The best supply chain wins the war

 Always good to hear a non-biased observer extolling the virtues of supply chain management. From Niall Ferguson in “The War Of The World”, the following quotes are from his discussion of World War II:

‘The first essential condition for an army to be able to stand the strain of battle,’ wrote Rommel, ‘is an adequate stock of weapons, petrol and ammunition. In fact, the battle is fought and decided by the quartermasters before the shooting begins. The bravest men can do nothing without guns, the guns without plenty of ammunition; and neither guns nor ammunition are of much use in mobile warfare unless there are vehicles with sufficient petrol to haul them around.’


By the final year of the war, an active US army division was consuming around 650 tons of supplies a day. Because a single army truck could carry just five tons, this posed a formidable logistical challenge. Indeed, as supply lines were stretched from 200 to 400 miles in the months after D-Day, deliveries to the advancing armies slumped from 19,000 tons a day to 7,000 – hence the slackening of the pace of the Allied advance in the second half of 1944 and one defect of Montgomery’s grab for Arnhem. The last phase of the war revealed the importance (consitently underrated by both the Germans and Japanese) of assigning ample numbers of men to the task of supply rather than combat. The ratio of combatants to non-combatants in the German army was two to one; but the equivalent American ratio in the European theatre was one to two. In the Pactific, the Japanese ratio was one to one; the Americans had eighteen non-combatants for every man at the front.


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