When he returned to the United States, Pick assisted with flood control work and the construction of dams. He was in the New Orleans office as district engineer when catastrophic floodwaters surged down the Mississippi River in 1927. From 1928 to 1932, Pick was on Reserve Officers' Training Corps duty at Texas A&M University. He graduated from the Command and General Staff School in 1934 and taught tactics there until 1938. In 1939, he graduated from the Army War College and was assigned to the Corps of Engineers' Ohio River Division. In December 1941, Pick was promoted to temporary colonel. Pick became the Missouri River Division engineer in April 1942. Working with W. Glenn Sloan of the Bureau of Reclamation, Pick sought ways to prevent the Missouri River from overflowing its basin. The Pick-Sloan plan that incorporated several of his ideas for the Missouri River basin went into effect in 1944.
In October 1943, Pick was deployed to the China-Burma-India Theater, where he replaced Brigadier Raymond A. Wheeler in directing engineers who were building the Ledo Road, which came to be known as "Pick's Pike." This crucial land supply route extended from northern India through Burma to China and tied in with the old Burma Road to supplement the Himalayan air routes. The difficult jungle terrain seemed almost impossible for road construction, but Pick persevered. Although he and the majority of his workers were sickened by malaria, Pick pushed the main road ahead while also providing for construction of side roads for combat troops to pursue the Japanese. It took slightly more than two years to complete the route. Pick, promoted to brigadier general in February 1944, led the first convoy into Kumming on 4 February 1945.
Theater commander General Joseph Stilwell praised Pick's devotion to his troops and said that he "covered the road by foot, jeep, and liaison plane twenty-four hours a day. He knew every rock quarry, every mudhole and slide, every curve, every cutback and bridge." Pick's men also built an airfield for Merrill's Marauders during the Battle of Myitkyina. Pick was promoted to major general in March 1945.
Following the war, Pick resumed his peacetime position as division engineer in Missouri until March 1949, when President Harry S Truman named him chief of the Army Corps of Engineers. Promoted to lieutenant general in 1951, Pick headed the Corps of Engineers until his retirement in November 1952. Pick moved to Auburn, Alabama, and died in Washington, D.C., on 2 December 1956.
Elizabeth D. Schafer
Anders, Leslie. The Ledo Road: General Joseph W. Stilwell's Highway to China. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1965.; Cohn, David L. "The Old Man with the Stick." Atlantic Monthly (August 1945): 86–89.; Dod, Karl C. The Corps of Engineers: The War against Japan. Washington, DC: Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1966.; Garrison, Webb. Disasters That Made History. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1973.