|Omaha Beach Shortly After D-Day|
Could Overlord Have Succeeded Without the Lessons
Learned by the AEF?
By Brigadier General John S.D. Eisenhower
With such a small interval between world wars, it is not surprising that the United States Army of 1940 should appear to be a continuum of the AEF of 1918. Pershing's AEF was the first modern Army the United States ever fielded, and the Army of the Second World War was less different from the AEF than the AEF was from the Army that preceded it. Anyone witnessing the mobilization of the draftee Army of 1941 could not help being struck by how much the future GIs of World War II resembled the doughboys of World War I. Soldiers being inducted into service as the result of the draft law of late 1940 were at first issued ill-fitting World War I uniforms, including musty "overseas caps" and even wrap leggings. They were armed with the model 1903 Springfield rifle, which was replaced only when production of the Garand M-1 got under way. Both the heavy machine gun and the light machine gun of the Second World War remained the 1917 Browning models, as did the Browning automatic rifle, which came into the hands of the Americans late in 1918. Bangalore torpedoes, trench mortars, and even rifle grenades changed little between 1918 and 1939.
Perhaps even more important in the development of a modern Army was Pershing's creation of a vast and elaborate supply system that was called Services of Supply in 1917-1918 and Communications Zone (Com-Z) in 1944-1945. This vast organization entailed building and operating large seaports, storage, delivery of all classes of supply to forward supply points utilizing railroads, trucks, and eventually (in the first war) even mules. The Services of Supply, like the Communications Zone of the European Theater in 1944, was organized into three sections (Base, Intermediate, and Advance), with a prescribed level of supply maintained in each. This structure was an innovation of unglamorous but innovative and hardworking staff officers and commanders under Pershing and his headquarters. Nothing so elaborate had existed in the Army before April of 1917.
The staff procedures followed in later years were also developed by Pershing and his staff during the early months of the AEF's existence. Credit for this must be given to Pershing himself, assisted by his chief of staff, James C. Harbord. Their staff organization encompassed the four staff sections-Personnel, Intelligence, Operations, and Supply--in use by the American Army to this day. It is noteworthy that this system was developed by the AEF, not the War Department.
|U.S. Artillery Firing at Varennes, Meuse-Argonne Offensive|
In many important ways, of course, the armies of the First and Second World Wars were different. The division was reorganized from the cumbersome "square division" of four infantry regiments to the "triangular," comprising three infantry regiments. More important, technical advances provided the one thing the generals on both sides had previously been seeking in vain: mobility on the battlefield. The airplane, the tank, the truck, and the efficient two-way radio are generally credited with breaking the stalemate that plagued the earlier conflict. All were in their infancy at the time of Pershing's AEF, but between wars, military aircraft would progress as rapidly as the civilian aircraft industry; the tanks and trucks that broke down more from mechanical difficulties than from enemy guns would grow in reliability, along with the American automobile industry. The walkie-talkie radios would replace carrier pigeons. But the seeds of this progress were planted with the AEF.
AN IMPORTANT LINK between the AEF and the American Army of the Second World War was the military education it gave to many men who served in both. Because of the short interval separating the two world wars-and with a career officer expected to serve about forty years in those days-many of the officers of the AEF returned to serve once more in 1941. Some had remained in uniform during the intervening years; others were recalled as reservists. It was generally assumed, in fact, that service with the AEF in 1918 was almost a prerequisite for responsible positions in the Second World War.
Examples abound of young officers who returned for the second war. Ladislav Janda, that incredibly optimistic twenty-one-year-old who attained command of a battalion at the end of the [Great] War, was called up for duty as a reservist in 1942. At the end of that conflict, Lieutenant Colonel Lud Janda had not reached his fiftieth year.
|Traffic Congestion at Esnes Behind the U.S Front Line |
in the Opening of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive
A more noted figure was that of Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., commanding officer of the 26th Infantry by the last days of the Meuse Argonne. In November of 1942 Roosevelt went overseas as a brigadier general with the 1st Division and later landed with the 4th Division on Utah Beach on D-Day, 1944.
Another young 1st Division officer, Lieutenant Clarence Huebner, of the 28th Infantry Regiment at Cantigny, came back to the 1st Division as its commander in 1944. He commanded the Big Red One when it landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day.
|Douglas MacArthur in the Field During the Meuse-Argonne|
|80th Division Column Advancing Through Buzancy, Late M-A|