20 Events of Operation Magic Carpet at the End of World War II

20 Events of Operation Magic Carpet at the End of World War II

Larry Holzwarth - February 24, 2019

It was one of the largest operations undertaken by the US military in all of the Second World War, and remains one of the least known. Operation Magic Carpet was the effort to return American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines to their homes in the United States. It involved all of the branches of the armed services, and at its peak, nearly four hundred ships were involved, carrying the men and women who served in the various theaters of operations home. In many instances, spouses who met and married while overseas were brought to the United States as well. The operation began in June, 1945 and was declared complete eleven months later in September 1946.

20 Events of Operation Magic Carpet at the End of World War II
The hangar deck of USS Wasp (CV 18) during an early voyage supporting Magic Carpet in 1945. US Navy

The ships involved were not limited to troop transports and the converted ocean liners which had delivered the troops to their assignments overseas. Aircraft carriers, their military missions complete, were rushed to shipyards and converted to carry the maximum number of troops possible. Battleships and heavy cruisers, scheduled for decommissioning, returned home carrying men packed in their holds and on their decks. Wounded were brought to military and VA hospitals on the Navy’s hospital ships, and the assault transports which had delivered so many men to beaches around the world carried many of them home.

Here is the story of Operation Magic Carpet, undoubtedly the happiest military exercise of the Second World War.

20 Events of Operation Magic Carpet at the End of World War II
George C. Marshall initiated planning for the repatriation of American service personnel before overseas deployments reached their peak. National Archives

1. Planning for the repatriation of Americans began in 1943

In the summer of 1943 General George C. Marshall ordered the establishment of planning committees to address the problem of getting American troops home at the end of the war. After reviewing the work of the planning committees the War Shipping Administration (WSA) was assigned to oversee the operation. One of the critical phases of planning was the establishment of a means of prioritizing the men to be returned, in other words, who would get to go home first, and on what basis. The Advance Service Rating Score (ASRS) was created to establish priorities, under the auspices of the War Department.

As it was initially issued in September 1944, and revised in both February and March of 1945, the ASRS prepared by the Army would have removed far too many of the experienced officers and non-commissioned officers too quickly to maintain efficiency and discipline among the deployed troops. Repatriation from Europe began in the summer of 1945 while it was still unknown how many troops would be needed for the occupation of Europe and the impending invasion of Japan. By the end of the summer of 1945, the War Department issued changes to address the issues arising from the inadequacies of the ASRS, and the howls of outrage being heard from the troops in Europe and their families at home.

20 Events of Operation Magic Carpet at the End of World War II
Some of the troops returning from Europe were carried by the ocean liners Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, borrowed from the British. US Navy

2. The beginning of Magic Carpet affected only the Army and the Army Air Forces

When Operation Magic Carpet began the war in the Pacific was still raging. The US Navy and Marines were unable to reduce the size of their forces and in fact, large contingents from the Army and the Air Forces which it controlled were slated to be transferred to the Pacific in order to allow the final phases of the war to be prosecuted with increased strength. There was also the need to provide garrison troops to occupy Germany and portions of Italy. In spite of these obstacles, a groundswell of public opinion demanded the return of a sizable portion of the troops which had served in Europe, fed in part by enthusiastic media reports of the recurring victories of American forces against the Japanese. For many Americans at home, the war was won.

There was just over three million American service personnel in the European and North African theaters on VE day. While planners prepared to bring them home 300 Liberty and Victory ships were quickly converted to carry troops instead of cargo. Existing troopships which had been intended for use in the Pacific were used to support the sealift as well, and the great ocean liners such as the British Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth were likewise used in support of the operation. The ships did not depart American ports empty, replacement troops and repatriating German prisoners of war were sent to Europe. By the end of June American troops eligible for discharge under the ASRS were on their way home.

20 Events of Operation Magic Carpet at the End of World War II
Magic Carpet included war brides brought to America from around the globe, including those from Australia. Australian National Archives

3. Magic Carpet included Operation War Brides in 1946

During the war American servicemen stationed overseas married local women in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and other areas where they were stationed (and in Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines). During 1945 the Army’s halting steps to deliver on the promises that women and children of American servicemen would be brought to the United States led to intensive lobbying of Congress to ac. In December 1945 the War Brides Act was passed, removing the immigration quotas which had prevented many women from going to the United States, especially those from the Philippines and Japan. Operation War Brides began in early 1946, with most of those coming from Europe entering the United States through New York.

The women arriving in the United States entered a strange world, and often were reunited with a husband who seemed strange as well. For most of them, it was the first time they had seen their husband in civilian clothing, and the first time they had seen them in a civilian occupation. Rather than a dashing young pilot or a leader of troops, in many instances, they encountered a salesman or a mechanic, or in all too many cases a man out of work, living on the separation allowance of $20 per week for 52 weeks paid to separate servicemen by the United States. In many cases, their husbands were also suffering from the effects of what is now known as PTSD, then called combat fatigue, a subject that was considered taboo.

20 Events of Operation Magic Carpet at the End of World War II
Following the Japanese surrender the public demand to bring troops home rendered Magic Carpet plans moot. US Navy

4. Operation Magic Carpet planning was obsolete following the surrender of Japan

By August 1945 the operation to bring the troops home from Europe was well underway, with the ships returning to the continent laden with replacement troops and supplies. During the war, American troops arrived in the European theater at an average of just under 150,000 each month of the war. The return operation averaged almost three times that rate, with 435,000 per month arriving home, or at least in the United States, where they were processed at separation centers before being released. At that point, the Japanese surrendered and the demand to bring all of the troops home that had served in combat increased to the point of a national frenzy.

The US Navy, at the end of World War II the largest the world had ever seen, had little role to play in the occupation of Japan and the Philippines, and while General MacArthur dithered over the number of military personnel he would need for those operations it released ships for use in Operation Magic Carpet. In October the Navy sent the recently commissioned escort aircraft carrier USS Lake Champlain, the battleship Washington, and several cruisers and destroyers to the Atlantic. Lake Champlain’s cavernous hangar deck was stripped of aviation support equipment and fitted with bunks, allowing it to carry over 3,000 men in one voyage.

20 Events of Operation Magic Carpet at the End of World War II
Camps named for cigarettes served to bring troops into Europe and later prepare them to be sent home. This is Camp Philip Morris. US Army

5. The cigarette camps in France

After the Allies gained footholds in France around Le Havre in the north, and Marseille in the south, the American army established a series of camps at which newly arrived reinforcements and replacements would be temporarily stationed. They were named for popular American cigarettes of the time (Camp Old Gold, Camp Lucky Strike, Camp Philip Morris, etc.) and consisted of tent housing and wooden shacks for the administration facilities. The camps were also loading points for the supplies sent to the front with the ubiquitous US Army two-and-a-half-ton trucks. In early 1945, as it became apparent that the collapse of Germany was imminent, the camps were equipped with more permanent structures such as wooden barracks and recreational facilities.

When the Army began reducing its ranks in accordance with the points system which determined who was going where the camps took on a new purpose. Those being released were sent to some of them to be formed into what were essentially new military units, though they for the most part retained current military designations. Those units being reformed for deployment to the Pacific were likewise sent to the camps to absorb their new personnel, where veterans of European combat were merged with newly arrived personnel and those who wanted to remain in the army. All of the units remaining in Europe as occupation forces lost cohesion as a result of the transfer of so many of their personnel, and the camps were used to retrain the units sent to them.

20 Events of Operation Magic Carpet at the End of World War II
A system of points determined which veterans would be sent home and which would be assigned other duties, including in the Pacific. US Army

6. The US Army points system for discharge

The magic number for the troops deployed in Europe was 85. That was the number of points which determined that a soldier or airman was eligible to go home and be discharged. Points were allotted in a manner which favored married men with children. For each month in the military, a member received 1 point. Each month overseas was another point. Battle stars earned by the member’s unit were worth 5 points apiece, as were certain awards such as the Purple Heart. Other awards which earned 5 points were the Bronze Star, the Soldier’s Medal, and the Presidential Unit Citation. Points were earned for several other military activities as well. Those with dependent children were awarded 12 points for each child.

It was the responsibility of the company clerk to maintain the record of each man’s score on a document called the Adjusted Service Rating Card. At the end of the war in Europe, the Army sent those men with 85 points to the camps for preparation to send them home. Those with 80-84 points were deployed to other units in Europe or remained where they were assigned. Those with lower scores were scheduled to be sent to the United States, where after a brief furlough they were to be assigned to other units to be retrained in preparation for service against Japan in the Pacific. Of course, there were some who wanted to remain in Europe for occupation service (or for more personal reasons) and they were considered on a case-by-case basis by their commanding officers and the Army chain of command.

20 Events of Operation Magic Carpet at the End of World War II
Waiting took up most of the time at the assembly camps and aboard ships. US Army

7. Since it was the army, waiting was a way of life

Once an American veteran of the European theater possessed the magical 85 points, he was reassigned to a unit deployed for the most part at one of the cigarette camps. Other than the assault forces which landed on the beaches during seaborne invasions, or dropped from the skies, it was likely his second visit to a cigarette camp, and he was somewhat familiar with their operation, though no doubt in a far different mood than on his first visit. Troops at the cigarette camps had little to do other than daily formations and the chores which all armies of the world figured out to keep idle troops occupied. The length of their stay was determined by the arrival of the ship assigned to take them home to the United States.

At the camps, the troops were issued new uniforms to replace those they had worn while deployed. Materials they wished to take home as souvenirs were examined and either approved or confiscated. At least one, Camp Lucky Strike, warned the troops that only one souvenir pistol was permitted per soldier, and that those caught violating the rule would be sentenced to six months at hard labor at a military facility in Europe. Gambling was officially prohibited in the camps but widely practiced with cards, dice, and other games. The troops could be issued 24 passes allowing them to visit towns such as Le Havre or Rouen, where French wines and brandy could be consumed and the company of French women enjoyed while the men waited for the ships to take them home.

20 Events of Operation Magic Carpet at the End of World War II
Troops returning from Europe take part in a lifeboat drill aboard Queen Mary in 1945. MARAD

8. Changes to the point system and demands for faster demobilization

Following the surrender of Japan, there was no longer a need to retain troops which had served in Europe to send to the Pacific, and the troops serving there as well as US Navy and Marine personnel could, for the most part, be discharged. Point levels required for discharge were lowered, and then lowered again until 50 points were sufficient for a service member to be sent home. The European campaign veteran units which had been sent over the summer of 1945 to assemble as 10th Army at Okinawa, part of the planned invasion of Japan, were immediately reclassified for discharge. Battleships and aircraft carriers were sent to carry them to the United States.

Great Britain and the British Empire were soon repatriating troops, to the various areas of the globe from which they had entered the war. Royal Navy ships collected British troops from the China-Burma-India Theater and began the long voyage to get them home. In Australia, war bride trains collected those who had married troops from the UK and the US and delivered them to ports such as Darwin and Perth, where they were boarded on ships modified to carry them for the voyage across the Indian Ocean, the Suez Canal, across the Mediterranean, and thence to England and North America. Other ships made the cross-Pacific voyage to pick up scattered units wherever they were and transited the Panama Canal to the Atlantic.

20 Events of Operation Magic Carpet at the End of World War II
The US Navy needed to bring its men home while simultaneously manning the ships to do it. US Navy

9. The US Navy faced special difficulties during Operation Magic Carpet

When the Japanese surrendered there were over 3,000,000 men and women serving in the US Navy, the majority of them in the Pacific, and more than 1,300 combat ships, plus vast numbers of PT Boats and their supporting bases, tenders for submarines and destroyers, floating dry docks, yard and ocean-going tugs, cargo ships, hospital ships, seaplane tenders, weapons carriers, oilers and tankers, and bases scattered across the world’s oceans to support them all. In the autumn of 1945, the Navy announced tentative plans to reduce manpower by a minimum of one-third by February of 1946, with at least 325,000 home for Christmas, 1945, discharges in hand. Congress mandated that just over 1,000 ships would be active by the end of 1946.

The Navy planned to keep 30% of the ships on active duty at the time of the surrender, place about half of the fleet in mothballs, and scrap the remainder. At the same time, some new construction had to be maintained in order to keep the shipyards able to employ workers. The problem the Navy faced was that ships, even those being scrapped or prepared for long-term storage, needed crews, and public pressure to discharge the veterans of the war meant that the Navy had to crew ships with inexperienced sailors and officers. The goal of having 500,000 Navy men and women on active duty by the end of 1946 was in direct conflict with the work needing to be done, the highest priority of which was Operation Magic Carpet.

20 Events of Operation Magic Carpet at the End of World War II
Men sleep in makeshift hammocks in the hangar compartment of USS Intrepid in 1945. US Navy

10. Ships heading for decommissioning went to the United States carrying veterans’ home

Every US Naval vessel which returned to the United State carried veterans of the war, from all branches of the service, with the exception of submarines. Even some of those picked up “hitchhikers” from time to time, conveying them to Midway Atoll and Pearl Harbor. The Navy sent combat ships to the west coast where they discharged their passengers and in many cases large contingents of their own crews, and then entered the shipyards for hasty conversion to carry greater loads of repatriating servicemen. The hangar decks of aircraft carriers made excellent housing areas, and they were stripped of combat and aviation equipment and rows of bunks were installed, some of them containing five tiers.

The Navy modified 57 aircraft carriers (most of them escort and light carriers) to serve as repatriation ships. In all, 369 US Navy ships took part in Magic Carpet, and as the operation went on more and more of the crews of the ships were comprised of new arrivals to the Pacific, the veterans on their way home. Some of the ships made just a few trips before entering the shipyards for preparation for mothballing or salvage of equipment before the ship was sold to breakers. Six battleships and 18 heavy cruisers, the backbone of the Navy before December 1941, but proven obsolescent by the war, were part of the armada used for Magic Carpet.

20 Events of Operation Magic Carpet at the End of World War II
Despite the speed with which the Americans were repatriated, public clamor was for the pace to be accelerated. US Navy

11. The public was dissatisfied with the pace of Operation Magic Carpet

The American public, after the tumultuous celebrations over the end of combat subsided, quickly became dissatisfied with the speed with which the Army and Navy were bringing their loved ones home. The clamor for greater speed grew intense after the surrender of Japan, and every member of Congress was beset with demands for immediate demobilization. The problems of demobilizing the war machine the United States had created and manned were of no concern to them. As the fall of 1945 drew on the cry across the United States was to bring the boys home by Christmas. Most of those from the European theater made that goal, but the problems encountered by the Navy in the Pacific keeping its ships manned slowed the pace.

Congress did what Congress does and established investigating committees and made speeches reflecting the desires of their constituents, but the logistical and manpower problems encountered by the Navy were often insurmountable. There were delays waiting for available ships, delays encountered at sea due to storms in both the Atlantic and the Pacific, and delays awaiting disembarkation facilities as ships lined up for their turn to unload. Nonetheless, in December 1945, the peak month of Operation Magic Carpet in terms of the number of Americans returned to the mainland, 700,000 were carried home from the Pacific theater and landed in west coast ports, in time, it was hoped, to be home for Christmas.

20 Events of Operation Magic Carpet at the End of World War II
After discharge the troops found further difficulties and delays getting home. unionstation.org

12. The American transportation infrastructure was overwhelmed by the returning troops

Once back in the United States the returning American servicemen weren’t quite home yet. Processing by the military was necessary before they were discharged and released to make their way home. The processing took place in camps which were for the most part used to train troops bound for combat only months before. They received indoctrination on their rights under the new GI Bill, their final medical and dental examinations, and the requisite training regarding sexually transmitted diseases. They watched films and Private Snafu cartoons, received their back pay, if any, and finally their discharges. Then they had to get home.

The primary means of long-distance travel in the United States in December, 1945, was by rail. The railroads did what they could to increase the number of available trains, but were limited by years of depleted stock. Traffic jams routing the trains led to delays of up to 12 hours and more for trains departing the west coast stations by mid-December 1945. By Christmas week 94% of the passengers on those trains which were available were returning servicemen. The railroads were unable to handle all of traffic. Many who made it to the states and were discharged in time for Christmas found themselves spending the holiday in the strange environs of the processing camp, among mostly strangers.

20 Events of Operation Magic Carpet at the End of World War II
USS Enterprise docked at Staten Island in January, 1946, after adverse weather prevented the ship from arriving in time for Christmas, 1945. US Navy

13. Christmas of 1945 in California and along the East Coast

The troops arriving in the United States in late 1945 spent Christmas, for the most part, either in or near the processing centers, unable to gain a seat on a train home. Some, particularly those who had served in the Air Forces of the Army and Navy, managed to hitch a ride on aircraft which were being sent to inland bases and airports for eventual scrapping. Men flew to bases near their homes in the unheated holds of aircraft which had formerly dropped bombs over Germany and in the Solomon Islands and other Pacific areas. Officially men riding in airplanes were required to have orders giving them military priorities, unofficially the aircrews ignored the requirement.

Those forced to remain at or near the processing centers found hospitality among the civilian populations nearby. Many were welcomed into the homes of total strangers for holiday dinners and celebrations. The generosity the returning troops found was overwhelming. Many long-haul truckers offered to drive veterans to their destinations if they lay along their route. A Los Angeles cab driver took six veterans to their homes in Chicago, 2,000 miles away, for the price of the cost of gasoline. Troops still aboard ships in American anchorages were served Christmas dinner supplemented with donations and entertainment from local groups.

20 Events of Operation Magic Carpet at the End of World War II
The veterans of the war in Europe were for the most part fully repatriated by early 1946. US Navy

14. The European Phase of Magic Carpet was completed by February, 1946

By February of 1946, the European part of Operation Magic Carpet was complete. The harbors of the American East Coast were clogged with ships which had participated in the operation, many of them awaiting the opportunity to enter the breakers’ yards, manned by skeleton crews. The harbors of New York, Baltimore, and Norfolk, and the river bases in Philadelphia and Charleston bustled with floating cranes and service vessels as the reusable equipment on ships was dismantled and placed on trucks and railroad flat cars for shipment to storage warehouses. Rather than a fighting Navy, by early 1946 the United States had a cargo and construction fleet for the most part.

The Pacific Magic Carpet faced difficulties which weren’t present in Europe. The veterans returning from Europe had been moved by rail or army truck to the cigarette camps to await processing and a ship to take them home. In the Pacific, men were scattered across the vast ocean, in garrisons on small islands, advanced air bases, and at fleet anchorages. From the Aleutians to Australia, men had to be picked up and delivered to assembly points, from whence they were shipped home, either to the West Coast, or via the Panama Canal to Norfolk, New York, and other Navy facilities. The role of collecting the isolated units in the Pacific fell in large part to the Navy’s workhorse of World War II, the destroyer.

20 Events of Operation Magic Carpet at the End of World War II
Life aboard the Navy’s ships was crowded, regimented, and boring for the returning troops. US Navy

15. Life for the Army on Navy warships

Soldiers picked up and transported on US Navy destroyers had never experienced anything to prepare them for such a journey. Destroyers were manned by relatively small crews and had few amenities, and the presence of so many additional men aboard strained what little they offered in the way of comfort. Army personnel were usually greeted with a letter signed by the ship’s captain, often a Lieutenant-Commander or senior lieutenant, which described what was expected of them and what would be offered for their care. The letter informed them of the existence of what Navy ships publish each morning, a schedule known as the Plan of the Day.

The soldiers were informed of when they would take their meals, when and where movies would be shown, regulations regarding the use of water for both drinking and showering (which differed based on the ship’s ability to distill potable water), where to assemble during general quarters or other ship operations, when and where smoking was allowed, and what areas of the ship were off limits to army personnel. On smaller ships in rough seas, most of them became seasick, but as most of the Navy crews were recent replacements with limited experience, many of them suffered from the same malady. Inter-service rivalries between sailors and soldiers led to pranks, arguments, and sometimes physical confrontations.

20 Events of Operation Magic Carpet at the End of World War II
USS Texas was one of many ships which ended their career after Magic Carpet. US Navy

16. Returning from the Pacific via Japan

Many of the processing centers for Army troops were established in Japan and the Philippines, while the US Navy processed most of its personnel from Pearl Harbor before they were sent to the United States for discharge. Once the returning soldiers were assembled into units slated for deactivation they were assigned a priority number and embarked on the next available ship with sufficient space to house them. The ships with the most space were the aircraft carriers which had been modified for the purpose, followed by the troop ships, and then the battleships and cruisers. Army personnel embarked as units, as had their counterparts in Europe.

Most of the ships returning the troops from Japan sailed across the Northern Pacific, where they encountered often stormy weather on the long voyage. Those steaming to the East Coast of the United States made for the Canal Zone. On all Navy ships gambling was (and is) illegal, and some captains were more adamant in enforcing the prohibition than others. Alcohol was also illegal, though many managed to smuggle it aboard and the often inexperienced seamen manning the ships were unable to enforce the rules on veterans of Pacific combat. There were simply too many hiding places aboard ships to stop those determined to imbibe while aboard, and many of the Army officers, who were reserves on their way to their own discharges, feigned ignorance of the practice among their men.

20 Events of Operation Magic Carpet at the End of World War II
USS Saratoga during its last run as part of Operation Magic Carpet in the spring of 1946. US Navy

17. USS Saratoga and Operation Magic Carpet

USS Saratoga served in the Pacific throughout World War II with distinction, with aircraft from its squadrons sinking a Japanese aircraft carrier during the Battle of the Eastern Solomons in 1942. The ship survived several torpedo hits during the war, as well as extensive damage from kamikaze attacks during the Battle of Okinawa. While under repair for the latter, the ship was converted to a training carrier, and was in that role when the war ended. Saratoga was the first aircraft carrier to be converted to bring home troops from the Pacific. By the summer of 1946 enough carriers had been converted to accommodate Magic Carpet that Saratoga was released to other duties.

At the time Saratoga was released in July 1945 the ship had carried 29,204 Pacific War veterans home to the United States, the most of any individual ship involved in Operation Magic Carpet. Following its final Magic Carpet voyage it was fitted with monitoring gear and took on its passengers’ goats, pigs, and other animals before being sent to Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. While anchored in the lagoon there it and several other ships, some of which had likewise participated in Magic Carpet, were subjected to the explosions of two atomic bombs. Saratoga survived the first bombing, but sank as a result of the second bombing on July 25, 1946.

20 Events of Operation Magic Carpet at the End of World War II
Both Army and Navy transport commands contributed to Magic Carpet, including within the continental United States. Hawaii Aviation

18. Aviators in Operation Magic Carpet

Both the US Army Air Force’s Air Transport Command (ATC) and the US Navy’s Naval Air Transport Service (NATS) participated throughout Operation Magic Carpet, but their role was limited by the passenger capacities of the aircraft they operated. Once the servicemen were back in the United States their role expanded somewhat, though informally. The 1946 film The Best Years of Our Lives depicted part of the role of the ATC, which shuttled returning servicemen on a space-available basis on flights which were being conducted for other purposes. Nonetheless, the number of men moving on aircraft was miniscule compared to those who returned to the mainland on ships and moved inland on trains.

In the Pacific, NATS often moved officers and non-commissioned officers from their location when the war ended to the areas where units were assembled for embarkation to the United States. Once sailors and naval officers were on the mainland NATS’s role diminished, though it too conducted routine flights which made space available to recently discharged servicemen, who were allowed to remain in uniform for up to one year following their separation from the service. Those traveling in ATC and NATS aircraft were required to do so in uniform, and officially were supposed to have orders sending them to the flight’s destination or one of its stops along the way, though in practice few did.

20 Events of Operation Magic Carpet at the End of World War II
After Operation Magic Carpet was officially declared completed another 127,000 men were remaining to be repatriated. US Army

19. Operation Magic Carpet ended with troops still in the Pacific Theater

In April 1946, a convoy of 29 American troop ships, each carrying an average of 7,000 soldiers, sailors, and airmen, arrived on the west coast, having repatriated the troops from the often forgotten theater of World War II, the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater. With its arrival, Operation Magic Carpet was officially declared by the Chief of Staff to be completed. Over the course of the next five months, troops continued to return to the United States from the Pacific, but it was at a rate which was a comparative trickle to that of the preceding winter. The last troops to return from the Pacific arrived in September of 1946, 127,300 veterans of the war against Japan.

Thus over the course of 18 months over 8 million American men and women which had been scattered all over the globe in May of 1945 were brought back to the United States and discharged from the service. They left behind, in North African deserts, Asian rice paddies, lonely Pacific islands and atolls, British fields, and the surroundings of French villages, tons upon tons of abandoned equipment and facilities. The cost of moving all of the material would have delayed the repatriation of the troops, and neither the public nor the troops would have tolerated such a delay.

20 Events of Operation Magic Carpet at the End of World War II
Mothballing much of the huge US fleet began concurrently with Magic Carpet, in part due to the loss of the men necessary to crew the ships. US Navy

20. Operation Magic Carpet was the beginning of American demobilization

Throughout 1946 and for the years beyond, the American economy shifted from war production to commercial production. The passenger railroads enjoyed their peak period, which began to decline shortly after Magic Carpet was completed. In 1945 the United States had over 12 million men and women in uniform, by the end of June, 1947, only 1,566,000 were on active duty in the American military, all branches inclusive. The US Navy scrapped or deactivated all but four of the 24 battleships which had been in commission at the end of World War II. In March, 1947, the draft was suspended, and the United States military became all-voluntary for less than a year, when inadequate enlistments caused it to be reinstated.

Despite the reinstatement of the draft, the active duty military of the United States remained at the level of about 1.5 million through the remainder of the 1940s, despite the creation of an independent United States Air Force in 1948. Many of the facilities abandoned by American units during Operation Magic Carpet were retaken by nature, others by local authorities, and the ruins of some, in Europe and in the Pacific, can still be seen. What it cost taxpayers through the discarding of salvageable materials is impossible to ascertain. Magic Carpet was a World War II operation which had but one goal in the eyes of the people and the servicemen involved – getting the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, home as quickly as possible.


Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Operation Magic Carpet”. Stewart B. Milstein, Universal Ship Cancellation Society. 2008 Pdf, online

“War brides recall coming to US aboard the Queen Mary after WWII”. Coleen Sullivan, KABC. November 9, 2015

“The Army ‘Mutiny’ of 1946”. R. Alton Lee, The Journal of American History. December, 1966

“History of Personnel Demobilization in the United States Army”. John C. Sparrow, Center of Military History, United States Army. 1994

“Introduction: The Cigarette Camps”. The Cigarette Camps, Skylighters.org.

“Camp Lucky Strike: RAMP Camp No. 1”. National WWII Museum .

“Bringing Home The 8 Million Boys After WWII; Operation Magic Carpet”. Elly Farelly, War History Online. June 29, 2016

“Bringing Them Home: Operation Magic Carpet”. Michael Haskew, Warfare History Network. October 1, 2018

“Special Section: War Anniversary”. Staff, All Hands Magazine. December, 1945

“World War II Railroads: The 1940s”. entry, American-Rails.com

“History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Volume 14, Victory in the Pacific”. Samuel Eliot Morrison. 1961

“Ships for Victory”. Frederic C. Lane. 2001

“Army returning 500,000 this month”. George Horne, The New York Times. November 18, 1945

“The GI War Against Japan: American soldiers in Asia and the Pacific during World War II”. Peter Schrijvers. 2002

“USS Saratoga CV-3: An Illustrated History of the Legendary Aircraft Carrier 1927-1946”. John Fry. 1996

“Flying the Hump”. C.V. Glines, Air Force Association Magazine. March, 1991

“Europe Since 1945: An Encyclopedia”. Bernard A. Cook. 2001