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Chapter XXVI

Books and Documents > Medical Department of the U.S. Army in the World War, Volume III, Finance & Supply



Until July, 1918, the Medical Department purchased its motor ambulances and motor cycles; thereafter its procurement of motor vehicles was consolidated with that of other bureaus.1

During the early months of 1918 the question of consolidation of procurement began to receive more and more attention by the War Department. Motor vehicles were among the first to attract attention as a suitable commodity for the application of the principle of consolidated procurement. A proposal was put forward in March for consolidation of the procurement of motor vehicles under the Ordnance Department. The Surgeon General, to whom a copy of the proposal was referred, commented thereon in substance as follows:2

The production of motor vehicles for the Medical Department handled by its own organization was, at the time, proceeding satisfactorily in quality, quantity, and time. If it were to be taken over by another department, an organization, preferably the same, with direct authority and responsibility for the whole problem of design, specification, purchase, production, inspection, and acceptance of motor ambulances, would be absolutely necessary for success. In the plan proposed, the production of motor ambulances would be under various divisions, all with overlapping and conflicting authority, and none with direct and full authority or responsibility for the complete project. The problem of procurement of motor vehicles seemed to be too large for efficient concentration under one office or detail directing head. Separation into various divisions, each one handling the procurement of a distinct type of motor vehicle, would at once be necessary. Each such division would require its own technical staff. No advantage would be gained by having these several divisions under any one bureau. The organization of the Medical Department for the procurement of motor ambulances was based upon the principle of direct authority and responsibility.

It was finally decided by the War Department, April, 1918, to consolidate the procurement of all motor vehicles under the Motor Transport Service of the Quartermaster Corps, except certain special Artillery vehicles left with the Ordnance Department.3

Although the order creating the Motor Transport Service was issued April 18, 1918, that service was not sufficiently organized to function until the 21st of the following May.4 Even then it was not ready to assume the duties imposed upon it. That service assumed charge of the purchase, production, and inspection of motor ambulances July 1, 1918.1 The personnel and organizations of the Medical Department had continued to perform their duties in connection with ambulance production during the interval between the date of


issue of the order and the actual assumption of duties by the Motor Transport Service.1

In the following August the procedure relative to motor ambulances was again changed. A separate and independent agency under the title of Motor Transport Corps was created and its functions were defined in General Orders, No.75, War Department, August 15, 1918. The order creating the Motor Transport Service was rescinded by General Orders, No.75, and a part of that service passed automatically to the Motor Transport Corps. Practically all the personnel of the Medical Department formerly engaged on the production and inspection of ambulance bodies and chassis were attached to the Motor Transport Corps 5 and continued to perform those duties until production was stopped by the signing of the armistice.

It was the intention of General Orders, No. 75, to devolve upon the Motor Transport Corps the design, production, procurement, and reception of all motor vehicles, spare and repair parts, tools, accessories, and supplies for motor vehicles as well as the storage, maintenance, replacement, and accounting for the same. However, before the Motor Transport Corps could take over these functions an order was issued by the purchase, storage, and traffic division, General Staff, which divested that corps of them.6 That order directed that on and after September 6, 1918, the Quartermaster Corps was to have sole charge for the Army of making all purchases, following production, conducting inspection, and making acceptance of and payment for all motor-propelled vehicles of whatsoever kind, type, or description, including chassis, bodies, loads, and accessories, except as might be modified by mutual agreement between the procuring and issuing bureaus and approved by the director of purchase, storage, and traffic.

Paragraph 7, General Orders, No.75, provided for the transfer to the Motor Transport Corps of all motor vehicles regardless of the original sources of their procurement. As a preliminary to that transfer the following telegram was sent out August 27, 1918, by The Adjutant General of the Army to the commanding generals of all territorial departments, training camps, and ports of embarkation and to commanding officers of all stations exempted from the control of department commanders.7

Preparatory to organization of Motor Transport Corps issue immediate instructions by telegraph to accountable officers of all staff corps under your command to make physical inventory of all bicycles, motor cycles, automobiles, trailers, and trucks with present equipment, also spare and repair parts, tools, garages, shops, parks, etc. After inventory completed careful record to be made of all transactions affecting disposition of vehicles and property. All cargo carrying chassis hereby classed as trucks. Caterpillar type tractors designed primarily for traction purposes and tanks excepted. Ordnance Department charged with procurement and maintenance these as heretofore. Direct subordinates exercise extreme accuracy and promptness to permit transfer of property by invoice and receipt about first proximo. Designate officers at each station to act as Motor Transport Corps officer to be accountable officer. Inventory should show make and type of vehicles, serial numbers of chassis and motor numbers, cost date of procurement, by whom purchased, cost of repairs, conditions, and remarks. This data necessary for vehicle descriptive cards. Chiefs of bureaus have been advised.

In order to effect the details of the transfer of motor vehicles procured by the Medical Department, a conference was held among representatives of the Surgeon General’s Office and the Motor Transport Corps, September 4, 1918,


at which it was aggreed that all motor vehicles were to be invoiced to Motor Transport Corps and that accountability was to be made to the Chief of Motor Transport Corps by organizations concerned.8 It was decided that ambulance bodies, mobile operating bodies, and other special bodies were to be purchased by the Motor Transport Corps on designs and specifications furnished by the Surgeon General. That the Medical Department, when desirable, was to send inspectors and liaison officers to factories where bodies were being manufactured. That bodies were to be installed on chassis by the Motor Transport Corps and chassis and bodies shipped or delivered to any point designated by the Medical Department. That chassis and bodies were to be accounted for to the Motor Transport Corps. That special equipment was to be purchased and installed on bodies by Medical Department; or when so requested by Medical Department, Motor Transport Corps was to install special equipment in Motor Transport Corps shops. That chassis and bodies were to be repaired and maintained by the Motor Transport Corps and that special equipment of bodies was to be maintained and repaired by Medical Department, except that when so requested byMedical Department Motor Transport Corps shops were to make repairs not requiring special technical skill and tools not available in Motor Transport Corps shops. That the ambulance depot at Louisville was to be transferred to the Motor Transport Corps to operate. That ambulances to be overhauled were to be sent to the Louisville depot shops as formerly.

The workings of this plan are set forth in the following indorsement from the Surgeon General, November 1, 1918.9

Paragraph 7, General Orders, No. 75, August 15, 1918, requires all motor vehicles and their spare parts, tools, and accessories purchased by other staff corps or services to be turned over to and invoiced to the Motor Transport Corps, and paragraph 9 of the same order makes this transfer effective August 31, 1918.

Immediately upon the accomplishment of this transfer, which is purely a paper transaction, the motor vehicles so transferred will be at once reissued by the Motor Transport Corps officer on memorandum receipt to the responsible officers by whom the vehicles have been used, and under whose control they have been operated.

Inasmuch as the Motor Transport Corps is charged with the maintenance of all motor vehicles, the spare parts and accessories transferred from the Medical Department to that corps will be expended or utilized in making repairs of the appropriate vehicles by the Motor Transport Corps.

All trucks and touring cars in use by the Medical Department and which have hitherto been regarded as the property of the Quartermaster Corps, whether they are purchased by that corps or donated to the Federal Government and formally accepted by an officer thereof, are likewise transferred to the Motor Transport Corps under the provision of the before mentioned General Orders, No.75.

In conformity with the requirements of paragraph 9 of the above quoted General Order No.75, a list of the personnel of the Medical Department engaged in the design, purchase, inspection, and operation of motor ambulances and other motor vehicles of the Medical Department was furnished The Adjutant General, August 30, 1918, divided into two groups, those to be transferred to the Motor Transport Corps and those to be retained in the Medical Department. The former group included 11 officers, 41 enlisted men, and 12 civilian employees. The latter group included 18 officers, 30 enlisted men,


and 3 civilian employees.10 Of this latter group, 8 officers, and 8 enlisted men were recommended later for transfer to the Motor Transport Corps.11


(1) Letter from the Surgeon General, U. S. Army, to the officer in charge General Motors Truck Co., Pontiac Mich., July 23, 1918. Subject: Reports and correspondence relating to production and inspection of motor ambulances. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., 750-519 M. T. C./1.
(2) Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, March 29, 1918, from Col. C. R. Darnall, M. C., S. G. O. Subject: Proposed consolidation of procurement of motor vehicles in the Ordnance Department. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., 750-138 C.S./45-A.
(3) General Orders, No. 38, W. D., April 18, 1918.
(4) Letter from the Quartermaster General to the Surgeon General of the Army, May 16, 1918. Subject: Designation of representation to Motor Transport Service. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., 750-590 Q. M. G./152.
(5) Letter from the Surgeon General of the Army, August 30, 1918, to The Adjutant General of the Army. Subject: Motor Transport Corps. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O.,  750-519 M. T. C./1.
(6) Supply Circular No. 87, Purchase, Storage, and Traffic Division, General Staff, September 5, 1918. Subject: Consolidation of procurement motor-propelled vehicles.
(7) Telegram from The Adjutant General to Commanding General, Camp Fremont, Palo Alto, August 27, 1918. Subject: Motor Transport Corps. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., 750-14 A. G./200.
(8) Memorandum from Lieut. Col. B. F. Nuther, M. T. C., to Colonel Drake, September 4, 1918. Subject: Conference with Surgeon General in regard to G. O., No. 75, W. D., 1918. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., 750-519 M. T. C./10A.
(9) First indorsement, Surgeon General, to the surgeon, Port of Embarkation, Hoboken, N. J., November 1, 1918. Subject: Motor Transport Corps. On file, Finance and Supply
Division, S. G. O., 583-340 Hoboken/116.
(10) Letter from the Surgeon General to The Adjutant General, August 30, 1918. Subject: Motor Transport Corps. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O.,750-519 M. T. C./1.
(11) Letter from the Acting Surgeon to The Adjutant General, October 3, 1918. Subject: Transfer of personnel to Motor Transport Corps under G. O. No. 75. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., 750-519 M. T. C./1-A.