U.S. forces would have thought the hard part of the war was behind them once they reached Normandy’s shores and fought through the French Countryside. However, they ran up against a huge problem, a lack of supplies.
At A Standstill
In July of 1944, the Allied forces were stuck. French railway repairs were three months out and portable pipelines were not installed yet. Getting supplies to the Allies was a huge undertaking.
Strategists planned a large-scale truck supply system to get supplies where they needed to go. It was dubbed the “Red Ball Express.” There was need for supplies to be taken consistently.
The forces needed fuel, ammunition, ordnance, and of course, food. It all needed to go up to the front lines. To make this happen, the allies had to repair vital infrastructure.
There were 750 tons of supplies sitting at the port of Antwerp that needed to go to the front lines daily. For example, an armored division needed 350 tons of gasoline.
A length brainstorming session followed. Thirty-six hours later, they had an answer. They would take thousands of trucks and run them continuously to and from the front.
Each truck would be in a grouping of at least five trucks that would travel together at a time. They had to drive at 35 miles an hour to avoid any unnecessary delays, but the order was often ignored, and drivers usually did their route at twice the speed.
Trucks were grabbed from units that did not need them, and non-combat personnel was used to man them. Often the men driving were Black soldiers.
According to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Red Ball Express was critical to the army and regarded it as important as the combat soldiers themselves. Traffic was an issue in the beginning. However, the military circumvented the issue by creating roads just for themselves.
Thus the Red Ball Line was created. Little red spots marked the route, so truck drivers knew where they were going. These routes were for the trucks only, and civilians were not to use them.
The Red Ball Express moved 6,000 trucks a day with 12,500 tons of supplies all to the front lines. The Express ran for 80 days straight, delivering over 400,000 tons of supplies.
Without the relentless work of these drivers and all those who supported them, the war could have very well gone on for a year or two more. However, everyone put their heads together to work out a viable solution to the problem.