The real Jeep story

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A restored M&M Jeep

Several companies claim credit for inventing the Jeep, especially the American Bantam Car Co. of Butler, Pa., which claims it introduced a jeep in February 1940.

However, Minneapolis-Moline Power Implement Co. maintains it invented the Jeep at Camp Ripley, Minn., in 1938, while developing the Minneapolis-Moline Model UDLX Comfortractor.

A 1944 booklet entitled A Wartime Report: Food, too, Fights for Freedom, carries a section called ‘The Original jeep is a Product of Minneapolis-Moline.’

‘Current national publicity has obscured the fact that the first war machine named ‘JEEP’ was born at Minneapolis-Moline and christened at Camp Ripley, Minn.,’ the pamphlet reads.

‘Back in 1938, Minneapolis-Moline engineers were already experimenting with the conversion of a farm tractor to an artillery prime mover. And in 1940, collaborating with Adjutant Gen. E. Al Walsh, commander of the Minnesota National Guard, models were tested in maneuvers at Camp Ripley.

‘This new Minneapolis-Moline army vehicle wasn’t yet a crawler tractor, truck, nor tank, and yet it could do almost anything and it knew all the answers. Because of this, it brought to mind the Popeye cartoon figure called ‘Jeep’ which was neither fowl nor beast, but knew all the answers and could do most anything. The National Guardsmen therefore named the Minneapolis-Moline vehicle the ‘Jeep.’ The ‘Jeep’ name, there fore, isn’t a contraction of the term General Purpose (GP).

‘Since the original Minneapolis-Moline Jeep, Minneapolis-Moline has designed several additional models of military tractors in cooperation with Army and Navy officials. Several models of Minneapolis-Moline Jeeps are now being produced in quantity for the Armed Forces of the United States, and in use throughout the world.’

Sgt. James T. O’Brien is credited with first naming the machine ‘Jeep.’

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