District Domestic Transportation Officer
On 23 February 1943 the Secretary of the Navy established in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy a Transportation Branch whose function was "to assure adequate and efficient Domestic Transportation for the Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps."1 The District Domestic Transportation Office of the Eighth Naval District was established during the same month. This office was concerned primarily with the procurement, assignment, operation, and maintenance of automotive vehicles for the Navy. Among other functions it handled such problems in mass transportation as arranging with commercial bus lines for adequate service to large Naval activities. There was no conflict or overlapping between its functions and those of the District Passenger Transportation Office and the District Property Transportation Office.
In the beginning it took over the vehicles at Headquarters that had been under the cognizance of the Bureau of Yards and Docks; the Transportation Branch in Washington assigned more vehicles; and about one thousand were acquired through a rehabilitation program. The rehabilitation program involved a great deal of inspection of vehicles in order to determine what repairs had to be made and to see, later, that they had been made according to specifications. Four officers, writing with seven civilian contractors, were engaged in making the
inspections at the beginning of the program. Toward the end, when the officer complement of the office had been reduced by half, one officer during one month traveled eight thousand miles at night, mostly by train and plane, getting around the district to make the inspections by day. The one thousand vehicles were rehabilitated at an average cost of $250. When a vehicle was so badly worn or damaged that overhauling it would prove too expensive, the District Domestic Transportation Office recommended to the Washington Office that it be sold, giving the reasons why. By the end of the war the district office had released approximately 800 vehicles, with Treasury Procurement actually handling the sales.
In the assignment and operation of passenger cars and station wagons, it was found convenient to separate these vehicles into three classes. Class A vehicles were those assigned to officers and officials for whom automotive transportation had to be immediately available. Class B comprised vehicles assigned to an activity on a continuing basis after proof had been submitted that the activity required such facilities for conducting official business. Class C was composed of what were known as "pool vehicles." These were assigned to a pool to serve a number of offices, departments, or activities. For instance, the vehicle pool at the Headquarters Garage was available for the use of all activities within the immediate New Orleans area.
The number and the kind of vehicles assigned to an activity depended, of course, on its size and special needs. The tremendous building program of the Naval Ordnance Plant in Shumaker, Arkansas,
resulted in the assignment of 1200 vehicles to the Officer-In-Charge of Construction there. (He rented an additional 400 vehicles, on a cost-plus-fixed-fee basis, but these did not come under the cognizance of the District Domestic Transportation Officer.) Four hundred vehicles were also assigned to the Commanding Officer of the Naval Ordnance Plant for use in operating the activity.
With the completion of the bulk of construction in the district, the reduction of certain activities, and the expansion of others, the District Domestic Transportation Office had to effect the transfer of many vehicles within the district. At the end of the war, for example, the setting up of separation centers necessitated the procurement from various activities and the reassignment of two hundred vehicles merely in order to get the program started; many more vehicles were needed by these centers later on.
By way of helping with the maintenance problem in this area, the Transportation Branch established a Spare Parts Depot in New Orleans to serve the Eighth, Tenth, and Fourteenth Naval Districts. A Rubber Tire Warehouse was set up to serve the same territory. Housed in the Naval Supply Depot, both of these activities were under the supervision of the District Domestic Transportation Office and the Transportation Branch.
Of the officers on the staff of the District Domestic Transportation Office, two were assigned to supervise the maintenance of vehicles throughout the district. They visited Navy-owned repair shops checking on the maintenance work being done and expediting the procurement of spare parts and equipment. Their aim was to keep as low as
possible, the number of vehicles unable to operate.
Of the two tire Conservation Officers on the staff, one visited all activities in the District and checked the state of the tires in use. He gave instructions in proper inflation, in the shifting of tires from one wheel to another in order to make them wear evenly, and in the recapping of tires at the proper time. The other officer supervised the repair and recapping by civilian dealers of worn tires, and he acted as a liaison officer between the District Domestic Transportation Office and the Naval Supply Depot, screening the orders of all activities from the stocks of the Spare Parts Depot as well as the Tire Warehouse in order to prevent any activity from laying up an unnecessary surplus of parts or tires.
Loss of life and property throughout the nation because of careless driving caused the assignment of Safety Officers to the staffs of the District Domestic Transportation Offices. In February 1945, when a Safety Officer was assigned to this district, a civilian expert on safety conducted a five-day school at the Naval Repair Base, New Orleans, by way of initiating a program in the district for the testing and training of drivers. Nearly fifty officers, petty officers, and supervisory civilians from various activities were given training at this school which qualified them to conduct testing and training programs at their activities when equipment and printed fens became available to them.2 The Safety Officer of the district office visited activities in order to instruct and test drivers and
to set up the system by which an activity could conduct its own tests. Finally only qualified drivers, who had permits, were allowed to operate Navy vehicles. The decrease in accidents showed the value of the safety program.
One of the minor functions of the District Domestic Transportation Officer was the management of the Headquarters Garage. According to the organization of the Commandants district staff, the Garage technically came under the District Public Works Officer, so that insofar as his operation of the Garage was concerned, the District Domestic Transportation Officer was performing additional duty for the Public Works Department. In reality, Public Works, which originally furnished all the funds, had nothing to do with running the Garage except that it paid its share of the bill for repair work. Keeping check of how much repair work each mechanic did for this department and how much for that caused the Garage to have to employ an extra timekeeper, so that repair tickets could be broken down. So far as repair work was concerned, it would have been simpler to have the bureaus get together in Washington and determine how much each should appropriate for it. No records were kept on the cost of spare parts used by the various activities; each bureau merely "chipped in" a predetermined amount in order to maintain the depots.
As a result of the investigation made by the Farber Committee, the Secretary of the Navy directed that all transportation and transportation facilities be placed under the coordination control of the district commandants.3 In a second directive, dated 17 July 1945, he
specified that, except in the Sixth and Seventh Naval Districts, "All activities under the air training commands will be subject to the control of the Commandants of the Districts in which the activities are geographically located, insofar as assignment, operation, and maintenance of automotive vehicles and other domestic transportation facilities are concerned."4 Accordingly, on 7 August 1945, the four Domestic Transportation Officers of the air commands activities in the Eighth Naval District reported in the office of the District Domestic Transportation Officer and officially turned over all their records and responsibilities to him. The staffs of the air commands domestic transportation offices were thereupon available for reassignment.
With the 4,000 vehicles that it took over by this transaction, the District Domestic Transportation Office now had control of 10,000 vehicles. Since there was no increase in personnel for the office, the work load was now extremely heavy; but the functions of the office were performed.
Shortly after its establishment, when it controlled about 4,000 vehicles, the district office had on board 14 officers, 42 enlisted men, and 8 civilians. Changes were made very soon, however, as the Navy put into effect its plan to make Navy men available for sea duty when it could use civilians in their place. in August 1945 the personnel consisted of 7 officers, 32 enlisted personnel, and 53 civilians, the number of civilians included those employed in the Headquarters Garage; all but two of the enlisted personnel were employed in the
operation of the Headquarters Dispatch Pool. All the officers assigned to duty in Domestic Transportation had had experience in handling transportation matters in civilian life.
That the Washington office appreciated the work done in this district is indicated in the fact that District Transportation Officers for the Ninth, Tenth, and Fourteenth Naval Districts were chosen from the staff of the District Domestic Transportation Officer of the Eighth.
1. SecNav Ser. SO 2 23 1002 of 23 Feb. 1943. 2. Dist. Memo. No. 2-45, dtd. 28 Feb. 1945. 3. SecNav ltr. to All Ships & Stations, Ser. 22173, dtd. 4 Jun.1945 4. SecNav Ltr. to Comdts. of NavDists., et al., Ser. SOTB-1-gmw 30481, dtd. 17 July 1945.
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