Northern Illinois University Press

Supplying the Troops

General Somervell and American Logistics in WWII

John Kennedy Ohl

"Makes crystal clear how the personality and energy of one man can shape large organizations and influence the course of world events. It earns Somervell a place in the front rank with George C. Marshall, Douglas MacArthur, and Dwight D. Eisenhower as a shaper of the Allied victory."—Parameters

"A signal contribution to our knowledge of the war and those who led it.... A superb study."—American Historical Review

In World War II, the United States mounted a military effort of unprecedented magnitude and complexity. With more than 11 million soldiers to be armed, fed, clothed, and transported, logistcs—including the design, procurement, distribution, and movements of supplies and the transportation of troops—became big business.

General Brehon B. Somervell, a brilliant military-industrial manager, led the army's wartime logistical operation. Sometimes criticized as a big spender, he understood well the decisive role of superior material and mobility. As America's chief wartime logistician, he demanded ample supplies for the troops, at the right place at the right time.

A graduate of West Point, Somervell served his country in both the military and civilian arenas. As head of the Works Progress Administration in New York City, he won recognition for his effective management; later, he helped prepare the nation for war by building training camps and munitions plants. At the height of his career, as head of the War Department Services of Supply—known later as the Army Service Forces—Somervell was responsible for the supply and administration of the army within the United States and the support of troops overseas. He also was the War Department's principal logistical advisor and troubleshooter. In these ways, Somervell played a vital role in the mobilization of forces and powerfully influenced the United States' conduct of the war.

In this much-needed biography, Ohl illuminates the centrality of logistics in the Allied path to victory over the Axis powers and also shows how the interaction of military, political, and business leaders during the war helped to shape national policy. Ohl bases his study on exhaustive research in the National Archives, on manuscript collections, and on oral histories and interviews.

(1994) 341 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-87580-185-8
cloth $38.50

Table of Contents

1 Soldier and Manager
2 A One-Man Show
3 Construction Division
4 Organizing for War
5 Industrial Mobilization
6 Shipping
7 The Allied Supply Orbit
8 War Department Battles
9 Canol
10 Logistics and Strategy, 1942-1943
11 Logistics and Strategy, 1943
12 Logistics and Strategy, 1944-1945
13 Industrial Manager

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-185-8
cloth $38.50