This day in Military History February 10th 1942 – The war halted civilian car production at Ford. Henry Ford opposed America’s entry into World War II until the attack on Pearl Harbor, which inspired him to begin an all-out effort tomanufacture planes and vehicles for the war effort.
The Ford Motor Company signed on a month earlier to make Jeeps, the new general-purpose military vehicles desperately needed by American forces in World War II. The original Jeep design was submitted by the American Bantam Car Company. The Willys-Overland company won the Jeep contract, however, using a design similar to Bantam’s, but with certain improvements. The Jeep was in high demand during wartime, and Ford soon stepped in to lend its huge production capacity to the effort. By the end of the war, the Jeep had won a place in the hearts of Americans, and soon became a popular civilian vehicle. And that catchy name? Some say it comes from the initials G.P., for “General Purpose.” Others say it was named for Jeep the “Moondog”, the spunky and durable creature who accompanied Popeye through the comics pages.
By October 1941, it became apparent Willys-Overland could not keep up with production demand and Ford was contracted to produce them as well. The Ford car was then designated GPW, with the “W” referring to the “Willys” licensed design. During World War II, Willys produced 363,000 Jeeps and Ford some 280,000. Approximately 51,000 were exported to the U.S.S.R. under the Lend-Lease program.
Today, Jeep makers proudly retain the automobile’s historical connection to the visage of its predecessors by using a trademarked grille featuring a standard number of vertical openings or ‘slots’. However, in order to be able to get theirs trademarked, Willys gave their post-war jeeps seven slots instead of Ford’s nine-slot design. Through a series of corporate take-overs and mergers, AM General Corporation ended up with the rights to use the seven-slot grille as well, which they in turn extended to Chrysler when it acquired American Motors Corporation, then manufacturer of Jeep, in 1987. Many say that the Jeep is the Grandfather of the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), commonly known as the “Humvee”.
Photo (L) Willys MA jeep at the Desert Training Center, Indio, California, June 1942.
Artwork (R) “Come See Afghanistan Convoy” Poster Art by – Squadron Posters.