The American Automobile Industry in World War Two
An American Auto Industry Heritage Tribute
By David D Jackson


Overview      The U.S. Auto Industry at the Normandy Invasion, June 6, 1944    The U.S. Auto Industry and the B-29 Bomber   U.S. Auto Industry Army-Navy "E" Award Winners   The Complete listing of All Army-Navy "E" Award Winners   Sherman Tanks of the American Auto Industry   Tank Destroyers of the American Auto Industry    M26 Pershing Tanks of the American Auto Industry   Serial Numbers for WWII Tanks built by the American Auto Industry

    Automobile Manufacturers:  American Bantam Car Company   Checker   Chrysler   Crosley   Ford   General Motors   Graham-Paige   Hudson
   Nash-Kelvinator   Packard      Studebaker    Willys-Overland

General Motors Divisions
(Undergoing development) Aeroproducts   Brown-Lipe-Chapin   Buick   Cadillac   Chevrolet   Cleveland Diesel   Delco Appliance   Delco Products   Delco Radio   Delco-Remy   Detroit Diesel   Detroit Transmission   Electro-Motive   Fisher Body   Frigidaire   GM Proving Grounds   GM of Canada   GMC   GMI   Guide Lamp   Harrison Radiator   Hyatt Bearings   Inland   Moraine Products   New Departure   Oldsmobile   Packard Electric   Pontiac   Saginaw Malleable Iron   Saginaw Steering Gear   Southern California Division   Rochester Products   United Motors Service

Truck and Implement Manufacturers:   American LaFrance   Autocar  Diamond T   Caterpillar   Clark Equipment Company   Cleveland Tractor Company   Federal Motor Truck   International Harvester    Mack Truck
   Marmon-Herrington Company   Massey-Harris   Pacific Car and Foundry  Reo Motor Car Company   R.G. LeTourneau   Seagrave Fire Apparatus   Ward LaFrance Truck Corporation   White Motor Company

Automotive Tire
Manufacturers:
   B.F. Goodrich    Firestone Tire and Rubber Company
 Updates and Additions  
Links

 

 R.G. LeTourneau, Inc. in World War Two
Stockton, CA
Peoria, IL
1929-1953

This page added 1-22-2018.

Robert Gilmour LeTourneau is a name that is not well known outside of the heavy construction industry, yet today many of the pieces of construction equipment used by the industry are the result of his 300 patents.  In 1929 he formed the R.G. LeTourneau, Inc. in Stockton, CA to build earth moving equipment of his design.  In 1935 he entered into a ten-year symbiotic relationship with the Caterpillar Tractor Company.  R.G. LeTourneau did not have an extensive dealership network, and Caterpillar did.  Caterpillar allowed R.G. Tourneau to sell its equipment at its dealerships.  This benefited both companies.  R.G. LeTourneau obtained immediate access to Caterpillar customers, who could purchase bulldozers and scrappers at the same place they purchased their tractors.  From Caterpillar's prospective, it gave the customer immediate access to the different add-on equipment that enhanced its tractor's usefulness.  For the customer, it was one-stop shopping.

R.G. LeTourneau expanded it operation and built a factory in Peoria, IL three miles from the Caterpillar plant.  With the Caterpillar relationship, LeTourneau's business quickly expanded.  A third plant was built in Toccoa, GA in 1938.  A fourth plant was added in Vicksburg, MS in 1942 and a fifth in Longview, TX in 1945.  R.G. LeTourneau had also built a plant in Australia in 1941.

The relationship between R.G. LeTourneau and Caterpillar ended in 1945 at the end of the ten-year contract.  By this time Caterpillar viewed LeTourneau as a competitor, as many of R.G. LeTourneau's inventions and new products could reduce into Caterpillar's tractor business.  Caterpillar started manufacturing its own wheeled tractors in 1941, bulldozers in 1946, and rubber-tired, self-propelled scrapers in 1948.  For R.G. LeTourneau, with no extensive dealership and Caterpillar and other companies becoming competitors, the golden years of expanding business in the late 1930's and early 1940's were gone.  The business was sold to Westinghouse Air Brake Company in 1953.

The entrance of the United States into World War II and its relationship with Caterpillar was a boon for LeTourneau's business during the war.  Both the US Army and US Navy needed bulldozers on its crawler tractors, and scrapers to pull behind the tractors.  The proximity of the Caterpillar in East Peoria, IL across the Illinois River allowed LeTourneau bulldozers to be installed on many Caterpillar tractors.  LeTourneau supplied a large amount of ancillary heavy equipment used by the military during World War Two.


A Caterpillar D7 going ashore from an LST in the South Pacific in 1944.  The tractor has a LeTourneau Model WCK7 Angledozer mounted to the front while it pulls a LeTourneau Model 18 Carryall.  This was a common sight during WWII. 

Two LeTourneau plants won the Army-Navy "E" Award during World War II a total of nine times.


The Peoria, IL plant won the award four times.
The Toccoa, GA plant won the award five times.

R.G. LeTourneau World War Two Production Statistics:  14,000 bulldozers, 10,000 Carryalls, 1,800 Tournapulls, 1,600 sheepsfoot rollers, and 1,200 rooters.  The Carryall was LeTourneau's trade name for a pull behind scrapper, and the Tournapull was its trade name for a two-wheeled tractor to pull a Carryall.
 
Note:  The above production numbers come from R.G. LeTourneau's autobiography "R.G. LeTourneau: Mover of Men and Mountains."  While he rounded the numbers off to the nearest thousands for publication in his book, they still show the immense contribution of heavy equipment built during World War Two.  Many of the production records were lost in the spring of 1943 when the Illinois River flooded the Peoria plant.


This is a scale model Carryall Model B at the Wheels O' Time Museum in Peoria, IL.  It was built at the Stockton, CA LeTourneau plant between 1939 and 1945 for use in a lawsuit.  Author's photo.


During World War II LeTourneau built 10,000 Carryalls of various capacities for the US military.  Author's photo.

Author's Note:  The first time I saw the name LeTourneau was when I found this model while visiting the Wheels O' Time Museum to obtain information on Caterpillar in World War II.  I was totally unaware of the many inventions of R.G. LeTourneau, and all of the construction products his company produced.  With what I learned I realized that LeTourneau needed to have a place for its story on its contribution to the winning of World War II.


Also on display at the Wheels O' Time Museum is this model of a Super Tournapull with LP Carrryall Scraper in military OD.  Author's photo.


Author's photo.

Bulldozers:  LeTourneau was the largest supplier of bulldozers to Caterpillar tractors during World War Two.  Its plant on NE Adams Street was three miles away from the Caterpillar tractor plant across the Illinois River in East Peoria.  Completed tractors were trucked to the LeTourneau plant for outfitting with bulldozers and their related control equipment.  Mostly, if not all of the 14,000 LeTourneau built bulldozers were mounted on many of the 56,306 Caterpillar tractors built during the war.

Definition:  It should be noted that the vehicle in the photo below is a not a bulldozer.  It is a crawler tractor with an attached bulldozer.  Technically the bulldozer is the blade attached to the front of the tractor.  During WWII Allis-Chalmers, Caterpillar, and International Harvester built crawler tractors.  Other companies, such as LeTourneau, built bulldozer blades and their control mechanisms; then installed them onto the crawler tractors.  Both the US Army and US Navy list crawler tractors in their list of equipment, not bulldozers.  But to most persons, including generals and admirals from WWII, the entire tractor with the blade is a bulldozer.


A LeTourneau straight dozer is mounted to the Caterpillar D7 located in front of the Local 150 of the IUOE in Merrillville, IN.  The bulldozer on this D7 is a straight blade and cannot be angled.  The LeTourneau designation for this type dozer is WEK7.  For an angle dozer mounted on a D7 the designation was WCK7.  There was also an A7 Tiltdozer which included the best features of both the Bulldozer and Angledozer.  The vintage of both the tractor and dozer are unknown, but both were probably built during or right after the war, because in 1946 Caterpillar began making and installing its own bulldozers on its tractors.  Author's photo.


 This is the iconic combination of a LeTourneau bulldozer mounted on a Caterpillar D7.  Caterpillar built over 20,000 D7s during World War Two, and many of the 14,000 LeTourneau built bulldozers were mounted to the D7.  Many World War II era photographs show the combination of  WEK7 straight dozers or WCK7 Angledozers on D7s.  It was the most prominent use of LeTourneau bulldozers.  Author's photo.

Two of America's top military officers, General Eisenhower and Admiral Halsey, included the bulldozer in their respective lists of the most important weapons contributing to American military success during WWII. After World War II, each was quoted as having said the following:

A quote from "The Great Crusade" by General Dwight D. Eisenhower:  "Incidentally, four other  pieces of equipment that most senior officers came to regard as among the most vital to our success in Africa and Europe were the bulldozer, the jeep, the 2-1/2 - ton truck and the C-47 airplane."

Asked about the weapons used to win the war, Admiral Halsey offered:  "If I had to give credit to the instruments and machines that won us the war in the Pacific, I would rate them in this order:  Submarines first, radar second, planes third, bulldozers fourth."


The LeTourneau name is prominently displayed on the bulldozer.  Author's photo.


LeTourneau built all of the components that mounted the bulldozer to the tractor along with the mechanism to control it.  The overhead steel bar that carried the control cables from the rear control unit to the bulldozer was called the "headache bar" by the servicemen that operated the tractors.  During operations where bulldozer equipped tractors were pushing over coconut or other large trees in the Pacific, the "headache bar" offered the operator some protection when the tree fell back on the tractor.  Author's photo.


Mounted on the rear of the D7 is a LeTourneau R-7 power control with a double sheave assembly.  Author's photo.

Tournapull wheeled tractors and Carryall scrapers in military units:

The Tournapull was LeTourneau's trade name for a tractor with two large rubber wheels that could pull a LeTourneau Carryall scraper behind it rather than using a crawler tractor.  The advantage of the Tournapull was that it was considerably faster than a crawler tractor.

A Carryall was LeTourneau's tradename for a pull behind scraper for picking up dirt and moving it to another location.

Army Engineer Aviation Battalions used 3-1/2, 8, 10, and 12 cubic yard Carryall scrapers.  They also had two Turnapulls with 15 cubic yard Carryalls and a Turnacrane.  A Caterpillar D7 was used to pull the ten cubic yard Carryall, and a D8 was utilized for the twelve cubic yard Carryall.

Each US Navy Seabee Construction Battalion was equipped with four 8-10 cubic yard Carryalls, and four 12-15 cubic yard Carryalls. 

D4 Airborne Turnapull and Carryall Scraper:  The next series of photos were taken at the National Construction Equipment Museum in Bowling Green, OH.  This excellent museum has on display outside a rare LeTourneau D4 Airborne Turnapull scraper.  It is rare in that only 567 of these units were built.  The entire unit consisted of a D4 Tournapull, a model Q Carryall, a model P cable power control unit, and on the front an AD Tiltdozer.  The unit shown below does not have the AD Tiltdozer on it.  This particular product was designed to be brought into a primitive landing zone by Waco CG-4A glider, C-47, or C-46.  The Carryall was carried in one aircraft or glider, and the scraper in another.  Once assembled on the field Army Airborne Aviation Engineers used the D4 to enlarge the landing strip for normal flight operations.  While other equipment supplied by LeTourneau to the US military were the company's commercial products painted olive drab, this was a product specifically designed for military purposes.


The National Construction Equipment Museum's 1945 LeTourneau D4 Airborne Turnapull with Model Q Carryall scraper.  Author's photo.


Note that the AD Tiltdozer is missing.  Author's photo.


This photo shows the Model Q scraper from the rear.  Author's photo.


This photo shows the bowl of the scraper, which had a capacity 2.0 cubic yards struck and 2.3 cubic yards heaped.  Author's photo.


This is another photo of the scrapper bowl.  Author's photo.


The model P cable power control unit is not complete, as it is missing all of the cables necessary to activate the scraper.  Author's photo.


The Model P cable power control unit is serial number 45233 which would imply it was the 233rd power unit built in 1945.  The data plate does not acknowledge the existence of LeTourneau plants in Toccoa, GA or Vicksburg, MS.  Author's photo.


The operator's location and the instrument panel on the Turnapull.  Author's photo.


The sheave bracket for controlling the Tiltdozer is still mounted to the front of the Turnapull.  Author's photo.


The engine in the D4 Tournapull is a 44 hp Continental Y112 flathead four-cylinder gasoline engine. Author's photo.


The engine is serial number 9205.  Author's photo.

1952 D Roadster Turnapull with E-9 Carryall scraper:  Besides the World War II built D4 Airborne Turnapull and Carryall shown above, the National Construction Equipment Museum in Bowling Green, OH has three other pieces of LeTourneau on display at this unique and important museum.  It is the only public museum dedicated exclusively to the preservation and restoration of American built construction equipment.  To the author's knowledge, it is only one of two places in the United States where LeTourneau equipment is on public display.


This 1952 D Roadster Turnapull with E-9 Carryall scraper is an excellent example of similar units used by both Army engineers and Navy Seabees during World War II on their many important construction projects.   The trade name "Tournapull" is evident on the radiator cowling.  Author's photo.


 Author's photo.


 Author's photo.


 With the Caterpillar becoming a competitor to LeTourneau on construction vehicles like this, LeTourneau used diesel engines from the Detroit Diesel Division of General Motors.  Author's photo.


 The GM General Motors name is on the side of the supercharger of this Detroit Diesel 6-71 engine.  The use of a supercharger indicates this is a two-cycle diesel.  The 42-MT cranking motor below the supercharger was built by the Delco-Remy Division of General Motors.  Author's photo.

Carryalls:  Also on display at the National Construction Equipment Museum in Bowling Green, OH are two LeTourneau Carryalls. 


 This is a 1940's era LeTourneau Model D Carryall.  Author's photo.


 Author's photo.


On display is this LeTourneau 1951 LP Pull scrapper in military olive drab.  Author's photo.


 Author's photo.


 Author's photo.

Tournacranes:  During World War II all American fleet aircraft carriers had on board a LeTourneau Tournacranes for lifting disabled aircraft off the flight deck.


This Douglas SBD Dauntless on the USS Lexington is being lifted by a 1944 Model E Tournacrane.  The navy called them Mobile Crash Cranes.


An Eastern Aircraft TBM is being lifted by a Tournacrane on the deck of the USS Enterprise in 1944.


Taking a break!  Sailors rest between flight operations on the USS Lexington around a Tournacrane.  This photo shows the size of the unit compared to the sailors.

The story of R.G. LeTourneau, Inc in World War Two cannot be told without telling the story of the Caterpillar Tractor Company.
To learn more about Caterpillar's contribution to winning World War II, go to:

The Caterpillar Tractor Company in World War II
 

 

 

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