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The Military R~ilway Service

In Italy and N otthwest Europe

Major General Carl R. Gray, Jr., USA

Director General, Military Railway Service, in World War II.

This is the second of two ul·ticles General di Raimondo, and all of the
on this subject by Generul G/'aY, who Italian military railway organization,
?'ecently succeeded Genaal Omm' N. were ordered to report to the Director Gen­
Bmdley as the Adminish'atol' of eral to carry out the duties assigned them.
Vetemns AlJail's. In the first al·ticle, Reconstruction and operation of the Ital­
which was published in the May issue ian ,Railways was governed by priorities
of the MILITARY REVIEW, the established by AFHQ, which was repre­
authol' discussed the development of sented on the Italian mainland by the
the Military Railway Service through Deputy Chief Administrative Officer of
the invasion of Sicily.-The Editor: the Advanced Administrative Echelon,

T HE invasion of Italy l>Y the Allied

Forces brought a. further extension of
Additional British Transportation troops
of both Railway Operating Groups and
the authority and responsibilities of the Railway Construction Groups were brought
Director General, Military Railway Serv­ to Italy from Egypt with the invasion
ice. forces. Units of the Military Railway
The orders governing the operation of Service (U.S.) were transferred' from
milital'y railways in North Africa were North Africa and Sicily to support the
continued in general, but were amplified, U.S. First Army. The British troops sup­
on 22 October 1943, by General Order~ ported the British Eighth A.'my, but all
No. 60, AFHQ (Allied Forces Headquar­ were under the general direction of the
ters). Director General.
Under this directive, the Director Gen­ The latter opened his first headquarters
eral became responsible for the rehabili­ in· Naples and subsequently moved it to
tation, technical development and opera­ Rome in July, 1944.
tion of all Italian I State and privately, Development. of operations in Italy
owned railways, except for those portiop.s made it necess~ry to enlarge the powers of
which might be returned to civilian opera­ control of the Director General, and this
tion under supervision of the Transporta­ was done by General Orders No. 19,
tion Sub-Commission of the Allied Com­ dated 5 August 1944.
mission. By this order, the Director General be­
All United States Railway Service came responsible for advanced planning
Troops, the Railway portion of the British and development of railways to support
Transportation Service, and Italian Rail­ the operations under the direction 'of the
way personnel and material came under Supreme Allied Commander, .Mediterra­
the Director General's disposal, and oper­ nean Theater of Operations; for the dis­
ated under his d~rection.' tribution of available resources of person­
nel and equipment; for reconstruction a.nd the railroads in Southern France under
operation of all. railways in the zone of the direction of Headquarters, Sixth Army
operations, except those returned to civil­ Group, and there was issued on 30 October
ian control; and 'for technical advice on 1944, a railway plan for this new area.
all railway matters. This plan set up priorities for' placing
To assist the Director General in ful­ the military railways in operation, fol­
filling his mission, all U.S., British, and lowing the advance of thoe Armies. First
Italian railway personnel were pl~ced at priority was given to Seventh Army, along
his disposal and operated under his direc­ the route: Epinal-Blainville-Luneville
tion. All railroad material was placed at -Saarburg-Strassburg; and to the First
his sole disposal. French Army, along the line: Vesoul­
To insure the proper fulfillment of these Lure-Belfort-Mulhouse. Second priority
responsibili ties, I was also directed to was given Seventh Army from Epinal to
establish a headquarters at AFHQ, with St. Die, and Strassburg.
whom I was to keep in constant touch. Rehabilitation of the military railways
Executive deputies for the Director Gen­ within the army area was the responsi-
eral, were provided for, and immediate
appointment of such deputies was ordered
for Headquarters, Allied Armies in Italy
and Headquarters, Seventh Army.
Under this order, the Director General
reported directly to the 'Chief Adminis­
trative Officer, AFHQ, and was relieved
of all responsibilities for railway opera­
tion or construction in North Africa.
A North African Theater of Operations
circular, dated 10 August 1944, specified
the Milital'Y Railway Sel'\;i~e, Allied
Forces, as a major command.
The invasion of Southern France made Wreckage found by U. S. military railroad
it advisable to relieve the Director General troops at Naples, Italy.
of responsibilities in North Africa, Sicily
anu Italy, and this was done by General bility of the Military Railway Service,
Oruers N1o. 22, 25 October 1944, AFHQ.. and assistance by Engineer General Serv­
L'lder th s order, Brigadier R. D. Wag­ ice troops for this purpose was made avail­
'horn, of :the British Engineers, became able through the Commanding Generals of
director in Italy, and Lieutenant Colonel the Armies. Rehabilitation of military
'\, ,lliam P. Wilson, U.S. Transportation railways by Army Engineer Troops was
C'l'PS, became deputy director. The new under the general supervision of the Mili­
D nictor in Italy had no responsibility for tary Railway Service, which established
Ttl )way operation or construction in North standards of construction and directeCl and
A: "ica or the south of France. In North controlled the use of special railway bridg-,
A "ica, the local commanders became ing and other materials. While mainte-i
l'l ponsible for arranging with the French nance of railways in operation was madel:
fo British and United .States rail move­ entirely a responsibility of the Military
111 !lts. Railway Service, the guarding of bridges
'onsequently, as of 26 October 1944, I and other essential structures was a
tf, '.'{ up the rehabilitation and operation of responsibility of the Army concerned.
The method of handling the Militar~ SOLoe were bonsolidated into eOMZONE
Railway Service responsibilities was ETOU.SA.
changed again by general orders on 16 The program for handling ,Military
January 1945, with the organization of Railway Service matters pertaining to the
the First Military Railway Setvice, of rehabilitation and operation of the rail­
which I was designated ·the Director Gen-' roads in the invasion of Northern France
eral, effective as of 20 December 1944. was set forth in Administrative Memo­
The First Military Railway Service was randum No. 24, of Supreme Headquarters,
assigned to the Southern Line qf Com­ Allied ExpeditionarY Force, on, 18 July
munications, ETOUSA. " 1944.
Besides being responsible for the usual The principle, on which the program
planning, development,' reconstruction ~nd operated was to re-establish the normal
operation of the railways, the First Mili­ French system of conb;ol, maintenance
tary Railway Service had to stock' and and operation, as soon as French resources
issue all railway track material for heavy were sufficient, but always subject to
construction and ordinary maintenance in retention of control by British and United
the area supported by the Southern Line States military authorities over movement
and allocation of technical resources to
insure that military requirements would
be met.
In each area liberated, it was considered
likely that there would be three stages of
In Stage I, there was t~ be British and
United States military control, develop­
ment and operation, with the assistance
of French liaison officers and ·civil tech­
nicians. .
British and United States authority was
to continue in Stage II, with assistance of
~'" such French agencies as might be re-estab­
Locomotive wrecked by Germans on bridge . lished as "coherent organizations." There
in Southern France. was to be a progressive delegation of
functions to French agencies, under Brit­
of Communications: All United States ish and United States direction, during
railroad property was at the sole disposal this stage.
of the Director General, and he com­ In Stage III, the Fren<\. would a~sume
manded, for operations and 'administra­ responsibility for maintenance and opera­
tion, all personnel and units assigned or tion, with British-United States require­
attached to the First Military Railway ments being communicated through com­
Service. Supply of units of the First' Mili­ missions.
tary Railway Service was an automatic Procedures were set up for each stage,
responsibility. of the Advance or Base to govern movement control, 'and trans­
Section in which a particular unit was portation.
located. In addition, there was set up by SHAEF
This procedure was followed until 6 an Inter-Allied Railway Commission,
February 1945, when ETOUSA and Which was constituted by Administrative
Memorandum No. 28,. dated 27 August responsibility of the Engineer Service,:'
.1944. under the technical supervision of the '
: The, commission ineluded representa­ Chief Engineer, Communications Zone.
tives of the United States, Great Britain, The Chief of Transportation,' Comml,mi­
and',France, with the Director General-of cations Zone, operating through the Direc­
l\Iilitary Railways, SHAEF, as the initial tor General, was responsible for the,main­
chairman, and at a later stage under a tenance of way and equipment, and the
French representative. Initially the cim­ operation of railroad's f!>llowed the same
mission was established at Rennes. line of responsibility.
This commission was responsible f9r Under the provisions of the SOP, the

advising SHAEF and the French Provi­ Military Railway Service, with its attached

sional Government on ,all que'stions of units and personnel, was an exempted

policy ·affecting the railways of France. command responsible to the Chief of

It was also responsible for recommending Transportation, ,Communications Zone,

the dates for the progressive changes ip with the exception 'that the various Com­

the stages referred to in Administrative munications Zone Section Commanders

lIIemorandum No. 24, the areas in which exercised administrative authority over

the stages would apply, and the reestab­ Military Railway Servic~ units and per­

lishment of the French railway set-up. sonnel within their respective sections.

In view of the fact that the Director' Boundaries of Grand'Divisions and Divi­

General's assignment was changed. to sions of railroads were prescribed by the

cover all of the operations in France, it Director General, and neither the Director

became necessary to reconcile and' to General nor any subordinate commander

change some of the responsibilities of the of the Military Railway Service could be

Director General, Military Railway Serv­

charj;ed with area command.

ice, as set forth in SOLOC General Orders

Kn. 3, of 16 January 1945, with the pro­ It was specifically stated that the rail­

visions of Administrative Memoranda Nos. roads would be operated as prescribed by

24 and 28. The assignment of the Director the Director General, in conformity with

G,'ueral to these enlarged responsihilities policies laid down by ETOUSA and higher

Was made hy General Orders No. 16, headquarters.

SHAEF, on 6 February 1945. Rehabilitation of railroads remained one

Ten days later, on 16 Fehruary 1945, of the major problems of the Military
a (;eneral Headquarters, Military Railway Railway Service, and in Circular 31, on
Service, COMZONE ETOUSA, was au­ ,13 April ~1945, ETOUSA undertook to
thnl'ized. It was composed of twenty-seven define and decentralizt! the responsibilities
offeers and seventy-three enlisted men. for this work within the theater.
;~'here followed on 3 April 1945, a Among the policies laid down at that

St"nding Operating Procedure No, 32, time, the Direc.,tor General was made re­

issued by Headquarters, ETOUSA, which sponsible for selecting the main railway

pr,'scribed the procedure for the construc­ lines of communications, subject to the

tic,;, maintenance and operation of all concurrence of the Commanding Generals

mi\tary railroads in the United States of the Sixth and Twelfth Army Groups,

arc IS on the European Continent. and Headquarters, ETOUSA. The Direc­

i l'ovisions of this SOP show how the tor General was charged with providing

l\Ihtary Railway Service operated at this. a plan' of the lines. . On acceptance of

tin .•e, Construction of railroads ~as the rehabilitated lines, the Director General


became responsible for maintenance and tation program was provided in Staff
operation. Memorandum No.6, ETOUSA, 14 April
The'General Manager, 1st Military Rail­ 1945, which defined the responsibilities of
way Service, was responsible for com­ the Chief Engineer, Communications Zone,
pletion of all approved railways and addi­ and provided that all matters of contro­
tional construction required for initial versy concerning boundaries, labor, prior­
operations in support of the Sixth Army ities, and proposed plans of "far-reaching
Group. nature," would be referred to the Assis­
tant Chief of Staff, G-4, for final action.
, The Commanding General, Advance
Section, was responsible for the comple­ Under these authorities and responsi­
tion of all approved railways supporting bilities, the logistical supply by rail to
Twelfth Army Group, and the United the Armies of SHAEF, namely, the Sixt,h
States forces operating with Twenty-first and Twelfth Army Groups, arid to the
Army Group. troops under the Commanding General,
Theater Service Forces, ETOUSA, con­
This circular on rehabilitation also tinued through 25 October 1945, when
stated :' Headquarters, Military :Etailway Service,
"In the support of the armies, it is was relieved of duty and returned to the
intended that Advance Section and 1st UnitEld States.
Military Railway Service have great lati- The Director General, on assumption
of duty, 12 February 1945, had divided
the European Theater into two areas,
North and South, separated by a line
approxi~ately from Cherbourg through
Paris, Coblenz, Bebra, and Leipzig. All
railroads south of that line were under the
jurisdiction of the General Manager, 1st
Militar~ Railway Service, with headquar­
ters at "Lyon and subsequently at Stras­
bourg. jAn railroads north of that line up
to the Southern boundary of the Twenty­
first Army Group, were under the Gen­
eral Manager, 2d Military Railway Serv­
Diesel locomotive, 65-tons, built.principally ice with headquarters at Brussels, Bel­
for the European Theater. gium.
The Director General's forces had been
tude of action and no approval from this augmented by troops from the United
headquarters will be required except for States and consisted of the following: One
major departures from approved general General Headquarters, Military Railway
plans or when new commitments of °far Service; two Headquarters, 'Military Rail­
reaching nature are undertaken. Reha­ way Service; seven Railway Grand Divi­
bilitation of other rail lines, undertaken sions; twenty-four Railway Operating
within the scope of this authority, will Battalions; eight Railway Shop Battal­
not be accomplished at the expense of the ions; one Railway Transportation Com­
principal network which will be considered ',pany; two Base Depot Companies; five
first priority." Railway Workshops (Mobile) and ten
Further implementation' of the rehabili­ Hospital Train Maintenance Sections.
Beginning in North Africa in the sum- tails of successfully carrying them out.
Iller of 1943, and continuing through North Any intermediate commander, not trained
Africa, Sicily, Italy, Southern France, in railroad operations, has a tendency to
and ultimately throughout the European interfere with and nullify the operation
Theater, the Di,rector Genenil assumed of the railroads.
responsibility for the security of railroad Then too, it is my firm belief that the
property and goods in transit. This respon­ Director General should be charged with
sibility was met with Military Police Bat­ the rehabilitation of railroads, as well as
talions assigned to his command for that their maintenance and operation. That
purpose. By VE-day, then, in France, function can only be exercised properly
there were in addition to the sixty Mili­ when the Military Railway Servic~ is a
tary Railway Service units above enumer­ separate major command. The engineer­
ated, a total of fourteen Military Police ing profession has many highly technical
Battalions assigned in the Military Rail­ phases, and possibly the railroad engineel'­
way Service. The force actually consisted
of approximately 37,000 officers and men,
in seventy-four units.
At'the beginning of this discussiO!:J, I
intimated that there were a great many
deviations from approved practices in the
handling of the Military Railway Service
in World War II, and I should like to point
out specifically what they are and briefly
explain them.
Field Manual 55-50, "Military RalJ­
roads and the Military Railway Service,"
published 27 March 1944, indicates that
Mobile repair 'shop of Military Railway

the General Manager of the Military Rail­ Service.

way Service reports through the Chief

of Transportation to the Commanding Gen­ ing picture is least known to engineers as
eral, Army Service Forces, and to the a whole, except to those who' engage in
Commanding General, Theater of Opera­ . the railroad profession. A thoroughly
tiOIlS. .competent engineer cannot rehabilitate
Possibly I am a prejudiced witness, but railroad bridges and track structures, even
I fi,:mly believe that the Military Railway though he can build wagon roads, road­
Service should be a separate major com­ ways, and buildings superbly, because it
ma':d, as it was under the terms of Cir­ takes experience and long training to be
cub!' 90, NATOUSA, and that the Direc­ able to give line and surface to track and
tor General should report directly to the to build railroad bridges under traffic con­
Th"'lter Commander. The operation of ditions.
ralJ"oads is a highly technical profession Therefore, following this line of thought,
and only men who have spent their life­ it is believed that the provisions of Admin­
tim. in it understand it and can handle istrative Memorandum No. 4 and subse­
it. n:he Theater Commander, laying down quent authorities and directives issued
rail transportation requirements, would by the Mediterranean Theater will give
the] leave to his Director General the better results than were obtainable in
tecl"lical handling and the technical de­ ETOUSA where the work was divided

between the Military Railway Service and as was tr,\ed, to place the responsibility
the COrps of Engineers. for guarding track and movement of
I believe that the Chief lof Transporta­ freight in cars on the Base Section Com­
tion should be ~harged wIth the flow of . manders.
traffic and that he should indicate what The railroads" as they must be opel;ated,
percentage of the total traffic to be moved are an inter-theater operation and cannot
shall be moved by rail, truck, air, and under any circumstances be broken down
waterway. But I do not believe that any:­ . into control or direetion.
one but the Director General and hIs Full administration, with particular refer­
forces should be charged with the respon­ ence to the peisonnel and utilization of
sibility for rehabilitation, operation, and personnel, should rest wholly and solely
maintenance of railroads in a Theater of with the Military Railway Service. The
Operations. I thoroughly agree with the placing of individual officers and men, as
provisions of that order of the Secretm:y well as the plans of the Director General,
of War in 1862 which specified "that no must be fulfilled as a part of his sole
officer, whatever may be his rank, will responsibility, for he alone knows their
interfere with the running of the cars as capabilities and capacities, and where to
directed l;>y the Superintendent of the road place a man to get the most from his past
and that anyone who so interferes will be experience.
dismissed from the service for disobeyance In order that the Military Railway
of orders." Service may not be unwieldy as to organi­
zation, it should utilize the services of
The Military Railway Service is organ­ other branches of the Army to the fullesl1
ized with high echelons ~f experienced extent, such as General Courts-Martial
railroad construction and maintenance jurisdiction, hospitalization and evacua­
officers who know how to repair and main­ tion, machine records servicing for per­
tain track and engines, and I see no differ­ sonnel accounting, all fiscal transactions.
ence between rehabilitating engines and and supply of common items. But the
cars or rehabilitating track, bridges, and Military Railway Service should be
buildings. The responsibilities for that charged, as was done in World War II,
should not be divided, but should be placed with the planning for, and the execution
strictly and securely on the shoulders of of, all strictly railroad matters 'incident to
the Military Railway Service and its performing the rail transportation require­
experienced railroad engineer officers. ments of the Commander in Chief. To
I likewise believe that the only way to share that responsibility with anyone else
protect against thievery of shipments over is to cause' confusion and, in some in­
the railroads is the plan developed arid stances, failure, and since the very large
utilized by us throughout the entire cam­ percentage of haul should and must be
paigns in the Mediterranean and European performed by the railroads, they should
Theaters, namely, to assign to the Military be permitted to exercise their responsi­
Railway Sm'vice sufficient battalions of bilities in a manner which will insure
Military Police, under the Director Gen­ complete and thorough success. They can­
eral's command and direction, and to not be successful, and they cannot fulnj!
charge the Director General with the safe their mission, if they are operated on les-;
deliv~ry of all freight. It is impossible, than a theater level.