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Did the Ocean Going supply line come close to failing


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#1 Hairog

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Posted 06 December 2011 - 03:12 PM

Being a creature of history I know the failings of logistics and their effect on war. My question is did the Allied effort to supply some of their various invasions ever come close to failing just because of shear volume of needed supplies? Not through enemy action like the Battle for the Atlantic but just because of lack of cargo vessels? In WWII did a supply line made up of ships ever come close to failing not because of enemy action but by shear volume of supply required?

I read constantly about how this or that offensive or attack stalled because of lack of supply. Was it ever due to lack of shipping alone?
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#2 belasar

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Posted 06 December 2011 - 03:34 PM

Seems to me only Guadelcanal came close, but that was enemy action. North Africa for the Axis, but again enemy action mainly and ports mainly.
Wars are rarely fought in black and white, but in infinite shades of grey

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#3 Marmat

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Posted 06 December 2011 - 04:00 PM


The Japanese would've eventually ground down even without combat, their merchant marine was inadequate to meet even their peacetime needs. The SE Asian routes were quite lucrative, even with shipping losses inthe Atlantic, British, Norwegian & neutral US shipping plied them for hard cash (Norway's Gov't in Exile, unlike other occupied nations, paid its own way). They lost that shipping when they started the war.

Likewise, the Italians lost a large chunk of their merchant marine at the get go.
When Mussolini declared war on 10 June, 1940, to gain a place at the dismember France peace table, 218 ships of some 1,215,000 tons, amounting to 35% of the Italian Merchant Marine were caught in enemy or neutral ports outside of the Med., most of it was seized - it went downhill from there.

The British
Dodecanese Islands campaign of Oct. 1943 was a dud because of a lack of everything, shipping included.

Edited by Marmat, 06 December 2011 - 04:14 PM.
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#4 Carronade

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Posted 06 December 2011 - 05:02 PM

As you say, hairog, supply and shipping were key constraints, but they manifested themselves in terms of major operations not being able to be started until sufficient supplies and ships were available. At least for the western Allies, I'm not aware of any invasion or campaign getting underway and then faltering because the ships to support it literally did not exist.

Marmat, good point about Mussolini. He seems to have been as surprised as the French or British by the rapidity with which France was defeated!
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#5 Hairog

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Posted 06 December 2011 - 10:16 PM

Great information so far. That is pretty interesting about the Italian merchant marine. I never heard that before.

Looking up British Dodecanese Islands campaign now. :)
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#6 Victor Gomez

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Posted 07 December 2011 - 01:56 AM

Perhaps you could say it had a period of failure before it became successful........the inability to continue to re-supply the troops on Bataan led to MacArthur having to leave his troops there where they were captured and imprisoned. Many perished and many survivors suffered horrible conditions with this over extension of our troops. I believe this is the action that best fits your description.

#7 Hairog

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Posted 07 December 2011 - 02:40 PM

From further research it appears that most operations gradually built up a depot in a safe area relatively close to the beachhead and from there fed supplies. Was there ever an effort that relied on continuous supply from a long distance or a kind of a bridge of ships as it were? Even Operation Torch seems to have used England for its depot and did not get direct supply from the US.

So it appears to be a kind of anaconda approach where you have a series of big meals slowly moving down the snakes body to the tail. What was the longest distance that such a depot was from it's beachhead I wonder? Something in the Pacific no doubt.

I would think the Soviets at the end of the Siberian RR in Manchuria would hold the supply line record for over land.
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#8 brndirt1

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Posted 07 December 2011 - 04:34 PM

The extreme distances in the PTO did put a strain on the supply lines, especially ships as is attested to in this section devoted to the Quartermaster Corp. I don't know of any invasions or such that were endangered by this specifically, but they may have been delayed at least.

Long supply lines. The huge size of the Pacific Theater, which had to be subdivided into three separate spheres – the South Pacific, Central Pacific, and Southwest Pacific commands, respectively – made for unprecedented long lines of communication. Roughly 3,000 miles separated the New York port of embarkation, the Quartermaster Corps’ main shipping center on the East coast, from England and France. Yet more than twice that amount of ocean (6,200 miles) lay between San Francisco on the West coast, and Brisbane, Australia, where most Quartermaster supplies in the Southwest Pacific were sent and received. Instead of the 55 to 60 days it usually took for a supply ship to go from New York to Liverpool, the trip from San Francisco to Brisbane often lasted four or five months – nearly two to three times longer. When items had to be moved from point to point within theater, the journey could be extended to upwards of 8,000 miles.

Such long lines of communication placed a heavy premium on reliable shipping. Yet a persistent worldwide shipping shortage that lasted for much of the war meant that Quartermasters had to compete for precious cargo space with other service branches. Shipping delays also led to more deterioration and mass spoilage. At the same time long supply lines increased the chances of accidents and enemy interdiction.


Goto:


Quartermaster Supply in the Pacific During World War II

Now try to imagine the mental challenge that would be for those who decided what to ship, when to ship it, and figure in the multi-month delay between embarking port to debarking port.
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#9 Carronade

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Posted 07 December 2011 - 05:02 PM

In the Pacific, the lack of port facilities meant that ships could wait weeks to be unloaded, adding further to the total trip time.

On the other hand, the unenterprising Japanese use of submarines meant that for much of the route, cargo ships did not need to travel in convoy. Ships could cruise at their best or most economical speed, and large numbers would not arrive all at once, further overloading port facilities. In the Atlantic it was estimated that the mere act of convoying reduced imports to Britain by 1/3 even without loss of ships.

#10 Marmat

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Posted 07 December 2011 - 06:22 PM

... loss/lack of shipping by late 1944 were ... the US Military Services! The British had learned to maximise shipping realatively early on, because they had no choice.

Using British standards, adding up the various US sources of loss (i.e. the major British beefs) gives a total of approx. 9,000,000 deadweight tonnes; or almost twice the weight of shipping the US lost during the war from all causes! Small potatoes compared to what wastage was due to the British, at the time.

The problem was so severe, the British appealed to FDR who despatched a memo direct to the Chief's of Staff, to the US Theatre Commanders, dated Dec. 9th, 1944.

In brief, it points out:

- primarily due to the retention of a large number of vessels in the 4 major theatres of war, inability to discharge or release promptly, ships sent to areas where congestion is present.

Commanders directed to:

- use of ocean going ships for storage is prohibited.
- schedule to port and discharge capacities.
- selective discharge, partial unloading prohibited.
- misuse of large ocean going shipping by diversion or delay to discharge or load small loads discontiued.
- detailed ship postion & employment to be sent to Washington.
- Single Theatre Commander appointed shipping control agency recommended.
- The War and Navy Dept's charged with ensuring, utilizing etc.

Using ships as store houses was the biggest problem. The British report dealt only with the misuse of ships,

"they take no account of the waste (by British standards) that occurred because the US scales of equipment were (by comparison with the British) unduly lavish ..."


Those darn shippin' stealin' Quartermasters!

Edited by Marmat, 08 December 2011 - 12:02 AM.
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