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Niehorster, Leo. Order of Battle, 7 December 1941: US Army, vol 1: Corps Areas, Continental Commands, and Overseas Commands. Milton Keynes, UK: The Military Press, 2005
Introduction; Terms and Abbreviations; Symbols; Bibliography; Index
Appendices: Convoy 4002; USAAF Aircraft; US Army Installations
Leo Niehorster writes a few words in this book, but he seldom rubs them together to make sentences or paragraphs. Beyond his Introduction, the pages contain almost nothing but TOE/OB organigrams with unit IDs. Fortunately, that's entirely sufficient.
Following the introductory page, the author gives a page of terms and abbreviations and then a page identifying well over a hundred symbols for ground and air units ranging from infantry to dirigibles to bands to military police. Readers not already familiar with these basic military icons will need to study them before proceeding.
The next seventy pages contain nothing but organigrams (plus an occasional explanatory note) meticulously detailing the organization of the US Army on 7 December 1941. The first page covers "United States Armed Forces High Command" with the President, War Department, Joint Army & Navy Board, Navy Department, Chief of Staff, etc. The following page shows the chain of command from the Secretary of War through the uppermost level of the Army hierarchy: Chief of Staff, Chief of Army Air Forces, US Forces in the Far East, Hawaiian Department, and various Corps Areas. Following several pages displaying the miscellaneous departments and offices of the General Staff, Niehorster gets to the real meat of the book.
The Hawaiian Department (an army-size HQ) directly controlled the Hawaiian Air Force, the division-size Hawaiian Coast Artillery Command, and the 24th and 25th Infantry Divisions. (Each of those units is shown on the chart with a drop shadow, meaning it is studied in further detail in one or more later organigrams.) The Department also directly controlled a wealth of other formations including engineering, signals, transport, and ordnance assets, all of which are shown on the main diagram along with a multitude of odds and ends such as the Hawaiian Veterinary Depot and four ROTC programs (one college and three high schools).
Following the organigram for the Hawaiian Department come organigrams for each of its units marked with a drop shadow. In this case the first subordinate organigram covers the Hawaiian Coast Artillery Command with about twenty-five of its own subordinate units. After that, the 24th and 25th Infantry Divisions are each displayed, and they have the identical organization (but of course different unit identifications): three infantry regiments, one artillery brigade (with three motorized artillery battalions, one motorized medium artillery battalion, and one motorized HQ company), a recon troop (not, according to the explanatory note, yet activated), one motorized engineer battalion, a motorized signals company, a motorized quartermaster battalion, a motorized medical battalion, and a motorized HQ and MP company. Following the infantry divisions, the Hawaiian Air Force gets its own organigram with about twenty subordinate formations. Of those, seven have drop shadows, indicating more information below: 18th Bombardment Wing, 14th Pursuit Wing, Hickam Field, Wheeler Field, Bellows Field, Christmas Island, and Canton Island.
Each of those seven HQs gets its own organigram. For the two flying wings, all the subordinate groups and squadrons are shown along with aviation signals and aviation ordnance/maintenance units. The five base HQs show their various HQ and ground components including engineers, ground transport, weather detachments, and civilian construction units.
Niehorster follows the same formatplenty of organigrams with unit IDs, but no sentences or paragraphswith the "United States Armed Forces Far East" HQ commanded by Lt General Douglas MacArthur. That means each of the Philippine Army divisions gets its own separate organigram (including notes about the amount of training received by each infantry regiment) and three detailed pages cover the Far East Air Force down to squadron level plus a full array of supporting ground formations.
Each "Corps Area" (geographical commands in the US) gets its own organigram with ample forts, stations, recruiting centers, ROTC programs, National Guard instructors, base hospitals, etc. Then come the individual armies. First Army and its subordinate formations, for example, encompasses about thirty organigrams spread over nine pages. Here's how the first organigram for First Army looks. (As usual, units shown with a drop shadow get their own organigram.)
This approach is repeated for Second, Third, and Fourth Armies and the separate Armored Force. In all these cases, Niehorster excludes organigrams for the components of the air force attached to each army. That information is due to appear in the upcoming volume of the series.
The next few pages are devoted to organigrams for the Alaska Defense Command, Caribbean Defense Command (Trinidad sector, Panama sector, Puerto Rico sector, and Caribbean Air Force), Newfoundland Base Command, Bermuda Base Command, Greenland Base Command, and Iceland Base Command.
The author also includes three appendices. In the first, Niehorster writes one of his few paragraphs, in this case about Convoy 4002: "This convoy departed San Francisco, California on 21.11.41, via Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on 29.11.41. On 7.12.41, the convoy was at 4° S 170° W (off the Phoenix Islands in the Pacific Ocean). This convoy was also known by the name of its escort, the USS Pensacola, and consisted of the following...." That appendix also includes a complete list (no organigrams) of units in transit. The second appendix lists USAAF aircraft designations, manufacturers, and types. The last one is a six-page alphabetical compendium of US Army "camps, forts, reservations, fields, etc."
Niehorster brings the book to a close with a bibliography and an Index of Persons.
As usual for this kind of book, Order of Battle, 7 December 1941 is not the most scintillating entertainment imaginable, but it's a thoroughly accessible compilation of data that seems not to have been previously assembled anywhere else. This one definitely goes onto our OB shelf, and anyone with an interest in American WWII TOEs and OBs will also want to make room on the shelf. Meanwhile, the upcoming second volume is scheduled to contain the remainder of American air forces, but we have as yet no indication if a further volume will cover USN and USMC forces.
Available from online booksellers, local bookshops, or directly from The Military Press.
Thanks to Military Press for providing this review copy.
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Reviewed 4 December 2005
Copyright © 2005 by Bill Stone
May not be reproduced in any form without written permission of Stone & Stone