Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Red Ball Express

The 301st Port Co. was listed under the auspices
of the Transportation and Supply Administration
out of General Eisenhower's Sheaf Headquarters.
Our job was to deliver the the goods to the front
lines via ship to shore operations..
When the lines move forward the solution
fell to the Red Ball Express to deliver the goods.
The Red Ball Express was composed of units of
White troops and units of Black Troops working
independently of each other.
The U.S. Army was segregated during the assault
on Normandy and for many years later until 1948.
The Red Ball Express became very important two
months or so after the Landings...The rapid
advance of the invading forces stretched their
supply lines until they ran out of gas.
This is no pun. The Red Ball Express was an
integral part of the success,of the victory,
after solidifying the beaches and the
closing the Falaice Gap.
More than 5500, ten wheelers, 2
and a half ton trucks, were used over a
period of ten weeks to bring 800,000
Gallons of gasoline a day to the
stalled front lines to feed the Tanks and
the other hungry guzzlers of the
1st and 3rd Armies.
These 10 Wheelers were driven day and
night, many times without using their
headlights because of the fear of enemy action.
Picture 900 trucks a day in a never ending
row 50 feet apart driving at night with tiny
slits giving off slivers of light shining through
their electric taped, covered head lamps
They became so efficient that there were
days of 1 million gallons a day being delivered,
until the distance from the beaches was
so great that the trucks themselves were using
almost 2o,ooo gallons each day.
The gas was transported in a 5 gallon
Yellow Container, called a Jerrycan.
There was no pumping of gas needed.
The ships were loaded in England with
Jerrycans full of gas, the DWKS were
loaded from the ships with Jerrycans
and then loaded on to the Red Ball trucks
to be taken to the front lines.
The truck had a crew of two in the cab
and an occasional mechanic or Officer
who may have required transport ...
There is so much credit given to the
Tuskegee Airmen for their contribution
to the war effort which I cannot justify here,
because I only know what I read about
I am not doing this Blog, to disparage
the Airmen, but it seems to me, that
they slept on clean bedding every night,
ate 1st class rations, and had plenty of
fresh water, all of which made their
risky job a trifle easier.
It, seems to me.
The truck crews drove through enemy
territory every time they went out,
slept in their trucks when they were
empty on their way back and on
the ground or in the truck cab when the
equipment broke down under the
constant pounding it had to withstand.
Think about sleeping in a disabled truck
filled with gasoline or 105mm ammo
with a bypassed enemy in your area.
I have never read anything about the
casualties R.B.EXP Crews suffered but
their bravery is indelibly written in my
I knew these men and their accomplish-
ments first hand.
In 1943, I taught African American troops
who were in Port Companies, in
Indian Town Gap Penn.
When I was a Cadre member
(but thats another story)of instructors
there, the Port Companies came for
actual experience of ship loading in the
middle of a virtual Desert.
In 1944, I watched some of these Port
Companies unload Liberty Ships..tossing
around Jerrycans full of gasoline
into cargo nets, like they were sacks of flour.
The loaded nets were placed into the
Red Ball Trucks for delivery.
Talking of unsung heroism.....
I say, take a look at the Red Ball Express.
The Original Delivery Experts, Under Fire.

I've witnessed segregated
U.S.Army Black Troops in 1943.

I've witnessed Their
New Commander in Chief,
The First Black President of
The United States, in 2009.