Building On the Past: Red Ball Express
“Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals study logistics.”
– Attributed to Gen. Robert H. Barrow, USMC
Prior to D-Day, the French Resistance and Allied bombing had effectively dismantled the rail system in northern France to hinder the German ability to resupply. While this campaign was successful, it also prevented the Allied use of the rail system after they established a base of operations in Normandy. As the railway system was under repair, an emergency solution was needed to resupply troops quickly moving inland.
Operated from August through November 1944, the Red Ball Express was developed to deliver the required supplies to rapidly advancing Allied divisions. The Express involved a massive 24-hour operation capable of delivering the required 800 tons of daily supplies needed per division. The Allied war machine also required almost a million gallons of fuel daily to continue the offensive. The Army employed the use of the 2 ½ ton CCKW truck to accomplish this monumental task. The credit for this logistics miracle goes primarily to the soldiers of the Transportation Corps, often working 22 hour shifts over the course of several months. Due to racial unit segregation, a majority of these men were African-American.
Records indicate that over 75% of the truck drivers in the Corps were African-American soldiers. Many had never driven a truck before. Despite receiving only a few hours of training, they drove day and night on narrow roads through bad weather to deliver badly-needed supplies. It is estimated that over 900 trucks were moving on the Express at any given time. Around 5,400 trucks were involved in the operation, delivering over 400,000 tons of ammunition, food, clean water, and fuel to the front.