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Rollie Otte and Mike Eason pose with their jeeps.
Mike Eason, left, and Rollie Otte will be driving their vintage WWII jeeps in the convoy.

North Bend on historic military route

by Mary Le Arneal
published 6/10/09

In 1919 the first military convoy crossed the United States on the newly created Lincoln Highway.

Ninety years later this historic trail is being retraced and once again North Bend is on the route. The efforts of the early convoy are being recognized, as well as the bicentennial celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, for whom the highway was named.

The 80-plus vehicle convoy will pass through North Bend on June 25, the Thursday before Old Settlers, between 10 and 11 a.m. Area residents are invited to line Highway 30, the old Lincoln Highway, and greet the convoy as it passes by. Platte Valley Bank will be furnishing flags and the North Bend Chamber of Commerce will provide refreshments at the corner of Highway 30 and Main Street.

Area residents Mike Eason and Rollie Otte will be joining up with the convoy as it journeys on to Schuyler for its lunch stop. Both have restored, World War II era jeeps.

“My dad drove a jeep like this in World War II,” Eason said. “I’m participating to honor him.”

Eason bought his 1946 Willis jeep in Fremont. He said that as the war was ending jeeps were the only vehicles being made and they were bought by civilians as a means of transportation. His jeep has the original horn, siren, gas tank under the driver’s seat and fire extinguisher. He has stenciled his dad’s numbers, 79-I-315-4 on the side. This stands for 79th Infantry, 315th regiment and fourth in line of a convoy.

Rollie Otte has a 1947 WWII era jeep that he bought at a farm south of Wahoo. He said other vehicles after the war were so scarce that jeeps were even used for field work. Otte has fully restored his jeep, but still plans to do some more work on it to make it more authentic. He has his Air Force serial number stenciled on one side, and his unit on the front bumper: 92 Combat Group. On the back bumper is I 6 INF, honoring his wife’s father who was killed in WWII.

The two men and their jeeps will wait at the intersection of Highway 30 and Main Street before joining the convoy so that area residents can see the jeeps up close.

The original 1919 convoy, as well as the 2009 version, began in Washington, D.C. and ended in San Francisco 62 days later. It was comprised of 81 Army vehicles, 37 officers and 258 enlisted men. The objectives of the convey were to put the equipment through a grueling trial (In those days the Lincoln Highway was a series of roads with conditions from poured concrete to quick sand and alkali mud), study how the road conditions affected them, recruit men, demonstrate the need for good roads and to say thanks to the American people for their support of the Great War. The trip averaged 57 miles per day at about 6 miles per hour.

Plans for this year’s convoy were organized by the Military Vehicle Preservation Association (MVPA) with as many as 150 vehicles taking part. This time, it is planned to take 26 days for the trans-America trip. For further information on the convoy go to www.mvpaconvoy.org.

The convoy’s purpose is to not only retrace the path of the 1919 convoy, but also to thank veterans for their service to the America.

“I like history,” Otte said. “I think it’s important to do this so young people don’t forget, and they can see how it was during the war.”

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