This is a busy week, so no big post. Instead, the first half of the top ten developments in the history of logistics, selected by yours truly. The plan in the next few month is to do a full entry on each of these, as well as introduce the top half (#1 to 5).
#10 River Transport. Barges are pretty mundane, but so is the rest of this list. Movement by water has always been among the easiest ways to transport equipment, and until the motor vehicle was often the only way to move heavy artillery. Supplies and siege trains have often moved by river, and internal waterways have shaped the strategic landscape from China to the Low Countries.
#9 Containerization. Militaries were slow to adopt the shipping container, but the intermodal transport revolution has affected both military and civilian logistics. Plus the first experiments relied on military surplus: the SS Ideal-X was a converted US Maritime Commission T-2 tanker built by Marinship in the San Francisco Bay area.
#8 Standardized Cargo Ships. World War II’s Liberty ships are the most famous, but they weren’t the first standardized cargo ships built in a wartime emergency. That honor goes to the “Hog Islanders” built by the Emergency Fleet Corporation on the Pennsylvania coast. Either way, standardized cargo ships (whether Liberty, Victory, Fort, Ocean, or other designs) carried the cargo that helped the Allies win World War II – as well as pioneering techniques like welded hulls.
#7 Jet Engines. Operation Market Garden … The Hump … The Berlin Airlift. Air transport did amazing things before the arrival of the jetliner, but global airmobility was a practical impossibility until the turbojet. Since then, moving troops and cargo around the world has become so common that it barely attracts attention – unless those troops are about to jump out of plane at the end of a transport/
#6 Motor Transport. Ubiquitous in the modern world. Trucks carried American troops from D-Day to the Elbe, while their lack stalled German troops deep in the Soviet Union.d
#5 Canned Goods. If, as Napoleon said, an army marches on its stomach, then canned goods free them from the tyranny of the search for fresh produce. Bulky, at least in their earliest forms, mounds of cans have fueled every advance since their introduction in the Crimean War.