World War II Jeeps Steal the Spotlight at 75th Anniversary Gathering
Motor Authority marveled at thousands of historic Jeeps at Operation Overlord event.
There’s no denying that the Allied Forces’ Normandy Landing, launched on June 6, 1944, was a truly pivotal event—one that changed the course of history (for the better) forever. And as we mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we can’t help but give thanks to those who sacrificed everything to make it a successful one. But it also had us wondering: What fate befell the thousands of Willys Jeeps that helped play an important role in the ally victory?
Well, thanks to a compelling new article by our friends at Motor Authority, we can now answer that question. Amazingly enough, the many thousands of Jeeps left behind on the beaches of Normandy and throughout France are actually doing quite well. And even more interestingly, they went on to serve a major role in the country’s rebuilding efforts following World War II.
Motor Authority was lucky enough to attend a 75th anniversary gathering in Normandy. There, dozens of military Jeeps and their owners gathered to mark the occasion. It was there that they spoke with folks like Bernard Grassin, who runs a war machine club dubbed Conservateurs de Véhicules Militaires et Historiques. And from those conversations, you can feel the passion folks like Grassin have for these die-hard Jeeps.
“My Jeep was half-destroyed by a shell,” Grassin explained. “The previous owner cut out the damaged rear end. Welded a homemade metal platform onto the undamaged front part of the body. And used the Jeep to take fodder out to the animals on his farm. I had to find and fit a new-old-stock body to get it back on the road. I spent four years restoring this car!”
Grassin’s intriguing story isn’t an exception to the rule, either. Turns out, the French converted a great number of the thousands of Jeeps that parachuted onto the beaches of Normandy for farm use. Bringing all of these machines back to the states following the war was simply too expensive. So, they left them behind. And that’s when French farmers began fixing them up and repurposing them.
The tough and versatile Jeeps proved well-suited for the job. And in a bleak time, they were the catalyst that helped restart the French economy. From farm spreaders and plowers to fire and tow trucks, the French used these machines for all sorts of tasks. And today, after serving two very important roles in history, most of them are enjoying retirement in the hands of avid collectors like Grassin.
Photos: Motor Authority