Eisenhower rode on earlier transcontinental convoy
Editor’s note: A convoy of U.S. Army vehicles recreating a similar east-to-west transcontinental motorized road march in 1919 stopped in Fallon.
The personnel involved in the 1919 convoy consisted of 39 officers, among them Lt. Col. Dwight Eisenhower, and 258 enlisted men. Also in the group was a surgeon, a medical officer and a dental officer. The number of vehicles in that historic caravan totaled 81. Types included were heavy trucks, light trucks, various kinds of cars, a Caterpillar tractor and several motorcycles, some with sidecars. Additionally there were four kitchen trailers as well as two machine shops and a blacksmith shop.
That long, serpentine convoy reached Fallon on Aug. 29 around 3 p.m. and was met by a throng of excited Fallonites. According to the Fallon Eagle newspaper, the men were warmly greeted and treated with 1,700 pounds of fresh watermelons and cantaloupes. Cigarettes were also generously distributed. Officers were permitted to use the shower rooms at the old high school. But the enlisted men were not so fortunate; they swam and bathed in the canal north of the fairgrounds, which was then on the east end of Auction Road.
The Eagle further noted that later in the evening a concert lasting more than an hour was held on Maine Street, with music provided by the Goodyear Tire Co., Band, which was traveling with the convoy. Fallonites were furnished with an additional breathtaking treat when the army brought out a “big electric searchlight and played it over the town.”
At the conclusion of this thrilling and inspiring spectacle, “a dance was given at the pavilion for the men,” the pavilion being an important part of the fairgrounds complex at the time. When did the partying finally end? The time is not precisely known, but presumably the soldiers were required to be in bed at a fairly early hour. Nevertheless, their brief stop in Fallon was undoubtedly a memorable day and night for all concerned.
The following morning when reveille was sounded at the fairgrounds, most Fallonites, according to the Eagle, “were still deeply wrapped in the arms of Morpheus.” At 6:30 the caravan pulled out of town with little fanfare, bound for their next stop, Carson City.
Patrick Huntsman, a Fallon resident, is the author of “Crossing Paths with a Nevada Explorer” — a story about Capt. James Hervey Simpson, a West Point graduate of 1832, career army officer and Great Basin explorer. The book is available at the Churchill County Museum.