A remark by a captured German soldier best summarizes the importance of logistics in the battle for Europe in World War II. As he was marched past one of the many roadside supply dumps that dotted the Normandy landscape in the wake of the invasion, he was heard to remark "I know how you defeated us. You piled up the supplies and then let them fall on us." He was right. The war in Europe was what the Germans called materialschlact, "matériel battle." It was a "matériel battle" on a scale greater than any other conflict in history, a contest pitting the industrial capacities of Germany and the United States against each other. In the end, triumph was the result of the ability, of the United States to mobilize its industrial capacity" to provide the instruments of war for its troops and those of its allies and to deliver them where and when they were needed--to pile them up and let them fall.
Chapter VIIBarry J. Dysart
Materialschlact: The "Matériel Battle" in the European Theater
Logistics in the European Theater of Operations (ETO) is a massive and complicated subject, one that accounts for thousands of pages in the official histories of the war. Although these events are over a half century past, the fundamental issues that concerned World War II logisticians--how to know what you need and how to get it where you need it when you need it--are the same problems their successors face today. The purpose of this brief treatment is to provide a historical perspective on the functioning of a theater logistics system under the stress of war. This broad narrative overview will focus on two themes--one strategic and one operational:
Strategic Throughout the war in Europe, logistical considerations constrained strategic possibilities and strategic decisions drove theater logistics requirements. In defining strategy, Allied leaders had constantly to be mindful of the delicate balance of ends and means. In implementing strategy, logisticians were always on the end of a game of strategic "crack the whip" as each modification of strategy, required logistic adjustment. These strategic decisions and how they affected theater logistics will be one focus of this discussion. Operational The theater logistics system in Europe suffered from its complicated command relationships and their near constant state of flux. Confusion and contention concerning who was responsible for what function was commonplace. The ultimate success of the logistic apparatus in the ETO--victory over Germany--is almost surprising in the light of the disorder and loss of efficiency engendered by overlapping jurisdictions and power struggles. How the theater logistics system evolved throughout the war and how its command relationships affected its performance will provide our other focus.
Before examining these themes, a background discussion of the nature of the conflict in Europe, and how the U.S. military, was organized to provide logistical support is germane.
The European Theater of OperationsThe story of theater logistics in WWII is not a unitary one; rather, it is two distinct stories. The Pacific and European theaters of operation were each unique in their strategic geography and military situation. In the European theater, the basic logistical task was to mass strength in a secure forward base to support operations--both land
and air--against a nearby enemy. The United States entered the war after the British had forestalled Hitler's plans for a cross-Channel invasion. Therefore, Great Britain afforded a large, secure staging ground for the buildup of combat power. Moreover, as an advanced industrial nation, Great Britain possessed the ports, rail lines, and other facilities to support a massive influx of material and personnel. This buildup would require large numbers of ships to transit a single, highly vulnerable line of communication, the Atlantic route from the United States to England.
With the notable exception of the Battle of the Atlantic, the war in Europe is largely an Army story. The Army provided the theater commander and virtually the entire theater logistical structure. The contributions of the United States Navy were principally in defeating the German submarine threat in the Atlantic and in supporting amphibious operations. While the contributions of the Navy are by no means trivial, its role was a secondary, supporting one in the ETO. Therefore, the focus of this discussion will be on the theater logistical organization as implemented by the Army.1 The organization of the theater logistical system was to be profoundly affected by the sweeping reorganization of the War Department at the start of the war.
Organizing for WarAs America entered the conflict, the War Department organization was antiquated and cumbersome. Chief of Staff George Marshall realized what was needed was an organizational structure that delegated responsibility and decision making to lower levels and allowed them to concentrate on policy and strategy. The resulting reorganization created a new command echelon with three separate, coordinate commands--Army Ground Forces, Army Air Forces, and Army
Service Forces2--under the Chief of Staff. The redistribution of staff duties under these new commands would both centralize responsibility and decentralize decision making. The mission of the Army Ground Forces and the Army Air Forces would primarily be to organize and train combat units for military operations against the enemy. The task of the Army Service Forces (ASF) was much broader and more diverse. Its mission was "to provide services and supplies to meet military requirements"3 for the other two and for overseas commands. The creation of the Army Service Forces as an integrated activity to handle all procurement and supply was an acknowledgment of the vital importance of logistics in the coming struggle. Its immediate problem was to develop an effectively coordinated organization, despite a diversity of functions, at the same time expanding everything dramatically.
Organizational Theories--The Seeds of DiscordIn the European theater, the control of logistics would be the subject of continual conflict over command arrangements. These conflicts resulted from the collision of two competing organizational theories of the proper control of "administration"--the term here applying to the full gamut of administrative and logistical activities to support field activities. In the traditionalist view, the commander of a force in tactical operations must have complete control over all aspects of his operations, including authority over all administrative means necessary to accomplish his mission. This represents decentralized control--commanders being directly responsible for the administration and support of their units and subunits. The creation of the Army Service Forces brought centralized control over administrative functions. In this theory, an integrated service organization provides
administrative services to operating force commanders, freeing them to concentrate on combat operations. The quid pro quo of being freed of the administrative burden was dependence for vital services on organizations not directly under the commander's control. The crux of the problem was the extent to which field commanders could be relieved of the burden of administrative detail without infringing on their authority as commanders.4
As we shall see, the ETO Services of Supply commander constantly pressed for greater control over all aspects of supply and administration in the theater in accordance with the Army Service Force concept of centralization. The theater ground and air force commanders, "old school" professionals imbued with the traditionalist's perspective of command authority, tended to view his efforts to expand his jurisdiction over all matters logistics as an encroachment on their prerogatives as commanders. Efforts to implement centralized control over theater logistics were met with countervailing efforts by commanders not to surrender completely planning and execution responsibilities for logistical support of their forces.
A Drama in Three ActsThe Allied war strategy was formulated--and reformulated--in a series of strategic conferences that serve as milestones in the war history. This iterative approach to strategy meant that World War II was a conflict fought in stages, Therefore, the war in Europe can be thought of as a drama in three acts:
Buildup The period of massing forces in Great Britain that lasted for over half the war, from the outbreak until January 1944. Invasion The period of final preparations for Operation OVERLORD and its execution, lasting from the arrival of General Eisenhower as Supreme Commander until the breakout from the beachhead in late July. Advance The final advance from the Normandy beachhead to Berlin, from the breakout until the German surrender. Each of the "acts" reveals different nuances of the logistics problems of the European Theater. Each affords us the opportunity to learn from the players in this elaborate and momentous production.
BuildupThis long "first act" began with the critical phase of strategic definition. The Allies had to reconcile their divergent approaches to the war into a coherent strategy for its prosecution. Logistics would be at the very foundation of their decisions, since the dominant question would be how best to allocate their finite resources in the prosecution of a global war. Throughout this period, the American military forces would experience unprecedented growth as the nation mobilized for war. This was certainly true in the European theater, where the American military presence grew from a handful of personnel in early 1942 to over a million troops by February 1944. Control of the theater logistics apparatus, however, would be the subject of a protracted internecine struggle in the American camp as overlapping logistical organizations struggled for primacy.
The European Command OrganizesIn May 1942, the theater Services of Supply (SOS) was organized in Washington under its prospective commander, Major General John C.H. Lee.5 General Lee and the nucleus of his staff arrived
in England on May 24. Almost immediately, the imbroglio started between SOS and the fledgling theater headquarters over the division of responsibility for theater logistics.6 On May 28, General Lee presented a proposal placing virtually all supply arms and services under his command. The reaction of the theater headquarters staff was strongly negative. They did not object to SOS procuring all supplies for the theater; the focus of their objection was a perceived inversion of the command structure, with a subordinate command exercising theater-wide jurisdiction. The difficulty lay in the fact that if SOS--a command coordinate with the air and ground forces--were to have jurisdiction over all the theater chiefs of services then SOS would be exercising supervision over troops of other commands.
On June 8, 1942, the initial theater headquarters was officially designated as the European Theater of Operations, United States Army (ETOUSA). The War Department directive of this date vested the Commanding General, European Theater of Operations, with authority to exercise planning and operational control over all U.S. forces as well as authority over all administrative or logistical matters previously assigned to the United States Army Forces in the British Isles (USAFBI). This directive clarified the mission and authority of ETOUSA and its relationship to other commands in the United Kingdom. The activation of ETOUSA did nothing to resolve the dispute with SOS concerning control of theater-wide services. The June 8 directive vested ETOUSA with broad powers over administrative matters. On the other hand, a May 14 memorandum from General Marshall had assigned virtually the same broad powers to SOS and minimized the authority of the theater command headquarters.
Although the June 8 War Department directive had assigned ETOUSA sufficient authority over all U.S. forces, it had not specifically superseded the May 14 directive. Therefore, the earlier directive remained in effect, and SOS thereby claimed its broad powers over theater-wide services. On June 24, General Dwight D. Eisenhower arrived and assumed theater command. While not pleased with the convoluted organization he inherited, he did not make sweeping changes. Instead, he issued a complete restatement of the command relationships in a circular on July 20. This document added one major function to Commanding General, Services of Supply; he was now to be responsible for administrative and supply planning for theater operations.7
In April, the British accepted an American plan for a buildup of U.S. forces in the United Kingdom in preparation for a future return to the Continent. This plan, Operation BOLERO, included construction of airfields from which to launch the bombing offensive, a small contingent of ground troops, and a force of 750,000 to participate in a cross-Channel attack in early 1943. SOS, ETOUSA would participate in the BOLERO planning process and be the U.S. agent to carry out the plans for the reception and accommodation of U.S. forces. By early May, detailed planning was underway. Meeting the requirements of this change in strategy would dominate SOS endeavors for the next 2 years.
Services of Supply had to "hit the deck running" from the day of its establishment. Its efforts in the first half of 1942 were focused on three problems: organizing, preparing, and coping. First, the organizational framework for control of theater logistics was established--albeit to no one's real satisfaction. Second, preparations for receiving the massive influx of U.S. forces were started. Precise and detailed plans for an orderly buildup were prepared; troops and equipment began making their way across the Atlantic. Third, they had to cope with insufficiencies of every sort. There was not enough British labor to man the docks or to work the construction projects, not enough quarters for the troops, not enough service troops to properly handle the receipts, not enough equipment for the divisions
on hand and those expected--not enough of virtually everything. Of all the problems faced by Services of Supply and the BOLERO planners, none was more critical and intractable than shipping. Without the means of moving large numbers of troops and mountains of material into the theater by sea, there could be no buildup in England.
The Shipping QuandaryOcean transport was the sine qua non of logistics in World War II, the arterial link between the productive heart in the United States and the fighting organs in the theaters. The availability of merchant shipping was thus the foundation of all theater planning. It was inescapably linked to the projected rate of troop buildup; and on this rate, all other projections for facilities and supplies were based. If the movement schedule could not be met, the entire BOLERO program would collapse--and with it the Allied grand strategy.
The deficit in shipping was not a theater-unique problem; it was a global problem, a problem of supply and demand. With demand vastly exceeding supply, it was a "seller's market" for shipping; and the competition between theaters was fierce. The Allies' attempts to resolve the thorny problem of allocation of scarce shipping tugged and tore at the fabric of the grand strategic plan. With other priorities contending for scarce resources--British appeals for help in the Middle East, Lend-Lease shipments to Russia, and the demands of the Pacific Theater--t h e prime strategic imperative of "Europe First" seemed more rhetorical than realistic.
The shipping problem was an exceedingly complex multivariable equation, the algebraic sum of which was tons of material and thousands of troops delivered to Great Britain. The factors in this dynamic equation included: theater shipping allocation, port capacities, cargo ship losses, cargo ship construction, submarine losses, submarine construction, escort ship construction, patrol aircraft production, submarine tactics, and antisubmarine tactics. In mid-1942, the factors of" the equation were solidly against the planners. The allocation of shipping was barely adequate, but losses to submarine attack were fearful. The BOLERO shipping plans were routinely dashed as German submarines decimated shipping in the Atlantic. Losses to submarines made it nearly impossible to forecast the availability
of cargo shipping with any certitude. Cargo shipping losses exceeded the rate of construction of replacement ships; and the Germans were producing more submarines. Allied antisubmarine assets and tactics could not keep pace with the Germans, especially after the introduction of "wolf pack" tactics. Cargo ship losses would be a dominant factor in the shipping equation until the shipbuilding capacity of the United States would fundamentally alter the equation by producing ships faster than the submarines could sink them. That day, however, was in the future.
The Keystone Issue--Landing CraftThe purpose of BOLERO was to mass forces in preparation for an invasion of the Continent. The goal of the invasion itself would be to gain a lodgment on the far shore through which troops and supplies could be moved to support further advances. It was, therefore, essentially a logistics movement to bridge the gap between the base of operations and the lodgment. Landing craft were to be the keystone of this bridge.
At this stage in World War II large-scale amphibious operations were largely untried. The appropriate types and sizes of the craft for delivery of personnel, vehicles, and cargo to assault beaches were still a matter of debate and experimentation. Because the availability of landing craft limited the size of the invasion force, meeting the need for them was a critical first step in long-range invasion planning. It was clear from the outset that amphibious operations would be central to operations in both the Pacific and European theaters. The lack of operational experience in large-scale amphibious operations at the start of the war, however, hindered efforts to define requirements for types and number of craft. Interservice differences were soon apparent; the Army needed mostly tank and vehicle carriers, whereas the Navy required primarily personnel carriers.
The initial American program for mass production of landing craft got underway in April. This program concentrated on the production of small craft with a goal of producing 8,200 craft for the cross-Channel attack, code-named Operation ROUNDUP.8 The British,
however, were convinced the American program was misdirected. At a meeting with the President in early May, they argued strongly for production of larger, ocean-going landing ships--especially the Landing Ship Tank (LST)--that could deliver more and would be more seaworthy in the stormy English Channel. The President agreed and ordered a revised construction program that included these larger landing ships.
The President's fiat was difficult to fulfill. An Army-Navy study of the landing craft problem revealed that the only way to achieve the numbers of craft required to support ROUNDUP was to give landing craft top priority, which the program did have briefly in July. The Army was dependent upon the Navy for landing ship procurement and construction. The Navy and its ship builders, however, were already heavily burdened with their own priority construction programs for cargo vessels and antisubmarine escorts--programs they were not anxious to subordinate in favor of landing craft. Furthermore, their inexperience with this unique new class of ships led to numerous problems and delays. Even as landing craft were made available, many had to be devoted to crew training, further slowing delivery of operational units. As production lagged, the prospects of meeting the requirements dimmed. It was rapidly becoming apparent that sufficient landing craft would not be available for ROUNDUP.
Every major campaign in World War II would begin with an amphibious operation. Landing craft, therefore, were the operational linchpins in both the Pacific and European theaters. They were to be the subject of much inter-theater, inter-service, and inter-ally debate over the next 2 years.
Timing and SchedulingThe basic issues for BOLERO planners were what would be moved and when. The planning for BOLERO centered on the questions: (1) how many troops of which type would be moved; (2) when would they be moved; (3) how were they going to get there; and (4) would their equipment be shipped with them. Each aspect of the problem provided its own set of difficulties. While the insufficiency of ships was the primary obstacle, there were a series of issues that affected
the movement of large masses of personnel and equipment to the United Kingdom:
Conflicting OperationsBOLERO was complicated by a parallel buildup for Operation SLEDGEHAMMER, the contingency plan for an emergency cross-Channel attack in late 1942. Although both these operations involved massing of forces in the United Kingdom, they were not complementary; in fact, they were conflicting. SLEDGEHAMMER required a rapid massing of ground combat divisions and their supporting units before the early fail. Conversely, BOLERO called for a balanced and even flow of troops and material to avoid port congestion. The existence of two simultaneous programs to move forces into the United Kingdom inevitably resulted in confusion and conflict. One factor the two operations shared, however, was the necessity to begin moving forces as soon as possible.
Troop BasisOne of the first items on the planning agenda had to be the theater troop basis, i.e., the total number and types of troops to be moved to the United Kingdom. This was the leading topic of committee and staff planning throughout the late spring and early summer. The general target figure was set at just over 1 million men by April 1, 1943. Both the total figure and the date by which such an ambitious movement could be completed proved to be elastic.
Troop PrioritiesWhich types of troops should have priority for transportation was another contentious planning issue. First priority was for air units to participate in the Allied bomber offensive; next came the ground combat troops; and third were service troops. This was an inversion of what was really required because the service troops--especially engineer battalions--were desperately needed to prepare and operate the facilities to support the air units and ground combat troops.
Service TroopsAvailability of service troops was the initial limiting factor. There were simply not enough to receive, catalog, and warehouse all the
matériel being received. The few service units were fighting a losing battle against a mounting pile of supplies and equipment.
British InfrastructureAs the buildup quickened, the capacity of the ports and rail system of the United Kingdom to move the troops and equipment through and beyond the ports of debarkation would loom larger as a limiting factor. The finite port capacity demanded that the scheduling of inbound troop and cargo movements be carefully orchestrated with other competing movements.
Unit EquipmentThe ground forces wanted their divisions to train for as long as possible with their own equipment and then ship that equipment simultaneously with the troops--"co-shipment"--to be "married up" again upon arrival in England. Concern over the capacity of the British ports to handle the concurrent arrival of troops and equipment forced a reconsideration of this policy. Attempting to co-ship units and their equipment would have placed an impossible burden on an already hard-pressed system. The concept of co-shipment gradually gave way to advance shipment of equipment in bulk "preshipment"--to support the outfitting of troops after their arrival. This asynchronous shipment of troops and equipment optimized use of British ports, thereby allowing them to absorb the full load of over 5.5 million measurement tons of supplies and 1.6 million troops between May 1943 and May 1944.9
Labor ShortageThroughout the buildup, the shortage of British labor was acute. Out of a working population of 32 million, over 22 million were inducted into the military or employed supporting the war effort.10 There was no surplus labor available, requiring still more service troops to build the airfields, depots, and cantonments. Despite steadily increasing shipments, the deliver, of troops and
cargo to Great Britain fell far short of what was required to support the cross-Channel attack in April 1943. As doubts about the feasibility of meeting force requirements and the demands of rival claimants for forces escalated, prospects for the early invasion waned. Logistical realities dictated a reconsideration of strategic ambitions.
Logistics and Strategy--The Invasion of North AfricaThe strategy of an early invasion of the Continent foundered because it did not meet the test of logistic feasibility.11 The "bottom line" was that a cross-Channel attack was not logistically supportable. Allied war production had not reached a level of output to support simultaneous as instead of sequential operations. Landing craft were grievously deficient in design and quantity, despite their high production priority. The movement of troops and matériel was still in its embryonic stages with only 57,000 troops and 279,000 measurement tons of supplies delivered to the United Kingdom by July.12 Shipping was wanting and routinely being decimated by German submarines. For all these reasons, logistics would be the subtext of the discussions of strategic alternatives.
Churchill himself considered plans for a modest invasion in the fall of 1942 as premature and potentially disastrous. It would be a "come-as-you-are" operation, using whatever craft and forces were available. Since most troops would necessarily be British, their view was decisive. Their more immediate concern was the plight of the British army in North Africa where Rommel's Afrika Korps was driving on Egypt and the Suez Canal--the umbilical of the Empire. The British urged an invasion of North Africa that would both open the Mediterranean for Allied shipping and relieve German pressure on the Suez Canal and the Middle East.
President Roosevelt, anxious for American troops to engage the Germans somewhere in 1942, cast about for a viable alternative. The British had broached the concept of an invasion of North Africa as early as the ARCADIA Conference in January 1942; and it had been a central topic of discussion between President Roosevelt and Prime
Minister Churchill. The political leaders endorsed the concept and agreed to go forward with it. The American military leaders acquiesced despite reservations about such a peripheral operation. However, the plan--code named GYMNAST--had been shelved when BOLERO was approved.
On the advice of their Chiefs of Staff, the British War Cabinet recommended resurrecting GYMNAST. Although they did not explicitly withdraw support for ROUNDUP, the delay of the cross-Channel attack was implicit in the adoption of the North African operation. Americans, especially General Marshall, were adamant in their support of the strategy of building up forces in the United Kingdom for a cross-Channel attack. They viewed a North African operation as a diversion of resources to the strategic periphery, at the expense of the strike at the strategic "center of gravity." In mid-July, the President sent General Marshall, Admiral King, and Harry Hopkins to London to work out an agreement. They were not able to sway British opinion on the practicality, of an early attack on the Continent. Ultimately, they consented to accept provisionally an invasion of North Africa but to postpone a final decision until September. General Marshall carefully worded the agreement document, CCS 94, to highlight the conditional nature of the acceptance of the North African operation--christened TORCH--and to preserve ROUNDUP as a possibility. President Roosevelt, however, chose to interpret this document as a definitive decision in favor of TORCH, thereby making it a fait accompli.
This major change in strategy was the offspring of logistical parentage. The American strategy of prompt direct confrontation--invasion of the Continent by 1943--depended upon the ability to surmount the formidable logistical obstacles of developing Great Britain into an immense base of operations, of designing and producing in quantity the specialized matériel needed to breach Festung Europa, and of transporting over a million troops and many millions of tons of matériel to the theater. The American military leaders were slow to realize that these obstacles could not be surmounted in time. President Roosevelt realized it and was willing to risk acceding to the British peripheral approach until a Continental invasion was logistically feasible.
TORCH in EmbryoDue to the estrangement of Anglo-French relations, the CCS decided Operation TORCH should be a primarily American operation with an American commander. In mid-August, General Eisenhower was named as Commander in Chief, Allied Expeditionary Force (in addition to his existing role as theater commander). A combined Allied Force Headquarters (AFHQ) was established to exercise control over both operational and logistical planning. American manning o AFHQ was ad hoc, drawing officers from the existing theater staffs. Both SOS and ETOUSA surrendered numbers of their most capable officers to this new headquarters.
For long weeks after the invasion decision, logistics planners were the grudging captives of the operational planners as the American and British staffs laboriously negotiated the location, size, composition, and timing of the landings. Much of this was time lost for the logisticians because definitive information on supply requirements and time available to meet them had to await consensus on the operational plan. On September 5, the Allies agreed oil the concept of three separate task forces with distinct objectives and support bases. A Western Task Force, exclusively American and coming directly from the United States, would land in the vicinity of Casablanca on the Moroccan Atlantic coast. A Center Task Force, combining American landing forces with British naval support and coming from the United Kingdom, would land inside the Mediterranean at Oran. An Eastern Task Force, predominantly British with some American troops also coming from the United Kingdom, would land a smaller force at Algiers. The logistical plan for this complex undertaking called for each of the task forces to receive its initial support from its departure base. Therefore, SOS, ETOUSA, was to be responsible for the outfitting and support of the Center Task Force and the American elements of the Eastern Task Force. In formulating the detailed plans, problems were manifold, but the critical path issue was the availability of assault shipping. Amphibious operations require specially configured troop and cargo assault transports. Most of the Americans' limited stock of these specialized vessels was committed in the Pacific theater. Conversion of conventional transports into assault transports was possible but time-consuming. The number of assault transports available--either existing,
converted, or provided by the British--dictated the size and timing of the entire operation. The time required to muster enough assault shipping pushed D-Day back out of October. Ultimately, the date for the invasion was set for November 8. The focus of European theater logistics was now to shift away from the orderly massing of forces in Great Britain to frenzied efforts to prepare for a massive amphibious operation just over three months hence. SOS, ETOUSA would have to shift quickly from receiving of troops and matériel to dispatching them to another destination.
Providing for TORCH--Haste Makes WasteTORCH happened at a time when the logistical organizations--both in theater and in the United States--were still in their infancy. The decision came only 4 months after the formation of the Army Service Forces by the War Department reorganization, 2 months after the establishment of Services of Supply, and just a month after the establishment of ETOUSA. These organizations had barely had time to "learn to walk," and now they would be required to run--and run hard--to meet the monumental requirements of this impending operation.
The autonomous AFHQ staff assumed the lead in logistics planning for TORCH. As the planning proceeded, they made no effort to integrate the theater Sen;ices of Supply into the planning process and often did not inform them of decisions that would directly affect them. Due to the shortage of service troops, the American service forces had to rely heavily on British assistance. This dependence on host nation support reinforced Allied Force Headquarters' handling most supply details, since the combined headquarters had the mechanisms in place to coordinate more effectively with British agencies. Nevertheless, it was Services of Supply that would have to carry, out the logistical plans for assembling, equipping, and supporting the forces being dispatched from the United Kingdom. This resulted in the highly unsatisfactory situation of the theater logistical organization being dissociated from the planning of a major operation yet being responsible for its execution.
In the planning of TORCH, the Americans were starting at the bottom of the learning curve. This was the first major operation of
the war, the first amphibious operation by the Army, and the Allies' first combined operation. Furthermore, the extremely compressed schedule for planning and preparation--just over 100 days from go-ahead to execution--precipitated the frantic nature of planning and preparation. The press of time was heavy on everyone. For these and other reasons, the logistical preparations for TORCH were not models of effectiveness, efficiency, and organization. They were, in fact, marked more by haste, waste, turmoil, and confusion.
Services of Supply was supposed to outfit TORCH units from stocks of equipment already shipped to the United Kingdom. This logical approach depended on accurate inventory records to facilitate prompt location of the requisite items. During the first months of BOLERO, however, documentation was not a primary concern for SOS. In fact, it was hardly a factor at all, considering the more urgent problems of meager shipping, inexperienced staffs, a general shortage of labor, and--most important--insufficient and poorly trained service troops. Arriving matériel had been moved from the ports as quickly as possible to avoid congestion and dispersed helter-skelter to makeshift depots often without proper documentation or markings. Consequently, reliable receipt and storage records were virtually nonexistent. Without records, finding all the gear to re-equip the initial echelons in time was a forlorn hope. What was needed was a comprehensive inventory of all stockpiles, but there was neither enough time nor sufficient service troops. Reordering the equipment from the United States was the only practical solution.
On September 8, Army Service Forces received a massive telegram from London (Message 1949) detailing requirements for 260,000 ship tons of replacement equipment and supplies to be shipped to the United Kingdom by October 20.13 This message was a frank confession of failure by the theater logistics organization; they had been unable to cope with the flood of matériel during the summer. General Somervell was stunned by the magnitude of the request; it was far beyond anything he had anticipated. The theater admitted that the lengthy and somewhat muddled list of deficiencies was "indicative rather than definitive" and that "time is now so
critically important that we cannot always be accurate with respect to . . . details."14 The content of the message was deeply flawed and required a flurry of follow-up messages for clarification. Around-the-clock efforts by the supply services eventually got 131,000 ship tons of additional matériel to England in time to be loaded on the assault convoys.15
As the supply crisis reached crescendo in early September, General Eisenhower directed General Lee to devote his full attention to resolving the supply deficiencies. Lee delegated his routine responsibilities and committed himself full-time to outfitting the forces for TORCH. He personally coordinated strenuous, round-the-clock efforts to rectify the most critical deficiencies. Every avenue of resolution was used including: local production in England, requests to the British War Office, emergency requisitions, interunit transfers, an improved marking system, and an unrelenting search for stocks.16 These and other efforts gradually began to turn the situation around.
By early October, the situation had eased considerably, and it was apparent the loading schedule for the Center task force could be met. While changes and complications continued until the last minute, the storm had been weathered. A month later, the landings that had engendered the frenetic efforts were made, and Americans engaged the Germans for the first time. The landings were far more successful than expected--after only 76 hours the Allies controlled over 1,300 miles of the North African coast.17 This success, however, was due less to foresight and planning than to ingenuity and improvisation; less to American combat skill than to the lightness of the opposition. After the initial successes, the follow-on campaign to drive the Germans from Tunisia would require long months of bitter combat.
From November to January, SOS and ETOUSA were gradually
relieved of their roles in sustaining the forces in North Africa, which increasingly drew their support directly from the United States. Soon after the landings, the Allied Force Headquarters had moved to Algiers. Though General Eisenhower maintained nominal command of ETOUSA, the more immediate requirements of TORCH operations naturally preoccupied his attention. He had already delegated the majority of his theater commander responsibilities to his deputy theater commander. As the last elements of the AFHQ staff departed in December, its rear echelon functions fell to ETOUSA.18
Even as the Allied troops were starting their advance eastward into Tunisia, both British and American leaders realized it was imperative that they meet again to chart the strategic course ahead. President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill, and the combined Chiefs of Staff met for 10 days in mid-January 1943 at a seaside resort near Casablanca. Their objective was to forge a consensus on coalition strategy and make firm decisions to carry it into action. Logistics would lay close to the heart of all their discussions. The result was a less than decisive compromise, but one that would shape the rest of the war.
Logistics and Strategy--The Casablanca ConferenceAs the Allied leaders gathered at this first in a series of mid-war strategic conferences, the two sides found themselves separated by their concepts of the proper execution of the war and the availability and distribution of resources. The British were determined to preserve the first priority of the European theater and press their peripheral strategy, for continued operations in the Mediterranean. Their goal was to minimize the diversion of assets to the Pacific. As might be expected, they viewed resources as finite and constrained and tended to emphasize the difficulties in bringing them to bear. Because they saw means as limited, they considered any resources going to the Pacific to be at the expense of the European theater. The
Americans were pressing for a cross-Channel attack as soon as possible and for an increase in shipments to the Pacific to capitalize on recent successes in the Solomons. They were concerned that the British concept of attrition warfare would prolong the conflict, and they were suspicious that the British would not be full participants in operations against the Japanese once Germany had been defeated. To the Americans, resources were expandable and shortages transitory. They believed the accelerating pace of mobilization could provide resources fast enough to supply both theaters. The Americans tended to be confident--perhaps naively so--of their enormous potential in production and manpower, which was just then beginning to be realized. In short, to the British the resources "glass" was half empty; to the Americans it was half full--and filling fast. In addition to the central issue of the apportionment of means between theaters, a number of logistics issues were at the heart of the Combined Chiefs' discussions:
Shipping LossesGerman submarines were running wild in the Atlantic, and their toll of lost tonnage--over 6.3 million tons in 194219--was the most serious logistical restraint the Allies faced. Until the Battle of the Atlantic could be won, America's productive capacity and manpower could not be fully brought to bear. Cargo tonnage losses could only be reduced by providing sufficient escorts and patrol aircraft to blunt the U-boat menace. Production of these antisubmarine assets had to be maintained as a top priority.
Competition for ShippingThe requirements for shipping still far outstripped the Allies' capabilities. The critical question was could sufficient troops and matériel be moved to the British Isles in time to support a cross-Channel attack in 1943? General Somervell was asked to prepare a troop deployment schedule. His report, prepared in difficult collaboration with Lord Leathers, British Minister for War Transport, concluded that close to a million troops could be moved to Great Britain by the end of 1943. This report was accepted by the Combined Chiefs as the basis for future planning. It was, however, deeply
flawed, having been based on a number of questionable assumptions. The errors in this estimate would leave the Allies far apart on their expectations.
Landing CraftEvery major campaign of the war was to start with an assault from the sea. Landing craft were, therefore, a pivotal factor in strategic planning. How many would be required and where they would be utilized were key questions. General Eisenhower believed that planning factors for landing craft for amphibious operations were far too low. Based on the experience of TORCH, he estimated that twice the number of landing craft would be required for future amphibious operations than had originally been estimated.20 This prediction cast serious doubt on any cross-Channel attack in 1943.
After days of lively debate, the Combined Chiefs of Staff issued a memorandum on the "Conduct of the War in 1943." In this document, they defined the defeat of the U-boat as the "first charge on the resources of the United Nations"--a clear indication of the importance of logistics in their decision-making process. The main lines of offensive action in the European theater were divided between the Mediterranean and United Kingdom. In the Mediterranean, they were to be the invasion of Sicily and the creation of a situation in which Turkey could be enlisted as an active ally. In the United Kingdom, the priorities were to be the heaviest possible bomber offensive against Germany, limited offensive amphibious operations, and "assembly of the strongest possible force . . , in constant readiness to re-enter the Continent as soon as German resistance is weakened to the required extent."21
The Casablanca Conference did not produce a definitive long-range strategy'. Rather, a firm decision between the Mediterranean and northwest Europe as the locus of effort was deferred, as the Allies u-led to accommodate both. The invasion of Sicily, Operation HUSKY, would go forward, but so would the buildup in the United Kingdom. The Combined Chiefs affirmed at least a tentative commitment
to the cross-Channel attack, albeit in 1944 instead of 1943. In fact, although the CCS felt that it was premature to appoint a Supreme Commander for the cross-Channel invasion, they did feel the time was ripe to establish a planning staff. Thus was born COSSAC, Chief of Staff Supreme Allied Commander, to be the independent staff charged with pre-invasion planning. This combined staff---under British Lieutenant General Frederick Morgan--would spend the next year in preliminary planning for the return of the Allies to the Continent. At the same time, however, the CCS subordinated the invasion buildup to the combined bomber offensive, the invasion of Sicily, and operations in the Pacific. At a time when resources and shipping were both still inadequate, such a low priority was a virtual death sentence for BOLERO.
BOLERO BecalmedTORCH had drained ETO of troops, equipment, and supplies; little was left of the initial buildup. The number of troops in the United Kingdom had declined from 168,000 to only 59,000.22 ETO was now almost a backwater of the war. The subordinated position of the buildup vis-a-vis other requirements meant that little could happen in the short term. Nevertheless, General Lee set his theater Service of Supply working on plans to accommodate the large influx of troops--over 1 million by the end of 1943--called for in the ambitious deployment schedule developed by General Somervell at Casablanca. The ETOUSA staff was considerably better prepared to handle this challenge, having been annealed in the crucible of TORCH.
Shipping would continue to be the dominant issue both within the U.S. military and between the Allies throughout the spring of 1943. The disastrous predictions of military planners, however, did not materialize. The shipping quandary was resolved in dramatic deus ex machina fashion by the sudden drop in losses to submarines. After March 1943, shipping losses to submarines declined rapidly, from 95 ships sunk in March to 41 in May.23 The combination of
Allied antisubmarine efforts--U-boat killings increased from 16 in March to 47 in May24--and the merchant ship construction program had finally turned the corner. The tonnage of new construction was now exceeding losses by over 1.5 million tons per month.25 The decline in losses would prove to be a permanent victory, one which would free the Allies from their most serious logistical stricture. With the critical line of communication between the United States and the British Isles finally secure, overseas shipments could now be planned with predictability and on a grander scale. The long-stalled BOLERO buildup could now gather momentum. The Figures on page 363 show the buildup of cargo and troops in the United Kingdom with the first push, the hiatus of TORCH, and the rapid change after May.
BOLERO ResurgentAfter May 1943, the modest trickle of troops and matériel into the United Kingdom swelled rapidly to a steady stream. For the remainder of the year, troop and cargo arrivals increased dramatically. As the flow increased, the theater logistical concerns changed. SOS, ETOUSA, had long experience in dealing with insufficiency; now they had to learn to deal with abundance. Formerly, their locus of concern was shipping and getting enough of anything into the theater. Now, their focus was on reception and accommodation and being able to cope with a high rate of infusion. With ships being produced in record numbers and the Battle of the Atlantic won, the logistical bottleneck shifted to the cargo "throughput" capacity of the British ports. The British estimated their maximum practical limit for receipts at 150 cargo ships per month, even with American dock labor. This constraint, while vexations, was at least predictable, providing a solid basis for planning. The element of unpredictability, however, lingered in the continuing struggle between the American push for the cross-Channel attack and the British insistence on further operations in the Mediterranean.
A major concern for ETOUSA and Eighth Air Force26 in the
CARGO BUILD UP IN THE UNITED KINGDOM
January 1942--May 1944
Source: Roland G. Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the Armies, Washington, Office of Military History, Department of the Army, 1953. 103, 135, 237.
TROOP BUILD UP IN THE UNITED KINGDOM
January 1942--May 1944
Source: Roland G. Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the Armies, Washington, Office of Military History, Department of the Army, 1953. 100, 129, 232.
summer of 1943 was getting a commitment from the War Department on a theater troop basis. All the plans for accommodating the eventual force depended on the overall number of troops and their distribution between ground, air, and service components. After much analysis and discussion, the War Department agreed to a troop basis of over 1.4 million men to be in-theater by May 1, 1944.27
Type Number Total 1,418,000 Ground forces 626,000 (44%) Air forces 417,000 (29%) Service of Supply 375,000 (26%)
In the movement of troops to the theater, the air forces were heavily favored in the first phases of the renewed buildup. From May to December, the theater air forces increased over 300 percent, from 74,000 troops in May to 286,264 men at year's end.28 The buildup of service forces, however, lagged behind both air and ground forces, despite the strong recommendation of the ETO commander to have service units arrive before combat units. From May to August, service force troops in theater only increased 135 percent while ground force and air force troops grew by 207 and 205 percent respectively.29 To expedite the arrival of service troops, SOS agreed to take troops that had received only minimal training and train them on the job.
For cargo shipment, the time seemed opportune to return to the concept of preshipment, especially since ASF needed to take advantage of excess cargo space available during the prime summer months. There was, however, to be only limited success in preshipment for several reasons. First, the War Department was not enthusiastic; they remembered all too well the difficulties locating supplies during the rush to prepare for TORCH. Second, the strategic situation was still fluid--the ultimate commitment to the invasion had not yet been made. Third, equipment for preshipment was handicapped by a shipping priority lower than lor equipment going to units in
training or for normal theater shipments. Nevertheless, preshipment accounted for 39 percent of the cargo dispatched to the United Kingdom in the summer months. The amount of preshipment, however, was not sufficient to take advantage of the cargo surfeit--only 73 percent of available capacity was used during these prime shipping months.30
Throughout the remainder of 1943, the trans-Atlantic logistics stream swelled in volume, as troops and supplies poured through the British ports and filled the cantonments and depots. Even as the foundation of the invasion was being laid, the architects continued to argue its necessity.
Logistics and Strategy--The Strategic Debate of 1943The great strategic debate between the British and the Americans continued throughout 1943. After Casablanca, the uneasy partners gathered three more times: at Washington in May (TRIDENT), at Quebec in August (QUADRANT), and at Cairo in November (SEXTANT). While specifics changed, the underlying question remained how best to employ finite resources to defeat the enemies. The dominant figures at these conferences were the principal proponents for their nation's strategic vision for the war in Europe. Prime Minister Winston Churchill--haunted by the ghosts of the English dead in the First World War--doggedly pressed for operations in the Mediterranean to avoid or delay wholesale commitment of another generation of English youth to battle on the Continent. To the British, it was the Russians who should provide the bulk of the ground forces against the Wehrmacht while the British and Americans weakened Germany through strategic bombing and diversionary attacks. They believed the western Allies should not commit forces to the Continent until attrition had reduced Germany to a shell. Conversely, General George Marshall persistently advocated the earliest possible invasion of Germany's European fortress. To the Americans, direct confrontation of the Germans was the shortest and least costly road to victory. They believed the western Allies should limit operations in the Mediterranean and muster forces in the United Kingdom for the largest possible assault on the Continent. The challenge for
the alliance was to forge a consensus strategy from these divergent positions.
The discussions at these conferences clearly show the effect of logistics on strategy and operations. Increasingly, logisticians were integrated into the strategic planning process in acknowledgment that whatever was planned had to be within the bounds of logistical possibility. At the forefront of the debate were a number of logistical considerations germane to the European theater:
Global ApportionmentThe division of new resources between theaters was the nucleus of the debate between the British almost single-minded concentration on Europe and the American concern for balancing Pacific and European requirements.
ShipmentThe availability, of shipping to meet both military and war economy needs was a key consideration to both the British and the Americans, but for different reasons. The British were very concerned about shipping for their import program and for continued aid for the Russians. The Americans were focused on military shipping needs and finding sufficient lift to support the buildup in the U.K. at the same time as sustaining the Mediterranean operations.
Theater AllocationForce allocation was an intra-theater as well as inter-theater consideration. In Europe (including the Mediterranean), the issue pertained to which assets and forces would be retained in the Mediterranean (after the conquest of Sicily) and which could be moved to the U.K. to support the cross-Channel invasion.
Assault LiftThe means to transport invasion forces to the amphibious objective area and deliver them on the beaches was the linchpin issue in almost every discussion--the engine that pulled the strategic "train." Assault shipping and landing craft were the sine qua non of amphibious operations. Therefore, the allocation of assault lift was the strategic decision to be made. There were never enough landing
craft was, therefore, the ultimate resource allocation decision of the war because where the landing craft were is where the strategic emphasis was.
This was the period of rapidly expanding power when American manpower and the products of its burgeoning industrial base became increasingly available. As the Americans' military power grew, so did their influence in the councils of war. Steadily, the Americans gained ascendancy in proportion to their contributions of troops and matériel. After much debate, the Americans won back their concept of defeating the enemy through concentration and direct assault on the Continent. The conclusion of each conference brought the invasion closer to reality. At TRIDENT, the Allied leadership endorsed--albeit tentatively--the invasion of the Continent in 1944 and, for the first time, assigned a date (May 1, 1944) and notional forces (29 divisions). At QUADRANT, the Combined Chiefs acknowledged that OVERLORD would be the primary focus of effort in 1944, affirmed the target date, and reviewed the initial COSSAC plan for the invasion. At SEXTANT, the Allies made the final commitment and named General Eisenhower as the supreme commander for the Allied forces.
The first 2 years of coalition warfare had been marked by inexperience, insufficiency, and insecurity. By the fall of 1943, however, the Allies were seasoned in coalition warfare, the productive capacity of the American industrial base was fully mobilized, and supplies were flowing over progressively more secure lines. The initiative had clearly shifted to the Allies. Germany and Japan were being pushed backward from the high-water mark of their advances. As the curtain drew down on the long first act of the European war drama, the Allied strategy had solidified and the flow of resources accelerated. Now the curtain was rising on the climactic act.
InvasionOn January 14, 1944, General Dwight Eisenhower arrived in London to assume command of the greatest endeavor of the war--perhaps the most complex and momentous military operation
in history. Combined Chiefs of Staff's Directive to Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force stated in part: "You will enter the Continent of Europe, and . . . undertake operations aimed at the heart of Germany and the destruction of her armed forces. . . . After adequate Channel ports have been secured, exploitation will be directed to securing an area that will facilitate both ground and air operations against the enemy . . ."31 The importance of logistics in this mission statement is significant. While the ultimate objective was the destruction of the German armed forces, the immediate objective was to create a breach through which troops and matériel could be funnelled onto the Continent. The logisticians' mission was to transport whole armies en masse with their impedimenta and sustainment over a short distance, introduce them onto a hostile shore with little supporting infrastructure, and then mass forces for further operations. Logistics were to be the critical factor in the success or failure of the invasion; the Allies must build up their forces on the far shore faster than the Germans could bring up mobile reserves to challenge
Invasion plans left responsibility for logistic support of the British and American armies with their respective national organizations. Therefore, logistic planning and execution for the U.S. forces would be the responsibility of the European Theater of Operations organization. But who would be responsible for which function was the subject of much contention in the American camp. These contentions led to the development of an elaborate logistics command structure and an equally complex supply scheme. What was designed was a magnificent but intricate logistic machine that would--in theory--deliver the needed supplies at the times and in the quantities required. It was, however, a fragile machine, one ill-suited to the inconvenient realities of the battlefield and one that would require constant attention to run at all.
Command Relationships--The Tangled WebWe have seen that the command relationships of the ETO logistic system suffered from duplication and overlapping authorities between
SOS and ETOUSA. As the war progressed, the problem of confused and conflicting responsibilities only became worse. Throughout 1943, change was the only constant in the theater logistics organization. During the period February 1943 to February 1944, four different general officers held theater command, exacerbating the problem through lack of continuity. During this same period, there were four major reorganizations affecting SOS and ETOUSA. In May 1943, the first reorganization abolished the staff "G" sections and merged SOS and ETOUSA G-4, with General Lee filling both positions. In September, the theater commander separated out the theater G-4 function briefly only to combine it again in December. When General Eisenhower assumed command of ETOUSA in January 1944, he reorganized the SOS and ETOUSA staff sections under the familiar "G" sections. Once again, General Lee was to be "dual hatted" as SOS commander and ETOUSA G-4. In a consequential and controversial decision, General Eisenhower also named General Lee Deputy Theater Commander and delegated most theater command functions to him. New combat commands established in preparation tot the invasion--First United States Army (FUSA) in August and First United States Army Group (FUSAG) in October--further aggravated the situation, as did the introduction in February of two additional suborganizations into the scheme of logistical control: the Forward Echelon, Communications Zone (FECZ) and Advance Section, Communications Zone (ADSEC).32 As organizations attempted to define their ambiguous positions in the tangled skein of command relationships, the internecine power struggle worsened.
As invasion preparations proceeded, the U.S. theater command suffered from its complexities, ambiguities, and internal frictions, especially regarding supply and administration. Three decisions by
General Eisenhower did much to foster the climate of confusion.33 First was his decision to retain theater command in addition to his Allied command; second was his merging of Headquarters, ETOUSA, into the Headquarters, SOS; and third was his naming of the commanding general, SOS, to be deputy theater commander. Each of these decisions introduced into the command situation a further element of uncertainty. General Eisenhower was in effect an "absentee landlord" at ETOUSA while devoting his time and attention to his role as SHAEF commander. SOS and ETOUSA, nominally separate staff, were in reality the same staff with two sets of stationery. General Lee's simultaneous functioning as deputy theater commander, SOS commander, and ETOUSA G-4 meant that he was to coordinate with the ground and air force commanders in his role as SOS commander at the same time that he was their superior in his role as deputy theater commander. The jurisdictional disputes that arose were rooted in the fundamental tension between centralized control over supply and administration and the authority of field commanders. General Lee's efforts to extend his sovereignty over invasion logistics--first as Commanding General SOS and later as Commanding General Communications Zone (COMZ)--ran into strident opposition from General Omar Bradley, Commanding General First U.S. Army Group, and Brigadier General Raymond Moses, FUSAG G-4.
The final command plan called for a phased transition from the assault operations arrangement with a single ground force commander to a Continental operations arrangement with separate British and American ground commanders under SHAEF. The phases represented progressive stages of development of the lodgment and were keyed to specific events. Phase I was to cover the period from D-Day until an army rear boundary was declared (estimated to be D+15). During this initial stage, the British Twenty-first Army Group would command all ground forces with a U.S. administrative section (FUSAG G-4 section) as well as the Forward Echelon, COMZ attached. The Advanced Section, COMZ, would be attached to First
Army and was to be responsible for assault logistics (see Figure at top of page 373). Phase II (D+15 to D+41) was a transition period between the unitary command of all ground forces by Twenty-first Army Group and the segregated command of national forces once First U.S. Army Group become operational. During this phase, First Army Group would prepare to assume command of the U.S. ground forces, inheriting command from First Army. The American staff attachments to Twenty-first Army Group were to be withdrawn; and COMSEC (under FUSA) would initiate establishment of the Communications Zone on the Continent. Phase III would begin when a second American army was established in force and First Army Group was fully operational. At this point, COMZ would assume command of ADSEC and exercise direct control over the logistic apparatus (see Figure at bottom of page 373).34 The contrast between the British and the American command arrangements is striking. The British logistics commander ("Line of Communication") was subordinated directly to his army group commander; the American logistics commander was autonomous--under neither the army group commander nor even SHAEF.
The organizational charts do not adequately reflect the host of uncertainties with which the participants wrestled in trying to make this command scheme work. The functions of the major commands in the overall process were never clear and unambiguous. The very nature of Phase II as a period of transition naturally generated questions of timing and authority. Especially troublesome was the status of the Forward Echelon, Communications Zone. The questions concerning its proper role and authority were resolved only when it was ultimately absorbed by COMZ.35 Noteworthy also is the fact that logistic planning for each phase was the responsibility of a different organization. Therefore, no one organization exercised overall planning coordination for invasion logistics.
Logistics PlanningLogistics dominated every aspect of invasion planning. The determination of force size, tactical objectives, and landing sites were all based on logistical considerations. The logistic planners faced both immediate and long-range problems. In the assault phase, their concern was moving enough supplies across the beaches to support the combat troops and ensure the security of the lodgment. Their long-term concern was the capture and exploitation of ports sufficient to support continental operations.
Paramount among the assault phase problems was the availability of landing craft--the irreducible requirement of amphibious operations. OVERLORD plans demanded large numbers of every type of assault craft in the Allied inventory. The landing craft dilemma was intensified when General Eisenhower increased the size of the assault force from three divisions to five. The need to meet these demands ran head-on into competing requirements for Operation ANVIL, the simultaneous amphibious assault on southern France. Three months of Allied discussion would be required before the landing craft issue was ultimately resolved by delaying ANVIL to make craft available for OVERLORD and delaying OVERLORD itself to gain the benefit of another month's production.
After assault lift, beachhead issues were next in priority. Until Cherbourg could be captured--planned for D+8--all supplies would have to be delivered over the beaches at a rate sufficient to sustain the forces ashore and build adequate reserves. The beaches were topographically and hydrographically favorable for large-scale delivery; the environmental conditions, however, were not. High winds and heavy surf could be expected to curtail landing operations routinely. To provide greater beach delivery, capacity and an alternative in case of a delay in the opening of Cherbourg, the bold and ingenious plan was to construct an artificial harbor on OMAHA beach with breakwaters, a floating pier, and three causeways. This facility, MULBERRY A, and its twin in the British sector were expected to have a capacity 5000 tons per day.36 For beach organization, the Americans had formed composite units--Engineer Special Brigades (ESB)--specially trained and equipped for the multitude of tasks
ORGANIZATION FOR PLANNING AND FIRST PHASE OF OPERATION OVERLORD
Source: Historical Division, U.S. Forces ETO, The Administrative and Logistical History of the European Theater of Operations,, v.2. IL 43.
ORGANIZATION WHEN FUSAG BECAME OPERATIONAL
Source: Historical Division, U.S. Forces ETO, The Administrative and Logistical History of the European Theater of Operations,, v.2. IL 43.
required in controlling an assault beach and building up a beach maintenance area.37 These hybrid brigades of 15,000-20,000 personnel would be responsible for the continuous movement of troops and supplies across the beaches. As such, they would be the key factor in the ultimate success or failure of the logistical support effort.
Staff planners sought to decrease uncertainty through minutely detailed arrangements and precise choreography. Everything was to be prioritized, scheduled, and coordinated. For each class of supply,38 as expenditure rates were painstakingly calculated and resupply anticipated. The coincident and interdependent buildup of troops and supplies required deft balancing of force size, maintenance and reserve requirements, shipping, and reception capacity. Meeting the daily maintenance needs of an ever increasing force, while simultaneously building reserve stocks, demanded the most from the delivery systems. To help accomplish this, supplies for the first 2 weeks were pre-stowed and combat loaded on ships, plus supply shipments were prescheduled for the first 3 months.39 Pre-loading and prescheduling reduced planning uncertainty, but at the cost of responsiveness and flexibility. The planners were aware of the "ironclad" rigidity inherent in their exhaustive plans. They tried to afford some flexibility to meet emergent requirements by allocating 100 tons of shipping and 6,000 pounds of air delivery daily for emergency shipments.40
The logistics plans for the Normandy invasion were marvels of comprehensive planning with myriad timetables, procedures, and priorities--all designed to move the maximum of men and matériel onto the Continent as quickly as possible. The "lockstep" nature of the plans, however, meant that each succeeding event in the logistics timetable depended on the successful accomplishment of the preceding event. There was precious little allowance for the unexpected.
The consequence of such a rigid plan is fragility. It was like a stream of bumper-to-bumper traffic at high speed. As long as all went well, the flow would be smooth and continuous. Deviations of execution from plan caused by weather, losses, enemy resistance, or other factors would rapidly make the finely-tuned plans unavailing and force the logisticians to fall back upon improvisation. The planners themselves were aware of this; Major General Crawford, SHAEF G-4, "surmised that the operation could be supported if everything went according to plan, for there was no margin of safety.."41 The only incontrovertible attribute of battle, however, is its unpredictability,. In warfare it is axiomatic that nothing goes according to plan. OVERLORD would be no exception.
"The Best Laid Plans . . ."The intricate logistical plans for delivering the many thousands of troops, vehicles, and tons of supplies to the beaches were among the first casualties on D-Day. The planned system did not long survive the stresses of battle, falling behind almost at once. The actual system--the one which evolved on the beaches--was quite different. The success of OVERLORD logistics was due to the ingenuity and dedication of the logistics personnel on the scene who did a remarkable job in adapting to battlefield circumstances, especially the Engineer Special Brigades who overcame innumerable difficulties in moving supplies ashore and supporting the combat forces.
On both OMAHA and UTAH beaches, ESB personnel landed in the first waves to begin the vital work of organizing the beaches. On UTAH beach, the opposition was moderate and the conditions favorable. The engineers were able to set to work immediately despite persistent shelling. On OMAHA beach, the story was much different. Fierce German opposition and the inability to clear beach obstacles resulted in high casualties. The landings soon degenerated into confusion. The engineers' valiant efforts to remove obstacles, clear minefields, and open the beach exits--all under withering fire--were critical to salvaging the grave initial situation. In this effort, the OMAHA beach engineers suffered 40 percent casualties.42 As the hectic first day drew to a close, some semblance of order returned. Most
of the troops had made it ashore but only a paltry few tons of supplies were landed on both beaches.
As the combat forces moved off the beaches, the service forces were close behind. During the 7 weeks from assault to breakout, the logisticians faced and overcame innumerable obstacles and complications in moving the supplies ashore and setting up the support base. Their primary short-term concern was to ensure adequate delivery over the beaches. Once the assault troops had moved off the beaches, full-scale unloading operations commenced on D+3. Achieving planned buildup rates were hampered by a host of initial problems. Primary among these problems was an insufficiency of ship-to-shore transports, such as the 2.5 ton DUKW ("Duck") amphibious truck and the "Rhino Ferry."43 The limited number of ferry craft were routinely overloaded and overworked, but still could not keep up with the cargo to be moved.
The entire offload process quickly degenerated into chaos. As offloading slowed, ships that should have been offloaded were forced to wait, delaying their return to port in England for reloading. The cargo and troops scheduled for embarkation, however, continued to arrive in the port. The result was congestion and an ever increasing backlog. The embarkation ports became hopelessly snarled and port personnel resorted to indiscriminate loading as an expedient to clear the ports. The system of transmitting ship's manifests and sailing instructions was abandoned. Therefore, ships arrived off the far shore unexpected, improperly loaded and unmanifested. This presented First Army with a conundrum: an orderly offload in accordance with the established priority scheme necessitated offshore storage in scarce ships while immediate offload resulted in confusion ashore as supplies were piled up. First Army initially tried to maintain the priority system, but relented on D+4 and began to allow offload without delay. The Navy also acceded to Army requests to let LSTs unload by "drying out," i.e., beaching on a falling tide and offloading until the rising tide refloated them. This expedient contributed greatly to the ability to offload these valuable ships quickly.
In the press to move supplies ashore as fast as possible, order and accuracy were sacrificed, presenting ESB personnel with the monumental task of sorting a growing mountain of supplies dumped on the beaches. The breakdown in inventory control is clearly shown in the desperate search for 81mm mortar rounds. Despite the fact that records showed that the ammunition was available on ships offshore, it could not be located. Even when emergency shipments were made from England, the mortar rounds could not be found.44 Gradually, the situation stabilized. After D+18, deliveries over the beaches exceeded forecast tonnages. By the end of June, over 452,000 troops, 70,000 vehicles, and 289,000 tons of cargo had arrived over the beaches (respectively these were 71.8, 64.5, and 80.5 percent of the planned movements).45
The primary long-term concern for the logisticians was the capture and exploitation of deep-water ports for the high-volume cargo operations.46 The direct offload of deep-draft transports was essential for the full development of the lodgment and preparations for further operations. The prompt capture of Cherbourg was, therefore, the first major objective of the American forces. The Germans, however, refused to cooperate and resisted stoutly. The capture, scheduled for June 14, did not occur until June 27.47 Furthermore, the Germans had wrecked the port facilities so thoroughly that 3 full weeks were required for reconstruction. Cherbourg finally received its first cargo on July 16; but by the end of July only 17,656 tons of the 150,000 tons planned for the month had been discharged through its installations.48 Throughout June and July, the majority of supplies were received across the beaches.
The failure to open Cherbourg on schedule had a serious "ripple" effect on subsequent support plans. Hundreds of ships had
been scheduled to offload in Cherbourg in July and August, most sailing directly from the United States. Schedule slippage resulted in a backlog of ships awaiting unloading, forcing some ships into British ports for time-consuming transloading into shallow-draft coastal freighters. The OVERLORD logistics planners were overly optimistic in their schedule for deliveries through Cherbourg, especially considering that wholesale destruction of port facilities by the Germans was fully expected. The opening of deep-water seaports would have a pronounced effect on Allied operational plans in the months ahead, since the high throughput capacity of established ports was essential for the support of the drive across Europe. MULBERRY A, the artificial harbor on OMAHA beach, was a hedge against any delay in opening Cherbourg. Its construction began on D-Day with the scuttling of the first of the blockships to begin forming the protected anchorage. Assembly of the piers and causeways began on D+1. The protection the artificial anchorage afforded began to improve cargo operations immediately. By June 16, the pierheads were in place and the first LST discharged vehicles onto the causeway. Just as this ingenious facility became fully operational, however, it was wrecked by a powerful 3-day storm. The damage was so extensive it could not be rebuilt. Serviceable sections were salvaged and used to repair MULBERRY B in the British sector. The loss of the artificial port did force the Americans into greater reliance on deliveries over the beaches, but the transfer rates for OMAHA and UTAH beaches far exceeded expectations.
OVERLORD plans included elaborate provisions for POL (Petroleum-Oil-Lubricant) distribution. The distribution system would provide fuel both packaged and in bulk. The immediate needs of the forces ashore were to be met by packaged fuel in thousands of the ubiquitous 5-gallon "jerrycans."49 These cans were the most common way in which fuel was delivered to the end users. As such, they
were a critical link in the chain of fuel supply. However, empty cans quickly became a problem. Until decanting stations could be opened, there was no way to refill empty cans. The standing policy of requiring the turn-in of an empty can to get a full one was soon forsaken. The result was disregard for the importance of recycling these valuable containers with serious repercussions in later campaigning. To meet the long-range demand for high-volume delivery, a bulk delivery system was planned with two pipeline networks in the lodgment area. First was the "Major System" of 6-, 8-, and 12-inch pipelines running south from Cherbourg. This was to serve as the principle source of bulk fuel for the advance from the lodgment. The second network was the "Minor System," a short network of pipelines and storage facilities in the OMAHA beach area. The decanting of bulk fuel began on 26 June in the OMAHA beach area and a month later in the Cherbourg area. The arrival of tank truck companies greatly expedited the movement of fuel forward. Meeting fuel demands prior to the breakout was relatively easy, since the slow progress kept consumption low and the lines of communication short.50 POL plans for future operations called for pipelines to be laid along the expected line of advance. This, however, fallaciously assumed that the line of advance could be accurately predicted.
OVERLORD was the climactic act of the European war--both the culmination of all that came before and the foundation of all that would come after. It was fulfillment of the original Allied strategy to build a base of operations in the United Kingdom to support a return to the Continent. Simply getting the armies into France accomplished the strategic aim of opening a second front with profound implications for the Germans. The logistics of the operation were monumental, an undertaking unprecedented in history; in the end, they did work--albeit neither easily nor efficiently. In their specificity and inflexibility, the logistics plans had contained the seeds of their own destruction. The robustness and flexibility that the plans lacked, however, were found in the soldiers and sailors who did whatever was necessary at the time. As July drew to a close, the armies were finally able to break out of the lodgment. As they began their pursuit of the retreating Germans, the final act of the drama began. This
final act would bring a new set of challenges for the logisticians; as the armies raced to the east, the logisticians would be hard pressed to keep pace.
AdvanceIn this final act of the war drama, the importance of logistics in modern warfare is manifest. The critical command decisions of this period either were based on logistical considerations or severely affected the performance of the logistics system. Throughout the 1O-month drive to the heart of Germany, the American theater logistics system strained to the maximum to sustain over a million troops and their thousands of vehicles across supply lines stretching for hundreds of miles--an undertaking unparalleled in the history of warfare. By any measure, it was a remarkable accomplishment, but it was not without more than its share of problems. In performing the fundamental logistical task of this period--moving supplies forward to the armies in the field--the theater logistics system never performed to its full potential. The inefficient and bureaucratic COMZ organization, poor communications, overlapping jurisdictions, and shortfall of transport all contributed to an atmosphere of perpetual emergency. Crisis after crisis demanded the logisticians' immediate attention, leaving few resources and little time for building a stable, robust support structure. Certainly, the logisticians can be faulted for not responding fast enough to changing plans and emergent requirements. A share of the blame, however, has to be meted out to the senior leadership--Generals Eisenhower and Bradley--for their subordination of logistical considerations to operational aspirations.
During this final act, the critical logistical function was movement--moving supplies forward to "the tip of the spear." In this demanding process, issues of command and distribution stand out.
COMZ Takes CommandOn August 7, the COMZ staff arrived in France, established its headquarters at Valognes, and assumed direct control over logistics
functions. Movement to the Continent did nothing to improve the organizational muddle that afflicted American logistics. Both in its external relationships and its internal organization, COMZ had to deal with contention (questions of who should be in charge) and ambiguity (questions of who is in charge). Externally, the power struggle with the both SHAEF and the army group over control of supply and administration persisted. Internally, COMZ had to clarify the relationships between headquarters and the constituent elements (ADSEC and base sections), as well as affecting coordination between them.
The friction between COMZ and the army group (First Army Group initially, then Twelfth Army Group after August 1) represented two problems. First, the divorce of the logistics structure from the operational chain of command was a prime example of centralized control compromising the field commander's authority. The irksome consequence was that General Bradley, as the army group commander, could only request supplies be divided between his armies but was powerless to order it done.51 General Lee felt that, in accordance with the War Department reorganization, theater supply and administration were his domains. Second, the anomalous command arrangements--merging the theater headquarters and theater logistics staffs into a single entity, assigning officers functions in multiple staffs, designating the same individual as simultaneously both coordinate and superior to the army group commander, and Supreme Allied Commander acting as theater commander--violated the military precepts of simplicity, clarity, and unity of command. These organizational convolutions all proved breeding grounds for trouble. The fact that there was no independent theater headquarters to adjudicate disputes between the armies and COMZ was especially vexing.52 The crux of the problem, then, was that COMZ was virtually independent, beholding only to General Eisenhower
as theater commander. The field commanders believed the support of their armies was degraded rather than improved by the autonomy of the service forces.
In addition to the external organizational difficulties, COMZ suffered from internal dilemmas regarding its components sections. Base sections were established as regional organizations to control COMZ functions within a geographic area. The Advance Section was the "middle man," operating in the fluid space between the rear boundary of the armies and the forward boundaries of the base sections. As the supply lines crossed regional boundaries and overlapped in functional areas, jurisdictional questions demanded COMZ resolution. The retention of authority by COMZ over some major functions, such as the Military Railway Service, generated some friction with the base sections.
On the operational side, the SHAEF ground force command evolved according to plan. On August 1, Twelfth Army Group (TUSAG) became operational as the superior command of First Army and Third Army. TUSAG would remain under Twenty-first Army Group (British) until SHAEF assumed overall command on September 1. On August 1 FUSA declared an army rear boundary and turned command of ADSEC back to COMZ. As COMZ assumed direct control, ADSEC moved forward with the armies, taking the personnel who were most familiar with the logistics situation with them. The COMZ headquarters personnel were almost at the bottom of the "learning curve" just as the advance was accelerating and supply problems compounding. COMZ inherited a mess. Both FUSA and ADSEC were organizations with little interest in long-term organization. The FUSA's focus was on fighting Germans and ADSEC concentrated on meeting the immediate needs of the soldiers in the field. As a consequence, neither had much time for record keeping or long-term planning.53
Finally, General Lee relocated COMZ headquarters to Paris after only 3 weeks in Normandy, a move that absorbed considerable transport assets and resulted in much criticism. The propriety of this move has been the subject of much debate. While this move did not enhance the perception of COMZ by the combat forces (especially
since COMZ appropriated almost all the hotel space in Paris), it did put the headquarters at the central distribution and communications node.
Breakout and BreakdownIn July the Allies were stalemated, pinned in the confined lodgment by stout German opposition. Breakout attempts had failed and the Allied advance was well behind its expected progress. On D+49 (July 25), they were still on the D+20 phase line. A concerted American push, Operation COBRA, finally cracked the shell of German resistance near St. Lô on July 27. By August 1, the Americans were advancing rapidly to the south. The breakout accelerated rapidly as German resistance crumbled. The Allies could now proceed with the planned advances to the east, south, and west.
Originally, tactical plans and logistics plans for operations had meshed well. The second major objective for the Americans--after the capture of Cherbourg--had been the securing of the Brittany peninsula to provide the major American supply port and support base. In the advance east, SHAEF had expected the Germans to use the rivers of northern European as progressive defensive positions. They anticipated that the advance would be characterized by a series of bounds and pauses--strong pushes to gain new territory, and then pauses to gather strength before the next push. Each pause would allow time to consolidate the lines of communication and move supplies forward in preparation for the next push. The logisticians, therefore, planned the echelonment of supplies on these hills in the advance. What was not foreseen was what occurred--the pell-mell pursuit of a broken enemy.
Two crucial decisions would upset the correlation of operations and logistics and set the stage for the supply crisis that was soon to follow. The first was General Bradley's decision on August 3 to turn the bulk of General Patton's Third Army to the east in pursuit of the fleeing Wehrmacht rather than to the west to secure the Brittany peninsula.54 The plans to build up a major supply port at Quiberon Bay and use Brittany as the principal American support base gradually
faded and were finally cancelled on September 9.55 This turning away from Brittany meant a loss of port capacity that would prove serious in the coming months. The second decision was General Eisenhower's abandonment of the pause at the Seine. The original phasing plan had called for reaching the Seine on D+90 and regrouping there for at least 30 days to solidify logistics support, including establishing intermediate supply depots, extending pipelines, and repairing the railroads and bridges destroyed by pre-invasion air interdiction campaign. But now the rapid withdrawal of the German forces seemed to promise the tantalizing prospect of annihilation and quick victory--if the pursuit could just be carried further. SHAEF decided to take advantage of the opportunity to press the Germans to the fullest. The rapid advance, however, meant that the armies had exhausted their operational reserves by the time they reached the Seine.56
As the armies pressed on to the east, the actualities of logistic support deviated totally from what had been planned. The pause at the Seine was planned to allow mustering a force of 12 divisions for the first offensive beyond the Seine on D+120. At D+90, there were already 16 divisions 150 miles beyond the Seine. On D+100 (September 14) First Army was approaching the German b o r d e r near Aachen, over 200 miles beyond Paris--the phasing plan anticipated operations in this area at D+330.57 In addition, only a minor effort had been planned for the axis on which the Third Army was advancing. The lines of communication quickly became overextended. One victim of the rapid advance was the intermediate echelon
of the supply line. The Intermediate Section functioned as a "wholesaler," linking the "producers" in the Base Sections and the "retailers" of the Advance Section. Without intermediate Section depots, the supply lines stretched from the army rear all the way back to Normandy. Every mile the armies advanced made the situation worse, and there was no way to catch tip. The difficulties in reconstructing the railroads and laying pipelines meant that the burden for support of the armies fell squarely on truck transport. Truck transport, however, could not even meet the advancing armies' minimum daily maintenance requirements much less preposition reserves. Not only were transportation assets inadequate, but service troops were also stretched hopelessly thin. The heady rush to end the war in a stoke had left the entire logistic system perilously close to breakdown.
Within days of its arrival on the Continent, COMZ was faced with an acute mismatch of tasks and assets. Called upon to support a substantially larger force at significantly greater ranges than assets would normally allow, COMZ fell back on improvisation. Until the railway system could be repaired, this dilemma would be resolved only by drastic expedients to muster all the available truck transport, even at the expense of immobilizing combat divisions by commandeering their trucks. Through enormous effort (detailed below), sufficient supplies were moved forward to sustain the advance until supply shortfalls finally forced a halt in mid September. What followed was a period of retrenchment and maturing of the transport system that allowed the massing of supplies throughout the fall and winter to support the final push into Germany in the spring of 1945.58
Logistics and Strategy--"One Thrust" Versus "Broad Front"On September 1, General Eisenhower assumed direct command of ground operations. At this time, the supply crisis was beginning
to escalate. Shortages of gasoline and ammunition would soon be prevalent throughout the armies. The tactical situation had the four Allied armies (First Canadian and Second British on the north under Twenty-first Army Group and the U.S. First and Third on the south under Twelfth Army Group) advancing toward the German border on a 200-mile front. It was apparent the effective limit of the supply lines had been reached. The advance could not continue as it had. Eisenhower had to decide on the strategy for the push into Germany. Since resources were finite and strained, how the Allies would conduct their coming operations would clearly be a resource allocation decision. Rarely has the intimate interdependence of logistics and strategy been more clearly demonstrated.
On September 15, Eisenhower stated to his commanders that he desired to make "one coordinated, concerted operation" along the whole front--the "broad front" strategy.59 General Montgomery had stated as early as September 4 that he felt the soundest course was to concentrate resources in support of ". . . one really powerful and full-bloodied thrust towards Berlin . . ."60 In response to Eisenhower's message, Montgomery restated his case for concentration of all required resources in the British Second Army and the U.S. First Army for a lunge at the Ruhr and on to Berlin--the "narrow front" strategy. While Eisenhower agreed with the axis of attack and stated that it would be the central effort, he disagreed with Montgomery's proposal to hold all other forces in place and reallocate their transport and other assets.61 Before an operation of either kind could be undertaken, however, it was essential to obtain additional port capacity and shorten the overextended lines of supply. The answer to both needs was Antwerp. This superb port, with an anticipated daily cargo capacity of 40,000 tons, had been captured virtually intact by the British on September 4, but its approaches through the Schelde Estuary remained in German hands until November 8.
General Montgomery was not alone in proposing "knife thrust" offensives. Twelfth Army Group planners proposed the Third Army make a singular push toward Frankfurt. The single axis offensives assumed a "blitzkrieg" strike into Germany would produce the elusive prize of immediate victory. While this was possible, it seems unlikely for several reasons. First, a narrow front advance would result in exposed flanks, increasing the vulnerability of the lines of supply. Second, the divisions left behind would only be able to maintain the defensive since their transport would have to be committed to the support of the main attack. Third, the advance would depend on the ability, to keep the forces resupplied over vulnerable routes, especially at chokepoints such as the Rhine crossing. Finally, the Germans could be expected to mount a strong defense on their own soil using their final reserves. In this case, logistics requirements could easily escalate, especially for ammunition. General Eisenhower felt that ". . . [a] pencil-like thrust into the heart of Germany such as [General Montgomery] proposed would meet with nothing but certain destruction."62 The ultimate decision was a "quasi-broad front" strategy. The final drive would be a succession of attacks, first by Twenty-first Army Group on the north followed by the Twelfth Army Group (First Army then Third Army), with supply priority adjusted in succession. In these discussions, logistics played its role as the arbiter of the possible.
Despite the dramatic interruption of the Battle of the Bulge, the Allied supply situation improved significantly once the port of Antwerp was fully operational and the connecting railways developed. The supply system gradually began to reach a level of capability in parity, with the number of divisions it was being required to support. By January, the German counteroffensive had faltered and the Allied armies were poised for the final push across the Rhine. When the great offensive was launched in early February, the support of the drive into the German heartland would benefit from all the bitter logistical lessons of August and September.
Transportation--The Long Pole in the TentThe critical problem the logisticians faced from invasion to surrender was transportation. An experienced World War II logistician stated the problem succinctly: "If the transportation system will support . . . the forces necessary, to carry out the operational plan, the rest of the logistics can usually be brought into line within a reasonable time."63 The supplies were rapidly flowing onto the Continent; the problem was getting them to where they were needed when they were needed. At the cnd of August, 90 percent of the supplies on the Continent were still in the dumps in Normandy.64 Supplies in Normandy, however, were as useful as altitude above an aircraft. The story of logistics in the drive across Europe was one of how the supplies were transported to the customers in the field. The transport methods available were truck, rail, airlift, and pipelines. Each played a role in the final success; each experienced growing pains along the way.
Truck transport was the backbone of the distribution system. At some point in its distribution, virtually every item would depend on trucks. In the critical months of August and September, truck transport had to carry the bulk of supplies to the pursuing armies because the high-volume transport methods, railway and pipeline, were not yet ready. During the lodgment phase, distribution had been easy because distances were short; but since the breakout, distances were increasing hourly. As the armies advanced further from their supply base, their resupply declined. Truck transport was essentially a time-distance problem. The trucks available could move a quantum amount of supplies over a certain distance in a certain amount of time. The effect of the advancing armies on the equation was dramatic. As the distances increased, truck companies required more time to complete their round trips from base to the front. Therefore, each mile of advance had the effect of diluting the effectiveness of the available truck transport. Deliveries to front-line units dwindled as the supply line strained to keep up with the advance. Clearly something more was needed.
The response to the late August supply crisis was the "Red Ball Express," a "conveyor belt" of trucks on dedicated one-way routes from St. Lô in Normandy to the advancing First and Third Armies. ADSEC and COMZ conceived of this effort on August 23, and 2 days later the trucks were rolling. Every available truck was drawn into service in this round-the-clock effort to move supplies forward. Within 5 days it reached its peak performance with 5,958 trucks delivering 12,342 tons of supplies.65 In conception, trucks would proceed in convoys at a steady pace with regular rest stops along exclusive routes with traffic control by military police. Reality was somewhat less precisely organized. The routes were thinly manned, speeding and driver exhaustion were endemic, vehicles were overladen and ill-maintained, loading and unloading often took excessive time, less than one-third of the trucks ended up moving in convoys, and the scheme of control proved ineffective. The primary vehicle was the relatively small but plentiful 2½-ton ("deuce-and-a-half") truck. Not enough of the more effective 10-ton semi-trailers were available. Gathering the truck companies for the Red Ball had required immobilizing three newly arrived infantry divisions by stripping them of their trucks and creating provisional truck companies. The armies also had to muster all their transport to help transport supplies, including using tactical engineer and artillery battalions.
Originally planned to last only two weeks, the Red Ball Express lasted for 81 days. During that time it transported 412,193 tons of supplies.66 A hastily organized, ad hoc crisis response effort, it accomplished its purpose in keeping the armies moving but at a terrible cost. Under constant use and abuse, the trucks deteriorated rapidly, resulting in a huge increase in repairs, swamping the repair organizations and depleting stocks of spare parts. Its debilitating effect on the logistics structure would be felt for months.67
The resupply crisis was eased when the railway system began to carry an increasing share of the burden, since a single train could easily haul 1,000 tons--the equivalent of 400 truckloads.68 The Military
Railway Service faced the daunting task of reconstructing the French railway system which had been thoroughly demolished by the air interdiction campaign. Arriving in late June, they immediately set to work repairing existing lines and laying new ones. By the end of August, they had 750 miles of track in operation. The region west of Paris had suffered the most destruction. To the east of Paris, the lines were relatively intact, making rail transport available to the armies even before the lines from the west had been repaired. In fact, Red Ball Express trucks delivered supplies to Paris rail yards for further shipment east. Through the hectic month of September, the rail service between Paris and both First and Third Armies steadily matured. In the middle of the month, daily rail shipment from Paris to the front were 5,000-6,000 tons; by the end of the month, dispatch tonnages had risen to 9,000-10,000 tons per day.69 By October 1, the Military Railway Service had 4,788 miles of single- and double-track line in operation. From November on, more than half the tonnage forwarded to the field armies moved by rail.70 One factor that hampered rail effectiveness in the late fall and winter was a growing shortage of rolling stock. Trains dispatched to the front were often not promptly unloaded and returned. Too many loaded rail cars remained near the front as convenient warehouses.
Airlift was initially planned to be a valuable supplementary delivery method, but its potential was never realized. The small cargo aircraft, mostly C-47s, had a cargo capacity of only 6,500 pounds, making them in effect flying trucks. Their utility was to be spot deliveries of high-priority items. Effectiveness of aerial resupply was hampered by a number of factors. First, the Allied Airborne Army required that a large percentage of troop carrier aircraft be held in reserve to support possible airborne assaults. Second, suitable airfields were not often available close to where the supplies were needed, and air combat units preempted what airfields there were. Third, the capricious European weather frequently prevented deliveries. Finally, coordinating air deliveries in a fluid combat situation proved difficult. Getting all of the elements--aircraft, supplies to carried, ground transportation--coordinated was a tough task. Air
transport became an increasingly effective delivery method when the prospect of airborne assaults declined freeing aircraft for transport mission and captured territory contained a wealth of airfields.
Fuel was the most critical item in the pursuit--no gas meant no advance. POL products accounted for one-fourth of the tonnage moved to the Continent all together.71 Bulk discharge of tankers via ship-to-shore pipelines began on July 3, and in late August the submarine pipeline from England to Cherbourg was completed. Gas on the Continent was not the problem--getting the gas to the front was. The distribution of POL to the front suffered from the inability of the engineers to extend the pipelines in pace with the advancing armies. Throughout August and September, the armies lived "hand-to-mouth" for fuel as the Red Ball Express moved fuel forward in tanker trucks and jerrycans. The troops sometimes improvised their supplies by "liberating" whatever fuel might be near at hand. By late September, there were three pipelines in operation but the first line did not reach Paris until October 1. From there, railway tank cars and tank trucks extended the fuel forward in bulk to decanting facilities closer to the front. Distribution to the customers, however, still depended largely on packaged fuel--to such an extent that the critical problem in POL distribution became a shortage of jerrycans rather than a shortage of gas.
Theater distribution was the final link in the massive logistic chain stretching from the soldier at the front all the way back to the factories in America. A chain, however, is only as strong as its weakest link. Therefore, the theater distribution system had to work if the Allies were to win the "matériel battle." During the critical months of August through December, theater supply was like the proverbial "90-pound weakling" struggling to carry its heavy burden. These hard and hectic months of exercise, however, built the logistical "muscle" that would carry the Allies in the final drive to victory from February to May.
The Leaky BucketAssessments of the performance of the theater logistics system in ETO have often been colored by the rosy glow of victory. After
all, we did win the "matériel battle." The theater logistics system transported a force of over a million men and their accoutrements across an ocean, introduced them onto the Continent in the largest amphibious operation in history, and then supported them in the long drive to victory. By any measure, these were remarkable accomplishments. The relationship between logistician and operator, however, was strained. In the drive across Europe, the combat commanders felt the logisticians had let them down, that imminent victory had eluded their grasp for want of means. The logisticians felt they had done the best job possible in the face of innumerable unforeseeable difficulties. The truth lies somewhere between these poles of opinion. The American field commanders can be faulted for too frequently subordinating logistical considerations to tactical ones. Logisticians, for their part, can be faulted for conservatism in planning and inefficiency in execution. Much was accomplished, but could it have done better? The answer is clearly yes. From end to end, the theater logistics system suffered from conflicted command and wasted motion. It was a "leaky bucket"--effective but wasteful. If the logistics system had had fewer "holes," the supply situation could have been much improved. An endeavor of this magnitude and complexity, however, will inevitably involve some confusion and dissipation. The problem with SOS-COMZ was that too many of the "holes" either could have been foreseen or were of their own making. A more efficient, more streamlined, and better prepared supply organization may have allowed the Allies to pile up the supplies faster and let them fall harder and, thereby, have ended the war sooner.
The logistic issues of the World War II ETO are still relevant today. When we discuss the logistics of Operation DESERT STORM, we should have a feeling of deja vu. Echoes of the past are clearly heard in discussion of such factors as sealift, in-transit visibility, and theater lift. The lyrics may have changed but the melody remains the same.
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (6) * Next Chapter (Appendix)
1. The U.S. Army Air Forces maintained its own supply system, distinct from Army Service Forces (ASF), for the provision of material and supplies unique to their aeronautical mission. The ASF system provided those classes of supplies common to the ground forces. Therefore, responsibility for support for the theater air forces was divided and a potential source of contention. For the sake of simplicity, this discussion will focus on the common supply system.
2. Initially titled "Services of Supply," the title was changed to "Army Service Forces" by War Department General Order No. 14 on March 12, 1943. To avoid confusion, the term Army Service Forces will be used throughout.
3. War Department Circular 59, 2 Mar 1942, Sec. 7e.
4. The chief proponent of centralized control was the Commanding General of the Army Service Forces, General Brehon G. Somervell. An Army engineer with a forceful personality and numerous achievements before the war, Somervell would exert a powerful influence on America's conduct of the war. He was a strong believer in a unified logistical command; and he fought for this idea with vigor and conviction. He was the premier example of a new kind of military leader required by the industrial age, the skilled manager capable of administering a logistical effort of extraordinary, magnitude and complexity. He was, however, a controversial figure, a lightening rod for criticism. General Somervell must be considered as one of the principal architects of victory in World War II.
5. General Lee was an engineer officer with long and varied experience and a reputation as an able organizer and a disciplinarian. Like General Somervell, he would also become a lightening rod for criticism. Strict and imperious, he would be the focal point of the controversies over theater organization and command that raged for the next 3 years.
6. Technically, SOS was the "'rear area" organization of the theater. Under field service regulations, the rear areas of a theater were organized as a "communications zone," an autonomous theater-within-a-theater. The communications zone commander was responsible to the theater commander for moving supplies and troops from the zone of the interior forward to file combat zone. In this regard, he relieved the theater commander from the vast complex of rear area activities necessary to the functioning of" large armies. In the ETO, however, there was as vet no combat zone--the entire theater was essentially a rear area. This geographic coincidence between the realms of the theater commander and the Services of Supply commander exacerbated the ambiguities over their respective logistical roles.
7. Roland G. Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the Armies (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, 1959), vol. II: September 1944-May 1945, 44.
8. Maurice Matloff and Edwin M. Snell, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare: 1941-1942 (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, 1953), 192.
9. Logistics in World War II 42.
10. Michael Howard, Grand Strategy (London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1972), vol. IV, August 1942-September 1943, 44.
11. James A. Huston, Sinews of War: Army Logistics 1775-1953 (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, 1966), 663.
12. Ruppenthal, 100, 103.
13. Message 1949, London to War Department Adjutant General, September 8, 1942.
15. John K. Ohl, Supplying the Troops: General Somervell and American Logistics in WWII (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 1994), 191.
16. Richard M. Leighton and Robert W. Coakley, U.S. Army in World War II: Global Logistics and Strategy 1940-1943 (Washington, D. C.: Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1955), 98.
17. Martin Gilbert, The Second World War: A Complete History (New York: Henry, Holt & Co., 1989), 375.
18. The segregation of the theater staffs from North African operations was completed with the establishment of the North African Theater of Operations as a separate command on February 4, 1943. The same day the perimeter of the European theater was modified to exclude North Africa as well as the Iberian and Italian peninsulas.
19. Ibid., 259.
20. Maurice Matloff, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1943-1944. (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, 1959), 24.
21. Combined Chiefs of Staff Memorandum 155/1 of January 19, 1943.
22. Howard, 419.
23. Samuel E. Morison, The Battle of the Atlantic, September 1939-May 1943 (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1947), 410. Losses continued to decline throughout 1943 to fewer than 10 ships lost per month by year's end.
24. Howard, 450.
25. Leighton and Coakley, 704.
26. The buildup of Air Forces in the United Kingdom was given separate status and identified by the code name SICKLE.
27. Ruppenthal, 128.
28. Ibid., 130.
29. Ibid., 129.
30. Ibid., 135.
31. Gordon A. Harrison, Cross Channel Attack (Washington. D.C.: Department of the Army, 1951), Appendix B.
32. The transition of SOS into the Communications Zone was officially to occur once the invasion was underway. By February, however, the use of Communications Zone was common in referring to the Service of Supply organization. The distinction is significant; the theater SOS served as essentially an adjunct of the Zone of the Interior whereas the Communications Zone was directly involved with the support of troops in the Combat Zone.
33. Raymond G. Moses, R.R. Robins, C.C. Hough, N.P. Chesnutt, J.K. Damo, and L. M. Gosorn, Organization of the European Theater of Operation (U.S. Army, Report of the General Board United States Forces, European Theater, no. 2, 1946), 78.
34. Ruppenthal, 219.
35. Royal B. Lord, Ralph M. Hower, and Thomas C. Roberts, Organization and Functions of the Communications Zone (U.S. Army, Report of the General Board United States Forces, European Theater, no. 127, 1946), 14.
36. Frank A. Osmanski, "The Logistical Planning of Operation OVERLORD," Military Review 29 (January 1950): 57.
37. The "beach maintenance area" incorporates the beach and the zone several miles inland in which are organized the segregated supply dumps, bivouacs, assembly and transfer areas, and the connecting road net.
38. Classes of Supply: Class I--Rations; Class II--Clothing, equipment, and regular supplies; Class III--POL; Class IV--Special equipment including vehicles; Class V--Ammunition.
39. Ruppenthal, 307.
40. Ibid., 309.
41. Huston, 523.
42. Ruppenthal, 317.
43. Rhino ferries were large pontoon barges with outboard motors. Constructed of multiple buoyant cells, they were highly resistant to sinking and easily repaired by replacing cells. After being towed across the Channel, they were used to unload cargo ships and LSTs.
44. Steve R. Waddell, United States Army Logistics: The Normandy Campaign (Westport, CT.: Greenwood Press, 1994), 56.
45. Ruppenthal, 416-421.
46. The overall plan for port utilization called for the Americans to seize and utilize the deep-water ports on the Brittany peninsula (Brest, Lorient, Saint-Malo, Quiberon Bay). Cherbourg was to be turned over to the British as the advance opened the Brittany ports.
47. Harrison, 438.
48. Ruppenthal, 466.
49. The jerrycan was one of the small technological breakthroughs of the war. This sturdy container--copied from a German design (hence the name)--was to be the principal means of fuel provision at the customer end of the supply line. Since decanting facilities were few, the availability of a large number of jerrycans was important for sustained movement. Troops, however, had a disconcerting habit of discarding the empty cans rather than retaining them for future use.
50. Waddell, 62-63.
51. Marlin van Creveld, Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 205.
52. Moses, et al., 76. This was improved somewhat when General Eisenhower reorganized the U.S. theater command structure on July 19, relieving General Lee of his position as deputy theater commander. In reality, this had little practical effect, since Lee had been deputy commander for supply and administration only when he still was in his COMZ role.
53. Waddell, 101.
54. Ruppenthal, 483.
55. Roland G. Ruppenthal, 14. The original plan, Operation Chastity, called for the development of Quiberon Bay on the south coast of Brittany as the major port of supply for the American armies. The wisdom of the decision to abandon Chastity has been the subject of much debate. If Quiberon Bay had been established on time, it would have provided an excellent base of operations with direct rail lines to the east. However, the degree of difference it would have made is speculative. The loss of its potential port capacity was a serious blow, but its full development would have depended on the time afforded by a measured pace of advance and the pause at the Seine--events that did not occur. Even if the Brittany base had been developed, transporting the supplies forward would still be the dominant factor in the theater logistics.
56. Ibid., 5.
57. Ibid., 7.
58. On August 15, the U.S. Seventh Army (including a Free French division) launched Operation Dragoon (nee ANVIL), the invasion of southern France that had originally been planned to occur simultaneously with OVERLORD. The port of Marseilles was secured on August 28 providing the port of entry for a southern supply route. As the Allied armies advanced rapidly across northern Europe, Seventh Army drove up the Rhône Valley and linked up with the U.S. Third Army near Dijon on September 11. The provision of a second line of communication benefitted the Allied armies in the final push into the German heartland.
59. Forrest C. Pogue, The Supreme Command (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, 1954), 290.
60. Dominik Graham and Shelford Bidwell, Coalitions, Politicians and Generals: Some Aspects of Command in Two World Wars (London: Brassey's, 1993), 235.
61. Pogue, 296.
62. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1948), 306.
63. Carter B. Magruder, Recurring Logistic Problems as I Have Observed Them (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, 1990), 42.
64. Ruppenthal, 491.
65. Ibid., 559.
66. Huston, 528.
67. Ruppenthal, 572.
68. Joseph Bykofsky and Harold Larson, The Transportation Corps: Operations Overseas (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, 1957), 69. Waddell, 118, 120.
70. Bykofsky and Larson, 342.
71. Huston, 529.