Assessments"To war plans there can be no finality."
"The Victory Program was never static."
When he submitted his strategic estimate and notional troop basis to the G-4 to compute equipment, munitions, and matériel, Albert Wedemeyer had finished the job assigned him by General Gerow. The consolidated G-4 calculations then became the basis for war production management. Wedemeyer's plan itself became a part of the overall Army-Navy production estimate, collectively known as the Victory Program.
No military plan, as field Marshal Helmuth Graf von Moltke remarked after the Franco-Prussian War, survives the first contact with the enemy.1 True of operational plans, von Moltke's aphorism is equally true for plans to mobilize a mass army. Such plans characteristically become little more than points of departure; deviations begin with implementation. That was the case with the Victory Plan. In retrospect, it was the expected collection of successes and failures that the general staff refined to suit the needs of war, and from which WPD staffers developed subsequent plans. The Victory Plan is most important for its procedural approach to, and philosophical outlook on, strategy. Nonetheless, its accuracy in detail is of interest as a means of assessing the adequacy of the planning.
Limitations of the Plan--Total Divisions
Wedemeyer's estimate of a total of 215 maneuver divisions and
related supporting arms and services proved to be overly ambitious for the United States to manage. The nation indeed had sufficient manpower, for the Army eventually put almost exactly the eight million men of Wedemeyer's estimate into uniform. Instead, the problem lay in the division slice figure. Wedemeyer had divided manpower between combat units and support units on the basis of the G-3 ratio of 1:1, figuring a 30,000-man division slice for each 15,000-man division. While that ratio might have been substantially correct for a World War I army that had approximately half of its total strength in ground combat soldiers, it was completely outmoded by 1941. A 1:1 proportion did not reflect the profound transformation of the battlefield caused by improved military technology that allowed Wedemeyer to plan for fewer, but more powerful, divisions to fight the war.2
One implication of the mechanization and modernization of warfare between 1919 and 1939 is that the significant growth in the absolute numbers of men under arms resulted in a relatively modest increase in rifle strength. Indeed, the size of the combatant ground force in the United Sates Army in World War II was not much greater than that fielded in World War I, although the total strength of the Army about doubled. World War II divisions were smaller than their World War I counterparts, so the 89 divisions of 1945 had only 24 percent more manpower than the 58 divisions formed or forming by 1918--and actually fewer men in combat billets.3 Only about one-fourth of the 8-million-man Army in existence in March 1945 was combatant ground soldiers.4 The balance was the combat service and support forces necessary to administer and sustain an increasingly technical and mechanized Army.
Accurate computation of the division slice was always a challenging exercise because of the constantly changing variables that
affected it. Even before World War II, students of the military art had concluded that the more mechanized warfare became, the smaller the ratio of combat troops to support troops would become.5 Not only did the rearward element of the Army grow steadily in relation to the combat edge, but it became increasingly specialized as well. For modern, mechanized warfare, the most appropriate index to that specialization is motor vehicles and the soldiers necessary to keep them going. In World War I, the Army had one vehicle for every 37 soldiers. By the end of World War II, the ratio was one vehicle for every 4.3 soldiers.6 The number of soldiers devoted to vehicle maintenance and repair therefore increased proportionately, at a cost to the sharp edge of the Army. Other specialized equipment required equally unique technical skills, with the result that, by January of 1943, 788 out of every thousand soldiers in the Transportation Corps were technical specialists. At the other end of the spectrum, only 732 out of every one thousand infantrymen held actual combat skills.7 When the United States was fighting World War II, only about 36 percent of the Army's designated skills were directly combat related.8 Even in an infantry divisions, which Army regulations considered 100 percent combat, only about 76 percent of the men were actually combat troops; limit the definition of "combat" to men in companies, batteries and troops of the combat arms, and the figure drops to about 55 percent of the division.9
Hence the G-3's division slice planning figure was hopelessly
outdated in 1941.10 By the time the War department general staff conducted detailed planning for the European theater, it accepted a figure for a standard division slice of 40,000 men. That number was valid only in a theater of operations, however, and a theater required support by still more men located in the Zone of the Interior. Worldwide, a more realistic division slice was around 60,000 men, or double to 30,000-man slice Wedemeyer used to tally the number of divisions he could create out of the Army's share of total military manpower.11 The gap between expectation and reality was greater than anyone anticipated and became a major concern for Lieutenant General Lesley J. McNair, commander of Army Ground Forces. McNair worked tirelessly, although ultimately unsuccessfully, to check the proliferation of administration and service units in the Army sand thereby reduce the division slice. Despite his best efforts, it continued to grow until it reached a total of around 45,000 men in the services for every 15,000 in divisions, producing the phenomenon General Joseph W. Stilwell described as the "disappearing ground combat army."
The effect of using an unrealistic division slice figure was that the United States Army could produce nowhere near the 215 divisions Wedemeyer had projected in the summer of 1941. By August 1943, the Army reached its peak combat strength for World War II, fielding a total of only 90 divisions, one of which was later dismantled. Subsequent enlistments made the Army larger, but never increased its combat edge. Marshall and Wedemeyer appreciated
the impact that increased military technology would have on the nature of war and planned to take advantage of firepower and air power to field a smaller army. Wedemeyer failed, however, to carry the problem through to its logical conclusion. Modern military technology had a stupendous impact on the battlefield; it had an equally significant influence on Army organization.
Limitations of the Plan--Type Divisions
Incorrect about the number of divisions the Army could field, Wedemeyer was necessarily also incorrect about the numbers of division by type:
Type Division 1941 Estimate Actual Armored 61 16 Mechanized 61 0 Infantry 54 66 Mountain 10 1 Cavalry 4 2 Airborne 7 5
The dramatic differences between the Victory Plan troop basis and the final shape of the Army in May of 1945 cannot properly be ascribed to errors of judgment, however.12 The most important changes in divisional organization, division slice factor aside, came about because of logistical and tactical lessons that were unavailable to Wedemeyer in 1941.13
The Army did not create as many armored divisions as Wedemeyer's plan called for chiefly because General George Marshall's greatest fears about Lend Lease were realized: the needs of the British and the Russians consumed a large part of American tank production. In 1955, the Army staff calculated that Lend Lease to the USSR, France, Italy, China, Brazil, the Netherlands, Norway, and the British Empire had equipped around 101 U.S.-
type divisions.14 The United States, for example, shipped a total of 5,374 medium tanks and 1,682 light tanks to the USSR alone between June of 1941 and September 1945. While only about 20 percent of all war production eventually flowed into Lend Lease channels, that matériel was overwhelmingly heavy equipment such as tanks, artillery, and combat aircraft.15 American industry simply could not satisfy the demands of both Army and Lend Lease for new production and for production of replacement armored vehicles. Therefore it proved impossible for the War Department to equip as many American armored divisions as the Victory Plan called for.
Wedemeyer's emphasis on armored divisions arose from his reading of Fuller and from the dramatic use the Germans had made of armor in the opening battles of the war.16 Some Americans, however, wondered whether so many armored divisions would be tactically desirable, suggesting that they would be awkward to maneuver and very hard to support. General Marshall eventually favored a compact and powerful force maintained at full strength as the better course of action, writing in 1945 that
The more divisions an Army commander has under his control, the more supporting troops he must maintain and the greater are his traffic and supply problems. If his divisions are fewer in number but maintained at full strength, the power for attack continues while the logistical problems are greatly simplified.17
Other unforeseen developments prevented the Army from forming mechanized divisions, foremost among them the shipping problem. Despite enormous strides in merchant ship construction, there remained a serious competition for space. Mechanized divisions required more shipping space, and the staff realized that ports of embarkation could ship these divisions to Europe only very gradually. Dismounted infantry divisions, on the other hand, required far less shipping space, enabling the United States to build up combat forces in the theater much faster. As with tanks, the
vehicles the mechanized divisions would have used were also in great demand by other nations, and Lend Lease quickly consumed much of the available production. Finally, as part of his drive to decrease the division slice, and recognizing production and shipping problems, General McNair decided to remove many vehicles from the divisions and pool them in the field armies, which could presumably manage a smaller number of vehicles more efficiently to accomplish the same tasks. Years later, Wedemeyer remarked that the battlefield would have become a hopeless traffic jam if the Army had carried out his original scheme for mechanized divisions.18
Despite the fact that Lend Lease proved a factor limiting the number of armored divisions that the Army could create, it too had hidden benefits for American mobilization. While the constant demands of Britain and Russia for equipment continued to vex the War department, contracts for manufacture of matériel for Lend Lease served the purpose of establishing major military production lines well before America went to war. Industry was in general unwilling to convert to war production unless there was some sort of guarantee of sustained production. Lend Lease provided such a guarantee, and the War Department therefore found that an important segment of industry was already mobilized by 7 December 1941.
Changes in the activation programs for other type divisions were influenced by factors other than Lend Lease. Specific plans for the liberation of Europe eliminated the need for more than one mountain division, although use might have been found for them if the Allies had pursued Churchill's idea of an attack through the Balkans into central Europe. The progress of the fighting in Italy, the one theater that offered scope for employment of mountain divisions, demonstrated that standard infantry divisions fought as well as specialist troops in rough terrain.19 After the Normandy invasion, General Dwight D. Eisenhower's SHAEF staff could find little use for airborne divisions. Neither organized nor intended to conduct sustained battle, airborne divisions had little utility after the invasion. Eisenhower retained them in the general reserve, finally using
them in MARKET-GARDEN operation in the Netherlands in September 1944. Thereafter, ground forces advanced so briskly that they captured projected airborne objectives before the airborne operation could be launched, although airborne divisions were used in the crossing of the Rhine in 1945. No one could find a role for horse-mounted cavalry divisions that justified the shipping problems involved, particularly the supply of fodder and feed. Accordingly, the War Department simply scrapped one of the cavalry divisions and converted the other to an infantry division is all but name.
The progress of the war also eliminated the need for the massive antiaircraft artillery organization Wedemeyer planned for the theaters and field armies. He could not know that the strategic bombing campaign the Royal Air Force and the American numbered air forces conducted in Europe would have literally devoured the German Luftwaffe by mid-1944. The Army Air Forces very proficiently accomplished Wedemeyer's second condition for operations on the continent of Europe: they gained "overwhelming air superiority" by July of 1944. The consequence was that the enemy air threat did not exist to justify such a large antiaircraft artillery service in the European theater.20
Likewise, there was little need for the large tank destroyer force planned in 1941. In part, that was because the United States Army found other ways to deal with tanks than by fighting them with a specialized force. Tactical aviation emerged as an efficient way to kill tanks, particularly after air leaders realized that .50-caliber projectiles could penetrate the thin armor of tank's engine compartments.21 There was also a growing consensus in the Army that
the best antitank weapon was the tank itself. Early tank destroyers were relatively lightly armored and could not exchange fire with a tank. More heavily armored tank destroyers resembled tanks so closely that the distinction between the two blurred. Eventually, the Army field more powerfully armed tanks than the medium M4 Sherman. Rearmed with a 76-mm. high velocity weapon, the Sherman could at least compete with modern German tanks. The General Pershing tank, introduced at the end of the war, had a 90-mm. gun and, despite maintenance problems, was the equal of the best that the Germans could offer. As a result, tank destroyers became technically and doctrinally obsolescent by the end of World War II.22 Well before the end of the war, the Army began to reduce the number of tank destroyer battalions forming and in training.
Limitations of the Plan--Replacement Problem
Perhaps the most serious deficiency of the Victory Plan was that it made no provision for replacements. Wedemeyer's focus on the relationship between total available manpower and complete field divisions ignored the need to procure, train, and assign replacements for combat losses. The Victory Plan contains no mention of replacements, but no other staff element seems to have considered the problem either, as evidenced by the lack of an adequate replacement system at the start of World War II. Nor was there any single agency of the War Department General Staff responsible for providing
replacements.23 Not until 29 January 1942 did the War Department realize that replacements presented a new problem to solve. The chief of the planning branch, G-1, wrote a memorandum recommending that "some thought should be given to the subject of establishing a rapid and direct method of supplying . . . replacements to our oversea forces."24
It is arguable that the basic mobilization estimate assumed that soldiers, once equipped and trained, could be used either in new units or as replacements, so further distinction was unnecessary. Furthermore, it is possible to view this as another oversight attributable to the flawed division slice figure. With a total of 215 divisions, the Army might have devised a unit replacement system, substituting or replacing one division for another on a regular cycle, thereby keeping closely knit combat units together. As mobilization progressed, however, WPD planners realized that they would be able to create far fewer divisions than Wedemeyer had expected. Administration and War department officials interpreted that development as a manpower shortage, although such a perception was far from correct. The manpower existed; it was the flawed allocation formula that caused the shortfalls.
The Army's inability of field sufficient divisions to rotate soldiers by unit forced it to an individual replacement system. Commanders had to use every division to the utmost, partially because the continuing shipping shortage made deployment of new divisions to overseas theaters very slow. During periods of heavy combat, the regiments of an infantry division characteristically suffered about 100 percent casualties every three months. Individual replacements filled those losses, and the problem of training these new soldiers to survive in combat kept committed divisions at the point of individual training, rather than unit training, throughout the war. As a consequence, U.S. divisions, plagued by a chronically high turnover of infantry riflemen, experienced decreased combat efficiency after their first series of combat actions.25
Unpleasant consequences developed immediately. Unit cohesion suffered, as well-established small unit bonds disintegrated.
Veterans were slow to accept, trust, and integrate individual replacements into their teams. Infantry soldiers also quickly realized that injury was the only relief from battle. Morale declined, and combat efficiency along with morale. Cases of combat neurosis multiplied. Tired soldiers were more easily wounded, killed, and captured because their fatigue induced laxity and carelessness. "The stream of replacement," Army Ground Forces concluded in 1946, "thus flowed into somewhat leaky vessels."26 Lieutenant General Jacob L. Devers, commanding Sixth Army Group, stated the problem more graphically when he wrote to Lieutenant General Lesley J. McNair in 1944 that
It has been demonstrated here that divisions should not be left in the line longer than 30 to 40 days in an active theater. If you do this . . . They get careless, and there are tremendous sick rates and casualty rates. Everybody should know this. The result is that you feed replacements into a machine in the line, and it is like throwing good money after bad. Your replacement system is bound to break down, as it has done in this theater.27
In the end, the ground force was just large enough for the war the Army had to fight. All of the Army Ground Forces were committed to battle by May 1945. A total of 96 percent of all tactical troops was in overseas theaters. The Army dispatched the last of its new divisions from the United States in February 1945, some three months before V-E Day. No new units were training or forming at home, and only limited replacements in training remained in the United States. There was not strategic reserve of any sort and, as Army Ground Forces noted,
This may be interpreted either as remarkably accurate planning of the minimum forces required or a s a fairly narrow escape from disagreeable eventualities--winning by the skin of the teeth.28
The conclusion is that by 1944 the real struggle was not further manpower mobilization, but simply maintaining the 90-division Army. The Selective Service System scraped the bottom of the conscription barrel and still could not meet the need. At the time of the Battle of the Bulge, for example, reception stations were generating
around 53,000 men a month, while losses in the European theater alone were running 90,000 men a month.29
Thus the erroneous division slice figure of 1941 caused a series of problems, in this case probably compounded by the fact that War Plans division did not take the replacement issue into account in its early planning. The most reasonable perspective is that the replacement system per se was within the purview of the Victory Plan only insofar as Wedemeyer concluded that his estimate provided enough divisions for a rational and orderly unit replacement system. The dearth of infantry replacements in the fall of 1944 is not an error attributable to his basic planning. In any event, the offsetting errors of the Victory Plan provided an answer to the problem. Eisenhower's staff found a manpower reservoir in the superfluous antiaircraft artillery and tank destroyer battalions available in the theater of operations.
Successes of the Plan--Total Army Strength
The progress of the war revealed other and similar oversights and planning errors. The Victory Plan might also be criticized for not anticipating the ammunition shortage of 1944, the general shipping shortage, and the pervasive shortage of amphibious shipping. But this recitation of the limitations of the Victory Plan is deceptive, for its flaws were neither irreparable nor, in the long run, central to its purpose. Albert Wedemeyer never expected that his estimate of Army requirements would be the final word on the subject. He was an experienced officer who understood the staff would have to modify his basic mobilization blueprint as the war unfolded. Staff officers in War Plans division began to revise the document almost as soon as General Marshall submitted it to Secretary of War Stimson, and the unexpected outbreak of war in the Pacific forced them to make even more drastic alterations by the beginning of 1942. The plan was never static, and when discrepancies appeared, Wedemeyer and his colleagues made adjustments to allow for them.30
Despite its errors in force structure, the Victory Plan, in general, was a remarkably prescient document. In 1941, Wedemeyer estimated that the Army Ground Forces and Army Air Forces would need a grand total of 8,795,658 men to fight the war. As the Army was attaining its peak strength in March of 1945, it had a total of 8,157,386 men in uniform--very nearly the figure that Wedemeyer had estimated almost four years earlier. To have calculated the total manpower utilization with such great precision is a superficially impressive achievement, although it might more properly be expressed the other way around. The Army eventually used almost exactly the amount of manpower Wedemeyer predicted because his assessment of the amount of available manpower was essentially correct, and the Army conceived and fought a style of war that accommodated that constraint. For purposes of production planning, the distinction is an unimportant one. The estimate was sufficient, despite its errors in numbers and types of divisions, to allow industrial planners to set up production lines for very large quantities of matériel, thereby establishing the industrial capacity the United States would need for the rest of the war.
Any assessment of the computational accuracy of the estimate is inconsequential, however, compared to the degree to which the Victory Plan served the needs of the nation's basic war plan. It complemented RAINBOW 5 because Wedemeyer had drafted his estimate in accordance with then-current operational requirements. Looking beyond the Army's needs, Wedemeyer also provided adequate manpower reserves to establish, maintain, and protect the long lines of communications necessary to support large task forces overseas. Yet he entertained no false hopes; his coldly realistic appraisal of all of the factors involved in national mobilization led him too a realistic prediction of the earliest date that America could take the offensive.
Successes of the Plan--Operational Fit
When the Army assumed the offensive, the troops had not only to be properly equipped and trained, but also properly deployed. Any mobilization plan, as Colmar von der Goltz reminded his readers before the turn of the century, is useless unless it concentrates military forces where they can be most useful. The proper image of a mobilization plan is therefore not of a medicine chest full of carefully filled and tagged bottles of military remedies for foreign
aggression, but of military white corpuscles, racing through the geographical bloodstream to the source of the dangerous infection. Wedemeyer saw th nation's mobilized strength not in armories full of combat-ready troops, but in units marshaled in assembly areas close to the enemy. The successes of the Victory Plan therefore drove home a point long ignored in American military planning. It reminded the War Department that Mobilization and operations are not distinct entities, but parts of a single coherent plan. Mobilization plans, it was obvious, had always to be drafted with the operations plan in mind, invariably taking account of the circumstances peculiar to a given operational requirement.
The public uproar surrounding the leak of the plan on 4 December 1941 illustrates the degree to which the Victory Plan succeeded in answering the needs of RAINBOW 5. the details of the leak--and particularly the identity of the official who disclosed the secret--remain uncertain, but the effects are easy enough to gauge. Detailed, handwritten notes about the Victory Plan were delivered to isolationist Senator Burton K. Wheeler, who, in turn, passed them on to Chester Manly of the Chicago Tribune. Manly's article, variations of which also ran in the isolationist New York Daily News and Washington Times Herald, appeared under headlines of "F.D.R.'s War Plans," and explained in bold type that the "Goal is 10 Million Armed Men; Half to Fight in AEF." The articles published the timetable as well, informing their readers of a "Proposed Land Drive By July 1, 1943, to Smash Nazis." The text proceeded to outline, in knowledgeable detail, both the planning considerations and the force structure of Wedemeyer's plans. The information in Manly's article compromised the entire RAINBOW 5 war plan, since the operational considerations were the conceptual framework of the Victory Plan.31
Successes of the Plan--Political and Military Reality
A second major success of the Victory Plan was its accommodation of contemporary political and military realities in the United
States. Despite the furor surrounding the Victory Plan leak, public sentiment had come a long way since the staunchly isolationist days of the late 1930s. However grudgingly, Americans had come to terms with the idea that the United States would play a large part in the growing world war. President Roosevelt had "led" the nation toward war, identifying the cause of Great Britain and her allies with moral good and committing the nation's wealth and industrial power to supporting the idealistic series of goals he expressed so well in his "Four Freedoms" speech and in the Atlantic Charter.
Thus as Wedemeyer wrote his plan he expected the whole-hearted involvement of the entire nation in a total economic and military mobilization to defeat the Axis. A maximum effort that could end the war quickly would serve the interests of the nation best, causing the least long-term disruption of the economy and running the fewest risks for the country. Once the nation went to war, Americans would wish to pursue it as a crusade; they would reject half-measures. Wedemeyer recognized that a full mobilization made the best military sense, but he also believed that it accorded with the national character and served the national interests. The point supports the conclusion that military activity always takes place in a political context. To plan military operations without considering that context is to invite disaster. To appreciate that context accurately, as Wedemeyer did, is to devise plans that are consonant with the national character and, therefore, practical.
The plan also succeeded because it recognized and accommodated the most important contemporary developments in the military art. Wedemeyer correctly identified aviation, mechanization, and communications as lying at the heart of modern warfare. He thus designed American military forces to exploit all three technical factors, fashioning a powerful air-ground team that could fight any foreign army on even terms. Because of the example of the Spanish Civil War, the German attack on Poland, and the Blitzkrieg in the Low Countries and France, it is easy to suggest that Wedemeyer needed no particularly keen insight to acknowledge the lessons of mechanized warfare and incorporate them into his plan. However,
enough senior officers, not only in the United States Army but also in other armies, failed to learn the lesson, preferring to hang on to proven and traditional, although outmoded, ways of waging war, to disprove that contention.32 Wedemeyer served the Army and the nation so well because he not only planned the total number of men needed to prosecute the war, but also planned to organize them into divisions that could fight effectively in the actual war, not the last one.
Wedemeyer's grasp of the importance of modern technology also allowed him to plan for smaller, but more powerful, forces that generated mass through firepower and maneuver, rather than through manpower, thus accomplishing the same job as much larger armies in the past. In the process, he realized manpower economies that were important because of the large logistics organization the United States needed. Maintaining a large armed force far from American shores also required a large and powerful navy that could secure the lines of communication and maintain an effective economic blockade of the Axis. Wedemeyer worked closely with the naval staff to determine the Navy's realistic requirements. his personal relationship with then-Captain Forrest Sherman ensured a community of planning effort between the two services and pointed to a future in which the services would acknowledge that mobilization planning was a joint responsibility that one service alone could not conduct adequately.
Successes of the Plan--The Planning Process
The usual conclusion about the Victory Plan is that it did not follow the customary military planning process. Instead, according to this view, the plan began with available manpower and then distributed the military portion of that pool in consonance with the nation's military objectives. While superficially attractive, the conclusion is not precisely correct. While manpower considerations were prominent and perhaps the most obvious elements of the
process, Wedemeyer in fact adhered to a logically structured planning sequence that commenced with national strategy and considered manpower only in the light of the objectives to be accomplished by that strategy.
Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy typified the confusion about Wedemeyer's methodology. McCloy wrote to General Gerow during the late summer of 1941 to ask how it was possible that the Army could determine overall production requirements by starting with manpower questions. Gerow, concerned that the War Department secretariat might think that production alone could win the war, asked Wedemeyer to draft a reply to McCloy to explain exactly how the War Department staff conducted war planning. Gerow's response informed McCloy that "wars are won on sound strategy implemented by well-trained forces which are adequately and effectively equipped." The then elaborated, explaining that
We must first evolve a strategic concept of how to defeat our potential enemies and then determine the major military units . . . required to carry out the strategic operations.
It would be unwise to assume that we can defeat Germany by simply outproducing her. One hundred thousand airplanes would be of little value to us if these airplanes could not be used because of lack of trained personnel, lack of operating airdromes in the theater, and lack of shipping to maintain the air squadrons in the theater.33
Wedemeyer did not deviate from the strategic planning processes familiar to all of his colleagues in War Plans division. It was nevertheless his awareness of the many valid wartime jobs for a limited pool of high quality manpower that distinguished Wedemeyer from other mobilization planners. Aware of the importance of Lend Lease to the war effort and conscious that the Germans both feared and respected American economic power, he took special pains to avoid disrupting the industrial work force. Analysts of the Victory Plan therefore justifiably praise him for understanding that the needs of industry were as important as the needs of the Army.
The critically important aspect of Wedemeyer's planning process was that, after settling the strategic goals of the nation, he pursued the logical, not the usual, next question. Traditionally, that follow-up question had been: "What can the Army accomplish with the forces at its disposal?" Instead, Wedemeyer asked: "What sort of
forces does the Army need to accomplish the national strategy?" So doing, he escaped the traditional constraints of budget and limited force structure, because he was conscious that the United States would not skimp on either if it came to war. Again, he accurately gauged the mood of the country and the intent of the political leadership to make the maximum effort of which the United States was capable. While, therefore, Wedemeyer showed an unusual concern for the proper distribution of manpower throughout American society in a total war, manpower was not really his first concern. Rather, it was one of several important concerns that had to be balanced against each other.
Wedemeyer rigorously eschewed the tantalizing but ephemeral side issues until he had answered the basic questions that gave meaning to the lesser matters. Answering or defining the larger questions automatically pulled the smaller ones into focus, so that defining American strategic goals in the event of war ultimately resulted in a usable estimate for production of war Matériel. Such a complex plan did not appear overnight; in fact it was the culmination of the Army's professional education of Wedemeyer and the small group of military intellectuals who formed the nucleus of the general staff.
Successes of the Plan--Competence in Planning
George Marshall gave Wedemeyer a little over ninety days to draft his plan. In that brief period, he had to cover an enormous amount of ground, considering everything from national strategy to details of divisional organization. Wedemeyer could not possibly have educated himself in all of those diverse matters after he got his assignment. faced with an immovable deadline, he had to rely upon his professional knowledge and judgment to write his estimate. It was here that his many years of experience, schooling, and professional study bore fruit.
for his work in War Plans division, by far the most significant part of Wedemeyer's professional preparation was his own reading and study.34 Certainly the Command and general staff School taught him the details he needed to know in order to do the exacting computations of numbers and types of divisions and supporting
units with which he ended the Victory Plan. But that was the least demanding part of the job. It was the conceptual phase of his work that required creativity, intelligence, thought, and an understanding of the many subtle influences bearing on national and military policy in the United States. Wedemeyer's professional reading over the course of his career gave him the intellectual tools--not least of which was intuitive judgment--to carry that task through.
This aspect of Wedemeyer's military career points up the fact that strategic thinkers cannot be narrow specialists who solve problems within their limited frames of reference. Narrow solutions are inherently dangerous, as Liddell Hart warned in 1929 when he noted that an officer must take the broad view of warfare in order to develop both his outlook and his judgment. "Otherwise," he wrote, "his knowledge of war will be like an inverted pyramid balanced precariously on a slender apex,"35
The problems with which Wedemeyer had to deal involved far more than purely military considerations and could not have been solved if his education had been limited to narrowly technical or military matters. The service schools of Wedemeyer's army did not provide the sort of education he needed to function effectively in WPD. The Command and general Staff School emphasized generalized professional competence across th spectrum of staff duties, in pursuit of its mission of training officers in the combined use of all arms in division and corps. Such an education that focused on the tactics and logistics of divisions and crops qualified Wedemeyer and his peers to design, operate, and repair a military machine, but not to select its objectives. Without having paid careful attention to his own education during the two decades before World War II, Wedemeyer could not have written the Victory Plan. Competence as a planner thus emerged as much from conscientious professional study as from formal military education, a characteristic of many officers of Wedemeyer's generation.
What Was the Victory Plan?
After the United States accepted its role as a world power, it
could no longer rely upon a single mobilization plan that mustered the resources of the nation to defend the western hemisphere. The evolving national policy in 1941 made existing plans obsolete, leading to the hastily conceived Victory Plan. This case points out with particular clarity that no single mobilization plan can possibly serve all contingencies, especially when national policy is in the midst of change. The mission of the armed forces in 1941 changed in consonance with changes in national policy, and those changes demanded greater sophistication and flexibility in military plans. The War Department suddenly faced an international crisis that exceeded the scope of existing war plans, and the Victory Plan was one of the essential first steps in preparing the United States for a war beyond its shores. Wedemeyer's estimate demonstrates that mobilization in the modern era is a complex and dynamic process in which plans must strike many delicate and interlocking balances--among them the proper balance between conflicting domestic and military manpower priorities and the correct balance between pure manpower and matériel as means of generating combat power. It was evident to the War Plans Division that all wars in the twentieth century were not alike, nor would they necessarily break out where most convenient for the defenders. Therefore rigid plans had to give way to flexible ones that accounted for contemporary circumstances. Thus the Victory Plan superseded the Protective Mobilization Plan of 1939.
Most discussions of the Victory Plan accordingly refer to it as a mobilization plan. Secretary of War Stimson and General Marshall called it a study of production requirements for national defense, noting that the estimate of equipment had to proceed from certain strategic assumptions.36 Wedemeyer himself insisted that the Victory Plan was neither a strategic nor a tactical plan, although strategy provided the framework for estimating production requirements.37 What emerged from the Army's production estimate in the fall of 1941, however, was far more than a logistics plan, or even a mobilization plan. The Victory Plan was in effect a comprehensive statement of American strategy that served as a fundamental planning document in preparing the country for war.
The paper is remarkably concise; in only fourteen pages it lays out the strategic objectives of the United States in the event of war, states American strategic military requirements for such a war, and develops and outlines the force structure to accomplish those tasks. It was therefore far more than just a mobilization plan or a logistics estimate. Kaleidoscopic as Wedemeyer's reading throughout his career, the Victory Plan was a prism that reflected basic elements of successful military planning. It demonstrated that good planning could not be apportioned in discrete bits or exist solely as abstract calculations, but that the Army required a comprehensive plan for war, each part integrated with the provisions of every other part. In that broad approach, the Victory Plan established the model for modern strategic planning.
All of these things were significant, but the single most important fact about the Victory Plan had nothing to do with its successes and failures, with the adept planning process by means of which it was written, or with the accuracy and discernment for which it is customarily praised. Instead, the Victory Plan was important because it typified the outlook of General Marshall and the War Department General Staff, which was never occupied with purely military considerations, but wrote war plans that had a more nature focus.
The Victory Plan is evidence of the early meshing of political and military goals by the American military command structure, as demonstrated by military attention to the manpower needs of the civilian war economy; by military understanding that American economic power was itself a powerful military weapon; and by the delineation of military objectives that suited the national goals in the war. significantly, it demonstrated that the men responsible for outlining America's strategy in the war had a firm grip on all of the elements of national strategy and that they never confused that national strategy with a purely military, and therefore subordinate, strategy. This, rather than an accounting of detailed successes and failures in what was, after all, only an initial draft and never an operational directive, represented the real genius and uniqueness of the Victory Plan. It reflected the broad consensus of American civil-military leaders on what had to be done and set the tone for future high-level planning in the War department.
What was Wedemeyer's contribution to all of this? It would be too much to suggest that Wedemeyer propounded that complex national strategy by himself, or that he was unique in his intellectual
preparation for the job.38 Unquestionably, his professional study over the years prepared his judgment for the demanding task he had to fulfill in the summer and fall of 1941. His long-standing preoccupation with strategic thought and his extensive background in history and economics gave Wedemeyer the sophistication to crack what proved to be a very difficult planning problem. but he did not invent the basic American strategy for war--that had been in the process of formulation well before Wedemeyer arrived at War Plans Division. Nor, in the technical area, did he conceive of the idea of mechanized and armored warfare, supported by tactical aviation, as a way of maximizing scarce manpower resources--that, clearly he gleaned from his reading of Fuller.
Wedemeyer's essential contribution to preparing America for war was that he had an intellect, a carefully educated and prepared intellect, that could grasp the numerous and diverse strands of politics, policy, strategy, and a practical military applications and, understanding them, produce a document that reflected the commonly held, but as yet unarticulated strategic vision of America's wartime leaders. When called upon to do so, he had the capacity to write a plan that took account of the contexts of the day: the restrictive, and at, time, hostile domestic political environment; the mood of the nation; the condition of the armed forces; and the probable intentions of the nation's political leadership. Within that context, he had a sufficient grasp of the nature of total war to conceive of the military operations the country might be called upon to undertake and a sufficient grasp of the profession of arms to propose an efficient and effective military organization to accomplish those missions. That, and not the relative successes and failures of the plan in its various details, is the final significance of Albert C. Wedemeyer's work in writing the Victory Plan of 1941.
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1. In his introduction to the Prussian General Staff treatise on the War of 1870-1871.
2. R.R. Palmer, "Mobilization of the Ground Army" (Washington, D.C.: Historical Section--Army Ground Forces, Study No. 4, 1946), unpublished typescript, p. 2; and James S. Nanney and Terrence J. Gough, U.S. Manpower Mobilization for World War II (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1982), p. 57.
3. Palmer, p. 1. The Army of 1918 had approximately 4 million men, with 58 combat divisions of 28,000 men each. Total combat strength of the Army was 1.6 million soldiers. The Army of 1945 had approximately 8.2 million men, with 89 combat divisions of roughly 15,000 men each. Total combat strength of the Army in 1945 was 1.3 million soldiers. The total figures include, respectively, the Army Service Force and the Army Air Forces.
[Total American ground combat strength also included 6 Marine divisions operating in the Pacific theater. --HyperWar]
4. Ibid., pp. 17, 29.
5. For example, S.T. Possony, Tomorrow's War: Its Planning, Management, and Cost (London, 1938). For a critical discussion of the division slice concept, See "The Division Slice and Division Force" (Washington, D.C.: Office of the Chief of Military History Draft Manuscript, Project Number 38, February, 1964).
6. Chester Wardlow, The Transportation Corps: Responsibilities, Organization, and Operations. UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, D.C.: Office of the Chief of Military History, 1951), p. 14.
7. R.R. Palmer, Bell I. Wiley, and William R. Keast, The Procurement and Training of Ground Combat Troops, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, D.C.: Office of the Chief of Military History, 1948), p. 8.
8. "The Division Slice and Division Force," p. II-3. Also see report, "A Modern Concept of Manpower Management and Compensation for personnel of the Uniformed Services" (Report and Recommendation for the Secretary of Defense, Defense Advisory Committee on Professional and Technical Compensation, May 1957), Vol. I, "Military Personnel."
9. See Staff paper, RAC (ROR)-SP-180, "A Preliminary Study of Approaches to the Problem of Combat/Support Ratios within the Army Force Structure" (May 1962), Section II.
10. For detailed discussion of the division slice, also see Roland G. Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the Armies, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, D.C.: Office of the Chief of Military History, 1959).
11. For summaries of the World War II experience in planning the division slice, see Field Manual 101-10 (August 1949), pp. 99-102; Army Service Force Manual 409 (24 March 1945); and Draft Field Manual 101-10, "Logistical Data for Staff Planners" (September 1946 and September 1947). discussion of the problem is contained in Carl T. Schmit, "The Division Slice in Two World War," in Military Review, 30:7 (October 1951), pp. 51-62. The Army War College computed an even higher division slice factor of 83,000 for the World War II Army, attributing it to unexpected requirements to sustain fighting divisions in widely separated theaters and compensate for the steady flow of personnel between them and the Zone of the Interior for replacement, hospitalization, and other purposes. A second reason for the higher figure was the Army's decision to maintain comforts such as rest camps, special services, and so forth, in response to the "sociological and environmental standards created by our highly developed industrial society." See Institute of Advanced Studies, U.S. Army Combat developments Command, "Strategic Land Force Requirements System. Final Report" (Carlisle Barracks, Pa., 28 May 1964), p. I-16.
12. For data on the activation of divisions, see "Historical Resume, Division Force Structure, Active and Reserve 1935-1963" (Washington, D.C.: Office of the Chief of Military History Historical Resume; unpublished typescript, 19863); and John B. Wilson, Armies, Corps, Divisions and Separate Brigades, ARMY LINEAGE SERIES (Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, United States Army, 1987).
13. This point is discussed in Kreidberg, History of Military Mobilization in the United States Army, p. 624.
14. CMH Memorandum For Record, 25 August 1955, Subj: Lend-Lease Equipment to Foreign Allied Armies Translated into Number of Divisions Equipped. CMH File Misc 400,336, Lend Lease.
15. Department of State Protocol and Area Information Staff of the U.S.S.R. Branch (Division of Research and Reports), "Report On War Aid Furnished By the United States to the U.S.S.R. (Washington, D.C.: 28 November 1945), p. 19. CMH File Misc 400.36, Lend Lease.
16. Interview with General Wedemeyer, 24 April 1987.
17. War department, Biennial Report of The Chief of Staff of the United States Army July 1, 1943, to June 30, 1945, to The Secretary of War (n.p.: n.d., but 1945), p. 103.
18. Wedemeyer Reports!, p. 40.
19. On the Army's experience with mountain divisions and other light divisions in World War II, see Alexander S. Cochran, Jr., "A Perspective on the Light Divisions. The U.S. Army's experience, 1942-1945" (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History unpublished MS< 1984), particularly chapters 4 and 5.
20. Different requirements existed in the Pacific theater. Nonetheless, the Army as a whole did not need anything approaching the vast AA organization projected in the summer of 1941.
21. For example, tactical air power was enormously successful in the battle at Avranches. "Here was a fighter-bomber's paradise," the Air Force official history remarks, On 29 July, American airplanes destroyed 66 tanks, 204 other vehicles, and 11 guns. See Wesley Frank Craven and James Lea Cate, Europe: Argument to V-E Day. January 1944 to May 1945. THE ARMY AIR FORCES IN WORLD WAR II, Vol. 3 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1951, pp. 241-43. Also see research report, "The Tank vs. Tactical Air Power" (Fort Know: The Armored School, 1952). Chapter I cites additional examples of the use of air power to fight armor. The operations of XIX Tactical Air Command in support of United States Third Army in the Lorraine Campaign provide a textbook case of a superb air-ground team. Fighter-bombers killed thousands of German vehicles, including many tanks. See Hugh M. Cole, The Lorraine Campaign, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, D.C.: Historical Division, Department of the Army, 1950).
22. Basing its recommendations on questionnaires answered by experienced combat commanders, the General Board of the European Theater of Operations overwhelmingly recommended that the tank assume the mission of the tank destroyer. See Report of the Theater General Board USFET (1945), Study No. 48, p. 50. Christopher R. Gable, author of Seek, Strike, and Destroy: U.S. Army Tank Destroyer in World War II (Fort Leavenworth: Combat Studies Institute, 1985), Leavenworth paper No. 12, concludes that the tank destroyer concept was never fully realized in combat, and that the successes of the tank destroyer units came in spite of, not because of, tank destroyer doctrine. He also concludes that tank destroyer doctrine was fundamentally flawed. See p. 67. Also see research report, "Anti Tank Defense--Weapons and Doctrine" (Fort Knox: The Armored School, 1952), particularly chapter 2, which discusses the opposing views on antitank doctrine. Also see Charles M. Baily, Faint Praise: American Tanks and Tank Destroyers During World War II (New York: Archon, 1983).
23. Report of Replacement Board, Department of the Army (12 December 1947), 6 Volumes, Vol. 1, "Conclusions and Recommendations," p. 10.
24. Ibid., Vol. 2, "Replacement System--Zone of the Interior," p. 1.
25. For a discussion of the replacement problem, see Edward J. Drea, "Unit Reconstitution--A Historical Perspective," CSI Report No. 3 (Ft. Leavenworth: Combat Studies Institute, 1 December 1983).
26. R.R. Palmer, "The Mobilization of the Ground Army" (Washington, D.C.: Historical Section--Army Ground Forces, Study No. 4, 1946), p. 2.
27. Quoted in James S. Nanney and Terrence J. Gough, U.S. Manpower Mobilization for World War II (Washington: U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1982), pp. 49-50.
28. Palmer, "Mobilization of the Ground Army," p. 2.
29. Ibid., p. 24. By January of 1945, 47 infantry regiments in 19 infantry divisions had lost from 100 to 200 percent of their strength in battle casualties--non-battle losses were a constant drain as well. The five hardest-hit divisions had suffered 176 percent battle casualties by May, 1945.
30. Wedemeyer Reports! p. 65.
31. Details of the leak exist in most studies of the period. See Wedemeyer Reports!, chapters 2 and 3; also see Tracy B. Kittredge, "A Military Danger: The Revelation of Secret Strategic Plans," in United States Naval Institute Proceedings, 81 (July 1955), for an assessment of the dangers to the United States posed by the leak. The identity of the person who gave Senator Wheeler the plan remains an open question. Wedemeyer came under suspicion for a time, but was exonerated. An unnamed Army Air Force captain is said to have been the agent who delivered the plans to Wheeler. A recent article by Thomas Fleming asserts that President Roosevelt himself ordered the leak in order to provoke the Germans and thus provide a casus belli. See "The Big Leak," American Heritage (December 1987), 64-71.
32. Thus one sees Lieutenant general Ben Lear ordering divisional maneuvers to run the full course of scheduled exercises in the Tennessee maneuvers, and disciplining Major General John S. Wood because his 4th Armored Division overran the conventional opposition in a matter of hours. Thus, also, one notes the sustained prejudice among many of the Army's senior officers toward the Armored Force.
33. Wedemeyer Reports!, pp. 73-74.
34. Interview with General Wedemeyer, 24 April 1987.
35. B.H. Liddell Hart, Strategy (New York: Preager, 1967), p. 26. Liddell Hart first made this point in The Decisive Wars of History: A Study in Strategy (Boston: Little, Brown, 1929), p. 6.
36. Press Conference Memorandum, Secretary of War Stimson, 11:45 a.m., 5 December 1941; and statement by the Chief of Staff, re: leak of Victory Plan (5 December 1941); both in NARA RG 165, File WPD 4494-20.
37. Wedemeyer Reports!, pp. 63-65.
38. For an assessment of American military intellectuals before World War II, see the author's "Filling the Gaps: Reevaluating Officer Education in the Inter-War Army, 1920-1940," a paper read at the 1989 Annual Conference of the American Military Institute, 14-15 April, at Lexington, Virginia.