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Chapter XXV

Books and Documents > Medical Department of the U.S. Army in the World War, Volume III, Finance & Supply

CHAPTER XXV

SPARE PARTS; SUPPLIES

SPARE PARTS

The influence which an adequate supply of spare parts would have upon the ambulance service was early appreciated. It was one of the principal reasons, even before the declaration of war, for the decision to have but one standard chassis and one standard body. It was obvious that all spare parts should be uniform and applicable to any standard vehicle. But one series of such supplies would need to be kept. Promptness and efficiency of supply would be facilitated. The material difficulties and aggravating delays experienced in providing with spare parts the few ambulances operating on the Mexican border in 1916 had been keenly felt by everyone in any way connected with the ambulances. The need for these parts from the beginning of the World War, as had been anticipated, was very great. At no time before the signing of the armistice had this need been fully met. But, great as was the need for “parts” to keep the machines running, the need for whole machines to run was greater. These machines were so sturdy and so well built that apparently only great violence or the grossest neglect could cause an early need for spare parts. From June to October, 1917, every effort was made to get ambulances to the camps and to the organizations awaiting transportation overseas.

To systematize the supply, spare parts and accessories were divided into two classes, A and B. Class A parts were issued to and carried on the individual ambulance. They consisted of factory parts and accessories. The factory parts were obtained from the General Motors Truck Co., and consisted of spark plugs and fan belts. The accessories consisted of miscellaneous articles needed in the operation of the vehicle-tires, inner tubes, tire chains, fire extinguishers, canvas buckets, grease guns, and the like.

The class B parts were more extensive and comprehensive. They included all articles likely to be needed in making such repairs as could be made along the roadside by a skilled automobile mechanic. All ordinary engine, axle, differential, transmission, ignition, and cooling system trouble could be repaired, using these parts. It was not contemplated that major repairs would be attempted at the roadside. All ambulances requiring extensive repairs or overhauling were to be either salvaged or sent to the nearest repair shop. The class B set of spare parts included an extensive list of factory parts and a lot of miscellaneous articles--tools, funnels, lanterns, bolts, and the like.

There was another group of spare parts known as class C, carried as depot stocks and used to supply ambulances not attached to divisions, and to replenish the class B set.  The entire list was not completed until May, 1918.


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SPARE PARTS CAR

The spare parts B set was at first carried on a spare parts car. This car consisted of a modified ambulance body mounted on a standard ¾-ton model ‘16 General Motors Co. chassis. It had a cabinet placed crosswise of the body just behind the driver’s seat. This cabinet had drawers and compartments for the various small parts, tools, and accessories. Back of this cabinet was a clear space of sufficient extent to permit the opening of any or all of the drawers. The top of the cabinet was of suitable height and size for a small workbench. Back of the clear space and extending to the tail gate were folding seats for carrying sitting cases in emergencies. The more bulky spare parts were carried in this space when on the road. In general appearance, when the side curtains were down, this spare parts car could not be distinguished from an ambulance. It was intended to provide the ambulance company with a roadside repair shop.

FIG. 28.- Spare part trailer, side view

SPARE PARTS TRAILER

Further information of conditions at the front led to the conclusion that this type of vehicle was not the most suitable for carrying spare parts. It was expensive and bulky, took one chassis from its prime function, was as liable to be disabled as any other chassis in the unit, and when so disabled would be of very little use to the company. Other means of transportation were investigated. After making due allowances for the difficulties in towing a trailer, it was decided


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that the advantages to be derived from carrying the spare parts B in a specially designed trailer, were sufficient to justify subtituting it for the spare parts car. Such a trailer would be smaller and more compact; would cost less than half that of the car; could be towed by any of the ambulances to a disabled car or place; the ambulance which towed it out could resume its normal function; and the trailer could be towed in by the disabled car after the latter had been repaired.

Work on the design of such a trailer was begun at the ambulance supply depot at Louisville early in 1918.1 A satisfactory model both as to chassis and body had been developed by the end of March2 and contracts for 300 were let during April.3 As with the standard ambulance, the chassis was obtained from one manufacturer, the body from another, and the assembling was done at Louisville. Deliveries of chassis began in April and were completed in August. Delivery of bodies began in May and was completed in July.4 Such articles of the B set as it was intended should be carried in the trailer were packed therein at the Louisville ambulance supply depot. The trailer and all the remaining articles in the B set were then inclosed in a suitable box, if for overseas shipment, or in a suitable crate if intended for domestic shipment.5

FIG. 29.- Spare parts trailer, front view

Of the trailers boxed for export, 140 were placed in transit to the overseas forces during the months July to October, inclusive, 1918.6 There is no record of the number of them which reached their destination. Such of them as were actually placed in service overseas proved very convenient and gave satisfaction. Within the United States 75 trailers were distributed to the various


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camps and stations having ambulances in numbers equivalent to an ambulance company.6

Material difficulty was experienced in securing both factory parts and the miscellaneous accessory articles. Instructions were issued May 29, 1917, for the purchase of 2,000 sets of spare parts equipment A, 200 sets of equipment B, and 12 sets of equipment for groups of 52 ambulances.7 It was not until the beginning of August that the purchasing officer was able to report that he had succeeded in completing negotiations for the factory parts. Even then the miscellaneous or nonfactory parts had not been secured.8 Contract for these factory parts was finally signed and was approved in the Surgeon General’s Office on August 13.9 Instructions were given to have these spare parts assembled in sets and each set packed in a separate container 10 for facility in in shipment. The first delivery of factory spare parts B was received at the Louisville ambulance supply depot October 1, 1917, neatly packed in a single box 68 inches by 28 inches by 15 inches, weighing 625 pounds net.11 Deliveries of 35 sets B and 932 sets A had been completed by December 15, 1917.12 Twenty sets B parts and 350 sets A parts were shipped to France in November, 1917.13

FIG. 30. - Spare parts trailer, rear view

Another contract for 3,000 sets spare parts A and 305 sets spare parts B, with a large quantity of articles for depot stock, was made with the General Motors Truck Co. in November, 1917. Deliveries on this contract began in February, 1918, and were finally completed August 24, 1918.14


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FIG-31.- Spare parts trailer, showing equipment carried


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Even greater difficulties were experienced in the earlier procurements of the miscellaneous accessory components of both the A and B sets. Advertisements for bids brought very few replies. Deliveries promised were slow and prices high. Finally, after much canvassing, satisfactory bids were received and contracts let. Deliveries were made in conformity with the contract stipulations.15 A somewhat different policy was followed in providing spare parts for ambulances overseas. For each General Motors Co. ambulance sent overseas a complete set of parts A was furnished. Some 50 sets of spare parts B were furnished, in addition to those in the 140 trailers previously mentioned.16 These parts, however, were slow in being delivered.

Arrangements were made with the Quartermaster General in September, 1917, for the quartermaster depots in France to carry an adequate supply of factory parts, General Motors Co.,17 as well as Ford. These parts were to be secured by the ambulance companies in France and settlement made by Treasury transfer of funds. The lists of factory parts prepared by the Quartermaster Corps contemplated practically one car in parts for every 25 cars sent over.17

FIG. 32.—Spare parts trailer, road side set up

Spare parts for the maintenance of 800 General Motors Co. ambulances and 3,200 Ford ambulances were ordered through the depot quartermaster September 22, 1917.18 The General Motors Truck Co. promised shipments to France by the end of November, 1917, in quantities to meet immediate requirements.19 The purchase of miscellaneous equipment for 900 ambulances was authorized by the Quartermaster General December 22, 1917.20 This equipment was to be boxed for export, addressed to motor transport repair shops, Quartermaster Corps, United States Expeditionary Forces, marked “Miscellaneous equipment,


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ambulance service.” The instructions to purchase directed that the equipment be prepared for immediate shipment and the first complement shipped at the earliest possible date. The remainder was to be shipped as soon thereafter as practicable.

No record is discoverable of the quantity of the spare parts and miscellaneous equipment which actually reached France and was issued to the troops. The impression gathered from the correspondence and from conversations with officers on duty with ambulance companies overseas indicates that there was a chronic shortage of spare parts for the General Motors Co. ambulances, at least with the ambulance companies.

SUPPLIES

GASOLINE, OILS AND GREASE

In the early days of the use of the motor ambulance in the Army, these vehicles were operated in conjunction with motor vehicles of the Quartermaster Corps. Gasoline, lubricating oils, and cup grease for them were secured from the supply maintained by the local quartermaster. Settlement was made by transfer of funds in the Treasury Department from the appropriation of the Medical Department to those of the Quartermaster Corps. This was generally more convenient for the officer in charge of the ambulances. Later, authority was granted medical officers for the purchase of these commodities in the open market when a better price could be obtained in that manner.21

After the training camps were established arrangements were made with the Quartermaster General to have the gasoline and lubricants required by Medical Department motor vehicles in the camp obtained from the camp quartermaster with transfer of funds.22 This procedure was changed in February, 1918, and the supply of gasoline for all motor vehicles was devolved upon the Quartermaster Corps without transfer of funds.23

The Medical department was required from time to time to submit estimates of its requirements in gasoline and lubricants. A comprehensive estimate was made of gasoline and oil which would be required daily and monthly for the motor ambulance service. Both Ford and General Motors Co. ambulance and motor cycles as well, were included in this estimate. Since motor trucks and touring cars were furnished by the Quartermaster Corps, the number of vehicles which would be in use with Medical Department organizations was given in the estimate. The requirements of those trucks and motor cars for gasoline and oil were omitted. A copy of the estimate showing upon what it was based appears below:24

Estimate of gasoline and oil for motor ambulance service


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Estimate of gasoline and oil for motor ambulance service - continued.


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Estimate of gasoline and oil for motor ambulance service - continued.


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Estimate of gasoline and oil for motor ambulance service - continued.

REFERENCES

(1) Letter from Maj. John P. Fletcher, M. C., Motor Ambulance Supply Depot, Louisville, Ky., to Maj. W. T. Fishleigh, Sanitary Corps, N. A., S. G. O., February 20, 1918. Subject: Spare parts trailer. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O.,  713-440/207.
(2) Letter from the Surgeon General to Maj. J. P. Fletcher, M. C., Louisville, Ky., March 25, 1918. Subject: Special delivery letter. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., 713-440/230.
(3) Contracts dated April 17, 1918, between Maj. John P. Fletcher, M. C., and the Trailmobile Co. of Cinncinati, Ohio, for 300 trailer chassis. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O.,  Motor Transport Contract, 4669. Also: Contract dated April 13, 1918, between Maj. John P. Fletcher, M. C., and Glasscock Bros. Co., of Muncie, Ind., for 300 trailer bodies. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., Motor Transport Contract, 4596.

(4) Louisville Motor Ambulance Supply Weekly Reports, April to August, 1918, inclusive. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., 713-440/398.

(5) Letter from the Surgeon General to Maj. John P. Fletcher, M. C., Louisville, Ky., April 29, 1918. Subject: Boxing of spare parts trailer. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., 713-440/288.

(6) Louisville Daily Shop Records, July to October, inclusive, 1918. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S.G.O., 713-440/401.


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(7) Letter from the Surgeon General to the officer in charge, Field Medical Supply Depot, Washington, D. C., May 29, 1917. Subject: Spare parts for ambulances. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., 11,220.260.

(8) Letter from the officer in charge, Field Medical Supply Depot, Washington, D. C., to the Surgeon General, August 3, 1917. Subject: Spare parts. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., 11,220.260.

(9) Contracts dated July 9, 1917, between Capt. John P. Fletcher, M. C., and the General Motors Truck Co., of Pontiac, Mich., for spare parts I or model 16 chassis and for model 15 chassis. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., Motor Transport Contracts, 868 and 870.

(10) Letter from Col. Edwin P. Wolfe, M. C., S. G. O., to Maj. John P. Fletcher, M. C., Motor Ambulance Supply Depot, Louisville, Ky., September 22, 1917. Subject: Depot affairs. On file, Finance and Supply Division. S. G. O., 713-440/105.

(11) Letters from Maj. John P. Fletcher, M. C., Louisville, Ky., to Col. Edwin P. Wolfe, M. C., S. G. O., September 24, 1917, and October 2, 1917. Subject: Motor ambulances and spare parts. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., 713-440/105.

(12) Statement of deliveries attached to contract No. 3849, December 27, 1917, between Maj. John P. Fletcher, M. C., and the General Motors Truck Co., modifying contract No. 870.  On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., Motor Transport Contracts.

(13) Telegram from the Surgeon General to Motor Ambulance Supply Depot, Louisville, Ky., November 8, 1917, directing shipment of spare parts to Newport News, Va. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., 713-440/125.

(14) Contract dated November 30, 1917, between Maj. John P. Fletcher, M. C., and the General Motors Truck Co. for spare parts and schedule of deliveries and payments attached thereto. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., Motor Transport Contracts, 2324.

(15) Letters from Maj. John P. Fletcher, M. C., Motor Ambulance Supply Depot, Louisville, Ky., to Col. Edwin P. Wolfe, M. C., S. G. O., October 22, 1917, and December 27, 1917. Subject: Motor ambulances and spare parts. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., 713-440/99-A and 713-440/133.

(16) Louisville Daily Spare Parts Reports, July to October, 1918. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., 713-440/402.

(17) Letter from Col. Edwin P. Wolfe, M. C., S. G. O., to Maj. John P. Fletcher, M. C., Louisville, Ky., October 22, 1917. Subject: Motor ambulances and spare parts. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., 713-440/99-A.

(18) Letter from Maj. W. T. Fishleigh, Sanitary Corps, N. A., to Col. Edwin P. Wolfe, M. C., S. G. O., October 16, 1917. Subject: Ambulance spare parts status. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., 250/18.


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(19) Second indorsement from Depot Quartermaster, Chicago Ill., to the Surgeon General, October 27, 1917, relative to G. M. C. spare parts for France. On file, Finance and  Supply Division, S. G. O., 250/18.

(20) Letter from the Quartermaster General, authorization No., Washington, 5077, to the Depot Quartermaster, Washington, D. C., December 22, 1917. Subject: Purchase of miscellaneous equipment for ambulances. On file, Finance and Supply Division S. G. O., 750-594 Q.M.G./61.

(21) Circular 74 ½ Office of the Department Surgeon, Southern Department, October 4, 1916.

(22) Par. 134 ½, 1916 Supplement to Compilation of Orders, Changes No. 5, November 24, 1917.

(23) Par. 134 ½, 1916 Supplement to Compilation of Orders, Changes No. 7, March 14, 1918.

(24) Estimate of gasoline and oil required by the Medical Department for Motor Ambulance Service, compiled October 24, 1917, by Maj. Walter T. Fishleigh, Sanitary Corps, S. G. O. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., 239 W.T.F./15.