Talk with the Doc

Military history of Jeeps is colorful

Jim Surrell, MD, Journal columnist

When we see various vehicles here in our wonderful Upper Peninsula, numerous models of Jeeps are frequently seen. Of course, we also see many other brands and models of all wheel drive vehicles that are very desirable to drive as we deal with our U.P. winters. These vehicles are also used for various outdoor activities such as going fishing, hunting, going out to enjoy our U.P. forests and many other outdoor activities as well. Let us now take a brief look at the very interesting history of Jeeps in the U.S.

In the early 1940s, it became clear that the United States would become involved in the European theater of World War II. At that time, the United States Army contacted 135 companies to create working prototypes of a four-wheel drive military car. Only two companies responded:  American Bantam Car Company and Willys-Overland. The Army set a seemingly impossible deadline of 49 days to supply a working prototype. Willys asked for more time, but was refused. The Bantam Car Company responded to this very demanding Army request and began work on July 17, 1940, and came up with a successful design.

The Army thought that the Bantam company was too small to supply the required number of vehicles, so it supplied the Bantam design to Willys and Ford, and encouraged them to work with this design to produce these vitally needed military cars.

Because the U.S. War Department required a large number of vehicles in a short time, Willys-Overland granted the U.S. Government a non-exclusive license to allow another company to manufacture vehicles using Willys’ specifications. The Army chose Ford as a second supplier, building Jeeps to the Willys’ design. Willys supplied Ford with a complete set of plans and specifications. American Bantam, the creators of the first Jeep, built approximately 2,700 of these vehicles that they had designed, but then spent the rest of World War II building heavy-duty trailers for the Army.

The Jeep quickly became a truly amazing war vehicle that contributed greatly to the success of our military forces winning World War II. Between 1941 and 1945, U.S. factories produced nearly 650,000 of this great utility war vehicle. This represented the manufacture of nearly 500 Jeeps per day for the duration of America’s participation in World War II. Each one cost Uncle Sam about $650, and at that price, these Jeeps were a real bargain. These 2,000-pound, four wheel drive Jeeps were amazing military vehicles. Jeeps performed a seemingly endless array of jobs everywhere Allied soldiers fought in World War II. Our Jeeps evacuated injured military personnel injured in Pacific jungles. They also became armed vehicles in North Africa and were used to haul artillery on the Russian Front. Jeeps literally did it all and contributed greatly to help us win World War II.

One popular theory of the origin of he name Jeep is as follows. When Ford manufactured many of these vehicles for the military, they referred to them as General Purpose vehicles, and this was then abbreviated as G.P. vehicles. Military personnel then verbally started calling these vehicles G.P. vehicles and this quickly evolved into the one syllable term Jeep, which was easier to verbalize. There is no universal agreement on this as the true origin of the term Jeep. My research found that there are sources that do agree with this Jeep name theory and other sources that do not agree. Regardless, Jeeps are great general purpose vehicles.

Today, there are numerous brands and models of all wheel drive and four wheel drive vehicles available. They are all very popular here in our great Upper Peninsula and throughout the United States. They certainly provide better traction when driving during our winter months and while driving on any wet and slippery roads. I personally would not want to be without an all wheel drive vehicle living here in the U.P. or elsewhere. At this time, I drive an all wheel drive Chevrolet Traverse which I am very happy with and I remain very impressed how it performs in our various weather conditions all year long. Lastly, drive safe, never drink and drive, and be respectful of all slippery road conditions. Doctor’s Orders!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Jim Surrell is the author of “The ABC’s For Success In All We Do” and the “SOS (Stop Only Sugar) Diet” books.Contact Dr. Surrell by email at sosdietdoc@gmail.com


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