The most common name used to refer to the Jeep during the Second World War was, in fact, “Jeep.” That’s not to say that this was the only name it was known by at the time, and the Jeep name only became official in 1946, a year after the war ended.
In the rest of the article, we are going to answer the question of what was the Jeep called in WW2 by looking at some of the official names that it held, the three leading theories as to the origin of the name Jeep, and some of the names it was known by during its early development.
U.S. Army Truck, Quarter Ton, 4x4, Command Reconnaissance
The official name used by the United States Army during the Second World War for the Jeep was U.S. Army Truck, Quarter Ton, 4x4, Command Reconnaissance. In the quest for determining what was the Jeep called in WW2, this is the most formally correct answer, and yet it would have been uncommon to hear people using the full name at the time due to how long-winded it is.
The most common shortening of the formal name that was used to refer to the Jeep was the Quarter Ton. This was especially popular among quartermasters due to the significance of the Jeep’s weight for their role. At roughly half the weight of vehicles that were already considered “light,” this innovation was a godsend for soldiers that needed to get them moved far and wide and fast.
Almost all of the original Jeeps from the Second World War were manufactured by either Willys-Overland Motors or the Ford Motor Company. The former of these manufacturers called their main production model the Willys MB, where the M stood for “military” and the B was used to indicate that it was their second iteration of the design. The first was called the Willys MA, but few were made.
When the military realized that that Willys-Overland could not manage the output that they needed alone, the full blueprints were handed to Ford to manufacture their own. This model was named the Ford GPW. The G stood for “government,” the P represented the size of the wheelbase, and the W was added to indicate that this was a Willys design. The GPW succeeded the earlier Ford GP.
One name was used more frequently than all of those combined during the Second World War, and it is the same name that we know and use today. Short, catchy, and easy to remember, American servicemen referred to these vehicles as Jeeps. The name Jeep was only trademarked for the first time in 1946, and there is no consensus on where it came from, but there are theories.
Contraction of Ford GPW
One of the most logical guesses to the origin of the name Jeep is that it is a contraction of one of the two main models, the Ford GPW, or its predecessor, the Ford GP. Reading out the letters but stopping at the end of the first syllable leaves you with “Jeep.”
Some sources say that the name predates the standardization of the Jeeps as we know them, having been previously used for the larger half ton trucks in military service. If this is the case, then this theory is unlikely to be correct.
Contraction of General Purpose
Similar to the theory stating that the origin of the name Jeep is the phonetic contraction that you get when you stop sounding GPW at the first syllable is the one stating that it is a contraction of “General Purpose.” This theory is equally plausible regardless of whether the name was first used for the quarter ton vehicles that it is known for today or the half ton trucks.
Eugene the Jeep
Eugene the Jeep was a character in Popeye comics. In the stories, he is a four dimensional being living in our three dimensional world, thus giving him the ability to move with great ease and speed, and even appear and disappear at will while doing so.
One theory is that the Jeep vehicles were named after this character by the soldiers of the time due to a number of similar traits. While the Jeep vehicles could not traverse into higher dimensions, they were able to move and be moved very quickly and easily, while being of very small size.
The Jeep was developed over several steps simultaneously across three different companies. Because of this, many names surfaced throughout the process. The three companies never standardized names across them until Willys trademarked the name “Jeep” after the war, so these development names tended to be largely internal.
The first prototype developed by American Bantam, the first of the three companies to offer one, was dubbed the Blitz Buggy. This name found some use through its transfer to destinations within the British Empire, where it was sent as part of the Lend-Lease program.
The first prototype that Willys produced was called the Quad. The name was given due to the inclusion of a 4x4 system. The Quad would later be refined into the Willys MA, which itself would be perfected as the Willys MB, immortalized as one of the official names of Jeeps during the Second World War.
The first prototype developed by the Ford Motor Company was called the Ford Pygmy. The name was likely given to represent its small size, being a quarter ton design, halving the weight of half ton “light” military vehicles of the time. Although only one Ford Pygmy was ever built, its legacy is huge as a lot of its features made it into the final Jeep design.
We have learned today that there are many answers to the question of what was the Jeep called in WW2. Although the name Jeep was actually the most common during the war, it was not formal, having only been made official in 1946, a whole year after the war ended.