Part II-b: The Wartime Navy - Personnel


The expansion program and the additional requirements following the war outbreak resulted in increased personnel. The figures given include officers and men and the Women's Reserve, but not officer candidates or nurses:


  8 September 1939 7 December 1941 31 December 1943
Navy 126,418 325,095 2,252,606
Marine Corps 19,701 70,425 391,620
Coast Guard 10,079 25,002 171,518

The increases in enlisted naval personnel are shown graphically on the accompanying chart. (See Plate I. Below)


Plate I: USN Enlisted Personnel, 1923 to 1943. Our Navy at War, March 1944.

Plate I: USN Enlisted Personnel, 1923 to 1943. Our Navy at War, March 1944. GGA Image ID # 201d64f962


Taking the number of men indicated into an organization was an enormous undertaking. Training them was an even more significant undertaking, despite their high intelligence and the other characteristics which make the American fighting man the equal of any in the world.


Procurement of Officers

In times of peace, the Navy is manned almost entirely by officers of the regular Navy. Most of them are graduates of the Naval Academy. Several years before the war, knowing that the Naval Academy would not be able to supply officers in sufficient quantities for wartime needs, the Navy established Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps units at various colleges throughout the country.

Under the system set up, students were allowed to take courses in naval science (which included training at sea during the summer months) and, upon completing them, were commissioned in the Naval Reserve. These officers were ordered to active duty when the limited emergency was declared.

Still, when the war broke out, it became apparent that the combined supply of commissioned officers from the Naval Academy and ROTC units would not be sufficient to meet our needs for the rapidly expanding Navy.

Therefore, in February 1942, naval officer procurement offices were established in key cities throughout the country. Hundreds of thousands of officer candidates went to these offices and there presented their qualifications.

With the requirements of health, character, personality, and education duly considered, the applications of those who appeared qualified were forwarded to the Navy Department for final consideration. Under this procedure, some 72,000 officers were commissioned in the Navy directly from civil life to meet immediate needs.

Meanwhile, the Navy had established educational programs designed to produce commissioned officers in numerous colleges throughout the country.

Included were the aviation cadet program (V-5), principally for physically qualified high school graduates and college students, and later the Navy college program (V-12), which absorbed undergraduate students of the accredited college program (V-l), and of the reserve midshipman program (V-7).

At present, there are 66,815 members of the V-12 program in some 241 different colleges.

Officers of the regular Navy are universally enthusiastic over the caliber of young reserve officers on duty in the fleet. From the preceding, one will see that high school graduates are now the Navy's principal source of young officers.

Their training is described elsewhere in this report. Still, the various programs for naval reserve officers have supplied the fleet with targe numbers, many of whom have already demonstrated their ability and the wisdom of the policy calling for their indoctrination and training before being sent to sea.

In general, procurement of officers has kept up with the needs of the service, except for officers in the medical, dental, and chaplain corps and specific highly specialized engineering fields.

As graduates of professional schools are the chief source of commissioned officers in the various staff corps and as there must be a balance between military and civilian needs, we are somewhat short of our commissioned requirements in certain branches of the service.

Compared with the increase in the naval reserve's size, the regular Navy's gains have been small. The output of the Naval Academy is at its peak, having been stepped up by shortening the course to three years and increasing the number of appointments. In addition, in 1943, 20,652 officers were made by the advancement of outstanding enlisted personnel.


Recruiting of Enlisted Personnel

When the President declared the existence of a limited emergency on 8 September 1939, the personnel strength of the Navy had been increased by calling retired officers and men to active duty and by giving active duty status to members of the naval reserve who volunteered for it.

At the time, the sizeable naval expansion was authorized in July 1940. However, there were still slightly more than 160,000 men in the Navy, and by the end of that year, only 215,000.

As late as June 1941, the total was still well below 300,000, and it was apparent that a radical increase over and above the existing figure was an immediate necessity.

Various measures were therefore taken to stimulate recruiting, by which the Navy strength stood at 290,000 on 7 December 1941. In other words, we doubled our personnel in two years.

Immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor, there was a significant increase in enlistments. By the end of that month, some 40,000 additional men had been accepted for naval service.

However, this heavy enlistment rate, experienced in December 1941, and January 1942, fell off when the requirements were still mounting.

To meet the situation and to provide an adequate method of recruiting the large numbers of men needed, our recruiting system, which had already been expanded, was fortified by a field force of officers commissioned directly from civil life. By the fall of 1942, we accepted a total equivalent to peacetimes Navy strength each month.

On 5 December 1942, the voluntary enlistment of men between the ages of 18 and 37, inclusive, was ordered terminated as of 1 February 1943, on which latter date the manpower requirements of the Navy were supplied by operation of the machinery of the Selective Service system.

During the period of active recruiting, about 900,000 volunteers were accepted. Since 1 February 1943, 779,713 men have entered the Navy through Selective Service. During the same period, voluntary enlistments within the age limits prescribed totaled 205,669.

On 1 June 1943, the Army and Navy agreed on common physical standards which were somewhat lower than those previously followed by the Navy but still sufficiently rigid to permit all inductees to be assigned to any duty afloat or ashore.



Strictly speaking, training is a continuous process, which begins when an individual enters the Navy and ends when he leaves it. In times of peace, the number of trained men in the Navy is relatively high.

In a time of war, however, particularly when we experience a personal expansion such as has been described, trained men are at a premium. It is not an exaggeration to state that our success in this war will be in direct proportion to the state of training of our forces.

Our ability to expand and train during active operations reflects the soundness of our peacetime training and organization. When we entered the war, we experienced a dilution in trained men in new ships because of the urgency of keeping trained men where fighting was in progress.

Initial delays in getting underway with the vast expansion and training program had to be accepted. As the war progressed and the enemy offensive was checked, we could assign larger numbers of our trained men to train other men.

With that as a foundation on which to build, and with the tempo of all training stepped up, adequate facilities, standardized curricula, proper channeling of aptitude, full use of previous related knowledge, lucid instructions, and top physical condition became the criteria for wartime training.

Generally speaking, the first stage in the training of any new member of the Navy is to teach him what every member of the Navy must know, such as his relationship with others, the wearing of the uniform, the customs of the service, and how to take care of himself on board ship.

The second stage involves his being taught a specialty and being thoroughly grounded in the fundamentals of that specialty. The third stage is to fit him into the organization and teach him to use his ability to the best advantage.


Commissioned Personnel

The first step is classification according to ability, followed by appropriate assignment to duty. The widespread problem of training officers involves much more than the education of the individual in the ways of the Navy.

This is particularly true in the case of reserve officers, who must be essentially specialists because there is insufficient time to devote to the necessary education and training to make them qualified for detail to more than one type of duty.

As previously stated, ROTC units, which were part of the V-l training program, had been established in various colleges. With the approach of war, the training of these students was shortened in most colleges to two and one-half years.

Eventually, they became part of the Navy college training program (V-12). Courses in naval science, which included drills and summer cruises, were worked into the academic careers of the individuals enrolled.

In 1935, Congress authorized the training of Naval aviation cadets. A program implemented by statutory authority for their training, known as the V-5 program, is open to physically qualified high school graduates and college students.

Under the methods adopted, a decision as to whether or not a candidate would be accepted for the V-5 program was made by Naval Aviation Cadet Selection Boards. They were guided by high standards covering each individual's educational, moral, physical, and psychological qualifications.

The training period typically requires 12 to 15 months, exclusive of additional college training required for 17-year-old students. Of this time, six to eight months are spent in preliminary training in physical education and ground school subjects at pre-flight schools.

The remainder of the training consists of primary, intermediate, and advanced flight training. Upon completing the full flight training course, an aviation cadet is commissioned an ensign in the Naval Reserve or second lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve and is then ordered to active duty as a pilot.

The V-12 (Navy college training) program was established on 1 July 1943. It consisted initially of students on inactive duty in the Naval Reserve, new students from civilian life, and young enlisted men especially selected.

The new students from civilian life consist of selected high school graduates or others with satisfactory educational qualifications who can establish their mental, physical, and potential officer qualifications by appropriate examination.

These students are then inducted into the Navy as apprentice seamen or as privates, United States Marine Corps, placed on active duty and assigned to designated colleges and universities to follow courses of study specified by the Navy Department.

V-12 training embodies most of the features of preceding Naval Reserve programs. Depending on training requirements, except for medical and dental officers, engineering specialists, and chaplains, courses vary from two to six semesters.

The courses of study include fundamental college work in mathematics, science, English, history, naval organization, and general naval indoctrination for the first two terms for all students. This is followed by specialized training in a particular field.

A student's assignment to special training is based upon his choice and his demonstrated competence in the chosen field, subject to available quotas.

Upon completing college training, students are assigned to further training in the Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard. If found qualified after completion of that training, they are commissioned in the appropriate reserve.

So far, the V-12 program has worked well. It permits the selection of the country's best qualified young men on a broad democratic basis without regard for financial resources and the induction and training of those young men who show the greatest promise of superior ability and the other qualities likely to make a good officer.

The link between the College Training Program and the fleets is the Naval Reserve Midshipman Program. The Navy college graduates going to deck and engineering duties with the forces afloat are sent to one of the six reserve midshipman schools for a four months course.

Upon the successful completion of the first month's study, they are appointed reserve midshipmen. After the remaining three months of intensive training, they are appointed ensigns in the Naval Reserve.

Originally four reserve midshipman schools were established, located at Columbia University, Northwestern University, Notre Dame, and the Naval Academy. The program has been such an outstanding success.

The demand for its graduates has so increased that two additional schools recently have been put into commission, at Cornell and Plattsburg, New York, with the result that there are nearly 9,000 men in this training program at any one time.

The combined effect of the College Training Program and the Reserve Midshipman Program is to meet the need of the fleets for thoroughly trained young deck and engineering officers.


Enlisted Personnel

In addition to the instruction given to the individual in the ways of the Navy, Recruit training consists of his being fully informed of the opportunities open to him. This is followed by a series of tests designed to determine the ability of each recruit. These tests are based on the type of duty in the Navy.

In addition to the general classification test, it consists of a systematic determination of aptitudes in reading and mechanical ability and any knowledge of specific work. Through a system of personal interviews, these tests are supplemented by considering the individual's background and experience so that each recruit's particular qualifications may be evaluated.

This information is then indexed and recorded and used to establish quotas for the detail of men to special service schools or any other duty for which they seem best qualified.

While the recruit is learning about the Navy, the Navy is learning about him. A practical application of this system was assembling the crew for the USS. New Jersey, a new battleship. While the ship was fitting out, a series of tests and a thorough study of the requirements of each job on board were conducted.

For example, special tests determined those best fitted to be telephone talkers, night lookouts, or gun captains. As a result, when the crew went aboard, each man was assigned to a billet in. keeping with his aptitude for it.

As permanent establishments, we had four training stations—Newport, Rhode Island; Norfolk, Virginia; Great Lakes, Illinois; and San Diego, California. As soon as we entered the war, it became apparent that it would be necessary to expand these four stations radically and establish others.

By November 1942, we had expanded the four permanent training stations and established new ones at Bainbridge, Maryland; Sampson, New York; and Farragut, Idaho.

The training in the fundamentals of the specialty to be followed by a newcomer to the Navy is carried on ashore and afloat. Recruits showing the most aptitude for a particular duty are sent to special service schools designed to give the individual a thorough grounding in his specialty before assuming duties on board the ship.

If he hopes to become an electrician's mate, he may be assigned to the electrical school, if a machinist's mate, to the machinist's mate school, if a commissary steward, to the cook's and baker's school, and so forth. Approximately 32 percent of those who receive recruit training are assigned to special service schools.

An advanced type of training is given to men already skilled in a specialty by assembling them and training them to work as a unit. This is known as operational training.

In addition to the special meaning of the term as applied to aviation training, it encompasses such special activities as bomb disposal units and the training of ship's crews before the ship is commissioned.

This is another form of operational training- conducted, of course, by the forces afloat—which is a preliminary to the assignment of that ship as a unit of the fleet.

When the individual goes on board the ship, he discovers that his training has only begun because he must learn how to apply the knowledge he has already gained and how his performance of duty fits into the ship's organization.

This does not mean that the ship is fully trained. Still, the training is sufficiently advanced to provide the crew with the additional training and seasoning that comes only with wartime operations at sea.

With the proper background of training, the most efficient ship is very likely to be the one that has been in action. In other words, actual combat is probably the best training, provided the vessel is ready for it.


The Marine Corps

Statistics previously given indicate the personnel expansion of the Marine Corps. In terms of combat units, those figures represent a ground combat strength of two half-strength divisions and seven defense battalions expanded to five divisions, 19 defense battalions, and considerable force and Corps troop organizations and service units; 12 aviation squadrons expanded to 85, and increases in ships' detachments to keep pace with the ship construction program.

Under the leadership of Lieutenant General T. H. Holcomb, USMC, the Marine Corps successfully met the greatest test in its history by forging a considerable mass of untrained officers and men into efficient tactical units incredibly organized, equipped, and trained for the complicated amphibious operations which have characterized the war in the Pacific.

Training of the expanding Marine Corps personnel had to be conducted in stages because existing bases were inadequate housing, space, and facilities. Basic training for all Marines was continued at the established recruit depots at Parris Island, South Carolina, and San Diego, California.

Before being assigned to combat units, specialized advanced training for ground and aviation personnel was conducted chiefly at Camp Lejeune, New River, North Carolina; at Camp Elliott, near San Diego, California; and at Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, California.

Improvised facilities were used at those three bases until they had been developed into centers capable of affording training in all the basic and special techniques required in amphibious warfare.

The final training stage began with assigning personnel to combat units. It ended with the movement of those units to combat areas. (The effectiveness of individual and unit training of the Marine Corps was first demonstrated at Guadalcanal and Tulagi eight months after the beginning of the war. That first test showed Marine Corps training methods to be sound and capable of producing combat units in a minimum of time.)

The expanding Marine Corps commissioned personnel was initially obtained from reservists and graduates of the Marine Corps Schools at Quantico. Later, commissioned personnel were obtained by including the Marine Corps in the Navy V-12 program, selecting candidates from graduates of designated colleges and universities, and increasing the number of enlisted men promoted to commissioned rank.

Marine Corps aviation, while expanding to a greater degree than the Corps as a whole, has continued to specialize in providing air support to troops in landing or subsequent ground operations. Training and organization in the United States and excellent equipment have made it possible to operate planes from hastily constructed airfields with limited facilities.

The generally excellent performance of Marine aviation squadrons operating from forward bases in the Central and South Pacific areas in successful attacks against enemy aircraft, men-of-war, and shipping, attests to the soundness of the organization.

In November 1942, the Marine Corps Women's Reserve was established, the authorized strength being 1,000 commissioned and 18,000 enlisted women, to be reached by 30 June 1944. By 31 December 1943, there were 609 officers and 12,592 enlisted women in the organization.

All of them have released male Marines for service in combat areas. The remarks relating to the performance of duty of the Waves, contained in that part of this report covering their organization and training, are equally applicable to women in the Marine Corps.

Participation of Marines in combat is covered in Part III of this report.


The Coast Guard

The duties of the Coast Guard under Naval administration consist of the civil functions usually performed by the Coast Guard in times of peace which become military functions in times of war, and the performance of Naval duties for which the personnel of the Coast Guard is particularly fitted because of their peacetime employment. The organization operates separately concerning appropriations required for Coast Guard vessels, shore stations, and personnel.

The increase in the size of the Coast Guard was necessitated chiefly by additional duties in connection with captain-of-the-port activities in the regulation of merchant shipping, the supervision of the loading of explosives, and the protection of shipping, harbors, and waterfront facilities.

In addition, the complements of Coast Guard vessels and shore establishments were brought up to wartime strength, certain transports and other naval craft, including landing barges, were manned by Coast Guard personnel, and a beach patrol (both mounted and afoot) and coastal lookout stations were established.

The Coast Guard also undertook the manning and operating of Navy section bases and certain inshore patrol activities formerly manned by naval personnel and furnished sentries and sentry dogs for guard duty at various naval shore establishments.

About three times its previous size, Coast Guard aviation has been under the operational control of Sea Frontier Commanders for convoy coverage and anti-submarine patrol and rescue duties. Other squadrons outside the United States are employed in ice observation and air-sea rescue duty. Miscellaneous duties assigned to Coast Guard aviation include:

  • Aerial mapping.
  • Checking for the Coast and Geodetic Survey.
  • Ice observation assistance on the Great Lakes.

The assignment of certain Coast Guard personnel to duties radically different from those they usually perform required numerous changes in ratings. This resulted in extensive classification and retraining programs designed to prepare men for their new duties.

Spars, both officer and enlisted, have replaced men on shore jobs as a part of this retraining program. Approximately 10,000 Spars—whose performance of duty and value to the service is on a par with that of the Waves and the women of the Marine Corps—will be commissioned and enlisted when the contemplated strength of that organization is reached.

The present strength of the Coast Guard was attained by establishing the Coast Guard Reserve and by commissioning warrant officers and enlisted men for temporary service.

Other increases in the commissioned personnel of the Coast Guard have been accomplished by appointments made direct from civil life in the case of individuals with particular qualifications, such as special knowledge in the prevention and control of fires, police protection, and merchant marine inspection.

A feature peculiar to the Coast Guard is the Temporary Reserve, which consists of officers and enlisted men enrolled to serve without pay. Members of the Temporary Reserve have full military status while performing such duties as pilotage, port security, and guarding industrial plants, either on a full or part-time basis.

There are about 70,000 members of the Temporary Reserve, but it is anticipated that it will eventually be reduced to about 50,000. The Coast Guard Auxiliary, a civilian organization, has contributed much of its manpower to the Temporary Reserve, resulting in a substantial saving in manpower to the military services.

Under the general direction of Vice Admiral R. R. Waesche, USCG, Commandant, the Coast Guard has done an excellent job in all respects, and as a component part of the Navy in time of war, has demonstrated efficiency and flexibility, which has been invaluable in the solution of the multiplicity of problems assigned. The organization and handling of local defense in the early days of the war were particularly noteworthy.


The Seabees

For months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, we had been strengthening our insular outposts in the Pacific by constructing various fortifications.

When the Japanese attacked these islands, the construction was only partially completed. The civilians employed by various construction companies were attacked, along with our garrisons of Marines.

In that situation, the civilians were powerless to aid the military forces present because they lacked the weapons and the knowledge of how to use them. Furthermore, they lacked what little protection a military uniform might have given them.

Consequently, the Navy Department decided to establish and organize Naval construction battalions whose members would be skilled construction workers and trained fighters.

On 28 December 1941, authorization was obtained for the first contingent of "Seabees" (the name taken from the words "Construction Battalions"), and a recruiting campaign was begun.

The response was immediate, and experienced men representing about 60 different trades were enlisted in the Navy and given ratings appropriate to the degree and type of their civilian training.

After being enlisted, these men were sent to training centers where they were given an intensive course in military training, toughened physically, and generally educated in the ways of the service.

Particular attention was paid to their possible employment in amphibious operations. Following their initial training, the Seabees were formed into battalions so organized that each could operate as a self-sustained unit and undertake any base-building assignment. They were sent to advance base depots for outfitting and additional training before being sent overseas.

The accomplishments of the Seabees have been one of the outstanding features of the war. In the Pacific, where the distances are great, and the expeditious construction of bases is frequently of vital importance, the construction accomplished by the Seabees has been of invaluable assistance.

Furthermore, the Seabees have participated in practically every amphibious operation undertaken thus far, landing with the first waves of assault troops to bring equipment ashore and set up temporary bases of operation.

In the Solomon Islands campaign, the Seabees demonstrated their ability to outbuild the Japs, repair airfields, and build new bases, regardless of weather conditions.

Other specialized services performed by the Seabees include the handling of pontoon gear, the repair of motor vehicles, the loading and unloading of cargo vessels, and every kind of construction job that -has to be done.

There can be no doubt that the Seabees constitute an invaluable component of our Navy. Currently, the Seabees number slightly more than 240,000, nearly half of whom serve overseas at various outposts. Fleet commanders have been generous in their praise and appreciation of the work done by construction battalions everywhere.


The Waves

Early in 1942, when the need for expansion of naval personnel became acute, the Navy Department proposed to Congress that a Women's Reserve be established as an integral part of the Navy.

The stated purpose of the proposal was to employ women in shore billets so that men could be released for sea duty. Acting on that recommendation, the Women's Reserve was established on 30 July 1942, and the organization became known as the Waves.

The name is derived from the expression "Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service." In November 1943, specific statutory changes were made for women to become eligible for all allowances or benefits to which men are entitled and made particular alterations in the organization's composition, chiefly concerning promotions.

Initial plans called for 1,000 officers and 10,000 enlisted women, and immediately upon obtaining the necessary statutory authority for the organization of an officer training school, were established at Northampton, Massachusetts, utilizing the facilities of Smith and Mount Holyoke Colleges.

At the same time, a training school for yeomen was established at Stillwater, Oklahoma, one for radio personnel at Madison, Wisconsin, and one for storekeepers at Bloomington, Indiana.

Under the procedure followed at that time, all Waves went to one of these schools immediately after joining the Navy, and upon the successful completion of their training, to duty somewhere in the continental United States where they could take the place of men.

All officer candidates now go to Northampton for their indoctrination training and may then receive further training elsewhere—there are 16 schools for special training—in communications, supply, aerological engineering, Japanese language, radio and electronics, chemical warfare, general ordnance, and photographic interpretation, and many others, including air navigation, air gunnery, and ship and aircraft recognition.

All enlisted Waves now attend a general indoctrination school at Hunter College in New York City and receive basic training there. Further training at some other schools—currently 19—designed to train them in their chosen specialty is now standard practice.

Enlisted personnel is trained as radio operators, yeomen, storekeepers for various aviation ratings, and many others, including pharmacist's mate. Approximately one-fourth of all enlisted women are now on duty with Naval aviation activities.

On 31 December 1943, there were 6,459 commissioned Waves and 40,391 enlisted Waves serving in various capacities. Present plans call for nearly 100,000 Waves by the end of 1944.

The organization has been a success from the beginning, partly because of the high standards Waves had to meet to be accepted, partially because no effort has been spared to see that they are correctly looked out for, and partly because of their overpowering desire to make good.

As a result of their competence, hard work, and enthusiasm, the release of men for sea duty has been accompanied in many cases, particularly in offices, by increased efficiency. The natural consequence is an esprit de corps which embraces their value to the Navy.

It is a pleasure to report that they have earned an excellent reputation as a part of the Navy and have become an inspiration to all hands in naval uniform.


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