The Technical Services

There was a time when armies marched on their stomachs, and providing sufficient quantities of food to the troops was the significant factor in determining the success of a campaign. World War II, however, would forever alter this simplistic view of support as the global needs to supply and sustain a modern army in the field became a reality. Technical support in World War II matured as in no other conflict, tying the home front to the battlefront. The introduction of new technologies, such as radar, the proximity fuse, and the atomic bomb were only a small part of the revolution needed to sustain a modern army at war.

The Technical Services subseries, composed of twenty-four volumes, covers seven technical services representing the combat and combat services branches that the Army still recognizes in 1992. In all cases these volumes were written by the technical historian most knowledgeable on the subject in conjunction with the assistance of the Center of Military History.


When the United States entered World War I, the Army had to prepare to use and cope with poisonous gas, which the Germans had introduced as a weapon on the battlefield of Ypres in April 1915. At first the responsibilities of gas warfare were divided among the Medical Department, the Ordnance Department, the Corps of Engineers, and the Signal Corps, with help from the Bureau of Mines, which conducted research on poisonous gases. In June 1918 the War Department created a Chemical Warfare Service to take over these responsibilities and in 1920 gave it the additional mission of developing other devices of chemical warfare such as smoke, incendiaries, and the 4.2-inch mortar. The three volumes on this service cover this little-known subject from an administrative and tactical standpoint during World War II.


The four volumes in this technical service record the vast engineering efforts undertaken by the United States to cope with a global war. Besides the huge task of constructing a continental base for war, the Corps of Engineers had to prepare equipment, troops, and units for action around the globe. Though designated a "technical service," the engineers had more troops in Army Ground Forces units than in those of the Army Service Forces. Additionally the engineers had to provide battle equipment, men, and units trained to use it, as well as to make the Army's maps; construct roads, bridges, and railroads; reconstruct wrecked seaports; and build

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airfields and military bases in every theater of operations in which American forces were engaged.


The organized services of the Medical Department in war come closer to home to the public than those of the other great supporting services of the Army. The medical and surgical treatment that The Surgeon General and his department gave their millions of patients during World War II, a matter of vital instructive interest to the medical profession, is discussed in the detailed clinical volumes published by the Historical Unit of The Surgeon General's Office. The three medical volumes in the United States Army in World War II series instead focus on the care given to those patients along the medical evacuation chain of command, paying additional attention to such areas as preventive medicine, sanitation, combat psychiatry, organization, and the integration of medical plans into the larger operational and tactical activities in every operational theater.


The three volumes on this technical service cover the interaction of the Ordnance Department with the Army in the field. As such it complements the combat operational histories while providing the reader with an appreciation of the difficulties of supplying a fighting force.

The first volume on this service is a history of the phases of activity which precede procurement, distribution, and maintenance of fighting equipment, namely, organization, training, research, and development. It is, in short, an analysis of the factors that largely determined the quality of weapons supplied to the Army in World War II. Volume II on the Ordnance Department covers the problems of quantity: production, distribution, and upkeep; and Volume III, operations overseas.


Four volumes in The Technical Services subseries trace the Quartermaster Corps as it copes with meeting the staggering and unanticipated demands of a global war. Lack of funding in the interwar years ill prepared the corps for the role it would play in the war against Germany and Japan. As final testimony to its success, a Senate committee would report after the war that "the supply of our armed forces in Europe has been a remarkable achievement, involving the delivery across the ocean and over beaches and through demolished ports, and then over a war-torn countryside into France and Germany of tonnages far in excess of anything previously within the conception of man."


The first two of the three volumes on this service present the history of the corps

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chronologically, rather than topically, unlike the others in The Technical Services subseries. The story is carried forward on a broad front. Although the focus is generally the Office of the Chief Signal Officer in Washington, it follows units of the corps into action on the multiplying overseas theaters of operations. The third volume focuses on the revolution in communications that took place during this period.


The three volumes on this corps deal with the youngest of the seven technical services. Created in July 1942 to control the factors that go into the movement of men and munitions, Army transportation would in time become one of the controlling factors in the prosecution of the war. The first two volumes deal with transportation in the United States, with the last volume covering overseas land and water operations.

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