The Red Ball Express. Provisioning The Army. And More Amazing Numbers

by Daniel Russ on February 23, 2019

Daily requirements for each soldier who invaded Normandy: 33.3 pounds of gas, and oil, grease and airplane fuel. Each man needed 8 pounds of ammunition and tons of heavy ordinance, and 7  pounds of food. This is just the beginning. Infantry divisions were allotted for Overlord: 1600 M-7 grenade launchers, and then replace them at the rate of two per week. But some divisions were losing 700 a month. The logistics guys in Europe had to figure out how to replace 36,000 small arms, 700 mortars, 500 tanks and 2400 vehicles. The First Army used 66,000 miles of field wire a month or 100 miles per hour. Of the 22 million jerricans delivered to theater a month, half had vanished.

 

The Red Ball Express was a truck borne hauling service that moved supplies from depots to the Armies they were meant to supply. The Red Ball Express burned 300,00 gallons of gas a day, more than three armored divisions. Often the troops would pile four or five tons of supplies in a two and a half ton jeep. Thusly they became known as the Truck Destroyer Battalions.

 

These supply movers helped destroy everything. First the roads were never meant to move an industrial sized army through Western Europe. 15,000 trucks were delivered, 9,000 did not survive and ended up littering French highways.

 

Problems developed that were difficult to manage or prepare for. Few planners thought of the damage to a man’s foot for wearing the same wet boots for weeks on end. Trench foot claimed 46,000 troops or at one point, ten percent of ground forces. That said, there was no accommodation for a Purple Heart after trench foot.

 

Neuropsychiatric problems were the label given to combat exhaustion and the utter damage combat wreaks in people. They used to call it “shell shock”. When a soldier broke down they were taken off the front line line and given rest near the front lines so it didn’t appear that they were running for fear. When a solider broke down and couldn’t function, they were often confined or tied down and, as they said, “sent back to the kitchen”.

 

Almost a million US soldiers had to be sent back to the kitchen. Army officials covered it up. There was a count being assessed on how many days a man could be in combat before they begin to deteriorate. It was about 240 days.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Louis Kolkman February 25, 2019 at 7:19 am

In a way all this hauling over the roads was a triumph of the previous air campaigne, in which almost the whole pre-war railroad net in France was destroyed to ensure the germans could not use it to haul reinforcements to the front. However, as the germans, after St. Lo, then broke down far faster than anticipated, the speed of the reconstruction of the railnet did not keep pace with the speed in which the troops advanced. Only after the allies ran ahead of their supplies, and the germans were able to get some order in the fleeing troops, and thus a stable front, did the front solidify rather spectacular, in september 1944. Thus the need for the Reb Ball express, which did manage to get at least the minimal essentials to all those amies.

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