WASHINGTON -- This week marks the 75th anniversary of the start of the Red Ball Express, the biggest movement of supplies in Europe during World War II.
More than 6,000 truck drivers began delivering supplies on August 25, 1944 to the troops who stormed Normandy and were fighting their way to Germany.
Among the drivers was SGT Roland Piggee, from Stamps, Arkansas, and father of LTG Aundre F. Piggee, Deputy Chief of Staff for Army Logistics, G-4.
"My father was always so proud to be a truck driver" LTG Piggee said. "He knew that the Red Ball Express contributed as much to the defeat of the Nazis as any unit. Without food, fuel, and ammunition, Patton's tanks could not advance."
The trucks rolled 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 82 days, with drivers rushing supplies 400 miles to the First Army and 350 miles to Patton's Third Army. On their return routes, they often back hauled German prisoners.
The work was dangerous. Soldiers would put sandbags on the floors of their cabs to absorb mine blasts. The trucks took a tremendous beating: overheated engines, burned out motors, and worn out tires. In the case of SGT Piggee, on one occasion his truck carrying the prisoners rolled over.
African-Americans made up 75 percent of the Red Ball Express drivers and mechanics, and GEN Dwight D. Eisenhower was indebted to their courageous acts. He called the Red Ball Express the "lifeline."
"As proud as my father was of the Red Ball Express in World II, I have been as proud to watch our versions of the Red Ball Express in Iraq and Afghanistan," LTG Piggee said. "When I served in Iraq, I witnessed today's 19 year-olds executing a Red Ball Express on a weekly basis."
As the Army G-4, LTG Piggee has been working to fashion the Red Ball Express for future troops. "It may be with robotics loading supplies, driverless trucks among the convoys, and autonomous aerial systems delivering supplies" he said.
"Our challenge is to increase resupply throughput, reduce the number of drivers, and reduce risk for our convoys. That is something my father's generation would really appreciate."