Transcontinental Motor Convoy

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1919 "Trans-Continental Motor Truck Trip"[1]

The Transcontinental Motor Convoys were early 20th century vehicle convoys, including three US Army truck trains, that crossed the United States (one was coast-to-coast) to the west coast. The 1919 Motor Transport Corps convoy from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco used the incomplete Lincoln Highway.

Background[edit]

U.S. events prior to 1919 convoy
Date Event
1903
1907

1911
1912
1912
1913-07-28
1914-11
1915-08-25
1916-07-11
1917-07-04
1917-12
1918-06-02
c. 1918
1918-11-11
1918-12-01
1919-03-27

1st transcontinental trip by car.
1st US Army truck purchase.[2]

The Boy Scouts created the Automobiling merit badge.
Packard truck carried 3 tons from New York to San Francisco.
The United States Good Roads Association was formed.[1]
US Army Alaska expedition used a White Motor truck.[2]
The Army reported 1½ ton trucks as superior to 2½ ton trucks.[3]
Transcontinental motor convoy by film crew.[4][5][6][3]
1st Federal highway funding legislation (five year plan).[7]
Flagpole memorial placed at west Lincoln Highway terminus.[8]
US Army convoy from Detroit to an "Atlantic Coast port"[9]
The US Army School for Truck Drivers had "just opened".[4]
Chicago-to-New York City convoy set Army distance record.[5]
Germans sign an Armistice (cease fire) agreement, ending WWI
90,727 WWI trucks had been produced for the Army & Navy.[10]
The Ship-by-Truck Association was formed.

The United States' Good Roads Movement of the late 19th century began as increased use of bicycles required better surfaces over the existing wagon and carriage roads. The development of the automobile and their increased use resulted in the formation of the United States Good Roads Association and various individual cross-country trips by individual vehicles, followed by the first transcontinental trip by a convoy of vehicles.

1915 transcontinental film convoy[edit]

The 1915 transcontinental film convoy was a 4-month motor convoy beginning August 25 and ending at the Panama–Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.[6] The film crew completed the "Three-Mile Picture Show" (named for the length of film).[7] The film was directed by Henry Ostermann, Consul at Large for the Lincoln Highway Association,[8] who travelled in a Stutz touring car.[9][10]

1919 Motor Transport Corps convoy[edit]

The 1919 Motor Transport Corps convoy was a "Truck Train"[1] of the US Army Motor Transport Corps that drove over 3,000 mi (4,800 km) from Washington, D.C. (departing July 7th), to Oakland, California, and ferried to San Francisco. In addition to 230 road incidents[11] (stops for adjustments, extrications, breakdowns, & accidents) resulting in 9 vehicles retiring,[12] the convoy of "24 expeditionary officers, 15 War Department staff observation officers, and 258 enlisted men" (e.g., Bvt Lt Col Dwight D. Eisenhower of the Tank Corps) had 21 injured en route who did not complete the trip.[12] Although some "were really competent drivers" by the end, the majority of soldiers were "raw recruits with little or no military training"; and except for the Motor Supply Company E commander (1st Lt Daniel H. Martin), troop officers had "meager knowledge" of "handling men in the field".[13]:6,10

1919 Motor Transport Corps convoy car at a service station in a western desert town.

The convoy broke and repaired[14] 88 wooden bridges[12]:10 (14 in Wyoming),[15] and "practically" all roadways were unpaved from Illinois through Nevada.[1]:4 The convoy logged 3,250 mi (5,230 km) logged miles in 573.5 hours (5.67mph avg.).[16] and 6 rest days without convoy travel were used. Convoy delays required extra encampments and, at Oakland, California, the convoy was 7 days behind schedule (ferrying the next morning on the last travel day).[13]:4

1919 Air Service Transcontinental Recruiting Convoy[edit]

Not to be confused with 1919 Transcontinental Air Race.

The 1919 Air Service Transcontinental Recruiting Convoy[17] was a "mobile army post".[11] of over 1/2 mile long[18] to support 13 aircraft from Hazelhurst Field to California beginning August 14, 1919.[19] The mission of the All American Pathfinders was "to secure accurate information to be used in connection with the carrying of mails by airplanes, and for military purposes, as well as commercial purposes."[18]

1920 Motor Transport Corps convoy[edit]

The 1920 Motor Transport Corps convoy left Washington, D.C. on 14 June 1920 and followed the Bankhead Highway to San Diego, California, where it arrived on 2 October. A smaller expedition than the first, the second convoy consisted of 50 vehicles, 32 officers, and 160 enlisted men under Col John F. Franklin. A rate of 45–60 miles per day was initially estimated, commensurate with that of the first convoy.

The convoy's trip proceeded smoothly as far as Atlanta. However, as it moved west into Tennessee, its progress slowed. Detours became necessary due to flooding and the crossing of the "black gumbo" of the Mississippi River proved very problematic. Despite high hopes, the Southern United States proved to be the worst part of the trip. The convoy encountered almost impassable sands between Maricopa and Wellton, Arizona.

Like the first convoy, at every stop the expedition was met by local celebrations and dances. After 111 days and an average rate of less than 30 miles per day, the convoy reached the West Coast where an officer's banquet was given in San Diego. After its arrival in San Diego, the convoy then went north to Los Angeles and was broken up, its equipment distributed to California's public services as part of a program to make use of war surplus.[20]

The officers of the expedition became convinced by their experience that the maintenance of a national highway system should be the province of the federal government, as supported by the Townsend Bill.[13] However, despite the widespread friendly greetings received by the convoys across the nation, neither generated enough public support to ensure passage of the Townsend Bill, which failed and was replaced by the Federal Highway Act of 1921. Both convoys are identified on the Zero Milestone on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C.

2009 commemoration of 1919 convoy[edit]

The 2009 Convoy traveling down the Lincoln Highway.

In the summer of 2009, on the 90th anniversary of the original trek, the Military Vehicle Preservation Association[21] sponsored a re-enactment of the 1919 convoy. Beginning June 10, following the original route as much as possible and duplicating the original schedule, the convoy set out from Washington, D.C. Over the length of the convoy, more than 150 historic military vehicles,[22] including fifty military jeeps, nineteen ¾ ton trucks, seven 1½ ton trucks, six 2½ ton trucks, three cargo trucks, nine motorcycles, and four sedans took part. The oldest vehicle to take part was a 1917 four-wheel drive 3 ton ammunition truck.[21]

The reenactors had three purposes: along with retracing the route of 1919 convoy over the historic Lincoln Highway, they paid tribute to the U.S. military and commemorated the 200th anniversary of the birth of President Abraham Lincoln.[22]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Eisenhower, Bvt. Lt. Col. Dwight D. (November 3, 1919). "…Trans-Continental Trip" (Report - FHWA transcription of typescript). Rock Island Arsenal. Retrieved 2011-03-31. 
  2. ^ "Truck Makers Supply Both Men and Cars for Army". The New York Times. March 19, 1918. Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  3. ^ Patrick, Kevin J; Wilson, Robert E. "The Lincoln Highway Resource Guide". National Park Service. Retrieved 2011-04-03. 
  4. ^ "Army and Navy Notes". The New York Times. June 2, 1918. Retrieved 2011-04-03. 
  5. ^ "Motor Truck Caravan to Cross Continent". The New York Times. July 6, 1919. Retrieved 2011-04-02. "General Charles B. Drake, chief of the Motor Transport Corps … This trip over the Lincoln Highway is in a measure the War Department's contribution towards the good roads cause" 
  6. ^ "1915--The Lincoln Highway Goes Hollywood--1915". Lincoln-Highway-Museum.org. Retrieved 2011-04-12. 
  7. ^ Patrick, Kevin J; Wilson, Robert E. "CH19.1". The Lincoln Highway Resource Guide. National Park Service. Retrieved 2011-04-03. 
  8. ^ "Travel Over Lincoln Highway Fast Increasing". The New York Times. August 15, 1915. Retrieved 2011-04-11. "At desert points such as Fish Springs, Utah, ... the increase in tourist volume ... from two cars a day in 1913 to eight, nine and ten cars a day on the average in 1915. ... Lincoln Highway motion picture film caravan" 
  9. ^ "Cover" (PDF). The Traveler (California Chapter: Lincoln Highway Association) 9 (2). April 2008. Retrieved 2011-04-12. 
  10. ^ "Lincoln Memorial To Be Scene of Film Feature". The Star and Sentinel. May 22, 1915. Retrieved 2011-04-12. "for photographing the Lincoln mounment [sic] in the upper end of the National cemetery and as the picture is being taken a number of colored residents of town will pass before it and each will lay a wreath of flowers on the monument of the emancipator of their race." 
  11. ^ Pfeiffer, David A (Summer 2006). "Ike's Interstates at 50: Anniversary of the Highway System Recalls Eisenhower's Role as Catalyst". Prologue 38 (2). Retrieved 2011-03-21. "Motor Transport Corps S.P.U. 595 [sign in photo] …west of Grand Island, Nebraska, soldiers use a winch to pull a Class B truck out of a ditch. Lt. Col. P. V. Kieffer surveys the scene. (Eisenhower Library)" 
  12. ^ a b c "Principal Facts Concerning the First Transcontinental Army Motor Transport Expedition" (Briefing fact sheet). Retrieved 2011-04-06. "Briefed from the official report compiled by William C. Greany … departed from the temporary Zero Milestone" 
  13. ^ a b c Jackson, 1st Lt Elwell R (October 31, 1919) (PDF). …First Transcontinental Motor Convoy (Report). http://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/research/digital_documents/1919Convoy/New%20PDFs/Report%20Jackson%20to%20Moody.pdf. Retrieved 2011-03-21.
  14. ^ "Dusty Doughboys on the Lincoln Highway: The 1919 Army Convoy in Iowa". Palimpsest 58 (3). May–June 1975. Retrieved 2011-03-25. "…Marshalltown, and Jefferson offered earlier in the week. … The convoy broke, and repaired,[when?] nearly 100 bridges." 
  15. ^ Donnelly, Jim (November 2005). "Dwight D. Eisenhower". Hemmings Classic Car. Retrieved 2011-03-21. 
  16. ^ Daily Log of the First Transcontinental Motor Convoy (Report). pp. 60–82. "Ordnance Observer returned to Canton … to investigate accident… Returning, we caught up with Convoy"
  17. ^ "Army Orders". The New York Times. July 23, 1919. Retrieved 2011-04-06. "Grower, 1st Lt. R. W., to Hazelhurst Field, to accompany the Air Service Transcontinental Recruiting Convoys, then to station in this city." 
  18. ^ a b "Flying Circus of All America Coming to Montana" (Google News Archive). The Times-Optimist (Gilman, Montana). September 12, 1919. Retrieved 2011-04-06. 
  19. ^ "Weather Delays Flight to Coast; Squadron of Pathfinders Will Start on Transcontinental Trip Today. Plane Bids City Good-Bye Dance to Tunes from Radio Telephone as Craft Circles OverTimes Building". The New York Times. August 14, 1919. 
  20. ^ Weingroff, Richard F. (April 7, 2011). "Zero Milestone - Washington, D.C.". Highway History. Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved May 23, 2012. 
  21. ^ a b "Convoy Participants" (PDF). Military Vehicle Preservation Association. February 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-21. [dead link]
  22. ^ a b Locher, Paul (April 27, 2009). "Historic Military Vehicles Rolling into Area". The Daily Record (Wooster, Ohio). Retrieved 2009-05-21.