An Army on Wheels
By Corporal Mel Scott
The Quartermaster Review
An article on the 2nd Quartermaster Company, 2nd Infantry Division in Korea
A long procession of trucks moved slowly down the main U. S. supply route toward a railhead. A sentry walking his post remarked: “It looks like a division moving up. I wonder which one. I haven’t seen so many trucks since I came to Korea. There must be a hundred.”
The soldier was stretching his imagination somewhat, for it wasn’t a division, nor a hundred trucks. But there were seventy trucks and they were – and still are – an important part of the 2nd Infantry Division.
These were the men and trucks of the 2nd Quartermaster Company on their way to pick up supplies. This was the small contingent that had kept the Indianhead Division fed, fueled, supplied, and clothed through its tough campaign in South Korea. They were continuing their work in North Korea.
With a little over two hundred officers and men, plus eighty-four vehicles, the 2nd QM has built an impressive record, believed to be unsurpassed by any unit of comparable size. “As a Quartermaster company the record these men have set is untouchable,” said Captain William T. Hunt, of Richmond, Indiana, a hard-driving, strict disciplinarian, but a well-liked company commander.
The Captain, although undoubtedly a little partial, was correct according to the unit’s record books. During the gloomy days when the North Korean invaders were driving spearheads deeper and deeper into the Pusan defense perimeter, the company did a back-breaking job delivering the goods where they were needed.
Bent on accomplishing the ultimate, Quartermaster drivers pushed through in the face of all obstacles. Said one GI, while toiling over a flat tire, “We tried our best to live up to our motto of ‘Keep ‘Em Rolling’; most of the time we made it through fire.”
Before the Army trucking units arrived in Korea, the company took on the dual role of a TC-QM outfit. Its trucks ferried troops from ships at Pusan, carried supplies from railheads, and sometimes had to smash roadblocks in order to get to the front. This meant day and night driving, under enemy sniper fire. These “gallant rubber booters” slept whenever and wherever they could, and, like the infantry, sometimes they didn’t sleep at all. There were not enough men to afford assistant drivers, and they carried sleeping rolls in the space usually devoted to them.
On numerous occasions, when unit service companies were tied up in other operations, master truckers had to haul the supplies and ammo all the way to assaulting forces. The following episode occurred in September:
The enemy had established a roadblock on the MSR leading to the Yongsan-Changyong sector. A medium field artillery battalion was in urgent need of ammunition, but a captain ordered the unit’s ammo trucks not to make the run. A 2nd QM convoy, loaded with 155-mm. shells, by-passed the stalled convoy to the needy battalion. No one was injured.
When the United Nations army started to roll from the south, the company was forced to travel three hundred miles round-trip to reach the forward elements of the division. Later, truck-heads were established at three separate points to accommodate speeding columns after the Naktong crossing.
Enemy guerrillas concealed in rice paddies, trees, and on hillsides, were the biggest menace to 2nd QM drivers. Almost every truck in the company bears bullet scars.
One night in September an enemy group waited for the last of seven trucks, and when the others were out of sight, a machine-gun opened up, shattering the windshield. The driver, Corporal Fred Gonzalez of San Francisco, pulled over, took cover under truck, and waited for help. The guerrillas didn’t come down to investigate.
On another occasion a truck loaded with beef and gravy hit a soft shoulder and rolled down a sixty-foot embankment. The driver, Corporal Peter Isaacson of St. Louis County, Minnesota, jumped free of danger. After three hours of steady labor the beef-and-gravy was recovered by a five-man crew. A four-ton wrecker got the truck out next morning.
Altogether, four “six-by’s” have been accidentally driven over cliffs, but not a single vehicle has been lost, nor a life. The excellent maintenance is ban by six GI’s of the company’s motor section, headed by M/Sgt. Ernest B. Schell, of Hopewell, Virginia.
The section had changed over four hundred tires and installed sixty front springs on 21/2-tons, alone. As of 25 October the unit’s eighty-three jeeps, weapons-carriers, and trucks have traveled over 220,000 miles since landing at Pusan.
“We’ve had to go miles out of the way just to get spare parts from wreckage,” said Sergeant Schnell, “but we had to do it to keep the boys on the road.”
Actually the company’s table of authorization calls for eighty-three vehicles, but it presently has eighty-four. A North Korean Russian-made jeep that the marines captured was repaired, painted, and varnished, and turned over to Lt. Col. Arnold C. Gilliam, division Quartermaster officer.
Drivers and mechanics were not alone in building the company’s standard. At one time the ration break-down section, headed by Lieutenant Harry E. McCormack, of Oakland, California, was feeding, in addition to the 2nd Division, elements of the 24th Division, a Marine brigade, a Puerto Rican regiment, a field hospital, and an MP company – a total of 36,000 troops.
Daily the section issues over 110,000 pounds of rations – flour, beans, meat, fruits, and vegetables – to the “Second to None” Division. Lieutenant McCormack has nineteen men in his section.
Another important section on which the Division depends is Class III – petroleum. The section has had as many as 2,000 barrels of fuel on hand at a time. It normally distributes 30,000 gallons of gasoline a day. At the start of the Division’s offensive across the Naktong, the 25-man crew unloaded eleven box-cars in less than nine hours, in the rain and knee-deep in mud. Sergeant E. J. McGuire of Gould City, Michigan, is one of the section’s top men.
A field service unit, broken down into three categories, does many of the Division’s odd jobs. Three Slower units accommodate eight thousand troops daily. A laundry unit washes and dries 1,.500 pieces every twelve hours. The unit has washed and restocked 150,000 tons of clothing recovered on the road during the hot spell.
The graves registration section buried one thousand dead during the severe fighting. The deceased lie at rest in the United Nations Military Cemetery at Miryang, Korea.
Also in the thick of things is the twelve-man mess crew, operating on a 24-hour-a-day basis so that men can always have hot chow.
The procession had passed. Only a low cloud of dust could be seen in the distance. The 2nd Quartermaster was rolling on.