Jerry Can

Red Ball Express troops stack jerry cans

Red Ball Express troops stack jerry cans used to transport gas to front-line units during World War II, circa 1944.

The Red Ball Express was a renowned truck convoy system that supplied Allied forces as they rapidly advanced through Europe after breaking out from the D-Day beaches in Normandy in 1944. To expedite cargo deliveries to the front lines, the trucks were marked with distinctive red balls and traveled along a specially designated route closed to civilian traffic. These trucks were also given priority on regular roads.

Conceived in an urgent 36-hour meeting, the Red Ball Express convoy system began operating on August 25, 1944. Staffed primarily by African-American soldiers, the Express reached its peak with 5,958 vehicles that transported approximately 12,500 tons of supplies per day. The vital supply line operated for 83 days, until November 16, when the port facilities at Antwerp, Belgium were opened, key French rail lines were repaired, and portable gasoline pipelines were deployed.

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