20,000 Miles a Month – To Ensure Victory

Guiding Question:

How did the duties of stevedores in port battalions contribute to the success of the Allied war effort?


Using interactive technology from the American Battle Monuments Commission, maps, and primary and secondary source documents, students will understand that stevedores from port battalions not only built barracks, mess halls, latrines, and recreational buildings, but also supplied resources for the forces who fought the battles. Students will engage in a simulation to analyze how the 525th Port Battalion organized and distributed supplies to combat units.


Historical Context

After the U.S. Army was on the ground fighting, the soldiers in Services of Supply (SOS) arrived in the war zone to provide materiel and services. These soldiers first worked on docks in the United States as stevedores, loading supplies to be shipped to stations in Europe and Northern Africa. When the materiel reached Europe and Northern Africa, port battalion soldiers worked as stevedores, unloading and reloading ships, and moving supplies onto trains, trucks, or into warehouses. They rebuilt railroads and highways and constructed camps, including barracks, mess halls, and latrines. General Dwight D. Eisenhower recognized transportation units when he stated, “In any war, there are two tremendous tasks. That of the combat troops is to fight the enemy. That of the supply troops is to furnish all the material to insure victory. The faster and farther the combat troops advance against the foe, the greater becomes the battle of supply” (U.S. Army Transportation Museum). The 525th Port Battalion was a segregated unit composed of African American soldiers. Several dozen port battalions, many of them composed of African American soldiers with white officers, operated in the European and Pacific theaters.


At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to

  • Describe the role of a port battalion soldier; and
  • Evaluate how and when to best transport supplies to combat units.

Standards Connections

Connections to Common Core
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.7 Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.

Connections to C3 Framework
D2.Geo.2.6-8. Use maps, satellite images, photographs, and other representations to explain relationships between the locations of places and regions, and changes in their environmental characteristics.
D2.His.3.6-8. Use questions generated about individuals and groups to analyze why they, and the developments they shaped, are seen as historically significant.

Lesson Preparation


Activity One: Introducing the Port Battalions (45 minutes)

  • Discuss the vocabulary with students prior to watching the documentary, as they will hear these terms used in the film.
  • Project the home page of the American Battle Monuments Commission.
  • Instruct the students to type in George B. Davis in the “search burials” search bar.
  • Direct students to select George B. Davis from South Carolina.
  • Have the students identify:
    • service number
    • rank
    • battalion
    • home state
    • date of death
    • the location where Davis is buried
  • Go to the Fallen Hero Profile for George B. Davis and play the video of the eulogy located on the page.
  • Explain that George B. Davis served as a truck driver and stevedore for the 525th Port Battalion, a segregated unit which served in North Africa and Southern France during World War II.
  • View the War Department Film Bulletin 32: Soldiers-Stevedores Train on QM’s “S.S.Dixie” as a class.
    • Instruct students to take notes regarding the use of vocabulary from the list while watching the film.
    • Instruct students to write questions they may have while watching the film.
  • Conduct a whole group discussion after the film focusing on what the students observed about stevedores and their training.
  • Move students into pairs to answer Questions for Stevedore Film.
  • Distribute the Port Battalion Soldiers in World War II Vocabulary Quiz (there are two forms available).
  • Evaluate student mastery of the vocabulary using the Port Battalion Soldiers in World War II Vocabulary Quiz Answer Key.

Activity Two: Supplying World War II in North Africa (45 minutes)

  • Divide the students into the same pairs as Activity One and ask students to share their paragraph responses.
  • Explain who is in control of North Africa, specifically in Algeria from 1943-45.
    • Teacher Tip: Algeria, originally a French colony, was invaded by Germany during World War II. Operation Torch eventually led to the liberation of Algeria from German control. It was used as a base to launch operations into Sicily, Italy, and southern France.
  • Ask students, Where would combat supplies originate in the United States?
    • Discuss how and when different supplies should be moved to combat units once supply ships arrived in Oran, Algeria.
  • Project ABMC’s World War II: A Visual History Interactive. Click on date range between March 1944 to February 1945. Discuss with students Allied troops locations.
  • Tell students that the 525th Port Battalion was stationed at Mole Millerand, a port in Oran, Algeria, from March of 1944 to February of 1945.
  • Distribute the Rome-Arno Campaign Map and allow students to mark key locations.
  • Show the location of Oran, Algeria on a map so students will know exactly where the 525th Port Battalion was located at this time.
    • Point out the location of Palermo, Sicily, and its relationship to Oran.
    • Point out the location of Salerno and Anzio, Italy, and the relationship to Oran.
    • Discuss the distance between each location and any hardships this distance may cause.
  • Ask each pair to elaborate on the details of the class discussion in a paragraph.

Assessment Materials

  • Distribute Logistics Assessment Student Roles to each student.
    • Teacher Tip: Provide this assessment in stages (i.e., students need to complete task one before receiving task two.)
  • Discuss and explain roles within a group so that each student understands all duties regardless of which role he or she will be assigned.
  • Form groups of four students each by combining pairs from the earlier activities and assign student roles.
  • Distribute Logistics Assessment Task One and a sheet of unlined paper for each group to draw their diagram.
  • Distribute Logistics Assessment Task Two.
  • Evaluate student performance on the assessment using the Logistics Assessment Rubric.

Methods for Extension


  • Teachers can adapt the project to younger learners by asking students to draw the layout of what they think a port battalion would look like. It could also be adapted to English Language Learners in a similar way.
  • Younger learners could also complete a smaller project comparing the daily duties of a combat soldier to a port battalion soldier.
  • Teachers can group students in several ways. One grouping strategy would be to have groups of heterogeneous ability work their way through the entire project. Another grouping method would be to group by gender especially to see how males and females would differ in prioritizing supplies and building projects.