Fuel to the Troops:

My friend Ray of Merriam Press, was telling me about this latest release called,


Fuel to the Troops: A Memoir of the 698th Engineer Petroleum Distribution Company, 1943-1945


by John G. Sullivan

A Merriam Press Original Publication

Military Monograph MM88




Copied from that page:


This story is about a place in time and a military unit which had a profound impact on military operations in the European Theater during World War II. The movement of petroleum products was critical in keeping the war machine moving and operating thousands of miles from the U.S. mainland. Providing the necessary fuels for the vehicles involved in fighting their way into Germany in 1944-45 was accomplished by an organization within the U.S. Army established by Charles A. McCann, a petroleum engineering graduate of the University of Oklahoma. McCann was a patriot who felt he could contribute to the war effort in a very specific way. His exceptional management skills and leadership ability made for a highly motivated organization that overcame the most difficult challenges at that time and place.


While many have never known war, this story is a tribute to those men of the 689th Engineer Petroleum Distribution (EPD) Company. The EPD Company is their story and is told through the eyes of one of their comrades—John Sullivan. He recounts these individual sacrifices and lived though the many challenges every day for two years. It provides a behind the scenes look at daily operations and those untold stories from America’s “Greatest Generation.â€


From the Foreword


The mission of the Soldier is to accomplish his assigned goal, keeping sight that his only reason to be a part of the conflict is to win. He must accomplish this with the least cost of life and limb for all. He does this with resources afforded, and what he liberates by his own ingenuity.


This work attempts to tell of fuel supply in World War II, European theatre. I am telling the story in non-technical terms, with explanations where needed. The story is meant to be told in an amusing, whimsical manner. This is how the soldier keeps up his morale, and the morale of those around him (this is indispensable to the cause of winning).


The central motif of this story is always to be an actual day-to-day depiction of the everyday life of a soldier. I want to tell the way the drama and ritual ballet is really played out by real soldiers and their officers, of which Beetle Bailey, Sarge, Zero, Plato, The Captain, General Halftrack, “No Time For Sergeantsâ€, “See Here Private Hargroveâ€, and of course, the grand chacterization of them all, Bill Mauldin’s, “Willie and Joeâ€, are a chimera of satire.


This tale, I assume, is being told to a generation who must understand that all previous wars were virtually stationary slugfests. Motorized and mechanized conflict emerged from a horse-drawn age as we lived and fought. We only began to move from a totally dominated rail shipping economy movement of cargo in 1935 when the Motor Carrier Act was passed by Congress (six years before the war began). Vehicles and trucks were small, and paved highways were spotty and ill-engineered. Gasoline transport was still being delivered in small trucks with not more than 600 to 800 gallon capacity. Today’s transports carrying 10,000 gallons did not exist.


This records my memory of a world of first impression. It is today more than sixty years since the war ended. I am probably the only person left in my organization who had these experiences and can write my own impressions. Historians and researchers will only be able to write from records, and the flavor will be lost. This story has not been previously written in depth. It is not my intent to rewrite history, but to try to understand what we did in the limited perspective we had as to how our actions would impact the future in which we now live. I hope you enjoy the read.


We Americans were insular in the 1930s, removed from the world by two oceans, with slow communications, with a frame of mind which did not let us concern ourselves with the rest of the world. We were self-absorbed with the Depression. The Twenties were a rollicking time when the lid was off, after the repression left by World War I, and everyone felt like “letting the good times roll.†I was told that every elevator boy, even in small towns, had a margin account in the stock exchange.


An integral part of our “Band of Brothers†is the development of their character, both as a unity of the organization and as individuals. This is so central to the experience and maturity of each person, as well as the group, it is a worthwhile area to expand in this treatise. Our Captain, after the war, told me the exact moment he felt our unity crystallized, and I will address that moment when developed in the narrative.


Bernard Baruch, who defined himself as a ‘speculator’, was a millionaire from South Carolina whose plantation was on the Pee Dee River. Will Rogers, the Oklahoma humorist, said the treasury of the Democratic Party was “Barney Baruch’s pocketbookâ€. He was a noted adviser to Presidents. In his book, The Private Years, Baruch said in August 1929, on his annual grouse hunt in Scotland, he heard some news that the stock market was making big plunges, followed by reassuring statements when it would go back up. He resolved to put all his assets into cash, and advised Rogers to do so too. As a result both of them survived “Black Thursday†on October 24, 1929. [Mr. Baruch made the remark that it was quite a chore to bring out such a book in his 90th year. I can understand that. It is only my 83rd year.]


The ensuing Depression was mind-numbing. Even those of us who were children were marked by its effect. The Depression’s effects were not over until the Second World War, which took us out of it. For several years the jobless level was between 23 and 30 percent, averaging 25 percent. My father was one of the fortunate ones. The production job he had at our local oil refinery was shut down twice, for over three years total. However, he lost only three days work, because he accepted a much lower paying job, canning the over-production of lubricating oil, for which the Depression left no demand.


Men from all over the country came to our back door looking for food. The local railroad was only one block away from our home. My mother never refused anyone—but her Puritan ethic demanded that they do some small task in the garden to earn what was given. The so-called “Greatest Generation†who were in World War II were men who had just lived through the interregnum between the wars, and had been conditioned by all these events.


I’ve always considered myself very lucky, and my military experience certainly supports that thought. Most events I take as they come and deal with all things in an easy manner. I attribute this to an Oklahoma heritage, as well as being someone raised in the Depression era, and having to make everything work. Having said that, this story will attempt to relate the events of the 698th organization, placed in context of time, participants, mission, as well as the history of the pre-war world. In order to accomplish this, I will not only use the ‘published’ history of the unit, my memory placed in context of notes made at the time, but also the letters of the commanding officer, written to his wife on an almost daily basis, graciously furnished to me by his children. My memory is still good, I have good reinforcing support, and the adventure was a central event of my life.


I’m sure you wonder why I think it is a good idea to place this in a historical frame. The reason is simple. We have demonstrated we are not good historians. It is axiomatic that those who have not learned the lessons of history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.


In telling the story of Petroleum Supply, I will give a brief history of not only the 698th, but will also relate changing views of the use of our military unit. Turns of events of the war, and strategic changes molded our petroleum effort constantly. The war, training and tactical events as well as strategic views were constantly changing our direction. Invention is the badge of the American soldier. We found we were different than our allies, as well as from the enemy.


Speed of the advance forces was new. We were just emerging from warfare involving horses dictating speed of movement. We learned—slowly. Mobility was speeding up. Infrastructure was being changed to meet changing demand. Logistics was not even a buzzword. Chain Supply Links were not yet considered entities. This story is about their early, halting development.


I’m sure many will consider this a dull subject. A great deal has been written about actual combat and battle strategies. Supply is either taken for granted or overlooked. Twenty percent of the soldiers are engaged in the fighting contingents. The other eighty percent are necessary for their support. We were engaged in the Advance Section, Services of Supply, as well as Port Construction, Port Operation, Building and Operating Infrastructure, as well as providing emergency measures for completely unplanned events.


One such unplanned event occurred when the First Army breached, and consolidated the breach of the Siegfried Line at Aachen, Germany, September 16, 1944. Fuel is more important to a mechanized army than ammunition. Fuel is necessary for protective mobility to be maintained. There was no fuel available to support this position, and a withdrawal had to take place. Emergency supply had to be introduced. Then the enemy occupied the withdrawn bunkers. Our front line troops had to later retake those bunkers at great loss of life. The war could have been over in October. I know this story has not been told. Many other untold events happened.


Much of my life, I have been cast in the role of an observer. By luck and by choice, to mix a metaphor, in the Grand Opera of World War II, my role was to be on the edges of a lot of the action as a minor participant, cast as a sort of a spear-bearer, able to stand in the front of the lesser players and thus able to bear witness and connect a lot of the events.


I know many other veterans have similar stories to tell. This story is for those others, whose story will never be told.

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"

Thanks M1, looks like this will will be a good read of another untold story of the men who overcame the tremedous logistical & technolgical problems of keeping our armies moving.

At the start of the planning for the Normandy invasion, undersea pipeline technology wasnt even in existince. The only pipe available for underwater use was telephone cable with the conductor core removed. For the first 2 months after the invasion, fuel was pumped from tankers anchored a mile offshore to storage tanks near the beach, from which Jerry Cans were filled and trucked to the front. It wasnt till after the Cherborg Peninsula was cleared and the port captured that the "PLUTO" pipelines were layed. Later pipelines were layed under the channel to the Pais de Calais near Bologne. The role of the EPDCs was to extend, operate & maintain those pipelines overland to the forward supply dumps. By the end of the war these pipelines were layed all the way to the Rhine.

In January 1945 the system delivered a disappointing 300 tons (per day) but by March this had increased to 3000 tons and later still to 4000 tons. This amounted to over 1,000,000 gallons per day giving a total of 172,000,000 gallons delivered in total up to the end of hostilities.



After D-Day Normandy I just read above all the supplies that were sent.

I would like to know how the MULES were sent to Italy to supply us up

in the North Appenines. But I quess we didn,t do so much up there.

North Africa was a little different. Jeeps and 6bys'. rocky---- :armata_PDT_23:


I would like to know how the MULES were sent to Italy to supply us up in the North Appenines. rocky---- :armata_PDT_23:


Rocky, here`s the story of the Mules. about half way thru the E-Book it gets to the mules in Italy.


shavetails and bell sharps: The History of the U.S. Army Mule


Rocky, here`s the story of the Mules. about half way thru the E-Book it gets to the mules in Italy.


shavetails and bell sharps: The History of the U.S. Army Mule


Sorry Larry, but I cannot get into the link above about the mules.

Stubborn just like the mules. That,s OK. I can picture them in my mind comming

up the trail Italian Soldiers as mule skinners with 4 GIs' as guards. rocky


Sorry, try the link again i think its fixed.


Ernie Pyle wrote a column about the mules:

"FRONTLINES IN ITALY-The Italian mules which we've been using to pack supplies up to our troops fighting in the mountains, are smaller and weaker than the average American mule. Also they have been ridden around in trucks from one place to another until a lot of them are sick from it.


At first we misjudged them and put too heavy a load on their backs. In fact we put on more than an American mule could carry over such a trail. We lashed on four cans of water and two cases of rations, making a total load of around 240 pounds. The mules just couldn't take it. They'd all be sick the next day.


So now we load them with only two cans of water and one of rations, cutting the load to 120 pounds. They say the Italians are cruel to their mules on the trail but take good care of them when they're not working.


The Italian method of saying "giddap" to a mule is to go "brrrr" like we do when we are cold. When I stand along the pack trail and listen to the skinners "brrr-ing" their mules upward, it sounds like the whole population is freezing to death.


At first there were some white mules in the pack trains, but they were too easy to see, even by moonlight, so they stopped using them. A few horses are used also in some outfits, and several were discovered with the brand of the Italian royal family.


When the mules arrived from Sardinia, the most pressing problem was to get them shod. It took days to scour the country and dig up shoes for them. Then horseshoe nails became the dilemma. They finally found enough racetrack nails to do the job.


In emergencies some pack trains were sent up the mountain in the daytime, but it is dangerous business for the Germans kept the trail pretty well plastered with shells.


Luckily there have been no casualties on the trail in my outfit, but seven Italians were wounded in the mule park in a dive-bombing.


The Italians are very nervous about bombs and shells, and any night the heavy shells start dropping too close to the mule park, the Italians disappear into their foxholes quick like a magician. And you never can find them in the dark to rout them out again.


The men fared much better than the mules, for unfortunately a mule doesn't know about foxholes. My outfit alone has lost 50 mules from shellfire and bombing, and another hundred are sick from overwork and too much riding around in trucks.


The Italian mule outfit is under two Italian lieutenants, who wear plumed Tyrolian hats and look sort of romantic. Neither speaks English, but in the American Army you only have to yell twice to find a soldier who speaks Italian, so the little group has an interpreter. Everybody has to depend upon him so that he practically runs the show.


He is Cpl. Anthony Savino, of 262 14th Avenue, Newark, N. J. His job would drive anybody crazy. The Italians are not quick and efficient like we are, and about the time Savino gets a pack train all arranged, everything collapses and chaos takes place. Then he catches it from both sides.


The officer in charge of this mule pack is Lieut. Harmon W. Williams of Flint, Michigan. He was named after General Harmon who won fame in the last war. Some nights Lieutenant Williams is up till 3 A.M. seeing that all the skinners get back down the mountain. Other nights he gets to bed as early as 7 P.M. He sleeps whenever he can, for it's an unusual night when he isn't routed out to get some emergency supplies to the top.


He sleeps in a stone cowshed along with a dozen of his enlisted men. He was an undertaker in civil life, an antitank man in the Army, and a mule nurse just for the moment.


Cpl. Savino takes his interpreting job so seriously he even talks about it in his sleep. I slept in the same cowshed with the boys, and one night I happened to wake up about 3 A.M. and I heard Savino saying, "Well, if we can't use them as interpreters, let's make guides out of them."


He thought that was pretty funny when I told him, because he had never known that he talked in his sleep."





TO HIM, BILL MAULDIN. Rocky ----------- :armata_PDT_37:



Sorry but All I get is a page that says--THIS LINK CANNOT BE OPENED.


I could open the first link, but not the second. Here are some links re mules and other animals serving in the war:


Army mules WWII Italy










Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"




There is a Past in Review article in the Engineer Professional Bulletin issue of October-December 2007 on this subject by Mr. Thomas J. Petty, Fueling the Front lines: Army Pipeline Units - Part I. It covers the beginings of the Engineer Pipline Companies and the main story is about the 697th Petroleum Distribution Company in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and on August 16, 1944 started the fuel supply pipeline from near Marseilles up the Rhone Valley all the way to Germany for the Seventh Army.



Fueling the Front lines: Army Pipeline Units - Part I



Part 2 in the January-March 2008 issue deals with the period from post WWII to the present wars in Iraq & Afganistan:

Fueling the Front lines: Army Pipeline Units - Part II


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