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MARK R. HENRY, MIKE CHAPPELL
The Allied war effort in the Pacific may be divided into four theatres of operations: China-Burma-India (CBI), and the South, South-West and Central Pacific. Historians have generously highlighted the inter-service rivalries which these separate theatres - and the leading command personalities responsible for them - engendered. Books and movies have given prominence to the role of the US Marine Corps in its dramatic island battles in the Central Pacific. Virtually the entire burden of the ground war in the Burma/India theatre was borne by the British and Indian forces, and in China by the Chinese Nationalist army, although US air and logistic support was vital throughout the CBI. In New Guinea the Australians made a major contribution to the South-West Pacific campaign.
Okinawa, 1945: a wounded GI is helped to the rear by a carbine-armed medic. Typically, they wear their HBT shirts tucked in and trouser cuffs loose; both types of the large-pocket HBT shirts are worn here. The medic's special pouches are pushed back to hang behind his hips on their yoke suspenders; his M4 bayonet is carried on a Japanese leather belt.
The British troops in Burma considered themselves a 'forgotten army', their long, costly, and eventually victorious campaign overshadowed at home by the war against Germany; and over-arching all local rivalries is the odd fact that the US Army, too, seems to be barely remembered for its critical role in the Pacific theatre. The Army contributed more than 20 combat divisions to the ground war against Japan - three times the strength of the US Marine Corps; and it was the Army which stood the first shock of the enemy after Pearl Harbor.
The active strength of the US Army in 1939 was 174,000, making it a third-rate power. With war on the horizon, a peacetime draft - conscription, which filled local quotas by ballot - was instituted in 1940. It was renewed by Congress in 1941 by a margin of just one vote. The Army was dramatically enlarged, and by July 1941 it stood at more than 1,300,000, with 29 divisions and growing. By 1940 the Army was strong enough to hold its first corps-level manoeuvers since World War I. (A corps was a grouping of two to five divisions, and an army was a grouping of two to five corps.)
Army enlistment was filled by both volunteers and draftees. The rapidly expanding National Guard (Reservists) units were called to the colours and provided some 270,000 men to the Army. The draft included men from the ages of 21 to 35; the lower limit was later dropped to 18 years, but the average age of soldiers was 26, compared to 23 in the US Navy. High peacetime physical standards were steadily eroded to increase the intake, although about one-third of the draftees examined were rejected. Men were inducted for three-year terms, or the duration of hostilities plus six months.
African-Americans were accepted as both volunteers and draftees; they were formed into all-black units mostly officered by whites. A small number of combat units were formed, but generally blacks were posted to support units. Because of ETO manpower shortages in late 1944 they were slowly integrated into white combat units as replacements. The 92nd and 93rd Divisions were all black, and by 1944 10% of the Army's manpower was black.
Beginning in 1942, women were accepted as volunteers in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). In 1943 the WAAC was formally incorporated into the Army as the Women's Army Corps (WAC). By the end of the war about 100,000 WACs would be serving in the Army, including some 6,000 in the South-West Pacific and 10,000 in the European theatre.
New inductees were prodded, inoculated, and given intelligence tests to help the Army place them. The majority of the high test scorers were snapped up by the Air Corps or one of the technical support branches; some of these men were allowed to attend college and were to be inducted at a later date after acquiring important skills (the ASTP programme). Uncle Sam provided new recruits with a full 'government issue' (GI) of clothing, equipment and other necessities; and once caught up in the giant military machine they began to think of themselves as 'GIs', too. Basic training was cut to eight weeks after Pearl Harbor but later rose to a standard 17 weeks. These new men were used to fill out existing Regular, National Guard or new draftee divisions.
The senior officers of the Army were products of the new staff schools at Ft Benning and Leavenworth, and many were veterans of the Great War. Colleges (universities) provided a large cadre of junior officers to start with, but the Army would require many more leaders. With the US Military Academy at West Point tardy in speeding up their four-year curriculum, Army Chief of Staff Gen George C.Marshal founded Officer Candidate Schools (OCS). These OCSs went on to successfully provide 65% of the officers required by the US Army. Promising enlisted men with four to six months' service could be recommended. At first they received 90 days of training in their branch and as leaders, and they soon acquired the nickname '90 day wonders'. The courses were later expanded to about 120 days, but the name stuck. Officers were also created by direct commissioning of civilians with special skills such as doctors, lawyers and engineers.
Ambitious Army planners envisioned that the US would need 200 divisions to achieve victory in Europe and the Pacific. In order to approach this goal it was found necessary to constantly comb men out of existing divisions to create cadres for new units; for instance, the 1st Division lost 80% of its strength in 18 months to these periodic drafts, and the 69th Division lost over 150% of its strength in the 16 months prior to its commitment to combat. This policy severely damaged the ability of existing divisions to train and build a team.
By 1945 8,300,000 men had been enrolled in the Army and Army Air Corps, with a stabilised combat strength of about 91 divisions.