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  • Marsh Plan Adopted

    During the 1919 demobilization of the US Army the Cheif of Staff Lt Gen Peyton Marsh proposed a large and capable US Army. The object was to be able to field within a few months a subsantial expiditionary force of up to half a million men, and allow the mobilization and training of over one million in a year.

    Specifically a Regular standing army of 500,000 would be maintained. A large individual or unorganized Reserve would asorb those discharged and extra men trained for the reserve. (Number not given for the Reserve, but it would have a very high proportion of officers.) A National Guard of 435,000 would be fully equiped and constitute the ready reserve.

    Aside from keeping these forces fully equipped with modern weapons designed from the lessons learned in the Great War a substantial Research and Development program would be funded. Also appropriate subsidies would be made to US industry to encouage the retention and modernization of weapons manufactoring capacity on standby.

    Marsh's plan was not approved. A small plan proposed by Pershing was give lip service, but not funded. By the late 1920s the US Army, Army Reserve, and National Guards totaled less that 500,000 men training with a inadaquate quantity of prewar equipment.

    What if a US population & government had been willing to pay for the original Marsh plan? Even with the depredations of the Depression this makes it likely the US would be able to call upon over half a million trained and equipped men in 1939 and depend on another 500,000 Reservists. Able to provide a adaquate traning cadre out of the Reserves, Regulars, and NG another one million men could be trained within a year. Within that year industry would be able to bring up adaquate production of the current new weapons designs.

    Where does this capability place the US in the political calculations of the various powers?

    Would the simple possesion of this military force encourage the US to enter WWII earlier?

    If the US does not mobilize until the date it actually did (Fall & Winter 1940-41) how would the entry of the US into combat in December 1941 be changed?
    Last edited by Carl Schwamberg; 12 Sep 09, 15:25.

  • #2
    Would the simple possesion of this military force encourage the US to enter WWII earlier?
    On this point I think it's a two-edged sword. Like the present-day U.S. (after the end of the Cold War era) having a massive military with bases around the world gives the U.S. more power projection and defense by way of threatening retaliation/intervention, but its very presence causes resentment and reaction against cultural/political/economic influence. In some ways the U.S. would have been better off and safer if it had followed (at least in energy policy) Jimmy Carter and sought real energy independence from the late '70s on, rather then the misguided Reagan energy agenda (symbolized by his foolish removing of solar panels from the White House roof).

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    • #3
      My quick thoughts is the US would of still waited till it was attacked but the most important thing would of been the R and D stuff. Rather than the Soviets getting the Christie tank maybe the US does and what does that do for US and UK armor forces. Also would the US had better fighters at the start of the war. Would be interesting to see what kind of tank the US would of had at the start of WW2 in the this situation.

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      • #4
        Maintaining a large military would have brought industry and the military closer together (i.e. created the "military industrial complex") far earlier than historical.

        One aspect of this would have been industrial pressure to develop and manufacture new weapons. This would lead to political pressure to use them. US isolationism may instead have led to the US appointing itself the world's policeman, or perhaps ignited imperial feelings.

        Either way, this may have led to tensions with the British empire, although almost certainly no shooting. Maybe an incident?

        However, it would likely lead to direct US involvement in China against the Japanese. It's possible World War II would have started with a "limited war" on the Chinese mainland.

        With the US (and maybe the empire) focusing on the Pacific, Hilter's political gambles will still work. Everyone is even more desperate to keep the war from growing and repeating the carnage in Europe brought about during WWI. However Hitlers' strike at Poland will draw in the US immediately.

        During the 'Phoney War' US forces are building up in France. If Hilter strikes, it's game over for Germany, he may actually sue for peace or look for a negotiated settlement (Danzig and the corridor?).
        Amateurs study tactics, Professionals study logistics.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Roadkiller View Post
          Maintaining a large military would have brought industry and the military closer together (i.e. created the "military industrial complex") far earlier than historical.
          That can be seen from the 19th Century with all sorts of political lobbying to appropriate money for ships building programs. Every port city in the US wanted a Federal contract for its shipyard, or a 'Navy Yard' where a fleet would dock.

          Originally posted by Roadkiller View Post
          One aspect of this would have been industrial pressure to develop and manufacture new weapons. This would lead to political pressure to use them. US isolationism may instead have led to the US appointing itself the world's policeman, or perhaps ignited imperial feelings.
          I'd think this expanded military might be connected to US participation in the League of nations, or were that ineffective then coordinated action with France in Europe and Britain in the Pacific. In the early to mid 20th Century the US was not yet relatively strong enough to act or think in terms of 'the worlds policeman'.

          Originally posted by Roadkiller View Post
          O

          Either way, this may have led to tensions with the British empire, although almost certainly no shooting. Maybe an incident?
          The Washington Naval Treaty was a recognition of a lack of reason for conflict. Neither the US or Britain could come up with a worthwhile reason to compete in the naval realm. I supose if the US were dominated by some sort of Impreialistic of Facist party it might be different.

          Originally posted by Roadkiller View Post
          O
          However, it would likely lead to direct US involvement in China against the Japanese. It's possible World War II would have started with a "limited war" on the Chinese mainland.
          Thats more likely. The US & Japan had a degree of tension between them since T Roosevelts presidency ended.

          Originally posted by Roadkiller View Post
          O
          With the US (and maybe the empire) focusing on the Pacific, Hilter's political gambles will still work. Everyone is even more desperate to keep the war from growing and repeating the carnage in Europe brought about during WWI. However Hitlers' strike at Poland will draw in the US immediately.
          Not necessarily. A strong military does not preculde Isolationsits groups. That is Isolationsits were not automatically anti militarists. Indeed many Isolationist leaders were advocates of a strong US Navy and Army. They were opposed to arms sales and Lend Lease as they thought those interfered with US military expansion. Generally it was the socalist or leftist groups amoung the Isolationists who opposed military expansion.

          I suspect that if the US is so involved in European politics then France will be confident enough to deal with German resurgence in either 1924 or 1936. A lack of political support from its former Allies crippled Frances efforts to enforce the Versailles Treaty. Were the US so closely involved this might be different.

          Originally posted by Roadkiller View Post
          O
          During the 'Phoney War' US forces are building up in France. If Hilter strikes, it's game over for Germany, he may actually sue for peace or look for a negotiated settlement (Danzig and the corridor?).
          I thought to leave US entry into the war until 1941. In that case it is possible to have a couple combat ready corps stationed in the Phillipines with adaquate supply. What might the Japanese think of that, or think of the ability of the US to send a couple more combat ready armies to reinforce the Dutch & British.

          Across the Atlantic only the availability of transport would limit the ability to reinforce the British in Egypt, or execute Torch & Bolero type operations.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by craven View Post
            My quick thoughts is the US would of still waited till it was attacked but the most important thing would of been the R and D stuff. Rather than the Soviets getting the Christie tank maybe the US does and what does that do for US and UK armor forces. Also would the US had better fighters at the start of the war. Would be interesting to see what kind of tank the US would of had at the start of WW2 in the this situation.
            Really difficult to predict. My first thought is a tank better than the M2 medium in 1939, but still not a M4. In the air my guess is better engines. Another possiblity is that with more funds the Army Air Corps retains its 'Strike' component in the 1930s. That is its tactical attack aircraft and capability. That capability impressed Udet when he observed it in the 1920s. If it does not have to be rebuilt in 1942/43 then the US Army can deploy much more powerfull combined arms formations from the start. with enough funds the Army can develop both a heavy long range bomber force and retain the tactical strike capability.

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            • #7
              I have often thought that one of the reasons that Japan felt so confident in its plans to create a South Pacific, South Asian Empire was the weakness of the United States military.

              Would Japan have been so confident knowing that the US could field a million and a half man army in a few months?

              I think that Marsh's plan would have led to an arms race with Japan. The US would have had extremely strong defenses all across the Pacific, and the Japanese either would not have attacked, or if they did attack they would have been soundly defeated in the Philippines.

              Then there is the Washington treaty. A really horrible treaty from an American-British alliance perspective. With a strong military, the US may have never even suggested this treaty. The treaty stipulated that the US and Great Britain could not fortify their bases in the south west pacific.

              The military plans that the United States adopted during the period 1919-1939 were not based on reality. The United States committed itself to defending places they lacked the necessary military forces to defend. The Axis knew this.

              So, give the United States a modern air force with numbers on a par with Germany, France, Japan, or Great Britain in 1939 and give them a 500,000 man army with a 1 million man reserve. And give them a navy not constrained by the Washington Treaty. And align military plans with actual resources. Assuming they still adopt Plan Orange, then you have to put significant military forces in the Philippines and Guam.

              This would probably have led to an arms race with Japan. And I'm guessing that the 500,000 standing army cap would have been lifted at some point.

              One look at a map of the Pacific tells you that the US possessions in the Philippines and Guam are outflanked by the Japanese bases in the Caroline and Marshall Islands. As early as 1920 the Marine Corps intelligence division wrote a report predicting that, "because Japanís presence in the Marshall and Caroline islands flanked the United States undermanned presence in the Philippians and Guam, Japan would attack the United Statesí only support to the Navy: Hawaii".

              This report recommended building advanced bases all across the Pacific in both US held and Allied held territories and greatly reinforcing the Philippines and Guam.

              Would Japan have pursued their original southwest pacific option in the face of a large US military buildup in the pacific? Or, would they have pursued a more aggressive policy against China and the Soviet Union?

              I think that had Marsh's plan been followed, Japan may have focused on China and the Asian land mass and stayed away from Allied possessions in the south west pacific.

              Even if they followed the original course, US forces in the Philippines held out from Dec '41 to May '42. How long would they have held out if the Philippines had been a major focus from 1919 to 1939? What would a 200,000 man, modern army have done against the Japanese during that campaign? Add a large, modern air force with radar and AA defenses and it becomes doubtful that Japan even wins that campaign.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by curiousone View Post
                I have often thought that one of the reasons that Japan felt so confident in its plans to create a South Pacific, South Asian Empire was the weakness of the United States military.

                Would Japan have been so confident knowing that the US could field a million and a half man army in a few months?
                A really tough question. Japans decision was based in part of the advice of Army officers who were convinced the Americans were like the Europeans and inferior soldiers with no warrior ethic or courage in battle. The were convinced that one Japanese soldier was able to fight and defeat four or five Americans or Europeans. Many Japanese thought otherwise, but they were not in the key leadership positions when the critical decisions were made by the Japanese government

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                • #9
                  Picking though the books on my shelf some points concerning US Army develoment emerged.

                  1. The triangular division was proposed in the 1920s. Testing of the concept was extremely slow with little field testing to validate any of the suposed advantages. The 2d Division was not converted for field tests until the late 1930s and a actual conversion to the new organization did not start until after the mobilization of 1940. The conversion added to the delays in training the 30+ infantry divisions mobilizedby the spring of 1941.

                  2. The fire control system used by the artillery in WWII begain development with the breakthrough tests in 1932. Again large scale field tests were not completed until 1940, thus adding another delay to training the mobilized divisions.

                  3. The M1 105mm howitzer was designed and tested in the mid 1920s. Production was postphoned until the late 1930s (as the M2). So distribution of the new weapons caused more friction in training during 1940-41.

                  4. I mentioned previously the stagnation of the tactical or 'Strike' avaiation in the Army Air Corps. The slender funds of the 1930s were focused on the hevy bomber development. Tactical air support had to be brought up to speed or nearly reinvented and the techniques did not really catch up with the German methods until 1943-44.

                  5. Motorization in the US Army was reduced by some 80% in 1922 via budget cuts. Again the army had to catch u un doctral development and training in 1940-42.

                  6. A tank expert is needed here, but it appears most of the components or equivalent parts of the M4 medium tank (Sherman) existed in the mid 1930s. ie the 75mm gun basis, engines of appropriate horsepower, the suspension design, ... While something specifically like the M4 was unlikely there probablly wold have been several alternatives superior to the M2 medium available for production in 1939. With a much better test program something like the T20 series may have been ready for production in late 1942.

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