Military logistics is the discipline of planning and carrying out the movement and maintenance of military forces. Military logistics pdf, development, acquisition, storage, distribution, maintenance, evacuation, and disposition of materiel. Acquisition or construction, maintenance, operation, and disposition of facilities.
The word “logistics” is derived from the Greek adjective logistikos meaning “skilled in calculating”. Historically supplies for an army were first acquired by foraging or looting, especially in the case of food and fodder, although if traveling through a desolated region or staying in one place for too long resources could quickly be exhausted. A second method was for the army to bring along what was needed, whether by ships, pack animals, wagons or carried on the backs of the soldiers themselves. Even so, military commanders often provided their troops with food and supplies, but this would be provided in lieu of the soldiers’ wages, or soldiers would be expected to pay for it from their wages, either at cost or even with a profit. Starting under the rule of Edward II in 1307 and ending under the rule of Edward III in 1337, the English instead used a system where merchants would be asked to meet armies with supplies for the conscripts to purchase.
English returned to a practice of foraging and looting to meet their logistical needs. This practice lasted throughout the course of war, extending through the remainder of Edward III’s reign into the reign of Henry VI. Starting in the late sixteenth century armies in Europe greatly increased in size, upwards of 100,000 or more in some cases. When operating in enemy territory an army was forced to plunder the local countryside for supplies, a historical tradition meant to allow war to be conducted at the enemy’s expense.
However, with the increase in army sizes this reliance on plunder became a major problem, as many decisions regarding where an army could move or fight were made based not on strategic objectives but whether a given area was capable of supporting the soldiers’ needs. Conversely, armies of this time had little need to maintain lines of communication while on the move, except insofar as it was necessary to recruit more soldiers, and thus could not be cut off from non-existent supply bases. Although this theoretically granted armies freedom of movement, the need for plunder prevented any sort of sustained, purposeful advance. By the seventeenth century, the French under Secretary of State for War Michel Le Tellier began a series of military reforms to address some of the issues which had plagued armies in the previous century. Despite these changes, French armies still relied on plunder for a majority of their needs while on the move. Magazines were created for specific campaigns and any surplus was immediately sold for both monetary gain and to lessen the tax burden.
The vehicles used to form convoys were contracted out from commercial interests or requisitioned from local stockpiles. Le Tellier’s son Louvois would continue his father’s reforms after assuming his position. The most important of these was to guarantee free daily rations for the soldiers, amounting to two pounds of bread or hardtack a day. With these reforms French armies enjoyed one of the best logistical systems in Europe, however there were still severe restrictions on its capabilities. Only a fraction of an army’s supply needs could be met by the magazines, requiring that it continue to use plunder.
In particular this was true for perishable goods or those too bulky to store and transport such as fodder. The British were seriously handicapped in the American Revolutionary War by the need to ship all supplies across the Atlantic, since the Americans prevented most local purchases. The British found a solution after the war by creating the infrastructure and the experience needed to manage an empire. Napoleon made logistical operations a major part of French strategy. The French system fared poorly in the face of a guerrilla warfare that targeted supply lines during the Peninsular War in Spain, and the British blockade of Spanish ports. The need to supply a besieged Barcelona made it impossible to control the province and ended French plans to incorporate Catalonia into Napoleon’s Empire.
The first theoretical analysis of this was by the Swiss writer, Antoine-Henri Jomini, who studied the Napoleonic wars. In 1838, he devised a theory of war based on the trinity of strategy, tactics, and logistics. Railways and steamboats revolutionized logistics by the mid-19th century. Both tried to disrupt the enemy’s logistics by destroying trackage and bridges. During the Seven Weeks War of 1866, railways enabled the swift mobilization of the Prussian Army, but the problem of moving supplies from the end of rail lines to units at the front resulted in nearly 18,000 tons trapped on trains unable to be unloaded to ground transport. When World War I started, the capabilities of rail and horse-drawn supply were stretched to their limits.