WWI Vehicular Veteran Honored -1918 Cadillac Immortalized At The Library of Congress

1918 Cadillac War hero

By Steve Purdy
Michigan Bureau
Photos By: Bob Benko and Gary Purdy

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Marc Harmon could hardly contain his enthusiasm as he addressed a gathering of officials and journalists at the General Motors Heritage Center in Sterling Heights, MI describing his experience finding, researching and preserving (not restoring) the amazing car at his side, a 1918 Cadillac Type 57, 7-passenger touring car saying, “Researching and reuniting U.S. 1257X with its Great War provenance has been an experience of a lifetime, and an honor.”

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U.S. 1257X is the military identification given to this car by the American Expeditionary Forces when its original owner, Presbyterian minister Reverend John H. Denison, took the car to Europe and turned it over to the war effort. Both car and driver had joined the Y.M.C.A., the organization contracted to establish ‘leave areas’ in southern and central France where weary soldiers could spend quality R&R time.

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Still sporting its many coats of olive-drab paint this Cadillac warier is one of only a handful of the 200 Cadillac staff cars that went to the war that returned from Europe after the war, and the only one known to still exist. It remained in the Army’s possession until it was finally sold as surplus in 1936 to an ex-military man who collected all manner of military items. It passed through the hands of a variety of collectors finally being discovered by Mr. Harmon who spotted an ad saying, “Old Cadillac – may have belonged to some general.”

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There began the amazing story of research as Mr. Harmon delved into the car’s history finding unexpected tidbits that led him to important stories of World War I. The culmination of that research is the reason we are honoring the car. The Federal Government, the Department of the Interior to be specific, has begun identifying and honoring special cars with significant histories much like buildings are honored by the designation of “historic places.” This 1918 Cadillac is just the fourth car so honored. It is now recorded with all its details in the Library of Congress as a Historically Significant Vehicle.

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Adding to its honorable war history are design distinctions like being an example of the first mass production V8 engine led by Cadillac in 1914.

Another criteria of distinction is its history as transportation for a variety of officers and volunteers including Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., daughter-in-law of president Teddy Roosevelt, who spent many dangerous months with the car in France supporting the troops in a variety of ways. The car was specifically mentioned in her autobiography. Historic photos show the car in action as well.

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Other distinctions include a bullet hole in the lower cowl that came from above and matched the caliber of German machine gun. Seats are appropriately worn, layers of military OD paint attest to its long service, tattered remnants of the wooden top bows and canvas top speak to nearly a century of use and the distributor’s ID plate is still affixed to the rear of the car. The General Motors Heritage Center came up with the original build sheet further documenting the car’s heritage.

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The Historic Vehicle Association, co-founded by Hagerty Insurance of Traverse City, MI, who specialize in insuring classic and collector automobiles, boats and other vehicles, assisted with the research and helped present it to Federal officials for consideration as historically significant. The HVA will continue to spearhead the identification, authentication and registration of significant vehicles so they can be preserved for posterity.

Mark Gessler, HVA president, says they want to be inclusive in their search for these wonderful vehicles but plan to require they be more than 50 years old to qualify.

ęSteve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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