In 1919, a young U.S. Army Tank Corps officer was considering life as a civilian when he volunteered to take part in a cross-country expedition that would test the military’s ability to move equipment by road across the United States.
That officer, Dwight D. Eisenhower, later would write that he volunteered “partly for a lark and partly to learn.” One of the things he learned was the poor condition of the country’s highway system.
It was a condition he would help remedy a few decades later when, after serving as commander of Allied forces in Europe during World War II and seeing Germany’s autobahns, he was elected President of the United States and established the country’s interstate highway system.
In his biography, At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends, Eisenhower wrote about the 1919 expedition, “The Trip had been difficult, tiring, and fun.” And that he and his fellow officers recommended the need for improved roads.
“The old convoy had started me thinking about good, two-lane highways,” he wrote, “but Germany had made me see the wisdom of broader ribbons across the land.”
Eisenhower’s 1919 cross-country trip basically followed the route of the largely unpaved Lincoln Highway from east to west. The more than 80 vehicle convoy needed 62 days for the journey, which stopped more than 200 times for everything from accidents to repairing bridges, and sustained 21 injuries along the way.
The centennial of that trip will be celebrated August 31-September 16 when the Lincoln Highway Association stages the 2019 Military Convoy Centennial Tour, which will retrace the Eisenhower route
While encouraging participants to drive vintage or military vehicles, the organizers will open the tour to any vehicle, with participants able to register for a minimum of two days.
For more information, or to register for the tour, visit the Lincoln Highway Association website.