-----Original Message-----
From: James G. Davis [mailto:r11@maui.net]
Sent: Wednesday, November 20, 2002 6:18 PM
To: donald.warner@dodfire.com
Subject: A Bit of History

 

Hello Donald,

 

Thanks for the bio.  It tells me how to go from here.  You may be familiar with some or all of the information in the next paragraph.  If you are, please bear with me as it necessary to get this story into perspective.

 

Prior to October 1947 there was no Department of the Air Force.  The military flying forces, excluding the Navy and the Marine Corps, were Army.  While the Army's flying forces had long sought parity with the Army and the Navy, the Army High Command denied it.  Instead, it created, at a date unknown to me, the Army Air Corps (AAC). It did, I believe in the very early 1940s, allow the AAC to title itself as The Army Air Forces.  There were 16 (1 through 15 and the 20th) of these Air Forces.  Support of these forces as they were Army units required the inclusion of services from a number of Army Corps, Quartermaster, Signal, Engineer, etc.  To take the sting out of the High Command's refusal to give total autonomy to the Army's flying forces some compromises were made.  Among them permission to include the word Aviation in name of other Corps (non-flying) assigned to an Army Air Force. Examples of this would be Army Aviation Signal Company, Army Quartermaster Aviation Battalion, etc. With this as background, let's move to fire.

 

More than a dozen years of research has failed to produce any verifiable information on the history of military fire fighting and military fire fighting units and military fire fighters, with one exception.  In WW I, the Quartermaster Corps (QMC) authorized the creation of about 700 units with some fire fighting responsibilities.  No Table of Organization and Equipment has ever been located for these units.  In passing the History Shop at QMC, Ft Lee knows nothing. Fewer than 100 of these units were activated.  Where they served, with one exception, is unknown to me.  I have a photo copy of a picture of a building marked "Fire Station" at Fort Snelling, MN.  In front of it and a fire truck are a group of soldiers in campaign hats and roll leggings.

 

It is my belief that Army base fire departments were staffed with civilian fire fighters using Army (QMC supplied and in some instances designed) fire apparatus.  Also there appears to have been no Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) number for Army fire fighters prior to 1 July, 1942.  I have a document suggesting that certain soldiers from other Corps serving at Hickam Army Air Corps Base may have had some fire fighting responsibilities under a civilian Fire Chief prior to 7 December 1941.

 

Early in WW II (38, 39 and 40) the Army High Command took a long look at itself and saw that serious reorganization was required to fight the war that was coming. Among the changes made was the reassignment of the Army Fire Department responsibility from the QMC to the Corps of Engineers (COE) on 4 December 1941, three days before Pearl Harbor.  The COE inherited an existing program and assumed all would roll along comfortably.  With December 7 COE discovered it would have to fight fire around the world with soldiers and with equipment designed for State side Army posts.  During the next 6 months COE studied, designed and planned their overseas fire departments.  On 1 July 1942 the Engineer Fire Fighting Detachment (EFFD) and the Army Engineer soldier fire fighter (MOS 383)  were authorized for activation.  The first 10 EFFDs 1 through 10 were ordered activated at Camp Claiborne Louisiana on 31 August 1942.  The cadre of each Detachment was drawn largely from Infantry units with the hope that at least some of them had some fire fighting experience.  Very few did.  The balance of the staffing was Selective Service inductees.  The first 4 EFFDs (1,2,4 and 5) deployed 1 April 1943 to North Africa.  They were followed shortly by 3, 6, 7, 8 to North Africa and 9 and 10 to England. The Detachments brought only personal gear and weapons.  Vehicles and everything else was drawn on arrival.

 

On 15 August 1943 these 10 EFFDs and maybe more, if more had trained and deployed by that date, were renumbered and renamed to the 1201 through 1210 Engineer Fire Fighting Platoons (EFFP).  They were organized and equipped per T/O & E 5-337, 12 May 1943, Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon. It is here that these EFFPs would divide by function.  EFFPs being general service fire fighters and the Engineer Aviation Fire Fighting Platoons (EAFFP) that would come a bit later appeared.  The units were identical in Officer and EM staffing and support vehicles.  The EFFP was allocated 1 CLASS 325 Fire Truck and 3 CLASS 1000 Fire Fighting Trailers (FFT)  while the EAFFP was allocated 1 CLASS 125 Fire Truck, 1 CLASS 1000 FFT and 2 CLASS 1010 FFTs. The CLASS 150 was not deployed until well into the war and the CLASS 155 after the war.  The CLASS 1020 FFT was completely unknown to any EFFP or EAFFP.  It is my belief the CLASS 125 Fire Truck did not deploy overseas until the Korean Conflict.  In its place the CLASS 135 supplied.  Both this truck and the CLASS 325 were issued in a 4x2 to replaced later by trucks built on a 1-1/2 ton military Chevrolet 4x4 cab and chassis.

 

I had considerable experience with the CLASS 1000 FFT in both Italy and France.  On a lengthy pumping job with limitless water they were great.  However, they carried no water, were heavy and slow to haul behind an M-37.  Their initial attack value was nil.  I saw, but never used, a number of CLASS 1010 FFTs.  I believe these were a civilian John Bean Company agricultural sprayer with 2 hose lines replacing the broadcast sprayer on the rear of the tank.  The trailers were certainly not military and looked like those I had seen in many orchards

 

Based on the foregoing I feel the CLASS 1000 and 1010 FFTs have earned a place in your Libraries of Air Force fire fighting vehicles.  I do regret not being able to offer photos as they seem not to exist.  The best I can offer is what I sent that is drawn from Department of the Army Technical Manual 9-2800, "Military Vehicles", October 1947.  This document, available now from private sources, illustrates all the Army (including those used by the AAFs) vehicles (wheeled, tracked, amphibious and towed other than artillery pieces) used in World War II.

 

I hope this look at the "Roots" of today's splendid Army and Air Force fire fighting units has been of interest and may be useful to you at some point.  I welcome questions and comments.

 

Regards,

James G. Davis, Member and Historian
1204th Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon - World War II

PS:dww - Iíve added pictures of the Class 1000, 1010, and 1020 Fire Trailers below.  Click the thumbnail below for a full size view:

1000.jpg (151009 bytes)

1010.jpg (495254 bytes)

1020.jpg (267541 bytes)