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Lists of Wartime Operational Research Groups June 24, 2011

Posted by Will Thomas in Operations Research.

As far as I know, no one has ever assembled a list of all World War II-era operational research groups.  Some of this information is available in published resources; other bits are from archival research.  Bullet points under particular groups represent changes of name.  Dates can be a little fuzzy, since they can refer to when a group was formally approved, or when it started work; or when one or two people arrived at a location, only later to grow and be formally recognized.  I have tried to date things to when work actually began, but have probably not always been consistent in this.  Some form of this list will likely appear in my book, but as a general service in the meantime, here it is:

Source on British groups

A general resource is Maurice Kirby, Operational Research in War and Peace (2003)


Source: Air Ministry, Origins and Development of Operational Research in the Royal Air Forces (1963); see also the specific accounts C. H. Waddington, OR in World War 2: Operational Research against the U-Boat (1973) on ORS Coastal Command, and Randall T. Wakelam’s The Science of Bombing (2009) on ORS Bomber Command.

ORS = Operational Research Section

SAT = Scientific Adviser on Telecommunications (Robert Watson Watt)

C-in-C = Commander-in-Chief

September 1939: ORS Fighter Command

  • September 1939: Stanmore Research Section
  • January 1941: Chief named Operational Research Officer for SAT
  • June 1941: ORS Fighter Command
  • 1943-1944: ORS Air Defence of Great Britain; name later reverts

March 1941: ORS Coastal Command

  • January 1941: Operational Research Officer for SAT
  • March 1941: Scientific Adviser to C-in-C Coastal Command
  • May 1941: ORS Coastal Command

September 1941: ORS Bomber Command

  • January 1941: Operational Research Officer for SAT
  • September 1941: ORS Bomber Command

October 1941: Operational Research Centre

  • January 1944: Deputy Directorate of Science

February 1942: ORS Middle East

July 1942: ORS Army Co-operation Command

  • June 1943: ORS Tactical Air Force
  • February 1944: Absorbed into ORS AEAF as ORS 2nd TAF
  • October 1944: ORS 2nd TAF becomes independent

October 1942: ORS Air Headquarters India

  • November 1943: ORS Air Command South-East Asia

April 1943: ORS Northwest African Air Forces

  • December 1943: ORS Mediterranean Allied Air Forces

November 1943: Scientific Adviser to the Air Ministry

December 1943: ORS Allied Expeditionary Air Force (disbanded October 1944)

March 1944: ORS Flying Training Command

May 1944: ORS Transport Command

September 1944: Bombing Analysis Unit

October 1944: ORS No. 38 Group

  • previously part of ORS Allied Expeditionary Air Force


Source: Typescript Histories, UK National Archives, WO 291/1286-1301, especially “Operational Research in the British Army, 1939-1945” (October 1947) WO 291/1301

See also: Brian Austin, Schonland: Scientist and Soldier (2001)

ORG = Operational Research Group

A. A. = Anti-Aircraft

ADRDE = Air Defence Research and Development Establishment

September 1940: Anti-Aircraft Command Research Group

  • November 1940: A. A. Wireless School branches off
  • April 1941: Transferred to A. A. Wireless School
  • July 1941: Petersham Research Group
  • August 1941: Transferred to ADRDE in Ministry of Supply
  • September 1941: ADRDE (ORG)
  • February 1943: Army Operational Research Group (AORG)

AORG oversees work of individual Army OR Sections

Original Groups (1940-1941)

  • AORS 1 (A.A. Radar and Operations)
  • AORS 2 (Coastal Artillery and Radar, Misc. Radar)

New Groups (Spring and Summer 1942)

  • AORS 3 (Signals)
  • AORS 4 (Tanks, Anti-tank and Field Artillery)
  • AORS 5 (Airborne Forces)

New Groups (January and February 1943)

  • AORS 6 (Infantry)
  • AORS 7 (Lethality of Weapons)
  • AORS 8 (Mines, Obstacles, Optics, and Misc.)
  • AORS 9 (Time and Motion Study)
  • AORS 10 (Bombardment)


Source: UK National Archives, WO 291/1288-1301, especially “Operational Research in the British Army, 1939-1945” (October 1947) WO 291/1301

September 1940: Anti-Aircraft Command Research Group

  • see Ministry of Supply

April 1942: SD(6) (disbanded July 1943)

May 1942: Scientific Adviser to the Army Council

May 1943: No. 1 ORS (Italy)

July 1943: No. 10 ORS (11 Army Group)

  • July 1943: No. 1 ORS
  • February 1944: renamed No. 10 ORS

August 1943: No. 2 ORS (21 Army Group)

February 1944: ORS (Australia)

October 1944: No. 11 ORS

(Other groups: Artillery ORS, Biological Research Team)


December 1941: Chief Adviser on Operational Research

  • May 1944: Naval Operational Research Department

Sources on American Groups

Charles R. Shrader, History of Operations Research in the United States Army, Vol. I: 1942-1962 (2006) is a good resource for quick institutional history.  Erik P. Rau, “Combat Scientists: The Emergence of Operations Research in the United States during World War II” PhD dissertation, 1999, has the most detailed cross-service, behind-the-scenes information on how groups were conceived and set up.


Source: Keith Tidman, The Operations Evaluation Group: A History of Naval Operations Analysis (1984)

See also: “Summary Report to the Office of Field Service, OSRD” (December 1945), US National Archives, Record Group 227, Entry 177, Box 284

ORG = Operations Research Group

January 1942: Mine Warfare Operational Research Group (in BuOrd)

  • March 1942: Group formalized
  • eventually incorporated into ORG

April 1942: Anti-Submarine Warfare Operations Research Group (ASWORG)

  • also known as Group M until incorporation in Office of Field Services

October 1943: AirORG (in Air Intelligence Group)

November 1943: Submarine ORG (SORG)

September 1944: Anti-Aircraft ORG (AAORG)

  • July 1945: Special Defenses ORG (SpecORG)

October 1944: Operations Research Group (from ASWORG, SORG, AAORG)

  • October 1944: AirORG joins
  • October 1944: Operations Research Center
  • October 1944: Amphibious ORG (PhibORG)


March 1942: Directorate of Planning, Operational Research Group


Sources: United States Army Air Forces, Operations Analysis in World War II (available in full here), data reproduced in Shrader.

March 1942: Directorate of Air Defense, Operational Research Group

Operations Analysis Sections:

  • September 1942: AAF School of Applied Tactics
  • October 1942: Eighth Air Force
  • December 1942: AAF Headquarters
  • May 1943: Eleventh Air Force
  • May 1943: IX Bomber Command (disbanded October 1943)
  • June 1943: VIII Fighter Command (closed October 1944)
  • July 1943: Mediterranean Allied Air Forces
  • September 1943: Second Air Force
  • October 1943: Fifth Air Force (merged into FEAF in July 1944)
  • October 1943: Thirteenth Air Force (merged into FEAF in July 1944)
  • November 1943: Fifteenth Air Force
  • December 1943: Ninth Air Force
  • December 1943: XX Bomber Command
  • January 1944: AAF, India-Burma Theater
  • March 1944: Fourth Air Force
  • May 1944: Twentieth Air Force
  • July 1944: Third Air Force
  • July 1944: Fourteenth Air Force
  • July 1944: Far East Air Forces (FEAF)
  • August 1944: AAF, Pacific Ocean Area
  • October 1944: XXI Bomber Command
  • January 1945: AAF Weather Wing
  • May 1945: Continental Air Forces
  • July 1945: 301st Fighter Wing, Very Long Range


*These sections were more field units of the Office of Scientific Research and Development (akin to the British Branch of the MIT Radiation Laboratory) than OR sections; however, the American army designated the Central Pacific Group (housed in Hawaii) an “operational research section”; therefore it, and a companion section based in Australia, are listed here for the sake of completeness.

Source: John Burchard and Lincoln Thiesmeyer, Combat Scientists (1947); Irvin Stewart, Organizing Scientific Research for War (1948); Shrader.

March 1944: Research Section, Southwest Pacific Area

June 1944: Operational Research Section, Central Pacific Area


Source: Air Ministry, Origins and Development; and N. W. Morton, “A Brief History of the Development of Canadian Military Operations Research,” Operations Research 4 (1956): 187-192.

August 1942: Royal Canadian Air Force, Operational Research Section

1943: Royal Canadian Navy, Operational Research Directorate

January (?) 1944: Canadian Army Operational Research Group


Source: Air Ministry, Origins and Development; and D. P. Mellor, Australia in the War of 1939-1945, Series Four, Civil, Vol. V, The Role of Science and Industry (1958), chapter 28, “Operational Research”.

February 1944: Royal Australian Air Force, Operational Research Section


1. Charles Day - June 24, 2011

Have you stumbled across any OR groups in MI6 and other clandestine services?

2. Will Thomas - June 24, 2011

Hi Charles — certainly not during the war. At that time OR was explicitly understood to refer to military operations; so, things like bomb damage surveys conducted by the UK Ministry of Home Security, though often mentioned retrospectively (and, to an extent, at the time) with OR work, were not “OR” per se. At any rate, as far as I know, there wasn’t even anything similar going on in the clandestine services, though I would be glad to learn I’m wrong about that.

After the war is another matter, since “OR” started to have a more general connotation, especially in Britain. Not only do you get groups in NATO, I’ve run into mentions of an OR group in the Atomic Energy Commission, which I know very little about. I don’t know of any with the CIA, FBI, MI5/6, or such organizations, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn of them, starting from the 1950s. In later periods, when OR was more of a strictly mathematical thing (as opposed to a more generic policy analysis thing), one finds them all over the place, albeit not usually in the sort of advisory role the groups listed above played.

3. Will Pratt - September 26, 2011

Great Stuff! Thanks! The Ronnie Sheppard Fonds at Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada, are a treasure trove of Ops Research, which contain a great cross-section of files largely on armour, artillery effectiveness, battle studies, and morale. I have yet to mine my collected documents there, but will post later if the Canadian list can be fleshed out further.

4. Will Thomas - September 26, 2011

Thanks, Will, please do! I don’t have much information on the Canadian groups at all. I didn’t realize until very recently that the head of the Army group was J. Tuzo Wilson, who later became well-known for his role in establishing the theory of continental drift.

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