DAD’S WWII LETTERS: Chapter 22, World’s Largest Service Station, Ledo Road

The American GI is really fighting, because he wants to get his job done and get back home 

–Gen. Joseph Stillwell–

As you were having warm weather in March you should be having real nice weather now in April.  You are probably really busy hauling manure and probably plowing by the time this letter reaches you.

I’m glad to hear the cattle are doing so good. Maybe you’ll make a little money on them this time.

Uncle Pete will have a time this year, if he doesn’t find a man.  Olin Trill [Uncle Pete’s bro.-in-law?] can be forced to come back to the farm, though, can’t he?  I thought agricultural workers were frozen for the duration.  Of course, if Uncle Pete released him in the fall it might make a difference.

I’m glad to hear that you were able to get the car fixed up in fair condition.  How’s the condition of the motor?  Does it use much oil yet?

If you had the tractor fixed up last year, it shouldn’t give you too much trouble this year as you won’t use it only half as much.  Do you still have trouble with the gear on the steering working loose?  I don’t suppose it gets as bad now, since it’s on rubber tires.

tractor on steelVintage 1936 Case tractor on steel wheels

It’s a good thing we got you convinced that rubber was the best on the tractor before I got in the army.  Otherwise, it would have been much harder to operate and would have cost some more to operate and repair.  Someday, I hope to have all my farm equipment mounted on rubber.  The main thing to make the tires last longer, is to keep them properly inflated.  Don’t run them too low, because they puncture more easily and also weaken the side walls.  It isn’t even good for them to sit flat.

Editor’s note:  These words spoken like a true mechanic.  When Dad later farmed, he did most of his own repairs–with the exception of welding.  He passed along knowledge of basic maintenance to me and my brothers.  Only one of us turned out to be a good mechanic.

It doesn’t look like I’ll get home before June at the soonest.  I was hoping that I could get home in May.  I sure hope that when I do get home, I won’t have to come back overseas anymore.  I guess I’ll sure find out what I’ll have to do when I get back to the states.

I guess I’ll have to get one of those loans when I get out of the army and set up for myself.  I might as well set up good at the start, and then I can benefit from the few good years that’ll follow the war.  It’ll be my only chance to get off to a good start.

Well,, I’ve about run down for this time.  Don’t work too hard.  Do what you can and let the rest go.

I’m feeling fine.  The heat is getting bad, but I’m looking forward to getting out of here.

PS:  I cancelled the 20 dollar allotment coming to you this month, so you won’t get it next month.  I did that because when I get back to the States, I’ll lose that much in pay.  I’ll need the rest to get by on as I want Dorothy to stay near me as long as I’m in the States.  Instead of getting $97.50 minus allotments, as I am now, I’ll only get $81.90 minus allotments, because of the 20% overseas pay.  I should have between 6 & 700 dollars by this time.  That should help some day.

cbi roundupEditor’s note:  The GI newspaper was now the “India–Burma Theater Roundup.”  Soldiers in China had “The Lantern”  The following is transcribed from the March 8, 1945 edition of the “India-Burma Theater Roundup.”  It described where my Dad worked.

World’s Largest Service Station Operates Along Ledo Road

Today, the world’s most unusual and largest super-service station operates along the Ledo Road,  American-built highway between India and Burma.

No neon lights or brightly colored signs clamor for patronage nor do white-coated attendants hover about.  Rude, bulldozered driveways lead to this jungle garage squatting in the shadows of the Patkai hills of upper Assam, where open-sided bamboo sheds house an impressive array of both modern and ingeniously improvised automotive equipment.

img015

Beneath these tall shelter, roofed with Jeng leaves from the nearby wilderness, sweating, coverall-clad American soldiers and Indian workers are keeping a never-ending stream of Uncle Sam’s trucks rolling to the Burma front with vital war supplies.

Nowhere else does the Army run a localized maintenance system on such a large-scale.  It is, in fact, an innovation, an example of American initiative and resourcefulness, resulting from exceptional circumstances and conditions.  It grew out of a need to lick, and to lick immediately, a motor maintenance problem which is the hardest, toughest, most heart breaking in the world.

Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Pick, Base Commander, and himself a producer of miracles, called upon his Ordnance Officer to produce a maintenance miracle.  Lt. Col. A. A. Kaufman, a hard-hitting Texan, knew what the General meant.  A firm believer in the Army’s time-tried “echelon” system of maintenance, he swiftly set about making work under almost unbelievable conditions.

Kaufman planned something similar to a mass-production assembly line whereby each vehicle could enter a shop, roadworn and dirty, and emerge completely washed, checked serviced, and repaired.  The normal maintenance personnel and tools of all truck companies would be pooled.  Indian mechanics and laborers would be employed as needed.  Every branch of the Army would be called upon to furnish the best of equipment that could be used.

With whole-hearted cooperation of Col J. A. Stewart, Chief of Transportation, the plan was quickly approved.  On Gen. Pick’s order, the Engineers started clearing the jungles, and Transportation Service Shop No. 1 was officially born.

Covering an area of between four and five jungle-cleared acres, this shop consists of a series of bamboo structures set in a square pattern around a parking lot, which is capable of holding 300 trucks.  Designed to support a vehicle population of 1,000, it can, on a 20-hour operational basis clear up to 300 vehicles.

It is operated by 110 Army soldiers, 140 Indian mechanics and laborers, and a transportation Service staff of five officers, headed by Major R. J. Keefer.  An Ordnance Warrant Officer, Motor Specialist, and an Ordnance Sergeant give technical advice and assistance.

Every effort is made to finish a repair job on the same day it enters the shop, with a driver on call at all times to deliver the vehicle to the proper organization.

The shop has its own supply room, and once parts stockage is maintained, where there might otherwise be 16 or 20 in separate companies, 16 or 20 parts clerks tied up, 16 or 20 supply vehicles going to and from the Ordnance Depot.

Success of the project, the result of foresight, improvisation, and cooperation among all branches concerned, is proved.  While many other factors contributed, it can be fairly stated that Transportation Service Shop No. 1 was largely responsible for (1) reducing vehicle deadline in this area 83%; (2) increasing by almost 100% the average vehicle life-time, thus enabling hundreds of vehicles to continue operation at a time when they are vitally needed and, (3) conserving costly replacement parts.

by S/Sgt. I. M. Sohureman and Sgt. C. M. Buchanan, Roundup Field Correspondents

Dad & co-workers in IndiaDad, at duty section, front row, right

ledo road

making a roadConstructing Ledo road through mountainsfirst convoy ledo roadFirst Ledo road convoy Jan. 28, 1945commemoration 1st convoyFirst convoy commemorative marker in English & Chinese

Editor’s note:  The following from the Feb. 8, 1945 issue of the “India-Burma Theater Roundup.”

STATISTICS OF WAR DEPARTMENT SHOW LEDO ROAD TOUGHEST JOB

Washington (ANS)  The War Department this week backed up with statistics the proud boasts of G. I.’s who built the Ledo road that theirs was “the toughest road construction job ever undertaken.” 

In an official release, the following facts about the road were disclosed:  the 478 mile highway was built at a rate of about one mile per day through some of the worst jungle in the world and over 4,000-foot mountain passes.  During one seven-month period, 175 inches of rain fell to hamper the work.  By comparison, Eastern states of the U. S. average less that 45 inches per year.

Approximately 70 acres of airstrips were built at points near the Ledo road.  The road’s builders moved a total of 13,500,000 cubic yards of earth–it would take a string of railroad cars 470 miles long to transport the 1,303,000 cubic yards of gravel spread on the road.  To top it off, there’s an average of one bridge to every three miles of the road.  So, take a well deserved bow, boys.   

Editor’s note:  Road building was a cooperative effort of American, Chinese, and Indian workers.  Chinese soldiers fought alongside Americans to drive the Japanese out of Burma.  The following is a souvenir Chinese 10 Yuan bank-note with an inscription [front and back], found among Dad’s effects.  The inscription written by a Chinese Lieutenant:  “[Back] Have you hear [heard] the Victory Voice of China?  Help China some more!”  “[Front] We advance side by side and gloriously occupe Japs capital–Tokio!  Victory for you!  Souvenir from Chinese Army in India 2nd Tank Bn. Lt. Yuan.”     

Message on Money (Front)

Message on Money (Back)

 

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Author: warturoadam77p

65 year old married retired communications worker with three grown children, transplanted from the Midwest to the sunny Gulf Coast.

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