Many might scoff at the idea that something as ubiquitous and common as a pallet could have had any major historical difference. The fact is, before WW2, pallets were not widely used.
Historian Rick Le Blanc wrote this fascinating article about the role of pallets during the War. In the US, before the military build-up began in 1940, pallets were rarely used and were ‘poorly constructed’. Storing, loading, unloading and stocking operations were performed manually – which as you might expect was highly inefficient. Whilst this was not so much of a problem for the peacetime era of the ’30s, it would not do for the War.
The Depot Operations Branch of the Office of the Quartermaster General then investigated industry practices to find the most efficient solution to the problem. The conclusion was that forklift trucks and pallets were by far the most feasible solution, and in September 1941 funds were released for the purchase of this equipment.
Logistics – or the “Big L” – is argued by Tom Vanderbilt to be the secret story ‘behind any successful military campaign’, and pallets ‘played a large role in the extraordinary supply efforts in the world’s first truly global war’.