In celebration of Memorial Day and the 70th anniversary of the Jeep® 4×4, we thought it would be fun to share a little history of the legendary Jeep brand vehicle’s service to the country through military operations. The Jeep vehicle originated in 1941 as a result of the military’s need for a lightweight reconnaissance utility vehicle and World War II was where it proved its worth many times over.
In the late 1930’s the United States realized that war was a real possibility. As a result, the U.S. Army understood it needed a lightweight, all-terrain utility vehicle to replace horses and motorcycles. After several companies submitted contract bids, the Bantam Car Company was approved to manufacturer the original prototype which was rolled out on September 23, 1940. However, Bantam could not sustain production and lost the contract after only 2,600 vehicles. The Willys-Overland company took over the contract and produced the MA prototype. The MA soon evolved into the MB and it was proudly introduced to the world in July 1941.
There is much speculation on how the MB got the “Jeep” name. While there are several theories on how this happened, one of the most likely is that the vehicle was named after the cartoon character “Eugene the Jeep”, created by E.C. Segar. Regardless of how the new name caught on, from that point forward, the vehicle was referred to as a “Jeep” by soldiers and civilians alike.
World War II was where the Jeep vehicle became famous as an iconic U.S. Army military vehicle. There were approximately 650,000 MB Jeep vehicles produced during the war, and they played a major military role throughout both Europe and the Pacific theaters of operation. Jeep vehicles were used by all allies, including the Russians, where over 5,000 vehicles were sent to help their war effort. Jeep vehicles were used for troop transport, weapons platforms, ambulances, command cars, reconnaissance, and pulling supply trailers. Troops raved about their speed, versatility, and ability to negotiate many types of terrain. It has been speculated that because of these factors, the Jeep vehicle played a contributing role in the allied victory of World War II.
It didn’t take long for word to get out about the vehicle’s outstanding performance during World War. As a result of the Jeep vehicle’s popularity with the troops, soldiers returning home continued to seek out and buy surplus Jeep 4×4’s, and tens of thousands were sold to civilians at government sales throughout the United States. Civilian versions of the Jeep brand vehicle were then designed and produced to satisfy the growing demand of this highly versatile vehicle.
The great legacy of the World War II MB Jeep 4×4 lives today in the all-new 2011 Jeep Wrangler and other Jeep brand vehicles. If you don’t believe it, check out the body style, grille, and the legendary Jeep brand capability, all of which are inspired by the original 1941 MB. So as you’re driving down the road in your Jeep vehicle, remember that 70 years of history and tradition are riding with you, and you can be proud of the great contribution and success of the MB Jeep 4×4 in World War II. On this Memorial Day, the Jeep brand would like to salute the brave men and women of our armed services whose unselfish sacrifice gave us the freedoms we enjoy today.