4-487 Memorandum for the President, August 22, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: August 22, 1944

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for the President

August 22, 1944 Washington, D.C.


Subject: Strength of the Army.1

The Army is now 5% overstrength—that is, it totals 8.05 million. There will be a further increase, though slight, this month and next. Thereafter the strength should decline and gradually approach the authorized figure of 7.7 million.

The following factors are involved:

OVERLORD-ANVIL – A deliberate overstrength of 150,000 was arranged for in April to meet the expected casualties in the OVERLORD and ANVIL landings. As very heavy casualties were anticipated it was necessary, in order to be certain that the momentum of battle could be maintained, that we have fully trained replacements actually in the European-North African Theaters. This could not be managed under the ordinary, routine loss expectancy percentages.

Rotation Policy – The establishment of a rotation policy permitting men who have been overseas for prolonged periods or who were worn down beyond the point of usefulness involved us in personnel requirements beyond those calculated on at the time the ceiling for the Army was determined. For example, because of the time consumed on departure leave at home, in staging camps, in ports of embarkation, and in transit to and from theaters, and the fact that the replacements for men being returned had to be in the theater before the latter started home, it was found that 40,000 men had to be allocated to provide a monthly rotation of 6,000 from the Southwest Pacific. This figure varied for each theater according to its distance from continental United States but once the pipelines had been filled, additional allocations were not required. It is estimated that the rotation policy (which incidentally has been on such a limited basis that it has possibly caused more disappointment and hard feeling that it has accomplished good), has required 85,000 additional men.

Wounded, Missing, Pipeline – In maintaining divisions at a constant full strength it was found that we must permit division commanders to drop all wounded men from their effective strength total and requisition replacements accordingly. This meant that provision had to be made within the Army’s ceiling to carry an estimated 60,000 men (the figure will increase as more divisions are committed) who would normally have been charged against the Divisions. Further, the War Department, in estimating its total manpower requirements, did not take sufficiently into account the number of men who would be in hospitals, carried as missing, absorbed in transition camps and in transportation to and from the theaters. Possibly the most serious oversight in the original calculations of several years ago was the failure to realize the tremendous loss of immediately effective manpower involved in keeping the pipelines to all the theaters constantly filled. For example, the United States strength in India, Burma and China totals only 150,000, but virtually 28,000 men in the pipelines have been required to maintain this strength, or 12% over and above the authorized theater strength. Much larger totals are involved in the principal theaters.

Lines of Communication – There was also a failure in War Department calculations to allow sufficiently for the absorption of men in establishing unexpected travel routes and for the prolonged period that is required to clean up or evacuate communication routes and installations. Africa, for example, finally involved us in three East-West routes. The second route established which went through Nigeria was abandoned almost immediately because of the successes in North Africa. Nevertheless, it not only absorbed a great many men but has required considerable time to close out the installations. The Hudson Bay, Greenland and Iceland ground set-ups were somewhat unexpected and likewise required their share of personnel.

Detached Forces – The requirements for maintaining forces to stand off isolated Japanese garrisons such as those in New Britain, Wewak, Bougainville, etc., have been heavier than anticipated—not so much divisional troops but rather the service units to maintain the divisional elements in their numerous isolated localities.

Accuracy of Strength Reports – The extremely complicated conditions under which the Army operates, scattered around the world and frequently dispersed in small units, have presented a perplexing problem as to the monthly accounting for personnel. General McNarney has had a group working for five months to develop the basis for a really accurate monthly check. We believe we now have it, and for the first time are reasonably sure of what the actual strength of the Army is. The new method has shown that the errors were practically all in the overseas theaters; not that the commanders were derelict at all, but that the conditions readily lent themselves to such errors and the necessity of maintaining fighting forces at full strength inevitably meant that there would always be a “report” loss of men who were not actively employed—hospital cases, rotational groups, etc. One of the complications involved was the establishment of a procedure which would accurately determine who should be charged with the man en route from the United States to an overseas theater or on the reverse journey. The tendency overseas was not to accept credit for a man until he stood in the organization to which he was assigned. The tendency on this side was to transfer credit the moment the man left his base camp. The previous rules appeared sufficient for an accurate check but were wholly inadequate. This has now been corrected.

Economies of Personnel – Tremendous economies in the utilization of men have been accomplished in the United States and in the Caribbean and are under way in Alaska and the Aleutians. The same is true in North Africa. It is not the case in Italy, France, England, India, China and the Pacific generally. We have an elaborate investigating system which operates directly under me and which has cleaned up pretty well conditions in the United States, though there is still more of economy that can be brought to bear in the Air service and this is now under way. I did not send a group of these investigating specialists into the Mediterranean theater until we were firmly established in Italy because it is exceedingly irritating to a commander in the field to be fighting a battle in his forward area while being investigated in the rear. We will proceed with these investigations in other theaters as rapidly as the situations permit. However, it is imperative that every fighting unit in an active theater be maintained at full strength and that depots close in rear be filled with the necessary fully trained men to provide automatic and immediate replacement for battle casualties. It is also necessary that we have immediately available in the theater the special troops ready to take over ports, railroads, utilities, etc., the instant the fighting troops conquer them. We cannot well tell a theater commander that our calculations do not permit us to give him sufficient men to do this or that even though such a course imposes a terrific strain on our personnel requirements. Yet we do cut their personnel estimates heavily. MacArthur’s service troop estimate was reduced 50% and Eisenhower’s OVERLORD replacement estimate was cut 90,000 men.

Strength Controls – Measures have recently been introduced to reduce the intake into the Army below anticipated losses. Although there is a monthly overseas requirement for 85,000 replacements, we have reduced our Selective Service calls to 60,000 a month, starting in September. This is the minimum figure which will furnish the young, able-bodied men who will be needed to maintain the combat arms if the war in Europe continues. The overseas theaters have been informed that they must produce from their own resources the additional replacements required to keep their service elements at effective strength. Instructions have been issued to relax the present pressure recruiting for the Women’s Army Corps and to seek only sufficient recruits for maintenance purposes. This will effect an eventual reduction in excess of 3,000 in our monthly intake of women. A further action which will tend to reduce our over-all strength is a stimulated discharge of men in low physical brackets. Last Spring when we were critically short of personnel, the policy was adopted of not permitting a man to be discharged who could conceivably render any useful service in the Army. The continued over-rigid adherence to this policy has resulted in a large accumulation of men who now can be released without detriment to the service.

Raising the 7,700,000 Ceiling – The proposition to ask for an increase of the authorized ceiling to eight million has been advocated by the War Department staff from time to time during the past six months. I have opposed this because I think, given more time, we can reduce the Army strength to the agreed ceiling of 7,700,000. There is always within any established ceiling a conflict as to the proportion which will be allotted to units and that which will be set up to cover personnel in transit, in hospitals and otherwise non-effective. We are presently well on the way to striking a proper balance between these conflicting pressures. The announcement of a new, higher ceiling at this time would be liable to undo many of the economies we have effected and would destroy the most effective means we have to prevent continued increases in strength. I consequently recommend that we adhere to the present ceiling and take no further action at this time.2

Members of my staff keep the War Manpower Commission, the Bureau of the Budget, and Selective Service fully informed of all developments concerning Army strength. Today my Assistant Chief of Staff for Personnel will see the Director of the Bureau of the Budget and go over the subject in detail.

Faithfully yours,

G. C. Marshall

Document Copy Text Source: Franklin D. Roosevelt Papers, President’s Secretary’s File, Departmental, War, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

Document Format: Typed memorandum signed.

1. The president had sent Marshall a Memorandum for the President from Harold Smith, director of the Bureau of the Budget, and had asked Marshall for “a memorandum on this matter of over strength in the Army.” (Roosevelt Memorandum for General George Marshall, August 15, 1944, FDRL/F. D. Roosevelt Papers [PSF, Departmental, War].) Smith reported that as of June 30, 1944 (his memo said “1943”), the army was 280,000 in excess of the president’s manpower authorization of 7,700,000 for calendar year 1944 and that strength would probably exceed 8,000,000 by the end of September. He noted that an “informal inquiry” of General Staff officers indicated that they thought that the president was aware of the over-strength. “It seems to me that we should impress upon the Army the need for your prior authorization for any change in military strength in order that there may be over-all coordination of manpower,” and he suggested that Roosevelt “will wish to discuss the matter with the Chief of Staff.” (Smith Memorandum for the President, August 2, 1944, ibid.)

Marshall rejected the Personnel Division’s draft reply. He noted that discussions for the president “need to be carefully developed as to sequence, provided with side headings, and special attention given to the content of the first sentence in each paragraph and particularly of the first paragraph of the memorandum.” The chief of staff then dictated a lengthy memorandum containing “some ideas of mine” which, with a few changes, became the final version as printed here. (Memorandum for General Henry, August 21, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

2. At this time the army was beginning to feel the effects of a manpower shortage that would continue through the winter of 1944-45: see Roland G. Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the Armies, volume 2, September 1944-May 1945, a volume in the United States Army in World War II (Washington: GPO, 1959), chap. 11. For a discussion of army troop strength limitations, see Byron Fairchild and Jonathan Grossman, The Army and Industrial Manpower, a volume in the United States Army in World War II (Washington: GPO, 1959), chap. 3. While the troop basis was not formally raised, the army continued to grow in size, reaching 8,291,000 in May 1945, when the authorized ceiling was raised to reflect that number. (Ibid., p. 55.)

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. 556-560.

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