The advent of war changed Alice Springs forever. The act of building and sealing the highway was to transform the small community into a major regional centre, paving the way for its future as an administrative centre and tourism destination.
In 1939, Alice Springs was a small community of approximately 900 people. The economy revolved around services to pastoral properties and limited government administration. This all changed with the advent of the war, when in September 1940, the Darwin Overland Maintenance Force made their camp on ANZAC Oval.
The initial contingent consisted of 14 officers, 606 individuals of other ranks and 150 trucks. That alone almost doubled the population of Alice Springs. These numbers later swelled to almost 8000 troops and 3000 trucks, as Alice Springs became a hub of military activity. Alice Springs housed a central troop reserve, an arsenal for the northern area operations and the starting point for thousands of road convoys going up the track.