Army Quartermaster Museum - Fort Lee, Virginia

The Army’s Food Program
Robert P. Patterson, Under Secretary of War
The Quartermaster Review
May-June 1945

As the Army has grown, and as more and more men have gone overseas, the food requirements have grown too. Supply lines are longer, and that means a larger amount of food per soldier must be put into the pipelines.

Army purchases of food in 1944 were nearly 80 per cent greater than in 1943. In 1945 the schedule of Army food purchases is 20 per cent above 1944. The fact is that as the year 1945 brings the war to a climax, it also brings food demands to an all-time high.

But the Army’s food requirements do not end with supplying its eight million troops.  More than one-third of the food the Army buys it issues to groups who, though not a part of the Army, nevertheless are a part of our military responsibilities.

The total amount of food required by the Army, and a break-down showing where these requirements are distributed, are shown in Figures 1 and 2. (not included here)

The Army issues from its own stocks subsistence for Naval personnel numbering about a half million, who are in overseas theatres where the Army has the supply responsibility. The Army also buys and issues to the Navy a number of imported foods, such as coffee and cocoa.  Together these requirements take about 5 1/2 per cent of the Army food purchases this year.

The inauguration of large-scale offensives and resulting successes have brought an additional feeding problem to the Army-prisoners of war. Their number is already large. It is growing rapidly. In this country it includes German and Japanese prisoners in camps, and former Italian prisoners of war who have been organized into service units.  In Western Europe the Americans and the British share the responsibility for feeding prisoners.

Allied military forces, such as those of the French, the Chinese, of the Filipinos, fighting alongside our troops under a common commander, are supplied food rations from stocks of the United States Army.

Another small requirement is that for feeding civilian employees of the War Department working overseas. These include foreign laborers as well as engineers, technicians, and various other American specialists.

Allied victories have brought still another food problem-the feeding of liberated civilian populations whose lands have been overrun, their livestock and other food supplies confiscated, and their sources of supply disrupted or destroyed. The Army is temporarily responsible for supplementing civilian food resources to the extent necessary to prevent disease and disorder behind the battlefront.

Altogether the requirements for the Army food program in 1945, as revised February 1st, total 12 per cent of the nation's allocable food supply-that is, 12 per cent of the supply available for distribution.

The possibility of early victory in Europe holds little hope for reduction of Army food requirements during 1945. Computations based on various assumed dates for VE-Day indicate no substantial reduction in net requirements but many shifts among the various types of food required. The problem of feeding civilians in liberated and occupied areas will increase tremendously.

Troops in the European area on VE-day must sti1l be fed, and will require increasing quantities of perishable foods, such as fresh meats and fresh dairy products.  As their number decreases through redeployment to the Pacific or return to the United States, the amount of food going to the European area to feed our forces will decrease, but the amounts going to the Pacific will increase.

Although it may be possible to divert some of the combat rations on hand in the European theatre at the fall of Germany-such as the K or 10-in-1 ration-even these will not be available in sufficiently large quantities to offset materially the large supplies that will be needed elsewhere.  In anticipation of redeployment of troops to the Pacific, the Army must acquire working reserves in that area to take care of the influx of soldiers, and it must maintain the troops as they arrive and move into combat. This will call for large quantities of combat rations.

As British troops move into the Pacific they will draw heavily on resources of British dominions, and it is probable that supplies locally available for U. S. troops will decline. Further, as American troops deploy throughout the Pacific, shipping distances will lengthen, and increasing quantities will be in transit. Both these factors-reduced local overseas procurement and longer shipping distances will mean somewhat greater demands on U. S. food supplies.

Shipping food of the right types and in the right quantities has become a bigger and bigger task as more and more men have gone overseas and as supply lines have lengthened. Between the time a package of C rations leaves the factory and is delivered to an American soldier across the Rhine or along the Ledo Road, weeks and months must elapse. Good management keeps the food moving steadily to the fighting fronts, with working reserves kept to a minimum.

The distribution system is like a pipeline. It must be kept filled if the supplies fed in at one end are to be delivered steadily and on schedule at the other. To keep the pipeline filled, the Army must buy food well in advance of the day it will be issued to hungry soldiers.  The time in transportation must be calculated closely, and sufficient working stocks must be maintained at the point of issue and at key points along the line to make certain that there will be no let-up, even for a day- in the flow of rations to individual soldiers on opposite-sides of the globe.

Food for the Army is bought at procurement depots and Quartermaster market centers.  To protect against a disruption of supply, working stock levels are maintained in filler depots to supply overseas demands and in regional depots to supply camps within the United States.  Filler depots are authorized to carry not more than a sixty-day supply, and regional depots not more than a forty-five-day supply.

Wherever possible, as in the distribution of flour, sugar, and similar staples, shipments are made directly and continuously from sellers to Army camps. Perishables, such as butter, meats, and fresh fruits and vegetables, also are shipped directly to the camps. As a result, for 80 per cent of the food for troops in the United States, supplies at the regional depots have been cut out altogether or are held at a nominal level.

For troops overseas. working stocks must be maintained at filler depots so that ships can be loaded quickly. The food then moves across the ocean to an overseas base depot, and from there to the troops through intermediate depots, each containing sufficient quantities, measured in days of supply, to guarantee an uninterrupted flow of food to soldiers dependent on that particular depot.

By careful housekeeping and through the application of improvements born of experience, the Army during the past two years has steadily reduced the quantities of food carried at the several stopping-places along the pipeline. As recently as a year ago the normal volume of food constantly carried in the pipeline for troops in this country totaled ninety days’ supply. This consisted of thirty days' supply carried in camps, fifteen days' supply in shipment, and forty-five days' supply in depots. Within the past year, fifteen days' supply has been lopped from this total.

Similarly, about a year ago a total of sixty-eight days' supply was carried in this country backing up soldiers overseas. The working reserve has now been reduced to sixty days' supply.  This figure does not include the volume of food en route from ports or in the pipeline overseas. These overseas levels, which a year or so ago averaged about 108 days of supply, now have been lowered to an average of about seventy days.

In addition to these working stocks, it is necessary for the Army to carry seasonal reserves to insure supply of such items as canned fruit and vegetables from one packing season to the next.  During the canning season, sometimes lasting little more than a month, the Army buys its supplies for the year. These stocks are then stored and their use is spread over a twelve-month period.

The Army has no stockpile of food. It does carry minimum working reserves, just as wholesalers and retailers do to assure a steady movement of food to the consumer.  It keeps these working reserves as low as possible. They are now so tight that if, on the day Japan is defeated, it were possible to transport to this country all the Army food stocks from all over the world and at the same time entirely demobilize the Army and abandon other military responsibilities for food, the supplies on hand would not be large enough to feed the civilian population of this country for one week.

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