RED BALL EXPRESS

France

1944

The most crucial supply for our war effort in France was gasoline. Jeeps carried a gas can and a drinking water can on the rear portion of their bodies. Trucks carried several cans and tanks carried even more.  The problem was keeping those gas cans and vehicles supplied on a daily basis. Front line forces had to be assigned tasks according to how much fuel they had available.

To cope with the supply needs, a convoy system for carrying fuel was instituted. It was called, The Red Ball Express.  The name came from American Railroads which designated certain critical trains as “Red Ball” –they had the highest priority to use the tracks.

Our Red Ball Express consisted primarily of Army Quartermaster Truck units manned by black soldiers. The cans of gasoline were loaded onto the DUKWs (We called them Ducks.) along side the supply ships off Omaha and Utah beaches. The Ducks came ashore, where the gas cans were transferred to the Army six-by- six trucks which then formed convoys. Trucks sped inland with large red balls painted on their doors.

These supply soldiers worked around the clock, with very short rest periods and even shorter food stops.  Some truckers drove right up to the tanks on battlefields and refueled them on the spot!

As our fighting forces advanced further inland, the supply problem became more crucial. More trucks were added to the convoys and a pipeline from Omaha Beach inland was also built to reduce the distance the trucks had to travel.

The system worked in spite of trouble with black market truck thieves. The pipeline also had to be patrolled to keep it safe from being tapped by French robbers.

Closer fuel supplies were needed. Hence, it was important for the Allies to capture ports: Cherbourg, LeHarve and Antwerp.

 

Le (Apr.’14) adds, “It’s hard to believe, but some of our own soldiers were part of the black market. They sold their fuel trucks and loads of gasoline.”

A DUKW (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

A DUKW (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

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