The Willys MB and the Ford GPW, both formally called the U.S. Army Truck, 1/4 ton, 4x4, Command Reconnaissance, commonly known as Jeep or jeep, and sometimes referred to as G503 [nb 3] are light, off-road capable, military utility vehicles that were manufactured during World War II (from 1941 to 1945) to help mobilize the Allied forces.
The jeep became the primary light wheeled transport vehicle of the United States Military and its Allies in World War II, as well as the postwar period becoming the world's first mass-produced four-wheel drive car, manufactured in six-figure numbers. The ca. 640,000 units built, constituted a quarter of the total U.S. non-combat motor vehicle production in the war, and almost two thirds of the ca. 988,000 light vehicle class, together with the Dodge WC series, outnumbering those by almost two to one.
"In many respects, the jeep became the iconic vehicle of World War II, with an almost mythological reputation.." (Hyde, 2013), having proven itself exceptionally capable, tough, durable and versatile. Not only did it become the workhorse of the American military, as it literally replaced the use of horses and other draft animals (still abundant in World War I) in every role, from cavalry units to supply trains, but improvised field-modifications also made the jeep capable of just about any other function GI's could think of.
The jeep was considered such a valuable piece of equipment that General Eisenhower wrote that most senior officers regarded it as one of the six most vital U.S. vehicles to win the war.[nb 4] Moreover, General George Marshall called the squared-off little car Americas greatest contribution to modern warfare. In 1991, the MB Jeep was designated an "International Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark" by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
After WW II, the original jeep continued to serve, in the Korean War and other conflicts, until it was updated in the form of the M38 Willys MC and M38A1 Willys MD (in 1949 and 1952 respectively), and received a complete redesign by Ford in the form of the 1960-introduced M151 jeep. Its influence however, was much greater than that manufacturers around the world began building jeeps and similar designs, either under license or not at first primarily for military purposes, but later also for the civilian market. Willys trademarked the "Jeep" name, turned the MB into the civilian Jeep CJ models, and Jeep became its own brand. The 1945 Willys Jeep was the world's first mass-produced civilian four-wheel drive car.