Army Quartermaster Museum -
Fort Lee, Virginia
Having been the Quartermaster of an Infantry Division from the date of
its activation in December 1942 until its inactivation in September 1945, I had
the good fortune to train a Quartermaster company in the States and observe the
results of this training during the combat operations of the division in the
European Theatre of Operations. Some of these observations are related hereafter
with the hope that they will be informative from a training and organizational
Just prior to the New Year of 1943, the division Quartermaster company
was activated under the newly adopted T/O & E, substituting a company for
the battalion which had previously provided Quartermaster service support for an
Infantry division. The place of activation was a new mobilization-type camp
which was just approaching the final stage of completion. The station operating
staff was assembled just prior to the arrival of the division cadre. Being new,
both organizations were faced with numerous difficult problems; however, through
close cooperation these problems were effectively resolved and harmonious
policies and procedures established.
The cadre for the Quartermaster company, consisting of ten officers and
thirteen non-commissioned officers, arrived about two months before the division
was activated. The non-commissioned
officers were experienced, having received their specialist training in their
parent unit prior to joining the division.
Although the officers received initially had had some experience, during
the initial stages of activation and prior to receipt of filler personnel, the
majority of the experienced officers were transferred, and recent graduates from
officer candidate school were received as replacements.
For approximately two months the cadre represented the unit, since
personnel to bring the division to authorized strength had not arrived on
schedule. During this period the Quartermaster cadre bore the burden of
maintaining the daily requirements of the division cadre, consisting of
approximately 2,500 officers and enlisted men, in addition to effecting the
receipt, issue, and transportation of hundreds of Quartermaster items,
representing many tons of initial issue equipment stocked by the technical
service at the station prior to and during activation. Station storage
facilities being inadequate, supply was transferred to regimental, battalion,
and separate company areas for interim storage in supply rooms and barracks.
This was accomplished in spite of lack of transportation, shortage of personnel,
and other difficulties. During this period it was not an uncommon sight to see a
Quartermaster officer driving a cargo truck, fully loaded, with a non-com on top
of the load, on their way to deliver the goods.
Approximately two months after the activation of the division,
notification of arrival dates of filler personnel was received, and plans
previously formulated for the feeding and processing of fillers at a central
plant prior to assignment to permanent organizations were placed in operation.
A flexible schedule was initiated for issue of Class I supply on a basis
of daily requirements, as deduced from scheduled train arrivals and reports from
personnel depots. Personnel shipments arrived in contingents of 600 to 1,200
daily for a period of fifteen days, when the authorized strength of the division
was reached. As the personnel received consisted of the first eighteen-year-old
citizen-soldiers called to the colors, we were known as the Baby Division.
The following period with its many problems and difficulties presented an
opportunity for cadre personnel to apply the knowledge acquired in officer
candidate schools and cadre training courses to practical Quartermaster
operations. Each successful
accomplishment increased immeasurably the individual’s confidence in himself
and the team. The processing
finally completed and the company having received its quota of new personnel to
bring the unit to authorized strength, on-the-job training began immediately, as
continuous supply to the division, particularly Class I, was a matter of major
As the unit was filled with untrained personnel, the old question of work
or train was resolved by a system of rotation. One half the unit maintained the division supply while the
other half received basic training, alternating every other day.
Under this rotational policy the unit progressed through all training
phases in mastering required subjects. Subjects emphasized were map-reading,
convoy operations, motor maintenance, blackout driving, perimeter defense,
reconnaissance, and supply procedure. Practical application of training doctrine
was the rule, with operations "field type," under simulated combat
conditions, utilizing to the greatest advantage the most difficult terrain
features, around-the-clock time element, and other adverse conditions to improve
technique in the accomplishment of the supply mission. Training was not
individualized; all members were trained to be conversant with the duties of
other sections in order that uninterrupted service would continue regardless of
An incident occurred during the advanced training phase that served as a
general test of the ability of the unit to operate successfully under
considerable pressure. Two
regimental combat teams were on an extended problem at a location one hundred
miles from the home station. The
Quartermaster unit was operating in two echelons-the rear at the station and a
forward echelon with the RTCs. Daily
trains were loaded by the rear element and dispatched to the "front,"
and the forward operated a railhead and Class III points in the combat team
area. During the problem the War Department directed that an immediate shipment
of eighteen hundred men be made to a replacement depot for overseas service. The
division commander directed each RTC commander to select six hundred enlisted
men of appropriate MOS and return them to the home station while the problem
transportation was limited, but by shuttling over a route of some
two-hundred-odd miles, the movement of the men was accomplished in twenty-four
hours. At the rear echelon a processing plant was set up in production-line
style, inspection teams were organized, and supply obtained from the post supply
agencies. When it was learned that post stocks would be inadequate, trucks were
dispatched to a depot a distance of one hundred miles to obtain additional
supply. All men were equipped with Class A clothing and equipment, and were
loaded on the trains within seventy-two hours.
Participation in the Tennessee Maneuvers during the winter of 1943
contributed greatly to practical experience through full field operations.
Fast-moving situations simulating "Blitzkrieg" conditions
required tremendous expenditure of energy and effort to maintain supply, while
constant changes of location taught many lessons in reconnaissance, map-reading,
and load-planning, and in ways of living in comparative comfort under extremely
From maneuvers the division was shuttled by motors over some six hundred
miles of highway, in seven days, to a new station, which became the scene of
much activity during the ensuing period. The division was called upon to furnish
six thousand replacements for combat theatres and received a like number of
replacements, all of whom were ineligible for immediate overseas service.
Despite this loss of personnel the division was ready for overseas service after
seven months at the new station, and after a total of nineteen months of
training and service operations in garrison and in the field, orders to move the
division to the European Theatre of Operations were received.
Upon arrival of the division in England, in October 1944, it was found
that supply operations there were similar to operations in the United States.
Minor adjustments had to be made to conform to local conditions. The unit
operated a Class I supply point which served the division and other troops in
the area, including a replacement depot which fluctuated in strength from four
thousand to fifteen thousand with little or no warning.
A one-day reserve was maintained for emergency issue.
Class II supply depots were scattered throughout the island, and the
securing of requirements was difficult and time-consuming. Class III supply
points-petrol (gas) filling-stations with ground tank capacities of 100 to 500
gallons-were operated at widely separated points within a fifty-mile area and
required timely refill scheduling through British POL agencies. These
filling-stations were augmented by the establishment of a Class III dump for can
exchange near the ration point. No
general reserve of Class II or III was maintained, the procedure being one of
"hand to mouth." Replacement of items lost or damaged in transit
overseas and issue items "authorized by theatre commander" would not
have been possible had the unit personnel been untrained. Each truck driver had
supplies of one kind or another to obtain, and there were not sufficient non-coms
to accompany the drivers to the different supply points. Failure to obtain
necessary supply was not evident.
Operation on the Continent during movement of the division to assembly
areas was similar to the move from the Tennessee maneuver area except for
hazards such as mined areas and strafing from the air. Class I supply was
maintained and consisted of Type C and B rations, supplemented by bread and
coffee issues from points established en route. This necessitated twenty-four-hour operation of trucks and,
as a result, made it convincingly evident that all cargo trucks were in need of
Further adjustment was necessary upon commitment to combat operation in
service support to the division. A Graves Registration Section was not available
for attachment from higher headquarters; therefore a section was organized, and
enemy and American casualties were processed and transported to Army cemeteries.
Distances involved varied from seven to two hundred miles as the conflict
At this time the tactical situation indicated a necessity for a division
reserve, and supply was accumulated as follows: Class I, three days' operational
rations; Class III, thirty thousand gallons and a quantity of oils and greases.
In addition the equivalent of twelve cargo-truck-loads of Class II supply in a
more or less balanced stock was maintained. Requisitions from units were filled
immediately upon receipt, and division stocks were replenished twice weekly or
more often if the occasion demanded. This procedure continued until VE-day,
differing only in amounts of all classes of supply as was dictated by the
tactical situation. The foregoing
naturally placed a terrific burden on the company for additional personnel in
the operation of the different sections, and the requirement for labor and
transportation for the division reserve constituted a problem throughout the
entire combat period. Movement was accomplished by shuttling; truck companies
were attached to the division, and, on one occasion, a Belgian freight train was
requisitioned near the front. Trucks were operated on a twenty-four-hour
schedule and drivers received little or no rest. In addition, truck drivers were
of necessity scheduled for duty in the perimeter defense of the installation.
Due to the size and dispersion of the unit it was normal for all personnel to
draw guard duty every third day. It was not unusual for truck drivers to find
themselves manning positions after coming off long and arduous trips, due to the
lack of other available personnel.
The service platoon furnished personnel for a salvage section, a stove-
and lantern-repair section, a tire-repair section that repaired from fifty to
seventy-four flat tires daily, and additional personnel for the Class II and III
sections. This left a bare minimum available for the ration section to supply
the division and attached troops, the strength of which averaged between
eighteen to twenty-two thousand. The training received was evident as day and
night operations were carried on successfully under the most adverse conditions.
Service support to the division was maintained from locations ranging
from two thousand yards to eleven miles in rear of the combat elements. Mobility
and flexibility of operation was evidenced by the numerous times it was
necessary to operate in two echelons in an endeavor to keep Class I and III in
the immediate vicinity of the combat units.
The experience gained during maneuvers in making reconnaissances was the
foundation for successful selection of roads, sites for bivouacs, supply points,
and locations for the laundry and bath platoons which were attached to the
division. All personnel were
reconnaissance-minded. and a constant flow of information on possible locations
was volunteered by personnel upon return from trips to the front as far forward
as the regimental and battalion positions.
VE-day found the division in territory to be temporarily occupied by the
American Army pending adjustment of the occupational zones, and, for two months,
occupational duties were performed. The
load was increased from a supply standpoint as some thirty thousand prisoners
had been taken and rations from captured German warehouses under control of Army
had to be transported daily for issue to prisoners.
After approximately two months of occupational duties the unit received
orders for redeployment; all equipment was turned in except for minimum
essential items, and the unit returned to the United States. VJ-day occurred
during the period of recuperation leave, and, upon reassembly, orders were
received to inactivate the division. Personnel was transferred to other units
being redeployed or to separation centers operating personnel.
The successful accomplishment of the supply mission during 154 days of
continuous combat, over 564 miles of enemy territory, under every conceivable
condition of weather, terrain, and combat hazard, without loss of any supply and
with a minimum loss of seven trucks (worn out) and three men wounded, could only
result from proper training.
In conclusion, it is desired to make the following comments based upon my
The enlisted cadre under the T/O & E was insufficient to adequately
staff the unit for operation and provide the instructors for basic training
without undue hardship.
The system of a Quartermaster unit being formed and basically trained
concurrently with the division operates as a deterrent to progress of the
service element. Should a Quartermaster company continue to be the service
component of an Infantry division, it should be pretrained in basic and advanced
subjects prior to the formation of the division. Upon assignment prior to
activation it would then be ready and available for its service mission.
Advanced and field training can be accomplished in conjunction with the training
of the division.
The operation of the Quartermaster company in more than one echelon
proved advantageous and was a must on many occasions.
The Quartermaster company is lacking in sufficient personnel for the
additional duties and sections that are formed from necessity. "The service
platoon normally supplies labor for a division strength of 14,000 where, in
actual experience, the division has attached units in combat bringing the total
strength for service purposes to 20,000.
In order that the Division Quartermaster may adequately serve the
division it is felt that he should have additional personnel and tools.
Therefore it appears essential that the Quartermaster component of the division
should have organic service elements such as Laundry and Bath Platoons, Salvage
Platoon, Graves Registration Section, and an additional Truck Company, assistant drivers for all cargo trucks, and additional personnel in the service platoon-in short, a battalion complete for real service support to the division.
since 27 May 2001