Army Quartermaster Museum -
Fort Lee, Virginia
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
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
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
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
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
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.
since 27 May 2001