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.