Tactical and Organizational Developments
(1) Tactical Operations1
Between September and February the theater's command and organizational structure, both tactical and administrative, took its final form. Allied tactical operations, meanwhile, were to contrast markedly with those of the pursuit period. Hampered by the lack of adequate logistic support, and faced with a reorganized and reinforced enemy, the Allied armies for the next several months either marked time or measured their gains in yards, at heavy cost in casualties and matériel. In one instance, the enemy's December counteroffensive, they sustained a severe setback.
At no time was the impact of logistics on tactical operations more evident than in late September and October. Though SHAEF was able to marshal limited American logistical assistance for the big airborne operation in the Netherlands in support of the 21 Army Group (Operation MARKET-GARDEN), the diversion added to the supply famine in the 12th Army Group. The First Army, for example, pierced the Siegfried Line at Aachen but found a combination of inhospitable terrain, renewed German tenacity, and supply limitations too restrictive to permit exploitation of the breach. (Map 1) Artillery ammunition and replacement tanks were in particularly short supply. At the same time the Third Army, though establishing bridgeheads over the Moselle River near Metz and Nancy, felt a similar pinch. The commanders of these forces would have been more inclined to accept the supply limitations with equanimity had the 21 Army Group, in the meantime, been able to exploit Operation MARKET-GARDEN to the extent projected. But the airborne operation and the concurrent ground advance in the north, designed to put the British across the major water obstacles of the eastern part of the Netherlands and into position for a thrust against the Ruhr, fell short of its objectives.
By late September the full effect of the transportation and supply shortages was all too apparent. General Eisenhower
12 September 1944-9 February 1945
had little choice but to concentrate almost all available resources behind only one portion of the front lest his entire advance bog down. In keeping with original planning, he chose the north. The 21 Army Group, while retaining its general objective of enveloping the Ruhr from the north, was at the same time to open the port of Antwerp as a matter of great urgency. The neighboring First Army could do little except conduct limited operations in general support of the 21 Army Group and in preparation for the day when the supply situation might improve and the push toward the Rhine be renewed. Operating on an axis of advance which had been denied first priority, the Third Army felt even more stringent supply restrictions than did the First. The only major achievement by either army during the logistically drab days of October was the First Army's reduction of Aachen.
In the extreme north the commander of the 21 Army Group, Field Marshal Montgomery, tried at first to continue his push toward the Ruhr while his left wing, in the form of the First Canadian Army under Lt. Gen. H. D. G. Crerar, opened Antwerp. But even when strengthened by a temporary shift of some territory to the 12th Army Group, Montgomery found the dual assignment too demanding. The enemy's position along both sides of the Schelde estuary, which denied Allied access to Antwerp from the sea, proved particularly strong. Even after the 21 Army Group in mid-October turned undivided attention to opening Antwerp, almost a month of severe fighting under the most adverse conditions of weather and terrain remained before the approaches to the port were clear. Not until 28 November was the first Allied ship to drop anchor in the harbor.
Meantime, on the extreme right flank of the western front, operations had assumed much the same character. After the link-up of Seventh Army with the 12th Army Group in mid-September, the pursuit of the enemy from the south had halted for the same reasons it had in the north, despite the existence of a separate line of supply leading from Marseille. Almost coincidentally with the end of the pursuit, the southern forces, consisting of the Seventh U.S. Army and the First French Army, came under a new headquarters, the 6th Army Group. Until this time controlled by AFHQ in the Mediterranean, these forces now came under the direct command of General Eisenhower.2 When directed by the Supreme Commander to continue the drive toward the Rhine, the 6th Army Group tried to push northeastward through the Saverne and Belfort gaps, only to be forced to the unavoidable conclusion that, under the existing logistical situation, this plan, like the plans in the north, was far too ambitious.
The six weeks' fighting between mid-September and the end of October had brought little noticeable advantage to the Allies as far as the enemy, terrain, or weather was concerned. Meanwhile, the logistic situation, even without use of Antwerp, had shown some improvement. In the Supreme Commander's opinion, sufficient supplies had been accumulated, when superimposed upon the promise of Antwerp, to warrant a resumption of the offensive along the entire
front. This is not to say that all was well from a logistical standpoint--the U.S. armies, for example, still had to ration artillery ammunition drastically--but in keeping with the general principle of giving the enemy no rest, General Eisenhower deemed a renewal of the attack advisable.
Viewed in retrospect, the November plans, while aimed only at closing to the Rhine, were far too optimistic. The 12th Army Group, with twenty-seven divisions now available, planned major efforts both north and south of the Ardennes; the 6th Army Group with fourteen divisions, taking advantage of the maintenance resources available from the Mediterranean, was to advance to the Rhine while protecting the 12th Army Group's right flank. Only the 21 Army Group, still engaged in freeing the approaches to Antwerp, was to remain relatively quiescent.
The Third Army struck the first blow in the new offensive on 8 November, while on 13 and 14 November, respectively, the Seventh U.S. and First French Armies joined the assault. After awaiting favorable weather for a major air bombardment, the First Army and the newly formed Ninth U.S. Army under Lt. Gen. William S. Simpson took up the attack in the north.
Adverse weather, which set new rainfall records, and terrain favoring the defender, plus a remarkable German resurgence, militated more against the renewed Allied drive than did logistics. Whatever the primary cause, the drive fell short. The Third Army and the 6th Army Group made the most impressive advances, including capture of Metz, arrival at the Siegfried Line in front of the Saar industrial region, and, with the exception of a big enemy pocket hinged on the city of Colmar, reaching the Rhine along a broad front in the extreme south. In the north, the First and Ninth Armies by mid-December had gotten no farther than the little Roer River, less than fifteen miles beyond Aachen. The 21 Army Group, in the meantime, had begun to assist by attacks along the American left flank, but the necessity to clear a stubborn enemy force which held out in constricted terrain west of the Maas River still limited British participation.
Mid-December thus found the Allied armies still attempting to close to the Rhine in execution of the first phase of the November offensive, when, on 16 December, the enemy seized the initiative with a powerful counteroffensive in the Ardennes area of eastern Belgium and northern Luxembourg. Aimed at crossing the Meuse and recapturing Antwerp, thereby splitting the Allied forces and possibly annihilating those north of the Ardennes, the offensive was launched with twenty-four divisions which the enemy had secretly marshaled.
Attacking on a fifty-mile front in the center of the First U.S. Army's sector, the enemy struck in an area which had been lightly held throughout the fall in order that U.S. forces might concentrate for offensive operations elsewhere. Though the Germans quickly broke through, tenacious resistance by isolated American units and quick reaction to the attack by Allied commanders halted the thrust short of its first objective, the Meuse River. The end result of the enemy's effort was a big bulge in the American line. Because Antwerp had
begun operation as a port not quite three weeks before the enemy struck, the impact of the bulge on the U.S. logistical structure never became critical. Existence of the bulge nevertheless imposed certain communications difficulties, which prompted the Supreme Commander to place the Ninth Army and those elements of the First Army north of the enemy salient under the operational control of Field Marshal Montgomery.
On 23 December an attack by the Third U.S. Army established tenuous contact with a beleagured American garrison in the communications center of Bastogne, which had held out against repeated German assaults. Three weeks later, on 16 January, drives by the First and Third U.S. Armies linked up at the road center of Houffalize. After severe fighting in the face of winter weather, rugged terrain, and skillful enemy defense, the two armies by the end of the first week of February had completely erased the enemy's earlier gains and in some sectors had followed the withdrawing Germans through the West Wall. The net effect of the German effort so far as the Allies were concerned was to delay Allied offensive operations toward the Ruhr and the Saar about six weeks.
The first week of February also saw the enemy's holdout position on the extreme right flank of the Allied line around the city of Colmar eliminated, but not before the Germans had launched a smaller-scale counteroffensive in this sector. Though the attacks achieved some initial success and for a time threatened recapture of Strasbourg, adroit withdrawals followed by counterattacks with strong reserves soon contained them all. On 20 January First French Army troops led an attack to drive the last Germans from the west bank of the Rhine in the 6th Army Group's sector. Joined later by a corps of the Seventh Army, on 9 February they achieved their goal. Thus by early February the entire western front was stabilized and the enemy's offensive capabilities west of the Rhine were eliminated.
(2) Organization and Command3
While the command and administrative structure of ETOUSA never achieved complete finality because of the repeated necessity to adapt itself to the changing tactical situation, in August and September 1944 it took the final form envisaged in the OVERLORD plan.
The first week in August had been an important one in the evolution of command and organization in both the tactical and administrative fields. On the tactical side, a second army (the Third) was introduced on 1 August and an army group organization under the command of General Bradley was established.4 On the administrative side, meanwhile, the implementation of the organizational plan had suddenly accelerated. On 2 August, after several delays, the Communications Zone finally achieved legal status on the Continent by the drawing of a rear boundary for the armies. Contrary to plan, the movement of Headquarters, Communications Zone, was advanced
a full month. On 7 August General Lee's headquarters itself took over operation of the continental Communications Zone. Two entire phases in the OVERLORD command plan were thus virtually eliminated so far as the administrative structure was concerned, for the Advance Section held a position independent of the First Army as the operative communications zone on the Continent for only five days during the first week in August, and Forward Echelon, Communications Zone, did not become operational at all.
The month of August nevertheless represented a transitional stage. Since the advance element of Supreme Headquarters had not yet moved to the Continent, 12th Army Group was to remain under the over-all command of 21 Army Group for the next month, and for a period of three weeks General Bradley, as the senior U.S. field force commander, continued to exercise supervision over the development of the Communications Zone, as he had as commanding general of First Army. In this capacity he retained the authority to prescribe levels of supply in the Communications Zone and army depots, assign priorities for supply, and regulate the apportionment of service troops between the armies and the Communications Zone. The 12th Army Group commander had always desired such an arrangement, for it was his belief that the senior field force commander should also control his line of communications, as in British practice.
This situation prevailed until the end of August, when the final stage of the command setup was ushered in by the arrival of Supreme Headquarters. SHAEF began moving to the Continent in mid-August. On 1 September it assumed operational control of all forces, bringing the 12th Army Group under its direct control, and placing the Communications Zone directly under the command of General Eisenhower as theater commander. The Communications Zone thereby attained a position at least co-ordinate with the 12th Army Group. Unfortunately the effect of this development was to perpetuate the friction between the Communications Zone and the field forces which had developed over General Lee's position in the United Kingdom, for Lee's headquarters continued to exercise some of the independence and authority of a theater headquarters by virtue of the presence there of the theater's general and special staff divisions.5
While command relationships were relatively final by 1 September, the gradual accession of additional forces necessarily changed the organizational complexion of the theater somewhat. Early in September the 12th Army Group was strengthened by the addition of a third army--the Ninth, under the command of General Simpson. Ninth Army headquarters had been formed from the Fourth Army headquarters at San Antonio, Texas, and had started its movement to the United Kingdom in April 1944.6 Its first duties in the theater were to receive and train various units arriving
in England, and it was not expected to move to the Continent until the port of Brest was in operation. Late in August, however, Ninth Army headquarters moved to France and was assigned to the 12th Army Group, and on 5 September was given command of the VIII Corps in the Operations against Brest. Headquarters were established in close proximity to those of Brittany Base Section, which had been set up at Rennes, in order to provide the necessary communications facilities and to facilitate co-ordination with the Communications Zone in matters of supply and maintenance. In addition to its operational mission the Ninth Army was given the task of administering the reception and accommodation of the various corps and divisions then arriving in Normandy. After the capture of Brest it redeployed northeastward and eventually participated in the November offensive, as already related.7
In the meantime another type of army had been organized to co-ordinate and control Allied airborne operations. Early in August SHAEF created a British-U.S. combined airborne headquarters for this purpose, and in mid-August designated this organization the First Allied Airborne Army and placed it under the command of Lt. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton, who had been Commanding General, Ninth Air Force. For command and administrative purposes the U.S. components of this new army were organized into the XVIII U.S. Airborne Corps under the command of Maj. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway, former Commanding General, 82d Airborne Division. With certain exceptions the operational control of the First Allied Airborne Army remained with Supreme Headquarters.8
The most significant augmentation of the tactical command structure occurred in mid-September with the incorporation of the Allied forces in southern France, shortly after SHAEF assumed direct operational control on the Continent. Operation DRAGOON had long been intended as a corollary to OVERLORD and had been planned to be launched simultaneously with the landings in Normandy. But the necessity to transfer some of the Mediterranean troop lift to the United Kingdom for OVERLORD led to the postponement of the operation. The final decision to launch the southern operation was not made until 10 August 1944, and the actual assault was made five days later.
DRAGOON was mounted from the North African theater, and consequently came under the direction of the Supreme Commander in that area, General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson. Make-up of the assault force was to be predominantly American, and the operational control in the early stages was given to the Seventh U.S. Army, which was reactivated for this purpose and placed under the command of Lt. Gen. Alexander M. Patch. A French army command was to come into being as soon as the build-up of French forces was large enough to justify it. General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny was to be in command of the first French troops to go ashore, the intention being that he should eventually command the French army.
In anticipation of the time when there would be two armies in the south, provision was also made for the organization of an army group command. On 1 August the 6th Army Group was activated at Bastia, Corsica, under the command of General Devers, who at the time was commanding general of the North African theater and Deputy Supreme Commander under General Wilson. Since the army group command was not to become operational until such time as two armies were in existence, an Advance Detachment, AFHQ, was organized to exercise over-all control in the first stages. This forward echelon of General Wilson's headquarters, also commanded by General Devers, was actually composed of basically the same personnel which made up the 6th Army Group headquarters, thus providing the desired continuity in command.
Operation DRAGOON was a striking success, and within two weeks of its launching General Wilson contemplated the transfer of control of the southern France forces to SHAEF, the intention being that 6th Army Group would become operational at the same time. The size of the force under General Devers' command at the time (nine divisions) hardly justified the latter step, but General Wilson felt it was required by both the nature of operations with French forces and the length of the lines of communication, and negotiations were therefore undertaken to effect the transition. Tactical developments and the absence of essential communications facilities actually delayed the transfer of command somewhat. But the time finally appeared ripe after the junction of French forces from the south with elements of the Third U.S. Army near Sombernon on 11 September, and it was agreed that SHAEF should take over operational control of the southern forces on 15 September. On that date the control of AFHQ over the DRAGOON forces came to an end.
At the same time French Army B, which had become operational on 21 August, was redesignated as the First French Army, and the 6th Army Group, now consisting of the French First and Seventh U.S. Armies, became operational, absorbing Advance Detachment, AFHQ.9 The XII Tactical Air Command, which supported the DRAGOON forces, also passed from the control of the North African theater to the Ninth Air Force in the north.
Planning and launching DRAGOON had entailed two territorial revisions in the North African and European theaters. Southern France had been included in the European theater in 1943. Because DRAGOON was to be launched from Mediterranean bases, the War Department redrew the theater boundaries in February 1944, removing southern France, plus Switzerland, Austria, and Hungary, from the European theater, and placing them within the North African theater. On 18 September, after SHAEF had assumed control over the southern forces, the boundaries of the European theater were once more extended to include all of France and Switzerland. (Map 2)10
One more major addition to the U.S. tactical command structure occurred
late in 1944. On 27 December the Fifteenth Army was activated and assigned to the 12th Army Group. Fifteenth Army at first consisted only of a headquarters, and its functions initially were purely administrative. Its first responsibility was to serve as a headquarters for the control of U.S. units in the SHAEF reserve, a task it began to perform early in January 1945. Shortly thereafter it was given responsibility for staging, equipping, and training new units entering the Continent, for the reorganization and re-equipping of units returning from the combat zone, and for planning the occupation, particularly in the 12th Army Group sector of the Rhineland. The command of the army went temporarily to Maj. Gen. Ray E. Porter, but on 14 January passed to Maj. Gen. Leonard T. Gerow, former commander of the V Corps.11
In the meantime the logistic structure of U.S. forces on the Continent had
undergone its logical development, its evolution being governed largely by the rate at which ground was recaptured. The movement of Lt. Gen. John C. H. Lee's headquarters alone was a process which took several weeks and was not completed until mid-September. A portion of the COMZ headquarters remained in England for some time. The base section organization developed over a period of some months, according to need.
The core of the COMZ headquarters merged with the Forward Echelon near Valognes, where engineers constructed new tented quarters for approximately 11,000 persons and about 560,000 square feet of hutted office accommodations.12 But its location there was destined to be of short duration. Within a matter of days the capture of Paris appeared imminent, and General Lee contemplated an early move to that city.
The order for the move to Paris was actually issued by Brig. Gen. Royal B. Lord, and without Lee's knowledge.13 On 1 September the Chief of Staff dispatched a forward echelon to Paris, and within the next two weeks the entire headquarters moved to the French capital, a portion of it going there directly from London, and the remainder from Valognes. Using precious motor and air transportation at the very time of the critical supply shortages at the front, the movement naturally produced strong criticism from combat commanders. In the view of Lt. Gen. Walter B. Smith, the SHAEF Chief of Staff, the premature move was also largely responsible for the delays and difficulties in communications with the War Department which caused much embarrassment in September. SHAEF depended on the Communications Zone for such communications, and the movement made it impossible to extend reliable long-range communications from the rear.14
General Eisenhower himself disapproved of the move to Paris, and on 13 September sharply reproved the COMZ commander, notifying Lee that his headquarters was not to be located there.15 The Supreme Commander modified this order a few days later, realizing that the heavy shipments of personnel and supplies to the French capital made it impossible to shift the COMZ headquarters for the present without interfering with higher priority tasks. Paris, after all, was the logical location for the headquarters of the theater's administrative organization, for it contained a concentration of supply depots, hospitals, airstrips and airfields, railway stations and marshaling yards, and inland waterway offloading points which were vitally important to the supply structure of the theater.
General Eisenhower nevertheless considered the movement of General Lee's headquarters extremely precipitate and believed the influx of Americans into Paris to be unwise. He was obviously disturbed over the reports he had received about the blackmarket activities of U.S. personnel in Paris, and in his second communication to General Lee
made pointed reference to reports that the dress, discipline, and conduct of Americans in the French capital were "little short of disgraceful." While the Supreme Commander now authorized the COMZ headquarters to remain in Paris, he directed General Lee to stop immediately the entry into that city of all personnel not needed there for essential duty, and to institute a survey at once of the units already located there with a view toward removing all whose presence was not absolutely required. One of the main purposes of the reduction was the desire to use Paris primarily as a leave center.16
Efforts to break the "Paris fever" which had seized Americans of all ranks did not meet with spectacular success. On 20 October General Smith met with SHAEF and COMZ staff officers to reemphasize the Supreme Commander's policy on movements to the French capital and to discuss ways of transferring additional units without detriment to the war effort. Some units had already moved outside the city, but the number of new requests for accommodation within Paris more than made up for the removals. The fact that about 90 percent of the hotels in Paris had been taken over by the Americans produced an unfortunate public reaction and gave rise to comments that Allied demands in several respects exceeded those of the Germans. The COMZ headquarters alone occupied 167 hotels, the Seine Base Section headquarters another 129, and other organizations such as SHAEF, the Office of Strategic Services, the U.S. Navy, and the Air Transport Command were using approximately 25 more. The Seine Section and Communications Zone at this time estimated that between them they could release approximately 150 hotels, but the extent to which this was carried out is not known.17
These efforts to keep to a minimum the number of U.S. troops in Paris did nothing to reverse the decision by which that city became the permanent headquarters of the Communications Zone. In September General Lee's headquarters quickly became the nerve center of the theater's administrative activities.
Meanwhile the Communications Zone's territorial organization also made progress. As outlined elsewhere the OVERLORD planners had contemplated the establishment of a sectional organization on the Continent and before D Day had actually activated Base Sections No. 1 and No. 2, intended for operations in Brittany and Normandy, respectively.18 In addition, they had tentatively formed Base Section No. 3 for use as an intermediate section between the Advance Section and the base sections. Like other plans, the scheme for the sectional organization was based on a forecast of tactical operations. Since these did not proceed as expected, the planned organization underwent considerable change.
Early in July plans still called for Base Sections No. 1 and No. 2 to develop the Brittany and Cotentin Peninsulas.
Base Section No. 3 was now tentatively assigned the area of the Seine ports. In addition, an intermediate section and a Paris section were contemplated, the former to take over the area from Le Mans to Reims, the latter to take over the administration of the headquarters command in Paris. Personnel for the additional sections was to come from the U.K. sections, which were to be disbanded generally in accordance with the Reverse BOLERO process, and the United Kingdom organized into a single U.K. Base.
Developments in July began to bring about important alterations in the missions of some of the sections. Early in the month the Advance Section decided to subdivide its territory into area commands. On 11 July it organized the port of Cherbourg as Area No. I under the command of Col. Cleland C. Sibley, commander of the 4th Major Port. A few days later the Advance Section set up the rest of its territory as Area No. II. Confined for an unexpectedly long period to the Normandy beachhead area, Brig. Gen. Ewart G. Plank's organization was now handling a heavy load on the Continent, acting in the capacity of both an advance and a base section. The creation of area commands was obviously an attempt to decentralize some of its activities, particularly the specialized functions of a major port which was to begin operating within the next few days.
As it turned out, the organization of area commands was the first step in the creation of a new base section. On 21 July the Advance Section took another step in this direction, redesignating Area No. I the Cherbourg Command (Provisional) and placing it under Col. Theodore Wyman, formerly a district commander in Western Base Section. The Cherbourg Command remained under the control of the Advance Section, but Colonel Wyman was given most of the powers of a base section commander, and within the next few days his organization was reinforced with officers drawn from the provisional Base Section No. 3 in the United Kingdom.
These developments soon raised the question as to whether the Cherbourg Command might not take over the mission originally assigned to Base Section No. 2--i.e., operations in Normandy. The position of Base Section No. 2 consequently became more and more uncertain, and in the last two weeks of July its movement to the Continent was twice scheduled and twice postponed. The decision not to use Base Section No. 2 for the purpose originally intended finally came as the result of a tour of inspection which General Lord, the COMZ Chief of Staff, made of that area toward the end of July. Satisfied with the progress of operations at Cherbourg, General Lord concluded that it would be inadvisable to impose another headquarters to supervise a job already well under way. He proposed rather that Colonel Wyman's organization be built up and that it be allowed progressively to take over additional activities as the Advance Section could relinquish control over them, the idea being that the Cherbourg Command should eventually expand in size to include the beaches as well as the port of Cherbourg, and that Colonel Wyman should become the base
section commander in that area. General Plank concurred in this view.19
By 1 August it was definitely decided, therefore, that the Cherbourg Command would be the forerunner of a full-fledged base section. For this purpose it was now to be reinforced by the bulk of the Base Section No. 3 headquarters. The transition was very rapid. On 7 August, the same day on which Headquarters, Communications Zone, opened on the Continent, the area around Cherbourg was detached from Advance Section and became operational as the Cherbourg Base Section. In the succeeding weeks its responsibilities were increased rapidly by the turning over of additional territory in the vicinity of the beaches and by the release of supply dumps by Advance Section in the beach area. On 16 August Colonel Wyman's command was finally redesignated Normandy Base Section. By this time it was rapidly assuming the enormous task of handling the reception, staging, and dispatch of troops and supplies coming in over the beaches and through the minor ports and Cherbourg.20
The creation of a base section organization in the Cotentin on 7 August brought to realization the situation visualized in the OVERLORD plans whereby the Advance Section and a second COMZ section should become contiguous.21 Until that time progress in the development of the continental organization had been retarded. With the advent of the COMZ headquarters proper on the Continent early in August, and with the sudden increase in size of the lodgment which followed the breakout from Normandy, this process accelerated noticeably.
The next area to be organized was Brittany. Base Section No. 1 had already arrived off UTAH Beach on 3 August and in accordance with its planned mission immediately proceeded to the vicinity of Rennes to assume the task of supporting the Third Army in Brittany and developing that area. An amendment in plans now took place, however, to permit the employment of Base Section No. 2 in the Brittany Peninsula also. The expansion of the Cherbourg Command into a base section had left Base Section No. 2 without a mission, and it was now decided to divide the responsibilities in Brittany between Base Sections No. 1 and No. 2, leaving to the former the task of developing the Quiberon Bay area and supporting the Third Army in Brittany, and holding the latter in reserve for use in developing the port of Brest when it was captured.
Base Section No. 1 became operational on 16 August, redesignated as Brittany Base Section, thus giving the Communications Zone two full-fledged base sections in an operational status on the Continent, one operating in the rear of the Advance Section in Normandy and the other in the rear of the VIII Corps in Brittany. The plan to use Base Section No. 2 at Brest proved abortive in view of the disappointing turn of events at that port, and Brittany Base Section eventually took control of all Brittany, as originally intended. The mission of Brig. Gen. Leroy P. Collins' Base Section No. 2 consequently had to be changed once more. On 5 September it was finally activated as the Loire Base
Section, with headquarters at Le Mans. Loire Base Section embraced an area approximately 130 miles long extending from Laval to Orleans, and assumed the role of an intermediate section, largely in the support of Third Army.22
Several days earlier the capture of Paris had hastened the activation of a section to organize the administration of Paris and its environs. The Communications Zone had an organization tailor-made for this task in Base Section No. 5, the provisional headquarters organized under the command of Brig. Gen. Pleas B. Rogers, the perennial headquarters commandant of the London area. The new section was officially activated as Seine Base Section on 24 August. Within the next few days General Rogers was in Paris urgently requesting the dispatch of the remainder of his headquarters and, above all, an MP battalion.
Seine Section's mission initially included only the administration of metropolitan Paris and did not include responsibility for the operation of line-of-communications depots. Its principal tasks at first were the administration of civil relief, the rehabilitation of the city insofar as was necessary to aid in military operations, and preparation for the reception of the COMZ and SHAEF headquarters. Within the next few weeks Seine Section's area of responsibility was enlarged somewhat by the transfer of additional territory from Advance Section. At the same time Seine Section's activities were greatly expanded, for in taking over the COMZ installations, such as depots, in this area, it began to perform the more normal functions of a COMZ section, in addition to administering a large headquarters and leave center.23
The rapid activation of sections on the Continent in August was accompanied by the liquidation of the U.K. establishment. By mid-August plans were complete for the consolidation of the base sections in the United Kingdom into a single U.K. base, the old base sections becoming districts of the new command. Late in June Brig. Gen. Harry B. Vaughan, Jr., had been relieved of his job as Forward Deputy Commander of the Communications Zone in anticipation of his assignment as the commander of the new base. In August the entire liquidation process was speeded up, and, as planned, Western Base Section became Western District in the new U.K. Base Section, Southern Base Section became Southern District, and Central Base Section became the London District.24
General Vaughn took command of the newly activated U.K. Base on 1 September. By that time the old headquarters had been largely stripped of their personnel to form the new continental sections, and their commanders were given new assignments. In this way Col. Roy W. Grower of Eastern Base Section had become the commander of Base Section No. 1 (Brittany), General Rogers of Central Base Section had become commander of the Seine Section (Paris), and General Collins of Northern Ireland Base Section had organized Base Section No. 2, which in a few days was to be activated as the Loire Section. Col.
Fenton S. Jacobs of Western Base Section had initiated planning for Base Section No. 3 (intended as an intermediate section) and Brig. Gen. Charles O. Thrasher of Southern Base Section was tentatively scheduled to be the deputy commander of the new U.K. Base.25
In September plans called for the creation of two additional sections to complete the continental COMZ organization. One of these was to be the Oise Section, which was scheduled to take over the area east of Paris as territory was relinquished by the Advance Section; the other was to be Channel Base Section, scheduled to develop the Le Havre-Rouen area. Both sections were activated and began operations in September, although the assignment of their respective missions was attended by some confusion.
It will be recalled that originally Colonel Jacobs had tentatively been given command of Base Section No. 3 and a planning mission for the Continent. Early in August the transfer of the bulk of his headquarters to Cherbourg to build up Colonel Wyman's organization had left Colonel Jacobs without a command. Later in the month another headquarters, known as Base Section No. 4, was constituted with Colonel Jacobs in command, and tagged as an intermediate section. On 3 September this headquarters was officially redesignated Oise Section and opened at Fontainebleau.
A week later Channel Base Section was activated under the command of General Thrasher, who was given this assignment rather than that of deputy commander of the U.K. Base. Before either Oise or Channel could actually become operational, however, it was decided to switch their missions because Colonel Jacobs' organization was considered better qualified by reason of its personnel and experience for port development and operation. Consequently on 15 September the original Oise Section was redesignated Channel Base Section, under the command of Colonel Jacobs, and Channel Base Section was renamed Oise and placed under the command of General Thrasher.26
Neither of the two newly activated sections was immediately assigned area responsibility. Channel Base Section presented a special problem because it was to operate ports lying in British territory, north of the boundary between the 21 and 12th Army Groups. Its operations thus required crossing British lines of communication and violated the principle established by the OVERLORD planners that U.S. and British lines of communication should be kept completely separate. The resulting situation paralleled closely the relationship between British and American forces at ports in the United Kingdom, and naturally called for close co-operation. Early in October Channel Base Section was given control of Le Havre and the immediate vicinity except for civil affairs functions, thus becoming a small enclave within British-controlled territory. U.S. activities in the British territory--transportation, for example--were handled
by Normandy Base Section west of the Seine and by Channel Base Section east of that river.
Oise Section's development, meanwhile, was somewhat arrested, and not strictly in keeping with original intentions. The drawing of boundaries and the assignment of a definite territory to General Thrasher's headquarters proved infeasible at first because of the lack of troops to carry out area responsibilities. For the first weeks, therefore, Oise Section functioned in territory actually assigned to the Advance Section. Communications Zone redrew the latter's boundaries early in October, and Oise at that time assumed area control of the territory between the Advance Section and Seine Section. Its domain subsequently grew several times as the changes in Advance Section's boundaries conformed with the forward movement of the armies. The bad logistic situation in the fall meanwhile made it impossible for Oise Section to develop into a true intermediate section as intended. Almost all supplies forwarded in September and October were immediately consumed, with the result that few intermediate depots could be established. Consequently Oise Section's functions were limited mainly to rail and road maintenance and the supply of units stationed within its own borders.27
By mid-October, with three base sections, three intermediate sections, and one advance section in operation, the Communications Zone's administrative organization in support of the 12th Army Group was relatively complete, although there were to be consolidations and boundary changes to meet changing needs and the shifting tactical situation. The territorial organization had developed only roughly as intended, but plans had proved sufficiently flexible to permit the necessary adaptations. Activation and phasing in of the various continental section headquarters had lagged at first, and had then accelerated in conformance with the sudden change in pace of tactical operations.
The principal changes in plans had stemmed from the fact that the main line of communications had developed not from Brittany as expected, but from Cherbourg and the beaches, which assumed an inordinately greater importance than anticipated. This had resulted first in the growth of a base section organization in the Cotentin in a manner not contemplated, and second, in the development of only relatively minor activity in Brittany and along the lines of communications extending eastward therefrom.
The small scale of activity in the Brittany area eventually led logically to the disbandment of both the Loire and Brittany sections. The first step was taken on 1 December, when Brittany Base Section absorbed Loire Section as a district. Even this consolidation left the Brittany Base Section with only limited responsibilities, which hardly warranted the maintenance of a separate base section headquarters. On 1 February 1945 Brittany Base Section was in turn absorbed by Normandy Base Section as a district. At this time Normandy also expanded eastward, taking over territory from Channel Base Section north of the Seine to the new boundary between the 21 and 12th Army Groups. This gave Normandy Base Section control over an area extending
all the way from Brest to Dieppe, including responsibility for the operation of the ports of Le Havre and Rouen.28
Channel Base Section's main preoccupation, meanwhile, had become handling U.S. activities at Antwerp, which finally opened at the end of November, and operating U.S. supply lines to the Advance Section. At Antwerp, as at Le Havre and Rouen. Channel Base Section operated within British territory, but to the south of the U.S.-British boundary Channel Base Section was given responsibility in southern Belgium extending forward to the ADSEC rear boundary. (Map 3)
In the course of these consolidations and repeated boundary changes, command in the base sections remained relatively stable. The only important changes occurred in Normandy Base Section, where dissatisfaction with the development of Cherbourg's capacity led to the relief of Colonel Wyman at the end of October 1944. He was succeeded by Maj. Gen. Lucius D. Clay, who came to the theater on temporary loan from the ASF. In mid-December General Clay was in turn succeeded by Maj. Gen. Henry S. Aurand, who also came from an assignment in the ASF. Except for these changes, command in the base sections was stable, all the commanders having had similar assignments in the United Kingdom.29
In some respects the development of the communications zone in southern France was simpler than in the north. There was no question there of the development of alternate port areas or bases, since there was but one line of communications possible, leading directly northward from Marseille up the valley of the Rhône. The major organizational problem in the south was the integration of its logistic structure with that in the north. This integration did not occur simultaneously with SHAEF's assumption of operational control of the 6th Army Group. It was gradual, and it was effected only after a long transitional period, during which the southern forces continued to maintain close ties with the North African theater in matters concerning their support.
Logistic planning for both French and U.S. forces in the DRAGOON operation had been done by the SOS, North African Theater of Operations, commanded by Maj. Gen. Thomas B. Larkin, whose headquarters was with AFHQ at Caserta, Italy. After the landing in southern France the communications zone there had developed very much as it had in the north. In the early stages an organization known as Coastal Base Section (COSBASE), similar to the Advance Section in the north, was attached to the Seventh U.S. Army and charged with the initial development of the communications zone. Coastal Base Section had been activated early in July 1944 at Naples under the command of Maj. Gen. Arthur R. Wilson. It accompanied the Seventh Army on the landings, and for the first three weeks concerned itself mainly with the operation of the beaches. On 10 September an army rear boundary was drawn, and
November 1944-January 1945
MAJ. GEN. ARTHUR R. WILSON, Commanding General, Continental Advance Section.
COSBASE, redesignated Continental Base Section (CONBASE), assumed area responsibility for the territory to the rear thereof.
As in the north, the period during which CONBASE was the operative communications zone in southern France was short. The early capture of Marseille and the increasing length of the lines of communications soon necessitated that CONBASE be freed of its base section duties to move forward in support of the 6th Army Group. On 1 October, therefore, a new organization, known as Delta Base Section, was formed under the command of Brig. Gen. John P. Ratay to take over the operation of Marseille and other installations in the base area. CONBASE was now given its final designation of Continental Advance Section (CONAD), in keeping with its role as an advance section moving forward in direct support of the 6th Army Group, the same role which the Advance Section in the north performed for the 12th Army Group.
In order to exercise effective control over the two sections which were now operating in the southern lodgment AFHQ decided shortly thereafter to dispatch an advance echelon of the COMZ headquarters in Caserta to southern France. Such an advance echelon, under the command of Brig. Gen. Morris W. Gilland, moved to southern France; and by the end of October was operating the communications zone there from headquarters at Dijon under the general direction of General Larkin's headquarters in Italy.30
The problem of incorporating the southern France administrative structure into ETOUSA had been under discussion for some weeks. ETOUSA appeared anxious to extend its administrative control over the southern forces as soon as possible, for it expected that problems would soon arise on such matters as railways, civil affairs, labor, and procurement, in which there should be a uniform policy. Such problems would become more and more difficult to coordinate through AFHQ once the 6th Army Group forces joined with those of the 12th Army Group. Furthermore, it was thought that important economies might result from pooling logistic resources once the road and rail communications of the two forces were joined.
On the other hand, it was also desirable that the Communications Zone have sufficient time to make all arrangements to take over the requisitioning and shipping schedules from the SOS, North African theater. SHAEF planners believed the supply responsibility probably could not be transferred until most supplies were coming directly from the United States.31 A major consideration in postponing the transfer of responsibility was the fact that a substantial reserve of supplies existed in the North African theater in excess of those required for the support of other American forces there, and it was felt that the southern France forces should be supplied through that theater at least as long as this situation obtained.32
Representatives of the North African theater, AFHQ, 6th Army Group, and COMZ-ETOUSA discussed the entire problem at a conference on 29 September. COMZ-ETO again urged the earliest possible absorption of the southern system--by 1 November at the latest--arguing that this was necessary in order to achieve a balance in supplies in the whole theater. The SHAEF staff favored leaving the southern line of communications separate for the time being, however, thus utilizing to the full the capabilities of the supply organization in the Mediterranean during the period when the full operating capabilities of COMZ-
BRIG. GEN. JOHN P. RATAY, Commanding General, Delta Base Section.
ETO were required to support the 12th Army Group. SHAEF officials believed this could best be accomplished under the existing setup, for General Larkin's organization could more easily draw personnel and supplies from the Mediterranean as long as it was part of the North African theater. Serving the southern France organization put it in the position of drawing on another theater.
The conference at the end of September produced no immediate decision, but the problem continued under review. Within the next few weeks a compromise solution was worked out by which it was decided to place the southern communications zone under the ETO for "administration," but to
leave the responsibility for logistic support with the North African theater.33 This arrangement took effect on 1 November, on which date all NATOUSA units in the southern lodgment were reassigned to ETOUSA, the latter at this time assuming responsibility in all purely administrative matters such as personnel (including replacements), finance, and other matters handled through the adjutant general, provost marshal general, judge advocate general, and inspector general. SHAEF at this time assumed responsibility in civil affairs matters.
By this arrangement it was contemplated that logistic support would remain the responsibility of the North African theater for an indefinite period. Late in October, however, before the above agreement actually went into effect, the scheme was further modified to permit the transfer of control in logistic matters to the ETO within the next few weeks. To facilitate this transfer a special vehicle was created, known as Southern Line of Communications, or SOLOC. SOLOC was to be a subcommand of the Communications Zone, ETO, interposed between General Lee's headquarters and the two southern sections. But it was to retain the right to communicate directly with the North African theater on matters concerning personnel and shipping from the Mediterranean. The granting of such authority thus met some of the SHAEF objections to the immediate absorption of the southern logistic structure by COMZ-ETO. General Larkin became the commander of the new organization, and was also named Deputy Commander of the Communications Zone, ETO. Early in November he moved his main headquarters from Caserta, Italy, to Dijon, France, where the advance echelon of Communications Zone, Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTOUSA), was already operating the communications zone in southern France.34
In effect, the advance echelon of COMZ-MTOUSA became SOLOC, and since General Larkin was able to bring most of his headquarters staff with him to southern France, the new headquarters was simply a continuation of the parent headquarters at Caserta. When SOLOC became operational on 20 November, therefore, COMZ-ETO took over a relatively intact and operating supply organization from COMZ-MTOUSA.35
The actual integration of the supply system of the southern armies and supporting air forces into the Communications Zone, ETO, was not accomplished without difficulties. These arose not only from the necessity of SOLOC to adjust itself to the standing operating procedures of the ETO, which in some respects differed from those in the Mediterranean, but also from the rather unusual position which SOLOC held as a quasi-independent and intermediate command between Headquarters, Communications
Zone, on the one hand and CONAD and Delta Base Section on the other.
In his letter of instructions to the SOLOC commander, General Lee had specified that General Larkin, as Deputy Commander of the Communications Zone and as his representative on the ground, was to represent the COMZ commander in all dealings with the southern forces. Direct communication with SOS, MTOUSA, was authorized on all matters affecting Mediterranean shipping, and General Larkin was also permitted to call on the COMZ staff sections for any aid he might require in discharging his duties. Conversely, members of Headquarters, Communications Zone, were forbidden to communicate with the southern sections except through the SOLOC headquarters.
In order to avoid upsetting existing supply arrangements, General Lee announced that current programs for the phasing in of supplies, personnel, and equipment from the Mediterranean and the United States would remain in effect, subject only to adjustment directed by Headquarters, Communications Zone, after consultation with SOLOC, and that any extension of the program would also be made only after such consultation.
While the implementation of the directive generally proceeded smoothly, nevertheless it was attended by certain difficulties and required adjustments and adaptations. Disagreements arose, for example, as to the limits of SOLOC's jurisdiction and as to the role it was to have in the operations of the next higher and lower echelons of command. The Communications Zone, it appears, tended to treat SOLOC as a less independent command
MAJ. GEN. THOMAS B. LARKIN, Commanding General, Southern Line of Communications, and Deputy Commander of the Communications Zone, ETO.
than SHAEF intended it to be. The principal complaints arose over the Communications Zone's close scrutiny of SOLOC's requisitions. The COMZ staff, it was charged, made demands for requisitions in much greater detail than was actually needed, delayed the forwarding of requisitions to the New York Port, and in some cases exceeded its authority in determining what SOLOC could request. General Larkin considered these practices unwarranted in view of the responsibility he himself avowedly possessed for editing the requisitions which he forwarded.
Difficulties arose within SOLOC itself, resulting in part from misunderstanding
over its rather special status as a separate command, and from the supervision which it exercised over the operations of CONAD. Some of SOLOC's own staff officers tended to overlook their organization's separate command status and had to be cautioned against encouraging higher echelons to correspond directly with subordinate commands, and vice versa. General Wilson, commander of CONAD, had opposed the organizational changes by which his organization had become purely an advance section and been deprived of control over the base area. He had proposed, without success, that the activities of the two sections in support of the 6th Army Group be co-ordinated by his own command, which, he argued, was in a better position than any other headquarters to anticipate and meet the requirements of combat troops. CONAD found it difficult to adjust to the new situation and complained about SOLOC's close supervision.
It is likely that such a complaint against supervision from above would have been made even if there had been no intermediate command such as SOLOC. Quite understandably, the Advance Section in the north had reacted in the same way initially, resenting the loss of control over certain activities in the territory it relinquished to the base sections. Nevertheless, the activities in the advance and base sections were divided in both the north and south, and in the latter area the supervision over communications zone operations was exercised by SOLOC. This took the form mainly of editing CONAD's requisitions and arranging with Delta Base Section for shipment of supplies northward, but also of closely scrutinizing the operations of both sections. CONAD occasionally protested the orders of its superior headquarters, claiming "interference," as for example when SOLOC, concerned over the wasteful use of transport facilities, stepped in to direct CONAD to obtain prior approval before sending its motor transport outside its own territory. But General Larkin regarded it fully within his authority and responsibility to exercise such supervision in the interest of the most efficient use of resources along the entire southern line of communications.
SOLOC's continued ties with the Mediterranean theater were also a source of some confusion, arising mainly from the situation whereby shipping was handled through the Mediterranean and requisitions through ETOUSA. A heavy flow of both troops and supplies from the United States in November created considerable difficulties along the southern line. They led General Larkin to report that the New York Port and the War Department were apparently confused as to SOLOC's position, for they were continuing to ship all supplies in bulk to the Mediterranean, including those not only for Italy but also for southern France, which was now under another theater's jurisdiction. General Larkin desired that shipping for the southern forces be set up for ETOUSA and then allocated to SOLOC as necessary.
Such problems were eventually ironed out, but they pointed up the difficulties attending the transition of control from one theater to another, as well as the difficulty of employing an intermediate headquarters to effect such a transfer.
By early 1945 the integration of the southern supply system had progressed sufficiently to render SOLOC superfluous. SOLOC had served a useful purpose in facilitating the transfer of supply functions from MTOUSA to ETOUSA, but in the view of the 6th Army Group its continued existence contributed to the slowness of procedure involved in going through so many headquarters.36 Pressure to abolish the organization consequently increased, and on 6 February 1945 SOLOC was finally dissolved, CONAD and Delta Base Section then coming directly under the command of General Lee's COMZ headquarters in Paris.
By February, then, the continental Communications Zone consisted of three base, two intermediate, and two advance sections. In the north the Advance Section operated in direct support of the First and Third Armies in the 12th Army Group and of the Ninth U.S. Army in 21 Army Group. In the south CONAD performed the same function for the 6th Army Group. The Advance Section for the most part drew its support directly from the Normandy and Channel Base Sections, which controlled the entire coastal area and operated the ports. Similarly in the south Delta Base Section organized the base area and operated the port of Marseille. Besides these base and advance organizations two sections operated in the north, Oise Section controlling transportation facilities in the forwarding of supplies from the base to the advance section, and Seine Section concerning itself mainly with the administration of the headquarters in and around Paris. The U.K. Base, meanwhile, was also a part of the Communications Zone, feeding supplies and personnel from the United Kingdom and handling certain residual administrative functions there for SHAEF and ETOUSA-COMZ.37
1. For detailed accounts of tactical operations during this period, see H. M. Cole, The Lorraine Campaign, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1950), and the following volumes in preparation for the series: H. M. Cole, The Ardennes Campaign; Charles B. MacDonald, The Siegfried Line Campaign; and James D. T. Hamilton and Robert Ross Smith, Southern France and Alsace.
2. See below, pp. 28-29.
3. As pointed out in the Preface to Logistical Support I, the command and organizational developments of the pursuit period and the command decisions of early fall 1944 are discussed here in order to adhere to the topical-chronological organization adopted for both volumes.
4. Marking the inauguration of Phase III of the command plan, on D plus 56 instead of D plus 41 as planned. See Logistical Support I, 208ff.
5. [Robert W. Coakley] Organization and Command in the ETO, Pt. II of the Administrative and Logistical History of the ETO, Hist Div USFET, 1946, MS (hereafter cited as Organization and Command) II, 153-59.
6. The new headquarters came to the United Kingdom as the Eighth Army, but was redesignated the Ninth Army in May to avoid confusion with the British Eighth Army.
7. Organization and Command, II, 162-67.
8. Ibid., II, 168-70.
9. General Devers was subsequently relieved of his other assignments in the Mediterranean, Lt. Gen. Joseph T. McNarney becoming Commanding General, NATOUSA, and Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark the Deputy Supreme Commander.
10. Organization and Command, II, 223-32.
11. Ibid., II, 261-64.
12. Final Report of the Chief Engineer, European Theater of Operations, 1942-45 (Paris, Hervé et Fils [c. 1946], prepared in Office of Chief Engr ETO, 1946, p. 326.
13. Interv with Lord, 9 Aug 51, and Col Talley, 7 Mar 51.
14. Cbl FWD-16198, Smith to Lt Gen Thomas T. Handy, 29 Sep 44, OPD Cbl Files.
15. Cbl FWD-14637, Eisenhower to Lee, 13 Sep 44, SHAEF SGS 014.1 Civil Affairs in Paris I.
16. Cbl FWD-15033, Eisenhower to Lee, SHAEF SGS 400.3/1 Supply Problems of Allied Advance; Memo, Col Allen Sibley to Maj Gen Robert W. Crawford, 12 Sep 44, SHAEF SGS 014.1 Civil Affairs in Paris I.
17. Conf Min, Hq ETO, 20 Oct 44, EUCOM 337 General Conferences 44 II.
18. See Logistical Support I, 216-18.
19. Ltr, Lord to Plank, 25 Jul 44, and Plank's reply, 28 Jul 44, EUCOM 381/2 War Plans General.
20. Organization and Command, II, 178-87.
21. See Logistical Support I, 208.
22. Organization and Command, II, 184-89.
23. Ibid., II, 191-94.
24. Eastern Base Section had been deactivated at the end of April and absorbed by Western Base Section as District VIII.
25. Organization and Command, II, 86-92, 190-91.
26. At the same time an exchange of engineer sections was made between Colonel Jacobs' headquarters and Brittany Base Section. The latter's engineer staff had prepared specifically for the development of Brest, and the decision not to develop that port left this staff without a mission to match its ability.
27. Organization and Command, II, 194-202.
28. Within Normandy Base Section the British retained a small enclave in the area of their D-Day landings.
29. Organization and Command, II, 265-70.
30. Ibid., II, 232-35.
31. Ltr, Whipple to G-4, Transfer of Adm Responsibility, DRAGOON Forces, 1 Sep 44, SHAEF G-4 381 ANVIL 44 I.
32. Cbl FX-91666, Wilson to SHAEF, 4 Sep 44, SHAEF AG 381-3 SHAEF to AGWAR Reports on OVERLORD; Cbl FWD-14276, SHAEF to CCS, 6 Sep 44, SHAEF SGS 381 Post-OVERLORD Planning.
33. Conf, Hq NATOUSA, sub: Transfer of Adm and Supply Coincidental to the Change of Theater Boundary, 27 Sep 44, and Aide Memoire by Lee, 30 Sep 44, ETO 381/200 Transfer . . .; SHAEF Memo, sub: Policy on Transfer of Adm Responsibility for DRAGOON Forces, 8 Oct 44, SHAEF G-4 Diversion of Service Troops, DRAGOON, Box 1, Folder 51.
34. North African Theater (NATOUSA) was redesignated Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTOUSA) in October.
35. Organization and Command, II, 235-40.
36. Cbl BX-23473, 6 A Gp to SHAEF, 26 Jan 45, SHAEF SGS 400.3/1 Supply Problems of Allied Advance.
37. Organization and Command, II, 203, 241-48.