The POL Story: To Keep ‘Em Running
Extracted from the Magazine of the 1st Logistical Command, Vietnam, April 1968
Petroleum operations of the 1st Logistical Command, Vietnam, 1968
Utilizing ocean-going tankers, fixed and rotary wing aircraft, tanker trucks, and multi-product pipelines, the 1st Logistical Command distributes more than 100 million gallons of jet, diesel, aviation and motor gasoline monthly to U.S. and allied military forces in all four tactical zones of the country. This is enough fuel for a personal automobile to be driven 24 hours a day for 4,036 years, or a total distance of 1.4 billion miles.
More than 50 percent of all tonnage delivered to troops in Vietnam is petroleum products. The mammoth operation of petroleum supply and distribution is planned, administered, and regulated by 1st Log’s Directorate of Petroleum, located at command headquarters in Long Binh. Through the U.S. Army Support Commands at Saigon, Qui Nhon, Da Nang, and Cam Ranh Bay, the petroleum products are received, tested, and distributed to U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, South Vietnamese, and other allied forces, and various civilian agencies throughout the country.
Commercial refineries throughout the free world supply POL products to 1st Log. Petroleum, oil and lubricants (POL) shipments from these refineries are delivered to South Vietnamese ports at Saigon, Qui Nhon, Cam Ranh Bay, Vung Ro Bay, and Nha Trang.
Large ocean terminals at these receiving points are equipped with modern docking and pumping facilities. Before a tanker is off-loaded, however, personnel of the Petroleum Products Laboratory (PPL) at each port board the tankers and take samples of the fuel. These samples are clinically analyzed to insure they meet required military specifications.
Once the product has been approved, it is pumped from the tanker ships, through hoses and pipelines, to nearby storage areas or into smaller tankers for distribution along South Vietnam’s coast. This is a job requiring speed and coordination and is carried out by the petroleum operating companies at each port. Delays are both militarily and monetarily costly. 1st Log soldiers from petroleum companies work around the clock to off-load and store petroleum shipments. All tankers must he off-loaded as quickly as possible, usually within 40 hours of their arrival.
The distribution of POL products from the port to the forward areas is a complex operation. Through pipelines, in tank trucks, on barges and aircraft, 1st Log supplies nearly $20,000 worth of petroleum every hour to troops in the field. More than 210 miles of pipeline connect 1st Log ocean terminals to their inland storage facilities.
Barges and coastal tankers are utilized almost exclusively by Saigon Support Command to supply units in the Mekong Delta. Delivering to such places as Dong Tam and Can Tho, the barges navigate the many rivers and canals that connect 1st Log petroleum facilities at Vung Tau with units in the IV Corps area.
The responsibility of the 1st Logistical Command’s Directorate of Petroleum technically ends at the 1st Log petroleum supply point. Its concern does not. Regular contact is maintained with combat units in the field, and in case of emergency requirements, the directorate coordinates the airlift arrangements for prompt delivery.
On the ground, in the air, on the water, from large oceangoing tankers, to 55-gallon drums, in large cities or isolated units, the petroleum supply system of the 1st Logistical Command is a vital, continuing effort to keep U.S. and Free World forces on the move in Vietnam.