Fall 1992 Issue
By William J. Pribyl
Petroleum Labs In CBI Theater
Three Quartermaster Petroleum Products Laboratories were in the CBI. The 963rd was a mobile unit stationed in Karachi, India, and assigned to Base General Depot #1, APO 386. Personnel of this unit were Lt. William O. Ferron, T/Sgt. Raymond S. Ousterhout, T/5 William J. Moffatt, T/5 John A. Mortimeyer, T/5 William H. O'Connell, and T/5 Rainer E. Wells.
The 962nd was a base unit stationed at Budge Budge, India (Calcutta area) and assigned to HQ Engineer District #12 S.O.S. I. B. T., APO 465. Personnel of this unit were Capt. Raymond W. Walker, Lt. William G. Raleigh, M/Sgt. Henry C. Eichhorn, T/Sgt. Lee W. Evatt, S/Sgt. James S. Bryce Jr., S/Sgt. Norman E. Northrop, T/4 Walter C. Barbour, T/5 Bernard L. Dempsey, T/5 Galen E. Hummel, and T/5 Percy Meredith.
The 961st was a base unit stationed at Chittagong, India, and assigned to HQ Engineer District #12 S.O.S. I.B.T., APO 214. Personnel of this unit were Capt. Clayton B. Marshall, Lt. William J. Pribyl, M/Sgt. William R. Gross, T/Sgt. Edward A. Pizzi, S/Sgt. Alexander W. Kaminski, S/Sgt. George N. Franco, S/Sgt. John A. McCoy, T/4 Benjamin L. Cole, T/5 John J. McMillen, and T/5 Archie W. Kerr Jr.
These three units were small highly specialized units that were organized and trained at Fort Lee, Virginia. The personnel came mostly from petroleum laboratories and refineries as petroleum engineers, chemists, or laboratory technicians. These three laboratory units departed the States, 18 March 1945 from Fort Totten, Long Island, New York, Aerial Port of Embarkation, serviced by the Air Transport Command.
The 963rd arrived in Karachi on 25 March, the 962nd arrived in Budge Budge on 31 March, and the 961st arrived in Chittagong on 7 April 1945. The 961st QM Petroleum Products Laboratory was attached to the 708 Engineer Petroleum Distribution Company for rations and quarters.
The mission ot the QM Petroleum Products Laboratories was to facilitate the progress of the combat mission by rendering technical assistance to the Theater Commander in matters pertaining to the handling, storage, identification, and quality evaluation of petroleum products. The Laboratories routinely tested petroleum products at the major unloading facilities (Karachi, Calcutta, and Chittagong), at intermediate filling points along the pipelines, at POL stations, at all airbase storage facilities, and at the major tank farms (holding facilities) at Karachi, Calcutta, Chittagong, and Tinsukia.
Products purchased in the theater of operations, such as from Burma Shell at Budge Budge, and from the Assam Oil Company and Refinery at Digboi, were also teated for quality conformance. All testing was conducted in conformance with A.S.T.M. standards for Petroleum Products.
The 961st was scheduled for additional duties when on 13 May 1945 a detachment was directed to proceed to Tinsukia, APO 629 and set up testing facilities at the large Tinsukia Tank Farm. It was from this tank farm that petroleum products entered the Ledo-Burma Road pipelines on their way to Kunming and the 14th Air Force Base at Chanyi about a hundred miles to the northeast of Kunming. This detachment was attached to the 700 Engineer Petroleum Distribution Company for rations and quarters.
The Assam-Burma-China pipeline was the longest pipeline in the world with Tinsukia as the hub. As the 961st detachment set up testing operations, the first gasoline reached Kunming through this line on 9 April 1945. The 961st detachment consisted of Lt. William J. Pribyl, technical director of operations, S/Sgt. Alexander W. Kaminski, octane engine operator, S/Sgt. John A. McCoy, chief chemical inspector, and T/5 John J. Mc-Millen, chemical laboratory assistant.
Testing operations continued at Tinsukia until the fall of 1945 when all pipeline operations were shut down. When the pipelines were closed, 31 October 1945, the Laboratories had tested all the petroleum products that had entered the system or had been purchased in the Theater of Operations. With hostilities now over, a mass exodus was begun from the northern Assam Valley bases. The 961st Laboratory was essentially deactivated. All the laboratory equipment was packed and shipped to the States. On 19 November 1945 the remaining personnel including myself were assigned to the 1382nd Engineer Petroleum Distribution Company.
As the phase out of bases and equipment was accelerated, I was assigned the responsibility of picking a team of volunteers to conduct the final inventory, disposal of pipeline sections, and custodianship of the 350 mile Panasau Pass-Tinsukia-Gauhati pipeline section including the servicing for longtime storage of the 220,000 barrel Tank Farm. Assisting me in this task was S/Sgt. John A. McCoy, S/Sgt. Franklin S. Adams, T/5 Rufus C. Hodges, T/5 Earl P. Barber, T/4 Paul H. Cain, and T/4 George F. Donahue, all of the 1382nd Engineer Petroleum Distribution Company.
Nearly 3.5 million dollars worth of pumps, engines, tanks, real estate, and other pertinent items were serviced and inventoried for the ultimate sale as surplus property. Upon completion of this task and return to Tinsukia on 22 April 1946 all the personnel, Army and Air Force, had already departed.
Return to Calcutta (Repl. Depot #3) for us at the last military personnel in the Northern Assam Valley was accomplished by Indian railroad since all vehicles and planes had already departed. On 3 May 1946 I boarded the Marine Adder at Calcutta, stopped at Singapore, travelled the South China Sea and entered Shanghai, China. It was here that a large number of Chinese cadets were brought aboard for pilot training in the States.
The Marine Adder docked at the Army Pier in San Francisco on 30 May 1946. After an across the country troop train ride, I arrived at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, on 4 June 1946 for separation and discharge.
I haven't relied on memory alone for the facts, figures, and personnel data recited here. I still have in my possession the tentative field manual published on 27 March 1944 by The Quartermaster School, then Camp Lee, Virginia, titled Quartermaster Petroleum Products Laboratory (For Planning Purposes Only). I also have the Pipeline Map. DWG. WC-106-1, dated 12 March 1945, classified SECRET, put out by Engineer District #12 S.O.S., U.S.A.F., I.E.. APO 465, W. C. Kinsolving, Col. C. E. District Engineer.
Of course, the tracking of the personnel has been done by the Official Travel Orders, which I still have, that were issued from the time the training units were established at Camp Lee, Virginia, in 1944 to the final deactivatlon.
|22 April 1946 - Tinsukia, India. Officially the last Military Personnel to leave the Northern Assam Valley. Front row, left to right: T/4 Paul H. Cain, Lt. William J. Pribyl, T/5 Earl P. Barber, Back row, left to right: T/5 Rufus C. Hodges, T/4 George F. Donahue, S/Sgt. John A. McCoy, S/Sgt. Franklin S. Adams.|