DEVELOPMENT OF THE CONTAINER
“Transporter” - Predecessor to the CONEX
As early as World War
II, the Army began experimenting with using
containers for shipment of supplies to the
theater. Cargo was delayed at ports due to
time required to load and offload ships.
The Army was losing money because of
pilferage and in-transit damage.
In 1948, pilot models
were developed and the Transportation Corps
adopted the "Transporter, Household Goods,
Shipboard," commonly referred to as the
Corps procured 67 "Transporters" for
testing, and along with commercial units,
they were tested for household good
shipments between the US and overseas
The "Transporter" was a
rigid steel reusable container capable of
carrying 9,000 pounds. It was 8'6" long,
6'3" wide, and 6"10" high. It had a double
door on one end, was mounted on elevated
skids, and had lifting rings on the top four
“Transporter” in Korea
In 1951, an
additional 100 Transporters were purchased
for use within the Far East Command. Used
to ship items from Japan to Korea, and then
by rail to forward supply points, they were
evaluated for transporting sensitive,
critical, and valuable items.
along with the study of household goods
shipments, demonstrated the effectiveness of
the container against damage and pilferage.
It also proved the efficiency in movement of
various troop materiel from the US to
At the Port of Pusan,
Korean stevedores were dropping and breaking
almost 90% of the off-loaded crates. Theft
and pilferage became a daily occurrence.
The Army was losing 10% of all subsistence
coming through the port.
In late 1952, the
Transportation Corps developed the Container
Express (CONEX), replacing the
"Transporter." Engineering supplies and
spare parts were shipped from Colombus
General Depot (Georgia) to the Port of San
Francisco where they were loaded on ships to
Yokohama, Japan, and to Korea.
Not only did the
CONEX reduce port pilferage and breakage, it
also significantly reduced transportation
time. A shipment that normally took about
55 days to deliver was reduced to 27 days.
Containers became the
backbone of logistics support for Vietnam,
and nearly every major Army unit moving into
the theater carried their spare parts and
supplies in containers.
Many containers never
made it back from the theater; they were
employed as command posts, dispensaries,
portable stores, bunkers, and so forth. The
containers provided millions of square feet
of covered storage that the theater lacked.
intransit cargo is staged in Cam
Rahn Bay here, operated by the
403rd Transportation Company
(Terminal Transfer). Visible
straight ahead in the center is
passage to the South China Sea.
Cam Rahn Bay, Vietnam. This
photo clearly shows some of the
numerous containers used as
storage for spare parts and
began to develop methods of moving
containers. During the Vietnam conflict,
Sea-Land Container Services, Inc first
introduced containerships designed only to
were developed to be shipped via rail,
truck, air or ship. Today, they are used
commercially as well as by all military
The use of inter-modal
containers may possibly be the most valuable
element in global transportation in most