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Logistics in World War II: History, Evolution and Effects

Info: 1104 words (4 pages) Essay
Published: 18th May 2020 in History

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Logistics in World War II

Imagine if the United States military could not provide supplies to its troops deployed abroad.  The highly successful demonstration of logistics throughout World War II had a lasting impact on how the military currently conducts its mission of diplomacy and liberty around the world.  This paper examines the history of logistics in World War II, the evolution of logistics in World War II and the lasting effects of logistics in World War II. 



World War II was the most prominent and deadliest war in history, involving more than

thirty countries.  Started by the 1939 Nazi invasion of Poland, the war dragged on for six years until the U.S. and its allies defeated Nazi Germany and Japan in 1945.  Due to the global size and scale of this, war combatants had to supply forces from distances far greater from their home base than ever before.  Supplies had to be fast moving, and millions of American troops were consuming fuel, food, water, and ammunition at an alarming rate.  The Second World War was logistically the most testing war in history.  Before World War II, the Navy had Fleet Logistics, but it possessed little interest.  It was not a necessity to maintain bases, fleets, or ships at sea far from replenishment points before World War II.  Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, our leaders recognized that logistics were required to win a global war.  Our leaders were aware of past war successes and failures, and the winning of this war had to be successful.  Logistics is the service to be rendered to our Armed Forces, which includes the supply of material and personnel and the combining of procurement, storage, distribution and transportation of both supplies and personnel (Hahn, 1945).  To accomplish building a successful logistics chain, the United States needed help.  Lt. Gen. Brehon B. Somervell, the United States Army’s chief logistics officer during World War II took this challenge head-on.  As the army’s top supply officer, Somervell faced difficult tasks complicated by ongoing disputes with civilian leaders charged with industrial mobilization and war production.  Somervell fought to ensure that the army could set its own procurement goals, which in a wartime economy were strained to the limit, this was no small matter, and eventually, both sides had to settle for a compromising solution. Similar accommodations resulted from disputes over the use of scarce shipping, the distribution of lend-lease materials, and the control of the army and navy supply operations in the Pacific Ocean (Davidson, 1996).  Having discussed the history of logistics in World War II, we will examine the evolution of logistics in World War II.

Evolution of Logistics

Because of their logistic importance, fabrication and assembly plants, highway networks, ports and canals became a primary focus.  Developments in mechanized, aerial, and amphibious warfare made the logistic support of armed forces vastly more complicated and extensive (Nelson, 1992).  The Japanese held practically all bases west of Hawaii shortly after the start of the war forcing ships to return to Hawaii for fuel.  There was a need for a replenishment program, and in 1942; the Navy had about three hundred tankers across the Southwest Pacific.  By 1945, the Navy saw the benefit of replenishment at sea and had reduced the tanker cycle from forty days to twenty-two days by replacing the tankers with faster models.  Replenishment at sea became the secret weapon of World War II increasing aviation fuel usage from one million gallons a month in 1943 to over two and half million gallons a month in 1944.  The increase in fuel availability led to the successful operations of the B-29 bombers and fuel never being in short supply while deployed again.  Now that the evolution of logistics in World War II are established, we will discuss the lasting effects of logistics in World War II.

Lasting Effects

This country has a significant advantage over any enemy, the biggest and one the U.S. will retain for decades is logistics.  When a discussion on U.S. defense strategy and power projection is happening, a logistics discussion follows.  The lesson learned from replenishments at sea, and fighting to control our own procurement led to the ability of refueling an aircraft carrier at sea with over one million gallons of fuel every eight days.  Logistics has created partnerships with UPS, DHL and FEDEX that allow logisticians across the globe to ship material from any point to the war fighter in twenty-four hours.  The practice of understanding logistics leads to the entire military’s show of strength though presence and support of the Navy’s 21st Century Maritime Strategy.

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 In summary, this essay covered the history of logistics in World War II, the evolution of logistics in World War II and the lasting effects of logistics in World War II.  The overall effect of logistics enhanced wartime procedures.  The achievements of logistics in World War II were gratifying to the nation, but more important was the fact that senior leadership now understood the new role logistics was providing the military behind our nation’s success.  As General Dwight D. Eisenhower said “ You will find it difficult to prove that battles, campaigns and even wars have been won or lost primarily because of logistics”(Wissler, 2014).


  • Davidson, J. R. (1996).  Supplying the troops: General somervell and american logistics in WW II Organization of American Historians.
  • Hahn, W.H., “Naval Logistics in WW II.,” 1945.  Student papers, RG-13.  Naval Historical Collection.  Retrieved from https://www.usnwcarchives.org/repositories/2/ archival_ objects/10167.
  • Nelson, H. W. (1992).  LOGISTICS IN WORLD WAR II: FINAL REPORT OF THE ARMY SERVICE FORCES.  Retrieved from https://history.army.mil/html /books /070/70-29/ CMH_Pub_70-29.pdf.
  • Wissler, J. E. (2014).  Logistics: The Lifeblood of Military Power.  Retrieved from https://www.heritage.org/military-strength/topical-essays/logistics-the-lifeblood-military-power.


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