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Carolina and Louisiana Maneuvers

carolina maneuvers 1940 soldiers tents "No general can accustom an army to war.  Peacetime maneuvers are a feeble substitute for the real thing; but even they can give an army an advantage over others whose training is confined to routine, mechanical drill.  To plan maneuvers so that some of the elements of friction are involved, which will train officers judgment, common sense and resolution is far more worthwhile than inexperienced people might think.  It is immensely important that no soldier, whatever his rank, should wait for war to expose him to those aspects of active service that amaze and confuse him when he first comes across them."

von Clausewitz concluding remarks in his landmark  book "vom Kreige" ("On War").

The Carolina, Tennessee and Louisiana Maneuvers of 1940 and 1941 were devised for General George C. Marshall by Lieutenant General Lesley J. McNair.  Marshall abhorred the vacuum of academic theorizing.  His experience in World War I dictated the need for large unit field training with actual equipment in addition to academics.  Marshall's  goal: Realism in training.  These war games include large unit maneuvers to train senior commanders and staffs in the operational elements of combat.  Live-fire exercises and extended time in the field taught tactics, field craft and techniques to small unit officers and their soldiers.  The maneuvers functioned as a field laboratory to test new methods of applying tactical principles, such as experimenting with the use of new equipment and the means of defending against tanks.  In some cases, had the units been in real war, entire divisions would have been annihilated or captured.  But as games, they learned from their mistakes, replaced ineffective leaders, and developed their skills.

The maneuvers captured the imagination of the nation as headline news.  Support for rearmament gained momentum. And just in time helped build the case for the pressing need to rearm in the mind of Joe Q Public.

In November 1941, the fate of Moscow seemed sealed and only a matter of days before it capitulated to the Germans panzer units led by Heinz Guderian.  In the Pacific a combined Japanese fleet silently steamed eastward to its rendezvous with the "Day of Infamy."  And the soldiers of the 44th toiled in the swampy Carolina Maneuvers.  The November 1941 Carolina war games primary purpose involved testing a consequential hypothesis:

Mobile antitank gun units, offensively employed, could defeat armor.

peashooter anti-tank gun 37mm carolina maneuversThe war game pitted a largely infantry force with 4,320 more or less mobile antitank cannon against two armored divisions supported by a motorized infantry division, with 865 tanks and armored scout cars. The decision went to the antitank units.  The outcome, the formation of tank destroyer units like the 776th Tank Destroyer Battalion and the development of the M10 tank destroyer platform.  Also highlighted were prominent deficiencies in training, air-ground cooperation and antiaircraft defense.  The ultimate black eye, the overall quality of leadership.

These turned out to be the last maneuvers conducted in peacetime. The Japanese struck Hawaii weeks after the conclusion of the maneuvers.  With the declaration of war full mobilization got underway. A house-cleaning of officer ranks gained added impetus.  Most of the 42 division, corps, and army commanders who took part in the war games in Louisiana and Carolina were relieved or reassigned to new commands during 1942.  Just 11 senior officers of the 42 went on to high command afterward.  In place of the other 31,  Marshall advanced a group of younger officers, each of whom had turned in a promising performance. One of the most prominent that caught his eye, George S. Patton.

source: The Secret of Future Victories, "Chapter B. Race Against Time", by Paul F. Gorman, General, U.S. Army, Retired, Institute for Defense Analyses

m2 50 cal 37mm anti-tank mounted on command car carolina maneuvers 1941"I want to bring to the attention of every officer here the professional significance which will attach to the success or failure of the 2d Armored Division in the Tennessee maneuvers.  There are a large number of officers, some of them in high places in our country, who through lack of knowledge as to the capability of an armored division are opposed to them and who would prefer to see us organize a large number of old fashioned division about whose ability the officers in question have more information.  It is my considered opinion that the creation of too many old type division will be distinctly detrimental and that the future of our country may well depend on the organization of a considerably large number of armored divisions than are at present visualized.   Therefore it behooves everyone of us to do his uttermost to see that in these forthcoming maneuvers we are not only a success but such an outstanding success that there could be no possible doubt in the minds of anyone as to the effectiveness of the armored divisions.   Bear this in mind every moment."  

General George Patton address to the officers of the Second Armored Division, May 1941.

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