I’m not sure why, but I have recently been obsessed with the history of the World War II jeep. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been watching Masters of the Air, or perhaps because I have an unfortunate obsession with trucks in general.

Olive drab vehicle with Ft Stevens on the bumper and a building behind

A World War II "jeep" at Fort Stevens State Park in Oregon

I won’t go into the drama of the three companies involved (Bantam, Willys, Ford…but spoiler, Bantam–which no longer exists–was the best, whose prototypes were made public domain), and how the WW2 jeep came to be, but it is a fascinating story of a simple little truck that had an outsized influence on the outcome of history’s most notorious war.1

Two photos in one, with the left showing a tag that reads Army shirt gov't issued, and tailored exclusively, and the right side showing a patch with the number 15 and wings extending from a white star with a red circle in the middle

As it turns out, I—like many of my advancing age—had a grandfather whose service in the Army Air Corps united an entire country around a common cause. That commitment still stands as an emblem of solidarity that seems impossibly antiquated now, but I have in safe keeping my grandfather’s wool shirts (with accompanying patches) to remind me of that solidarity and sacrifice. Once upon a time.

Two books, one out of focus vaguely with the title Wartime Jeeps, and the in-focus book in green also with the title Wartime Jeeps and WW2 jeeps also visible with a vehicle, the jeep, below in olive drab paint

My shitty Jeep

After I moved from Montana back to Oregon, I drove a Jeep Wrangler YJ, and frankly, it was the least reliable vehicle I’ve ever owned (to be fair, it did make the trek between the two states multiple times…but the engine also literally just stopped running at random times—including in midtraffic—and wouldn’t restart).

I can attest that it was an unbelievably fun vehicle to drive, and I still miss the more joyful times to this day.

A red jeep with lights glowing in from of a stream across a road with trees around

A red jeep with square headlights with a large tree and a deck with a golden retriever laying

A red jeep with the top down and a yellow bicycle on a rack on the back of the vehicle

If you suspect your unreliable Jeep might break down again, you can add a bicycle to the spare tire.

Guiding a Jeep cover photo

Back in 2005, I was living in the Beartooth mountains of Montana, having just graduated from the University of Oregon.

At the time, I was working at a mountain store that was the gateway for adventures into the backcountry of the Beartooth Wilderness. The scout for the contracted Jeep team (pre-Stallantis, I guess? I don’t research capitalist bullshit) did his job, finding this remote place with a basecamp, but they nonetheless needed my lightweight tripod to convey their kit into the backcountry, and a guide to lead them into the Beartooth Wilderness.

A person takes a photo near a river and blocks the sun with their left hand, the person is wearing a black jacket and tan beanie hat; below that, a snow lined mountain landscape with a river running through

And that’s how, in 2005, my tripod, along with my trail guidance, led to the cover photo for the 2006 Jeep catalog…

The summer of 2005 in the Beartooth Mountains was full of stories, and I do have a (very old) blog that recounts some of them, but those are for some other time (or a smaller audience).

There are stories within stories about this particular Jeep photo shoot, but I think I’ll keep those to myself as well. I do hope that the team found their true base camp with one another, nearly 20 years later.

Catalog of Jeep 2006 commander, grand cherokee, liberty, wrangler, with a mountain and tree lined river

Back of catalog of Jeep 2006 commander, grand cherokee, liberty, wrangler, with a mountain and tree lined river