The Influence of Heavy Trucks on an “Army Brat”

I n July 1939, my folks gave me my first camera for my fourteenth birthday. The camera, a wonderful, Kodak Junior Six-20, Series II, had folding bellows. The camera used Verichrome V 620, black and white film. I was able to take pictures of my passion, namely, cars and trucks.

FORT DES MOINES
    
    My Dad, Captain Glen Wm. Trindal, Field Artillery, Reserve, was ordered to US Army Active Duty for July and August of 1940, at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. He was Acting Battalion Commander of the Civilian Military Training Corps (CMTC), with the 80th Field Artillery Battalion. I was “acting as the Captain’s Brat” during that summer.
    
    I played around the CMTC recreation tent, and mixing with the Field Artillery recruits. They were only a few years older than me.
    
    My main idea of fun was to visit the nearby Base Motor Pool and see what the Regular Army soldiers were up to. They treated me as a future, raw recruit. They indoctrinated me as to the fact that the Quartermaster Corps was, by far, the best of the services. They said, “as a driver or a mechanic, you rode everywhere in QM trucks.” (This was just before the Ordnance Corps took over the responsibility for US Army’s cars and trucks.) They told me that the best duty post for me was at Fort Holabird, Baltimore, Maryland, since I loved cars and trucks. Fort Holabird was the R & D Center of the QM vehicle test and procurement offices. While the soldiers were feeding me this propaganda, they helped me get good photos of their QM truck fleet.

    July 1940. Civilian Military Training Corps (CMTC), 80th Field Artillery Battalion, Fort Des Moines, Iowa. Captain Glen Wm. Trindal, Acting Battalion Commander, and the “Captain’s Brat,” Wesley, age 15, the acting photographer.

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Here’s the line of vehicles at the motor pool including three 1934 Plymouths, one 1933 Plymouth, three 1935 Plymouths; two more 1934 Plymouths and one dead-lined Truck without a hood or engine. Finally, there are three193? Chevy’s and a 193? panel truck ambulance.

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This 1940 Dodge 4×4 scout car (later designated a “Command Car”)sported a high gloss, OD paint job, artistic metal-work for the grill and headlamp guard, and even has the driver’s rank and name on the lower-left edge of the windshield, white lettering on a black background.

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This brand new 1940 Dodge 4×4 cargo truck featured a military design cargo body with side racks and separate, top bows, and retained the commercial sheet metal and cab. The QM buyers spec’ed the non-standard transfer case and front, steer-drive axle, which Dodge bought and furnished.

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A 1939 Indiana 6×6 wrecker built by White and her GI driver. Note the behind-cab-winch with capstan, the gin pole hoist assembly and the single-tire rear tandem axles.

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These 193?s White 6×6 field artillery prime-mover trucks with short, cargo bodies had the power and heft to haul the ammunition and tow the limber-mounted,artillery pieces–both 75-mm and 105-mm guns.

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The GI driver took time to explain all of the features and the controls of the truck to a teenage boy–me! Then, he took my picture, standing by the truck’s door.

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A 1938 General Motors 4×2, 8-cu. yd. heavy duty dump truck belonging to the 80th Field Artillery Bn.  They used these dump trucks to tow the heavier artillery pieces, and then to haul earth for the gun emplacements.

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A 105mm field artillery piece is seen here with the new 1940 Dodge truck fleet in the background.

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The 193? 4×2 hose and ladder pumper, fire apparatus parked outside the Fort Des Moines Fire House. The US Army procured commercial fire trucks, including American La France models, in the 1930s. The US Army did spec that the lowest bidder shall furnish tow hooks, just visible behind the front bumper. Driver comforts, like windshields and cabs, would come later.


THE CANAL ZONE
    
    In 1941, the Trindal family relocated to the Canal Zone of Panama. Dad was ordered to Active Duty again, this time in the Corps of Engineers. He was the Construction Engineer, building an expansion of the US Army Air Base at Rio Hato, in the interior of the Republic of Panama. I was a student in Balboa High School, in the Zone. With my Kodak camera, I took photos of the first fleet of new vehicles. These were military design, 2-1/2-ton, 6×6 trucks by GMC and also an OD-painted 1942 Chevrolet Staff Car.

    When I turned seventeen, and with Dad’s pull, I enlisted in the US Army Infantry, just as Dad had in 1916. The resultant, all-expense tour of Europe in 1944-45, taught me a lot. I learned about riding in 40&8 boxcars through France, then fighting and walking through mud and snow in the Hurtgen Forest of Germany. After a couple stays in the hospitals and “Repple Depots,” I found that the Corps of Engineers, in Paris, was a much safer and better rear echelon service–in the Service of Supply (SOS or Safety Over-Seas). I learned a lot while driving a 1943 3/4-ton 4×4 Dodge Weapons Carrier all over Paris and her environs.

    December 1941. These photos were taken by me, Wesley Trindal, the “Army Brat” of Capt. Trindal, C of E, Construction Engineer on the Rio Hato Army Air Base.
   
    One time, when Dad came home, I went with him to the Tivoli Office Building, on the Pacific Ocean side, at the offices of Chief, Corps of Engineers, Canal Zone, and I took these photos. After December 7, 1941, a dark-to-dawn blackout was imposed throughout the Canal Zone and the Republic of Panama area, near the Canal Zone. The upper half of all vehicle headlamps were painted opaque with blue paint so these vehicles could not be seen as easily by Japanese planes at night.
   
    Nevertheless, I was still able to take pictures with my Kodak Jr. camera. Military security, then, was in its infancy. Although Army Air Corps planes from Rio Hato were patrolling the Pacific, looking for Japanese subs, the MPs around Tivoli Office Building in the Canal Zone, didn’t even notice me, a civilian, Balboa High School boy, taking dramatic, ground-level photos of US Army vehicles. World War II had just started.

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This is a 1941 Ford V8 Staff Car that was parked outside the Tivoli office.

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A 1942 Model-Year, Chevrolet, US Army Staff Car. By 1941, the Army had insisted on lusterless, OD, paint jobs-no more high-gloss paint. And no more chrome trim! The parking lamps in the grill were blanked-in and the small, blackout marker lamps have been added atop each front fender.

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This CCKW steel-cab was one of the first US Army’s 2-1/2-ton, 6×6 cargo trucks to arrive in the Canal Zone. The headlamps have the blue paint applied to the upper half for the blackout requirement. The standard, small, blackout marker lamps are barely visible within the grille guard


PARIS, FRANCE

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My Dodge Weapons Carrier, taken in the Motor Pool of the 1568 Engineer Depot Company, Gennevilliers, France. One of my fellow drivers took a number of photos with his liberated German Leica, but this partial photo is the only one I have left, after 61 years.

    October 1945. After combat with the 4th Infantry Division in the Hurtgen Forest of Germany and various hospital stays, I was transferred to the 1568th Engineer Depot Company, Gennevilliers, Paris, France. I was reassigned from MOS 745, infantryman, to MOS 345, truck driver. My job was to be company runner and run errands for the first sergeant, the supply sergeant, the mess sergeant, as well as the motor pool sergeant. This turned out to be a job of major importance. How I served all of these sergeants determined the welfare of the whole outfit and the mood of all of these people who ran the company for the officers. Well, the motor pool sergeant assigned me a 1943 Dodge Weapons Carrier. That old truck had just come from the Seine Section’s main Ordnance Corps repair shops in Paris. My first job, on a frosty October morning, was to scrape and sand all of the loose paint and rust spots off of the truck. I also painted the front bumper and rear bumperettes. When the paint was dry, the motor pool sergeant, his helper and I applied the company and Seine Section unit designations on the bumpers.
   
    My Dodge was different from the other trucks in the motor pool. I found this out when I made my first run. The whole front-end: tires, wheels, brakes, and front axle was so messed up that there was no way the front end could be balanced. As a result, I was assigned a two-speed-range truck. She was well behaved and smooth running up to almost 25-mph. She was also smooth running from 35-mph to maximum. Speeds between these slow- and fast-ranges produced wild oscillations and wheel-tramp actions of the front-end assembly.
    
    My friendly sergeant gave me the solution. Just “learn to live with the idiosyncrasies”–that was the word he heard from his buddies at the Ordnance shop. I did! The trick was to charge through the danger zone at wide-open throttle. I became adept at negotiating the narrow streets of Paris in the lower speed range, and then, on the wider boulevards I cruised along at whatever speed over 45-mph I could coax out of her. I used the Dodge’s weak horn and manhandled the steering wheel to pass the slower vehicles. You know, the Dodge hydraulic brakes never were all that good to slow down and stop a 7,000- to 8500-lb. overloaded vehicle!
   
    The most exciting runs for the company involved the mess sergeant and his cooks. These people directed me to the Quartermaster warehouse, where we would load the company’s food rations. Then, the cooks directed our loaded truck all over Paris and the surrounding, environs before we returned to the mess hall. The loaves of white GI bread were exchanged for French bread in the suburbs east of Paris, the powdered GI eggs were traded for fresh French eggs and other goodies down south of town, past the same gates that Caesar’s Roman Legions used! Finally, in nearby Ste. Denis, west of Paris and of Gennevilliers, the GI canned goods were swapped for fresh French fruits and vegetables (despite orders from the medics). I got an education and learned lessons on how to barter from these wheeling and dealing cooks. They were experts, despite absence of a common vocal language-plenty of sign language. The results of their successful bartering graced our tables daily in the mess hall. And, I was very proud to be the “transport member” of their team.

THE REST OF THE TALE
    
    So, when I re-upped in 1948 for my second hitch in the US Army, I made sure I would be learning an honest, worthwhile trade, other than shooting guns and doing close order drill. I enlisted in the Corps of Engineers, and I learned a more productive trade. I learned to be a heavy diesel equipment mechanic, a power-shovel operator, and then became an military instructor (SFC) in the Department of Mech & Tech, The Engineer School, Fort Belvoir, Virginia. I served all of my second hitch at Fort Belvoir, during the Korean Unpleasantness.
    
    I spent almost a decade in the US Army. I experienced and observed the GIs’ likes and dislikes about equipment: what works good, and what needs to be “engineered around the users” in order to get the troops to take care of their equipment and use the equipment to do a mission right! Go hell for stout!
    
    There was a direct reaction as a result of all of the above actions during my formative, Captain’s Brat and enlisted GI years. Later, after going to LSU on the GI Bills, I became a civilian engineer, vehicles, at the US Army Engineer Research & Development Laboratories (ERDL), again at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. There, I was engaged in project engineering some mighty interesting US Army vehicles for our Corps of Engineer troops, and for others (Navy, Air Force, GSA, and Post Office plus even the Army and the Forest Service of Canada). All of this happened during the years 1958-82, to retirement. These included:
    
    Rotary and Displacement Snowplows; 20-ton, 6×6, Truck Crane/Shovels; 5-ton, 4×4, Hydraulic Crane, 1500-Gallon, Asphalt Distributors; 12,000-Gallon Water Distributor, Articulated, Ditching and Entrenching Machines; 6k &10k-lb., 4×4, Rough Terrain Forklift Trucks; Roll-On/Roll-Off Truck Tractors; and Commercial Construction Equipment (CCE), 20-ton, Dump Truck Fleets (IHC and AM-CCC models). Also, a lot of equipment trailers and semitrailers that mounted C of E equipment.
    
    So, briefly, that’s my “military vehicle story.” We had 4x4s, 6x4s, 6x6s, 8x4s, and some of those big ones (mother of all trucks) that go-TSH h-h TSH-h h!
    
    Remember our motto: “If you got your Quartermaster Corps rations that came by Ordnance Corps trucks, they got to you over roads and bridges, courtesy of the Corps of Engineers!”

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