1943 GPW, as received via a donation to the museum, February, 2012
Fred L. Borch, retired from the US Army, and Robert F. Dorr, an Air Force veteran, recently wrote an excellent summary description of the military jeep. It is quoted as follows:
"Before Humvee and the MRAP, Marines relied on a little truck known as the Jeep.
During World War II and for years afterward, in every theater where leathernecks fought, almost everyone in the Marine Corps, from Private to General, rode in a jeep.
The Jeep is an American icon. General of the Army Dwight Eisenhower called it one of the four items "most vital to our success," along with the bulldozer, the 2.5-ton truck and the C-47 Skytrain transport plane, which is known to leathernecks as R4D.
On Nov. 20th, 1941, Washington Daily New reporter Katherine Hillyer referred to a new Willys military vehicle as a "Jeep" after it climbed the steps of the Capitol. Ever since, the name has stuck with similar vehicles from at least five manufactures.
US industry produced 640,000 Jeeps in at least a dozen models during World War II, plus thousands after the war.
But only about 30,000 reached the Marine Corps, said Mark Tombleson, an expert on naval vehicles and a member of the Military Vehicle Preservation Society.
Most were not manufactured new for the Corps, but transferred from the Army and Navy.
Most Marine Jeeps were used as radio vehicles, although there are photographs of Marine Jeeps being used as ambulances on Iwo Jima.
Typically, Marine Jeeps carried a half-dozen radio units behind the driver an done or more operators, who communicated with ships offshore."
1943 Ford GPW
This jeep resulted from a design competition that involved American Bantam, Willys-Overland, and Ford. Willys was chosen for the first mass production contract based on the Willys MA design, but the Willys MB which followed incorporated superior features from the Bantam BRC-40 and the Ford GP in addition the the Willys MA. When the War Department realized that hundreds of thousands of jeeps would be needed for World War II requirements, Ford was given a contract to produce the Willys MB design. Ford produced jeeps were designated GPW.
At the outset, all engines were produced by Willys but in 1942 Ford began to produce GPW engines to the Willys design. Midland Steel Corp. produced frames to the Willys specification and were used by both Willys and For. Ford contracted with Murray Corp. for frames for the GPW after which Ford no longer used the Midland frames. During 1941 to 1943 Willys and Ford manufactured their own bodies, slightly different from each other. In early 1944, both Willys and Ford subcontracted their jeep bodies to American Central Body of Connersville, IN, who built the so-called "composite body" used by both manufacturers.
After about 25,000 units were produced, in early 1942 the MB/GPW was standardized with changes agreed upon by Ford, Willys and the Army. The 1941 and early 1942 production jeeps have many small differences from the later, full production models. The most visible change was the Ford nine-slot stamped grill which replaced the Willys slat grill (similar to the Ford GP) in March-April 1942.
Ford's River Rouge plant produced the first 77 GPW's with Willys engines and Midland frames in January 1942. Willys jeeps were produced in their Toledo, OH plant, while Ford had assembly operations at six plants around the country. Although small differences remained, the MB and GPW essentially met the Army's goal of being completely interchangeable in all parts. At the factories, there were Ford GPW's produced on Willys Midland frames or with Willys engines, plus other production expedients and subcontractor sharing, creating a mix of jeeps and parts to be sorted out by later generations.
During the course of the war, Ford built 277,896 GPW jeeps, and Willys built 335,531 units. Production contracts were terminated in the summer of 1945 as World War II ended. The last Ford GPW was built on 30 July 1945 and the last Willys MB rolled off the Toledo assembly line on 20 August 1945.
GPW reference site for current owners