36th QUARTERMASTER TRUCK BATTALION



Source:  36th Transportation Battalion

(Additional information provided by SFC Ray Stewart, USA (Ret))

The parent unit of the 36th Transportation Battalion (Truck) was the 1st Battalion of the 21st Quartermaster Regiment (Truck-Corps). It was constituted in the Regular Army on 1 May 1936 and redesignated on 8 January 1940 as the 21st Quartermaster Regiment (Truck).

The 1st Battalion of the 21st Quartermaster Regiment (Truck) was activated at Fort Benning, Georgia on 15 January 1942. The 2nd and 3d Battalions were activated on 16 April 1942 and the Medical Detachment, under the command of Captain Thomas A. Futch, became active on 20 July. The entire regiment remained at Fort Benning for the remainder of 1942, engaging in unit training in preparation for overseas shipment.

On 5 January 1943, the 21st Quartermaster Regiment departed Fort Benning from the Fort Benning Embarkation Point via ocean transport bound for the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theatre of War. They arrived on 5 March 1943.

The regiment's operations centered around the Ledo (or Burma) Road, a main supply artery from Southern Asia into China and a target for constant enemy bombing. This campaign, under the command of General Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stillwell, was one of the bloodiest of the war. The mission of the 21st Quartermaster Regiment was supply to the forward areas.

On its arrival into the CBI Theater, the regiment was broken into three geographical areas with the 1st Battalion operating in the Ledo Sector. On 1 December 1943 the regiment was redesignated as the 21st Quartermaster Group, under the command of Lt. Col. E. C. McCallum, and the Battalions, Mobile respectively. Companies "A" through "M" were redesignated as the 3301st through 3312th Quartermaster Truck Companies and followed separate lineages. The defunct regiment's headquarters and medical detachments provided personnel for the formation of a Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment and Medical Detachment for each of the battalions.

The 36th Quartermaster Battalion, Mobile remained in the CBI Theatre until August of 1945, a total of 29 months, most of which was spent in the jungles of Central Burma, especially around Myitkyina on the Tirap River. In that time, it had under its command for various periods, the 3301st, 3302nd, 3303d, 3304th, 3312th, 3502nd, 4390th, and 373d Quartermaster Truck Companies; the 4276th Service Company; the 4294th Railhead Company; and the two detachments. It was temporarily attached to the 45th Quartermaster Group from November 1944 to March 1945 and to the 468th Quartermaster Group from 9 April to 11 June 1945.

The specific duties of the 36th Quartermaster Battalion, Mobile were varied a great deal during the war. They included POL delivery to the Front, general cargo delivery to the Front, air-freight hauling, road repair, malaria control, evacuation of wounded combat from combat zones, setting up and maintaining of forward air-drop zones for supplies, distribution of supplies in forward areas to American, British, and Chinese forces, and special emergency jobs as the units called for them. At the time that the India-China Wing of the Air Transport Command received a Presidential Citation for airlifting supplies over the "Hump" and loading the planes at Missanini and Dinjan.

During "Operation River" the unit assisted in the removal of more than 500 wounded from the Burma combat zone and were commended for the work by J. E. Baldwin, Commander of the Third Tactical Air Force in Southeast Asia.

Although the units only occasionally came into direct contact with enemy forces, they had to contend with other enemies: malaria, the weather and the jungles, in order to get the supplies through. In a typical month, (December 1944) they dispatched 1,222 vehicles that covered 249,000 miles in delivering a gross tonnage of 4,277 tons of cargo.

For their work in the Burma Campaign and China Campaign, the 36th was awarded the China-Burma-India and Central Burma Campaign Streamers. In addition, personnel of Hq & Hq Detachment were authorized to wear the Bronze Star in their Theatre Service Ribbons. One document stated "the battalion participated in hauling supplies continuously to the Combat Front in the Central Burma Campaign and also actively engaged as complete units in hauling supplies direct into the China Theatre."

In September 1945, the Battalion, under the command of Major William C. Plowden, Jr., returned to the United States and was inactivated at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey on 7 November 1945. On 1 August 1946, the unit was converted and redesignated as the 36th Transportation Corps Truck Battalion. It was again redesignated on 11 June 1954 with the Hq & Hq Detachment becoming a Headquarters and Headquarters Company.

The 36th Transportation Battalion was reactivated on 25 June 1954 at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. There, it performed normal peacetime Army transportation activities until it was inactivated on 20 February 1956.

On 23 December 1957, the Battalion, under the command of Major Charles F. Barrie, was activated at Fort Polk, Louisiana where it was attached to the 2nd Logistical Command. It became operational on 3 February 1958, the present Unit Organizational Day. The 670th Transportation Company (Truck) was attached to the battalion on 7 March 1958. On 7 November the same year, the 149th Ordnance (HM), 74th Ordnance (Supply) Companies and the 661st Ordnance (Mag) Platoon were also attached. In addition to these units, the 28th Transportation (AAM), the 8th Transportation (Light Helicopter) and the 149th Transportation (CH FM) Detachments were attached for "Exercise Strongarm" in April of 1958. During its stay at Fort Polk, the battalion performed a wide variety of missions including "Operation Rollaway" which involved the evacuation of vehicles from Fort Polk to other Army installations. All attached units were relieved from the Battalion on 15 April 1959.

The Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 36th Transportation Battalion (Truck), with Major Charles F. Barrie in command departed Fort Polk on 21 April 1959 for Fort Bragg, North Carolina. There it was redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment on June 25th 1959 and was attached to XVIII Airborne Corps. Four companies: the 25th Transportation (AAM), 538th Transportation (Medium Truck) (Petroleum), 541st Transportation (Light Truck) and 547th Transportation (Light Truck) Companies were attached to it. The 36th Transportation Battalion served in direct support of tactical units of the XVIII Airborne Corps including the 82nd Airborne Division.

On 13 November 1959 the 547th Transportation Company (Light Truck) was detached from the Battalion and departed from Fort Bragg enroute to Boeblingen, Germany. At the same time the 379th Transportation Company (Light Truck) left Germany and became attached to the Battalion at Fort Bragg.

On 10 March 1960 the 379th Transportation Company (Light Truck) and a portion of the 538th Transportation Company (Medium Truck) supported the 1st Logistics Command on Operation Puerto Pine/Big Slam. Through the spring, summer, and fall these and other companies of the Battalion participated in Operations Quick Strike, Towers Moon, Bright Star, Southwind, and Dark Cloud.

15 March 1961 the 25th Transportation Company (Direct Support) participated in a DA Troop Test of a new TO/E 55-457D.

On 10 October 1961 the 538th Transportation Company under the command of Captain Francis C. Moretti, was detached from the battalion and moved overseas to US Army Europe for further assignment to Germersheim, Germany.

On 31 July 1966 the 36th Transportation Battalion arrived at Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. The 36th, 39th and 57th Truck Battalions, all of which arrived in 1966, fell under the command of the 500th Transportation Group (Motor Transport), which also arrived in October 1966. All logistics units fell under the control of the Cam Ranh Bay Support Command.

During the time the Battalion assumed command of the 442nd Medium Truck, which had arrived in 1966, the 566th Medium Truck, which had arrived in 1965. The 529th Light Truck and 670th Medium Truck arrived in 1967. All the medium companies operated the M52 series tractors and a platoon of the 670th Company had refrigerator trucks. The 36th Battalion's main responsibility was to conduct direct haul to the base camps in the First Field Force in the II Corps Tactical Zone. The other truck battalion, the 24th, only conducted port clearance to the nearby supply depot. Its trucks ran day and night while the 36th Battalion trucks only drove during the day.

Short haul routes were one-day round trips from Cam Ranh Bay to locations along Highway 1 such as north to Nha Trang and Ninh Hoa and south to Phan Rang. Long hauls went north and turned west on Highway 21 to Ban Me Thout, or straight west from Cam Ranh Bay along Highway 11 to Da Lat and Bao Loc. On a long haul, the convoy would drive up one day and return the next. The battalion route later included a long haul south along the coastal highway to Phan Thiet. As many as 90 to 180 vehicles of all types - cargo, tanker, and reefers - lined up for a convoy each morning in a serials of 25 to 40 vehicles. The drivers put in long days. The trucks began lining up for convoys at about three o'clock every morning and would go through inspection before they left the gate. Depending on where the convoy was going, the truck driver's day would not end till well into the night. Running on an average of four hours sleep a night caused a few drivers to fall asleep and drive off the side of the road. Accidents were relatively low compared to the number of miles being driven, but with the large number of trucks on the road at any day, the number of accidents seemed high.

Just as the men, the trucks also had very little rest. Convoys ran daily so the only time the trucks could be worked on was at night. The M52s were driven well past their life expectancy.

On 2 September 1967, a company of North Vietnamese Army (NVA) launched an ambush in the Qui Nhon area that destroyed 27 trucks and killed or wounded most of the drivers. Up until that time, enemy ambushes had only fired on single trucks in a convoy. 8th Group in Qui Nhon began to convert 5-ton trucks into gun platforms with armor plating to escort the convoys. As the company sized ambushes spread into the Cam Ranh Bay area, trucks of the 500th Group likewise built guntrucks. The hardened convoy and helicopters flying support increased the cost to the enemy thereby reducing the frequency of ambushes.

Lt. Col. Paul Reese, one of the 36th Battalion's commanders while in Vietnam told his successor Lt. Col. Edward Honor that "Whatever you do, don't run our convoys out there without air support." If a convoy was ambushed, the gun trucks would provide enough fire support until the reaction force showed up to drive back the attacking force. The only convoy ambushed left without air support on a return trip since air cover prevented helicopters from flying. One driver was killed when his fuel truck was hit by a rocket.

In response to the Tet Offensive, which began on 31 January 1968, the US Army began to send more units to Vietnam. The 172nd Medium Truck Company was a Reserve unit activated from Omaha, Nebraska, activated for service in Vietnam. It arrived 11 October 1968. Because the men had worked together for years, the company had high morale and the best maintenance shop in the battalion. After the previous company commander rotated back to the United States, First Lieutenant Thomas Bruner, assumed command. He went on to make brigadier general in the US Army Reserves.

In October of 1969, the 500th Transportation Group, commanded by Colonel Gus Wolman, was inactivated and the 36th Transportation Battalion fell under the 124th Transportation Command, commanded by Colonel Henry Del Mar. Since Colonel Del Mar and Lieutenant Colonel Honor had worked together before, Honor had the confidence to ask his commander for permission to let trucks shut down every third day for maintenance. There was always more cargo needed to be delivered than trucks to haul it. This was a risky venture, but as it turned out, the maintenance improved and Honor was able to put more trucks on the road. Similarly, the extra rest reduced the number of accidents.

Due to the race riots at Cam Ranh Bay, the commander of Cam Ranh Bay Support Command was relieved in October 1969 and Hank Del Mar took his place. Del Mar was the kind of commander who would turn an organization upside down to improve it. Del Mar wanted to convert the personnel billets of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 36th Transportation Battalion to create a property disposal unit. He offered Honor command of the 24th Truck Battalion and gave all the trucks of the 36th to the 24th Battalion. The 36th Transportation Battalion remained on paper until its inactivation on 13 August 1970. Honor went on to become the first black Transportation Corps general officer retiring as a lieutenant general.


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