Action-packed movies have been made, books written, and a great deal of attention given to combat units – Army and Marine “grunts,” in particular – who scrambled ashore to secure World War II beachheads against intense enemy fire.
But relatively little is said of the logistics warriors who had to put supplies on those very same fire-swept beaches, often at the same time. Or right after the first wave of infantrymen went into action.
The assault is only part of the challenge. As soon as a lodgment is made, the new challenge is sustainment – making sure the attackers have enough food, fuel, supplies, arms and equipment, and vital field services that will enable them to hold on to the precious territory once gained, and fend off the expected enemy counterattack.
Combat Soldiers in the island-hopping South Pacific campaign in World War II carried with them a limited amount of C- and K-rations (much like today’s MREs), ammunition, water, and personal supplies for immediate use.
But after the first few hours of an over-the-shore assault, supplies and equipment would begin to run low, and “Fighting Quartermasters” were looked to open a logistics lifeline.
A fine example of World War II-style Quartermaster personal courage under fire comes from an account written by an infantry officer who went ashore as part of a South Pacific area task force, and faced intense Japanese counter-assaults.
Of the Quartermasters assigned to support the assault, he wrote:
[They] . . . “were right at our heels and were in there pitching from the moment we landed on the beach. They established a base, posted guards to help fight off air attacks, and proceeded with the business of keeping us going.”
“In less than two days they had a bakery in operation; within a week we were getting dehydrated and canned food in plentiful amounts. They soon had a refrigeration plant in operation and then we had fresh meat. They not only took care of themselves from a fighting standpoint but had food and clothing for us when we needed it most.”
─ Information provided by Dr. Steve Anders, Fort Lee Quartermaster historian. Focus on the Fort is a bi-weekly feature that highlights some of Fort Lee’s history. The information is compiled from the Quartermaster Museum Web site.