The Red Ball Express - Transportation
unit featured on the WWII military comedy ROLL
The Red Ball Express
transportation unit (the 5050th Quartermaster Trucking Company) was
stationed in France. The mobile
unit was comprised mostly of black GI's who drove supplies to the front
lines of Europe.
Corporal "Sweet" Williams (Stu Gilliam) was one of the best
drivers in the unit. His job was to make sure that he stayed on the
"ball" and kept the trucks rolling.
Other members of The Red Ball Express included:
- Val Bisoglio as Captain Calvelli, the leader of the Unit
- Ed Begley, Jr. as Lieutenant Robert Chapman
- Mel Stewart as Sergeant Bryant
- Sam Laws as Sergeant Grease
- Hilly Hicks as Private Jed Brooks
- Garrett Morris as Wheels
- Darrow Igus as Jersey
- Rod Gist as Phone Booth
- Theodore Wilson as High Strung.
During their down time, the members of the Red Ball Express hung
out at a nearby nightclub run by Madam Delacort (Penny Santon).
TRIVIA NOTE: The real Red Ball
Express unit was officially terminated on November 16, 1944, when it had
completed it mission.
According to one report by Colonel John S.D.
Eisenhower "The spectacular nature of the advance [through France]
was due in as great a measure to the men who drove the Red Ball
trucks as to those who drove the tanks...without it, the advance
across could never had been made."
In 1952, actor Sidney Poitier costarred with Jeff Chandler in "The Red Ball
Express", a movie version of the famous WWII Army transportation
unit. The tagline for the film read" The odds were great...the men
The term "Redball (or "Redball Manifest") is an old railroad term
meaning "priority freight" for time-valued items such as perishable
goods or just-in-time factory inventory.
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