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Use of the Motor Car by the Army.

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


Use of the Motor Car by the Army.

H.E. Walton
The New York Times
July 18, 1909

By H. E. Walton.
Midland Motor Car Company.

Mobilization of military forces by means of the motor car has met with unusual success in England and other foreign countries in recent public contests, and it seems evident that the automobile is to play an important part in military matters of the future, not only in time of peace, but in actual warfare.

That the United States Government has allowed foreign countries to set the initiative in this matter is a regrettable fact. There is no argument that other nations have eclipsed our Government in adopting motor cars, not only in military circles, but in other State departments. Why the United States has so completely ignored the usefulness, swiftness, the cheapness, and serviceability of the automobile is known only at Washington.

It seems deplorable that our army is not more generally equipped with automobiles as is the case abroad. The English Secretary of War is taking active steps in organizing a motor army reserve on strictly disciplinary lines. A certain number of men in every regiment in the regular army are now being trained as chauffeurs, but this number is to be added to considerably, and the territorial army is also to have its trained motor car drivers.

The splendid success of the recent experiments when 1,000 men chosen from three regiments of guards in London were dispatched in very quick time to Hastings in motor cars lent by private owners in order to repel an imaginary invasion has prompted the English Army Council to include the motor in the annual army act. By this act every single motor vehicle in the country—and there are about 120,000 cars privately owned—can be pressed into service by the Army Council in time of emergency. Thus, every owner is now expected to register his car number and his name and address at the War Office.

This seems to be a commendable procedure. It would appear advisable for this Government to carry out plans on practically the same lines. There are more automobiles registered in the United States than any other foreign country, and an act might be passed by Congress whereby private automobiles could be used in an emergency in the United States. Any one of the large cities of this country has a sufficient number of automobiles that could be at the command of the Government.

There is a law in this country whereby all male citizens can be drafted into the army in time of war if the occasion demands. It seems to me that something on these lines could be worked out so that hundreds of automobiles could be at the command of the President or Adjutant General. Not only would it be a commendable idea to call upon privately owned automobiles when needed, but a powerful and rich Government such as ours can certainly afford to equip a portion of its army, at least the officers, with automobiles.

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