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The Army Had to Be Sold On More Trucks in the Military During WWI

An Army With Very Few Trucks

Only a few within the army's ranks had officially pressed the issue of using more trucks and motor vehicles by the time World War I began. It wasn't at all determined by officials that these things would go on to define the future. 

Instead, horses and mules were considered the premier choices of transportation. Not only was the motor vehicle relatively new, but it also wasn't considered necessarily safe. Its testing had so far been limited and it was important that the army have a vehicle with the ability to go off-road for it to be a really viable option.  

The insistent few within the army's ranks that advocated for the helpfulness of such technology were considered unrealistic idealists. They were occasionally entertained but mostly dismissed. This is because they were considered to be overly optimistic about the reality of wide, mass use of vehicles in the army.

Testing the Idea of Trucks in the Army

The army had little hope by the time they decided to test out the prospect. It would use four vehicles in order to do so. And, it would test the vehicles in off-road conditions.

The first trucks came from Alden Sampson Manufacturing Company which was based in Detroit, Michigan. The other vehicle came from White Sewing Machine Company in Cleveland, Ohio. These were just two trucks within the convoy the army tested.

They also tested a truck with four-wheel drive and another 1-ton vehicle.

To great surprise, the convoy survived its 1,500-mile test. The success of this test would spur another one with even more vehicles this time.

The Taxicabs of the Marne

The army began to recognize that motor vehicles were indeed the future and began to plan accordingly. It wouldn't take very long for their suspicions to be realized.

An enduring tale of how a number of taxicab drivers had shuttled soldiers to the front-line of battle in France had begun to spread. They were able to move about 5,000 men and their help during the battle would become legendary. It would become known as the Battle of the Marne.

This was the confirmation the army needed to plow ahead with plans to use even more vehicles. Improved roads meant the number of trucks would go from 25,000 in 1914 to 416, 569 by 1924 in the United States. The army would go from having 12 trucks in 1914 to around 1,000 by 1916.

Of note is that the army would also use 500 vehicles in its response to an attack by Pancho Villa that he orchestrated against New Mexico in 1916.

This would become just one of the many expeditions during which the army has used trucks since World War I began. Of course, the use of motor vehicles has since become widespread.    

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