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FreightWaves Classics: U.S. military logistics help make it the world’s best


Introduction

Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May. It honors the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. 

FreightWaves salutes all the men and women who have served in the U.S. military, and honors all those who have died in the service of our nation.

History/background 

The history of military logistics in the modern world does not go back very far. Until the 17th century, most armies lived off the land, taking what they wanted and laying waste to the rest, a cruel and wasteful practice.

In the Thirty Years War, Sweden’s Gustavus Adolphus attempted to coordinate supplies in order to eliminate looting and win the “hearts and minds of the people,” but was only partially successful. Imperial General Wallenstein, his opponent, was able to establish munitions magazines and depots that fed and clothed Imperial troops. Imperial transportation was handled by contractors, a common practice until the end of the 18th century.

At the end of the 17th century, most standing armies had a wagonmaster in their military organizations. In 1645, a “Waggon-Master-General” was appointed to the New Model Army in England. 

The British Commissary General was responsible for arranging transportation throughout the 18th century. This was the heritage that the new Continental Anny adopted during the War of Independence. A quartermaster general became the chief supply officer and transportation officer of the Continental Army. However, the 18th century version of quartermaster was very  different from today’s definition, because the quartermaster was not a supply officer; rather the chief of staff responsible for operational requirements. 

Where are the men? Where are the provisions? Where are the Cloaths?

– George Washington to Gouverneur Morris, 
December 10, 1780
(Photo: U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center)
(Photo: U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center)

In “Spearhead of Logistics” authors Benjamin King, Richard C. Biggs and Eric R. Criner wrote: “Today’s U.S. Army Transportation Corps has proved itself a winner on every battlefield and peacekeeping operation since its establishment in 1942. However, Army transportation began with the birth of the Quartermaster function in the Army in 177 6 and continued in that role until World War I. In every war of the 18th and 19th centuries, a corps of transporters was created from whole cloth to meet the Army’s transportation needs, and after each conflict, it was disbanded. Routine transportation matters were assumed by contractors supervised by the Quartermaster Department. In the First World War, the responsibility for military transportation was combined in the hands of a single group of specialists dedicated to the mission of transporting the myriad of requirements of a modern army from the manufacturer to the soldier in his foxhole.”

Whether it is the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force or U.S. Coast Guard, logistics are critical for the men and women of these service branches to accomplish their myriad missions.

San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS New Orleans, joined by the Royal Australian Navy’s Anzac-class frigate HMAS Parramatta, the French Navy’s amphibious assault helicopter carrier FS Tonnerre and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Ōsumi class tank landing ship JS Ōsumi, transit together during exercise Jeanne D’Arc 21 off the coast of Kagoshima, Japan, May 14, 2021. (Photo: USMC/Lance Cpl. Justin J. Marty)
San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS New Orleans, joined by the Royal Australian Navy’s Anzac-class frigate HMAS Parramatta, the French Navy’s amphibious assault helicopter carrier FS Tonnerre and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Ōsumi class tank landing ship JS Ōsumi, transit together during exercise Jeanne D’Arc 21 off the coast of Kagoshima, Japan, May 14, 2021. (Photo: USMC/Lance Cpl. Justin J. Marty)

U.S. Army

The officer-only Logistics branch of the U.S. Army was introduced as part of the creation of a Logistics Corps encompassing the three long-established functional logistics branches of Quartermaster, Ordnance and Transportation. Established on January 1, 2008, all Active, Reserve and National Guard Ordnance, Quartermaster and Transportation Corps officers who had completed the Logistics Captains Career Course or earlier versions of an advanced…



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