The history of Jeep and the U.S. military are so intimately intertwined that it's hard to tell the story of one without the other. The Willys MB was the definitive and original "jeep" that helped Allied forces to victory in World War II. The Toledo, Ohio, assembly complex, although having gone through many changes in its 75-year history, remains the spiritual home of the Jeep brand and the source for most Jeep models to the present day, including the Wrangler and new Jeep Cherokee. As a salute to veterans following this past weekend's Memorial Day holiday, the plant has erected a permanent memorial at the complex near the intersection of I-75 and I-280.
The memorial consists of life-size metal silhouettes of soldiers and a restored 1942 Willys MB that plant workers found on a Craigslist posting in Texas. When the seller was contacted by the plant, he immediately pulled the posting, sold the Jeep for $950 in exchange for a plant tour. A team of 15 employees from the Toledo plant restored the vehicle, and plant volunteers also made the metal silhouette cut-outs.
87-year-old Toledo retirees Lewis and Leroy Woggon were present at the memorial commemoration ceremony. Both served as combat engineers in World War II and returned to work for more than four decades at the Toledo plant. Both Lewis and Leroy's sons also worked at the plant. From the start of wartime production in 1941 until the end of the war in 1945, the Toledo plant produced 363,000 Willys MBs. After the war, a civilian version (CJ) was introduced for the thousands of veterans eager to own a version of the trusty workhorse they relied on during the war.