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The 1919 Transcontinental Motor Convoy

 

In the summer of 1919, a young Lieutenant Colonel named Dwight D. Eisenhower participated in the first Army transcontinental motor convoy. The expedition consisted of eighty-one motorized Army vehicles that crossed the United States from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco, a venture covering a distance of 3,251 miles in 62 days. The expedition was manned by 24 officers and 258 enlisted men. The convoy was to test the mobility of the military during wartime conditions. As an observer for the War Department, Lt. Col. Eisenhower learned first-hand of the difficulties faced in travelling great distances on roads that were impassable, and that resulted in frequent breakdowns of the military vehicles. These early experiences influenced his later decisions concerning the building of the interstate highway system during his presidential administration.

Commemorative Program, "A California Dinner in Honor of the Officers and Men Who Made up the First Transcontinental Convoy of the Motor Transport Corps, U.S. Army over the Lincoln Highway, Washington to San Francisco, July 7 - September 7, 1919" [U.S. Army, Transport Corps, Transcontinental Convoy: Records, 1919, Box 1]

Memorandum from Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower to the Chief, Motor Transport Corps, with attached report on the Trans-Continental Trip, November 3, 1919. [DDE's Records as President, President's Personal File, Box 967, 1075 Greany Maj. William C.; NAID #1055071]

Report, "Principal Facts Concerning the First Transcontinental Army Motor Transport Expedition, Washington to San Francisco, July 7 to September 6, 1919." [DDE's Records as President, President's Personal File, Box 967, 1075 Greany Maj. William C.; NAID #12005074]

Report, from 1st Lt. E.R. Jackson (Ordnance Observer) to Col. L.B. Moody (Ordnance Department, USA, Tank, Tractor & Trailer Division), "Report on First Transcontinental Motor Convoy," October 31, 1919. [U.S. Army, Transport Corps, Transcontinental Convoy: Records, 1919, Box 1, Report on first transcontinental motor convoy] [U.S. Army, Transport Corps, Transcontinental Convoy: Records, 1919, Box 1, Report on first transcontinental motor convoy]

"Daily Log of the First Transcontinental Motor Convoy, Washington, DC to San Francisco, Cal., July 7th to Sept. 6th, 1919" [U.S. Army, Transport Corps, Transcontinental Convoy: Records, 1919, Box 1, Daily log of the first transcontinental motor convoy (typewritten copy)]

Images in the audiovisual collection

Secondary sources on this topic include:

"Ike and 'The Great Truck Train'--1919" by John E. Wickman, Kansas History, Volume 13, August 1990, Number 3, page 139.

"Ike's Road Trip" by Kevin L. Cook, The Quarterly Journal of Military History, Spring 2001, pp 68-7