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The Quartermaster Review
May-June 1944  

AN ARMY marches on its wheels these days, and without fuels and lubricants those wheels bog down in a morass of despair and ultimate defeat. Even in the First World War it was said that the Allies floated to victory on a sea of oil. But that sea was merely a trickle as compared to the deluge of today.  As a graphic illustration of the change in the tempo of warfare let us consider a few “oil” facts that vitally affect the life and well-being of Johnny Doughboy.  

Gasoline needs in this war are eighty times greater than in the last war.  

Three pounds of gasoline are needed to deliver one pound of bombs on an enemy objective; every Flying Fortress sets out on a bombing mission with at least two tons of gasoline.  

Every American doughboy overseas requires an average of more than fifty gallons of petroleum products per week.  

An average of more than fifty million gallons of petroleum products daily are shipped overseas to the fighting forces.  

About two-thirds of all overseas shipping tonnage consists of petroleum products; one-third of our total United States production goes to the military.  

A single mechanized division requires 18,000 gallons of gasoline every hour it is on the move. 

Early in the war the Army Command recognized the vital importance of the uninterrupted supply of the correct grades, specifications, and amounts of petroleum products to the fighting man.  Hence the Army found itself in a new business oil. The Quartermaster General was assigned the responsibility of insuring a sufficient supply of petroleum products and their containers. Specifically, this responsibility covers all phases of Army fuels and lubricants requirements: purchasing, inspection, storage, issue, and distribution to the Army Ground Forces, to the Army Air Forces (except aircraft), and to the Army Service Forces, with certain exceptions noted below.  

To handle this assignment efficiently the Fuels and Lubricants Division was established in the Office of The Quartermaster General and staffed with skilled Army and civilian personnel, experienced in branches of the petroleum industry. From all parts of civilian life and all ranks and grades of Army life men with petroleum experience were recruited, until eventually a closely coordinated, well organized, full-fledged unit was in operation under the supervision of Brig. Gen. H. L. Peckham, Director of the Division.  

Let us consider a few of the problems that arise when one is dealing with such astronomical supply figures as hundreds of millions of gallons of product and millions of product containers.  It is the Quartermasters’ responsibility to keep in motion, on all fronts and under all conditions, the Army’s countless thousands of trucks, self-propelled artillery pieces, and mobile land and water equipment-from sixty-ton tanks to half-ton jeeps; from Army transports and landing barges to laundries and sewing machines. The continuous flow of oil and gas to these thirsty machines of modern warfare must be uninterrupted. Nothing must stop or delay the constant flow of oil from gushing well to sub-dodging tanker; from port of debarkation storage tank to the final transporting receptacle — one of the twenty-million-odd five-gallon cans.  

Throughout the entire chain of supply it is the Quartermasters’ responsibility to coordinate plans and operations with all Army, Navy, and civilian agencies. Careful planning and gearing of available supply and distribution facilities to actual consumption must be constantly maintained if the entire machinery of civilian and military life is to function at the highest level of efficiency.  

The Fuels and Lubricants Division has two broad spheres of operation: the zone of the interior, which consists of the continental United States, and all other areas, generally referred to as “off shore.”  Most Quartermaster requirements can be estimated to a reasonable degree of accuracy. For example, it is possible to forecast fairly accurately how many shoes, coats or gloves Johnny Doughboy is going to need in a specific theatre of operation over a given period of time. Petroleum products present a knottier problem since every change in tide of battle, terrain, and weather creates changes in demand which require prompt analysis and accurate decisions. The enemy’s strength must be gauged, and plans formulated for the destruction of enemy oil production, storage, and distribution facilities.  Accurate estimates of enemy consumption and civilian needs in enemy occupied territory are required if strategically sound attack plans are to be developed. As territory is captured and occupied there arise the problems of reclamation of products and reconstruction of production and distribution facilities.  When necessary, arrangements must be completed for the supply and shipment of production and refinery equipment to replace that destroyed beyond repair or to develop new fields or plants. These are but a few of the many and varied problems which confront the staff of the Fuels and Lubricants Division.  

Where and how does the Division fit into the world-wide petroleum picture! Army and Navy petroleum supply is coordinated with the United States Petroleum Administration for War by the Army-Navy Petroleum Board in Washington, an agency of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Fuels and Lubricants Division acts as a staff agency for General Somervell, performing all staff duties with regard to petroleum.  

Let us consider the functions and responsibilities of the various military and civilian agencies concerned directly or indirectly with petroleum products. The Army-Navy-Petroleum Board effects close cooperation between the War and Navy Departments on all matters pertaining to petroleum, while maintaining close liaison with the Petroleum Administration for War. It coordinates procurement, overseas shipments, and storage and issue of products for the Army and the matters with all other United Nations as directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It determines the requirement of petroleum products for the Army and Navy and, in collaboration with the Petroleum Administration for War, evaluates the capacity of the petroleum industry to provide the established requirements. It can be readily understood that, in view of the above functions, the Fuels and Lubricants Division must keep in close contact with the Board.  This is especially true of all matters concerning requirements, forecasting, procuring, shipping, and storing-particularly in the establishment of petroleum supply pools accessible to ports of embarkation. The coordination of all procurement activities is absolutely essential if overlapping and competitive bidding between the various procurement agencies is to be avoided.  

A general view of the Division’s relation to the Army Service Forces is essential to a complete understanding of its place in the Army’s petroleum organization. The direct line of command extends from the Commanding General of the Army Service Forces to the Technical Service. ASF Directors of Operations and Materials direct the Fuels and Lubricants Division in a staff capacity in certain matters. The responsibility for screening requirements has been delegated by the Director of Operations to the Division. After screening, approval must be obtained from ASF Headquarters before any procurement plans for overseas requisitions may be formulated. In turn the Requirements Division of ASF reviews, approves, and incorporates into the Army Supply Program the fuels and lubricants requirements developed and reported to it by The Quartermaster General. The authenticity, dependability, and accuracy of the latter estimates are obviously all-important. In a nutshell, the Fuels and Lubricants Division is responsible for handling most of the basic work detail concerning Army fuels and lubricants requirements, but, for obvious reasons, is not given a free hand in these matters by any manner of means.  

Last in the military fuels and lubricants picture come the Service Commands.  The Division looks to the Service Commander for informative data on requirements, inventory, and consumption in the of the interior. The regional depots also perform the big job of procurement for overseas shipment. The necessitates the maintenance of close liaison between the Fuels and Lubricants Division and ports of embarkation on distribution, storage, and supply planning, and on matters jointly concerning the regional depots and ports.  

The most important civilian agency, insofar as petroleum is concerned, is the Petroleum Administration for War.  Its basic function is to establish policies, formulate plans and programs, and issue covering operations orders which will assure the most effect prosecution of the war and, at the same time, conserve products and utilize production facilities to the greatest possible degree. It acts as liaison and channel communication between the petroleum industry and the agencies of the Federal Government.  

The Fuels and Lubricants Division furnishes the agency with estimates covering Army petroleum needs. Sound Army logistical planning requires first hand knowledge of current production, refinery volumes, shipping and plant capacities, and product types, all of which data is collected and supplied PAW. The Division must be kept informed on product availability in order that the most economical procurement policies may be established. Since PAW controls the pipeline systems of the oil industry it must be kept informed, as far in advance as possible, of military supply movements. Contact must be maintained with PAW’s foreign division in order that complete information covering American industry’s foreign petroleum facilities may be available for use in any tactical and logistical planning.  

Frequent direct and indirect contact with the War Production Board is also maintained.  Some of the matters which mutually concern WPB and the Division are data on specifications and requirements products and containers; recommendations on conversion matters; and shipments of material used in the petroleum industry in the United States and foreign countries. 

The one remaining civilian agency with which the Division must maintain close liaison is the Office of Price Administration. Many matters arise which concern both the Army and OPA. For example, it was recently decided that military personnel returned to this country from theatres of operation because of illness should be given additional gas allotment in order to be able to use their cars on emergency convalescence activities.  The plan of procedure had to be formulated and developed by Division personnel and then coordinated and published by OPA.  

Within the Fuels and Lubricants Division itself there are seven branches under the office of the Director.  The Requirements Branch is charged with the responsibility of forecasting requirements of petroleum products for the Army of the United States throughout the entire world, excluding products used in aircraft, and recoil and certain special oils. This estimating responsibility also covers Allied troops (except British) and civilian needs in territories occupied by Allied armies but not rehabilitated by Allied civilian agencies.  

Responsibilities of purchase, storage, and distribution assigned to the Operations Branch.  The planning Branch handles problems of supply, conservation and consumption, and conversion to other fuels.   

The work of preparing, testing, reviewing, and developing specifications and standards is assigned to the Technical Branch. As new operating conditions are encountered by our fighting forces, changes in product specification are necessary. For example, the extreme cold of Alaska made it necessary to develop new types of fuels and lubricants tailored for use in that theatre.  

The Solid Fuels Branch is a self-contained unit which directs the procurement of coal and assists in all plans concerning coal reserves in foreign territory which the United Nations are interested.  

The Administrative and Control Branches complete the Division organization. The former renders office and personnel service to all branches, while the latter assists in problems relating to overall organization, procedure, and management. Field petroleum offices, concerned with negotiating purchase orders, storage, and distribution, are located at Jersey City, Seattle, Oakland, Los Angeles, and Edmonton, Canada. Too great emphasis cannot be placed on the vital importance of “oil” in this global struggle.  It is Johnny Doughboy’s most potent weapon from the day of mobilization to the last-not too distant, we hope–moment of demobilization. Gasoline and lube oils help convey him during training and maneuvers, and under actual battle conditions.  Petroleum waxes are used to seal cartons and boxes which contain his food other war materiel requiring protection against the elements. In the North African campaign cartons and boxes so treated were tossed over the ships’ sides floated ashore with contents fresh and uncontaminated, thanks to the protective and air-tight coat of petroleum wax. At the time, mountainous seas and shores eliminated all other forms of ship-to-shore transfers.  

Smoke screens which have petroleum fog oil as a base are used to hide Johnny’s movements as he storms enemy held positions. Petroleum paraffins and petrolatums used in Army salves and ointments speed the healing of wounds, and gasoline drives the generators that lights the medical operating-room lamp. Back behind the front lines it is gasoline or fuel oil that motivates the various machines which mend his shoes, repair his clothes, wash his socks, and sterilize his equipment.Transporting, feeding, protecting, cleaning, healing – always the magic of petroleum is ministering to the U.S. Army fighting man.

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