Army Quartermaster Museum - Fort Lee, Virginia

QM Distribution System in KOREA
By LTC IRWIN A. DAHL, QMC
The Quartermaster Review
January-February 1954 

THE SOLUTION of logistical problems arising during an active campaign must reflect an adjustment between lessons derived from previous operations and existing conditions. The factors influencing the pattern of any particular logistical system are multitudinous, and the relative importance of these factors fluctuates constantly. Service support consequently develops from: what has to be done, what can be done, how it has been done previously, what there is to do it with, and how it can be done.

From the beginning of the Korean conflict, the troop strength of Quartermaster units influenced distribution system which evolved. During the early phases the buildup in combat elements necessarily progressed at a much more rapid rate than that of service troops. Whereas combat troop strength reached effective levels in a relatively short time, there was a lag in the availability of supporting service troops.

As a result of World War II experience, a factor of 5.3 percent of total troop strength was established for Quartermaster troops. During the Korean operations, this figure was never reached. At best, when considering only the strength of U.S. Army personnel, 4.3 percent of the troops in Korea were Quartermaster troops. If, however, Air Force and other United Nations forces are included, the percentage was 2.6. Even with these manpower limitations Quartermaster supplies and services were adequately provided and a distribution system developed.

A modification of normal procedure for the purpose of solving a particular problem was the shipment of Quartermaster supplies directly from the Quartermaster base depot to forward army supply points, dispensing with intermediate depots. It is not implied that this became standard practice, but it is cited as an improvisation which was necessary because of limitations imposed by available troop resources.

The types of Quartermaster units in Korea also influenced operations. For example, it was necessary to utilize service companies to operate army supply points. Again, during the first 9 months of the conflict, even though well below table-of-organization strengths, most units were required to operate at the rated capacity of full-strength companies. The problem was met by extensive employment of indigenous personnel to enable units to fulfill such missions as were assigned. It then became necessary to meet and resolve problems with respect to the procurement of adequate numbers of laborers, of weeding out sub-standard labor, and of feeding, clothing and housing those employed in the forward areas.

It has been noted many times that transportation is one of the more critical factors in the logistic support of combat operations. The principal transportation facility available in Korea is rail, with two main rail lines running north and south. The rail network is inflexible inasmuch as alternate rail rout are not available and there are no lateral connecting lines in or near the forward areas. Initially not on was the road network inadequate but most of the roadways were comparable to the poorest type country road found in the United States. As time progressed, however, the roads were substantially proved. Even with this improvement, long turnaround times existed because of the distance from rail unloading points to ultimate destinations. The combination of terrain with hill masses and mountain ranges running, for the most part, north and south, and the positioning and capability of transportation facilities determined, in most instances, the location of supply distribution points.

A third factor which influenced the distribution system was the changing character of combat operations. The rapid changes in battle positions, both when moving forward or engaging in retrograde movements, posed numerous problems in the operation of the supply system. Although the tactical situation was stabilized during the summer of 1951, the basic pattern of the distribution system was established during the period of sudden and violent changes. As a consequence, supplies were echeloned in depth. Forward supply points, back-up supply points, and regulating points were established to permit the stocking of adequate quantities of supplies in forward areas, positioned to be moved rapidly in the event of a quick enemy break-through.

This practice permitted flexibility, but because of terrain and transportation limitations, such flexibility was vertical rather than lateral. Class I and III supplies were shipped forward directly from the Quartermaster base depot to forward supply points. They were not forwarded from the depot to regulating point, to the back-up point, to forward army supply points. Stocks held in back-up points or regulating points were forwarded only when, because of unusual circumstances, direct daily shipments from the base depot were not possible. During the present tactical lull, regulating points have been eliminated in order to reduce quantities of supplies held in forward areas. The levels maintained in supply points, are influenced by the capacity and dependability of the transportation facility serving the installations, the difficulties of terrain, and the location of the supply points with respect to the front.

During periods when retrograde movements became necessary, daily shipments from the base depot to forward supply points were suspended and issues were made from stocks on hand. When the rate of the retrograde movement was rapid, stocks at forward supply points were shipped to the rear either to augment stocks at then existing supply points or to serve as initial stocks for new supply points.

The influence of the factors which have been enumerated – and there are of course others which might be considered – resulted in the development of varied methods of distributing Class I & III supplies to divisions. At this time, the following are being used: (1) Army Quartermaster supply points load and dispatch daily trains and army trucks directly to division supply points. (2) Daily trains are dispatched to division railheads from which supplies are trucked to division supply points. (3) Divisions come to supply points to receive issue of daily requirements. (4) A combination of supply-point and unit distribution in which divisions receive Class I issues at army supply points and Class III supplies are delivered to division, either by army truck transportation or daily train. In each case, the particular method of effecting supply was tailor made to fit the situation and represents a blending of factors.

The distribution of Quartermaster Class II & IV supplies is reflected in two ways. Divisions deal directly with the Quartermaster base depot. Requisitions are submitted to the depot and supplies are shipped directly to the division. The procedure for supply of non-divisional units varies in that Army has established forward Quartermaster Class II & IV supply points to serve these units. Non-divisional units submit requisitions to the Class II & IV supply points. The supply points submit a consolidated requisition to the depot; and after receipt of supplies from the depot, breakdown and distribute supplies to units.

This, in broad outline, is the distribution system used in Korea to effect Quartermaster support. This system evolved as a solution to the many and varied logistical problems which were encountered. Each problem had to be considered in the light of what had to be accomplished and what could be done. Limitations of manpower, transportation, geography, and impact of the tactical situation were at all times conditioning influences. While each problem had to be considered separately, it was necessary to arrive at a solution which would be consistent with a broad concept. Finally, whatever the decision, the guiding principle was always the development of a flexible, coordinated distribution system capable of delivering Quartermaster supplies when, where, and in the amounts required.

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