Army Transportation in World
The United States Army
entered WWI in April, 1917; the European powers had already
been at war for nearly three years. During that time they
had made good use of the different varieties of
transportation to include, animal, motorized and railway
systems. The United States Army had just returned from the
Punitive Expedition in Mexico that year where it had begun
to experiment with motorized transport. When the war in
Europe ended on November 11, 1918, the United States Army
would have the best transportation network in the world.
Through the use of
both American and European made equipment, the US Army moved
over two-million men plus hundreds of thousands of tons of
supplies. The Army expanded both port facilities and port
operations, built warehouses and supply depots at railheads
and regulating stations, laid or improved hundreds of miles
of surface roads and railroads, built and repaired thousands
of trucks, automobiles and rolling stock and moved men and
supplies in unprecedented numbers. All of this was done in
18 months. During this time the Army established the Motor
Transport Service, Motor Transport Corps and finally the
Transportation Corps on November 12, 1918, the day after the
Armistice. The Corps would not survive the 1920
reorganization of the Army however; and transportation would
once again revert to Quartermaster Corps control until 1942.
The end of the war did
not mean the transportation mission ended though. The same
organization that brought men and material to France now had
the task of returning them to the United States. This work
would continue until the final withdrawal of the Army of
Occupation in 1923.
Transportation in World War I
When the United States
entered World War I it had a total of 6 transports in its
fleet. When the war ended on November 11, 1918, that fleet
had increased to over 600 vessels. The increase was due to
many factors including the construction of new vessels, the
purchase or contracting of commercial vessels, the use of
allied ships and the use of interned and confiscated German
vessels. The transports originally sailed from the New York
Port of Embarkation. However, it was soon realized that even
that port couldn’t accommodate the flood of troops and
material so a second port of embarkation for supplies and
animals was established in the Hampton Roads area of
Most of the vessels,
including luxury steamships, required extensive conversion
to accommodate the amount of space required for the troops.
As an example, the German liner Vaterland, could
carry up to 5,000 passengers. When it was converted to the
troop transport Leviathan, it could carry 12,000
soldiers and when pressed, could transport up to 15,000 men.
Troops were given
berths which were first stacked in tiers of three and later
tiers of four with 18 inches between bunks. In this area the
soldier had to sleep and keep all of his equipment, weapon
and other essentials. At the height of troop movements in
the spring and summer of 1918 soldiers were assigned three
to a bunk with the men sleeping in shifts on many of the
transports. Most vessels were dark, poorly ventilated and
had insufficient sanitary facilities. Seasickness could be a
problem, especially for the men in the lower bunks. These
and other reasons caused many soldiers to spend as much time
as possible on deck.
the First Standard Truck
Standard B "Liberty"
The Standard B
truck was the most desirable and received highest praise
during testing. Dubbed the "Liberty", it was a 4 x 2, 3-ton
The truck on
display is a Liberty Standard B of the Second Series, and is
equipped with a Hinkley engine. The rear tires have also
been modified on this piece--not the original 40 x 6 duals,
but a single 40 x 16-inch tire.
Top: 425 cu in (4-3/4 x 6") L-head engine 4 cycle 52 bhp
Bottom: Manufacturers- Continental Hinkley Waukesh, WI
Characteristics of the Standard B:
Length, Width, Height:
261 in x 84 in x 75 in
4 forward, 1 reverse
160 1/2 inches
36 x 5
Rear tires: 4
0 x 6 duals
Libertys in Conflict
than half of the vehicles used by the American Expeditionary
Forces were of U.S. manufacture; most were European
More than 294
different makes and models were used in the A.E.F.'s vehicle
fleets--213 U.S. and 81 European.
Pershing's forces were still dependent on army wagons, as
evidenced in this photo which combines mule-drawn wagons and
motorized vehicles. France, 1918.
Designing a Standard Army
Army had experienced motorized trucks during the Mexican
Punitive Expedition of 1916. There, it was obvious that the
truck's mobility, endurance and speed far exceeded the
ability of the conventional horse-drawn wagon.
But maintenance was
a nightmare. The Quartermaster Corps realized that a truck
of standard design and interchangeable parts was a
requirement for the Army.
A design committee was formed of
Quartermaster officers, Society of Automotive Engineers
members, and volunteers from the truck manufacturing
Design for a standard Army truck proceeded quickly.
of the Standard B Liberty truck began in April 1918, and did
not stop until the end of the war.
While American industry produced over 118,000 trucks of all
types including Liberty's, only 51,554 were sent overseas.
Two other classes
of vehicles were needed by the Quartermaster Corps--a
Standard A, 2-ton and a Standard AA, 3/4 ton. these were
designed at the same time as the Standard B, and were also
using interchangeable parts. The Standard B 3-ton was the
only truck to go into full scale production.
General Pershing's estimate of 50,000 trucks proved grossly
inadequate. The American Expeditionary force never had more
than 50% of the vehicles and 30% of the personnel required
by prescribed tables of organization.
Left: Liberty truck being loaded with supplies (from
Transportation Museum display).
close up of Motor Sergeant receiving supplies in a Liberty
Above Right: Uniform of Motor
Sergeant George Bates on display.
for a Standard Truck
committee agreed that a 3 to 5 ton large cargo hauler was
the most critical need for the Army.
The truck needed a large engine, a large gasoline tank, a
large radiator and maximum ground clearance.
drawing of the cross section for the 1919 model Liberty
Requirements: 4-speed transmission, Low gear
reduction, Very low first gear, Demountable tires, standard
size, 3-point engine suspension,
Extra quality alloy steel springs, Locking differential.
The Committee also
agreed not to use existing commercial designs in order to
avoid any delay in production by patent infringement.
By October 1917,
two prototype trucks were driven overland to the War
Department in Washington D.C. for extensive trials. The
results were so successful that by mid November, the
government had signed contracts for all the interchangeable
Testing a Class C 5-ton truck on uneven ground and over
Volunteer Members of the Society of Automotive Engineers
Volunteers from commercial manufacturers assisted in
the standard design of the Army truck, and included:
Kelley-Springfield Motor Truck
Co, Springfield, Ohio
International Motor Co, New York
Gramm-Bernstein Motor Truck Co, Lima, Ohio
Dorris Motor Car Co, St Louis, Missouri
Republic Motor Truck Co, Alma, Michigan
Kissell Motor Car Co, Hartford, Wisconsin
Service Motor Truck Co, Wabash, Indiana
Velie Motors Corps, Moline, Illinois
United States Motor Truck Co, Cincinnati
Seldon Motor Vehicle Corp, Rochester, NY
Dart Motor Truck Co, Waterloo, Iowa
Denby Motor Truck Co, Detroit, Mich
Thomas & Thomas, Detroit, Mich
Winther Motor Truck Co, Kenosha, Wisc
Sterling Motor Truck Co, Milwaukee, Wisc
Packard Motor Car Co, Detroit, Mich
Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Co, Buffalo, NY
Westinghouse electric & Mfg Co, Pittsburg
Splitdorf Electrical Co, Newar, NJ
Dayton Engineering Labs Co, Dayton, Ohio
Bijur Motor Lighting Co, Hoboken, NJ
Wagner Electric Mfg Co, St. Louis, Missouri
Remy Electric Co, Anderson, Indiana
Timken Detroit Axle Co, Detroit, Mich
Sheldon Axle & Spring Co, Wilkes-Barre, Penn
Russell Axle Co, North Detroit, Mich
Columbia Axle Co, Cleveland, Ohio
Torbensen Axle Co, Cleveland Ohio
The Autocar Co, Ardmore, Penn
Waukesha Motor Co, Waukesha, Wisc
Wisconsin Motor Co, West Allis, Wisc
Hercules Motor Co, Canton, Ohio
Hinkley Motor Co, Detroit, Mich
Continental Motor Co, Detroit, Mich
Buda Motor Co, Harvey, Illinois
William & Harvey Rowland, Inc, Philadelphia
Bock Bearing Co, Toledo, Ohio
Muncie Gear Works, Muncie, Indiana
McCord Mfg Co, Detroit, Mich
Covert Gear, Detroit, Mich
Brown-Lipe Gear Co, Syracuse, NY
Detroit Gear & Machine Co, Detroit, Mich
Warner Gear Co, Muncie Indiana
International Motor Car Co, New York
Standard Parts Co, Cleveland, Ohio
Engineering Editor, The Automobile & Automotive
exhibited here are from Lewis M. Fackrell to his
parents. Lewis was born in 1895 and grew up on a
farm in Thomas, Idaho.
He enlisted in
the Army Quartermaster Corps in 1917 at age 21.
After basic training, he was assigned to Motor Truck
Company 443, promoted to Corporal and sent to Camp
Humphries, Virginia in March 1918.
building materials for the construction of Camp
Humphries, and transported new Liberty Trucks from
Baltimore for overseas delivery.
1918, Lewis was sent overseas to St. Nazaire France,
and hauled war supples to trains, carried building
material for local projects, and transported troops.
Within 2 1/2
months, the Armistice was signed, but Motor
Transport Company 443 remained to build a permanent
infrastructure in the area.
reflect his excitement over the new motorized Army
vehicle, his experiences driving it, and some of its
Fackrell returned home in May 1919, and pursued
active farming until 78 years old. He died in 1995
and was buried with military honors.
May 1, 1918
quite tired tonight for a soldier. We've made
two trips to camp today loaded with lumber. My
speedometer registers 52 miles for today. The
roads are rough and we also get stuck 2 or 3
times. But it is fun to drive those big trucks.
I like it fine.
May 8, 1918
Made two trips to camp
each day hauling lumber, potatoes, prunes, beef,
groceries, hay, oats most any thing.
Each Saturday we clean
our motors, wash the wheels and body. Then the
Lieutenant looks them over...
May 12, 1918
The road from camp to
Alexandria is just like a boulevard and arched over
very nearly all the way with large oak trees.
Last night a lawn party
was given in honor of M.T. Co. 443 by a wealthy
family of Alexandria and it was sure a swell affair.
Danced with beautiful Virginia bells, drank punch,
ate ice cream and had a jolly good time until 12:00.
They treated us fine.
May 19, 1918
Yesterday I made my two
trips to camp and back by one o'clock covering a
distance of about 56 miles. That's pretty good.
I wish I could bring my
truck home after the war and have it there on the
farm. It might break us in buying gasoline tho.
Yesterday I used 17 gallons and 1 quart of oil.
That's about an average days consumption.
June 15, 1918
The last few days there
has been at least 400 3 1/2 ton Packard trucks pass
thru here on their way for New Port News, the big
shipping port for France.
They are being run from
the factory as the railroad is so busy. The Packards
go by in trains, usually about 50 in a train. Gee
they look fine.
July 24, 1918
Twenty of us left here at
six a.m. Monday in one of our Pierces. We got to
Baltimore at noon.
This is the third time
men from our co. has gone to Baltimore for Liberties
and we are still doing work here in camp with the
Pierces. The railroad is in camp now. That will do
the hauling we've had to do.
July 27, 1918
Today 6 of us made the
trip to Baltimore with Liberty trucks to get motor
cycles. I like to drive the Liberty. There are some
steep hills between here and Baltimore and I can
come down some of these hills about 70 miles per
hour - just put her in neutral and hang on. Their
limit on level ground is 14 miles per hour. If the
governor was taken off they'd make about 45.
July 31, 1918
This week twenty of us
fellows are driving Liberty trucks, hauling cord
wood, lumber, all material left over from building
the barracks. I'll bet there has been 20,000 men
working here today clearing off the ground, and
trucks by the hundreds.
Aug 11, 1918
Got in at 2 o'clock this
morning from another trip to Baltimore for trucks.
Almost worn out, too. Thirty of us went this time
and each brought a Liberty truck. We were over a
mile long when we were traveling.
Aug 18, 1918
Went to Baltimore
Thursday, our last trip with our old Pierce Arrow
trucks and left them. They are all knocked out. They
cost the government $600 each. We had thirty, so
that was $18,000 and it has cost $600 a week for
gasoline besides oil, grease and extra parts.
Sept 29, 1918
It seems good to drive
down to the docks and see our ships in the harbor
with an American flag waving...and being unloaded
with American derricks and cranes.
There is an assembly
park located near the docks where hundreds of trucks
and automobiles are unloaded off ships and assemble.
The trucks and autos are then convoyed to the
St. Nazaire, France
Dec 14, 1918
I just wish we owned a
good tractor and a Liberty truck. I think gasoline
motor power is more efficient in every way than
horses. I haul more in a day than you could haul in
a week with Bell and Jenny.
St. Nazaire, France
Dec 18, 1918
It's been raining all
week. I drove a Packard truck which has no top and
no lights. I sit in a puddle of water all the time.
I had to haul men in from work for about an hour
after dark. It was so dark I don't believe I could
have been seen with a search light.
St. Nazaire, France
Jan 12, 1919
Another truck Co. came
here for duty last night. That makes three truck
Co's. Over 200 trucks are being used at this camp
and thousands in the St. Nazaire District - all new
trucks, mostly Liberties.
Jan 26 1919
Yesterday I attached a
5-ton trailer to my truck, loaded the truck and
trailer with portable barracks and hauled it up to a
little village where some barracks are to be built,
about 12 miles from here.
This afternoon a boxing
contest is being pulled off between a French man of
pugilistic fame and an American soldier who was a
fighter in America before he enlisted. A 1000 franc
bet is set up, and it promises to be a good fight.
Mar 16 1919
Yesterday I changed the
rear wheel on my truck. The tire was worn so it had
to be re-tired. Quite a heavy job. Each rear wheel
for a Liberty truck weighs 800 pounds, so I had to
lift them on and off the axle with care for fear I
might break one.
St. Nazaire, France
Mar 29, 1919
This morning when I was
hauling some lumber, it was raining and I wanted to
get back to camp, so I was juicing old Liberty to
her limit. One of the tires came loose from the rim.
Half of the tire slipped off and flew in the air
around the wheel and each turn it bit the mud guard.
You can imagine the
noise, but I couldn't be bothered in a rain storm
like that, so I drove on into camp. I'll get a new
tire pressed on Monday as that is only a couple
hours work. We have a tire press over at Motor