4-240 Editorial Note on Army Personnel Shortages

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Subject: World War II

Editorial Note on Army Personnel Shortages

February-April 1944

The Army Ground Forces began to experience personnel shortages in early 1944; shortages that would have serious implications for OVERLORD and ANVIL which projected large-scale commitments of American ground forces in France. The American strategic planning organizations had in 1943 scaled down the number of American divisions to be raised from 105 to 90, gambling that this would be sufficient to fight the war in Europe, the Pacific, and the Mediterranean, and to maintain divisions held in strategic reserve in the continental United States. Selective Service, however, was failing to maintain the deliveries of inducted soldiers that had been anticipated. (Matloff, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1943-1944, pp. 408-9.) The personnel shortage was already being felt in the service forces, and planners predicted that after OVERLORD and ANVIL operations the need for replacements in combat units, particularly in rifle units, would become heavy.

General Marshall expressed his concern about personnel shortages at a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff held on February 1, 1944. He pointed out that Army Ground Forces were already short 87,000 to 97,000 men, that divisions undergoing training were being stripped of personnel to make up shortages in divisions departing for overseas commitment, that a need for heavy replacements in combat units could be expected in the near future as a result of offensive operations planned for 1944, and that shortages existed currently of 120,000 men in service forces designed to support these offensive operations. The army’s rotation program would call for 75,000 men in the next year for replacements in the Southwest Pacific Area. The chief of staff estimated the present total deficit between 350,000 to 400,000 men. General Marshall indicated that strict economy was being practiced but that it would not be sufficient to meet the manpower crisis. He placed some of the blame on the Selective Service’s operations. (Minutes of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Meeting, February 1, 1944, NA/RG 165 [OCS, CCS 334, JCS Minutes].)

Given the current personnel shortages, General Marshall believed that the American military effort could not afford to continue large-scale support of the Army Specialized Training Program. The A.S.T.P. had been established in December 1942, assigning some 150,000 soldiers to colleges and universities to study engineering, mathematics, languages, various technical skills, dentistry, and medicine. The program was intended to provide training for professional specialties needed in the military, while also continuing the operation of colleges which might otherwise meet financial ruin. The result was that Army Ground Forces were denied large numbers of educated men who could have served as noncommissioned or as commissioned officers in combat units. (Robert R. Palmer, Bell I. Wiley, and William R. Keast, The Procurement and Training of Ground Combat Troops, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1948], pp. 28-39. John D. Millett, The Organization and Role of the Army Service Forces, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1954], p. 102.) As the following document indicates, General Marshall believed that the A.S.T.P. was a luxury that could no longer be supported. The A.S.T.P. was almost completely eliminated on April 1, 1944, retaining only the programs in dentistry and medicine.

Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 285-286.

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