Red Ball Express


After the first weeks of the war, steps were taken to reduce the necessity for the large number of airlifts to Korea from Japan. By July 15, Eighth Army was provided a daily ferry service from the Hakata-Moji area to Pusan, along with fast express trains from the Tokyo–Yokohama area. Accordingly, a Red Ball Express-type system was organized. It had a daily capacity of 300 tons (300 long tons; 330 short tons) of items and supplies that were critically needed in Korea. The Red Ball made the run from Yokohama to Sasebo in a little more than 30 hours, and to Pusan in a total of about 53 hours. The first Red Ball Express train with high priority cargo left Yokohama at 1330 on July 23. Regular daily runs became effective two days later. The schedule called for the Red Ball to depart Yokohama at 2330 nightly and arrive at Sasebo at 0542 the next morning. From there, the cargo would be transferred directly from train to ship. Ship departure was scheduled for 1330 daily and arrival at Pusan at 0400 the next morning.

The daily rail and water Red Ball Express from Yokohama to Sasebo to Pusan began on July 23. By August it was operating with increased efficiency, demonstrating that it could promptly deliver any supplies available in Japan to Korea.

The success of the Red Ball Express cut down the amount of airlift tonnage. This fell from 85 tons (84 long tons; 94 short tons) on July 31 to 49 tons (48 long tons; 54 short tons) on August 6. The express eliminated the need for nearly all airlift of supplies to Korea from Japan. It delivered supplies to Korea in an average time of 60–70 hours, while the airlift delivery varied from 12 hours to 5 days. The Red Ball delivery was not only more cost effective, it was more consistent and reliable.[38]

The drop in air delivery to Korea caused Major General Earle E. Partridge, commanding the Far East Air Forces, to complain on August 10 that the Army was not fully using the airlift's 200 tons (200 long tons; 220 short tons) daily capacity.

That day, Eighth Army ordered curtailment of delivery by the Red Ball Express and increased use of the airlift to its maximum capacity. The reason given for this action was a sudden apprehension that the port of Pusan could not process the flow of water-borne supplies in a timely manner.

The next day, upon Partridge's suggestion, two 2.5 tons (2.5 long tons; 2.8 short tons) trucks were airlifted in a C-119 from Tachikawa Air Base in Japan to Taegu. The Air Force planned to airlift two trucks daily in this manner. As a result, on August 12, Eighth Army ordered the Red Ball Express be discontinued August 15 except on Tuesday and Friday of each week when it would carry cargo that was considered too difficult for the planes to handle. Under this arrangement airlift tonnage greatly increased.