World War II commanders,
including notable Generals Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton and George Marshall, identified the unpretentious Jeep as America’s greatest contribution to modern warfare.
The famous Ernie Pyle, official Army correspondent, summed it up like this: “Good Lord, I don’t think we could continue the war without the Jeep. It does everything. It goes everywhere. It’s as faithful as a dog, strong as a mule, and as agile as a goat. It constantly carries twice what it was designed for, and keeps on going.”
With such distinction as these heroes gave it, we can understand why Arlington Police Detective Jesse Minton is proud of his Ford GPW model built in the car company’s Dallas assembly plant.
It rolled off the assembly line there two days before Christmas in 1942 as number 87,638 out of about 277,000 that were produced to very exacting specifications for the war department.
I caught up with Detective Minton
and his Jeep at the recent Centennial celebration of the Bankhead Highway held at the infamous Top O’ Hill Terrace in West Arlington.
Both of Jesse’s grandfathers and some of his uncles served in WWII. With such a family history, he developed an interest in the little workhorse vehicle while in high school.
After his marriage and with a child on the way, he finally found one near Wichita Falls that he thought he could restore and had it towed home. It turned out to be in such bad shape that he wound up using it for parts when he finally located near Fort Hood the one you see here.
He went to work determined to restore it to those exacting WWII standards and accomplished his mission to do so almost 20 years ago.
Since then, he has shared it with everyone in parades, veterans’ events and community outings, with the most recent appearance at the Levitt Pavilion featuring a Glenn Miller event on Father’s Day weekend.
It features every detail the Army needed
in the vehicle, and nothing about it is without a purpose. It is powered by a flat-head four-cylinder 60-horsepower engine nicknamed the “Go-Devil” and will reach a top speed of about 60 miles per hour.
The handles on the back and sides of the Jeep were designed so that soldiers could lift it out of a mud hole if necessary. You can see many of the other features in the photos and realize just how versatile and useful the vehicle was and why it was in such demand.
Ford engineers designed round, recessed headlamps mounted on hinges so the lamps could pivot back and light the engine bay. Below them are the rectangular night-lights designed for travel in the dark but hidden from the enemy.
Perhaps the most-discussed feature is the gas tank. It is located directly under the driver’s seat – a dangerous arrangement, one may conclude. But the reason is strategic.
The most important targets in the vehicle
were the driver and the gas tank. A direct shot to either would put the Jeep out of commission and expose the other occupants to enemy fire. Putting them together cuts the vital targets in half. Yeah, war is hell.
Even its name is part of the folklore of history. Ford named it a “general purpose” vehicle that became “GP” for short. With it is slurred together, the name comes out “Jeep.”
The Germans and Japanese had their versions of the Jeep, but both turned out as dismal failures. As a result, enemy general orders were issued to capture the American Jeep for their purposes whenever possible.
Detective Minton is a member of the Arrowhead Chapter
of the Military Vehicle Preservation Association (MVPA). The purpose of the organization is to honor our country’s veterans through vehicle restorations, displays and memorabilia.
The MVPA also supports legislation that affects rights to collect, own and operate historic military vehicles.
You can get all the details, along with links to related websites at arrowhead-mvpa.com.