extracted from The Chemical Warfare Service: Chemicals in Combat

Chapter IV

Theater Supply: Europe


Ground Chemical Supply

The CWS [Chemical Warfare Service] ETO and all its sister services in the theater had been involved in preparations for D-day ever since the establishment of the theater headquarters in June 1942, for a buildup supporting the cross-Channel operation was the aim of the BOLERO plan under which they functioned. But, until the end of 1943, the problems of the build-up and of supply shortages were so grave as to obscure the main objective. In the fall of 1943 chemical supply was arriving at a sufficient quantity, as noted above, to make the assault on the Continent seem more feasible. Furthermore, in November and December 1943 the Allied Staffs were beginning to consider the precise nature and scope of OVERLORD, the forthcoming operation.64 The basic question facing the ground planners was tactical: how can a Normandy beachhead large enough to serve as a point of departure for continental operations be secured? This basic question quickly resolved itself into two logistical questions: (1) how many men could the Allied forces get across the Channel and on the beachhead; (2) how much buildup of matériel would be required to support them?

Plans and Planning Agencies

The answer to the basic tactical question from the American point of view was to mount an overwhelming superior force, which would mean using all the men in every combat-ready unit which could be assembled in the United Kingdom and which could be provided with transport to the Continent. The technical services in turn would have to accumulate sufficient matériel to support such a force. The CWS ETO portion of the matériel project involved three basic categories of supply: (1) individual and collective gas warfare protective and decontaminating items for the entire force; (2) weapons and ammunition for chemical mortar units plus flame and smoke weapons and equipment for all combat forces; (3) and special operational requirements such as smoke protection for the beachhead. The first job was


to secure statements of chemical requirements in each category from each of the responsible planning headquarters.

Activation of the planning headquarters had begun late in 1943. First United States Army was to be responsible for all supply operations until two weeks after D-Day. Advance Section, Communications Zone, a mobile base section headquarters, was to take over for the next twenty-seven days. Forward Echelon, Communications Zone, was to assume control of supply operations in the remaining forty-nine days of the first three months on the far shore. It was assumed that Communications Zone, the redesignated SOS ETO, would be in operation on the Continent at the end of the third month. Major Hingle moved over from Supply Division, CWS ETO, in January to establish a supply division in the FECOMZ Chemical Section. Chemical sections of all these closely coordinated agencies immediately set to work on their requirements planning. Since initial issue of all regular supplies had already been made or materials credited to all units and organizations in or arriving in the United Kingdom, the requirements plans were for cross-Channel resupply.65

On 15 April FUSA began submitting requisitions for the materials in its chemical supply plan which had been the last of the major plans to be formulated.66 CWS Supply Division issued 375 shipping orders releasing 8,364 ship tons of Classes II and IV supplies and 12,072 ship tons of Class V supplies for movement over the beaches in the first 2-week phase. Three weeks later Third United States Army, the organization to which ADSEC was scheduled to render most of its support, submitted requisitions for chemical resupply in the ADSEC control phase. Materials requisitioned totaled 4,026 ship tons of Class II and IV and 7,815 tons of ammunition. The CSW ETO discovered some shortages in filling these requisitions, but none were serious, and acceptable substitute items were available. FECOMZ phase requisitions required 400 shipping orders for 9,053 ship tons of protective items, weapons and equipment, and 9,084 ship tons of ammunition. Again, some substitutions which FECOMZ considered satisfactory were made.67


While normal resupply was being set up theater headquarters, anticipating unpredictable and unusual demands once the operation started set up two procedures for rapid filling of spot needs. The "Red Ball Express"68 provided for a daily coaster service shipment of 100 long tons of urgently needed general cargo unobtainable from normal resupply. "Red Ball Express" shipments were to be called for and allocated by the senior commander ashore. The CWS ETO was called upon to provide a total of 90 ship tons during the 3-month operation of this measure. The "Green Light Supply" plan was evolved just a few days before D-day to meet extraordinary ammunition requirements unavailable from normal resupply, as an estimated rate of 600 long tons per day in the critical period from D plus 14 to D plus 41. CWS shipped 400 ship tons of ammunition through "Green Light."69   Chemical resupply was thus expeditiously handled with minimum difficulty from the wholesale issue point of view, but the acquisition of some of the items and of services which went into the CWS resupply effort and the initial issue effort had not been easy.

Protective and Decontaminating Equipment

Since the servce gas mask had been proved too bulky and too heavy during the North African campaigns, chemical officers in the ETO hoped that the CWS in the United States would be able to provide a promised lighter mask before their own campaigns began. Late in 1943 the new lightweight mask began to arrive and the CWS ETO embarked on the not inconsiderable task of exchanging the old masks in the hands of each individual in the theater for the new. Unit and organization and depot mask reserves were also exchanged. Chemical officers and gas officers at all echelons then examined the fit and conducted gas chamber and wearing exercises and tests, even in the Supreme Headquarters. The tests and exercises sometimes turned up masks that did not fit and could not be adjusted to fit. Fortunately, the number of nonadjustable masks, a defect which OCCWS blamed on the molds used by one manufacturer in early production, was not great. These masks were called in and facepieces from the old masks were assembled to render them serviceable. Issue of the new masks


was completed in March 1944, and chemical maintenance companies examined, cleaned, and repaired salvageable old masks turned in to proved a secondary reserve and to build up an inventory of repair to G-3, SHAEF, wrote, "There are sufficient gas masks in the UK to cover the faces of all Europe and Asia."70

The gas mask was the most important of the protective items, but, since chemical officers assumed that vesicant gases would be employed in far greater quantities than nonpersistant gases, protective clothing was also very important. Storage and issue of protective clothing was a responsibility of the Quartermaster Corps, but the CWS was charged with impregnating permeable clothing with gas-resistant chemicals. The CWS provided chemical processing companies to perform this service in the theaters. As noted above, The 51st Chemical Processing Company was one of the first two chemical service units in the capacity impregnating facility, in face a modified commercial dry-cleaning plant, in the factory of the Blythe Colour Works at Cresswell, Staffordshire. This "zone of the interior impregnating plant," which crated weighed nearly 215 long tons and occupied more than 43,000 cubic feet, was intended to be the first of nearly a dozen such plants to be erected in the United Kingdom; but, when it was discovered that sites were unavailable and that requirements for water, waste, disposal facilities, and power were more than the overburdened British economy could bear, the CWS ETO requested that the schedule be changed to provide the smaller "theater of operations" plant.71

By the end of 1943, ten more chemical processing companies had arrived in the United Kingdom, had been equipped with two theater of operations impregnating plants each, and had been installed, usually within or adjacent to quartermaster clothing depots. A number of


the plants utilized the new water emulsion impregnating process. The Quartermaster Corps had been able to obtain impregnated clothing from the United States to satisfy most of the theater's planned needs, so that there was little initial impregnating work to do. By agreement between the theater quartermaster and the CWS, all but one of the processing companies were given laundry work. Most of the companies "kept a hand in" by doing reimpregnation on clothing which had been turned in and by doing initial impregnation of Navy uniforms. In January 1944 the theater commander assigned to the CWS ETO the responsibility of inspecting clothing in storage to determine how impregnation was holding up. Rowan delegated the inspection function to teams picked from the processing companies. The inspection operation further improved the technical proficiency of the companies and also served to identify lots of clothing needing reimpregnation.72

The theater quartermaster called in and reissued protective clothing for every individual in the theater at the same time that the distribution of the lightweight mask was in process. The European theater was authorized an initial issue of double layer protection, that is, antigas impregnated underwear and socks, hood, combat uniform, gloves, and leggings, for every individual. In April 1944 the War Department authorized in addition to this initial issue a theater reserve (in the absence of gas warfare) of double layer protection for 35 percent of the theater force and one and one half layer, that is, antigas socks, drawers, and outer uniform plus hood, gloves, and leggings, for the remainder of the theater force.73 Thus, every soldier in the theater had available two complete sets of protective clothing except that 65 percent of the force would lack a second protective undershirt. The invasion plan called for every soldier to wear protective outer garments for the landing, to carry the gas mask, and to carry two cellophane protective covers, four eyeshields, on tube of eye ointment, one can of shoe impregnite, and one package of protective ointment. Most soldiers were also equipped with sleeve detectors (a brassard of gas detector paper) which the CWS had procured from the British.74

While most items of chemical protective, gas warning, and decontaminating equipment existed in ample supply by January 1944,


there were several shortages. One acute shortage was for gas alarms, and the CWS ETO through revers lend-lease procured the British trench rattle as a substitute. Another more acute shortage was for the power-driven decontamination apparatus. As in North Africa and Italy, the decontamination apparatus was cherished by the Army Air Forces in the United Kingdom for its secondary uses, such as giving showers, hauling water, serving as fire-fighting equipment, and washing aircraft. The Army Air Forces found the skid-mounted M4 power-driven apparatus completely unsatisfactory for their needs, and the ground and service forces took an equally dim view of this immobile equipment. Consequently, the CWS ETO set its maintenance companies to work truck-mounting the M4 apparatus. The job was completed in the spring of 1944, and, while the M4 apparatus failed to meet Air Forces requirements even when mounted, the ground forces and service forces were willing to accept it. As of June 1944 the authorized theater level for the M3 and M4 apparatus was 1,336 while the supply was 1,298. In the absence of gas warfare, this shortage was not a serious matter, but it did present chemical officers with the problem of giving air forces and ground forces elements reasons for not supplying them with all the apparatus they wanted for secondary uses.75

Weapons, Ammunition, and Smoke Equipment

The availability of and requirement for chemical mortar battalions remained in doubt during the entire preparation period, and consequently no firm basis existed on which to compute weapons and ammunition requirements. Weapons supply and ammunition supply, in Colonel St. John's opinion, were adequate, and he believed that the only serious preinvasion chemical shortage was in repair parts for the mortar. ETO chemical officers, aware of the spare parts problems in the Mediterranean area, attempted to improve their own situation by requesting supply from the United States. The CWS at home had not yet remedied the repair parts situation. The task was doubly difficult because ASF was attempting to standardize all repair parts requirements computations, and, owing to the uncertain weapons


requirement situation and the lack of expenditure experience in the ETO, CWS could furnish ASF with recommendations based only on roughly estimated data. But even had requirements recommendations been firm, it is doubtful that the supply system could have operated rapidly enough to furnish the ETO with stocks in the few months before the cross-Channel attack. Experience was to prove the limited supply of repair parts grossly inadequate.76

Other weapons and ammunition furnished by the CWS ETO to the combat forces included the flame thrower, smoke pots, and smoke grenades. The CWS ETO had acquired a sufficient supply of the portable flame throwers, and chemical units had mixed a substantial quantity of thickened fuel. No American tank-mounted flame thrower was available, but fuel had been mixed for use in British models on loan in limited numbers to the United States forces. Soon after the invasion, St. John reported critical shortages of both portable and mechanized flame throwers and of fuels as well as of mortars and mortar parts, but subsequent experience did not warrant the critical designation since flame throwers were not popular in Europe.77

Not enough smoke pots or grenades were available to meet anticipated requirements. British No. 24 smoke generators, similar to the American smoke pots, were procured as substitutes, and the British No. 79 grenade was procured as a substitute for the American M8 smoke grenade. The American mechanical smoke generator should also be included in this category although it was not technically classed as a weapon. The bulky semimobile M 1 generator was available in sufficient quantity, but a supply of the newly produced, highly mobile M2 was considered essential for combat operations. The CWS in the United States sent new generators, some by airlift, just in time to be used in the invasion. Generator fuel was provided by the British.78

Special Requirements

ETO chemical officers, anticipating the need for concealing mounting areas in England and assault beaches in France, had long expected that the need for smoke materials would far exceed the normal demands


Photo:  (Left to right) Colonel Cunin, General Porter, Lt. Col. Thomas H. James, and Colonel St. John

Cunin, General Porter, Lt. Col. Thomas H James, and Colonel St. John.

of combat operations. They also anticipated a number of special demands for other CWS materials for use on the Continent. The fact that the Germans were to lose their air superiority by the time of the invasion, negating the need for smoke during the mounting and assault phases, could not have been counted on or, indeed, foreseen by these planners.

To take care of such special demands, the War Department set up a project system known as PROCO (projects for continental operation) soon after the 1943 reinstatement of BOLERO. PROCO was to be set up by the technical services in the theater. Each technical service was to state specific requirements for each project together with shipping weights and cubages and an extensive justification for the use of materials beyond regular authorizations. The justifications were to be reviewed by higher authority in the theater and by ASF and OPD in the United States. CWS ETO PROCO 1 requested 1,164,508 M1 smoke pots and 20,000 M4 smoke pots. The first project was submitted


on 20 July 1943, and on that and the following day nine other projects for decontaminating, impregnating, and gasproofing materials and supply handling and maintenance equipment were dispatched.79

The first ten CWS projects initially called for 179,283 long tons, or 590,059 ship tons, of matériel, delivery for which was to be phased over a period of nearly a year. In view of the fact that this gross ship tonnage was more than ten times the CWS cubage eventually shipped to the Continent in the first ninety days, it is apparent that PROCO was no insignificant matter in the eyes of ETO chemical supply officers; indeed, PROCO must have been manna to the CWS officers who believed ETO supply inadequate for chemical warfare. PROCO as interpreted in the theater presented the first and last opportunity for the CWS in any theater of operations to prepare for gas, smoke, and flame warfare on a scale considered by many chemical officers as wise. CWS ETO in September 1941 accordingly submitted three more projects, one for flame thrower accessories and two for smoke materials, before any word had been received from the War Department on the fate of the first ten. On 22 October 1943 ASF directed shipment of those items which CWS ETO had scheduled for early theater delivery in projects one through ten, and theater officers assumed that the whole schedule would be followed. But, before this first shipment could be made theater hopes were shattered. On 3 November 1943 ASF withdrew all projects for review by the United States Chemical Warfare Committee (USCWC).80

ASF restored CWS PROCO after review by the USCWC and after much correspondence with the theater and the intercession of General Waitt, Assistant Chief Chemical Officer for Field Operations, but they restored only 40 percent of the original quantities. Project 12 for


smoke grenades was disapproved on the theory that increases in normal allowances would take care of the requirement. Projects 11 and 13 were approved after a 60-percent slash. ASF again directed shipment of the materials specified in these modified projects and six additional projects in February, March, and April of 1944. The CWS ETO had submitted Project 14 for smoke (WP) bombs in November 1943, and Project 16 for smoke grenades, Project 18 for gas mask parts, and Project 19 for flame thrower parts and accessories in February 1944 In March it submitted Project 23 for flame throwers and Project 20 for flame thrower pressure cylinders. ASF disapproved Project 17 for grenades and smoke pots to be used by the air forces, indicating that regular theater stocks would cover the requirement. It disapproved Project 15 for equipment to convert decontamination companies to smoke generator companies, and Project 22 for a combat reserve of smoke generators, on the ground that these materials also could be provided from theater stocks. Project 21 seems to have vanished from the record.81 The significant feature of the 1944 projects as opposed to the 1943 projects was that the 1944 projects were so limited in scope as to seem almost niggardly. Gone were the implications of vast and all-out preparations for gas, smoke, and flame warfare.

While the curtailed PROCO shipments did help out in the operational period, PROCO did not live up to theater expectations. The CWS ETO undoubtedly expected too much, and it is apparent in retrospect that theater chemical officers got along despite shortages. Materials which CWS ETO requested under the original PROCO would certainly have added to the theater gas warfare defensive potential since they would have provided for more collective protection and more decontamination. ETO combat forces would probably not have used smoke and flame in any greater quantities had more materials been available. That ASF after postwar analysis found it had guessed right with respect to requirements does not alter the fact that ASF


handling of PROCO violated the principle of theater requirements determination.

PROCO's importance from a chemical point of view is that the history of the system demonstrated the lack of understanding and lack of adequate communication between the theater and War Department headquarters, and perhaps even between ASF and its technical services at home. Maj. Gen. LeRoy Lutes, Director for Planning and Operations, ASF, complained in May 1944 that theater officers had misunderstood and misapplied the concept of PROCO. He charged that the theater had failed to plan adequately in advance.82 General Lutes undoubtedly had grounds for complaint as far as theater strategic and tactical decisions were concerned, but the CWS ETO could hardly have begun requirements planning any earlier since CWS officers did begin planning in the month of theater activation, and CWS ETO could hardly have had less help in such planning from ASF. Specifically with respect to PROCO, the War Department allowed the theater to labor under a misapprehension of the PROCO concept from June until November 1943, and apparently the War Department concept was not understood by the CWS ETO until the reinstatement of the revised projects in February 1944. Almost a year elapsed between the system authorization and General Lutes' statement of his complaints. It is not strange, therefore, that at the time of the Normandy assault the CWS ETO was a vigorously individualistic organization many of whose officers and enlisted men felt that they must meet their own needs without much help from the official logistics organization. The experience of these officers and enlisted men on the Continent was to confirm this belief.

On the Continent

The Landings

The 1st Platoon, 30th Chemical Decontamination Company, under the command of 1st Lt. Bernard Miller, landed on OMAHA Beach at H plus sixteen minutes. The platoon fought its way ashore with the first wave, providing grenade smoke screens to conceal infantry landings. Lieutenant Miller and six enlisted men were wounded or missing


in action. Sgt. John J. Cunningham assumed command of the platoon, which then pushed on, probing for land mines, giving aid to the wounded, fighting as infantrymen, and providing what smoke concealment it could. At 1300 the 3d Platoon under 1st Lt. James W. Cassidy joined the 1st Platoon, and together they salvaged and put into working order a few of the M2 smoke generators which had been sunk on an incoming Dukw. On D plus one Capt. Milton M. Moore, company commander, arrived with the remainder of the company, and the entire unit launched more extensively into its special mission activity, gas reconnaissance. First Army, then commanding all American forces on the Continent, made few calls on the company's secondary mission, provision of smoke concealment, but the company got smoke pots ashore and set up smoke lines in the vicinity of Colleville Sur Mer. By the time a company overstrength had been landed, 14 June, the 30th Chemical Decontamination Company was in the supply and service business, setting up and working in supply dumps, furnishing showers, settling road dust, and fighting fires with powerdriven decontaminating apparatus.83

The 2d Platoon, 33d Chemical Decontamination Company, went ashore on UTAH Beach at approximately H plus 3 (0930) . Since resistance at first was light on UTAH, the 2d Platoon at once established the first CWS beach dump of the invasion. By D plus 2 detachments of the company which had landed with elements of the 531st Engineer Shore Regiment were ordered to assemble under the command of Lt. Carroll W. Wright. The assembled 33d Company expanded the original CWS dump into a CWS maintenance and supply dump which the unit operated until D plus 21. It handled about 5,000 tons of CWS Class II and IV supplies during this period. Like their colleagues on OMAHA Beach, the men of the 33d also performed gas reconnaissance, provided showers, and fought fires.84

Headquarters Detachment, 60th Chemical Depot Company, Capt. George W. Brown, commanding, debarked on OMAHA on D plus 4 (10 June) and on the following day set up operations of a FUSA CWS dump at Mosles. The advance party of another detachment joined the 33d Company on UTAH on the next day. The whole company was


at work operating FUSA dumps by 28 June.85 Meanwhile, Major Hingle, FECOMZ chemical supply chief, arrived on D plus 13 (19 June) in ADSEC headquarters, which had become operational three days earlier, to begin preparations for the FECOMZ assumption of supply control. He found Colonel Stubbs's ADSEC Chemical Section, staffed by Major Bradley and six other officers, without enlisted men or the scheduled stock control team. Since the invasion had not been going as rapidly as planned, FUSA had not transferred supply control to ADSEC, and the ADSEC staff members on the Continent were assisting FUSA while preparing for their own operational role. Hingle also visited Colonel Coughlan, Chemical Officer, FUSA, and learned from his assistant for supply, Capt. J. R. Yankhauer, that chemical supply, unlike that of other services, had run into no very serious problems. The expenditure of chemical mortar shell was running greater than had been expected, and a greater proportion than expected, about 35 percent, was white phosphorus shell. Both combat and service troops made extensive use of dust respirators and eyeshields against dust, and Captain Yankhauer called upon the CWS in the United Kingdom for increased resupply of these items. He also requested that the quota be cut on smoke materials which were piling up.86

Hingle decided that principal CWS supply efforts on the Continent in the immediate future would need to be directed toward storage, maintenance, salvage, and service. While chemical supplies were arriving in good shape, except for a few inevitable instances of excessively rough handling, he did not believe that all stocks would stand up well under the expected ninety days' open storage. Some chemical weapons and equipment, such as the chemical mortar and the powerdriven decontaminating apparatus, were being employed at or beyond rated capacity. Flame throwers and gas masks were discarded by advancing troops. A number of men had their masks hit because the mask bulge in silhouette offered a sniper target. Some troops had ceased to wear gas protective clothing, and, while salvage was a quartermaster problem, the CWS was likely to be called upon for laundering garments as well as for reimpregnation. All these factors meant extensive repair and materials rehabilitation work, particularly since the


Cartoon:  By Bill Maudlin.  "I see Comp'ny E got th' new style gas masks, Joe."

"I see Comp'ny E got th' new style gas masks, Joe."



demand for mortars was increasing and that for flame throwers was expected to increase.87 FUSA also insisted that the gas warfare protection level be maintained. While several gas warfare scares had all proved false, the Germans still might initiate gas warfare. Capt. John J. O'Brien, Acting Chemical Officer, 29th Infantry Division, who had been captured and had escaped, reported that the Germans would use any weapons in their possession, including gas, to stop the Allied advance. Since Allied progress at the time was halting and uncertain, enemy initiation of gas warfare would have been catastrophic. Hingle, accordingly, in order to accelerate rehabilitation of protective equipment which ADSEC was gathering up, asked FUSA to lend its chemical maintenance company to ADSEC, and accompanied Major Bradley in a search for shop space. He recommended to his chief, Colonel Charron, that chemical supply and service officers and men be sent to the Continent as soon as possible and that service troop buildup plans be closely followed up.88

Establishing the CWS Supply Base

Since FECOMZ never assumed control of supply operations on the Continent,89 Colonel Charron, in his FECOMZ capacity, did not have the opportunity to put Major Hingle's recommendations into effect, but FECOMZ officers did assist ADSEC in its efforts and later opened the COMZ headquarters CWS section on the Continent. ADSEC gradually assumed responsibility for various supply installations after FUSA, while still retaining supply control, on 20 June designated an ADSEC area of operations. ADSEC retained the three FUSA supply dumps. The dump at Mosles it converted into a Class II and IV depot while the the dump at Longueville behind OMAHA became a Class V depot and that at Audouville-la-Hubert behind UTAH became an all-classes depot. Audouville materials were soon transferred to a permanent installation at Montebourg, and both Audouville and Longueville were closed out by COMZ in October. The American lodgment on the Continent failed to grow as planned, but manpower increased almost on schedule, as Hingle had hoped, and tonnages, despite port and beachhead discharge difficulties, accumulated


at a rate in excess of the June-August needs. The ADSEC Chemical Section accordingly established an all-classes depot at Cherbourg, a II and IV depot at Villedieu, a II and IV depot and an ammunition depot at Le Mans, and at Rennes an all-classes depot, which COMZ split into a II and IV and an ammunition depot. The 65th and 7th Chemical Depot Companies and the 66th and 9th Chemical Base Depot Companies operated these installations while the 711 th Chemical Maintenance Company set up a shop at Valognes, the site of the first continental COMZ headquarters.90

On D plus 20 St. John analyzed the chemical supply situation on the Continent. He noted critical shortages of mortars and mortar parts and expressed the belief that flame thrower supply would not meet demand. On the other hand, he took the view that some protection and decontamination materials were excess to all future needs while smoke materials, for which he expected demand to increase, were adequate for the time being.91 In reply to these observations, General Porter indicated that while the theater had reached or slightly exceeded supply authorizations in all categories mentioned except mortar spare parts, he could not concede that any of these excesses were significant. Porter believed that the parts need could be met by supplying an overage of complete mortars. The CWS had no outstanding unfilled orders from the theater, and General Porter was powerless to increase any allotment without a specific theater request approved through War Department channels.92 As in the case of NATO-MTO CWS supply, here was the rub. A supply crisis was coming in the ETO which would affect the CWS, although not as extensively as the other services, but the individuals most concerned could do little to forestall its arrival. Although the theater had top supply priority over all other theaters and although the theater commander was firmly committed to the policy of giving combat commanders everything they desired, the exigencies of transportation and War Department-controlled supply authorization procedures tended to block timely measures for preventing a crisis. Just how much of the ensuing supply crisis might be attributable to physical limitations in obtaining and moving supplies and how much to the complications of supply management in the


theater and in the United States is, from the CWS point of view, impossible to say.




Return to Technical Services Page