The Military Missions

Late in May 1941 London celebrated War Weapons Week. Bands played in parks bright with tulips; there were parades in the spring sunshine. War Weapons Week, said the London Times on 20 May, was "a crushing reply to the Luftwaffe." These were brave words. On 10 May there had been a bad air raid, more than 3,000 persons killed or injured, 2,000 fires started, and the House of Commons destroyed. There was ever present the real fear of an invasion of Great Britain, and elsewhere the Empire was in danger. The Germans were in possession of the greater part of Europe, had occupied Tripoli and Libya, and were threatening Egypt, the Suez Canal, and the Near East.

The military leaders in London painted a very black picture to the U.S. Army's ranking Air officer, Maj. Gen. Henry H. Arnold, who was in England for talks with British Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal. Arnold did not overlook the possibility that they were deliberately trying to paint the picture as black as they could in order to influence the President of the United States, but he concluded that they were really desperate, "so desperate that for once their cloak of conservatism was cast aside; their inbred policy of understatement thrown into the discard. They needed help, needed it badly, and were frank to admit it."1

Yet War Weapons Week was not just a valiant gesture. Weapons were on the way. Deliveries on cash contracts placed by the British in the United States were at last coming through in volume; shipments in March, April, May, and June 1941 were two and a half times what they had been in the last four months of 1940. And these stocks of tanks and trucks and aircraft would eventually—though not immediately—be tremendously augmented by transfers made possible after the passage of the Lend-Lease Act on 11 March 1941. The United States' special representative for lend-lease, Mr. W. Averell Harriman, had been in London since mid-March.2

By May, Londoners were reading encouraging reports on the climate of opinion in America. The publisher of the Saturday Evening Post, hitherto isolationist, was quoted in the London Times on 19 May as saying that the Post had abandoned isolation; that the United States was "in the war now. We are like a man who has jumped off a springboard and hasn't yet touched water. He isn't wet, but he hasn't a chance of getting back on the springboard again."

The Special Observer Group

Behind the scenes, British leaders had heartening news of a secret and very im-


portant development in Anglo-American relations—an unprecedented collaboration in war planning between a neutral and a belligerent nation. Late in January 1941 at the suggestion of Admiral Harold R. Stark, the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations, representatives of the U.S. Army Chief of Staff and the Chief of Naval Operations and of the British Chiefs of Staff had begun in Washington a series of meetings known as the American-British Conversations (ABC) to plan joint operations in the event the United States entered the war.3

The conferees agreed that the United States, like Great Britain, had more to fear from Germany than from any of the other great powers, and that if the United States entered the war the earliest American operations on foreign soil should take place in the North Atlantic area. American air forces would be sent to Great Britain to help the Royal Air Force bomb Germany. The first U.S. ground forces to go overseas after Mobilization Day would be used to garrison Iceland and to guard American air and naval bases in the British Isles.

The Iceland garrison would protect convoys from America and release British troops for service in the Middle East and Mediterranean—"the hinge," according to Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill, "on which our ultimate victory turned."4

In order to facilitate continuous planning and coordination, the conferees agreed to exchange military missions at once. To head the American mission, General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of the Army, selected an Air Corps officer because the first units to be sent overseas in case of war would be primarily antiaircraft and Air Corps. The man was Maj. Gen. James E. Chaney, who had been sent to observe the Battle of Britain in 1940. His chief of staff was also an Air Corps officer, Brig. Gen. Joseph T. McNarney. The rest of the mission consisted of fifteen officers, including five representing the General Staff and one each from the Ordnance Department, the Corps of Engineers, and the Quartermaster, Signal, and Medical Corps.

Because of delicate considerations of neutrality, the true nature of the mission was disguised. General Chaney was designated Special Army Observer, London, and was responsible directly to the Chief of Staff. His organization was called the Special Observer Group (SPOBS). When the members arrived in London by air via Lisbon between 16 and 29 May, wearing civilian dress, Londoners might easily have taken them for part of the expanding staff of the American Embassy. They were housed on the top floor of the Dorchester Hotel in rooms that were pleasant though


rather uncomfortably exposed to bombs.5

The Ordnance member of SPOBS was one of the last of the group to arrive. He was Lt. Col. John W. Coffey, a sandy-haired man of medium build with a ruddy face and a pleasant manner. Executive to the chief of Field Service at the time of his appointment to SPOBS, he had been selected by the General Staff without referral to Maj. Gen. Charles M. Wesson, Chief of Ordnance, or Brig. Gen. James K. Grain, chief of Field' Service, an unusual procedure, but Generals Wesson and Grain did not object to the appointment since they considered him an extremely competent officer.6 With six other members of the group, Coffey flew to Lisbon, where he was held up several days waiting for a seat on one of the crowded flights to London.7

When he arrived in London Coffey found that SPOBS headquarters, the first two floors of a bombed-out apartment house at 18-20 Grosvenor Square, was not quite ready for occupancy but that General Chancy and other early arrivals had been meeting with British military leaders, explaining the peculiar nature of the Special Observer Group and laying the groundwork for liaison between members of the group and the British Chiefs of Staff Organization and Service Departments. The conferees agreed on the basic function of SPOBS: to insure that the machinery would be ready for a smooth, rapid, changeover from peace to war if the United States declared war. In discussions on the conduct of the war in general, the British revealed that they had four main objectives. First and most vital was defense of the British Isles and the North Atlantic shipping lanes; second in importance were Singapore and the sea routes to Australia, New Zealand, and the East Indies; third were ocean routes all over the world; and fourth was bolstering the British position in the Middle East and the Mediterranean.8

On Monday following Colonel Coffey's arrival, representatives of SPOBS and the British War Office agreed that specific aspects of the ABC-1 war plan and RAINBOW 5, the American implementing war plan, would be settled by four committees: one to plan personnel, discipline, welfare, and medical matters; a second to tackle problems of accommodation, bases, maintenance, and movement; a third to handle communication; and a fourth to cope with antiaircraft defenses and the coast defense of Iceland. General Chancy assigned Colonel Coffey to the second and fourth committees. Committee meetings began the next day, 4 June, and on 5 June Colonel Coffey inspected the British ordnance depot at Greenford, reporting that British weapons seemed heavier and possibly sturdier than American, but that American equipment was "more compact and modern."9


The Special Observer Group found that there were many differences between the British and the American systems of supply, even in terminology. In the British Army the word ordnance traditionally meant almost everything needed to equip a soldier, not only weapons and ammunition but clothing and other gear as well.10 The term quartermaster was even broader: the Quartermaster General was the agent who supplied everything. He was responsible for logistics just as the Chief of the General Staff was responsible for operations. Under him the supply services were organized along functional rather than commodity lines.

The Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC) was "the storeholding corps," responsible for the receipt, storage, and issue of all supplies except fuel and rations and specialist items of the Royal Engineers and the Royal Medical Corps. It also inspected ammunition and made repairs. The Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) was responsible for transporting supplies by motor truck, for storing and issuing fuel and rations, and for performing some maintenance. The Royal Engineers was the work service, constructing buildings and sharing maintenance and repair responsibility with RAOC and RASC. None of these three supply services had anything to do with procurement or design.11

The British had no organization similar to the U.S. Army's Ordnance Department, which designed, procured, and supplied all armament. The U.S. Army Ordnance Department's Technical Staff was responsible for research and development, its Industrial Service for procurement, and its Field Service for supply. The Ordnance Department maintained its own manufacturing arsenals where in peacetime the art of the armorer was kept alive.12 The British Army did not control either the design or the procurement of its weapons. All military stores were designed and procured by the Ministry of Supply, an organization entirely separate from the War Office and staffed largely with civilians. American officers noted that within the ministry the authority for research and development was widely divided among many offices, a fact that made it difficult for the British Government to reach quick and sound decisions on vital projects, and that there was confusion, duplication, and conflict of interest between the procuring and using services.13

It was perhaps natural for American Ordnance officers at first to look with a critical eye on the British method of supplying weapons, so different from their own. But as time went on, they came to see that the complex mechanism had saving features that made it work. Most important of these were the typically British administrative system of interlocking committees to obtain coordination and the British spirit of co-operation.14


Ordnance Plans for Iceland

The SPOBS-British liaison committees had scarcely begun the work of indoctrination and coordination when a cable from the United States turned their attention to Iceland. On 24 May England's largest and fastest capital ship, H.M.S. Hood, was sunk in the North Atlantic by the German battleship Bismarck in a howling spring storm of snow and rain. German ships, U-boats, and aircraft swarmed in and over the waters between Greenland and Iceland. The news a few days later that the people of Iceland had overwhelmingly voted to sever the last ties with the Danish king and set up a republic brought clearly to the minds of experienced observers the possibility that the new nation might move closer to America.15

On 27 May President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a radio broadcast said that the war was "approaching the brink of the Western Hemisphere." Attacks on shipping along the North Atlantic convoy route presented an actual military danger to America, he continued, and the German occupation of Iceland or bases in Greenland would bring war close to American shores. Repeating the famous sentence, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself," he declared an unlimited national emergency. Under the headline, "America Ready to Fight," the London Times printed the text of the broadcast on Thursday, 29 May.

Early in June Roosevelt decided to accede to the wishes of the Icelandic Government that American troops be sent to relieve the British garrison in Iceland. The British needed their troops elsewhere; Iceland, athwart the vital North Atlantic convoy routes, could not be left defenseless;16 leaders on both sides of the Atlantic called to mind the saying, "Whoever possesses Iceland holds a pistol firmly pointed at England, America, and Canada,"17 This was the official explanation. Behind the decision were convincing secret reports that the Nazis were planning to invade the Soviet Union. It therefore appeared much more likely that the United States could take action in Iceland without risking retaliation by the Germans.18

On 5 June General Chaney obtained from Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson permission to send a reconnaissance party of seven SPOBS officers, including Colonel Coffey, to Iceland immediately. The officers departed on 9 June, and in a week's stay Colonel Coffey visited the British installations and made plans for Ordnance support of the relief expedition. These were the earliest detailed Ordnance plans for a specific theater of operations.19

In general, RAINBOW 5 had contemplated sending to Iceland one division reinforced with special combat and service units, together with such air forces as the situation dictated. The whole would constitute a


task force, a term just coming into use in the U.S. Army. Colonel Coffey's plans for INDIGO, the code name for troop movements to Iceland, included detachments of several types of Ordnance companies: the medium maintenance company, which was the backup company for the division's organic light maintenance company; the ammunition company, which received ammunition at the dumps where it was unloaded and issued to the unit ammunition officer; the depot company, which stocked and issued everything except ammunition; and the aviation company, which supplied bombs and kept the guns on the aircraft in repair.20

The maintenance of ground weapons and combat vehicles such as tanks (Ordnance did not yet have responsibility for transport vehicles) was performed at three levels, or echelons. First echelon consisted of the proper care of weapons (sometimes called preventive maintenance) and minor repairs and was done by the individual soldier. More difficult repairs requiring special tools and skills, designated second echelon, were done by the Ordnance units assigned to the line organizations: the light maintenance company assigned to the infantry division, often backed up by a medium maintenance company or detachment (as in plans for INDIGO); the medium maintenance company assigned to the cavalry division; or the maintenance battalion assigned to the armored division. Everything beyond the capacity of these accompanying, and thus highly mobile, Ordnance units was sent to the rear. This was called third echelon, and included all major overhaul or complete rebuild.21

In planning the Ordnance supplies that would be needed for INDIGO, Coffey had to adapt the rather general plans of RAINBOW 5 to local conditions. Iceland is essentially a volcanic island, its center a barren tableland covered with lava flows and immense glaciers from which great turbulent streams run down to the sea. The towns are along the coast, which is so deeply indented with fjords that the coast line measures more than three thousand miles, though the circumference of the island is only about half that distance. On the southwest coast is the capital and principal port, Reykjavik, in comparison with which the other towns of the island are villages. The three other ports that could be used to land supplies during the winter were Akureyri in the north and Seydhisfjordhur and Reydharfjordhur in the east. There were thus three supply areas, the northwestern-western-southwestern area, the Akureyri area, and the area served by the eastern ports. Among the three areas there was no communication during the winter except by sea, and the sole supplies available locally were, as Colonel Coffey observed, "rock and mutton."22 (Map 3)


The Royal Army Ordnance Corps had base depots at Reykjavik and neighboring Lagafell, and advance depots at Seydhisfjordhur and Akureyri. The depot at Reykjavik was, by American standards, really a quartermaster installation, for not more than 20 percent of the stock was ordnance supplies in the American sense of the term. That at Lagafell resembled a U.S. Ordnance depot, with a maintenance company operating on the depot site. It was Lagafell that Colonel Coffey recommended for the American main base depot and shop, with smaller depots at Seydhisfjordhur and Akureyri.

The most important and critical Ordnance problem in Iceland, in Coffey's opinion, would be ammunition supply. He found the British storage "deplorable." Too much of the ammunition was concentrated in thin Nissen huts (which Coffey considered much inferior to the American portable igloo hut) or in the open. He recommended that two of the four British ammunition depots be abandoned and the remainder be considerably expanded and reorganized in the interest of safety, and that requirements for U.S. ammunition troops be increased from a detachment to a full company.23

The Ordnance plan for the Iceland expedition is interesting because it indicates the factors that had to be taken into account in planning overseas operations. On the scale contemplated it was not put into effect. Limitations on housing, storage, shipping, and port facilities and legislative restrictions on sending selectees out of the United States caused repeated fluctuations in the plans for the Iceland task force. On 7 July, the day President Roosevelt announced that U.S. troops would garrison Iceland, about 4,000 marines landed, to give effect to his words; a month later 1,200 men of the 33d Pursuit Squadron of the Army Air Forces (AAF) landed, and in mid-September a force of about 5,000 men of the 5th Division arrived as an advance detachment. Changes in the logistics planning for Iceland, by then a responsibility of the administrative agency, General Headquarters (GHQ), continued. At one time in midsummer 1941, the War Department proposed to group the Iceland troops with those of Newfoundland and Greenland for command purposes, but nothing came of this. In June 1942 the island came under the European Theater of Operations, United States Army (ETOU-SA), for tactical purposes, though it continued to be administered and supplied from the United States.

The Lend-Lease Missions
to the Middle East and China

By the summer of 1941 it was becoming increasingly evident that each of the five lend-lease agencies in the United States— War, Navy, Treasury, and Agriculture Departments and the Maritime Commission —would have to establish field organizations in the foreign countries receiving aid to see to it that lend-lease materials were not being wasted. The proposed groups would not be concerned with policy, which would be the responsibility of the local lend-lease representative, but would furnish advice and supervision to insure that the American equipment was properly shipped and stored, kept in good repair, and effectively used. To do the job in China, General Marshall approved a military mission early in July and by September the Division of Defense Aid Reports (DDAR), predecessor of the Office of Lend-Lease


Administration, was suggesting that somewhat similar arrangements should be made for England and the Middle East.24

The War Department had been aware of the problem for some time and was already contemplating sending groups to England and Egypt, as well as China, to administer several kinds of Army activities having to do not only with types, quantity, and delivery of lend-lease matériel but also with exchange of equipment and information on new designs, reports on manufacturing methods abroad, tests of American weapons in combat, and interchange of men for training. The work had grown too large in those countries to be handled by the local military attaches. For England, SPOBS had been the logical choice; and when General Chancy was consulted in August he was asked whether the Middle East group, which also involved liaison with the British, might not be a subsidiary of the group in England.25

Chaney urged that a technical agency composed of Signal, Air, and Ordnance specialists be organized at once in England, preferably under SPOBS, to coordinate on research and manufacture with the British and to supervise American service teams and technical observers and report on the performance of American weapons. He thought the agency might also advise on lend-lease "when the situation crystallizes." After Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June, the situation on lend-lease was hazy; aid might have to be extended to the Russians. Decisions on the final distribution of equipment would have to be made at the highest political levels, and it seemed to Chaney unwise to make a definite plan until the methods of lend-lease operation were clearer.26

Late in September the Secretary of War established under SPOBS the technical agency Chaney wanted and also made SPOBS the War Department agency for military matters pertaining to lend-lease, with emphasis on the supply and maintenance of American equipment. Details of SPOBS's new duties were subsequently worked out in conferences by War Department planners with Chaney when he was on a trip to the United States, and in discussions with Harriman. By November it was clearly understood that Chaney would shoulder only the War Department's responsibilities for lend-lease, confining himself to technical matters and leaving the political side to Harriman.27

The Middle East

Very early in the planning for lend-lease missions it was decided that the Middle East mission would be a separate group, not under SPOBS; this mission was to become more and more important as news came of German victories in the east. A shift in the "strange, sombre warfare of the desert," as Churchill called it,28 brought


Generalleutnant Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps to Egypt, threatening the Suez Canal; and Hitler's sweep eastward after his invasion of the USSR endangered not only Iraq but Iran, a country vital to England for its vast oil fields and to the Soviet Union for its passage to the Persian Gulf. To forestall the Germans, Great Britain and the USSR jointly occupied Iran.

In late July 1941 the British planned to allocate 60 percent of all the American lend-lease tanks to the Middle East and contemplated asking the United States to provide the equipment and personnel to carry out a systematic program of overhaul immediately for every tank in Egypt, and later possibly a program for Iraq and Iran.29 This idea went far beyond anything that had been conceived up to that time. When the first shipload of American light tanks went out to Egypt in May 1941 the Ordnance Department had had to consider the problem of training British troops in operation and repair. The British had requested that Ordnance mechanics be sent on the same ship for that purpose, but without result. General Wesson, Chief of Ordnance, was inclined to believe that the British ought to send their men to the United States for training. In any case, he did not have enough technicians to spare for an all-out effort. The best he could do was to send Capt. Joseph M. Colby and four technical sergeants to Egypt, Colby (attached to the military attaché's office at Cairo and soon to be promoted to major) as an observer to see how the U.S. tanks stood up in combat and the sergeants to help train the British on all types of American weapons. They also helped to set up a base ordnance workshop and depot for American equipment at the British depot at Tel-el-Kebir near Cairo.30

At the British-American Atlantic Conference in August, or shortly thereafter, the British specifically asked the Americans to establish and operate depots in the Middle East to stock and repair lend-lease munitions, and President Roosevelt found a way to satisfy the request without violating neutrality. On 13 September he asked the Secretary of War to contract with American commercial companies to operate supply and maintenance depots in the Middle East. The operation would mainly concern aircraft and ordnance of all kinds. In addition to performing the functions usually assigned to base and intermediate depots in a theater of war, such as stocking spare parts and providing maintenance facilities, the depots would serve as instruction centers where British troops could be trained in operating American equipment. Also, the contractors would have to arrange for port, railroad, and truck facilities. For the maintenance of trucks and automobiles, then a Quartermaster responsibility, the President thought it might be necessary later to establish Quartermaster depots also. On all details of this vast undertaking, the British authorities would have to be consulted. The Middle East Directive stated flatly, "Their needs should govern."31

As a consequence, a large organization was required to administer throughout the Middle East the great maintenance and


supply program the President had ordered, an organization much more directly concerned with operations than the Egyptian mission originally planned, and much more extensive in scope and territory. The term Middle East now embraced more than Egypt. The German threat to Cairo from the west called for depots elsewhere, south of Suez and in Palestine, in the Red Sea area; the German threat from the north, involving Iraq and Iran and the necessity for furnishing arms to Russia, meant depots in Iraq and Iran as far north as Tehran. (Map 1)

The size of the area to be covered, the fact that there would be more than one British headquarters to deal with, and the difference in the problems of immediate aid to Britain and future aid to Russia, brought the War Department to the decision to send not one military mission to the Middle East but two—the Military North African Mission (MNAM) and the Military Iranian Mission (MIM). The North African Mission was assigned as its sphere of action "the theatre based upon the Red Sea," including Egypt and the Levant, an area under the jurisdiction of British Middle East headquarters in Cairo. The Iranian Mission was assigned to "the theatre based upon the Persian Gulf," including Iraq, Iran, and western India as far as Agra, falling partly within the area of the British commander in Iraq, partly in that of his superior, the Commander-in-Chief, India. The mission in the Red Sea area was to be headed by Brig. Gen. Russell L. Maxwell, an officer with long experience in the Ordnance Department, and the choice was appropriate, for the first need in that area was the supply and maintenance of weapons. The mission in the Persian Gulf area, an arid, primitive region where construction and improvement of transportation had to precede supply, was to be headed by Brig. Gen. Raymond A. Wheeler of the Engineers. In October 1941 a military mission to the USSR under Maj. Gen. John N. Greely was established, but it lasted only a few months, partly because of the attitude of the Russians and partly because it overlapped to some extent both the lend-lease organization in Moscow under Brig. Gen. Philip P. Faymonville and the Iranian Mission.32

The two Middle East missions and the China mission differed in several respects from the Special Observer Group. The main difference was that their lend-lease responsibilities were heavier. SPOBS's lend-lease functions were limited, thanks to the presence of the Harriman office in London and to the tendency of the British to go direct to Washington. The Middle East and China missions had instructions to operate on a much larger scale.


In announcing the American Military Mission to China (AMMISCA) on 26 August 1941 President Roosevelt defined its function as the study of China's needs for defense and the giving of advice and suggestions on lend-lease aid. The head of the mission, Brig. Gen. John Magruder, defined the principal purpose more broadly as "increasing the effectiveness of the Chinese forces."33 Magruder (who had served for eight years as military attaché in China) and other old China hands in


the War Department such as Maj. Hay don L. Boatner of G-4 knew that aid to China was in an entirely different category from aid to England. The Chinese were asking for more equipment than they could use or even transport into China; moreover, some of it was too complicated for the untrained Chinese soldier. Competent military advice was badly needed.34

In General Magruder's advance party, which left by air for China on 18 September 1941, was his chief of staff, Col. Edward E. MacMorland, an Ordnance officer. Stopping at Honolulu, Midway, and Wake, which MacMorland found "in a fever of defense preparations," and at Guam—"practically defenseless"—the party spent several days in Manila conferring with General Douglas MacArthur before flying via Hong Kong to Chungking. Arriving in much-bombed Chungking on 9 October, the members of the mission were surprised to find no blackout—electric lights were blazing. They were given a fine brick building for their headquarters and living quarters, with a pleasant garden and a huge staff of servants, and were immediately engulfed in a round of receptions and elaborate, fourteen-course dinners.35

On MacMorland's recommendation, the two Ordnance members of the China Mission were a specialist on arsenals and production, Lt. Col. Walter H. Soderholm, and a specialist on maintenance, 1st Lt. Eugene P. Laybourn.36 Soderholm came in by air on 23 October. Laybourn was the last to arrive, having stayed behind to participate in conferences on the 7-ton Marmon-Herrington tank that seemed the most practical tank to furnish the Chinese, since it was in production and could be used on the primitive Chinese road net. With Lt. Col. John R. Francis, the mission's tank expert, and four or five other members of the mission, including officers concerned with the Burma Road, he arrived at the port of Rangoon on the Silver Dawn the second week of November and traveled up the Burma Road, making firsthand observations on a problem that had received a good deal of study—how to transport the tanks from Lashio, the railhead, to Chungking.37 ( See Map 1)

Soderholm conferred with Maj. Gen. Yu Ta-wei, the Chinese Army's Chief of Ordnance, and visited Chinese arsenals. What he found in the twenty arsenals was not encouraging. There were about a million rifles. There was a heterogeneous assortment of artillery from the arsenals of Europe and Japan, about 800 pieces, but spare parts and ammunition, especially for the artillery brought from the Soviet Union, were almost exhausted. The Chinese arsenals could make field artillery, mortars, machine guns, rifles, and ammunition, but for several months had been operating at


one-fourth capacity because of shortages of raw materials. Powder and metal for ammunition were almost nonexistent. The most pressing need seemed to be for arsenal metals, explosives, and machinery, and for finished small arms ammunition. Next in importance were infantry weapons and artillery. Members of AMMISCA learned that most of General Yu's needs for procurement had already been submitted by T. V. Soong, head of China Defense Supplies, Inc., the purchasing authority in the United States; and that Mr. Soong's estimates had been based on thirty Chinese divisions, a strength that had not been finally approved by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. Until it was approved, General Magruder radioed Secretary of War Stimson, little more could be done on matériel. In any case it seemed impossible to obtain from the Chinese definite data on what was most needed.38

Vagueness and procrastination on the part of Chinese military leaders also hampered the Ordnance officers in making plans for training Chinese soldiers in the use of lend-lease arms. They learned that the Generalissimo contemplated establishing two training centers, one near Kunming, the other near Kweiyang, but the Chinese National Military Council hesitated to locate the centers or name their commanders. On the all-important subject of tanks, it was not until 27 November that Lt. Gen. Shueh Ting-Yao, in charge of mechanized training, asked Colonel MacMorland what buildings and grounds would be needed for an armored force training school. Plans for the organization and use of tank and scout car units had not gone beyond the most rudimentary stage.39

The Chinese Army lacked not only weapons and training but also means of getting supplies to the various fronts. For example, west of the main railroad terminus at Kunming there were no roads. Only trails led to the front and all supply was by coolie or pack animal. It was obviously impossible for the Chinese to launch a large-scale offensive for a long time to come. In the meantime, as General MacArthur had suggested to AMMISCA members on the stop in Manila, the Chinese might have engaged in guerrilla warfare behind the sprawling front, but this they had failed to do. The reason for the failure, General Magruder bluntly reported, was to be found in China's "lack of aggressiveness and initiative, and in the age-long practice of Chinese commanding officers of regarding their soldiers as static assets to be conserved for assistance in fighting against their fellow-countrymen for economic and political supremacy."40

Even had the Chinese leaders shown more initiative and aggressiveness and provided better operating conditions, there would still be the problem of getting matériel into the country. Because the Japanese controlled the east coast of China, all supplies had to be landed at the port


of Rangoon in Burma, hauled up the Burma railway and highway to Lashio, and then trucked over the Burma Road to China. Members of AMMISCA considered the Burma Road the worst logistical bottleneck of all. Congested with civilian traffic, lacking provisions for maintenance and any semblance of orderly administration by the Chinese, it permitted only a trickle of matériel to get through. The growing seriousness of the transportation problem was reflected in the figures on lend-lease shipments. Out of 110,864 long tons shipped to China between May 1941 and April 1942, 67,828 consisted of trucks, petroleum, and road building supplies, compared with only 11,398 long tons of ordnance matériel, of which 8,725 tons were ammunition. Trucks and their spare parts accounted for 29,081 tons.

Some of these supplies were never delivered. After Pearl Harbor the Japanese advanced into Burma, taking Rangoon and cutting the Burma Road. The door to China was closed. The primary mission of AMMISCA was over; its members, feeling that they were "buried here," without mail or radios between late November and mid-January, were anxious to get away. Colonel Soderholm was recalled to Washington in January. Early in March, Lt. Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell arrived in Chungking to take over command of all military forces in China, Burma, and India, departing very soon for Burma to supervise the two Chinese armies engaged there with the Japanese. While the fight for Burma was still going on, Colonel MacMorland was shifted down to Yunnan Province to act as chief adviser for the Chinese Communications Zone. Lieutenant Laybourn participated in the unsuccessful effort to hold Burma and in the grueling withdrawal. He was a member of the group led by General Stilwell that had to abandon its vehicles on 6 May and walk through the jungle for four exhausting days. When the party reached a river flowing west and embarked on rafts, Laybourn took the mules and a group of Chinese overland to a rendezvous on the border of India. Henceforth India was to provide the bases from which China would be supplied—first by air, and later by a road from Ledo, in Assam, to Kunming— and the main problem of the soon to be activated China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater was to be a problem of transportation.41

Initiation Into Coalition Warfare

The military mission phase of the Ordnance Department's overseas operations, beginning in May 1941 with the arrival of the SPOBS Ordnance officer in London, ended in England on 8 January 1942 when SPOBS was transformed into U.S. Army Forces in the British Isles (USAFBI); in China on 4 March 1942 when the members of AMMISCA came under Headquarters, U.S. Army Forces, China, Burma and India; and in the Middle East on 13 June 1942 when both MIM and MNAM came under U.S. Army Forces in the Middle East (USAFIME).

In this phase, the Ordnance officers of the missions were learning characteristics of their future allies and were discovering to what extent unfamiliar terrain and climate in faraway countries, some of them more primitive than could have been imagined, would affect Ordnance operations. Above all, they were learning the restrictions of coalition warfare, in which plans


depended on military conversations between governments that frequently had differing points of view.

The Ordnance task in the Middle East missions was far greater than that in SPOBS and AMMISCA because of the large allocation of tanks to the Middle East and because of the huge maintenance and supply program ordered by the President's Middle East Directive. In the months following Pearl Harbor, the task in the Middle East would become more difficult because plans would be constantly revised to fit the shifting pattern of warfare in North Africa and the changing requirements of the Allies.






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