1919 Motor Transport Corps convoy
The 1919 Motor Transport Corps convoy was a long distance convoy (described as a Motor Truck Trip with a "Truck Train") carried out by the US Army Motor Transport Corps that drove over 3,000 mi (4,800 km) on the historic Lincoln Highway from Washington, D.C., to Oakland, California and then by ferry over to end in San Francisco.
Lt Col Charles W. McClure and Capt Bernard H. McMahon were the respective expedition and train commanders:12 and civilian Henry C. Ostermann of the Lincoln Highway Association was the pilot (guide).:83 Official observers included those from the Air Service, A.S.A.P.,[specify] Coast and Field Artillery, Medical Corps, Ordnance, Signal Corps and Tank Corps including the then Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Dwight D. Eisenhower.:5 Eisenhower later said he joined the convoy ‘’partly for a lark, and partly to learn.’’
The Signal Corps filmed convoy events; and the civilians of the Goodyear band were transported from Chicago in one of the trucks. The Publicity Officer (Lt William B Doron) rode with Ostermann 2–10 days ahead of the main body, while the Recruiting Officer (Capt Murphy) was 1–2 days ahead, and the Cook and Mess units were several hours ahead, Two motorcycles scouted about ½ hour ahead to report conditions and place markers.:11 The 5th Engineers' Company E:7 of 2 officers and 20 men headed the main body with the artillery's 5½ ton Mack truck carrying a 5-ton Maxwell tractor (22,450 lbs total) in the lead followed by the machine shop and blacksmith shop trucks, and the Quartermaster Corps' Service Park Unit 595 of 1 officer and 43 men brought up the rear ("often separated from the main body" while servicing disabled vehicles). In addition to 230 road incidents (stops for adjustments, extrications, breakdowns, & accidents) resulting in 9 vehicles retiring, the convoy of "24 expeditionary officers, 15 War Department staff observation officers, and 258 enlisted men" had 21 injured en route who did not complete the trip. 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".:6,10
In western Wyoming Eisenhower and a companion convinced the convoy that an Indian attack was imminent. Sentinels were posted that night, but when Ike and friend exchanged warrior yelps outside the perimeter a young officer on guard discharged his weapon. They had to stop a telegram being sent to the War Office reporting an encounter with hostile Indians.
In addition to engineer and quartermaster units; the convoy had 2 truck companies of the 433rd Motor Supply Train;:6 a medical unit with surgeon, medical, and dental officers; and a Field Artillery Detachment which provided the Maxwell crawler tractor operated by a civilian. The 81 total vehicles and trailers included "34 heavy cargo trucks, 4 light delivery trucks", 2 mobile machine shops, 1 blacksmith shop, 1 wrecking truck, an "Artillery Wheeled Tractor" that towed 9 trucks at once and was equipped with a power winch. There were "2 spare parts stores, 2 water tanks, 1 gasoline tank, 1 searchlight with electrical power plant truck, 4 kitchen trailers, 8 touring cars, 1 reconnaissance car, 2 staff observation cars, 5 sidecar motorcycles, and 4 solo motorcycles";:7 as well as five GMC ambulances with two ambulance trailers, and a 4-ton pontoon trailer (left in Omaha).:18,23 Additional vehicle manufacturers included Cadillac, Dodge, F.W.D., Garford, Harley-Davidson & Indian (motorcycles), Liberty (trucks & a 2-wheel kitchen cart), Mack, Packard, Riker, Standardized, Trailmobile (two 4-wheel kitchen trailers),[permanent dead link][permanent dead link] and White. Dealers en route supplied gasoline and tires to the convoy; and the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company provided 2 trucks (Packard & White, each 2-ton) fitted with "giant cord pneumatic" tires and that carried spare standard tires.:350 One Firestone truck detoured to Reno, Nevada, to have a new giant tire mounted.
In the course of its journey, the convoy broke and repaired wooden bridges:10 (14 in Wyoming), and "practically" all roadways were unpaved from Illinois through Nevada.:4 The convoy travelled up to 32 mph (51 km/h), and the schedule was for 18 mph (29 km/h):111 to average 15 mph (24 km/h). The actual average for the 3,250 mi (5,230 km) covered in 573.5 hours was 5.65 mph (9.09 km/h) over the 56 travel days for an average of 10.24 hours per travel day. Six rest days without convoy travel were at East Palestine, Ohio; Chicago Heights, Illinois; Denison, Iowa; North Platte, Nebraska; Laramie, Wyoming; and Carson City, Nevada. The shortest driving periods between control points were from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to Omaha, Nebraska (2 hrs for 5 mi) and Delphos, Ohio, to Fort Wayne, Indiana (6 hrs for 51 mi), while 4 days had average speeds over 9 mph (14 km/h): E Palestine OH to Wooster OH (9 hr for 83 mi), South Bend IN to Chicago Heights Il (8¾ hr for 80 mi), Jefferson IA to Denison IA (7½ hr for 68 mi), and Anderson's Ranch NV to Ely NV (8 hr for 77 mi).
Convoy delays required extra encampments at Sewickley, Pennsylvania (July 11/12); Gothenburg, Nebraska (August 2/3); and Ogallala, Nebraska (5/6); which delayed arrival at Evanston, Wyoming, to August 16 instead of the scheduled August 13.:2 To the next control point, the convoy travelled 166 miles (267 km) instead of the planned 88 and used extra camps at Echo, Utah (17/18), and Ogden, Utah (18/19); arriving at Salt Lake City on the 19th (vice the 14th). Despite travelling on the August 24 rest day, the convoy fell behind an additional day using 4 travel days instead of the 2 scheduled travel days from Orr's Ranch, Utah, through the Great Salt Lake Desert to Ely, Nevada; where the convoy arrived on the 24th (v. 18th).:4 An extra travel day on "mining roads" was used between Ely and Austin, Nevada; where the convoy arrived on the 27th (v. 20th), 348 mi (560 km) short of the scheduled point for the 27th (Sacramento). The convoy remained 7 days behind schedule through Oakland, California, where it arrived September 5 at 4 pm (v. the 29th). Forgoing a rest day originally scheduled for the day after arriving in Oakland, the convoy instead ferried to San Francisco the next morning 6 days behind schedule and parked at the Presidio of San Francisco.:4
In addition to transporting New York's Medal of Joan of Arc for San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts, the convoy had 4 objectives; and Ordnance Department and Tank Corps observers completed their reports in October. The objectives were:
- Encourage "construction of through-route and transcontinental highways". The Ordnance Department notes "great interest in the Good Roads Movement was aroused by the passage of the Convoy".
- Procure "recruits for ... the Motor Transport Corps": enlistment through the convoy was sparse
- Exhibit "to the public ... the motor vehicle for military purposes": In the course of the journey, the convoy "passed through 350 communities, and it was estimated that more than 3,000,000 people (perhaps 3,250,000) witnessed it along the route."
- Study & observe "the terrain and standard army vehicles": . The Tank Corps noted that "the light truck is so far superior to the heavy [which] should be confined to ... hard surfaced roads; and ... short hauls."
- Eisenhower, Bvt. Lt. Col. Dwight D (November 3, 1919). "Trans-Continental Trip" (PDF). Rock Island Arsenal. Retrieved March 31, 2011.
Federal Highway Administration transcription of typescript
- Principle Facts
- Jackson, 1st Lt Elwell R (October 31, 1919). First Transcontinental Motor Convoy (Report). (also published in Mechanical Eng., vol. 42, no. 3, March 1910, pp. 145–150 and 205, 16 figs.)
pp. 2–4: List of control points with dates and mileages, p. 5: List of officers, p. 8: List of vehicles & trailers, p. 31: Appendices pp. 60–80: Daily Log
- NOTE: The p. 2 "Frederick, Md" listings indicate the table uses the inaccurate title "Scheduled Arrivals" for the locations/dates of Scheduled Departures (cf. "East Palestine" listings after the Sewickley delay). Similarly, p. 4 inaccurately indicates the last 3 scheduled listings (i.e., Jackson's retyped schedule has scheduled departures from Stockton "8/29/19" and Oakland "8/30/19", which inaccurately means a different--but unidentified--scheduled destination for the evening of 8/30 was required before the scheduled "8/31/19" rest day and subsequent arrival in San Francisco.)
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Ordnance observer spent the night at the Chicago Automobile Club
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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)
- Smith 2012, pp. 51,52.
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will be the heaviest ...continuous journey of 3000 miles in 60 days ... for an average of 75 miles a day. This schedule necessitates a speed of 15 miles an hour all the way
- Daily Log of the First Transcontinental Motor Convoy
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- Smith 2012, p. 51.
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