Army Quartermaster Museum -
Fort Lee, Virginia
*This article is based on an interview with 1st Lt. James Cooper. who was
in the Quartermaster Office, Base K Headquarters, during the Leyte invasion.
Lt. Cooper handled several jobs following the landings. one of which was
the operation of a Class I dump at White Beach.-Ed.
ON A plus 2, October 22, 1944, the men of the QM Office, Base K, had
their eyes on the low blue coast of Leyte. MacArthur had returned to the
Philippines, and they were there to supply his armies. Radio Tokyo was already
writing off the operation as a "desperate American gamble for
prestige," and her navy was churning through the China Sea to challenge
Kinkaidís force. What was most apparent were the navy dive-bombers flying in
neat patterns overhead, and the thunder of naval rifles. Minutes later the
straining eyes could see the deadly peel-off of the airmen, followed by a geyser
of flame and black smoke, billowing hundreds of feet in the air. A Jap Class III
dump had been hit.
Six days before, the big LCI (Landing Craft Infantry) had pulled
out of Hollandia harbor. The word then had been that the QMs would go in on A
plus 4, but the LCI skipper had grinned and told them to change their plans. His
schedule called for an A-plus-2 landing. Landings had not yet been made at
Tacloban, and some naval gunfire and softening up was still under way on A plus
2 at White Beach.
Then the LCI came into the sandy shore, grating against the bottom. The
ramps smacked down into the water, and men struggled up onto the higher beach.
They spent that first night on the sands, surrounded by rations and dead
On A plus 3 the Base K Headquarters moved into Tacloban on the heels of
mop-up squads. The Base QM Office didn't fare quite so well, and ended up about
two miles inland from Tacloban in the middle of a group of rice paddies with an
overlay of mud and water.
The unit finally took over a Jap signal dump, which was on somewhat
higher land than the paddies. The QMs had quite a bit of luck here, and picked
up nine partially assembled Jap trucks with the necessary parts to put them in
running order. Personnel slept that night in nipa huts which had housed Japs
less than a week before.
The First Cavalry Division was all over the area, and they liked the nipa
huts so well that they pulled their combat priority and took over.
The QMs weren't happy, but they moved on A plus 4 in their new Jap
trucks. Next stop was a coconut
grove which nestled against a high ridge that extended from the Tacloban area
some distance inland. This turned out to be a hot spot, as Jap aircraft were
continually sneaking over the ridge and zooming down the valley in search of
The traveling QMs had no sooner ditched their pyramidal tents than they
discovered they were so far ahead of the 105-mm. howitzers that shells were
being lobbed over their heads against Japs entrenched on the top of the ridge.
As a matter of fact, the artillery was so far back that the blast of the guns
didn't interfere with sleep. But this wasn't the end of the artillery support.
The 105's were displaced by the 155-mmís, which it was generally agreed made a
hell of a noise. Except for the artillery and a few snipers, the area remained
On A plus 6 the QMs moved again, this time toward the rear. Base
Headquarters took new quarters and turned over their old establishment to the
ration and clothing men. This area turned out to be even less of a plum than the
coconut grove. Nine 90-inm. antiaircraft guns and a battery of searchlights
proved to be Jap aircraft bait. The
Nips, alerted by the heavy protection, figured that the target was worth
bombing, and they came over night and day in an attempt to snarl up the landings
and supply operations around the docks.
Part of the supply picture was a bagged goods warehouse, opened up by
Lieutenant Cooper, about one block from the docks. Supplies included flour,
sugar, and salt. One of the more
unusual chores was the supplying of Filipino and American guerrillas, who had
been fighting the Japs for almost three years.
As White Beach was being prepared as a jump-off for the Mindoro
operation, Lieutenant Cooper moved out and took over the Class I dumps.
The beach was within 200 feet of the rations, and the Japs threw all the
air power under their control against the obvious preparations for another
landing and the nearby air-strip. Bombs fell all around, but the rations and QM
personnel escaped injury.
The site of the dump was in a former coconut grove. Logs from the trees
were used to provide dunnage. Airfield surfacing strips, old lumber, and
anything else handy was used to keep the rations off the ground.
Sand was hauled in and used as topping, and the road around the outside
of the dump was laid out, although it was nothing more pretentious than a track.
Traffic was kept to a minimum within the dump area, and the surface held
up enough to get the rations out to as many as 300,000 troops at the peak of the
The roller conveyor system set up in the dump area was highly efficient.
Mess sergeants of the units drawing checked in at 1, the control tent, where
they turned over their strength reports. Breakdowns covering a 10-day period
were turned over to them, and they picked up a checker at 2, who saw that they
drew no more than authorized.
Points 3, 4, and 5 were built-up docks which connected with the feeder
conveyor lines down the long axis of the dump. Six DUKWs could unload at one
time, one on each side of each dock. Solid
load vehicles would go around the outside of the dump directly to the stack of
canned beef, or whatever the item happened to be.
When units checked in for their 10-day issue, they had to give an
inventory of their supplies on hand. If a unit was authorized 10,000 pounds of
canned beef and had 5,000 pounds on hand, they were allowed to draw only an
additional 5,000 pounds. This was to prevent stockpiling by units.
Units that had their strength increased in the 10-days intervals between
issues, used up all rations on hand before reporting their new strength. The day
before their rations were exhausted they filed a new strength report, itemizing
the number of men that had been fed, and drew on the basis of their new strength
for a 10-day period.
This is only one facet in the many-sided picture of supplying a beachhead operation. It may serve to give some hint that QMs' duties are not always in some quiet back area, but that they are up taking their share of the risks to do their job, whether it is alongside a battery of antiaircraft guns or ahead of the artillery.
since 28 May 2001