On 6 June 1944, the Allied forces landed in Normandy by sea and by air. It was an unprecedented military operation in which men and machines began the liberation of Europe. Among these soldiers, aircraft, landing craft and ships, one car is now part of history: the Willys MB Jeep.

A true symbol of the Allied landings on the beaches of Normandy on 6 June 1944, the Jeep Willys MB (Military Model B) jeep has a rightful place in the automotive pantheon. Produced from 1941 to 1945 for the American army, it was involved in all the battles to liberate Europe from the Nazi occupiers.

Responding to a request from the American army as the Second World War ravaged Europe, Willys-Overland and Ford designed one of the very first 4x4s in automotive history. In less than five years, more than 640,000 examples were assembled and, for the most part, sent to theatres of operations. If it transported many soldiers, it was also the means of locomotion for many generals.

A Swiss Army knife on wheels

With a guaranteed weight of one tonne, and dimensions of 3,330 mm long, 1,575 mm wide and 1,770 mm high, the Willys was made to go anywhere, in any weather, with any type of load. With its Willys Overland MB 4-cylinder petrol engine producing 60 PS at 3,820 rpm, the light all-terrain vehicle was capable of reaching a top speed of 65 miles per hour, with a range of 236 miles. Easy to maintain and repair, the little car was truly the Swiss Army knife of the Allied forces that landed in France.

1941-1945-Jeep-Willys-Overland-MB-1

Its name could come from the contraction of the letters GP (for "General Purpose": Multiple Role) which becomes "Jeep". But also from the acronym "Just Enough Essential Parts". Called the Willys MB during the landings, the name Jeep came later.

In its basic configuration, this little military car was equipped with a machine gun and two submachine guns. It was also equipped with a radio, a key element in its reconnaissance and command missions. The military, impressed by its robustness, did not hesitate to adapt their Jeeps to suit the situations and requirements they encountered. Some of them were adapted to the terrain, such as those deployed in the Normandy Bocage during the battle that followed D-Day, which used a vertical bar on the bonnet to cut wires strung between two trees by German forces and designed to kill the Jeep's occupants.

A true symbol and now a collector's item for many enthusiasts, you should see plenty of them on French roads during these days of commemoration.