Strategic Estimates"It would be difficult to exaggerate Wedemeyer's impact as a strategic planner during 1941-1943."
D. Clayton James
"I was just one of Gerow's soldiers."
By early May of 1941, Albert Wedemeyer had familiarized himself thoroughly with the ongoing work in War Plans Division. Recently assigned to WPD from the Office of the Chief of Infantry, he had spent most of the intervening weeks in careful study of all of the current war plans. None of them, he noted, was a strategic plan with the comprehensive scope typical of the European war plans. Even the new RAINBOW plans, dramatic steps forward from the old "color" plans, were actually contingencies that allowed the United States to respond to foreign aggression and then to react only in a purely military way.
When General Marshalls' initial directive arrived at the War Plans Division for action, Brigadier General H.J. Maloney, temporarily acting as chief of WPD, assigned the task of implementing it to Wedemeyer. Wedemeyer began to study the production problem, discussing it with the various staff sections and circulating requests for basic information.1 Initial planning produced a draft strategic estimate upon which WPD meant to base its production estimate.2 Brigadier General Leonard t. Gerow, chief of War Plans Division, was not satisfied, however, believing that the draft needed further
work. At that point, Marshall received President Roosevelt's letter of 9 July that had a "galvanic" effect on the War Department.3
Realizing that the previous planning work had a new urgency and an expanded scope, Gerow summoned Wedemeyer to his office in the Munitions Building and explained the revised assignment. Whereas he previously had to estimate requirements to support the Army's expansion in 1941 and 1942, Wedemeyer now had to calculate the nation's total production requirements for the defeat of the "potential enemies" of the United States. Furthermore, he had about ninety days to do the job. It was, as Wedemeyer later observed, a stupendous task. A simple estimate of the amount of matériel the Army would require was insufficient; he also had to estimate the type, quantity, and priority of that production in consonance with agree strategy.4 When President Roosevelt ordered the War Department to consider the production estimates necessary to support Lend Lease, as well as to equip the armed forces of the United States, he introduced a factor that might have no solution, for the Russian and British demands were voracious. The impact on existing mobilization plans would be considerable, for Roosevelt believed that American "munitions power" delivered to the Allies was one way to ensure the defeat of the Axis.5 The problem was in determining where to begin.
In order to give Wedemeyer some quiet in which to puzzle out the problem, Gerow assigned him a private office with his own secretary--unheard-of-perquisites for a mere major on duty at the War department. Counterbalancing the convenience of the private office was the room's proximity to the officers of Generals Marshall and Gerow. Through the next months, both the chief of staff and the chief of WPD sustained a lively interest in what Wedemeyer was doing. This involved a daily meeting at 0800 in the chief of staff's office, at which Wedemeyer, General Gerow Colonel Thomas
Handy of WPD, Brigadier General Brehon Somervell of the Services of Supply, and Major General Henry Arnold of the Army Air Corps discussed progress with Marshall. Wedemeyer immersed himself in his work, particularly after Marshall had him assigned quarters at Fort Myer. Wedemeyer and Marshall too the opportunity of the morning walk to Marshall's sedan, and the subsequent drive to their offices, to discuss the maturing plan. The chief of staff respected the abilities and opinions of the WPD staff--many of whom he had selected himself--and remembered Wedemeyer's abilities as revealed in his excellent report on attendance at the German war college. He trusted men to do the jobs they were assigned and was open to differences of opinion. Wedemeyer recalled that the working atmosphere was wonderful:
General Marshall stopped and looked at me. He said, "Wedemeyer (he never called me by my nickname--King and Arnold both called me Al), don't you ever fail to give me the benefit of your thinking and your experience. You would be doing me a disservice if you did otherwise." If he had asked me to jump into Niagara Falls after that I would have done so for him. I felt that here was a man--a great man--giving me that latitude and being so fair about it.6
It goes without saying that Wedemeyer had a lot of help. Because he was the chief planner, his name became associated with all aspects of what became known as the Victory Plan. In fact, the job would have overwhelmed one man, and Wedemeyer parceled out aspects of the problem to other officers in WPD and elsewhere in the War department staff. While many men worked on the Victory Plan, however, they worked under Wedemeyer's guidance, and it was always Wedemeyer who designed the work and at whose desks the final product took shape. Wedemeyer's role should not be underestimated, regardless of the work done by other men. War Plans Division had an average strength of only forty-three officers in the summer of 1941,7 of which only six were working in the Joint Policy and Plans Section of the Plans Group8 Responsible for the Victory Plan and similar documents. Each of those men had his own full work load as the Army prepared for war, as WPD handled
literally hundreds of major staff actions in the second half of 1941.9 None could have diverted any significant amount of time to Wedemeyer's project.
Some help was available, however. Gerow provided an essential service when he assigned a "murder committee" to review and critique each edition of Wedemeyer's plan. Gerow and Wedemeyer had known each other years before in the Philippines and, respecting each other's abilities, worked easily together. The other members of the committee were officers whom Wedemeyer knew equally well and respected--Colonel (later general) Thomas T. Handy, Colonel Franklin A. Kibler, and Colonel Leven C. Allen, the latter having once been Wedemeyer's commander. Wedemeyer's work also benefited from reviews by Lieutenant Colonel C.W. Bundy, his immediate superior. Having raised the question of production estimates himself, Bundy also offered useful suggestions about its resolution.
Friendship notwithstanding, these men were experienced staff officers who did not spare Wedemeyer's feelings as they dissected and examined every fact of his drafts in minute and critical detail. Wedemeyer was necessarily submerged in the specific and consumed with pulling the myriad skeins of diverse strategic considerations together. His review committee, far less involved in those complexities, could take a more dispassionate and considered look at the growing estimate of production requirements. The review process proved so successful in uncovering oversights and unconscious planning lapses that the War Plans Division soon adopted it as a standard procedure throughout the war. Rank and position were irrelevant when the WPD closed the doors to scrutinize its work. The process was not for the thin-skinned, but it helped the WPD to produce exceptionally comprehensive plans.
Although Wedemeyer had all of the supervision he could possibly desire and all of the secretarial support that he needed, he found himself severely constrained as he began his work. National sensitivity about questions of war and peace meant that no hint of his work could be permitted to leak into the press. The public did not generally accept the idea that the professional soldier had the duty to plan against the most terrible contingencies and saw offensive war
plans as evidence that the United States meant to enter the war. Accordingly, although Wedemeyer had carte blanche to go anywhere and consult with anyone he felt necessary, he had to frame his questions and requests for information so as to conceal the ultimate object of his planning. Such constraints limited the value of his authority to call upon officials and agencies of the government for information and advice. It quickly became evident to Wedemeyer that he was working on the most secret of all projects then under way at the War Plans Division, and perhaps in the entire government.
Objectively the task was simply one of estimating production requirements so that the under secretary of war and the various civilian agencies charged with the task of managing procurement of war matériel would have the information they needed to cope intelligently with their duties. Seeking the assistance of historical precedents, Wedemeyer surveyed Army mobilization for World War I and found that he agreed with General Marshall's negative appraisal of the Army's transition to a war footing in 1917.
The First Steps: Outlining the Problem
The 1917 experience illustrated for the War department the pitfalls of general mobilization and had already provided many pointers for the general staff to ponder during the two decades after the war. For example, the War department began to comprehend the difficulties involved in coordinating military and industrial mobilization, and in the years between the two world wars undertook the development of a series of mobilization plans that capitalized on the 1917-1918 experience.10 Yet despite the World War I effort, which was the first modern war in which the United States attempted a full mobilization, the magnitude of the problem in 1917 still did not approach that of 1941. The nation did not become fully engaged in World War I, but War Department planners of 1941 could safely predict that every segment of society would be touched if American entered the total war developing in Europe.
The first war did not revolutionize industry and economic institutions in the United States; industry, for example, expanded in 1917 but was never converted to a wartime economy to the extent that it would have to be in 1941. In sum, the war economy had only just begun to function when World War I ended. While lessons of the mechanics of how World War I mobilizers accomplished their tasks emerged from World War I, too much of that knowledge was inadequately preserved.11 Furthermore, it was not until 1939-1941 that American strategic and operational plans were intertwined with mobilization plans, as had been increasingly common in Europe since the Franco-Prussian War. As he outlined the problem and created a framework to organize the information he would have to gather, Wedemeyer realized that previous American mobilizations offered him little positive guidance and that he would have to evolve his own approach to the problem.
In order to deduce the nation's ultimate production requirements, Wedemeyer concluded that the essential first task was to compute the size of the Army and Air Corps that the War Department would have to arm and equip. Size and composition of forces were functions of mission, however, and no one could estimate the size of military forces required without knowing the missions they would be ordered to execute. Missions depended upon military strategy, and in order to know the military strategy, Wedemeyer had first to know the national objective in the event of war. Moreover, planning had to allow for production requirements to support Lend Lease. In the end, he remarked, it was necessary to work like a journalist, and answer the traditional questions of who, what, when, where, why and how.12 Wedemeyer therefore established for himself a series of questions to answer in order to accomplish his task:
- What is the national objective of the United States?
- What military strategy will be devised to accomplish the national objective?
- What military forces must be raised in order to execute that military strategy?
- How will those military forces be constituted, equipped, and trained?
His methodology implied that by the time he had answered the first three questions, he would have the information he needed to answer the last, which was the objective task he had been given.
It is therefore only superficially curious that Wedemeyer began to frame a logistics estimate by reviewing very broad strategic questions. On the face of it, he exceeded his brief rather considerably--asked for production totals, he instead considered matters of national policy. But if he had tried to deal solely with logistical considerations, he could not possibly have arrived at a solution approaching the comprehensive estimate the situation required.
"Before long," Wedemeyer later said, "I rediscovered the obvious: a journey can be charted only with a destination in mind, and strategy can be plotted only with goals or aims in mind." Consequently, he set out to discover the national goals in the event of war.13 The United States had to win any war that it fought, but Wedemeyer knew from his reading that it was far more important for him to understand the sort of world America hoped to see emerge from the cataclysm of war, and what sort of peace the country was willing to enforce. If the work was to be useful, his entire study had to proceed from the correct strategic assumptions, and he was frustrated to find that the clear statements of national policy he needed were "almost as elusive as the philosopher's stone."14
Question One: The National Objective
To his surprise, Wedemeyer ascertained that the government seemed to have no mechanism whatever for considering such paramount national policy problems or for answering them systemically.
To Wedemeyer, it appeared that few men in Washington were even conscious of the fact that "supreme issues of war and peace required thorough analysis in the top echelons of the national government."15 Government planning was short-term planning, aimed at accomplishing immediate goals, of which the ad hoc executive decision on the destroyers-for-bases deal was typical. Long-range planning to determine war goals for a peace favorable to the national interests of the United States seemed to be no one's task. In 1941, few American leaders looked beyond the problem of militarily defeating future enemies.
At length, Wedemeyer determined that the only definitive statement of national policy that generated unanimous support was the Monroe Doctrine. But protecting the western hemisphere from European incursion, while fundamental, was still insufficient to answer his question. He needed to know the conditions the United States wanted to create, both abroad and at home, in order to ensure the future security of the nation. He read all of the material he could find on the subject and then discussed foreign policy with General Marshall and secretary Stimson, both of whom were helpful, but neither of whom was in any position to tell Wedemeyer with any authority what the nation intended.16
One problem was that few government officials were willing to say publicly that the United States was committed to war against the Rome-Berlin Axis. "Needless to say," Wedemeyer later recalled, "at a time when merely discussing such things was often interpreted as plotting war, few of the harassed senior officials in Washington were in a position to offer much guidance."17 Public opinion played an important part, not only by making government officials reticent to discuss the matter, but also by keeping the issue of war and peace terribly confused. Involvement in the war was just one aspect of a multifaceted problem. If the country took part, there was also the question of when it should enter, and on what terms. Ultimately, Wedemeyer decided that it would be best for him to write a statement of national objectives in the event of war, as he understood them, and include that statement as his first planning assumption.18
He drafted a simple list of objectives and forwarded it to Secretary Stimson for approval. The United States meant, so far as Wedemeyer could determine,
to eliminate totalitarianism from Europe and, in the process, to be an ally of Great Britain; further, to deny the Japanese undisputed control of the western Pacific.19
Stimson quickly approved Wedemeyer's submission, and that statement of national objectives became the basis for all of his subsequent planning. The heart of the proposal had already been incorporated into the ABC conversations of 1941, that postulated a war in which the United States and Great Britain would fight as allies, committed first to the defeat of Germany, and then to the defeat of other enemies. The basic assumptions of the RAINBOW 5 plan also applied in a very general sense. Wedemeyer understood that by the summer of 1941 other RAINBOW options were nugatory, but because the progress of the war had rendered them improbable, and because the president and secretary of war strongly believed that general war was inevitable.20 There was in War Plans division a general acceptance of Mackinder's ideas and agreement that, in any world war, the European theater would be the decisive theater.
As he began his work, then, Major Wedemeyer established the premise that the United States would, in the event of war, conduct major campaigns directed against Germany, operations that would involve the bulk of the nation's military power and constitute its main military effort. Simultaneously, lesser military forces would be allocated to ensure the security of the western hemisphere and its critical installations, and to maintain an acceptable political balance in the western Pacific.
With this set of assumptions about the nation's ultimate objectives in a war, Wedemeyer was in a position to outline the military strategy necessary to accomplish those objectives. RAINBOW 5 summarized
Question Two: The Military Strategy
the requirements in general terms and provided a frame of reference for subsequent planning. According to that plan, the United States would secure the western hemisphere from attack and be prepared to send task forces to the eastern Atlantic, Africa, Mediterranean, and Europe to assist Great Britain in defeating Germany and Italy.21 Although the mission of those task forces was the heart of the war plan, Wedemeyer wrote that
the specific operations necessary to accomplish the defeat of the Axis powers cannot be predicted at this time. Irrespective of the scope and nature of these operations, we must prepare to fight Germany by actually coming to grips with and defeating her ground forces and definitely breaking her will to combat.22
It was, however, possible to resolve the critical issues of how and when the United States could bring military power to bear against the Axis.
The first consideration was the enemy's strength, dispositions, and intentions, and for that sort of intelligence data, Wedemeyer turned to the Army G-2, where Colonel Truman Smith held the position of special consultant on Germany and worked directly with Colonel Hamilton Maguire, chief of G-2's German section. Colonel Smith had been military attaché in Berlin while Wedemeyer was at the Kriegsakademie and had a thorough knowledge of the German army. He also had unusually well developed contacts with General Friedrich von Boetticher, the German military attaché in Washington. Boetticher freely shared actual Luftwaffe telegrams with Smith, a practice that continued through the middle of August 1941.23 Drawing upon such rich data, Smith could, with confidence, sketch the situation in the German armed forces.24 Because of his experience
in Germany, close times with Germans, and frank pronouncements about the quality of the German armed forces, Smith had drawn fire from critics who regarded him as pro-German. Marshall, who had a high opinion of Smith's abilities, had to struggle to save him from dismissal. Like Marshall, Wedemeyer had absolute faith in Smith's judgment about the Germans, and the War Plans Division merged Smith's intelligence reports into periodic strategic assessments as the basis for further planning.
The WPD strategic assessment written in the late summer of 1941 and published in the fall was a thoroughly gloomy document. The G-2 identified the potential enemies of the United States as Germany, Italy, Japan, and Vichy France. Of the four, Germany was the strongest and occupied most of Colonel Smith's attention. He expected Germany to conduct strategic-offensive operations in the Russian theater and concurrently strategic-defensive operations in all other theaters. In the long run, German operations could take one of two directions: attacks on the Middle East or on England. While Germany would help Italy in containing British forces in the Mediterranean, Smith thought that the ultimate objective of German operations in that theater was either to take Gibraltar or to execute a pincer against the Suez area. Germany wanted to create favorable conditions for attacks through Turkey into the Caucasus area, coordinated with an early 1942 drive into the Ukraine. The other possibility was that Mediterranean operations were a diversion for an invasion of England. In any case, Germany wanted to discourage or postpone the entrance of the United States into the war in Europe.25
Colonel Smith concluded that Germany would concentrate against Russia, hoping for a quick victory over the Soviets. After those operations, Germany would seek a negotiated peace with Great Britain. In default of such a peace, Germany would then invade the British Isles or else fight to eliminate British influence from the entire Mediterranean-North African region. Due to the heavy German losses in the fighting in Russia, Smith was optimistic
about Germany's inability to reconstitute her military forces for an invasion of England any time in the near future. For the same reasons, Germany could definitely not undertake any major offensive operations in the western hemisphere for at least a year, and then "only if she acquires large numbers of British ships, both commercial and war vessels."26
Italy had not the military capacity to expand her operations outside of the Mediterranean, and the G-2 predicted that the Italians would be an "increasingly uncomfortable and precarious" ally for Germany. The German war strategy, Smith wrote, "contemplates a rugged and aggressive role wholly beyond the capabilities of the mercurial, non-bellicose Italian people." But Hitler, according to the G-2 analysis, saw value in retaining an alliance with a Catholic nation and presumably hoped to use the Vatican to lend credence to the notion that Germany was engaged in a Christian, or at least anti-Communist, crusade in Russia. The G-2 believed, however, that Mussolini's regime was in imminent danger of collapse and would desert the German alliance at the first propitious opportunity.27
Japan, on the other hand, would become more bellicose in the western Pacific in proportion to Nazi successes in Europe.28 G-2 analysis suggested that Japan would pursue an opportunistic role and would try to facilitate her freedom of action by ending the war in China. Intelligence analysts expected Japan to conduct strategic-offensive operations in the southern theater, striking toward the Netherlands East Indies; strategic-defensive operations in the central theater of China; and strategic-defensive operations in the northern theater of Manchuria. Although it was possible that Japan would act against the Russians in Siberia, a much more likely course of action was that Japan would expand into Dutch and British possessions in the southern Pacific. Concurrently, the G-2 warned that the Japanese were likely to occupy the Philippines and Hong Kong and make raids or feints against Hawaii, Alaska, Panama, and the west coast of the United States. The warning was timely:
In the destroyers-for-bases deal, mothballed destroyers of the reserve fleet were transferred to Great Britain. (National Archives)
Chief of Staff George C. Marshall and Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson. (U.S. Army Collection, National Archives)
Under Secretary of War Robert Patterson. (U.S. Army Collection, National Archives)
The Munitions Building, War Department General Staff, where the War Plans Division had its offices. (U.S. Army Collection, National Archives)
Brig. Gen. Leonard Gerow, chief of War Plans Division in 1941, selected Wedemeyer to write a production estimate in response to the Chief of Staff's directive. Center of Military History)
Principal staff of the War Plans Division in November 1941. Col. Charles W. Bundy, who expressed early WPD concerns about production, is second from left; Col. Thomas T. Handy, a member of Wedemeyer's "murder committee," is second from right. (Courtesy of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans)
Col. Truman Smith, assistant G-2, War Department General Staff.
Brig. Gen. Leven C. Allen, Wedemeyer's commander in the 94th Antitank Battalion.
General Thomas T. Handy, Deputy Chief of Staff under Marshall.
Japan will not take aggressive military steps until favorable conditions for success have been created, when swift blows, timed with Axis operations in the European theater, will be struck. . . .29
Vichy France, the report concluded, could be disregarded almost entirely. The French would continue to pursue a policy of passive collaboration with the Axis and cooperate with Germany in economic matters. The only real French goal was to resist any attempt, not only by Germany, but also by Great Britain, to seize or use any portion of French territory or French possessions, particularly in Africa. The French could be expected to place their fleet and shipyards at Germany's disposal and cooperate militarily with the Axis in Africa. Throughout, France would take advantage of any opportunity to recover lost territory and her former position in continental Europe. French collaboration with the Axis would vary directly with Axis success, and the United States could expect Vichy France to attempt to pursue its own course if Germany's fortunes flagged.30
The nations confronting the Axis powers had few options. Great Britain had to remain on the strategic defensive, concentrating on winning the Battle of the Atlantic and retaining a lodgment in the Middle East. The British faced enormous risk, however, and G-2 analyses could not confidently predict victory of the United Kingdom, even with full American collaboration. British reverses in the Middle East, or a Russian collapse on that front, would enable the Germans to concentrate an overwhelming military force against England. For the British, the situation hinged on three issues: the German ability to win quickly in Russia without suffering excessive losses; the German ability to reconstitute military forces quickly after that victory; and the German ability to control the conquered regions and exploit their resources with the use of minimal forces. Having outlined such grim prospects, Smith concluded that "from a long range viewpoint, the situation is not hopeless for Great Britain, assuming the continuation of Russian resistance and/or full U.S. participation in the war."31
The crucial factor was the state of the Soviet Union. If fortune smiles on Russian arms, Germany might yet be prevented from achieving the early and decisive victory essential to the realization of
her military and economic objectives. But if Germany decisively defeated Russia, then Germany would extend its control over the vast expanses of central Eurasia. Within that area existed adequate natural resources, foodstuffs, and industrial potential for the Germans to create a strong, centrally planned economy, the beginnings of German domination of Mackinder's "heartland."
Economically and militarily secure within a citadel that possessed immensely strong geographical barriers, Germany could release millions of men to industry and to the exploitation of her conquests. The Axis would be virtually unaffected by even the tightest sea blockade and beyond the range of most of the existing strategic air forces. Such a situation would present the United States with the most difficult military problem imaginable, particularly if it were compounded by the catastrophe of the fall of the British Isles. In that case the nation would have lost the only remaining area in Europe from which it could conduct effective operations against Germany.
The health of Russia was therefore of paramount concern, and the Soviet situation defined the time available for the United States to act against Germany. If Russia lost the war by the end of 1941, the Germans would probably require one full year to reorganize their armed forces to conduct an invasion of the British Isles. Germany would likely also need a full year to bring sufficient order out of the chaos of the conquered territories to be able to benefit militarily and economically from them. The earliest, therefore, that the Axis could mount an invasion of England would be the spring of 1942, with the spring of 1943 a much more likely date. In the meanwhile, the United States needed to provide for the security of the western hemisphere in the event that Russia collapsed and the British suffered invasion or agreed to negotiate a peace.32 Such an estimate coincided with general staff assumptions about the earliest date that the United States would be able to conduct offensive operations outside the western hemisphere. For a variety of reasons, War Plans Division believed that the Army could not implement the provisions of RAINBOW 5 before about July of 1943.33 The United States would not, for example, be able to assemble manpower, organize, and train sufficient forces to an
adequate standard to fight the Axis before that date. On a basic level, the Army needed time to build training facilities and housing for expansion. Manpower mobilization had to proceed cautiously to avoid calling up the skilled hands necessary to build training facilities before they built those bases. The second major limitation was industrial because, even in the fall of 1941 and even after the expansion of defense industries to support the requirements of Lend Lease, not more than 15 percent of the industrial capacity of the United States was devoted to defense. America needed time to convert industries to defense production.34 Finally, shipping would present problems.
In the middle of 1941 virtually all of the American merchant fleet was in normal commercial service. Around 855,000 gross tons of shipping could be made available to transport an expeditionary force overseas and then sustain it in an overseas theater. The WPD estimated that amount of shipping could move not more than 50,000 men and their equipment and 90 day's supplies to a trans-oceanic theater. That situation would improve significantly throughout 1942. Before the United States could fight outside the hemisphere, more time would be required to assemble the necessary vessels and prepare them for military use; to build the additional shipping that war service would make necessary; and to establish adequate port facilities at points of embarkation and debarkation.35 Wedemeyer later learned that the shipping required to transport the Army and Air Corps overseas amounted to around seven million tons, or one thousand vessels. Maintaining that force in overseas theaters required about ten million tons of shipping, or 1,500 hips. The two years required to build those ships coincided with the time the general staff estimated the Army needed to raise and train the combat divisions.36 It also coincided with the period of maximum risk, the earliest date the general staff estimated that Germany would be able to invade Great Britain and deprive the United States of is European base.
As Wedemeyer began to plan to meet the crisis, he therefore understood that the earliest date that the United States could go to war in anything other than defense of the hemisphere was July 1943. The excellent prospects for Axis victory in Europe made it
urgent for American to prepare its defenses as soon as possible. The chance that England would make peace with Germany or, indeed, be defeated, raised the possibility that the United States would have to continue the war alone. Thus he had to plan for a very large, and very well equipped, American army. But before the Army could engage in any decisive combat operations on the continent of Europe, the United States needed to establish certain conditions.
Wedemeyer was acutely conscious that the United States waged any war outside the western hemisphere at a considerable disadvantage. Before the Army could engage the enemy, the Navy had to transport it to the theater of operations. Besides crossing thousands of miles of potentially dangerous ocean, the United States had to establish and maintain an adequate line of supply across the ocean. Thus his first condition was that the Axis navies had to be swept from the seas, particularly from the Atlantic Ocean and those waters contiguous to Europe itself.37 Without the ability to transport military formations in security and to maintain the lines of supply needed to keep them in action, all other propositions became meaningless.
A powerful navy and a substantial merchant fleet were prerequisites, despite the increased fighting potential of the air arm. Air forces did not deprive naval vessels of their vital roles on the seas, but did accelerate the pace of war at sea and necessitate changes in the employment of navies. Neither could air forces effect the economic blockade of the enemy that was the concomitant of keeping sea lanes of communication open for the United States and Allied nations. A powerful navy remained essential, and planning had to allocate industrial potential and manpower with sea power in mind.38
? Air power was equally crucial, a fact Wedemeyer came to understand early in his career. "I was always air minded," Wedemeyer remarked in 1987.39 He was sufficiently taken with aviation to go with Nathan Twining, later a general officer in the Air Force, to take the Air Corps tests early in his career. Although he failed the flight physical, he retained a grasp unusual in a ground officer of the period of the potential for warfare in the third dimension. Both
from his study of the art of war and from his education in Berlin, Wedemeyer knew that an air force multiplied the value of a smaller ground force by denying mobility to the more numerous enemy. Various memorandums from the Air Corps emphasized this theme, and the language of those documents found its way into the mobilization studies. "The important influence of the air arm in modern combat," Wedemeyer wrote, "has been irrefutably established." He continued to explain that
the degree of success attained by sea and ground forces will be determined by the effective and timely employment of air supporting units and the successful conduct of strategical missions. No major military operation in any theater will succeed without air superiority, or at least air superiority disputed.40
While air operations could not guarantee victory alone, without a powerful air arm defeat was likely. The second condition, as Wedemeyer saw it, was thus that "overwhelming air superiority must be accomplished."41
Air power was the principal weapon with which the United States could accomplish the third condition for successful military operations against the Axis. By strategic aerial bombardment, the Air Corps could attack the German industrial and economic structure and render that structure "ineffective through the continuous disruption and destruction of lines of communication, port and industrial facilities, and by the interception of raw materials."42 Wedemeyer was familiar with the doctrine for strategic bombing as espoused by Giulio Douhet and had been in the Army throughout the debates over air power occasioned by the court-martial of General Billy Mitchell. While he did not agree that air power could single-handedly win the war, a fact recently demonstrated by the failure of the German Douhet-style aerial offensive against England, he nonetheless agreed it was the ideal instrument with which to destroy the German economy.
The next condition was physical proximity to the enemy. That meant the United States needed advanced bases from which to
operate. Not only did the country require the existing Atlantic bases in order to assure the security of the western hemisphere, but it also needed a series of bases to encircle Germany. From these forward bases, air forces could operate against the German industry and economy. Likewise, such bases offered convenient points from which to launch combined arms operations against the German "citadel" in Europe. In creating the necessary overseas stations, however, the Army had to be very careful to build only those bases that it really needed because the country could not afford to disperse its force so greatly that they could not "make timely and effective contributions to the accomplishment of our main task, the defeat of Germany."43 In building such bases, Wedemeyer pointed out that the provisions of RAINBOW 5 would have to govern:
The commitment of our forces must conform to our accepted broad strategic concept of active (offensive) operations in one theater (European), and concurrently, passive (defensive) operations in the other (Pacific).44
Finally, Wedemeyer saw that the United States and the Allies had to weaken the enemy by overextending and dispersing his armies. Concentration of forces brought victory. If the Allies could so threaten the Axis that it had to send reinforcements in many directions, then the eventual decisive attack would inevitably succeed, because the enemy could meet it with only a portion of his total strength. Attacks on enemy supplies of fuel and matériel and, most particularly, his transportation net, contributed to this end. Deterioration of the enemy's national will on the home front might result from propaganda, subversion, deprivation of a reasonable standard of living, destruction of the fabric of the enemy's society, and the chaos and public disorder that accompany such domestic conditions. Strategic bombing, planners expected, would attack the German national will just as it attacked the German industry and economy. Civilian and economic chaos would, in turn, diminish the effectiveness of the German military forces.45
In sum, the United States had to adopt a military strategy that placed the bulk of American combat forces in contact with the enemy in the European theater. In order to accomplish this, the United States had to build and maintain armed forces capable of controlling
the sea lanes of communications in two oceans; to fight a major land, sea, and air war in one theater; and to be sufficiently strong to deter war in the other. No other nation faced the task of building up its army, navy, and air forces to such standards, to meet such global commitments. Likewise, no other power had to rely upon lines of supply tenuously stretched across oceans, the control of which was still disputed, to bases that had still, in many cases, to be won.
The size of the armed forces and the distribution of manpower within the services greatly influenced the type, amounts, and priority for production of military matériel. The conditions that the nation had to meet in order to bring the Axis to battle dictated substantial allocations to both services. Furthermore, supply lines stretching thousands of miles required extensive manpower to operate and a predetermined bulk of additional matériel, since there would always be a constant quantity in transit. Wedemeyer had to estimate the maximum possible manpower that could be raised from the population of the United States without disrupting the industrial base that would produce the essential war matériel.
Question Three: The Military Forces
Battles are won by generals who concentrate decisive mass at the critical time and place. Historically, mass meant manpower, although soldiers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries understood that mass could also be achieved through firepower. The ability to win wars depended upon a nation's resolve to mobilize sufficient manpower to defeat its enemies. When national survival was at stake, that mobilization might know few limits. All of that notwithstanding, Wedemeyer discerned that there was a practical ceiling to the number of men who could be withdrawn from civil life and taken into the armed forces.
The high quality manpower of a nation comprised the delicate tracery of internal discipline that sustained the structure of society. If the armed forces siphoned off too many of the best trained, educated, and disciplined men, the society might collapse and, along with it, the industrial base that sustained the armed forces. Conversely, Wedemeyer could only assume that the nation would make the maximum possible effort in order to assure the swiftest possible victory. Any other course could lead to a prolonged war, during which all sorts of disruptive and potentially fatal complications
could arise. "Even if a halfhearted effort were theoretically enough to win," Wedemeyer thought, it was logical that "an all-out effort would win more quickly and whit less ultimate cost in lives and resources."46 the tension between the need to preserve a certain amount of disciplined manpower in the society and the need to create the strongest possible armed forces had to be resolved before Wedemeyer could conduct any further planning.
He had to estimate the degree of internal discipline in the society before determining the amount of manpower that the armed forces could safely extract from it, considering not only experienced industrial manpower, but also police, fire, and emergency services. Wedemeyer turned to historical examples of mobilization for precedents and closeted himself in the Library of Congress, where he studied all of the major wars since the time of Gustavus Adolphus. In the course of his survey, he discovered that roughly 10 percent of the total population of any nation could be taken into the armed forces without doing serious harm to the economy and social life of the nation.
Thus Wedemeyer began his calculations by getting statistics from the relevant government agencies and from the Princeton University Demographics Center on the number of men essential to maintain industry, agriculture, and government. He also asked the Navy for its best estimates of the number of men it would need to expand to full war strength.47 Once in possession of those figures, he made some general statements about manpower distribution.
"I stuck my neck out," Wedemeyer admitted, "and said the armed forces could use approximately ten percent of the population."48 He believed that it was better to overestimate the needs of the military, rather than underestimate them, and noted that no one seriously questioned his figures. Working with that ratio, he calculated that the United States, with its population of around 140 million, could field la maximum military force of 14 million men, assuming that the remaining industrial and agricultural labor pool would work with maximum efficiency and that women would enter the work force as well. Somewhere between 12 and 14 million men would comprise the Army, the Army Air Corps, and the Navy
Department in a future war, with the lower figure more probable than the higher. Wedemeyer began by allocating 4 million to the Navy on the basis of that service's estimate of needs. The remaining men would go to the Army and the Air Corps, and he studied distributing that manpower intelligently between the ground army and its air arm.49
After his initial strategic estimate, Wedemeyer had the basic information that he needed to complete his summary of production requirements. In the event of war, he knew, the United States would have to fight in overseas theaters, concentrating first on the destruction of the Axis powers in Europe. The country would be allied with Great Britain and would continue to support the Russians with all sorts of military matériel. In order to pursue such a war, the United States had to have substantial land, sea, and air forces, while reserving sufficient skilled manpower to run defense industries and maintain the internal discipline of society.
Wedemeyer outlined those strategic requirements that had to be satisfied before the United States could fight an overseas war, requirements ranging from control of the seas to the establishment of adequate bases. Based upon those requirements, he made a rough distribution that allocated the available manpower among the armed services according to the missions that had to be undertaken. His next step was to decide how the Army's portion of that manpower should be organized. The number and types of divisions and other organizations would then allow him to compute the quantities of matériel, by type, that had to be produced.
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1. Memorandum, Acting Assistant Chief of Staff, War Plans Division, for Assistant Chiefs of Staff G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4, 3 June 1941, began discussion on the strategic aspects of the production problem. Wedemeyer evidently delivered the memorandum to each section and discussed the project with the relevant officers. NARA RG 165, File WPD 4510.
2. Memorandum, Assistant Chief of Staff, WPD, for Chief of Staff, 29 August 1941, Subj: Strategic Estimate. NARA RG 165, File WPD 4510.
3. Mark S. Watson, Chief of Staff: Prewar Plans and Preparations, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, D.C.: Historical Division, United States Army, 1950). See Chapter 11, in which he summarizes the scope and procedures employed in devising the Victory Plan and, most importantly, outlines in detail the sequence of directives and orders that lay behind the Victory Plan.
4. Much of the discussion of the background of the plan is drawn from Albert Wedemeyer's memoir, Wedemeyer Reports! (New York: Henry Holt & Company, 1958); and Eiler, "The Man Who Planned Victory: An Interview With Gen. Albert C. Wedemeyer."
5. Memorandum, Roosevelt for the Secretary of War, August 30, 19841. NARA RG 165, entry 234, Box 498, Director of SS & P, G-4, Numerical File 1921--March 1942, Document #33473.
6. Deskis Interview, transcription of tape 4, session 4, p. 14.
7. Statistical Study: Officers Who Served in WPD and OPD, by Periods (1921-1945). USACMH Historical Services Division File HRC 321, War Plans Division, 228.03.
8. Ray S. Cline, Washington Command Post: The Operations Division, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington: Office of the Chief of Military History, 1951), chapter 4.
9. Papers Handled By War Plans Division (11 July 1941-21 November 1941). USACMH Historical Services Division File HRC 314.76. Chronology--War Plans Division.
10. The War with Spain did not necessitate anything like a total mobilization. For a comprehensive survey of the American mobilization experience, See Marvin A. Kreidberg and Merton G. Henry, History of Military Mobilization in the United States Army 1775-1945 (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army Pamphlet No. 20-212, June 1955).
11. The government recognized in 1941 that the mobilization then under way was unique. See, for example, the comments by John J. Corson, a civil servant directly involved in the work of the War Manpower Commission, in his Manpower for Victory. Total Mobilization for Total War (New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1943), pp. 277-78.
12. General Wedemeyer discussed his basic reasoning process in his memoir, Wedemeyer Reports!, pp. 62-73, and elaborated on the thought process in all of the interviews previously cited.
13. Wedemeyer, "Memorandum on a National Strategy Council," in Military Planning in the twentieth Century. Proceedings of the eleventh Military History Symposium 1984, USAF Academy (Washington: Office of Air Force History, 1986), pp. 409-10.
14. Eiler, "The Man Who Planned Victory," p. 40.
15. Wedemeyer, "Memorandum on a National Strategy Council," pp. 409-10.
16. Deskis Interview.
17. Eiler, "The Man Who Planned Victory," p. 40.
18. Deskis Interview.
19. Interview with Gen. Wedemeyer, 24 April 1987.
20. Interviews with General Wedemeyer on 24 April 1987, 5 May 1987, and 3 June 1987. Also see Pogue, George C. Marshall: Ordeal and Hope 1939-1942, pp. 157-58.
21. Details of the RAINBOW plans are summarized in most of the standard studies of the period. See, for example, Kreidberg and Henry, History of Military Mobilization, pp. 557-58, 561; Kent Roberts Greenfield, American Strategy in World War II: A Reconsideration; and the relevant volumes in the series UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II, particularly Watson, Chief of Staff: Prewar Plans and Preparations.
22. WPD Memorandum, Ultimate Requirements--Ground forces, 23 August 1941. NARA RG 165, entry 234, Box 498, Director of SS & P, G-4, Numerical File 1921-March 1942, Document #33473. This document authorized by Wedemeyer, is the first edition of the Army portion of what came to be known as the "Victory Plan." Hereinafter cited as Ultimate Requirements Study.
23. Truman Smith Memoir, pp. 113 et seq. Truman Smith papers, United States Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Pa.
24. The flow of Luftwaffe telegrams, upon which Smith based so many of his conclusions about German air power, abruptly ceased on 18 August 1941, in part because Marshall thought it was "impolitic to continue" such a connection with von Boetticher. More importantly, however, the German foreign office learned that the Americans had been sharing that information with the British and ordered the practice stopped. See Beck, "Attaché," pp. 309-10.
25. War Department Strategic Estimate prepared by War Plans Division, General Staff, October 1941, pp. 4-6. Strategic Estimate Vol. 1, O.P.D. Exec. #4, Item #9, NARA RG 165. Hereinafter cited as WD Strategic Estimate.
26. Ibid., p. 7.
27. Ibid., pp. 9-10.
28. For a perspective on Japanese intentions, see Carl Boyd, "The Significance of MAGIC and the Japanese Ambassadors to Berlin: (I) The formative Months Before Pearl Harbor," Intelligence and National Security 2:1 (January 1987), 150-169; and "The Significance of MAGIC and the Japanese Ambassador to Berlin: II) The Crucial Months After Pearl Harbor," Intelligence and National Security 2:2 (April 1987), 302-319.
29. WD Strategic Estimate, p. 12.
30. Ibid., pp. 13-14.
31. Ibid., pp. 17-19.
32. Ibid., pp. 22, 29-31, 34.
33. Ibid., p. 28. The same date is reflected in various WPD planning documents as well.
34. WD Strategic Estimate, pp. 28-29.
35. Ibid., pp. 25-26.
36. Wedemeyer Reports!, p. 67. Also see estimate of Army Requirements, p. 11.
37. Ultimate Requirements Study, p. 1.
38. Ultimate Requirements Study. Estimate of Army Ground Forces, prepared by WPD, GS, Sept. 1941, pp. 1-2. Folder WPD 4494-14/4494-19, NARA RG 165. Hereinafter cited as Estimate of Army Ground Forces.
39. Interview with General Wedemeyer, 24 April 1987.
40. Estimate of Army Ground Forces, p. 1. The same phraseology is to be found in documents forwarded to the Assistant Chief of Staff, War Plans Division, from the Chief of the Air Corps, on 2 January 1942. Although submitted after Wedemeyer's basic plan had been written, it was obviously a staff paper that had already been circulated and staffed, and that had been written much earlier. Folder WPD 4494, NARA RG 165.
41. Ultimate requirements--Ground Forces, p. 1.
43. Ultimate Requirements Study, p. 2; Estimate of Army Requirements, p. 3.
44. Estimate of Army Requirements, p. 3.
45. Ultimate Requirements Study, p. 1; Estimate of Army Requirements, p. 3.
46. Eiler, "The Man Who Planned Victory," p. 40.
47. Ibid. Also see Deskis interview and author's interviews with General Wedemeyer.
48. Interview with General Wedemeyer, 24 April 1987.
49. Deskis interview.