Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower sits in a jeep at a front line position in France in September 1944.
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It was 70 years ago today, on July 15, 1941, that the former Willys-Overland Co. signed a contract with the U.S. War Department to begin producing the first production military "Jeeps."
The little green go-anywhere, do-anything 4x4 vehicles soon began rolling off the assembly line at the former Willys-Overland plant in Toledo by the tens of thousands, and became an instant friend to Allied men and women in uniform during World War II.
After the war, the Jeep came home with many of those in service, and soon became a staple both on and off American roadways.
Today, while the original Jeep Parkway plant has been demolished, more than 2,300 men and women still work in Toledo at Chrysler’s Toledo Jeep Assembly Complex making the military Jeep’s modern descendants, the Jeep Wranger, Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, Jeep Liberty, and Dodge Nitro. Thousands of others from across northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan retired after spending part or all of their working lives building the vehicles so closely associated with Toledo.
Workers at the Toledo Assembly Complex are marking the actual anniversary Friday with notices on their plant monitors, and will hold a separate birthday party on Sept. 11, said Dan Henneman, Jeep unit chairman for United Auto Workers Local 12.
Ward M. Canaday, chairman of the board for Willys-Overland, drives the 200,000th Jeep built in Toledo during World War II off the assembly line in this April 4, 1944, file photo.
We’d like you to share your favorite Jeep story with fellow ToledoBlade.com readers today. Tell us your favorite story about the original SUV — whether you just owned one, or if you helped build them — and what it means to you to mark this milestone.