LeTourneau, Inc. in World War Two
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Mounted on the rear of the D7 is a
LeTourneau R-7 power control with a double sheave assembly.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On display is this LeTourneau 1951 LP Pull
scrapper in military olive drab. 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
To learn more about Caterpillar's contribution to winning World War II,
Tractor Company in World War II