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WWII - Casualty rates in US infantry units


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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.

178728[/snapback]

 

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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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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
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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

 

 

US Army FM 101-10-1 (1966) planning guidance based on WWII European Theater:

 

Distribution of casualties over a sustained period:

 

Infantry Division

Inf-93.0%

Arty-2.4%

Arm-2.0%

Engr-1.5%

Other-1.1%

 

Armored Division

Inf-62.0%

Arty-3.6%

Arm-23.1%

Engr-3.3%

Other-8.0%

 

Airborne Division

Inf-85.6%

Arty-6.9%

Arm-0.0%

Engr-3.9%

Other-3.6%

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US Army FM 101-10-1 (1966) planning guidance based on WWII European Theater:

 

Distribution of casualties over a sustained period:

 

Infantry Division

Inf-93.0%

Arty-2.4%

Arm-2.0%

Engr-1.5%

Other-1.1%

 

Armored Division

Inf-62.0%

Arty-3.6%

Arm-23.1%

Engr-3.3%

Other-8.0%

 

Airborne Division

Inf-85.6%

Arty-6.9%

Arm-0.0%

Engr-3.9%

Other-3.6%

 

Once upon a time I was an Armor Officer going to the Infantry Officers Advance Course (IOAC) and the casualty planning figures were under discussion in a 1 over 200 man classroom. Being just a bit of a wise ass, I stood up and stated that if we did away with the infantry, nobody would have anyone to kill, and therefore nothing to do, and everyone would go home and the war would be over!

 

My idea was not acepted!

 

Mike

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Once upon a time I was an Armor Officer going to the Infantry Officers Advance Course (IOAC) and the casualty planning figures were under discussion in a 1 over 200 man classroom. Being just a bit of a wise ass, I stood up and stated that if we did away with the infantry, nobody would have anyone to kill, and therefore nothing to do, and everyone would go home and the war would be over!

 

My idea was not acepted!

 

Mike

 

Sounds like my idea that if we had spent the money and resources we blew on Army Aiviation and the Air Force in Vietnam on Construction Engineer units and building materials, we could have paved the entire country and won the war with a handful of ACRs.

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In one of books about Monte Cassino there was some remark about British Royal Artillery officer commenting that it costs about 40k pounds to kill one German and how it might be easier to just offer the money to anyone who surrenders ;)

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Guest aevans
US Army FM 101-10-1 (1966) planning guidance based on WWII European Theater:

 

Distribution of casualties over a sustained period:

 

Infantry Division

Inf-93.0%

Arty-2.4%

Arm-2.0%

Engr-1.5%

Other-1.1%

 

Armored Division

Inf-62.0%

Arty-3.6%

Arm-23.1%

Engr-3.3%

Other-8.0%

 

Airborne Division

Inf-85.6%

Arty-6.9%

Arm-0.0%

Engr-3.9%

Other-3.6%

 

Hmmm...

 

I would have thought that they would have been a little bit more realistic about the kinds of casualties Artillery and Other would take facing Soviet air and artillery, instead of German...

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Hmmm...

 

I would have thought that they would have been a little bit more realistic about the kinds of casualties Artillery and Other would take facing Soviet air and artillery, instead of German...

 

 

Aevans,

 

I could be wrong but, I think that these number are not only based off of the ETO, I believe they are the ETO casualty figures. But, I could be wrong.

 

Mike

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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!

 

This reads like CYA language to me. The comparison to WW1 is only marginally valid because of the time and space constraints on shipping even partly trained soldiers to France, as well as the political position taken by Pershing and co. to deploy American forces as complete units. The British in Italy and NW Europe believed that American generals consistently kept their units in continuous combat for too long, wearing them down both physically and psychologically. From their POV using a smaller number of well-rested divisions accomplished more than battering away with larger numbers of worn out divisions. I don't know the right answer, but it does seem that 1st Army's efforts in the Huertgen and 5th Army's attacks on the Gothic Line in the fall of 1944 would tend to support the British POV.

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Aevans,

 

I could be wrong but, I think that these number are not only based off of the ETO, I believe they are the ETO casualty figures. But, I could be wrong.

 

Mike

 

Maybe we can ask Richard L. to clear up whether those figures are the ETO figures out of an appendix, or the actual planning guidance. Richard?

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I'm not Richard but it looks as though the figures are projections based on loss rates from WW2 and Korea. Here's an extract from the 1990 version.

 

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/lib...M101-10-1-2.PDF

 

Table 4-20,21 and 22 give the actual WW2 and Korea figures, the figures Richard quoted are from table 4-17.

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Guest aevans
I'm not Richard but it looks as though the figures are projections based on loss rates from WW2 and Korea. Here's an extract from the 1990 version.

 

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/lib...M101-10-1-2.PDF

 

Table 4-20,21 and 22 give the actual WW2 and Korea figures, the figures Richard quoted are from table 4-17.

 

Ohhh...I get it -- those are percentages of the overall casualties. Still, given the expected enemy size and capabilities, I think I might have distributed the casualties a bit more evenly in my planning guidance. Everything I've read suggests that in a high intensity battle with anything like symmetric WarPact forces, artillery and trains was going to get hammered.

Edited by aevans
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Maybe we can ask Richard L. to clear up whether those figures are the ETO figures out of an appendix, or the actual planning guidance. Richard?

 

Planning guidance based on WWII ETO results.

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Last time I worked with somebody doing work for DOD in casualty estimates (1989), he told me we were still doing worst-case stuff. The USMC still used Tarawa and the army Omaha for first and subsequent assault days in phibops.

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This reads like CYA language to me. The comparison to WW1 is only marginally valid because of the time and space constraints on shipping even partly trained soldiers to France, as well as the political position taken by Pershing and co. to deploy American forces as complete units. The British in Italy and NW Europe believed that American generals consistently kept their units in continuous combat for too long, wearing them down both physically and psychologically. From their POV using a smaller number of well-rested divisions accomplished more than battering away with larger numbers of worn out divisions. I don't know the right answer, but it does seem that 1st Army's efforts in the Huertgen and 5th Army's attacks on the Gothic Line in the fall of 1944 would tend to support the British POV.

 

Colin,

 

This report was written by General Marshall, Chief of Staff of the United States Army. I really don't see the CYA issue. He states that logistically we could not sustained any more forces in NW Europe until more port capacity was captured and put into use. Remember the ultimate limiting factor was that every other service was competing for manpower and so was industry and eventually you run out of men.There is much more to the report, but I just can't type it all in and it is on line, but I don't want to pay to use the site.

 

Mike

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Very interesting thread, but I wonder to what level the individual replacements were trained before arriving at their future units? In the cases where non-Division regiments were rotated into Divisions I take you got something close to to a working "machine", but how much did the more normal individual replacement still need in training?

 

I take he could handle a rifle, dress himsel properly, salute etc., but how many of the ID weapon systems could he be expected to serve, and did he have any training/exprience in operating in a squad, platoon, company context?

 

Regards

 

Steffen Redbeard

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The 89 division army in WWII had roughly 700,000 personnel in the infantry regiments and armored infantry battalions organic to the divisions. In order to maintain the divisions at this strength, the army had 1,800,000 infantrymen on the books. In other words, there was about 1.5 infantrymen in hospitals, training pipeline, intransit pipeline, etc for every man actually in an infantry unit in April 1945.

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Is that ratio historically typical of other combatants? (I suppose also taking into account that a "longer" pipeline in terms of distances requires mroe men...).

 

I seem to recall a similarly 'surprising' figure on tanks, with something like several existent (built, tested, manned) Shermans for every Shermans at the front.

 

Certainly, if you look at US overall personnell and production figures, you get a slanted idea of the numerical overmatch at the sharp end.

 

You get the sense reading both campaign and individual histories in WW2 that many/most US servicemen spent years in unfoirm where they were just beign shifted about, re-training, etc.

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Is that ratio historically typical of other combatants? (I suppose also taking into account that a "longer" pipeline in terms of distances requires mroe men...).

 

I seem to recall a similarly 'surprising' figure on tanks, with something like several existent (built, tested, manned) Shermans for every Shermans at the front.

 

Certainly, if you look at US overall personnell and production figures, you get a slanted idea of the numerical overmatch at the sharp end.

 

You get the sense reading both campaign and individual histories in WW2 that many/most US servicemen spent years in unfoirm where they were just beign shifted about, re-training, etc.

 

I don't know aboput other combatants. Germany pulled units back for reconstitution. US operated with a bare minimum of units and thus needed a large pipeline of trainees/hospital returnees. Divisions in ETO would "burn through" their infantry strenght in 90 days. The Army was trying to adhere to a 17 week training cycle for infantry replacements which would mean that you would need four trrops in the training cycle for every troop in a line infantry unit. Add in the over headfor running the infantry training centers and the infantry OCS plus the sick and wounded infantrymen at some point in the medical chain then the guys "in transit" to or from the front and you quickly get to a 1.5 to 1 ratio.

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I seem to recall a similarly 'surprising' figure on tanks, with something like several existent (built, tested, manned) Shermans for every Shermans at the front.

 

Figure 50 divisional and 65 non-division tank battalions at fifty-four basic Shermans and six Sherman-105mm How whcih is 6,210 Shermans and 690 Sherman (105). Roughly 44,000 Shermans built of which maybe 14,000 went to Lend-Lease. So each slot in the TOE took the production of five Shermans. 4,700 Sherman (105) built with 600 to Lend Lease for a roughly 6-1 ratio. I did a quick estimate with lots of rounding on the production figures so don't sharp shoot me with details. I think i have a pretty accurate order of magnitude though.

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Colin,

 

This report was written by General Marshall, Chief of Staff of the United States Army. I really don't see the CYA issue. He states that logistically we could not sustained any more forces in NW Europe until more port capacity was captured and put into use. Remember the ultimate limiting factor was that every other service was competing for manpower and so was industry and eventually you run out of men.There is much more to the report, but I just can't type it all in and it is on line, but I don't want to pay to use the site.

 

Mike

 

Mike,

 

It's this part I have trouble swallowing, so let me quote it again and then rewrite for truth -

 

"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."

 

"The Siegfried Line fighting prior to the final advance to the Rhine took place during the cold and wet of a normal European winter 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 difficult 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 rather than divert some of the limited railroad and supply capacity to bringing a few of these divisions to the front, SHAEF persisted in wearing down the divisions already at the front through nonstop offensive operations in poor weather, leading to an inordinate loss of men to both combat and exposure for little gain. All this resulted in a great strain on the fighting troops, and when a shortage in replacements was added, the situation grew very serious. At this point SHAEF continued to dissipate its offensive capabilities among the four American armies and leave vulnerable areas covered by a combination of green troops and the worn out remnants of divisions withdrawn from the failed attacks in the Huertgen Forest. It was just at this moment that the Germans launched their final offensive effort in the Ardennes."

 

My basic point is that the Ardennes offensive succeeded as well as it did because of (1) intelligence failures, (2) defects in the planning and execution of the fall and early winter Allied offensives, particularly in 1st Army, and (3) shortsightedness in wearing divisions down to the point of incapacity and suffering unnecessary casualties in attacks that were beyond their strength.

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Mike,

 

It's this part I have trouble swallowing, so let me quote it again and then rewrite for truth -

 

"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."

 

"The Siegfried Line fighting prior to the final advance to the Rhine took place during the cold and wet of a normal European winter 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 difficult 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 rather than divert some of the limited railroad and supply capacity to bringing a few of these divisions to the front, SHAEF persisted in wearing down the divisions already at the front through nonstop offensive operations in poor weather, leading to an inordinate loss of men to both combat and exposure for little gain. All this resulted in a great strain on the fighting troops, and when a shortage in replacements was added, the situation grew very serious. At this point SHAEF continued to dissipate its offensive capabilities among the four American armies and leave vulnerable areas covered by a combination of green troops and the worn out remnants of divisions withdrawn from the failed attacks in the Huertgen Forest. It was just at this moment that the Germans launched their final offensive effort in the Ardennes."

 

My basic point is that the Ardennes offensive succeeded as well as it did because of (1) intelligence failures, (2) defects in the planning and execution of the fall and early winter Allied offensives, particularly in 1st Army, and (3) shortsightedness in wearing divisions down to the point of incapacity and suffering unnecessary casualties in attacks that were beyond their strength.

 

 

Before I start, do you guys get notified via e-mail that a response has been posted on a thread that you are interested in? I never get notified. I checked and my e-mail address is correct, but obviously I am doing something wrong, or am I wrong?!

 

Colin,

 

I don't know. Remember he was writing this information for the Secretary of War and I presume the President of the United States. I don't know what the shipping priorities were at the time, nor the state of the railroads. So, I will take him at his word, because it is my understanding that George C. Marshall was a real soldier and was not a politician. I read the 3 volume series on his life back in the early 80s and the books basically state that he was an honorable man in every respect, so I have no reason to doubt his word. However, every side in war makes its fair share of mistakes and maybe they could of adjusted some of the things you stated, but I don't know. Maybe shooting J. C H. Lee would of helped! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_C._H._Lee

 

Mike

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