Anniversary Of The 1919 Convoy Across Wyoming
A century ago, a U.S. Army transcontinental motor convoy, crossing from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco, sparked the idea of America's Interstate Highway System. One of the officers in the convoy was future U.S. president, 29-year-old Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The goal was to test equipment and determine the feasibility of motorized cross-country travel. Eighty-one vehicles and trailers made the journey. This included tracks of all size, water tankers, mobile machine shops for when things broke down, an artillery wheeled tractor, as well as cars and motorcycles.
At the time, what were called roads, were more like ruts across the landscape.
"The caravan stretched for three miles. Eisenhower and his friend, Maj. Sereno Brett, had served as tank officers together during World War I. They were among the 24 officers and 258 enlisted men on the journey, accompanied by a 15-piece band courtesy of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company." - Wyoming State Historical Society
The convoy departed Washington on July 7, 1919, and arrived in Wyoming August 8. The convoy ented the Capitol city during an evening thunderstorm. According to the Wyoming State Historical Society, the soldiers had just spent 11 hours on the road traveling from Kimball, Nebraska. The day before the three-mile-long convoy had battled quicksand in west-central Nebraska.
The group was welcomed to Wyoming by local dignitaries and enjoyed a wild west show at Frontier Park. There was also a dance held in their honor.
After leaving Cheyenne, the trip west through the rest of the state was difficult.
"Crossing Wyoming, the convoy encountered daily breakdowns and obstacles. Two-hour delays to repair mechanical problems were not unusual...Much of their route across southern Wyoming was not on roads at all, but on the old Union Pacific right-of-way, abandoned after 1899 when the railroad had straightened its routes and improved its grades. The old route was often very winding, soft and sandy, with wobbly, rickety bridges and culverts the trucks broke through." - Wyoming State Historical Society
Their journey across the state ended on August 17, 1919, when they left Evanston and crossed into Utah. The trip ended in San Fransisco on Sept. 6, 1919.