After Ike: On the Trail of the Century - Old Journey that Changed America

Their destination was 3,251 miles away from Washington DC in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. 

On a sunny July morning in 1919, 295 military personnel and 81 vehicles assembled on the south side of the White House in Washington DC. It was the longest motorized convoy ever assembled by human kind.

Animated photo of Dwight Eisenhower (right) during the convoy in Firestone Homestead, Columbiana, Ohio during the 1919 Transcontinental Motor Convoy.

The documentary employs scrolling parallax effect to adds depth and motion to historic still photography.

An Engaging Story With Historic Players

The convoy was about to embark on a historic trip over the Lincoln Highway. A 28-year-old lieutenant colonel named Dwight Eisenhower was one of 37 officers assigned as observers of the convoy.

Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 into law, a direct result of his experience traveling some 3,250 miles across the United States during the 1919 convoy, and later his exposure as Supreme Commander to the German Autobahns during WWII.

Image credit:

A Remarkable Story

Utilizing the convoy’s official daily log and other secondary material, the documentary will follow the route of the convoy over what are now lonely backcountry roads or dusty tracks across open western landscapes. 

The film relates the particulars of the convoy’s historic trip and chronicles the myriad changes along the route over the years. After Ike is the story of a century-old trip that changed the United States and continues to impact us all.


The 1919 Transcontinental Motor Convoy

The convoy left Washington DC on July 7, 1919. With an average of 6.07 mph, they arrived in San Francisco after 62 days of hardship on a journey that would change the US forever.

The convoy traveled 3,251 miles. Captain William Greany, the official Statistical Officer, reported that the convoy was involved in 230 road accidents, mostly due to "appalling traffic conditions."

Read Captain Greany's full report here




Enlisted Men and Officers


Road Accidents


Miles Traveled in 62 Days


Average Miles Per Hour


Average Miles Per Day

A map of the United States showing the transcontinental route followed by Ike Eisenhower in 1919 following the historic Lincoln Highway

A map of the United States showing the transcontinental route followed by Ike Eisenhower in 1919 following the historic Lincoln Highway

To those who have known only concrete and macadam highways of gentle grades and engineered curves, such a trip might seem humdrum. In those days, we were not sure it could be accomplished at all. Nothing of the sort had ever been attempted

dwight eisenhower

Transcontinental Motor Convoy Route

About the Team

Micheal S. Owen - Director

Michael S. Owen is a retired US Ambassador. During his 30 years as a Foreign Service Officer he worked in numerous countries across Africa and Asia. Now that he’s back home, he’s delighting in traveling around his own country and has driven over the Lincoln Highway several times. He has published several short stories in literary journals, but After Ike is his first book and documentary.

He lives in Reston, Virginia, with his wife, Annerieke, and their cat, Rusty.

Ambassador Michael Owen and President Barack Obama.

Ambassador Michael Owen and President Barack Obama.

Dr. Maassen with his collection of e-bikes. He e-biked the route of the 1919 convoy starting in April-August 2022.

Gregory F. Maassen - Producer

Dr. Gregory F. Maassen is a multimedia, strategic digital marketing, videographer, and (interim) manager with over 23 years of experience, including 18 years of senior management experience with the IFC/World Bank and USAID programs in Armenia, Southern Africa (15 countries), Afghanistan, Russia, Iraq, Macedonia, and Jordan.

He is the founder of Wandel Guides LLC, the production company for the "After Ike" documentary. He is a Fulbright scholar and has a Ph.D. in business administration.


Brian McCotter - Creative Director

Brian McCotter specializes in strategic communications, brand development, and program management. He has extensive experience leading and managing integrated organizational communications, stakeholder relations, and corporate strategy projects.

He possesses an A.B. from Duke University and an M.A. from the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University as well as course work at Emmanuel College, Cambridge University, and the University of Cape Town.

Brian's passions include documentary filmmaking, English bulldogs, and Land Rover Defenders.

The Reels

Michael Owen, author of After Ike: On the Trail of the Century-Old Journey that Changed America, provides commentary for a 1919 U.S. Army silent film documenting a transcontinental motor convoy. Click here to watch the entire episode at C-SPAN American History TV,

We are here at the home of Dwight Eisenhower just outside of Gettysburg. Eisenhower was a member of the original 1919 convoy that drove from the White House in Washington, all the way to Lincoln Park and San Francisco.

This is a seminal event in our nation's history, and the reels you're about to see were shot on that original trip. The convoy was a huge national story. Thousands of people lined the route as the convoy passed by, so they could be cheered on and they were front-page headlines in the newspapers of every town across the country. It was the major event of the year, and coming in 1919 right after the end of the first World War was a huge source of national pride.

Eisenhower was only 28 years old at the time and he later wrote that this was a very formative experience for him. The military realized the great significance and importance of this journey. So they documented it quite well. 

We've annotated these films with music from the most popular hits of 1919 and also annotated it with descriptions of what was being seen. There were written by the military itself. I hope you enjoy this really historic film that came at a critical time in our nation's history. 

Reel #1

This reel starts with the dedication of the "Zero Milestone" at the Ellipse, official starting point of the journey, in which Secretary of War, Newton D Baker and Congressman Julius Kahn participated. Lt Col McClure receives the wreath to be delivered to Governor William Stevens of California.

Reel #2

This reel starts with an artillery tractor towing 3 trucks, a load of approximately 30 tons, through soft mud.

Reel #3

This reel starts with the convoy at Granite Point, Utah, August 21, 1919 Entering Great Salt Lake Desert over new Seiberling Cut Off
which shortens the Lincoln Highway about 55 miles.

Images from the silent film. Click on the arrows to browse through the collection.

Image captions are from the original transcript.

1919 Transcontinental Motor Convoy - Firestone Homestead Visit

Literature List and Resources

The following historical resources and materials are used for the documentary

  1. 1
    Commemorative Program, "A California Dinner in Honor of the Officers and Men Who Made up the First Transcontinental Convoy of the Motor Transport Corps, U.S. Army over the Lincoln Highway, Washington to San Francisco, July 7 - September 7, 1919" [U.S. Army, Transport Corps, Transcontinental Convoy: Records, 1919, Box 1; NAID #12165975]
  2. 2
    Memorandum from Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower to the Chief, Motor Transport Corps, with attached report on the Trans-Continental Trip, November 3, 1919. [DDE's Records as President, President's Personal File, Box 967, 1075 Greany Maj. William C.; NAID #1055071]
  3. 3
    Report, "Principal Facts Concerning the First Transcontinental Army Motor Transport Expedition, Washington to San Francisco, July 7 to September 6, 1919." [DDE's Records as President, President's Personal File, Box 967, 1075 Greany Maj. William C.; NAID #12005074]
  4. 4
    Report, from 1st Lt. E.R. Jackson (Ordnance Observer) to Col. L.B. Moody (Ordnance Department, USA, Tank, Tractor & Trailer Division), "Report on First Transcontinental Motor Convoy," October 31, 1919. [U.S. Army, Transport Corps, Transcontinental Convoy: Records, 1919, Box 1, Report on first transcontinental motor convoy] [U.S. Army, Transport Corps, Transcontinental Convoy: Records, 1919, Box 1, Report on first transcontinental motor convoy; NAID #12165976]
  5. 5
    "Daily Log of the First Transcontinental Motor Convoy, Washington, DC to San Francisco, Cal., July 7th to Sept. 6th, 1919" [U.S. Army, Transport Corps, Transcontinental Convoy: Records, 1919, Box 1, Daily log of the first transcontinental motor convoy (typewritten copy); NAID #12166042]
  6. 6
    Three Reels and Transcripts: National Archives Identifier:24694 Local Identifier:111-H-1189 Creator(s):Department of Defense. Department of the Army. Office of the Chief Signal Officer. (9/18/1947 - 3/1/1964) Series: Historical Films, ca. 1914 - ca. 1936 - Record Group 111: Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, 1860 - 1985
  7. 7
    The New York Times Time Machine: Search for "Lincoln Highway Caravan", "Army Train".
  8. 8
    Program of Exercises - Unveiling and Dedication of the Zero Milestone Monument: Unveiling and dedication of the Zero Milestone Monument in 1923. See our post with an online version of the original document.