The final book of the trilogy on army supply

The final  book of the trilogy on army supply
The third of my books on army supply

Wednesday 28 September 2016

The role of the USA in supplying the British Army


Bill Williams visited the USA on five occasions, the first two in the run up to D Day.

The RAOC already had good working relationships with the UK motor industry, but with so many supplies now coming from the US, new links had to be built and quickly.

In April and May 1943 Bill Williams had visited North Africa to learn at first hand the problems which faced Ordnance in the three opposed landings in North Africa, Sicily and Italy. The difficulties stemmed from the invading forces needing to be able to carry out immediate repairs to equipment in the field, under fire. This meant that the right spares had to be packed, that they must be in a size of box that can readily be carried or transported up a beach under fire, that the box can be stacked so as to be accessible, that they are clearly labelled with their contents and that the contents is preserved from damage from sea water or rough handling. Spares will not be handled with care.

Armed with this feedback from users he set out for a two month long trip to the United States, the purposes of which were to build relationships with the manufactures, to see for himself US war production, to stress the importance of spare parts and to explain his new proposals for the packing and preservation of stores. His PA prepared a full report of his visit and it is possible to read between the lines. The British were regarded as brave but possibly second class when compared to the much better organised and equipped US Army. Bill was, by his own admission, overawed by the US: New York was quite simply unlike anything he had ever seen. Nevertheless, he was not to be outdone and his tour showed a man genuinely interested in what he saw and keen to learn. Subsequent visits would see him giving very much as good as he got.

He visited Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Firestone and many other manufacturers as well as the massive US Ordnance Depots. He watched tanks on production lines and in tests. Henry Ford had been a pacifist but joined in the war effort with great energy once the USA joined the Allies. The first priority for Ford was Fordson tractors to address food shortages. 

The San Francisco News reported of Bill that , ‘he left North Africa six weeks ago, having gone there to get what he calls “the customer viewpoint” about how the equipment is proving out under actual campaign conditions’. They quoted him as saying of the Allied victory in North Africa, “a magnificent example of United States, British and French co-operation and a tribute to American equipment.” He singled out the Sherman Tank and the Jeep, “especially when driven by a WAAC, but who doesn’t!” The Los Angles Examiner put it even more strongly, “American made weapons played the major role in the Allied victory in North Africa. General Sherman tanks are the best in the world. They completely smashed Rommel’s panzer divisions.” 

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