The military and Jeeps have a long history together. Now there’s a new veterans’ memorial dedicated to both.
Auto workers in the city that has been making Jeeps since World War II dedicated the veterans’ memorial Friday outside Chrysler’s assembly plant in Toledo where they continue to build new models.
The memorial features a restored, Toledo-built military Jeep.
“We thought we could tie the Jeep history and tie the Jeep legacy into honoring the veterans because they are so intertwined,” said Chuck Padden, the plant’s manager.
He told The Blade that the company has been looking for a way to honor men and women who served in the military.
Willys-Overland built about 360,000 Jeeps in Toledo during World War II.
The U.S. military had decided it needed a versatile, all-purpose vehicle as war spread across Europe and Asia. Among their many uses were as troop carriers, gun mounts, and makeshift ambulances.
They first were named the Willys MB, but the troops just called them “jeeps.” It was a name that stuck. Willys-Overland copyrighted the Jeep name in 1946.
Though today’s Jeeps rolling off the assembly line in Toledo aren’t made for battle, there still is a strong connection to the military. Every Friday, the plant’s workers wear red in support of U.S. troops.
“This is the car that basically put us on the map,” said Bob Kiss, a 30-year Jeep worker and one of the men who helped restore the 1942 Willys MB for the memorial. “It’s the vehicle that helped win World War II, and the new vehicle we build now isn’t much different, when they sit side-by-side.”
The Jeep for the memorial was delivered to the plant just over two weeks ago. It was in rough shape, but ready for display in just nine days.
“We were told to make it a display model from 50 feet,” said Scott Hinkle, who has had family working at Jeep and its predecessors in Toledo uninterrupted since 1923. “When we were done, it got a thumbs up and it looks good from 10 feet. It’s a wonderful display memorial for our vets. It’s great. It’s an honor to do it.”