Memories on wheels

view from wwII jeep

Here's how it looks as you are tooling down the road in a M38A1, the third generation of military jeeps, which began service in the military in 1952. Note the abundance of open air and lack of what are now considered civilized amenities, and three gear shift handles. From left to right these are: transmission, four-wheel-drive in or out; and four-wheel drive, high or low. You will not be tested on this, but thousands were during the long service life of this hardy vehicle. Fond memories and tall tales abound with it.

The first rain in recent weeks did not dampen or impede the spirit of  hardy souls who came for the the 10th  Annual Petit Jean Arkansas Military Vehicle Preservation Association Rally on, you guessed it, on Petit Jean mountain in central Arkansas. The three-day event attracted enthusiasts from Arkansas and eight other states who brought 68 trucks, trailers, a half-size jeep, a half-size half-track and a couple of towed cannons. This adventure started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. Click here to go there and get in on the start and see some additional WWII vehicle pictures, including a restored “Army Harley.”

WWII dodge power wagon ambulance

This 1944 WC 44 ambulance was built in on what is popularly known as a "Dodge Power Wagon" chassis. It would carry four stretcher patients or six walking wounded. Michael Penny of Poplar Bluff MO is the owner. The 1943 jeep in the foreground was manufactured in WWII by Ford Motor Co. The recessed headlights are the giveaway hint in the jeep's provenance. Several other automotive manufacturers also built jeeps. Paul and Ev Harless of Ada Valley AR are the owners.

There was a good variety of vehicles including the old faithful “duce-and-a-half,” jeeps of many vintages including an MP version, three ambulances, some wheel mounted guns, a WWII US Army Harley Davidson, and other miscellaneous and sundry wheeled vehicles and military artifacts. Unlike most museum grade pieces, it was ok to touchy-feely-crawl-around on most of them. And ride in them to boot. And ride we did.

hand salute from jeep

WWII veteran Jack Brannon of Thayer MO briskly renders the hand-salute as his ride rounds the clubhouse turn near the end of the convoy. His props his foot on the right front fender, the de rigueur position for passengers in this model of jeep, much to the disdain of military police and commanding officers. His driver is Kenneth Brown, also of Thayer.

What’s the use of having a vehicle and not driving it? And if it just happens to be a military vehicle, why not a convoy? And yea, verily, following that concept, the participants formed a convoy and we tooled around the top of the mountain, stopping once to gaze at what is normally a fantastic vista, then socked in with fog. Fortunately, as I was making my descent, the haze lifted. The view was spectacular.

View from the top, Petit Jean Mountain

Looking at the Arkansas River, still misty from a recent rain, from the top of Petit Jean Mountain at an observation point on the east side of the mountain. Patience paid off.

The collectors and restorers of this organization do a good job of preserving a valuable part of our history not only as restorers, but as researchers and historical advocates. For that we should be grateful. And we are.


Every week we shoot more pictures than we can post, so we put those suckers up in a high resolution galleries, one for folks with a PC and one for folks with Macs and I-Phones. This week there are 19 bigger and better pictures from this event, including another Harley shot, some convoy pictures, and another “view from the top. For PC, click here. Mac, I-Phone or PC, click here.

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind