What were the logistics of USN Supply Train in the latter part of the Pacific War

My father served in the USN on a navy freighter in 1944 and 1945. I read somewhere that the supply train was far larger and had more personnel than the combatant navy. What did the logistical USN look like?


Welcome to the circus!

Your Dad is correct. The Pacific is huge, there are bases everywhere (including ones far from where the current fighting is.). You need food, fuel, ammunition, mail, entertainment (generally distributed as film and records), spare parts, machine shops supplies. And that’s just for far away bases.

For the “sharp end”, there’s oil and gasoline and alcohol, bombs, medical supplies for medics and hospital ships - including perishables like blood plasma, replacements (men), fancier food (various rations, the better food for naval crews), spare airplanes, parts, parts, and parts, ammunition for guns, rifles, pistols, anti-aircraft guns, torpedos, depth-charges, battleships down to anti-submarine trawlers, radar sets, and on and on. And for battles like the Philippines, Okinawa, and Japan (gotta get ready for that too), we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of men to support in each battle.

For major bases, like Hawaii and Ulithi, all the above plus heavy machinery for major repairs. (Very heavy machinery.)

Tinian by itself needed an insane amount of fuel, bombs, and ammunition, parts, and equipment – for 300+ B-29s to fly 12 hours to-and-from Japanese cities a couple of times a week. Tinian was, in 1945, the largest airport in the world.

Everything that gets sent needs men to man the cargo ships, escort the ships, fly patrols over shipping lanes, load the ships, unload the ships, load that into other ships, move the stuff by truck and by hand to where the fighting is, drive loading machinery (my father-in-law recently retired from Yale Equipment, he had the logs of just pallet movers for the Navy and Army - for the Pacific alone, they delivered hundreds of them during the war.

Everything is made in the States, and has to be moved thousands of miles to the fighting, direct support of the fighting, and the ass-end-of-the-world bases. Kiska, Attu, Midway, Noemfoor, Makin, Biak, Eniwetok, Rota, and a bazillion little bases all over the place.


My uncle was in the US Navy and was on the island of Ulithi in 1945. However, the location was classified and only described as Navy No. 3011 which is the Navy Post Office number. Currently now the Federated States of Micronesia.


In all militaries supply and logistics personnel outstripped the frontline units but the US took the cake. This is just from my fractured memory but for every frontline soldier there were 15 more who were delivering supplies or keeping equipment running and so forth.


I did a tour of the battleship North Carolina which is preserved in Wilmington NC. There were a lot of stories all over the ship. One in the machine shop said that a destroyer came to the ship to get a drive shaft made, they didn’t have the facilities and they were at severely reduced speed. The NC machine shop made the shaft and it fit perfectly. The kitchen had several stories mostly about spoiled food arriving from supply ships. For a while they had veal 3 meals a day because it arrived thawed and almost spoiled. The logistics had to be incredibly complex.


My Father also spent time at Ulithi in 1945 abord the USS Alkes AK-110. The ship history says their function was “as a fleet issue ship”. (Thanks Wikipedia)