U.S. ARMY QUARTERMASTER CORPS CAP / SLEEVE BRAIDS

Ornamental braid in the Quartermaster Corps’ branch color of Buff is used for hatbands and sleeve ornamentation. Until 1884, the colors associated with the Quartermaster Department were light blue or Saxony blue. The department would not achieve status as a basic branch of the Army until 1912, when it was merged with the Subsistence and Payment Departments to form the Quartermaster Corps.
 
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The Quartermaster Creed accurately describes the Corps as a “sustainer of armies,” but it could also quite accurately be called the “father of corps.” Given the job of supplying Soldiers with everything from food and fuel to ammunition, clothing, and pay, the scope of the Quartermaster Corps’ responsibilities grew immensely over the decades, in part because the Corps’ supply mandate included every supply-chain function: acquisition, storage, maintenance, and transportation.

Other functions fell under the overview of the Quartermaster Corps for either peripheral reasons or because they didn’t seem to fit into any other department. The proper recovery, handling, and interment of fallen Soldiers, for example, would not seem to be a supply issue, but the Corps was nonetheless given that responsibility beginning with the Spanish-American War in 1898. And while supplying uniforms was a longstanding and completely understandable responsibility of the Corps, in 1924 it was given the additional job of designing and coordinating the heraldic emblems used on medals, badges, and insignia worn on those uniforms.

Transporting troops and supplies was one of the Corps primary duties when it was founded in 1775, but following significant troop-transport issues involving chartered commercial vessels during the Spanish-American War in 1898, the Corps took to the oceans with the establishment of the Army Transport Service (ATS) in 1898. By start of World War I, the ATS comprised over a dozen large ships transporting troops, animals, and cargo, as well as conducting repair of undersea cables.

The Navy briefly took control of these large ships during the War to help maintain a single command authority over the convoy system to Europe, but after the War the Army again took control of them; by July 1919, it had nearly 170 ships capable of trans-ocean operations. But the ATS was just part of the Quartermaster Corps’ transportation services. In 1920, Congress established the Transportation Service within Corps and charged it with the transportation of personnel, supplies, and equipment by both land and water. It was reorganized into the Transportation Division in 1930 with three branches: Motor, Water, and Rail.

But with the U.S. entry into World War II and the need for transportation of men and materiel on a scale never before seen, it quickly became obvious the task would require a dedicated Corps, and the Quartermaster branch was relieved of this gargantuan responsibility in July 1942 with the establishment of the Transportation Corps as a basic branch of the Army.

Another basic branch of the Army with a Quartermaster Corps heritage is the Finance Corps. In 1912, doubtless reasoning that pay was as much a part of troop supply as food and ammunition, Congress merged three departments—Quartermaster, Pay, and Subsistence—to create the Quartermaster Corps. Handling monetary disbursements was not a significant issue for the Corps until 1918, when the number of troops to be accounted for exploded exponentially; on October 21, 1918, the Corps’ Finance and Accounts Division was transferred to the Congressionally established Finance Service under the Office of the Director of Finance in the Purchase, Storage, and Traffic Division of the General Staff. Less than two years later, the Financial Service was redesignated the Finance Department as a separate branch of the War Department, and in 1950 it was named a basic branch as the Finance Corps.
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