Doughboy Center

The Story of the American Expeditionary Forces

Advance Section




Supply Trains

Presented the Great War Society

The supply columns pictured above performed the final steps in the process of getting the frontline doughboy the weapons, equipment, food and supplies he needed to fight. The Army official history describes the way the system worked in this fashion: The Advance Section delivered supplies received from the Intermediate and Base Sections forward to a point where delivery was made to field transportation of combat forces; here the Regulating Officer, a direct representative of GHQ, assumed responsibility, the Advance Sectionís authority ceasing.

The commander of the advance section during the critical period of combat and made it all work was Col [later Bg Gen] William R. Sample. He led and managed an enormous collection of facilities and functions including:

  • Headquarters at Neaufchateau;

  • Regulating stations at Is-sur-Tille, St-Dizier, and Liffol-le-Grand;

  • Advance depots with between 2,000,OOO and 3,000,OOO sq ft of covered storage space;

  • Base and camp hospitals at Vittel and Bazoilles in the Vosges, Beaune (Cote díOr), Toul (Moselle) and Rimaucourt (Haute-Marne)having a normal bed capacity of about 50,000 and an emergency capacity of more than 66,000;

  • Salvage depots;

  • Overhaul parks at Dijon, and Langres which during 1918 repaired more than 30,000 motor vehicles, issuing them at the rate of 100 to 150 a day;

    Delivering Tanks to the Front

  • Gas and oil storage for over 600,000 gals;

  • Bakeries having daily output of about l,OOO,OOO lbs;

  • Laundries at Nancy, Chaumont, Mandres, Vittel, Bazoilles, Baccarat, Langres, and Rimaucourt with total output in Nov 1918 reaching more than l,OOO,OOO pieces laundered and more than 33,039 pieces repaired per month;

  • The First Air Depot at Colombey-les-Belles supplying all Air Service units operating on the American front;

    Watering the Horses

  • Remount depots, which by Nov 1918 supplied more than 70,000 animals;

  • Forestry operations in the districts of Dijon, Besanqon, Epinal, and Eclaron, furnishing products for the immense construction projects of the AEF.

  • Construction throughout the Section includes airdromes, barracks, hos- pitals, water supply, storage tanks, railroad tracks, and many other facilities of similar type.

The accomplishements of the Advance Section and its parent organization the Services of Supply are, even today, stunning. And it was all done from a dead stop in fits and starts. The hospitals they built were caring for 190,000 doughboys on their peak day. The forestry troops milled 200,000,000 feet of lumber and 4,000,000 railroad ties. One of their mechanized bakeries produced 800,000 pounds of bread each day.

A Wounded Doughboy Receives First Class Care

These records would have been far surpassed had General Pershing received all of the 4.7 million troops planned for the Expeditionary Force, and the Advance Section required to meet their proportionally greater demand. But the war ended earlier than anyone planned. Maybe more than the contributions of the combat arm the future enemies and allies of the United States should have studied the performance of the Services of Supply in the Great War. All the potential for applying its industrial power to warfare was evident in 1918.

Sources and thanks: Compiled by the Editor from American Armies and Battlefields in Europe and the US Army Official History of the World War.. Regular contributor Ray Mentzer provided the Photos. MH

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Original artwork & copy; © 1998-2000, The Great War Society