Tales of an Old Jeep
By Henry J. Cubillan
In the years after World War II, thousands of ex-military Willys MB's and Ford GPW's were sold as surplus all over the world. Today, most of them have been scrapped, but a precious few of them have stayed with us as a piece of history. This is the story of one of them...
The old Jeep was tired, and its battered body looked particularly haggard in the autumn light. Today was its fiftieth birthday, and more than ever, he felt the weight of a lifetime of service on his sagging springs. As usual, he took it all in stride, always managing to do the work demanded of him, but on days like this, when the weather was cold and his latest owner favored the new Dodge Ram, leaving the Jeep in the musty, decrepit barn, old memories would creep up to him, beckoning, reminding him of better days....
He recalled the bright autumn morning when his crate was sealed and stowed in the hull of a Liberty ship for the long trip to North Africa. He remembered being assembled at a makeshift outdoor garage, the glaring sun of Tunisia warming his new canvas seats. For two long years, he served proudly with an infantry division, and he had been hit several times in the course of the war. Sometimes, when the weather was unusually cold, he felt a dull ache on his quarter panel, where the many coats of paint had never managed to conceal the dent left by a ricocheting .50 caliber slug.
Fifty years of work had dulled, but never erased, the smell of battle from his body, the lingering mix of sweat, gunpowder, blood and most of all, fear. Twice he had his driver shot out from over him, leaving him stranded, helpless, in the midst of a raging battle; but always another young man would jump on him and drive him to safety. Time had blurred the faces of most of his comrades in arms, but he could still hear Jonesy, a young soldier who gripped the wheel too tightly, talking softly to him, begging him not to give up, to hold the last drop of water in a ruptured radiator as they made their way around enemy lines during a German counterattack somewhere in Belgium.
The Jeep remembered proudly the day he was driven through the streets of a liberated Paris, with Old Glory flying triumphantly on his back. He could still hear the cheers and smell the grateful tears and flowers that were dropped on him that day. How happy his young soldiers had been that day, gaping at the Eiffel Tower and stealing kisses from the French girls who followed them everywhere.
After the war, he had ended up in Belgium, stripped of his machine gun and radios and sold to a young farmer who used him to pull a tiller. His young wife told her husband that the Jeep's olive drab color reminded her of the war, so he received the first of his many civilian paint jobs, this one bright red. For many years, he saw the Flemish soil yield its plentiful harvest and the farmer's sons grow tall and strong. One of them, the youngest, would drive him often, and after his father's death he had taken him to the city. From it the old Jeep remembered the lights, the cacophony of noises that never stopped, and the dozens of pigeons who would irreverently cover his hood with droppings.
The Jeep remained in the city for years, driven infrequently, until the day he heard the old Englishman's voice for the first time. "That's exactly what I've been looking for, lad!", he heard, and his starter motor struggled to fire the engine. "This Jeep and I are going around the world!". Two weeks later, his engine completely overhauled and all of his fluids changed, he rumbled happily on brand new tires. He also sported a brand new paint job, bright blue, with a small Union Jack where the radio mount used to be.
( What followed was the best six years of his life..Collapse )