September 22, 2023

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FreightWaves Classics: Cross-country U.S. Army convoy began 103 years ago


It is tough to consider that in 1919 – just above 100 many years back – the broad the greater part of the nation’s roads have been unpaved. At that time, only 12% of the country’s rural roadways experienced been “surfaced.” Nonetheless, that definition involved roadways that have been mostly sick-maintained and experienced grime or gravel surfaces. In addition, there was no federal authority overseeing construction and what couple first rate streets there ended up remained unconnected.

Environment War I ended on November 11, 1918. Just a couple months later, the U.S. Army’s Motor Transport Corps Transcontinental Convoy (MTC-TCC) was organized. The convoy was staged and executed as a cross-nation vacation from Washington, D.C. to the Presidio in San Francisco. It still left Washington 103 years back tomorrow. The route used was the Lincoln Highway,

The Lincoln Highway was devoted in 1913 as the nation’s first coastline-to-coast roadway. When it had a noble name, the “thoroughfare” was, in fact, a patchwork of connecting roadways, many of which were being no more than undeveloped dirt paths, specially west of the Mississippi River.

The convoy's route. (Map: American Heritage)
The convoy’s route. (Map: American Heritage)

The convoy’s functions

The convoy’s most important intent was to check the mobility of the armed forces for the duration of wartime disorders. Planet War I had modified warfare in several techniques – which include the use of motorized transport, airplanes and tanks.

The convoy applied standardized armed forces vans, alongside with some motor autos and motorcycles, to get precious knowledge and practical experience in the developmental use of the comparatively new idea of motorized transport. Yet another objective of the convoy was to consider the quite a few lessons of vehicles and cars and trucks that the Army’s Motor Transportation Corps experienced employed all through the Globe War, together with a couple not long ago produced models below thing to consider from different U.S. brands.

The convoy also supplied a one of a kind opportunity to gain insights on the ailment of American roads and automotive infrastructure. 

Along its route, people from cities and towns turned out to see the convoy pass by. (Photo:
Alongside its route, people today from towns and towns turned out to see the convoy go by. (Photo:

The cars and the adult males

The expedition consisted of 81 motorized Military cars. The Army’s Motor Transportation Corps convoy provided 34 weighty cargo vehicles, four light supply trucks, two mobile machine stores, 1 blacksmith shop, and just one heavy trailer hauling an artillery tractor outfitted with a energy winch. This tractor, known as a Militor, was capable of pulling various trucks at one particular time. It was the true workhorse of the convoy.

In addition, the convoy incorporated “two spare components suppliers, two h2o tanks, one particular gasoline tank, a single searchlight with an electrical energy plant truck, four kitchen area trailers, eight touring cars and trucks, a person reconnaissance car or truck, two staff members observation automobiles, 5 sidecar bikes, and 4 solo bikes as well as five GMC ambulances with two ambulance trailers, and a Loder 4-ton pontoon trailer.” Around 20 of the vans were standardized Military Course B 3-ton “Liberty vehicles.”

A 1917 Standard Type B Liberty U.S.A 3-ton flatbed truck with sideboards (Photo:
A 1917 Normal Kind B Liberty U.S.A 3-ton flatbed truck with sideboards (Photograph:

Liberty trucks had been created during the war with regular interchangeable pieces so they could be manufactured promptly and also effortlessly repaired. The vans had huge engines, significant gasoline tanks, massive radiators, and maximum ground clearance for the European landscape. The vehicles also essential a big amount of mechanics to keep them in performing buy.

The convoy was meant to be self-sustaining and self-operated, carrying bridge-making gear so that, in situation of washouts or structural problems, repairs could be built immediately. It was the heaviest, longest and most completely equipped and manned Army motor convoy assembled at that time.

Illustrations of a 1917 Liberty B 3-ton truck (Image:
Illustrations of a 1917 Liberty B 3-ton truck (Image:

The expedition was manned by 24 officers and 258 enlisted guys. The military staff associated have been Enterprise E of the Army’s 5th Engineers, the Quartermaster Corps’ Company Park Device 595, Firms E and F of the 333rd Motor Offer Train, a healthcare unit and a Industry Artillery Detachment.

In addition, there had been official observers who traveled along with the convoy. There ended up 17 officers representing the nine branches of the Army. Among the War Division observers was 28-calendar year-old Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

A amount of civilian firms also accompanied the convoy. Most have been vehicle and components suppliers, and three ended up tire companies.

A 1925 postcard shows the Zero Milestone marker and the White House. (Image:
A 1925 postcard reveals the Zero Milestone marker and the White House. (Impression:

Leaving the nation’s money

Amid a fantastic offer of fanfare, the convoy (which was three miles lengthy from commencing to stop) left Washington, D.C. on July 7, 1919. The departure ceremony also provided the dedication of what was regarded as the Zero Milestone. Found south of the White House grounds, the milestone marked the beginning level of what The New York Periods described as ‘the biggest aggregation of motor vehicles ever started off on a journey of these size.’

Two motorcycles from the convoy scouted about 30 minutes in entrance of the major entire body in purchase to report situations and spot markers. The convoy was led by the 5th Engineers and their heavy artillery vans, followed by the machine and blacksmith outlets. The engineers were dependable for fixing or replacing any insufficient bridges or generating minor road advancements along the way.

The climate was fantastic through the very first pair of days that the convoy was on the highway. It entered Pennsylvania on July 8 and arrived at Gettysburg, wherever it merged onto the Lincoln Highway. Nonetheless, day-long rain on July 10 turned grime roads into slippery, muddy paths that triggered delays one car or truck was misplaced just after skidding off the road in the mountainous region and crashing down a hillside.

Along the route the convoy was typically detoured about several obstructions, frequently on to even much more poorly preserved secondary grime roadways. The artillery tractor was utilized regularly to tow damaged down or immobilized automobiles. For that reason, the Quartermaster Corps’ mechanics have been in the rear, having treatment of the important repairs.

The convoy enroute. (Photo:
The convoy enroute. (Photo:

The results

Past 12 months FreightWaves Classics released various articles about key milestones of the convoy’s cross-country journey, and will do so once more in 2022. To much better understand the point out of the roads and the issues the convoy encountered, think about this – it traveled a distance of 3,251 miles in 62 days – an typical of only 52 miles per working day. 

In that summer season of 1919 – once more only 103 years back – the members of the convoy discovered initial-hand about the challenges motorists confronted touring considerable distances on roadways that had been frequently impassable. The vehicles in the convoy have been heavier-duty than the autos and trucks of the day, but they endured regular breakdowns however. 

Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower during the convoy. (Photo:
Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower all through the convoy. (Photo:

Definitely the most unintended consequence of the convoy was that Lt. Col. Eisenhower’s  activities on the excursion affected his later decisions with regards to design of the nation’s interstate highway system in the course of his presidential administration.

In this photo, President Eisenhower signs the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1954. There was no similar photo for the landmark Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 because the president was in the hospital when he signed the bill on June 29, 1956. Despite the momentous significance of the act, there was no ceremony and no photographer present. (Photo: Dwight D. Eisenhower Library)
In this photograph, President Eisenhower signals the Federal-Aid Freeway Act of 1954. There was no equivalent picture for the landmark Federal-Help Freeway Act of 1956 simply because the president was in the healthcare facility when he signed the invoice on June 29, 1956. Irrespective of the momentous importance of the act, there was no ceremony and no photographer existing. (Picture: Dwight D. Eisenhower Library)


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