You may filter posts by clicking the categories below.


The Quartermaster Review – March-April 1928

1928 Article on the main transportation depot and motor transport school for the Army

Establishment Of Camp Holabird

CAMP HOLABIRD is situated within the city limits of the city of Baltimore, about six miles southeast of the center of the city in the section that is known as the industrial district of that great city.

Camp Holabird was established in 1917, and at the present time comprises a reservation of 161 acres, bounded on the north by Fifth Avenue and on the south by Colgate Creek at the mouth of the Patapsco River, which empties into the Chesapeake Bay. The camp is accessible by railway, highway, and water transport. It was originally established by the War Department as a motor transport corps storage depot, a motor transport school, a repair shop for the purpose of assembling vehicles destined for overseas use during the World War, and the crating of the vehicles and shipping them abroad, also for the assembling of personnel and organizing them into the different types of units, giving them their original training and dispatching them to the port of embarkation for duties abroad.

The location is considered ideal, as it has railway terminals, waterway terminals, and a magnificent network of highways. Baltimore enjoys a wonderful harbor, second in the United States, and its advantages as a port for the shipping of material for overseas expeditions cannot be surpassed. This with the easy access of delivering the materials manufactured elsewhere in the United States was the reason for the locating of the facility at this camp.

The construction is war-time construction except the storage warehouse, the motor transport shops, and the machinery store house, which was originally built for crating knocked-down automobiles and trucks. The dimensions of the repair shop building are 497 1/2 feet by 480 feet, having a platform and floor area of 263,100 square feet. The floor space is arranged so that

120 vehicles can be worked on at the same time. With a full force of men working eight hours a day, it has the facilities to turn out thirty vehicles completely rebuilt in a day. Where the work is only overhaul, it has the capacity of from 50 to 60 vehicles per day, which can be increased to 100 vehicles per day, provided the men work two shifts. This shop will accommodate 1,457 men working on a single shift.

Adjacent to the repair shop are two fireproof storage buildings, exactly alike, 136 feet by 720 feet, containing a combined floor and platform area of 251,350 square feet. These buildings are of permanent construction and are modern up-to-date spare-parts supply storage buildings.

The crating shop is a fireproof building of steel and concrete, irregular in form, having maximum outside dimensions of 303 feet by 368 feet, and a platform and floor space of 128,900 square feet. It has lumber and storage sheds adjacent thereto of 60 x 144 feet. The crating shop is equipped with electrical cranes. Working full time with full shift, 150 trucks or automobiles can be disassembled, packed and crated per day, working one eight-hour shift.

All of these buildings are equipped with the automatic sprinkler system for fire protection. For the shelter and protection of automobiles and bicycles, there is a wooden storage shed 140 x 544 feet with 77,100 square feet of floor space, with a capacity for 500 cars. This is equipped with a dry system of automatic sprinklers for fire purposes.

Quarters For Personnel

The housing of the officers and enlisted men is in the standard wooden cantonment buildings. There are quarters for 600 men and 25 officers. In addition thereto, there are bachelor quarters for 12 officers. All are of the wooden cantonment type converted, except the commanding officer’s house, which is a modern concrete bungalow. There is a modern up-to-date station hospital, fully equipped but in an old cantonment building, with a capacity of 30 beds.

In addition to these buildings, there is a group of nineteen brick buildings formerly belonging to the Federal Distilling Company, which were occupied at the time the reservation was purchased. These buildings house the Third Corps Area headquarters warehouse, laundry, pumping plant, and other utilities as well as quartermaster storage.

Activities During The World War

The original organization of the depot at Camp Holabird began with Mechanical Repair Shop Unit No. 306, with its headquarters at 1421 I Street, northwest, Washington, D. C. In the month of March, 1918, Mechanical Repair Unit 306 was transferred from Camp Meigs, Washington, D.C., to the present site at Camp Holabird. This was the beginning of this depot. In March, 1918 the camp was named “Holabird” in memory of Brig. Gen. S. B. Holabird, who was Quartermaster General of the United States Army July 1, 1883, to June 16, 1890.

The supply activities at this depot consisted mainly of the receiving, storing, and shipping of vehicles, spare parts, and accessories for use overseas. At the same time this depot supplied the training camps and other War Department activities in the New England States and Middle Atlantic States as far south and including the State of Virginia. Vehicles were evacuated from
the factories in the Great Lakes region to Holabird and there were stored prior to being shipped by the personnel at this depot. The repair activities consisted chiefly of the repair of vehicles used in the territory mentioned above. For this purpose the shop building and machinery were built and installed.

A training school or a motor transport center was established in order to train units that were going abroad, segregating the individuals according to their trade specifications and assigning them to the units, using the personnel in the depot activities and convoy activities as their preliminary training prior to departure for overseas. During the year 1918 the following motor transport corps units were organized at Camp Holabird and dispatched overseas:

Machine Shop Truck Units Nos. 387, 388, 389.

Left September 8, 1918, 5.5. Desna; arrived Brest, France, September 21, 1918.

Water Tank Train No.301.

Left September 25, 1918, 5. 5. Cronies; arrived Cherbourg, France, October 11, 1918.

Water Tank Train No.302, Hq. and Cos. A, B, C, D, E, F.

Left September 29, 1918, 5. 5. Leviathan; arrived Brest, France, October 7, 1918.

Repair Unit No.307 M. T. C.

Left October 20, 1918, 5. 5. Grampian; arrived Liverpool, England, October 31, 1918.

Service Park Units Nos. 413, 414, 415, 418, 419, 420, 421, 422.

Left November 12, 1918, 5.5. Ulua; arrived Brest, France, November 24, 1918.

Commanding Officers of The Camp

The camp was constructed under the direction of Lt. Col. E. H. Abadie and was completed May 24,1918. The following is a list of the commanding officers of Camp Holabird to date:


Col. Franklin S. Leisenring
Col. Wm. D Chitty
Lt. Col. Geo. P. Hawes, Jr.
Lt. Col. Geo. B. Sharon
Maj. Charles G. Mortimer
Col. George E. Ball
Col Wm. G. Gambrill
Lt. Cal. Edgar S. Stayer

Dates of Command

March 1918 to May 7, 1919
May 7, 1919 to Dec. 5, 1919
Dec. 5, 1919 to June 30, 1920
July1, 1920 to Dec. 9, 1920
Dec. 9, 1920 to Jan. 11, 1921
Jan.11, 1921 to June 10, 1924
July 3, 1924 to Aug. 12,1926
Aug. 12, 1926 to

Camp Holabird at The Present Time

At the present time Camp Holabird is working on a peacetime basis with a very much reduced personnel. In order to accommodate the present personnel many of the war-time buildings have been removed from the reservation. Only one permanently constructed building has been built upon the reservation since the original construction in 1917 and 1918.

At the present time there is located at this installation the central repair plant for motor transportation, serving the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Corps Areas, the Motor Transport School, the motor transport supply depot, and the purchasing agents of motor transport materials used by the entire War Department.

The personnel consists of the First Motor Repair Battalion, Company A of the Fourth Motor Repair Battalion, the Motor Transport Overhead Detachment, the Quartermaster Detachment, the Medical Detachment, and the Motor Transport School. These consist of the following:

Organization  Officer strengthEnlisted strength
Headquarters Detachment, First Motor Repair Battalion 3
Company A, First Motor Repair Bn. 71
Company B, First Motor Repair Bn. 72
Company C, First Motor Repair Bn. 71
Company D, First Motor Repair Bn. 72
Company A, Fourth Motor Repair Bn. 71
Motor Transport Overhead Detachment 1 1
Quartermaster Detachment 26
Medical Detachment 12
Motor Transport School 15 students 80 students

Supplies Large Part of The Army

The procurement of all motor transport supplies used by the War Department is made at Camp Holabird.

The following is the general set up:

The field served by the Supply Division is the First, Second, Third and part of the Fourth Corps Areas and overseas departments of Panama, Hawaii, and the Philippines.

The value of the stock on hand is approximately $14,000,000. Approximately 948 tons of supplies are shipped in a year and 822 tons are received.

The shipping facilities from this depot are excellent, having water, rail, and highway transport for the delivery of the supplies.

The Unit Replacement System

On July 1, 1926, the so-called “vehicular repair” System, as applied to motor vehicles of the Army was terminated, and the “unit replacement” system established. This change was not made in accordance with any hastily devised plan but is the result of considerable study and research at Camp Holabird relative to the comparative merits of the two systems from an economic standpoint and also from the results obtained in actual operation. The unit replacement system is not new and untried but has been in effect for several years in some of the larger organizations operating motor transportation, such as the Yellow Cab Corporation. It was during the World War that the idea of unit replacement as a system of repair for motor transportation made its greater strides, and as early as 1920 this system was recommended to The Quartermaster General of the Army.

At that time, however, all the details necessary to enable the system to function throughout the Army had not been worked out, and also conditions in the Army were very unsettled so that it was not put into effect. Continual decrease in the appropriations for the support of the Army, especially as regards the item “transportation,” necessitated some action to reduce the cost of motor transport maintenance, and so the unit replacement system was finally adopted. The wisdom of this action is believed to have been amply demonstrated by the results already obtained under the new system.

The “vehicular repair” system is the method of repair commonly in vogue in garages and service stations. Under this system, whenever anything goes wrong with a vehicle, it is taken to the shop and the defective part or parts are removed, repaired, and reinstalled.

With the unit replacement system, the vehicle is taken to the shop as before, and the unit assembly or sub-assembly that is at fault is removed and immediately replaced by one that is in good condition. The defective unit is then repaired and held in reserve until needed for some other job. It should be evident, of course, that minor repairs and adjustments will be made on the various units in the usual way and that some criterion must be adopted in determining whether or not the unit will be replaced. The basis in deciding this is usually the length of time necessary for the repair, the need for special tools and equipment, the desirability of having specialists perform the work, or a combination of these factors.

One of the chief advantages of the unit replacement system of repair is that the vehicle is in the shop for a much shorter time than under the old system. With the “vehicular repair” system, it is idle and not available for use during the entire time that the repairs are being made. Under the unit replacement system, it need only be there long enough for the old unit to be removed and a new one installed. This alone results in a considerable economic saving since it allows the vehicle to work a maximum number of hours out of the total number possible.

For an organization operating motor vehicles under such conditions as necessitates several Operating centers, the vehicular repair system has other disadvantages. It is almost essential that each such center have a complete outfit of tools and equipment in order to do its work promptly and efficiently. This means a large initial outlay, a duplication of much expensive machinery, and the employment of specialists at each operating center. In all probability much of the equipment will be idle a good part of the time and the specialists will often be used on work that could just as well be done by less expensive mechanics in order to keep them busy. To avoid this, both the quality and quantity of equipment and the number of specialists must be curtailed, which leads, of course, to a decrease in the quality of the output of the shop or long delays while the work is sent to some qualified place to be performed.

Motor Transport Repair Shop

The motor transport repair shop receives from the supply depot all salvaged material, disassembles it, inspects it, and returns it to the supply division for issue. Before the supplies are returned for issue they are thoroughly inspected, repaired, and made serviceable.

Every department has a production board. This is a daily record of the department as well as the monthly demands from the department.

In the motor transport repair shop the personnel is entirely enlisted; the foreman and all the workmen are members of either the First Motor Repair Battalion or Company A of the Fourth Motor Repair Battalion.

The Experimental Division

In the handling of motor transportation, it is necessary that there be an engineering or experimental division to experiment and determine the military use of the products made by commercial firms. In order to carry this out, there is established at Camp Holabird an engineering division.

The Engineering Section is a department whose activities are devoted to the advancement of motor vehicle design, and construction in the Army service. It is the aim of this staff of technical men to have military transportation kept abreast of the times. Commercial vehicles are selected for the value they have proven before this department, and any vehicle not in commercial production, necessary to fill some particular need of the Army, is produced by it, even including the construction of such vehicles in quantities if it is possible of producing them in Army shops with valuable savings. This was the case in the construction of Army fire trucks, quantities of which are being constructed each year in this department. Testing equipment is maintained that is complete to the least detail, and commercial material of every nature is tested for the benefit of the supervisions over purchasing and inspection of material received-both duties the responsibility of the Engineering Section. Blueprints, sketches, and data are constantly furnished purveyors of Army truck material. Testing of lubricants, fuels, tires, brake lining, accessories, in fact, every form of material allied to motor transportation, is steadily in progress, road testing averages in excess of a quarter million miles a year. Engine dynamometer and complete chassis dynamometer testing is a regular routine, necessary in the testing of complete engines, engine accessories, engine parts, complete transmissions, propeller shafts, universal joints, complete axles-in fact, a vehicle can be disassembled and the units comprised of reciprocating parts entirely tested in the electric recording dynamometer equipment possessed by this department. In addition, engine fuels, joint greases, and all forms of lubricants are tested in the actual units for power and friction heat. The data obtained from this testing program is continually proving of particular value to purchasing; the results of these tests have in many instances saved the Government the possible expenditure of funds for a worthless article, or have conclusively proven that an article was not an inferior one simply because the price appeared exceptionally reasonable compared to competitive bidding on articles of a similar nature.

The Quartermaster Corps Motor Transport School

The use of motor transport is becoming universal throughout the entire Country. Its use must be universal so far as the War Department is concerned. In order that motor transportation can be operated scientifically and economically the personnel to do so must understand the tools with which they are working. Therefore, it was necessary to establish a school somewhere in the War Department for the training of the personnel in the handling of this important strategic of the Army.

The facilities at Camp Holabird were admirable for this purpose. It is located on a network of highways with available locality for convoy training. The motor transport depot, the motor transport repair shops, and the motor transport storage facilities give all of the machinery and paraphernalia necessary for the establishing of this school.

The school gives instruction under the following curriculum:

I-Department of Administration.

II-Department of Operations and Training.

IIII-Department of Maintenance.

IV-Department of Automotive Mechanics.

V-Department of Allied Trades.

The curriculum of the school includes regular courses for officers and enlisted men and by a combination of subjects from the different departments, it is possible to arrange special courses to suit a wide variety of needs of individuals of special qualifications, as, for example, in the case of reserve or National Guard officers or enlisted men on duty for short periods.

The regular course of instruction for officers at the Quartermaster Corps Motor Transport School covers a period of nine months. It is given for officers of the Regular Army, National Guard, Organized Reserves, and Marine Corps of the United States, as well as for officers of the armies of foreign countries. The course aims to give the student a thorough training in the fundamentals of motor vehicle operation and maintenance. The objects of the course are to develop managers of motor transportation, instructors competent to supplement the activities of the school in meeting the needs of organization for specially trained personnel, officers trained in the repair and maintenance of motor transportation, officers trained in the management of trains, officers trained in the tactical use of motor transportation, and officers trained as assistants to G-4 for transportation and as mechanical inspectors and advisors on motor transportation.

The regular course of instruction for enlisted men at the Quartermaster Corps Motor Transport School also covers a period of nine months. Students are taken from the Regular Army, National Guard, Organized Reserves, and the Marine Corps of the United States. The course is designed to give the student a thorough training in the repair and upkeep of motor vehicles, such as are used in the Army, and their component parts. The objects of the course are to train enlisted men as instructors, in their respective units, in the theory and practice of operation, maintenance, and tactical employment of motor transportation; as instructors in one or more of the special trades connected with the Operation and maintenance of motor transportation, and as general foremen in the repair and maintenance of motor transportation establishments.

The instruction consists of lectures, demonstrations, conferences, problems, and practical work in various departments of the motor transport shop and in vehicle operations. Sufficient practice in the use of tools and the repair of vehicles and their component parts is given to enable the student to intelligently supervise work in the field. The work also covers such subjects as shop management, unit replacement, and traffic control. Before completion of the course, students are taken on a practice convoy which is designed to give them actual experience in vehicle operation on the road.

The instruction consists of lectures, demonstration and practical work in different shop departments of the Motor Transport School. The students are also taught driving when this is necessary.

An actual practice convoy covering a period of several weeks is also made. The student is instructed in the fundamentals of convoy operation, convoy regulations and becomes familiar with the Operations and care of vehicles on the road, as well as the troubles that are liable to be met with and their remedy. This convoy is designed to give practical experience in motor transport field work such as handling of convoys, road discipline, highways transport, bivouacs, and miscellaneous terrain problems. Visits are made at various automotive manufacturing plants en route to observe the latest commercial methods of shop operation and factory management.

Allied trades courses are also given. These courses are designed for enlisted men who desire to specialize in one or more of the various trades closely associated with automotive work. The training includes lectures, demonstrations, and practical shop work in the particular subject for which the student in enrolled.

The following are the graduates from the Motor Transport School from 1919 to 1926 inclusive:

Officers 178

Warrant officers 8

Enlisted men 1,830


The many complex features of Camp Holabird make it difficult to include them all in a brief survey of this character; and in the foregoing discussion, because of its extensiveness and wide field of advantages for a quartermaster depot, it was necessary for me to pass lightly over many of the prominent particulars of this post. Of course Camp Holabird is primarily a Motor Transport post, but in addition to these motor activities there are the usual factors that include the make-up of a post, camp, or station of the Service. Camp Holabird contains a quartermaster laundry which serves not only this camp but does the laundry work for Fort Howard, Curtis Bay, and the Third Corps Area Headquarters; a post bakery, which also furnishes bread for Curtis Bay; and a railhead which is put to advantage in the delivery of 2,890 1/2 tons of coal and 44,000 gallons of gasoline every year to Curtis Bay and Fort Howard. In consequence it is no extravagance to say that Camp Holabird, in the fullest sense, occupies a position unrivaled by few, if any, depots involved in motor transport activities in the United States.

Return to Transportation Page