Friday, November 30, 2007

Logistics disruption could have cost the Allies WWII

I'm a real history buff and a big fan of the History Channel, which recently added some of its programs to iTunes. On my trip from Brno to Vienna yesterday I watched a show about the secret underground logistics network that can be found right underneath Grand Central Terminal in New York City.
During WWII all of the trains on the east coast of the US were powered by diesel generators that were under the Terminal. These trains were crucial for the US as they were used by the military to transport tanks, ammo and soldiers up and down the coast for deployment in Europe via boat and plane. While the exact location of these generators is still a secret to this day, back then Hitler actually discovered that they existed and he sent two of his men to destroy them. A funny side note, they didn't plan to destroy the generators with TNT or even guns, but with sand. They were actually caught by the FBI with bags of sand, which if emptied into the spinning gears would have been devastating. Luckily they didn't succeed or the outcome of the war could have been very different.

So there you have it, logistics is not only critical in business today, but also in the military.


Scott Stephens said...

Christopher - In 2004, when I was the CTO of the Supply Chain Council, I was privileged to hear a presentation by Colonel Koh Lai Hock of the Joint Logistics Department of the Singapore Armed Forces. His presentation documented the evolution of modern supply chain management from ancient defence logistics. He quoted Alexander the Great: “My logisticians are a humorless lot…..They know if my campaign fails, they are the first ones I will slay."

Allow me to compliment you on an excellent blog.

Christopher Sciacca said...

Thanks Scott for your insight and complements. And if anyone has a copy of this presentation I'd love to see it.

I'll also add your quote to my list of famous supply chain quotes. Thanks.

AFLoggie said...

Interesting tidbit from WWII that I was not aware of. As an Air Force Logistician (15+ years), I understand all too well the criticality of logistics in the military. For a really good read on logistics during war, I highly recommend (I've read it myself) the book "Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstine to Patton" by Martin van Creveld. It's a real eye opener and van Creveld put a lot of research into writing that book.
Also, to piggyback on the quote submitted by Scott Stephens, here's one entitled "The Logistics Burden" by Admiral Isaac Campbell Kidd, US Navy (retired):

The Logistics Burden

Logisticians are a sad, embittered race of people, very much in demand in war, who sink resentfully into obscurity in peace.
They deal only with facts, but must work for men who traffic in theories. They emerge during the war because war is very much fact.
They disappear in peace, because in peace, war is mostly theory.
The people who trade in theories and who employ logisticians in war and ignore them in peace are Generals.
Logisticians hate Generals.
Generals are a happily blessed race who radiate confidence and power. They feed only on ambrosia and drink only nectar.
In peace they stride along confidently and can invade a world simply by sweeping their hands grandly over a map, pointing their fingers decisively up terrain corridors, and blocking defiles and obstacles with the sides of their arms.
In war they must stride more slowly, because such General has a logistician riding on his back and he knows that, at any moment, the logistician may lean forward and whisper: “No, you can’t do that!”
Generals fear logisticians in war, and in peace, Generals try to forget logisticians.
Romping along beside Generals are Strategists and Tacticians.
Strategists and Tacticians do not know about logisticians until they grow up to be Generals--which they usually do--although sometimes Generals will discipline errant Strategists and Tacticians by telling them about logisticians.
This sometimes gives Strategist and Tacticians nightmares, but deep down in their heart they do not believe the stories--especially if the General lets them have an occasional drink of his nectar.
Sometimes a logistician gets to be a General.
In such case he must associate with Generals whom he hates. He has a retinue of Strategists and Tacticians whom he despises, and on his back is a logistician whom he fears.
That is why logisticians who become Generals are a fearsome and frustrated group who wish they were anywhere else, beat their wives, and get ulcers and cannot eat their ambrosia.