That’s the slogan of the men and women tasked with moving men and materials for the military, and since the Revolutionary War they have been doing the job using everything from covered wagons to aircraft to boats and railroads. On a visit to the United States Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, Virginia yesterday we learned about the long history of getting the troops not only where they need to be, but what they need, where they need it, and when they need it.
The museum is huge, with over 50,000 square feet in the main building, plus outdoor display areas. Mannequins, military equipment, vehicles and aircraft are set up in realistic exhibits, with excellent signage explaining what visitors are seeing.
Mules were used as pack animals from the Second Seminole War (1835-42) through World War I, and even into World War II on a limited basis.
The military has always been good at adapting what they have to fit the job at hand, and we saw some interesting displays of that kind of innovation, including this Jeep outfitted with railroad wheels to run on rails.
The Korean War saw the first widespread use of helicopters, especially the H-13E Sioux light observation helicopter, which anyone who has ever seen M*A*S*H is well familiar with. The Sioux was so versatile that it was still in use during the Vietnam War, flying scout mission for troops on the ground.
Convoys in Vietnam were prime targets for enemy attack and the Jeeps mounted with M-60 machineguns were not enough to keep the enemy at bay, so the Hardened Convoy concept was developed. Relying on that same ingenuity I mentioned above, the 8th Transportation Group created “gun trucks’ by welding armor plating onto the sides of regular cargo trucks and arming them with everything from M-60s to heavier .50 machineguns and even miniguns. The gun trucks had names like Iron Butterfly, True Grit, King Kong, and this one, Eve of Destruction. This is the last surviving gun truck from the Vietnam War.
My unit of the 1st Cavalry was occasionally assigned to provide extra manpower and firepower for convoys and I ate dust for many hot sweaty miles in gun trucks and Jeeps. When the assignments were over I sure was happy to get back into our helicopters!
Remember that innovation I talked about? How about this flying rocket belt that was tested and found wanting? I want one of these!
In the outside display area we saw even more oddball test units, including this GEM Model 2500 air car. Developed in 1959, the original idea was to market the hovercraft as an alternative to the family car. It never caught on with the driving public, but the Army purchased two of them for evaluation. I think I want this even more than the flying rocket belt.
Now this is a big piece of equipment, a BARC 3X, which is an acronym for a Barge, Amphibious Resupply, Cargo. Capable of carrying a full infantry company of 120 men or 60 tons of cargo, this is one of the few BARCs on display in the world. How big is it? Did you notice the pretty lady dwarfed by its tire?
If you visit the Army Transportation Museum, allow yourself a full day. We spent an afternoon there and were not able to see it all! I’ll have a feature story on the museum in an upcoming issue of the Gypsy Journal.
It’s Wednesday, which means it’s time to start a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of my buddy Al Hesselbart’s great history of the recreational vehicle, The Dumb Things Sold…Just like that. To enter, all you have to do is click on the Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.
Thought For The Day – You’re the result of 3 billion years of evolution, act like it!