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The Armory Article 2 - Jeeps

Published on March 29, 2024

Today we will be looking at the American Jeep and it’s role in the army. To call the jeep a workhorse is appropriate, it’s introduction effectively replaced the horse as a front line logistical unit in the US army. The Soviets and Wehrmacht still had to rely on horse-drawn wagons to supply units operating away from rail heads. The jeep, alongside heavier trucks, gave the United States and her western allies a motorized logistics train and a flexible utility vehicle.

Jeeps were produced during the Second World War by Ford, Willys-Overland Motors, and American Bantam. Between 1940 and 1945 almost 650,000 were produced, a key factor in the jeeps success was that it was cheap to make. It was a small vehicle by modern standards, weighing in at 1,100 kilograms. She had a 49 horsepower engine, and four wheel drive. Like all wheeled vehicle she could still get stuck in the mud and performed best on roads. Between tow ropes and her light weight even a bogged jeep could be manhandled back onto firm ground relatively easily.

During the war two jeeps were organic to every US Rifle Company. These came with trailers that gave them extra space to carry more materiel. For a Rifle Company at full strength you had a heck of a list of different weapon systems that needed feeding including.

M1911’s: 10

Thompson/Grease Guns: 6

M1 Carbines: 28

M1 Rifles: 146

Springfield 1903: 3

BAR: 15

M1919 LMG: 2


M7 Grenade Launchers: 35

60mm Mortars: 3

Bazookas: 5

By having two jeeps with trailers a company could have plenty of spare .30 caliber ammunition, mortar bombs, or rockets. This ability to take ammo close to the front with a utility vehicle was a useful feature that many Axis armies couldn’t match in terms of convenience. While a German company commander might have to worry about bringing up a supply wagon and handling a team of horses, an American commander could easily task a PFC who knew how to drive (hopefully reasonably well) to make another run to a supply depot.

Jeeps also were used for reconnaissance. They were a part of cavalry squadrons, providing extra transport alongside M8 armored cars and half-tracks. Contrary to the popular image of desert raiders driving around in jeeps covered in machine guns, you generally did not want to fight from the back of them. As is clear simply from looking at it, they had absolutely no armor or protection besides hiding behind the engine block. The guns mounted on them were only really useful for suppressing a contact you stumbled into, where both sides are equally surprised.

In the Combat Mission World War 2 titles like Normandy, Fortress Italy, or Final Blitzkrieg jeeps are usually encountered as a part of a weapons or reconnaissance platoon. If part of a reconnaissance unit they are paired with M8 scout cars and armed with a M1919 .30 cal’s. These jeeps are good at getting your scout teams into dismount spots so they can continue to reconnoiter on foot. While the crew can fire their personal weapons from their seats and man the machine gun, this is a good way to end up with a lot of dead scouts and burning jeeps. Driving into prepared defenses in a jeep is a guaranteed path to a purple heart and a pine box.

The jeeps in the weapons platoons or attached to headquarters units make for excellent light transports and ammo stashes. Many of these vehicles are modeled carrying small arms ammunition or additional rockets for bazooka teams. In a prolonged firefight its a good idea to split your squads into teams and send runners back for more ammo if you happen to run low. Simply have the team mount up in the jeep, use the acquire command, and grab what you need.

After the war many jeeps were sold to the civilian market as utility vehicles, something that could tow a trailer and be useful on a farm. The army continued to develop and request new models that improved in horsepower and reliability. By the 1980’s the army had widely adopted the M151 Truck. Compared to the Jeep of World War 2 the M151 weighed nearly the same, but had a stronger 71 horsepower engine and a four speed transmission. A good example of an iterational improvement on basically the same platform.

With advancements in weapons technology the jeep now had increased lethality. The invention of the ATGM and reconciles rifle made this unarmored vehicle a viable anti tank platform. While the non-existent armor made it’s use in firefights doubtful, at extreme ranges this lack of protection was made up for by a very small signature and agility. It is difficult to detect a small green truck camouflaged in woodlands two kilometers away. Because of the offroading capability and small size, jeeps with heavy weapons could appear in areas that would be inaccessible to heavier or larger vehicles.

By the late 1980’s jeeps are most frequently encountered as a weapon carrier or light transport. Their previous roles in reconnaissance have mostly been taken over by vehicles like the M113 or Bradley. While the wealthiest and most technologically advanced superpower on the planet, American air defenses at the tactical level are basically M151’s carrying around stinger teams. If you see jeeps hanging around mechanized rifle companies, there is a good chance that is their air defense.

In Combat Mission: Cold War the M151 is used as a staff car and weapons transport, often carrying TOW’s and mortar teams. The same principles present in the World War 2 titles apply. Don’t expose them to enemy fire, use them to shuttle critical weapons around to where you need them, and check to see if they are carrying any extra ammo for your units.

In Flashpoint Campaigns the M151 will usually be found carrying stinger teams or hauling gear in logistics and headquarters units. While completely lacking armor, the small size and road speed make it agile even in complex terrain. A stinger team can be driven quickly to high ground and ready to shoot down Soviet choppers, often without being detected. Several other NATO powers like Canada, France, and the United Kingdom also use the M151 in similar roles.

Since Flashpoint Campaigns takes place in 1989, some units are replacing their M151’s with Humvee’s. Considering the jeep and all it’s iterations were in service from 1940 to the early 2000’s, its interesting to imagine if the Humvee, or some variant of it, might stick around until the 2050’s.

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