Sunday, January 17, 2010

Services of Supply in WWII, ETO

On their left shoulder, the men of the 519th Port Bn wore an oval patch featuring a blue star, red lightning bolts and a broken chain on a blue field. This was the insignia of the European Theater of Operations, US Army (ETOUSA). After the formation of the Supreme Allied Headquarters in February 1994, ETOUSA focused on the administration and supply of US troops. The insignia represents this function by incorporating the blue star and white petal-shaped field of the Service of Supply (SOS). The US Army's Transportation Corp was a part of the SOS, along with the Quartermasters, Medical Corp, Engineers, Ordnance, Signal Corp, Chemical Warfare Service, and Military Police. Bruce Kramlich, from 519th HQ, saved a little book printed in Paris in 1945. The following quote is from pages 12-13 of Randolph Leigh's American Enterprise in Europe: The Role of the SOS in the defeat of Germany:

And after the forward fighters of ground and air came the soldiers of the Services of Supply. These were the armed men who represented American industry transported to Europe to fight it out with German industry under most unfavorable conditions. Often within the combat area the men of the SOS performed with courage and ingenuity the multitudinous tasks put upon them. Heavy tasks, generally prosaic and often miserable. Members of the port battalions—men on the docks unloading ships—railway men—truck drivers...
Men piling ammunition in dumps scattered through lonely forests—men moving masses of supplies in and out of bleak warehouses—men building camps and staging areas in muddy fields...
Men covered with grease and grime as they work upon locomotives in gloomy roundhouses— locomotives men building highways by hand and by bulldozer—men rebuilding railroads destroyed by bombs, shells, and demolition explosives...
Men driving DUKWs, lighters, barges, Rhinos—men going without sleep on all sorts of transportation runs, including the famous Red Ball...
Thousands of men doing their duty wherever they happened to be, in defiance of danger and exhaustion.

Despite the author's excessive and often grammatically inappropriate use of em dashes, I think the above passage provides an evocative impression of the work done by my grandfather's outfit, and the SOS as a whole.

Note: If you don't happen to know a WWII veteran with a copy to lend, you can order a PDF of American Enterprise in Europe from Merriam Press.

3 comments:

  1. I just found my grandfather's WWII uniform and it has this patch on it. Was the 519th the only battalion to wear it?

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  2. My father also wore this patch. He was with the 38th Infantry Regiment until he was wounded in Feb 1945. In April 1945 he was assigned to "a town Majors office of the headquarter of the Oise Intermediate Section (Engineers). So I would assume other units wore this patch as well.

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  3. I've been meaning to pick up one of the books on WWII patches. I've heard the Eisenhower helped design this SOS patch.

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