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The Theory and Conduct of War


3.5 Logistics




In the conduct of war, war-making activity behind the cutting edge of combat has always defied simple definition. The military vocabulary offers only a few general descriptive terms (such as administration, services, and the French intendance), all corrupted by loose usage and none covering the entire area of noncombat activity. All carry additional, though related, meanings that make them ambiguous.

Logistics belongs to this group. Its archaic meaning, the science of computation (from the Greek logistikos, "skilled in calculating"), persists in mathematics as the logistic or logarithmic curve but seems unrelated to modern military applications. In the 18th century it crept into French military usage with a variety of meanings, including "strategy" and "philosophy of war." But the first systematic effort to define the word with some precision and to relate it to other elements of war was made by Antoine-Henri Jomini (1779-1869), the noted French military thinker and writer. In his Summary of the Art of War (1838), Jomini defined logistics as "the practical art of moving armies," by which he evidently meant the whole range of functions involved in moving and sustaining military forces--planning, administration, supply, billeting and encampments, bridge and road building, even reconnaissance and intelligence insofar as they were related to maneuver off the battlefield. In any case, Jomini was less concerned with the precise boundaries of logistics than with the staff function of coordinating these activities. The word, he said, was derived from the title of the major général (or maréchal) des logis in French 18th-century armies, who, like his Prussian counterpart, the Quartiermeister, had originally been responsible for the administrative arrangements for marches, encampments, and troop quarters (logis). These functionaries became the equivalent of chiefs of staff to the commanders of the day.

Jomini's discussion of logistics was really an analysis of the functions of the Napoleonic general staff, which he conceived as the commander's right arm, facilitating his decisions and seeing to their execution. The mobility and gargantuan scale of Napoleonic warfare had left the simple old logistics of marches and encampments far behind. The new logistics, said Jomini, had become the science of generals as well as of general staffs, comprising all functions involved in "the execution of the combinations of strategy and tactics." (see also  Napoleonic Wars)

This broad conception had some validity in Jomini's day. He left an engaging picture of Napoleon, his own logistician, sprawled on the floor of his tent, marking each division's route of march on the map with a pair of dividers. But as staff organization and activity became more complex, along with war itself, the term logistics soon lost its association with staff activity and almost disappeared from the military vocabulary. Jomini's great contemporary, the Prussian theorist Carl von Clausewitz, did not share his conception of logistics, which he called "subservient services" that were not part of the conduct of war. Jomini's own influence, which was enormous in his day, was mainly on strategic and tactical thought, particularly in the American Civil War.

In the late 1880s the American naval historian Alfred Thayer Mahan introduced logistics into U.S. naval usage and gave it an important role in his theory of sea power. In the decade or so before World War I the navy's concern with the economic foundations of its expansion began to broaden the conception of logistics to encompass industrial mobilization and the war economy. Reflecting this trend, a U.S. marine officer, Lieutenant Colonel Cyrus Thorpe, published his Pure Logistics in 1917, arguing that the logical function of logistics, as the third member of the strategy-tactics-logistics trinity, was to provide all the means, human and material, for the conduct of war, including not merely the traditional functions of supply and transportation but also war finance, ship construction, munitions manufacture, and other aspects of war economics.

After World War II the most notable effort to produce a theory of logistics was by a retired rear admiral, Henry E. Eccles, whose Logistics in the National Defense appeared in 1959. Expanding Thorpe's trinity to five (strategy, tactics, logistics, intelligence, communications), Eccles developed a conceptual framework that envisaged logistics as the military element in the nation's economy and the economic element in its military operations--that is, as a continuous bridge or chain of interdependent activities linking combat forces with their roots in the national economy. Eccles stressed the tendency of logistic costs to rise (the logistic "snowball") and, echoing Jomini, the essential role of command. Despite its logic and symmetry, however, Eccles' overarching conception of logistics was not widely accepted. Official definitions still vary widely, and most ordinary dictionaries adhere to the traditional "supply, movement, and quartering of troops," but neither has much influence on common usage, which remains stubbornly inconsistent and loose. Components of logistics.

It is useful to distinguish four basic elements or functions of logistics: supply, transportation, facilities, and services. (A fifth, management or administration, is common to all organized human activity.) All involve the provision of needed commodities or assistance to enable armed forces to live, move, communicate, and fight. Supply.

Supply is the function of providing the material needs of military forces. The supply process embraces all stages in the provision and servicing of military material, including those preceding its acquisition by the military--design and development, manufacture, purchase and procurement, storage, distribution, maintenance, repair, salvage, and disposal. (Transportation is, of course, an essential link in this chain.) The whole process can be divided into four phases: (1) the design-development-production process of creating a finished item, (2) the administrative process by which military agencies acquire finished items, (3) the distribution-servicing processes undergone by military material while "in the service," and (4) the planning-administrative process of balancing supply and demand--that is, the determination of requirements and assets and the planning of production, procurement, and distribution.

Military supply has always had the basic aim of providing military forces the material needed to live (food, water, clothing, shelter, medical supplies), to move (vehicles and transport animals, fuel and forage), to communicate (the whole range of communications equipment), and to fight (weapons, defensive armament and materials, and the expendables of missile power and firepower). In all these categories are items, such as clothing, vehicles, and weapons, that are used repeatedly and therefore need to be replaced only when lost, destroyed, or worn out; and materials, such as food, fuel, and ammunition, that are expended or consumed--that is, used only once--and therefore must be continuously or periodically resupplied. From these characteristics are derived the basic classifications of initial issue, replacement, and resupply. The technical classifications of supply vary among countries and services. The British army, for example, recognizes two broad classes: (1) supplies, which include all the expendables except ammunition, and (2) stores, which include ammunition and military hardware. The U.S. Army in World War II and for many years after used five main classifications: (1) subsistence and forage, (2) equipment and other items regularly issued to organizations and individuals, (3) fuels, (4) equipment and materials of irregular issue such as construction materials, and (5) ammunition. These five classes were subsequently expanded to 10 by designating as separate classes certain large categories, such as vehicles, medical material, repair parts, and sales items, which formerly were considered as subclasses.

Historically, food and forage made up most of the bulk and weight of supply until the 20th century, when, with mechanization and air power, fuel displaced forage and became the principal component of supply. However, the demand for food remains unremitting and undeferrable, the one constant of logistics. A man's daily ration makes a small package--seven pounds and often much less. But an army of 50,000 may consume in one month as much as 4,500 tons (4.1 million kilograms) of food. (see also  gasoline)

Animals require much more. The standard grain and hay ration in the 19th century was about 25 pounds (11.4 kilograms), and the daily forage of a corps of 10,000 cavalry weighed as much (allowing for remounts) as the food for 60,000 men. Forage requirements tended, moreover, to be self-generating, since the animals needed to transport it also had to be fed. The number of animals accompanying an army varied widely. Napoleon's ideal, which he himself never attained, was a supply train of only 500 wagons in an army of 40,000; with a corps of 7,000 cavalry, this would amount to about 10,000 animals exclusive of remounts and spare draft animals. Northern armies in the American Civil War commonly numbered half as many animals as soldiers. A force of 50,000 men might thus require more than 300 tons (272,000 kilograms) of forage daily. This was more than twice the weight of gasoline that an equivalent force of three World War II infantry divisions, using motor vehicles exclusively, needed to operate for the same length of time. In the latter case, moreover, fuel requirements diminished markedly when an army was not moving, whereas the premechanized force had to feed its animals whether moving or not. It was the immense forage requirements of premechanized armies, more than any other single factor, that restricted warfare before the 20th century so generally to seasons and climates when animals and men could subsist mainly on the countryside. (see also  draft animal )

In 20th-century warfare the expendables of movement include fuel for rail and water transport as well as for motor vehicles, and also the immense fuel requirements of modern air power. In World War II, without counting transoceanic shipment, fuel made up half the resupply and replacement needs of U.S. forces in Europe. Technologically advanced warfare has, in fact, vastly increased fuel consumption both absolutely and relatively to other supply needs. The continued development of mechanization and air power has increased by one and one-half times the fuel requirements of large-scale conventional military operations typical of World War II. Food, by contrast, is a small and diminishing fraction of the total burden.

Before the 20th century, equipment replacement and ammunition resupply were a relatively small part of an army's needs. Missile power before the gunpowder era was limited by the difficulty of bringing missiles in quantity to the battlefield. For the first five centuries of the gunpowder era the provision of ammunition was not a major logistic problem. Not until the use of field artillery on a large scale in the late 18th century, and the development of quick-firing shoulder arms in the 19th, did ammunition begin to constitute a substantial part of resupply needs. As late as 1864, in the Atlanta campaign of the American Civil War, the Union army's average daily ammunition requirements amounted to only one pound (0.45 kilogram) per man, as against three pounds for rations; Confederate forces in that war were reported to expend, on the average, only half a cartridge per man per day.

The great increase in firepower in the 20th century upset the historic ratios. In World War II the average ammunition requirements of Western forces in combat zones were 12 percent of total needs. In the mainly positional Korean War, ammunition expenditures climbed higher, and a late-1980s U.S. Army planning factor rated ammunition requirements as more than one-quarter of total supply. Material replacement needs have also mounted in absolute terms; the great tank battles of World War II and of the Arab-Israeli Wars of 1967 and 1973 involved the destruction of hundreds of tanks within a few days. But as a percentage of total supply, replacement of material losses is a declining factor. (see also  fire) Transportation.

Before the development of steam propulsion, armies depended for mobility on the muscles of men and animals and the force of the wind. On land they used men and animals to haul and carry; on water they used oar-driven and sail-propelled vessels. Among these various modes the balance of advantage was often delicate. A force moving by water was vulnerable to storm and enemy attack; navigation was an uncertain art; transports were expensive and of limited capacity. Large expeditions could be undertaken only by wealthy states or seafaring peoples, such as the Scandinavians of the 8th and 9th centuries, who combined the roles of mariner and warrior. Seaborne armies were rarely strong enough to overcome a resolute land-based foe. (see also  water transportation)

On the other hand, armies have usually been able to move faster and with a better chance of avoiding enemy detection by water than by land. Shipment of bulky freight is cheaper and safer by river than by road, and good roads are rare in military history. In the 19th and 20th centuries the revolution in ship design and propulsion made water travel largely independent of wind and weather, permitting the overseas movement and support of larger forces than ever before. After the mid-19th century, however, more and better roads and, above all, railroads began to offset the historic advantages of water transportation to some degree. In the 20th century motor vehicles and more road building extended the conquest of rough terrain. The airplane finally freed military movement, for modest forces and limited cargo, from bondage to earth altogether. Yet the costs of mobility on land--in equipment, materials, and energy--remain high, and large military movements are still confined to narrow ribbons of rail and road, which in many parts of the world are still rare or lacking.

On land the soldier himself has been the basic burden carrier of armies. As a matter of simple economy, he represents large carrying capacity at no extra cost. His equivalent, in an army of 50,000 in the preindustrial era, would be 1,875 wagons drawn by 11,250 horses or mules, which might need additional wagons and animals to haul forage. A difference of only five pounds (2.3 kilograms) in the soldier's load could add or subtract a requirement for 125 wagons and 750 animals. Since the days of the Roman legion, the soldier has had to carry, on the average, about 55 or 60 pounds (25 or 27 kilograms). The ratio between weapons and other items in the soldier's load has varied widely, but the modern soldier has relegated most of his food to vehicle transport while still carrying a heavy burden of weapons and ammunition. Since World War II, however, some armies have made drastic reductions in the combat load.

Before the age of mechanization, the soldier's carrying capacity was usually supplemented by additional carriers and haulers, human and animal. Each had advantages. A team of six horses ate about as much as 30 to 40 men, but the men could carry more on their backs than the horses could haul and considerably more than the horses could carry. Men could negotiate rougher terrain, and they required less care. On the other hand, loads placed on men had to be distributed in small packages, and men proved less efficient than animals when teamed to haul heavy and bulky loads. The horse and mule, however, have less strength and stamina, though more agility, than the ox, history's primary beast of burden. In many parts of the world, motor transport still has not displaced human and animal carriers and haulers in the movement of military supply. Facilities.

The provision of military facilities, as distinct from fortification, did not become a large and complex sphere of logistic activity until the transformation of warfare in the industrial era. In that transformation the traditional function of providing nightly lodgings or winter quarters for the troops dwindled to relative insignificance in the mushrooming infrastructure of fixed and temporary installations that became part of the military establishments of the major powers. Modern armies, navies, and air forces own and operate factories, arsenals, laboratories, power plants, railroads, shipyards, airports, warehouses, supermarkets, office buildings, hotels, hospitals, homes for the aged, schools, colleges, and many other types of structures used by advanced societies in the 20th century--as well as barracks, the original military facility. They are among the world's great landowners. The management of all this improved real estate is one of the largest areas of modern logistic administration. Services.

Services may be defined as activities designed to enable personnel or material to perform more effectively. Usage recognizes no clear distinction between logistic and nonlogistic services, but a somewhat blurred one has grown out of the traditional and opprobrious identification of logistics with noncombat rear-area activities. Thus, intelligence and communications personnel and combat engineers in the U.S. Army have long claimed the label of "combat support" as distinct from the "service support" functions of supply, transportation, hospitalization and evacuation, military justice and discipline, custody of prisoners of war, civil affairs, personnel administration, and nontactical construction (performed by "construction" engineers). Training of combat troops is hardly ever considered a logistic service, whereas training of service troops sometimes is. Usage does not, however, always assign "service support" to logistics. Personnel administration is an old, institutionalized sector of the military establishment, and personnel administrators tend to reject the logistics label. Personnel services (medical, spiritual, educational, financial) are more heterogeneous and have varied origins; most definitions of logistics include them.

Most service activities, logistic and nonlogistic, are of recent origin and, as organized specialities, are peculiar to the military establishments of advanced nations. Over the long haul of military history, the services considered necessary to keep armed forces in fighting trim were generally of a rudimentary character. From the earliest times, however, they posed a serious logistic problem. To armies and their lines of communication they added numbers of people who did not, as a primary function, belong to the fighting force and who, if not properly organized, might weaken its capacity to fight. Soldiers seldom possessed the technical skills required to perform any but the simplest services; sometimes, as members of a warrior elite, they were prohibited by social prerogative from performing them. A classic feature of armies, consequently, has been its long train of noncombatants, often far outnumbering the fighting men.

Logistic services also added to the baggage of armies a growing burden of specialized equipment, tools, and materials needed for the performance of the services. Services tended to generate more services: service equipment itself had to be serviced, sometimes by additional technicians, and service personnel themselves required services. Logistic services thus meant more people to be fed, clothed, and sheltered and more people and baggage to be transported. What the British call the "administrative tail" is as old as military history. Special features of naval logistics.

From early times, the substantial carrying capacity of the warship made it an indispensable element in its own logistic support, particularly in the era before steam power eliminated the problem of covering long distances between ports. (Oar-driven warships, such as the Greek trireme, sacrificed this feature in order to maximize fighting power.) For centuries the most critical item of supply was water, which sailing ships found difficult to carry in sufficient quantities and to keep potable for long voyages. Food was somewhat less of a problem, except for its notoriously poor quality in the days before refrigeration, the sealed container, and sterilization. (see also  naval warfare)

During the long reign of the sailing ship, the absence of a fuel requirement was a major factor in the superior mobility of fleets over armies. The shift to steam was, in a sense, a return to the principle of self-contained propulsion earlier embodied in the oar-driven ship. The gain in control was of course an immeasurable improvement for the long haul, but for a time the inordinate amount of space that had to be allocated to carry wood or coal seriously inhibited the usefulness of early warships. Eventually the maritime nations established networks of coaling stations, which became part of the fabric of empire in the late 19th century. The shift to oil a few years before World War I involved a major dislocation in naval logistics and changed the stakes of imperial competition. (see also  steam power)

For modern navies the importance of bases goes far beyond the need for periodic replenishment of fuel, although this remains essential. Ships must be repaired, overhauled, and resupplied with ammunition and food; and, an ancient requirement, the crews must be given shore leave. Within limits, these needs can be filled by specialized auxiliary ships either accompanying naval forces at sea or stationed at predetermined rendezvous points. Naval operations in World War II saw a proliferation of these auxiliary vessels; in 1945 only 29 percent of the U.S. Navy consisted of purely fighting ships. By using auxiliaries and by rotating ships and personnel, modern fleets can remain at sea indefinitely, especially if not engaged in combat. U.S. fleets in the Mediterranean and far Pacific have done so for years, although the feat is less impressive than that of the British admiral Lord Nelson's fleet, which lay off Toulon, Fr., continuously, without rotation, for 18 months from 1803 to 1805. With nuclear propulsion, thus far applied only to submarines and a handful of large warships, the basic logistic function of replenishing fuel may eventually disappear. But that day will be long in coming, and the other functions of naval logistics will remain. Power versus movement.

The potential effectiveness of a military force derives from three attributes: fighting power, mobility, and range of movement. Which of these attributes is stressed depends on the commander's objectives and strategy, but all must compete for available logistic support. Three methods have been used, in combination, in providing this support for forces in the field: self-containment, local supply, and supply from bases. Self-containment.

The idea of complete independence from external sources of supply--the hard-hitting, self-contained "flying column"--has always been alluring but has seldom fully materialized. Self-containment in weapons, equipment, and missiles or ammunition was common enough before the great expansion of firepower and resupply requirements in the last century. But few military forces have been able to operate for long or move far without frequent resupply of food and forage or fuel.

Self-containment is the least economical of all methods of supply. Accompanying transport is fully employed only at the beginning of the movement, serving thereafter as a rolling warehouse that is progressively depleted as the force moves. Fast-moving, self-contained forces typically left a trail of abandoned vehicles and dead animals. The basic trade-off in self-containment is between the speed gained by avoiding delays and detours for foraging and the speed lost by dragging a large baggage train. When Hannibal crossed the Alps into northern Italy in 218 BC, he bypassed the Roman army guarding the easier coastal route; but his movement through the mountain passes was painfully slow, and he lost almost half his force to cold, disease, and hostile tribes along the way. Local supply.

Until the 20th century, armies commonly lived off the country and, in enemy territory, from captured stores. In fertile regions an army could usually provision itself at low cost in transport and without sacrificing fighting power or range; when efficiently organized, local supply even permitted a high degree of mobility. Normally, however, an army living off the country tended to straggle and to load itself down with loot. If it moved too slowly or was pinned down, it might sweep the region bare and starve. In winter, in deserts and mountains, or in thinly populated areas, local supply offered meagre fare. And a hostile population, as Napoleon discovered in Russia and Spain, could bring disaster to an army that had to scrounge for its food. (British forces in the American colonies during the Revolution had to draw most of their supplies from overseas.) Animals, in any case, almost always had to shift for themselves. Cattle driven with an army could transform forage into food, a supply technique as ancient as the Bible and still common in the 19th century. Unwieldy and slow-moving though it was, the accompanying herd had the great merit of transporting itself and dwindling as it was consumed.

When mechanized transport replaced animals, one of the great continuities of military history was broken. Mechanized armies can operate in winter and desert areas as long as they have fuel; when that runs out, they grind to a halt. Until fuel can be compressed into small capsules (as, in a sense, atomic energy is) or, like forage, be gathered along the way, the door to both self-containment and local supply will remain closed. Supply from bases.

The alternative to self-containment and local supply is continuous or periodic resupply and replacement from stores prestocked at bases or other accessible points. Supply from bases involves three serious disadvantages. First, supply routes are often vulnerable to attack. Second, an army shackled to its bases lacks flexibility and moves slowly--even more slowly as it advances. Finally, the transportation costs of maintaining a flow of supply over substantial distances are heavy and, beyond a point, prohibitive. The reason is twofold; first, because the transport of the supply train must operate a continuous shuttle--that is, for each day's travel time, two vehicles are needed to deliver a single load--and, second, because additional food and forage or fuel must be provided for the personnel, animals, or vehicles of the train itself. In the era of animal-drawn transport this multiplier factor set practical limits to the operating radius of an army, which the American Civil War general William T. Sherman fixed at about 100 miles (160 kilometres), or five days' march, from its base. The critical limitation was the provision of forage, the bulkiest supply item. For an army operating at any considerable distance from its bases, the in-transit forage requirements of its shuttling supply train, if supplied entirely from bases, would saturate any amount of transport, leaving none to supply the fighting force. Since pre-mechanized armies usually found some local forage and food, supply from bases, in combination with local supply and an accompanying train, was the normal method, but Sherman's 100 miles was seldom exceeded.

With modern mechanized transport the theoretical maximum operating radius is so great that other limitations come into play. Nevertheless, the in-transit fuel needed to supply a force from distant bases adds major increments of transport cost, especially under conditions (e.g., poor roads) that reduce speed or increase fuel consumption. It can also severely limit the speed of an advancing mechanized force, as shown by the bogdown of the U.S. 3rd Army's drive across France in the summer of 1944 for lack of fuel. (see also  gasoline)


3.5.2 HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT Logistic systems before 1850.

In ancient history the combination of local supply for food and forage and self-containment in hardware and services appears often as the logistic basis for operations by forces of moderate size. Some of these operations are familiar to many a schoolchild--the long campaign of Alexander the Great from Macedonia to the Indus, the saga of Xenophon's Ten Thousand, Hannibal's campaigns in Italy. The larger armies of ancient times--like the Persian invaders of Greece in 480 BC--seem to have been supplied by depots and magazines along the route of march. The Roman legion combined all three methods of supply in a marvelously flexible system. The legion's ability to march fast and far owed much to superb roads and an efficiently organized supply train, which included mobile repair shops and a service corps of engineers, artificers, armourers, and other technicians. Supplies were requisitioned from local authorities and stored in fortified depots; labour and animals were drafted as required. When necessary, the legion could carry in its train and on the backs of its soldiers up to 30 days' supply of provisions. In the First Punic War against Carthage (264-241 BC), a Roman army marched an average of 16 miles (26 kilometres) a day for four weeks. (see also  Roman Republic and Empire)

One of the most efficient logistic systems ever known was that of the Mongol cavalry armies of the 13th century. Its basis was austerity, discipline, careful planning, and organization. In normal movements the Mongol armies divided into several corps and spread widely over the country, accompanied by trains of baggage carts, pack animals, and herds of cattle. Routes and campsites were selected for accessibility to good grazing and food crops; food and forage were stored in advance along the routes of march. On entering enemy country, the army abandoned its baggage and herds, divided into widely separated columns, and converged upon the unprepared foe at great speed from several directions. In one such approach march a Mongol army covered 180 miles (290 kilometres) in three days. Commissariat, remount, and transport services were carefully organized. The tough and seasoned Mongol warrior could subsist almost indefinitely on dried meat and curds, supplemented by occasional game; when in straits, he might drain a little blood from a vein in his mount's neck. Every man had a string of ponies; baggage was held to a minimum, and equipment was standardized and light. (see also  Yüan dynasty)

In the early 17th century, King Gustav II Adolf of Sweden and Prince Maurice of Nassau, the military hero of the Netherlands, briefly restored to European warfare a measure of mobility not seen since the days of the Roman legion. This period saw a marked increase in the size of armies; Gustav and his adversaries mustered forces as large as 100,000, Louis XIV of France late in the century even more. Armies of this size had to keep on the move to avoid starving; as long as they did so, in fertile country they could usually support themselves without bases, even with their customary huge noncombatant "tail." Logistic organization improved, and Gustav also reduced his artillery train and the size of guns. In the Thirty Years' War (1618-48) strategy tended to become an appendage of logistics as armies, wherever possible, moved and supplied themselves along rivers exploiting the economies of water transportation, and operated in rich food-producing regions.

After the Thirty Years' War, European warfare became more sluggish and formalized, with limited objectives and an elaborate logistics that sacrificed both range and mobility. The new science of fortification made towns almost impregnable while enhancing their strategic value, making 18th-century warfare more an affair of sieges than of battles. Two logistic innovations were notable: the magazine, a strategically located prestocked depot, usually established to support an army conducting a siege; and its smaller, mobile version, the rolling magazine, which carried a few days' supply for an army on the march. Secure lines of communication became vital, and whole armies were deployed to protect them. The increasing size of armies and of artillery and baggage trains placed heavier burdens on transport. Also, a revulsion against the depredations and inhumanity of the 17th-century religious wars resulted in curbs on looting and burning and in regulated requisitioning or purchase of provisions from local authorities. Because of the high cost of mercenary soldiery, commanders tended to avoid battles, and campaigns tended to become sluggish maneuvers aimed at threatening or defending bases and lines of communication. "The masterpiece of a successful general," Frederick the Great remarked, "is to starve his enemy."

The era of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic domination of Europe (1789-1815) brought back both mobility and range of movement to European warfare, along with an immense further increase in the size of armies. Abandoning the siege warfare of the 18th century, Napoleonic strategy stressed swift offensives aimed at smashing the enemy's main force in a few decisive battles. The logistic system inherited from the Old Regime proved surprisingly adaptable to the new scale and pace of operations. Organization was made more efficient, baggage trains were pared down and some of their load shifted to the soldier's back, and much of the noncombatant tail was eliminated. The artillery train was increased, and the rolling magazine was used as the occasion demanded. The heavily burdened citizen-soldier marched faster and farther than his mercenary predecessor. In densely populated and fertile regions, moving armies continued to subsist, by purchase and requisition, on the countryside through which they marched, spreading out over parallel roads, each corps foraging to one side only. Even so, the numbers involved dictated greater dependence on magazines. (see also  Napoleonic Wars)

Napoleon made relatively few logistic innovations. He militarized some services formerly performed by contractors and civilian personnel, but the supply service (intendance) remained civilian though under military control. A significant change was the establishment in 1807 of a fully militarized train service to operate over part of the line of communication; this was divided into sections that were each serviced by a complement of shuttling wagons--foreshadowing the staged resupply system of the 20th century. The 600-mile advance of Napoleon's Grande Armée of 600,000 men into Russia in 1812 involved logistic preparations on an unprecedented scale. Despite extensive sabotage by the Russian peasantry, the system brought the army victorious to Moscow. Logistics in the industrial era. The revolution in warfare.

Between the mid-19th and the mid-20th centuries the conditions and methods of logistics were transformed by a fundamental change in the tools and modes of making war--perhaps the most fundamental change since the beginning of organized warfare. The revolution had four facets: (1) the mobilization of mass armies; (2) a revolution in weapons technology involving a phenomenal increase in firepower; (3) an economic revolution that provided the means to feed, arm, and transport mass armies; and (4) a revolution in the techniques of management and organization, which enabled nations to operate their military establishments more effectively than ever before.

These interrelated developments did not occur all at once. Armies of unprecedented size had appeared in the later years of the Napoleonic Wars. But for almost a century after 1815, the world saw no comparable mobilization of manpower except in the American Civil War. Meanwhile, the growth of population (in Europe, from 180 million in 1800 to 490 million in 1914) was creating a huge reservoir of manpower. By the end of the 19th century most nations were building large standing armies backed by even larger partially trained reserves. In the world wars of the 20th century the major powers mobilized armed forces numbering millions.

The revolution in weapons had started earlier but accelerated after about 1830. By the 1850s and '60s the rifled percussion musket, rifled and breech-loading artillery, large-calibre ordnance, and steam-propelled armoured warships were all coming into general use. The revolution proceeded with gathering momentum thereafter, but it remained for mass armies in the 20th century to realize its full potential for destruction. (see also  military technology)

By the mid-19th century the Industrial Revolution had already given Great Britain, France, and the United States the capacity to produce munitions, food, transport, and many other items in quantities no commissary or quartermaster had ever dreamed of. But except in the Northern states during the American Civil War, the wars of the 19th century hardly scratched the surface of the existing war-making potential. The nature of international rivalries of the period tended to limit war objectives and the mobilization of latent military power. Only in the crucible of World War I, at the cost of colossal blunders and wasted effort, did nations begin to learn the techniques of "total" war. Long before 1914, however, new instruments and techniques of logistics were emerging. Transportation and communication.

The railroad, the steamship, and the telegraph had a profound impact on logistic method during the last half of the 19th century. Beginning with the Crimean War (1854-56), telegraphic communication became an indispensable tool of command, intelligence, and operational coordination, particularly in controlling rail traffic. In the 20th century it yielded to more efficient forms of electronic communication--the telephone, radio, radar, television, telephotography, and the high-speed computer. (see also  communication system)

Orange and Alexandria Railroad wrecked by retreating Confederates, Manassas, Va. Photograph by. . .
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (LC-B8171-7197 DLC)

Railroads spread rapidly over western and central Europe and the eastern United States between 1850 and 1860. They were used--mainly for troop movements--in the suppression of central European revolutions in 1848-49, on a considerable scale in the Italian War of 1859, and extensively in the American Civil War, where they also demonstrated their capacity for long hauls of bulky freight in sustaining the forward movement of armies. In Europe, from 1859 on, railroads shaped the war plans of all the general staffs, the central features of which were the rapid mobilization and concentration of troops on a threatened frontier at the outbreak of war. In 1870, at the outset of the Franco-German War, the German states were able to concentrate 550,000 troops, 150,000 horses, and 6,000 pieces of artillery on the French border in 21 days. Germany's recognized efficiency in mobilizing influenced the war plans of all the European powers in 1914. In both world wars Germany's railroads enabled it to shift troops rapidly between the Eastern and Western fronts.

Steam propulsion and iron ship construction also introduced new logistic capabilities into warfare in the 19th century. Steamships moved troops and supplies in support of U.S. forces in the Mexican War of 1846-48 and of British and French armies in the Crimea. River steamboats played an indispensable role in the American Civil War. (see also  steamship)

The complement of the railroad was the powered vehicle that could travel on ordinary roads and even unprepared surfaces, within the operating zones of armies forward of railheads. This was a 20th-century development, a combination of the internal-combustion engine, the pneumatic tire, and the endless track. Motor transport was used on an increasing scale in both world wars, although animal-drawn transport and railroads still dominated land movement. Another innovation was the pipeline, used to move water in the Palestine campaign of World War I and extensively in World War II to move oil and gasoline to storage points near the combat zones. More revolutionary was the development of large-scale air transportation. In World War II, units as large as a division were carried in one movement by air over and behind enemy lines and resupplied by the same means. Cargo aircraft maintained an airlift for more than three years from bases in India across the Himalayas into China; during the last eight months of operation it averaged more than 50,000 tons per month. But the fuel costs of such an operation were exorbitant. Air transportation remained primarily a means of emergency movement when speed was an overriding consideration. (see also  motor vehicle) The growth in quantity.

The most conspicuous logistic phenomenon of the great 20th-century wars was the enormous quantity of material used and consumed. One cause was the growth of firepower, which was partly a matter of increased rapidity of fire of individual weapons, partly a higher ratio of weapons to men--both multiplied by the vast numbers of troops now mobilized. An American Civil War infantry division of 3,000 to 5,000 men had an artillery complement of up to 24 pieces; its World War II counterpart, numbering about 15,000 men, had 328 artillery pieces, all capable of firing heavier projectiles far more rapidly. A World War II armoured division had nearly 1,000 pieces of artillery. Twentieth-century infantrymen, moreover, were armed with semiautomatic and automatic weapons.

The upward curve of firepower was reflected in the immense amounts of ammunition required in large-scale operations. Artillery fire in the Franco-German War and in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05), for example, showed a marked increase over that in the American Civil War. But World War I unleashed a firepower hardly hinted at in earlier conflicts. For the preliminary bombardment (lasting one week) in the First Battle of the Somme in 1916, British artillery was provided 23,000 tons of projectiles; 100 years earlier, Napoleon's gunners at Waterloo had about 100 tons. In World War II the United States procured only about four times as many small arms as it had in the Civil War but 43 times as much small-arms ammunition. (To the ammunition expenditures in World War II were added, moreover, the immense tonnages of explosives used in air bombardment.) The Confederacy fought through the four years of the Civil War on something like 5,000 or 6,000 tons of gunpowder, whereas U.S. factories in one average month during World War I turned out almost four times this quantity of smokeless powder. Again, in one year of World War II, seven million tons of steel went into the manufacture of tanks and trucks for the U.S. Army, four million tons into artillery ammunition, one million tons into artillery, and 1.5 million tons into small arms--as contrasted with less than one million tons of pig iron used by the entire economy of the Northern states during one year of the Civil War.

With quantitative growth went a parallel growth in the complexity of military equipment. The U.S. Army in World War II used about 60 major types of artillery above .60-inch calibre; for 20 different calibres of cannon there were about 270 types and sizes of shells. The list of military items procured for U.S. Army ground forces added up to almost 900,000, each of which contained many separate parts--as many as 25,000 for some antiaircraft guns. To convert and expand a nation's peacetime industry to the production of such an arsenal posed staggering technical problems. Manufacturers of automobiles, refrigerators, soap, soft drinks, bed springs, toys, shirts, and microscopes had to learn how to make guns, gun carriages, recoil mechanisms, and ammunition. Staged resupply.

Long before mechanization relegated local supply to a minor role in logistics, growing supply requirements were making armies more dependent on supply from bases. The Etappen system of the Prussian army in 1866 resembled the Napoleonic train service of 1807. Behind each army corps trailed a lengthening series of shuttling wagon trains moving up supplies through a chain of magazines extending back to a railhead. A small train accompanied the troops, carrying a basic load of ammunition, rations, and baggage; each soldier also carried additional ammunition and three days' emergency rations. The system was geared to a steady, slow advance on a rigid schedule and a predetermined route. (see also  supply train)

Before the advent of mechanization half a century later, the system did not work well, since the shuttling wagon trains were unable to keep up with a rapid advance. In both the Franco-German War and the German invasion of France in 1914, German forces outran their trains and had to live off the French countryside, one of the richest agricultural regions in Europe. In the latter campaign, however, the Germans' tiny motor transport corps played a vital role in supplying ammunition for the opening battles. In subsequent operations on the Western Front, the immobility of the opposing forces provided an ideal environment for the staged resupply system, reversing the ancient rule that a "sitting" army must starve. On the other hand, many offensives on that front bogged down, after gaining only a few miles, through failure to move up quickly the quantities of fuel, ammunition, and supplies needed to maintain momentum.

The staged resupply system, in practice, did not precisely resemble either a pipeline or a series of conveyor belts maintaining a continuous flow from ultimate source to consumer. Reserves were stocked as far forward as was safe and practicable, permitting a regular supply of food and fuel and an immediate provision of ammunition, equipment, and services as needed. Before a major operation, large reserves had to be accumulated close behind the front; the two-year Allied build-up in the British Isles before the Normandy invasion of 1944, for example, involved the shipment of 16 million tons of cargo across the Atlantic. After the invasion, behind the armies on the Continent spread the rear-area administrative zone, a vast complex of depots, traffic regulating points, railway marshaling yards, troop cantonments, rest areas, repair shops, artillery and tank parks, oil and gasoline storage areas, air bases, and headquarters--through which ran the lines of supply stretching back to ultimate sources. (see also  World War II)

In the Pacific, the administrative zone covered vast reaches of ocean and clusters of islands. Communication and movement in this theatre depended largely on shipping, supplemented by aircraft, and one of the major logistic problems was moving forward bases and reserves as the fighting forces advanced. Supply ships often sailed all the way from the U.S. West Coast, bypassing intermediate bases, to forward areas where they were held as floating warehouses until their cargoes were exhausted.

In a real sense, the basic logistic tools of land operations in World War II were the railroad, the motor truck, and, carried over from the premechanized era, the horse-drawn wagon. Motor transport, when available, served to move forward the mountains of material brought to railheads by the railroads--a feat that, as the late 19th-century wars and World War I had shown, could not be done by horse-drawn vehicles rapidly enough to sustain fast-moving forces. When supplied by motor transport, mechanized armies, particularly in the European theatre, achieved a mobility and striking power never before seen. Paradoxically, Germany, which dominated operations in this theatre until late in the war, suffered from a severe shortage of motor transport and rolling stock, only partially made good by levies on conquered nations. The Wehrmacht that invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 consisted mainly of slow-moving infantry divisions supplied by horse-drawn wagons and spearheaded by a few armoured and mechanized units racing ahead. In order to maximize the capacity of its meagre motor transport, the organic transport of the armoured spearheads actually backtracked over the route of advance to pick up containerized fuel from prepositioned dumps--a novel modification of the staged resupply system. Motor transport was also supplemented by use of captured Soviet railroads (which had to be converted from wide to narrow gauge to accommodate German rolling stock) extending into the combat zone and paralleling vehicle roads.

The logistics of the North African desert campaigns in World War II virtually eliminated local supply and intermediate bases and depots, in effect replacing staged resupply by a simple single-shuttle base-to-troops operation. In 1941-42 the German Afrika Korps in Libya was supplied across the Mediterranean through the small port of Tripoli and eastward over a single coastal road that had no bases or magazines and was exposed to enemy air attack--a distance of up to 1,300 miles, depending on the location of the front (200 miles was considered the normal limit for effective supply). This operation was occasionally supplemented by small coastal shipments into the ports of Banghazi and Tobruk. The fuel cost of this overland operation was between one-third and one-half of all the fuel imported.

One of the striking lessons of World War II, often obscured by the tactical achievements of air power and mechanized armour, was the great power that modern logistics gave to the defense. In 1943 and 1944 the ratio of superiority enjoyed by Germany's enemies in output of combat munitions was about 2.5:1; the whole apparatus of Germany's war economy was subjected to relentless attack from the air and had to make good enormous losses of matériel in a succession of military defeats. Yet Germany was able, for about two years, to hold its own, primarily because its waning logistic strength could be concentrated on sustaining the firepower of forces that were stationary or retiring slowly toward their bases, instead of on the expensive effort required to support a rapid forward movement. (see also  fire) Logistic specialization.

For many centuries the soldier was a fighting man and nothing else; he depended on civilians to provide the services that enabled him to live, move, and fight. Even the more technical combat and combat-related skills, such as fortification, siegecraft, and service of artillery, were traditionally civilian. After the mid-19th century, with the rather sudden growth in the technical complexity of warfare, the military profession faced the problem of assimilating a growing number and variety of noncombatant skills. Many of the uniformed logistic services date from this period; examples are the British army's Transport Corps (later the Royal Army Service Corps), Hospital Corps, and Ordnance Corps. In the American Civil War the Union army formed a railway construction corps, largely civilian but under military control. A little later, Prussia created a railway section in the Great General Staff and a combined military-civilian organization for controlling and operating the railroads in time of war.

Not until the 20th century, however, did organized military units performing specialized logistic services begin to appear in large numbers in the field. By the end of World War II, what was called "service support" comprised about 45 percent of the total strength of the U.S. Army. Only three out of every 10 soldiers had combat functions, and even within a combat division one man out of four was a noncombatant. Even so, the specialized services that the military profession succeeded in assimilating were only a small fraction of those on which the combat soldier depended. Throughout the vast administrative zones behind combat areas and in the national base, armies of civilian workers and specialists manned depots, arsenals, factories, communication centres, ports, and the other apparatuses of a modern society at war. Military establishments employed growing numbers of civilian administrators, scientists, technicians, management and public relations experts, and other specialists. Within the profession itself, the actual incorporation of specialized skills was limited, in the main, to those directly related (or exposed) to combat, such as the operating and servicing of military equipment, though even there the profession had no monopoly. Soldiers also served as administrators and supervisors over civilian specialists with whose skills they had only a nodding acquaintance. On the whole, the fighting man at mid-20th century belonged to a shrinking minority in a profession made up largely of administrators and noncombatant specialists. Logistics in the nuclear age.

The dropping of the first atomic bombs in August 1945 seemed to inaugurate a new era in warfare, demanding radical changes in logistic systems and techniques. The bombs did, in truth, give birth to a new line of weaponry of unprecedented destructive power. Within a decade they were followed by the thermonuclear weapon, an even greater leap in destructive force. Development of intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear-powered, missile-firing submarines a few years later extended the potential range of destruction to targets anywhere on the globe. The following decades saw dramatic developments in the offensive capabilities of nuclear weapons and also, for the first time, in defenses against them. But the world moved into the late 20th century without any of the new nuclear weaponry having been used in anger. Most warfare, moreover, was limited in scale and made little use of advanced technology. It produced only nine highly mobilized war economies: the two Koreas (1950-53), Israel (1956, 1967, 1973), North Vietnam (1965-75), Biafra (1967-70), Iran and Iraq (1980-88)--all except Israel preindustrial Third World countries. (see also  limited warfare)

The first major conflict in this period, the war in Korea (1950-53), seemed in many ways an extension of the positional campaigns in World War II. It was fought largely with World War II weapons, in some cases improved versions, and with stocks of munitions left over from that conflict. United Nations forces had an excellent base in nearby Japan, whose factories made a major contribution by rebuilding U.S. World War II material. UN air superiority kept both Japan and Pusan, South Korea's major port of entry, free from communist air attack. UN forces thus were able to funnel through Pusan supply tonnages comparable to those handled by the largest ports in World War II and to concentrate depots and other installations in the Pusan area to a degree that would have been suicidal without air superiority. The communist supply system, although technically primitive, functioned well under UN air attack, moving troops and supplies by night, organizing local labour, and exploiting the Chinese soldier's famous ability to fight well under extreme privation. (see also  Korean War)

By World War II standards, the Korean War was a limited conflict (except for the two Korean belligerents, on whose soil it was fought). It involved only a partial, or "creeping," economic mobilization in the United States and a modest mobilization of reserves. Yet this was no small war. Over three years about 37.2 million measurement tons of cargo were poured into the South Korean ports, more than three-fourths of the amount shipped to U.S. Army forces in all the Pacific theatres in World War II. Combined UN forces reached a peak strength of almost one million men; communist forces were considerably larger. New technology.

Advances in the technology of supply and movement after 1945 were not commensurate with those in weaponry. On land, internal-combustion vehicles and railroads, with increasing use of diesel fuel in both, remained the basic instruments of large-scale troop and freight movement despite their growing vulnerability to attack. In the most modern systems, substantial amounts of motor transport were capable of crossing shallow water obstacles. In areas not yet penetrated by rail or metaled roads--areas where much of the warfare of the period occurred--surface movement necessarily reverted to the ancient modes of human and animal porterage, sometimes usefully supplemented by the bicycle. Some exotic types of vehicles capable of negotiating rough and soft terrain off the roads were designed and tested--the "hovercraft," or air-cushion vehicle, for instance. But none of these innovations came into general use. The most promising developments in overland movement were helicopters and vertical-takeoff-and-landing aircraft, along with techniques of rapid airfield construction, which enabled streamlined airmobile forces and their logistic tails to overleap terrain obstacles and greatly reduced their dependence on roads, airfields, and forward bases. Helicopters also permitted the establishment and maintenance of isolated artillery fire bases in enemy territory. (see also  air-cushion machine)

In air movement there was a spectacular growth in the range and payload capacity of transport aircraft. The piston-engine transports of World War II vintage that carried out the Berlin airlift of 1948-49 had a capacity of about four tons (3,640 kilograms) and a maximum range of 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometres). The U.S. C-141 jet transport, which went into service in 1965, had a 45-ton (40,900-kilogram) capacity and a range of 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometres); it could take an average payload of 24 tons from the U.S. West Coast to South Vietnam in 43 hours and evacuate wounded back to the East Coast (10,000 miles) in less than a day. By 1970 these capabilities were dwarfed by the new "global logistics" C-5A, with payloads up to 130 tons and ranges up to 5,500 miles. It is estimated that 10 C-5As could have handled the entire Berlin airlift, which employed more than 140 of the then-available aircraft. C-5As played a vital role in the U.S. airlift to Israel during the Arab-Israeli War of October 1973. Very large cargo helicopters were also developed, notably in the Soviet Union, as were new techniques for packaging and air-dropping cargo. (see also  aviation)

In this period, movement by sea was the only branch of logistics that tapped the huge potential of nuclear propulsion. Its principal application, however, was in submarines, which did not develop a significant logistic function. (Development of nuclear-powered aircraft proved abortive.) The Soviet Union produced a nuclear-powered icebreaker in 1957, and the United States launched the first nuclear-powered merchant ship in 1959. But high initial and operating costs and (in the West) vested mercantile interests barred extensive construction of nuclear merchant ships. Except for supertankers built after the Suez crisis in 1956, and again during the energy crisis of the 1970s, seaborne cargo movement still depended on ships not radically different from those used in World War II. The chief technical improvement in sea lift, embodied in a few special-purpose vessels, was the "roll-on-roll-off" feature, first used in World War II landing craft, which permitted loading and discharge of vehicles without hoisting. Containerization, the stowage of irregularly shaped freight in sealed, reusable containers of uniform size and shape, became widespread in commercial ship operations and significantly affected ship design. (see also  water transportation)

This period saw further development, from World War II models, of large vessels capable of discharging landing craft and vehicles offshore or over a beach as well as transporting troops, cargo, and helicopters in amphibious operations. For follow-up operations, improved attack cargo ships were built, such as the British landing-ship logistic, with accommodations for landing craft, helicopters, vehicles and tanks, landing ramps, and heavy-cargo-handling equipment. More revolutionary additions to the technology of amphibious logistics were the American landing vehicle hydrofoil and the BARC, both amphibians with pneumatic-tired wheels for overland movement and, in the latter case, capacity for 100 tons of cargo. Hydrofoil craft, which skimmed at high speeds above the water on submerged inclined planes, developed a varied family of types by 1970. (see also  amphibious warfare )

The revolution in electronic communication after World War II lies beyond the scope of this article, but its profound impact on logistic administration should be noted. In advanced logistic systems the combination of advanced electronic communication with the high-speed electronic computer almost wholly replaced the elaborate processes of message transmission, record search, and record keeping formerly involved in supply administration, making the response of supply to demand automatic and virtually instantaneous. (see also  telecommunications system) Strategic mobility.

Because the leading military powers did not directly fight each other during the decades after World War II, none of them had to deal with the classic logistic problem of deploying and supporting forces over sea lines of communication exposed to enemy attack. The Soviet Union was able in 1962 to establish a missile base in Cuba manned by some 25,000 troops without interference by the United States until its offensive purpose was detected. Similarly, the large deployments of U.S. forces to Korea, Southeast Asia, and elsewhere, as well as the 8,000-mile movement of a British expeditionary force to the Falkland Islands in 1982, encountered no opposition. (see also  Cuban missile crisis )

Yet the problem of strategic mobility was of major concern after 1945 to the handful of nations with far-flung interests and the capacity to project military power far beyond their borders. In the tightly controlled power politics of the period, each of these countries needed the capability to bring military force quickly to bear to protect its interests in local emergencies at remote points--as Great Britain and France did at Suez in 1956, the United States in Lebanon in 1958 and in the Taiwan Straits in 1959, Great Britain in Kuwait in 1961 and in the Falkland Islands in 1982, and France in Chad on several occasions in the 1980s. The most effective instruments for such interventions were small, powerful, mobile task forces brought in by air or sea as well as forward-deployed aircraft-carrier and amphibious forces. The United States developed strong and versatile intervention capabilities, with major fleets deployed in the far Pacific and the Mediterranean; a worldwide network of bases and alliances; large ground and air forces in Europe, Korea, and Southeast Asia; and, in the 1960s, a mobile strategic reserve of several divisions with long-range sea-lift and airlift capabilities. The Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France had more limited capabilities, although the Soviet Union began in the late 1960s to deploy strong naval and air forces into the eastern Mediterranean and also maintained a naval presence in the Indian Ocean. After the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam in 1973, the Soviet navy extended its power into the South China Sea.

The logistics of strategic mobility was complex and was decisively affected by the changing technology of movement, especially by air and sea. During the 1950s the proponents of naval and land-based air power debated the relative cost and effectiveness of naval-carrier forces and fixed air bases as a tool of emergency intervention. Studies seemed to show that the fixed bases were cheaper if all related costs were considered but that the advantage of mobility and flexibility lay with the naval carriers. In the 1970s the growing range and capacities of transport aircraft provided an increasingly effective tool for distant intervention and were a large factor in the reduction of the American and British overseas base systems. In practice, emergency situations called for using the means available and involved a great deal of improvisation, especially for second-rank powers. Management.

Both during and after World War II the United States operated the largest and most advanced logistic system in the world. Its wartime operations stressed speed, volume, and risk-taking more than efficiency and economy. The postwar years, with accelerated technological change, skyrocketing costs, and diminished public interest in defense, brought a revulsion against military prodigality, manifested by calls for reduced defense budgets and a growing demand for more efficient management of the military establishment. This demand culminated in a thorough overhaul of the whole system in the 1960s.

One result was the reorganization of logistic activities in the three military services, generally along functional lines, with large logistic commands operating under functional staff supervision. In each service, however, each major weapon system was centrally managed by a separate project officer, and central inventory control was maintained for large commodity groups. In 1961 a new defense supply agency was established to manage on a wholesale basis the procurement, storage, and distribution of common military supplies and the administration of certain common services.

The most far-reaching managerial reforms of the period were instituted by the U.S. defense secretary, Robert S. McNamara (1961-68), in the resource allocation process. A unified defense planning-programming-budgeting system provided for five-year projections of force, manpower, and dollar requirements for all defense activities, classified into eight or nine major programs (such as strategic forces) that cut across the lines of traditional service responsibilities. The system was introduced in other federal departments after 1965, and elements of it were adopted by the British and other governments. In 1966 a program was inaugurated to integrate management accounting at the operating level with the programming-budgeting system. At the end of the 1960s a new administration restored some of the initiative in the planning-budgeting-programming cycle to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the military services.

The reforms of the 1960s exploited the whole range of current managerial methodology. The basic techniques, such as systems and operations analysis, all stressed precise, scientific, usually quantitative formulations of problems and mathematical approaches to rational decision making. Systems analysis, the technique associated with defense planning and programming, was a method of economic and mathematical analysis useful in dealing with complex problems of choice under conditions of uncertainty. The technological foundation of this improved logistic management was the high-speed electronic computer, which was being used chiefly in inventory control; in automated operations at depots, bases, and stations; in transmitting and processing supply data; in personnel administration; and in command-and-control networks. War in Vietnam.

One of the most significant developments in logistics after 1945 was the pitting of advanced high-technology systems against well-organized low-technology systems operating on their own ground. The Korean War and the anticolonial wars in French Indochina and Algeria were the principal conflicts of this kind in the 1950s. The war in Vietnam following large-scale U.S. intervention in 1965 brought into conflict the most effective of both types of systems. (see also  Vietnam War)

Because South Vietnam lacked most of the facilities on which modern military forces depend, the massive U.S. deployment that began in the spring of 1965, reaching 180,000 men by the end of that year and more than 550,000 in 1969, was accompanied, rather than preceded, by a huge ($4 billion) construction program, carried out partly by army, navy, and air force engineer units and partly by a consortium of engineering contractors. Under this program were built seven deepwater and several smaller ports, eight jet air bases with 10,000-foot (3,050-metre) runways, 200 smaller airfields, and 200 heliports, besides millions of square feet of covered and refrigerated storage, hundreds of miles of roads, hundreds of bridges, oil pipelines and tanks, and all the other apparatuses of a modern logistic infrastructure. Deep-draft shipping brought in all but scarce items of airlifted supplies and came mainly from the U.S. directly.

The soldier in the field received lavish logistic support. By means of helicopter supply, troops in contact with the enemy were often provided with hot meals; most of the wounded were promptly evacuated to hospitals and serious cases were moved by air to base facilities in the Pacific or the United States. Medical evacuation, combined with advances in medicine, helped to raise the ratio of surviving wounded to dead to 6:1, in contrast to a World War II ratio of 2.6:1. Logistic support of army forces was organized under a single logistic command having a strength of 30,000 and employing 50,000 Vietnamese, U.S., and foreign civilians. Ultimately there were four or five support personnel for every infantryman who bore the brunt of contact fighting with the enemy.

The communist logistic system centred in the highly mobilized society of North Vietnam. In its integration, efficiency, and resilience under concentrated and prolonged bombing it rivaled the war economy of Germany in World War II. Its resilience owed much, however, to its being a village-centred agricultural society, with modest material needs and a limited industrial base, which produced no steel, very little pig iron, and only one-fifth as much electric power as a single power plant in a small American town.

By late 1967 the communist war effort in South Vietnam depended heavily on the flow of troops, equipment, and supplies from North Vietnam, supplied mainly by the Soviet Union. The troops and most of the supplies moved over the Ho Chi Minh Trail, originally a network of footpaths and dirt roads (often paved after 1967) through communist-controlled areas in Laos and Cambodia. Supplies also came into South Vietnam by sea, directly across the northern border, and, especially after 1967, through the Cambodian port of Kompong Som and overland into the Mekong delta.

The Ho Chi Minh Trail was a long, slow-moving pipeline, requiring from three to six months in transit by truck, barge, ox cart, bicycle, and foot, but its capacity was ample for the modest demands placed upon it. In mid-1967, U.S. intelligence estimated the total nonfood requirements of all communist forces in South Vietnam, except in the northernmost provinces, to be as low as 15 tons (13,640 kilograms) per day (about 1.5 ounces, or 43 grams, per man); food was procured locally and in nearby Cambodia and Laos. In 1968, when the pace of the war quickened and communist forces were substantially augmented, estimated nonfood requirements rose to about 120 tons per day. (A single U.S. division required about five times this amount.)

American bombing had little effect on the flow of troops to the south, and the communist logistic system stood up remarkably well--and ultimately victoriously--under the weight of American air power. Its strength lay primarily in its austerity, but also in efficient organization, lavish use of manpower, availability of sanctuary areas in Laos and Cambodia, and a steady flow of imported supplies. Afghanistan.

The Soviet Union's Afghan war (1979-89), though on a scale smaller than Vietnam, embodied similar political, social, and economic dynamics and a similar contest between high-technology and low-technology logistic systems. Soviet forces, concentrated in the principal cities and towns, relied heavily on airlift and convoyed motor transport to move troops and supplies. Afghan guerrillas (called mujahideen), holding most of the countryside, used mainly animal transport and brought much of their supplies and weapons across the border from Pakistan. In an agriculturally poor country, significantly depopulated by Soviet bombing and forced flight into Pakistan, mass hunger and disease were widespread. For most of the war an approximate stalemate prevailed, in logistics as well as in tactical operations. But in 1986 the acquisition from the United States and Great Britain of substantial numbers of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles enabled the mujahideen to challenge Soviet control of the air--a significant factor in the Soviets' withdrawal early in 1989. Trends and prospects.

For logisticians the fundamental dilemma posed by the quantum leap in weapons technology after World War II was the absence of any comparable development in logistics. The electronic computer had, indeed, a dramatic impact on logistic planning and administration, as well as on military administration in general. The computer enabled planners to visualize problems concretely, often in quantitative terms; it accelerated the transmission of demand and the administrative response to it; and it enabled the military services for the first time to control their inventories. But the computer could not touch the ancient problem, compounded by the new weaponry, of actually providing and moving supplies to their users.

Conversely, nuclear weapons threatened to sweep away every vestige of the logistic system of the industrial era. None of the elaborate apparatuses of rear-area administration, lines of communication, or even sources of supply seemed likely to survive the nuclear firepower that could be brought to bear against it. The problem was studied and restudied, and a great deal of hopeful doctrine was developed for logistic operations in a nuclear war. It revolved about such concepts as dispersion, mobility, small targets, duplication, multiplicity, austerity, concealment, and automaticity, yet all of it was little more than a planner's dream, and a fading dream at that. At best it promised to reduce somewhat the inherent vulnerability of the surface-bound installations and transport on which military forces for the foreseeable future were likely to depend. Dispersion and duplication were enemies of economy and efficiency. The net effect could only be to increase the costs of logistic support and diminish the yield of delivered supplies and services.

In any case, nuclear war seemed the least likely of prospects. The most likely appeared to be a continuation of the confused patterns of limited conventional war and quasi-war that had filled the decades since the end of World War II. Under these conditions the central problems of logistics would be the historic ones of weight and bulk, which inhibited mobility and range of movement and were the primary causes of vulnerability to the new firepower. The technologies of these decades had accelerated the basic logistic trends of the industrial era: increasing complexity and cost in military hardware, increasing overall weight and volume of material (despite a reverse trend toward reduced numbers in some major items, such as aircraft), and, above all, an enormous increase in expenditures of ammunition and fuel. Logisticians in the postwar decades had to face the probability that in another large-scale conventional conflict between advanced powers the new vehicles would consume about half again as much fuel and the new weapons would expend more than four times as much ammunition as had been consumed and expended in World War II.

Some of the new tools of logistics were highly effective in specialized environments, notably the growing family of helicopters used in conjunction with conventional and short-takeoff-and-landing air transports, which permitted a mobility and a range of movement over difficult terrain far beyond the capabilities of surface transport. Whether an airmobile logistic system could survive the firepower likely to be encountered in a conflict with an adversary disputing command of the air was a question to which experience had not yet given an answer. In any case, the system purchased its mobility and range at a fuel cost several times higher than that involved in surface transport.

How well the "sophisticated" systems, with their growing burden of weight and bulk, would function under a threat to their previously immune supply lines was perhaps the most serious challenge facing modern logisticians. Nuclear propulsion offered a theoretical solution, but there seemed little hope for its early application to large sectors of military movement. A nuclear-powered sea transport service was a reasonable prospect, though not an early one, and it would not suffice for a major overseas war. More fundamentally, fuel consumption on the sea lanes was not the crux of the problem, and nuclear propulsion offered no solution to the vulnerability of surface vessels to air and submarine attack. The massive fuel consumers were aircraft and ground vehicles, and serious technical obstacles barred the application of nuclear energy to their power plants.

The reckoning, if there was to be one, might be long postponed. Given the existing distribution and equilibriums of power among the advanced nations, on the one hand, and the high cost and slow diffusion of sophisticated military technology to the less-developed two-thirds of the world, on the other, limited warfare seemed likely for a long time to come to remain at relatively low technical levels. Meanwhile, sophisticated logistic systems were becoming more entangled in their own complexity and absorbed in the endless pursuit of efficient management and in the struggle to control the waste and friction involved in delivering the tools of war to their users. (R.M.Le.)



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