Quartermaster Corps

Quartermaster Corps

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Derived from the old French quartier and the latin quartaurius, quartermaster means master of quarters; one who goes ahead to provide lodging or quarters for those who are to follow.The Quartermaster Corps traces its origins to June 16, 1775. Following General Washington’s address accepting command of the Continental Army, the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution "providing one Quartermaster General" of the grand army and one deputy under him for a separate army. Major General Thomas Mifflin, a 32-year-old Philadelphia merchant, was the first known quartermaster general.The surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 put the nation at war for the second time in just over two decades. World War II spawned combat all over the globe in multiple theaters of operation. No other area proved to be more challenging than the war in the Pacific Theater with its lengthy supply lines.Needed were masses of trained personnel with purchasing, inspection and supply-management skills, coupled with effective administrative procedures and inventory techniques. The demanding course was not entered into lightly: eleven weeks of academic training and six weeks of field maneuvers, plus military training in the midst of war lay ahead for the recruit.The Quartermaster Officer Candidate Schools strongly emphasized that quality and individual attention be given to each student during training. The courses were attended by officers from several foreign countries: Great Britain, Canada, the Philippines, China, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, and Brazil, as well as other Latin American countries.The Quartermaster School instructors were carefully chosen and trained. Teaching large numbers of servicemen, in the shortest possible time, proved to be a difficult task.The first step in the Quartermasters' duties was procurement, which required more than simply calculating user needs and filling out the correct requisitions. Further complicating matters was the fact that manufacturing and agricultural production had to be increased immediately.Quartermaster corpsmen provided Class I, II, III and IV items to the war front.Class I: foodA steady supply of food and rations was most vital to the survival of the far-flung armed forces. During much of the war the Pacific Theater experienced heavy losses of food, resulting in random cycles of "feast and famine." Food losses stemmed from a number of sources, the first being storage problems. To rectify that problem, the corpsmen created portable warehouses called "Paulin Oases," which resembled a native hut called a bures.Packaging problems were extremely challenging because food supplies were roughly handled, dropped from airplanes, sling-loaded and dumped into huge cargo holds — causing tremendous losses. Quartermaster receiving and distributing (R&D) specialists worked on producing moisture- and insect-resistant paper sacks for the various food products.Distribution problems were next on the list and proved to be the most difficult. The R & D specialists developed a simpler plan to meet the specialized needs and unique requirements of the fighting troops.The A-ration, fresh food; and B-ration, canned food, needed to be cooked — not always possible in combat situations. K-rations were high-energy chocolate bars, used only in emergencies.Class II: clothingQuartermasters in the Pacific had trouble getting sufficient reserves of clothing where it was needed, mainly because the U.S. After the clothing did arrive, it usually went into base storage areas — sometimes disintegrating as a result of devastating environmental effects.Class III: petroleum productsEssential to the war effort were gasoline, kerosene, aviation fuel, diesel oil, fuel oil and petroleum-based lubricants. Heavy and bulky, they defied easy handling, but the Quartermaster efforts to furnish Class III supplies were judged to be an overall success.Class IV: general suppliesSuch diverse items as rope, soap, candles, knives, forks and spoons rarely warranted "life or death" status. A procurement problem on the home front — the inability of the manufacturers to meet demand with supply — was the main reason for delays.Time after time, Quartermaster supply personnel demonstrated the "whatever works" approach and diligently pulled it off. Faced with extremely unusual circumstances, plus finding that they often lacked basic items or equipment, the Quartermasters in the Pacific improvised and became known as "QM Imps." They effectively carried out supply operations through careful planning, and lessons learned from previous assaults on the enemy.The Quartermaster Corps trained thousands of soldiers during World War II, filling specialized roles in every theater of operation from the Pacific and China-Burma-India theaters to North Africa, Italy, central and northern Europe. They also incorporated the help of K-9 Corps with 15 platoons serving overseas during World War II. The dogs were used to detect the enemy's presence, transfer messages, and detect mines.Using strategic anticipation and successful island-hopping techniques, the Quartermaster corpsmen accomplished what they had set out to do, making ultimate victory possible. They applied every conceivable means available to distribute essential supplies to the servicemen, often at the ultimate cost.

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