A tank without gasoline or a vital part might better be a pillbox. A rifleman without ammunition must use his bayonet or club his rifle. A modern army without food will not long survive. This book tells, among other things, how in the European Theater of Operations the tank got its gas (when it did), how the ammunition went forward, and how the food reached the troops.

The necessity of anticipating events so that the needs of men in current-day battle can be promptly and continuously met is evident even to a casual reader. The question whether the modern soldier demands too much on the battlefield is one for all to ponder.

Man tends to regard the problems with which he is faced as unique. To guide those faced with the logistic problems of the future, a number of supply principles have been laid down in regulations. This record of World War II experience tells how the principles were actually applied. Those who take the time and trouble to study it will find their efforts well rewarded.

Maj. Gen. U.S.A.
Chief of Military History

Washington D.C.
15 June 1952


Introductory Note

In all the extensive literature of military history there are but few volumes devoted to the study of logistics. Although the rationalization of army supply is fairly old in the history of warfare, the written record normally has been confined to the exposition, in field service regulations and manuals, of how supply, evacuation, and troop movement should be organized, rather than the narrative account of what actually happened in the course of wars and campaigns. The term "logistics" is itself of recent coinage. During World War I, it was confined chiefly to French lexicons, and it remained for World War II and for the American armed forces to give the term meaning and wide usage. Even so, the definition of "logistics" is subject to wide variations. As used in the present volume, the term covers the supply of armies in the field and the movement of troops to the combat zone. Little attention is given the evacuation of the wounded since other Army historians will tell this story.

When plans were made for writing a series of volumes dealing with U.S. Army operations in the European theater during World War II, the importance of the logistical support given the armies in the field literally forced this subject upon those planning the series. It was decided that the story of logistics could not be treated as an appendage within the various volumes dealing with combat operations, but would have to be told in the form of a sustained and independent narrative moving from ports and beaches forward to the combat zone. Months of research led ot the conclusion that the complexity and scope of logistical history demanded more than a single volume. This volume is the first of two entitled Logistical Support of the Armies. It is intended that the history herein recounted stand by itself as the complete story of supply operations in Europe. But the thoughtful reader will find his understanding and appreciation of the role of logistics enhanced by referring also to those volumes in the European series which deal with the high command and combat operations.

The author of Logistical Support of the Armies, Dr. Roland G. Ruppenthal, is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and hold the Ph.D. degree from that institution. During the war he served with the VII Corps and the Third Army as historical officer in four campaigns. Subsequently he was appointed Assistant Theater Historian for the European Theater of Operations and charged with the direction of historical coverage for supply and administration within the theater. Dr. Ruppenthal is the author of a combat history, Utah Beach to Cherbourg, in the AMERICAN FORCES IN ACTION series, and is a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army Reserve.

Chief, European Section 29 May 1942



WOrld War II provided a convincing demonstration of the decisive role which matériel supremacy can have in modern warfare. But while the importance of logistics is repeatedly asserted, little has been written to indicate the complexity of the administrative machinery needed to bring the required logistic support ot bear at the proper place and time, or to show the difficulty of anticipating the requirements of distant battles. This work recounts how U.S. forces were built up in the United Kingdom for the great invasion of 1944, and how they were supplied during operations on the European Continent. The present volume begins with the arrival of the first small group of U.S. Army "Special Observers" in the United Kingdom in the spring of 1941 and carries the story of logistic support on the COntinent to the end of the pursuit in northern France in mid-September 1944. A second volume will carry the story forward ito the end of hostilities in Europe in May 1945.

The aim throughout has been to relate the problems of logistic support to tactical plans and operations. While the story of procurement, movement, and distribution of supplies and manpower is told largely from the point of view of the theater of SOS-Communications Zone, the agency responsible for the support of U.S. forces, the focus throughout is on the influence which logistic support or lack of it had on the planning and conduct of combat operations by the field armies. The substantial apportionment of space to the discussion of theater command and organization is explained by the direct bearing which that problem had on the administrative structure of the European theater and consequently on the logistic support of U.S. forces.

Except for the period of the U.K. build-up, little attention is given the logistic support of the Army Air Forces, since the story of that support is told elsewhere. Limitations of space have made it necessary to exclude from treatment in this volume certain activities normally falling within the definition of logistics, such as evacuation, hospitalization, and salvage. The importance of transportation, of port and railway construction, and of shortages of major items such as ammunition and combat vehicles, to the story of logistic difficulties has resulted in an unavoidable encroachment on the histories of the technical services. The technical aspects of their operations are left to the histories of those services.

While an attempt has been made to maintain a chronological organization, constantly relating supply to tactical developments, the nature of the subject has made it necessary to combine the chronological with the topical treatment. Some trespassing on strict chronology has therefore resulted, as, for example, in recounting the story fo Cherbourg's reconstruction and performance.


That story is postponed to the second volume where the port problem as a whole is treated at length. Command and organizational developments of the pursuit period, including the circumstances surrounding the move of the Communications Zone headquarters to Paris, and an analysis of the command decisions of early September 1944 in the light of the logistic situation at that time are likewise postponed to Volume II.

It is a pleasure to acknowledge both the direct assistance and encouragement provided by many persons in the preparation of this volume. It was mainly through Col. S.L.A. Marshall, theater historian in 1945, that the author was first initiated into the study of logistics and transferred form the field to theater headquarters at the end of hostilities in Europe to organize the research and writing of preliminary monographs on the administrative and logistical history of the theater. Since then, Colonel Marshall has continued to provide friendly and expert counsel and to give generously of his time in constructive criticism of the manuscript.

The author's labors have been substantially lightened by the use of several preliminary studies prepared by members of the Historical Section, ETO, at the conclusion of the war in Europe. Three of them had particularly valuable application to this volume and merit special mention: George H. Elliott's history of the ETOUSA predecessor commands, SPOBS and USAFBI, covering the activities of the U.S. Army in the United Kingdom in the year before the formal activation of the theater; Clifford L. Jones's two-volume manuscript on the training of U.S. forces in the logistics of amphibious operations and on the activities of the engineer special brigades at the beaches; and Robert W. Coakley's two-volume study of theater command and organization.j These three outstanding products of research carried out under difficult circumstances were an invaluable and irreplaceable source in the preparation of this volume.

It is a pleasure to acknowledge the research assistance of Dr. Mae Link, who aided in the preparation of three chapters on the U.K. build-up, and of Mr. Royce L. Thompson, whose effective sleuthing for elusive records both at St. Louis and Washington and researching on a variety of questions save the author much time-consuming labor.

Special thanks are due those individuals who cooperated so generously and cordially in the final production of the volume: Mr. Joseph R. Friedman, Chief of the Editorial Branch, made an immeasurable contribution, saving the author many writing faults through his unfailing tact and expert editorial judgment. Mr. Wsevolod Aglaimoff, Chief of the Cartographic Branch, and his assistants have solved a knotty mapping problem with their customary imagination and skill. Capt. Kenneth E. Hunter, Chief of the Photographic Branch, selected and edited the photographs which have added substantially to the appearance and value of the volume. Miss Gay Morenus ably carried out the laborious task of copy editing, and the index is the product of many hours of work by Mrs. Pauline Dodd.

The author must acknowledge, in addition, the consistently cheerful assistance given by Mr. Israel Wice and his staff of the General Reference


Branch of the Office, CHief of Military History; by the records personnel of the Departmental Records Branch in Washington and of the Records Administration Center in St. Louis, both of the Office of the Adjutant General; and by the historians of the technical services. Footnotes attest in part to the contributions of key staff officers and commanders who generously provided personal knowledge of the events of the period. Generals John C.H. Lee, Raymond G. Moses, Robert W. Crawford, and Ewart G. Plan read the entire manuscript in draft form.

This volume was prepared under the general direction of Dr. Hugh M. Cole, Chief of the ETO Section, Office of the Chief of Military History, with whom the author was privileged to serve in the European theater, and who has been his constant mentor and most unfailing source of encouragement in a new filed of study.


Washington, D.C.
4 June 1952


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