"What Is it?"

More New Photos in the Gallery!
Completed Miniatures of a Clark CA-1 Airborne Bulldozer and Laplant-Choate CAB-1 Scraper

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Clark Airborne CA-1 towing a CAB-1 LaPlant Choate Pan Scraper
Burma in the Spring/Summer of 1944. 

On May 14 1942 brigadier general Stuart C. Godfrey outlined his idea for a completely new type of engineer unit. His proposed unit would be a highly mobile engineer battalion with equipment small enough to be transported by the Waco CG-4A "Hadrian" glider or the Douglas C-47 "Skytrain". Being air-mobile, those units could be flown very near the front or even behind enemy lines to rehabilitate recently captured airfields or construct the most basic type of forward airfields.

The engineer board lost no time in attacking the equipment problem. Acquiring the support equipment (air compressors, rollers, scrapers, graders, etc.) proved to be no real problem. Tractors, on the other hand, were quite another matter. "The machine that came closest to meeting the requirements was a crawler-type trail tractor that had been developed by the United States Forest Service at Portland, Oregon. Its size was about that of a Jeep, it weighed only 3,600 pounds and it was equipped with a master clutch control that eliminated reverse gear and gave the tractor an equal range of power and speed for moving ether forward or backward."

The process of development for this unique tractor had begun as early as 1924 when USFS field engineer Ted P. Flynn had attached a counterbalanced bulldozer blade on a small Cletrac tractor crawler to aid in forest service road construction. It was this "trail tractor" that had already caught the eye of the army air force.

In order to expedite the production of the tractor, the engineer board arranged to have Ted Flynn loaned to Clark equipment company and with 15 of Clark engineers, the design of the Clarkair CA-1 was developed. While Clark had never built a crawler before, they certainly knew their way around castings, gears, axels and production schedules. From two machines, sixteen, one hundred and sixty-two, and then on to an order for one thousand, the company showed that they could get the job done.

By the summer of 1943 Clark equipment convinced the engineer board that American machine and metals of East Moline, Illinois should take over production in stages. By January of 1944, American Machine and Metals had taken over the Clarkair project until its cancellation in late 1944.

Extracts from the Airborne Aviation Engineers
and the Clark Airborne Crawler by Steve Hansen.

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