An amazing assortment of World War II vehicles arrived at the Olivia Legion about 2:30 p.m. on July 29. Roger Hershberger was driving a 1941 Packard four-door sedan, air-conditioned and sporting white-sidewall tires with “U.S. NAVY” emblazoned on front-door panel and large white star on rear-seat door panel.
This was the second day of their journey on a fabled Yellowstone Trail with Hutchinson, Minn. on their agenda this evening. “We started yesterday in Aberdeen, S.D. This was a Navy staff car for Navy brass. Yes, I suspect this vehicle carried some admirals too,” said Hershberger.
Hershberger, age 75, is a Navy veteran. His duty was on a Navy troop transport hauling Marines to Viet Nam — 18,000 Marines per shipload. His candid comment, “Those Marines … they saw the real action of that miserable war.”
Yes, he’s a military vehicle collector himself with a WW II jeep, a 1942 Dodge ‘Command Car’ plus a few more. Any more military purchases ahead Hershberger? He quickly answered, “Oh no, my wife has rules: I have to sell two vehicles for every one vehicle I buy. So before I bought this Packard, I had to sell a half-track and a British-built vehicle.”
The Packard weighs about 4,200 pounds. “This Packard I’ve had for nine years,” stated Hershberger. “I’ve put 40,000 miles on it. I bought it from a collector in Minneapolis. He had done all the mechanical work on it. I had it repainted, but it was and still is a great car to drive.”
This is Hershberger’s fifth military convoy participation. The 40-vehicle convoy moves no faster than 35 miles per hour. He chuckled, “If I slow down to about 15 miles per hour and have a tail-wind, I’ve gotten nearly 15 miles per gallon of gas.”
When I asked if he’d drive in future Military Convoys across America, Hershberger responded, “Oh yeah, I like ‘em! They’re lots of fun. We meet lots of great folks — especially other veterans who love to share their military history as well.”
Hershberger lives in Jessep, Iowa, just east of Waterloo; but he has some Minnesota business history too — formerly running a farm tiling operation at Fairfax before moving to Iowa.
I also had the opportunity to meet Ann Adams, a support driver in this 2021 Military Vehicle Preseravation Association convoy. Her father was part of the World War II Normandy Beachhead Invasion. Said Ann, “He just passed last year at age 97. In 2001 he finally started talking about his service time. And this is why I and the others in this convoy are here … we’re doing this because our fathers started this years ago because of their service to America. My brother Kenny,” she gestured, “driving that M35 parked over there, he started collecting vintage military vehicles years back — so we’ve got quite a few. We even have a few amphibious vehicles. We have several veterans in our family so we do some local shows, static displays and area convoys back home in Ohio.”
Explaining the convoy schedule, Ann said, “We got up at 5; took off at 7 a.m. We take a couple stops each morning … then we lunch, and then it’s our afternoon break — which brought us here to the Olivia Legion. We have had wonderful support from the Veterans’ Posts along the route and I certainly am seeing this here at your Post as well.”
“We’re traveling well today,” commented Ann, “somewhat cooler and less dusty then yesterday when we had a few miles of gravel roads. Yes, I’m aware also when we get to Olivia we are indeed in corn country too. You’ve got this big ear of corn statute we’re told which we’ll see along this highway as we depart.”
Say hello to Lamar Rowland from Samson, Ala. Though born and raised around Atlanta, Ga., he moved to Alabama in 1993 “…..to get away from the crowd,” he jokingly responded.
On the big door of the five-ton Army truck he’s driving was a colorful banner titled, “Rowland Brothers.” The banner depicts six military veterans: Albert, Navy; Horace, Navy; Roy, Army; Richard, Army; Carol, Army; and Lamar, Army. Related Lamar, “My two oldest brothers, Albert and Carol, were at the end of World War II. But Carol stayed in service, so he also went through Korea and Vietnam. My and the rest of my brothers were in between Korea and Vietnam, so we didn’t see any active duty. I was a messenger in the Signal Corps.”
So how many convoys so far for Rowland? “This is my sixth. I’ve done every one of them…..the Lincoln Highway twice (primarily I-80 today) from Coast to Coast, the Bankhead Hwy from Coast to Coast; Route 66 from ‘beginning to end’, and the Alcan Highway all the way to the Artic Circle, and now the Yellowstone Trail.”
And what’s Rowland’s duty with the caravan? He’s the safety officer. But get this: “Each morning before we break camp I inspect every vehicle taking part in the convoy. I don’t care what it looks like; I don’t care if it runs. I’m strictly safety — headlights, tail lights, brake lights, turn signals, tires, lug nuts. Also driver’s license, registrations, insurance, first-aid kit, fire extinguisher, even reflectors to set out on the road if you have a vehicle breakdown and chuck blocks to chuck the wheels to keep the vehicle from moving.”
“Safety for the convoy, and everyone traveling along our highways, is paramount as we convoy across America.” said Rowland — now a hearty 82 year-old who also likes to boast, “And these convoys are the neatest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Rowland travels with his bride, Jewel, bunked into the top side of this big five-ton rig which he has converted into a home-on-wheels so to speak — complete with two bunks beds, air conditioning, running water, even a snack counter of sorts.
And more convoys for this unique couple? “As long as my health permits,” Rowland quickly answered. Next year’s convoy could be one of the most beautiful ever, he said. “Because we’ll be traveling the National Parks of the Northwest corner of America. I’ve travelled Glacier National Park and many others. This will be a dandy convoy.”
Dick Hagen is the staff writer emeritus of The Land. He may be reached at email@example.com.