extracted from The Ordnance Department: On Beachhead and Battlefront


Arming for the Grand Campaign

From the Mediterranean, from the United States, from Guadalcanal and Kwajalein, commanders enplaned for England to begin the grand campaign of the war-the invasion of Europe. Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley, commander of First Army, which was to spearhead the invasion, arrived in England in October 1943 By the end of October his staff was hard at work in the Gothic buildings of Clifton College at Bristol. The staff had to plan for the entire U.S. assault force of about 600,000 men, assigned or attached to First Army during the invasion and the first two weeks in Normandy, the heaviest responsibility placed on any staff at field army level during the war. Fortunately the planners did not have to depend on theory but could draw on a year of combat experience in the Mediterranean. Many of the staff had served with Bradley in II Corps. Among them were his G-4, Col Robert W. Wilson, and his Ordnance officer, Col. John Bruce Medaris.

Medaris brought with him extensive data, based on his service in Tunisia and Sicily, that was used by Brig. Gen. Henry B. Sayler, Chief Ordnance Officer, ETOUSA, in planning support for the vast operation. In the march on Germany there were eventually to be five US armies, two American army groups. At the beginning, First Army was to be under the 21 Army Group along with the Second British and First Canadian Armies. When Third Army landed on the Continent in August an American group was to be formed, the 12th (called in the planning stage the 1st US Army Group, or FUSAG), to which would be assigned the First, Third, and eventually the Ninth and Fifteenth Armies. And from the Mediterranean, landing at Marseille in Operation DRAGOON, there would come another American group, the 6th, composed of the Seventh US Army and the French 1st Army. By May 1945 the five US armies on the Continent would total 1,703,613, a mighty force indeed when compared with the 231,306 Americans Fifth Army had had in Italy at its peak.1

Sayler had been Chief Ordnance Officer, ETOUSA, since July 1942, had been promoted to brigadier general in the spring of 1943, and was to become a major general in June 1944. A longtime friend and classmate of General Eisenhower, he was one of only two technical service chiefs who were West Pointers. His friendships in the theater and his excellent relationship with his chief in Washington were definite assets to Ordnance. And he had the loyal support


Photo:  Colonel Sayler

COLONEL SAYLER. (Photograph taken after
his promotion to brigadier general.)

of his two staffs-the ETOUSA planning staff in London (usually referred to as APO 887) and the operating SOS staff in Cheltenham (APO 871). Sayler's deputy in Cheltenham, Col. Joel G. Holmes, wrote to General Campbell, "If Ordnance is a success over here, and you can be damn sure it will be, Henry Sayler is the fellow responsible for it. Every officer here has confidence in his ability and leadership, and we are all back of him one hundred percent."2

New Methods of Supply

The ETOUSA SOS organization had learned a great deal about supply in the year after the TORCH convoys sailed for North Africa. One important lesson was the folly of shipping troops to a theater ahead of their equipment. To prevent this from happening again, and to take advantage of an excess of cargo space available to ETOUSA in 1943, when troops were being sent to the Mediterranean, the theater persuaded the War Department to ship T/E allowances in advance of the units; moreover, to ship them in bulk, not marked for any particular unit. This procedure was unprecedented and took a great deal of urging on the part of the theater and ASF, but it was finally put into effect in the summer of 1943. It was never entirely successful for at least two reasons: in the summer and early fall of 1943 it was hard to obtain stocks in the United States because of the theater's comparatively low priority at the time; later, the increasing troop movements crowded out cargo space in the ships. The system nevertheless was an improvement over the old one.3

Early in 1944, the War Department asked the theater to submit its requirements for "special" matériel-over and above T/BA's and T/E's-that would have to be procured in the United States for use by the supply services on the Continent. These items were called PROCO (projects for continental operations). For Ordnance, they meant from the start vehicles and more vehicles, of all types: tractors and


trailers for its own depot companies; wreckers; gasoline tank trailers; tank transporters; staff cars; trucks for other services, mainly the Engineers and the Air Forces; beach kits of spare parts. In March 1944 the theater cabled the War Department for weapons and vehicles to replace those that First Army expected to lose in its first month of operations. This was a new kind of PROCO item, but it was approved, and the shipment helped greatly in the early operations.4

Another innovation was introduced in July 1943 with the decision to package 45 days of supply "amphibiously," that is, so that supplies would be waterproof and thus would not deteriorate when they went over the beaches. This posed a hard problem for the men of the theater Ordnance staff: since the packaging would have to be done in the United States-men, materials, and transportation to do it in England were lacking-should all of one particular item for the entire 45 days be sent over as one shipment or several shipments? The men did not know the detailed plans for the landing on the Continent, and indeed the plans were not firm; but they did know that two or more forces would have to be supplied along more than one supply route. They decided that the huge amphibiously packed stocks-16,000 long tons of spare parts in 450,000 individual boxes-ought to be shipped from the United States according to their "group" designation. All Ordnance general supplies belonged in one of 26 groups, each designated by a letter of the alphabet, for example, Group A consisted of automatic weapons and mortars, Group B hand and shoulder arms, and so on.5 Spare parts for each of these groups were shipped in 26 individual "bricks" and maintained their identity to their final point of destination on the European continent. The special packaging held up well. After the Normandy landings, an examination of thousands of boxes showed no deterioration.6

For the Ordnance men at Cheltenham the new supply methods meant first of all a search for more depot space and vehicle parks. In 1942 there had been two Ordnance branch depots, Tidworth in the Southern Base Section (SBS) and Rushden in the Eastern Base Section (EBS), and Ordnance sections in six general depots-Ashchurch, Taunton, and Hilsea in SBS and Barry, Moreton-on-Lugg, and Sudbury in the Western Base Section (WBS). In 1943, as labor and materials became available, branch depots were activated at Warminster for combat vehicles and at Castle Bromwich for tools, and Ordnance had obtained space at two more general depots, Coypool at the port of Plymouth and Wern near Liverpool. Five vehicle parks had been added to the six in existence in 1942. This amount of space had been planned for theater reserve stocks in BOLERO and was obviously inadequate for OVERLORD.

The program for the advance shipment of T/BA and T/E matériel alone, which went into effect in July 1943, entailed a sizable expansion in storage space: for example, the preshipped equipment for one infantry division included 2,089 vehicles.


To take care of preshipment and other OVERLORD requirements, Ordnance activated two additional branch depots, Devizes and Upper Ballindery; obtained sections at four general depots-Lockerly Hall, Boughton, Histon, and Honeybourne-and added five vehicle parks. The twelve BOLERO depots were expanded or modified to fit into the new plan, making it necessary for certain bulk depots to act as issue depots also. Acres of Nissen huts covered the countryside.7

To see that the troops arriving in the theater got what they needed from the depots but not more than they were entitled to, Col. Graham B. Trainer and his General Supply Division staff at Cheltenham kept a close check on supplies. A simple, workable system of stock control, which was based on the traditional Ordnance Provision System (the submission by depots of a stores report monthly on each "group" of matériel and special reports as required on critical major items) and which had been in effect since early 1943, was considerably expanded. Clear-cut instructions on how to identify and report the matériel were issued to all general supply depots. Scanning ships' manifests, port records, and Transportation Corps forecasts of troop arrivals, Trainer's staff arranged for the storage of incoming equipment at the proper depot and issued credits for it when the troops arrived; thus no requisitions were required.8

Keeping records on the equipment supplied to thousands of units meant long hours of painstaking work for the men at Cheltenham. Approximately 350 different types of units came into the theater during the buildup, each with a different T/BA and T/E; besides, many units had special authorizations, which complicated the problem immeasurably. Not all could be equipped with full T/E, for many weapons or vehicles were in critical supply in the United States or had to be left behind because of limitations on shipping. In order to provide Headquarters, ETOUSA, with accurate, current information on what was on hand with the troops or in the depots and what was required, the General Supply Division prepared a Monthly Matériel Status Report. This was an exceedingly difficult job, since reports from units in the field and information on ships' manifests were scanty and unsatisfactory, but it was finally accomplished after an exhaustive examination of requisitions, shipping orders, reports, and all sorts of documents, and was so successful that the other technical services used the report as a model.9

The Ordnance SOS troops to handle the vast tonnages that were expected began to arrive in the United Kingdom in the late summer of 1943, but the planners could not predict the arrivals with any degree of confidence. There were constant changes in requirements, availability, and shipment dates for the units; as one of the General


Supply men put it, "the jigsaw puzzle was never completed, for it seemed that a few pieces were always missing."10

One of the most important missing pieces was a new type of company that had been counted on to move trucks from docks or assembly plants to vehicle parks, operate the parks, and if necessary deliver the trucks to the troops the motor vehicle distributing (MVD) company. Badly needed during 1942, the MVD companies did not begin to arrive until July 1943, and only twelve of the nineteen scheduled for the theater between that date and May 1944 ever arrived. It took months to orient and train the new arrivals. With every unit in the theater clamoring for trucks, Ordnance had to rely heavily on British manpower, civilian and military. The greatest help came from two British military units, the 6th Vehicle Reception Detachment, which in November 1943 was still operating three of the busiest parks, and the 435th General Transport Company, which in October 1943 moved 60 percent of the vehicles driven from the ports or assembly plants to the parks. Both outfits received the everlasting gratitude of the men at Cheltenham.11

Motor Vehicle Assembly

In midsummer 1943 there was a flurry of anxiety about another type of Ordnance unit-the motor vehicle assembly (MVA) company, which put together cased vehicles. The greatest worry that summer concerned 21/2-ton trucks; the vehicle parks had few left. Thousands were going to be needed in the fall to fill the T/BA requirements of incoming combat and service troops. At the same time, crates containing cased trucks were piling up at an alarming rate because the British TILEFER plants, which were assembling British and Canadian trucks as well as American, were falling behind. General Sayler cabled for two MVA companies in addition to the two already requested and asked that all four be expedited. But these units were also badly needed in the Pacific, and in the CBI where a great motor base was being set up at Calcutta. Only three arrived between August and December and one of them had to spend weeks in further training.12

On 7 August 1943 General Sayler ordered Ashchurch to start assembling 21/2-ton trucks on 16 August. This very large order, to be filled in a very short time, went to the 622d Base Automotive Battalion, which had no mechanics trained in assembly work, and, what was worse, none of the special equipment considered essential, such as overhead cranes, roller conveyors, and power tools. There was also at the time no SOP. Fortunately, the 622d had an energetic and enterprising commander,


Maj. William R. Francis, who went to Treforest and studied the British Austin Motor Works assembly operation. "Yank ingenuity," as he expressed it, did the rest. With the help of two capable assistants, M. Sgt. Leroy Bell, shop foreman, and Pvt. George Phillips III, a time and motion study expert, he got the assembly line in operation by 18 August. Production rose when three newly arrived depot companies and the 497th MVA Company made a second shift possible. In the first three months of operation Ashchurch assembled 5,000 trucks.13

On a smaller scale, Ordnance that fall began assembling 21/2-ton trucks at Taunton and lighter cased vehicles, such as jeeps and water trailers, at Hedge End (Tidworth) and eight other depots and vehicle parks. Between May and the end of December 1943, Ordnance troops accounted for about 43 percent of the 60,70.3 general purpose vehicles assembled in England. But this kind of work began to slacken toward the end of 1943 because the cased vehicles of the most wanted types were not arriving in sufficient numbers. General Lee, commanding general of SOS, directed that the crates that came in were to be sent to Ministry of Supply plants in order to keep them operating at capacity, even though US plants were idle, because the British plants would be badly needed in the spring when the theater's Number 1 priority would bring enormously increased shipments.

The location of most of the US assembly plants caused a further cut-down in Ordnance assembly in the spring of 1944. The already overburdened British railways could not take on the task of transporting the heavy crates from ports to inland depots and parks. Eight of the US plants closed down; by D-day only Ashchurch and Bromborough (O-631), established near Liverpool in January 1944, were left. Most of the seven MVA companies that arrived between January and May 1944 were sent to work in British case dumps near the ports.14

Preparations for a Short Sea Voyage

By the end of January 1944 the massed weapons of war were everywhere, strange against the background of the quiet English countryside: hooded 90-mm. guns in a farmyard; row after row of Sherman tanks and half-tracks in an open field, white stars camouflaged with splashes of mud; acres of trucks, with extra gas and water cans on their running boards, in a park where huge trees spread their bare branches; miles of steel ammunition bays along narrow lanes.15

In London, where night and the blackout closed in early on days already darkened by rain and fog, firm planning had begun for the landing on the coast of Normandy, described in the ETOUSA Preparation for Overseas Movement (POM) as a "Short Sea Voyage." General Eisenhower had arrived in the theater and approved Montgomery's recommendation to land five divisions on D-day, three British and one American on the Calvados coast, and one American on the Cotentin coast north of the


Photo:  Hooded 105-mm. howitzers


Carentan estuary. Eisenhower, who wanted "enough wallop in the initial attack," was also urging at least one airborne division, to be dropped behind the Cotentin force; this was not firm, but had to be taken into account in the planning. Also, D-day had been postponed until the end of May in order to gain an extra month's production of landing craft and increase the chance that the Russians would at the same time be attacking on the Eastern Front.16

At General Sayler's London headquarters, a handsome four-story town house at 38 Grosvenor Square with an iron-railinged areaway and long drawing room windows taped against bomb concussion, plans for the Ordnance support of the invasion were taking shape. Because of the unhappy experience of TORCH, when excessive emphasis on security had required Ordnance men to work with little factual information, planning for OVERLORD was to a very great extent delegated to the technical services. Detailed planning was also delegated to base sections, armies, corps, and air forces.17

General Sayler gave his "operating agencies"-ground forces and air forces Ordnance officers and the SOS Ordnance Section-the responsibility for determining basic data such as weight and volume of


units of supply and logistical factors; for nominating, training, and equipping Ordnance units; for regulating issues of Ordnance material and planning for waterproofing; for establishing the amount of ammunition to accompany troops; and for preparing weapon lists, vehicle lists, ammunition tonnages, and similar data. He gave his base section Ordnance officers the responsibility for nominating their own units and supplementing them when necessary with men from other supply services or with British civilians; for providing supply points, repair shops and temporary ammunition supply points in the concentration, marshaling, and transit areas; and for establishing procedures for issuing Ordnance supplies and ammunition to troops moving through those areas.18

Having drawn up a general plan outlining these areas of responsibility, Sayler then took action to coordinate the plans of his key Ordnance officers. Since December 1943 he had been distributing to them a. weekly news letter and a useful Monthly Statistical Report containing the latest information on Ordnance organization, installations, manpower, and supplies, including forecasts of incoming cargo. Late in January he called the key Ordnance officers together for the first of a series of conferences held throughout the spring at 38 Grosvenor Square, against a background of damask walls, marble mantelpieces, and blackout curtains drawn night and day.

At the first conference, on 2 February 1944, there were present General Sayler and four members of his London staff; Colonel Holmes and eight members of his staff from Cheltenham; Colonel Medaris and his assistant, Lt. Col. John Ray; two Air Ordnance officers, Col. William R. Maxwell of the Ninth Air Force and Col. Selby H. Frank of the Ninth Air Force Service Command; the Ordnance officer of XV Corps, Col. William I. Wilson; and the four base section Ordnance officers, Col. Leo J. Dillon of Southern, Lt. Col. Arthur V. Harrington of Northern Ireland, Lt. Col. D. M. Pearson of Eastern, and Lt. Col. F. E. Smith of Western. There were also present that day representatives from two new organizations: Lt. Col. J. H. Reynolds from the G4 section of General Eisenhower's Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) and Lt. Col. Russell R. Klanderman, assistant Ordnance officer of Advance Section (ADSEC), Communications Zone.19

Established provisionally at the end of December 1943, under the command of Col. Ewart G. Plank, ADSEC had been created to follow the armies more closely than a base section was able to do. It was one of the fruits of experience in the Mediterranean campaigns, and in naming it the use of the word base was carefully avoided. Attached to First Army in the planning and invasion stage, ADSEC was to take over army rear installations about D plus 15 or plus 20, and from then until D plus 41, when the Forward Echelon, Communications Zone (FECOMZ), was to take


over, it was to be the sole support organization on the Continent. After that it was to move forward across Europe with the armies. Mobility was the watchword. Ordnance in ADSEC had not only the responsibility for anticipating the needs of the combat forces and sending supplies forward, but for heavy maintenance work as close behind the armies as the tactical situation permitted. The Ordnance Section was activated on 25 January 1944 and the Ordnance officer, Col. Benjamin S. Mesick, worked closely with Colonel Medaris, first in Bristol and later in London.20

Two officers who were present at the first conference attended subsequent conferences in new roles. Col. Harold A. Nislev, Sayler's deputy in London, became Ordnance officer of First Army Group; and Col. E. M. Webb of the Cheltenham SOS Ordnance Section became Ordnance officer of the Forward Echelon, Communications Zone. Both were concerned primarily with the buildup on the Continent after the beachhead had been secured, and worked with 21 Army Group rather than First Army. Late in the spring another officer whose planning was directed toward the second phase of operations appeared at the conferences, the Ordnance officer of Third Army, which was scheduled to become operative in France in August. For a brief time Col. Levi M. Bricker had the assignment; he was soon succeeded by Col. Thomas H. Nixon, brought from Sicily by his old commander, General Patton.21

Throughout the vital planning months of February and March, interest centered on the three men most directly concerned with Ordnance in the invasion-Colonel Medaris, Colonel Maxwell of Ninth Air Force, and Colonel Dillon of Southern Base Section, where the U.S. troops were to stage before embarking. The heaviest burden fell on Medaris. He had three very important jobs: to equip First Army's troops; to train its Ordnance units; and to make detailed plans for the invasion. By 10 February, when he joined the NEPTUNE Planning Group in London to plan for Ordnance in the invasion, the equipping and training programs were well in hand.

Working closely with the Cheltenham Ordnance staff, he had established the methods by which First Army troops were to receive their T/E equipment from SOS depots and had made recommendations on the extra weapons and vehicles and on special equipment such as beach packs that would be required. He had furnished SOS with spare parts data based on experience in the Mediterranean, relating for example, gun tubes and artillery parts to rounds of ammunition and vehicle assemblies to expected miles of operation.22

He had also done some hard thinking on ammunition supply. On his recommendation, a board of officers composed largely of tactical commanders established basic loads for all ground force units; his estimates


were used by the theater in determining the theater level of ammunition supply and in preparing a new unit of fire. He realized the futility of some of these efforts, for he was aware that ammunition supply was, after all, a tactical problem rather than a problem of supply.23 General Patton, speaking before General Lee's staff conference at Cheltenham on 31 January 1944, pointed out that some days the Army did not fight, "some days you fight a good deal and some days part of the Army fights and others all of the Army fights." Units of fire, said Patton, applying a quotation from Bernard Shaw on policy, were "designed by knaves to make a trap for fools."24

Medaris had made preparations for training his First Army Ordnance units. On 15 February 1944 his office published a Standing Operating Procedure for Combat, issued well in advance of the landings so that the men might become familiar with it. A copy went to every unit commander in First Army.25 Ordnance battalions destined to land in Normandy with the Engineer special brigades were trained at ETOUSA's Assault Training Center on the Devon coast. When Medaris' army depot and ammunition companies arrived in England, he trained them in SOS depots until army depots and ammunition supply points could be established. He put his heavy maintenance companies to work modifying tanks and other equipment on which changes had to be made and gave them special mass-production jobs to be performed in an almost impossibly short time. One was the installation of Quad 50 machine guns (four heavy .50-caliber machine guns mounted on the M45 turret, usually carried on a wheeled trailer) on 321 surplus half-tracks-an Ordnance field modification, unrecognized and unauthorized, which antiaircraft units and even assault troops were to find surprisingly valuable in Europe. Another job of this kind was armor-plating the floors of 510 armored cars. To selected mechanics, intensive training was given in antiaircraft, tank gyrostabilizer and DUKW maintenance. After several amphibian exercises early in the year demonstrated the need for more training on DUKW's, Ordnance SOS headquarters set up a school at Breandown, on the south side of Bristol Channel.26

The theater Ordnance staff was in a position to help considerably in the important problem of waterproofing. In April 1943 Sayler had established an Ordnance Experimental Station (O-617) on the north Devon coast at Bideford, the "little white town" where Kingsley had written Westward Ho!; at a neighboring seaside resort called Westward Ho! the British had been working on the problem since 1942. The Ordnance station under the command of Lt. Col. Ray C. Conner, an officer who had had considerable experience in the Mediterranean, tested and improved materials and prepared instruction manuals. Beginning


Photo:  Testing waterproofed 3/4-ton truck, England


in December 1943, the station trained Ordnance troops to instruct the individual drivers, who were to do the actual waterproofing on their own vehicles. By May 1944 the school had trained more than a thousand First Army officers and men.27

A new contribution to amphibious warfare that was attracting a good deal of attention in these busy months of preparation was the DD (duplex-drive) swimming tank. The British had developed a canvas float, or water wing, that would enable a tank to leave its LCT, swim to the beach, and go in firing. It was one of several new devices tested by Maj. Gen. Sir P. Hobart of the British Army and his 79th Armoured Division at their research center on the coast of Suffolk. The British called these contraptions "Hobo's funnies." Some had been designed to make a tank more effective against infantry, others to aid the assault Engineer units in detonating mines and removing other obstacles. The Crocodile tank carried a flame thrower; the


Photo:  Testing an amphibious tank


CDL (Canal Defense Light, a name given to mislead the enemy), a powerful searchlight to illuminate the battlefield and blind enemy troops; the Crab, a revolving flail for exploding mines; the Bulldozer, a blade that could dig up mines and do many other useful jobs. Not all were British inventions; some were American or American adaptions of British devices.28

These and other new developments, such as the Snake-lengths of pipe filled with explosives for the demolition of mines, wire, and other obstacles-were studied by a First Army board, of which Colonel Medaris was senior member, established to consider the adoption of specialized equipment. The board also studied an interesting little vehicle, the Weasel, or M29 light cargo carrier, a small tracked carrier that had been developed in 1942 to carry supplies over snow during possible operations in Norway. Little was known about it in England, but the fact that it was said to operate successfully in mud and swamps as well as snow indicated that it might be


useful in the invasion, especially on the swampy Cotentin coast.29

Bomb Disposal

One highly secret subject that demanded a good deal of attention in plans for the invasion was bomb disposal. Within the United Kingdom agencies such as the Royal Engineers, Royal Navy, and Royal Air Force had the responsibility for neutralizing unexploded bombs (UXB's), but when the armies moved to the Continent, the task in the US communications and combat zones would fall on US Ordnance.

It was a particularly troublesome problem because at the beginning nobody had realized all of its ramifications. After the 1941 London blitz, the Ordnance Department had set up a bomb disposal school at Aberdeen Proving Ground, under the directorship of Col. Thomas J. Kane, to train men to destroy enemy bombs that might fall on the United States. In July 1943 a bomb disposal company got into action in the Mediterranean, in Sicily with Seventh Army. For TORCH there had been available in ETOUSA only a few Engineers, hastily trained. After TORCH some training had been possible in England, with the help of the British, directed by Col. Philip Schwartz, Ordnance officer of the Eighth Air Force, who supplied some bomb disposal men to the Twelfth Air Force in North Africa.30

General Sayler had early foreseen the importance of the UXB work and by May 1943 had on his staff a bomb disposal officer, transferred from Eighth Air Force, to plan for ground and service forces as well as air forces. As reports came in from the Mediterranean, it became clear that the bomb disposal men would have to deal with bombs that had been dropped by Allied aircraft as well as those dropped by the enemy, and with artillery duds, booby traps, captured enemy ammunition, and other hazardous matériel. Also, experience showed the value of teaching all troops to recognize and report the hazards when they saw them-a subject called bomb reconnaissance. A school for this purpose was set up at Bristol under the operation of V Corps, with a miniature village, a museum of objects dropped from the air, and instructors from the Royal Engineers school at Rippon. When the first bomb disposal company sent to England, the 234th, arrived in the fall of 1943 it was given the responsibility for all training in bomb reconnaissance.31

Colonel Kane arrived in England to become


Sayler's bomb disposal officer in March 1944, bringing with him eleven officers from the Aberdeen school. Some of them were assigned to base sections and armies, some to Sayler's Bomb Disposal Division. This division issued an information bulletin, called Fuze News, and did it great deal of liaison on equipment with the Royal Navy, Royal Engineers, and Royal Air Force. Though the British had been in the business nearly five years, they adopted several American tools and procedures. The most striking difference between U.S. and British equipment was in weight: the British weighed nearly two tons, the American only 200 pounds. The supply of the equipment to the users was managed almost singlehanded by Capt. Schuyler V. C. Larkin of the Bomb Disposal Division.32

Colonel Kane's greatest problem was the organization of the men who were to do the dangerous job on the Continent. The War Department was sending them to the theater in squads of one officer and six enlisted men, instead of in companies. This decision was the result of observers' reports on the Sicily Campaign that the bomb disposal company wasted manpower. After arrival in England, the squads were given on-the-job training by the British; but, in Kane's opinion, the War Department had not made adequate provision for the administration and housekeeping of these units, which he thought were likely to be "kicked about as a step-child" by units to which they were assigned or attached. He recommended that the 234th Bomb Disposal Company, broken down into platoons, be utilized for administration. As time for the invasion drew near, Colonel Medaris suggested earlier phasing of the bomb disposal company to the Continent, in order to support the squads.33

The Ordnance Plan for Neptune

On D-day the Americans were to land in Normandy on two beaches divided by the Carentan estuary. The beach on the right, going in, was called UTAH. The force landing here, VII Corps under Maj. Gen. J. Lawton Collins, had First Army's first mission, to advance up the Cotentin peninsula and capture the port of Cherbourg. Collins was to land with the 4th Division; two airborne divisions, the 82d and 101st, were to be dropped inland; and in the week following D-day, two more infantry divisions, the 90th and the 9th, were to land on UTAH. The beach on the left, called OMAHA, adjoined the British beaches. Here the V Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. Leonard T. Gerow, with the 1st Division and an attached regiment of the 29th Division on D-day and the 2d and 2d Armored to follow in a few days, was to advance south to Caumont and hold while VII Corps captured Cherbourg and the British held the German forces near Caen. Then V Corps, assisted after D plus 6 by XIX Corps with the 28th and 30th Infantry Divisions and the 3d Armored, would be joined by VII


Photo:  Colonel Medaris


Corps after the capture of Cherbourg. First Army with three corps abreast would, in General Bradley's words, "pivot on the British position like a windlass in the direction of Paris," advancing first to the south to isolate the Brittany peninsula, then east to the Seine.34

Colonel Medaris planned to place the greatest weight of Ordnance manpower-nine battalions-on OMAHA Beach to support the main Army effort to the south. He intended this group to be, eventually, the forward support organization in the march across France. UTAH was to receive an Ordnance group of five battalions. Later the UTAH group, transferring its forward support battalions to the OMAHA group in exchange for rear support battalions, would become responsible for all Ordnance service in army rear.

Except for OMAHA's main army rear depot and heavy shop battalions, the organization of the two groups was at the outset roughly the same: an ammunition battalion, the first to be landed; a forward third echelon maintenance and battlefield clearance battalion for each corps; an army support battalion to back up each forward battalion with fourth echelon maintenance, a field depot, a collecting point, and evacuation facilities; and an army intermediate battalion to back up the support battalions, repair army trucks, evacuate damaged matériel to rear shops, and handle bomb disposal in the Army area. The fourteen battalions in these two groups were all to be ashore by D plus 15, and were carefully phased to provide Ordnance support within three days after the arrival of the tactical units. The for ward battalions had definite assignments to support certain corps; the medium maintenance companies of these forward battalions had assignments to support specified divisions.35

Remembering the confusion that had existed on the beaches in Sicily, Medaris planned to place a considerable amount of Ordnance support behind the men who had the task of getting the troops and supplies ashore. Behind each of the three engineer special brigades (one to handle UTAH, two for OMAHA) he placed a battalion consisting of an ammunition company, a medium automotive maintenance company especially trained on DUKW's and LVT's (landing vehicles, tank), and a bomb disposal squad. This insured


enough Ordnance men to repair vehicles on the spot or dig them out of the sand and drag them to collecting points; to handle ammunition over the beaches and place it in inshore dumps; and to assist Medaris' staff in identifying and loading Class II supplies.36

Medaris was determined that the combat forces would not be starved for Ordnance supplies in the crucial early days of the invasion. Very early in his planning, while the experience in Sicily was still fresh in his mind, he provided that Ordnance units going into the forward areas would carry with them as many supplies as they could. In NEPTUNE they would even drive or tow ashore the vehicles and wheeled guns that would be needed as replacements, and the reserve vehicles would be packed with spare parts and other Class II supplies. In this way enough could be carried in to last fifteen days. The arrangement economized on lift; more important, it kept vital items in Ordnance hands. One obstacle stood in the way of the plan: there were more replacement vehicles than there were Ordnance men to drive them. Medaris overcame it characteristically. Realizing that the First Army G-1, Col. Joseph J. O'Hare, had the problem of providing transportation for the men who were going to France as replacements, Medaris borrowed the replacement men to drive the replacement vehicles, first putting them through a program of driver training. The planning for Class V was more difficult. Because of the limited capacity of the beaches there were arbitrary tonnage limitations that did not provide much insurance against abnormal losses. Assault divisions were authorized to carry quantities in excess of their basic loads if they had the transportation; and to this problem DUKW's provided the answer.37

In planning the operation of Ordnance service in NEPTUNE Medaris was able to profit from two important lessons he had learned in North Africa. One was the need for collecting companies to bring back damaged matériel from the battlefield. He had had to improvise such a company in Tunisia but now had four evacuation companies (TOE 9-187) that could be converted into collecting companies by adding more trucks, wreckers, and tank recovery vehicles and subtracting tank transporters. In the process he gained manpower, for the evacuation company had fifty-eight more enlisted men and one more officer than the collecting company required. He used the men thus gained to put into effect the second important lesson-the need for a radio net between Ordnance units in the field. The men were sent to Signal Corps schools and the network was set up in the United Kingdom before D-day.38

Toward the end of the planning period Medaris relieved all nondivisional Ordnance troops except bomb disposal squads from attachment to corps. While authorizing each corps Ordnance officer to communicate directly with the commander of the battalion supporting his corps and the


commander of the corps ammunition supply points, and delegating to the battalion commander authority to locate his elements in accordance with the direction of the corps Ordnance officer, Medaris kept in his own hands the control of his Ordnance men.39

Colonel Medaris was convinced that it was an "absolute necessity" for him to have direct command of First Army Ordnance troops, believing strongly that subsidiary control exercised through staff channels would cause delays that might be disastrous. But he was faced with the same problem Niblo had had. First Army headquarters, like that of Fifth Army, was still organized under the T/O 200-1 of 1 July 1942, with an Ordnance Section that was woefully inadequate. How was Medaris to exercise command without a headquarters competent to issue orders? He thought the T/O 9-200-1 for an Army Ordnance Command, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, proposed in November 1942 by Col. Robert W. Daniels, AGF Ordnance officer, which provided 19 officers, 2 warrant officers, and 80 enlisted men, would serve his purpose, if 6 enlisted men to operate a switchboard and wire net were added. As yet T/O 9-200-1 had not been published-held up, visitors from Washington told him, until the complete T/O for army headquarters was approved and published.

Pending final approval, Medaris asked First Army for authority to reorganize his Ordnance Section under T/O 9-200-1 provisionally. He was refused and had to be content with a slight increase in staff. Starting with 18 officers, 1 warrant officer, and 33 enlisted men, he gained 3 officers and 12 enlisted men in April 1944, following the revision of T/O 200-1 in December 1943. The antiquated table of organization was not the only handicap. There was also the difficulty of obtaining officers who were qualified to tackle the complicated problems posed by OVERLORD. For that reason the First Army Ordnance office was not completely organized until after D-day.40

On 18 March 1944 General Bradley gave his special staff officers "operational control" of their troops, a concept borrowed from the British. He delegated to them certain specific functions: transfer of men between units, except in unusual cases; movement of troops within the army zone; issuance of normal operating orders and training directives; reallocation of supplies; and recommendations on such matters as efficiency reports, promotions, and reclassifications. Colonel Medaris did not consider that this arrangement grave him actual command-"the complete command set up" that Niblo had in Fifth Army-but it did eventually give him complete freedom of action with respect to his troops, and wide latitude for operation in the technical channel, mainly because he had a good working relationship with his two commanders, first Bradley and then


Lt. Gen. Courtney H. Hodges, who commanded First Army after General Bradley left in August to take command of 12th Army Group. Medaris learned early in the campaign that the confidence of his commander was his greatest asset.41

The policy of operational control was adopted in all the armies in the European campaign-Third, Seventh, Ninth, and Fifteenth as well as First. Still, none of the army Ordnance officers had the complete command that Niblo exercised. The effectiveness of operational control varied according to the men and their commanders. Colonel Nixon, Patton's Ordnance officer in Third Army, considered that it amounted to actual command. At the other extreme, there was "the Ordnance Officer who cannot breathe without G-4 approval, who does not receive a single document without its coming in and out through G-4 and who cannot issue a single instruction unless over the signature of the AG . . . " as Medaris noted in November 1944. He felt that such compartmentation led to decisions by men unqualified to make them, for the average G-4 had no Ordnance training; also it hampered the army Ordnance officer in his dealings with Ordnance officers at corps and division level. Medaris continued to believe that the Ordnance officer of an army ought to be given by T/O a command organization that was so definitely intended for the purpose that his army commander would have to conform. With this contention General Campbell, Chief of Ordnance, was in "complete agreement."42

Yet the question of a command organization for the army Ordnance officer was not answered during the war or even in the postwar period. Though the Ordnance section of the USFET Board favored such an organization and recommended that it take the form of a brigade headquarters and headquarters company, nothing was done. Tactical commanders generally opposed it, including Medaris' own commanders. General Sayler felt that it would never come about and that the only practical solution was for the Ordnance officer to work through his commanding general. Brig. Gen. Harold A. Nisley, Ordnance officer of the 12th Army Group, agreed. Nisley came to believe that if the Ordnance officer of a major field force "sold himself and Ordnance service properly to his own Headquarters" and if the Ordnance officers at lower echelons were properly indoctrinated with the idea of liaison and cooperation with the Ordnance officer at the higher level, most of the problems would be solved.43

"The Best Equipped Fighting Force"

Though Medaris lacked Niblo's command organization, he had the advantage of First Army's prestige as the spearhead of a campaign on which everything hinged. He had based his plan for NEPTUNE


on the assumption that the men he needed to operate Ordnance service would be furnished him; and they were, even though there was a general shortage of Ordnance troops, not only in the theater but in the United States. It was done by taking units from SOS and even Third Army, which would not become operational on the Continent until August and therefore had a longer time for build-up.44

The theater made strenuous efforts to bring Medaris' two group headquarters from the United States in time. The group headquarters designed to administer battalions in support of field forces-the organization that Niblo had fought for so long-did not have a table of organization (TOE 9-12) until 15 April 1944. Two group headquarters were available in the United States, the 51st and the 52d. After urgent cables from General Eisenhower, who even suggested shipment by unescorted ship, the 52d was scheduled to arrive before the end of April; but the 51st could not possibly arrive until late May, too late for NEPTUNE. As a substitute for the 51st Medaris was given the 224th Base Group Headquarters (T/O 9-312), which had been assigned to FECOMZ.45

In the matter of supplies, the theater went to great lengths to equip First Army. An important supply mission that included the theater chiefs of all technical services was sent to the United States in March. As a member of this mission, Sayler speeded action on the advance shipment of T/E equipment and depot stocks, and the dispatch to the theater of ammunition (principally for artillery), PROCO projects, and such special nonstatus items as tool sets. He urged that some of the ships scheduled to carry supplies direct from the United States to the Continent (the floating depots devised to solve the problem of port congestion in the United Kingdom) be loaded by commodity or "type," and he obtained approval for loading 30 ships solely with trucks and 11 with ammunition. This would enable him as Ordnance officer of the Communications Zone to call forward specific cargoes quickly on demand of the using arms.46 The European theater gained an immense advantage when it convinced Army Service Forces and the New York Port of Embarkation that it had a good stock control system. As a result, in Europe the Ordnance supply officers had far less trouble with the editing of requisitions than had those in the Mediterranean.47

The ETOUSA supply men paid tribute to the "magnificent job" done by Army Service Forces and New York Port of Embarkation in meeting their demands.48 In the United States a close check was kept


on shortages and shipments were expedited if necessary. When word came from the theater that the DUKW's, which were wearing out from use in training and amphibious exercises, would need more parts than had been anticipated, ASF shipped six tons of critical parts by air. The War Department released additional quantities of ammunition. As D-day drew near, very few shortages existed either in spare parts or ammunition, and those were caused by shortages in the United States. Special arrangements were made for shipping scarce types, such as 81-mm. mortar ammunition, as soon as they became available. Missions from ASF, NYPE, and the technical services were sent to England throughout the spring to check on supplies and demonstrate new types of equipment. Experts came over to help solve special problems. Late in March 1944, when 21 Army Group became concerned about the difficulty of segregating 105-mm. howitzer ammunition by lots, Ordnance sent Col. Leslie E. Simon, director of the Ballistic Research Laboratory, to the theater to conduct test firings, and the data he obtained was used successfully to classify the ammunition.

Certain Ordnance items, chiefly vehicles, that could not be sent in time from the United States were obtained, one way or another, in England. First Army got tank transporters from the British and 21/2-ton trucks from the Red Cross and even from SHAEF headquarters, swapping 11/2-ton trucks for them. For other items that were not available anywhere, such as ioton ammunition trailers, there were substitutes that would do. Perhaps the most serious shortage was in Ordnance shop trucks, which were in demand not only for their original purpose but, as in the Mediterranean, for mobile command posts. Some were obtained by robbing Third Army and the Field Force Replacement Service. With these, the Ordnance men trusted that they could get by for the first thirty days after the invasion, when more shop trucks were expected from the United States.49

Toward the end of the cold, uncomfortable English spring of 1944, the troops moved into their marshaling camps in southern England. Taking stock, the men at headquarters began to feel repaid for the months of hard work and worry. The chief of operations of ASF, General Lutes, came to England to make an exhaustive last minute survey of the plans and preparations; he assured General Eisenhower that the invasion could be supported. General Sayler reported to General Campbell that First Army was "probably the best equipped fighting force in the history of warfare." Medaris and the combat commanders seemed satisfied.50 Indeed, at the last high-level conference at General Montgomery's headquarters three weeks before D-day, attended by King George VI himself, Prime Minister Churchill was somewhat alarmed by "the amount of paraphernalia." He was reminded of


Admiral Cunningham's story of seeing dental chairs being landed at Algiers during Operation TORCH. And remembering the swarm of vehicles on the Anzio beachhead, he even became concerned about what he called "an excess of motorcars."51

The conference ended; the top commanders began a round of visits to the troops waiting for D-day in the marshaling areas; and Churchill wrote in General Montgomery's "private book ... .. on the verge of the greatest adventure with which these pages have dealt, I record my confidence that all will be well. . . "52







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