By 1st LT. Charles A. Rogers
Quartermaster Review July-August 1951
Nailed to a tree on a typical dust-laden Korean road, a roughly lettered cardboard plaque reads: “______QM.” Innocuous and insignificant, it in no way reveals what it symbolizes: nine months of history, problems, and combat operations of the 1st Cavalry Division’s Quartermaster section in Korea.
The sign was first planted at Pohang, Korea, on the morning of July 18, 1950. Under Lt. Col. Marcus E. Cooper, then division Quartermaster advanced elements of the Quartermaster section made the amphibious assault landing with the 1st Cavalry Division. With them was a platoon of sixteen trucks loaded with B and C rations which were transferred to freight cars for immediate shipment to the front. The remaining two truck platoons arrived four days later.
In the early days of the war the outnumbered cavalry troops fought a delaying action. No sooner had division Quartermaster set up supply dumps at Kwan-ni than they were ordered to re-establish at Kumchon, eight miles to the rear. For the following fourteen days, 15th Quartermaster Company’s entire truck fleet was used exclusively to move troops; supplies were handled by rail.
Moving back beyond the now historic Naktong River line, the division Quartermaster’s shingle appeared in Taegu. It was here that the first Class II and IV dumps were established. They were sorely needed, for the series of tactical withdrawals by the line troops had forced abandonment of much equipment. Operations during this period were relatively normal. Intact rail lines carried most of the load while Quartermaster trucks hauled refugees and transported indigenous labor to engineer construction sites. Trucks remained on a twenty-four-hour alert to assist in moving the division’s reserve troops to any point in the military sector where the enemy attempted to pierce the defense line.
On the United Nations breakthrough to the north in September, 1950, one truck platoon was attached to the 7th Cavalry Regiment and another to the 8th Cavalry Regiment. They carried B rations, C rations and POL items in support of the spearheading columns. Meanwhile, elements of the 15th Quartermaster Company remaining in Taegu moved to establish dumps at Chongju, a hundred miles to the north. Movement precluded the use of rail in this operation as rail lines north of the Taegu perimeter had been heavily damaged by the Air Force.
When the 1st Cavalry Division linked up with the UN forces that had landed at Inchon, Quartermaster trucks were the first convoys over the road. Although UN forces had passed through the area, thousands of enemy still lurked in the hills and villages. Led by tanks, Quartermaster trucks were afforded necessary security by the division’s 16th Reconnaissance Company.
As Kimpo airfield near Seoul was opened, division Quartermaster truck platoons embarked on a hectic thirteen-day operation. Shuttling flown-in supplies from the airfield required twenty- to twenty-two-hour-a-day truck operation. Maintenance during this period was handled solely by platoon mechanics.
When the 1st Cavalry Division pushed across the 38th parallel the trucking problem became even more acute. With divisional dumps located at Kaesong, just south of the parallel, the turn-around mileage total to the supply point at Inchon was more than 160 miles. Rail lines were inoperative.
During this same period division Quartermaster troops received their baptism of fire from the enemy. Halted at a roadside, a division Quartermaster convoy commander was informed by Korean civilians that enemy tanks lay in ambush a short distance up the road. Four navy fighter planes were brought in to flush out the tanks. The tanks were flushed, but instead of retreating they mounted the road and raced towards the halted convoy. In the ensuing action, the convoy hurriedly reversed direction, leaving behind one stalled truck and six trailers, unable to turn on the narrow road. The tanks pursued the convoy, firing on the run. After a four-mile chase, the convoy met a column of friendly tanks which took over the battle.
Winter was at hand when the 1st Cavalry Division captured Pyongyang, the North Korean capital city. It marked the beginning of the largest single operation undertaken by the division Quartermaster section. Working day and night, Quartermaster clothed and equipped the entire division for winter operations in three weeks.
Late in November, 1950, Quartermaster trucks were substituted for ambulances when the intervening Chinese Communists encircled the 2nd Infantry Division. Together with the division surgeon and G-4, the division Quartermaster rushed with twelve trucks to the battle site to supervise evacuation of the wounded.
With the growing strength and stabilization of combat operations in February, 1951, duties of the division Quartermaster’s office have returned to normal.
There is no geographical point in Korea from which mountains cannot be seen. Because of this, 1st Cavalry Division’s Quartermaster section has been faced with a constantly recurring transportation problem. Primarily, the mountainous terrain has caused an unanticipated wear on vehicles, which in turn has increased the deadline average. This is intensified by separate ordnance problems in obtaining replacement parts. In March, 1951, the deadline average was more than 25 per cent; the highest deadline figure recorded during the first eight months in Korea was 56 per cent.
Dirt roads, initially poor, coupled with extremes in weather conditions have slowed down convoys and tied up vehicles committed to long runs such as a 190-mile turn-around. This particular route takes about eighteen hours to complete.
Rail lines were inadequate to begin with. Because of the type of warfare involved at this stage of the campaign, the tactical situation usually precludes rail implementation. When the Eighth U.S. Army was compressed within the Taegu perimeter, all rail facilities to the north and west were prime Air Force targets. Withdrawing from North Korea in November and December, 1950, those remaining were for the most part demolitioned.
What is the answer? Lt. Col. James P. Streetman, who became 1st Cavalry Division Quartermaster in December 1950, believes the solution lies in augmenting authorized trucking personnel and equipment with a cellular-type unit. This would allow an essential flexibility to trucking units engaged in a Korean-type operation.
Because of the massive trucking and maintenance problems, need for a Table of Organization-authorized motor officer has been critical. Exigencies have made it necessary to remove an officer from another T/O slot and assign him as motor officer.
Much difficulty has been encountered in locating good sites for supply dumps. Limitations are endless because Korea consists almost entirely of sharp-angled rocky hills and soft, wet rice-paddy land.
A sharp drop in temperature accompanied the movement to the north, necessitating reclothing the entire division as it moved and fought. The inherent problems encountered in accomplishing an issue of this proportion on short notice are obvious.
Another recurring problem has been the logistic support of troops in excess of the number for which 1st Cavalry Division’s Quartermaster section has been designed. At Taegu, in August, 1950, division Quartermaster serviced more than 30,000 troops in addition to operating an ice plant. In early April, 1951, they were servicing more than 28,000 troops, the excess being mostly corps non-divisional units.
First Cavalry Division’s Quartermaster section has also been confronted with the necessity of providing special diets for other United Nations forces. Huge quantities of olive oil and bread are consumed by the Greeks. Thailanders require a large issue of hot sauce and a specially imported rice from Thailand.
Turnover of division Quartermaster personnel has approximated 40 per cent in eight and one-half months of operations; only two men have lost their lives, one a battle casualty, the other in a motor accident.
Obtaining indigenous labor has presented no particular problem. Throughout the campaign the Koreans have been most cooperative. They work in the dumps willingly, the only problems occurring when Quartermaster was located in an area from which the refugees had fled. Typical was the pastor of a Korean church who came to the division Quartermaster at Sangju to offer the labor services of his congregation.
Responsibility for feeding the indigenous help falls to Quartermaster. Earlier in the war the QM Purchasing & Contracting Officer bought rice for the laborers. Currently, an authorized ration is in effect. For one hundred men per day it includes: 150 pounds of rice 20 pounds of fish; 25 pounds of dried peas; and 2 pounds of salt.
Among the most active small units in the Field Service Platoon is the division Quartermaster Grave Registration Section.
While on occupation duty in Japan the Graves Registration Section had been carried only on paper. Moving to Korea on a ten-day notice, a Graves Registration Section was hurriedly assembled. One officer and six enlisted men, clerks, and supply personnel, were assigned the job. This small section, in addition to normal functions, established and opened most of the UN cemeteries in Korea-six in all. They were eventually taken over by the Eighth Army.
In operation, Graves Registration Section usually sets up a collecting point near a rear supply area. Regiments evacuate bodies to that point. Beginning with basic identification procedures, dog tags, and certificates of identity from the deceased’s friends are obtained. Fingerprints, laundry marks in clothing, scars, tattoos, and examination by a dental officer for comparison with file copies kept in Washington, are usually combined when identification is difficult. Process of elimination is also employed, wherein original location of the body is carefully noted and checked with the military unit operating in that exact area at the time of death. From there, small unit records are consulted. After identity is established, an inventory of personal effects is made and the items turned over to the proper agency. The body is affixed with proper identification and interred, after services by a chaplain of the deceased’s faith, if known. Numerous records are made to insure positive later identification.
Ranked high in field service operation’s are the Laundry & Bath Sections. A great morale factor all troops, a laundry unit arrived and was put into use eight weeks after the 1st Cavalry Division arrived in Korea. Two trailers comprised the unit, one carrying the washing drum, extractor, and hot-water heater, the other containing the tumbler and jeep-engine-powered electric generator. One of the problems confronting the Laundry & Bath Section was procurement of replacement parts. In many cases the division ordnance section built the parts from raw stock. Lesser maintenance operations were handled by the section. Typical of the field expedients they developed was substitution of rifle slings for engine belting and pulleys. Advent of the Korean winter made it necessary to keep valves open on all water lines to prevent freezing, even at mid-day.
Nine months in Korea has yielded answers to many operational questions. It takes two hours for the unit to pack up preparatory to a road march. The same length of time is necessary to get into operation upon arrival at a new location. Two squad tents are necessary to house a single laundry unit and its allied functions. According to the “book” a thirty-minute laundering formula is recommended. However, because of heavy workloads encountered, the running time has been reduced to nineteen minutes. Experience has taught that twenty-four-hour operation of the unit is not advisable. One hour rest in every twelve has proved the most satisfactory solution. One 120-pound barrel of powdered detergent lasts a single laundry unit approximately six days. During the first two months of the war, regular detergent was unavailable. Melted GI soap proved the best and most readily available substitute.
During February, 1951, the division Quartermaster established a clothing exchange system. Through this medium cavalry troops using the Quartermaster bath units removed their soiled clothing, showered, and were issued clean clothes from a laundered stock-pile in a matter of minutes. Advent of the clothing exchange system eliminated any slack periods in the laundry unit operation and furnished a continuous backlog of work. Current output of a single unit for one day of unhindered operation averages 3,000 pounds. Highest output recorded for two units in a single day is 7,500 pounds.
First Cavalry Division Quartermaster is authorized four bath units, each equipped with twenty-four shower heads. Clothing exchange sections are attached to two of the bath units with a total of five men operating each combined installation. Three squad tents are employed, one for clothing exchange, one as a dressing room, and the other housing the bath. Primary problem encountered by the clothing exchange section is the quantity of unserviceable soiled clothing turned in for serviceable laundered clothing. This clothing exchange issue is directly supplemented by the Quartermaster dumps. When clothing exchange first came into operation, unserviceable socks averaged 75 per cent. This has since diminished to 30 per cent. Unserviceable trousers once averaged 50 per cent; this now stands at 20 per cent. The drop partially reflects greater availability of laundering facilities. The laundry unit now rotates through the division once every ten days. A goal of once a week has been set.
Three enlisted men and one warrant officer form the Food Service Section. Faced with getting food to the soldier in the best possible manner, including procuring, moving, stacking, storing, and issuing, most of their time is spent on the road.
“A complete and continuous follow-through and check is essential to an effective field program,” said CWO William G. Kummer, division food service supervisor, in summarizing his activity.
After preparing the menu, a complete check is made down to company level to insure proper implementation. An average day includes a visit to the divisional ration dump to check on items being issued and a check with regimental commanders prior to visiting company messes. At the company mess site a check is made of equipment, maintenance, preparation of food, size of portions, sanitation, storage, and washing facilities. Constant effort is made to serve front line troops at least two hot meals daily.
Among the problems encountered by the Food Service Section is procuring enough spices, lard, and sugar for baking. Although authorized quantities are received, it has been found that young soldiers desire sweet baked desserts, both as a morale factor and a quick source of energy. Bakers with the division are capable of producing baked desserts to accompany two meals a day, tactical situation permitting. However, limitations of the normal issue preclude this. Food Service technicians feel that a readjusted issue of baking ingredients would be a simple solution.
Shortage of spare parts for field range burners also has been a problem. Occasionally cooks have had to build open wood fires in ditches as an expedient.
It has been found that the combat loss of emersion water heaters has been high. As a substitute fifty-gallon drums, with proper scouring and tops removed, placed over an open wood fire, have been used.
Can-openers have been a critical item. It wasn’t until March, 1951, that the table-top model was locally authorized. During the shortage, newspaper campaigns for can-openers as donations helped alleviate the situation.
Use of field range splash-plates for cake and pie pans has been a widespread expedient; also, the World War II innovation of converting luncheon meat cans into bread pans has been revived.
The monotony of a regular B ration diet has caused complaint. Food Service personnel have been most active in experimenting with new ways of preparing B’s. The supplemented B ration currently in issue met with great approval by the troops.
The food container, insulated, 1944, has served well. Light, compact, and efficient, it has been especially useful in hand-carrying food to troops on near-inaccessible mountain ridges. Another great improvement born of the war has been powdered dehydrated potatoes and milk. They have been well received by troops and kitchen personnel alike.
Hot cakes have sold like hot cakes. Typical is the 5th Cavalry Regiment’s M Company, which, depending on the tactical situation, serves hot cakes from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m. daily.
CWO Kummer, who came to Korea as food supervisor with the 1st Cavalry Division in July, 1950, has this advice for Korean-duty food-service prospectees:
“Learn everything you can about Class I operations in detail. Learn how to prepare issue slips. Learn the quantities of all types of foods on an issue basis of 100 men for one day. Understand storage under all weather conditions. Learn as many ways of preparing B rations as possible.”
In conclusion, it can be well noted that in addition to the moral issues so bitterly contested in Korea today, one of the beneficial by-products has been knowledge.
First Cavalry Division’s Quartermaster section came to Korea green and untried for the type of operation in store for them. Today, because of knowledge obtained the hard way in the field of combat-they comprise. an efficient, closely-knit unit capable of meeting and defeating combined problems of a nature heretofore unprecedented in Quartermaster history.