Chapter 9: The Quartermaster Establishment in the United Kingdom
During 1943 the Americans in the British Isles followed the shifting fortunes of war in the Mediterranean with intense interest. Successes or disappointments there had a very direct effect on ultimate plans for their own theater. ROUNDUP had been scheduled for April, but all concerned were agreed that the TORCH operation would delay a cross-Channel attack by at least a year. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, one of the strongest advocates of ROUNDUP, had seen this clearly as early as July 1942, and had vainly used that argument in urging cancellation of the TORCH operation.1 Even when enthusiasm over Mediterranean successes was at its height, there were no serious proposals to cancel the BOLERO build-up permanently. Yet Americans on the spot found the vacillating troop basis, unfirm shipping schedules, and low priority of their theater almost worse than an outright repudiation. They gloomily referred to BOLERO as “in limbo.” The various British headquarters in the United Kingdom were considerably more optimistic about BOLERO, although opinion on ROUNDUP was sharply divided. Englishmen who disapproved of ROUNDUP as a suicidal venture nevertheless welcomed the American build-up in the United Kingdom. It helped secure their home territory against the possibility of a German invasion, and even permitted British troops to be sent to other theaters. All were in agreement on the need for an American bomber offensive, which could not be launched from any other base. Finally, the continuance of BOLERO guaranteed the presence of a combat reserve in a location where it could quickly exploit any sudden strategic or political crisis that might occur within Axis territory. Further than that, the more conservative British strategists would not go.2 They had seen British armies driven off the Continent four times since 1939. These were sobering facts that many Americans had not completely grasped before they arrived in the British Isles. Therefore the newcomers were all the readier to admire the courage of those Englishmen, fortunately a majority, who were willing
to ignore past defeats and try again.
Until the end of January 1943, ETO-USA was essentially a subtheater commanded for Eisenhower by his deputy, Maj. Gen. Russell P. Hartle, whose major duty was to forward promptly from Great Britain to North Africa whatever personnel and supplies were required. Early in February ETOUSA became a separate theater and Lt. Gen. Frank M. Andrews, an Air Corps officer, assumed command. During that month the U.S. forces in the theater dwindled to a low of 104,510, including about 35,000 service troops, but thereafter came a very slow increase in strength.3
Revived Plans for Combat
General Lee returned from the Casablanca Conference in January 1943 full of optimism for a renewed BOLERO build-up, but his hopes were dashed when, at the end of February, Eisenhower announced that he would need 160,000 additional troops for HUSKY (the coming campaign in Sicily.) Clearly, this meant another postponement. In April and May there was a series of dramatic successes in antisubmarine operations in the Atlantic, arousing the hope that shipping could be found to support simultaneous campaigns in the Mediterranean and in northern Europe. Also in April one of the few firm decisions of the Casablanca Conference favorable to BOLERO was implemented: a planning staff called COSSAC (Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander (Designate)) was set up under British Lt. Gen. Sir Frederick Morgan, and began an intensive study of cross-Channel operations. Morgan and his American deputy, Brig. Gen. Ray W. Barker, were comparatively junior officers and, as assistants to a nonexistent Supreme Commander, wielded little authority. But they had a talent for conceiving aggressive combat plans and working them out to the point where coordination with other headquarters became necessary, thereby arousing the interest of other commanders. Morgan, especially, was a strong personality, and firmly opposed to the conservative school of British strategy. Above all, if these men felt that the forces or supplies allotted for any aspect of the contemplated cross-Channel operation were too small, they were quick to demand reinforcements or higher priorities. Their anomalous position as aides to an undesignated Supreme Commander made it possible to forward such recommendations direct to the very highest echelons. Thus the activities of COSSAC had a vitalizing, effect upon BOLERO planning everywhere, but especially within ETOUSA headquarters.4
In May 1943 General Andrews was killed in an aircraft accident, and was succeeded by General Devers, former commander of the Armored Force at Fort Knox, Kentucky. The choice was significant. Before his death, General Andrews had virtually completed preparation of a detailed troop basis to replenish the weakened Eighth Air Force, and of plans to resume the air offensive against the Continent. Now an expert on armored forces would perform the same services for ground combat troops. In accordance with the figures developed during the TRIDENT Conference at Washington in late May, Devers called on his staff for a detailed troop basis to support
a force of twenty-one divisions. Early in July, SOS ETOUSA submitted a troop basis calling for 490,000 men in service units, including Littlejohn’s requirement for 56,000 Quartermaster troops. This estimate, based more on BOLERO requirements than on a forecast for continental operations, involved several considerations. The time for mounting a cross-Channel attack in 1944 was getting very short, and all available British port capacity (150 ships a month) would have to be utilized fully. But this was possible only if the U.S. Army could provide half of the necessary dock labor. British construction programs, especially for troop accommodations and hospitals, had been curtailed during the lean months, and timely completion of these necessary buildings would now require large numbers of U.S. construction troops. Under an accelerated program, depots and sorting sheds would require more operating personnel than was used at the height of the 1942 build-up. The British would require much labor for their own OVERLORD effort. Finally, there had been a noticeable attrition of the British civilian labor force during the past year; at Liverpool, the average age of stevedores was fifty-two.5
Devers directed that temporary and local needs for labor, before the combat phase of OVERLORD began, were to be met by drawing on the service elements of combat units. He warned against planning to maintain a large supply organization in England after a French base had been secured. The maximum strength of service troops, he decreed, would be 375,000 men, and the various technical services must trim their estimates to meet this figure. On 18 July he presented a troop basis of 375,000 service troops and 635,000 ground combat troops to the War Department for approval. Of this number, 49,950 would be QMC personnel.6 The service troop portion of this estimate, as approved by both Army Ground Forces (AGF) and ASF, was a figure that remained fairly firm until COSSAC forced a general reconsideration of all troop strengths late in 1943. In the kaleidoscopic story of the troop basis, this is just a fleeting episode, but it reveals the SOS estimate of the dimensions of the OVERLORD logistical mission and the combat commander’s view that the proportionate strength of service troops could and should be regulated by fiat.
Organizational Changes in SOS ETOUSA and the OCQM
In the meantime certain changes had taken place in organization within Headquarters, ETOUSA. General Order 16 of 26 March 1943 represents General Andrews’ effort to redefine ETOUSA-SOS relationships. Lee had made a determined but unsuccessful effort to eliminate the G-4 position from the ETOUSA staff. G-4 remained as the agency to “guide SOS according to broad phases of plans by theater and higher headquarters,” but all of the technical services were unequivocally assigned to SOS. The Inspector General, Adjutant General, Judge Advocate, and Provost Marshal remained under ETOUSA. Lee and his service chiefs were moved to
London to assist ETOUSA headquarters in its planning functions. Operations would continue at Cheltenham under deputy service chiefs, thus reversing the previous arrangement. In April this concept was carried still further: the Cheltenham organization was placed under Brig. Gen. William G. Weaver as Field Deputy Commander, SOS, and became almost a separate headquarters. It assumed direct control over the base sections and was responsible for the training and combat readiness of SOS troop units. London Base Command of ETOUSA became Central Base Section, SOS. Thus there were again four base sections (Northern Ireland Base Section had been downgraded to a district of Western Base Section in December 1942).
Late in May General Devers, the new theater commander, made still more changes. To Lee’s satisfaction the position of G-4 was consolidated with his own office. SOS also assumed control of the Judge Advocate and Provost Marshal Divisions, the Claims Commission, and the new Area Petroleum Service. SOS now proceeded to modify its own structure, first eliminating the G sections.
In the organization that was in force by the end of August 1943, the four former G sections of the staff had been upgraded to “chiefs” (not to be confused with the chiefs of technical services), and all activities of SOS headquarters were now channeled through them. Under this system, in theory, Littlejohn had access to General Lee only through Col. Royal B. Lord, Chief of Operations. Although the Chief Quartermaster continued to be in charge of general depots, theoretically he could only contact them through General Weaver, Field Deputy Commander at Cheltenham, and then through the base section commanders. Similarly, his access to Quartermaster units was through the Chief of Training and Security, and to the Army Exchange Service through the Chief of Administration. In practice, only junior officers and official correspondence followed these rigid channels. Littlejohn continued to fulfill his responsibilities by simple, direct action as the situation required. His staff saw to it that the proper agencies were informed of all action taken.7 The arrangement was eminently satisfactory to Lee, who was able to reduce the amount of paper work and routine policy making requiring his personal attention and yet retain control over the whole SOS organization through four deputies who knew in detail all that was happening.
Initially the reorganization was less pleasing to the technical services, which lost a good deal of authority to the “chiefs” and to the base section commanders. For example, the Transportation Service lost direct control of ports and sorting sheds, and base section commanders assumed almost complete control over personnel assignments within their areas. At the same time the OCQM lost control of motor transport units to the ETO Transportation Service, headed by Brig. Gen. Frank S. Ross. This was largely a matter of technical training and inspections, since the base section commanders had also assumed a large measure of operational control over these units.8
These developments did not arouse
the opposition they might have engendered earlier, for by the fall of 1943 the technical service staffs were furiously busy with more important matters. The BOLERO build-up had recommended and OVERLORD logistical planning—no ivory tower staff problem, but a real plan for combat—was in full swing. On 18 October Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley formally activated Headquarters, First U.S. Army, at Bristol. Most of the staff were drawn from his old II Corps headquarters. Several of them, including his quartermaster, Colonel McNamara, had already been in Great Britain more than a month studying the OVERLORD plans prepared by COSSAC.9
The renewed emphasis on planning was also reflected in changes in the organization of the OCQM. The biggest change came in August 1943 when all elements of the OCQM in any way concerned with planning were moved to London. This move encouraged closer coordination between BOLERO and COSSAC planners. An enlarged Plans and Training Division, headed by Col. Albert G. Duncan, became the most important element in the London office. Its training responsibilities had at first been confined to training literature, but were later extended to actual training and inspection of Quartermaster units that would participate in combat operations. Meantime the inspection functions of the Field Service Division in Cheltenham were reduced to overseeing depots, installations, and units to remain behind in the United Kingdom. A corresponding shift in emphasis between London and Cheltenham also changed the functions of other staff divisions. But despite its greater importance, London remained numerically the smaller of the two offices. In November 1943 there were 72 QM officers and 86 enlisted men in the London headquarters, and 84 officers and 320 enlisted men at Cheltenham. At that time 124 British civilians were employed in London and 69 in Cheltenham.10 Coordination between the two offices, situated about ninety miles apart, was achieved by rapid courier service, frequent exchanges of staff personnel, and careful planning. In some respects the separation was actually beneficial, constituting a rehearsal for a combat situation where two echelons of the OCQM would inevitably be separated by the English Channel. The organization of the OCQM on D minus 3 is shown in Chart 1.
The Depot System
Largely a Quartermaster responsibility, U.S. depot operations in the United Kingdom began very modestly in rented warehouses. The War Department’s oft-repeated directives to conserve shipping and strategic materials, make maximum use of local resources, and respect British wartime rationing regulations applied with particular stringency to authorizations for new construction in the British Isles in 1942. Besides the hundred thousand homes and other buildings totally destroyed in the blitz, over a million more had been damaged. In Britain’s moist climate, prompt repairs were necessary to save the contents of damaged buildings and even to preserve the structures themselves. Except for essential war industry, no new building whatever was allowed. Authorities
provided shelter for the thousands made homeless by repairing, renovating, and adapting existing structures. The necessary construction materials were doled out under the strict supervision of the Ministry of Works.11
These had been the local conditions when in May 1942 British General Wooten was directed to provide accommodations, including storage space, for 1,000,000 Americans before 1 April 1943. Wooten was Deputy Quartermaster General (Liaison), commonly referred to as Q (Liaison), a post specially created to coordinate logistical matters with the U.S. Army. Since the British system gives its quartermasters broad responsibilities for logistics, Wooten was generally regarded as Lee’s opposite number. He was also the British Army member of the BOLERO Combined Committee (London), and the BOLERO Key Plans were issued by his office.12
In the First BOLERO Key Plan, Wooten estimated the American storage requirement at 14,000,000 square feet of covered space and 26,000,000 square feet of hardstand—paved, drained, open storage. The rate at which this space would actually be used was uncertain, depending entirely upon available shipping. On 24 June, SOS ETOUSA estimated that 300,000 to 560,000 tons of cargo would reach the United Kingdom by 1 September. These uncertain figures were largely based on an equally tentative estimate by the Washington BOLERO Committee that 105,000 to 150,000 troops would arrive by the same date. Allowing 30 percent as a probable Quartermaster share of this tonnage, and 12 square feet per ton of cargo, ETO Quartermaster Service would have to occupy and organize between one and two million square feet of depot space in the next two months.13 Construction at such short notice would be impossible, even if materials were available. Since the brewing and tobacco-processing industries were hard hit by rationing and labor shortages, a considerable number of breweries and warehouses were not in use. Wooten arranged to requisition several of these, and also evacuated four British Army depots and turned them over to the Americans. The deadline was easily met, and because of the sudden shift in supply operations to support TORCH not all of the space was needed. In December 1942 the U.S. forces began to transfer small amounts of storage space back to the British.14
Pressed by time, the U.S. Chief Quartermaster and the other technical service chiefs had meanwhile accepted and occupied the only space available, irrespective of its suitability, convenience, or even compliance with U.S. minimum standards for safety. Many sites were poorly located with reference to planned
U.S. troop locations. Some of the facilities taken over, particularly the civilian establishments, were badly constructed and insufficiently equipped for heavy military use. Many were old multistoried buildings with inadequate elevators and poor accessibility by road and rail. Often they were situated in areas of dense traffic. Even new construction was not always in the best locations to serve American needs because the British encouraged development of facilities in line with their own future requirements.15
To reduce the heavy demand from all services for closed space, Lee agreed to use open storage whenever the nature of the supplies would permit. About a third of QMC supplies could be placed outdoors. Pending the arrival of storage tents from the United States, Littlejohn borrowed 27,000 from the British.16 Even this expedient presented new difficulties.
Not every open field could be used. In most cases roads had to be built, rail lines brought to the site, and the ground surface conditioned to support heavy loads and provide rapid drainage. Utilization of open storage was also limited because it was harmful for many kinds of Quartermaster supplies, especially in the period before special overseas packing became customary. By mid-1943 improvements in overseas packaging and new techniques of outdoor storage under canvas made it possible to store even sugar and flour in the open for extended periods.17
Once it was clear that the original BOLERO program was being postponed and that a local emergency no longer existed, the Americans began to demand better storage facilities, but this was still impossible. The British had begun an extensive building program, but none of the new depots would be ready until the summer of 1943. Moreover, their policy was to use all available space. The new construction was designed to supplement and not to replace the older buildings. The Americans therefore began an intensive program of renovation and enlargement. Engineer troops provided most of the labor, and the Chief Engineer coordinated all requisitions for locally procured building materials with Quartermaster (Liaison) and the Ministry of Works.
Engineer personnel also contributed materially to the program of new construction, especially of paved concrete hardstands. Their training and equipment made them particularly suited to this task. But several large and completely new depots were also needed. The British provided corrugated sheet steel for Nissen huts but the Americans had to ship ingots from the United States to replace the steel reserves.18 Construction began late in 1942, and during the following year seven general and six Quartermaster depots were completed. Several sites were occupied and used for open storage before construction work began. The location of general and Quartermaster depots and the amount of space in them assigned to OCQM in November 1943 and May 1944 are shown in Table 6. It should be noted that by the latter date initial issue to troops had materially reduced QM space requirements.
The first of six new depots, all constructed on one standard design, was built at Wem, near Shrewsbury in western England, by British contractors. Begun in December 1942, construction at Wem (G-16) was completed in the following June at a cost of $2,360,000. It contained 450,000 square feet of covered storage, mostly in steel huts, 1,375,000 square feet of hardstand, and barracks for 1,250 men.19 Histon (G-23) and Lockerly Hall (G-55) were built on the Wem design entirely by Americans. U.S. troops also assisted in the
Table 6: QM Storage Space in the United Kingdom: General Depots and QM Depots
(Thousands of square feet)
|Depot||November 1943||May 1944|
|Activated||Space Assigned||Space in Use||Space Assigned||Space in Use|
|Grand Total: Quartermaster Storage Space||7,967||6,303||5,420||1,816||4,159||3,195||3,242||2,005|
|Total QM Space in General Depots||6,363||5,210||3,620||1,424||3,262||2,482||2,598||1,584|
|G-10 Belfast*||15 Dec 42|
|G-10 Wilmont*||16 Dec 42||744||518||207||23||—||—||—||—|
|G-14 Liverpool||23 Aug 42||999||220||614||205||478||177||379||91|
|G-15 Boughton†||5 Nov 43||135||299||—||—||71||77||45||19|
|G-16 Wem†||1 Jun 43||95||100||97||81||65||72||54||57|
|G-18 Sudbury†||25 Sep 42||242||268||204||177||178||181||96||130|
|G-20 Burton-on-Trent||11 Jul 42||468||397||334||183||266||115||198||77|
|G-22 Moreton-on-Lugg†||11 Jul 43||134||184||21||—||98||82||88||69|
|G-23 Histon†||15 Nov 43||125||200||—||—||80||133||68||19|
|G-24 Honeybourne†||29 Oct 43||140||200||—||—||95||119||68||34|
|G-25 Ashchurch‡||11 Jul 42||77||80||66||64||51||40||46||15|
|G-30 London||17 May 43||630||340||461||147||272||128||244||108|
|G-35 Bristol||11 Jul 42||489||186||204||7||339||137||279||55|
|G-40 Barry‡||14 Aug 42||372||320||249||71||201||272||179||234|
|G-45 Thatcham-Newbury‡||11 Jul 42||509||647||440||192||353||200||338||147|
|G-47 Westbury||15 Oct 43||228||200||—||—||148||116||68||54|
|G-50 Taunton||11 Jul 42||522||451||450||58||284||195||233||192|
|G-55 Lockerly Hall†||22 Nov 43||100||200||—||—||66||95||36||34|
|G-65 Hilsea‡||7 Oct 42||244||300||181||186||156||225||123||138|
|G-75 Coypool||12 May 43||110||100||92||30||61||118||56||111|
|Total Space in QuartermasterDepots||1,604||1,093||1,800||392||897||713||645||421|
|Q-101 Kettering-Wellingborough||15 Jul 42||132||106||113||44||93||61||48||24|
|Q-103 Glasgow||27 Oct 42||100||78||21||12||63||24||31||5|
|Q-104 Bungay-Ditchingham||16 Apr 43||94||56||120||26||63||60||45||10|
|Q-105 East Harling .||16 Aug 43||81||81||34||24||5|
|Q-107 Stowmarket||13 Sep 42||145||131||82||112||53||14|
|Q-108 Great Dunmow||27 May 43||84||60||74||21||57||47||34||18|
|Q-111 Belfast*||23 Nov 43||466||207||778||28||295||132||224||94|
|Q-125 Weyhill||1 Aug 43||107||86||105||51||52||24||39||23|
|Q-134 Exeter||25 Sep 42||55||54||67||19||35||27||33||23|
|Q-140 Lydney||27 Oct 42||249||187||400||159||58||156||55||155|
|Q-150 Shepton Mallet||14 Jul 43||57||47||88||32||31||65||25||50|
|Q-152 Gloucester§||23 Sep 43||20||20||20||20|
|Q-160 Street§||12 Jan 43||14||14||14||14|
a General Depots G-10 Belfast and G-10 Wilmont were combined and designated Quartermaster Depot Q-111 Belfast on 23 November 1943.
b New depots—specially built for the U.S. forces.
c Depots transferred by the British Army.
d Salvage depots.
Source: For November 1943: Plans and Training Division, OCQM ETO. Work Sheet, 10 November 1943. For May 1944: Plans and Training D vi ion, OCQM ETO, Current Operating Data Book, 8 May 1944.
construction of three more such depots. The building program was pushed through despite serious doubts about the future of BOLERO and ROUNDUP. The total cost was about fifty million dollars.20
By mid-1943, the U.S. depot system covered most of the United Kingdom, with Quartermaster branch depots, functioning mainly for direct support of combat units, concentrated largely in areas where most U.S. troops were stationed. Geography itself imposed conditions on each base section which forced quartermasters to develop certain specialties. In Northern Ireland they gained experience in staging troops for shipment to other parts of the British Isles. At Western Base Section, which contained some of the finest ports on the Irish Sea and Bristol Channel, quartermasters developed depot management as a specialty.21 Eastern Base Section, embracing relatively flat terrain adjacent to the continent of Europe, contained most of the U.S. air bases. Quartermasters there worked very closely with the Quartermaster, Eighth Air Force, and specialized in techniques peculiar to the job of supporting the air arm.22 Knowledge and skill in assisting corps commands developed among quartermasters in Southern Base Section, which accommodated large bodies of troops in training or in concentration areas adjacent to English Channel ports. In all the coastal areas there were Navy personnel who drew common items directly from U.S. Army depots. In all base sections, including the small one later established for greater London, quartermaster activities became more and more decentralized, with operations patterned on OCQM procedures.23
Reserves of Quartermaster supplies were maintained in the Quartermaster sections of general depots. It was not necessary to activate as many QM branch depots as originally planned, since as a result of the energetic British building program of 1943 general depots were scattered almost as widely as the branch depots. During 1943–44 the branch depots declined in size. Although some effort was made to avoid the dangerous areas on the south and east coasts, important general depots were set up near Southampton and Plymouth in addition to those at Liverpool, on the Bristol Channel, in London, and at inland points.
A major consideration in locating depots, especially in the early days, was accessibility of civilian manpower. The four military depots surrendered by the British Army each had a standard complement of 690 civilians. Depots in port cities were soon employing twice that number, but the newly constructed installations in rural areas had to rely on military personnel, plus a small number of laborers and clerks hired in the neighborhood. Because of transportation
shortages, it was never possible to arrange for large numbers of civilians to commute to these depots. By early 1944 there was a labor shortage at all depots. About 2,000 Irish laborers were hired on 90-day contracts, but housing them was a problem never satisfactorily solved, and plans to hire 3,000 more were stopped. Housing was available only in urban areas, where the need was least pressing. Because temporary housing was expensive, the Irish were paid more than prevailing British wages, which inevitably led to friction. At the insistence of the British authorities, English and Irish laborers were not employed at the same depots. By May 1944 OCQM had some 8,000 British and 2,000 Irish employees, with no immediate prospect of obtaining more. Arrangements had been made with NATOUSA for 7,000 Italian ex-prisoners, organized into Italian service units, to be sent to the United Kingdom, but they would not arrive until after D-day. Meanwhile, the entire 5th Armored Division and several smaller
combat units were used temporarily as laborers. By September 1944, over 5,000 Italians had arrived, and local civilians were again available in large numbers. On 11 September some 11,000 British civilians—laborers and clerks—were employed, mostly in urban areas.24
Quartermaster storage functions were carried on in much the same way throughout the United Kingdom in both Quartermaster and general depots. Stocks of a single item were often spread through many depots rather than concentrated at a minimum number of locations, as efficiency and Quartermaster Corps doctrine directed. Each depot was assigned a retail “mission” of providing for supply of troops stationed in its vicinity and for storage of calculated amounts of bulk stocks forming part of the theater reserve. The close supervision required to keep the system in balance was provided by the Office of the Chief Quartermaster. In the first rush to get stocks into storage, General Littlejohn had personally taken care of many details that later became responsibilities of the base section. The OCQM, although itself still in process of formation, took the initiative among the technical services in regard to storage of supplies, settled details of depot locations with the British, moved officers and men to staff depots, and directed shipments from the ports. By early 1943 responsibility for these functions had been definitely assigned. The Engineers coordinated acquisition of storage space, the base section commanders provided personnel and services, and the Transportation Service controlled all shipments.
In the original SOS ETO organization, depot administration had been assigned to a General Depot Service under SOS G-4. This arrangement paralleled the organization at SOS headquarters in Washington. The General Depot Service was abolished in the zone of interior in July 1942 and SOS ETO followed suit, leaving the function directly under G-4.25 It soon developed that G-4 was not equipped to deal with the details of depot operations. Accordingly, again paralleling the zone of interior, the functions of the General Depot Service in the ETO were transferred to the Chief Quartermaster.26 This gave the OCQM supervision of all general depots as well as Quartermaster branch depots.
OCQM eventually assumed responsibility for supervising and staffing four types of depots: general depots with stores and provisions for two or more of the technical services, Quartermaster branch depots, salvage depots, and POL depots. The British controlled all depots and commercial establishments which contained cold storage space for perishable subsistence items. Because cold stores were largely located in port cities, such items as beef and butter were separated from nonperishable foods, which caused some difficulty in assembling a balanced menu.27
The U.S. forces in the United Kingdom drew their liquid fuels and lubricants direct from the British through a
common pool arrangement. Consequently, the main purpose of Quartermaster POL depots was supply for cross-Channel operations, and many of them were activated late in 1943. Because of the fire hazard, POL depots were normally kept separate from other depots and were dispersed over large areas—sometimes more than fifty acres. Only packaged POL was a QMC item; bulk POL was handled by the Transportation Corps or the Corps of Engineers. Thus a POL depot was primarily a place where filled 5-gallon cans were stacked in the open, usually camouflaged under trees. Each stack was normally on a “base,” a hardstand of 56 x 56-foot dimensions. Each base held 340 long tons of gasoline, or about 19,000 cans. Bases were never less than 100 feet apart.
Kerosene and diesel oil were also stored in such stacks. Greases and lubricants were packed in tin cans and were stored in corrugated steel huts, but the number of huts at a POL depot was always very small compared to the number of huts at other depots. Tentative sites for twenty-two POL depots were part of the first BOLERO Key Plan, but only fourteen of these depots were activated. (Table 7) Most of them were located near the south coast of Britain, ten or fifteen miles inland from the embarkation ports assigned to the American troops. By October 1943 eight depots had been activated, but since there were only three gasoline supply companies in the British Isles to man them, civilian labor was used as at other depots. Although the Engineers were confident that bulk
Table 7: Quartermaster POL Depots: 31 December 1943
|Open Space||Closed Space||Activated|
|Number||Location||Long Tons||Bases*||Square Feet||Huts|
|Q-305||Altcar||7,140||21||3,360||1||8 Apr 43|
|Q-304||Trefnant||7,140||21||2,240||1||26 Dec 43|
|Q-303||Eardisley||21,420||63||10,000||3||17 Oct 43|
|Q-331||Highbridge||18,700||55||51,007||†||26 Oct 42|
|Q-316||Masbury||15,640||46||2,100||1||23 Sep 42|
|Q-328||WestMoors||47,260||139||33,450||†||27 Jul 43|
|Q-329||Wimborne||25,280||74||10,080||3||6 May 43|
|Q-324||Dorchester||14,280||42||10,080||3||15 Apr 43|
|Q-323||Bovey-Tracey||18,020||53||8,400||3||1 Jun 43|
|Q-317||Newbury||11,900||35||2,240||1||15 Oct 43|
|Q-318||EverLeigh||7,140||21||2,240||1||15 Aug 43|
|Q-320||Porton||7,140||21||2,240||16 Aug 43|
|Q-326||Droxford||16,660||49||2,240||1||1 Nov 43|
* Base = 3,136 sq. ft. (56’ x 56’) hardstand capable of storing 340 tong tong of gasoline in 5-gallon cans.
† Existing buildings.
‡ Plus existing buildings.
Source: POL Plan. Petroleum and Fuel Division, 1 August 1943. and Current Operating Data Book, OCOM, June 1944, p. 48.
gasoline would be available on the Continent by D plus 30, the OCQM decided to accumulate a packaged reserve to support the invasion through D plus 90, and the POL depot system was organized on that basis. The depots were filled to capacity by 30 April 1944, and enough gasoline supply companies had arrived by then so that one company could be assigned to each POL depot, in addition to those earmarked for First Army.28
The Chief Quartermaster’s technical supervision involved frequent inspections of the general and Quartermaster branch depots to insure maximum efficiency through compliance with authorized procedures. Methods of storage and stock control were under continuous scrutiny, and results of depot operations in terms of tons moved per man per month were carefully checked and compared.29 Full instructions from OCQM appeared in a depot operations manual that covered in detail warehousing operations, stock control procedures, and reports. The OCQM computed model stocks and storage space requirements on the basis of the depot mission and sent this data to the Quartermaster supply officer at each general and branch installation.30 But frequent changes in depot missions, and local conditions over which depot quartermasters had no control, often made compliance with these instructions impossible.31
U.S. Quartermaster storage doctrine was based on larger, more concentrated facilities than were generally available in the United Kingdom. Efforts to increase efficiency by making the depots’ arrangement conform more closely to U.S. standards led to almost constant rebuilding and expansion. The resultant shifting and rewarehousing of supplies made for even more intradepot movement than arose from actual receipt and issue of supplies. Since labor was scarce and, in most cases, extensive use of mechanical equipment was not feasible due to the layout and condition of floors, the normal difficulties of achieving neat and accurate storage were multiplied. Despite continuous effort to make activities conform to storage manual principles, operations were often not completely satisfactory when measured by United States standards.32
Many early difficulties of depot location and operation are illustrated in the experience of the depot at Liverpool, G-14. Planners had seen from the beginning that the Mersey River area, with Liverpool as its chief port, would be an important point of entry for U.S. supplies. Accordingly, in late July 1942 American and British officers were sent there to establish a Quartermaster depot. Within a few days they had acquired their main facility, the Stanley Tobacco Warehouse, a large fourteen-story building, with access by road, rail, and canal.
Aside from the fact that the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board retained part of the warehouse for its own use, there were other drawbacks. The building was situated in an area of heavy traffic; the fourteen stories and the basement were served by only four slow elevators; and windows were broken, lights were few, and there was no blackout equipment to permit night work. Despite these handicaps the depot started to function, using local civilian labor exclusively, when the first supplies arrived on 17 August.33 When formally established a few days later, it was set up as a general rather than a Quartermaster depot as had been originally planned. Eventually it contained medical, chemical, engineer, post exchange, and adjutant general supply sections, but QMC supplies were always the depot’s main concern.
Supplies immediately began to pour in. Within a few weeks the 900,000 square feet of Stanley Warehouse were used up and expansion had begun. By the end of September the depot had acquired additional space in a railway warehouse, in railway sorting sheds, and in two private warehouses. In addition to this closed space the depot had an open storage area of approximately one million square feet. With the exception of Stanley Warehouse and the open area, operated by a combination of American military and local civilian personnel, these facilities were managed by British public or private organizations on a fee basis for freight handling and space rental.34
In the next year and a half, in the midst of constantly expanding operations, the efficiency of the depot was gradually built up. British civilian labor and U.S. troops, working together, repaired Stanley Warehouse and installed blackout fixtures. Offices and accommodations for troops were provided by Quartermaster (Liaison). Methods of operation were standardized and perfected by close supervision of the Commander, Western Base Section, and inspections by OCQM. Even the handicap of multistoried buildings was partly overcome by the installation of chutes, hoists, and conveyors. By April 1944, just before the climactic preparations for the cross-Channel attack, the Liverpool depot had progressed to the point where 1,500 military and civilian workers were handling every day 2,000 tons which arrived and left by rail, barge, and truck.
In contrast, the development of General Depot G-45 at Thatcham near London was typical for military depots transferred to the United States Army by the British Army. It was a modern manufacturing plant which had been requisitioned soon after completion in July 1940. It contained 600,000 square feet of covered storage and was operated by boo civilians. In keeping with British dispersal practice, the storage areas were scattered over 152 acres.35 An American depot was officially activated there on 11 July 1942. The transfer was gradual,
proceeding by weekly increments until the U.S. Army took over the entire installation and the military command in November.
The transfer went off smoothly as far as Anglo-American relations were concerned, but not without some physical problems. The dispatch of British supplies and the influx of U.S. supplies taxed the transportation and handling capacity of the depot. At the same time a number of important changes were made in the plant: new open storage areas were prepared to receive supplies, new roads built, new railroad tracks installed, and some of the warehouses reconstructed along lines more suitable to U.S. storage operations. U.S. Engineer troops constructed most of the hard-stands with mechanized equipment. British civilian workers renovated the buildings. In January 1943 the Newbury Race Course, a tract of 220 acres, six miles from the establishment, was added to the G-45 open storage area. The depot began to operate almost immediately. In September 1942 it supplied an average of 5,000 troops; the next month it supplied 23,000. Supply of North Africa, in which the depot was heavily engaged, caused considerable fluctuation in its activities. By the beginning of 1944, it was serving over 70,000 troops and plans were under way to increase its mission to 100,000 troops.
The Base Sections
The base sections, territorial subdivisions of SOS, came into existence later than the depots. Their structure developed more slowly, reflecting the evolution of service commands in the United States. Northern Ireland Base Command, a provisional headquarters organized in February 1942, was not a territorial organization, despite its name, but a support echelon of V Corps. Lee formally activated four base sections on 20 July 1942 but Northern Ireland Base Section retained its subordinate role with respect to V Corps, and was inactivated when that headquarters moved to England in December. (See Map 1.) The other three base sections, beginning with considerable autonomy, developed the concept of “host” organizations to whom combat units were “guests.”36 By July 1943 an informal booklet published by OCQM for supply officers of newly arrived units declared that: “A base section corresponds basically to a service command in the United States.”37
Since the technical services had created and staffed the depots and had dictated their methods and standards of operation for several months, they put up considerable resistance to the establishment of a new chain of command. The technical services tended to retain control over not only purely technical matters, but everything pertaining to more than one base section, especially operational control of transportation units. Technical service representatives on each base section headquarters staff were capable of performing many of these
functions, and in some cases did so, but under technical service direction. As the base section organization was built up in the fall of 1942, the base section commanders tended to expand their jurisdiction to all SOS installations in their territories. Lee gave them considerable support, and gradually reduced the number of “exempt” installations and activities.38 Their staffs matured and assumed increasing responsibilities. For example, once the location and size of new depots had been agreed upon, the Engineer Sections of the base section staffs took over direction of American construction activity, coordinating details of the work with local representatives of British agencies and initiating requisitions for building materials from the United States if necessary, or from such local military agencies as the Directorate of Fortifications and Works. Instructions to unit supply officers in July 1943 stated that “Each base section has a suitable quartermaster staff located at the base section headquarters. The base section quartermaster and his staff are equipped to provide a solution to most of the local quartermaster supply problems.”39
Littlejohn’s dual position as Chief, Quartermaster Service, and Chief, General Depot Service, gave him great influence with the base section commanders. This was reinforced by his temporary position as Deputy Commander, SOS, in November and December 1942, and by his seniority and informal position of leadership among the technical service chiefs. But his personal position confused rather than clarified the demarcation of authority between base section commanders and chiefs of technical services in their relations with depot commanders and supply units. In all disciplinary and administrative matters, including personnel assignments, SOS headquarters assigned increasing authority to the base section commanders, finally abolishing all “exempt” activities in August 1943.40 Base Section commanders thus won jurisdiction in August 1943 over all general depots, except for certain matters involving internal management and technical operations. Such matters could be handled best by direct communication between depots and the technical service staffs at SOS headquarters.41
The increasing responsibility for housekeeping and general administration which the base sections took over from the depots was delegated to districts. Southern, Western, and Northern Ireland Base Sections were each subdivided into four districts. But Eastern Base Section, which delegated many functions to VIII Air Force Service Command, and Central Base Section, a small unit which supervised supply administration in greater London, were not so subdivided. The districts became of major importance just before D-day, when they assumed command of service units at the embarkation points to
provide last-minute support and services to the departing combat troops.42
Automatic Supply and Requisitions
The aim of supply planning in an overseas headquarters is to maintain all stocks within the minimum and maximum supply levels prescribed by higher authority. During World War II this objective, so easily defined, was surrounded by pitfalls and proved very difficult to attain. A major element in the problem was the “lead time” of 90 to 120 days between preparation of a requisition and arrival of the requested items. After some experiment it became normal procedure in the ETO to submit requisitions to cover requirements for a 30-day period, but that period would begin 90 days or more in the future. Requisitions therefore had to take into account anticipated consumption and anticipated arrivals of supplies in the interim period. An even more uncertain element was the anticipated troop strength of the theater at the time the supplies were to arrive. Enemy action, especially submarine and air attacks against shipping, provided another factor of uncertainty. This is by no means a complete catalogue of all the variables involved and the inevitable result was that ETO supplies were always somewhat out of balance. Stocks of some items were too large, and of others too small, and slow corrective action could not overtake the new complications that constantly emerged.
The source of supplies for the ETO, as well as for predecessor commands during World War II, was the New York Port of Embarkation.43 After 6 June 1942, NYPE was also the agency controlling priorities, size of shipments, and theater levels of supply. The necessary authority, previously exercised by the War Department, had been delegated to NYPE as part of a general process of decentralization. Control was exercised by “editing” theater requisitions—that is, by careful checking to ensure that they contained no technical errors, were in accord with War Department policy directives, and took into account the most recent revisions of strategic plans and the troop basis. NYPE exercised considerable autonomy in modifying regulations to meet current problems. For example, minimum theater supply levels were the basis of strategic planning, and were only changed with the approval of the War Department, but maximum levels were modified to conform to the current shipping situation, or to meet special theater needs.
During the gradual preparation of a forward base for a continental operation, economy of supply and shipping indicated a low supply level as desirable, while to make possible efficient service to the troops, orderly procedure, and American self-sufficiency in a British theater, a high level was called for. General Littlejohn, as the man who would have to cope with local problems and keep the troops supplied, favored the higher levels. This meant that each of his many small depots would have an ample reserve, even if his inexperienced and overworked depot personnel made
occasional mistakes in inventory accounting. Crosshauls between depots to correct local shortages would be minimized, and the theater itself would have a reserve to offset losses in transit or to meet unexpected demands. To him, these advantages outweighed the fact that ultimately all supplies not locally consumed would have to be hauled to ports and transshipped to a combat zone across the Channel.44
The War Department had established a 60-day level for all supplies in the United Kingdom in January 1942, as already described. This was a minimum level and no maximum was set at that time. In July the minimum was increased to 75 days, and in August a maximum level of 180 days was authorized. TORCH requirements were given priority over BOLERO during the following month, and in November the War Department reduced the ETO maximum supply level to 75 days for subsistence, 90 days for clothing, and 60 days for other supplies. It should be borne in mind that the only place where such a directive had an immediate effect was in the Overseas Supply Division of NYPE, where it was used in editing requisitions. It did not affect supplies already in the pipeline. In the ETO, General Lee reacted to the November directive by announcing that an additional 45-day combat maintenance factor would be added. This, he felt, was needed to maintain the established levels in the United Kingdom and at the same time support the North African operation.45
During the next three months troop departures more than offset the decrease in cargo arrivals so that the theater supply levels rose sharply. At the end of February, the month in which ETO-USA and NATOUSA became separate theaters, Quartermaster supply levels in the United Kingdom were as follows:
Days of Supply for 125,000 Men
|A Ration||75||Surplus of perishable components of the A ration:|
|B Ration (balanced)||34||Beef||7,838,075 pounds|
|B Ration (unbalanced)||132||Pork||1,003,775 pounds|
|C Ration||7.7||Butter||628,750 pounds|
|Clothing||249||Clothing tariffs are somewhat unbalanced.|
|Equipage||206||Certain deficiencies as well as excesses in equipage.|
|POL||60||POL assured from British sources; also 22 days packaged oils and greases in U.K. depots for TORCH.|
|Army Sales Store Supplies||90|
Source: Hq, SOS ETOUSA, G-4 Special Monthly Rpt, QM Sv as of 28 Feb 43. USFET AG 319.1.
But these high levels could be regarded as transitory, arising from a temporary manpower shortage, or even as illusory, since the supplies included items unwanted or actually discarded by the troops who had departed for North Africa. Both the War Department and SOS ETOUSA headquarters were preoccupied with long-range plans, and especially with projected minimum levels. In April 1943 General Marshall suggested a 45-day minimum level for all classes of supply, pointing out that shipping was critically short and other theaters were also reducing their levels. Littlejohn declared that a 45-day level was entirely inadequate, and recommended that the current levels be maintained. Nevertheless, in June the War Department reduced the levels for food and clothing to 60 days, and for all other classes to 45 days. In November 1943 the War Department again suggested reducing all minimum levels to 45 days. Littlejohn agreed to accept that figure for rations but insisted that the level for clothing remain unchanged.46
Throughout 1943 the operating level for all classes of supply remained fixed at 30 days, reflecting the standard procedure of requisitioning once a month to replace 30 days of consumption. Thus the maximum level was 30 days more than the minimum level. In the theater, the War Department’s concept of minimum, operating, and maximum levels was largely ignored. Stocks were not segregated on that basis and requisitions were computed to bring stocks up to the maximum level on the estimated date of arrival. Early in 1944 the War Department adopted the theater’s method of computation, agreeing that thereafter authorizations would refer only to maximum levels. On zo January maximum levels for the ETO were reduced to 60 days for Class I and Class III, and 75 days for Class II and Class IV.47
As troops began to arrive in the United Kingdom in the early spring of 1942, automatic issue of Class I and III supplies from NYPE went into effect, as provided by Quartermaster doctrine and current regulations.48 Quantities of food and fuel to be shipped were calculated by multiplying the troop strength, a figure obtained from sources in Washington, by the authorized days of supply. Automatic supply was thus based on the belief that consumption of Class I and III supplies was not significantly affected by local or temporary conditions, and could be accurately predicted by the shipper.
As early as mid-1941 the SPOBS quartermaster had made arrangements for local procurement of fuels and lubricants, but NYPE, a new organization groping its way toward efficient procedures, was apparently unaware of this. The port authorities shipped considerable quantities of Class III items in the first half of 1942 before they were informed that such supplies were not required.49
In the case of food (Class I), automatic supplies became unbalanced at the very beginning. The 90-day reserve of subsistence which was to accompany or closely follow the first U.S. troops to the
United Kingdom did not arrive on schedule and the troops had to be fed by the British Army. By the time American rations had begun to arrive in quantity, arrangements with the British Ministry of Food were in effect whereby the U.S. forces would receive many food items over an extended period. Since NYPE shipped Class I supplies on the basis of a ration established by the Office of The Quartermaster General, local ETO food procurement obliged NYPE to adjust shipments to avoid duplication. Such adjustments could only be made on the basis of ETO local procurement reports, which came to be almost equivalent to “stop orders” canceling shipments of various items.
Preparations for the North African invasion further disrupted the automatic system. Food supplies for troops sailing from the United Kingdom were withdrawn from local stocks in accordance with combat requirements rather than in the same proportions called for by the menu used in assembling shipments from the United States. Some stocks, especially of operational rations, were reduced to very low levels, while others mounted rapidly because of underconsumption. Stocks were further unbalanced by nondelivery of requested quantities, by sinkings and damage en route, by local distribution difficulties within the theater, and by substitutions at the port for items unobtainable at the time of shipment. The cumulative effect of all these various factors upon what was supposed to be a simple system led to a suspension of the automatic supply of rations in October 1942.50 Extensive requisitions then had to be submitted to bring food stocks into the balance called for by the planning menu.51
Discontinuance of automatic shipments put all ETO quartermaster supplies on a requisition basis. Supply by requisition was in theory a simple procedure. Using authorized theater levels as the limit of what might be requisitioned and subtracting stocks that were on hand and on the way, each technical service submitted requisitions at regular intervals—usually one month—through G-4, SOS, to NYPE for the specific items and quantities needed to replace current consumption and maintain the authorized reserves. The port received the requisitions, edited them for possible mistakes in computation, called forward the supplies from designated depots, and shipped them in time to meet current requirements. When the theater requisitioned items that were not available to the port from its own supporting depots, the port called on the appropriate technical service to arrange for supply from another depot, or by special procurement if necessary. If there was a prospect of delay and a substitute item was available, the port made a substitution on its own authority. When requisitioned items were unauthorized for the theater or exceeded the authorized allowance, the port referred the matter to the War Department for decision. Certain critical items were controlled by the War Department and released for shipment only on specific authorization.
In practice this procedure proved to be full of complexities, which the OCQM had anticipated and attempted to overcome. Briefly stated, the simple mathematical computations of the requisition were based on statistics, which in turn were derived from a wide variety of sources of varying reliability, and were subject to varying interpretations. Troop strength, for example, a basic figure for translating levels of supply into specific quantities, was interpreted in the theater to mean the troop strength expected to be present during the period covered by the requisition, which was usually several months in the future. The War Department objected that this interpretation led to duplication of supply, since supplies for 90 days’ maintenance were supposedly shipped with or immediately following each troop unit sent overseas.52
Many conditions contributed to mutual lack of understanding in this early period. Cables were overloaded and airmail was slow and uncertain. Cargoes were delayed or lost at sea, and when they did arrive there was nothing to indicate whether they were in response to requisitions, automatic supply, specific maintenance for new units, or preshipments. But uncertainty was not confined to the theater. NYPE sometimes found ETO reports of local procurement possibilities overoptimistic. Even formal contracts were not always fulfilled, and there was the constant possibility that agreements with the various British supply ministries might be repudiated by either government.
When a major change in plans occurred, the forecast of troop strength temporarily became very uncertain. During the shift to the TORCH operation, for example, the future of the forces in the United Kingdom was so uncertain as to cause a cancellation of all outstanding requisitions.53 When the theater was using a troop strength figure, either current or projected, which differed significantly from that used by NYPE or by other zone of interior agencies, the editing of requisitions was fraught with numerous delays. This problem was not resolved until July 1944, when the War Department began to issue a Troop List for Operations and Supply (TLOS).54
The rate at which Class II and IV supplies had to be replaced—the “replacement factor”—was another troublesome matter. Some of the confusion in the early days of the build-up was caused by the incomplete equipment of incoming troops.55 In theory all soldiers were to arrive fully equipped according to the appropriate Tables of Basic Allowances, with the theater replacing articles only as they were worn out, used up, or destroyed. In reality the theater frequently had to make initial issues of items that incoming troops were short of. If these initial issues were simply counted with other supplies turned over to
troops, the figures for replacements would be inflated to that extent. For planning purposes at the War Department level it was therefore most essential to distinguish between initial issue, which would not recur, and replacement, which would be repeated at foreseeable intervals. The overseas depots found it extremely hard to make this distinction.
Regular requisitions were supposed to cover replacement issues only, with special requisitions to cover initial issue. Since the latter issues nearly always consisted of unforeseen expenditures, they had to be drawn from theater stocks and replaced later. But enough experienced personnel, trained to interpret Tables of Basic Allowances, were not available in the theater at that time. Depots thus could not cope adequately with the complex problem of distinguishing between initial and replacement issues. Moreover, tables showing authorized equipment of units were not always on hand, and up-to-date changes in such tables were almost invariably lacking. Under such conditions, far beyond staff control, the accuracy of replacement statistics was highly questionable. To the theater, interested chiefly in having supplies on hand when needed, the difference between the two types of issues was in any event secondary. To zone of interior agencies, concerned with long-range forecasting of requirements, the distinction was of primary importance.
The question was further complicated by misunderstandings with respect to details of allowances. The OCQM, SOS ETOUSA, NYPE, The Quartermaster General, and the Commanding General, ASF, were all involved in determining allowances of clothing and equipment. At times tactical commanders, AGF boards, and other technical services were also involved. Agreements affecting these allowances were sometimes reached between certain agencies without proper notification to the others. Resolution of the ensuing confusion occasionally demanded weeks of correspondence and consultation. Efforts were made to fix allowances on a firm basis and to maintain the required distinctions in statistical reports, but the problem was never entirely solved.56
Another basic factor in calculating quantities needed to maintain stocks for reserve and current use was the inventory on hand and expected. This had to be noted on the requisition itself. For stocks on hand, the theater was the source of information, but NYPE also calculated overseas stocks on the basis of the shipments it had made, less presumed consumption. When there was a wide discrepancy, an adjustment had to be made before the port would honor the requisition.57 For the calculation of stocks expected in the theater, the theater was ultimately dependent on the port. In the early days of the ETO, information on supplies in transit was late and fragmentary. The outstanding requisitions canceled in August 1942 during the build-up for TORCH could not be immediately reinstated when the interim troop basis for BOLERO was clarified because three weeks after the cancellation order the ETO still did not know what
supplies had been shipped before the cut-off date.58
Even minor technical details caused difficulties in processing requisitions. Apparently erroneous theater calculations could not always be easily rectified, for the receiving office in the zone of interior did not know enough about theater conditions to risk a correction without time-consuming correspondence.59 Attempting to avoid the delays involved in dealing with the New York Port of Embarkation, the OCQM sometimes dealt directly with the Office of The Quartermaster General and the Army Service Forces. But direct negotiation with agencies to the rear of the port often caused more rather than less delay. NYPE was not hostile to OCQM, though at a distance of more than 3,000 miles this sometimes seemed the case, and the port’s intimate knowledge of theater requirements usually led to speedier action than the special pleading of Quartermaster officers in Washington.60
How to deal with the flow of initial equipment for units arriving in the theater was another perplexing matter. At first, units and groups of units, temporarily designated task forces, arrived with cargo specifically marked for each of them. This cargo consisted of their organizational equipment and a 90-day allowance of maintenance supplies. As early as June 1942 the OCQM requested that the maintenance supplies not be “force marked,” that is, assigned to a specific unit, but instead be included in ordinary depot stocks for maintenance issue. This procedure made sorting and control of supplies so much easier that it was applied by most supply services in the ETO even before the War Department approved it.61
But when the War Department suggested applying the bulk system to organizational equipment as well as to maintenance supplies, Littlejohn strenuously objected.62 Such equipment could be shipped in sets for type units or in bulk. The chief argument advanced against the first alternative was that units arriving without equipment would be unable to carry out operations pending their “marrying up” with their equipment. A similar argument applied to the bulk system, with the additional objection that the ETO depot system did not have enough qualified people to deal properly with the enormous quantities and manifold problems involved. In December OCQM was still opposed to bulk shipments. As an alternative to force marking of organizational equipment, Colonel Sharp of the Depot Branch proposed combat loading of units, that is, putting the unit and all its equipment on the same ship, so stowed that both troops and equipment could be simultaneously unloaded ready for immediate operations. This method, used by Patton’s Western Task Force in
Morocco, was considered too wasteful of space to be justified in a theater where there were no combat operations.63
Force marking of organizational equipment was meanwhile continued, but within a month the theater reversed its earlier opposition.64 In January 1943 it formally recommended a change to bulk shipment. The reason was that 80 to 120 days and sometimes more elapsed between the arrival of troops and that of their force-marked equipment. Force marking of equipment had proved a hindrance rather than a help. A lag in shipments from the zone of interior could be overcome by maintaining an emergency reserve of complete sets of equipment for type combat units. It should be remembered that the ETO was now a quiet theater, with a surplus of service troops. SOS felt that these troops had received the training to effect initial issues to troop units, although OCQM was dubious.
In early 1943 the War Department hesitated to approve the bulk system it had advocated in 1942. Organizational equipment was no longer available in zone of interior stocks or from current production in sufficient quantities to allow for both the equipment of units training in the United States and the movement of large stocks to the theater much in advance of the troops. In addition, bulk shipments would have to be made on uncertain long-range forecasts of troop movements. If the plans changed significantly after equipment had been shipped, equipment already on its way to or in the ETO might have to be duplicated in other theaters. The adjustments required to implement TORCH served as an object lesson. The War Department therefore continued to force mark shipments.
Its position was modified by an important change in the shipping situation in the late spring of 1943. The successful conclusion of the North African campaign and naval successes against U-boats in the Atlantic permitted renewal of the build-up in the United Kingdom for cross-Channel operations. However, the schedule of troop availability was such that troop movements would be light until the last quarter of the year. This created an “excess” of cargo capacity during the summer and afforded an opportunity to ship in advance of need both maintenance supplies and organizational equipment for troops who would be arriving later.65 On 19 May, therefore, the theater was notified that bulk shipment of organizational equipment would be instituted for units sailing after 1 July 1943.66
As the OCQM had foreseen in the preceding year, the handling of bulk shipments presented some troublesome problems. Issue of organizational equipment to units was handicapped by
lack of proper information on Tables of Equipment.67 There were only vague distinctions between initial issue and replacement supplies, with resulting uncertainty as to the actual quantities of bulk-shipped organizational equipment that had been received and issued. This in turn made for uncertainty in calculating replacement items on hand.68 Supplies, moreover, did not arrive in accordance with requirements. U.S. industry, already working at full capacity, could not produce the necessary quantities of additional materiel on such short notice. These delays were particularly critical for units activated in the theater, which were sometimes overlooked in the preparation of planning lists by the War Department. The result was a severe drain on theater stocks.69 But despite the handicaps, the bulk shipment system did work; tonnages discharged rose from 348,900 in June 1943 to 1,008,150 in December. The troop build-up passed the 1,000,000-mark in January 1944, and by May, as noted earlier, initial issues to troops had reduced QM stocks in the depots very noticeably. (See Table 6.) When the war was over, the ASF Planning Division considered that this procedure had been an important factor in making possible the timely equipment of the ETO fighting forces.70 The Transportation Corps agreed that bulk shipments were desirable, but criticized inadequate coordination of arms production, troop training, and transportation programs. Because of various shortages and delays less than 50 percent of the 1943 shipping space earmarked for preshipments was actually utilized, and the inevitable result was a severe congestion of U.K. ports in the spring of 1944. Outloading for OVERLORD therefore proceeded under serious handicaps, and, of necessity, the OVERLORD supply arrangements included a wasteful use of shipping as floating warehouses.71
Transportation and Storage
Difficulties involved in moving supplies into United Kingdom ports, whether by automatic shipment or on requisition, were aggravated by wartime congestion of transportation facilities in the United Kingdom which put a high premium on maximum efficiency in handling stocks. The greatest care had to be exercised to avoid unessential transportation of goods by rail, road, or canal.72 Ideally, all movements of supplies would have begun with the arrival of cargo on ships directed to the most logical port for the discharge of the particular supplies they carried. Cargo so landed could have been loaded directly into freight cars, trucks, or barges and sent immediately to the depot of ultimate destination. Unfortunately, lack of
advance information and improper marking and packing of goods often precluded this ideal procedure.
In order to give the Transportation Service timely advice on where to send its cargo, OCQM needed detailed advance information on the arrival date and the cargo of each ship carrying Quartermaster supplies. This information was supplied by NYPE, and supposedly reached OCQM by air courier some five days before the ship was to dock, in the form of the ship’s manifest. But manifests often arrived too late to be of any value in planning and sometimes were not received at all.73 When they did arrive, all too often the manifests were useless because they lumped many supply items together under one heading for the sake of brevity. One manifest, quoted by the OCQM, simply listed “1,298 cases Clothing, Meat, Vegetables 102,540 lbs.”74 More common listings were “2,000 pieces Subsistence” and “3,000 pieces Tomatoes, Peas, Corn, etc.”75
When the information supplied by the manifests was too late or too vague, the cargo on the ship or on the dock had to be inspected by port authorities. This procedure was hampered by inadequate marking and packing. Littlejohn sent personal representatives to meet undocumented shipments whenever possible, but even they had difficulty in identifying supplies. It was sometimes necessary to open cases and bundles to determine their contents; then the inspecting officer notified OCQM and received instructions regarding shipment from the port. This time-consuming process was frowned upon by port authorities since Irish Sea ports suffered occasional German air raids and were under constant pressure to speed the turnaround of ships and clear discharged cargo out of the ports. They resisted cargo sorting by the quartermaster if any delay in unloading or port clearance was involved, as it almost always was. In the absence of instructions, the Transportation Service tended to ship quartermaster items as quickly as possible to what was considered the most logical Quartermaster installation, regardless of the possible necessity for rehandling and reshipping.76 Packing and marking, as well as manifest listings, improved gradually, but the need for maximum haste in clearing the ports remained a major impediment to the efficient handling of quartermaster materials.77
Early shortcomings in the movement of supplies through the ports into the depots were gradually corrected. In the zone of interior efforts of NYPE and of the technical services to improve the preparation of ships’ manifests and of the Air Transport Command to hasten their delivery attained notable success. In January 1943 only 40 percent were received on time, but by May 1943 this figure had risen to 91 percent.78
Cablegrams and other speedy means of communication were used to convey the essential information to the theater if manifests did not arrive on time.79
To improve the handling of cargo from ports to depots in the United Kingdom,. SOS ETO asked the zone of interior agencies concerned to set up a new system of marking cargo specifically tailored to ETO needs. The “UGLY” system—named after its code word for United Kingdom—also provided a rudimentary division of shipments according to destination. The United Kingdom was to be divided into two zones. Requisitions would direct movement to the zone in which the depot of destination was located and thus reduce crosshauls between ports and depots. In addition, each package or shipment would be marked with a combination code tying it directly to a specific requisition, speeding identification in the port, and simplifying decisions on depot destination.80
The cargo marking part of this proposal was adopted by NYPE and the technical services in the zone of interior on 23 March 1943. But ASF viewed the zoning of the United Kingdom as unjustified. Maj. Gen. LeRoy Lutes, Chief of Staff for Operations, objected to thus assuming partial responsibility for supply distribution in the United Kingdom and felt that it would lead to worse confusion than ever. He believed that the solution lay along the lines of improved manifests and the use of branch depots close to the United Kingdom ports to act as wholesale supply points for each technical service.81 General Lee countered that storage space for such “wholesale” depots at portside was simply not available, and that British railways would be unable to handle cargo from 150 ships per month, as was planned for the full BOLERO build-up, unless the zoning system or its equivalent was adopted.82 But meanwhile the British War Office and the Chief of Transportation, United States War Department, had concluded an agreement on zoning early in March, which was put into effect three months later. This was based on a series of conferences between representatives of the British Ministry of War Transport, the British Railways, the U.S. War Shipping Administration, and SOS ETOUSA. All these agencies had become convinced that such a plan was essential. The plan provided for three zones, and their code names, SOXO (Zone I, North Britain), GLUE (Zone II, South Britain), and BANG (Zone III, Northern Ireland), were substituted for UGLY, except for cargo directed to any British port.83 Service chiefs in the United Kingdom were to requisition for
a particular zone, and ships were to be loaded in the United States so far as possible with cargo for that zone.84
Personal inspection of the traffic situation in the United Kingdom convinced doubtful ASF officers that this system was essential despite its added burdens on zone of interior agencies.85 During the summer of 1943 details were ironed out by conferences and correspondence between representatives of New York Port of Embarkation and the ETO supply services.86 By the time cargo movement for OVERLORD reached its peak, the system was working smoothly.
Efforts were also made to improve the handling of supplies at ports in the United Kingdom. As early as August 1942 the OCQM had proposed that facilities for sorting and reclassification of cargoes be installed near the most important ports.87 Such facilities were essential if the Transportation Service was to distribute balanced quantities of various components of the ration and sized items of clothing directly to their final destination without wasteful rehandling and crosshauling. Facilities of the type needed existed in the form of emergency storage sheds behind the large ports. These sheds had been set up by the British primarily for rapid clearance of ports in the event of air attack, but also to serve as equipping points for embarking task forces. With both functions in mind, the Ministry of War Transport categorically refused to risk congesting these emergency facilities by allowing them to be used for permanent storage.88
But ever since the fall of 1942 a few of these sheds had been employed for sorting by individual American units, notably of the Air Forces, on the basis of specific and temporary agreements.89 A series of conferences between the interested U.S. and British agencies held in May 1943 produced an understanding whereby the American technical services were granted conditional use of shed space behind major port areas at Liverpool, Bristol, Cardiff, and Glasgow. Supplies were not to be permanently stored there, and assigned space was subject to withdrawal on seventy-two hours’ notice. If the sheds had to be cleared, the labor force, civilian and military, ordinarily employed by each service would assist in the emergency clearance and remain to help the British.90 In the sorting sheds, the Quartermaster Corps received the largest share assigned to any single service, since one of their chief uses would be the sorting and re-consignment of sized clothing in balanced lots direct to depots issuing to
As already described, the almost disastrous confusion that accompanied out-loading for the TORCH expedition had taught Littlejohn a bitter lesson. Consequently, as the Transportation Corps’ port units came into the United Kingdom, the OCQM attempted with indifferent success to instruct them in specialized QMC cargo sorting and inventory techniques. Although each port organization included QMC personnel who should have been used for this purpose, most port commanders insisted on using them as housekeeping or station complement troops. Moreover, few of these port quartermasters were trained for their real duties. Littlejohn was therefore obliged to provide extra personnel to perform these specialized functions, and even then had to overcome considerable resistance from port commanders who believed that cargo sorting was unnecessary. It should be noted that General Ross found many of his original port commanders lacking in the required flexibility for duty under foreign conditions and had to relieve more than half of them before D-day. Littlejohn found General Ross himself somewhat unsympathetic to the Quartermaster point of view, and had to appeal to the SOS commander to lay down rules for effective cooperation.93
On 15 August 1943 General Lee directed each service to furnish a liaison officer and enlisted assistants to the staff of each port commander. This directive regularized arrangements to control movement of supplies from the ports via sorting sheds to depots. Thereafter, the Quartermaster port representative and his assistants served as a direct personal liaison between the OCQM and each port commander to speed the movement of supplies by action on the spot. Before the arrival of a ship, the Quartermaster representative or his men examined the manifest or loading cable sent him by OCQM that indicated the destination of supplies. He planned with Transportation Service the methods of handling these supplies. When the ship arrived, he checked the actual cargo, taking particular note of items not listed on the manifest or not properly marked, phoned information on such undocumented cargo to OCQM, and requested appropriate disposition instructions. These teams also inspected rail cars as they were loaded and dispatched in order to eliminate as far as possible mixed loads and improper waybills, and checked notices of shipments to the depots to make sure that all useful information was transmitted correctly and on time. They advised the port commander on items requiring sorting, supervised all shipside documentation of supplies, and notified the sorting sheds of goods on the way to them. Finally,
the teams made detailed reports on each day’s activities to OCQM and summarized them weekly.94
Even after General Lee’s directive had clarified the status of port liaison personnel, Littlejohn continued to encounter some opposition. But these representatives, in close touch with both the OCQM and the Transportation Service, proved their worth and filled a major gap in the supply chain. As the flow of supplies accelerated late in 1943, their assistance was most important, especially in connection with items requiring sorting before shipment. Despite the improvements effected by the UGLY system, there remained an apparently irreducible minimum of Quartermaster supplies, in the neighborhood of 25 percent, for which the destination could not be determined on the basis of documents in advance of arrival. These supplies the port representatives identified and speeded on their way. In addition, they provided information valuable to the receiving depots in their day-to-day operations.95
Pilferage in transit and in storage was another problem of overseas supply. Wartime shortages made quartermaster items very tempting to those in touch with black market dealers, both British civilians and U.S. soldiers. This situation, combined with relatively poor guarding of supplies both in transit and in storage, made losses inevitable. As early as September 1942 reports reached General Lee indicating that pilferage had mounted to serious proportions.96 Investigation indicated that poor packing and rough handling, which exposed the contents of cases, and storage in remote locations where they were hard to protect, plus the indifferent attitude of U.S. troops, made pilfering of goods in transit temptingly easy. Obvious remedies were increasing the number of guards at docks and other exposed places, more careful handling and checking of goods in transit, and closer cooperation with the British civilian and military police.97 Such measures were in effect by the end of 1942 and by the following April Lee was able to assure Somervell that the pilferage problem was well under control.98
Despite these assurances the ETO Provost Marshal reported in May 1943 that “the amount of goods stolen is tremendous and that the fault is due largely to the failure of our own people to take reasonable adequate measures to safeguard the property.”99 But it appeared that those most worried about pilferage might be exaggerating the
losses. Reports of goods missing were often based on discrepancies in the records rather than on physical evidence of loss. Investigation revealed that many supposed losses were paper shortages rather than actual thefts. Blankets, for instance, were usually tallied into warehouses in bundles that were not broken down and counted until later. Inaccurate record keeping, rather than theft, was clearly the cause of some of these shortages.100
One measure against pilfering that might possibly have been exploited to a greater degree was the use of guard dogs. They were especially effective for patrolling outdoor storage areas at night. One man and one dog were considered to be as effective as six or eight ordinary guards. Teams of eight men and eight dogs were trained by the Ministry of Aircraft Production in a five-week course in a school at Cheltenham. The dogs were loaned to the Americans for the duration by British civilians; no American dogs arrived in the British Isles, although some were used on the Continent later. The men were all American volunteers. By the end of 1943 there were twenty-two such teams. An American guard dog school, also at Cheltenham, was organized late in 1943 under the Depot Branch of OCQM. The maximum number of teams, fifty-six, was reached shortly before D-day. They were considered Quartermaster units, but were used by all of the technical services and many combat units.101
Actually, combined efforts along all lines proved reasonably successful in checking losses. A number of civilians and U.S. soldiers were arrested at Liverpool in January 1943 and at Glasgow in May. Organized black market rings were broken up by cooperative action of the ETO Provost Marshal and the British Special Investigations Branch (Ports). Security in transit and in the depots was tightened and recording of supply movements improved to a point where losses were detected early enough for effective follow-up.102 These measures could not eliminate pilferage entirely, but they did prevent the large-scale losses that the U.S. Army suffered in other theaters.
During the thirty months of logistical preparations that culminated on D-day, the United Kingdom was at once a sovereign Allied power, largely preoccupied with its own contribution to OVERLORD, a densely populated country with a highly complex civilian economy, and an American forward base area reasonably secure against enemy interference. From the narrow viewpoint of American Quartermaster operations, only freedom from enemy interference was a clear and unmistakable asset; the other conditions engendered irritating complications. There were compensating advantages, of course, but they could only be exploited by an elaborate process of inter-Allied coordination and
liaison, requiring many competent and experienced staff officers.
In retrospect, it appears likely that the difficult problems inherent in BOLERO were precisely the ones that contributed valuable lessons and useful precedents for the future. Members of the American technical services had never previously encountered real problems in the matter of working space. Even in such small and heavily industrialized states as Maryland and Delaware, military installations were usually of ample size and equipped with every facility. In the United Kingdom quartermasters learned how to operate small depots, dispersed during the period of German air superiority, and located in densely populated areas. For them BOLERO was an intensive course in how to “do without.” They learned how to use open storage instead of covered warehouses, and how to get along with a minimum of materials-handling equipment, with limited civilian labor, with a meager ration of gasoline, and with severely curtailed rail services. They demonstrated that the problem of sharing docks, railways, highways, and manpower pools with civilians, while simultaneously supporting large combat forces, can be solved, although not easily. In a nation which had converted almost its entire industry to essential military purposes, it was often difficult to establish priorities between purely military activities and industrial programs of equal importance. Americans had to learn that the regimentation of British industry, which made it completely subservient to the national war effort, by no means implied that individual industrial operations would be modified to suit the local convenience of American military installations. Such matters were decided by representatives of the various supply ministries of the British Government, which maintained a very considerable degree of ascendancy over both the British and U.S. military forces as long as those forces remained in the United Kingdom. Despite initial misgivings and occasional inconveniences, quartermasters found this arrangement to be a practical one. Indeed, the necessary coordination between American soldiers and British civilians could hardly have been achieved in any other way.
Direct liaison between British and American technical services during the BOLERO period did not present any new or unfamiliar problems, but during a logistical build-up of unprecedented size lasting more than two years, old problems inevitably took on new dimensions. The intimacy of coordination that proved to be necessary and the sheer volume of international dealings which had to be transacted exceeded all previous experience. The various British logistical headquarters had to set up separate staff sections solely to deal with the Americans, and the U.S. services found that their requirements for competent staff personnel far surpassed expectations. In this relationship British responsibilities were more exacting than the corresponding American ones, but the situation demanded revised standards of competence for liaison personnel of both nations. Staff officers had to be trained not only in their own specialties, but also in the completely different staff and supply procedures of a foreign army. One other essential qualification of such officers should also be noted. At AFHQ and later at SHAEF General
Eisenhower maintained the principle that only officers who were able and willing to cooperate with Allies were suitable for positions on his staff. Although at lower levels and among the technical services there was no official enforcement of this principle, a cooperative spirit was in fact an essential qualification for all liaison and made the solution of technical problems comparatively easy. Unofficial, personal contacts involved problems of a different kind, which are discussed in the following chapter.