COMMENTARY: Remembering The Red Ball Express

(Last Updated On: February 13, 2018)

 

From Jack Roberts, Trucking Info:

Due to institutionalized racism prevalent at the time, African-American soldiers were given few opportunities during the war to serve in front-line combat units. They were mostly relegated to support roles in the Armed Forces. But one vital area they were allowed to serve in was in the Army’s Quartermaster Corps as truck drivers – and it was a job they took seriously and excelled at.

Once the U.S. Army broke out of Normandy following the D-Day landings in France, it was these African-American truck drivers, lurching around on hard seats in bare-bone, unheated Studebaker, General Motors, Ford, White, and Dodge trucks, who ran hard on the heels of the Army as they chased the Germans out of France and back into Germany.

They were known as the Red Ball Express. And these convoys of trucks, working in unbelievably harsh conditions, drove around the clock, with drivers getting little or no rest, to get supplies to the front-line troops. While it wasn’t technically a “combat” assignment, the reality was that Red Ball drivers were constantly exposed to enemy air, infantry and artillery attacks – not to mention the dangers of running as fast as possible on slick, bumpy roads, even at night with minimized “blackout” headlights providing barely enough forward visibility to see.

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