In June 1940, with World War II on the horizon, the U.S. Army solicited bids from 135 automakers for a 1/4 ton “light reconnaissance vehicle” tailored to Army specifications. Only three companies responded — Bantam, Willys, and Ford — but, within a year’s time they collectively produced the template for the vehicle known worldwide as the “jeep”.
Willys-Overland delivered the prototype “Quad” (named for the 4×4 system it featured), to the U.S. Army on Armistice Day (Veteran’s Day), November of 1940. The design was completed in a remarkable 75 days.
During the ensuing years, from WWII to Vietnam, the Angels made use of this historic vehicle in training, combat and occupation duty. From Toccoa to Tokyo, Fort Campbell to Korea, Germany and Fort Benning, the 11th Airborne’s troopers drove, stole, and maneuvered the Jeep through some of the toughest conditions possible.
They came to respect the Jeep as no other machine. No wonder the New York Museum of Modern Art includes a military Jeep Brand 4×4 in its display of eight automobiles and regards it as “one of the very few genuine expressions of machine art.”
General George C. Marshall, US Army Chief of Staff during World War II described the Jeep as “America’s greatest contribution to modern warfare”. WWII Reporter Ernie Pyle once said, “It did everything. It went everywhere. Was a faithful as a dog, as strong as a mule, and as agile as a goat. It constantly carried twice what it was designed for and still kept going.”
Source: 11th Airborne Division Association – “Angels” on Facebook.