Posts Tagged ‘wwii today’

Mar 14

WWII Points – Adjusted Service Rating Score (ASRS)

World War 2 “Points” the Adjusted Service Rating Score or ASRS, the system for calculating the eligibility of when a U.S. Soldier was allowed to

In early as mid-1943, as troops were being shipped all over the world, it was becoming obvious that bringing all the Soldiers, Sailors and Marins back home after the war was going to be a huge logistic challenge. The U.S. military about 12 million strong in 1945, with approximately 3 million Service men an women in Europe.

On May 10, 1945, two days after Germany’s surrender, the War Department announced a point system to decide who gets to go home first. In this system, every service member received 1 point for every month in service and an additional 1 point for every months of service spent overseas. Awards, namely the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Silver Star Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Soldier’s Medal, the Bronze Star Medal, the Air Medal and the Purple Heart, were worth 5 points each. The Combat Infantryman Badge was not worth anything, leading to much grumbling among the troops.

Campaign participation credits were also worth 5 points each. American participation in the war was divided into 16 separate campaigns, but even the most battle-hardened units only participated in up to nine of these. Finally, each dependent child under 18 years of age was worth an additional 12 points. Moreover, men with three or more minor children could go home regardless of their score. It should be noted that age, marital status and dependents above 18 were not factored into calculating the score.

Initially, service members needed 85 points to go home. Once this was reached, further points did not count towards even higher priority: someone with, say, 105 points was not guaranteed to go home before one with only 85. Another cause for complaint was that the system didn’t reflect the nature of service: a month spent in the rear was worth just as much as a month on the front lines. Initially, officers were not subject the point system: they would go home or continue to serve based on their efficiency and special qualifications.

Units in Europe were placed in four categories. Category I units, consisting of men with low scores were designated as occupational forces and would stay quite a while. Category II units still had a ways to go and were either to redeploy to the Pacific, directly or via the U.S., or return to the States and stay in strategic reserve. Category III units were to be reorganized and then placed in Category I or II. Finally, Category IV units were those with 85 or more points, waiting to be sent home and demobilized.

One practical problem with the system was the categories were designed for units, while the score applied to individual soldiers. As a result, soldiers had to be shuffled around en masse to place all high-scoring soldiers in Category IV units and low-scoring ones to others.

Once demobilization started in earnest, it actually progressed quicker than anticipated thanks to the efforts of Operation Magic Carpet. As a result, the score needed to go home was revised and lowered several times, with different limits established for different types of personnel. In May 1945, for example, limits just within the Medical Corps varied from 88 for administrative personnel to 62 for hygienists and dietitians.

By September 1945, demobilization was proceeding at such a pace that units still in Europe were re-designated according to a new system: Occupation Forces who would stay, Redeployment Forces who would go home and Liquidation Forces, whose soldiers had credits of about 60-79 and had the job of closing down former frontline facilities such as ammunition dumps and field hospitals before getting demobilized.

In December, 1945, an overhaul of the system incorporated the length of service. An officer, for example, could go home with 70 points, but only if he had served for at least four years. In contrast, enlisted women could go home with as little as 32 points and no minimum service time.

By early 1946, the rapid pace of demobilization was causing a manpower shortage in occupation troops in Europe and Japan. Consequently, the War Department slowed the process down. This sparked a slate of protests worldwide. On January 6, 1946, 20,000 soldiers marched on their headquarters in Manila in the Philippines after a ship home was canceled at Christmas. Protests with tens of thousands of participants started in Germany, Austria, France, the United States, India and various Asian locations. A few service members were arrested but Eisenhower suggested they should not be penalized. Demobilization was sped up again and measures were introduced to make overseas service more palatable: training was made shorter, soldiers’ families were able to move to his place of service free of charge and European occupation troops were offered 17-day tours of Europe for a nominal price.

Take a look at these other WW2 Posts:WW2 Camel Cigarette Advertisement WW2 Today: October 14 The Other D-Days

Mar 05

The M4 Sherman Tank – From World War 2 to Present Day

Approximately  50,000 Sherman’s were produced, the M4 Sherman is one of the most iconic WW2 tanks, and of  all military history. The design stemmed from a need to fit a 75mm dual purpose cannon, capable of engaging both other tanks and dug-in infantry, inside a fully traversing turret. Its predecessor, the M3 Lee, had a cannon of the same caliber in a sponson (limited traverse), restricting its ability to engage the enemy.

The M4 Sherman was not the best tank of the war but a balance between speed and armor. The ease of manufacture, transport on train and ease of shipping overseas in large numbers, as well as large production numbers were the advantages of the Sherman. Although an American tank, the first Shermans to see combat actual did so with the British army in North Africa.  At the time, its armor and armament were suitable against the German Panzer IIIs and early Panzer IVs it came up against and its mechanical reliability proved to be outstanding.

The M4 Sherman was a balance of  strength and weakness. At close to 10ft tall, necessary to fit the suspension system and the engine, it was a large target for a medium tank. Its narrow tracks were liable to bog down in sand, mud and snow. In early models, the infantry weren’t able to communicate with the tank crew. In later variants of the M4 this was solved by installing a phone on the outside of the tank that was connected to the intercom system.

Early versions also earned a reputation for burning when getting hit, since much of the ammo was stored along the tank’s side inside. This problem earned the tank the nickname Ronson (after the popular cigarette lighter from the 40’s) and Tommy cooker among both Allied and German troops. This problem was solved by the addition of wet stowage: the rounds were moved elsewhere and surrounded by small containers of a liquid dousing agent, which when a long way in preventing fires.

By early 1944, the Sherman was getting a bit long in the tooth, with neither its gun nor its armor a match for late Panzer IVs, Panthers and Tigers. After D-Day, the thick hedgerows of Normandy offered the Germans plenty of cover and concealment  to ambush armor with anti-tank guns and the Panzerfaust. Tank crews started tacking on extra armor in the form of plates scavenged from destroyed vehicles, sand bags, concrete, spare track links and wood. The extra weight strained and overheated the engine and a study found the makeshift defenses didn’t provide enough extra protection. As a consequence, General Patton had the practice banned in the 3rd Army.

The M4A3E2 “Jumbo,”  was the upgrade that was fielded in the spring of ’44 to address the Sherman’s short commings. The Jumbo had additional armor plates welded on and was used to assault fortified enemy positions and to stay at the front of a formation and attract German fire. Arriving in Europe in the fall of 1944, it was considered a successful design, even though the extra weight could cause the front suspension to fail on rough terrain if the tank’s nose dipped down too sharply.

Close on the heals of the M4A3E2 “Jumbo”  the M4A3E8, the “Easy Eight,” was fielded. The “Easy Eight” had improved suspension and was equipped with a new hight velocity 76 mm gun,  giving  them much better penetrating power. The Easy Eight could finally penetrate the frontal armor of Panthers and Tigers from a reasonable range, but the same range still allowed the German heavy tanks to still take out the Easy Eights.

A British modification  of the Sherman enabling it to fight Panther’s and Tigers on a more even foot, was the Sherman “Firefly.” The British designers converted the turret to be able to house the superb but large Quick-Firing 17-pounder anti-tank gun. The flash from this gun alone was so strong that the gunner and the commander had to blink during firing to avoid getting blinded. Additionally, the flash would sometimes set vegetation in front of the tank on fire. The Firefly was a terror of German heavy tanks, but its long barrel made it conspicuous and a prime target for the enemy. Many tank crews put camouflage paint on the muzzle to make it look as shorter and appear as an old 75 mm.

The Sherman became the base for many modifications. Some were armed with a 105 mm howitzers, which was better at taking out defensive fortifications than the anti-tank  76 mm cannon. Such Shermans were often paired up with flamethrower versions in the Pacific and used to devastating effect against Japanese fortifications.

 

Other Sherman versions were used for D-Day. These included the Duplex Drive amphibious Sherman, which “wore” a canvas skirt that gave it buoyancy, and various bridge-layer, mine-clearer and other engineering-oriented variations, many of which the creation of Hobart’s Funnies.

Of the Sherman’s various rocket launcher-equipped versions, the one carrying the T34 Calliope is the most famous. Capable of firing 60 rockets in a very short span of time, it could saturate an area with explosions and shrapnel, while the screaming sound of the incoming barrage was often enough to send the enemy running.

The basic chassis of the Sherman was also used for a variety of tank destroyers and self-propelled guns. A fully modernized version, the M51 Super Sherman, even saw service with the Israeli army, where it acquitted itself well in the 1967 and 1973 wars.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts:WW2 Today: November 19 Points: How WW2 GI’s Came Home WW2 Jump Wings

Feb 26

The Other D-Days in WW2

Where does the name “D-Day” come from, and how D-Days were there?.

What is the actual meaning of the D in D-Day?.  A popular view in France is that it stands for disembarkation or debarkation, referring to the invading Allied troops disembarking from their landing craft. Another, more romantic, explanation is decision, deliverance or doom. None of these are the true meaning of “D-Day.”

In 1964 the former Supreme Allied Commander and President Eisenhower was asked what “D-Day” meant. President Eisenhower’s executive assistant Brigadier General Robert Schulz,  responded, writing  “General Eisenhower asked me to respond to your letter. Be advised that any amphibious operation has a ‘departed date;’ therefore the shortened term ‘D-Day’ is used.”

“Departed date” comes from a rather authoritative source but it still doesn’t paint a complete picture. Schulz’s statement might have reflected how the phrase was understood specifically during the planning of amphibious operations, however, the historical use doesn’t seem to fully support the claim.  It appears, the U.S. military first used the term D-Day on September 7, 1918, during the World War I, referring to a planned attack: “The First Army will attack at H hour on D day with the object of forcing the evacuation of the St. Mihiel Salient.” The attack on the German-held area protruding into French lines started on September 12 and was the first and only offensive of the war launched entirely by American troops. Catching the Germans mid-retreat and with their artillery out of position, the battle saw the First Army victorious, thanks in part to the exploits of then-Lieutenant Colonel George Patton.

A brief anecdote about this first D-Day is in order. During the battle, Patton happened to meet Brigadier General Douglas MacArthur, another officer who reached the apex of his fame in World War II, on a hilltop. While the two were talking, a German creeping artillery barrage started up, each barrage landing closer and closer to the hill. Both officers had a reputation for fearlessness and neither wanted to flinch in front of the other, so they ignored the approaching peril and carried on their chat until the barrage passed over them, leaving both men unharmed.

The battle, however, was not an amphibious attack, so Schulz’s post-World War II explanation is incorrect. The version accepted by the military today is that D simply stands for “day””and H for “hour.” While the phrases sound generic, their use, however, is pretty specific. Large, complex operations that take multiple days must be planned in great detail and comprise numerous dates and times for various actions and deadlines. If an operation starts early or late, as the Normandy invasion did due to bad weather, all of these times must be changed as well. Rather than setting every date and time in the traditional way and then possibly having to scramble to change it, the starting day and hour of the operation are simply designated D-Day and H-hour regardless of when exactly they would occur. All preceding and subsequent times are given relative to them. For example, D-3 means three days before and H+75 means 75 minutes after the operation commences. Numbers added to or subtracted from H-Hour could also represent hours. This way, last-minute changes in the schedule of the operation don’t force planners to rewrite every single document, nor others to use outdated texts with incorrect times.

The terms D-Day and H-hour saw use numerous times until the most famous example, Operation Overlord. The invasion of Normandy, however, was such a major effort that its very existence caused a decline in the use of the phrases elsewhere. With so much effort, supplies, transport capacity and personnel tied up in the landing in Western Europe, other major operations in the same year received different codes for their starting times to avoid confusion. Thus, the October 20, 1944 invasion of the Island of Leyte in the Philippines started on A-Day, while the first day of the landing on Okinawa, on April 1, 1945, was L-Day, for “landing.”

X-Day was planned to be the invasion of Japan on November 1, 1945, and Y-Day the invasion of Tokyo Plains on March 1, 1946 but these attacks never manifested due to the war ending. J-Day was used as a general term for the date of a specific assault in both world wars. Z-Day was the landing of Australian forces to liberate Brunei in North Borneo on June 10, 1945 and Q-Day was June 23, 1945 rehearsal for Trinity, the first atomic bomb test.

Check out these other WW2 Posts:Dead Man’s Corner – Normandy WW2 American Slang D-Day: June 6, 1944 The Sherman Tank