YOU CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE
I am writing in response to the “History by the Numbers — America’s Highways” in the June issue of American History. In the paragraph mentioning the total miles of interstate highways, it lists Hawaii. I understand the political reasoning behind the so-called interstate highway on the island of Oahu, but is it correct to include it with actual interstate miles seeing as how it is not a true interstate? The last I knew, Hawaii was still an island thousands of miles from the mainland.
In the June issue story about the Interstate Highway System, Dwight D. Eisenhower is referred to as a lieutenant colonel in 1919. In fact, he was only an Army lieutenant, freshly graduated from West Point, and not to become a lieutenant colonel for another 20 years.
The editors reply: Eisenhower had the temporary rank of lieutenant colonel from October 14, 1918, to June 20, 1920, when he reverted to captain. He was promoted to major on July 2, 1920, and lieutenant colonel on July 1, 1936.
As one of your subscribers and as a former staff member of the late U.S. Senator Albert Gore Sr., D-Tenn., I feel compelled to share with your other readers a more complete account of the creation of the Interstate Highway System than that which is provided in Logan Thomas Snyder’s “Broader Ribbons Across the Land,” in your June issue.
Although it is true that President Eisenhower in February 1955 recommended the creation of a transcontinental highway system, the Interstate Highway System as we know it today was largely the product of Senator Gore, in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Works, and his very able administrative assistant, William G. Allen.
Senator Gore differed with Eisenhower primarily on how initial construction should be financed and on how ongoing maintenance should be funded. Congressional Republicans, with Eisenhower’s backing, wanted a $101 billion, 10-year program financed primarily by bonds, with state and local governments paying more than 70 percent of the cost. Gore foresaw that placing such a responsibility on state and local governments, especially those whose postwar economies were already financially strapped, would be both unrealistic and overly burdensome and that the result would be a crazy-quilt system of roadways, with well-constructed, well-maintained highways stopping at some state lines and giving way to poorly constructed, badly maintained roads in adjoining states.
Senator Gore favored federal funding of nearly 70 percent of the cost with an initial appropriation of $17.9 billion over five years. The balance would be paid for by increased gasoline taxes and levies on right-of-way purchases by gasoline stations and motels. Gore also favored the creation of a pay-as-you-go Highway Trust Fund, financed from special taxes on gasoline, diesel, tires and truck registrations, to ensure that proper maintenance of the entire system would not be reliant on the uncertainties of future governmental appropriations.
In May 1955, the U.S. Senate rejected the Eisenhower administration’s plan in favor of Gore’s. The negotiated result, which came a year later, was the Federal-Aid Highway Act, which reflected the financing and trust-fund features that were developed by Senator Gore and his assistant, Allen. Indeed, in recognition of the leadership provided by Senator Gore in crafting the final measure, Eisenhower gave instructions that the senator receive one of the two pens he had used to sign the landmark legislation into law on June 29, 1956.
Theodore Brown Jr.
FULL SPEED AHEAD
I just finished reading the June issue of American History and thoroughly enjoyed it, as I always do. I wanted to point out a minor discrepancy in the “American Places” department, “New Mexico’s ‘Other’ Las Vegas.” The writer made a reference to Theodore Roosevelt as being the secretary of the Navy. Actually, he was the assistant secretary of the Navy. The secretary was John D. Long.
Secretary Long preferred to spend the summer at his home in Massachusetts, tending his garden. This suited Assistant Secretary Roosevelt just fine. In Long’s absence, Roosevelt took full advantage of being the acting secretary. His influence on the U.S. Navy was immediate and far-reaching. He was an expansionist and wanted our Navy to be able to pursue expansionist policies. For all practical purposes Theodore Roosevelt was the secretary of the Navy right up to his resignation in 1898. He had to quit his job so he could lead his Rough Riders charging up hills in Cuba. This, of course, brought him to Las Vegas, N.M., for that first Rough Riders reunion.
NAME THAT TUNE
Charles Phillips’ article “A Day to Remember — June 25, 1876″ in the June 2006 issue states that the men of the 7th Cavalry passed in review to the tune “Garry Owen.” A more accurate title is “Garryowen.” It’s the name of a town near Limerick, Ireland, rather than the name of a person. “Garryowen” can have unpleasant associations for American Indians because of Custer. As a professional bagpiper in the Dakotas, I’ve found that it can be a ticklish situation when I’m asked to play this tune.
Dorothea J. Nelson
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