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NEWS | Feb. 23, 2022

Three Ways Black Soldiers Played Pivotal Role in Army Logistics

By Katie Nelson 402nd AFSB Public Affairs Officer

FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii -- Black Americans have served and sacrificed in every conflict in the history of the United States, contributing greatly the U.S. Army and the freedom of our nation. The development and advancement of Army logistics can be attributed in great part to Black Soldiers.

Prior to the desegregation of the military in 1948 by President Harry Truman, the majority of Black Soldiers served in logistics-related fields under the Services of Supply branch, according to the National Archives.

Many of the fundamentals of Army logistics today can be traced to the Services of Supply branch of the Army during World War II. Historians across disciplines have researched these contributions and the results are not only fascinating, but ones to be celebrated and discussed more.

1) U.S. Army sustainers can look to the Red Ball Express to learn how to overcome under established and broken infrastructure when planning and preparing for Large Scale Combat Operations. The Red Ball Express, established during World War II, delivered fuel and materiel to Soldiers across France through motor transportation convoys. Due to the damaged rail infrastructure from the war, and the fast pace of the mission, sustainers faced logistical challenges to delivery necessary supplies. The Allied forces relied heavily on the Red Ball Express drivers, the majority of whom were African American, to meet their supply needs. The sustainment provided by the Red Ball Express led to the success of the Allied forces in Europe.

Learn more: The Red Ball Express: Past Lessons for Future Wars

2) Private George Watson, a member of 29th Quartermaster Regiment during World War II, was one of seven Black Soldiers awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton in 1997. While six of the recipients served in combat units, Pvt. Watson was recognized for his courageous efforts saving others after enemy bombers hit the U.S. Army transport ship he was on while off the coast of New Guinea. Watson ultimately drowned with the ship.

Learn more: Logisticians Celebrate Black History Month

3) War historian and member of the editorial board for the Quarterly Journal of the Army War College, Douglas Bristol, Jr., profiled four Black Quartermasters in World War II, sharing their experiences and how these Soldiers, and others like them, were indispensable in the success of the U.S. Army in the European and Pacific theaters.
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