The Quartermaster Corps is able to trace its origins to 16 June 1775. On that day, following General Washington’s address command of the Army, the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution providing for “one Quartermaster General of the grand army and a deputy, under him, for the separate army.” Major General Thomas Mifflin, the first Quartermaster General, had no money to wrok with and overriding authority and was dependent upon the individual states for supplies for the army. The third Quartermaster General, Major General Nathanael Greene, reorganized the supply system after Valley Forge and established the first depot system to supply the Army with the goods it needed to function well. General Green is best known for his prowess as a battle leader but it is his work as Quartermaster General that has been amongst the most important innovations in the army.

From 1818 to 1860, the Quartermaster General was BG Thomas Sidney Jesup. He was a very capable administrator who took many steps to enhance the Corps’ reputation. During his 42-year tenure as head of the Quartermaster Department, he instituted an improved system of property tracking and accountability. He also experimented with new modes of transportation, including the use of canal boats in the east and camel caravans in the desert southwest. He also worked some of the earliest railroads. Because many of his policies remained in effect well into the 20th century, Jesup is traditionally regarded as the “Father of the Quartermaster Corps.” The supply of clothing and other items was taken over by the Quartermaster Department in 1842, a little more than halfway through his tenure.

During the Civil War, the Quatermaster Department was run under the capable leadership of MG Montgomery C. Meigs. He supplied the Union Army of over half a million strong, ran the Army’s first major depot system, and transported unprecedented levels of supplies and personnel throughout the war. It was his efficient running of the Quartermaster Department that helped win the war for the Union. Also, in 1862, the Quartermaster Department assumed responsibility for the burial of war dead and the care of the national cemeteries.

In 1912, Congress consolidated the former Subsistence, Pay, and Quartermaster Departments in order to create the Quartermaster Corps. While it has undergone changes since then, what was created in 1912 is much as we know it today. It is fully militarized with its own officers, soldiers, and units trained to perform a host of supply and service functions on the battlefield. With this consolidation came the missions of Subsistence and food service. And when the Army began purchasing motorized vehicles, as early as 1903, the Quartermaster Corps naturally assumed the new petroleum supply mission. Basically, anything that had to do with supplying the troops anywhere in the world under any conditions was rapidly falling under the pervue of the Quartermaster Corps.

World War I showed the increased importance of logistics in the modern era. From necessity, the the first use of specialized Quartermaster units on the Western Front were developed to ensure supply lines in foreign countries. Several “logistics warriors” were also singled out for valor in World War I and received the nation’s highest honors for bravery in battle.

During World War II, the Quartermaster Corps trained thousands of soldiers to fill specialized roles in every theater of operation-from the Pacific Isles and China-Burma-India theater to North Africa, Italy, and central and northern Europe. They performed heroically at such far off places as Bataan, Iwo Jima, Leyete, Salerno, Anzio, Normandy, and Bastogne. At the height of the war, Quartermasters were providing over 70,000 different supply items and more than 24 million meals each day. When it was over, they had recovered and buried nearly a quarter of a million soldiers in temporary cemeteries around the world. 4,943 Quartermaster soldiers lost their lives in World War II.

In 1950, the Quartermaster Corps moved swiftly to supply the United States and their UN allies sent to defend South Korea from the Communist North. That same year the Corps assumed a new mission-supply by air-which often proved crucial to the sustainment of troops on the Korean peninsula.

The 1965 decision to commit major United States combat forces to the Republic of Vietnam led to a massive logistics buildup. Quartermaster Corps personnel were deeply involved in meeting this challenge. They could be found operating in every area of Vietnam, furnishing vital supplies and services often under the most adverse and dangerous conditions.

Over the past decade, Quartermaster soldiers have been amongst the first deployed in operations Urgent Fury (Grenada) and Just Cause (Panama). They also provided the logistic support needed to defeat Iraqi forces during Operation Desert Storm. More recently Quartermasters have provided humanitarian relief to victims at home (hurricanes Andrew and Iniki) and abroad (Operations Provide Comfort, Restore Hope, Provide Promise, and Uphold Democracy).

Over the course of history quartermasters have performed a variety of tasks that match the evolution of the army. They have served as mule skinners, dog trainers, teamsters, bakers, launderers, typewriter specialists, shoe repairmen, depot operators, heraldry experts, paymasters, cemeterial custodians–and in other capacities too numerous to mention. In fact, the Quartermaster Corps is the most diverse branch of the army based on the many functions they provided throughout their history. But despite all the changes, the fundamental mission of the Corps has stayed the same: it is to support the individual combat soldier in the field.

No other branch of the Army can claim to have participated in so many missions, either historically or at the present.

No other branch of the Army touches the live of soldiers on a daily basis as much as the Quartermaster Corps. This has been the case since its inception in 1775.

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