Route 66 During World War II [A Concise Historical Overview]

As we explore the history of Route 66, it is crucial to consider its role during the World War II era. Established in 1926, Route 66 stretched over 2,400 miles, connecting Chicago to Santa Monica and crossing eight states.

This iconic highway played a vital role in America’s transportation network during World War II, serving civilian and military purposes.

During World War II, Route 66 experienced a significant increase in traffic and military use. The highway became an essential corridor for military personnel, equipment, and supplies being transported across the country.

Additionally, communities along Route 66 developed and supported various military installations, training facilities, and industries contributing to the war effort. This time also saw a rise in minority travel along the historic highway, which has begun to be explored in recent research.

Amidst the challenges of war, Route 66 brought people together and contributed to the nation’s resilience in facing hardships. Its role during World War II is an essential part of its history and serves as a reminder of how crucial infrastructure can be during times of crisis.

Route 66 and Its Role During World War II

Impact on Infrastructure and the Automobile Industry

During World War II, Route 66 connected the country and supported various wartime efforts. Before the war, the Great Depression had left the automobile industry weak, but the onset of the war led to recovery and growth.

This period saw a higher demand for vehicles used for military purposes and civilian support, which ultimately contributed to Route 66 becoming known as the “Mother Road.”

As one of the well-established highways in the United States, Route 66 underwent significant improvements during this era.

The need for better transportation infrastructure, partly inspired by the German Autobahn, led to the developing of a more connected and efficient highway system. Improved Highways along Route 66 included adding pavement, widening lanes, and upgrading the existing paths.

Route 66 also served as a critical corridor for transporting essential goods and personnel nationwide. The increased vehicle production led to the following:

  • The growth of the automobile industry in the region,
  • Creation of jobs in automobile manufacturing and support industries,
  • Accelerated development of new automotive technologies.

Route 66 and National Defense

When President Dwight D. Eisenhower took office during the Cold War, he proposed the Federal Highway System to improve the nation’s infrastructure as part of the National Defense strategy.

Route 66 was integral to this initiative, and its contributions to national defense during World War II were undeniable. Connecting California with the Midwest, the Mother Road became essential in swiftly mobilizing troops, military supplies, and equipment over great distances.

The US Highway 66’s role as a key transportation route during the war paved the way for the post-war Interstate System, which replaced Route 66 with Interstate 40 and other modern highways.

Despite these modifications, the legacy of Route 66 remains strong and has endured through movies, TV shows, and songs like Bobby Troup’s classic “Get Your Kicks on Route 66.”

In conclusion, our understanding of Route 66 and its role during World War II is not limited to its contributions to the automobile industry and national defense. Instead, we can appreciate the long-lasting impact of Route 66 on American culture, history and the development of the nationwide transportation system.

Effects on Local Communities and Economy

Route 66 and the Rural Communities

During World War II, the towns along Route 66 played a critical role in connecting the country. With people migrating due to the Dust Bowl, rural communities in states like Kansas saw an influx of migrants.

As Route 66 became a popular highway for trucks, the trucking industry enabled the movement of goods and services across the Southwest, leading to economic growth in these communities.

The Growth of Commerce Along the Route

The increasing use of Route 66 led to increased commerce and the establishment of various new businesses. Small mom-and-pop establishments such as cafes, motels, and gas stations grew significantly.

One notable example is the Blue Swallow Motel in New Mexico. Many of these businesses catered to both the residents and the many travelers passing through the towns.

Influence on Motor Courts, Diners, and Gas Stations

As Route 66 continued to develop, it became synonymous with the iconic imagery of motor courts, like the Wigwam Motel, and diners that served home-cooked meals to weary travelers. These businesses attracted tourists, further boosting the local economies. The construction of gas stations also proliferated, ensuring travelers had access to fuel along their journey.

Popular cultural influences, from Nat King Cole’s song to the Rolling Stones‘ lyrics and Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, further solidified Route 66’s place in American culture.

Preservation Efforts and Legacy of Route 66

The Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program

In 1999, the National Park Service established the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program to preserve and promote the historic features along US Highway 66. This program encourages collaboration among various entities such as:

  • Americans who hold a vested interest in the preservation of Route 66
  • Nonprofit organizations focused on research and education of Route 66’s history
  • The National Park Service, who oversees and facilitates the program

Our collective efforts in preserving Route 66 also focus on its historic sites, which have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Examples of such sites include diners, motels, bridges, and service stations that capture the essence of the iconic highway.

As part of the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, we also work on promotion and education for the public. Educational efforts include creating interpretative materials, promoting public engagement, and spreading awareness about the historic significance of Route 66.

Route 66 After Decommissioning

Although Route 66 was decommissioned in 1985, our commitment to preserving its legacy remains strong. One example of this commitment is the designation of portions of Route 66 as a National Scenic Byway.

This designation has helped foster a new appreciation for the highway and helped local communities maintain its historic character while benefiting from the tourism it attracts.

Here are some key preservation efforts that have been made:

  • Rehabilitation of historic buildings, such as motels, gas stations, and diners
  • Nominations of additional sites to the National Register of Historic Places
  • Support for organizations working on the restoration and interpretation of Route 66’s history

By working together, we hope to ensure that the legacy of Route 66 during World War II and its impact on American culture will continue to be celebrated and appreciated by future generations.