Best Defense

Tom Donnelly explains what that chart on Army force structure in WW II tells us

By Thomas Donnelly Best Defense office of historical force structure analysis, French and Indian War to World War II division Beyond the official story, that Army chart tells you a couple of things: 1. Army was never as big as planned. 2. It got heavier — more tanks and more artillery. 3. It got heavier ...

National Archives
National Archives

By Thomas Donnelly

Best Defense office of historical force structure analysis, French and Indian War to World War II division

Beyond the official story, that Army chart tells you a couple of things:

1. Army was never as big as planned.

2. It got heavier — more tanks and more artillery.

3. It got heavier in different ways than planned — fewer tanks, a lot more artillery.

4. Didn’t buy as many aircraft as planned.

5. Needed many more higher-echelon support troops than planned.

Questions why:

1. Were the differences a result of policy, manpower constraints, industrial constraints, tactical learning?

2. For a war that’s supposed to be about the rise of tactical aviation and close air support, the increase in artillery and failure to meet aircraft goals is interesting.

3. Higher-echelon support troops: Like other wars, this was fought in coalition and at great strategic distances from the United States and at great operational distances within the theaters. Is “tail” actually “tooth?”

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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