Chapter III:
The Procurement and Supply Activities of the ASF
The Army Service Forces came into being during a crucial period. The defenders of Bataan were trading their lives for time. To reinforce them had proved impossible; their battle was but a delaying action to permit the establishment of defense lines to the South and Southeast. Elsewhere in the Pacific the Japanese moved almost at will. In western Europe German forces were unchallenged, and England awaited the long delayed invasion from across the Channel. If German armies were momentarily stalled in Russia, most observers credited this to the winter weather, and expected Germany to resume her march in the spring.
On the economic front, too, the Allies were still being worsted. In modern warfare, materiel has an unprecedented importance. Leadership, loyalty, courage, and other military virtues are not the monopoly of any one nation. It is no derogation of the quality of American soldier: to say that German and Japanese troops were as patriotic and brave as our own. The difference in the fighting ability of armies is often the difference in the quantity and quality of their weapons. Wan are won and lost partly on the production line. Because of an early start, Germany and Japan were well ahead of the Allies in production at the outbreak of war. But that lead was overcome during 1941 and for a while, Allied production forged head. Then Germany and Japan began to develop their newly conquered resources and made a new bid for industrial supremacy. During 1942 and 1943 the Axis out produced Great Britain and Russia. The outlook for United States war production, eventually to be the deciding factor, was still uncertain in March 1942.1
Military procurement and supply were only one part of the struggle of economic resources, and the ASP was responsible for only a pan of the total American economic effort. Nevertheless it was still faced with a huge task. A few statistics will perhaps indicate how huge. When the United States became involved actively in the war in December 1941, the Army had reached a strength of nearly 1.7 million men. Only 192,663 of these were stationed outside the United States. At that time a total of thirty-seven divisions had been created, but only three of these plus a few nondivisional units were overseas. In terms of training, another seventeen were ready for combat; in terms of supply, there was little

equipment for them. If all the critical items of military equipment had been pooled, five infantry and two armored divisions of the thirty-four in the United States could have been prepared for combat soon after Pearl Harbor.
At the end of 1941 the United States Army had 1,100 antiaircraft guns in the hands of troops or delivered to depots. There were 9,000 field guns, 78,000 machine guns, 2,000,000 rifles, 4,000 tanks, and 200,000 trucks. There was sufficient clothing for a million more men than were in the Army, although 300,000 of them would have lacked overcoats. There were no crawler tractors, or airplane landing mats. There were some 10,000 radio sets for ground communication, less 'than 6,000 radio sets for aircraft, and about 500 radar sets. There was practically no transportation equipment, almost no chemical warfare equipment, and little in the way of medical supplies. In December 1941 the Army provided ground equipment worth $13,500,000 for lend-lease. In the same month procurement deliveries of all kinds, exclusive of aircraft, came to 8360,000,000.2
From these meager beginnings the Army Service Forces swiftly moved forward until, in the single month of March 1945, procurement deliveries reached a total of more than two billion dollars. In three-and-one-half years the ASF obtained 96,000 tanks, 61,000 field guns and 7,000,000 rifles. It bought over 2,300,000 trucks. Clothing of all kinds was obtained in large quantities, including 80,000,000 pairs of shoes, 505,000,000 pairs of socks, and 143,000,000 cotton khaki and Flannel shirts. The ASF bought 78,000 crawler tractors 15,000 cranes and shovels, and over 800,000,000 square feet of airplane landing mats. The Army was provided with more than 1,200,000 radio sets and 20,000 radar sets. For transportation purposes overseas, the ASF bought 98,000 railway cans, 7,000 steam locomotives, and 6,000 barges. In the field of chemical warfare, nearly 2 billion pounds of incendiary bombe were procured, along with I1 million mortar shells, and nearly 41,000 Rome throwers. Medical deliveries included 9,000 X-ray machines, 10,000,000 surgical instruments, and 31.5 million first-aid packets. AST purchases included also such diverse items as 1,000 Diesel locomotives and 136,000,000 pairs of trousers.3
There is sharp difference of opinion over whether the ASF paid too much for what it procured. Cost, though a vital consideration in so vast a procurement program, and the subject of constant concern, was secondary to speed and results. Somervell, while still chief of army construction, had expressed his philosophy on expenditures: he tiled to save money wherever he could, but in war, speed and results were more important than cost. Spending might be saving in the long run. He told the Truman Committee investigating the defense program that it often took more courage to pay a high prim than to pay a low price. With "parachute jumpers" and "bloodhounds," (as he dubbed the inspectors and auditors who

tweed up at the jobs), always ready to criticize extravagance, many men played it safe.4 General Somervell looked for and found many ways to save money, but always within the limits of military urgency.5
Because production experience with most military items was so limited, prices on initial orders were often little more than the best guess of the producer and the contracting officer. In time, the ASF acquired a body of coat data and obtained reductions in unit prices. And as output increased, it was possible to take advantage of mesa production economies. Thug, in the year ending 30 June 1944, the average price on guns, tanks, and ammunition declined S percent, the price for radio equipment more than 7 percent.6
Storage was another greatly expanded function of the ASE At the time of its creation, the Army Service Forces operated 55 depots; by the end of the war this number had risen to 127. These storage plants contained nearly 145,000,000 square feet. At the beginning of 1942, depots shipped 1,000,000 tons per month; at the end of 1944, shipments rose to nearly 2,500,000 tons a month. Tonnages received ran somewhat higher.7
Some of the most impressive figures were in the field of transportation. Between 1942 and 1945 the Army Service Forces transported 6.9 million soldiers overseas, as well as 250,000 navy personnel, 110,000 civilians, plus 30,000 others. Of the total passengers carried, 4.6 million men went to Atlantic theaters and 2.7 million men went to the Pacific. From a half a million measurement tons of cargo shipped overseas in the first month of 1942, the ASF attained a peak rate of 5.9 million tone in one month in the early part of 1945. Whereas the Army had 154 ships in operation in January 1942, the ASF was operating 1,765 ships in December 1944.8
Perhaps the single ASF undertaking dwarfing all others was the MANHATTAN DISTRICT, which produced the atomic bomb. The Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) requested the Army to take over the active operation of this project in June 1942. The Chief of Engineers officially established a special unit, the so-called MANHATTAN DISTRICT, on 13 August of that year. The Army was asked to be the administrative agency (or the project because it alone could obtain the funds and administer so large an undertaking and still preserve secrecy. The very size of the Army Service Forces itself is best indicated by the (act that it absorbed a project which spent 2 billion dollars, built 2 large manufacturing plants, one of which housed 75,000 persons, and employed a peak of 80,000 individuals.9 Yet all of this was done without attracting undue attention and without arousing any strong suspicions that the Army was engaged in anything other than normal operations in support of the war effort.

These achievements were attained is the face of great difficulties. In March 1942, the major problem of the ASF was procurement. Production and more production was the overwhelmingly urgent need. As time went on, increasing attention had to be given also to quality, as in the constant improvement of the tank, the development of the recoilless gun and variable time (proximity) fuze, and the many advances is electronics equipment
As the American production effort began to turn out military supplies in overwhelming quantities, transportation became the great bottleneck. It remained a limiting (actor in war operations until the surrender of the Japanese.10 But even when the supplies arrived overseas, there was not always assurance that they would be properly handled and distributed. The ASF had technical responsibility for overseas supply performance. But it was never very happy about either the organization which was developed to do the task or the character of the supply operations overseas.11
In 1944 the most important shortage confronting the Army Service Forces was manpower. While raw material shortages had largely been overcome or brought into balance, there was no corresponding administrative system for directing the best use of the nation's manpower. Partly, industrial manpower shortages reflected the growing need for military personnel.12 Partly, they arose from lack of efficient methods of manpower control. Labor shortages were all the more vexatious because the ASP itself could do little about the problem. Control of manpower was properly a civilian responsibility which had to be undertaken on a nationwide basis. The ASF managed to reduce its own personnel requirements by improving its operating efficiency; it encouraged individual contractors to avoid waste of labor; and it proposed production priorities to civilian agencies directing labor assignment. But there was no overall program of control to insure effective civilian direction of manpower. These problems became acute in the autumn of 1944 and the spring of 1945.13 They were beyond the control of the Army; the ASF itself could resort only to palliatives.
From the very outset, the ASF emphasized the need for careful planning of procurement needs. When General Somervell was G-4, he had pushed the preparation of a complete and unified Army Supply Program. With the creation of the Army Service Forces, its staff took over active direction of this work.
Procurement was inextricably linked with distribution. Military supplies produced in America's industrial plants were useless unless delivered where and when demanded for military operations. No matter how ample the production, the entire effort was wasted unless the supplies could be delivered to their destination for use as intended. After 1942 the ASF had to give increasing attention to all phases of supply distribution.
In the spring of 1944 the ASF instituted a new procedure which attempted to relate procurement requirements to actual distribution experience. At the beginning of the war future needs could only be roughly estimated. By 1944 figures based on distribution experience made it possible to compare estimates o( requirements

with actual consumption. This brought into existence the supply control system which, by 30 June 1945, covered 1,887 major items making up about 75 percent of the total dollar volume of all ASF procurement.14
In addition to other problems, wartime supply faced a difficulty in the time lag from requisition of an item to delivery at the point of use overseas. To be sure, this time factor varied from item to item. Studies made in early 1945 indicated that eighty-seven days were normally required from the receipt of a requisition at the New York Port of Embarkation until arrival overseas of ships bearing the necessary supplies. But such a time period assumed that the supplies needed were already available in storage in the United States.15 At one time, the Army Service Forces set up a timetable to serve as an ideal for the supply aspects of overseas operations. As a minimum, it contemplated that six months would intervene between the final decision to undertake a large military operation and the delivery of the necessary supplies overseas. And of course the scale of operations had a further impact upon the timetable. The ASF found that it not only had to anticipate specific operations and their supply needs but also that it had to be prepared for almost any conceivable sudden demand.16
The commanding general of the ASF, his staff associates, and the heads of ASF operating units were not under the illusion that supplies alone were winning the war. Perhaps the proper place was indicated in a brief comment which General Somervell made to the Academy of Political Science in January 1943. In his prepared paper for that assembly he remarked: "Good logistics alone cannot win a war. Bad logistics alone can lose it." 17


An essential part of American military supply operations after April 1941 was to make available under lend-lease, war materiel to the Allies fighting Germany, Italy, and Japan. Between the passage of the Lend-Lease Act and the end of the war, the War Department provided nearly fifteen billion dollars worth of equipment and supplies (or other nations. Of this, the United Kingdom received about 56 percent, Russia 25 percent, France 10 percent, China 5 percent, and other nations the remainder. Included in these supplies were 26,000 medium tanks, nearly 800,000 trucks (including 188,000 "jeeps"), and 3,4001ocomotives.18
In lend-lease matters, the ASF was fundamentally an operating organization. Policy was determined either on a high political level or by the Combined Chiefs of Staff. Nevertheless, the ASF did influence policy through membership on various policy committees and through exercise of its operational responsibilities. First, the Office of Lend-Lease Administration (OLLA), and later, the Foreign Economic Administration (FEA), was the control agency for civilian type supplies, but for military lend-lease these offices served

only an accounting purpose. After Pearl Harbor appropriations for military Lendlease supplies were made directly to the War Department. The ASF procured military supplies for the U.S. Army and (or lend-lease in a single unified production program. 19
American munitions production along with that of the British Empire theoretically was placed in a "common pool" to be distributed according to strategic need. To decide the problem of strategic distribution, two Munitions Assignments Boards, one in Washington and one in London, were set up as a part of the Combined Chiefs of Staff machinery. The Washington Board, responsible for allocation of American production, was composed of equal representation of the British and American Chiefs of Staff with Harry Hopkins, the President's alter ego, as chairman. The board was directly responsible to the Combined Chiefs of Staff, and made its decisions in accordance with strategic guidance received from them.
Three subcommittees-Ground, Navy, and Air-prepared allocation for thousands of different items. Each of these subcommittees had one British representative. The chairmanship and secretariat of the Ground Committee were vested in the International Division, ASF, and the spadework for all transfer schedules was largely done by members of that division. Although these schedules had to be approved by the board, only when there was some disagreement in the Ground Committee was this approval anything but automatic. Once transfers were approved, the ASF was responsible for moving the supplies to port .20
General Somervell constantly pressed for careful forecasting of the supply requirements of Allied nations in order to prevent undue interference of their demands with the process of equipping U.S. divisions. Lend-lease supply requirements were included in the Army Supply Program alongside those of the United States. General Somervell argued that the Munitions Assignments Board (MAB) should not allocate materials unless a procurement requirement, generally controlled by the ASF, had been presented for it. He felt that U.S. Army needs should get first consideration, and usually he won his point.21
Great Britain was the only full partner of the United States in the assignments machinery. These two major powers allocated supplies to the other Allies normally on a strategic, though sometimes on a diplomatic basis. The Russians received lend-lease aid according to a definite protocol drawn up through diplomatic negotiations.
Generally, the Anglo-American supply partnership functioned smoothly, but there were some conflicts. Actually, only the Americans had any real stock of supplies to distribute. The British contended that allocation from American production should be made to the British in one block for their Empire (except Canada), (or the European refugee governments under their sponsorship, and for the small nations of the Middle East. General Somer-

vell opposed this principle of  "proteges," and the MAB eventually ruled against it.22
Somervell tried to keep British requirements within reasonable limits, and to re, dace to a minimum emergency demands outside the Army Supply Program. He instituted a rigid review of British requirements to prevent use of lend-lease supplies for postwar economic recovery, for nonessential civilian purposes, and for accumulating excessive reserves. When the Middle East ceased to be an active theater, the use of British surplus there for civilian purposes became a serious issue. On one occasion, the Americans learned of large supplies of rubber tires stored in Egypt, and forced the British to restate their tire requirements.23 In the Far East, where British and American political, economic, and military interests often diverged, Somervell, over British protest, approved a procedure for review of British requirements by the U.S. theater headquarters.24 In the case of tanks, heavy trucks, and tractors, the United States was virtually the sole source of supply fin the British. As a result, negotiations over requirement sad assignment programs of these articles were always long and difficult.25
In practice, though it was never officially stated, the ASF and other U.S. staff agencies concerned evolved the "residual" theory m replace that of the "common pool." Simply stated, this principle assumed that each country had primary responsibility to produce all munitions required for itself, and that each country had first call on its own productive capacity.26 For obvious reasons, the British clung to the theory of the "common pool."
Just as the British were dependent on supplies from the United States, the Americans sometimes were dependent on British shipping to transport their troops and supplies. Though there were usually no overt attempts to swap British shipping far American supplies, some of General Somervell's negotiations with the British were essentially horse trading.
The British maintained a full military and civilian staff is Washington to look after their interests. General Somervell had his principal contacts with Sir Walter Venning, head of the military section of the British Supply Council in North America, and his assistant, Lt. Gen. George N. Macready. Sir Walter Venting was a pleasant gentleman with whom it was easy to get along, and Somervell became quite fond of him. General Macready, on the other hand, while an able and intelligent officer, was difficult for Somervell to work with. He forcefully presented the British position on every issue and stuck to it until compelled to retreat. General Somervell clung just as tenaciously to the American position. Venning often smoothed matters over when tempers were ruffled. General Somervell came to the conclusion that Venning and Macready made a happy combination. Macready was the tough man who presented unacceptable demands; Sir Walter then

stepped in and agreed to a compromise. In the process, the British usually got as much as they originally expected.
The Russian protocols were worked out on a yearly basis and constituted an ironclad promise of delivery by the United States to Russia. With rare exceptions, the Munitions Assignments Board in making allocations conformed to protocol commitments. General Somervell was the War Department representative on the President's Soviet Protocol Committee. This was an interdepartmental group under the chairmanship of Harry Hopkins, which advised the President on the offerings in the protocol sad determined polity on carrying out commitments. The ASF commander and his staff worked to keep the offerings under the protocol within the limits imposed by shipping and other logistical considerations. Once accepted, the President himself exerted heavy pressure to see that commitments were fulfilled. In consequence the ASP staff had to give priority to meeting them, sometimes even at the expense of supply or transportation for U.S. troops. One whole overseas command, that in the Persian Gulf, was devoted exclusively to the job of getting supplies to Russia.27
French rearmament became a major concern after the Casablanca Conference. It was more expedient to supply French troops already in the theater, assuming of course that they were experienced and reliable, than it was to transport U.S. troops there. The size of the French forces to 6e rearmed was determined in a general way at Casablanca by the President's promises to General Giraud, later augmented by decisions of the Combined Chiefs of Staff. The ASF staff had little to do with these decisions. They were made largely on the advice of General Eisenhower in the theater. Eisenhower also dictated priorities on shipping, for French rearmament was more frequently a problem of shipping than of the availability of supplies. In July 1943 General Somervell did negotiate further understandings with General Giraud at a series of meetings is Washington, but these agreements for the most part reflected requests which had already been submitted by General Eisenhower.28 On the other hand, ASF responsibilities for delivery to French troops were considerable, since supplies to the theater commander for the French were shipped with supplies for American forces.29
Despite the fact that Chinese lend-lease constituted only 5 percent of the total, it presented some of the moat difficult of all logistical problems. Supplies for Chinese forces were limited to driblets because of the lack of transportation facilities. Interested in seeing what could be done to remedy this situation, Somervell personally visited the area. He resisted Chinese pressure for more supplies than could 6e transported into China, and guided himself by the advice of the American commander in the theater.
There was never any particular difficulty in handling lend-lease in the Southwest Pacific because of the harmonious relations between General MacArthur and the Australian Government. For a time,

 shipments were made to General MacArthur for division among the national forces under his command, but this system was abandoned by mutual agreement since the Australian Government had better facilities for receiving and distributing supplies. MacArthur retained the power to divert military supplies where necessary from one national force to another .30
Although the procurement of military supplies for lend-lease was entirely under Army control, except in limited instances, the War Shipping Administration (WSA) took over when the supplies arrived in port. Nevertheless, the ASF had to give careful attention to coordinating supplies with shipping. Otherwise, large backlogs might clog depots and ports. Also, supplies would be lying idle when they could be used for other purposes. The ASF advocated that after forty-five days, the U.S. Army should repossess supplies assigned to, but unshipped by, a foreign government. The Munitions Assignments Board modified the proposal by requiring that such material should be reported to it for assignment at its discretion.31 Actual repossessions were infrequent, but the procedure checked additional assignments of material of which there was a backlog.
The complicated international machinery for lend-lease worked with surprising smoothness. No doubt General Somervell's past association with Harry Hopkins and their friendship during the war years had much to do with this happy situation for, until ill health removed him from the scene, Hopkins was the real lend-lease policy maker. Lend-lease was a part of the supply strategy of World War II, and proved an admirable instrument of coalition warfare. In utilizing it, the Army Service Forces had the major operational role.

The Relation Between Strategy and Supply

It was inevitable that the ASF should show a special concern for the supply phases of military operations. What, precisely, were these "supply phases?" 32 According to the official definition of its mission, the ASF was to provide "services and supplies to meet military requirements." Among the seventeen duties specifically assigned to the ASF, there were only two references to supply. One was an omnibus statement covering research, development, procurement, storage, and distribution of supplies and equipment. The other was "transportation and traffic control." These terse phrases embraced an enormous complex of interrelated activities.33

All these functions were related, directly or indirectly, to the provision of military mat6riel for combat operations overseas. (For purposes of the present discussion, "services" are eliminated from consideration.) To provide this materiel and make it available to the troops overseas involved an unbroken chain of activity extending back to the design and development of individual items of equipment and supplies. The close interrelation among all the links of this chain presented constant organizational difficulties which had ramifications beyond the confines of the War Department. It constituted a continuing problem during the war that of defining the relationship of the ASF to the War Department General Staff and to overseas theaters. This problem will be examined in subsequent chapters.34 Finally, the close connection between military procurement and control of all the nation's economic resources complicated the relations of the ASF and of the War Department, for which it was the agent, with the War Production Board as the principal civilian agency concerned with mobilization of the nation's economic resources. These relations will be treated in Part Three of the present volume.35
It was the vital relationship between procurement and the employment of military materiel which made the ASF so important a (actor in the conduct of military operations.36 It prevented the ASP from being simply an operating agent for executing War Department instructions, and gave it instead a vital role in the determination of military strategy.
Looking back at four years of supply operations of the most varied kinds, Somervell's planning officers attempted at the end of the war to analyze the influence of logistics on strategy.37 They conceived the major elements to be four:
1. "Practicabilities" (i. e., the supply of military materiel actually available in the United States during the time of any projected military operation).
2. Shipping and other necessary transport capacity in the United States.
3. Discharge and handling capacity of ports and beaches overseas, and the overland transport capacity to the combat areas.
4. The enemy's ability to interfere with logistical preparations and support.
It was the function of logistical planners, in so far as they could forecast these ele-

ments and reduce them to quantitative terms, to determine the bottlenecks which stood in the way of projected military operations, Having done so, they then had to find means of removing these obstacles or, if this were not practicable, to lay down the alternatives open to the strategic and operational planners under irreducible physical limitations. On this basis, military objectives could then be redesigned to fit these limitations. This, in simple terms, was the pattern of "logistical planning," as it was usually referred to, for military operations. It meant, in essence, determining in advance what could and could not be done to put in the hands of troops the military materiel they needed to accomplish stated ends.
The process of actually providing the support estimated to be logistically possible involved four general types of supply operations. In the first place, troops being trained in the United States had to be given training equipment, clothing, ammunition, and many other kinds of supplies. In the second place, as military unit went overseas, last minute efforts were necessary to insure that their equipment was complete and in workable condition. Third, once the troop were overseas, they constantly had to be supplied with fresh stocks of replacement equipment and all types of expendable items. Wear and tear, loss, and battle destruction ate continually into the supply of gone, tanks, communication facilities, trucks, and other military equipment which troops had on hand. Without new stocks to replace these losses, the battle strength of overseas troops would steadily decline the longer they remained overseas. Supplies like ammunition, gasoline, food, and even clothing had to be provided on a continuing basis, since these were expendable. By the beginning of 1944, more than half of all ASF procurement was designed to provide replacement equipment and expendable supplies for troops already overseas.38 In the fourth place, each major area of overseas operations had its own special needs for supplies with which to maintain its military operations. It had to have port facilities for unloading supplies shipped from the United States. If these facilities were not available, or if they were inadequate, port equipment of all kinds would have to be shipped from the United States. After supplies were unloaded, they had m be warehoused until required. Depots had to be constructed to handle the steady flow of material from the United States. As troops moved farther and farther forward, supply stocks also had to be moved up into intermediate and advance depots. This meant that trucks and sometimes railroad rolling stock had to be sent from the United Staten. Each overseas area required communications facilities to ensure that commanders would have rapid and dependable contact with their subordinates. Swift intercommunication between all parts of a vast military organization was indispensable. Hospital facilities, troop accommodations, airfields, depots, and roads had to be built. This required the shipment of bulldozers, caterpillar tractors, lumber, steel, prefabricated hutments, portable bridges, cranes, graders, coal, asphalt, cement. Specially trained troop units also had to be sent to operate and use all this material. In certain areas, the Army had responsibility for supplying the basic needs of the civilian population: food, clothing, and fuel for utilities.
These needs naturally varied from one area to another, and from one phase of

operations to the next. At one end of the scale was the European Theater of Operations (ETO), with a troop population running into millions, complicated rear area activities, and combat operations gigantic in scope and intensity. At the other end was a tiny garrison of an outpost like Ascension Island in the South Atlantic. Each presented special problems of supply. As the war progressed, the WDGS and the ASF worked out separate supply procedures appropriate to the support of the various types of overseas theaters-those in the initial stage of operations; those in which American forces had become fairly well organized, particularly with respect to supply operations; and finally those which had become inactive after the attainment of major objectives.
Of the four general types of supply operations, the first two supplying troops training in the United States, and checking equipment of units going overseas absorbed the main efforts of the ASF during the first two years of the war, while the Army was being deployed overseas. The fourth category supplying major areas of overseas operations by constructing adequate port and other necessary facilities became increasingly important as American forces in the British Isles in 1943 built a large base establishment launching the European invasion at the same time that large reserves were being assembled in the Pacific. From the middle of 1943 on, the third category continuing supply of forces already overseas steadily overshadowed the job of equipping troops in the United States and in process of deployment. Finally, in the spring of 1945, the ASP plunged into the huge undertaking of redeploying troops and supplies from Europe to the Pacific for the assault upon Japan. Seriously complicating this task was the jab of returning to the United States troops and enormous stocks of munitions from all the areas where military operations had ceased. Starting as a thin trickle comparatively early in the war, this countermovement increasingly competed with the supply of overseas operations until, with victory over Japan won in August 1945, it became the final supply job of the Army Service Forces in World War II.

Page Created June 13th 2001


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