30 November 2012

Transcontinental Motor Convoy

I ran into Frank Popper the other day and he told me about an old article in American Heritage called Through Darkest America. The article, definitely worth the read, tells the story of a young, bored Army Capt. D. D. Eisenhower who led an Army convoy across the US. Along the way they broke and repaired dozens of bridges. Eisenhower, recognizing that they were on mostly dirt roads from Illinois to Nevada, realized how hard the Army would be to mobilize if the continental US were attacked. The article describes this as simulated was:
This convoy was no small undertaking, for it was to operate under “wartime conditions” and assumed that “railroad facilities, bridges, tunnels, etc., had been damaged or destroyed by agents of an Asiatic enemy.”
The above photo from the Eisenhower Library collection captures how easily these relatively new Army vehicles could easily damage the nation's fragile infrastructure. But the "wartime" conditions with troops reliant on their supply train were undermined by locals who tried to fatten up the troops, as seen in this old photo from the National Archives. In Ohio, Harvey Firestone treated the troops to a picnic.

In the end it sounds like a successful convoy. "Despite all the hazards, the convoy lost only two vehicles to accidents, and one that rolled down a mountain beyond reach, in the thirty-two-hundred-mile trek."

It is fascinating to think how responsible this little excursion is for today's Interstate highways and the sprawl that they enabled.

(h/t The Frank Popper)


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Bill Wolfe said...

Maybe we should get Obama to commit to a through hike on the AT or across country bike tour??

Bill Wolfe said...

Did Frank (Politic of land Use) Popper have any ideas on the upcoming land use battle on shore rebuild?

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