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The Army taught the railroads, who then taught the Army

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by DarkLord, May 6, 2021.

  1. DarkLord

    DarkLord Member

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    When railroads became a "thing" in the US and logistics were about to become one of the largest industries in America, the Railroads liked to hire Army logistics officers. Because those logistics officers knew how to manage large quantities of goods, and coordinate their arrival to a distant point.

    Cut to the 1930's with WW2 on the horizon, who did the US Army turn to better understand worldwide logistics? The railroad people, who knew not only all there was to know about moving product in the US, but also how to do it in Europe.

    Steel sharpens steel.
     
  2. Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus Active Member

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    Sure -- the military makes things happen, and the private sector maximizes the economies of the military ideas.
     
  3. Riter

    Riter Active Member

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    In the American Civil War, the North appointed a RR man as Brig. Gen. in command of coordinating the RRs. He made the Union's movement of men and material efficient and other generals could not override his decision. The South did no such thing and didn't even standardize track width.
     
  4. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Did they? What is the source for that?

    The railroads grew rapidly. There were many companies and some became huge organisations. As far as I am aware the US Army was a small organisation with a tiny cadre of logistics officers. How many army logistics officers worked for the railroads? What major military operations had the US army conducted before the expansion of the railways? The Mexican expedition? War of 1812?

    The British experience in the Crimean war was that the Railways were well ahead of the army in major engineering, logistics and administration. Throughout the 1840s and 50s railway construction companies employed armies of tens of thousands of navvies. They lived in the field on projects like Chat Moss on the Liverpool to Manchester line and the cross Pennines lines who were kept alive in the field far better than soldiers. The construction industry sent, at their own expense, a small army of navvies to build a railway from the port of Balaclava to Sevastapol as a donation to the war effort. .
     
  5. firstf1abn

    firstf1abn Member

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    Call me odd, but as a change of pace, I sometimes prefer facts first, conclusions later.

    Of course, when you're talking non-falsifiable assertions, sometimes never comes.
     
  6. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    I'm afraid that is an assumption unsupported by the history.

    The U.S. Army's understanding of worldwide logistics was based upon its experience - and misadventures - in doing exactly such in the Spanish-American War, the Philippine Insurrection, and the Great War. Post-Great War criticism in the press and by Congress led to the creation of the Army Industrial College in 1921. Its purview was developing and training industrial mobilization planning and worldwide logistics for the Army.

    The national railroads of course were part of that planning, and had been utilized in the Great War both in the States and in Europe, and they were used again in World War II, but that was as a functional part of the logistical system rather than as the system itself. Railroad companies in World War I and II provided management and operating personnel for the Military Railroad Service, which was a part of the Transportation Department.
     
  7. DarkLord

    DarkLord Member

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    So some books that mention such things.

    From the American System to Mass Production, 1800-1932: (mentions railroads hiring Army officers)
    Rise of the GI Army: (mentions railroads hiring Army officers, and US Army turning to the railroads to learn logistics in the runup to WW2)
    American Rifle, a biography: (mentions railroads hiring Army officers)
    George Marshall, Defender of the Republic: (mentions US Army turning to the railroads to learn logistics in the runup to WW2)
     
  8. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Railroads hired Army officers, like, say, George Brinton McClellan, because he was educated at West Point as an Engineer, which was the premier position in the Army in the 19th Century. Lee was an Engineer as well, albeit he was never hired by a railroad. Herman Haupt, wartime commander of the USMRR, was also a West Point graduate, but did not graduate high enough in his class to be commissioned in the Engineers, so his commission was in the Infantry. That may not have sat well with him, because he resigned his commission the same year he graduated, when he was offered a position as Assistant Engineer on the fledgling Norristown and Valley RR. He was 19 (he also may be distantly related to me through marriage, his wife was from Gettysburg and I think was a cousin). Engineers are useful when it comes to building railroads. Railroads facilitated logistics in the Civil War, but that does not mean that the Army taught the railroads or vice versa. Nor was there any such thing as an "Army logistician", which is a late 20th century concept.

    All well and good, but those are secondary sources (and as I think I mentioned once, Rise is riddled with niggling little errors). There is no mention of such a thing in Gropman's, The Big 'L', American Logistics in World War II, NDU, 1997, which is the modern scholarly work on the subject, nor in the official chronicles of the Army Service Forces, The Quartermaster Corps, or the Transportation Department in World War I or II.
     

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