Was there a pecking order when some units were stripped for front line infantry?

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Felix C
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Was there a pecking order when some units were stripped for front line infantry?

Post by Felix C » 20 Mar 2021 00:14

Were AAA first selected? Or anti-tank? or LOC? You see what I refer to.

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Re: Was there a pecking order when some units were stripped for front line infantry?

Post by Kingfish » 20 Mar 2021 02:01

I would think the tactical situation at the time, rather than an established order, would dictate who goes first.
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Re: Was there a pecking order when some units were stripped for front line infantry?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 20 Mar 2021 05:20

Felix C wrote:
20 Mar 2021 00:14
Were AAA first selected? Or anti-tank? or LOC? You see what I refer to.
Short answer is, it depends.

When and where, and at what level of command?

In the 1944-45 infantry replacement crisis, the decisions - shut down the ASTP, for example - were made at the highest levels of the US war effort; on Luzon in 1942, it was down to the local commanders throwing aircraft mechanics and sailors into the line because there was literally no one else and nowhere to go...

But basically, if the need is "the combat arms need replacements" it usually went:

1) trained combat arms replacements;
2) stripping trained combat arms personnel from existing units that were not planned to deploy sometime "soon" (to be determined, and somewhat fluid);
3) support elements who could be retrained;
4) untrained support elements ("cooks and bakers");
5) warm bodies.

A special case is "use combat support or combat service support units as infantry," which usually translated to having engineers (combat first, than any engineers) hold the line.

It's an outlier for a lot of reasons, but 1944-45, for example, when it was decided (fairly or not) the 92nd Infantry Division had to be reorganized, "the most capable" personnel of the division were kept, and consolidated down to division troops, division artillery, etc, and one "reliable" RCT (the 370th, from three, previously - the 365th, 370th, and 371st), an existing and quite effective RCT (the 442nd) was attached, and a "new" RCT (the 473rd) was formed in theater with the headquarters of an armored group and three battalions of AAA that went through a short infantry training course, also in theater.

Considering the strikes the 92nd has against it from Day One, the results in 1945 actually were not bad; but a lot of grief and blood and just flat out cruelty could have been avoided a lot earlier with some more thought and common sense...

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Re: Was there a pecking order when some units were stripped for front line infantry?

Post by McDonald » 20 Mar 2021 06:49

I believe the question being asked is what units were inactivated to supply combat arms replacements for divisions in combat? Correct me if I am wrong about that, but assuming I am correct:

The first units to be stripped were Coast Artillery units that guarded U S ports and along the sea coast at places determined to be critical. These were a mixture of personnel that maned the coast forts, and AAA units. In one notable case the headquarters battery of a AAA Group, and three AAA Auto Weapons battalions were directly converted to an Infantry regiment, the 473rd (later redesignated as the 73rd Infantry about ten years after the war). Other units were just stripped of personnel who went where required, and eventually those few that were left cased the colors and went elsewhere too.

Other units that had been activated in the States and had not yet gone overseas were inactivated and the personnel sent where required.

The Special Training Program has already been mentioned.

Service troops over and above theater requirements were also raided into non-existence.

Biggest source though was stripping divisions in training, and some were stripped a couple of times.

I think the Army was so busy organizing new units in 1942-43, that they did not initially give a whole lot of thought to a sustaining training base where individuals are trained, and not units. As mentioned on another thread the 8th Armored Division was activated specifically to be a training division, The 76th Infantry Division an OR division was activated at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland to be a training division as well. I think both these divisions probably produced a couple of cycles, before they were filled for the last time and went through the entire unit training program and eventually sent to Europe. I know at Meade, in place of the 76th, a replacement training center was established. Believe that was in 44. I am working on memory here so forgive me if I can't be more specific. My books are in the basement and it's near midnight.

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Re: Was there a pecking order when some units were stripped for front line infantry?

Post by Felix C » 20 Mar 2021 22:58

absolutely correct Mr. McDonald. I hear about AAA, anti-tank, LOC, ASTP, the latter would be a long way from deployment being in the USA. Same with Coastal Artillery members. I was also thinking of the use of Negro soldiers in Infantry platoons in 1945 was because some trucking companies were idle due to stabilized lines of supply with seaports operational and RR lines working.

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Re: Was there a pecking order when some units were stripped for front line infantry?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 21 Mar 2021 01:59

McDonald wrote:
20 Mar 2021 06:49
The first units to be stripped were Coast Artillery units that guarded U S ports and along the sea coast at places determined to be critical. These were a mixture of personnel that maned the coast forts, and AAA units. In one notable case the headquarters battery of a AAA Group, and three AAA Auto Weapons battalions were directly converted to an Infantry regiment, the 473rd (later redesignated as the 73rd Infantry about ten years after the war).
The 473rd was an outlier for a lot of reasons, largely because it was created in-theater, when it was decided (fairly or not) the 92nd Infantry Division had to be reorganized, "the most capable" personnel of the division were kept, and consolidated down to division troops, division artillery, etc, and one "reliable" RCT (the 370th, from three, previously - the 365th, 370th, and 371st), an existing and quite effective RCT (the 442nd) was attached, and a "new" RCT (the 473rd) was formed in theater with the headquarters of the 2nd armored group and three battalions of AAA that went through a short infantry training course, also in theater.

The Coast Artillery was split between seacoast and AA in March, 1942, and the AA expanded through to 1944, when OCS courses were suspended; at the end of the year, there were 460 active battalions, and that dropped to 331 by the end of the war. In June, 1944, there were more than 21,000 officers and enlisted in the AA training and planning organizations, including 17,000 trainees; the similar figures for seacoast artillery activities were less than 1,000, without any trainees.

Similar figures for infantry training and planning activities at the same point were roughly 204,000; armor was 17,000; field artillery was 34,000; cavalry was 9,000; tank destroyer was 8,000.

Figures are from Stanton, WW II Order of Battle

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Re: Was there a pecking order when some units were stripped for front line infantry?

Post by Andy H » 28 Mar 2021 15:47

daveshoup2MD wrote:
20 Mar 2021 05:20
5) warm bodies.
Hi daveshoup2MD

In relation to 'warm bodies' I thought this would be of interest:-
Eight pages of The Guns at Last Light (19-20, 407-12) are themselves almost worth the price and reading time of the book. Atkinson describes how we were facing a manpower crisis by mid-1944:

A man could be drafted if he had only one eye, or was completely deaf in one ear , or had lost both external ears, or was missing a thumb or three fingers on either hand, including a trigger finger. Earlier a draftee had to possess at least twelve of his original thirty-two teeth, but now he could be completely toothless…A revision of mental and personality standards was also under way. In April 1944, the War Department decreed that inductees need only have a “reasonable chance” of adjusting to military life…In addition, the Army began drafting “moderate” obsessive-compulsives, as well as stutterers. Men with malignant tumors, leprosy, or certifiable psychosis still were deemed “nonaccepable,” but by early 1944, twelve thousand venereal disease patients, most of them syphilitic, were inducted each month and rendered fit for service with a new miracle drug called penicillin.

This shows that manpower quality requirements are almost completely elastic (in the literal, not economic, sense of the word), and can go very, very far down to meet numbers. If the choice is between having nobody at all and having someone who will fill a slot, even if he does a worse job than a higher-quality person, you take him. If more suffer or die, so be it. This was, and may be in the future, what is needed in total mobilization warfare.

https://warontherocks.com/2013/07/manpo ... -fixation/

Regards

Andy H

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Re: Was there a pecking order when some units were stripped for front line infantry?

Post by OpanaPointer » 28 Mar 2021 16:07

Did the expediency allow for retaining a trained cadre so the unit could train back up?
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Re: Was there a pecking order when some units were stripped for front line infantry?

Post by McDonald » 28 Mar 2021 17:14

I believe the answer to you question lies in under what circumstance the units were stripped. Many of the units "stripped" were in fact inactivated or disbanded as the need for them during the war had passed. Others, like the divisions, were stripped for replacement personnel but retained in a cadre status until they could again be refilled.

The mobilization plan early on anticipated a much longer war, and frankly it also provided for many types of units that were created where no threat justifying their existence existed. That's not exactly bad planning, in that the planners in 1940-1942 really did not have a crystal ball they could peer into. As I mentioned in another thread, the Army was so involved in creating these units, they just did not pay enough attention, in my opinion, to sustaining this combat structure they created, by an equal emphasis on establishing a training base structure to insure those deployed units could be maintained at adequate strength levels. It takes only a few days to produce a tank, truck, or howitzer, even less for a rifle or machine gun, but it takes about a year to train a fully qualified Infantryman, capable of entering combat with a reasonable chance of survival.

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Re: Was there a pecking order when some units were stripped for front line infantry?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 28 Mar 2021 18:09

Andy H wrote:
28 Mar 2021 15:47
daveshoup2MD wrote:
20 Mar 2021 05:20
5) warm bodies.
Hi daveshoup2MD

In relation to 'warm bodies' I thought this would be of interest:-
Eight pages of The Guns at Last Light (19-20, 407-12) are themselves almost worth the price and reading time of the book. Atkinson describes how we were facing a manpower crisis by mid-1944:

A man could be drafted if he had only one eye, or was completely deaf in one ear , or had lost both external ears, or was missing a thumb or three fingers on either hand, including a trigger finger. Earlier a draftee had to possess at least twelve of his original thirty-two teeth, but now he could be completely toothless…A revision of mental and personality standards was also under way. In April 1944, the War Department decreed that inductees need only have a “reasonable chance” of adjusting to military life…In addition, the Army began drafting “moderate” obsessive-compulsives, as well as stutterers. Men with malignant tumors, leprosy, or certifiable psychosis still were deemed “nonaccepable,” but by early 1944, twelve thousand venereal disease patients, most of them syphilitic, were inducted each month and rendered fit for service with a new miracle drug called penicillin.

This shows that manpower quality requirements are almost completely elastic (in the literal, not economic, sense of the word), and can go very, very far down to meet numbers. If the choice is between having nobody at all and having someone who will fill a slot, even if he does a worse job than a higher-quality person, you take him. If more suffer or die, so be it. This was, and may be in the future, what is needed in total mobilization warfare.

https://warontherocks.com/2013/07/manpo ... -fixation/

Regards

Andy H


Thanks, and very much so - having been one, once upon a time. ;)

All three reviews are well worth reading, and, of course so were all three volumes of Atkinson's trilogy. He shortchanged Italy after 1944, and there are some factual errors, but all in all, a very strong piece of work.

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Re: Was there a pecking order when some units were stripped for front line infantry?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 28 Mar 2021 18:23

OpanaPointer wrote:
28 Mar 2021 16:07
Did the expediency allow for retaining a trained cadre so the unit could train back up?
Short answer: it depends.

In the US Army, for example, when trained personnel were stripped from an existing combat arms units and fed into the replacement pool, generally so - when an existing unit was "converted" to infantry - the AA battalions converted to "provisional" infantry as part of Task Force 45 in Italy in 1944-45, and then re-organized as the 473rd Infantry Regiment for the (equally) re-organized 92nd Infantry Division in 1945, the AA units (for the most part) left the order of battle, as did the HHC, 2nd Armored Group, which became the HHC for the 473rd Infantry.

The 45th AA Brigade headquarters, which had functioned essentially as the headquarters for a provisional "square" infantry brigade for three months in 1944-45 in Italy, with two AA group headquarters functioning as provisional infantry regiment headquarters and four to six+ battalions of AA functioning as provisional infantry battalions, three to each group, plus various attached infantry, armor, cavalry, tank destroyers, FA, engineers, etc.

The provisional infantry (and Marines) on Bataan in 1943 (army air and sailors) went down fighting; a couple of the USAAF groups destroyed in the PI in 1942 remained on the US Army list, but were never re-manned and so were, essentially, inactive.
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Re: Was there a pecking order when some units were stripped for front line infantry?

Post by OpanaPointer » 28 Mar 2021 18:41

I remember in the movie "Big Red One" Our Hero was assigned to a different division when he got out of hospital and he just ignored it. I'm betting that Division officers looked the other way when they got an experience man back like that. (Lee Marvin was a WWI vet.)
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Re: Was there a pecking order when some units were stripped for front line infantry?

Post by Richard Anderson » 28 Mar 2021 18:47

Andy H wrote:
28 Mar 2021 15:47
Eight pages of The Guns at Last Light (19-20, 407-12) are themselves almost worth the price and reading time of the book. Atkinson describes how we were facing a manpower crisis by mid-1944:

A man could be drafted if he had only one eye, or was completely deaf in one ear , or had lost both external ears, or was missing a thumb or three fingers on either hand, including a trigger finger. Earlier a draftee had to possess at least twelve of his original thirty-two teeth, but now he could be completely toothless…A revision of mental and personality standards was also under way. In April 1944, the War Department decreed that inductees need only have a “reasonable chance” of adjusting to military life…In addition, the Army began drafting “moderate” obsessive-compulsives, as well as stutterers. Men with malignant tumors, leprosy, or certifiable psychosis still were deemed “nonaccepable,” but by early 1944, twelve thousand venereal disease patients, most of them syphilitic, were inducted each month and rendered fit for service with a new miracle drug called penicillin.

This shows that manpower quality requirements are almost completely elastic (in the literal, not economic, sense of the word), and can go very, very far down to meet numbers. If the choice is between having nobody at all and having someone who will fill a slot, even if he does a worse job than a higher-quality person, you take him. If more suffer or die, so be it. This was, and may be in the future, what is needed in total mobilization warfare.

https://warontherocks.com/2013/07/manpo ... -fixation/

Regards

Andy H


It is of interest. Unfortunately, it is also not completely true...or at least is taken out of context. Quelle horreur, a journalist taking things out of context! :D

No, an inductee for full military service could not be one-eyed, but they could be inducted for limited service if they had bilateral blindness. Full service required correctable vision and by the end of the war 18-20 percent of Army personnel were issued with glasses. Ditto deafness, they were liable for induction for limited service. Same for missing fingers and thumbs, toes, and other extremities. Mental issues were more complex and the handling of them changed extensively during the war. Why should someone cured of a venereal disease be unfit for service?

Anyway, a rather more complete coverage of the physical standards may be found at https://collections.nlm.nih.gov/ext/dw/ ... 126710.pdf
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Re: Was there a pecking order when some units were stripped for front line infantry?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 28 Mar 2021 19:21

To digress: When the Marine Corps Reserve was activated for Op DESERT STORM it was the HQ units that were more likely to to be stripped. To fill out key officer & senior NCO billets in HQ units enroute to SWA. One of the battalion HQ of 14th Marines was dissolved for trained space fillers. I can't clearly recall any battery or company size units that were stripped or dissolved, tho there must have been some. The IRR of Marines who were still under the basic six year service obligation proved adequate for fillers in the lower grades of E1-E5.

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Re: Was there a pecking order when some units were stripped for front line infantry?

Post by Richard Anderson » 28 Mar 2021 20:24

It's a complex subject. I've looked at it on and off from the POV of the ETOUSA. This is the history.

Under the NEPTUNE planning the expectation was that by D+90 there would be Ground Forces 204,800 replacements landed on the Continent. The reality turned out a little different. In an April 1944 War Department meeting in Washington, European and Mediterranean Theaters of Operations representatives were informed from then on only replacements for existing units would be forthcoming, requests for additional men would have to be found by using existing resources more efficiently or by reallocation of existing manpower.

Also in April, the ETOUSA requested infantry replacements make up 70.3% of total replacements shipped, which the War Department agreed too, with the proviso the time needed to train men meant the change would take months to come into effect. In reaction, the ETOUSA began retraining 2,500 men as infantry replacements to compensate. Meanwhile the lack of infantry replacements in the Mediterranean meant infantry replacements were sent there; the result was more shortfalls in replacement going to England. In May, 35% of the replacements in theater were riflemen versus an estimated 64.3% requirement. As of 1 June, there were 81,326 replacements in theater, 5,300 assigned as over-strengths for assault units. Of the 76,000 personnel unassigned in the pool, 52% were trained infantry.

After the invasion on 11 July, SHAEF requested 15,000 fewer replacements in September to free space to ship more divisions from the US. SHAEF also cancelled August replacement requisitions except that for infantry. On 23 July, there were 12,985 rifle-trained replacements in theater, including 750 in France. Losses were being replaced, but the replacement pool was steadily shrinking. On 26 July, SHAEF reversed its request to drop the 15,000 replacements and instead requested speeding up of replacement shipments. An initial combing out of theater units resulted in 4,800 men being made available for retraining, but many were not fit to be infantry. In addition some 4,000 FA, TD, and AA replacements began retraining as infantry. In July, only 39.7% of replacements arriving were rifle trained.

During August, 5,500 men were retrained as infantry. The theater decided infantrymen should make up 78.3% of the replacement pool; up from 70.3%, and 70% of the infantrymen should be trained as riflemen. Some 68% of the replacements arriving were infantry. In late August, the War Department warned it could only meet replacement requirements, as then understood, until the end of December, but then only a portion of requirements from January 1945 onward. The theaters were reminded they should have systems in place to reassign men a) to new duties if they were unfit for their previous duties, b) able-bodied men from communications to combat units, and c) to convert surplus replacements for one arm into replacements for arms where there was a shortage.

On 1 September, there were 42,000 infantry replacements versus a requirement of 55,000 and only 15,000 of those were rifleman. The theater retrained 4,500 men as riflemen in September and 9,900 in October, mainly from replacements originally meant for other ground forces service arms. During September, about 80% of the replacements sent to the theater were infantry. Casualties declined during the pursuit and now vehicle drivers and armored force replacements, particularly tank commanders, were in high demand.

In early October, the War Department informed the ETOUSA November replacements would be 19,000, 10,000 less than requested. Most would be infantry, 15,000 regular, 1,400 paratroop and 400 Nisei for the 442nd RCT. The justification for the cut was because Seventh Army landed with 10,000 replacements from the MTOUSA.

In early November, a conference was held with the ETOUSA field commanders on replacements, which made it clear the combat units were doing some creative accounting to keep units up to effective strength, by covering for sick, AWOL, and similar men who were still officially on the unit strength. On 1 November, the ETOUSA had 30,000 riflemen replacements. Despite that being below the announced target and despite warnings from Washington, the ETOUSA cut back the retraining program...just in time for the increase in casualties in November and December. Washington promised 43,350 replacements in December, of which 35,000 would be infantry, then an average of 44,650 per month thereafter through April, of which 36,000 would be infantry, but declared that was a maximum figure and it could easily be less. Three regiments assigned to lines of communications duties were ordered to give up 60% of their strength to the replacement system and even then the men released required a 3 week refresher course. The theater officially abandoned holding men returning to duty until a replacement was needed for their previous units, such men would go wherever a vacancy was, just like the new replacements. As of November, the ETOUSA requested 56.5% of infantry replacements be trained as riflemen. In November, 40,000 personnel were transferred from the Army Air Forces to the Army Ground Forces for retraining. Also during November, just 1,350 men completed theater retraining as infantry replacements.

During December, the ETOUSA ran about 16,000 enlisted men and 500 officers through infantry retraining courses, of which 6,000 completed their course during the month. There were three courses, 1) a 12 week one to convert non-infantrymen, 2) a 2 week refresher course, and 3) a 6 to 8 week course to retrain infantry as riflemen. On 20 December, SHAEF ordered the 42d, 63d. and 70th Infantry divisions to give up 219 men per regiment to act as replacements for Third Army. The 69th Infantry Division in England was ordered to give up 2,200 men who were airlifted to France as replacements. On 23 December, the ETOUSA informed the War Department that the theater would be short some 17,000 riflemen by the end of the month, reducing divisions to 78% of authorized rifle strength. The War Department replied that some 75% of the total army replacement riflemen were going to the theater and it had the best pool of all the combatant theaters, that the ETOUSA retraining programs had been slow to start and small in scope and that the theater still had 20,000 men in over-strength units. An additional 18,000 men promised from the US for January were made possible by cutting training from 17 to 15 weeks and by denying them a furlough before shipment overseas, while larger numbers of replacements could only be found by relaxing physical standards. As far as the War Department was concerned, it had helped the ETOUSA as best it could, and if the ETOUSA wanted more infantry it would have to comb out the COMZ and theater Air Force units for the necessary manpower, replacing them with men sent from the US who were suitable for limited duty operations. A total of 5,751 infantry replacements graduated from theater schools. The withdrawal of men from units for retraining exceeded the number of limited duty replacements for the men withdrawn, which continued until at least March, leaving the combed out units short of men.

I'll see if I can summarize 1945 later.
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