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D-Day and Logistics
The other day I received a newsletter from the National World War II Museum, of which I am a member. The museum, located in New Orleans, originally started out as the D-Day Museum because New Orleans was the home of the “Higgins boats” of D-Day fame, as well as other landings, but then the museum’s mission was expanded to include the full war. I visited the museum, spring of last year, and it is truly one of the outstanding ones in the world.
The newsletter, though, talked about D-Day + 65, June 6, and “Operation PLUTO: Fueling the Fight For Freedom.” So since oil, and the logistics to get it to forces on both sides of World War II are legitimate Wall Street History type topics, here’s a brief look.
What was PLUTO? According to “The Oxford Companion to World War II,” it is an acronym derived from the phrase Pipe Line Under The Ocean. From the newsletter V-Mail:
“Plans for supplying fuel to the largest mechanized army the world had ever seen began over two years before the first Allied soldier set foot onto the soil at Normandy. Operation PLUTO was a solution proposed by Admiral Louis Mountbatten to address the projected need of the millions of gallons of fuel per day required for the Allied advance across continental Europe.”
The pipes were to be laid across the English (Bristol) Channel, unwound from large drums (“Conundrums”) towed by tugs, and laid from the Isle of Wight to Cherbourg when the port was captured after the Normandy landings in June 1944. The pipes had to be impervious to German U-Boat attack.
“Two types of pipe were developed: one type was a reworking of existing undersea telegraph cables with a flexible lead core, the other was a less flexible steel pipe. The two were tested and put into production in both Britain and the United States in August 1942. “The tremendous weight of the pipe, 55 tons per nautical mile, was far too heavy for the cable-laying ships of the day, so several merchant vessels were stripped out and fitted with heavy-duty loading and laying gear to install the pipeline.”
So the Normandy landings take place in June ’44, and in August the first pipeline to France went into operation. “During the assault phase of the landings, petrol was pumped ashore from tankers direct to storage tanks by means of buoyed pipe lines, an operation codenamed TOMBOLA.”
“The PLUTO pipelines were fed by pumping stations disguised as cottages on the English Channel coast, which were connected to a network of 1,000 miles of overland pipeline that transported fuel from tanker ships in the Atlantic ports of Liverpool and Bristol.”
By January, depending on the source, up to 20 pipelines were laid, eventually stretching as far as the Rhine River. At its peak in March 1945, Operation PLUTO delivered over one million gallons of fuel a day to the Allied army in Europe. “This wartime innovation was instrumental in the development of the modern-day offshore oil industry and is another example of the technological developments made in World War II that continue to shape our world today.”
75,215 British and Canadian troops and 57,500 U.S. troops were landed on D-Day. There were about 4,300 British and Canadian casualties and 6,000 U.S. ones.
“Overlord” was the codename for the overall Allied invasion of northwest Europe. “Neptune” was the codename for the assault phase of Overlord. Neptune officially ceased on June 30, 1944, by which point 850,279 men, 148,803 vehicles, and 570,505 tons of supplies had been landed with the loss of 59 ships sunk and 110 damaged.
Charles Messenger, writing in “The Oxford Companion to World War II,” had some of the following thoughts on various aspects of D-Day and other phases of the conflict.
“Napoleon’s often quoted dictum that armies march on their stomachs serves as a reminder that logistics must be at the forefront of a land force commander’s mind. Before the coming of the railway and invention of the internal combustion engine, armies subsisted largely by foraging, both for food and fuel, the latter, of course, being horse feed.”
With the advent of the high-speed blitzkrieg, first exhibited by the Germans when they invaded Austria in March 1938, it was obvious supply systems had to be improved to prevent them from becoming too stretched; though this proved virtually impossible to prevent.
For example, during the German invasion of the USSR (“Barbarossa”), you were talking about supplying an army expected to advance 800 miles along a 1,000 mile front in the space of four months. As Charles Messenger writes, “The Germans were forced to stockpile massive amounts of fuel, ammunition, food, spare parts, and everything else needed to maintain a force of over one million.” It worked spectacularly well in the opening weeks, but then came flooding rains, destroyed bridges (by the Russians), and the winter snows.
General Manteuffel, a Panzer commander, said the Soviets did not give logistics the same priority as the western Allies or the Germans. “The advance of a Soviet army is something that Westerners cannot imagine,” he is quoted in Liddell Hart’s book ‘The Other Side of the Hill.’ “Behind the tank spearheads roll on a vaste horde partly mounted on horseback. Soldiers carry sacks on their backs filled with dry crusts of bread and raw vegetables collected on the march from the fields and villages. The horses feed on the straw from the roofs of houses – they get very little else. The Russians are accustomed to carry on for as long as three weeks in this primitive way, when advancing. They cannot be stopped as an ordinary army is stopped, by cutting their communications, for you rarely find any supply columns to strike.”
“The western soldier’s morale was also likely to be more affected if the logistical system broke down, hence the priority given to sustaining it. Morale was (often) maintained by insisting on high standards of personal hygiene and by the efficient and speedy casualty evacuation systems. Knowledge that if he was hit his wounds would be quickly and properly tended made the soldier much more willing to go into battle. Regular mail from home was also an important consideration, as were the availability of canteens and reasonable leave facilities in overseas theaters, and even the production of forces’ newspapers. All these factors played their part and were included to a greater or lesser extent, dependent on nationality and theater of war, in the logistics machinery.”
Lastly, an issue not taken into consideration at the start of the war, by all sides, was the numbers of prisoners of war that would be taken. Many died, not always because of neglect (or cruelty), but rather because the logistical system could not cope.
How did the Dow Jones Industrial Average fair around the time of D-Day? It hardly moved.
The Dow did finish the month of June 1944 at 148, a gain of 4% from the levels of June 6. By the end of 1945, however, the Dow was at 192, for a gain of 26%.
Sources: “V-Mail” (the newsletter of the National WWII Museum); “The Oxford Companion to World War II,” general editor I.C.B. Dear; “The Dow Jones Averages: 1885-1995,” edited by Phyllis S. Pierce