Interview With Michael Wierman

From the interview with Michael Wierman of Woodinville, WA conducted by phone from the Fort Worden History Center on September 18, 2012 by Eleanor Rigby. Mr. Wierman is a member of the Puget Sound Military Vehicle Collectors Club (PSMVCC), a group that has been holding an annual campout and show on Artillery Hill at Fort Worden for the past several years. The 2013 Military Vehicle Show is scheduled for the second weekend in September, and the public is invited to view the variety of vehicles on display.

Here Mr. Wierman discusses his vehicle, why he acquired it and its history:

“Mine’s a 1943 World War II Jeep. It was one of about 300,000 that were manufactured by the Ford Motor company. In World War II, two companies made the Jeep, Willys Overland and Ford, and they made about equal numbers. They’re the exact same design. They were using the same blueprints and all the parts were interchangeable. Unless you’re an owner, you probably wouldn’t notice the difference.

I was completely foolish. I’m a food machinery engineer and what I do for a living is a very humble profession, our focus is to make it easy for people to purchase and prepare their food so they have time to do other creative things. I always felt until I owned my Jeep that the military was kind of the opposite, that they destroy things. So, I wanted to kind of turn a sword into a plowshare concept, get an old military Jeep and have it and drive a food machinery engineer around. But during the time of restoring it, I completely changed. I met many a veteran and people involved in Jeeps. I decided that this was such an important part of history that I really needed to preserve it and do it right, and I’m glad I did. So, I’ve been still painstakingly making sure that this Jeep is absolutely spot on to the way they were back then. I’ve just had the best time meeting the veterans and the people who served in the military, and they are truly heroes. I couldn’t have stumbled across a better hobby.

Very few Jeep owners have any confirmation of what their Jeeps did because all the records were destroyed after the war. A few lucky ones may see a photograph of a Jeep that has a registration number available that could be tied to their Jeep but that’s almost one in a million. It is very unlikely.

My Jeep has a different story. There was a plaque on the dash when I brought it home that said it was remanufactured in 1945 by the Allison Sheet Metal Company in Arizona. I contacted them and they told me something about my Jeep. In that timeframe, during the Battle of the Bulge, a lot of equipment was damaged or destroyed. What we were doing was bringing those damaged vehicles back to the United States on those ships that would be empty or almost empty coming back. Then they would take them to wrecking yards where, if they could, make one Jeep out of ten; or trucks or whatever. Then they had them inspected and returned to service. Towards the end of the war, the inspectors did not come and all these thousands of vehicles were just left out in the parking areas. Then they were sold off as surplus to civilian buyers. The company did have records and that plaque basically told me that my Jeep was damaged in the Battle of the Bulge; also knowing the delivery date was in late 1943 helped.

Virtually all military equipment at that time was being sent over to England to prepare for the Normandy Invasion. So, my Jeep went over there and at some time it crossed into Europe and took a pretty serious hit on the left front tire. I can tell from the shrapnel damage, possibly from something like a landmine from below in the front. That’s what damaged it enough to where it was able to get back to the United States and be repaired. Then there is a blank in its history until about 1960, where I traced the owners back to a person who had done a lot of work on it and remembered my Jeep very well. He was hurt, he had a terrible accident in it and almost died. His friend restored it at that time. So, it has been restored many times and the last time by me. Of course I brag that it is the best restoration. That’s my Jeep’s story.”

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