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Saluting the convoy

June 11, 2009|By JULIE E. GREENE

FAYETTEVILLE, Pa. -- Folks shouldn't panic when they see a convoy of military vehicles drive through Franklin County this weekend.

Just the opposite. Convoy organizers are hoping people will come out to see the military vehicles drive through the area and check them out up close when they stop for the night Saturday at Norlo Park. The convoy is expected to pass through Chambersburg's Memorial Square between 7:15 and 8 a.m. Sunday.

The convoy was organized as a commemoration of a 1919 convoy of military vehicles, according to Terry Shelswell, director of the Military Vehicle Preservation Association 2009 Transcontinental Motor Convoy. The 1919 convoy went from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco to test equipment, study the terrain and driving conditions, recruit for the armed forces, promote the need for good roads, and thank the public for its support during World War I.

At the time, motor vehicles were still a novelty to many people.

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The convoy mostly used the then-new Lincoln Highway to traverse the nation. The Lincoln Highway, the nation's first transcontinental highway, is known locally as Lincoln Way or U.S. 30.

The trip took 62 days in 1919. Road conditions in many locations were poor.

The 2009 trip is expected to take 26 days, as it will be traveling 35 mph.

The trip begins Saturday, June 13, stopping at Norlo Park that night. Shelswell hopes veterans and their families will come to the park so they can be thanked for their service.

The 2009 convoy is expected to include about 200 registered vehicles in total, with about 50 to 60 taking part for the Chambersburg-area portion, Shelswell said.

The convoy includes World War II jeeps and Harley-Davidson Army motorcycles, cargo trucks, a 1980s 5-ton wrecker, and a World War II 1-ton open cab pickup shipped over from France.

Among those is a restored 1918 staff car owned by Mark Ounan, who works at the Army Reserve Center in Chambersburg.

As a civilian vehicle, the Dodge four-door convertible was referred to as a touring car, Ounan said. As a military staff car, Army officers would have ridden in it.

"I've (restored) several cars and I've been wanting one of these for a long time," said Ounan, who is a sergeant first class with the Army and served a tour with Operation Iraqi Freedom.

An Army gear collector, Ounan started with uniforms and weapons, and worked his way up to vehicles.

Ounan plans to drive the car the entire trip, from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco. His car is one of the oldest vehicles expected to participate in the trip.

"It should make it. There's always some adventure there, but it should be all right," he said.

Accompanying Ounan will be World War II veteran Harry Fike, 85, of Chambersburg. Fike will join Ounan in Chambersburg and remain for the duration.

Fike plans to impersonate Dwight Eisenhower, who joined the 1919 convoy in Frederick.

"He was a 28-year-old lieutenant colonel. I'm an 85-year-old crippled old man," Fike joked. "But, anyhow, I'm going to try and do it."

Eisenhower's experiences during the convoy, witnessing the poor road conditions in places, and during World War II, seeing the benefit of Germany's four-lane autobahn, led him to champion the creation of an interstate highway system during his presidency, according to the Federal Highway Administration's Web site.

The 2009 convoy will occasionally detour from the 1919 route as some of those roads are on private property, are underwater, or are just not practical to use anymore, Shelswell said.

"In 1919, the convoy was the (only) traffic," Shelswell said.




If you go ...



WHAT: Display of military vehicles as the Military Vehicle Preservation Association 2009 Transcontinental Motor Convoy stops for the night

WHEN: 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, June 13

WHERE: Norlo Park, 3050 Lincoln Way East, Fayetteville, Pa. Three miles east of Chambersburg, Pa.

COST: Free

CONTACT: For more information, go to www.mvpa.org or e-mail Lisa Byers, board member of the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor, at tbyers@pa.net">>tbyers@pa.net

MORE: The convoy is expected to pass through Chambersburg's Memorial Square between 7:15 and 8 a.m. Sunday, June 14.

Saturday night's static display of military vehicles will include three Humvees and an armored vehicle from Letterkenny Army Depot, Master Sgt. Charles Vickery said.

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