Thank You Volunteers!

by Laura Sears, Volunteer and Public Programs Coordinator

I am so excited to be the Liberty Truck Blog’s first guest blogger. As the Volunteer Coordinator for the First Division Museum, I must admit that my knowledge on all things Liberty Truck is limited. However, with Volunteer Appreciation Month going on, I thought we could take a quick break from the technical side of things and learn a little more about the volunteers behind this historic project.

Over 20 volunteers make up the Motor Pool’s volunteer crew. They meet weekly to maintain the museum’s macro collection. Their weekly tasks can be something as simple as an oil change on one of our World War II jeeps or as complex as engine work on the Liberty Truck. The levels of gearhead knowledge vary amongst the volunteers. No prior experience is necessary to become a motor pool volunteer. When I find myself down at the motor pool, on a Wednesday evening, it is not out of the ordinary to find a young high school or college aged volunteer learning basic, or advanced, mechanical skills from Chris, Alicia, or one of our more seasoned volunteers.

The volunteers are really enjoying the challenge of The Liberty Truck project.  It is a complex project that requires hours of research and a lot of attention to detail. It is because of the volunteer’s hard work and dedication that we are able to bring the history of the 1st Infantry Division to life. We really couldn’t do it without them. April is National Volunteer Appreciation month, so to say thank you for all their hard work we decided to throw the volunteers a surprise pizza party!

In the upcoming months, we will be featuring more about this amazing Volunteer crew and their work on the Liberty Truck Project. You can read more about our volunteer opportunities on our website: http://firstdivisionmuseum.org/about/volunteer.aspx

Why Standardization?

Over the last couple of weeks, we have been illustrating different aspects of the Standardized B Military Truck (Liberty Truck). We have shown you the monstrous wheels of the vehicle and highlighted the engine that makes it all work. We have even shown you some great period photos and documents on the truck. Yet, we never really covered the reasoning behind the truck and its importance in today’s military.

Prior to the design of the Liberty Truck, the military used several different manufactures for their military vehicles; FWD, Packard and Pierce Arrow are just a few of them. This of course created many problems for transportation at the front. One problem in particular was the amount of spare parts needed for all the varieties of trucks used. During the war, to keep the motorized fleet of the Allied military afloat, a 12 story building housing over 2,000,000 parts and needing hundreds of clerks was required. At the same time, mechanics and operators were forced to learn different vehicles and the how to work on each one. Just imagine the learning curve that the soldier/mechanic had to deal with, all while dealing with the pressures of war and the enemy on their doorstep. Heck, mechanics today have a problem working on vehicles outside their knowledge.

Could you imagine taking a Toyota Highlander into a Chevy dealer and saying you have a problem? The mechanic would most likely look at you with crossed eyes. Yet, prior to the introduction of the Liberty Truck, the military mechanic and operator had to do such a thing.

 

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The creation of the Liberty Truck solved many problems. Though it was not considered to be the “ultimate truck” it did cut the spare parts inventory to approximately 7,500. As an observer stated in 1917, “if the army possessed a million of them, there would still be only 7,500 kinds of parts to carry for repairs and replacements.” At the same time, it allowed the mechanic and operator to learn and become extremely familiar with one vehicle instead somewhat familiar with dozens. Lastly, the Liberty Truck brought together the best minds in the automotive industry of the time to create a machine to help win the war. In the long term however, the Standardized B Military truck set the stage for standardization of the military. From January 1, 1918 all the way up to today’s military, the United States military vehicle fleet has been and will be standardized.