Father of the Jeep

A careful evaluator of people’s capabilities, General George C. Marshall chose good subordinates, let them do their job without constant interference by him, but relieved them if they could not perform well. One of his favorites, Assistant Secretary of the General Staff Major Walter Bedell Smith, came into Marshall’s office with a representative from the American Bantam Car Company whose design had been rejected by the heads of several Army departments.  Smith gave Marshall the background on the issue. “Well, what do you think of it?” Marshall asked. “I think it’s good,” Smith said. Major Smith suggested testing the vehicle and responded that he could find money in the budget for it. “Well, do it,” the Chief of Staff responded. 15040451686_413076e825_z


Once 70 cars were tested, requests for thousands of them poured in from Army commands.The Bantam Company was too small to manufacture the thousands of vehicles needed for global war, so the plans were given to Ford and Willys-Overland, each of which modified them and built new prototypes. The best parts of the three designs were combined to produce the standardized Jeep.  “Thus the lowly Jeep- the light truck, 1/4 ton, 4×4 command vehicle, entered the Army and its place in history as the most practical, adaptable, and everywhere beloved means of transportation the war produced.” Marshall’s leadership, his ability to see the larger picture and his understanding of what the common solider needed produced one of the greatest assets of the war.  By 1946 more than half a million Jeeps had been produced for the Ordinance Department that had initially rejected the idea.

Did You Know?  Fun Facts About Jeeps

  • Most American Jeeps would have a full or broken circle around the star to designate it in the air as “American.”  Otherwise, a simple star could be from any number of various countries.
  • The groove in the left side of the Jeep with the brackets and straps was used to attach a shovel and ax.
  • The wingnut on the support for headlights under the hood can be undone, which allows the headlights to rotate vertically so they may point upward to illuminate the sky or backward so they can illuminate the engine.
  • It only gets about 13 miles to the gallon, so soldiers would carry many gas containers in the back for longer trips.
  • The glass of the windshield pivots to open so the passengers can get air blowing though.
  • The entire windshield tilts down to prevent debris from striking passengers.
  • The storage areas to the left and right of the back passenger seats are for tools.
  • The Marshall Museum Jeep was produced in 1943 and saw combat in Greece.  There is a bullet hole in the passenger side.  The Jeep was purchased after the war and restored by James A. McDonough.
  • The headlight control mechanism has three stops:  one for blackout lights, one for regular headlights, and one for just the brake light.  It was designed with the push button so the lights could not be turned on accidentally and reveal your location to the enemy.  The stop that turns on just the brake light was designed so that if you were driving without headlights and needed to stop the Jeep, the vehicle behind you would not rear-end you.
  • The Jeep could not go into very deep water, but some did have an exhaust pipe which came out the back and went up vertically to keep the water out when they did have to cross deep water.
  • The soldiers would heat their coffee on the hot engine after the Jeep had been driven a while.

Make Your Own Jeep with Legos