Abstract: States at War and Global Supply

Michael Miller


This is a paper about the two world wars and the role of transport logistics in them. Arguably, both wars were world wars not only because they were fought over the world but because they were fought over access to and control of the world's resources. Without victory in the overseas supply war there was little prospect of victory in the land-based military war. This was a complex war that was often as much about denial of resources to the enemy as about acquisition of resources for oneself. For the purposes of an eighteen-minute presentation, I concentrate here on how Allied forces organized ocean transport for survival and victory. I begin with the challenges and then proceed to the solutions. My argument is that maritime business expertise and experience in running globally coordinated systems, as much as convoys or inter-Allied coordination, sustained Allied supply lines in the two world wars. Finally, toward the end of the paper, I reverse the exchange and ask how war in the twentieth century contributed to the subsequent shape of maritime business.