Sid Guttridge wrote: ↑
16 Jan 2022 11:12
You post, "To be fair, they went into combat almost exactly 11 months after the US entered the war with a military that had essentially been in hibernation from spring 1920 to fall 1939." It occurs to me that this was much the situation of the German Army in 1939. By November 1942 the USA had had three years equivalent to German conscription in the late 1930s to train its forces.
The expansion of the Reichswehr began in October 1934. By September 1939 it had seen nearly five years of growth, going from ten divisions to one hundred and twelve.
As of 1 July 1939, the U.S. Army consisted of 174,000 enlisted in 6 active divisions, including the Air Corps, and 6 more that effectively were brigades. Expansion began then with an authorization from Congress to raise enlisted strength to 210,000. The proclamation of emergency on 8 September 1939 led to a further Regular Army increase to 227,000 enlisted and, after the fall of France, to the Federalization of the National Guard in the fall of 1940 and winter 1940/1941. Authorized enlisted strength increased to 280,000 on 13 June 1940 and to 375,000 on 26 June) 1940.
As of 1 July 1940 the United States Regular Army consisted of 13,797 officers and an enlisted strength totaling 243,095. The strength of the National Guard officer corps was about 21,074 and enlisted strength was 226,837. There were also approximately 33,000 Reserve officers and 104,228 ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Camps) and CMTC (Citizens’ Military Training Camps) graduates in the Organized Reserve Corps.
Between 16 September 1940 and 1 July 1941 the expansion of the Regular Army authorization, the federalization of the National Guard, the recall of Reserve officers, and conscription had increased the size of the Army to 1,326,577 officers and men, including the Army Air Corps. These measures resulted in an expansion of the Army to 36 active divisions, the 1st and 2nd Cavalry, the 1st-9th, 24th-38th, and 40th, 41st, and 43rd-45th Infantry Divisions, the Philippine Division, and the 1st-4th Armored Divisions. By 7 December 1941 conscription had further increased this total to 1,638,086 officers and men, but with an increase of only a single division, the 5th Armored. However, that strength had only been maintained – by the narrowest of margins – just 20 days before the initial one-year term of service authorized by Congress for the Guard, draftees and Reserve officers was to expire on 27 August 1941. Following testimony by Chief of Staff George C. Marshall, Congress passed an indefinite extension of service beyond the initial one-year term by a single vote on 7 August.
So, after two years of expansion, the U.S. Army in late 1941, immediately before the attack on Pearl Harbor, was where the German Reichsheer was at the end of 1936, when it completed expansion to 39 divisions. The further wartime maximum expansion, which the Reichsheer completed in essentially four years through 1943, the U.S. Army completed in three years.
The important thing was that, whatever their limitations, the US Army matched its men to tasks they were capable of achieving. This proved true not only in North Africa but throughout 1942-45 in the ETO. US line infantry had no outstanding reputation that I am aware of, but they proved up to the job set them.
Indeed, but it could be said the German "line infantry" also had no outstanding reputation through fall 1940, when the combined experience of Poland, Norway, and France led to retraining and fine tuning of its tactics that sustained it through the end of the war. The problem for the U.S. Army was that it did not gain comparable experience against its German opponent until completing the Tunisian, early Italian, and Normandy campaigns (the Pacific campaign experience was very theater specific) until mid 1944 and did not have the convenient six to nine month relative lull to implement the lessons learned. Arguably, the peak of the U.S. Army in terms of strength, equipment, experience, and efficiency was early 1945.