5 Cwt Car (Jeep)

The Jeep concept was introduced to the US Military in the late 1930s.  As the concept was finalized and more extensive production began the use of the vehicle expanded to US allies.  The Jeeps were adapted for a wide array of uses in the field.  Jeeps were used in all theaters of the war and were ubiquitous by the end of WW2. 

A small company called Bantam, in Butler PA really created the lightweight reconnaissance vehicle concept.  They were granted the first production run of these vehicles and the Bantam BRC models even made it into Canadian and British service.  All military that experienced this new vehicle found it useful and adaptable and immediately requested as many as they could obtain.

After the initial run of Bantam BRC Jeeps the contract was given to Willys Motors who set out producing their Willys MB.  This was essentially the Jeep seen throughout WW2 but with a grill made of vertical steel bars.  The style changed slightly when Willys was not able to meet demand and Ford was brought into the picture.  Ford produced their GPW to be interchangeable parts wise with the Willys MB.  One of the few visible changes Ford made was introducing the stamped steel grill that became the Jeep face we know today. Willys adopted the grill created by Ford in 1942.  Willys and Ford produced their military models through the end of the war.

Jeeps were adapted into everything from ambulances to railway vehicles and more.  The Commonwealth forces made standard adaptations for Airborne Jeeps.  These Jeeps were supplied to Airborne units usually via glider. Adaptations varied to include some or all of the following: removal of the windshield, easy removal “knock off” steering wheel, removal of handles, cutting down of front bumper, movement of spare from rear to in front of grill, addition of clips for carrying a rifle, mounting of tools in front of spare and more.  The included photos of 1 Can Para Jeeps show that often only a few of these modifications were carried out.

The Canadian army performed its own testing on initial variations of the Jeep theme and found a preference for the Bantam BRC and the Ford GP (predecessor to the GPW).  When Willys was granted the contract the other models were not available and the first order placed by the Canadian Military was to Willys.  Orders from Canada totaled 13,800 Ford and Willys Jeeps through the duration of the war.  Orders were placed for reconditioned Jeeps as well.  Units also acquired Jeeps through more dubious means such as wandering off with parked allied Jeeps and repainting them with new hood designation numbers.  As Jeeps had no keys this was simple to do.

1 Can Para was experienced with Jeeps.  The men used them in training and are seen using them throughout the European campaign.  Jeeps were used in the unit for transportation of soldiers and equipment and were well suited to such an active and mobile unit such as 1 Can Para. As with allied forces throughout the war, the men of 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion were well acquainted with the ubiquitous Jeep.

Contributed by Merlin Hanson (owner Hanson Mechanical Restorations a vintage Jeep restoration shop www.classicjeeprestorations.com  and www.hansonmechanical.com )

© 2015-19 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion 1942- 1945 Preservation Association (USA) Inc.

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