FORT EUSTIS — Artifacts and newly re-made archived video took center stage at the U.S. Army’s Transportation Museum aboard Fort Eustis on Saturday, August 21st during a special museum movie matinee.
The matinee attracted a small crowd of visitors, who took seats in the museum’s regimental room for the afternoon matinee and some free refreshments. The afternoon’s lineup premiered the newly made videos that augment the artifacts in their historical displays. Over the course of an hour, visitors viewed the “History of the Transportation Corps,” “Red Ball Express,” “Experimental Vehicles Then and Now,” “Vietnam Gun Trucks,” and a special showing of the “22nd Support Command (SUPCOM) during Desert Storm.”
According to Alisha Hamel, Director of the U.S. Army Transportation Museum, “every video throughout the museum has been updated, renewed and replaced.” Hamel also added that the matinee “was a chance for us to be able to showcase all of them at once. The videos are used throughout the museum to tell the story of U.S. Army Transportation history.”
Among the more poignant titles was a showing of “The Red Ball Express.” The short video tells the story of the massive and seemingly non-stop truck convoys that supplied the Allies in France after the D-Day invasions in 1944. American commanders devised a Red Ball truck route, named for the red dots commonly used to indicate priority express trains back home. Most of the truck drivers who risked life and limb driving fuel, food, and ammunition to troops on the frontlines were African Americans due to segregation in the armed services at the time.
In sum, “it’s that really incredible story of how they were able to use that American soldier ingenuity to solve a problem to be able to support the troops fighting on the frontline,” noted Director Alisha Hamel about The Red Ball Express.
That American soldier ingenuity took center stage during a showing of Vietnam Gun Trucks. During the course of 15 minutes, the venerable series of M35 2.5-ton, six axle trucks took the screen. Many would simply refer to these trucks as a “deuce and a half.” During the Vietnam War, convoy operations through enemy held territory posed a severe threat to the soldiers transporting supplies. The Army’s response was to literally hit the scrap piles and scrounge for steel plates and sandbags to up-armor the trucks. A variety of weapons were added to give the deuces defensive capability, resulting in an assortment of heavily modified trucks that resembled something out of the 1974 movie “Mad Max.”
It should be noted that the only surviving Vietnam War Era of these trucks, the aptly named “Eve of Destruction,” is on display in the museum’s gallery. That truck, replete with its assortment of weapons, armor, black paint job, and mannequins outfitted as soldiers, was shipped back to the states before the Fall of Saigon in 1975. Interestingly, the soundtrack to the video was set to Eve of Destruction, which was originally performed by American Folk Singer Barry McGuire. The album peaked at the number 37 ranking on the Billboard 200 when it was released in 1965.
The lineup of videos that premiered was result of collaboration between the museum, which supplied the raw videos and photos and a contractor. Funding for the videos originated from the Army Transportation Museum Foundation. The museum is free to visit aboard Fort Eustis. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 0900 to 1630 for those interested in visiting, watching the videos in museum’s galleries and taking in the history of the U.S. Army’s Transportation Corps. Find them online at www.transportation.army.mil/museum.