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80 Years of the Transportation Corps

Transportation Corps Historian

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Since the dawn of warfare, military transportation has been a decisive element to achieving victory. The movement of armies, equipment, and supplies, whether it involved ancient Carthaginian general Hannibal guiding elephants over the Alps or bringing George Washington and the Continental Army down from New York to Yorktown, Virginia, has been the key to victory, or defeat.

The United States Army Transportation Corps was born on 31 July 1942. These were dark times for the Nation, with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and conquest of the Philippines. The Department of War, forerunner to the modern Department of Defense, determined that the Army needed a single manager for transportation. Prior to this, responsibilities for the various aspects of military transportation and distribution had been split between the Quartermaster Corps and the Corps of Engineers, and indeed, not all the responsibilities that the Transportation Corps has today immediately fell under their prevue.

1940s & the Second World War

Under the authority of Executive Order 9082, the Transportation Corps gained proponency over the deep-draft (watercraft) fleet, railroads, stevedores, and harborcraft units. Though they had responsibilities for traffic management and movement control, they did not own any wheeled movement assets or landing craft. Those were maintained by the Quartermaster Corps and Engineers respectively throughout the war. This began to change after the experience of the Red Ball Express in Fall 1944, when commanders begun to realize that stove-piping logistics capabilities was sub-optimal. Both these capabilities would move under the aegis of Transportation shortly after the end of World War II. Transporters fought and supported operations in all theaters of the war.

1950s & Korean War

Following the end of the Second World War, the Army divested itself of deep-draft ships, while keeping the watercraft and intermodal sea capabilities. It also consolidated the majority of its training at Fort Eustis, Virginia, near the city of the Newport News, which became the long-term home of the Transportation Center and School. With the North Korean invasion of the South in 1950, the Transportation Corps once again went to war, operating port facilities in the Pusan perimeter and eventually pushing soldiers, equipment, and supplies deep into the North. During the Chinese counter-offensive and attack on the Chosin Reservoir, the Transportation Corps won its first Medal of Honor, when LTC John U. D. Page sacrificed himself assisting in the rescue of elements of the 1st Marine Division and U.S. Army 2nd Infantry Division. Later in the war, recognizing the importance of newly invented helicopters in moving troops and supplies forward on the battlefield, the first Transportation helicopter companies are stood up. The Transportation Corps would continue to have helicopter formations until the birth of the Aviation branch in 1983

1960s & the Vietnam War

The Army went through many force structure changes following the end of the Korean War, at first reorganizing in Pentomic divisions and battle groups to fight dispersed on future atomic battlefields. These unit quickly reverted to more legacy style formations as the United States became more involved in the defense of the Republic of (South) Vietnam against their Communist's Northern neighbors. Some of the first Army elements to arrive in 1961 were Transportation Helicopter companies. Transportation soldiers and units served in Southeast Asia throughout the duration of the conflict, performing their duties in difficult and dangerous conditions. Two more Transportation soldiers earned the Medal of Honor during the conflict - SP4 Larry Dahl and SGT William Seay - while serving as truck drivers.

1970s & 1980s - The Cold War

In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, the Army went through an extensive period of rebuilding. Many things were happening at once, to include the end of the Draft and beginning of the All-Volunteer Force. The Army developed new doctrine, fielded new weapon systems like the M-1 Abrams Main Battle Tank and AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, and transformed into a force designed to fight and defeat the Warsaw Pact in Europe. For the Transportation Corps, it was a time of transformation at all echelons. The Army finally moved away from single function logistics battalion into more modern multifunctional organizations like Supply &ransportation Battalions at Division-level and Corps Support Groups and Battalions at Corps level. At the National level, the Department of Defense established United States Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base to plan and coordinate strategic transportation on a global basis. During this period, Transportation soldiers fought and supported deployments to Grenada in 1983 and Panama in 1989, as well as perfected their warfighting skills at newly established Training Centers at Fort Irwin, Fort Polk, and Hohenfels, Germany.

1990s - Desert Storm & the Balkans

The Army (and Marine Corps) that deployed to the deserts of Saudi Arabia in 1990 was one fundamentally different than the conscript force that had served in Vietnam. Well trained and equipped, they decisively defeated the Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait. Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM was a high point for American military power, demonstrating the strengths of a re-envigored Transportation Corps. This was the largest combat deployment since World War II. Transportation Groups, Battalions, and Companies supported and sustained the 100-hour ground war. Over the next decade, even as the military downsized following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Army transporters were very busy conducting stability, support, and humanitarian missions in Somalia and the Balkans. Army watercraft from the 7th Transportation Group played a critical role in those operations as well as in Haiti in 1994.

2000s & 2010s - Iraq and Afghanistan

As the 20th Century came to a close, both the Army and the Transportation Corps were accomplishing a number of diverse missions around the world. Their focus would change after the events of September 11th, 2001. Army transporters were deeply involved with first the invasion and then follow-on deployments to Afghanistan in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. wo years later, Transporters from all components - Active, Guard, and Reserve - mobilizing to support the invasion of Iraq as part of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. For the next 17+ years, the Army would continuously rotate forces in and out both Afghanistan and Southwest Asia. The demands of the Global War on Terrorism would cause the Army to once again alter its force structure, making the Brigade Combat Team with its organic Brigade Support Battalion the principal formation for employment, while other logistics elements were removed from Divisions to non-aligned Sustainment Brigades, Expeditionary Sustainment Commands, and Theater Sustainment Commands. In the midst of this frenzy of activity, the Army at the direction of Congress conduct large scale Base Realignment and Closure (aka BRAC) activities, to include the movement of the headquarters and majority of the Transportation School from Fort Eustis to Fort Lee, Virginia under the Sustainment Center of Excellence.

2020 & Beyond - COVID and the return of LSCO

80 years after its birth in time of war, the Transportation Corps continues to train, fight, and sustain both the Army and the Nation at home and overseas. Since 2020, all components have supported in vaccine distribution and support in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. In Summer 2021, Transporters planned and executed a massive withdrawal from Afghanistan, and an even more massive humanitarian relief effort as part of Operation ALLIES WELCOME. Transporters continue to support combat operations in Kuwait, Iraq, and Syria against ISIS and other terrorist groups. Since early 2022, movement control elements of the 21st TSC in Germany have received, staged, and helped with onward movement for the rapid deployment and reinforcement of NATO response forces across Eastern Europe and the Baltics in response to Russian aggression. In the midst of an uncertain future and potential foes in both Europe and the Pacific, the Transportation Corps stands ready as the Spearhead of Logistics, ensuring that is core of highly trained and dedicated Soldiers, Army Civilians, and Contractors are prepared for any task or mission. As it was eight decades before, Uncle Sam and the Nation knows that Nothing Happens Until Something Moves...Happy Birthday, United States Army Transportation Corps!