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1944 Burma Campaign
Raff's Tunisian Task Force
Chief Yeoman Theodore Richard Brownell
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Mark XIV Torpedo in WWII
Tiger 131: The mysterious British reports
The US Army in World War II
Terror Floated from the Skies
Search For America's Battlecruiser
Island Hopping
Operation Compass
Book Review: APc-48
Agent 110: An American Spymaster
Rudolf Hess/Tancred Borenius
Soviet Rifle Corps of WWII
The Morality of Okinawa
Operation Dragoon
Soviet Invasion of Manchuria
Battle of Buna-Gona
MacArthur's Failures in the Philippines
Airborne Units in WWII
Czechoslovak Exile Units of WWII
WWII OOB for Land Forces
Flying Tigers in China
SAARF – Special Allied Airborne Recon Force
Force At La Difensa
Sabotaging Hitler's Heavy Water
The Soviet Offensive in the Arctic
Dutch Harbor
Ed Ramsey, 26th Cav Regt
U.S. Army in Czechoslovakia
Battles Of Luneville
Lodge Act Soldier: Henryk Szarek
Fate of the Kido Butai
D-Day: Normandy, France
WWII Veteran Interview
Hell Ship - Philippines to Japan
Was Hitler right to invade Russia?
Hitler, Germany's Worst General
Nomonhan and Okinawa
Japan's Monster Sub
Battle for Seaports
Banzai Attack on Attu
Battle Of Java Sea
Battle of Surigao Strait

Rich Anderson Articles
US Army in WWII

The United States Army in World War II
by Rich Anderson

Introduction to the 2019 Edition

It has been nearly thirty years since I first wrote this article. Then, in 1993, I was writing it as an appendix for Hitler’s Last Gamble, the book on the Battle of the Bulge I co-authored along with Colonel (USA, Ret.) Trevor N. Dupuy and David Bongard. I am now the last living author of that book; Trevor died 5 June 1995 and David on 31 March 2011.

In 2000, I substantially revised and re-wrote the original appendix and submitted it to Brian Wilson for his then fledgling Military History Online website in 2000. Over the years I have had many people query me for information based upon running across this article and I always enjoy answering, even if I cannot always give a complete answer to every question. Unfortunately, the last update was way back in 2004, so it is past time for a substantial revision. I hope you enjoy it.


The US Army of World War II was created from a tiny antebellum army in the space of just three years. On 30 June 1939 the Regular Army numbered 187,893 officers and enlisted men, including Philippine Scouts, and including 22,387 in the Army Air Corps. On the same date the National Guard totaled 199,491 men. The major combat units included nine infantry divisions, two cavalry divisions, and a mechanized cavalry (armored) brigade in the Regular Army and eighteen infantry divisions in the National Guard. Modern equipment was for the most part nonexistent and training in the National Guard units varied from fair to poor.

The outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939 led to a gradual expansion of the Army. On 27 August 1940, Congress authorized the induction of the National Guard into Federal service. On 16 September 1940 Congress passed the first peacetime draft in United States history. However, the draftees were inducted for only one year. Fortunately, on 7 August 1941, by a margin of a single vote, Congress approved an indefinite extension of service for the Guard, draftees, and Reserve officers. Four months later to the day, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

On 7 December 1941 the Army consisted of 1,685,403 officers and men (including 275,889 in the Air Corps) in 29 infantry, five armored, and two cavalry divisions. While this 435 percent increase was a magnificent achievement, shortages of equipment and trained personnel were still serious. Over the following three and a half years the Army expanded a further 492 percent, to 8,291,336 officers and men in 89 divisions: sixty-six infantry, five airborne, sixteen armored, one cavalry, and one mountain infantry.

By 16 December 1944, forty-three divisions were deployed in the European Theater of Operations, U.S. Army (ETOUSA), including two airborne, ten armored and thirty-one infantry. Sixteen more divisions were preparing to join them. One armored division was on its way to the front. One airborne, one armored, and two infantry divisions were in England awaiting shipment to France. One airborne, three armored, and seven infantry divisions were in the final stages of training in the United States or were in route to Europe, but would not be deployed as complete units on the continent prior to the end of 1944.

At the end of the war in Europe there were a total of sixty-one divisions in the ETOUSA: fifteen armored, forty-two infantry, and four airborne (one airborne division, the 13th, did not enter combat). Also, there were seven divisions in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, U.S. Army (MTOUSA, originally designated the North African Theater of Operations, U.S. Army or NATOUSA): one armored, five infantry (including one composed of African-American troops, the 93rd Infantry [designated Colored in the segregated Army, and a term that we will utilize without intent of prejudice in this essay]), and the 10th Mountain. There were twenty-one divisions in the Pacific (there was no “Pacific Theater of Operations”, rather, the Pacific theater was divided into the Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA), the Pacific Ocean Area (POA), and the China-Burma-India Theater (CBI)); one cavalry (dismounted), nineteen infantry (including one that did not enter combat, the 98th and one Colored division the 93rd Infantry), and one airborne.

Many of the problems associated with the performance of American units in World War II may be directly attributed to this. In general, the US Army was the best equipped and supplied in the war. However, the commonly accepted view that the US Army overwhelmed opponents by sheer numbers is not quite correct. US industrial expansion did provide a steady source of supply to the combat troops. However, logistical shortages, particularly in regards to tanks and artillery ammunition, and personnel replacements were a problem for American forces throughout the war.

The War Department

Prior to the creation of the Department of Defense by the National Security Act of 1947, the War Department was the cabinet-level department that advised the President on military matters. It commanded all ground and air forces of the Army, including the Regular Army, the Organized Reserve, and the National Guard (when called into national service). Command of the Army was vested in the Chief of Staff of the Army, General George C. Marshall (Acting Chief of Staff as of 1 July 1939, confirmed 1 September 1939, the same day Germany invaded Poland, igniting World War II). Marshall reported to the Secretary of War, but also directly to President Roosevelt on critical strategic matters. However, the organization was very flat. Reporting to Marshall and his General Staff were about sixty other agencies – the Special Staff for Services, Overseas Departments, Corps Areas, the Exempted Stations, the Chiefs of the Arms, Services, and the Army Air Forces, among others – and after 26 July 1940 a General Headquarters (GHQ), which became responsible for organizing, training, and fielding the mass of new units preparing for war. After the United States entered the war the inefficiency of the organization led to a newer, more streamlined one.

Marshall’s reorganization enacted on 9 March 1942 centralized over-all control of the various Army organizations, while it decentralized responsibility for operations to various command elements. The reorganization eliminated the old GHQ and placed much of its functions under General Marshall’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Major General Joseph T. McNarney. However, McNarney’s secretariat’s span of control remained widespread. It oversaw not only the General Staff, consisting of the War Plans Division (WPD), Personnel Division (G-1), Intelligence Division (G-2), Operations and Training Division (G-3), and Logistics Division (G-4), but also the Special Staff, consisting of the Office of the Inspector General and the Legislative and Liaison Division. It was also responsible for three new major field commands: the Army Ground Forces (AGF), Army Air Forces (AAF), and Services of Supply (later renamed Army Service Forces (ASF)). Finally, the reorganization placed all the task forces, defense commands, and theaters of operations designated for the actual command of operational forces under the WPD, which subsumed some of the functions and personnel of GHQ. WPD was then renamed the Operations Division (OPD) on 12 May 1942.

Organization of the Army Ground Forces

The AGF created by General Marshall’s reorganization became responsible for the organization, training, and equipping of all Army units other than the Air Corps. The first commander of the AGF was Major General (later General) Lesley J. McNair (General McNair was accidentally killed by U.S. bombs while observing Operation COBRA on 25 July 1944). General McNair was the final arbiter on Army organization. He campaigned tirelessly to reduce overhead in U.S. divisions, insisting on as much streamlining as possible. There were two reasons for this. First, shipping space was at a premium for not only combat but also support units, and all supply items had to be shipped from the United States over great distances to foreign ports. Second, McNair and other planners realized that the U.S. manpower pool was not inexhaustible. Industry and farming in the United States, and the massive expansion of the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Army Air Corps, and Merchant Marine all absorbed vast numbers of men. The 213-division Army envisaged by the Victory Program of 25 September 1941 was never even close to being achieved; it proved to be difficult enough to man the 89 divisions eventually fielded.


Part of General McNair's attempt to streamline the army was his effort to pool all non-divisional combat assets into homogeneous battalion-size units. Pooled units were to be held by corps or armies and were to be attached to divisions as needed. Field artillery, engineers, tanks, tank destroyers, antiaircraft artillery, and infantry units were all part of the pool. To facilitate pooling, in February 1943 all of the existing field artillery, antiaircraft artillery, and engineer combat regiments were broken up into separate battalions. The regimental headquarters were then utilized to form group headquarters. The group headquarters was intended to provide command and control for manageable aggregations of the large number of pool units.

A Note on Terminology

The convention utilized by the U.S. Army is that the designation of an army is spelt out (First), corps are designated by Roman numerals (XX), divisions, brigades, regiments, battalions, and platoons are all designated by Arabic numerals (90th), and companies, troops and batteries are lettered.

Corps, Army, and Army Groups

Twenty-four corps were activated by the end of the war and all except the XXXVI Corps served overseas. Four were originally formed as armored corps, of which the I Armored Corps was inactivated in Morocco and its personnel utilized in the formation of the Seventh Army, the II Armored Corps became the XVIII Airborne Corps, the III Armored Corps became the XIX Corps, and the IV Armored Corps became the XX Corps. The other 20 corps organized were the I-XVI, XXI-XXIV, and XXXVI.

Eleven army headquarters were eventually activated. By 1945, the First, Third, Seventh, Ninth, and Fifteenth Army, were operational in the ETOUSA, the Fifth Army was in the MTOUSA, the Sixth, Eighth, and Tenth Army were in the Pacific, and the Second and Fourth Army were in the United States with training missions. As its name implies, the First (Allied) Airborne Army was and Allied unit. It was commanded by an American, Lieutenant General Lewis H. Brereton, but had a combined American and British staff and included various Allied contingents. However, it was never activated as a component of the U.S. Army.

Finally, only a single American army group headquarters was formed, originally as the First U.S. Army Group (FUSAG) in the ETOUSA. FUSAG acted as the U.S. Administrative Staff for the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Forces – General Dwight D. Eisenhower – and also participated – with Lieutenant General George S. Patton Jr. as its fictional commander – in Operation FORTITUDE. On 14 July 1944, FUSAG was redesignated as the 12th Army Group to avoid confusion with the First U.S. Army (FUSA). The 6th Army Group was organized primarily with American personnel, but commanded Seventh U.S. Army and First French Army in the ETOUSA after the invasion of Southern France (Operation DRAGOON), so included a large number of French servicemen. The 15th Army Group was organized as a combined British and American headquarters for the invasion of Sicily (Operation HUSKY) and then Italy.


Before 10 July 1940, armored forces in the U.S. Army consisted of tank units, which were part of the Infantry, or “combat cars” which were part of the Cavalry. The term “combat car” was invented by the Army to circumvent Congressional restrictions dating to 1921, which specified tanks could only be operated by the Infantry, but a “combat car” was actually a tank in every sense except its name. The odd restriction meant that the Infantry and Cavalry developed differing doctrine for the use of tanks during the 1920 and 1930s, which were not resolved until Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall directed the formation of an Armored Force, separate from the Infantry and Cavalry, to develop a coherent mechanized doctrine.

The new Armored Force spent its initial period of existence creating new organizations and in testing new equipment, vehicles, and tactics. After a series of preliminary organizational experiments, the first armored division T/O&E (Table of Organization and Equipment) was developed in March 1942, after the U.S. entered the war. The heavy armored division organization (TO&E 17-1, dated 1 March 1942, with Changes 1 & 2, dated to 29 October 1942) included two three-battalion tank regiments (the 1st battalion was light, with three light tank companies, the 2nd and 3rd battalions were medium, each with three medium tank companies), a three-battalion armored infantry regiment, and only two combat commands, the rest of the divisional units were nearly identical to those in the light division. The heavy division included 158 light tanks, 232 medium tanks, 24 M4 105mm assault guns, 17 M8 assault guns, 54 M7 105mm SP artillery pieces, 54 M8 armored cars, 640 half-tracks, 1,242 motor vehicles, and 8 light observation aircraft. The total personnel strength of the division was 14,664.

A unique feature of the new armored division was its command and control organization. In addition to the division and regimental headquarters it had two “Combat Command” {CC} headquarters, which were intended to take control and command tailored task forces in operations. One was designated CC “A” and the other CC “B” and were commonly referred to a CCA and CCB.

The armor regiment was organized with three battalions totaling nine companies (lettered A-I), a Headquarters and Headquarters (HQ & HQ) Company, an Assault Gun Company, a Reconnaissance Company, a Service Company, and a Maintenance Company. The battalions in the regiment each had a small HQ & HQ Company (with a Mortar Platoon) and a Service Company.

Experience with the March 1942 armored division organization revealed a number of flaws, but most importantly, to General McNair they represented a profligate waste of manpower. As a result, in 1943 a more streamlined organization was adopted, which eliminated the regimental headquarters and considerably reduced the strength of the division. The new armored division organization (TO&E 17-2, dated 15 September 1943) included a Division Headquarters and Headquarters (HQ & HQ) Company, two Combat Command Headquarters (CCA and CCB), a Reserve Combat Command Headquarters (CCR), three tank battalions (of three medium and one light tank companies), three armored infantry battalions, three eighteen-gun artillery battalions, a cavalry reconnaissance squadron (battalion), an engineer battalion, and division services. The division was commanded by a major general, the combat commands by a brigadier general (who was also assistant division commander) and two colonels. The division included 77 light tanks, 168 medium tanks, 18 M4 105mm assault guns, 54 M7 105mm SP artillery pieces, 54 M8 armored cars, 450 half-tracks, 1,031 motor vehicles, and 8 light observation aircraft. Total personnel strength was 10,754. The new division organization is often referred to as the “light armored” division.

Two problems with the light armored division as it was organized were quickly found after the divisions first entered combat in Normandy in June 1944. First, was that the division had insufficient truck transport space to haul its authorized basic load of supplies. To correct this, two Quartermaster Truck companies were permanently attached to each of the light armored divisions. Second, was that the CCR Headquarters as organized was only capable of administrative functions and consisted of only eight officers and men. It quickly became obvious that the ability to field a third, tactical headquarters was highly desirable. As a result, many of the light divisions had an Armor Group Headquarters attached to augment CCR (the armor group had proven redundant as a tactical headquarters commanding separate tank battalions and were usually assigned to corps).

Another problem was associated with both the light and the heavy armored divisions. Theoretically the armored division was intended to act as the maneuver reserve for the corps and to break through enemy fronts ruptured by infantry assaults supported by the separate battalions. The armored division was to conduct deep pursuit of the enemy once the front was broken through. In practice, the width of the front in Europe meant that armored divisions were often used in static defensive roles, for which they were not designed. A critical weakness was the fact that the infantry component of the division was to small to withstand the attrition of long-term defensive or offensive missions. Although they were each over 1,000 men strong, many of the personnel in the armored infantry battalions were drivers, mechanics, or manned heavy weapons. As a result, the actual "rifle" strength of the battalion was somewhat less than one-half that, about 450 men.

Until September 1943, all tank battalions, both divisional and separate, consisted of three tank companies and all tank companies consisted of either medium or light tanks depending on the battalion. However, in the 1943 reorganization all tank battalions in the new “light” armored division and separate tank battalions were organized with four lettered companies, A, B. and C Company were medium and D Company was light. The battalion also included a Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HQ & HQ Co), and a Service Company (Svc Co). The HQ & HQ Company included Battalion HQ, a HQ Platoon, a Mortar Platoon, a Reconnaissance Platoon, and an Assault Gun Platoon. However, since the 105mm-armed Medium Tank M4 did not begin production until early 1944 they did not enter combat until early July 1944 in the ETOUSA. In the meantime, assault gun platoons made do. In the ETOUSA they were issued additional 75mm-armed tanks, while in the MTOUSA and Pacific, some battalions were temporarily issued 105mm Howitzer Motor Carriage (HMC) M7 as a substitute.

However, Separate Light Tank Battalions remained organized with only three tank companies, A, B, and C, a HQ & HQ Company, and a Service Company. The Assault Gun Platoon in the Light Tank Battalion was equipped with the 75mm HMC M8.

US armored units underwent a considerable number of changes - most of them forced by operational requirements -- during the war. The most significant of these were the special allowances made for the two heavy divisions in the ETOUSA and the reduced T/O&E forced on the tank battalions of the 12th Army Group in the ETOUSA during late 1944 and early 1945 due to shortages of replacement tanks.

Since the 2d and 3d Armored Division remained organized under the March 1942 T/O&E, they retained items such as the 37mm antitank gun that were obsolescent in 1944, while the Armored Regiments were only authorized the 75mm HMC M8 as assault guns. However, Generals Eisenhower and Bradley decided the additional tank and manpower strength of the divisions was desired for the assault on Fortress Europe. Thus, the two divisions were authorized the newer 57mm antitank gun as a theater replacement for the 37mm gun and later were also authorized the 105mm-armed Medium Tank M4 as an assault gun.

The reduced T/O&E was put in effect when losses of medium tanks in Europe outpaced the Army's ability to replace them. Around 1 October, the 12th Army Group took the drastic measure of reducing the tank strength of the 2d and 3d Armored Division from 232 to 200 medium tanks, the other armored divisions from 168 to 150 medium tanks, and the separate tank battalions from 54 to 50 medium tanks. It was not until 20 February 1945 before the modified T/O&E returned to normal.

A total of 16 armored divisions were eventually organized (1st-14th, 16th, and 20th). Of these, only two, the 2nd and the 3rd retained the "heavy" organization throughout the war. All of the other divisions were reorganized prior to leaving the US (except the 1st, which converted to the light organization while in Italy during July 1944). All of the armored divisions served in the ETOUSA, MTOUSA, or NATOUSA.

One-hundred-and-eighteen tank battalions were organized. One was the sole pre-war Regular Army separate battalion (70th). Ten additional Regular Army battalions were formed in 1941, prior to the outbreak of war (originally the 71st-80th, they were later re-designated the 751st-760th). Four were organized from prewar National Guard tank companies (191st-194th). Seventy-one were created by the reorganization of the armored divisions (1st-6th, 8th-11th, 13th-27th, 31st, 34th-48th, 68th, 69th, 80th, 81st, 706th-718th, 771st-780th, and 786th-788th). Thirty were formed as separate battalions (28th, 701st, 702nd, 735th-750th, 761th-764th, 766th, 767th, 781st-785th). Two were created by converting existing tank destroyer battalions (the 662nd and 812th). Two were destroyed in the Philippines on 9 April 1942, the 192nd and 194th Light (except B/194th which remained behind and was reorganized as the 602nd Medium Tank Company). In addition to the 602nd at least two other separate companies (the 601st Light and 603rd) were formed and served in the Pacific. The 758th Light, 761st, and 784th battalions were all Colored units.

The separate battalions were utilized to form a number of specialized units.

Nine were converted to amphibious battalions (the 708th, 742d, 776th, and 780th Amphibian Tank, and the 715th, 718th, 764th, 773rd, and 788th Amphibian Tractor). All saw service in the Pacific except the 742nd and 764th.

In 1943, six battalions, the 701st, 736th, 738th, 739th, 740th, and 748th were reorganized and equipped with the top secret “Canal Defense Light” or CDL. The CDL was a British development, which employed a extremely high-intensity, 13-million candlepower carbon-arc searchlight in the turret of a tank. The light was projected through a narrow slit in the turret and a shutter enabled it to be rapidly flashed on and off up to twice a second. It was intended the tanks illuminating targets at night would “confuse and dazzle the enemy” and so provide protection for friendly troops moving between the lights. Problematically, the system was considered so secret that it made employment with combat troops almost impossible; few commanders and fewer troops knew about the system or its capabilities.

All six CDL battalions were eventually reorganized. Two, the 738th and 739th were equipped with mechanized mine exploders (discs and flail types) and used operationally for mine clearing in Europe. The other four were reorganized as conventional tank battalions in the ETOUSA. Perhaps best known of the units converted back to its original mission was the 740th Tank Battalion. On 19 December 1944, Major General Leland S. Hobbs, commanding the 30th Infantry Division, was desperately searching for tank units to help his division stop the advance of KG Pieper. He discovered that the 740th Tank Battalion was at an Ordnance depot near Sprimont Belgium drawing tanks and was available. The only problem was the 740th Tank Battalion had only received two Medium Tanks M4 105mm and three Light Tanks M5 from Ordnance. After First Army authorized the attachment of the battalion to the 30th Infantry Division, the tankers of C Company, the first to arrive, ransacked the depot for whatever they could find, which initially turned out to be 14 Medium Tanks M4 fitted with British radios, five DD Tanks, and a 90mm M36 Gun Motor Carriage (GMC). When the rest of the battalion arrived it managed to get more tanks from the depot into action, including 9 more M4 75mm, 2 M4 76mm, 6 M4 105mm, 15 M4 75mm Tank Dozers, and 5 more light tanks, two of which were brand new M24 intended for another battalion, which had been shipped to Sprimont by mistake. The hastily re-equipped battalion nevertheless had a major impact on the course of the battalion, helping stop the German advance.

One battalion, the 713th, was equipped as a flame-thrower unit.

One battalion, the 28th, was activated as an airborne tank battalion equipped with the Light Tank M22 “Locust”, but was reorganized as a medium battalion in October 1944. It did not see combat.

Three otherwise standard medium battalions were equipped and trained in the use of Duplex-Drive (DD) tanks for the Normandy Invasion (the 70th, 741st, and 743rd). Three DD-equipped battalions also participated in the invasion of southern France (the 191st, 753rd, and 756th), while one was utilized in the crossing of the Rhine River, the 736th.

Of the sixty-one separate tank battalions on 1 January 1945:

Thirty-one were in the ETOUSA: the 70th (also served in Tunisia and Sicily as a light tank battalion), 191st (also served in Tunisia and Italy), 701st, 702nd, 707th, 709th, 712th, 735th, 736th, 737th, 738th MX, 739th MX, 740th, 741st, 743rd, 744th Light, 745th, 746th, 747th, 748th, 749th, 750th, 753rd (also served in Sicily and Italy), 756th (also served in Tunisia, Sicily, and Italy as a light tank battalion, reorganized as a medium battalion 15 Dec 43), 759th Light, 761st, 771st, 774th, 778th, 781st, and 784th.

Six were in the MTOUSA: the 751st, 752nd, 755th, 757th, 758th Light, and 760th.

Thirteen were in the Pacific: the 44th, 193rd, 706th, 710th, 711th, 713th Armored Flame-thrower, 716th, 754th, 762nd, 763rd, 766th, 767th, and 775th.

Six were in route to the ETOUSA: the 717th, 772nd, 777th, 782nd, 786th, and 787th.

Five were in the US: the 28th, 779th and 785th were all sent to the Philippines in 1945, but didn't see combat), the 662nd (disbanded February 1945) and the 812th never left the U.S.

In addition to those converted from tank battalions, thirteen other amphibian tractor battalions (the 534th, 535th, 536th, 539th, 540th, 658th, 672nd, 720th, 726th, 727th, 728th, and 826th) and one amphibian tank battalion (the 795th) were formed, some by converting existing tank destroyer and armored infantry battalions. All except for the 535th, 720th and the 795th saw service in the Pacific

Tank Types Available

Tiny budgets and prohibitive cost stymied Ordnance Department research and development of armored vehicle from the end of the Great War until the outbreak of World War II. From 1921 through 1933 just 24 light and medium tanks and combat cars were constructed, ten by Rock Island Arsenal and the rest by three private manufacturers, James Cunningham, Sons and Company, J. Walter Christie’s U.S. Wheel Track-Layer Corporation, and American-LaFrance and Foamite Corporation. Another 463 were built from 1934 through 31 August 1939. By the outbreak of World War II, the United States developed simple, robust tank components, engines, suspension, and track, but had little experience in mass producing large numbers of armored vehicles; the greatest number of tanks built to a single design were the 237 Light Tanks M2A2. American tank designs were uninspired; the Light Tank M2A2 was armed with a .50 and a .30 caliber machine gun. A newer design, the Light Tank M2A4, was armed with a 37mm gun, but just one, the pilot, existed. Only two pilots of the new Medium Tank M2 existed, and it too was only armed with a 37mm gun. However, as the United States mobilized the situation swiftly changed. While only 95 more tanks were built from 1 September 1939 to 30 June 1940, after that production exploded. In the six months from 1 July to 31 December 1940, 286 tanks were completed. In 1941, 4,022 tanks were completed, then 23,895 in 1942, 29,505 in 1943, 17,566 in 1944, and 11,918 in 1945 through 31 August.

The final tally of armored vehicles produced by the United States for the war is remarkable. In a period of 62 months from 1 July 1940 to 31 August 1945, the U.S. manufactured 2,417 heavy tanks, 55,885 medium tanks, and 28,888 light tanks, totaling 87,190. Another 2,569 medium tank chassis manufactured were completed or converted as armored recovery vehicles, 11,496 as tank destroyers, and 375 as mine exploders or armored cargo carriers. Ordnance also used medium and light tank chassis to build 4,841 self-propelled artillery and 300 self-propelled antiaircraft artillery pieces for a grand total of at least 106,768 armored vehicles based on tank chassis – an average of 1,722 produced every month.

Just as important, a new generation of more modern tanks, the Light Tank M3, the Medium Tank M3, and the Medium Tank M4 were designed. The Light Tank M3 continued to use the 37mm gun, but the Medium Tank M3, a hurried redesign of the M2, was armed with both a 37mm gun and a 75mm gun, albeit the latter was mounted in a hull sponson rather than a fully rotating turret. The Medium Tank M4 finally had the 75mm gun in a turret and was at the time of its initial deployment, spring 1942, one of the most powerful and modern tank designs in the world.

The tanks of the armored regiment initially consisted of the Medium Tank M3-series and the Light Tank M3-series. Both tanks were also supplied as Lend-Lease, although the first used by the British were purchased outright and fitted with a British-designed turret. British forces called them “General Grant” tanks and referred to the Light Tank M3 as the “General Stuart” (later the “General” was usually dropped and they were just called Grant or Stuart tanks). In American service the Medium Tank M3 featured an American-designed turret; the British referred to it as the “General Lee” tank. The first “assault gun” in the tank regiment was the 75mm Howitzer Motor Carriage T30 (a 75mm howitzer mounted on an armored half-track). The greatly improved Medium Tank M4 (known as the “Sherman: to the British) began to replace the Medium Tank M3-series in late 1942 and in early 1943 the Light Tank M5-series began to replace the Light Tank M3. A purpose designed assault gun, the 75mm HMC M8, replaced the 75mm HMC T30 in early 1943.

All tank battalions that landed in Normandy were equipped with the Medium Tank M4 (75mm). Although by late June and early July of 1944, a number of Medium Tanks M4 armed with the more powerful 76mm gun were available, none were employed until Operation COBRA on 25 July 1944. From then on tank units more and more preferred the 76mm-armed tank to combat the heavier armor of the German tanks. By fall 1944, the ETOUSA bluntly told the War Department they no longer wanted any of the 75mm-armed tanks.

An important variant of the Medium Tank M4 was the M4A3E2 assault tank, commonly referred to as a “Jumbo Sherman”. This modified vehicle was heavily armored (although all were equipped with the 75mm). Only 254 were built, however Ordnance workshops of the US First and Third Armies modified many M4s in the field to similar standards (between January and March 1945 the Third Army alone produced 108 of these "ersatz Jumbos," it appears that about 100 more were produced in 1944). Allocation of the Medium Tank M4A3E2 varied. Initially they were only issued to separate tank battalions (typically 5 to 15 each), although later in November and December 1944 some were issued to armored divisions.

The most common American tanks of the war, the Medium Tank M4 and Light Tank M5, were both initially designed in 1941 and were based on technology developed in the 1930s. By late 1944 they were simply outmatched by the heavier German tanks like the Panther and Tiger. It was not until near the end of the war before the U.S. Army was finally able to get new tank designs into combat. The first twenty Heavy Tanks T26E3 (later standardized as the M26, known as the “Pershing”) were delivered in February 1945, and entered combat with the 3rd and 9th Armored Division in early March. By 5 May 1945, only 107 were in action with armored units in the ETOUSA, although another 123 were in route. In the Pacific, the Heavy Tank M26 arrived on Okinawa just as the fighting there ended.

The Light Tank M24 (known as the Chaffee) first entered combat in the ETOUSA by accident with the 740th Tank Battalion in December 1944, as was related above. Others went to the 759th Light Tank Battalion, and then, as available, to the light tank companies of the armored divisions and cavalry mechanized squadrons. By the end of the war in Europe at least 817 were present with units of the 12th Army Group.

Tank Destroyers

The Tank Destroyer Force was created as a mobile antitank reserve in 1941. The original concept called for concentrating battalions in tank destroyer brigades and groups for employment en masse against an armored threat. In practice, the realities of combat and the erosion of the German Panzer force meant that the tank destroyers were usually attached individually to divisions.

Initial War Department planning called for the creation of as many as 220 TD battalions, a figure that was never achieved. By the end of 1943, 106 TD battalions were in existence of which 56 served in Europe or Italy and 6 in the Pacific. Eleven of the remaining battalions were converted to armored field artillery, amphibious tractor, chemical mortar, or tank battalions. Thirty-six battalions were disbanded -- with their personnel going to the replacement pool.

The first TD battalions organized were fully self-propelled. However, combat experience in North Africa appeared to show that towed guns would be desirable. As a result, about one-half of the battalions were converted in 1943, equipped with a towed 3” gun. Unfortunately, further experience proved that towed guns were simply too immobile, making them highly vulnerable. As a result, in 1944 many of the towed battalions were converted back to self-propelled. On 1 January 1945, a total of 73 battalions were active.

The tank destroyer battalions were all organized with three companies, each company was equipped with twelve guns, for a total of thirty-six in the battalion. The early battalions also had antiaircraft and engineer platoons that were later discarded. A strong reconnaissance element was retained, equivalent to a mechanized cavalry troop.

The TD battalions first employed two ad hoc weapons, the 75mm GMC T12, which was the elderly 75mm M1897A4 Gun (the famous “French 75”) on an armored half-track chassis and the 37mm GMC M6, the standard 37mm antitank gun mounted on a Dodge 3/4 ton Weapons. Later, in North Africa in 1943, the TD battalion began to receive the first standardized TD gun, the 3” GMC M10. The M10 was based on a variant of the Medium Tank M4 chassis, was lightly armored, and had poor cross-country mobility and speed. However, its 3" gun, a development of a prewar AA gun (which in turn was a development from a coast artillery gun dating to 1903), was quite powerful for the time. By early 1944 the first purpose-designed TD appeared, the 76mm GMC M18, and began to slowly replace the M10. The M18 was more lightly armored than the M10, but had very good cross-country mobility and impressive speed. The gun was lightened version of the 3", known as the 76mm, which was also used in the Medium Tank M4. Finally, also in 1944, the 90mm GMC M36 was deployed. The M36 utilized the same chassis as the M10, but mounted the powerful 90mm gun (also originally an AA weapon). The M36 was the most powerful antitank weapon in the U.S. arsenal.

The seventy-three tank destroyer battalions active and their armament on 1 January 1945 were:

There were fifty-two in the ETOUSA: the 601st (M36, also served in Tunisia, Sicily, and Italy with M3 and M10), 602nd (M18), 603rd (M18), 607th (M36), 609th (M18), 610th (M36), 612th (M18), 614th Colored (T), 628th (M36), 629th (M10), 630th (M36), 631st (M10), 634th (M10), 635th (M10), 636th (M10, also served in Tunisia and Italy), 638th (M18), 643rd (M18), 644th (M10), 645th (M36, also served in Italy with M10), 654th (M36), 691st (M36), 692nd (T), 701st (M10), 702nd (M36), 703rd (M36), 704th (M18), 705th (M18), 771st (M36), 772nd (T), 773rd (M36), 774th (M36), 776th (M36, also served in Tunisia and Italy with M10), 801st (T), 802nd (T), 803rd (M36), 807th (T), 808th (M36), 809th (M36), 811th (M18), 813th (M36, also served in Tunisia and Sicily with M3 and M10), 814th (M36), 817th (T), 818th (M36), 820th (T), 821st (M10), 822nd (T), 823rd (M10), 824th (T), 825th (T), 827th Colored (M18), 893rd (M10), and 899th (M36, also served in Tunisia with M10). Before the end of the war in Europe eight more battalions converted to SP, the 692nd (M10), 801st (M18), 802nd (M10), 817th (M18), 820th (M18), 822nd (M18), 824th (M18), 825th (M10).

Four were in route to the ETOUSA: the 605th (T, converted to M10 in March)), 648th (T), 656th (M36), and 661st (M18).

Four were serving in the MTOUSA: the 679th Colored (T), 804th (M10, also served in Tunisia), 805th (T, also served in Tunisia with M3), and 894th (M10, also served in Tunisia).

Six were serving in the Pacific: the 632nd (M10), 637th (M18), 640th (M10), 671st (M18), 806th (M10), and 819th (M10).

Seven remained in the US: the 606th (SP, disbanded 28 February), 611th (T, disbanded 20 February), 627th (SP, in Hawaii, disbanded 10 April), 633rd (M18, arrived in the ETOUSA 12 April), 652nd (SP), and 670th (SP, in Hawaii, disbanded 10 April), and 816th (T, disbanded 20 February).

Like the mass employment of separate tank battalions, the deployment of the tank destroyers in mass to defeat enemy armored attacks was never actually practiced. In the Ardennes Campaign the Third Army employed one TD battalion augmenting the army's Military Police force. By the end of the war it was clear that the tank destroyer experiment had no future in the army, on 10 November 1945 the Tank Destroyer Center at Fort Hood Texas was officially discontinued, ending the existence of the Tank Destroyer Force


Reconnaissance in the armored divisions was performed by the armored reconnaissance battalion -- in the heavy division -- or by the cavalry reconnaissance squadron, mechanized -- in the light division. These units were identical, except that the battalion was organized as companies, the squadron as troops (although the light tank unit was a company in both organizations). In addition, each armored regiment had a reconnaissance company and each infantry division a reconnaissance troop (organized the same as below), while each tank battalion had a reconnaissance platoon.

The mechanized cavalry squadrons were organized with three Cavalry Troops, lettered A to C, each equipped with 13 37mm Light Armored Cars M8 and jeeps; an Assault Gun Troop, E, with six 75mm HMC M8; a Light Tank Company, F, with 17 Light Tanks M5 or later Light Tanks M24; a Service Company; and an HQ & HQ Troop/Company. The armored division reconnaissance squadron was identical except that it had a fourth Cavalry Troop, D, and the Assault Gun Troop had eight 75mm HMC M8.

Cavalry groups were usually assigned to corps, but were occasionally attached -- by squadron -- to divisions. Cavalry was primarily intended for reconnaissance missions. However, during the war they were usually employed in defensive, economy of force, security, or screening missions. Armored field artillery, engineer, and tank destroyer units often reinforced the cavalry groups for most missions.

Interestingly, the cavalry groups were almost never called to perform their primary duty: later analysis showed that pure reconnaissance missions accounted for only 3 percent of their activities. The remaining 97 percent of missions assigned included: defensive operations (33 percent); special operations "including acting as mobile reserve, providing for security and control of rear areas, and operating as an army information service" (29 percent); security missions "blocking, screening, protecting flanks, maintaining contact between units, and filling gaps" (25 percent); and offensive operations (10 percent).

Thirteen mechanized cavalry groups fought in Europe. They were the 2nd (2nd and 42nd Squadrons); 3rd (3rd and 43rd Squadrons); 4th (4th and 24th Squadrons); 6th (6th and 28th Squadrons); 11th (36th and 44th Squadrons); 14th (18th and 32nd Squadrons); 15th (15th and 17th Squadrons); 16th (16th and 19th Squadrons); 101st (101st and 116th Squadrons); 102nd (38th and 102nd Squadrons); 106th (106th and 121st Squadrons); 113th (113th and 125th Squadrons); and 115th (104th and 107th Squadrons). In addition, the 117th Squadron served with the Seventh Army in Southern France and the 91st Squadron served with the Fifth Army in Italy.

Finally, a number of separate mechanized cavalry troops existed, among them the 56th (which remained in the U.S.) and the 302nd assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division in the Pacific.

In addition to the mechanized cavalry, the US Army fielded a number of horse-cavalry units during the war, including the 1st and 2nd Cavalry Divisions and the 56th Cavalry Brigade with the 112th and 124th Cavalry Regiments (Texas National Guard), and the 26th Cavalry Regiment (Philippine Scouts). Of these, only the 26th Cavalry fought mounted, during the Campaign in the Philippines in 1941 and 1942. The 1st Cavalry Division, the 112th and 124th Cavalry all were sent to the Pacific, where they fought dismounted as infantry. Finally, the 2nd Cavalry Division was originally activated in April 1941 as a racially mixed division, with one 'Colored' Cavalry Brigade and one 'White' Cavalry Brigade. It was inactivated in July 1942 only to be reactivated in February 1943 as a 'Colored' Division. It was sent to North Africa where it was inactivated again in May 1944 with its personnel reassigned to service and engineer labor units.


The US mobilized sixty-seven infantry divisions in World War II. They were the 1st-9th, 10th Mountain, 24th-38th, 40th-45th, 63rd, 65th, 66th, 69th-71st, 75th-81st, 83rd-91st, 92nd and 93rd Colored, 94th-100th, 102nd-104th, 106th, and American Infantry Divisions, 11th, 13th, 17th, 82nd, and 101st Airborne Divisions, and the 1st Cavalry Division, which was dismounted and utilized as infantry. Forty-two of the infantry divisions and four of the airborne divisions served in the ETOUSA and MTOUSA, the remainder served in the Pacific.

The first permanent divisional organization in the U. S. Army appeared in World War I. Nine of these infantry divisions continued to exist through the 1920s and 1930s. These were "square" (two two-regiment brigades) organizations which were replaced, after considerable arguments and field tests, by a "triangular" organization of three regiments. By early 1942 the division was organized substantially the way it would be used in battle, with, in addition to its three infantry regiments, four artillery battalions (three twelve-tube 105mm light battalions and one twelve-tube 155mm howitzer medium battalion), a cavalry reconnaissance troop, and division service troops. A major general commanded the division. A brigadier general was assistant division commander and a second brigadier general was division artillery commander. Colonels commanded the infantry regiments and lieutenant colonels the battalions.

In mid 1944 (T/O&E 7, dated 15 July 1943) the infantry division had 18 105mm Howitzers M3, 36 105mm Howitzers M2, 12 155mm Howitzers M1, 5 half-tracks, 13 37mm Light Armored Cars M8, 1,371 motor vehicles, and 10 light observation aircraft. Total personnel strength was 14,253.

The infantry regiment was organized with three battalions, twelve lettered companies (A-M, skipping J), an Infantry Cannon Company (first equipped with two half-track-mounted 105mm howitzers and six halftrack-mounted 75mm howitzers or guns, and later with a towed, short-barreled, 105mm howitzer, the M3), an Antitank (AT) Company (initially with twelve 37mm and later nine 57mm AT guns), and a Service Company. The fourth company in each battalion (D, H, M) were heavy weapons companies with sustained fire heavy machine guns and mortars. The regiment and each battalion also had an HQ & HQ Company. The regimental HQ & HQ Company included a Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon, the battalion HQ & HQ company included an Ammunition and Pioneer (A&P, responsible for light engineering duties and for transporting ammunition forward to the line companies) Platoon and an AT Platoon (initially with four 37mm and later with three 57mm AT guns).

In theory the US infantry regiment of World War II was a powerful, flexible organization and was the core of the infantry division. Unfortunately, poor personnel replacement planning in the early years of the war meant that after a few weeks of combat the regiment was chronically under strength. As an example, on 1 December 1944 the Third Army was under strength in infantrymen by the equivalent of 55 rifle companies. In effect, this meant that on average each of Third Army's infantry divisions were at two-thirds strength in their rifle companies.

The crisis reached a peak in January 1945, when the full extent of the casualties resulting from the Battle of the Bulge was felt. Stringent economy measures and a reorganization of the replacement pool improved matters in February. However, it must be said that the only thing that finally solved the problem was the end of the war.

Besides the standard infantry division, the Army also experimented with a number of specialized divisions. The light division (Alpine Pack or Jungle) and motorized division organizations were not used in combat and were converted to standard infantry divisions. However, the airborne divisions and the mountain division did enter combat.

The airborne division underwent many official (as well as semiofficial and unofficial) changes during the war. As originally conceived they were primarily infantry formations, with two two-battalion glider infantry regiments, a single three-battalion parachute infantry regiment, an airborne engineer battalion, an antiaircraft/antitank battalion, three artillery battalions, and divisional services. Initially, the artillery battalions were all equipped with the 75mm Howitzer M1 (Pack), which could be parachute dropped or transported by glider. Later, some artillery battalions were equipped with the 105mm M3 Howitzer, which was glider transportable.

However, initial combat experience by the 82nd Airborne Division in Sicily and Italy demonstrated that the glider regiments were too weak. As a stopgap remedy, the 401st Glider Infantry was split, with one of its battalions going to each of the 325th Glider Infantry in the 82nd Division and the 327th Glider Infantry of the 101st Division. The other divisions followed a similar process. In the 13th Airborne Division (which never saw combat) the 88th Glider Infantry was disbanded to provide replacements for the airborne forces in Europe and to form a 3rd Battalion for its 326th Glider Infantry. In the 17th Airborne Division the 193rd Glider Infantry was disbanded 1 March 1945 and its remnants were utilized as replacements and to form a 3rd Battalion in the 194th Glider Infantry (both regiments had suffered heavy casualties in the Ardennes in January 1945). Only the 11th Airborne Division retained the original organization.

A second augmentation was the attachment of separate parachute units to the divisions. In this way the 501st and 506th Parachute Infantry were attached to the 101st Airborne Division, the 508th Parachute Infantry to the 82nd Airborne Division, the 507th Parachute Infantry to the 17th Airborne Division, and the 517th Parachute Infantry to the 11th Airborne Division. Lastly, most of the divisions had a fourth separate artillery battalion attached. Thus, effectively the divisions all (except for the 11th) had four three-battalion regiments and, instead of the 8,596 man strength authorized (T/O&E 71, dated 15 June 1943) had a assigned strength of well over 12,000 (17th Airborne, 12,967; 82nd Airborne, 12,921; 101st Airborne, 12,335).

Airborne Organizations, late 1944:

European Theater of Operations

First (Allied) Airborne Army

XVIII Airborne Corps
517th Parachute RCT
517th Parachute Infantry Regiment
460th Parachute FA Battalion (75mm)
596th Parachute Engineer Company

1st/551st Parachute Infantry Regiment
509th Parachute Infantry Battalion
463rd Parachute FA Battalion (75mm)

13th Airborne Division
515th Parachute Infantry Regiment
189th Glider Infantry Regiment
190th Glider Infantry Regiment
676th Glider FA Battalion (75mm)
677th Glider FA battalion (75mm)
458th Parachute FA Battalion (75mm)
153rd Airborne AAA/AT Battalion
129th Airborne Engineer Battalion

17th Airborne Division
507th Parachute Infantry Regiment (attached)
513th Parachute Infantry Regiment
193rd Glider Infantry Regiment
194th Glider Infantry Regiment
550th Glider Infantry Battalion (attached)
680th Glider FA Battalion (105mm)
681st Glider FA Battalion (75mm)
466th Parachute FA Battalion (75mm)
155th Airborne AAA/AT Battalion
139th Airborne Engineer Battalion

82nd Airborne Division
504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
505th Parachute Infantry Regiment (attached)
508th Parachute Infantry Regiment (attached)
325th Glider Infantry Regiment
2/401st Glider Infantry (attached)
319th Glider FA Battalion (75mm)
320th Glider FA Battalion (105mm)
376th Parachute FA Battalion (75mm)
456th Parachute FA Battalion (75mm)
80th Airborne AAA/AT Battalion
307th Airborne Engineer Battalion

101st Airborne Division
501st Parachute Infantry Regiment (attached)
502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment
506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (attached)
327th Glider Infantry Regiment
1/401st Glider Infantry (attached)
321st Glider FA Battalion (75mm)
907th Glider FA Battalion (105mm)
377th Parachute FA Battalion (75mm)
81st Airborne AAA/AT Battalion
326th Airborne Engineer Battalion

Pacific Theater
11th Airborne Division
511th Parachute Infantry Regiment
187th Glider Infantry Regiment
188th Glider Infantry Regiment
472nd Glider FA Battalion (75mm)
675th Glider FA Battalion (75mm)
457th Parachute FA Battalion (75mm)
674th Parachute FA Battalion (75mm)
152nd Airborne AAA/AT Battalion
127th Airborne Engineer Battalion

503rd Parachute RCT
503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment
462nd Parachute FA Battalion (75mm)

In the US:

541st Parachute Infantry Regiment
542nd Parachute Infantry Battalion
555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, Colored
464th Parachute FA Battalion

The single mountain division formed, the 10th, was created by re-designating the 10th Light Division (Pack, Alpine). The division had been trained in fighting in snow and mountainous terrain and included many famous American skiers and mountaineers, as well as forest rangers and wildlife service men. All were volunteers.

The 10th Mountain was organization was similar to an infantry division. However, the division had only three twelve-gun 75mm pack howitzer battalions, a special infantry antitank battalion (with eighteen 57mm guns), the infantry regiments did not have a Cannon Company, and there were only nine 37mm AT guns total in each infantry regiment. Finally, the number of motor vehicles was reduced to 421 of all types, but 5,961 horses and mules were added to provide transportation over rough terrain.

In addition to the divisions, there were also a large number of separate infantry, parachute infantry, and glider infantry regiments and battalions. Most of them were utilized as garrisons or for guard lines of communication. For example, only a single separate armored infantry battalions (the 526th) saw combat, the remaining fourteen were disbanded or converted to other units.

Six Ranger battalions (1st-6th) were formed. Three of the battalions, the 1st, 3rd, and 4th, were disbanded in late 1944 after suffering heavy losses at Anzio. The 1st-5th battalions fought in Europe and Italy, the 6th Battalion fought in the Pacific.

The separate infantry units that saw combat service were:

In the ETOUSA; the 3rd, 29th, 65th (Puerto Rican), 118th, 156th, 159th (arrived March 1945 after service in the Aleutians) 442nd (Nisei), 473d (organized by the Fifth Army in Italy on 19 December 1944 from three AAA battalions), and 474th (organized in France on 6 January 1945, with the 99th Battalion and remnants of the 1st, 3d, and 4th Rangers and 1st Special Service Force), and 517th Parachute regiments; and the 1st-5th Ranger, 99th (Norwegian), 100th (Nisei, which in mid 1944 replaced the old 1st/442d which was disbanded -- the 100th retained its original designation), 509th Parachute, 526th Armored, 550th Glider, and 551st Parachute battalions.

In the Pacific: the 4th, 24th Colored, 102d (elements only), 111th, 147th, 158th, 475th (final designation of the 5307th Composite Unit [Provisional], "Merrill's Marauders"), and 503rd Parachute regiments. In addition, the 112th and 124th Cavalry were dismounted and fought as infantry.

One final infantry unit of note was the First Special Service Force (FSSF). The FSSF was organized as a joint U.S.-Canadian unit under the command of the brilliant Colonel (later Major General) Robert T. Frederick. It was designed and equipped for employment in a proposed Allied mission to knock out the hydroelectric power stations of Norway. The Force's men were all volunteers and underwent training for operations in cold climates, snow, and mountains. All became accomplished skiers and mountaineers, and all were extremely physically fit. It acquired a deserved reputation as the toughest and most effective force of its size in the Allied armies, and was, quite possibly, simply one of the best light infantry units ever created.

The Force was organized into three small 600-man strong combat regiments and a 600-man strong Service Battalion. Each regiment contained two small three-company battalions. Each company consisted of three platoons, each with two twelve-man sections led by a sergeant. Each section was equipped with a Browning automatic rifle (BAR), a Johnson light machine gun (not an Army issue weapon, Frederick traded two tons of a new demolition explosive [RS] to the United States Marine Corps for 125 of them), and a Bazooka. Section leaders carried a submachine gun, officers carried carbines, and infantrymen the standard M1 rifle. The companies also had three 60mm mortars, which were usually allotted one per platoon. Usually, one man in each section was trained as a sniper. The Service Battalion included an HQ & HQ Company, Maintenance Company, Service Company, and Medical Detachment.

Theoretically, the Force included 600 T24 Weasel tracked supply carriers and 1,190 motor vehicles. In practice, the Force only had about 100 Weasels and a few hundred Jeeps (include stolen ones) at any one time.

Chemical Weapons

The 4.2" mortar battalion provided chemical warfare (WP, smoke, and gas) support to Army divisions. Originally without an HE capability, inasmuch as there were no HE rounds for the 4.2" mortar, in late 1942 a bright CW officer thought that it would be a good idea to provide an HE round for the piece. As a result the chemical mortars were available to provide welcome heavy mortar support for the infantry by 1943. By the fall of 1944 there were sufficient battalions in the ETOUSA to allow for a normal assignment of one company per infantry division. In some circumstances this would be augmented to a full battalion.

The 2nd, 3rd, 81st, 83rd, 86th, 87th, 89th, 90th, 91st, 92nd, 93rd, 94th, 95th, 96th, 97th, and 99th Battalions served in the ETOUSA. The 84th and 100th Battalions served in Italy. The 71st, 80th, 82nd, 85th, 88th, and 98th Battalions served in the Pacific.


In World War I the artillery arm of the U.S. Army fought in Europe equipped entirely with French or British weapons. There were many reasons for this: the need to standardize Allied arms, lack of shipping space, and lack of industrial capacity. However, another factor was that many ordnance specialists in Britain and France felt that the indigenous American gun designs were not up to European standards. As a result, in December 1918, General John J. Pershing ordered Brigadier General Andrew Hero Jr., establish a board to study the artillery experience of the American Expeditionary Force. In the same month, Major General William J. Snow, Chief of Field Artillery, induced the U.S. Army Chief of Staff, General Peyton C. March establish the Westervelt Board to examine the army's ordnance requirements for the future. The findings of the two boards were impartial, farsighted, and had dramatic consequences for the U.S. Army Field Artillery in World War II. The Westervelt Board’s final report in May 1919 recommended seven artillery weapons systems including light field guns, light field howitzers, medium field guns, medium field howitzers, heavy field guns, heavy field howitzers, and super guns and howitzers.

The financial climate of the 1920s and 1930s delayed the development of such an improved artillery system. However, sufficient funding was available to allow innovative Artillery and Ordnance officers to continue experimenting with new gun designs and doctrine. As a result, when the Army began to expand, much of the background work to modernize the artillery was already complete. Designs had been completed and prototypes developed and tested for most of the guns and howitzers that were to see service during the war.

Divisional pieces included the M2 105mm howitzer and the M1 155mm howitzer. Both were excellent weapons, with good range and, particularly in the case of the 155mm, excellent accuracy. Other new weapons were the M1 75mm-pack howitzer and the M3 105mm howitzer. Both were lightweight and could be easily broken down into manageable loads suitable for transportation by pack animal (horse, mule, or man as available) or by air, and if relatively short-ranged, were ideal for airborne forces. The M3 also saw service after 1943 in the Cannon Company of the infantry regiment. A SP version of the M2 105mm, the M7 Priest, also equipped the field artillery battalions of the armored division.

Non-divisional artillery pieces included battalions equipped with these same weapons, as well as other, heavier pieces. A companion of the 155mm howitzer was the 4.5" gun (an indigenous 4.7” gun was one of the few failures of the inter-war design projects). The tube of this gun was of British design, while the carriage was that of the 155mm howitzer (carriage commonality between companion guns and howitzers was one of the hallmarks of the Westervelt Board recommendations). Unfortunately, the 4.5" -- although well liked by American artillerymen - was not a very efficient weapon for its size. The shell (also of British design) was of low-grade steel, thick-walled and with a small bursting charge compared to the shell weight. The 4.5" projectile weighed 54.90 pounds, but had only a 4.49-pound bursting charge, while the 105mm-howitzer projectile weighed 33 pounds, but had a 4.8-pound bursting charge. The range of the 4.5” Gun was also insufficient to compensate for the relative ineffectiveness of its round and as a result it was withdrawn from service soon after the end of the war.

A much more effective weapon was the M1 155mm gun, known as a "Long Tom" (an appellation with a long and glorious tradition in the U.S. artillery.) It combined long range, accuracy, and hitting power with a well designed, mobile carriage.

A different 155mm gun was the M12 SP. Developed in 1942, it was an interesting amalgam of the old and the new, utilizing the tube of the pre-war French designed GPF (Grand Puissance, Failloux), itself developed in World War II, and the chassis of the obsolescent M3 Grant tank. Although 100 were built it was turned down by the AGF in October 1943 on the grounds that there was no requirement for it and they were all placed in storage. However, in early 1944 urgent requests from U.S. Army forces in England for a heavy SP gun resulted in 74 being rebuilt (another 19 were rebuilt later as replacements, but the fate of the last 7 is unknown). They eventually equipped six field artillery battalions and a six-gun provisional battery in the ETOUSA and proved invaluable. An improved model, the M40, based upon the M1 155mm gun and M4 tank, was produced in 1944 and deployed in limited numbers to the ETOUSA in March 1945.

Heavier supporting artillery pieces included the M1 8" howitzer, an excellent and accurate weapon. The M1 8" gun, which was developed as an answer to the superb German 17cm gun, had greater range and a more lethal shell than the German weapon, but suffered from poor accuracy and excessive barrel wear. Finally, there was the M1 240mm howitzer, a good, if very heavy, weapon.

Nearly all US artillery battalions were organized with three firing batteries and a total of twelve tubes. The exception was the eighteen-tube armored field artillery battalion and the six-tube 8" gun and 240mm howitzer battalions. A major advantage for the American artillery was that it was fully motorized and highly mobile. All 105mm and 155mm howitzer battalions in the ETOUSA were truck-drawn, although a Table of Equipment (TE) for a tractor-drawn 155mm battalion existed. The 155mm gun battalions were almost all tractor-drawn, although a few evidently were also truck-drawn. The 4.5" gun, 8" gun, 8" howitzer, and 240mm howitzer battalions were all tractor-drawn, although, again, a TE for truck drawn battalions existed. The standard prime mover was a two-and-one-half ton truck for the 105mm and a five-ton truck for the 155mm howitzers. Tractors included the M4 thirteen-ton prime movers, which were utilized for the 90mm AA gun, 4.5" gun, and 155mm howitzer, and the M5 eighteen-ton hi-speed, full-track, heavy prime mover, which was utilized for the 155mm gun, 8" howitzer, 8" gun, and 240mm howitzer. Redundant M3 medium tank chassis, without armament, and M31 and M32 armored recovery vehicles were also utilized as prime movers for the heavier artillery pieces.

Non-divisional artillery battalions were normally subordinated to field artillery groups. The groups were formed in 1943 from the headquarters battery of the broken up field artillery regiments. The field artillery group consisted of an HQ & HQ Battery, with a command element and a fire-direction center element, and a Service Battery. A group was usually assigned from two to six battalions, although one or more of the battalions might be attached for direct support of an individual division. Usually, the groups were assigned howitzer and gun battalions of companion caliber, that is, 155mm howitzers were grouped with 4.5" guns, 8" howitzers with 155mm guns, and 8" guns with 240mm howitzers. The normal ratio was one gun battalion for every two howitzer battalions, although this was not always firmly adhered to. Separate 105mm howitzer battalions were normally grouped together, but were almost always assigned to direct support of divisions. The 155mm SP gun battalions were assigned to groups as the tactical situation warranted, or were frequently attached, by battery or battalion, to armored or infantry divisions.

Field artillery brigades were also created, originally to command the separate field artillery regiments and later, to command the field artillery groups. However, the brigade eventually was seen as a redundant and unnecessary additional layer of command. Most of the brigades were inactivated or were re-designated as HQ & HQ batteries and assigned to different corps and divisions. A few artillery brigades were retained and served as such, the 13th in the MTOUSA and the 32nd, 33rd, 34th, and 61st in the ETOUSA. In the First Army in the ETOUSA, two field artillery groups were attached to the 32nd Field Artillery Brigade. The brigade controlled all 8" gun and 240mm howitzer battalions of the army, making it, in effect, a heavy artillery brigade. A similar, but less centralized system was followed by Third, Seventh, and Ninth armies for control of their heavy battalions.

All in all, the U.S. artillery was equipped with armament that was at least as well designed as, if not better than, any other in the world. The U.S. artillery further benefited from communications equipment and a fire control system that was equaled only by that of the Royal Artillery. Individual forward observers operated close to the front lines and had access, via powerful radios and extensive telephone landlines, to a formidable array of weapons. The highly redundant signals system meant that, even when all other contact with front-line units and their headquarters was lost, the artillery communications net usually remained open.

Perhaps more important, and making the U.S. artillery perhaps the best in the world, was a fire-direction system that was developed at the U.S. Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, between the wars. This system permitted rapid engagements of targets, and allowed the coordination of fires of many units from many widely separated firing positions. One of the most deadly tactics employed was the time-on-target (TOT) concentration. A TOT massed fires from several battalions onto a selected target and calculated the times of flight for the shells from each battery so that they all arrived on target at nearly the same instant.

Further enhancing the deadliness of the U.S. artillery was the development and deployment to the ETOUSA in December 1944 of the new proximity fuse. Also known by its code designation of VT (for variable-time) or POZIT, the proximity fuse contained a tiny radar that triggered detonation at a preset distance from a solid object. The POZIT fuse had been intended for use against air targets (taking a heavy toll of German "Buzzbombs" in the fall of 1944). The fuse significantly simplified and enhanced the lethality of airbursts and eliminated the need for complicated and unreliable time fuses.

Although US artillery was second to none in the war, problems with ammunition supply did hamper efficiency at various periods. This problem reached its nadir during the fall of 1944, when the US artillery in Europe was reduced to strict rationing of ammunition. At one point, the artillery was limited to fewer than twenty 105mm rounds-per-day-per-gun. From 11 October to 7 November 1944, Third Army fired a total of 76,325 rounds of all types (an average of 2,726 per-day), which was less than the number fired on a single day during the Battle of the Bulge. Indeed, at the end of the Battle of the Bulge, ammunition reserves in the ETOUSA were 31 percent of the War Department's planning levels (which were already conceded to be too low). Like the personnel replacement problem, the ammunition shortage was only truly solved by the ending of the war.

Initially, the troop basis allotted by the AGF for non-divisional artillery was somewhat low, and it emphasized lighter artillery over heavier. Only fifty-four heavy and eighty-one medium battalions, compared to 105 light battalions, were authorized on 24 November 1942. However, lobbying by Generals McNair and Sommervell, Commander of Army Service Forces, in 1943 resulted in an increase. On 15 January 1944 the War Department authorization had expanded to include 111 heavy and 111 medium battalions, while the number of light battalions authorized had decreased to 95. In April 1944 a review of combat experience by the Lucas Board resulted in a further expansion, with 143 heavy and 114 medium battalions authorized on 1 July 1944. Converting light artillery battalions made up most of the increased numbers, by 1 July the authorized number of light battalions was down to eighty. On 31 December 1944 the artillery reached its maximum strength. On that date there were a total of 346 battalions active: 137 heavy, 116 medium, and 93 light. On 31 March 1945 there were 137 heavy, 113 medium, and 76 light battalions active, of which 307 were deployed or were about to deploy to active theaters of war.

As of 8 May 1945 there were a total of 238 separate field artillery battalions in the ETOUSA, including:

Four 75mm howitzer battalions:
  The 463rd Parachute, 464th Parachute, 601st Pack, and 602nd Pack;

Thirty-six 105mm howitzer battalions:
  The 18th, 25th, 70th, 74th, 76th, 115th, 130th, 162nd Puerto Rican, 170th, 193rd, 196th, 241st, 242nd, 250th, 252nd, 255th, 280th, 281st, 282nd, 283rd, 284th, 394th, 401st, 512th, 522nd Nisei, 569th, 580th, 583rd, 627th, 687th, 688th, 690th, 691st, 692nd, 693rd, and 802nd;

Sixteen 105mm Armored Field Artillery Battalions (105mm SP):
  The 58th, 59th, 62nd, 65th, 69th, 83rd, 87th, 93rd, 253rd, 274th, 275th, 276th, 400th, 440th, 695th, and 696th;

Seventeen 4.5" gun battalions:
  The 172nd, 176th, 198th, 211th, 215th, 259th, 770th, 771st, 772nd, 773rd, 774th, 775th, 777th Colored, 935th, 939th, 941st, and 959th;

Seventy-one 155mm howitzer battalions:
  The 2nd, 17th, 36th, 81st, 141st, 177th, 179th, 182nd, 183rd, 186th, 187th, 188th, 191st, 202nd, 203rd, 204th, 208th, 209th, 228th, 254th, 257th, 333rd Colored, 349th Colored, 350th Colored, 351st Colored, 521st, 550th, 665th, 666th, 667th, 670th, 671st, 672nd, 673rd, 686th Colored, 689th, 751st, 752nd, 753rd, 754th, 755th, 758th, 759th, 761st, 762nd, 763rd, 764th, 767th, 768th, 776th, 805th, 808th, 809th, 937th, 938th, 940th, 942nd, 943rd, 945th, 949th, 951st, 953rd, 955th, 957th, 961st, 963rd, 965th, 967th, 969th Colored, 974th, and 975th;

Thirty 155mm gun battalions:
  The 190th, 200th, 240th, 244th, 261st, 273rd, 514th, 515th, 516th, 528th, 540th, 541st, 546th, 547th, 548th, 549th, 559th, 561st, 634th, 635th, 731st, 733rd, 734th, 976th, 977th, 978th, 979th, 980th, 981st, and 989th;

Six 155mm SP gun battalions:
  The 174th, 258th, 557th, 558th, 987th, and 991st;

Thirty-eight 8" howitzer battalions:
  The 194th, 195th, 207th, 264th, 529th, 535th, 578th Colored, 630th, 656th, 657th, 658th, 659th, 660th, 661st, 662nd, 663rd, 736th, 738th, 739th, 740th, 741st, 742nd, 743rd, 744th, 745th, 746th, 747th, 748th, 787th, 788th, 790th, 791st, 793rd, 932nd, 933rd, 995th, 997th, and 999th Colored;

Five 8" gun battalions:
  The 153rd, 243rd, 256th, 268th, and 575th;

And fifteen 240mm howitzer battalions:
  The 265th, 266th, 267th, 269th, 270th, 272nd, 277th, 278th, 538th, 539th, 551st, 552nd, 553rd, 697th, and 698th.

As of 8 May 1945 there were a total of sixteen separate field artillery battalions in the MTOUSA, including:

One 105mm howitzer battalion:
  The 175th;

Two Armored Field Artillery Battalions (105mm SP):
  The 432nd and 1125th;

Seven 155mm howitzer battalions:
  The 75th, 178th, 248th, 631st, 765th, 766th, and 936th;

Four 155mm gun battalions:
  The 173rd, 530th, 633rd, and 985th;

Two 8" howitzer battalions:
  The 527th and 536th.

As of 8 August 1945 there were a total of fifty-three separate field artillery battalions in the Pacific, including:

Three 75mm howitzer battalions:
  The 462nd Parachute, 612th Pack, and 613th Pack;

Eight 105mm howitzer battalions:
  The 97th, 134th, 147th, 148th, 249th, 251st, 260th, and 694th;

Three Armored Field Artillery Battalions (105mm SP):
  The 426th, 427th, and 428th;

Sixteen 155mm howitzer battalions:
  The 4th, 55th, 145th, 154th, 165th, 181st, 198th, 225th, 429th, 756th, 757th, 760th, 769th, 803rd, 804th, and 947th;

Eight 155mm gun battalions:
  The 168th, 223rd, 226th, 433rd, 517th, 531st, 532nd, and 983rd;

Seven 8" howitzer battalions:
  The 465th, 655th, 749th, 750th, 786th, 789th, and 797th;

One 8" gun battalion:
  The 780th;

Five 240mm howitzer battalions:
  The 543rd, 544th, 545th, 778th, and 779th;

Two 4.5" rocket battalions:
  The 421st and 422nd.

Antiaircraft Artillery

At the beginning of World War II the US antiaircraft artillery force was very much the poor stepchild of the Coast Artillery Corps. The units were mostly three battalion (a gun battalion, an automatic weapons battalion, and a searchlight battalion) regiments and separate battalions. They were equipped with a motley mix of obsolescent 3" guns and single barrel water-cooled .50 caliber machine guns. The German Blitzkrieg in Europe forced a widespread reevaluation of the Army's AAA capability and, beginning in 1940-1941 a vast expansion of the arm (it finally achieved an identity separate from the Coast Artillery in 1943). On 30 September 1942, it was proposed that 811 AAA battalions be organized (with a total strength of 619,000 men).

However, this massive buildup of AAA units became largely redundant when another formerly poor relation of the US Army, the Army Air Corps, wrested command of the air from the Luftwaffe in 1943 and 1944. Many AAA battalions were disbanded to provide replacements in 1944, some were converted to artillery. A total of 258 battalions were inactivated or disbanded between 1 January 1944 and 8 May 1945. Nevertheless, AAA remained a strong component of the army and achieved something of resurgence in late 1944 in Belgium, defending Antwerp from the threat of the V-1 "Buzzbomb." On 31 December 1944, there were still a total of 347 AAA battalions (with 257,000 men) active in the Army.

In 1943 the AAA regiments were broken up into separate battalions, with the regimental HQ & HQ companies becoming new AAA Group Headquarters. The AAA battalions were organized as either gun (equipped with the M1 90mm AA gun) or automatic weapons (equipped initially with a U.S.-designed M1 37mm gun, but later almost wholly re-equipped with the famous M1 40mm Bofors-designed gun, and with the M51 or M55 quad-mount .50 caliber machine gun). Battalions were further classified as mobile (that is towed), SP (utilizing half-track-mounted guns, the M16, a quad .50 caliber mounting, and the M15, a combination mounting twin water-cooled .50 caliber and a single 37mm), or semi-mobile (with a reduced number of prime movers, designed for the defense of static installations).

The automatic weapons battalions of all types were organized with four firing batteries lettered A to D, an HQ & HQ Battery, and a Service Battery. Each battery nominally contained eight towed 40mm or 37mm SP guns and eight quad .50 caliber towed or SP machine guns. However, many slight variations existed, some battalions had batteries composed of eight towed 40mm guns, four quad .50 caliber mounts, and eight single, water-cooled .50 caliber machine guns (there was a shortfall in production of the M51 and M55 mounts). Gun battalions were organized identically, except the batteries were equipped with four 90mm guns each and, usually, three water-cooled .50 caliber machine guns.

Normally, an AAA automatic weapons battalion was attached to each division, SP if attached to an armored division, and mobile if attached to an infantry division. A corps normally had one or more AAA groups attached. Each AAA group consisted of two or more automatic weapons battalions (usually mobile), although a gun battalion was occasionally attached. In the European Theater, gun battalions were more frequently found in AAA groups attached to the army or army group. Antiaircraft brigades were also formed and were normally attached to armies or to theater commands. In addition, the IX Air Defense Command (in effect an AAA division, originally organized as a part of the US Ninth Tactical Air Force), with an average of ten to fifteen gun and automatic weapons battalions, formed a powerful AAA reserve for the US 12th Army Group in Europe.


It was perhaps fitting that the U.S. Army, with an officer corps heavily influenced by the teachings of the United States Military Academy (which was the first engineering school in the United States), should be lavishly equipped with engineer troops and equipment. The divisional combat engineer battalions were capable of performing most engineering tasks (including demolitions, obstacle emplacement, fortification, and light bridge building) for the division. Additional battalions from corps or army augmented divisional engineers for more extensive tasks. Corps battalions were assigned to the command of an engineer group headquarters, which consisted of an HQ & HQ Company and an engineer light equipment company. Normally there were between three and six battalions in an engineer group and one or two groups per corps or army.

Combat engineer battalions tended to have high esprit de corps; they rightly considered themselves to be elite specialists. In a pinch, combat engineers also could act as infantry and did so frequently. In the Battle of the Bulge, a handful of engineer battalions proved to be a vital asset to the beleaguered American Army.

In addition to the combat engineer battalions there were in the Army a number of other general engineer units. The Engineer Amphibian Brigade was designed to support amphibious operations and included an HQ & HQ Company, three boat-and-shore regiments, a boat maintenance battalion, a medical battalion, and a quartermaster, ordnance, and a signal company. A single amphibian brigade (with naval support) was capable of transporting and landing an infantry division. Later, the brigade was strengthened and re-designated as the Engineer Special Brigade. Six Engineer Special Brigades, numbered 1st to 6th, were eventually formed. The 1st served in the MTOUSA, ETOUSA and Pacific, the 5th and 6th served in the ETOUSA, the others all served in the Pacific.

Engineer aviation regiments and battalions were designed to construct and maintain air bases. Aviation engineers included engineer airborne aviation battalions, which were designed to be air transportable; so as to repair airfields captured by airborne forces.

Engineer bridging units included heavy ponton (the word pontoon is properly pronounced ponton, and beginning in World War II, that is the way it has been spelled by U.S. Army Engineers) battalions (nineteen formed, allotted usually one to three per army), light ponton companies (typically one per engineer group), and treadway bridge companies (usually one per armored division, but held at corps).

Engineer general service regiments and battalions performed construction, repair, and maintenance duties of all kinds behind the front lines. Many general service battalions were formed as pools of unskilled labor troops, usually African-American, and later were organized as regiments. Fifty-five of the 103 general service regiments that were formed were Colored units.

Engineer special service regiments (seven formed) contained highly skilled construction personnel and had a large allotment of heavy equipment. The remainder of the engineer corps was made up of various specialist units, topographic, water supply, railway, oil field, railway operating, and camouflage battalions. In addition, there were large numbers of separate companies and even specialist engineer detachments consisting of a few officers and men. Over 600 battalion-size engineer units were formed during the war.

Curiously, only the engineer combat regiments were broken up into separate battalions as a part of the pool concept in 1943. The HQ & HQ Company of the engineer combat regiments were re-designated as engineer combat groups in 1943. The other specialized engineer regiments were retained to the end of the war.

Transportation and Logistics

The U.S. Army transportation and logistic network performed prodigious feats in World War II. Millions of tons of food, weapons, and equipment, and millions of men were transported to every corner of the globe. Supplies were moved by ship to ports in the war zones and then to forward supply bases. Quartermaster units attached to the armies then moved the supplies forward to corps supply dumps. Divisional quartermaster units then, in turn, moved the supplies forward and distributed them to units. Ground transport was by railroad, truck, and, in many theaters, mule-pack and man-pack. Ammunition supply was performed in a similar manner, except that it was the responsibility of the Ordnance Corps.

In general, most types of supply were plentiful. Food, clothing and general equipment items were usually plentiful. However, gasoline (petrol), oil, and lubricants (called POL, a term inherited from the British) and ammunition tended to be in short supply at many times in most theaters of war. POL could be difficult to get forward, container trucks and trailers worked well for unit distribution, but were inefficient for long hauls, as was the case in Europe. The solution in Europe was PLUTO (for pipeline under the ocean), a POL pipeline (actually a number of separate pipelines) laid across the English Channel and with a terminus that eventually reached to Belgium. In the Pacific, it was often a simple matter of tying up a tanker to a pier and pumping fuel directly into trucks on the dock.

Ammunition, particularly artillery ammunition, tended to be a much more pernicious problem. In the early stages of the Army's expansion there were plans calling for a high priority in the production of 105mm shells of all types, inasmuch as these were the standard, general-support divisional field piece. Ammunition for heavier guns was accorded a lower priority, under the assumption that mobile warfare would reduce the utility of large, unwieldy and relatively immobile large artillery pieces. Unfortunately, a number of factors then intervened. First, congressional criticism was raised over large over stocks of all types of artillery ammunition that had accumulated in Tunisia in 1943. The Army was pressured to scale back production, particularly of 105mm ammunition. Secondly, the perceived need for an expansion of the heavy and medium artillery was mirrored by an expansion of the production facilities for the heavier types of shells. The expansion in heavy shell production was facilitated by converting light ammunition production to heavy. Thus, by late 1943 priorities had shifted radically. Many plants were retooling for other production, while some 105mm plants were closed completely. Events in France and Italy in mid 1944 then changed all the assumptions again. The fierce German resistance in the bocage of Normandy and in the Apennine Mountains of Italy placed a premium on all types of ammunition - just as stocks of 105mm ammunition began to shrink. Rationing was instituted (and extended to most other types of mortar and artillery ammunition), and captured German weapons and ammunition were utilized against their former owners. By 1 January 1945 the entire ETOUSA stock of 105mm ammunition was reduced to 2,524,000 rounds, a twenty-one-day supply according to War Department planning factors, which were widely acknowledged to be too optimistic. The poor flying weather encountered in Europe in the fall and winter exacerbated this near-disastrous situation: Allied airpower was not always available to take up the slack. Although emergency measures in theater and in the U.S. improved matters, artillery ammunition shortages were to remain a chronic problem until the end of the war in Europe.

Manpower, Replacements, and the Segregated Army

In late 1944 a severe problem in the U.S. Army in general was the manpower shortage. Plans to expand the Army to 213 divisions were never met and it proved difficult to maintain the 89 divisions then in existence - even though almost one-quarter of them had yet to see combat. Furthermore, the prewar planning for replacements was found to be totally inadequate. The causes were manifold. U.S. industrial and agricultural demands could only be partially met by bringing women into the workforce. The Army was fighting a two-front war. Fear of the blitzkrieg had resulted in an over-expansion of the antiaircraft and tank destroyer arms. The requirements of the massive expansion of the U.S. Armed Forces in general had reduced the manpower pool. And, perhaps worst of all, the realities of segregation in The U.S. meant that a large percentage of the available manpower, African-Americans, were restricted to service support organization and a few separate combat units.

Unfortunately, the poor initial planning Army-wide was exacerbated by the general replacement policy in effect. Simply put, once a soldier was separated from his unit by wounds or illness, there was little chance of him returning to that unit. Instead, he was sent to a replacement depot, a “repple-depple” in Army slang. From the depot he would then be reassigned as needed to whatever unit had a shortfall in his particular MOS (military occupation specialty). This meant that a soldier could spend months of training, forming close bonds with comrades, the basis for unit cohesion, and then in his first day of combat could be separated from them, never to fight with them again. This system of individual replacement caused many soldiers to disguise illness and wounds so they could stay with their units. Other soldiers, in hospital, went AWOL (absent-without-leave) so as to rejoin their units. It wasn't until 1945 that the individual replacement system was modified to allow a majority of sick and wounded soldiers to rejoin their unit after recovering.

At the other end of the replacement pipeline, replacements were trained by replacement centers (or stripped from divisions), shipped as anonymous replacement increments to a theater of war, and held at the repple-depple until needed by units. These men were military orphans with little esprit de corps and no cohesion. Many thought of themselves as replaceable parts in the giant army "machine," or as rounds of ammunition. The sole virtue of this system was that it allowed divisions to stay in near continuous combat for days on end, theoretically without eroding their numerical strength. As casualties left, replacements came in. However, the reality became that replacements came in, and with no combat experience and no one in their new unit looking out for them (the "I don't know him and don't want to know him, he's only gonna be a casualty" syndrome), they quickly became casualties.

Worse, the planning factors for replacements by branch were badly out of kilter. The original War Department replacement-planning factor for infantry was 64.3 percent of total casualties. Following continued pleas from Europe the factor was raised to 70.3 percent in April 1944. However, the fighting in Normandy soon showed that this was still much too low. By mid-July, the ETOUSA estimate was that 90 percent of total casualties occurred in the infantry. Some infantry divisions saw 100 percent losses in rifle strength in the two months after D-Day. The lack of Infantry replacements soon approached near disastrous proportions. For example, on 8 December 1944 the Third Army was short 11,000 infantrymen. This was only about four percent of the Third Army's total strength, but was the equivalent of fifty-five rifle companies - the rifle strength of two infantry divisions - or close to fifteen percent of the infantry combat power of the Third Army.

The Infantry further suffered from the Army's personnel policy, which allocated the most highly qualified and intelligent people to specialist arms (Airborne, Ranger, Artillery, Armored, and Engineers). The Infantry was filled with men who had scored lowest on the AGCT (the Army General Classification Test) - an intelligence and aptitude test and those who had not held a skilled job in civilian life. The elimination of the ASTP (the Army Specialized Training program), which allowed selected enlisted men to gain a college education while deferring induction into the Army and the reduction of specialized troop units (especially antiaircraft) had remedied matters to some degree by the end of 1944. Nevertheless, mediocre motivation and low intelligence continued to plague the Infantry.

Intense combat and heavy losses in 1943 meant that many divisions still in the United States were stripped of trained men to build up the replacement pool. Some divisions were stripped of available manpower a second time later in 1944. This in turn affected the training cycle of the divisions, causing some to deploy late and requiring most to have some problems with their initial combat deployment. Four armored, one airborne, and seventeen infantry divisions (nearly one-quarter of the total formed) were eventually subject to large scale stripping of men (nearly all of the other divisions in training also had smaller numbers of personnel stripped out prior to deployment). Fourteen of the seventeen infantry divisions were stripped twice. The aggregate affect was tremendous – the 69th Infantry Division alone lost 1,336 officers and 22,235 men, nearly enough personnel to form two divisions.

Exacerbating the Army manpower woes was the policy of segregation. In the 1940s Jim Crowism was rampant in the United States. Racism and segregation affected all aspects of society in the South. Matters were little better in the Northern and Western states. The effect was that over fifteen percent of national military manpower was underutilized. Most African-American personnel were restricted to serving with Service and Supply units, many of which were simply pools of brute-force, unskilled labor.

Only three Colored divisions were formed during the war. Only one saw extensive combat service and it was plagued by problems. On the other hand, the few separate Colored combat battalions formed gave excellent service, most in the ETOUSA.

The second 2nd Cavalry Division (originally it was the 3rd Cavalry Division, it became the 2nd Division when the original 2nd Division was disbanded) was disbanded in 1944. Ironically, the 2nd Cavalry Division was arguably one of the most experienced and professional divisions in the Army. The 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments of the division, known as the Buffalo Soldiers, were two of the most famous regiments in the Army. When the division was disbanded the men of these two great regiments were assigned as laborers to port and engineer battalions.

In Italy, the 92nd Division was placed under the command of Major General Edward M. Almond, an avowed racist. Almond despised his men believing them incapable of learning the duties of combat soldiers, training was perfunctory at best. Officers, who were mostly white, took their cue from General Almond and ignored many of their fundamental duties. In the division’s first engagements, it appeared to confirm his fears, making little headway with heavy losses. The division was then reorganized in March and recommitted along the Ligurian coast, again with little effect. Post-war studies of the use of African-American combat troops confirmed that most of the problems could be directly associated with poor training, poor leadership, and neglect of troops in the field. The experience of the 93rd Division in the Pacific was similar. It was split up and served mostly as labor parties on various Pacific islands. It suffered only 138 combat casualties, although losses to disease were severe.

Probably the most famous Colored units were the 761st Tank Battalion, the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion, and the 969th Field Artillery Battalions. The 761st was assigned to Patton's Third Army over his strong objection (he believed them incapable of "thinking fast enough to fight in armor"). However, the intrepid gallantry of the Black tankers soon won him over. By the end of 1944 Patton declared "I have nothing but the best in my army. I don't care what color you are as long as you go up there and kill those Kraut son's-a-bitches." In 1978 the 761st was awarded a belated but well deserved Presidential Unit Citation. The 333rd was caught by the German onslaught in the Ardennes and was partly overrun defending its guns. The remnants of the battalion fought on, joining the 969th as the backbone of the defense of Bastogne.

Another use of African-American manpower was a result of the massive attrition that was suffered in the winter of 1944 in Europe. As the infantry replacement pool evaporated in the ETOUSA, radical steps were taken. In January 1945 General Eisenhower took the then unprecedented step of allowing African-American soldiers to volunteer as combat infantry replacements. The response was overwhelming, soldiers accepted reductions in rank in exchange for the chance to fight. These men were assigned to hard-hit divisions where they soon made an impression. Eager to prove critics of African-American combat prowess wrong, these men made up for their lack of experience with a reckless bravery. In one famous, but possibly apocryphal account, one African-American soldier used a captured German Panzerfaust grenade launcher to knock out a German tank, earning a Silver Star, which resulted in dozens of African-American soldiers stalking German Panzers with Panzerfaust and Bazookas. However, most of the replacements continued to serve in effectively segregated units and most of the divisions formed them into separate platoons or companies that were attached to White units.

The experience of African-American soldiers in World War II had one major and unexpected beneficial effect. Postwar investigations showed that the Colored units that performed poorly had experienced indifferent training, were poorly led, and were often issued with substandard or condemned equipment. Food and housing was also generally poorer than for comparable white units, both in garrison and in the field. On the other hand, the better led units usually performed well. These findings were partly responsible for the post-war drive to integrate the military, which indirectly led to the integration of the entire country in the 1950s and 1960s.

Doctrine and Training

U.S. Army doctrine, as developed during the prewar and early-war Army expansion, emphasized mobility and combined-arms in both attack and defense. Mobility was achieved by developing reliable, robust armored and soft-skin vehicles. Unfortunately, the artificial dichotomy between tanks and tank destroyers limited the effectiveness of each arm until hard experience gained in combat replaced training assumptions with practical combined-arms methods. However, the idea that American tank design suffered because of a doctrinal belief that “tanks do not fight tanks” is not really supported by the evidence. While one of General McNair's fundamental beliefs (later proven to have been fundamentally unsound) was that the armored division should not be required to engage and destroy enemy armored formations, since that would be the task of the tank destroyers, its impact on tank design and production has been overblown. In truth, there is plenty of blame to pass around with regards to the faults in American tank design.

For one, the U.S. Army Ordnance Department spent too much time and effort on technological solutions to design problems, which never bore fruit. Major General Gladeon Barnes, Chief of Research and Engineering in the Ordnance Department, became enamored of an electric drive transmission system to solve the problems of clutch and brake burnout in conventional designs, similar to that touted by Dr. Ferdinand Porsche in Germany as used by the Panzerjäger Elefant. However, also like Porsche, Barnes failed to accept the design’s benefits came with an unacceptable weight penalty and also chose to ignore General Electric and Westinghouse when they informed him they were incapable of producing the number of electric drive systems required. Barnes also ignored the test results and analysis by AGF and the Armored Board, which demonstrated the faults in the electric drive system and its maintenance requirements, which were unacceptable to the field forces. Instead, as late as 1945 Barnes insisted on completing one of the Heavy Tank T26 pilots with the electric drive, which as predicted was overweight and impractical for use on the battlefield.

Worse, Ordnance failed miserably at the design, testing, and manufacture of armor piercing projectiles. While many have focused on the problem caused by the Armored Force reliance on the 75mm M3 Tank Gun and the late arrival of the 76mm and 90mm guns on the battlefield, in fact neither of the latter guns achieved its full potential, due to faulty projectile designs. As early as 1941, Ordnance insisted the high explosive, armor-piercing projectile (designated APC by Ordnance) was best for defeating enemy armor due to its explosive effect after penetrating armor. Unfortunately, the design and production of the projectile was faulty and impact stress tended to cause the projectiles to deform and shatter before penetration was achieved. Worse, the fuse design was poor, resulting in uneven fuse action, detonating before penetration was achieved or after only partial penetration. While the cause for these faults is simple – prewar budget limitations meant that little fundamental research into armor-piercing projectile dynamics could be done – as early as June 1943 the superiority of German projectile designs was recognized by Ordnance, but little effort was made to reverse-engineer and copy them. While eventually an improved 90mm solid shot penetrator was developed, the T33, it was not deployed until March 1945. Much effort was spent by Ordnance on developing a sophisticated armor-piercing discarding-sabot round, between 1942 and 1944, but that research was eventually abandoned because no means of effective sabot separation that did not affect accuracy could be found. Instead, a simpler high-velocity armor-piercing round, HVAP, was quickly developed for the 76mm and 90mm guns in July and August 1944, but it had problems penetrating the high-obliquity armor faces of many German tanks and its design meant they were effective only over relatively short ranges. They were also manufactured in relatively small quantities since Ordnance had limited priority for the scarce tungsten carbide, which was needed for the penetrators.

Another issue was Ordnance’s opposition to increasing the propellant load in cartridges in order to increase muzzle velocity and, theoretically, penetration. Ordnance refused when the ETOUSA requested authorization to do so, because, as Ordnance said, lightening the breech, chamber, and barrel of the 3” gun to produce the 76mm meant that it was stressed to its maximum and it could not be safely done. Ordnance also objected because additional propellant would increase barrel wear and decrease the useful life of guns, Of course, the response from the field was that it was ridiculous to worry about barrel life when the useful life of the tank was so short because of its inferior gun power. While it is easy to ridicule Ordnance’s position, the other side of the coin is that increased propellant may well have reduced the effectiveness of the American tank guns. The reason for that seemingly paradoxical result was again the poor design of the American projectiles; increased velocity likely would have resulted in even more projectile deformation and shatter.

Another fundamental doctrinal belief espoused by General McNair was that pooling and standardization in the organization of the combat arms would facilitate the cross-attachment of units into combined-arms teams. Here too the realities of wartime experience proved to be somewhat different. It was discovered that the close cooperation required of combined-arms teams required extensive training and combat experience to be effective. Unfortunately, the infantry division training program involved extensive practice in infantry-artillery coordination, but no training in armor-infantry-artillery coordination. In most cases the first armor-infantry-artillery combined arms operation for an infantry division was conducted in combat and not in training. Furthermore, pooling meant that most of the infantry divisions did not have tank or tank destroyer battalions attached until after they had entered combat. The result was predictable; the introduction of "green" infantry divisions into combat often resulted in disaster rather than success. Eventually combat experience and unnecessary casualties forced changes in the emphasis in the training regimen, but problems continued to persist until the end of the war.

Finally, the basic tenant of U.S. Army Infantry doctrine was based on fire and maneuver at the squad level. The M1 Garand semi-automatic rifle and the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) provided firepower at the squad level. However, in the ETOUSA it was found that these were unequal to the job of suppressing the firepower of the German squad, which was equipped with the formidable MG42 light machine gun. Over and over the advance of American infantry faltered when encountering this German weapon which was capable of firing up to 1,100 round-per-minute (the distinctive sustained roar of this machine gun gave rise to common GI epithet applied to it, "burp gun"). Worse, German small arms utilized ammunition which gave off little flash or smoke. American ammunition had a pronounced signature, giving off a distinctive puff of blue smoke and an intense flash. The result was that German infantry could fire with a good chance of not revealing their position, while American infantry could not. All American ammunition had this characteristic to a degree; tank and artillery rounds also gave off a prominent flash.

However, tactical solutions developed on the battlefield, which eventually helped compensate for the disparity between German and American small arms. To make up for the disparity in squad-level automatic weapons, American infantry learned to push forward the numerous .50 caliber Browning machine guns they could call on, especially the quadruple-mount self-propelled .50 caliber, which soon earned the sobriquet of “Meat Choppers”. Well-coordinated and flexible artillery support helped as well. Hard lessons on the battlefield in tank and infantry cooperation, facilitated by the development of infantry-tank interphones and radios, meant that by the end of the war the American Army was a formidable war machine.


In the ETOUSA the 29th and 42nd Field Artillery Battalion of the 4th Infantry Division were equipped with twelve self-propelled 105mm GMC M7, rather than the towed 105mm Howitzer M2 normally found in the infantry division. They were so equipped for Operation NEPTUNE, the invasion of France on 6 June 1944. The reason? D-Day planners restricted the number of wheeled vehicles and prime movers landing with the assault force.

In the ETOUSA the 18th Field Artillery Battalion was equipped with seventy-two 4.5" T27 Xylophone 8-tube rocket launchers as a test. Results were encouraging enough to justify the formation of two more 4.5" rocket battalions with the modified T27E1 Xylophone. They eventually served in the Pacific, but at the end of the war the Army ended its experimentation with the multiple rocket launcher systems until 1977 when development of the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) began.

In the ETOUSA the 79th Field Artillery Battalion (Provisional) was formed from personnel of the 79th and 179th Field Artillery Groups to fire captured German artillery pieces during the height of the ammunition shortage. Similarly, the 244th Field Artillery Battalion was temporarily equipped with a miscellany of captured German 88mm guns and 105mm and 150mm howitzers.

* * *

© 2024 Rich Anderson.

Published online: 12/02/2019.

Written by Rich Anderson.

About the author:
Richard C. Anderson, Jr. works as the Chief Historian at the The Dupuy Institute (a non-profit organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military campaigns.

* Views expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily represent those of

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