The Army Service Forces

This subseries describes and analyzes the military management of a vast complex of activities which during World War II fell generally into the field of logistics. In March 1942, in order to free General Marshall and the General Staff of a mass of administrative burdens, operational responsibility for the continental United States was delegated to three major commands: the Army Ground Forces (Lt. Gen. Lesley J. McNair), the Army Air Forces (Lt. Gen. Henry H. Arnold), and the Army Service Forces-at first the Services of Supply (Lt. Gen. Brehon B. Somervell). The present volume is a study of the third of these great commands, written by an author trained in political science and public administration, who was an adviser to General Somervell.

** Table of Contents **

THE ORGANIZATION AND ROLE OF THE ARMY SERVICE FORCES. By John D. Millett. (1954, 1985; 494 pages, 3 tables, 7 charts, 8 illustrations, 9 appendixes, bibliographical note, glossary, index, CMH Pub 3-1.)

This work examines World War II from the viewpoint of the Commanding General of the Army Service Forces, Lt. Gen. Brehon B. Somervell. It is concerned with problems of materiel rather than manpower. A study in the problems of management, it deliberately dwells on the conflicts which arose inside and outside the command.

As a result of the 1942 reorganization General Somervell became the commander of the supply ("technical") and administrative services and of the nine corps areas of the United States. He also became the principal adviser to the Under Secretary of War and the Chief of Staff on logistical matters and was on occasion sent by them as a troubleshooter to theaters of operations. Inside the War Department General Somervell's interpretation of the necessary role of his organization brought it into conflict with the powerful Operations Division of the General Staff (OPD), particularly with regard to the relationship of strategy and supply (which are explored in Chapters IV and V) and also with regard to the jurisdiction of the Army Service Forces over the strongly entrenched chiefs of the supply and administrative services.

Outside the War Department the Commanding General, Army Service Forces, clashed with the War Production Board. The story of this conflict has been told elsewhere from the point of view of the War Production Board (in The United States at War [Washington, 1946], a publication of the Bureau of the Budget; and in Donald M. Nelson, Arsenal of Democracy [New York, 1946]). In the present volume the position of the Army Service Forces is fully set forth (Chs. XIII-XV), the lessons derived from this conflict are discussed (Ch. XIX), and there is a recital of the less troubled relationships of the Army Service Forces with other civilian agencies (Chs. XVI-XVII) and with the Navy (Ch. XVIII).

General Somervell's capacity as a manager was challenged not only by the vastness of his command but even more by the diversity of tasks and agencies for which it was responsible. The work gives extended attention to the ASF chief's efforts to achieve an effective organization, particularly to his efforts to coordinate the technical services (Ch. XX), establish a unified field organization for service activities (Ch. XXI), rationalize his huge headquarters (Ch. XXII), and introduce into his command continuous improvements in management (Chs. XXIII, XXIV).

This volume presents the most instructive experiment made by the Army before 1954 in centralizing the command of logistical operations. To complete a study of the activities of the Army Service Forces, the reader should consult other volumes in the United States Army in World War II, such as both Global Logistics and Strategy volumes, The Army and Economic Mobilization, The Army and Industrial Manpower, and Buying Aircraft: Materiel Procurement for the Army Air Forces; Washington Command Post: The Operations Division, Chs. XIII-XIV; The Persian Corridor and Aid to Russia, Chs. X-XII; and the volumes in the technical service subseries, in which the Army Service Forces is observed from the point of view of its subordinate commands.

    Key topics:
  1. Wartime organization of the continental United States (the zone of interior) in a war fought overseas (Chs. I, II, IX, XX, XXI, XXIV).
  2. Centralization versus decentralization in the wartime administration of supply in the zone of interior (Chs. XI, XX, XXI).
  3. Coordination of the distribution of supplies between the zone of interior and theaters of operations (Chs. III-V, VII).
  4. The problem of command relations in supplying combat forces in the zone of interior (Chs. VIII, XI).
  5. Common versus separate supply for ground, air, and sea forces (Chs. VIII, XI, XVIII).
  6. Relationships and conflicts of interest between military and civilian authority in the control of procurement and industrial mobilization for war (Chs. XIII-XVII, XIX).
  7. The relation of strategy and logistics in military planning (Chs. III, VII).
  8. Use of a "control" agency as a managerial device in a large military organization (Ch. XXIII).
  9. Civilian versus military control of the wartime economy of the United States (Ch. XIX).
  10. Administration of military lend-lease supplies (Chs. III, XVII). (For a fuller treatment, see both Global Logistics and Strategy volumes.)
  11. The supply aspects of the reorganization of the War Department in March 1942 (Ch. II).
  12. A case study of the problem of planning versus operational activity in defining the proper authority and functions of the General Staff (Chs. I, II, VII, X, XII).
  13. The problem of controlling the size of military headquarters, for which a solution was not found in World War II (Ch. XXII).

** Table of Contents **