The history of convoy security necessitated design through ingenuity throughout history. By applying initiative and ingenuity, Leaders developed concepts, tactics and vehicle designs to protect their supplies moving throughout their area of operations. This produced innovations from the effective hybrid vehicles developed and used in Vietnam to the common use security platforms used in today’s modern Army. Further dialogue will ensure future doctrine should include funding and discussion. Forgetting the lessons learned, with the lives of Soldiers at stake, would be unconscionable.
The History of United States Army Convoy Security
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Supply transport fell on the Quartermaster Department. The definition of the word train is a column of vehicles. In most cases, civilians drove the wagon train and this remained Army policy until the early 20th century. The definition of the word convoy is a train or column of vehicles that has an armed escort. The size of an escort detail depended on many variables. Today those variables are 4
expressed as Mission, Enemy, Terrain, Troops, Time available and civil considerations (METT-TC) (Army, May 2012)
It was the commanders’ responsibility to detail combat arms Soldiers to protect the supply trains. This was the nature of warfare at the time. In 1847, General Winfield Scott invaded Mexico during the Vera Cruz campaign. General Scott had supply trains stretching from Vera Cruz to Mexico City. Bands of armed partisans called banditos attacked and tried to prevent the wagon trains from reaching their destination. “General Scott detailed a large force of infantry and cavalry to ensure the wagon trains had safe passage” (Mahan, 1861, p. 154).
The American Army used these tactics of guarding the supply trains before and after the Civil War, while fighting the American Indian during the Indian Campaigns, and throughout westward expansion. The three combat arms branches were all available to protect convoys. cavalry, infantry and artillery duties included convoy security. Cavalry was the obvious best choice; they could match the speed and terrain of the wagon trains with little difficulty. Captain Randolph B Marcy spoke about convoy security in his book, The Prairie Traveler. He recommended “...50 to 70 men were sufficient to defend supply trains since Indians attached in small war parties...” (Marcy, 1859, pp. 22-23).
During the Civil War, convoys were ambushed and captured. Confederate Brigadier General Stand Waitie and Colonel John Singleton Mosby were adept at capturing Union supply trains. There was a clear need for convoy security throughout the Civil War and it was a written and unspoken rule of warfare that convoys needed security during movement. In 1914, the Army published doctrine for convoy operations. Lessons-learned over the previous 70 years were incorporated and refined. Soldiers now drove the wagons in the train and noncommissioned 5
officers (NCOs) served as the wagon masters in charge of the commodities (War Department, 1914, p. 65).
The First Modern Convoys
General John J Pershing used gasoline-powered trucks to supply 1916 Punitive Expedition in Mexico. The internal combustion engine eventually replaced wagon teams completely and General Pershing used truck companies when the American Expeditionary Force went to France in 1917. Early trucks were temperamental machines but when operating well, they could travel at the speed of 8 to 14 miles per hour. This created a problem for the infantry and cavalry escort. They could not keep pace with motor-truck trains and convoys. Soldiers mounted...