War and Social Upheaval: Military Components--Logistics

Figure 1.--

Military historians tend to focus on commanders, battles, tactics, and weaponry. Prrhaps the most under studied aspect of warfare is logistics. Huge advances in weaponry were made over time. Relatively limited advances innlogustics ocurred with logistics. The armies that went to war after the Germans crossed the Belgian border (August 1914) had a variety of modern arms, but unbelievably the modes of military transport were little changed since abcient times. Weapons and supplies were carried on the backs of soldiers themselves or animals, either pack animals or on carts/wagons drawn by them. Fast chatriot armies clashed at Qadesh (1274 BC), but the chariot was a war weapon, not aode of military transport. An in modern times, it was the horse or mule that moved artillery, ammunition, and the vast quantity of supplies requird to wage modern war. The only change of any importance was that the first armies like early trade caravans first depended on the donkey to move equipment and supplies. Gradually larger, stronger animals were employed, but there still were very significant limitations imposed by logistics on military operations. Oxen could pull large loads, but only at painfully slowspeeds. Sea transport was a major advance and became very important, at least in the West. Notice how the Roman Empire developed around the Mediterranean Sea where Legions could be transported and supplied by sea. The only significant change since ancient times was the steam engine which did not appear until more than two millennia later (mid-19th century). Steam engines greatly improved the reliability and speed of maritime transport, but it revolutionized land trnsport with the railroads. Only a few decades after it appeared, the railroads began playing important roles in warfare (1860s). Railroads helped determine the outcome of both the American Civil War (1861-64) and the Austro-Prussian War (1864). As important as it was, there were serious limitations to rail transport. It was very useful behind front lines to move men and equipment to supply established front lines and to build up forces for an offensive. This could be done more rapidly than ever before. But what rail transport could not do was to supply an offensive as it move forward. Fot this supplies had to be moved forward beyond the established railhead. And important battle were not uncommonly fought where armies collied in unforsseen locations at considerable distance from railheads. This was paticularly the case during important offenses and armies advanced away from rail heads. Here World War I armies still depenended on animals. And this was particularky the case for artillery and supplies. The men moved forward primarily on foot. This significantly limited the speed at which an offense could move forward. A reader writes, "It is quite amazing to see World War I photographs and the number of animals carrying equipment or pulling wagons. Soldiers on the march were heavily burdened. It was partly the same in World War II, particularly during the German Barbarossa offensive into the Soviet Union. Not only were animals used in miltary situations but in civilian life too. Horses were used to move heavy engineered parts of ships from the factory to the railway. Ambulances and Fire engines were horse drawn up until the 1920s." The internal combustion engine changed the face of military transport on the modern battlfield, girt on land and than in the air.


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Created: 6:32 PM 2/7/2017
Last updated: 6:32 PM 2/7/2017