Jeeps, Planes, Tanks, and Trucks
Maj. Walter Bedell Smith approached Chief of Staff Gen. George Marshall with a proposal for a small all-terrain vehicle. Marshall asked Smith what he thought about it, and Smith said that pursue it, so Marshall ordered what became the Jeep. First built by the American Bantam Car Company, Ford Motor Company soon joined in, but Willys-Overland Motors built the most – more than 350,000 of the 600,000 or so built.
While there are many stories of how the Jeep got its name, the most likely is that “jeep” was a term soldiers used for an untried piece of equipment, and the name was adopted during trials of the new vehicle at Camp Holabird, MD.
The Boeing B-17 was first in combat in 1941 with the Royal Air Force. It carried nine machine guns and a 4,000 pound bomb load. They were nicknamed “Flying Fortress,” and their ability to keep flying after massive damage is legendary. More than 12,000 B-17s were built for use during the war.
The P-51 “Mustang” first flew in 1940, and was designed for the British for medium-altitude use, but was also flown by the Army Air Corps, and proved adept at nap-of-the-Earth flying as well as bomber escorts. It bested every German plane from the Junkers to the Me-262. More than 15,000 were built.
The first M4 (Sherman) tanks were sent to the British Army through Lend-Lease and fought in Africa. Up to 2,000 tanks a month were produced at 11 factories. More than 6,700 M4s were produced during the war.
During Normandy, outfitted with Culin hedgerow cutters. Gen. George Patton led his tanks so quickly through France that truckers known as the “Red Ball Express” were needed to transport fuel to support the tank push.
The most common truck during the war was the 2.5-ton 6×6. Most of the 200,000 made by Studebaker and REO were sent by Lend-Lease to the Soviet Union. More than ½ million were produced by GMC and used by U.S. forces. Max speed of 45 mph. .30 or .50 caliber Browning machine gun.
To find other items that the Marshall Foundation has on transportation, search “Jeep,” “plane,” “tank,” or “truck” in the library catalog: https://www.marshallfoundation.org/library/results/
Digitized items in the George C. Marshall archives: