Jump to content


Photo

WWII - Casualty rates in US infantry units


  • Please log in to reply
108 replies to this topic

#61 Ken Estes

Ken Estes

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 14,757 posts

Posted 29 May 2005 - 0449 AM

Hi Richard,
I would say class III (fuels, POL) and V were the warstoppers in the ETO, not rations. We can run around and say that troops in training consume fuel and ammo also. But I think Mansoor has a point.

Edited by Ken Estes, 29 May 2005 - 0452 AM.

  • 0

#62 KingSargent

KingSargent

    Fill your hand you shummabysh!

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,921 posts

Posted 29 May 2005 - 1501 PM

Hi Richard,
I would say class III (fuels, POL) and V were the warstoppers in the ETO, not rations. We can run around and say that troops in training consume fuel and ammo also. But I think Mansoor has a point.

View Post


Having the divisions available to allow rotation into and out of the line would have been nice, but Jim has a good point: ALL the divisions had to be shipped over from the US. Given that the logistics services were operating at pretty much maximum capacity (whether they could have been more efficient is another debate), I don't see how more divisions could have been fed into theater even if available.

Of course the allocations to theaters could have been changed - it would have been possible to get more divisions into NWE by reducing MTO and PTO commitments - as was in fact done for DRAGOON.
  • 0

#63 Richard Lindquist

Richard Lindquist

    Purveyor of flints to General Washington

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 3,387 posts

Posted 29 May 2005 - 2027 PM

Having the divisions available to allow rotation into and out of the line would have been nice, but Jim has a good point: ALL the divisions had to be shipped over from the US. Given that the logistics services were operating at pretty much maximum capacity (whether they could have been more efficient is another debate), I don't see how more divisions could have been fed into theater even if available.

View Post


Instead of shipping divisions, McNair should have broken the infantry regiments up into independent battalions and combat commands. With nine independent infantry battalions in each division, the worst hit battalions could be exchanged for full-up battalions. They could also have used colored infantry battalions in white divisions under that scheme as well. The shot up battalions could either be reconstituted in theater or rotated back to the states for reconstitution with new draftees and OCS grads then trained up and brought back over.
  • 0

#64 Jim Martin

Jim Martin

    Kick me! I'm not allowed to hit back!

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 4,594 posts

Posted 29 May 2005 - 2217 PM

Every truck which brings beans to a unit in Theater Reserve is a truck not bringing POL, ammo and beans to a unit on the line. Not to mention that if you're going to do it "right", units in Theater Reserve would be absorbing replacements, and you'd be holding live fire exercises and weapons training with said (undertrained) replacements, further straining supplies. (edit here: I don't think the problem was ever really supplies, but the means to move them from the beach.) The problem wasn't just enough divisions to rotate into the line, but the need to train replacements in weapons and tactics. For that you may not need combat allotments of POL and ammo, but you need those things.
  • 0

#65 Richard Lindquist

Richard Lindquist

    Purveyor of flints to General Washington

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 3,387 posts

Posted 30 May 2005 - 0736 AM

Every truck which brings beans to a unit in Theater Reserve is a truck not bringing POL, ammo and beans to a unit on the line.  Not to mention that if you're going to do it "right", units in Theater Reserve would be absorbing replacements, and you'd be holding live fire exercises and weapons training with said (undertrained) replacements, further straining supplies. (edit here:  I don't think the problem was ever really supplies, but the means to move them from the beach.)  The problem wasn't just enough divisions to rotate into the line, but the need to train replacements in weapons and tactics.  For that you may not need combat allotments of POL and ammo, but you need those things.

View Post


Locate the separate battalions undergoing refit near the ports. Class I is only 6 pounds per man per day. POL for an infantry battalion is pretty much for the kitchens and for admin runs. Training ammo is mostly small arms which is light. You don't need to fire the mortars than much in retraining an infantry battalion. It is mostly crew drill.
  • 0

#66 KingSargent

KingSargent

    Fill your hand you shummabysh!

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,921 posts

Posted 30 May 2005 - 1357 PM

Instead of shipping divisions, McNair should have broken the infantry regiments up into independent battalions and combat commands.  With nine independent infantry battalions in each division, the worst hit battalions could be exchanged for full-up battalions.  They could also have used colored infantry battalions in white divisions under that scheme as well.  The shot up battalions could either be reconstituted in theater or rotated back to the states for reconstitution with new draftees and OCS grads then trained up and brought back over.

View Post

Good idea, but you've still got to get them there. Leaving divisions back and just sending the infantry bns leaves fewer divisions on line (albeit with more infantry). So you get fuller bns but fewer divisions for the same amount of shipping.
Besides, the training was done by the division from a cadre drawn from an older division; to train separate bns would have messed up the training program, which was messed up enough by the drafts for replacements. It would have meant an entirely different sort of training program, with more Branch Schools and less 'hiving divisions off of older divisions'.
  • 0

#67 Bob Lyle

Bob Lyle

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 2,249 posts

Posted 30 May 2005 - 1522 PM

This is, in fact, Mansoor's thesis, that the individual replacement system, despite obvious drawbacks vs. unit replacement, allowed the US Army to keep most of its divisions on the line, in continuous operations [not continuous combat], and this was essential because of the 90 [89] division program, which he does criticize. Thus, for the US, the replacement system works better than that of the Wehrmacht, which is worn down to a shadow.

View Post

If so, I think he is overstating his point. By 1945 we were "scraping the bottom" of the personel barrel. According to my Father (who lost his essential worker defermentv in 44) we were drafting men in their 30s and non-essential Army Air Corp personnel found themselves in an Infantry replacement depot.
The high casualty rates among FNG was an inseperable part of Individual Replacement, and would have been unsupportable if the war had gone on much longer.
  • 0

#68 History Buff

History Buff

    Crew

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 73 posts

Posted 30 May 2005 - 1548 PM

Instead of shipping divisions, McNair should have broken the infantry regiments up into independent battalions and combat commands.  With nine independent infantry battalions in each division, the worst hit battalions could be exchanged for full-up battalions.  They could also have used colored infantry battalions in white divisions under that scheme as well.  The shot up battalions could either be reconstituted in theater or rotated back to the states for reconstitution with new draftees and OCS grads then trained up and brought back over.

View Post



What if the divisions had remained rectangular, with adjustments for motorization, rather than been cut to triangular configuration? Would that have helped a division's staying power and allowed it to place bn's in reserve to refit and retrain?
  • 0

#69 KingSargent

KingSargent

    Fill your hand you shummabysh!

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,921 posts

Posted 30 May 2005 - 1614 PM

What if the divisions had remained rectangular, with adjustments for motorization, rather than been cut to triangular configuration?  Would that have helped a division's staying power and allowed it to place bn's in reserve to refit and retrain?

View Post


The rectangular division was an answer to WW1 trench warfare. The idea was to attack on a one-regiment front, then feed in the second regiment of the brigade through the first, then the first of the second brigade, etc. There would usually be breakthrough from this pounding for the last regiment to exploit.

Unless they were going to leave out the Brigade HQs and just have four rgts under Division, you end up with too many HQs. But you would also end up with all four rgts on the line, not one back. Give a Division CO a regiment and he will use it.

Something that would have helped would have been the German 'ersatz'(?) bn, which was a replacement intake bn for the division that usually had an example of each weapon the division used and a cadre that introduced the FNGs to the division (chain of command, organization - the Germans had so many TOEs that it was rare to have two divisions alike). So the FNG had at least a little orientation. Of course when the excrement got deep, the ersatz went into the line and that system collapsed too.
  • 0

#70 History Buff

History Buff

    Crew

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 73 posts

Posted 30 May 2005 - 1656 PM

The rectangular division was an answer to WW1 trench warfare.

View Post


That's why I said with adjustments for motorization, which should have aided mobility. :) Triangular divisions only had about 6500 men at the pointy end, another regiment on line and one in reserve would have been welcome, I'd think and would have helped out with the thin, wide frontages many divisions had to cope with during the fall/winter of 44/45.

I'm agreed on the deletion of the 2 brigade HQ's. Of course, given the manpower allocation and classification of AGF troops coupled with the WMB stand on the size of the army, we're lucky to have fielded the divisions we did. :)

Edited by History Buff, 30 May 2005 - 1713 PM.

  • 0

#71 Wyvern75

Wyvern75

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 874 posts

Posted 30 May 2005 - 2332 PM

The problem in WWII was the Division staffs (and especially the commanders) had problems controlling and directing combat. A lot of this had to do with communications.

A lot of WWII vets (who were on Regimental Staffs and some of whom became General Officers later on) think that the Regiments were what kept the Divisions going in some of the roughest times.

Independent Battalions while sounding good, would have been chewed up just as fast and perhaps more so. A lot of the Battalions and Regiments by November '44 were commanded by men who had been company commanders at Normandy.
  • 0

#72 Ken Estes

Ken Estes

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 14,757 posts

Posted 31 May 2005 - 0406 AM

Some odds & ends:

Army Ground Forces (AGF - McNair's cmd] responded to the replacement problem in late 1943 by stripping 35,249 men from divisions then training in the US. Despite the training disruption, this was repeated between Apr-Sept44: 91,747 men from 22 divs still in training, average 4170 ea., corresponding to 60% of the infantry in each div.

The Bulge brought the final manpower crisis to the US Army. Two divisions scheduled to arrive in the ETO in December were ordered to the front, but only the 75th was sent immediately, as the 66th lost over 800 men when a U-boat sank their transport in the Channel!

20 Dec SHAEF ordered 2000 privates stripped from 42, 63, 70th ID [6th Army Group] for the 3rd Army. Their infantry regiments had been shipped early from the US without the divisional components in order to compensate for infantry shortages. The weakened rgts [augmented by artillerymen, signalmen and QMs] served with other divs in the 7th Army, allowing some rotation out of the line there. Dec 25, SHAEF orders stripping 25% of the inf regts of 69ID, newly arrived from the US, for use as replacements.

Ike requested more divisions from Marshall, and the JCS released three of the last four held in reserve: 71, 86, 97th [including my 30 yr old father, married with one kid, just drafted] which had been earmarked for the Pacific. Also in that decision came the 13th Abn, 16th and 20th ArmDivs.

Belatedly, SHAEF ordered in January that casuals [hospital discharges] be returned to their units vice the ETO manpower pool. 4462 black soldeirs from segregated support units volunteers for infantry duty, forming segregated inf platoons in almost 50 inf companies in the ETO.

By end Jan45, the crises in manpower and logistics were over. Antwerp port was open and the reinforced and refurbished US divisions would conduct an "American Blitzkrieg' in Germany over the succeeding 4 months.

--- most of the above from Mansoor.
  • 0

#73 phip

phip

    Crunchie

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 24 posts

Posted 31 May 2005 - 1451 PM

Hi. I just joined. To put a more personal face on your discussion, I'd like to mention two of my friends. One was in the 4th Inf Div (US). He joined the division in the hedgerow country and stayed until April, 1945. Going into the Huertgen Forest, he was a squad leader in a full strength platoon. Coming out, he was the platoon leader. Only 3 of the originally assigned troops (including him) were still present. The platoon had gone through essentially 3 full-platoon replacements during the battle. Another friend was an air force clerk stationed in Fla. He was pulled out, given 6 wks of inf tng, and joined the 3d Inf Div in Jan, 1945. He stayed with the division until he went home in 1946. He knew some other guys who were former air force who had as little as 1 week of actual tng.
  • 0

#74 Bob Lyle

Bob Lyle

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 2,249 posts

Posted 02 June 2005 - 0837 AM

Hi. I just joined. To put a more personal face on your discussion, I'd like to mention two of my friends. One was in the 4th Inf Div (US). He joined the division in the hedgerow country and stayed until April, 1945. Going into the Huertgen Forest, he was a squad leader in a full strength platoon. Coming out, he was the platoon leader. Only 3 of the originally assigned troops (including him) were still present. The platoon had gone through essentially 3 full-platoon replacements during the battle. Another friend was an air force clerk stationed in Fla. He was pulled out, given 6 wks of inf tng, and joined the 3d Inf Div in Jan, 1945. He stayed with the division until he went home in 1946. He knew some other guys who were former air force who had as little as 1 week of actual tng.

View Post

This confirms what my father found, talking to fellow veterans after the war. I saw one report where infantry leaders in 1945 were asked to describe the service of their "most valuable" enlisted men and NCOs. The average battlefield experience for these treoops averaged six weeks for the EM and six months for the NCOs.
The Huertigan forest demonstrates the problems with rotating battalions. If you rotate a battalion at 30% casualties (which would be 50% or higher in ruifle squads) a Divisional commander could easily hav 4 or 5 battalions doing refit. But if Regimental Comat Teams were considered interchangable parts, in somplace like the Heurtigan a Division might have had 10 different regiments assigned, 3 at a time. Figure four regiments per division average, 1/4 doing refit, half in "quiet" sectors, 1/4 in active combat.
Divisional commander would hate having ro deal with a new set of Colonels every two weeks in a "meat grinder", and it would be a lot harder to move 20 RCT than 20.000 repolacements but something had to be done. Maybe it would have given them a better "gut level" understanding of when operations where costing more than they were worth.
  • 0

#75 Richard Lindquist

Richard Lindquist

    Purveyor of flints to General Washington

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 3,387 posts

Posted 02 June 2005 - 1011 AM

This confirms what my father found, talking to fellow veterans after the war.  I saw one report where infantry leaders in 1945 were asked to describe the service of their "most valuable" enlisted men and NCOs.  The average battlefield experience for these treoops averaged six weeks for the EM and six months for the NCOs.
The Huertigan forest demonstrates the problems with rotating battalions.  If you rotate a battalion at 30% casualties (which would be 50% or higher in ruifle squads) a Divisional commander could easily hav 4 or 5 battalions doing refit.  But if Regimental Comat Teams were considered interchangable parts, in somplace like the Heurtigan a Division might have had 10 different regiments assigned, 3 at a time.  Figure four regiments per division average, 1/4 doing refit, half in "quiet" sectors, 1/4 in active combat.
Divisional commander would hate having ro deal with a new set of Colonels every two weeks in a "meat grinder", and it would be a lot harder to move 20 RCT than 20.000 repolacements but something had to be done.  Maybe it would have given them a better "gut level" understanding of when operations where costing more than they were worth.

View Post


If they eliminated the regimental echelon and kept the brigade echelon, the Div CG would be dealing with the same subordinates. Once the brigade CO (BG or COL??) got used to having battalions come and go, he would be OK. Most of the casualties were in the rifle battalions and they could be rtoated more easily since they had little in the way of impedimenta. Only the infantry had replacement problems.
  • 0

#76 Richard Lindquist

Richard Lindquist

    Purveyor of flints to General Washington

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 3,387 posts

Posted 02 June 2005 - 1014 AM

Some odds & ends:

Army Ground Forces (AGF - McNair's cmd] responded to the replacement problem in late 1943 by stripping 35,249 men from divisions then training in the US. Despite the training disruption, this was repeated between Apr-Sept44: 91,747 men from 22 divs still in training, average 4170 ea., corresponding to 60% of the infantry in each div.

View Post


McNair asked for more non-divisional infantry regiments to permit rotation, but the theaters preferred replacments. Almost all of the non-divisinal infantry regiments that were not in combat were deactivated to provide individual replacements and divisions in training were stripped. The Army never activated enough infantry replacment training units to do the job despite Mcnair's warnings.
  • 0

#77 Delta tank 6

Delta tank 6

    Crew

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 859 posts

Posted 06 May 2008 - 0814 AM

While I found Mansoor's book enjoyable and informative, I found that he contradicts himself in his critique of the 89 division program. On the one hand, he makes mention of the greatly overstressed logistics situation in the ETO after July 1944; the divisions already on the Continent could hardly be kept in beans and bullets. He then beats the US Army over the head for not having enough divisions in theater reserve to allow for an adequate rotational system. Which shall it be, Mr. Mansoor?

The US Army couldn't supply anymore divisions in the theater at the time of major combat operations, and that's why there weren't any additional divisions in theater. Pretty simple, really. We might have had a 200 division army, we still couldn't have put more boots on the ground "Over There"--at least put them over and then still kept them fed and moving.



To all,

I know that this is an old post but,

The folowing comes from the "Biennial Reports of the Chief Of Staff Of The United States Army to the Secretary Of War 1 July 1939-30 June 1945. Page 197

"Our ground strength was, for the size of our population, proportionately much smaller than that of the other belligerents. On the other hand it was, in effect, greater than a simple comparison of figures would indicate, for we had set up a system of training individual replacements that would maintain 89 division of ground troops and 273 combat air groups at full effective strength, enabling these units to continue in combat for protracted periods. In past wars it had been accepted practice to organize as many divisions as manpower resources would permit, fight those divisions until casualties had reduced them to bare skeletons, then withdraw them from the line and rebuild them in a rear area. In 1918 the AEF was forced to reduce the strength of divisions and finally to disband newly arrived divisions in France in order to maintain the already limited strength of those engaged in battle. The system we adopted for this war invovled a flow of individual replacements from training centers to the divisions so they would be constantly at full strength. The Air Forces established a similar flow to replace combat casualties and provide relief crews.
This system enabled us to pursue tremendous naval and shipping programs, the air bombardment programs and unprecedented, almost unbelievable, production and supply programs, and at the same time to gather the strength necessary to deliver the knock-out blows on the ground. There were other advantages. 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."

Page 198.

"In the Siegfried Line fighting prior to the final advance to the Rhine, the weather was atrocious and most of the troops had been continuously engaged since the landing in Normandy in June. The lack of port facilities prior to the opening of Antwerp to Allied shipping made it impossible to maintain divisions in normal corps reserve and thus permit the rotation of units between the fighting line and comfortable billets in rear areas. Divisions for this purpose were available in England and in northwestern France, but the state of the railroads and the flow of supplies made it impossible to maintain them at the front. All this resulted in a great strain on the fighting troops, and when a shortage in replacements was added, the situation grew very serious. It was just at this moment that the Germans launched their final offensive effort in the Ardennes."

I hope this furthers the discussion. All spelling errors are mine!
  • 0

#78 Paul in Qatar

Paul in Qatar

    The Ilk of Human Kindness

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 8,509 posts

Posted 06 May 2008 - 0844 AM

When you look at casualty rates for entire divisions, you mask the huge imbalance of losses toward the rifle-bearers. If we presume darn few guys in the Chemical Corps units, or the QMs were killed you can see that well over half these losses came from the surprisingly small percentage of infantrymen.

Very simply, those units, especially in the heavily-engaged units, were wiped out repeatedly. We can see this in that I know of no memoir of an infantry enlisted man who served from North Africa to May 1945. Very few of them made it.
  • 0

#79 Delta tank 6

Delta tank 6

    Crew

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 859 posts

Posted 06 May 2008 - 1111 AM

When you look at casualty rates for entire divisions, you mask the huge imbalance of losses toward the rifle-bearers. If we presume darn few guys in the Chemical Corps units, or the QMs were killed you can see that well over half these losses came from the surprisingly small percentage of infantrymen.

Very simply, those units, especially in the heavily-engaged units, were wiped out repeatedly. We can see this in that I know of no memoir of an infantry enlisted man who served from North Africa to May 1945. Very few of them made it.



From the same book listed in my previous post.

page 202

"In the Army at large, the infantry comprises only 20.5 percent of total strength overseas, yet it has taken 70% of the total casualties. Enemy fire is no respecter of rank in this war; 10.2 percent of the casualties have been officers, a rate slightly higher than that for enlisted men."

Mike
  • 0

#80 lastdingo

lastdingo

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 4,750 posts

Posted 06 May 2008 - 1123 AM

If so, I think he is overstating his point. By 1945 we were "scraping the bottom" of the personel barrel. According to my Father (who lost his essential worker defermentv in 44) we were drafting men in their 30s and non-essential Army Air Corp personnel found themselves in an Infantry replacement depot.
The high casualty rates among FNG was an inseperable part of Individual Replacement, and would have been unsupportable if the war had gone on much longer.


That is a description that fits Germany's Wehrmacht in early 1940.

The sheer quantity of men and the age of reinforcements/replacements isn't the issue. Most replacements for the infantry came from combat support services and the youngest generation (18yo) in WW2 and other nations with really severe losses kept fighting like that for years.

The real limits of personnel resources are different. An army burns out over time, although the men are still available in the millions.
Infantrymen - even the surviving ones - burn out after about 150 days of combat. And the aggressive ones become casualties, leaving a rather reluctant army after a while.
German infantrymen of 1941-1942 could be expected to fight Russian tanks with thrown and attached munitions, whereas by 1944 the Panzerschreck (bazooka) teams need a careful selection of personnel for fighting tanks at up to 100m distance.

That's why the Germans were so exhausted after almost four years of combat in both world wars (summer 18 and summer 43 respectively).


Concerning the losses of non-infantry (+non-recon and non-tank) troops;
that's very different depending on whether the army is advancing or retreating. A retreating army has very serious rear area casualties.
Air superiority is also a very important variable for losses structure - especially for the artillery.

Edited by lastdingo, 06 May 2008 - 1126 AM.

  • 0