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Tank Battalion Supply Function

Excerpted from War Department Field Manual
FM 17-33 "Tank Battalion," December 1944


I. General
Supply is a command responsibility, the supervision of which is delegated by the battalion commander to his S-4 (FM 101-5 and 101-10). Since the battalion frequently operates beyond road and rail facilities, efficient logistical support requires much preplanning. Principal plans are always supplemented by alternative plans.

II. Battalion Supply Officer (S-4)
  A. The S-4 of the tank battalion keeps the battalion commander advised as to the status of supply in the battalion. He coordinates closely with the G-4 or S-4 of the higher unit. He is conversant with the classes of supply, the items which each comprises, and with the responsibilities of each of the general and special staff officers who control the sources of certain types of equipment and supply. He exercises, through subordinates, control and coordination of available transportation. He keeps himself accurately informed as to the status of supply within the battalion and is aware at all times of the locations and types of all the division and army supply installations upon which he can depend to meet the needs of his unit.

  B. In the discharge of his duties the S-4 deals with:

1. G-4 of the divisional staff.

2. S-4 of the combat command or combat team to which the battalion may be assigned or attached.

3. The division quartermaster.

4. The division ordnance officer.

5. The division engineer.

6. The division chemical officer.

7. The division signal officer.

8. The division surgeon.

  C. In performing his duties the S-4, and his assistants, frequently move independently of the rest of the staff in order to maintain personal contact with the supply officers of the higher units and the various supply installations serving the battalion. When with battalion headquarters, the S-4 operates from the administrative half-track, which has a radio in the higher headquarters administrative net and another in the battalion net.

III. Supply Personnel
The S-4 has the following assistants:

  A. The commanding officer of the service company who is assistant S-4 in addition to his other duties. This officer controls and coordinates the activity of the supply personnel and takes care of their administration, mess, supply, and maintenance. He commands the combat trains of the battalion in combat.

  B. The commander of the battalion supply and transportation platoon, the battalion transportation officer, assists the service company commander and usually is battalion ammunition officer. Under the supervision of the service company commander he controls the activity of his platoon, moving forward with it on its resupply missions.

  C. The warrant officer in the service company is an assistant S-4 in charge of the small battalion supply section of the supply and transportation platoon. His duties are largely clerical and administrative and, with his assistants, he takes care of the field trains in the absence of the service company commander and transportation platoon leader.

IV. Battalion Supply and Transportation Platoon
The personnel and vehicles of the battalion supply and transportation platoon are divided into several sections, each of which has a specific supply duty. These are:

  A. THE FUEL AND LUBRICANTS SECTION handles fuel, oil, and grease and is capable of hauling at one time enough of each to move the battalion for approximately 60 miles.

  B. THE AMMUNITION SECTION can haul in one trip about half of the battalion combat vehicles' basic loads of ammunition of calibers greater than 37-mm, and one-quarter of their basic loads of small arms ammunition.

  C. THE RATION SECTION.

  D. THE WATER SECTION. There is an extra 1-ton trailer in the platoon which may be used by either this section or the ration section, whichever has the greater need of it.

  E. THE BATTALION SUPPLY SECTION.

V. Ration Supply
  A. Rations are drawn on Army Class I supply point announced by the division. The ration section usually receives the rations in bulk, breaks them down into company lots, and issues them to the companies. Depending on the existing situation, it may deliver them to the kitchens or distribute them to the companies from some central location.

  B. The number of rations issued to the battalion is based on its daily strength report, which is included in the division's daily telegrams. However, the time intervening between the dispatch of any one daily strength report by the battalion and the receipt of the rations issued in accordance with the report is from two to five days. Adjustments are made at time of issue. Whenever troops are attached to the battalion without prior notice, the S-4 makes special arrangements to obtain rations for them for the first few days of their attachment.

  C. Ration resupply is usually accomplished at night.

  D. Messing may be accomplished in any of the following ways:

1. Whenever possible, the kitchen trucks move with their respective companies, serving three hot meals daily. This is seldom feasible in combat.

2. The kitchen trucks may move with service company, coming forward at night to serve a hot supper. Under favorable conditions, breakfast also can be served and cold lunches left with the company personnel, the kitchen trucks returning to bivouac before daylight. Any meals which cannot be furnished under this system are served from the emergency rations carried in the combat vehicles.

3. When it is impossible to get the kitchen trucks forward from the service company area, hot food may be sent forward in cans by any suitable vehicles.

4. When none of the foregoing methods are possible, crews prepare their own meals from the emergency ration reserve carried on the vehicle. These are replenished as required through normal supply channels. The ration section makes deliveries directly to the tank companies.

VI. Water Supply
Water is obtained from water distributing points operated by the engineers. Other sources of water supply are to be avoided, unless approved by a surgeon or adequate measures have been taken to purify it (FM 100-10).

VII. Fuel and Lubricant Supply
Fuel is ordinarily drawn at the Class III supply point, operated by the army quartermaster. The commonest method of resupply is to exchange empty 5-gallon drums for full ones. Motor oils and greases normally are secured in the same place.

VIII. Ammunition Supply
  A. Ammunition resupply is accomplished as follows:

1. An officer, usually the battalion ammunition officer, prepares and presents a transportation order (a written order authorizing the movement of a given amount of ammunition between two points) to the division ammunition officer (DAO) at the ammunition control point. There one authenticated copy is returned to him as authority to draw that amount of ammunition.

2. Meanwhile the battalion ammunition section has proceeded directly to the division ammunition supply point (ASP).

3. The officer meets the section there and draws the required ammunition.

  B. If at all possible, each ammunition vehicle carries a proportionate amount of all the different types and calibers of ammunition used by the battalion. This limits the total loss of one type of ammunition.

IX. Spare Parts
Class II (allowances established by Tables of Organization and Equipment) and Class IV (no allowances prescribed, specially controlled) items are normally resupplied only during refitting and rest periods. Important exceptions are such Class IV items as vehicular spare parts, prompt resupplies of which are essential to the continued combat efficiency of the battalion. These items are generally obtained by direct exchange from the ordnance maintenance battalion, if the worn or damaged parts are available. Otherwise they are obtained by requisition. The battalion motor officer assists the S-4 in the procurement of these items.

X. Trains
  A. The battalion trains are that portion of its transportation and personnel employed primarily for supply, evacuation, and maintenance. They are divided into:

1. Combat trains, which are required for the immediate mission of the combat elements. They normally include the company and battalion maintenance sections, the ammunition section, the fuel and lubricant section, and the medical detachment. On occasion, the kitchen trucks and the water and rations sections may be included.

2. The field trains, which are not needed for the immediate mission of the combat elements, include service company headquarters, the battalion supply section, the battalion administrative and personnel section (including company clerks), and usually the ration, water, and kitchen trucks.

  B. These divisions are given as guides only. A high degree of flexibility is required in all operations involving armored troops. The disposition and duties of train vehicles may change rapidly.

  C. The battalion field trains are usually attached to the combat command or division trains when the battalion goes into combat, being released when the battalion comes out to rest and refit.

XI. Coordination
  A. Supplies are pushed forward aggressively, despite bad roads, inclement weather, shell fire, distance, scattered enemy opposition, and fatigue. The tank battalion can function only so long as the battalion service elements keep it resupplied.

  B. The tank companies cooperate fully with the service elements. information from them as to routes and road conditions and their exact locations is essential. They can post guides to meet supply trucks and speed up the unloading and release of supply vehicles which reach them. At all times they keep the S-4 advised as to the current status of their supplies.