On 9 March 1916, the Mexican insurgent, Francisco Pancho Villa, attacked Columbus, New Mexico, killing several U.S. soldiers and civilians. The next day Brigadier General John J. ("Black Jack") Pershing was directed to launch a two-pronged attack into northern Mexico to capture and punish Villa. To support the so-called Punitive Expedition, he looked to the Quartermaster Corps, and the creation of the Army’s first motorized truck companies.
Even though the European armies were already employing thousands of trucks in World War I, the U.S. Army only had about 100 vehicles, located at widely scattered posts and depots throughout the country. On 14 March 1916 the Quartermaster General purchased 54 one-and-a-half ton trucks from companies in Cleveland, Ohio, and Kenosha, Wisconsin. They left the Great Lakes region on a special southbound freight train on the 16th, and arrived at El Paso on March 18th, having covered 1,500 miles in 48 hours. Loaded and crossed the border into Mexico that same night.
From March to July 1916, QM Truck Companies delivered over 4,000 tons of supplies and hundreds of troops to Pershing’s mobile force, validating the truck’s worth. And in the process revolutionized the U.S. Army’s transport.
Compiled by Dr. Steven Anders, former Quartermaster School historian
Event: QM Trucks on Punitive Expedition
Date: March 1916
"The 2 ½-ton truck is our most valuable weapon."
- General George S. Patton, On the role of trucks in World War II