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The Right to Fight
: A History of African Americans in the Military
by Gerald Astor

 

This page is hosted as part of the COMBAT! web site.



African-Americans Proudly Serving in WWII

[Tuskegee] [USS Mason] [Red Ball Express] [Buffalo Soldiers]
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The Red Ball Express

The Red Ball Express was one of World War II's most massive logistics operations, manned primarily by African American soldiers. The trucks kept gasoline and other vital supplies rolling to the front as American troops pushed the Germans out of France and back toward Berlin.

Pictured above: Original painting for the Fleetwood« First Day Cover by Chris Calle. Actual size: 6-1/2 x 3-5/8 inches. Reverse of FDC contains historical background text. You can order the above at First Day Cover store.

Facts:

  • August 1944, Patton's Third Army broke through the German lines, advancing rapidly, moving faster than supply lines. Trucks and drivers from every available unit were pressed into service, with most of the drivers being black, since they were restricted from participating in combat. On Aug. 25, 1944. , the legendary Red Ball Express was born.
  • The first runs in August involved over 3,000 trucks.
  • Drivers on the Red Ball Express picked up freight at St. L˘, near the Normandy beaches, and drove as fast as they could to Chartres to supply the U.S. 1st Army, or to Dreux for the U.S. 3rd Army. This was 700-mile round trip.
  • In the first month, the express delivered 290,000 tons of desperately needed supplies to the front.
  • At its peak, the Red Ball Express operated 5,958 vehicles and carried 12,342 tons of supplies to the front.
  • Trucks rolled 24-hours a day. Any trucks that broke down were shoved to the side of the road, repaired in place by roving repair teams, and re-joined the convoy as soon as they could.   
  • "Redball" is an old railroad term meaning "priority freight."
  • Trucks of the RedBall Express displayed a red ball insignia, which gave them right-of-way over other traffic.
  • The Redball Express ran 81 days, until terminated in November 1944. 
  • Paul Robson performed a wonderful song about the Red Ball Express in a film that I only saw once, as part of a grammar school class assignment. If anyone has this on tape or record, I'd love to hear it again.

The Road to Victory : The Untold Story of World War II's Red Ball Express
by David P. Colley

Paperback, 300 page
List Price $6.99

 

1952 movie
The Red Ball Express,
downplays (almost ignores) the role of black soldiers on the express.

 

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[Tuskegee] [USS Mason] [Red Ball Express] [Buffalo Soldiers]
[Black Soldier Posters] [Black History Posters]