AMERICA'S M.T. SERVICE IN FRANCE.
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An Authentic Description of the Organization Entailed.
THE , MOTOR TRANSPORT service of the American Army in France, of which coiSparatively little has been heard during the war, was evolved from the Quartermaster Corps, and is now officially known as the Motor Transport Corps. On the day of the signing of the armistice, it possessed about 62,375 motor vehicles, ol•which 7575 were passenger cars, 32,500 weretlorries, 18,000 were motorcycles, and 4300 were trailers. In addition there were 19,000 bicycles. The value of these, together with the stock of spare parts, tools, machinery, etc., on hand at that time is estimated at 135,000,000. The personnel comprised 1032 officers and 20.392 rank and
The Overseas Division of the Motor Transport Corps—for there is another division in America—is under the command of Brigadier-General M. L. Walker, with headquarters in the town of Tours. The corps has only been operating on its present lines for about ten months. Previous to that time, it was a branch of the Quartermaster's Department, and it did not have control over the whole of the motor vehicles of the American Army. For instance, the American Air Service had ,its own transportation, quite independent of the quartermaster. The Signal Corps, which had once comprised the Air Service, also had its own transportation. The same applied to several other branches of the Army.
By a general order which came'into force in the spring of 1918, the Motor Transport Corps was made respoesible for the whole ot the mechanical vehicles in the American Army, with the exception of Tanks, kitchens, some machine shop lorries, and certain entirely special vel des,
Responsibilities of the M.T. Corps.
The Motor Transport Corps is responsible for procuring, operating, and maintaining all motor vehicles whilst they remain at the base, or at intermediate sections. But, immediately vehicles are assigned to organizations operating in the zone of advance, the M.T.C. ceases to have anything more than a technical control over them. As an example, an aeroplane squadron which is undergoing training at one of the base sections, or at the intermediate section, has its motor transportations provided for it by the Motor Transport Corps. But, so soon as that, squadron is assigned to an army, it should be provided with its own transportation, according to prepared tables of organization, and the squadron commander becomes responsible for that transportation under orders from the commander of the army to which he is attached. This does not by any means eliminate the Motor Transport Corps, for, while that body has no voice in the work the vehicles shall do, it must provide for the maintenance -of the vehicles, and it has.a very. strong voice in all technical matters dealing with their use.
Even on the lines of communication, the Motor Transport Corps does not determine what work motor vehicles shall perform, this being an attribute of the commanding general. It does, however, have control of all the personnel, and is responsible for the operation of the vehicles in every detail.
Motor vehicles belonging to the American Army were principally landed at St. Nazaire, although important numbers came in at Bordeaux, and smaller numbers at Havre and Marseilles. At these different ports, large assembly plants were established in order to erect vehicles and prepare them for the road. The vehicles were then formed into convoys and sent under their own power to an intermediate depot at Dijon, from which they were distributed, as fast as they arrived, to the armies in the field.
No Wasted Mileage.
These journeys from the port to the Front. averaged 380 miles each. They were always made with a useful load aboard. Usually, this consisted of supplies for the Motor Transport Corps but, if such supplies were not availabIe,kany other goods were taken up. Regular convoy routes across France were mapped out, provided with signposts in English and with the traffic police at various points, and, particularly, in important towns to be passed through. Every evening, the officers in charge of these convoys telephoned their position to the headquarters of the M.T.C. at Tours, and received instructions from there when necessary. This method had to be adopted in order to relieve the congested railroad lines from the coast to the Lorraine Front, where the American Army was operating.
There is a general impression that the American Army has standardized its motor vehicles to a. degree unknown among the other Allies. This standardization was much more advanced on paper than in reality, and the Army would not have secured any real benefit from its standardization scheme until the middle of 1919. When the fret troops arrived, they had no motor transportation, and even General Pershing was obliged to make use of a car borrowed from the French. When the headquarters of the Air Service established itself in Paris, it, too, was altogether untrovided with motorcars and had to borrow from the French, while an officer was sent to Italy to buy any cars available in that country and to bring them back immediately by road.
Later.—in March, 1918—when the Allies had to appeal to America to fling her armies into the field Without a moment's delay, the shipping lines were so congested with men that thousands of cars and lorries urgently required in France had to be left lying on the docks at New York and other Atlantic ports. Thus, throughout the whole of the time the Americiin Army has been in France it has been short of motor transportation. The official programme provided for three makes of touring cars: Cadillac, Dodge, and Ford. For a long time these three makes have been eoming over in. important quantities, and they now predominate. . The same programme provided for three types of standardized trucks, or lorries, which were to be built in various factories, and were popularly known as "'Liberty" trucks. Officially, however, this term was never used.
Failings of Standardized Lorry Programme. •
Had the war lasted five years after America entered
7 it, this standardized lorry programme would have been ideal. As events have developed, it has only tended to. increase the confusion. America would have been better advised to act with lorries as she did with touring cars, picking out three or four suitable
• • makes and haying these built in various factories if the original factories were not capable of Meeting requirements.
As examples of the diversity of types in the Amencam Army, it may be stated that it possesses 51 different makes of passenger ears. It has 26 different makes of American passenger cars ; 23 makes, of leton lorries, 21 makes of 3-ton lorries, 6 makes of 5tanners, 31 makes of American trailers, and at least 20 European makes.
Outside organizations working with the Army, such as the Y.M.C.A., Knights of Columbus, Salvation Army, etc., are responsible for much of the variety, for theseorganizations alone possess 66 foreign makes of cars o,r lorries and 29 different American makes, all of which have to be provided for by the Motor Trans
port Corps. • The three American staff cars : Cadillac, Dodge and Ford, have rendered excellent service in their respective fields. . These three cars were not built specially for the Army, nor were they designed with French conditions in view. So far as the Cadillac is concerned, the only troubles which have been experienced have been with regard to the gear ratio, which is unnecessarily low for French road conditions. When forced c38 along at speeds which are possible on the fine roads in the interior of France, a certain amount of connecting rod bearing trouble developed. The brakes, too, were noteeitliciently powerful for a car running at a high speeel. When it was decided to standardize lorries, and the Quartermaster type B 3-ton vehicle was produced, the designers appear to have been too much influenced by the Mexican border campaign, and to have had too meagre a knowledge of conditions in France. It would have been an easy matter to pick out three different makee, which had already been supplied to the Allies in vast numbers, and specialize on these to the exeluseon of all others, as was done for touring cars. These three makes would have been more satisfactory than the " standar9ezed trucks" which came later.
To meet the special requirements of the Air Service, a 30-cwt, lorry had to be provided. No such vehicle existed in America and a special one had to be designed. In the meantime, urgent requirements had to be met, and the Fiat Co. supplied nearly 1000 of their standard Italian Army 30-cwt. Vehicles. It was a long time before the experts at Washington. could decide on a suitable 30-ewe type. The series which was put through had nothing very distinctive, being built up with a Continental engine, a BrownLipe gear set, and Timken axle, but it departed from all previous practice by the use of 7-in, single pneumatic tyres on the rear wheels and smaller size pneue maties on he front. After about 200 of these lorries had been ordered and were in production, the design was eietireIy changed ; a iniform size was adopted throughout, with duals on the rear and singles in front, In the meantime, all the Air Service requirements had been met by foreign-built vehicles, and, when the improved American type came through, the war wa.s nearly over and the supplies were sent, not to the Air Service, but to various other branches of
the Army. •
90,000 Spare Parts.
By the summer of 1918 the M.T.C. had specialized on replacements for 41 makes of cars and lorries. Obviously there was a greater number of makes in use, but the intention was to eliminate these as early. as possible, in order to simplify the Maintenance problem. The total number of parts which were listed by the Motor Transport Corps and regularly kept in stock to meet requisitions totalled 90,000." This is a much higher number than any other branch of the Army has to stock: it is believed thatthe Engineers come second, but their Est is not much more than one half that of the M.T.C.