The Tactical Operations Center
Replacement Operation in the ETO during World War Two

Reference: Leinbaugh, H.P. & Campbell, J.D. The Men of Company K. New York: Morrow, 1985.

Following the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, as American casualties mounted, the Army logistical system struggled to keep up with demand for replacement soldiers. The path for these men was a winding, confusing process, which took a long time for completion and a soldier finally arriving at his assigned unit.

As the National Service Act brought more men in the Army, these soldiers went through a period of basic training at one of many training camps and were then farmed out to either the Pacific or to Europe. Some soldiers remained in CONUS, but most went to the ETO.

Once a soldier arrived in theater, he was assigned to the replacement depot in the specific Army (1 st, 2d, 3d, etc.) rear area. His name was placed on an alphabetized roster, which was broken down by a clerk, who assigned men to their units. Generally, if a man’s last name began with A, B, or C, he was sent to the Corps which was suffering the most casualties and needed replacements desperately. Soldiers whose last name was at the end of the alphabet considered themselves lucky.

At the division or regimental level, the personnel clerk subdivided the replacement roster into groups and assigned these groups to specific companies. Usually, there was no consideration take of what a man had been trained for, or what his name was. All that mattered was that his assigned (Military Operational Specialty) MOS was 745: Infantry Rifleman. Sometimes, soldiers with other MOS were assigned to rifle companies anyway, in order to flesh out the ranks.

Most line companies were always understrength. Privates and corporals were squad leaders and platoon sergeants. Staff sergeants were platoon leaders and sometimes company commanders. The most common wounds causing casualties and thus depleted rosters were from shrapnel. Then came bullet wounds, including self-inflicted ones. Next were non-battle casualties: Frostbite, trenchfoot, exhaustion and mental breakdowns.

The replacement system for officers was not much different from that of the enlisted soldiers. The high casualty rate among company grade officers guaranteed a plethora of battlefield commissions to enlisted soldiers.

Soldiers in the front line companies knew that there was only one way they could escape the hell of combat. That way was to get ‘hit.’ Some soldiers prayed for the ‘million dollar wound.’ This was a wound that would only cause non-permanent damage, and would guarantee a trip out of the line and back to the States. Some men could not wait to get shot and did it to themselves. Such a self-inflicted wound almost always guaranteed a courts martial if the soldier survived.

Not until the end of the war could soldiers accumulate enough “points” that would make them eligible for rotation back to the States.


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