You are on page 1of 9

.

THE MILITARY RAILWAY SERVICE

UP TO THE ITALIAN CAMPAIGN

Major General Carl R. Gray, Jr., U8A

Director General of the Military Railway Service in World War II

This is the jil'st, uf two aJ,ticlcs by as they affected the whole course of the
GeneJ'a1 Gray, The second a)'ticle will campaign.
deal lOith the -Military RaillOay 8m'v­ Let us l{Jok into the record of var'ious
ice in Italy and N OJ·thwcst Em'ope and wars and find out how the rail transport
lOill be published in the June issue of of troops and supplies developed.
the J1'llLITARY REVIEW. Geneml In 1830, on the opening of the Liver­
Grall ),p(:cntly succeeded Genc1'al pool and Manchester Railway, a British
Oil/it)' N, B)'adley as the Administm­ regiment was moved thirty-four miles in
to)' of Fetel-a1/.~ AfJail·s.-The Editor. two hours, as against two days of march­

I N the practical application of a service,


such as the Military Railway Service, un­
ing, Far-sighted army men then realized
that the introduction 'of rail transport
would have a powerful influence on future
dl'l' battle conditions, a great many devia­ conduct of war.
tiOllS from approved pl'actices were neces­
Early Developments
sary. It is my purpose to show how the
system worked, rather than how it was A German by the name of Fl'edel'ick
sUJlJlosed to work, and to renew the his­ Wilhelm Harkort, who had participated in
torical development of the authorities and the Napoleonic" Wars; came forward in
]'('s]lol1sihilities which were placed upon 18:1:1 with a plan to build a railway to
thosp of us in the service in order that connect the Wesel' with the Lippe and laid
special emphasis on its value to Germany
the'Y might be of benefit in future plan­
from a military point of view. 'Germany
ni,lg' and operations.
went forward in building its railways for
I :"fol'e we go into World War II con­
military purposes, and forged far ahead
Iii! ions, let us bring up to date a little
h:wk 1..,: -~,Ol'y. of France, so that by about 1845 it had
some 3,:)00 miles of railway, to only 1,000 p
\ writer said in l!114: "The extent to
in France. .
'1'1 ieh railways are being used in the
pr 'sent war by the nations has taken us In 1846, Prussia's Sixth Army Corps
C]u te hy surprise." of over 12,000 men together with horses,
'lUI' military historians, in their ac­ guns, road vehicles and ammunition was
co ,nts of what armies have done or have moved on two lines of railroad to Cracow.
fa ;cd to, dp, 'on the battlefield in the past, In 1849, a Russian Corps of 30,000 men
h" e too often disregarded such matters with all of its equipment was taken by
of ,letaihas how the armies got there, and rail from its cantonment in Poland to God­
th, pos~ible effect of good or defective ing, Moravia, to effect a junction with the
tl'; nspoi't conditions, including the main­ Austrian Army.
tel'ance of ~upplies and communications, The largest recorded movement of troops
,4 MILITARY REVIEW
I
by rail at' this time was the movement of "Washington City, February 11, 1862.
75,000 men, 8,000 horses and 1,000 ve­ "Ordered that D. C. McCallum be, and
hicles of the Austrian Army from Vienna he hereby is, appointed Military Director
and Hungary to the Silesian Frontier in and Superintendent of Railroads in the
. the early winter of 1850. United States, with authority to enter
It has been said that "such were the . upon, take possession of, hold and use
conditions under which the War of Seces­ all railroads, engines, cars, locomotives,
sion in the United States was fought, that fqui'pment, appendages, and appurte­
without the help of railways it could hard­ hanGes that may be required for the trans­
ly have been fought at all." The area of port of ,troops, army, ammunition and mili­
military operations was so vast as to tary supplies of the United States, and to
n€arly equal the whole of Europe. do and perform all acts and things that
The North, bent not simply on invasion .may ,be necessary and proper to be done fo})
but on reconquest of seceded Southern the $afe and speedy transport, aforesaid.
States, naturally took the offensive. Com­ By order of the President, Commander in
manders of field troops soon saw the para­ Chief of the Army and Navy of the United
mount importance and necessity of rail­ States, Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of
roads, so' the Federal Government took War."
possession of the Philadelphia-Wilmington­ Federal Operation
Baltimore Railway on 31 March 1861.
McCallum, who later became a general,
In January 1862, an Act of Congress actually took over for the Federal Govern­
entitled "An Act to authorize the Presi­ ment during the course of the war 2,105
dent of the United States in certain cases miles of railroad.
to take possession of Railroad and Tele­
graph Lines and for other purposes" was One 01 McCallum's greatest troubles
passed. It provided that when so done, also confronted us in World War II­
these lines "should be under the immediate various gauges from narrow to six-foot.
control and sqpervision of the Secretary As General Superintendent, and later
of War and such other agents as he might General Manager, he divided his forces
appoint." into a Transportation Department and a
Construction Department. In 1864, Gen­
Civil War Experience eral McCallum was authorized to procui'e
Thomas A. Scott, Vice President of the. locomotives and cars by the following
Pennsylvania Railroad, was made Assist­ order:
ant Secretary of War, under Secretary "In order to meet the wants of the Mili­
Stanton, and together with other far­ tary Department of the Government you
sighted men of that time, he made sure will deliver to his order such engines as
that this legislation, and the use of steam he may direct whether building under
railroads was approved. Scott and Secre­ orders for other parties or otherwise, the
tary Stanton selected Daniel Craig Mc­ Government being accountable to you for
Callum, who at the time of the outbreak the same. The urgent necessity of the
of the Civil War was General Superinten­ Government for the immediate supply of
dent of the Erie Railroad, to be the head our armies operating in Tennessee renders
of the Military Railway Service, just then the engines indispensable for the equip­
being organized. ment of the lines of communication and
It is most appropriate to see how def­ it is hoped that this necessity will be recog­
inite they were in those days in issuing nized by you as a military necessity para­
orders: mount to all other considerations-by 01'­
THE l\ULITARY RAILWAY SERVICE UP TO THE ITALI4N CAMPAIGN 5
del' of the President." It was signed by the from the Army of the Potamac. General
Secretary of War. Halleck, Commandet in Chief of the Army
Another order', designated as Special of the United States, contended that it
Order No. 337, dated at the War Depart­ was impossible to get an effective rein­
ment on 10 November 1862, could, and forcement there in time; and th'e Presi­
possibly shou'ld in different form, be util­ dent, after. hearing both sides, accepted
ized today. It reads as follows: the judgment of Halleck. Mr. Stanton
"Commanding officers of troops along put off the decision till evenIng, when he
the United States Military Railroads will and General Halleck were to be ready with
give all facilities to the officers of the details to support their conclusions. The
roads, and the quartermasters, for un­ Secretary then sent for General McCal­
loading cars so as to prevent any delay. lum, who was neither a lawyer nor a stra­
On arrival at depots, whether in the day tegist, but a master of railway science.
or night, the cars "'Will be instantly un. He (Mr. Stanton) showed how many of­
loaded, and working 'parties will always ficers, men, horses, and pieces of artillery
be in readiness for that duty, and suf­ and how much baggage it was proposed to
'jiciel1t to unload the whole train at once. move from the Rapidan to Tennessee, and
"Commanding Officers will be charged asked him (McCallum) to name the short­
with guarding the track, sidirtgs, wood, est time he would undertake to do it in
water tanks, etc., and within their several if his life depended on it.
commands, and will be held responsible "McCaJlum made sqme rapid calcula­
for the result. tions, jotted down some projects connected
"Any' military officer who shall neglect with the move, and named a time within
his duty in this respect will be reported that which Halleck had admitted would be
by the quartermasters and officers of the soon enough, if it were only possible; this
railroad, and his name will be' stricken time being conditioned on his (McCallum's)
fi'om the rolls of the Army. being able to control everything that he
"Depots will be established at suitable could reach. 'The Secretary was delighted,
points, under the dh'ection of the Com­ told him (McCallum) 'he would make him
manding General, and properly guarded. a Bl'igadier General the day the last train
'''No officer, whatever may be his rank, was safely unloaded; put him on his mettle
will interfere with the running of the by telling him of Halleck's assel~tion that
ears, .as directed by the Superintendent the thing was beyond human power; told
of the road. him to go to work and work out final
j'Anyone who so interferes will be dis­ calculations and projects, and to begin pre­
, missed from the service for disobedience liminary measures, using his (Mr. Stan­
of orders." ton's) name and authority everywhere; and
finally instructed him what to do and say
Importance of Railroads when he (Mr. Stanton) should send for
The following quotation from "Recol­ him by and by to come over to the Depart­
Ie, tions of Secretary Stanton," published ment. When the conference was resumed
in Cent1l1'Y Magazine in March, 1887, and McCallum was introduced, his appar­
sh. >ws how far railroads had gone in the ently spontaneous demonstrations of how
c(Plch,lCt of, war. easily and surely the impossible thing
'The defeat of ?osecrans, at '. Chicka­ could be, done convinced the two skeptics,
!1H. uga, ,was believed to imperil East Ten­ and the movement was ordered and made
ne·see, and the S~cretary of War was and figures now in military science as a
ur.:·ed to send a strong reinforcement there grand piece of strategy;"
6 'MILITARY REVIEW

What did this "grand piece of strategy" and Adviser to the Chief of Engineers.·
amount t07 The plan contemplated securing rail­
It meant c~rrying 23,000 men and their road officers to fill civilian positions, secure
equipment 1,200 miles in seven days! material to build 150 miles of railroad,
McCallum's Chief of Construction, after and the personnel to maintain and operate
Tl'anspol'tation and Construction had been it by the army on the border.
separated, was ColoRel Herman Haupt. In two weeks all was ready, although
At the close of our Civil War, Ger­ the men and materials were never re­
many, realizing the part played in that quired. Mr. Felton, however, was asked
war by railroads, started her "Field Rail­ to continue because of olfr possible par­
way Section" of railway troops. France ticipation in World War '[, A study was
did likewise, and railways played' a part made of the table of ortanization for a
in the war between France and Germany railroad regiment, and on 3 February 1917,
in 1870-1871. England alSo organized'rail­ there was authorized the organization of
way troops and used them, in the Boer the 3d Engineers, afterward called the
War in 1899-1902. . 13th, 'and it came from six Chicago rail­
In almost everyone of the cases cited WilYS, one company from each. It was
above, as in the United States in 1917, organized when we entered the war on 6
these railway trooJls were a part of the April 1917. General Order No. 61 War
Army's Corps of Engineers, At that time Department, 14 May 1917, authorized
our basic authority lay in the Federal eight more railroad regiments, of which
Laws and in the Army Regulations which five were to be construction, three op­
said in effect: erating-, and one shop. The plan was that
the colonel and the regimental adjutant
"When the United States Govemment
were' to be Regular Army Officers, and
places an Army in the field, it shall be the the balance of the officers were to be se­
duty of the Chief of Engineers to or­ lected from among railroad men.
ganize a Military Railway Service for the
purpose of operating steam railroads in Studies in France
any theater of operation." France demanded help by this time for
World War I her railroads: so while regiments were
being rilObilized, a committee was sent to
Now we come down to OUl' day, and
France to study their needs. That com­
World \Var I, when the Military Railway
mittee was headed by Major William Bar­
Service really became a potent force. clay Parsons, with Major William J.
In June 1916, when our troops were Wilgus, and W. A. Garrett and M. F. De
mobilizing on the Mexican Border, Gen­ St. Phalle of the Ba~dwin Locomotive'
eral William M. Black, then Chief of En­
gineers, realizing his responsibility and
Works. I
General Pershing, by' that time having
knowing that, nothing yet haq been done
anived in France, held Major Parsons,
to provide efficient militar~ railway serv­
who was to be Lieutenant C?lonel, 1st
iCe since the Civil War, ~ecided to call
Regiment, and Major Wilgus, and allowed
on the railroads of the Umted States for
now-commissioned Major' Garrett and De
aid.
St. Phalle to return home to report.
Oh 24 June 1916, he asked S. M. Felton,
The following regiments were mobilized
President of the Chicago Great ·Westem,
and sailed, from among many more:
to perfect an organization to maintain and
operate railroads south of the Rio Grande. The 11th, from New York, on 24 July;
Felton was to be made Consulting Engineer The 12th, from St. Louis, on 28 July;
THE MILITARY RAILWAY SERVICE UP TO. THE ITALIAN CAMPAIGN

The 13th, from Chicago, on 22 July; The first request for locomotives from
The 14th, from Boston, on 29 July; abroad was for 300. They were of a con­
The 15th, from Pittsburgh, on 9 July; solidation type of 35,600 pounds tractive
The 16th, from Detroit, on 10 August; effort, and weighed 166,400 pounds, and
The 17th, from Atlanta, on 28 July; had a 21 x 28 cylinder and a 56-inch driv­
The 18th, from San Francisco, on 9 Au­ ing wheel.
gust; The Baldwin Works were' ordered to de­
The 19th, from Philadelphia, on 9 Au­ vote their entire capacity to standard
gust. gauge locomotives for overseas. The
Felton was then given the title of Di­ American Locomotive Company's engines
rector General of Railways, but by 27 were wholly for home service.

Training replacements for railway operating battalions.

December 191. it had to be changed to The first engine was turned out in
Director General of Military Railroads twenty working days, and the final capac­
when the President took over all the rai!­ ity was at the rate of 300 engines per
roads in the United States. month. Thirty:-four hundred were under
Felton's office started with one engineer order.
onicer and three clerks, and expanded to
Affiliation Units
ll<! officers, 1113 enlisted men, and fifty­
Seven civilians. After the Armistice on 11 November
One of their noteworthy accomplish­ 1918, and with the passage of the Na­
Il1Jnts was to standardize, as far as pos­ tional Defense Act of 1920, there came
si,lle, all railroad equipment, speed pro­ into being a skeletonized force for Military
d'ction and reduce costs. It is estimated Railway Service troops on an affiliation
tht a saving of over .$33,000,000 resulted basis with the railroads of the United
£1"m that general policy. States, in which key officer personnel were
8 MILITARY REVIEW

aSSigne~ within 'the i battalions to posi­ road men, Colo]lel C. D, Young, Vice
tions comparable with their civilian po­ President of the Pennsylvania, and I thus
sitions on the railro~ds. App~-opriations, became consultants to the Chief of En­
however, were reduced and to. my best gineers on the Military Railway Service,
knowledg,e and judgment there was no and it' was then planned that in case of
training to amount to anything in connec­ war Colonel Young was to take over the
tion with the~e troops after 1919. Many staff work in the Chief's office, and I was
vacancies in the commissioned strength of to be the commander in the field. It would
these units occurred because there was no take too long to tell of the developments
one particularly interested in keeping them wh.i.ch occurred between then and 7 De­
up to strength, and with no provision for cember 1941, but briefly there were set up
training or mobilization there was not too tables of organization and equipment to
much interest shown among the officers cover the Military Railway Service, and
who had been assigned. the 'organization in general was to ,be com­
DeveloJrnents Between Wars posed of Engineer Headquarters, Military
Railway Service, corresponding to a Gen­
From 1922 to 1925, I had discussed the eral Manl;lger's office on a standarq Ameri­
, size of a Military Railway Service basic can' railway; Railway Grand Division
unit with Generals Smith and King, then 'Headquarters, corresponding to the Head­
Commandants at the Command and Gen­ quarters of a Geneml Superintendent;
'eral Staff Schoen, anli I indicated at that Railway Opei-ating Battalions, correspond­
time that, in mY. belief; the regiment was ing to a Division Superintendent's organi­
not the proper 'organization, but that the zation; and Railway Shop Baitalions cor­
basic Military Railway Service unit" should responding to the back shops, hoth' steam
be a battalion, and that it should corre­ and Diesel, on an American 'railroad. It
.,pond in balanced strength to a division was concluded that the field organization
superintendent's 'office', and force on a would not place less than two, or more
standard American railroad. than five Railway Operating Battalions'
The Reserve Corps, through lack of ap­ under a Railway Grand Division, and
propriations, was not a very potent force would add to the Railway Grand Division
for the next eighteen or twenty years, at least one Steam Railway Shop Battalion,
and it was not until the fall of 1938 that and if Diesel power was used, one Diesel
Colonel J. J. Kingman, CE,.was appointed Railway Shop Battalion.
Assistant Chief of Engineers with the
Before the war there were authorized
rank of Brigadier General. In Washing­
this Engineer Railway Headquarters and
ton he found that the Military Railway
ten Railway, Grand Division Headquarters,
Service had fallen to less than nothing,
forty Railw:ay Operating Battalions, and
and he set about to correct that imprope~:
ten Railway Shop Battalions, all on the
situation. He asked me to become a con­
affiliation basis and each sponsored by
sultant in the program which he had in
a railroad which would furnish the com­
mind to bring a basic organization of the
missioned personnel and enlisted cadr,e
Military Raihvay Service into being. I
as contemplated by the tables of organiza­
agreed and as of f February 1939, was
tion and equipment. Uitimately, 43,000
assigned as General Manager, Military
commissioned officers and enlisted men
Railway Service, reporting to the Chief
composed the Military Railwa.,y 'Service in
of Engineers. ,
World War II.
A section of the' office of the Chief
of Engineers was organized as the Mili­ I
Under T~ansportation; Cor.ps
tary Railway Servic.e, branch. Two rail­ By General Or,ders No. 60, 15 November
THE MILI'rARY RAILWAY SERVICE UP TO THE'ITALIAN CAMPAIGN 9

1942, the' Military Railway Service, in­ OpeI"ating B'attalions in 1943 and 1944.
tact, was transferred to the newly created Units began to be called into active
Transportation Corps where it·'is at the service as of 15 April' 1942. In January
present moment. '1942, a con"tract had been entered into
Prior to the Pearl Harbor attack it had between the railroads, represented by the
been decided to establish a railroad on Association of American Railroads, and
which training; could ,be more properly the Govel'nment, represented by the Chief
,given. Therefore, negotiations were en­ of Engineers, by which these various
tered into by the government to secure units sponsored by individual railroads
'control of the Red River and Gulf R'ail­ would be trained on their respective rail-

A train of Government-owned troop sleepers.

road, a logging railroad connecting with roads in a technical sense after they had
the Missouri Pacific just south of Alex­ secured their basic military training at
andria, Louisiapa, at a point which sub­ some army camp.
seqaently became the location of Camp The fir1:jt unit to be called into active
Claiborne. By that time, Camps Claiborne service was the 727th Railway Operating I
and Polk had been authorized', and the Battalion which was activated 15 March'
7llth .Railway Operating Battalion was 1942, and trained on the Southern Rail­
mo,'ed there. It later built the Claiborne road between Meridianl and New Orleans.
& lolk Railroad connectIng the two camps. Then, on 15 April 1942, came the 713th
Sul",equently, this railroad was used as which trait;led on the Santa Fe at Clovis,
a i l'aining ground for several Railway New Mexico, and the 753d Railway Shop
10 MILITARY REVIEW

Battalion which b£ined in the New ·York ments in the Mediterranean and European
Central Shops at ucyrus,. Ohio. On 15 Theaters of' Oper~tions. After the Casa­
May 1942, came eadquarters, 1st Mili­ blanca Conference, General Somervell or­
tary Railway Service, which trained in dered the General Manager of the Military
the railroad center of 'St. Paul, Min­ Railway Service to be flown to Algiel:s
nesota; and the nOth Railway Operating with a maximum of twenty-five officers'
Battalion, which trained on the Fort and enlisted men as a forward echelon
Wayne Division of the Pennsylvania Rail­ of Headquarters, Military Railway Serv­
road. On 1 August 1942, the 703<1 Rail­ ice. This group arrived in Algiers in Feh­
way Grand Division which came to St. Paul ruary IH42.
was activated and trained in company with North Africa
,Headquarters, 1st MilitaTY Railway Serv­
ice. The 703d Railway Grand Division Upon OUI' arrival in Algiers, I was
was, therefore, organized about 1 Sep­ placed in charge of all Allied military
tember 1942, to consist of the 713th, 727th, railways in North Africa and given defi­
aTld 730th Railway Operating Battalions, nite instructions as to what my authority
and ,the 753d Railway Shop Battalion. and duties would be. I'was made responsi­
bhi for the technical development and op­
Subsequently, and as fast as authorized
additional units of the Military Rail­ <'ration for mili¢tarypurposes of all rail­
ways in the North frican Theater, and
way Service were 'activated, officers trained
I'equired to mak commendations to the
a month to six weeks in Transportation
Chief Adminisb tive Officer as to the ex­
Corps schools, and then the unit was
tent to which such development and opera­
activated and placed in training on some
tion should be carried out through the
railroad. An attempt was made to call
medium of the French railway service, 01'
in units to active service in order that
by United States or British military per­
they might locate on the various estab­
sonnel.
lished training areas on railroads with­
out having too many battalions training On 8 July H)44, General Ol:ders No. 17
at one time and to minimize the cost of changed this order to, make the Director
construction camps. The General Man­ General responsible for the technical de­
ager, Military Railway Service, acting for velopment and ·::?pi>~kati?n of railways in
the Chief of Engineers until 15 Novem­ the Mediterran"1>an" Theater, except in
ber Ifl42, and for the Chief of Transporta­ North Africa. "In the latter area, rail
tion subsequently, was charged with the movements became the responsibility of
planning and training of these railway the Commanding General·, North African
tl'OOpS as they were called into active District, and the Commanding General,
sel'vice. SOS, NA TOUSA.
Another order made the Director Gen­
Mm'ement Overseas eral responsible to the Deputy Theatel'
The first troops actually sent abroad Commander for the training, as well as
were in a Provisional Battalion known as the welfare and discipline, of United States
the 770th which took over, on 1 October military railway troops.
1942, the operation of the White Pass and Special conditions existing in Southeast­
Yukon Railroad in Alaska. The 703d Rail­ ern Algeria and Southern Tunisia made
way' Grand Division WllS set up and ac­ it necessary, by 10 April 1943, to clarify
companied General Patton as part of his authorities and responsibilities, which was
Western Task Force that landed at Casa­ done by Memoranaum No.4, HQ, NATO­
blanca in the fall of 1942. USA. Under this memorandum, constrllc­
Now let us follow subsequent develop­ tion" maintenance and repair of military
THE M.!;I;ITARY RAlLWAY.SERVicE UP TO THE lTALIAN CAMPAIGN 11
.;
railways were planned for and performed transportation to.. the Allied Armies in
under direction of the Director General. North Africa and subsequently in Sicily.
Such work in the Combat Zone was di­ Troops under hls :command had increased
rected to be performed by American and so that there were now Headquarters, 1st
Bl'itish troops assigned to him with '·the Military Railway Service," three Railway
senior tactical commander furnishing as­ 'Grand Division Headq~arters, five Rail­
,;istance for work which was beyond the way Operating Battalions, one Railway
limits of the assigned troops, Outside Shop Battalion, one Railway Transpor­
the Combat Zone, extra help was author­ tation Company (all U.S.); and two
iZl'd from Allied Force Headquarters for Railway Operating' Gl'bups, plus ~hl'ee En­
~ I .

I.;oading locomotive for overseas shipment.

British assistance, and the Commanding gineering Groups of the British Trans­
General, SOS, for American assistance, portation Service in the Mediterranean
RuiIway stores and equipment were fur­ Theater.
nished through Services of Supply, North The railroads under our operation ex­
AIl'ican Theater of Operations. tende,d eastward from Oran to Tunis, and
Previous to 19 October 1943, units of included a meter-gauge railroad from
th.. Military Railway Service were at'­ Ouled Rhamoun to Sousse.
taehed to armies and base sections for For the invasion of Sicily, the Direc­
slll'ply and administration, but an order tor General provided one Railway Operat­
of \' ATOUSA that date attached them for ing Battalion (the 727th), for support of
stl}'ply only, the U.S, Seventh Army, and one Railway
!' nder the provisions of these orders, Operating Group (British Transportation)
thp Director General, Military Railway for support of the British Eighth Army.
Service, reporting to the Commanding These units operated in Sicily under the
Ge' ,eral, AFHQ, continued to supply rail provisions of the orders indicated above.