Centennial military convoy to pass through Jefferson

A convoy of historic military vehicles will pass through Jefferson Saturday, Aug. 24, on a trek marking the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Army’s transcontinental route along the then-new Lincoln Highway.

The Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway, managed by Prairie Rivers of Iowa, is welcoming the Military Vehicle Preservation Association (MVPA) to Iowa.

MVPA is departing with 65 or more historic military vehicles from Washington, D.C. on Aug. 11. It will arrive in Clinton of Aug. 22. Overnight stays will be in DeWitt, the Marshalltown Veterans Home on Aug. 23, and in Denison of Aug. 24.

On Aug. 23 the convoy will be featured in the Lincoln Highway Days parade, with other breaks planned at the Boone National Guard Armory and in Jefferson on the courthouse square.

Area residents are encouraged to view the convoy vehicles, ask questions during stops and line the highway to wave a hand or an American flag while the vehicles are moving along the road.

In 1919, the US Army decided to proceed with a plan to traverse the newly-formed Lincoln Highway with the objectives to say “thanks” to American public for their support during WW One, put their equipment through rigorous testing, see how road conditions affected military travel, conduct a transcontinental recruiting drive and demonstrate the need for good roads.

Historic photo of the original 1919 Transcontinental Military Convoy during a stop in Tama, Iowa. Photo courtesy of Lincoln Highway Association Archive, Transportation History Collection, Special Collections Library, University of Michigan.

A young Lieutenant Colonel Dwight Eisenhower along with 23 other officers, 15 War Department staff observation officers and 258 enlisted men made the arduous journey.

The 1919 convoy overnighted in Jefferson, camping out at the fairgrounds on the east edge of town. The overnight stop is featured on the county’s Freedom Rock near the fairgrounds entrance.

Eisenhower learned first-hand the difficulty of covering great distances on often impassable roads that resulted in frequent breakdowns that later helped him during his presidency in the creation of the interstate highway system.

“The 1919 convoy was really quite an undertaking. To get that much equipment and that many men over such diverse topography, they had their work cut out for them. Even today with our air-conditioned cars, GPS, and easy access to fuel, fuel, lodging, and rest stops, a transcontinental trip can be difficult. We are pleased to welcome the MPVA to Iowa and hope they enjoy their time here,” says Prairie Rivers of Iowa Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway coordinator Jan Gammon.

Gammon described the 2019 convoy as “a once-in-a-hundred year event that will be fun and educational while paying tribute to our veterans.

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