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The Bulldozer in War

In June 1942, Yancey Bros. Co.’s shops, facilities, and personnel were placed under the control of the War Department (now the Department of Defense) for a "special purpose." That special purpose was the assembly of equipment headed to Europe, and the rebuilding and repair of existing equipment from military bases across the Southeast that were being shipped to the European and Pacific fronts. During this time Yancey Bros. Co. was not allowed to take in work from its customers. Only military equipment was brought into the Atlanta shop. The importance of this equipment, coupled with their large shop and its location to the Atlanta rail yards, made for a strategic partnership.

Yancey Bros. Co., like all other Cat dealers in the country, had little new equipment to sell during the late 1930s and early 1940s. The military and civilian customers deemed "essential" by the government received the majority of machines produced for the war effort in Europe. In 1940, Caterpillar was shipping 30 percent of its production overseas. The United States’ entry into the war in December 1941 saw the military’s demand for "war ready" equipment increase dramatically.

In theaters of war across the globe, hands-on experience changed the perception of builders, contractors and the public about a certain piece of construction equipment produced in the United States.

Before the war, contractors and builders knew of Caterpillar’s tracked machines as "track-type crawlers." During the war the crawlers were often paired with a bulldozer blade, and both soldiers and civilians referred to the whole machine as a "bulldozer."

Cat bulldozers repaired shelled roads and built new ones, keeping vital supply lines open. They constructed pillboxes and artillery positions, bulldozed tank traps and built new ones to stop counterattacks. The dozers were also used to clean up and rebuild European cities, towns, bridges and highways from German airstrikes and artillery shellings, and they built airstrips in remote jungle locations and on coral atolls in the Pacific. The range Cat bulldozers could be put to use was as wide as the imagination of its operator—and that was almost limitless.

A British officer said, "I have talked with the Caterpillar operators… most of them are damned fools about their machines. They have utterly no fear, drive the things everywhere nonchalantly and get mad as the devil if shells or bullets hit their beloved machines. Those boys are actually in front of the front lines often, and they all chew tobacco, swear magnificently, never bathe, and are so very adept at repair that it is a matter of pride with them not to ask repair crews for help."

As the war came to its final days, General George S. Patton was asked to choose between tanks and bulldozers for an invasion. His response was, "I’ll take the dozers every time." Caterpillar bulldozers were now solidly part of our American culture.

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