona

Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by T. A. Gardner » 07 Apr 2020 01:00

One of the weirder aspects of British tank production is the Covenanter. The British produced about 1400 of these tanks but well before production ceased, considered them unfit for combat. Yet, they produced four different 'Marks." Clearly, producing a tank unfit for combat in sufficient numbers to equip several armored divisions is little short of insane.

TheMarcksPlan
Member
Posts: 1080
Joined: 15 Jan 2019 22:32
Location: USA

Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 07 Apr 2020 02:33

Numerous responses to my OP have misread it, probably strategically. One of the most egregious mis-readings or mis-representation of the OP is to claim that it favors a reduction in merchant shipping or reduced focus on the Battle of the Atlantic.

Rather than address each individually, I'll quote the OP:
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
05 Apr 2020 09:58

[*]Military spending and doctrine favors control of sea communications, securing air superiority, and cumulative army combat power over strategic bombing and peripheral operations.
All of these posters are missing the fundamental point here: The Wallies spent such a small portion of their armaments production on land warfare that army production can be vastly increased without prejudice to merchant shipping or ASW. In fact, as the OP lays out, spending on merchant shipping (though not necessarily on ASW) would be increased in this ATL.

Member Sheldrake has posed a number of questions that are very useful for illustrating the common strategic misconceptions that inform most of the responses in this thread:
#2 How to win the naval battle of the Atlantic with less investment in the Navy?
As stated above, there is no less investment in ASW, at least not in the period up to July '42 or so.

A more resolute focus on Europe First and early invasion would have led to earlier victory in the Atlantic. In Jan-June '42 2.83mil tons were sunk off U.S. coastal waters and in the Carribean; this was an entirely preventable disaster as nearly all the sinking were of unescorted ships. Had the U.S. retained sufficient escorts in the Atlantic - even at some marginal cost to the Pacific Fleet - at least 2mil tons of shipping could have been saved. See O'Brien 260-272.

After the '42 shipping crisis, the U.S. and (to a lesser extent) the UK over-invested in escorts. Escort spending increased from $3.3bn planned in April '42 to $4.8bn in December '42. O'Brien 246. Most the delta to escort production was either cancelled later (with associated planning/allocation/partical construction inefficiencies) or entered service long after the crisis had passed.

The extra $1.5bn in escort spending caused by the errors of early '42 (too little U.S. resources devoted convoys) is nearly as much as the U.S. spent on ALL GROUND MUNITIONS in the second half of '42 ($1.68bil).

#3 How to win the air war over Europe with less investment in the Army Air Corps?
This is a very illustrative misunderstanding.
The poster fails entirely to distinguish different domains of air power. Among these domains are at least (1) local air dominance, (2) tactical air-ground power, (3) operational/interdiction air power [attacks on ground troop movements and communications], and (4) strategic bombing.

Of these domains, the OP specifically proposes cuts to (4) only. I suspect the commenter doesn't appreciate the scale and expense of U.S. strategic bombing effort during WW2.

Invasion of Europe requires air dominance over the landing zone, not some unspecified victory in the "air war over Europe." To achieve air dominance over the landing zone, the Wallies could simply have shifted some of strategic bombing resources into fighter production.
#4 Where to find the merchant shipping to support an Overlord scale operation in 1943?
Two routes: (1) saving ships and (2) building ships.

(1) As discussed above, the U.S. saves >2mil tons of merchant shipping in early '42 by a more resolute focus on Europe and attendant diversion of escorts from the Pacific for Caribbean/coastal convoys. Before getting to (2), let's look at the impact of just those 2mil tons saved. The U.S. Army's study Global Logistics and Strategy (GLS) has some great tables relevant to this discussion:

Image

As you can see from the per-man tonnage requirements, shipping an infantry division required ~94,000 tons in late '42 and ~61,000 in late '43.
Armored divisions required ~3x as much space for all the vehicles.

Average turnaround time of UK-bound cargo ships in '43 was 60 days. GLS '40-43 p.725. Each ship could make, on average, 6 trips per year.

So in the year preceding a Spring '43 invasion, 2mil tons of shipping could have moved 12mil shipping tons or 150 ID's.

Of course that number has to be reduced for non-div. slice deployment. In '45, in-theater division slices were as follows:

Image

Assuming that '43 in-theater slice would be similar to '45, and assuming that the non-div. personnel deployed took as much shipping space as ID personnel, our 2mil tons saved moves ~58 ID's.

While it is true that early-'42 losses were disproportionately oil tankers and bulk (bauxite) fleet, these ships needed replacement in the relevant period and, absent their loss, U.S. shipyards could have built more general carriers while maintaining OTL tanker/bulk capacity.

So we don't even need to build more ships to get 50-60 ID's across the Atlantic if we prevent the early-'42 disaster by focusing on Europe/invasion rather than sending so many ships to the Pacific.

But of course we can also build more ships - merchant shipping construction was only ~8-9% of American expenditure during the war. While there is an early-war bottleneck on shipyard capacity, that bottleneck isn't fixed on a timeline that starts in '40 and there are other avenues such as the construction of concrete ships outside of the normal shipyards. The U.S. built half a million tons of concrete ships as an emergency program early in the war. https://books.google.com/books/about/Su ... YPCLw_u6EC
#1 How the US would gain operational experience with a vastly expanded army in order to avoid a Kasserine Pass on a grand scale?
Kasserine was embarrassing but it's an exaggeration to pretend that the U.S. Army was so bad that the German would have whipped it under any circumstance. Sure there'd be a learning curve in Europe but, just as in North Africa, the weight of numbers of would prevail.
#5 Persuading the British to risk their last army on what they historically considered a highly risky venture?
If the U.S. is committed to invasion the British aren't just going to sit it out. Churchill wasn't thrilled about Overlord either.

TheMarcksPlan
Member
Posts: 1080
Joined: 15 Jan 2019 22:32
Location: USA

Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 07 Apr 2020 02:59

Andy H wrote: Equally at some stage we've all had some fantastical or illogical WI take seed when we first started out and thus threads like this come around.
What exactly is fantastical about proposing (1) greater American focus on the army and (2) earlier invasion of Europe?

Even setting aside (1) for the moment, there are numerous published authors who claim an earlier invasion was possible.

For example, here's O'Brien on the issue:
Before moving on, there is one other grand strategy question that should be examined: the feasibility of an invasion of France in 1943 – the stated American position in 1942 and during Casablanca. This has received some debate over the years.95 While this discussion cannot be replicated in depth here, one major point should be made. In terms of Anglo-American air and sea equipment, there would have been more than enough to invade France in 1943, if the Mediterranean operations had been scaled back and the Pacific relegated to holding operations. One of the arguments in favor of the Mediterranean strategy was that there simply was not enough equipment (to say nothing about ground troops) available for such an operation. Upon reflection, this argument is rather weak, and part of the problem is that it does not comprehend that arguing for a Mediterranean strategy and empowering Admiral King to base the American fleet overwhelmingly in the Pacific was what really killed off any chance of an invasion of France in 1943.
On the issue of landing craft:
Even in the case of landing craft, which is one of the least understood aspects of World War II grand strategy, there would have been enough to do a landing in France in 1943. When Neptune was launched, there was a total of 4,126 landing craft employed, approximately 1,100 of which were the crucial LSTs and LCTs which were needed to land AFV.99 For the Sicily landings, the British and Americans used 1,734 landing craft.100 Yet the United States, because of Casablanca, had changed its landing craft allocation plans completely in 1943. In late1942 the plan was to give priority to the invasion of France, and everything else would be sacrificed to that end. Once Casablanca had killed off a landing in France before 1944, the United States started shifting landing craft to the Pacific.101 From that point onwards, the plan was to send more American landing craft to the Pacific than to the European theater of operations (ETO) for the rest of 1943.102 By April 1943, however, US plans had changed so that the allocation for the ETO was only 70 percent of that for the Pacific.103 While the Sicily operation was ongoing, the United States was using even more landing craft in the Pacific in the conduct of two campaigns, namely the battle led by MacArthur which was aiming for Rabaul, and Nimitz’s drive in the central Pacific which was just about to begin. For the landings in the Gilberts in November 1943, for instance, there was landing ship capacity enough to place two divisions, the 2nd Marine and the 27th US Army, ashore at one time.104 Considering that German defenses were considerably weaker in France in 1943 than in 1944, the forces on hand would have been able to place five divisions ashore on the first day.
224-225.

So if it's fantastical to claim that a more Army-focused U.S. could have invaded Europe in '43, it's absolutely ludicrous to claim that the OTL Wallies could have invaded in 1943. Sorry to say, I'll take O'Brien's arguments over this forum's members so far.

Maybe the moderators find it fantastical that the U.S. would focus more strongly on the army?

Well as I said in my OP, I suspect that all military planning in the relevant period was proceeding from a background of political opposition to large-scale ground warfare:
TheMarcksPlan wrote:Caveat emptor - this thread sets aside U.S. appetite for land war and queries what should have been done to end the war most quickly, with the minimum of human suffering (even if American suffering/death might have increased).
This is the intellectual value of "What If's." By examining the alternatives to historical choices, we can obtain insights into the explanations for historical events. Here it is obvious that the U.S. could have fielded a more powerful army than OTL and that it could have ended the European war earlier had it done so. That it didn't do so tells me something illuminating and useful about U.S. goals and priorities during WW2.

TheMarcksPlan
Member
Posts: 1080
Joined: 15 Jan 2019 22:32
Location: USA

Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 07 Apr 2020 03:46

Terry Duncan wrote:The Allied strategy did focus on a decisive land engagement, but did so with the caveat that one should only be sought when winning was almost the only possible outcome
Churchill would have been surprised to hear, in Spring '44, that victory was the only possible outcome of Overlord.

In any event, your reply begs the question in the logical sense of the word: you assume that victory by earlier land invasion was less assured than was victory in OTL. As that assumption is the entire point being debated, you're using circular logic.

As O'Brien concludes in the passage quoted above, the Wallies could have landed 5 divisions in a '43 D-Day had they concentrated their OTL forces. In this ATL they can land quite a bit more, depending on the details.

One thing you're missing is the American decision to prioritize aircraft production over ground munitions when it became clear that the initial production targets would not be met. From Page 52 of How the War was Won:
It was a crucial decision, reorienting American construction in 1943 and the first part of 1944 towards the construction of aircraft over all other armaments. It certainly led to a significant change in the munitions spending of the American government and some massive cuts in army production.129 In terms of the size of the US army, it was the key driving force to slash its eventual size to a hundred divisions. This might sound like a lot, but in 1941 and early 1942 the United States was planning on an army of two hundred divisions or even more.130 In a matter of months, to protect aircraft construction, the US army had lost half of its planned strength
As you point out, there is also the problem of training the expanded personnel base. On a timeline of ~3 years before a strong '43 invasion, however, stepping up that training basis is a solveable problem.

TheMarcksPlan
Member
Posts: 1080
Joined: 15 Jan 2019 22:32
Location: USA

Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 07 Apr 2020 03:54

Richard Anderson wrote:I suspect the "largest possible US army" would be the 23 March 1942 estimate by OPD, WDGS for 140 deployable divisions by the end of 1943 and 187 divisions by the end of 1944. No amount of handwavium is likely to change that much.
This quote is emblematic of the illogic of AHF's conventional wisdom holders.

Richard takes a strategic evaluation from March 1942, months and years after strategic policy dictated an air-heavy industrial policy, and declares that it was the only possible world. Nevermind that much of the investment for the air-heavy policy had already taken place by March '42. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willow_Run

What if the U.S. had a more Army-focused strategic outlook in the preceding months/years? Impossible.

Why impossible? Hand-wave.

Throwing about a bunch of acronyms is not a replacement for strategic analysis; don't be fooled by that tactic.

TheMarcksPlan
Member
Posts: 1080
Joined: 15 Jan 2019 22:32
Location: USA

Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 07 Apr 2020 04:10

OpanaPointer wrote:
05 Apr 2020 11:06
The "Germany First" policy was developed at the ABC-1 talks and confirmed at the Atlantic Conference.
This another common error.

Germany First was the official line but in early '42 it was far from actual policy.

Image

Note that this is only Army deployments, not Navy. In the first half of '42, American personnel deployment to the Pacific far exceeded that to Europe.

Aircraft deployment was certainly not Germany First either:

Image

User avatar
Sheldrake
Member
Posts: 2435
Joined: 28 Apr 2013 17:14
Location: London

Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by Sheldrake » 07 Apr 2020 08:37

T. A. Gardner wrote:
07 Apr 2020 01:00
One of the weirder aspects of British tank production is the Covenanter. The British produced about 1400 of these tanks but well before production ceased, considered them unfit for combat. Yet, they produced four different 'Marks." Clearly, producing a tank unfit for combat in sufficient numbers to equip several armored divisions is little short of insane.
It is what can happen if you appoint an influential "can do political figure" as a production czar with a target of maximising an arbitrary number. Lord Beaverbrook as minister initially of Aircraft Production and then Supply had the effect of distorting common sense.
At the time he was acclaimed for getting things done, but he was better at claiming credit. Other counter productive activity was e,g, in the name of increasing aircraft production in 1940 he opposed measures that increased the number of trained pilots - the real bottleneck.

A warning against appointing Coviod 19 Czars

OpanaPointer
Member
Posts: 4199
Joined: 16 May 2010 14:12
Location: United States of America

Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by OpanaPointer » 07 Apr 2020 09:15

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
07 Apr 2020 04:10
OpanaPointer wrote:
05 Apr 2020 11:06
The "Germany First" policy was developed at the ABC-1 talks and confirmed at the Atlantic Conference.
This another common error.

Germany First was the official line but in early '42 it was far from actual policy.
You didn't read the sources.
Come visit our sites:
hyperwarHyperwar
World War II Resources

Bellum se ipsum alet, mostly Doritos.

User avatar
Terry Duncan
Forum Staff
Posts: 5747
Joined: 13 Jun 2008 22:54
Location: Kent

Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by Terry Duncan » 07 Apr 2020 09:36

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
07 Apr 2020 03:46
Churchill would have been surprised to hear, in Spring '44, that victory was the only possible outcome of Overlord.
Churchill was not overly qualified in military matters, and the military were quite upbeat about the chances in 1944 when all is considered.
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
07 Apr 2020 03:46
As you point out, there is also the problem of training the expanded personnel base. On a timeline of ~3 years before a strong '43 invasion, however, stepping up that training basis is a solveable problem.
Without combat there is a limit to what will be learned, and the risk is that the US loses everything that lands in 1943. Have a look at German losses across the spectrum during 1943 to see how different it was from 1944, as the situation in the east was very different on its own.

You could just throw endless numbers at the Germans, but you would have a hard time selling such a policy to the electorate and there is an election coming up in 1944 remember?

User avatar
Kingfish
Member
Posts: 2866
Joined: 05 Jun 2003 16:22
Location: USA

Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by Kingfish » 07 Apr 2020 10:12

Terry Duncan wrote:
07 Apr 2020 09:36
Without combat there is a limit to what will be learned, and the risk is that the US loses everything that lands in 1943.
Indeed, and this is why attacking the peripheries first paid huge dividends later on when the fighting moved to the NWE. The campaigns in North Africa, Tunisia and Sicily allowed the allies to gain valuable operational experience in theaters that did not allow the Axis to utilize their full potential.
The gods do not deduct from a man's allotted span the hours spent in fishing.
~Babylonian Proverb

User avatar
Sheldrake
Member
Posts: 2435
Joined: 28 Apr 2013 17:14
Location: London

Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by Sheldrake » 07 Apr 2020 11:10

Terry Duncan wrote:
07 Apr 2020 09:36
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
07 Apr 2020 03:46
Churchill would have been surprised to hear, in Spring '44, that victory was the only possible outcome of Overlord.
Churchill was not overly qualified in military matters, and the military were quite upbeat about the chances in 1944 when all is considered.
In general you are right, but we are all influenced by hindsight. There were a lot of unknowns about Op Overlord in 1944 - fewer than in 1943 admittedly, but there are very few absolute certainties in war.

Haig and most of the British military were pretty upbeat about the forthcoming big push on the Somme. Alan Brooke had been there. His diary entry on 5th June 1944 includes the following.

"I am very uneasy about the about the whole operation. At the best it will fall so very very short of the expectation of the bulk of the people, namely those who know nothing of its difficulties. At worst it may well be the most ghastly disaster of the whole war. I wish to God it were safely over."

It turned out far better than most people expected at the time . However, Brooke was right. Whether he would have guessed that 76 years later there are still some arguing that it could have been even better had it taken place in 1943...

Richard Anderson
Member
Posts: 2939
Joined: 01 Jan 2016 21:21
Location: Bremerton, Washington

Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by Richard Anderson » 07 Apr 2020 15:49

Gee, I wonder why "American personnel deployment to the Pacific far exceeded that to Europe" from 7 December 1941 to about 7 June 1942? I guess I'll have to look that up and get back to y'all. :roll: :roll: :roll:
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Tom from Cornwall
Member
Posts: 2030
Joined: 01 May 2006 19:52
Location: UK

Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 07 Apr 2020 16:28

TMP,

Could you add to your initial sketch a bullet point to show what you are presuming Italy and Japan do in your ‘What If’. Do they follow their historical path, invasion of Egypt and Greece in 1940 for former and attack on British and American empires in Dec 1941 for latter, for example?

BTW thanks for book review with which you started and sample pages. It’s now on my ever-increasing list.

Regards

Tom

Regards

Tom

Richard Anderson
Member
Posts: 2939
Joined: 01 Jan 2016 21:21
Location: Bremerton, Washington

Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by Richard Anderson » 07 Apr 2020 16:39

Gee, I wonder why I selected the initial OPD, WDGS 23 March 1942 recommendation as a probable best case number of divisions? Could it be because prior to that the only mobilization planning in the U.S. was the PMP? The Protective Mobilization Plan, which is just what it states, a plan to mobilize nine RA and eighteen National Guard infantry and two RA and one NG cavalry divisions to defend the Z/I. It envisaged a force of 74,062 officers and 1,180,295 enlisted, ready 240 days after M-Day. :roll: :roll: :roll:

It was because that was the only mobilization planning 1931-1939 that Marshall tasked Gerow with developing updated mobilization planning coupled to the strategic decisions that were going on then. In April 1941. Eight months before the Japanese attack firmly knocked those initial plans into a cocked hat, requiring further adaptation.

Meanwhile, Roosevelt announced his "plan" for the then extraordinary build-up of the AAF and aircraft production on 16 May 1940, which forced the hand of the WDGS. The plans for the then extraordinary build-up of the USN had already been made under Vinson-Trammel in 1934, the Second Vinson Act of 1938, and the Vinson-Walsh Act of 1940. Changes to the budgetary and strategic planning decision-making need to occur in the 1930s in order to have an effect in the 1940s...a simple look at Germany demonstrates that. Getting from the ten-division Reichswehr at the end of 1933 to the 49 active and 106 mobilized divisions of the Heer in September 1939 took six years of planning and preparation - it was not done overnight and it was not done by hand waving.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Return to “What if”