"The first thing for a commander in chief to determine is what he is going to do, to see if he has the means to overcome the obstacles which the enemy can oppose to him, and, when he has decided, to do all he can to surmount them."

Napoleon I

THE Victory Plan of 1941 was, although not many War Department staff officers realized it while it was being drafted, the blueprint both for the general mobilization of the United States Army for World War II and for the operational concept by which the United States would fight the war. The Victory Plan predicted the future organization for an army that did not yet exist, outlined combat missions for a war not yet declared, and computed war production requirements for industries that were still committed to peacetime manufacture. It did all of this with remarkable accuracy, considering that the intentions of the United States government were anything but clear in 1941. Very few staff papers have ever had its prescience, its impact, or its far-reaching consequence. Fewer still have dealt so concisely,yet comprehensively, with grand strategic concepts.

General Hans von Seeckt once remarked that general staff officers have no names, a fact as true in the United States Army as in the German Army of the Seeckt era. Characteristically, major plans took shape at the hands of many talented staff officers,each contributing his part to the completed work. To an extent, this was also true of the Victory Plan, for many officers in the War Plans Division and other agencies of the War Department General Staff labored to produce the document. Unlike other plans, however, the Victory Plan took shape under the direction of a single officer who developed the conceptual framework, outline and allocated specific tasks for subordinate planners, guided the efforts of other staff officers, and finally integrated the many different parts of the plan into a coherent whole. Furthermore, the War Plans Division was a relatively small organization for the many and diverse tasks it handled.


Before Pearl Harbor, WPD had only fifty-two officers, of whom only a handful were available to assist the principal author. To this extent, the Victory Plan may be considered the work of one man, although it reflected the efforts ofmany other officers.

This intellectual tour de force was the accomplishment of Albert C. Wedemeyer, then a major in the War Plans Division of the War Department General Staff. At every turn, the document bears the imprint of Wedemeyer's mind,his experience,and his professional education. As he peered into an indistinct future from which any sort of war could emerge, making plans to mobilize the Army for threats he could only dimly perceive, Albert Wedemeyer harvested the fruits of twenty years of military experience, education, and study. In this case, at least, the man and the plan are indissolubly linked and must therefore be considered together if one is to understand how the Victory Plan was written.

Such an understanding is vital for modern planners for World War II is the only full mobilization the United States Army has experienced in the modern age. Quantitative issues often preoccupy modern planners who try to figure the number of divisions, types and quantities of weapons, training, and deployment of the Army upon mobilization.Certainly these are important matters, but the question may well be raised whether they are the only important issues to be considered. In fact, such quantitative issues are almost always variables that depend upon the social, political, military, and technological contexts of the day. Rather, therefore, than seeking numerical answers to constantly evolving questions, the modern planner must devise a rational approach to solving a problem that has endless and conflicting variables.

The Victory Plan provides an example of just such an approach and highlights some of the most important themes in modern military planning. It shows that the prevailing political and military conditions decisively affect the possible choices open to the planner. It points out that any military plan, to be effective, must relate to attainable national objectives. It emphasizes that mobilization planning cannot be considered distinct from operational and logistical planning, for all three must be components of any comprehensive strategic plan. It shows that no plan is ever complete and final, but must continuously be amended to suit evolving circumstances. Above all, it illustrates the fact that the dividing line between the purely political and the purely military are increasingly blurred in the modern age. The Victory Plan began, and continued throughout


its revisions, as a politico-military plan. The Army consistently viewed the world in terms of that politico-military, or grand strategic, focus. That was its chief success.

Finally, the Victory Plan demonstrates that the personal attributes and professional qualification of the planner are crucial, because they influence the options among which he is willing to choose. Wedemeyer's background, both his experience and his reading, was important. Every man is the sum of his experiences, and a different officer would have written a different plan. Wedemeyer's reading certainly helped to shape his intellect. How far it influenced the Victory Plan is for the reader to judge.

The purpose of this monograph is to describe the planning process that Albert C. Wedemeyer used in the summer of 1941 to write the plan that became the outline for mobilization and operations during World War II. The first step in understanding the planning process is gaining some understanding of the planner himself, both personally and intellectually. Then it is important to review the political context in which Wedemeyer had to work, both for its constraints and for what it permitted. Only then is it possible to review the drafting of the Victory Plan itself with some understanding, for it was not written in an abstract, antiseptic environment.


Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (Foreword) * Next Chapter (1)

Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation