I had never heard of a “Beetle Tractor”, but it was obviously very small and was a track-layer, it had a bulldozer blade, and the cutest little 4 cylinder
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1 Mules, Beetles and Flying Bulldozers By Steve Hansen Figure 1 – Three pieces of trail maintenance equipment developed at the US Forest Service Equipment Development Laboratory during the – photo courtesy of the Oregon Historical Society The Romance Begins In 1993 while operating a small asphalt maintenance business in Hood River, Oregon I received a call from a man in Carson, Washington asking for a quote for some work on his driveway. After preparing and presenting the quotation for the needed work, the man and I proceeded to sit and visit for awhile. In the corner of his shop sat a very interesting pile of o ld iron that caught my eye. character. The Ober family had been involved in the logging and construction industry for years and after the logging business had more or less ground to a halt a few years earlier, he had gone to work for The Corps of Engineers at the Bonneville Dam. In his spare time Buck and a retired FAA inspector were hand very interestin g character. that Buck had gotten in a horse – but it was obviously very small and was a track – layer, it had a bulldozer blade, and the cutest little 4 cylinder flathead engine that I had ever seen. To make a long story short, as I left I told Buck that if he ever got tired of waiting to put the thing together he could call me and maybe we could work out some kind of a deal. Buck never did call to do the work on his driveway that year, but the next spring I got a call from him asking if the price that I had given him was still good. After telli ng him that the price was probably still good, he asked me if I was still

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2 As it turned out, late in the previous year he had broken his leg and been laid – up for most of the winter. Unable to do much else he completely rebuilt the Beetle Tractor and it currently sported a fresh coat of paint and purred like a kitten. the driveway work. After finishing the work on Bu headed home. The only thing left to do was figure out how to break the news to my dear wife. About all that Buck knew about the Beetle was that someone said that they dropped these tractors out of airplanes in World War II for some reason. The air – drop notion seemed to surface again and again as I did my research, but the fact is that the technology for dropping equipment weighing 2,000 pounds out of airplanes did not exist until the era of the Korean War. Figure 2 Beetle Tractor # 141 as it first arrived home in Hood River, Oregon The Hunt Begins When I got home I immediately went to work searching the internet for any I found absolutely nothing. Nothing that is, until several months later when I ran into another very interesting character named Carter Provo. Carter lives in San Francisco and he loves tractors, he really loves old tractors, and he really – really loves o Tractor. He told me that if I would track down a copy of the September 1945 Popular Mechanics I could read an entire article on the Beetle and the amazing man that designed it. When I finally fou nd a copy of the article I was amazed to find yet another very interesting character, a man by the name of Theodore Patrick Flynn.

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3 The Fun Begins Once the first few bits of information began to emerge, the process of gathering them all together and p utting together a clear story has been a pure delight. The the Mules and the Beetles picture of a Beetle Tractor with a blade full of dirt. The article talked of an entire army of miniature machines designed and built by the US Forest Service Equipment Development Laboratory in Portland, Oregon under the leadership of Theodore Patrick Flynn and his two chief assistants, Tom Caldwell and Arthur Kelly. Later I was to learn of others that played a big part in all of this amazing creativity; other very interesting characters like Bud Waggener and Walt Forest Service suggests a good idea through the regional office. It is roughed out in blueprint form. Then the workability of the machine and all possible improvements are discussed with forest rangers, lumbermen, and manufacturers, anyone who might have a suggestion. Not until then are pilot models built with mechanics who often have some more good suggestions. The pilot models are then sent to the Forest Supervisors of Nation al Forests, who give them a 1 Essentially, Ted Flynn had a crew, a budget, a fully stocked shop, and directions to build those things that might help get their mandated work done more effectively. One of the main challenges that the Forest Service had at the time was the regular maintenance of some 36,000 miles of foot and horse trails in the Pacific Northwest. Since there was no power equipment small enough to do the work without turning trails into road s, the majority of the work had to be done by hand or using horses – but I am getting ahead of myself. More on all of that later. To get some kind of an idea of what kind of character Ted Flynn was, I would like to share the contents of a letter that Ted Flynn wrote to a long – time friend in the the same man with some editing for clarity. The contents of the letters came in an article mentioned to me by another very hel pful man by the name of Jerry Williams. Jerry was the Historian for the US Forest Service (he has since retired) Ted Flynn he was aware of an article published in the Forest Hi Quarterly Journal. Cheryl Oakes at the Forest History Society kindly forwarded a copy of the article and I became further enthralled by the character named Ted Flynn. 1 Popular Mechanics Magazine, September 1949, page 130

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4 The words of Ted Flynn to his long – time friend George Drake: ke to boast a little about early experience that qualifies me as a logger. Born on the banks of the Gatineau River, Province of Quebec, I won a log burling contest against a big French Canadian river driver when I was 13 years old. My uncle coached me fo r a month ahead, and guess how I did it? I shouted, was in de reevaire. I won a camera. I came to Oregon at 15 and Uncle Mike put me to work greasing skids for an ox team. I remember a big flowing mustached guy named Jack Mulkey who wore only a red wool undershirt almost year around. He was the ox skinner. He could spit Peerless clear across the skid road and hit the lead lead – off ox in the eye. Mulkey and I both graduated to horse teams and when the little steam donkeys came along I graduated to whistle punk. Mulkey was so disgusted with me for leaving the skid road he said I never would amount to a damn from then on. I t butt and turn the skids over. Saddling skids and sniping, and dogging logs was a real fine art them days. When I graduated to the log pond and the mill, Mulkey quit speaking to me completely. At 19 they shipped me to school in Portland and all the rea l fun was over for me. But all that was a wonderful experience. It taught me how to move logs by taking the utmost advantage of every pound of leverage that could be applied. I think it was a background to develop an imagination for things and problems to come later in the fields of engineering. A skid road was located with tremendous amount of practical science. It could not be too steep or the logs would run over cross ski – to get logs out from behind stumps. You had to know more about block and tackle leverages than Einstein knows about atoms. In 1923 – 1924, with Ralph B. Moore (John Wood Iron Works), I designed, built and insta lled the first two – drum hoist on a crawler tractor, a 10 – ton Artillery Holt Tractor, for logging a right of way on the Old Spirit Lake Road in the state of Washington. This was one of the first very important steps in extending the use of crawler tractor s to the logging woods. A circuit court case, Willamette vs. Moore, later definitely established this invention as the first two – drum hoist on any tractor. Fred Brundage backed this experiment and his faith and vision in our idea is not only a credit to him, but also advanced this means of yarding logs by several years. Willamette Hyster got their clue from this development by (the) US Forest Service. Their engineers came to our camp and took notes and pictures, etc., and in 1926 they came out with the ir first commercial two – drum hoist. I was an observer at the first test of this hoist which was really the foundation of the Hyster business. Powers Wickes designed the commercial version of our hoist for the old Will – Hyster Co., he can verify this. I n September 1923, watching a little Cletrac pulling a small grader behind trying to open a new road up to Mt. Adams on a very steep hillside, where the grader

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5 rolled over about 10 times one day, gave me the idea of why not an angle blade on the front of th e tractor. The foreman Ralph Anderson and Ranger Mann said counterbalanced, hand – lift, angle blade bulldozer using a worn horse grader blade and scrap metal. We attached it to this littl e Cletrac tractor and put it to work early in 1925 on our Carson – Guler forest road. It was very good for side casting and moved as much material as three teams of horses and fresnoes. It fell off in a few days but it proved the idea. We fixed it better and in 1926 this early haywire bulldozer ran the horses off the job. But the idea was hatched and design made in 1924 for this first bulldozer I ever saw or heard of, and I searched the machinery market pretty well before building it. After getting a Ki llifer Engineer to look at ours they built a walking beam (no power lift) model and sent it to us for trial in early 1926. Also in 1925 I connected cable power to our old 1924 – 25 bulldozer, then transferred it to a 2 – ton Holt Tractor and provided power l ift. This was the first cable power lift. Late in 1927 I got word that Mack Woolridge was building a few power lift bulldozers for 20 Cletracs. In 1928 all forest engineers were invited to a big road meeting near Santa Barbara, California. The equipme nt committee did not want to show a bulldozer at this meeting. They had a tractor – drawn road grader, a tiny gas shovel, and some horses with fresnoes for the show. I got to Santa Barbara ahead of the meeting and tipped off Woolridge, Killifer, and Earl H all to be at the show. Some way or another I jammed their dozers right into the field demonstrations, and after bribing two Mexican operators with five bucks each they kept one little bulldozer going at all times. The bulldozers stole the show. I am qui te sure this show was the real or first big awakening to the possibilities of bulldozers, because there was a large attendance including Caterpillar Tractor engineers (as well as) highway and forestry engineers from Washington D.C. From 1928 on things sta rted buzzing among manufacturers like Masters of Los Angeles, La Plante Choate, and others. Some noteworthy or outstanding improvements to the bulldozer in its evolution from the first little hand lift models up to now were inspired and brought about by l eaders in the logging industry like Ed Stamm and George Drake who had the vision and were willing to bet on these pioneer developments in the days when the majority of operators were skeptical or hanging back. Crawler tractors were originally designed str ictly for agricultural use – draw bar pull only – and as the use of bulldozers increased it was very evident that tractors had to be improved a lot to withstand the new severe strains imposed by the bulldozer (blade). I actually saw a tractor factory eng ineer walk away from myself and some forest engineers who we had pleaded with him for two days to strengthen up their final drives, steering drum setup, and final gear cases. He

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6 earlier days, and of course road contractors later, made the crawler tractor what it is today an d we did contribute a lot more than just the bulldozer. The Forest Service at Portland built the first power lift pull grader that I know of in 1930. Engineers from all the grader companies came here to see our power lift in use and a year or so after that power lifts on pull graders started to appear commercially. We developed a hundred more valuable ideas of improvement which were adopted and used by equipment manufacturers. In 1936 I was put in charge of the Forest Service Equipment Development La boratory in Portland. Our next outstanding contribution came in 1937 when I designed a new midget trail tractor which had several advanced design features. In 1942 this little tractor was adopted by the U. S. Army for its Airborne Engineers. I went eas t and got its construction started. A general in the Airborne Division sent me a citation stating that the quick availability of the Airborne Tractor Design (our 4000 pound trail tractor) advanced their North African schedule three months. There is only a small percentage of the world today that has any idea of how much the rough and ready mechanics, the welders, the woods bosses, the logging superintendents of the (Pacific) Northwest woods contributed toward developing the most universally used and by far the most valuable all round material moving machine in the world 2 Figure 3 – Several photos of early prototype tractors built in the Equipment Development Laboratory Shop Photos courtesy of the Oregon Historical Society 2 Personal letter fromTed Flynn to George Drake circa 1950 From Bulls to Bulldozers by Josehph A. Miller, Forest History Volume 7, No. 3, Fall, 1963, with permission

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8 The story goes like this: On May 14, 1942 Brigadier General Stuart C. Godfrey, Air Engineer, Directorate of Base Services, Army Air Forces sent a letter to the Chief of Engineers, US Army Corps of Eng ineers, outlining his idea for a completely new type of Engineer Unit. 4 with equipment small enough to be transported by the Douglas C – the Waco CG – glider. Being air – mobile, these units could be flown very near the front or even behind enemy lines to rehabilitate recently captured airfields or construct the most basic types of forward airfields. Previously, all military engineering operations had re quired that construction and roadways already filled to capacity with tactical equipment and troops. e and fighters was not totally dictated by their flying speed and fuel capacity; but by their proximity to the action as well. During a conference held in Washington DC on Jun e 8, 1942, General Godfrey, LTC Ellsworth Davis of the Engineer Board, and LTC H. G. Woodbury of the Aviation Engineers brainstormed on this new concept. Work was begun on a Table of Organization 5 for the Airborne Engineers and the process of procuring th e equipment that they would need was begun. From the outset it was clear that the organization and training of the needed personnel would be the easy part of the process; the key would be finding the specialized equipment that the units would need. The Engineer Board lost no time attacking the equipment problem – there was a war on and time was of the essence. Acquiring the support equipment (air compressors, rollers, scrapers, graders, asphalt heaters, etc.) proved to be no real problem. The tractors on the other hand, were quite another matter. that came closest to meeting the requirements was a crawler – type trail tractor that had been developed by the United States Forest Service in Portland, Oregon. Its size was approximately that of a Jeep, it weighed only 3,600 pounds, and it was equipped with a special master clutch control that eliminated reverse gears and gave the tractor and equal range of power and speed for moving either 6 eye of the Army Air Force as it began to gear up for World War II. Another AAF division was in need of a towing tractor for large bombers and had already 4 Letter from AAF to Office of Chief Engineer, 14 May 1942, no file, sub: Airborne Aviation Engineers 5 Table of Organization No. 5 – 455, May 4, 1942 6 History of the Development of Mechanical Equipment, Historical Staff, The Engineer Board, Section IX Tractors, Dozers, and their Armor, Chapter 6, Airborne Tractors, 11 November, 1946

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9 Clark Equipment Company of Buchanan, Michigan had been issued a contract 7 to construct two test models for the Army Air Force. In order to expedite the produc tion of the tractor needed to outfit the Airborne Engineers, the Engineer Board made arrangements to have Ted Flynn best engineers, the design for the Clarkair CA – 1 was developed . 8 The Clark Equipment Company of 1942 was one of the preeminent equipment manufacturers in the country, with an outstanding reputation for quality. With the onset of World War II they, like so many other industrial firms, were asked by the military to p roduce many items for the war effort that were only remotely connected to their peacetime production. For Clark Equipment Company the Clarkair was one such item. While Clark had never before built a crawler tractor, they certainly knew their way around gears, transmissions, axles, castings, and production schedules. From just two machines 9 , to sixteen 10 , to one hundred sixty – two 11 , to an order for one thousand 12 , Clark Equipment Figure 5 – Clarkair CA – 1 Crawler – Photo courtesy of the Army Corps of Engineers By the summer of 1943, for a number of reasons (including manpower shortages), Clark Equipment Company convinced the Engineer Board that American Machine and Metals of East Moline, Illinois, should take over the production of the Clarkair. The transition process proceeded in stages and by January 1944 American Machine and Metals had totally taken over the Clarkair project. On August 18, 1942 the First Provisional Airborne Engineer Aviation Battali on was activated at Westover Field, Massachusetts (the 871 st Airborne Engineer (Aviation) Battalion). By October 8, 1942 two hastily trained companies were on their way to North Africa where they landed near Port Lyautey, Morocco on 7 EB Contract W – 145 – eng – 457, 22 August 1942, with Clark Tructractor Division, Clark Equipment Company, for $ 10,000 8 Memo from Special Studies Section to Executive Officer, Engineer Board, 17 August 1942 9 Army Air Forces, Co rps of Engineers Report ME – 9, 11 November 1946 10 Report of the President to the Board of Directors, Clark Equipment Company for the year 1942, dated 30 April 1942 11 Engineer Board Contract W – 145 – eng – 511, 10 November 1942, with Clark Tructra ctor Division, for 162 units: unit price $2,650 12 Army Air Forces, Corps of Engineers Report ME – 9, 11 November 1946

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10 November 8, 1942. Mee ting stiff resistance, the Airborne Engineers had to fight first and after losing one man and suffering numerous other casualties they worked 16 straight hours repairing a damaged airfield just outside of Port Lyautey. Three days later General Doolittle w anted two airfields built one thousand miles away in the Tunisian desert and members of the newly redesignated 887 th Airborne Engineer (Aviation) Company boarded 25 C – and were on their way to Biskra, Algeria 13 A copy of an AAF training video showing t he Airborne Aviation Engineer equipment in action is available in a two part presentation on youtube. 14 The timing for all of this was truly astounding, with the concept being proposed in mid – May and the men and equipment being on their way into action by early October. Had it not been for all of the early development work done by Ted Flynn and his team at the US Forest Service, it never could have happened so quickly. The 871 st Airborne Engineers had their two missing companies replaced and sailed for N ew Zealand, then on to Australia where they staged for their part in stopping the Japanese assault on Australia. The itinerary of the 871 st went on to include such exotic – sounding places as Tsili Tsili, Nadzap, Gusap, Owi, Biak, and Floridablanca 15 ; but it would be no south – seas vacation. One of the three most notable instances of airborne aviation engineer employment involved the 871 st in New Guinea in July 1943. Figure 6 – Elements of the 871st Airborne Engineer Battalion (Aviation) prepare to go to w ork on the Kaiapit airfield in New Guinea on 24 September 1943 The Allies needed a base for fighters near the Lae – Salamau area, which they proposed to seize in September; this base might also serve for refueling bombers that were neutrali zing the formidable Japanese air and naval establishment at Wewak. 16 The success of this operation would enable Allied forces to begin pushing the Japanese forces off of New Guinea and begin the long march towards Tokyo. The 877 th Airborne Engineers lande d on Normandy Beach on July 8, 1944 and war the Battalion is spread across Europe maintaining airfields in France, Belgium, and Germany. Those that survived the long war fi nally boarded the S.S. Parker at Southampton, England for the long trip home. 17 13 Personal recollections of Samuel Parmalee, Commanding Officer, 871th Airborne Engineer (Aviation) Battalion 14 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8D_5_qsEik 15 Station Record, 871st Airborne Engineer (Aviation) Battalion 16 The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. VI, pp 280 17 Personal recol lections of Paul Murphy, 887th Airborne Engineer (Aviation) Company

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11 Figure 7 The Flying Bulldozer, World War II pocket Insignia for the Aviation Engineers One of the more amazing accomplishments of the Airborne Engineers took place in the China – India – th Airborne Engineer (Aviation) Battalion played very key roles. Operation Thursday as well as others utilized gliders to fly the Engineers behind the Japanese lines to build primitive landing strips that could be used to both ferry in reinforcements and ferry out the injured. I have some wonderful video fo otage of the events in Burma and New Guinea, an Air Force training film dealing with the Airborne Engineers, and a special Air Force clip dealing with Philip Cochran and the events of Operation Thursday in Burma. There is a video clip that shows the main aspects of this operation which can be viewed on youtube. 18 Figure 8 – Clarkair CA – 1 goes to work in the jungles of Burma during early March 1944 18 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGcmLmDHyUw

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