US ARMY LOGISTICS BRANCH CAP / SLEEVE BRAIDS

The ornamental braid used as a hatband on the service cap and as ornamentation on the sleeves of the Army Service Uniform and Blues Mess Dress is based upon the wearer’s branch and its colors. In a rare omission, Department of the Army Pamphlet 670-1 lists Soldier Red as the sole color of the Logistics Branch, when in fact its colors are Soldier Red and Bronze (cable numbers 80095 and 80011, respectively).

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For some reason, logistics proponents are fond of repeating a quote attributed to Alexander the Great: “My logisticians are a humorless lot…They know if my campaign fails, they are the first ones I will slay.” Unfortunately, no one who bandies this quote about can ever mention a creditable source—or any source—that attributes the remark to the military leader. Why use a spurious quotation about the vital role of logistics in military operations when there are countless empirical examples that prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt?

The First Battle of Bull Run is remembered as a resounding Confederate victory, but the outcome likely would have been the precise opposite if not for the Confederate use of railroads to rapidly send reinforcements that helped repel a devastating Union attack and provided the men for a withering counterattack. On the Union side, control of the Mississippi and other rivers allowed the transport of troops, munitions, and equipment up and down the Western theater of operations almost at will, allowing forces led by Sherman and Grant to count on resupply even as they pressed deeper into Southern territory.

During the Spanish-American War, the rush to war spawned a host of problems, almost all traceable in one way or another to a failure of logistics. Soldiers were surprised to learn that their Krag rifles were inferior to the Mausers used the Spanish forces; they were given winter clothes for summer fighting in a tropical environment; and hastily ordered food spoiled and sickened soldiers.

Another example of the crucial importance of logistics is found in Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of Russia in June 1941. A key aspect of logistics is planning for every possible contingency, and in the case of this particular operation there was a very strong possibility that the Wehrmacht would still be engaged in combat operations when the brutal Russian winter arrived. But Hitler’s disdain for Russian military capabilities, bolstered by overenthusiastic estimates from his commanders regarding the length of the campaign, led to the decision to send the German armies into the vast expanses of the Russian steppes with no winter coats or other cold-weather provisions.

Countless other examples can be cited, but the final word on the importance of logistics was summed by Lieutenant General Frederick Franks, commander of the 7th Corps during Operation Desert Storm, in four simple words: “Forget logistics, you lose.”
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