From YANK Magazine

For the first time since it started to send soldiers overseas the War Department has announced the adoption of a troop-rotation policy.

Definite plans are being made to bring back to the U.S. those men in the Alaskan and Caribbean Theaters who have had more than two years of continuous overseas duty and some men who have sweated out 18 months in the North Africa Theater. Plans for the rotation of troops in the South and Southwest Pacific have almost been completed and, according to a War Department spokesman, “it is expected that shipping facilities will permit the return of some soldiers from those theaters beginning in the coming spring.”

wwii axis cartoon war department

Watch out for this bird.

This is good news for all GIs overseas and surprising news, too, because only a short time ago, on Dec. 4, 1943, the War Department had said that the lack of shipping space was making it difficult to put into effect any kind of a definite troop-rotation plan. Evidently the steady production of American shipyards and the relentless war against enemy submarines are beginning to pay off.

But like all good news in the Army, this first move of the War Department to replace overseas units has been misunderstood and blown up out of proportion by over-anxious and over-optimistic GIs who have been discussing it in the latrines and chow lines overseas.

It was received by many of us in the same giddy frame of mind in which we received the news back in the summer of 1941 of the regulation that permitted the discharge of all selectees over the age of 28. There was one guy in our outfit who did not send out his laundry that week because he expected to be out of the Army before it returned. As things turned out, his discharge was postponed because the battery went on the Carolina maneuvers. After the maneuvers, his papers went through channels and were okayed. But two days before he was scheduled to get his railroad ticket home, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Needless to say, he is still in the Army.

Now that they have heard about the War Department’s troop-rotation policy, plenty of GIs in Alaska and the Caribbean will have their barracks bags all packed and ready to be hauled to the boat the day after they complete their two years of overseas duty. There are plenty of GIs in North Africa and the South and Southwest Pacific who are already writing long letters home, making plans to get married at their parish church in June.

Somebody ought to remind the boys gently that good things in the Army do not always come on schedule. As a matter of fact, the War Department has not said that everybody in Alaska and the Caribbean will come home immediately after the completion of two years’ overseas duty. (A lot of them, of course, have passed the two-year mark there long ago.) In some cases, they may leave the next day. But in other cases they won’t leave for several more months. Nor does the War Department promise that everybody in North Africa will come home after 18 months or that everybody in the South and Southwest Pacific will return in the spring. It says that “a certain number” of those in the North African Theater will, under ordinary conditions, be returned to the United States.” It says: “It is expected that shipping facilities will permit the return of some soldiers from the South and Southwest Pacific Theaters beginning in the coming spring.”

The announcement of the War Department’s first definite plan to rotate troops is swell encouraging news because if some of us are to be brought home soon there is real hope for the rest in the near future.

Now that plans are being made to relieve troops in Alaska, the Caribbean, North Africa, the South and Southwest Pacific, perhaps rotation policies will be announced soon for the soldiers in the China-Burma-India, Persian Gulf and Middle East Theaters and the ETO.

But, in the meantime, let’s not start packing our barracks bags and making dates to get married in our home-town church until the first sergeant gets our shipping orders from the company commander.

For More Reading Check Out:

The Good War: An Oral History of World War II

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