History of the 185th Quartermaster Company (Depot Supply)
20 February 1942 - 22 April 1946
On 20-February 1942, less than 2 ½ months after the Pearl Harbor attack, Company D of the 118th Quartermaster Battalion was redesignated as the 185th Quartermaster Company (Depot Supply) at Camp Shelby Mississippi. The original personnel of the new Company were obtained by transfer from the 118th Quartermaster Regiment, 43rd Infantry Division. That Company's roots extend back to the end of World War I. Originally the reserve unit was constituted on 14 December 1920 as 43d Division Quartermaster Train and assigned to Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont. It was redesignated 118th Quartermaster Regiment on 1 May 1936. Company D was Federally recognized 23 April 1937 at Providence, RI, and inducted into Federal service 24 February 1941.
On 1 March 1942, the 185th was reassigned from the 118th Quartermaster Regiment to the 71st Quartermaster Battalion. The Company spent three months at Camp Shelby, where it completed training as a Depot Supply unit, and its personnel took a course in practical training in the Quartermaster Warehouse. Then, on 17 April 1942, it was attached to the 28th Quartermaster Regiment.
In May 1942, the Company received overseas orders and departed Camp Shelby via troop train on the 20th to arrive at the Overseas Discharge and Replacement Depot, Charleston Port of Embarkation, Charleston S.C., two days later. The Company was then attached to Task Force No 1160 and boarded the U.S.A.T. Mariposa for transport to China Burma India Theater of Operation via the Southern Atlantic and the Indian Ocean.
On 18 July 1942, the U.S. Army established General Depot # 1 outside Karachi, India, to receive supplies and men from the U.S. for the China and Burma campaign (C.B.I.) against the Japanese Army. Five days later, the 185th arrived in Karachi's harbor after sailing for 53 days with port calls in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and Cape Town, South Africa. The Company, commanded by Captain B.G. Patterson, was assigned to duty in the Depot's Headquarters and Quartermaster Sections. It was responsible for unloading the supplies off ships from the United States and transshipping them across India to Burma and China.
Bombay, south of Karachi, was Great Britain's principal port and heavily congested with British traffic. As a result, Karachi on India's far northwest coast became the first American port. It had 22 ship berths, and large ships could be moored in 60 feet of water. Most cargoes were unloaded from ship to railway cars with the aid of floating cranes. Since there were no shipside or transit sheds, the cargo was transported by rail truck or air.
While the port of Karachi was modern and capable of unloading large quantities of military tonnage, supplies backed up in overflowing warehouses due to India's poor transportation infrastructure. Loaded down troop and cargo trains would make the nearly two thousand-mile trek across the hot Central Plains of India to its eastern border with China and Burma. Because India did not have a standardized railroad track size, the track changed gauge size several times, and all freight had to be unloaded, stacked, guarded against pilferage, and then reloaded onto different size railcars. It took a soldier, on his way up to work or fight in Burma or China, three or four weeks to make the trip.
Calcutta, India, near India's eastern border with China and Burma, was opened to vessels arriving from the U.S. in March 1943 and soon became the primary port to receive troops and supplies. With operations shifting out of Karachi, the 185th began transferring personnel to Calcutta beginning in June 1943.
For the remainder of 1943 and until 15 December 1944, the 185th continued to man Karachi's General Depot #1 and the port. It also dispatched detachments throughout India, including Bombay and Calcutta's ports, General Depot #2 in Calcutta, Replacement Depot #4 at Lake Beale, New Delhi, and Kharagpur, as well as individuals and smaller detachments to locations throughout the C.B.I. Theater.
In addition to conducting port and logistical operations, the Company conducted a weekly drill and lecture on a topic dealing with warfare, health, or military procedures.
On 15 December 1944, the 185th was reassigned from Karachi to Base General Depot #2, arriving in Calcutta on 1 January 1945. However, it continued to maintain detachments in Karachi, Lake Beale, and Bombay. By the end of the war in September 1945, all personnel were located in Calcutta, and they began the task of either shipping out or disposing of excess supplies and materials.
Missions supported by the 185th personnel while in Calcutta included:
• In December 44, construction began on a 55-gallon large drum manufacturing plant at Tesgaon to provide drums for gasoline shipped to China. Production began in March 1945.
• Seven enlisted and 9 civilians manned a Typewriter Repair Shop that serviced the entire C.B.I. Theater.
• A Cot Assembly Plant manned by civilians and supervised by 185th personnel assembled cots from materials purchased by Indian businesses.
• A Coffee Plant that roasted and ground Indian coffee beans to create coffee for the C.B.I. Theater.
• A Cold Storage Plant operated on Hyde Road Calcutta. The plant consisted of 134,790 cubic feet of freezer space and 6,570 cubic feet of chiller space to store frozen meat for the C.B.I. Theater.
• The Personal Effects Section processed all unaccompanied baggage moving in and out of the C.B.I. Theater.
• One officer & 17 enlisted men manned subsistence warehouses at Northbrook, which stored and shipped food and other items throughout the C.B.I. Theater.
• Quartermaster Post Exchange warehouses.
• Quartermaster Property Section with 31 enlisted personnel.
• Storage and Control Section supervised and coordinated various warehouse activities, including the Budge Budge and Northbrook warehouse sections.
With its mission completed, the 185th Quartermaster (Depot Company) was inactivated on 22 April 1946 in Calcutta, India. It was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation for the period of 9 December 1944 to 30 September 1945. It suffered one non-battlefield death when Corporal Elmer Hall died after being admitted to the hospital in Karachi on 16 September 1944. In December 1944, Private Albert Seiber was awarded a Purple Heart for wounds received while in action against the enemy during the Japanese assault on Myitakynia Airfield in Burma.
Postwar, the 118th Quartermaster Regiment was reconstituted on 21 May 1946. Two months later, It was allotted, less all elements except Company D, to the Rhode Island National Guard as 43d Quartermaster Company, which existed into the next century.