The United Kingdom Build-up
Chapter 1: Origins of the European Theater of Operations 1941–June 1942
The United States “Observes” the War in Europe
The spectacle of hard-fought air and ground battles often obscures the vast and prolonged preparations which must precede them. When Anglo-American forces launched the great cross-Channel invasion in June 1944 they did so from an island base which probably had witnessed more intense and sustained military preparations than had any area of equal size in history. For the American forces participating in this operation these preparations had been going on for a full three years.
The European Theater of Operations, United States Army (ETOUSA), came into being on 8 June 1942, just two years before the D Day of the Normandy invasion. But this marked only the formal beginning of the organization which directed the build-up of U.S. troops and supplies in the British Isles. American soldiers had already been in the United Kingdom for some time, and earlier organizations had furnished the roots from which the tree of ETOUSA was to grow.
After the outbreak of hostilities in September 1939 the United States maintained an increasingly watchful attitude toward events in Europe, and in 1940 sent more and more military observers to its embassies abroad. Among them was Maj. Gen. James E. Chaney, an Air Corps officer, who was sent to England in October to observe the air battles which were then raging in British skies. By this time the Nazis had overrun Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France in quick succession, and Britain stood alone to resist the German aggressor. In December 1940 General Chaney submitted his report to the War Department, making several recommendations on the adoption of British aerial equipment and methods of defense, concluding that the Luftwaffe had been overrated, and predicting that Britain would not be defeated.
Early in 1941 the United States took two steps which more positively aligned her with Great Britain in the struggle against the Continental enemies, and thus added a ray of hope to an otherwise dismal outlook. On 11 March the 77th Congress enacted the Lend-Lease Act, initially allotting a fund of $7,000,000,000 to provide war materials for the democracies of the world. While this measure was being
debated, military leaders of the United States and Britain met in Washington in the first of several conferences which were to have tremendous import for the future conduct of the war. On 29 January 1941 representatives of the U.S. Army Chief of Staff and Chief of Naval Operations and representatives of the British Chiefs of Staff initiated a series of meetings known as ABC-1 (for American-British Staff Conversations) to establish principles of joint operations and determine the best method of acting jointly against the Axis Powers in the eventuality of U.S. entry into the war. The whole matter of American-British collaboration at this time was a delicate one. The United States, maintaining a technical neutrality, was discussing war plans with Great Britain, a belligerent. For this reason President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave no official sanction to the meetings and avoided all formal commitments for the time being. The conversations were undertaken by military leaders, the chief instigator being Admiral Harold R. Stark, then U.S. Chief of Naval Operations, who believed that safety and prudence, as well as common sense, dictated that the United States have some sort of initial plan ready in the event it suddenly was plunged into war.1
Of most immediate importance) so far as Anglo-American cooperation was concerned, was the agreement to collaborate continuously in planning. The United States and Great Britain were each to establish a joint planning staff in the other’s capital. The conferees also made the important decision at this time to concentrate the principal effort against the European enemies should the United States be forced into the war with both Japan and Germany. Finally, the conversations formally specified naval, land, and air tasks and listed the forces which each nation was to make available. In accord with the course of action already outlined in an earlier war plan known as RAINBOW 5, the United States, in the event of its entry into the war, planned to provide one reinforced division to relieve British forces in Iceland, a token force for the defense of the United Kingdom, and an air force command with both bombardment and pursuit squadrons to carry out offensive operations against Germany and defensive operations against attempted invasion. The projected troop basis totaled 87,000 men in addition to the reinforced division for Iceland.2 Except for the agreement to exchange missions and coordinate planning, action on the ABC-1 decisions was contingent on U.S. entry into the conflict.
The United States and Britain took the first step by exchanging military missions. In the interest of a tenuous neutrality, however, the U.S. mission to London was christened the Special Observer Group, or SPOBS, and its chief was given the name Special Army Observer. General Chaney was chosen to head the group, and Brig. Gen. Joseph T. McNarney, who headed the Joint Planning Committee of the War Plans Division and who as a colonel had participated in the ABC-1 conversations) became his chief of staff. The entire group comprised eighteen officers and eleven enlisted men.3 With five of his officers present,
General Chaney opened temporary headquarters in the U.S. Embassy at No. 1 Grosvenor Square, London, on 19 May 1941. A few days later he occupied permanent quarters across the square at No. 18–20, the address that was to remain the center of American activity in the United Kingdom for the remainder of the war. By the end of June the entire Special Observer Group had arrived and begun to operate.
It was clear from the beginning that SPOBS was to be more than a group of observers. Its larger function is indicated both in the instructions issued to General Chaney and in the tasks to which the group immediately set itself. SPOBS was instructed to coordinate all details relative to the reception and accommodation of American forces sent to the United Kingdom under ABC-1; it was to help coordinate the allocation of equipment shipped under lend-lease from the United States; and it was to advise the Army Chief of Staff as to the manner in which U.S. forces were to be employed in the United Kingdom. In short, it was to “deal with any problem which arose in connection with the war plan agreed upon under ABC-1.”4
The instructions pointed out the necessity of establishing as soon as possible all channels of cooperation between the armed forces of the two countries, and authorized SPOBS to conduct negotiations with the British Chiefs of Staff on military affairs of common interest relating to joint cooperation in British areas of responsibility. All military matters requiring joint decision were henceforth to be taken up through SPOBS (or the British military mission in Washington) rather than diplomatic channels, with the result that SPOBS became the sole agency through which American representatives in London presented military matters to British military officials.5
To the casual observer SPOBS might have appeared to be merely part of the expanding staff of the U.S. Embassy in London, for the entire group wore civilian clothes. But its duties were essentially those of a military mission, and it was organized along traditional military staff lines. General Chaney’s instructions noted that he was to be provided with a general and special staff designated as special assistant army observers, and gave clear indications of SPOBS’ possible transformation. “Your appointment ... ,” they read, “is preliminary to your possible appointment at a later date as Army member of the United States Military Mission in London.” The British concept regarding the purpose of the London and Washington missions was similar. They were to make whatever plans and achieve whatever coordination they found necessary to insure a smooth and rapid transition from peace to war in the event that the United States entered the conflict.6
SPOBS’ first task was to establish liaison with the appropriate British agencies. Upon their arrival in the United Kingdom General Chaney and General McNarney immediately called on the British Chiefs of Staff Committee, which included Admiral Sir Dudley Pound, First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, Field Marshall Sir John Dill, Chief of the
Imperial General Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal, Chief of the Air Staff, and Maj. Gen. Hastings L. Ismay, Chief Staff Officer to the Ministry of Defence. In the succeeding six months representatives of SPOBS attended eight meetings of the Operational Planning Section of the British Joint Planning Staff to discuss such various subjects as liaison with military agencies, the strategic situation in the Middle East, Russian requests for lend-lease aid, and problems of an air offensive against Germany. In addition to establishing this high-level liaison, the general and special staff officers of the Special Observer Group made contact with their opposite numbers in the British Army and Royal Air Force (RAF). Lt. Col. Charles L. Bolté, Assistant Chief of Staff for War Plans (then G-5), for example, and Lt. Col. Homer Case, G-2, examined the British airdrome defense network; the SPOBS ordnance officer, Lt. Col. John W. Coffey, inspected British ordnance equipment; the antiaircraft officer, Lt. Col. Dale D. Hinman, conferred with British officers on antiaircraft defenses; and so on. Before long the special observers were well along with their first mission—establishing liaison with the British, learning about their equipment and methods of operation, and exchanging information.
The Occupation of Iceland
SPOBS had been in the United Kingdom only a few weeks and had hardly started on these duties when it was called on to undertake a major project—arranging for the American occupation of Iceland.
Even though the United States had not entered the war, President Roosevelt had negotiated an agreement with the Icelandic Government shortly after the ABC-1 meetings whereby the protection of the country was entrusted to the United States, and American troops were invited to occupy the island. Iceland held a strategic position as a vital link in communications between North America and the British Isles, and aircraft based there could cover a portion of the North Atlantic shipping routes.
While the decisions on the shipment of an occupying force were made by the War Department, SPOBS immediately became involved in an advisory capacity and in providing liaison with the British. Early in June it was agreed that a Joint Admiralty-War Office-Air Ministry committee should work with SPOBS in planning the relief of British forces. Seven of the special observers, including Lt. Col. George W. Griner, G-4, Lt. Col. Donald A. Davison, Engineer, Maj. Ralph A. Snavely, Assistant Air Officer, and other special staff officers, immediately made a reconnaissance tour of Iceland. At the conclusion of the tour Colonel Griner went on to the United States to advise the War Department on such matters as shipping, the provision of fighter aircraft, cold weather clothing, housing, and fuel.
Plans for the size and composition of the Iceland force underwent repeated changes in the summer of 1941, partly because of the legislative restrictions on employment of selectees and Reserve officers. In July the War Department actually temporarily canceled plans to send the 5th Division to Iceland. This restraint was finally overcome by the passage of the Selective Service Extension Act late in August. Meanwhile a force of approximately 4,400 marines of the 1st Provisional Brigade under Brig. Gen. John Marston landed at Reykjavik on 7 July. One month later the first Army troops landed—the 33rd Pursuit Squadron of the Air Forces—1,200 of its men arriving via ship. Planes of the squadron were brought in by the aircraft carrier Wasp, whence they were flown to their stations under British air escort. Army ground troops did not begin to arrive until mid-September, when 5,000 men of the 10th Infantry Regiment and the 46th Field Artillery Battalion landed as an advance detachment of the 5th Division under Maj. Gen. Charles H. Bonesteel. War Department plans called for additional shipments to augment the Iceland force, and General Bonesteel was asked to establish priorities for the units to be sent, taking into consideration such factors as housing, storage, and port facilities. In the remaining months before the Pearl Harbor attack, plans for the reinforcement of the Iceland garrison continued to fluctuate, and after 7 December were subject to even more drastic revisions. Late in January the first of the Marine battalions sailed for the United States, and by early March the entire Marine brigade had departed. But these withdrawals were more than balanced by additional shipments of other ground troops. Approximately 14,000 American troops were added to the Iceland force by convoys arriving in March, April, and May 1942. As they took over more and more of the scattered camps and other installations on the island, the relief of the British forces was gradually accomplished. The first contingent had departed in September 1941, although the British force still totaled nearly 12,000 at the end of May 1942. By the end of September it had dropped to less than 800. General Bonesteel in the meantime had assumed command of the combined forces on the island when the commanding general of
the British forces departed in April 1942.
One of the major problems faced by the occupying force was the dearth of facilities. Providing adequate security for Iceland, a barren island with 2,500 miles of exposed shore line, meant wide dispersal of troops. The 5th Division alone had to occupy some ninety camps, many of them in platoon strength only. SPOBS was directly involved in arranging for the accommodation and supply of the Iceland force and negotiated with the British for many items, including construction materials. Partly because reception facilities at Reykjavik were limited, shipment of Nissen hutting lagged, and American units met their initial needs by taking over in place much of the equipment of the British troops and U.S. Marines, including motor vehicles, huts, artillery and antiaircraft weapons, construction materials, and maintenance stocks. Property acquired from the British was accounted for through reverse lend-lease vouchers.
The question of command and operational control of the Iceland force provided the first of several points on which General Chaney and the War Department were to disagree. U.S. Army forces in Iceland were under the control of General Headquarters (GHQ) in Washington, and in August 1941 the War Department proposed to group the Iceland troops with those of Newfoundland and Greenland for command purposes. Because strategic responsibility for Iceland rested with the British, even after the relief of their forces by American troops, General Chaney considered Iceland more rightly a part of the British sphere of operation. He thought that American troops stationed in Iceland and in the United Kingdom should be grouped together. Such in fact was the concept agreed to in the ABC-1 conversations. GHQ on the other hand, held that Iceland’s chief importance lay in its position as a vital link in communications, and pointed out that the island could never be used as a base for offensive operations against the European Continent. Furthermore, should the island be attacked, reinforcements, naval support, supplies, and replacements all would have to come from the United States. For several months to come the U.S. Iceland forces came directly under the field force commander at GHQ in Washington (Gen. George C. Marshall).
But General Chaney’s view that Iceland belonged strategically to the European theater eventually won out with the War Department. The island was included in the theater boundaries when ETOUSA was created in June 1942, and thus came under the theater command for tactical purposes. Administrative and logistical matters, however, were exempted from theater control and were to be handled by direct contact with the War Department. The supply of Iceland was therefore to continue from the Boston Port of Embarkation, except for a few items such as Nissen huts and coal, which could be furnished more cheaply from the United Kingdom.7
American Troops Go to Northern Ireland
The Special Observers had been called on to arrange for the reception of U.S. soldiers in Iceland on very short notice, since the troop movement had not awaited U.S. entry into the war. For the eventual arrival of American contingents in the United Kingdom SPOBS had more time to prepare.
The ABC-1 agreements had provided for the establishment of four “forces” in the United Kingdom—a bomber force of
about 36,000 men, a token force of about 7,500 men for the British Southeastern Command area, a Northern Ireland force of 30,000, and a force of 13,500 in Scotland—with a total strength of about 87,000 men. A good portion of these troops was to be employed in the defense of naval and air bases used primarily by American units, and SPOBS had immediately taken steps to arrange for the construction of these bases. As early as June 1941 the British Government signed contracts with an American firm for the construction of naval bases in Northern Ireland and Scotland, the costs to be met through an allocation of lend-lease funds. Skilled labor from the United States as well as unskilled labor recruited locally or in Eire was to be employed. The first contingent of approximately 350 American technicians arrived at the end of June, and work on the projects began immediately. In view of the U.S. position as a nonbelligerent these projects were undertaken ostensibly by the British and for the British. International law did not restrict the nationals of a neutral state from volunteering for service in the employment of a belligerent. Anticipating enemy propaganda on this point the British Foreign Office admitted the presence of workmen from the United States in Ulster, taking pains to emphasize that they had exercised a legal right to become employees of the British Government.8 Technically, therefore, American neutrality was not compromised, although the bases were being built by American contractors with American money for the eventuality of American use.
At the same time SPOBS began a study of the troop needs for the protection of these bases, the number of pursuit planes required, and the accommodations needed, and undertook reconnaissance tours to both Northern Ireland and Scotland. Tentative agreement was reached in July on the location of airfields north of London, and by September construction was in progress on five 1,000-man camps in southern England for the token force.
A detailed report on a reconnaissance of Northern Ireland revealed some of the problems and some of the requirements which had to be met to prepare for the arrival of U.S. troops. A depot was needed at Langford Lodge for third echelon repair, maintenance, and supply of spare parts for American-built aircraft. The quartermaster officer suggested that a general depot be established and, to improve the inadequate baking, laundry, and motor repair facilities, also recommended an increase in the allotment of quartermaster troops for the Northern Ireland force. There were too few freight cars, a portion of the harbor facilities at Belfast had been destroyed by enemy air attacks, and there was a great need for lumber, trucks, and other equipment. In an earlier preliminary report to the War Department General Chaney had already apprised it of some of the deficiencies, pointing out the shortages in both skilled and unskilled labor, and warning that much of the construction material needed for the Northern Ireland installations would have to come from the United States. In the course of later surveys it was recognized that the construction of installations and troop accommodations would undoubtedly be the most troublesome task. Early in December Colonel Davison, the SPOBS Engineer, submitted to the War Plans Division of GHQ and to the Chief of Engineers in
Washington a proposed construction plan for Northern Ireland, with recommendations on the procurement of labor and construction materials, and a proposed division of planning responsibilities between the War Department agencies and those in the United Kingdom.
Other SPOBS officers made additional visits to Northern Ireland in the fall of 1941 to gather information on antiaircraft defenses, on the military and political situation in Eire, and on other matters. By December, when the United States was drawn into the war, SPOBS was thoroughly familiar with the situation in Northern Ireland and aware of the problems which required solution before American troops could be received there.
Throughout the months before Pearl Harbor SPOBS walked a tightrope to avoid violating U.S. neutrality. In an early report on his group’s activities General Chaney took pains to point out that he had scrupulously “emphasized constantly that the Special Observer is not authorized to make commitments of any nature and that all British construction in the area is undertaken with a view to British utilization and is not contingent upon U.S. participation in the war.”9
The situation was radically altered in the days following the Pearl Harbor attack. The declaration of war between the United States and Germany and Italy on 11 December 1941 removed the need for subterfuge and caution, and the War Department acted swiftly to put into operation the ABC-1 agreements. But RAINBOW 5, which was to have implemented ABC-1, was never actually put into effect as far as the British Isles were concerned. The original troop estimates and plans for Northern Ireland now fell short of actual requirements, not because the United States entered the war, but because American soldiers had to relieve British troops that were needed in North Africa. RAINBOW 5 consequently was superseded by a plan called MAGNET, which called for the shipment of a much larger American force to Northern Ireland. In place of the 30,000 previously planned, a force of four divisions (three infantry and one armored) plus service troops was now contemplated, totaling approximately 105,000 men. American forces were to relieve mobile elements of the British forces in Northern Ireland and assume a larger share of the responsibility for defending it against Axis attack. About 30,000 antiaircraft troops were to be dispatched later to take, over the defense of Northern Ireland against air attack. American units initially were to be dependent on the British for quarters, certain types of aircraft, antiaircraft and other light artillery weapons, and ammunition.
The U.S. entry into the war also led logically to the transformation of SPOBS into something more than “special observers.” On 8 January, while SPOBS was making arrangements for the reception of the projected troop shipments, the War Department took the first step to establish a U.S. Army headquarters in the United Kingdom by authorizing the activation of the United States Army Forces in the British Isles (USAFBI). General Chaney was retained as its commander and was also named Army member of the United States Military Mission to Great Britain. The latter office was short-lived, and the order establishing the organization was soon revoked.10
Meanwhile the commander of USAFBI designated a general and special staff. Actually the change initially involved little more than a change in letterheads, for it amounted to nothing more than a transfer of the special observers to the same positions in the new headquarters. It would have been difficult to distinguish between the old SPOBS group and the new headquarters. The staff still consisted of Col. John E. Dahlquist as G-1, Colonel Case as G-2, Col. Harold M. McClelland as G-3, Colonel Griner as G-4, Lt. Col. Iverson B. Summers as Adjutant General, Colonel Davison as Engineer, Col. Alfred J. Lyon as Air Officer, Lt. Col. Jerry V. Matejka as Signal Officer, Lt. Col. William H. Middleswart as Quartermaster, and Colonel Coffey as Ordnance Officer. Colonel Bolté (G-5) was now chief of staff in place of General McNarney, who had returned to Washington, Col. Aaron Bradshaw had become Antiaircraft Officer, and Col. Paul R. Hawley had become the Chief Surgeon. Several staff positions remained unfilled for lack of officers, for the War Department did not immediately provide General Chaney with the necessary personnel to organize even a skeleton headquarters.11 Nor was the establishment of USAFBI accompanied by a directive assigning Chaney a definite mission. The activation of the new command was therefore in a sense largely a formalization of the status of SPOBS. Nevertheless, the creation of USAFBI marked the establishment of an Army command in the United Kingdom, giving General Chaney command over all the American forces that soon would be coming into the British Isles. General Chaney’s duties as a special observer continued, a matter which later caused some confusion, and he lacked some of the powers of a theater commander. But USAFBI was eventually to grow into ETOUSA.
For tactical purposes the Northern Ireland force was organized as V Corps, and was planned to consist of the 1st Armored and the 32nd, 34th, and 37th Infantry Divisions, plus supporting and service troops. Machinery had immediately been set in motion in the War Department to assemble and dispatch the first contingent, but the plans for its size saw frequent changes. At one time they called for an initial shipment of 17,300 men, which was then reduced to 4,100 so that troop needs in the Pacific could be met. The advance party of the first MAGNET contingent arrived at Gourock, Scotland, on 19 January 1942. The following day the enlisted men were taken to Glasgow and outfitted with civilian clothes at the Austin Reed clothing firm. The seventeen officers meanwhile went on to London for conferences, most of them proceeding to Belfast on 23 January wearing civilian clothes “borrowed from Londoners for the occasion.”
Despite the weak attempts to keep secret the coming arrival of American troops, which even involved discussing the choice of the correct moment for notifying the government of Eire, the secret was poorly kept, and the fact that American troops would soon appear in Ulster was well known to many who had no official knowledge of the plans. On 26 January the first contingent of the MAGNET force—about 4,000 troops—debarked at Belfast. Maj. Gen. Russell P. Hartle, commanding general of the 34th Division, was the first to go ashore and was met by several high officials, including John Andrews, the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland; the Duke of Abercorn, Governor General;
General G. E. W. Franklyn, commander of British troops in Ulster; and Sir Archibald Sinclair, Secretary of State for Air. As representatives of the British Government they officially welcomed the U.S. troops.
Plans for the ceremony at Dufferin Quay had provided that the first American soldier to set foot in Northern Ireland should be properly publicized and photographed, and arrangements accordingly had been made for a suitable time gap between the arrival of the first and second tenders. To the horror of the planners, the “first” American soldier was just about to come down the gangway when they heard the strains of a band at the head of a column which had already debarked and was marching down the dock road from another quay. While the “first” man—Pfc. Milburn H. Henke of Hutchinson, Minnesota, an infantryman of the 34th Division—was duly publicized, about 500 had actually preceded him.12 A second increment of approximately 7,000 men reached Northern Ireland on 2 March.
On 24 January, two days before the arrival of the first MAGNET contingent, the first ground force command was established in the United Kingdom when creation of United States Army Northern Ireland Force (USANIF) was officially announced. Headquarters, USANIF, was actually little more than V Corps headquarters, the highest ground force headquarters in the United Kingdom. Maj. Gen. Edmund L. Daley, who had commanded the V Corps in the United States, had been designated commanding general of the new headquarters. He never came to the United Kingdom, however, and the command went to General Hartle, who also retained his command of the 34th Division.
USANIF, or V Corps, was initially both a tactical and administrative headquarters controlling the combat as well as administrative installations of Northern Ireland, In order to meet the need for an administrative base should the V Corps be assigned a tactical mission, it was decided to organize a striking force, a force reserve, and a base command. The striking force was to consist of the V Corps; the force reserve was to include any other troops that might become available; and the base command was to provide for all the administrative and supply details and a permanent area command in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland Base Command was accordingly established on 1 June under Brig. Gen. Leroy P. Collins, former division artillery commander of the 34th Division. The Northern Ireland command—that is, V Corps, or USANIF—was of course subordinate to the command of General Chaney, though for operational control V Corps came under the British commander in Northern Ireland.
The problem of housing American troops in Britain naturally became urgent after the United States entered the war. On the basis of the ABC-1 plans General Chaney quickly resurveyed the accommodations situation in Northern Ireland for the War Department, listing the British housing already available and indicating the required construction. In January he sent Colonel Davison, engineer member of SPOBS, to Washington with detailed data on construction problems in the United Kingdom, and within a month Colonel Davison reported that the War Department had approved his basic plans.
They were changed frequently, however, because of the shifting troop basis. Even while Colonel Davison was in Washington the troop basis for Northern Ireland was more than tripled. Subsequently the size of the first contingent was drastically reduced. Fortunately the early shipments could be quartered in camps evacuated by the British. Camp commanders worked closely with the local British garrison officers through American utility officers who saw to it that existing rules and regulations on maintenance were carried out and that the necessary services were provided. In wartime Britain accommodations were always at a premium because of one shortage or another. In an effort to overcome the steel shortages in the United Kingdom, a mutual exchange of American steel for British Nissen huts was arranged in February. While this improvisation helped, it did not solve the problem, and huts for USANIF installations were scarce from the beginning. Early in March General Chaney instructed General Hartle to formulate a detailed program of construction necessary to accommodate the proposed MAGNET force, and authorized the extension of contracts which an American firm, the G. A. Fuller-Merritt Chapman Corporation, already had with the Navy. The construction undertaken in the next few months closely approximated early plans. Of the projects completed by June 1942, four were carried out by U.S. Army engineers (mainly enlargements of
existing British installations), twelve by contracting firms, two by British labor, one by the U.S. Navy, and one by the British Air Ministry.13
Accommodating the Northern Ireland forces was only one of many difficulties which SPOBS and USAFBI faced. There were problems of security, hospitalization, postal service, recreation, maintenance supplies, and even such mundane matters as laundry, dry cleaning, and shoe repair services. Lacking their own service organization and their own maintenance supplies, the first American troops in Northern Ireland relied heavily on the already overtaxed British for many of these services and for many items of supply and equipment.
To the first U.S. troops, arriving in old-style helmets that brought to mind the World War I soldier, Britain was a strange country where they were quartered in oddly constructed buildings, ate strange tasting English food, drank weak, warm beer, and reported for sick call to British military and civilian hospitals. The first divisions came to Northern Ireland without their 105-mm. howitzers and were provided with British 23-pounders instead. To avoid completely retraining the American gun crews, these weapons were adapted so that the U.S. troops could use
the panoramic sights they were accustomed to. Even rations had to be provided by the British, and British Army cooks were left in camps taken over by USANIF to acquaint American mess sergeants with the use of British rations and equipment. The earliest supply ships arrived on 8 February, and on 18 March U.S. troops ate American rations for the first time. USAFBI had by this time established priorities for supply shipments to the United Kingdom. Included in the early requisitions were the usual PX “morale” supplies, including the inevitable Coca-Cola.
Some of USAFBI’s problems in receiving and accommodating the U.S. force—particularly construction—were partially and temporarily alleviated by the fact that the full strength of the projected V Corps force never came to Ireland. A third shipment, comprising additional units of the 34th Infantry and 1st Armored Divisions, arrived on 12 May, and a fourth contingent of approximately 10,000 troops carried in the Queen Mary landed a few days later. With these shipments the Northern Ireland force reached its peak strength in 1942, totaling 32,202. Plans had changed at least twice during the build-up, and by the end of May the V Corps consisted of only the 34th Infantry and 1st Armored Divisions, plus certain corps troops. Thus, the MAGNET plans were never fully developed. V Corps remained the highest U.S. ground force command in the United Kingdom for some time, though it was to move from Northern Ireland and its divisions were to be withdrawn for the North African operation. Instead of becoming a ground force base, therefore, Northern Ireland in 1942 developed as a base for the Air Forces and as a base section of the Services of Supply.
Establishing an Air Force in the United Kingdom
The U.S. entry into the war called for fulfillment of still another provision of ABC-1 and RAINBOW 5—the build-up of an American air force in the British Isles. The conversations of early 1941 had specifically provided for an air offensive against the enemy should the United States enter the war. The force which was to be sent to the United Kingdom under the ABC-1 agreements was designed almost entirely for air operations or for support of such operations. Plans provided for the shipment of thirty-two bombardment and pursuit squadrons to Britain. The bombardment force—about 36,000 men—was to be located in England and was to carry out an offensive mission against the Continent. In addition, both the Northern Ireland and Scotland forces (30,000 and 13,500 respectively) had large components of pursuit aviation and antiaircraft units and were designed to defend air and naval bases. Only the small token force of 7,500 in southern England was to have no air elements.
Air operations were in fact the only sustained offensive operations to be carried out from the United Kingdom for some time to come. Preparations for the air force build-up consequently assumed primary importance in 1941 and early 1942, and the initial prominence given this aspect of the American build-up was reflected in the large representation of air officers in the Special Observer Group, including Generals Chaney and McNarney, Colonel McClelland, the G-3, and Colonel Lyon and Major Snavely in the Air Section. Within a few weeks of its arrival in the United Kingdom SPOBS had met with the British Air Ministry, discussed
problems of an air offensive against Germany with the British Joint Planning Staff, and gathered information on aircraft and British methods of air operations. In July tentative agreements were reached on the location of airfields for the use of American bombardment units, and several of the observers made reconnaissance tours of Scotland and Northern Ireland to examine potential sites for air bases and training areas. Further surveys in the fall of 1941 resulted in the selection of eight airfields then under construction in the Huntingdon area, sixty-five miles north of London, for use by the first American bomber units. By the time the United States entered the war General Chaney and his group had made excellent progress in establishing liaison with the British and in arranging for accommodations for the projected American troop arrivals.
General Chaney was considerably less successful in getting his ideas on command and organization accepted for the United Kingdom. In September 1941, a few months after his arrival in England, he proposed to General Marshall a system of operational and administrative controls in the United Kingdom based on the ABC-1 and RAINBOW 5 provision for the several forces for the British Isles. General Chaney’s plan called for a series of area commands, one each for the token force, Northern Ireland, and Scotland, a bomber command, and in addition a base command for supply services in England and Scotland. A few weeks later, while Chaney was temporarily on duty in Washington, Lt. Gen. Henry H. Arnold, chief of the Army Air Forces, precipitated a prolonged argument over the question of organization and command by suggesting that American forces in the United Kingdom be organized into two major commands, one for the ground forces and one for the air forces. General Chaney objected vigorously to this counterproposal in a letter early in December, pointing out that American air units would be operating under the British and that there was no reason for interposing another headquarters between the over-all American command and the British. He held further that, with the exception of the small token force, the only purpose for the presence of American ground troops in the United Kingdom was to contribute to the successful operation of air combat units. General Chaney’s concept was based on ABC-1 and RAINBOW 5, which made no provision for large American ground forces in the United Kingdom or for any offensive mission for ground troops. His concept thus embraced two basic missions for American forces in the United Kingdom—an air offensive and defense. The air defense of Britain, he maintained, could not be subdivided, and American pursuit units would have to be placed operationally under the British fighter command. For offensive operations he favored the creation of a bomber command under the over-all American commander. The relatively small ground forces were to come to the United Kingdom primarily to assist the air units in their missions and would therefore come under the various area commands.14
With the implementation of RAINBOW 5 following U.S. entry into the war, and with the creation of USAFBI, General Chaney’s position was temporarily strengthened. But the concept of the RAINBOW 5 plan was almost immediately altered by the revision that provided for a greatly enlarged ground force in the United Kingdom. General Arnold was therefore encouraged to revive his scheme for an over-all air command and again urged the acceptance of his ideas on both General Chaney and General Marshall late in January 1942. General Chaney once more rejected his arguments, noting that Arnold’s proposed structure would only parallel the British organization and use up badly needed personnel. GHQ momentarily upheld General Chaney in this stand; but it was a losing battle, for the trend was now definitely toward the organization of three coordinate forces or commands in each theater—air, ground, and service—and this trend was to be reflected shortly in the War Department’s own reorganization along these lines. General Arnold’s arguments were further strengthened by the Joint Chiefs’ acceptance of the view that pursuit aircraft sent to the United Kingdom would no longer be considered limited to a defensive role.
The headquarters of the Eighth Air Force and its component bomber, interceptor, and base commands were activated in the United States in the last days of January. In order to prepare for the earliest possible commitment of American air units in the United Kingdom, Brig. Gen. Ira C. Eaker was designated bomber commander of USAFBI and immediately sent to England. The instructions he carried stated specifically that he was to prepare not only for the reception of his own command but also for an intermediate air headquarters between bomber headquarters and the theater commander. General Arnold thus proceeded on the assumption that his scheme of command and organization would ultimately be accepted.
General Eaker arrived in England on 20 February and immediately presented his plans for the establishment of an American air force. On 22 February General Chaney ordered the establishment of a bomber command (shortly to be named the VIII Bomber Command), but found Eaker’s proposal for an air force command difficult to accept. The USAFBI staff was anything but receptive to the air force plan, and General Chaney continued to protest it to the War Department. The latter, in the throes of planning for the second front, at first was disposed to support General Chaney. But the month of March saw several changes in the War Department’s plans for the token force and the forces in Scotland and Northern Ireland. These changes in effect nullified the old RAINBOW 5 plan, and thus rendered Chaney’s plans for area commands obsolete. Early in April he was definitely notified that a separate air force would be organized and trained in the United States and transferred to the United Kingdom. General Chaney therefore had no choice but to accede in the matter of the organizational structure thus decided on, and he proceeded with arrangements for the location of the new command and its bomber, fighter, and service commands. On 2 May Maj. Gen. Carl Spaatz was designated commanding general of the Eighth Air Force, although he remained in the United States until June to organize his new command and arrange for the movement of its units overseas.
Plans for phasing air units to the United Kingdom underwent frequent revisions,
just as in the case of ground units for Northern Ireland and Iceland. The lack of enough trained units, the competing demands from other areas, the frequent changes in plans in the early months of the war, all contributed to make the future of the U.K. build-up unpredictable. In January plans called for the dispatch of a total of 4,748 planes to the United Kingdom, of which 3,328 would be bombers. These figures were amended downward in the following months, and none of the movements of planes or personnel to Britain were accomplished as scheduled, in part because of the shortage of shipping and in part because of a temporary suspension in the movement of planes occasioned by critical developments in the Pacific. The first shipment of Eighth Air Force troops arrived on 11 May.
Early commitment of the Eighth Air Force units depended largely on the ability to ferry planes to the United Kingdom via the North Atlantic route. The Ferrying Command (later renamed the Air Transport Command) had been established in May 1941, but the Air Forces had acquired little in the way of either experience or facilities in the first year to prepare it for the large-scale movements now projected, and had relied on the British both for meteorological data and for some of the servicing of its planes. Early in 1942 the Ferrying Command redoubled its efforts to extend the network of weather stations and communications facilities. Late in June the first combat planes of the Eighth Air Force took off from Presque Isle, Maine, for Goose Bay, Labrador, and then proceeded to Greenland, Iceland, and finally Prestwick, Scotland, the eastern terminus of the route. The first plane to reach the United Kingdom by air, a B-17, arrived on 1 July. Thus, the flow of men and planes, via water and air, was just beginning at the time the European theater was activated early in June 1942.
Logistical preparations for the reception and accommodation of American air units had been going on for many months. Considerable spadework had already been accomplished by the Special Observer Group, particularly by General Chaney’s air officer, Colonel Lyon, who continued this work after the arrival of the advance detachment of the VIII Air Force Service Command in the spring of 1942. SPOBS investigated air force facilities shortly after its arrival in England, and in November 1941 had presented to the British a survey of requirements for such facilities as airfields, workshops, ammunition depots, bakeries, and storage. In this work SPOBS had the full cooperation of the Air Ministry, which in February 1942 prepared a comprehensive statement of policy and procedure known as the Joint Organization and Maintenance (U.S.), providing an invaluable guide on problems involving the reception, accommodation, and servicing of American air force units.
The task of preparing for the arrival of American air force units naturally fell to General Eaker and his staff upon their arrival in the United Kingdom in February. A few days after his arrival General Eaker was instructed to proceed to the RAF Bomber Command in order to understudy its staff, to draw up plans for the reception, administration, and supply of bombardment and service units, and to make recommendations regarding the training, equipment, tactical doctrine, and methods of employment of American air units. General Eaker and his staff immediately set about these tasks, establishing themselves initially with the RAF Bomber Command, and in mid-April setting up
their own headquarters nearby at Wycombe Abbey, an evacuated girls school at High Wycombe, about thirty miles west of London. On 20 March General Eaker submitted his bomber command plan outlining the problems that had to be solved before American bombardment units could start operations. The ideal method, he observed, required a substantial build-up of American forces in order to permit operations to begin at maximum efficiency and in order to insure their continuity. An independent system of supply and maintenance would also have to be developed before operations could start. Obviously such preparations would delay American participation in the offensive effort. The alternative was to make immediate use of the eight airfields then ready, committing the bomber groups as they became available and making extensive use of British depots, repair facilities, intelligence, and hospitals until the American logistical organization could be built up. The latter course would entail a heavy dependence on the British and a hand-to-mouth existence in supplies, but it had the obvious advantage of allowing earlier inauguration of operations and was therefore recommended by Eaker.
Agreement had already been reached with the British in December 1941 for an initial transfer of eight airfields, then under construction for the RAF, to the first American bomber units expected in England. By May 1942 plans had been made with the British for the construction or transfer of 127 fields to the Eighth Air Force. American participation in the air offensive based on the United Kingdom thus meant a tremendous expansion in the construction program in the British Isles, where the shortage of labor and materials already pinched a strained economy.
Equal in magnitude to the airfield construction program was the problem of providing adequate supply and maintenance. Here again, fortunately, valuable preliminary measures had been taken before the United States became a belligerent. The RAF had already been flying American-built aircraft for some time, and the British had therefore been faced with the problem of maintenance and repair of these craft. Almost simultaneously with the arrival of the Special Observers in England in the summer of 1941 a small number of American maintenance crews had gone to England to assist the British, and in July the British had asked that this aid be greatly expanded. While surveying Northern Ireland that month SPOBS looked for a suitable site where U.S.-built aircraft could be serviced, and in September General Chaney recommended that a depot be established at Langford Lodge, several miles west of Belfast. This recommendation was endorsed by a special Air Forces mission under Maj. Gen. George H. Brett which had been sent to the United Kingdom to study the whole problem. In December 1941 the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, already operating an assembly plant for the British near Liverpool, was requested to install a service maintenance base at Langford Lodge. The depot was to be manned by American civilians. While the War Department did not sign a contract with the Lockheed Overseas Corporation until May 1942, Lockheed representatives began to make detailed plans for the base in December 1941, and General Chaney proceeded to negotiate with the British Air Ministry on the provision of buildings, utilities, housing, and other facilities.
Concurrent with the negotiations over Langford Lodge, SPOBS had taken steps to establish a second depot for the repair of American-operated aircraft at Warton,
about twenty-five miles north of Liverpool. Both the SPOBS engineer, Colonel Davison, and General Brett agreed on this selection in the fall of 1941. Early in January 1942 the War Department therefore authorized General Chaney to secure this location for the repair of bombers and engines, and he proceeded to arrange with the Ministry of Aircraft Production to build the depot and provide accommodations for about 4,000 men.
Since Langford Lodge was not to open until September 1942, and Warton not until January 1943, it was necessary to find some interim facilities to meet the needs of American air units if their participation in operations was not to be delayed. A search was therefore made for existing facilities which could be utilized immediately. Late in April, after inspections by General Eaker and Colonel Lyon, General Chaney made his recommendations to the War Department and was authorized to negotiate with the British for the transfer of the repair facilities already existing at Burtonwood, about midway between Liverpool and Manchester. Burtonwood was then operated by the British Government and employed about 4,000 civilians. After a period of joint operation, Burtonwood was to be transferred to the exclusive control of the Americans. In the absence of enough skilled American military technicians, both Langford Lodge and Burtonwood were to be staffed initially with civilians, although it was intended that they would eventually be operated by military personnel. General Arnold arranged for the transfer of soldiers with the requisite training from Army Air Forces depots in the United States. Arrangements for acquisition of the Burtonwood installation were completed in May, and joint operation of the facilities began in June. Because of the delay in bringing Langford Lodge and Warton into operation, Burtonwood carried the main burden of air force maintenance for several months to come, and in fact was to remain the principal center of American air force supply and maintenance in the United Kingdom.
On 19 May the Headquarters Detachment, Eighth Air Force, under General Eaker, assumed command of all American air units in the United Kingdom, and General Spaatz took command of the Eighth Air Force on 18 June, with headquarters at Bushy Park, on the southwest edge of London. By this date important steps had been taken to prepare for direct participation by American air units in the war against the Axis Powers. Even at this time, however, the build-up of American forces was only beginning, and their logistical organization was hardly born. Whatever influence the American air forces were to have on the air offensive developing in these first months was due largely to British assistance.
The Formation of the Services of Supply and the Activation of ETOUSA
By the early spring of 1942 the existing U.S. Army organization in the United Kingdom was no longer equal to the tasks it was called on to perform. One deficiency which had been felt from the very beginning was the lack of personnel, and General Chaney’s small staff had been asked to shoulder an increasing number of responsibilities. In addition to its other duties it handled the technical aspects of lend-lease to both Britain and the USSR; it supervised the Electronics Training Group, a group of American signal, air, and antiaircraft officers sent to England for training in radar maintenance and operation; and it operated the Ferrying Command.
Each new task undertaken by SPOBS required additional manpower and inspired repeated requests to the War Department. With the shipment of troops to Northern Ireland early in 1942 an obvious need arose for personnel to make up an administrative headquarters for these troops, and for trained officers to fill the staff positions General Chaney wished to fill. In mid-January there still were only twenty-four officers and thirteen enlisted men in London, although SPOBS had been transformed into the headquarters of the U.S. Army in the United Kingdom. This small group was temporarily reinforced in March when about 260 men—military police, signal men, and housekeeping personnel—were borrowed from the 34th Division in Northern Ireland to begin the organization of a headquarters command. But there was no augmentation of Chaney’s staff from the United States until the first week in April, when six officers arrived.15 In February a bomber command had been activated, forming the advance echelon of an over-all air force command in the United Kingdom. But these organizations could hardly do more than meet the requirements envisaged in the ABC-1 and RAINBOW 5 concepts—that is, aid in the defense of Northern Ireland and participate in the air offensive against the Continent.
In March General Marshall gave the first hint that a much larger role was contemplated for American forces in the European area when he instructed General Chaney to formulate plans which would permit a large expansion of both air and ground units in the United Kingdom.16 In April strategic decisions were made which had far-reaching effects on the U.S. Army organization in Britain. The next few months saw the activation of not only a theater of operations, with a specific directive to its commander on his mission and responsibilities, but also a Services of Supply, providing the vitally important machinery to handle the supply and troop build-up in the British Isles.
American and British military leaders had met for the second time in Washington in December 1941 and January 1942 to define more specifically the combined command arrangements, organize an over-all command agency (the Combined Chiefs of Staff), and confirm existing agreements on the priority for the defeat of the European Axis and agreements regarding the shipment of American forces to the United Kingdom. Plans for the conduct of the war were of course under continuous study in the War Department during the winter months, and in March 1942 the Operations Division (OPD, formerly WPD or War Plans Division) produced an outline plan for the build-up of American forces in the United Kingdom with a view toward an eventual invasion of the Continent. In April General Marshall and Harry L. Hopkins, confidential adviser to the President, accompanied by other officials, went to London to meet with Prime Minister Churchill and the British Chiefs of Staff. In a series of conferences at Claridge’s Hotel the Americans won acceptance of the War Department proposal, which came to be known as the BOLERO plan.
The acceptance of the BOLERO plan, involving as it did a great build-up of American forces in Britain and an eventual
cross-Channel operation, was bound to have a tremendous effect on the development of the U.S. Army in the United Kingdom. The first step that reflected the enhanced importance of American activities in the British Isles and presaged the scope of coming preparations was the formation of the Services of Supply (SOS), the third of the great subcommands which were basic to the theater’s structure. General Chaney himself took the initiative in this matter and on 2 May 1942 outlined to the War Department his ideas on the organization of the SOS and requested the necessary personnel. Chaney’s plan roughly followed outlines given in the Field Service Regulations, which were based on World War I experience. It provided for five service divisions: depots, transportation, replacement and evacuation, construction, and administration. Chaney named Donald Davison, now a brigadier general, as his choice to command the SOS.17
Although General Marshall had discussed the matter of the U.K. build-up with Chaney during his trip to London in April, it is not clear that he had outlined the organizational structure he desired. At any rate General Chaney soon learned that his proposed organization of the SOS did not conform with War Department wishes. General Marshall informed him that the nucleus of the new SOS organization was being formed in Washington under Maj. Gen. John C. H. Lee, and that Chaney’s request for personnel would have to await Lee’s arrival in England. Anticipating an early build-up of troops, Chaney was anxious to have the SOS operating without delay, and he therefore went ahead with plans and even drafted an order outlining the functions and organization of the SOS. But General Marshall’s decision was final; General Lee was to organize the SOS in the United Kingdom. Thus, as in the matter of the air force command, the War Department now also determined the organization of the SOS and was to dispatch it to England with little regard for General Chaney’s wishes in the matter.
The history of the logistics of the war in Europe, so far as U.S. participation is concerned, is basically the history of the SOS and its successor on the Continent, the Communications Zone; and the logistical story is therefore inseparably associated with the officer who in May 1942 was designated by General Marshall to command the SOS. General Lee was commanding the 2nd Division at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, when on 3 May Lt. Gen. Brehon B. Somervell, commanding general of the War Department SOS, summoned him to Washington for the new assignment. General Lee was a Regular Army officer, a West Point graduate of 1909, and, like so many of the officers who were to hold key positions in the European theater, an engineer. Between 1909 and 1917 his assignments included tours of duty in the Canal Zone, Guam, and the Philippines, as well as the zone of interior. During World War I he served first as aide to Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood, commanding general of the 89th Division and former Army Chief of Staff, and then as chief of staff of the 89th Division, later going overseas and actively participating in the planning and execution of the St. Mihiel and Meuse–Argonne offensive. In the course of his overseas duty he was awarded the Silver Star, the Distinguished Service Medal, and was twice decorated
by the French Government. During most of the period between wars Lee held the usual peacetime engineer assignments, principally on rivers and harbors projects. In 1934 he became district engineer of the North Atlantic Division at Philadelphia, and in 1938 division engineer of the North Pacific Division at Portland, Oregon. In 1940 Lee was given command of the San Francisco Port of Embarkation and promoted to brigadier general; a year later he took command of the 2nd Division; and in 1942 he was again promoted.18
The choice of General Marshall and General Somervell thus brought to the job a man of varied experience and an officer with a reputation as an able organizer and strict disciplinarian. It also brought to the job a controversial personality, for about Lee and his position most of the controversies over theater organization and command were to rage for the next three years.
Lee arrived in Washington on 5 May and in a series of conferences in the next two weeks laid the basis for the SOS organization in the United Kingdom. On 7 May General Somervell held a meeting of all the service chiefs and chiefs of staff divisions in the War Department SOS to outline the BOLERO plan and point up the major problems which would have to be met in building a base in the United Kingdom. Lee’s primary concern was the selection of a “team” which he could take with him to England. To recruit such a staff General Somervell instructed each chief in the SOS to recommend the best two men in his branch, one of whom would be selected to accompany General Lee, the other to remain in Washington. A staff was selected within the next week. Among those chosen were many officers who were to become well known in the European theater, including Brig. Gen. Thomas B. Larkin, Lee’s first chief of staff; Brig. Gen. Claude N. Thiele, initially his Chief of Administrative Services; Col. Charles O. Thrasher, Chief of Depot Services; Col. Douglas C. MacKeachie, Director of Procurement; Col. Frank S. Ross, Chief of Transportation Services; Maj. James M. Franey, Administrative Assistant; Col. Nicholas H. Cobbs, Finance Officer; Brig. Gen. William S. Rumbough, Signal Officer; and Brig. Gen. Robert M. Littlejohn, Chief Quartermaster. On 14 May General Lee held the first meeting of his service chiefs, at which he read the draft of a directive indicating the lines along which General Marshall and General Somervell desired to have the SOS organized. Before leaving Washington General Lee also met with members of the British Army staff and the British Ambassador, Lord Halifax, to orient himself on reception and accommodation problems in the United Kingdom. Just before his departure from the United States he flew to New York and discussed shipping matters with Maj. Gen. Homer M. Groninger, commanding general of the port which was to handle the millions of tons of supplies shipped to Europe in the next few years. Finally, acutely aware of the difficulties faced by the SOS in 1917–18, General Lee also called on Maj. Gen. James G. Harbord, commanding general of the American Expeditionary Forces SOS in World War I, hoping to profit from his experience and thus avoid a repetition of the errors of that period. On 23 May 1942 General Lee left the United States with nine members of his staff and with basic plans for the organization of the SOS in England.19
Meanwhile General Chaney had been informed more specifically of the plans which the Chief of Staff desired to have carried out in the United Kingdom. On 14 May General Marshall sent a letter directive to the USAFBI commander embodying the ideas already communicated to General Lee in Washington. The directive made it clear that the U.S. forces in the United Kingdom were to be organized along lines parallel to the new War Department structure—that is, with three coordinate commands, one each for air, ground, and services—and described in detail the Chief of Staffs’ desires on the organization of the SOS, which was to be undertaken at once. General Marshall specified that Chaney’s headquarters (soon to become the theater headquarters) was to be organized “along the general pattern of a command post with a minimum of supply and administrative services.” These were to be grouped under the SOS and commanded by General Lee. More specifically, General Lee was given the following powers:–
[He was] invested with all authority necessary to accomplish his mission including, but not limited to, authority to approve or delegate authority to:–
a. Approve all plans and contracts of all kinds necessary to carry out the objectives of this directive.
b. Employ, fix the compensation of, and discharge civilian personnel without regard to civil service rules.
c. Purchase any necessary supplies, equipment, and property, including rights in real estate practicable of acquirement.
d. Adjudicate and settle all claims.
e. Take all measures regarded as necessary and appropriate to expedite and prosecute the procurement, reception, processing, forwarding, and delivery of personnel, equipment, and supplies for the conduct of military operations.20
The letter announced that while “the organization prescribed for the War Department need not be slavishly followed at your Headquarters, it will, in the main, be the pattern for similar organizations of the Services of Supply in the British Isles.”
The directive of 14 May thus assigned broad powers to the SOS, and for this reason it developed into one of the most controversial documents in the history of the theater. It undoubtedly bore the strong influence of General Somervell, who was acutely conscious of the difficulties experienced by the SOS in World War I. These he attributed in part to the fact that the SOS of the American Expeditionary Forces had had to adopt an organization which did not parallel that of the War Department, with the result that there were no clearly defined command and technical channels between the two, and in part to the poor organizational control of the SOS, whereby supply and administration were closely controlled from General Pershing’s GHQ, through which all communications with the War Department were routed.21 He now desired that the SOS in the theater parallel that of the zone of interior, in which the supply command had just been assigned broad powers. ut the attempt to limit the top U.S. headquarters to a minimum of administrative and supply functions and to assign them to the SOS was the cause of a long struggle between the SOS and the theater headquarters and the basic reason for the several reorganizations which the two headquarters underwent in the next two years.
It is hardly surprising that General Chaney and his staff should have taken issue with the proposed scheme of organization, for it appeared to go contrary to the doctrine in which they had been schooled between the two wars. They were poorly oriented on the entire concept under which the War Department had recently reorganized itself, creating three great subcommands for air, ground, and service forces.22 It is apparent that General Chaney and his staff had not taken the new organization into consideration in formulating their own plan. The USAFBI commander did not believe that a purely functional division of command was feasible, but in this matter he had already been overruled and had been forced to acquiesce by accepting the separate air command. Now he was to take issue with the Services of Supply aspect of the new organizational scheme as well.
General Lee and his party arrived in London on 24 May. In his diary for this day he made the terse entry: “Reported to 20 Grosvenor, offices assigned, program of initiating the SOS commenced.”23 On the same day General Chaney’s headquarters published General Order 17, establishing the SOS, USAFBI, and designating General Lee as its commanding general.
Activating the new command was a simple matter. Outlining its functions and defining its exact sphere of responsibilities proved more difficult. General Lee and his chief of staff, General Larkin, conferred with General Chaney on the problem the day after their arrival in England, and on 28 May Lee submitted a draft of a general order outlining the functions and responsibilities of the SOS. The proposed order placed all supply arms and services, “excepting so much thereof as are essential to the minimum operation of supply and administration” by Headquarters, USAFBI, under the SOS. General Lee believed that virtually all supply and administrative functions of the theater should be taken over by the SOS. Such, he thought, was the intention of General Marshall and General Somervell, and in submitting his plan he stated that he was endeavoring “to comply with the spirit of the instructions contained in the War Department letter of 14 May 1942.24
General Lee’s proposal produced a strong reaction in the USAFBI headquarters. General Chaney’s staff objected to it almost to a man, and a compromise was eventually reached which satisfied no one. All staff sections were given an opportunity to comment on General Lee’s draft, and their remarks brought into focus some of the key issues that were to plague the SOS in its relations with the theater headquarters and eventually were to involve the armies and the supreme command also. Some of the USAFBI staff took exception to the entire functional organization of the U.S. forces in the United Kingdom into three coordinate commands. But this was already a lost battle since the basic organizational structure was already determined by the creation of the ground,
air, and service commands. More unanimous was the chorus of opposition voiced against the assumption of theater-wide functions by a subordinate command, the SOS. Almost every reply developed some aspect of this fundamental objection and argued that more control over particular functions should be retained by the highest command, USAFBI.
Brig. Gen. John E. Dahlquist, the G-1, put his finger on the basic difficulty by pointing out that, while the SOS would procure all supplies for U.S. forces in the United Kingdom, it would not provide all the services and supplies in all the components of the command, since many would be provided by service elements which were integral parts of the various task forces or subcommands, such as the Eighth Air Force. The inspector general, the chief finance officer, the adjutant general, and others, he noted, could not exercise theater-wide functions from the SOS, which was a command coordinate with the air and ground commands. Most of the supply arms and services would have to be maintained on a theater level (that is, at USAFBI level), and the top commander of the U.S. forces would need his own special staff. Since a chief of service in the SOS, a command coordinate with the air and ground commands and subordinate to USAFBI, could not exercise supervision over the troops of other commands, it was definitely wrong, Dahlquist believed, to place a theater chief of service in the S0S.25
Other staff members generally supported this argument, citing specific examples that stressed the impracticability of the proposed assignment of functions as applied to their particular service or department. Some were willing to see their functions split between USAFBI and SOS, but almost all of them felt that over-all policy making and varying degrees of control over service functions would have to be retained by the higher headquarters. The G-4, General Griner, for example, asked how the inspector general could perform theater-wide functions for the commanding general if he were placed under the commander of the SOS. AS later developments were to show, many of these arguments were not altogether invalid, and the armies and the air forces were to object strongly to the exercise of theater-wide functions by the SOS.
General Lee’s proposal had already raised the problem of the extent to which the air forces should handle their own supplies. In the successive steps by which the Army Air Forces was achieving more and more autonomy, the War Department had acknowledged the peculiarities of air force supply and had established a separate Air Force Service Command for the Air Forces. This principle was extended to the theaters in early 1942, and an Air Service Command had been set up as part of the Eighth Air Force and was in the process of movement to the United Kingdom in May and June. Before leaving the United States General Lee had met with AAF officials at Bolling Field and had agreed to a division of supply functions between the SOS and the Air Service Command. The main provisions were that the Air Service Command would assume complete responsibility for supplies peculiar to the air forces, would place liaison officers at the ports to attend to their interests, and would leave to the SOS all construction
and the handling of supplies common to both ground and air forces. In his draft proposal of 28 May outlining the responsibility of the SOS the only mention made of this problem was the statement that the handling of supplies peculiar to the air forces would be excepted from SOS control. Brig. Gen. Alfred J. Lyon, the USAFBI air officer, pointed out that it was the practice of the Air Service Command to maintain control not only of supplies peculiar to the air forces, but also of certain services (such as aviation engineer construction), and he desired a change in the draft to clarify this point.
The controversy over the position and functions of the SOS was not to come to a decision under USAFBI. The whole discussion was interrupted in the first week of June and momentarily postponed. On 8 June USAFBI was officially transformed into the European Theater of Operations, United States Army. The need for such a transformation had been realized for some time, particularly in General Chaney’s headquarters. Strategic plans for the employment of American forces in the European area had been radically altered since USAFBI had been created early in January. The BOLERO plan agreed to in April contemplated an invasion of the Continent in 1943, and therefore involved the shipment of large numbers of troops and great quantities of supplies to the United Kingdom. USAFBI had not been created with BOLERO in mind, and General Chaney keenly felt the lack of a specific statement of his mission and powers. The initiative in obtaining such a directive finally came from Chaney’s own staff. In the course of the Claridge Conference in April General Dahlquist asked General Marshall for a directive, at the same time submitting a draft to Col. John E. Hull, an officer from the Operations Division of the War Department. The following month Maj. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, then chief of OPD, visited the United Kingdom, and Brig. Gen: Charles L. Bolté, Chaney’s chief of staff, took the opportunity to outline some of the problems of USAFBI, again urging the “definite need for a basic directive to the Commanding General USAFBI, concerning his authority, responsibility and mission.”26 General Eisenhower responded by presenting a draft directive to General Marshall shortly after his return to the United States, and on 8 June the War Department cabled the directive establishing ETOUSA, naming Chaney its commander and outlining his powers and responsibilities. It was patterned closely after the draft presented by General Dahlquist, who in turn had based his draft largely on the one given General Pershing in World War I.27
The directive charged the Commanding General, European Theater of Operations, with the “tactical, strategical, territorial, and administrative duties of a theatre Commander.” “Under the principle of unity of command” he was to exercise planning and operational control over all U.S. forces assigned to the theater, including naval. The War Department instructed General Chaney to “cooperate with the forces of the British Empire and other allied nations” in military operations against the Axis Powers, but specified that in doing so the American forces were to “be maintained as a distinct and separate component of the combined forces.” The theater commander was vested with
all authority over administrative or logistical matters previously assigned to the Commanding General, USAFBI, and was directed to establish “all necessary bases, depots, lines of communications, and other arrangements necessary in the operation, training, administration, maintenance and reception of the U.S. Army Forces.” Finally, the directive gave as the mission of the Commanding General, European Theater of Operations, “to prepare for and carry on military operations in the European Theater against the Axis Powers and their allies, under strategical directives of the combined U.S.-British Chiefs of Staff. ...”28
A separate cable on 16 June defined the territorial extent of the newly activated theater. The boundaries of the European Theater of Operations (ETO) included roughly all of western Europe. (Map 1) Iceland was now also under the theater’s jurisdiction, although the separate Iceland Base Command dealing directly with the War Department would continue to handle administrative and logistical matters.
Outwardly the transition from USAFBI to ETOUSA was a change in name only. The War Department directive activating a theater of operations did not change General Chaney’s duties greatly. But it did constitute a statement of his mission and authority, which he had lacked as commanding general of USAFBI, and thus gave him a clear-cut conception of his command and clarified his position with relation to the other commands in the United Kingdom. Chaney’s general staff remained unchanged. General Bolté was the chief of staff, General Dahlquist was G-1 and now also deputy chief of staff, Colonel Case was G-2, Brig. Gen. Harold M. McClelland the G-3, and Brig. Gen. George W. Griner the G-4. Col. Ray W. Barker had been appointed Assistant Chief of Staff for War Plans early in April.
Assignments to the special staff, on the other hand, were to reflect the initial solution to the thorny organizational controversy about the extent of control that the SOS was to exert over supply and administration. The activation of ETOUSA had not seriously interrupted the search for a satisfactory answer to this problem, and a compromise solution had in fact been reached by 8 June. The dilemma faced by General Chaney and his staff was to find a solution which would preserve for the theater headquarters the control of theater-wide services without violating the Marshall directive of 14 May. In his memo to General Eisenhower in May, General Bolté had alluded to the problem of the relationship between SOS and USAFBI and had noted that, “unless the basic principle that authority and responsibility must go hand in hand is to be abandoned, the commander of the force as a whole must have the freedom of action to organize, dispose, and employ the personnel and means provided by him under the broad mission assigned him by higher authority.”29 The War Department directive which followed on 8 June certainly granted the theater commander broad enough powers and left no doubt of General Chaney’s authority over all U.S. forces in the theater. But it had not specifically released him from previous instructions, and the directive of 14 May therefore still held.
An unidentified member of the USAFBI staff in the meantime had recommended
a division of staff functions, with the senior officer of most of the services assigned to the SOS and only a portion of the special staff remaining at General Chaney’s headquarters. But on 8 June, when the theater was activated, a general order announced a complete special staff at theater headquarters, made up of the senior officers in the various services, and therefore included many of the officers who had been chosen for General Lee’s organization. Among them were General Littlejohn, Chief Quartermaster, Col. Everett S. Hughes, Chief Ordnance Officer, General Rumbough, Chief Signal Officer, and Colonel Cobbs, Finance Officer. An attempt to clarify the entire matter was made in a circular, dated 13 June, outlining in detail the responsibilities of the SOS and the division of the special staff. It charged the Commanding General, SOS, with the “formulating of detailed plans for supply, transportation, and administration, and with the operation of all supply and administrative services which serve this theater as a whole and which are not
a part of other subordinate forces of the theater. ...” More specifically, these responsibilities included:–
a. Receipt and delivery to depots of all supplies from the zone of the interior or from local or foreign sources.
b. Procurement, storage, maintenance, salvage, and basic issues of all equipment and supplies, except certain items peculiar to the Air Force.
c. The establishment. of purchasing and contractual policies and procedure.
d. Control of all transportation and traffic pertaining to the theater except that under control of other commands.
f. Quartering, to include acquiring by such means as may be necessary accommodations and facilities for all forces and activities.
g. Operation of all elements of the Army Postal Service except those assigned to other forces.
h. The establishment and maintenance of a Central Records Office for all army elements of the theater, including establishment and operation of a Prisoner of War Information Bureau.
i. The acquirement or production and issue of all publications, training films, film strips, and blank forms.
j. Operation of Graves Registration Service.
k. The requisitioning, quartering, training, and distribution under directives and policies prescribed by this headquarters of all replacements except the operation of Air Force combat and ground crew replacement center.
l. The establishment and control of all disciplinary barracks, and military police control of all members of the theater, outside other commands.
m. The establishment and operation of such training centers and officer candidate schools as may be directed by this headquarters.
n. The operation of centers for reclassification of officers to include administration of reclassification boards, appointed by the theater commander.
o. Evacuation from other commands of prisoner of war and administration and control of all prisoner of war establishments, except those pertaining to other commands.
p. Evacuation and hospitalization of sick and wounded from other commands.
q. Preparation of estimates of funds required for operation of the theater.
r. Adjudication and settlement of all claims and administration of the United States Claims Commission for this theater.
s. Organization and operation of recreational facilities.
t. Promotion of sale of war bonds and stamps.
The circular named eleven theater special staff sections to “operate under the CG SOS.” They included the big supply services, but these were to maintain separate liaison sections at theater headquarters. The SOS commander was granted all the necessary powers “authorized by law, Army Regulations, and customs for a Corps Area Commander” in the United States; he was allowed direct communication with other commanders in all supply and administrative matters; and he was authorized to organize the SOS into whatever subordinate commands he saw fit. Beyond this the circular was carefully worded to meet the provisions of the Marshall directive of 14 May and at the same time retain control of theater-wide functions for the theater’s highest headquarters. It cautiously spelled out General Lee’s authority. In an attempt to subordinate SOS policy making to the control of theater headquarters, for example, it prescribed that the SOS would carry out its functions “under directives issued by the Theater Commander,” and that all measures taken would be “consistent with policies and directives of this headquarters” (ETOUSA). The authorization to communicate directly with subordinate elements and officers and agencies of the U.S. and British Governments was restricted to matters “which do not involve items of
major policy, which do not affect other commands of the theater, or which do not affect matters specifically reserved by the theater commander.” It empowered the Commanding General, SOS, to “issue to other force commanders instructions on routine administrative matters arising directly from his duties and responsibilities,” but in order to make certain that the SOS did not exercise an improper amount of authority over other coordinate commands (the Eighth Air Force and V Corps) the circular stipulated that such instructions were not to interfere with “inherent command responsibilities of other force commanders.”30
The circular was therefore guarded in its grant of authority to the SOS and was not as broad a concession as General Lee desired, although it gave him control of eleven of the fifteen special staff sections he had requested. In meeting some of the objections of Chaney’s staff it consequently represented a compromise with the concept contained in the Marshall directive. The solution was anything but final, for the division of responsibility and the split in the staffs between SOS and ETOUSA produced a long controversy and resulted in many attempts at reorganization.
The first alterations in the settlement were made within a month, occasioned by a change in the top American command. General Chaney served as commanding general of the newly activated ETOUSA less than two weeks. The man chosen to succeed him was General Eisenhower, chief of OPD. Since General Marshall’s trip to England in April, the Chief of Staff had not been satisfied that the USAFBI commander and his staff were familiar enough with the War Department’s plans for the theater. A successor had not yet been chosen when General Eisenhower made his inspection trip to the United Kingdom in May, and upon his return at the end of the month his suggestion of General McNarney for the command was rejected by the Chief of Staff, who already had another important assignment in mind for that officer. Early in June General Eisenhower submitted to General Marshall the draft directive for the establishment of ETOUSA and was told for the first time that he himself might be chosen as the new commander of the theater. On 11 June Eisenhower was told definitely that he had been chosen, and on the 17th he received orders relieving him from his duties in the War Department and assigning him as Commanding General, ETOUSA.31
General Chaney meanwhile was notified on 11 June of his impending relief, and he departed from the United Kingdom on the 20th.32 In the three-day interim after General Chaney’s departure the theater was commanded by General Hartle, the senior American officer in the United Kingdom. General Eisenhower assumed command upon his arrival on 24 June.
One of the new theater commander’s first tasks was to re-examine the confused organizational structure which had just come into existence. While he considered the division of functions and staff between SOS and ETOUSA as faulty, General Eisenhower was not immediately disposed to make radical changes. For the most part he therefore accepted the compromise
outlined in Circular 2, although certain modifications were made in the interest of clarity. Others were necessitated by an entirely new factor that complicated the whole situation—the proposed move of the SOS to Cheltenham, which was some distance from London. A complete restatement of the responsibilities of the SOS and its position vis-à-vis ETOUSA was the result, and was published as General Order 19, dated 20 July 1942.
General Order 19 made only one important change in the mission of the SOS. General Lee now was assigned the additional function of administrative and supply planning for operations in the theater. He also was authorized to communicate directly with the War Department and British officials on supply matters without reference to theater headquarters. Otherwise, his responsibilities remained the same.
Like Circular 2, the new order was careful to define and delimit the authority of the Commanding General, SOS. His authority as a corps area commander was restricted in that it was not to apply to areas where another commander had already been given such authority (for example, military police control in Northern Ireland), and all orders, policies, and instructions prepared by the chiefs of services and applying to the entire theater were to be submitted to the Commanding General, SOS, and, after approval, published by the Adjutant General, ETOUSA.
The order announced eighteen staff sections, eight of which were to be resident at theater headquarters. (Chart 1) The chiefs of services were to be located as directed by the SOS commander. If not located at theater headquarters, they were to have senior representatives there selected by the theater commander. At this time a separate Transportation Service was added to the usual services. Previously divided between the Corps of Engineers and the Quartermaster Corps, transportation services were from this time on to be organized as a separate corps, as recommended by General Somervell. It was to have a vital role in the logistical operations in the European war, and ably justified its claim to separate status as a service.
General Order 19 did not alter the position of the SOS fundamentally. It did not give the SOS any additional theater-wide control over supply and administrative functions and therefore did not enhance its position. In fact General Order 19 actually reduced the number of staff sections directly under its control and resident at Headquarters, SOS. The retention of more of the staff sections at theater headquarters was probably the result of the removal of the SOS to Cheltenham. The July settlement represented the product of prolonged deliberations and contentions over this knotty problem. It was a compromise solution which did not please everyone and resulted in the creation of overlapping agencies and much duplication of effort. The wording of the order indicates that General Eisenhower considered the whole arrangement temporary; but more pressing matters in the next few months precluded any overhauling of the system, with the result that General Order 19 remained the constitution of ETOUSA for about a year.
The Heritage of SPOBS and USAFBI
The events of June and July did much to establish the general shape and framework which the theater command was to retain for the next few years. ETOUSA’s organizational structure was now determined;
its command relationships were at least temporarily fixed; and within a four-week period three commanders arrived—Lee, Spaatz, and Eisenhower—who were destined to be key figures in its future development. These events resulted in the gradual displacement of the SPOBS and USAFBI personnel. General Eisenhower retained General Chaney’s general staff only temporarily, and within a few months all but one of the positions had changed hands. In the special staff there was more stability of tenure.
Before assessing the accomplishments of SPOBS and USAFBI it should be pointed out that the original special observer function continued to be carried out under one name or another even after the activation of ETOUSA. The mission of SPOBS had not ended with the formation of USAFBI early in January 1942. That it had not was due mainly to the fact that General Chaney had to deal with many matters outside the British Isles, particularly developments in the Middle East. The War Department had specified at that time that in addition to taking over as Commanding General, USAFBI, General Chaney was to continue as Special Army Observer and was also to act as Army member of a newly created U.S. Military Mission to Great Britain. As indicated earlier, the military mission was never established, but General Chaney and his staff continued to function as special observers, with a vaguely understood relationship to USAFBI which caused considerable administrative confusion. In March and April General Chaney protested the War Department’s practice of continuing to assign personnel to SPOBS rather than to Headquarters, USAFBI.
One of the most important functions that remained after the formation of an army command in the United Kingdom was the study of technical developments in British aircraft and reporting on the performance of American equipment, particularly aircraft. For this purpose a Technical Committee had been formed in SPOBS in November 1941. This special observer mission continued after the establishment of Headquarters, USAFBI; but in April, apparently to clear up the administrative confusion over SPOBS’ status with relation to USAFBI, the Technical Committee was reorganized as the Air Section, USAFBI, under General Lyon. What was left of SPOBS was thus properly reduced to the position of a staff section in the new headquarters. Henceforth it dealt almost exclusively with aircraft, was given a semi-independent status, and was allowed to communicate directly with appropriate War Department agencies on purely technical matters. This reorganization appears to have clarified the rather anomalous position of SPOBS after the formation of USAFBI, although the enlisted men of the Headquarters Detachment of SPOBS were not finally transferred to Headquarters, USAFBI, until the end of May.
In the organization of ETOUSA early in June the Air Section became the Special Observer Section. Its mission was now defined as including “all matters which do not pertain directly to operations of U.S. forces in the ETO.” This involved liaison on all lend-lease matters with the Harriman mission, the Munitions Assignments Board, the Munitions Assignments Committee (Air), and the various British ministries concerned with production and supply. Procurement of technical data on the production and operation of aircraft was also included in the mission. In carrying out these duties, however, the Special
Observer Section came into increasing competition with other agencies, particularly the Eighth Air Force, which wanted jurisdiction over the section, and with the SOS. The Special Observers had always considered their name an unfortunate choice, and in July, on General Lyon’s recommendation, the section was redesignated the Air Technical Section. As such it continued to collect and report on British technical developments, but it no longer had any duties involving areas outside the European theater.
It is difficult to evaluate the work of SPOBS and USAFBI, for much of what they accomplished was intangible. For the most part their work was preparatory and preliminary. The extent of their accomplishment is certainly not reflected in the size of the U.S. forces brought to the United Kingdom in this period. At the end of May 1942, just before the activation of ETOUSA, the U.S. troop strength in the British Isles totaled only 35,668, of which 32,202 comprised the Northern Ireland forces. Fewer than 2,000 men of the Eighth Air Force had arrived. Thus, the build-up of U.S. forces was only beginning, and the rate of this build-up was not the responsibility of SPOBS or USAFBI.
As for the basic organizational structure or framework of the theater, it had been established more in spite of General Chaney and his staff than because of them. Chaney had plumped for an organization that called for regional rather than functional commands, and for an SOS organization that occupied a more subordinate position than that outlined in directives from the War Department. On both these matters he found himself out of harmony with current War Department thinking. This state of affairs probably resulted as much from misunderstanding and lack of information on what was transpiring in the War Department as from basic disagreement on principle. Significant developments had taken place in March and April 1942 which tended to nullify if not to render obsolete the command ideas of the USAFBI commander. First of all, strategic decisions at this time resulted in a radical alteration of the ABC-1 agreements as they applied to the United Kingdom, and provided for a huge build-up of U.S. forces there and a greatly enlarged role for American forces in the European area. Perhaps an even more important factor which operated to defeat General Chaney’s ideas on command was the reorganization of the War Department whereby three coordinate subcommands had been established. Both the SOS and the Air Forces in the United States were headed by strong personalities who wanted to set up parallel commands in the theater and to establish direct lines of technical control to the theater counterparts of their commands in the zone of interior. In view of Chaney’s lack of knowledge of these developments, his plans for the organization of his command were logical and understandable. The War Department’s own early indecision on these matters is reflected in the disposition on the part of OPD to uphold General Chaney initially in his views on the separate air force command.
But however justified General Chaney was in opposing the command arrangements imposed from the War Department and in arguing the merits of his own ideas, these contentions undoubtedly influenced the decision to relieve him from his command, In notifying Chaney of his relief, General Marshall explained the change by stating that he deemed it urgently important that the commander in the ETO
be an officer more intimately acquainted with the War Department’s plans and one who had taken a leading part in the developments since December.33 It is apparent that other factors entered into the War Department’s decision. Chaney had been overcautious in undertaking any commitments in the United Kingdom, even after the United States had definitely joined the ranks of the belligerents; he was thought to lack the necessary drive to carry out the enlarged program in the theater; and it was felt inappropriate for an air force officer to command the large ground forces which were to be sent to the United Kingdom. He was out of sympathy with General Arnold’s ideas, and it is obvious that he was not in the highest favor with the inner circle of the Air Forces, for he was never given one of its top commands.
General Chaney had held a difficult position both as head of SPOBS and as Commanding General, USAFBI. His mission had never been clearly defined, and his authority over U.S. forces in the United Kingdom was indefinite even after his appointment as Commanding General, USAFBI, in January 1942. In the opinion of one of his staff, USAFBI was not a theater of operations, but rather “one of several forces operating in the theater.”34 This view is supported by the fact that Chaney was frequently bypassed in the arrangements made by the War Department for the organization of the theater. For example, the War Department cable announcing the appointment of the V Corps commander went directly to General Hartle in Northern Ireland without previous reference to General Chaney for approval.35 In the spring of 1942 General Arnold visited the United Kingdom, met with Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal and laid out sites for air units, again without the knowledge or consent of General Chaney. The anomalous position of the USAFBI commander is further revealed in the questions which the British put to General Eisenhower during his visit to the United Kingdom in May. They looked upon Chaney as something “other than a Theater Commander,” and were obviously puzzled as to the U.S. agencies and officials with whom their planners were to work. It was then that Eisenhower, and Arnold and Somervell, who were also in England at this time, realized the necessity of impressing upon the British the fact that Chaney had complete responsibility for U.S. forces in the United Kingdom.36 Before this time, however, there was no real acknowledgment in practice that Chaney possessed such full authority. The same attitude was reflected in the tendency to keep General Chaney in the dark as to what was being planned in Washington and what was expected of USAFBI. While General Chaney was forewarned of the shipment of troops to the British Isles, the MAGNET plan itself was not received in his headquarters until after the first contingent had already arrived in Northern Ireland.37
This situation was inevitably accompanied by an overlapping of function, confusion of authority, and duplication of effort. General Chaney really had a dual role. Until the War Department reorganization of 1942, as Commanding General,
USAFBI, he came under the immediate control of the Commanding General, Army Field Forces (GHQ), which was not organized or prepared to exercise proper control over an overseas command. As Special Army Observer Chaney reported directly to the War Department.38 The result was that the USAFBI commander received directives from several offices in the War Department. There was a definite lack of coordination in the assignment and control of the various groups of observers sent to the United Kingdom. Some worked under SPOBS, some under USAFBI, some under the military attaché, and some as “special military observers” sent to the United Kingdom on separate missions. Many reported directly to the War Department, working independently of SPOBS and the military attaché, and duplicated the work others had already done. In this way Northern Ireland was reconnoitered and surveyed at least four or five times, to the bewilderment of the British.39 Another handicap under which SPOBS and USAFBI labored was the lack of adequate personnel for the many duties they were called on to perform. This became a particularly serious drawback after the announcement early in January that troops would soon arrive in the United Kingdom. USAFBI initially operated with a headquarters smaller than that of a regiment. Most of the staff sections consisted of but one officer and one enlisted man, and certain staff positions could not be filled at all initially. USAFBI was so shorthanded at the time the reception of the first Northern Ireland contingent was being planned that officers had to be borrowed from the military attaché,40 who for some time operated with a staff much larger than that of General Chaney.41 The War Department did not even begin to send additional officers to build up the headquarters until April, and the necessary housekeeping troops were provided only by transferring men from Northern Ireland.
SPOBS even considered its name a handicap. The choice was dictated by considerations of security, but as a result many officers in the War Department were unaware of the true significance of the group and came to look upon it as a mere information-gathering agency. Actually SPOBS went to the United Kingdom as a military mission and “not just to look at gadgets,” and became the nucleus of a headquarters for an operational force in that country.42
Despite their many difficulties and the fact that they were overruled on some matters, SPOBS and USAFBI made many positive contributions toward the development of the theater. Perhaps the most tangible of their accomplishments were the preparations they made for the first American troop arrivals and the planning they carried out for the reception of greater numbers later. The reception of U.S. units in Northern Ireland constituted a “preliminary canter” in which many of the problems that were to arise under the BOLERO build-up were resolved in minor form. In making these preparations
SPOBS and USAFBI established an early liaison with the British on all types of military matters, thus laying the foundation for one of the most intimate collaborations ever achieved by two allies.
Arranging for the accommodation of American troops afforded the services, particularly the engineers, an especially fruitful opportunity to gain experience. While little new construction was actually completed in the first year, the engineers under General Davison went far in establishing policy for the transfer of accommodations and in setting up standards of construction, and had made good progress in planning the housing facilities for American troops and arranging for the transfer and construction of airfields. The Chief Surgeon, Colonel Hawley, likewise had determined on a scheme of hospitalization agreeable to the British, had established requirements and standards, and had inaugurated an expansion of the hospital construction program. The Signal Corps was probably the first of the services to acquire practical working experience in the United Kingdom. Colonel Matejka, SPOBS Signal Officer, had early established working arrangements with the British signals organization on the use of British installations and equipment, and on the schooling of American units in British communications procedure. The Quartermaster Corps also shared in the early determination of policy for the accommodation of American troops. Under the USAFBI Quartermaster, Colonel Middleswart, a British suggestion that American troops draw their food supplies from the same sources as British troops was rejected, and steps were taken to establish separate U.S. imports and depots to insure that American troops would have American rations.43
Other staff sections also traced their beginnings to the days of SPOBS and USAFBI, and initiated the activities which later were greatly expanded in the much enlarged ETOUSA organization. Agreements were reached with the British on the handling of mail; the Stars and Stripes was launched as a weekly in April; and on General Chaney’s recommendation the War Department designated the Red Cross as the sole welfare agency to work with troops in the theater. He also insisted on the control of press relations and censorship as a function of his command, independent of the British.44 It was in the SPOBS period also that discussions were initiated with the British government leading to the passage of the Visiting Forces Act by the British Parliament in August 1942, which gave the Americans full legal jurisdiction over their own forces and exempted them from criminal proceedings in the courts of the United Kingdom.
All the varied activities of the predecessor commands—their work with the Harriman mission in inaugurating lend-lease aid to both Britain and the USSR; their efforts in connection with the technical aspects of lend-lease; their aid in the establishment of bases in the Middle East for maintenance of American-built equipment used by the British; their supervision of the Electronics Training Group; their collaboration with the British, through the Technical Committee, on radar and jet propulsion; their assistance in expediting modifications in American equipment as a result of their reporting of defects in U.S. airplanes, tanks, and other matériel used
by the British in combat, especially their valuable recommendations on the improvement of fighter planes, notably the P-51—all these and their many other services constituted a formidable record of accomplishment that enriched the legacy bequeathed to ETOUSA. Even though, as one of the special observers has pointed out, ETOUSA insisted on repeating much of the work of SPOBS and USAFBI, the new headquarters inherited invaluable permanent working organizations and the hard core of a command structure for the theater.