Army Quartermaster Museum -
Fort Lee, Virginia
In the early morning of June 6th the greatest naval armada in history steamed out across the English Channel with its destination the coast of France. Covered by a huge force of Allied planes and by a terrific naval barrage, the allied forces landed on the beaches of France and, after a three-week campaign, captured the Cherbourg peninsula and the port of Cherbourg.
Allied forces made striking advances after securing the beachhead. The first two weeks of the campaign saw heavy fighting in the Carentan-Caen area and across the neck of the Cherbourg peninsula. The American 9th Division pointed up an Allied wedge which drove across the Cherbourg peninsula. The 82nd Airborne Division had previously gained positions around St. Sauveur-Le Vicomte and St. Jacques de Nehou which opened the way for the drive of the 9th Division. Then the American troops drove northward into Cherbourg and trapped elements of three German divisions in the port city. The city fell to American arms on June 20th.
During the Normandy operations the enemy was unable to mount a major counteroffensive since he was forced to commit his newly arrived divisions piecemeal in an effort to contain the allied forces.
Throughout the period of the Normandy operations the Allies were able to build up their armies in a strong manner. Men and supplies of all types were landed on the beaches in astonishing volume.
The air forces contributed vitally to the success of the Allied operations by pounding away at enemy communications. On the first day after the landing, all railway bridges across the Seine River and all fourteen highway bridges between Paris and Le Harve were knocked out. This destructive activity of the Allied air forces prevented a flow of German reserves from reaching the Allied beachhead.
British and Canadian troops at the southeastern end of the Allied front kept the enemy engaged so strongly that he could not make reserves available to threaten the American drive across the Cherbourg peninsula.
The initial successes of the Allies can be credited to the excellent planning for the Allied High Command and to the execution of that plan by our forces. Behind the tactical plan was a supply plan of great import and one which was carried out to the nth degree.
The Quartermaster Corps, both at home and in the European theaters of operation, contributed to the success of the supply plan by providing Quartermaster items in sufficient quantities and in time to meet the needs of the invasion forces. To illustrate the care which was taken to provide the troops with essential equipment and also with items which, though of secondary importance in themselves, had nevertheless an important bearing on the success of the operation, General Gregory (The Quartermaster General) has released the following details:
First of all the Quartermaster Corps furnished the assault troops with a high energy-content ration so that the invasion forces would be in tip-top shape on landing. This was the B ration, with high energy foods substituted for low energy foods. Such foods included grapefruit juice, tomato juice, canned milk, roast beef, corned beef hash, coffee, tea, coca, canned peas, canned tomatoes, jams, string beans, sliced pineapple, potatoes, canned peaches, fruit cocktail, sugar, and corn.
A special ration was furnished for issue to the wounded as they were returned to England.
For the assault troops, also, the Quartermaster Corps furnished 10-in-1 rations; C and D rations. The troops were likewise supplied with a condiment kit designed to vary the taste of the C ration, packed in water-proof containers and issued to small units. This contained salt, pepper, mustard, ketchup, and lemon powder.
A special medical kit was procured and distributed by the Quartermaster Corps to be issued at forward field dressing stations for use by the wounded. The kit was packaged like a K ration and contain 100 bouillon cubes, 600 cigarettes, and 30 packages of matches.
Among other unusual items furnished by the Quartermaster Corps were special "integrated" roller bearing conveyors, in ten-foot lengths, to land supplies from vessels to the beaches. These were an adaptation of the roller conveyors used in depots and warehouses in this country, but they were hooked together in such a manner that supplies could be unloaded off ships with a minimum of effort.
Then there were heat units to be used in warming rations. These included the wax "candle" unit developed by the Office of the Quartermaster General for heating C rations, and the immersion type water heater which, when dipped in a GI can of water, will heat to the point where it will sterilize mess gear and sill not show a flame to give away our position to the enemy.
There were vinylite weapons covers, made of a thin film of plastic, which not only permitted invading troops to keep their weapons adequately waterproofed but, at the same time, furnished buoyancy for soldiers who landed in deep water. This was the weapons cover developed for use in the African invasion to prevent rusting of small arms in landing through the surf.
There were coal sacks of heavy duck in which soldiers carried ashore enough sold fuel to furnish cooking heat for rations in places protected from enemy view, and also to heat water for hospital units in the beachhead area.
The Quartermaster Corps was ready with these so called "unusual" items which it had developed, stored, and issued in preparation for the invasion. Officers and men of the Corps may well be proud of the job that was done in supplying the invasion forces.