The Organization and Role of the Army Service Forces

The Organization and Role of the Army Service Forces

The Organization and Role of the Army Service Forces

The Organization and Role of the Army Service Forces

Excerpt

On 9 March 1942 the Army Service Forces (ASF), the Army Ground Forces (AGF), and the Army Air Forces (AAF) came into being as the three major commands within the United States to do the work of the War Department. The Army Service Forces was a unique organization, although it was in part modeled after the Services of Supply (SOS) that had been set up in France as a separate command within the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) of Gen. John J. Pershing. There was no exact counterpart to it within the United States during World War I. When General Pershing became Chief of Staff of the Army in 1921 and reconstructed the War Department General Staff (WDGS), he did not provide for a Services of Supply. It was not until two months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that Gen. George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff, and Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson decided on a new organization for the War Department and the Army.

Without direct precedent, the Army Service Forces was unusual likewise in the variety of tasks entrusted to it. In truth, it was a hodgepodge of agencies with many and varied functions. From 9 March 1942 until its official termination in 1946 the ASF struggled constantly to build a common unity of purpose and organization.

The Army Service Forces took over certain basic tasks which had to be performed for the support of military operations. It was a procurement and supply agency for the Army both in the United States and abroad, and during both combat and training operations. This was its central purpose. But there were other tasks as well, many tasks that had to be done to keep a gigantic army in existence and effective in combat. Some of this work involved the handling of men--induction, classification, assignment, maintenance of central personnel records, and eventually separation. In addition there was a worldwide communications service to provide, ports, and land and sea carriers to operate. There were hospitals to be built, staffed, and operated to care for the sick and for both training and combat casualties. There were individual soldiers of service troops to be given technical training, and service units to be organized and trained. There were morale and recreational services to devise and make effective. There were such tasks as military justice to supervise, military prisons to run, military textbooks to print and distribute, and depend-

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