Convoy to revisit 1919 stop in region
By Virginia Ross
EAST PALESTINE — On Monday, almost 100 historic military vehicles are scheduled to make a stop here as part of an effort to retrace the original route of a military-vehicle convoy that came through the area some 90 years ago.
The Transcontinental Motor Vehicle Convoy, being presented by the Military Vehicle Preservation Association, is scheduled to leave Washington, D.C., today and, traveling the original Lincoln Highway as closely as possible, arrive in San Francisco on July 8.
Along the way, the group intends to follow the same route and make all of the same stops as the original convoy, including a stop in East Palestine to refuel and have lunch.
East Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce President Don Elzer said the privately owned military vehicles, which have been restored, will enter the city from Pleasant Drive and line the road along East Palestine City Park. He said everyone is invited to the park to inspect the vehicles and talk with the participants. A communitywide, chamber-sponsored luncheon at the park will include free hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza and drinks for community members and the people participating in the convoy. Area residents planning to attend the luncheon are asked to bring a side dish that can be shared by all.
Convoy participants are expected to arrive at the park about noon and depart around 2 p.m., Elzer said.
Convoy director Terry Shelswell said the original convoy in 1919 was a military experiment conducted by the federal government after World War I to determine whether our armed forces could protect the West Coast with vehicles driven in from the East Coast.
A young Lt. Colonel Dwight D. Eisenhower traveled with that convoy as an observer for the War Department, and the experiences he witnessed along the journey influenced his presidency. Eisenhower, who was fresh out of the military academy when the tour started, promoted the need for a national highway system and is credited with founding the nation’s interstate highway system based on his experience on the convoy.
“This is an amazing opportunity,” Shelswell said. “There’s a lot of history here, something that really opens the door to our past. Not only is it the 90th anniversary of the convoy, it’s the year of Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday.” Lincoln is the highway’s namesake.
Shelswell said that although several groups have followed the route on various occasions, as far as 2009 convoy organizers can determine, this trip of the Transcontinental Motor Vehicle Convoy marks the first time the original route has been retraced with military vehicles since 1919.
He said the 2009 convoy will follow the original route as closely as possible, though some portions of the original route are privately owned and not open to the public, while some are in roughly the same condition they were in 90 years ago.
Open to military vehicles of all eras, the convoy will bring military Jeeps, pickup trucks, radio vehicles, ambulances and even some 1918 motorcycles in brand new condition to the park. Some of the vehicles in the convoy are earlier models of vehicles still being used by U.S. armed forces today.
At least 50 vehicles will make the full trip, although about 200 are registered to participate, Shelswell explained. He said several owners of restored military vehicles will be jumping on and off the convoy at various points. During parts of the trip, National Guard units with current military vehicles will be joining the convoy as well, completing the 90-year timeline.
Additionally, Elzer said the chamber is planning a fly-by of classic biplanes to coincide with the visit.
“We’re really looking forward to this, observing history and bringing a piece of it to the people,” Shelswell said. “We’re really glad to be getting the response from communities like East Palestine and to know we can count on their support.”
For more information about the convoy, its travel route and scheduled stops, visit www.mvpa.org.
Or, contact the East Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce at www.EastPalestineChamber.com for information about the convoy’s scheduled stop in the city on Monday.