Hundreds of soldiers traveling in Velie Trucks created quite a stir in Florence Arizonia.
The Gila River, Velie Trucks and the United States Army
A Florence Story , H. Christine Reid
Pinal County Historical Society
The 35th Infantry of the Regular United States Army was begun on July 1916 and was organized in Douglas AZ with personnel from the 11th, 18th, and 22nd Infantry. Its mission was to protect the boundary with Mexico after a skirmish resulting in casualties in Nogales in 1915 made the government aware of the need to monitor the border more closely. The need had been further reinforced when Pancho Villa raided Columbus , New Mexico in March of 1916.
Regiment of the 35th Infantry at Douglas arrived in Florence , AZ along with 30 Velie trucks being tested for army use as personnel transport on a twelve day trip from Douglas to Roosevelt . The soldiers camped overnight in a vacant lot across from the C.G. Powell home on Main Street . The site created quite a stir among the townsfolk.
According the Arizona Blade Tribune, “The presence of 500 American soldiers in Florence was an interesting sight to many of our citizens few of whom had ever seen more than a half a dozen militiamen in uniform at one time. Soldiers traveling on motor trucks was a novelty that none of our citizens except those who made trips to the border recently had ever seen. This mode of moving troops is destined to become common in the near future and the trip now underway is for the purpose of giving the Velie motortruck a tryout in comparison with other trucks in use and a better route could not have been selected for that purpose at this time… Trucks were manned by drivers and mechanicians from the factory and besides the drivers each truck carried sixteen men and their equipment".
1500 LB Delivery Wagon
The United States Army had been exploring the use of trucks since 1904 primarily as arsenals or depots. The Quartermaster Corps bought 544 trucks from 8 different manufacturers. In September 1916, a troop of 500 soldiers from the 14th and 18th