A Guide to the United States Military in Normandy

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A Guide to the United States Military in Normandy
A Guide to the United States Military in Normandy
Troops wading ashore on Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944.
Photo 26-G-2343. Courtesy Naval History and Heritage Command.
By Michael Kern
Program Assistant, National History Day
1
“You are now a member of the Army of the United States. That Army is made up of free
citizens chosen from among a free people. The American people of their own will, and through
the men they have elected to represent them in Congress, have determined that the free
institutions of this country will continue to exist. They have declared that, if necessary, we will
defend our right to live in our own American way and to continue to enjoy the benefits and
privileges which are granted to the citizens of no other nation. It is upon you, and the many
thousands of your comrades now in the military service, that our country has placed its confident
faith that this defense shall succeed should it ever be challenged.”
-
Soldier’s Handbook, Field Manual 21-100, 1941
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What is National History Day?
National History Day is a non-profit organization which promotes history education for
secondary and elementary education students. The program has grown into a national program
since its humble beginnings in Cleveland, Ohio in 1974. Today over half a million students
participate in National History Day each year, encouraged by thousands of dedicated teachers.
Students select a historical topic related to a theme chosen each year. They conduct primary and
secondary research on their chosen topic through libraries, archives, museums, historic sites, and
interviews. Students analyze and interpret their sources before presenting their work in original
papers, exhibits, documentaries, websites, or performances. Students enter their projects in
contests held each spring at the local, state, and national level where they are evaluated by
professional historians and educators. The program culminates in the Kenneth E. Behring
National Contest, held on the campus of the University of Maryland at College Park each June.
In addition to discovering the wonderful world of the past, students learn valuable skills
which are critical to future success, regardless of a student’s future field:
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Critical thinking and problem solving skills
Research and reading skills
Oral and written communication and presentation skills
Self-esteem and confidence
A sense of responsibility for and involvement in the democratic process
Participation in the National History Day contest leads to success in school and success after
graduation. More than five million NHD students have gone on to successful careers in many
fields, including business, law, and medicine. NHD helps students become more analytical
thinkers and better communicators, even if they do not choose to pursue a career in history.
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What is the Normandy Scholars Institute?
Established in 2011, the Normandy Scholars Institute is a program which teaches high
school students and teachers about D-Day and the fighting in Normandy during World War II.
The program is a partnership between National History Day and The George Washington
University made possible by the generosity of Albert H. Small. Mr. Small is a veteran of the U.S.
Navy who served in Normandy during World War II. He is passionate about history education
and wants to ensure that the sacrifices of World War II veterans are honored and remembered by
America’s youth.
Each winter National History Day selects a group of teachers from across the country to
participate in the program. Each teacher selects a student to work with during the institute. The
teacher and student work as a team, learning side-by-side, making the institute a unique
educational experience. Starting in spring, the team reads books on World War II and on D-Day,
giving them a better understanding of the history and historical context of the campaign. Each
student selects a soldier from their community who was killed during the war and who is buried
at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. The team works with a research mentor to
learn about the life of their soldier. In June, the teams travel to Washington, DC for several days
of program events before flying to France to visit the historical sites where the teams’ soldiers
fought and died. The trip culminates with a trip to the American cemetery where the student
reads a eulogy in front of their soldier’s grave. After returning to the United States, the students
and teachers share their experience with others by making a website about their soldier and
giving presentations at their schools.
In addition to getting to experience Normandy firsthand, students and teachers will:
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Learn the true cost of war and the meaning of freedom and sacrifice
Improve research and problem solving skills
Attain a deeper understanding of America’s participation in World War II
Establish relationships with peers and colleagues from across the country
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Table of Contents
Introduction……………………………………………….6
Military Organization and Units…………………………..7
The Men……………………………………………………18
The Things They Carried…………………………………..25
Combat in Normandy………………………………………26
Military Phonetic Alphabet………………………………....30
Glossary……………………………………………………..31
Bibliography……………………………….………………..34
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Introduction
This guide provides a short introduction to the United States military during World War
II. Using this guide will help Normandy scholars select a soldier that he or she wants to research
for the fallen soldier portion of the Normandy Scholar’s Institute’s curriculum. In this guide, you
can learn about how the Army, Navy, and Coast Guard were organized. You can also learn about
the roles that officers and enlisted men played in the military, and get an idea of what each type
of military unit did in Normandy. The guide also has a short section on military induction and
training, to give the reader an idea of how their soldier was assigned to his or her particular job
and unit. Finally, I have provided a few thoughts on combat in Normandy, to give the reader an
idea of what your soldier experienced and how he or she felt about those experiences. Once the
team has selected a soldier to research, you will be provided with another guide giving specific
details of how the soldier’s unit was organized and what role they played in the campaign in
Normandy.
Lt. Col. James E. Rudder’s command post at Ponte du Hoc, June 8, 1944
Army Signal Corps Photo 111-SC-190240. Courtesy Center of Military History.
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Military Organization and Units
Military Organization
During World War II the United States had an Army, a Navy, a Marine Corps, and a
Coast Guard. The Army was divided into three parts. The Army Ground Forces (AGF) were
what we would think of as the Army today – units of soldiers, tanks, and artillery cannons. The
other two branches of the Army were the Army Service Forces (ASF), which contained the
technical branches of the Army, and the Army Air Forces (AAF), which became the United
States Air Force in 1947. The ASF included the corps of engineers, medical corps, signal corps,
ordinance corps, quartermaster corps, chemical corps, and transportation corps. The Commander
in Chief of the United States military was President Franklin Roosevelt. The top military men in
the United States during the war were General George C. Marshall and Admiral Ernest J. King.
General Marshall was the Chief of Staff of the Army; he commanded the Army Ground Forces,
Army Service Forces and the Army Air Forces. Admiral King was the Chief of Naval Operations
(CNO). He was in command of the United States Navy. These two men reported directly to
President Roosevelt. 1
To be successful, the military needed to be subdivided into a number of separate parts,
each reporting to a particular officer. They conformed to a rigid hierarchy so that everyone knew
what their job was and what they were supposed to do to win the war. Let us consider the Army
first:
United States Army – General of the Army George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff
Army Ground Forces
Army Air Forces
(Lieutenant General Lesley J. McNair)
(General Henry A. “Hap” Arnold)
Army Group (500,000+ men)
Air Force (1,000-2,500 airplanes)
Army (150,000+ men)
Air Division or Command (300-700 airplanes)
Corps (40,000+ men)
Wing (90-120 airplanes)
Division (9,000-14,000 men)
Group (36-75 airplanes)
Regiment (2,000-3,000 men)
Squadron (12-25 airplanes)
Battalion (500-700 men)
Flight (4 airplanes)
Company (200 men)
Element (2 airplanes)
Platoon (40 men)
Squad (12 men)
1
Organization and higher command of U.S. Military, Andrew Mollo, The Armed Forces of World War II: Uniforms,
insignia and organization. New York: Crown Publishers, 1981, 150. Also Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, U.S. Navy
at War, 1941-1945: Official Reports to the Secretary of the Navy. Washington: United States Navy Department,
1946, i, and John D. Millet. The Organization and Role of the Army Service Forces. Washington: Center of Military
History, 1998.
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Military units in World War II tended to be ‘triangular.’ In other words, there were three
units at each level of organization. For example, a Parachute Infantry Regiment had three
battalions. Each battalion had three companies. Of course, there were exceptions to this, because
otherwise it would be too easy to understand. A guide for your soldier’s particular unit will be
provided after you select your soldier. Understanding this military hierarchy may seem daunting,
but the school system you are familiar with is divided in a similar way. Teachers report to the
school’s principal. The principal reports to the county school board and the school board reports
to your state’s department of education, which, in turn, looks to the national Department of
Education. 2
The Army also used an organization called a ‘brigade’ during World War II. Brigades
were specialized units of 4-6 battalions and could number 6,000 men or more. The most common
type of brigade used in Normandy was the Engineer Special Brigade. These units had several
types of specialized battalions to handle the transportation of supplies from ship to shore. There
were also anti-aircraft brigades deployed to Normandy. 3
Units larger than battalions each carried a unique number. For example, there was only a
single 16th Infantry Regiment in the Army. Battalions and smaller units generally did not carry
unique numbers. They were either numbered or lettered sequentially. For example, the 16th
Infantry Regiment had:
1st Battalion
nd
2 Battalion
rd
3 Battalion
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Able Company
Baker Company
Charlie Company
Dog Company
Easy Company
Fox Company
George Company
How Company
Item Company
King Company
Love Company
Mike Company
2
Triangular organization, Michael D. Doubler. Closing with the Enemy: How GIs Fought the War in Europe, 19441945. University Press of Kansas, 1994, 301-303.
3
Army organization, Mollo, 232-235.
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Each infantry regiment carried a unique number, but each regiment’s battalions and
companies would have been labeled in this same way. Independent battalions like Tank
Destroyer Battalions or Port Battalion units did carry unique numbers. For example, there was
only a single 519th Port Battalion in the entire Army. Soldiers often used a shorthand way of
describing military units. Sometimes you will see a designation like A/16 or 1/16. This is a
shorthand way of listing the company or battalion the soldier was talking about, and then listing
the regiment to which it belonged. So A/16 means Able Company, 16th Infantry Regiment, while
1/16 means 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment. 4
During your research, you will read about units being ‘organic’ or being ‘attached’ to a
unit. Simply put, organic units were ‘owned’ by a particular unit. Attached units belonged to
another organization, but were temporarily loaned to the unit. For example, the 29th Infantry
Division had three infantry regiments in it; the 115th, 116th, and 175th Infantry Regiments. These
units belonged to the 29th, so they were organic to the 29th. For their D-Day assault, the 29th was
loaned several independent tank battalions. These units were attached to the 29th. The 29th
Division had temporary control of them for a particular period of time, after which they went
back to their original owner. Units which have been attached to another unit have been detached
from the unit to which they belong. 5
The invasion of Normandy was undertaken by the First Army, under the command of Lt.
General Omar N. Bradley. The First Army had four corps – the V, VII, VIII, and XIX Corps.
Each of these corps had several divisions assigned to them. The U.S. Army eventually had three
Armies in Northwest Europe in 1944 – the First, Third, and Ninth Armies. Once these Armies
were assembled in France, they were assigned to the U.S. Twelfth Army Group, under the
command of Lt. General Bradley. The Army Air Forces had two Air Forces in England to
support the Normandy invasion. The 9th Air Force was a ‘tactical’ Air Force which specialized in
helping Army troops on the ground. They bombed German troops, blew up bridges, and
destroyed railroad lines. The other was the 8th Air Force, a ‘strategic’ Air Force which
specialized in bombing German cities, factories, and oil refineries. 6
The Navy divided its ships into a Pacific Fleet and an Atlantic Fleet during World War II.
Obviously, it was the Atlantic Fleet which participated in the Normandy campaign. The Navy
was more flexible in its organization than the Army, assigning ships to particular organizations
as needed. For Normandy, the Atlantic Fleet created a Western Task Force which supported the
invasion. The Western Task Force was divided into three parts: Force U supported the landings
4
Nomenclature, Joseph Balkoski. Beyond the Beachhead: The 29th Infantry Division in Normandy. Mechanicsburg,
PA: Stackpole Books, 1999, 95.
5
Organic and attached units, Doubler, 301.
6
American units involved in invasion, Charles Messenger. The D-Day Atlas: Anatomy of the Normandy Campaign.
New York: Thames & Hudson, 2004, 168.
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at Utah Beach, Force O supported the landings at Omaha Beach, and Force B was a reserve force
which brought in reinforcements to Omaha Beach after the invasion landings on June 6. Here is
how the Navy was organized for the Normandy landings: 7
United States Navy – Admiral of the Fleet
Ernest J. King, Chief of Naval Operations
Atlantic Fleet – Admiral Royal E. Ingersoll
Naval Forces Europe – Adm. Harold R. Stark
Western Task Force (1,800+ vessels)
Force (400-600 vessels)
Group (12-100 vessels
Flotilla (24-36 vessels)
Division (3-6 vessels)
Types of Military Units
During the 1920s and 1930s, the United States military was kept at a small size. This was
due to several factors, including lack of funding, anti-military feeling within the United States,
and isolationist views of political leaders. Throughout American history, the Army was kept
weak during peacetime and only expanded during times of war. The United States has only
maintained a strong Army in peacetime since the beginning of the Cold War after World War II.
The founding fathers of the United States feared standing armies, considering them a threat to
liberty. They looked to the example of English history, and remembered that Oliver Cromwell
used the English army to help him become ruler of England in the 1600s. Early American leaders
saw Cromwell as a despot and wanted to prevent anyone from using the U.S. Army as a means
of depriving citizens of their rights. 8
In 1941, the United States had a regular Army (including an Army reserve), although it
was quite weak. In addition, each state had its own National Guard. After Pearl Harbor was
attacked in December, 1941, even the most isolationist government official would have admitted
that the United States needed a large army. Nevertheless, many people in the government feared
the growth of a strong regular army. So the government created an organization called the Army
of the United States (AUS). The AUS was a temporary organization, which became the largest of
the Army’s three parts. Its units would be disbanded after the war ended, so that the regular
Army would not continue to have several million men after the war ended. The AUS was created
in February 1941, the same month in which the National Guards were called up for federal
service (a similar organization called the National Army existed during World War I). Taken
together, the regular Army, National Guard, and the Army of the United States constituted the
7
Navy organization, Messenger, 168.
U.S. Army in interwar period, Balkoski, 15-35; and influence of early republic fears, James K. Martin and Mark E.
Lender. A Respectable Army: The Military Origins of the Republic, 1763-1789. Arlington Heights, Il: H.. Davidson,
1982.
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United States Army. The Army Ground Forces eventually grew to a force of 89 divisions during
the war, most of which were AUS divisions. National Guard divisions were brought up to
strength with draftees, who may or may not have hailed from the state from which the National
Guard unit was raised. These divisions served in Normandy in 1944: 9
1st Infantry Division
Nickname: The Big Red One
Motto: “No mission too difficult, no sacrifice too great, duty first”
Origin: Regular Army division activated in 1917
Commander in Normandy: Major General Clarence R. Huebner
Campaigns: Algeria-French Morocco, Tunisia, Sicily, Normandy,
Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace, Central Europe, Rhineland
Combat Service: 292 days, 29,005 casualties
2nd Infantry Division
Nickname: The Indianhead Division
Motto: “Second to none”
Origin: Regular Army division activated in 1917
Commander in Normandy: Major General Walter M. Robertson
Campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace, Central
Europe, Rhineland
Combat Service: 303 days, 25,884 casualties
4th Infantry Division
Nickname: The Ivy Division
Motto: “Steadfast and loyal”
Origin: Regular Army division activated in 1940
Commander in Normandy: Major General Raymond O. Barton
Campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace, Central
Europe, Rhineland
Combat Service: 299 days, 35,545 casualties
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Army force structure, John C. McManus. The Deadly Brotherhood: The American Combat Soldier in World War
II. New York: Ballantine Books, 1998, 3-15; information on Normandy divisions, Lone Sentry: Photographs,
Documents, and Research on World War II. “Division Unit History.” Accessed October 5, 2011.
http://www.lonesentry.com/usdivisions/history/index.html. Also Doubler, 236-237, WWII U.S. Airborne. Accessed
October 5, 2011. http://www.ww2-airborne.us/, and Office of the Theater Historian, “Order of Battle of the United
States Army, World War II: European Theater of Operations, Divisions.” December, 1945. Accessed October 10,
2011. http://www.history.army.mil/documents/ETO-OB/ETOOB-TOC.htm.
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5th Infantry Division
Nickname: The Red Diamond Division
Motto: “We will”
Origin: Regular Army division activated in 1939
Commander in Normandy: Major General Stafford L. Irwin
Campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace, Central
Europe, Rhineland
Combat Service: 270 days, 23,487 casualties
8th Infantry Division
Nickname: The Golden Arrow Division
Motto: “These are my credentials”
Origin: Regular Army division activated in 1940
Commander in Normandy: Major General William C. McMahon (to
July), then Major General Donald A. Stroh
Campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, Central Europe, Rhineland
Combat Service: 266 days, 21,056 casualties
9th Infantry Division
Nickname: The Old Reliables
Motto: None
Origin: Regular Army division activated in 1940
Commander in Normandy: Major General Manton S. Eddy (to August),
then Major General Louis A. Craig
Campaigns: Algeria-French Morocco, Tunisia, Sicily, Normandy,
Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace, Central Europe, Rhineland
Combat Service: 264 days, 33,864 casualties
28th Infantry Division
Nickname: The Keystone Division
Motto: “Fire and movement”
Origin: National Guard division from Pennsylvania activated in 1941
Commander in Normandy: Major General Lloyd D. Brown (to August),
then Major General Norman D. Cota
Campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace, Central
Europe
Combat Service: 196 days, 24,840 casualties
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29th Infantry Division
Nickname: The Blue and Gray Division
Motto: “29 let’s go!”
Origin: National Guard division from Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania,
and the District of Columbia activated in 1941
Commander in Normandy: Major General Charles H. Gerhardt
Campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, Central Europe, Rhineland
Combat Service: 242 days, 28,776 casualties
30th Infantry Division
Nickname: The Old Hickory Division
Motto: None
Origin: National Guard division from North Carolina, South Carolina,
Tennessee, and Georgia activated in 1940
Commander in Normandy: Major General Leland S. Hobbs
Campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace, Central
Europe, Rhineland
Combat Service: 282 days, 26,038 casualties
35th Infantry Division
Nickname: The Sante Fe Division
Motto: None
Origin: National Guard division from Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska
activated in 1940
Commander in Normandy: Major General Paul W. Baade
Campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace, Central
Europe, Rhineland
Combat Service: 264 days, 25,488 casualties
79th Infantry Division
Nickname: The Cross of Lorraine Division
Motto: None
Origin: Army of the United States division activated in 1942
Commander in Normandy: Major General Ira T. Wyche
Campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, Central Europe, Rhineland
Combat Service: 248 days, 23,457 casualties
13
80th Infantry Division
Nickname: The Blue Ridge Division
Motto: “The 80th only moves forward”
Origin: Army of the United State division activated in 1942
Commander in Normandy: Major General Horace L. McBride
Campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace, Central
Europe
Combat Service: 239 days, 25,472 casualties
83rd Infantry Division
Nickname: The Thunderbolt Division
Motto: None
Origin: Army of the United States division activated in 1942
Commander in Normandy: Major General Robert C. Macon
Campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace, Central
Europe, Rhineland
Combat Service: 244 days, 23,980 casualties
90th Infantry Division
Nickname: The Tough ‘Ombres
Motto: None
Origin: Army of the United States division activated in 1942
Commander in Normandy: Major General Jay W. MacKelvie (to July),
then Major General Eugene M. Landrum (to August), and Major
General Raymond S. McLain
Campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace, Central
Europe, Rhineland
Combat Service: 308 days, 27,617 casualties
82nd Airborne Division
Nickname: All-American Division
Motto: None
Origin: Army of the United States division activated in 1942
Commander in Normandy: Major General Matthew B. Ridgway
Campaigns: Sicily, Naples-Foggia, Rome-Arno, Normandy, ArdennesAlsace, Central Europe, Rhineland
Combat Service: 194 days, 18,710 casualties
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101st Airborne Division
Nickname: Screaming Eagle Division
Motto: None
Origin: Army of the United States division activated in 1942
Commander in Normandy: Major General Maxwell D. Taylor
Campaigns: Normandy, Ardennes-Alsace, Central Europe, Rhineland
Combat Service: 214 days, 11,548 casualties
2nd Armored Division
Nickname: The Hell on Wheels Division
Motto: None
Origin: Regular Army division activated in 1940
Commander in Normandy: Major General Edward H. Brooks
Campaigns: Sicily, Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace,
Central Europe, Rhineland
Combat Service: 223 days, 13,867 casualties
3rd Armored Division
Nickname: The Spearhead Division
Motto: None
Origin: Army of the United States division activated in 1941
Commander in Normandy: Major General Leroy H. Watson (to
August), then Major General Maurice Rose
Campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace, Central
Europe, Rhineland
Combat Service: 231 days, 16,122 casualties
4th Armored Division
Nickname: Name Enough
Motto: None
Origin: Army of the United States division activated in 1941
Commander in Normandy: Major General J. S. Wood
Campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace, Central
Europe, Rhineland
Combat Service: 230 days, 10,496 casualties
15
5th Armored Division
Nickname: The Victory Division
Motto: None
Origin: Army of the United States division activated in 1941
Commander in Normandy: Major General Lunsford E. Oliver
Campaigns: Sicily, Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace,
Central Europe, Rhineland
Combat Service: 161 days, 7,146 casualties
6th Armored Division
Nickname: The Super Sixth
Motto: None
Origin: Army of the United States division activated in 1942
Commander in Normandy: Major General Robert W. Grow
Campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace, Central
Europe, Rhineland
Combat Service: 226 days, 12,816 casualties
7th Armored Division
Nickname: The Lucky Seventh
Motto: None
Origin: Army of the United States division activated in 1942
Commander in Normandy: Major General Lindsay McD. Silvester
Campaigns: Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace, Central Europe,
Rhineland
Combat Service: 172 days, 10,502 casualties
When you look at the list of soldiers buried in Normandy, you will see the unit they
belonged to listed. To help you choose who you’d like to learn about, here is a list of units and a
very brief description of their job in Normandy:
Airborne Anti-Aircraft Battalion: Defended paratroopers from German planes and tanks.
Airborne Engineer Battalion: Landed by parachute or glider to build bridges, clear mines, etc.
Airborne Medical Company: Cared for wounded paratroopers until help arrived.
Amphibian Truck Battalion: Carried supplies from ship to shore in amphibious trucks.
Anti-Aircraft Battalion: Protected troops and ships from German bombers.
Armored Engineer Battalion: Cleared mines and built bridges to support tank crews.
Armored Field Artillery Battalion: Armored artillery vehicles which helped tanks attack.
Armored Infantry Regiment or Battalion: Soldiers in armored trucks who helped tank crews.
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Armored Regiment: Powerful tank unit, the main strength of an armored division.
Bombardment Group: Flew bomber planes on missions against German factories or troops.
Cavalry Reconnaissance Battalion or Squadron: Performed scouting missions in fast vehicles.
Engineer Combat Battalion: Built bridges, cleared land mines, and blew up German bunkers.
Field Artillery Battalion: Supported infantry soldiers with artillery barrages from heavy cannons.
Fighter Group: Flew fighter planes to attack German troops and protect American bombers.
Glider Field Artillery Battalion: Landed in gliders to support airborne soldiers with artillery fire.
Glider Infantry Regiment: Infantry soldiers who landed in gliders alongside the paratroopers.
Infantry Regiment: Infantry soldiers. Without them the war would have been hopeless.
Landing Craft Flotilla: Brought assault troops to shore on D-Day and supplies ashore after.
Medical Battalion: Risked life and limb to saved the lives of wounded soldiers.
Naval Beach Battalion: Directed traffic of ships to the beach, so supplies were landed efficiently.
Naval Combat Demolition Unit: Helped blow up beach obstacles on D-Day.
Naval Construction Battalion: Operated landing ferries and built dock structures off the beaches.
Ordnance Battalion: Stockpiled ammunition and repaired damaged vehicles and weapons.
Parachute Field Artillery Battalion: Supported paratroopers with cannons dropped from planes.
Parachute Infantry Regiment: Paratroopers who captured objectives by jumping out of airplanes.
Photographic Group: Flew scouting airplanes to photograph German troops, bridges, factories.
Port Battalion: Unloaded supplies from ships and loaded wounded soldiers onto ships.
Ranger Infantry Battalion: Commando soldiers who specialized in difficult assault missions.
Tank Battalion: Tanks which helped infantry break through German defenses.
Tank Destroyer Battalion: Specialized in using wits and cunning to destroy German tanks.
Troop Carrier Group: Flew airplanes and gliders to bring airborne troops to the battlefield.
Quartermaster Battalion: Transported supplies to troops and organized supply depots. 10
Observation Pilot, Ludwig Mactarian, 1945
Courtesy U.S. Army Center of Military History Art Collection
10
List of units, Mollo 150-156, 232-240, and King, 135-142.
17
The Men
Ranks
There were two different groups of people in the U.S. military in World War II –
commissioned officers and enlisted men. In April 1945, 10% of Army soldiers were officers and
the other 90% were enlisted men. Commissioned officers were hired by the President, with the
approval of Congress. They were the management class of the military and were at the top of the
pyramid. Even the lowest ranking officer out-ranked the highest ranking enlisted man. The
officer in charge of a particular military unit was the unit’s commanding officer, or CO. The
unit’s second-in-command was the executive officer, or XO. The officers recruited enlisted men
to actually perform most of the work in the military. These soldiers performed the routine, nontechnical, labor-intensive jobs in the military, such as rifleman or clerk. Officers tended to have
college degrees, while enlisted men generally did not. Enlisted men ‘enlisted’ for a period of
three years. When those three years of service ended, they could re-enlist for another three years
or they could leave the military. Once the war started, men did not have the option to leave –
they had to stay in the military until six months after the war ended. Most enlisted men decided
to leave the military after their initial enlistment ended. 11
Those that stayed were often promoted and became non-commissioned officers. If
commissioned officers were the managers of the military and enlisted men were the workers,
then non-commissioned officers (NCOs) were foremen. NCOs were still enlisted men, but they
supervised small groups of enlisted men in performing the duties assigned to them by the
officers, rather than doing the labor themselves. NCOs tended to have more experience than
officers and often had more technical expertise. Since their positions were given to them by the
officers, they could also be taken away. A sergeant who misbehaved might find himself ‘busted’
down to private as punishment! NCOs were the real heart and soul of the military. They looked
after the enlisted men, tried to keep them alive, and used their experience and technical
knowledge to get things done. Good NCOs could exert a huge influence on how their unit
operated. A NCO who proved himself a natural leader of men could be promoted to
commissioned officer status. These men were nicknamed ‘mustangs’ and were generally wellregarded. Mustangs became warrant officers for a probationary period before becoming full
commissioned officers. About half of the enlisted men in the Army in April 1945 were NCOs. 12
11
Percentages, John Ellis. The Sharp End: The Fighting Man in World War II. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons,
1980, 191. Officers and enlisted men roles in military, War Department. Soldier’s Handbook, FM 21-100.
Washington: Government Printing Office, 1941, 1-2.
12
NCOs, War Department, Soldier’s Handbook, 2; and percentage of NCOs, Ellis, 191.
18
These were the ranks in the U.S. military during World War II. A man or woman
entering the military as an officer entered at O-1. An enlisted soldier or sailor entered at E-1.
Non-commissioned officers were grades E-3 to E-8 in the Army and E-4 to E-8 in the Navy:
Grade
O-11
O-10
O-9
O-8
O-7
O-6
O-5
O-4
O-3
O-2
O-1
W-2
W-1
E-8
E-7
E-6
E-5
E-4
E-3
E-2
E-1
Army
General of the Army
General (Gen.)
Lieutenant General (Lt. Gen.)
Major General (Maj. Gen.)
Brigadier General (Brig. Gen.)
Colonel (Col.)
Lieutenant Colonel (Lt. Col.)
Major (Maj.)
Captain (Capt.)
1st Lieutenant (1st Lt.)
2nd Lieutenant (2nd Lt.)
Chief Warrant Officer (CWO)
Warrant Officer (WO)
Master Sergeant (M/Sgt.)
1st Sergeant (1st Sgt.)
Technical Sergeant (T/Sgt.)
Staff Sergeant (SSgt.)
Sergeant (Sgt.)
Corporal (Corp.)
Private First Class (PFC)
Private (Pvt.)
Navy/Coast Guard
Fleet Admiral (F. Adm.)
Admiral (Adm.)
Vice Admiral (V. Adm.)
Rear Admiral (R. Adm.)
Rear Admiral (lower half) (R. Adm.)
Captain (Capt.)
Commander (Cmdr.)
Lieutenant Commander (Lt. Cmdr.)
Lieutenant (Lt.)
Lieutenant junior grade (Lt. (jg))
Ensign (En.)
Chief Warrant Officer (CWO)
Warrant Officer (WO)
Chief Petty Officer (CPO)
Chief Petty Officer (acting) (CPO)
Petty Officer 1st Class (PO1)
Petty Officer 2nd Class (PO2)
Petty Officer 3rd Class (PO3)
Seaman 1st Class (S1)
Seaman 2nd Class (S2)
Seaman 3rd Class (S3) 13
The Army also had three ‘technician’ ranks during WWII. These were Technician 3rd
Class, Technician 4th Class, and Technician 5th Class. These corresponded with the E-5, E-4, and
E-3 ranks, respectively. Technicians were technical specialist NCOs that were not considered
qualified to lead men in combat. The technician was addressed as the equivalent non-technician
rank. For example, a Technician 5th Class (an E-3) would have been addressed as ‘corporal.’ 14
In the Navy and Coast Guard, enlisted ranks were a little different. Most enlisted men
started out as ‘seamen,’ who were considered unskilled. Once a seaman had some experience,
they could apprentice under an NCO to learn a particular skill, a tradition practiced since the
days of wooden sailing ships. Other seamen were sent to a technical school after basic training to
learn a technical trade without spending years as a seaman. There were a variety of technical
13
WWII ranks, Mollo, 308.
14
NCOs, War Department, Soldier’s Handbook, 2.
19
ratings which a sailor could learn. When learning a particular rating, the sailor was said to be
‘striking’ for that rating. Once the officers decided that the sailor knew his particular trade well
enough, he could be promoted to petty officer, the NCO class of the Navy. Petty officers and
chief petty officers were collectively known as ‘ratings’ because they were ‘rated’ in a technical
trade. Sailors used a shorthand of their rating and rank, rather than listing just their rank. For
example, an MM1 was a Machinist’s Mate, 1st Class, a petty officer 1st class with the ‘machinist’
rating. For a list of the bewildering number of ratings and codes, try this link:
http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq78-2.htm 15
Not surprisingly, the higher a person’s rank, the more money they were paid. Enlisted
pay ranged from $50 to $138 a month. Officers made between $150 and $850 per month. Air
crew and personnel with ‘extremely hazardous’ jobs like submarine crews for example, got a
50% bonus per month. Paratroopers got an extra $50 in jump pay. Military men and women also
earned a 5% bonus for every three years of service. 16
During World War I, the Army created a system for commander’s staff still used today.
They divided the staff into five different areas. Each staff section had an officer (a ‘staff officer’
– usually a captain or a major) and a number of enlisted men to do his bidding. Staff officers
were often known by their role on the staff. For example, a G-2 was an intelligence officer and
an S-3 was an operations officer. ‘G’ designations were used at divisional level and above. ‘S’
designations were used at regiment and battalion level. Units below battalion level did not have
staff officers. Regimental and battalion staffs did not have public affairs officers. 17
Designation
S-1 / G-1
S-2 / G-2
S-3 / G-3
S-4 / G-4
G-5
Section
Administration
Intelligence
Operations
Supply
Public Affairs
Job
Handled administrative tasks and personnel.
Gathered and distributed military information.
Planned operations and briefed officers.
Tracked and distributed the unit’s supplies as needed.
Handled the unit’s publicity.
15
Naval rank system, Thomas C. Hone and Trent Hone. Battle Line, The United States Navy, 1919-1939. Annapolis:
Naval Institute Press, 2006.
16
Pay, “World War II U.S. Navy Ratings & Pay Grades.” Valor at Sea: The Submarine War in the Pacific, 19411945. Accessed December 21, 2011. http://www.valoratsea.com/paygrade.htm and “World War II U.S. Navy
Officer Information.” Valor at Sea: The Submarine War in the Pacific, 1941-1945. Accessed December 21, 2011.
http://www.valoratsea.com/officer.htm. Pay figures are based on U.S. Navy 1943 grades.
17
Army staff system, John B. Wilson. Maneuver and Firepower: The Evolution of Divisions and Separate Brigades
. Washington: Center of Military History, 1998, 52-55.
20
The Draft, Induction, and Training
Most men did not volunteer to serve in the military during World War II – they were
drafted. Officers tended to be volunteers and enlisted men and NCOs tended to be draftees. The
Selective Service Act (the draft) was enacted in September 1940, over a year before Pearl Harbor
was bombed. Regardless of if they were drafted or volunteered, the men and women who joined
were in the military for the duration of the war (they did not get to leave after three years, like in
peacetime). Over 16.5 million Americans served in the military during WWII. The Army Ground
Forces were the largest of the military branches, with about 7.5 million soldiers. 18
When a man or woman joined the military – by whatever method – they were given a
very short medical examination during which a doctor tried to ensure that they were fit for
military service. After they passed the medical exam, the new soldier or sailor was ‘sworn in’ by
an officer – the new military man took a loyalty oath:
Enlisted man’s oath: I, (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) to bear true faith
and allegiance to the United States of America, and to serve them honestly and
faithfully against all their enemies or opposers whomsoever, and to observe and
obey the orders of the president of the United States of America, and the orders of
the officers appointed over me, according to the articles of war.
Officer’s oath: I, (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and
defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and
domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this
obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I
will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about
to enter. So help me God. 19
Once the soldier was sworn in, he or she took the Army General Classification Test
(AGCT) or Navy General Classification Test (NGCT), as applicable. Unlike other militaries of
the time, the U.S. military tried to use scientific principles to match soldiers and sailors to the job
best-suited to their abilities. During WWI the Army created a test called the ‘Alpha,’ which was
used to determine the best job for the huge numbers of men entering the service during the war.
In 1926, the Army Alpha was modified to create the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). The
18
Selective Service Act, Ellis, 11; and statistics, Ellis, 376-377.
19
Loyalty oaths, Lt. Col. Kenneth Keskel. “A Historical Guide to Moral Leadership.” Air & Space Power Journal
(Winter 2002). Accessed November 3, 2011.
http://www.airpower.au.af.mil/airchronicles/apj/apj02/win02/keskel.html.
21
AGCT and NGCT of WWII were direct descendents of the Army Alpha and the SAT. The tests
consisted of 150 multiple choice questions which the new soldiers or sailors had forty minutes to
complete. The test had math, synonym matching, and pattern analysis questions, with an
emphasis placed on reasoning and computation skills. The men were placed into categories,
depending on their score. Category I was the best and Category V was the worst. Soldiers who
were graded as Category I or Category II usually found their way into more technical branches of
the military, like the Army Air Forces or the Corps of Engineers. They were also qualified to
apply for Officer Candidate School (OCS) to become a commissioned officer. Category III or
Category IV soldiers usually ended up in the combat branches like the infantry – the most
dangerous place to be. The Army changed its stance in 1943 and began to assign more promising
soldiers to combat duty, to improve the quality of the Army’s fighting men. Here is the
distribution of test scores for soldiers who took the AGCT from March 1941 to December 1942:
Category
I
II
III
IV
V
Total
Score Range
130-150
110-129
90-109
70-89
69 and below
Number of men
275,206
1,169,591
1,381,466
1,174,543
568,615
4,569,421
Percentage
6.0%
25.6%
30.2%
25.7%
12.5%
100% 20
Job Qualification
Any job
Any job
Non-technical jobs
Service or labor jobs
Labor jobs
During the Civil War, about 90% of soldiers served as fighting men in an infantry,
cavalry, or artillery unit. In the decades after the Civil War, armies became more and more
industrialized. Trucks replaced horses. Telephones and radios replaced handwritten messages.
Rapid fire automatic weapons required mountains of ammunition to keep them firing. These
trends led to a huge growth in the number of soldiers employed in support activities behind the
front lines. In World War II, for every combat soldier on the front lines, there were three soldiers
supporting him in non-combat roles (today it is about 1:7). For example, an artillery battery
could fire hundreds of shells in just a few minutes. Not only did they need soldiers to crew the
weapons, but they also needed men to unload ammunition from supply ships and more men to
load the ammunition onto trucks. They needed men to drive the trucks and men to repair the
trucks. They needed military police to direct traffic so that the trucks could get to the battery.
They also needed clerks to keep track of ammunition requirements and supply troops to feed and
clothe these support troops. These non-combat jobs could still be dangerous, but it was the
combat soldiers who did the overwhelming share of the fighting and dying during the war. 21
20
Induction, Ellis, 10-11; AGCT, McManus, 9-12; and AGCT scores, Ulysses Lee. The Employment of Negro
Troops. Washington: Center of Military History, 2000, 245.
21
Shift to only 25% as combat soldiers, McManus, 3-4.
22
Another change from Civil War days was that the Army expected each soldier to be able
to make tactical decisions and show initiative on the battlefield. In other words, soldiers needed
to be ‘smarter’ than ever before in history. In the Civil War, the lowest ranking soldier who was
expected to be able to make tactical decisions was the colonel commanding a regiment of up to
1,000 men. This was because the firepower and range of 1860s weapons was low, allowing
soldiers to mass in large groups easily controlled by a single officer. By World War I, weapons
technology had developed to the point that massed formations of men were no longer possible.
Against rapid fire, long range weapons soldiers had to spread out to survive (a WWII-era
German MG-42 machinegun, for example, could fire twenty bullets a second at a target 800
yards away). By spreading out, soldiers became impossible to control by a single man. Instead,
soldiers worked together in small groups. Sergeants and corporals were expected to be able to
operate independently to motivate their men and to lead them in battle. Effectiveness of the
leadership shown by NCOs and junior officers has been the key to victory since World War I. 22
Soldiers listen dubiously as their general explains his plan for an upcoming training exercise
Army Signal Corps Photo number 111-SC-314520. Courtesy National Archives
Each soldier in the Army, regardless of job, received three months of basic training at an
Army base in the United States. The training taught the soldier the basics of military life and
discipline, taught him to fire various types of infantry weapons, and provided physical
conditioning. The training focused on transforming a soldier from an individual into a part of the
military team. Soldiers were taught to obey orders and not to question authority. They were
taught that the best soldier obeyed his superiors, was a good team player, and was loyal,
determined, and alert. After three months of basic training, the soldier was either assigned to a
22
Civil War combat, Brent Nosworthy. The Bloody Crucible of Courage: Fighting Methods and Combat Experience
of the American Civil War. London: Constable, 2005; WWI combat, Paddy Griffith. Battle Tactics of the Western
Front: The British Army’s Art of Attack, 1916-18. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994; and importance of
leadership, S. L. A. Marshall. Men Against Fire: The Problem of Battle Command. Norman: University of
Oklahoma Press, 2000.
23
particular unit or assigned to a replacement depot, or ‘repple depple,’ as the soldiers called them.
A soldier assigned to a unit could expect an average of nine more months of training before his
unit went into combat. Men assigned to a replacement depot were not so lucky – did not get any
more training and had to endure the uncertainty of not knowing when, where, or to which unit
they would be assigned. Many soldiers assigned to a replacement depot began to feel more like
refugees than soldiers. Men training to become officers went through a course of instruction at an
Officer Candidate School (OCS) in the United States. At OCS, men learned the basics of
leadership and studied tactics. The training period was only three months long, leading to
soldiers derisively calling new officers ‘90 day wonders.’ 23
Army Aviation Cadets went through a preflight program which was similar to the AGF’s
basic training, but with more emphasis on academic subjects like aeronautical engineering,
weather patterns, and physics. Then the pilot hopeful progressed through several stages of flight
training – first primary training, then basic and advanced courses. The standards were high and
about 40% of students failed to qualify and were sent to the Army Ground Forces. Even so, the
Army trained 193,440 pilots between 1939 and 1945. 24
In the Navy and Coast Guard, men were either sent to a technical school at a naval base
in the United States or were sent to a ship or base as a seaman, depending on how well they
scored on the Navy General Classification Test. About 32% of sailors were sent for technical
training. Seaman who did not attend technical school could rise to the rank of petty officer by
learning a trade through apprenticeship. The Navy rose from a strength of 325,095 men on
December 7, 1941 to a force of about three million men by 1944. 25
Units which went into combat in Europe tended to stay in the front line until the war
ended in May, 1945. The worst fighting in Europe occurred between Germany and the Soviet
Union on the Eastern Front. By D-Day, millions of Soviet soldiers had been killed in the fighting
and Stalin was demanding more help from the United States and Great Britain. American leaders
promised to put as much pressure on the Germans as possible, to draw German troops away from
the Eastern Front. As a consequence of this decision, American troops were left on the front lines
day after day. Casualties were heavy and units needed to bring in replacements on a regular basis
to maintain their fighting strength. Sometimes replacements did not even have time to learn the
names of their comrades before getting killed or wounded in a battle. 26
23
Training, Ellis, 11-20; qualities of a good soldier, War Department, Soldier’s Handbook, iv; and replacement
system, McManus, 306-320.
24
AAF pilot training, Rebecca Hancock Cameron. Training to Fly: Military Flight Training, 1907-1945.
Washington: Air Force History and Museums Program, 1999, 338-420; and statistics, Cameron, 338.
25
Naval training, King, 22-23; and statistics, King, 20 and 151.
26
Units left in battle, McManus, 56-93; and replacements, McManus, 306-320.
24
The Things They Carried
The sort of equipment military men and women used in Normandy varied according to
their job. Infantrymen carried a lot of heavy equipment with them. Others often got by with less:
a helmet, a notebook, a canteen of water, and perhaps a pistol in a holster. Here is the equipment
which the 101st Airborne Division directed their glider infantrymen to carry into Normandy. The
list will give you an idea of the sorts of things your soldier carried, depending on his job: 27
No.
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
Item
Helmet, Steel
Gas Mask, Service
Haversack
Meat Can
Knife
Spoon
Raincoat
Underwear (Extra)
Socks, Pr. (Extra)
Handkerchief (Extra)
Toilet Articles with Towel
Canteen, filled – Cup, Cover
Packet, First Aid 28
No.
1
2
2
1
1
1
1
112
32
1
Item
Pouch, First Aid
Identification Tags
Capsules, Calcium Hypochlorite
Ration Class “C”
Belt, Rifle
Rifle, Cal. 30 M1
Pick mattock, entrenching w/ carrier
or shovel, entrenching w/ carrier
Rds. Armor Piercing Rifle Cal. 30 M1
Rds. Tracer Cal. 30 M1
Bayonet w/scabbard
The soldiers which fought on D-Day carried almost one hundred pounds of equipment on
them. Veteran soldiers learned to keep only the equipment that was necessary and were usually
able to cut the weight of their equipment in half. Soldiers threw away the knife and fork from
their mess kits to save weight. Quartermaster troops followed infantry units marching to the front
line, gathering and redistributing the gas masks the soldiers threw away during the march, only
to have them discarded again. Browning Automatic Rifle gunners removed the bipod from their
weapon, saving two pounds of weight. Soldiers economized wherever possible, to lessen their
loads. Army cartoonist Bill Mauldin joked that soldiers even threw the joker out of their deck of
cards. 29
27
Equipment, McManus, 16-55.
28
List of glider infantryman gear, Headquarters, 101st Airborne Division. “Tactical Employment of the Glider
Infantry Squad.” Undated. Record Group 407. National Archives, College Park, MD, 3. The calcium hypochlorite
capsules were used to purify water.
29
Equipment loads, Stephen Bull. World War II Infantry Tactics: Squad and Platoon. Oxford, UK: Osprey
Publishing, 2004, 8-9; and Mauldin, Bill Mauldin. Willie and Joe: The WWII Years. Seattle: Fantagraphics Books,
2011, 460.
25
Combat in Normandy
Normandy is known as a farming region, and much of the terrain consists of farm fields
bordered by hedgerows, interrupted by the occasional small town or hamlet. The largest towns in
the American sector of Normandy were Carentan and St. Lo. Cherbourg was the largest city and
contained a port, making it a major American objective during the campaign. The hedgerow
country, which the French call bocage, formed a major obstacle to the American attack. Bocage
consisted of a six-to-eight foot tall embankment of packed soil, roots, and stones, topped by
hedges and trees. The hedges were thick and had thorns. Both sides used the bocage for
protection. The soldiers could use a shovel to dig a hole into the embankment which would
protect them from bullets and shells. By looking through a small hole on the other side, they
could see an attacker approaching through the field, but they were almost invisible to the
attacker. The twentieth century battlefield was often called ‘the empty battlefield.’ Soldiers
rarely saw live enemy soldiers and generally fired at likely enemy hiding places. 30
Map of a section of bocage made by men of the 47th Infantry Regiment. Numbering each field
helped soldiers identify their location and get air or artillery support.
Record Group 407. Courtesy of National Archives.
30
Norman terrain, Balkoski, 148-163; bocage, War Department, “Fighting in Normandy.” Combat Lessons, No. 4,
1944. Accessed October 6, 2011. http://www.lonesentry.com/normandy_lessons/index.html; and WWII as the
empty battlefield, John Keegan, The Face of Battle. Penguin Books, 1976, 259-268.
26
American and German soldiers faced off against each other across the fields. Often,
American soldiers would be behind a hedgerow on one end of a field, with German soldiers
across the field behind another hedgerow. This line of American and German soldiers was called
the front line, often called ‘the front’ by soldiers and war correspondents. This was where most
of the fighting occurred and was the most dangerous place to be. Behind the front lines was the
rear area, or ‘the rear.’ While combat soldiers lived in holes in the ground along the front line,
soldiers in support units lived in the rear area, generally in tents. This area could also be
dangerous, since it could be reached by German artillery fire and bombers. 31
Soldiers along a narrow lane bordered by bocage.
Army Signal Corps Photo 111-SC-192305-S. Courtesy National Archives.
Military commanders did not deploy all of their combat units in the front line. Usually
1/3 of a unit was kept just behind the front line ‘in reserve.’ Having a reserve allowed a
commander to react to unexpected circumstances, to maximize successful offensives and
minimize defeats. A commander could use his reserve both offensively and defensively. If an
attack broke through German lines, the commander could deploy his reserve to that area to
continue to pressure the Germans and gain more ground. On the defensive, a commander could
use his reserve to seal off areas where the enemy had successfully attacked. Having a line of
31
Physical setting, Keegan, 207-212; and conditions at the front, Ellis, 52-116.
27
reserve units behind the front line was called a ‘defense in depth.’ It was a technique developed
during WWI and is still used today. 32
Tanks were powerful weapons during WWII, but they were particularly vulnerable in
Normandy. They could not drive through the bocage, but had to drive over the embankment,
which exposed the tank’s thin belly armor to German anti-tank weapons. The tanks were often
limited to driving down roads or other predictable routes where the Germans could put anti-tank
teams with cannons or rocket launchers. These teams were difficult for the tanks to spot until it
was too late. Infantry had difficulty attacking through the bocage country without the firepower
provided by the tanks. 33
The Army learned to use tanks, infantry, artillery, and airplanes together as part of a
‘combined arms team.’ Just like a great sports team or band, the Army was most effective when
its players worked together. American artillery bombarded German positions before the ground
troops attacked to stop the Germans from shooting at the American troops. The infantry and
tanks worked together to capture the German positions. Infantry soldiers helped tank crews find
anti-tank teams before they could destroy the tanks, and tanks helped the infantry eliminate
German soldiers with machineguns which could hold up the infantry attack. Soldiers on the
ground also had a radio link to American fighter planes circling over the battlefield. Armed with
bombs and rockets, the airplanes could provide concentrated firepower on any German troops or
tanks which were giving the ground troops trouble. 34
None of the soldiers got much sleep. Combat soldiers got an average of three hours of
sleep a night. Support troops did not get much more. To make matters worse, the soldiers were
frightened twenty-four hours a day, for death could strike at any moment without warning, even
in the rear area. What kept them going – while they still could – was a mixture of peer pressure
and compassion for their comrades. The combat soldier existed from day to day in the hope that
he could help keep his friends alive long enough for them to get home and maybe, if he was very
lucky, to get home himself. 35
Lord Charles Moran, a surgeon in the British Army in World War I, likened courage to a
bank account. Every day there were credits and debits to a person’s account of courage. Mostly
they were debits and every soldier’s account must run out eventually. Because of this, soldiers
were did not value gaudy displays of valor as much as tenacity – the attribute the person they
32
Reserves and defense in depth, War Department, Infantry Battalion, FM 7-20. 1 October 1944. Washington:
Government Printing Office, 1944, 132-134 and 226-230.
33
Tanks in Normandy, Belton Y. Cooper. Death Traps: The Survival of an American Armored Division in World
War II. New York: Ballantine Books, 1998, 15-95.
34
Combined arms tactics, War Department. “Tank-Infantry Teamwork.” Combat Lessons No. 9, 1945. Accessed
October 6, 2011. http://www.lonesentry.com/combatlessons/index.html, and Doubler, 63-86.
35
Fear and lack of sleep, McManus, 269 and 293-298; also peer pressure and compassion, Keegan, 219-228.
28
most admired was the soldier who was determined to do his job and see things through to the
end. When the account of courage did run out, soldiers were evacuated as psychological
casualties or became victims of a self-inflicted wound. A postwar study of American combat
soldiers conducted by two Army psychiatrists revealed that after sixty days of continuous
combat, 98% of soldiers showed some form of mental illness. 36
Advancing in the face of modern firepower against troops in defensive positions was a
harrowing ordeal and combat units paid in casualties for each foot of ground captured. Infantry
units fighting in Normandy lost 60% of their 2nd lieutenants each week throughout the
Normandy campaign. The life expectancy of an infantryman in World War II was actually lower
than it was in World War I, despite that war’s reputation for slaughter. Under these conditions,
most soldiers felt that being injured or killed was inevitable. They prayed for a ‘million dollar
wound’ – a wound that would not permanently disable them, but would make them unfit for
further combat duty. Many soldiers became fatalistic and lost hope of ever seeing home again.
Edward McCrystal wrote a letter to his parents shortly before his death:
“When you begin to face the very basic things in life, you don’t mind speaking
your heart. I want to thank you for all those thousands and thousands of little
things which really make up life – when you, Dad, used to wait for us in the
morning to take us to school…and wait again after school; and when you, Mom,
would sit up at night until all of us were in bed. Though I would never be capable
of full payment, I was hoping to do something for you some day. I had hoped to
do it at home, but God has other plans. I want you to know that I’ll be praying and
waiting for you. Please don’t have any regrets. God bless you and goodbye for
now.” 37
Memorial plate showing soldiers coming ashore on D-Day
National WWII Memorial. Author’s Collection.
36
Lord Moran’s ideas, Lord Moran. The Anatomy of Courage: The Classic WW1 Account of the Psychological
Effects of War. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2007; and postwar psychological study, R. L. Swank and W.
E. Marchand. Combat Neuroses: The Development of Combat Exhaustion. March, 1946. Archives of Neurology and
Psychiatry.
37
Casualties, Doubler, 237-238; combat soldier attitudes, Ellis, 314-352; and “when you begin,” Edward McCrystal,
quoted in McManus, 183.
29
Military Phonetic Alphabet
During World War II, the military used a phonetic alphabet, to avoid confusion between different
letters with similar sounds or appearances. You will likely run across this alphabet when
researching your soldier. In particular, the alphabet was often used to designate companies or
batteries which used letter designations. For example, soldiers would have referred to D
Company as Dog Company. The military still uses a phonetic alphabet today, although it is
different from this version. 38
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
N
O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
V
W
X
Y
Z
Able
Baker
Charlie
Dog
Easy
Fox
George
How
Item
Jig
King
Love
Mike
Nan
Oboe
Peter
Queen
Roger
Sugar
Tare
Uncle
Victor
William
X-Ray
Yoke
Zebra
38
Lone Sentry: Photographs, Research, and Documents on World War II. “WWII Phonetic Alphabet.” Accessed
October 10, 2011. http://www.lonesentry.com/panzer/wwii-phonetic-alphabet-radio.html
30
Glossary of Terms
Air Command: An aviation organization of several air wings; around 300-500 airplanes
Air Division: Aviation organization with several bombardment wings; around 300-500 airplanes
Air Force: An aviation organization with several air divisions or commands; 1,000+ airplanes
Air Group: Aviation organization with three squadrons (36-80 planes)
Air Wing: An aviation organization of three air groups; about 100 airplanes
Army: An organization of several corps; can also refer to the United States Army as a whole
Army Air Forces (AAF): The aviation part of the United States Army
Army General Classification Test (AGCT): Standardized test to determine job aptitude
Army Group: An organization with several armies (500,000+ men)
Army Ground Forces (AGF): The ground fighting part of the United States Army
Army Service Forces (ASF): The support part of the United States Army
Army of the United States (AUS): Temporary category for units created during the war
Attached: Units temporarily loaned to another organization
Battalion: An organization with three companies (500-700 men)
Bocage: Thick hedgerow country of Normandy
Brigade: A specialist organization of 4-6 battalions (6,000+ men)
Casualty: A soldier who has been killed, wounded, captured, or is missing
Chief of Naval Operations (CNO): Highest ranking naval officer in the United States
Combat soldier: A soldier whose job is to fight
Combined arms team: Infantry, tanks, artillery, and airplanes working together
Commanding Officer (CO): The officer in command of a particular military unit
Company: An organization of three platoons (200 men)
Conscript: A soldier who has been drafted
Corps: An organization with several divisions (30,000-50,000 men)
31
Defense in depth: Maintaining a line of reserve units behind the front line
Division: An organization of three regiments (14,000 men)
Draft: Slang term for the Selective Service System
Element: An aviation organization of two airplanes
Enlisted man: Lowest ranking people in the military who perform non-technical jobs
Executive Officer (XO): The officer second-in-command of a particular military unit
Fleet: Very large naval organization with hundreds of ships
Flight: An aviation organization of four airplanes
Flotilla: Naval organization of about 24-36 landing craft or other small vessels
Force: Naval organization consisting of as many as six hundred vessels
Foxhole: A six foot deep hole big enough to protect two or three soldiers
Front line: The first line of defense where most fighting occurs
Induction: The process of bringing civilians into the military
Officer: Man or woman hired by the President to manage the activities of enlisted men
Organic: An organization which ‘belongs’ to a particular unit
National Guard: Soldiers raised by the individual states called up for service with the U.S. Army
Navy General Classification Test (NGCT): Standardized test to determine job aptitude
Non-commissioned officer: Senior enlisted man who supervised the activities of enlisted soldiers
Platoon: An organization of three squads (40 men)
Rating: Naval enlisted man skilled in a technical job; a naval Petty Officer or Chief Petty Officer
Rear area: The area behind the front line
Regiment: An organization of three battalions (2,000-3,000 men)
Regular Army: The professional soldiers of the United States Army, including reservists
Replacement Depot: Temporary home of replacement soldiers before being assigned to a unit
Reserve: Units held in the rear area behind the front line, ready to react to unexpected events
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Selective Service System: The system used to select conscripts for the military
Squad: An organization of twelve infantry soldiers or a cannon crew
Squadron: An organization of three or four flights of airplanes (12-25)
Staff officer: A specialist officer who performs planning duties for military operations
Training: Activities to prepare men and women to perform their military duties
Trench: A linear hole in the ground six feet deep, dug to connect a squad’s foxholes together
Triangular organization: A unit with three units at each level of organization
Warrant Officer: Probationary middle rank for enlisted men learning to become officers.
Skidloads and Conveyers, David Lax, 1944
Courtesy Center of Military History Art Collection.
33
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Normandy Sabbath, Lawrence Beall-Smith, 1944
Courtesy Center of Military History Art Collection.
36