Fire Trucks of WWII

WWII Fire Trucks

Jim Davis salutes a fallen brother

Jim Davis salutes a fallen brother

Jim Davis visited revisited Europe this Spring (2009) for the first time in 65 years.  Jim’s WWII service was with the 1204th Army Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon.
While in Belgium his host, Robert van’t Oost, graciously took him to the American Military Cemetery at Henri – Chapelle, Belgium where rest 7992 American soldiers.  Among them, one of the Brotherhood of Fire Fighters, Private Chester W. Owens of the 1219th Army Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon who was killed on duty on Christmas Eve 1944 in The Ardennes of Belgium.  “It was a privilege and an honor to visit Chester to pay my respects and offer my salute to a fallen Brother – JD”

Hunts Section; WWII Firefighting Engineers

Hunts Section; WWII Firefighting Engineers

Jim Davis (third from left) in Heidelberg Germany on September 2, 1945.  A couple hours after this photo they answered their last fire call before being deactivated. Photo courtesy of Jim Davis, 1204 AEFFP

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Unless otherwise noted, the following information has been graciously provided by Jim Davis.  Jim was a member, and is the historian, of the World War II, 1204th Army Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon.  He is also the author of its history “Fire Fighters in Fatigues”, the only known  published history of  these Platoons (see the end of this section for more information).  It would be of help if you forward your questions about these trucks through the website, so I can post both the questions and Jim’s answers.
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Have questions about your fire truck?  Frequently someone asks us to identify one of these trucks.  When we can’t, we send what information you supply to Jim Davis in Hawaii who was a member and user of some of these vehicles as a member of a World War II Army Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon.  Help us, Help You  in identifying your WWII fire truck by supplying the following:

1. Full face photos of:the left, right, front and rear of the truck; the pump as close as possible, the pump control panel if the pump is mid-ship, (as close as possible).
2. Photos of any builder’s plates for the truck, pump, or truck body or other unique parts
3.The hood vehicle identification number (HVIN) if present. Must start with a 50.
4. If a mid-ship, is the pump driven by:a) transmission mounted power take off  or b) drive line mounted transfer case.
5.  Anything unique or special you see about your truck.

WORLD WAR II ARMY FIRE TRUCK CLASSIFICATION SYSTEM

One researcher suggests the Army Fire Service has its beginnings in the Revolutionary War.  From this beginning came a more formal Service in the Civil War that resulted in an established Fire Service.   To which of the Army’s many Corps this Service was attached is not known to this writer.  What is known is that the Quartermaster Corps was purchasing motorized fire trucks as early as 1910.  Also known is that the Quartermaster Corps fielded an unknown number of soldier fire fighters in World War I.   It is safe to assume the Quartermaster Corps was the Army’s Fire Department from the mid to late 1800s until December 4, 1941 when that responsibility was transferred to the Corps of Engineers. It is known the Quartermaster Corps was designing, building, at least prototypes, specifying and procuring Army fire trucks during that period.  To see the evolution of those trucks, see Fred Crismon’s excellent book, “U.S. Military Wheeled Vehicles”.
It is probable the classification system of Army fire trucks was created by the Quartermaster Corps and taken intact and expanded upon when the Corps of Engineers became the Army’s Fire Department.   It is a numerical system that defines a particular piece of fire apparatus by it’s  function and/or pump output capacity as shown below.

Class 100

Aircraft Crash Fire Trucks
Class 100 – High Pressure CO2 – 6×4
Class 110 – High Pressure CO2 – 4×4

Chevy Class 110 Firetruck

Chevy Class 110 Firetruck

(Photo courtesy of James G. Davis, 1204th Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon)

Class 125 – High Pressure Water – 4×2
Class 135 – High Pressure Fog – Foam – 4×2

Class 135 – High Pressure Fog – Foam – 4×4

Class 135 Chevy Truck (4x4)

Class 135 Chevy Truck (4x4)

(Photo courtesy of James G. Davis, 1204th Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon)

Class 150 – Low Pressure CO2 – 6×6

Class 155 – High Pressure Fog – Foam – 6×6
The Table of Organization and Equipment (T/O & E) for Engineer Aviation Fire Fighting Platoons does not call for Class 100, 110, 125 150 or 155 trucks.  The writer’s research suggests the Class 100, 110 and 125 were not deployed overseas.  The Class 125 did serve in the Korean Conflict. The Class 150 was deployed overseas sometime in the war, but to a unit at this time unidentified.   The Class 155 probably started to come off the production lines towards war’s end because of constantly changing specification changes over several years.

Class 200 – None

Class 300

Generalist Fire Trucks
Class 300 – Water, Brush Truck – 4×2

Class 300 (4x2)
1942 Chevrolet-Darley 4×2 (above)

The Class 300 Brush Truck was supplied primarily to posts that might be subject to forest or brush fires.  It was built on the Chevrolet and Ford 1 ½ ton 4×2 and the Chevrolet 4×4 chassis.  Bodies were manufactured by Darley, Central and American Fire Apparatus.  It was equipped with a 300 gpm front mounted pump and a 250 gal water tank.  Dual hose reels carrying 150 ft of 1” hose each were mounted atop the body.  The Class 300 was equipped with the standard brush and fire fighting tools and the body held 1000 ft of 1 ½ hose.

Class 300 – Water, Brush Truck – 4×4 (picture below)

Class 300 Chevy (4x4)

Class 300 Chevy Firetruck (4x4)

Class 300 Equipment List

Two 150 ft of 1 in booster line

One 3 in to 2 ½ in reducing adapter

One 1 ½ wye

Two 1 in spanner wrenches

Two 1 in shut off nozzles

Two  3/16 in tips
2 5/16 in tips

Six 2 ½ in spanner wrenches

10 fire buckets

One 50 ft section of 1 in rubber hose for suction

3 adjustable hydrant wrenches

2 flame guns

1000 ft of 1 ½ in hose for hose bed

1 ¾ in fog applicator

long handled shovels-square point

1000 ft of 1 ½ in hose for reserve

One  10 gal drinking water container

4 short handled shovels-square point

Two 1 ½ in shot off nozzles

Two  3/8 in tips

Two ½ in tips

Two 5/8 in tips

Four 5 gal back pack water extinguishers

18 burlap sacks

Two 10 ft sections of 3 in suction hose

One 3 in suction strainer with 30 ft of rope

5 forest fire beaters

2 mattocks-cutting

One 1 in suction strainer

5 brush axes

2     mattocks-pick

Class 325 – Water, General Service including Foam – 4×2
Pump mounted on front bumper

Class 325 – Water, General Service including Foam – 4×4
Pump mounted on front bumper

Class 325 – Water, 4×2 – Pump mounted mid ship and driven off transmission

Class 335 - Water, General Service including Foam – 6×6
Pump mounted on front bumper
The T/O & E for Engineer Fire Fighting Platoons called for the Class 325, General Service in 4×2 first and later in 4×4.   The Class 325 with its self powered pump and with the mid-ship pump do not appear in any T/O & E and were never seen in North Africa, Italy, France or Germany by the writer.  It is the writer’s thought these two trucks were created to serve the Posts, Camps and Stations of the United States.

Chevy Class 300 Firetruck, 4x4

Chevy Class 325, 4x4, firetruck

Class 325 Chevy 4X4 Fire Truck and Class 1000 Trailer
(Photo courtesy of James G. Davis, 1204th Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon)

The restored class 325 truck below belongs to John Lind (jlind22@comcast.net) of Shelby, Michigan. This 1943 Chevy was with the 362nd fighter Squadron, 8th Airforce.  It was brought back to the states for display at AAF headquarters prior to being sold to a local fire company and finally John.

John Lind's 325

John Lind's 325

The Class 335 was a hybrid first created by the 1208th Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon in Algiers in mid 1943. The pump, piping, tools, hose, sirens, etc were taken from a Class 325 and mated to the cab and chassis of a 21/2 ton 6×6 on which had been mounted a captured 800 gallon water tank. The truck and several like were also built in North Africa and were quite successful. Based on this success, the Army let a contract for fifty kits to convert Class 325s to Class 335s in November 1944. Unsure how many of these kits were received, deployed or used by war’s end. This is the truck on which the long – lived Class 530 in its many models was based.

Pumps on all Class 300s, 325s and 335s were rated at 300 GPM.

List of equipment carried by 325 class trucks.  Courtesy of Jim Davis, 1204 AEFFP

Class 400- None

Class 500 – Fire Hydrant Dependent and General Service Fire Trucks

Class 500 – Water, 4×2 “City Type Engine – mid ship mounted pump

Class 525 – Water, 4×2 Pump mounted on front bumper

Class 525 – Water, 4×4 Pump mounted on front bumper


Gaylord 525

Class 525 Firetruck owned by Gaylordsville VFD   (Note hose reel is in the center rear rather than either side of the body.)
For more information on this truck, click here: Gaylordsville VFD

Class 525 (Spence)

Class 525 (Speece)

This 525 bought new and surplus (still in cosmoline) at the end of WW II belongs to Mike Speece of New Jersey.


Class 530 – Water, 6×6 – General Purpose – Pump mounted on front bumper

GMC 530 Firetruck

The 1208th Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon in Scihenheim, Germany on may 14, 1945.  Photo shows a Class 530 fire truck.  The fire station was set up in an old Brewery.  Photo courtesy of Ted Heinbuch

The first two trucks carried little water and were fire hydrant or suction from large water bodies dependent. None of these three appear in any T/O & E. None were deployed overseas to the writer’s knowledge. The Class 530 was the outgrowth of the home built Class 335. It is the only one of the World War II Army Engineer fire trucks to evolve through several models and to become a “Standard” Army fire truck. The Class 530 lasted well into the Vietnam era. The Pumps on all these truc


Class 600 – None
Class 700 Fire Hydrant Dependent Truck
Class 750 – Water, 4×2 “City Type Engine” – mid ship mounted pump

This is a typical truck for big city fire departments of the day. Pump rated at 750 GPM.

Class 1000 – Fire Fighting Trailers


Class 1000
- Mounted a 500 GPM Hale centrifugal pump – carried no water

Class 1010
- Mounted a 35 GPM piston pump and a 150 gallon water tank

Class 1020
– Mounted a 100 GPM Hale centrifugal pump and two 85 gallon water tanks

Extensive and continuing research has yet to locate the rationale for these units. The writer, speaking from experience with them, found them unsuited to most fire jobs. The Class 1020 while called for in mid war T/O & Es appears not to have been deployed until after the war’s end. At least, no Engineer Aviation Fire Fighting Platoon member the writer has contacted ever saw, heard of or used one.

Pumps

Darley F-11 pump

Darley F-300 pump. Commonly used on front mount pumpers of WWII

General Information about WWII Fire Fighting Platoons

(answers provided by Jim Davis)

Q. What determines the “Class” of fire truck?

A. There are four factors that determine the exact class or model – pump capacity, tank size, number of hose reels, and mission.  Different trucks were designed for different purposes, so a truck designed for general-purpose use on an army base may be different than one designed to fight aircraft fires.

Q. Did all truck models go overseas?

A. No.  The model 100, 110, 125, 155, 300 and 525 did not go overseas.  The Class 150 did late in the war and the Class 155 not until post-war.  Trucks that went overseas are usually referred to as tactical trucks.

Q. How many tactical fire trucks were there?

A. Unfortunately, there are no records of this.  T/O’s and E’s for Fire Fighting Platoons called for one truck per section with the other three sections getting a Fire Fighting Trailer (Class 1000 for Army and Class 1010 for Aviation).  This would yield about 300 trucks for the 300 platoons. Add to this trucks lost in combat, fires, and in transport, plus the trucks that stayed in the states. Best guess would then be 3,000 to 5,000 trucks total.

Q. Were all fire trucks Chevy’s?

A. No. All 4 X 4’s in Models 110, 135, 300, and 325 were Chevy, but the 135, 300, 325, and 525 in 4X2 were a mix of civilian Fords, Dodges, and Chevys. The 125’s were usually Macks, and 150s’ were a combination of big Macks, Ward LaFrance, Biederman, etc.

Q. What is the difference between a crash truck and a fire truck?

A. There were far more fire trucks than crash trucks. Crash trucks were used exclusively on airbases to support base operations and deal with aircraft fires and rescue. The Army Air Corps units were known as Engineer Aviation Fire Fighting Platoons (EAFFP) and the Army fire fighting units were known as Engineering Fire Fighting Platoons (EFFP). The crash trucks were exclusively Series 100 trucks (100, 110, 125, 135, 150, 155) and of these, the 135 Class was most typically used overseas. Army units usually used 325 Class trucks overseas.

Q. How was a Fire Fighting Platoon set up?

A. There was a Headquarters Sections and four fire fighting sections totaling 26 to 28 men. Each section had 6 men and was assigned a truck and three fire fighting trailers. These numbers varied slightly depending on availability of resources and mission. EFFPs were assigned to Base Sections (rear support areas) or Armys as support troops though sometimes they found themselves in combat areas. The 1206th EFFP went ashore in the Anzio campaign and took some casualities, but this was not usual.  The 1204th EFFP was attached at various times to the Mediterranean Base Section, the 5th Army, the Peninsular Base section, the 7th Army and the 12th Army Group.

Q. How many men served in Fire Fighting Platoons?

A. The Army lists 139 platoons although closer to 300 have been documented.  With about 30 men per platoon (including administrative staff) I would project there were about 9,000 men.

Q. What color were the WWII fire trucks?

A. The trucks were all OD Green – including the engine. They would be marked with stars in the same manner as other WWII trucks. The bumper number would consist of the Army unit it was attached to on the left and the specific EEFP on the right. This would be repeated on the rear.

Q. What kind of pumps did the trucks use?

A. Typically they were either Barton, or Darley. Barton (no longer in business) is identified by having dual heads, but one handle and a clutch located behind the pump on the engine side. The Darley had two head valves and a clutch located in front of the pump away from the truck engine. The Classes 135, 300, 325, 335,and 525 (in both 4×2 and 4×4) used either Barton or Darley pumps of various output capacities.  Hale pumps were used on the Class 500, 750 and Class 1000 Fire fighting trailers.

Q. How were the trucks marked?
A. Hood VINs on Army trucks probably originated pre-WW II with QMC.   Originally, I am told, the number was prefixed with a “W” standing for War Department.  With the advent of Lend-Lease and then our participation in the war the “W” changed to USA (US Army).  On at least Army (including Army Air Corps) vehicles, the first two digits of the hood VIN defined the vehicle function, i.e.:
50 – Fire Apparatus
30 – Tanks, All Sizes
4 – Trucks, Light-Heavy (2-1/2 ton) to heavy-heavy (up to 4 – 5 ton)
Unit designators:
Sample Front Bumper
PBS – 1204EFFP

HDQS – 1
7A – 1204 ECP

1 -1
Translation:
Front Bumper:  PBS = Peninsular Base Section (Italy), EFFP = Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon, HDQS = Headquarters, 1 = Vehicle 1 in HDQS.
7A = Seventh Army (France and Germany), ECP = Engineer Composite Platoon, Fire Administration/Fire Control,  1-1 = Fire Truck section 1, Truck 1.
Truck Rear: The same information went high on the back of the water tank, typically to the right (driver’s) side.
Bibliography

War Department Technical Manual 9-2800, Standard Military Motor Vehicle – 9/1/43
War Department Technical Manual 9-2800, Military Vehicles – 10/47
War Department Technical Manual 5-687, Fire Protection – 1/46
War Department Technical Manual 5-315, Fire Protection – 3/23/44
War Department Technical Manual 5-316, Airplane – Fire Fighting – 4/17/44
Army Air Forces Manual 64 – 60 – 2, Aircraft Crash Rescue – 1/15/46

Writer’s Comments

This is a brief look at this subject. If the reader has questions about any of these units contact me by e-mail. Questions, comments or information the reader has that does not appear here will be gratefully received. If you or a family member were a member of a EFFP or EAFFP, please contact Jim directly at:

James G. Davis
1204th Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon, World War II
r11@hawaiiantel.net

Jim also has a book available:

FIRE FIGHTERS IN FATIGUES

THE 1204TH ENGINEER FIRE FIGHTING PLATOON
A HISTORY

FIRE FIGHTERS IN FATIGUES is the only published history of a World War II Army Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon known to the author.  Written by a member of the Platoon, it tells the story of one of the first Platoons created and deployed overseas from activation in August 1942 to deactivation in September 1945 and rebirth in the Philippines in 1946.  This 58 page spiral bound book contains a complete personnel roster, month by month chronology of   the Platoon’s moves, locations, personnel changes, descriptions of major fires fought, photographs of Platoon personnel, illustrations of fire fighting apparatus used by the Platoon and a summary of the Platoon’s activities plus an evaluation of the Platoon’s efforts by the author and by the Army.

Army historians prepare histories of Battalion size or larger units.  This is your opportunity to own a history of one of the Army’s many small World War II units written by a soldier who was a part of it.

This third printing is limited in quantity.

FIRE FIGHTERS IN FATIGUES is available at $25.00 plus $3.85 shipping ($9.00 to overseas addresses). If interested, please make your check or money order (no credit cards or purchase orders, please) for $28.85 or $34.00 for each copy ordered payable to James G. Davis.  Send your order to:

James G. Davis
3788 L. Honoapiilani Road
D-104
Lahaina, Maui, HI 96761-9376
Jim Davis  has his own website up.  You can see it at http://www.maui.net/~r11

Here are the current addresses as of 5/09:
Jim – r11@hawaiiantel.net
jim@mil-fire.net
Fire Fighters in Fatigues – http://www.firefighters.mil-fire.net
World War II Army Engineer Fire Truck Identification – http://www.firetrucks.mil-fire.net