Well, now, isn’t this just interesting? This may be old news to some of you but the jeep was a general purpose vehicle! Now how in the world can that be you ask incredulously? Where do I come up with such heresy? After all it was a command and recon car or lightweight liaison vehicle, right? Well, I have been doing some research into some early documents. The earliest specifications for what would become the jeep called for an armored windshield for the driver. Apparently, this was done to expedite the process of procuring the vehicle. This would put it in the Ordnance class of vehicles. And in fact it was briefly in the hands of the Ordnance Committee. After further study it was recommended to be turned over to the QM committee. So why do I say that this is a general purpose vehicle. The Quartermaster only procured general purpose vehicles. These were in the form of either Administrative (like a staff car) or tactical (the jeep would be one of those). In fact, evidence of this is stated in AR 850-15 as quoted by Book 120 Field Artillery, Automotive Instruction, 1941 Edition:
“Classification: General-Purpose Motor Vehicles–All wheeled vehicles adapted for general hauling purposes including general cargo, ammunition, personnel, and equipment; and for towing trailers, guns, and other wheeled equipment. Examples: Cargo trucks, dump trucks, passenger vehicles, ambulances.” “Estimates, Design, Development, Procurement, Maintenance, Storage, and Issue: By the Quartermaster Corps, except the design and development of ambulances, which will be by the Medical Department in collaboration with the Quartermaster Corps.”The same Book 120 also defines “truck”. Trucks are “motor-propelled vehicles designed primarily for carrying cargo or equipment. They may be used for carrying personnel or for towing purposes.” Still further it provides a chart that lists the Truck, 1/4-ton, 4×4, Ford, 1941. The chart defines ‘purpose’ for us. “The purpose will be indicated by stating the general character of the body or the use for which the vehicle is designed.& The trucks maybe for “cargo, light repair, reconnaissance, dump, tank, cargo and dump, wrecking, or pick-up.” The jeep?s ( or Geep!) purpose is reconnaissance. Herbert R. Rifkind in his The Jeep–Its Development and Procurement Under the Quartermaster Corps, 1940-1942, states that jeep while no one is certain, of course, may have been derived from general purpose. “The initial letters of the War Department?s vehicle classification, ?general purpose? (G.P.), under which the ¼-ton was listed, into a monosyllable. Credence is lent to this theory by the fact that an early spelling variation of the word was ?geep?.” This is may be supported from the following tidbits quoted from the WW2 Army Motors, May, 1941:
“Distributor shafts on the 1/4-ton 4×4 Ford ‘GEEPs’ are binding or seizing in distributor housing due to apparent lack of lubrication. This is due to the 40-12141 oiler felt inserted in the B-10141 oiler assembly in base of the GP-12124 distributor housing not allowing sufficient lubricant to seep through to keep distributor shaft properly lubricated. It is essential to remove this oiler felt immediately. Take a long pointed needle or any pointed piece of thin wire and bend a very small hook at a 90 degree angle at the pointed end and ‘fish’ out the felt in the oiler passageway. After oiler felt is removed, oiler should be filled with oil.”And yet another tidbit!
“Parts lists and maintenance manuals for the 1941, 1/4-ton, 4×4 Ford ?GEEP? have been issued as TM 1100 and TM 1101. This should read TM 10-1100 and TM 10-1101. Correct your copies and refer to them as TM 10-1100 and TM 10-1101 in all correspondence.”I have found and are currently studying the papers of the Chief of Infantry ( Gen. Lynch ) during the initial development of the jeep. It is very interesting reading. . . . comparing some of the information to the ‘official’ QMC version (Rifkind) or the papers of Col Dow. Some may claim that he was just another General Army officer seeking to claim credit for the jeep. Of course he and another officer mention that problem back in the early 40s! Still General Lynch retired approximately May 1941 but would be called upon by Federal authorities on several occasions to testify what he knew concerning the development and introduction of the WW2 jeep (this would continue on into the mid-1950s). Also mentioned in the documents are Mr. Wells. The fellow who wrote “Hail to the Jeep”. It shows documentation that he had permission from the War Department to discuss the jeep history with any of the officers involved. There is correspondence between Wells and the Chief of Infantry. At any rate I am still digesting this information. Including the June 6, 1940 memo that described the basic characteristics of the jeep BEFORE the army committee went to visit with the Bantam folks. But more about that next time.