Ex-CBI Roundup
May 1982 Issue

Ireland's Shamrocks

"Watch the Shamrocks go by." This was a familiar phrase almost anywhere in the Assam Valley, and for good reason.

Shamrocks were painted on the bumpers of so many motor vehicles that a newcomer invariably asked what it was all about. Any old-timer would probably reply: "You'll get used to it. It's the insignia of a Quartermaster truck unit that covers the whole valley. You see, the commanding officer is a Colonel Ireland."

Col. Ralph F. Ireland

The unit was the 472nd Quartermaster Truck Regiment, later called the 472nd Quartermaster Group. It was one of the first large service units to arrive in India, and was one of the largest Q.M. organizations in the theater. In existence only three years, it trained as a unit, spent 2 1/2 years overseas, circled the world, crossed India twice by troop train. It was decorated several times, and set records for movement of supplies in India and China.

Commanding officer for the entire period of the organization's existence was the late Col. Ralph F. Ireland, who served overseas as a second lieutenant in WWI. From 1917, the time of his enlistment, until 1938 he was a cavalryman, with service in the Fifth Cavalry (under Gen. George Patton) and as commander of the remount depot at Fort Reno, Okla. From Fort Reno he went to Fort Leavenworth, Kans., to Command and General Staff School.

He became commanding officer of the 472nd when the regiment was activated at Camp Sutton, N.C., in February 1943. Lt. Col. William Morris was executive officer and Lt. Eric Elkins adjutant and headquarters company commander. Battalion commanders were Maj. Kenneth Hapworth, Maj. Paul Floyd and Maj. Francis Salvini.

Men came into the unit directly from reception centers on induction into the Army, and were assigned to the regiment without previous military training. The regiment trained its own personnel, from basic through advanced.

Time was short, because overseas orders arrived late in June 1943. From July 19 to 30, the regiment was moved in four troop trains to Camp Stone man, Calif. On July 31 the 472nd left San Francisco aboard the SS Brazil; on Sept. 11 the ship reached Bombay, India. After a wait at Deolali, a British rest area north of Bombay, the entire regiment departed Oct. 6 by troop train across India and arrived in the Chabua, Assam, area Oct. 17.

The regiment received its mission on arrival in Chabua. Except for a few special missions added on from time to time, it stayed the same for 2 l/2 years and was simple: Just haul and move everything heading for China and support local troops as necessary.

The first battalion was to unload all rail and barge freight arriving in the area and to load all CNAC planes departing for China. The second battalion was to handle air freight at various airfields, with "H" company going to China. The third battalion was to move all vehicles from Pandu to Ledo staging area, and later to operate on the Ledo Road when it opened.

As a result, companies were scattered for 450 miles throughout Assam. Group facilities served ATC and American and Chinese units down the Ledo Road. To serve as overnight stops for troops coming into northeast India, the 472nd maintained six camps. And one of the most important jobs was trucking supplies between Calcutta and the China and Burma fronts. Men of the 472nd drove the first vehicle over the Ledo Road into China.

COMMANDING Officer of the 472nd Q.M. Truck Regiment, Col. Ralph F. Ireland, is shown here with four members of his staff. Front row, left to right - William Morris, executive officer; Colonel Ireland; Raymond Updike, surgeon. Back row - Clayton Shepherd, chaplain; Charles Israel, detachment officer. Photo from Roland Savilla.

"Before the Hump comes the Bump" was a statement often made by soldiers in Assam. They were referring to the worn-out roads that gave a constant up-and-down motion to the trucks traveling them en route to the Hump jump-off base. It was a tedious overland supply route, but a vital link in the long chain of supply. In dry weather the trucks kicked up clouds of dust; in monsoon season it was mud, and plenty of it.

Despite the burning heat and cloudbursts of the monsoons, trucks of the 472nd kept rolling for many thousands of miles. First and second echelon maintenance had to be good to keep them on the road. In one of the worst malaria-ridden spots in the world, not to mention other tropical diseases, Shamrock men maintained an exceptional health record. There were only a few deaths, although several were sent back to the States as the result of accidents and for medical reasons. No one was killed or wounded as a result of direct enemy action, even though there were times when the Japs were dangerously close and when drivers were fired on from the hills.

TRUCK convoy of 472nd Q.M. Truck Regiment in Assam area. Photo by Alfred Beyer.

Men were moved by the 472nd, as well as supplies. Once in April 1944, "L" company moved into Chinese divisions to halt the march of the Japanese into India. One of the greatest feats accomplished by this same company was the movement of Chinese divisions to the front lines when the last American airbase in eastern China was on the verge of being lost. Troops and equipment were carried from planes to front lines for a period of three weeks, and the base stayed in American hands.

Someone once figured out that men of the 472nd were driving approximately 4,000,000 miles on the convoy route every six months, enough for 166 trips to the USA half the world away.

The work of the 472nd Q.M. Group was noticed by higher headquarters. The Shamrocks received three Meritorious Service Unit Citations, one Presidential Citation; and an award from Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek for outstanding performance of duty for having the first convoy to cross the Burma-China border, over the Ledo Road, at 1400 hours on 28 January 1945. There were also many letters of commendation, most men received at least one battle star, and several Bronze Star medals were awarded.

When the point system for return to the States was announced, all personnel of the 472nd had enough points for immediate return. But only a very few men were sent home - the regiment was to stay until replacements arrived. Orders did come in October 1945, however, and most of the regiment left by troop train from Dikom, Assam, to arrive in Karachi Nov. 1. There was a wait there until Nov. 24, when troops boarded the SS Norton to sail the following day. After a rough crossing, they arrived in New York Dec. 17 and went immediately by train to Camp Kilmer, N.J., where deac-tivation orders were signed the following day by Colonel Hap worth.

Due to another assignment, men of "E" Company did not come home with the regiment. They had been sent to Calcutta to run a GI bus service and transport men to troopships; most of these men having less points than "E" Company men had. They finally left Calcutta on the USS Black on Dec. 7,1945, arrived in New York Jan. 5, and were separated from the service at Fort Dix, N.J., on Jan. 13, 1946.

There were other units that did not come home with the regiment. One was "I" Company, which was assigned to the Ledo Road when it was opened and which sailed home on the USS Morton from Karachi. "K" Company was assigned to China in January 1945, participating in the first convoy over the Ledo Road, and then left Karachi in November 1945 aboard the USAT Torrens. "L" Company went to China in August 1945, later sailed from Calcutta on the USAT Blair, and "M" Company, assigned to China in September 1944, left Calcutta Oct. 3, 1945, on the USS General Muir.

It was not until July 1980 that the first regimental reunion was held, at Louisville, Ky. Through the efforts of Arthur Davis and his wife Virginia of Vestal, N.Y., and Al Boyer and wife Doris of Staten Island, N.Y., 440 persons were attracted to the reunion from all over the United States.

SOME of the members of the 472nd attending their first regimental reunion at the Executive West Hotel in Louisville, Ky., July 25-27, 1980. The reunion drew total attendance of 440 persons.

The second reunion will be held at Louisville July 23-25,1982, at the Executive West Hotel. Chairman for the 1982 affair is Joseph G. Wroten, Rt. 1, Box 228, Beeville, Tex. 78102.

The Shamrocks are still rolling along.

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