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US Interstate Highway Civil Insurrection Control System

By Edited Apr 8, 2016 1 17

Ike's Turnpikes

Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways

America’s early and extensive development of its transportation systems is what helped it become a true world power in the decades leading up to World War I, after which the United States took its place amount the global élite of developed nations. 

Development of America’s waterways into a commercial and private transportation network of rivers, lakes, and canals was its first public works projects.  Railroads came later. 

However, with a brilliantly Machiavellian idea in mind, President Dwight D. Eisenhower envisioned and executed the construction of the crowning jewel of America’s overland transportation.

And “Machiavellian is the proper word—the true purpose of the United States Interstate Highway system is not to allow Americans to move leisurely and efficiently from place to place.

The real purpose of the network is a military one.  It is designed to do two things: 1) allow for the transport of military personnel and equipment efficiently for deployment to any corner of the United States, and 2) it is designed so that the same highways, occupied by military personnel, can be used to cordon off any section of the country, no matter how large or small, to contain and suppress the United States citizenry in times of social uprising or civil insurrection.

various miltary vehicles
The great transportation expansionist movements (canal digging and rail building) were always concerns on the ground, of having the ability to move people and freight overland from point to point, efficiently and economically.  Up until the early 20th Century almost all travel on roadways (such as they were) was either on foot or by some conveyance using draft animals.  For such primitive and low-speed locomotion, plain dirt—hard-packed by the pounding of millions of hooves and feet over decades—was enough.

The invention of the self-powered carriage, the automobile (by the French, perfected by Karl Benz, and brought to the masses by the United States), made many communities look at their local roads.  These were rough-cut dusty paths in the summer, turning into treacherous mires of mud in the winter and spring.  Improved roads, made of densely packed crushed rock, became standard, creating a somewhat durable and uniform surface.  These gravel roads dominated the countryside for decades; later improvements to the basic construction materials led to asphalt and concrete surfaced roadways. 

However, early improved road building was financed by local municipalities for the most part. Some cities and towns had better-funded roads’ projects than others, and many areas of the United States still were connected by dirt.  Connecting the nation door-to-door was a problem yet to be tackled.  The federal government had yet to invest itself in the nation’s roadway infrastructure.  There was no federal money to aid in building the world’s first transcontinental roadway.  The inspiration and financial funding for the world’s first coast-to-coast highway came from a remarkable man who today no one perhaps remembers. 

Carl G. Fisher (May 1909)

Carl Graham Fisher (1874–1939) had been born for speed.  By 1912, he had been a former bicycle and car racer.  For a brief time he held the world land speed record over a two-mile run.  He was the founder of the Indianapolis 500 Speedway.  He was also a bit of a daredevil.  As a stunt to publicize a new business venture, he once rode a bicycle on a high-wire stretched between two of Indianapolis’ tallest buildings.  His money came from his business of supplying powered headlights to cars.  Early vehicles had no integrated lighting so headlamps were bought separately and installed, and were powered independently of the car’s electrical system.

It was Carl Fisher’s vision of a truly uniform, well-maintained roadway to span America from New York City to San Francisco, California.  He proposed raising money by donations to build such a highway, and he believed it could be done for about $10 million.  President Woodrow Wilson gave $5 as a symbol of his patriotic support of the project; not surprisingly, the notorious contrarian Henry Ford never gave a penny for the project.

The road would be a gravel one writ large.  By 1915, Carl Fisher had enough money—though well short of the $10 million project budget—to start work on his dream highway.  He needed something to ensure a steady public interest in the project, a name that would make Americans proud and feel not only invested in the highway but also to feel galvanized into fund-raising.

He quickly tossed aside obvious names such as the Coast-to-Coast Rock Highway and the Ocean-to-Ocean Highway.  He similarly considered, and rejected, the American Road.  Finally, he liked the idea of naming it for a beloved American and thought about naming it the Jefferson Highway.  But Thomas Jefferson did not hold the mass appeal for the average American then that he enjoys today.  Fisher rejected him and went with another, more charismatic native son.  He decided to name his new road the Lincoln Highway.  Although this name alienated many Southerners the planned route of the road was strictly in the North so Fisher had no worries about not getting support where needed. 

It is in the building and financing of this road that Carl Fisher’s brilliance as a business savant came into play.  As he watched it grow, he knew he did not have enough money to cover the expenses of every one of the 3,284 miles the road eventually covered.  He thought of a way to make it happen quickly and without his having to exert himself in fund-raising. 

Fisher planted what he called “seedling miles” of road across the entire length of his planned route.  Instead of starting in a town and building outward, exhausting his funds while leaving most of his road ending outside one major city or another, he took a look at human behavior and used it to his advantage. 

Most roads were dirt then, and Carl Fisher went out to the unimproved roads connecting two towns.  Then, along that road roughly midway between the two destinations, he built exactly one mile of his improved gravel road.  On its face, building unconnected sections of road in the middle of nowhere may seem absurd, but his brilliance was immediately rewarded. 

The locals, driving along the dirt coming upon that one mile of Fisher’s nice, new, smooth roadway, could be nothing but disappointed to leave it as the road reverted back to the rutted dirt way at the end of that miracle mile.  Soon enough, communities began raising money, issuing municipal bonds, whatever it took to get Fisher to attach their towns to the single mile in the middle.

Lincoln Highway (completed route)
The Lincoln Highway officially opened in 1923, and the last work on it was completed in 1927.  Carl’s vision of building it for $10 million, though, was way off the mark—in road-building alone the project took up $90 million!  Additionally, another $50 million was spent within city limits improving certain streets that would be part of the Lincoln Highway.

America loved the Lincoln Highway, though, and Fisher went on to other, similar projects. [He was the creator of The Dixie Highway connecting Miami to the North.  This was not motivated for the public good, however—he became obsessed with the idea that Miami Beach would one day become a major resort, and he wanted to move traffic efficiently to get to it.] 

Early freeway section (Newton, MA, 1935)

The Lincoln Highway, the spawn of Carl Fisher, remains to this day.  However, it is now called US Route 30 and it has improved much from its humble beginnings of dirt and gravel.

Major Mileage
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) perhaps had to be one of the least likely Presidential candidates and successors to the Office of anyone who ever held it. 
He was not a politician.  He had never held a public office.  He was not a lawyer or professional in another area of expertise.  Eisenhower was a soldier, a career soldier, and that’s all he ever was.  He never held a regular job after entering the military in 1915, fresh out of West Point (he was not a brilliant student – he was sixty-first out of a graduating class of 168).  He never served in combat during World War I—he remained stateside for the duration as a trainer.

Ike plodded through the ranks, serving as an aide-de-camp for General Douglas MacArthur from 1932-1935.  He achieved the rank of brigadier general in 1941, and then was given command in 1942 of the Allied forces in Europe during World War II.  He acquitted himself well as a strategist, and after the war he went on to become the president of Columbia University from 1948-1950.  During the Korean Conflict, he was named Supreme Commander of NATO forces in Europe (1951-1952).

America moved into a period of hyper-conservatism at the beginning of the 1950s and Dwight D. Eisenhower’s gung-ho, Johnny-go-to-war machismo was exactly what a Communist-fearing country needed. 

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1919 in Wyoming, on left)

When elected as the 34th President of the United States, Ike was the first President without a political background.  [And he was surprisingly not as conservative as his adoring public thought—he was a supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment, resurrecting it from limbo where it had lain for years.  It was one of the disappointments for him in two terms of office that the ERA could not get through Congress to go to the states for ratification.]

Eisenhower’s military career bred in him a concern and natural interest in logistics, the movements of people and materiél along a frontier or to hot zones where needed.  Having traveled the United States in 1919 in a grueling cross-country military convoy (along some of the same rutted roads that would later form part of the Lincoln Highway) he understood the importance of efficient transport.  The roads were bad, there were no clear directions to the next town posted anywhere, and if one truly did not know already where one was going, it was easy to get lost.

Eisenhower, calling upon the booming prosperity of the US in the 1950s and a resurgent wave of jingoistic patriotism, managed to propose a federal program to create an efficient, well-constructed network of highways designed to handle high volumes of traffic.  These roads would be part of a national, interstate highway system.

early interchange concept (1945, drawing)

Eisenhower’s objective in this project, however, was not to create nice parkways for average Americans to go from their homes to nice vacation spots (as Carl Fisher did).  Dwight D. Eisenhower was a military man; the project he conceived was born of a perceived military need, and it was a military one.

Ike felt that threats to the United States would most likely come through its borders and from the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.  By networking the country with good roads, not only could military personnel and equipment be moved rapidly with little resistance in terms of traffic control, but the interstates themselves could be fortification points from which the country’s borders could be defended.

As a military strategy this is brilliant.  Effectively, Eisenhower was creating tens of thousands of miles of concrete frontier that could be readily reached, traversed, and occupied quickly as a first line of defense for the nation.  Nowhere is this more clearly seen than on any map of the United States outlining its interstates: both the East and West Coasts are spanned by an unbroken north-south strip of interstate highway.  The border between the United States and Mexico and all along the Gulf Coast similarly has an unbroken interstate barrier as a defensible position.

More sinister, though, was his desire (in the face of a perceived, though never-to-be, Communist threat in America) to control the population in the event of a crisis.  The political witch-hunt of Joseph McCarthy (the Wisconsin US Senator who thought “communists” had not only infiltrated the US Department of Justice but were literally hiding under every bed and prowling every schoolyard in America) set the tone for the second purpose of the US Interstate systems.

This second purpose is to isolate or otherwise segregate, control access to, and put down any insurgent populations within the United States’ borders in the event of a civil insurrection.  This meant, for Eisenhower, that not only could America protect itself from foreign invaders it could also protect itself from its own citizens if necessary by a policy of containment within the borders of an interstate-highway defined perimeter. 

The most casual inspection of any interstate map bears out this second purpose.  The roughly regular geometric blocks formed by intersecting highways, combined with the strategic placement of their interchanges, not only insures military personnel can move from base-to-base quickly, but that entire sections of the country can be contained, the population suppressed and restrained within that military wall if necessary.

You May Use This . . . For Now
There is a persistent myth that one out of every five miles of interstate is purposefully built as a straight stretch so aircraft may use them as runways.  This is false.  Although, in an emergency, many straight sections of any given interstate might be used as a landing site or for an emergency take off the sloping of the crown of the road, combined with its less-than-ideal material, grading, thickness, and smoothness of surface do not make it even remotely practical for regular aircraft use.  Furthermore, even the straight stretches have slight grade changes to ensure water runs off properly—taxi ways and runways are built much flatter and smoother and to much denser ground compaction requirements and material strengths than interstates.

The interstates were not originally designed for commercial traffic at all.  Tractor-trailer combinations were not allowed upon them until years afterward, and only after much complaining and lobbying for access. 

The interstate system remains one of the military’s most valuable assets.  Those who have been involved in a natural disaster or other civil situations (such as a major riot) where the military occupies the interstates, closing them off from public use, has observed firsthand the real purpose of that road.  Access is always controlled by the military, usually the US Army or local National Guard.  Under stricter martial law situations, occupation of the interstates by the US military will result in death by gunshot for anyone venturing aggressively onto a closed interstate.


Map of US Interstates

The United States has its wonderful interstate system, now over 46,000 miles, with a total cost exceeding $128 billion (when an estimate was finally made public in 1991).  The average American traveling upon these smooth, pleasant roads that cut across open lands with little population in many places, likely never gives any thought about why that particular stretch of road runs for miles in the middle of nowhere when there are towns nearby it could pass closer to.  It’s because those towns, in effect, are the “enemy”, and they need to be removed from the interstate’s access points as much as possible.

In 1990 President George W. Bush, to honor its visionary champion, signed into law the renaming of the US Interstate Highway system to its official name today: Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.

Make careful note of the fact the word “defense” appears as part of the title; the highways are only there for Americans to use until such a time as the US military needs them for their own purposes.


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May 29, 2012 6:36pm
Thanks Vic. I always know when I read one of your articles I will learn something new. For that your writings are always appreciated.
May 29, 2012 8:30pm
Learn to question the reasons behind things is the lesson here. Thanks for reading.
May 30, 2012 2:20pm
Your conclusion states the highways are here for Americans to use until the US Military needs them, and I wish to add that that should include international forces as well seeing that U.N. equipment has been being stockpiled in this country for years. And our more contemporary departments of Homeland Security and FEMA with their directives validate your point. One disagreement I do have in this fine article: you have not covered all your history of the McCarthy era and the communists not only were but very much are, just as Whittaker Chambers, the Venona Files and today's openly professing Marxists validate. Please remember that in those years your only information and writing of history was main-stream media controlled by those communists that did not exist. Some good reading would include "Witness" by Chambers, and an extensive work by M. Stanton Evans, "Blacklisted by History."
May 31, 2012 9:57am
My brush on McCarthyism (since that was not the focus of the article) had to do with introducing the lunacy of "communist" witch-hunting and the mindset behind the “altruistic” interstate system. There certainly WERE communists but not literally hiding under every bed as fearful WASP-ish Americans were scared into believing to promote huge military budgets.

Ike was actually horrified to learn that some sections of his interstate actually passed THROUGH metro areas rather than around them – it is hard to CONTAIN something when you are in the middle of it.

Thanks for reading, and for having a brain, also. It is refreshing.
May 18, 2014 10:35am
justjanie, you are right on. I have and done, and still doing, extensive research on communist subversion. You are to be commended. You are more informed than most.
Readers may try following just for starters:
Haynes, John Earl., and Harvey Klehr. Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1999. Print. Actual copies of KGB docs verifying more KGB in our govertnment than we thought. They are still finding out more as they decode the files.

Evans, M. Stanton. Blacklisted by History: the Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight against America's Enemies. New York:
Crown Forum, 2007. Print. Again, lots more FACTS that we were led to believe by the left progressives.

Andrew, Christopher M., and Vasili Mitrokhin. The Sword and the Shield: the Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB. New
York: Basic, 2001. Print. Mitrokhin was Head Archivist of all KGB documents in Moscow. Defected to the west and took notes with him. Backs up Venona and others. Very revealing. Cross reference independent and verified.

Kengor, Paul. Dupes: How America's Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century. Wilmington, DE: ISI, 2010. Print This one will knock your socks off. Even exposes how and why Sen Ted Kennedy conspired with KGB to try to win his election. Actual photo of KGB docs with Ted Kennedy subversion.

May 31, 2012 10:42am
You don't think that the reason they built Interstates through open country rather than densely populated areas was economic? Cheaper and politically more palatable to expropriate a swath of farmland than miles of houses and businesses. Where interstates do cut through the middle of cities it is because they followed existing State Highways generally.
May 31, 2012 12:12pm
I know you have only one road in Canada so really it's not an issue up there.

It's really not about what I think, it's about the truth -- containment. This was a planned project. Route 66 and the Lincoln Highway make sense as civilian transport media -- the Interstate system does not, except when viewed in the context of its military application. Ike needed to isolate sections of the US in times of insurrection as well as defend the country. Looking at a map tells anyone this is true -- any military personnel will tell you the same. This system is not about civilian infrastructure it is about military infrastructure -- we just got lucky we are allowed to use it.

As always, thanks for reading.
May 31, 2012 1:34pm
Oh, I've long known that the Interstate system was designed with a military/defense purpose. In WWI and WWII railroads were used extensively in Europe for rapid movement of troops and equipment. The obvious failings with railroads is the ease of identifying the exact 4 ft 8½ in that the troops must follow and the ease with which that path can be disrupted. With a broad highway connected to other highways and roads, the military could just move around any bombed areas on an Interstate.

The boxes form naturally as you create a road network that gives easy access to the whole country. I doubt anyone was thinking "we better create a box that cuts Nebraska in two."
May 31, 2012 2:54pm
Nope, but they sure were thinking in terms of Euclidean geometry ("a straight line is the shortest distance between two points").
Jun 19, 2012 12:02pm
This was a very informative article. I have never really thought very much about the military aspect of the highway system. One would assume that they were mainly designed for commerce purposes. Thanks for the great information.
Jun 19, 2012 12:14pm
Nope, our gov't built that for their own use and they allow us to use it at their discretion -- nice of them I think considering our tax dollars paid for it. Thanks for reading.
Jun 23, 2012 1:47pm
Too bad that now the infrastructure system is terrible... http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/
Jun 23, 2012 4:34pm
That's correct -- thanks for reading.
Jul 13, 2012 12:56am
Great article. Seems to fit in with our Governments system of gaining support for any decision: 1. Provide a "reason" for the action to the public. Usually this "reason" is emotional and stated to "protect our way of life". See Sinking of the Maine, Sinking of the Lusitania,Gulf of Tonkin
2. Conveniently not provide the real "reason". Such as your article suggests.

Great stuff.
Jul 13, 2012 8:32am
What's funny is how PO'd Ike was when he found parts of it running through Boston and other cities - can't contain them when you're highway is in it. Also, he never really made any bones about 1/2 of the "defensive" purpose -- creating a defensible perimeter from "foreign" influence, it was the part about containing the civilian population (written into the appropriations) that was never played up for the sheeple. Thanks for reading.
Jul 1, 2016 9:15am
This week marks the 60th anniversary of the start of the interstate system, so happy birthday to our super highways!
Jul 1, 2016 12:56pm
Happy birthday to them!
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  1. Bill Bryson Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States. New York City, NY: William Morrow and Company, 1994.
  2. "Carl G. Fisher." en.wikipedia.org. 13/04/2012 <Web >
  3. "Lincoln Highway." American Peoples Encyclopedia. 1963.
  4. David C. Whitney The American Presidents. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1989.
  5. "Interstates: Frequently Asked Questions." fhwa.dot.gov. 17/03/2012 <Web >

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