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US Army at the beginning of WW2

Strength and Organization in the United States, Great Britain and Mediterranean theatre

US Soldiers landing in the MediterraneanAlthough it is true that the United States mobilised its vast resources in a remarkably short time, American soldiers had ample warning of the coming crisis. In 1940 the Army was divided in three: the regulars, the National Guard and the Organised Reserve. The Regular Army numbered 243,095 and was scattered in 130 posts, camps and stations, the men serving short-term enlistments: the officers numbered 1,400. The National Guard was 226,837 strong and was equipped by individual states and received two weeks' training each summer.

There was, in addition, a reserve of 104,228 officers in the organised reserve corps, composed of the Officer Training Camps. The Army received a standard institutionalised pattern of training: the service schools supervised training and the Service Boards tested and developed new equipment.

The continental United States, the Zone of the Interior, was administered by four armies and, in 1940, they only had skeleton staffs of 4,400 troops each. There were nine infantry divisions; only three had a complement of regular formations, the other six were only 3,000 strong. There was also a cavalry division and a mechanised brigade of 4,000 and 2,300 men respectively. Responsibility for speeding up mobilisation was given to General Headquarters (GHQ), and in 1941 it was given responsibility for the training of troops under the leadership of General Leslie McNair.

On 17 June 1941 the Army was expanded to 280,000 men and nine days later to 375,000. On 16 September the National Guard units were absorbed into the Army and Roosevelt persuaded Congress to pass the Selective Service Act; by July 1941, 606,915 men were inducted into the Army.
New units were usually formed around the regular or National Guard formations. At first there were 27 divisions, nine regular and 18 National Guard; there were also two armoured divisons and a further three completing their training.

American mobilisation proceeded fairly smoothly before the outbreak of war in December 1941. Thereafter the strain inflicted by the early disasters in the Pacific and the demand for continued expansion proved too much. The War Department originally believed that it could mobilise three or four divisions per month after March 1942, but this rate could not be kept up; by the end of December 1942 only 42 of the planned 73 divisions had been mobilised. Indeed, by September the Army was short of 330,000 men and the ambitious plans laid in that month to create an army of 114 divisions were never realised.

The main factor which limited the size of the US Army, apart from the capacity of the American economy to equip such a large force quickly, was shipping. The shipping estimates showed that no more than 4,170,000 men could be shipped overseas by the end of 1944. In the event the number of divisions shipped abroad did not exceed 88. This fact was an important restraint on Allied strategy.
Thus although expansion between December 1941 and December 1943 was unprecedented, with the Army growing from 1,657,157 to 5,400,888, a further increase in the number of units was not undertaken. By December 1944, 4,933,682 Americans were serving abroad in 80 divisions; these were supported by a mere three divisions in reserve.
In 1945 the US Army reached a total of 91 dvisions, but three of these were broken up for reinforcements. The remaining 88 were maintained at full combat strength despite the fact that by the end of the Ardennes Campaign in January 1945, 47 regiments in 19 divisions had suffered between 100 and 200 per cent battle casualties.

US Army units participating in Operation Torch, the invasion of French North Africa were:
Western Task Force of 35,000 men: 1 armoured division, 2 infantry divisions.
Central and Eastern Task Forces: 1 armoured division, 3 infantry divisions.

While the Western Task Force was composed entirely of US personnel, the Central and Eastern forces also included British troops.

Basic US Army units in 1942:

Infantry Division (motorised)
Armoured Division
Tank Battalion
Tank Destroyer Battalion
Total units (in summer 1942)
approx. 28
(42 in December 1942 including armoured)
approx. 5
(16 in 1944-45)
2 +
(65 in 1944-45, often being combined in groups of 3-5, sometimes with mechanized infantry units)
3 +
(80 in 1945)
Infantry regiments
3
(each with three battailons, each with 860 men)

1
(with three battailons, each with 860 men, all mounted on half-tracks)

-
-
Total men
14,253
10,900
729
1,250
Machine guns
280
(147 x .30, 133 x .50)
approx. 93
(49 x .30, 44 x .50)
18 x .30, 26 x .50
30 x .30, 44 x .50
Bazookas
557 (1943)
607 (1943)
25
62
Mortars
138
(81 x 60mm, 57 x 81mm)
46
(27 x 60mm, 19 x 81mm)
6 x 81mm
3 x 81mm
Artillery
-
-
-
Self-propelled howitzers
24
(18 x 75mm, 6 x 105mm)
54
(105mm)
-
-
Anti-tank guns
109
(37mm M3A1 , later 57mm)
27
-
-
Anti-aircraft guns
anti-aircraft battalions were controlled by the Army
Vehicles (trucks)
1,440
(note: this capacity was not enough to move all equipment and personnel simultaneously)
All types total: 2,653
2,653
(all types, including Jeeps)
64
82
APC's
5
501
(M3 Half-tracks)
13
-
Armoured Cars
-
68
(M8)
-
36
Tanks
-
227
(159 medium M3 Lee or M4 Sherman, 68 Stuart)
68
(51 medium M3 Lee or M4 Sherman, 17 Stuart)
36
(M10)

 

US Army Air Force

In the 1930s there were dramatic strides in civil and commercial aviation, and by the eve of the war the United States was the world leader in civil aviation. Army aviation lagged sadly behind. Its aircraft were not capable of meeting the demands of the war to come, and production was quite limited in comparison with the industry's potential. In 1938 only 1,800 military aircraft were built, and 2,195 in the following year. But in 1939, when the 1935 Neutrality Act was repealed, the American aircraft industry began to recover. (The Act had put an embargo on the export of all military material to belligerent countries, with the aim of keeping America out of war.) France and Britain were major new customers for American aircraft, and the 1941 Lend-Lease Act gave this production a new boost.

In 1939 the USAAC had a total of 2,400 aircraft, while the U.S. Navy Air Force had 2,500 aircraft, 600 of which were carrier-based.
When war broke out the Army had 3,305 aircraft in a state of readiness, while the Navy had about 3,000 aircraft ready.

In June 1941 the United States Army Air Corps became the Army Air Force and was commanded by Major-General Henry H. Arnold. At that time its strength was only a small force of 9,078 officers and 143,563 enlisted men. Within six months its strength had risen to 22,524 officers (including cadets) and 274,579 men. The numbers of aircraft had risen from 6,102 to 10,329 in the same period.
Eight Air Forces were constituted. Four were based within the continental United States and one each was based in the Philippines, Hawaii, Alaska and the Caribbean. Between 1943-44 the AAF doubled in size and reached a peak strength in March 1944 of 2,411,294 men, of which 38 per cent served overseas. By April 1945 52 per cent of its personnel served overseas. Supplying this sizeable force was a considerable constraint on the number of infantry divisions the US could ship abroad.

First B-24 Liberator in Great BritainFormed on 28 January 1942, the United States 8th Army Air Force was established at Savannah, Georgia, as the air component of the projected invasion of North-West Africa (later as Operation Torch). With the escalation of war in the Pacific, this was cancelled and, re-numbered from its original title of the 5th AF, the 8th was diverted to Britain; an advance party landed in February under the command of Brigadier General Ira Eaker. Initial plans called for a total of 60 combat groups - 33 of bombers, 12 of fighters and 15 of transport and observation aircraft, with a proposed strength of 3,500 machines.

Picture: Army Air Force men around one of the first B-24 Liberator to arrive in Great Britain.

April and May 1942 saw the first personnel arrive on British soil. The first raid of major proportions was mounted on 17 August by 12 Boeing B-17 Fortresses, the giant four-engined bombers which, with the Consolidated B-24 Liberator, bore the brunt of the US bombing effort. This raid on Rouen, mounted in daylight, sustained no losses, but this was not to be the case in the majority of its successors.

The USAAF in the Mediterranean consisted at the beginning of the 12th Air Force, which contained fighter and bomber units. The 12th Air Force was established on 20 August 1942 and was soon engaged in active operations in the support of the ground fighting in North Africa. It's initial strength was some 500 planes, a figure that was doubled by early 1943 when it was combined with RAF units to form the Northwest African Air Force under General Carl Spatz.

The organization structure of the AAF in each theatre of operations differed with the climatic, geographical conditions and tactical requirements pertaining there. The smallest administrative unit was the group of two to four squadrons.

Bomber and reconaissance squadron: 13 aircrafts;
Fighter and fighter-bomber squadron: 28 aircrafts;
Navy squadron: 6 to 18 aircrafts (depending on type);

If a group was stationed at a permanent base the various squadrons usually pooled their administrative services; but wherever the squadrons were stationed the group trained together. The air group was the Air Force equivalent of the Army regiment.
The various groups were differentiated by the type of aircraft they flew. For example, a very heavy bombardment group, flying B-29s would comprise 462 officers and 1616 men. But the number of men and aircraft in each group varied.
Above this was the wing of two groups which was a non-admimstrative unit and only concerned with tactical plans and operations.
Two or more wings were usually brigaded together with auxiliary units to form a command - an organization of one kind of air strength, fighters or bombers. If these forces were too large for one man to control, then they would be split into air divisions which rested between wing and command levels. The air force was the largest single unit in the AAF and consisted of three or more commands. If, however, the tactical demands of a theatre required a particular type of air support then an air force would be created within a theatre air force.


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