McDonald wrote: ↑
22 Mar 2021 18:49
I think the question you should be asking yourself is how much more capable those airborne divisions and the 10th Mountain Division operating in the PO Valley would have been had they been structured and contained the firepower of a conventional Infantry Division. The problem I see here is that when you have specialized units at the division level, they are structured for only one type of mission, in this instance airborne or mountain operations. When no airborne or mountain operations are in the offing, then the natural tendency for commanders is to employ them in a conventional manner, thus wasting that specialized training and know how, and to compound the error, sending them into a combat environment for which they are not fully equipped. No one, least of all me, should have a bad word to say about the individual performance of any of these divisions in combat. Their records speak for themselves, but the fact is we lost a heck of a lot of high priced, quality, manpower by mis-employing these divisions.
Could not we have found a better way to employ airborne and mountain forces, but at an echelon below that of division? I happen to think we could, but if everyone is thinking alike then there are a heck of a lot of people not thinking.
Speaking to the larger issues of the US Army's 91 ground force divisions (and the USMC's six), and what could have been used to increase their number, it's worth considering that in 1940-45, the army's order of battle included 44 AA brigade headquarters, of which 29 served overseas. Obviously, not all of these brigades could have been converted to infantry brigade headquarters equivalents, because of the operational situations in their various theaters during the course of the war, but it's worth noting the 45th's experience.
The 45th AA brigade headquarters, designated at Task Force 45, functioned as a "square" infantry brigade headquarters for much of 1944-45, with what amounted to two provisional infantry regiments, each formed from an AA group headquarters and 2-3 AA battalions, functioning as infantry,; at various times, various US and Allied infantry, cavalry, armor, tank destroyer, FA, AA functioning as FA, and engineer elements were attached, and the task force - at times, with as many as 8,000 troops under command - did well, largely because some careful planning by the corps and brigade commanders and because they were not asked to accomplish missions beyond their capabilities.
Along these same lines, although the FA brigade headquarters (generally) transitioned into divisional or corps artillery headquarters, there were still five FA brigade headquarters overseas and functional during the last year of the war, along with the 29 AA brigade headquarters mentioned; there were also two infantry brigade headquarters active overseas in 1945, a provisional (non-divisional) cavalry brigade headquarters, and a tank destroyer brigade headquarters, as well as no less than 14 engineer brigade headquarters, all overseas (defined as outside of CONUS).
Again, not all of these 52 brigade headquarters could have functioned an infantry (or armored) brigade headquarters, but it does give an idea of the resources that went into the non-divisional combat and support arms necessary for a global war that fielded army groups active in the ETO, field armies in the MTO, SWP, and Central Pacific, and air forces in all the above, plus the CBI, SP, ADC, and CDC... and that's without getting into the deployed armored, tank destroyer, cavalry, field artillery, AA artillery, and engineer group headquarters, and their attached battalions, etc., much less the "old" and "new" Philippine Scout units/formations.
The Marine Corps' non-divisional combat and support elements (III and V 'Phib each had a corps artillery headquarters equivalent, as well as two separate provisional FA group headquarters and two provisional AA group headquarters, for example, that were all still active in 1945, as was a single Marine combat engineer group headquarters).
So should, for that matter, the Navy's naval construction expeditionary elements, presumably weigh in the mix, as well. More than 300,000 officers and men served in the USN's CEC during WW II, and the mobile elements required the formation of 54 regiments, 12 brigades, and under various designations, five naval construction forces - roughly, a division headquarters equivalent. Again, not all of these organizations could or should be considered the equivalent of ground force combat arms, but they do indicate the scale of the mobilization and the resources created to meet it.
Two other elements that can be considered, although at significant remove: the "Allied" elements that were equipped and sustained, and in some cases, led by (or advised by), US personnel - as opposed to those formed as such and equipped under Lend-Lease. Although the 16 French divisions the US agreed to sustain (8 under the ANFA agreement, 8 with the follow-up LMP agreement), and the Brazilian 1st Division fall entirely under the later category, the PCA field forces (10-12 "light division" diminishing to brigade equivalents, depending upon how one considers them, in 1941-42 and then again, ad hoc, in 1944-45 as the PI were liberated) presumably are worth considering, certainly in terms of the draw on the US Army's officer corps; as do various elements of the ROC field forces sustained by the US in 1942-45 (X Force and Y Force, largely); the same consideration presumably goes to the OSS, SACO, the Philippine resistance units recognized by and cooperating with U.S. forces prior to liberation, the Kachin and Jingpaw Rangers, and the other special operations organizations that required US Army (and Navy) manpower.
Then there are the organized defense reserve units in Hawaii, the Alaska TG, and the local elements (PR and USVI) of the CDC; not huge, but definable. The state defense forces in CONUS, and the AGF, AAF, and ASF elements in CONUS, are a different category.