Transcontinental Motor Convoy in 1919

The First Transcontinental Motor Convoy took place in 1919, departing from Washington D.C. on July 7 and arriving in San Francisco, California on September 6. The motor convoy was sent by the US Army to determine how well troops could be moved from the Eastern to the Western United States. The purposes of the convoy were to determine through experimentation the difficulties associated with moving the Army; road testing of US Army vehicles; demonstrating the War Departments participation in the Good Roads Movement; recruiting students to enroll in motor transport schools; and a demonstration to the general public of the importance of motor vehicles in war.

One of the army’s observers was Lieutenant Colonel Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower’s support of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 can be directly attributed to his experiences in 1919. That experience on the Lincoln Highway convinced him to support construction of the Interstate System when he became President.

On August 7, 1919 at 5:40pm, the First Transcontinental Motor Convoy arrived in Kimball Nebraska. The convoy records state:

“Rain storm ater Convoy went into camp in Fair Grounds, southwest of Kimball. Good location and irrigation ditch passing thru furnished bathing water. Commercial Club gave dinner-dance for officers at the Wheat Growers Hotel. Fair and warm. Good gravel roads. Made 86 miles in 11 1/6 hrs. Arrived Kimball, Nebr. 5:40pm.”

At seven o’clock on August 7, the officers and members of the press were given a dinner at the Wheat Growers Hotel. Atty. O.A. Torgerson acted as toastmaster. Sen. Bushee gave a talk welcoming the soldiers to Kimball and told them of this city. The officers consisted of two colonels, six lieutenant colonels, six majors, five captains, six first and seven second lieutenants.

Mamie, their toddler son and her parents came from Denver to meet Dwight and then traveled with the caravan to Laramie, Wyoming. Eisenhower was a 28-year-old observer from the Tank Corps who 35 years later was to become the 34 th President.

Source: Bob Pinkerton column, date unknown (likely 90’s)
             Daily Log of the First Transcontinental Motor Convoy, July 7 to Sept 6, Electronic reproduction from the Eisenhower Library.