Olive Drab Family: He can drive, but it’s HER truck

1968 Kaiser M715 1-1/4-ton Truck / Owned by Charlene Ackerman

When her husband suggested that Charlene Ackerman could call the M715 “her” truck, he may not have considered she was going to take the offer seriously. Not only does she do all the driving, but has involved her entire family with maintenance, enjoyment, and sharing of the truck.

When her husband suggested that Charlene Ackerman could call the M715 “her” truck, he may not have considered she was going to take the offer seriously. Not only does she do all the driving, but has involved her entire family with maintenance, enjoyment, and sharing of the truck.

 

Editor’s note: We asked Charlene to tell the story of how she came to own this M715 and what it means to her and her family. Here is what she had to say:

A few years ago, a hometown friend who owned a variety of military vehicles asked my husband, Jim, if he wanted to buy his M715. Jim already had an M35A2, so he said asked me if I would like the truck for my own. Really, he was thinking he would now have two Army trucks, but that didn’t happen.

I was in the backyard on a gorgeous autumn day when our friend, Bob, drove the truck up the driveway and parked it under the carport. I immediately took a liking to the truck. It did become my HMV, and I am proud to be in the hobby.

 

The truck was in pretty good shape when Charlene obtained it. It did require addressing a few maintenance issues, but within a few months, she was discovering the opportunities that the 5/4-ton truck with troops seats could provide to her and the family.

The truck was in pretty good shape when Charlene obtained it. It did require addressing a few maintenance issues, but within a few months, she was discovering the opportunities that the 5/4-ton truck with troops seats could provide to her and the family.

 

GETTING TO KNOW MY TRUCK

It didn’t go far that first winter, and I had only drove it a time or two with Jim’s guidance. I was still getting used to the clutch, no power steering, and remembering to manually turn off turn signals.

During a late winter weekend, Jim was gone for the day.  Our son, Bradley, asked, “Mom, can we take your truck for a ride?” I was a little—maybe a lot—reluctant. Bradley poked, “Mom, it’s your truck. We don’t have to wait for Dad!”

I wasn’t sure if I would get it started, but was successful. We  drove it across town to our county fairgrounds where I could get some practice on the grounds’ roadways.

There were still some crusty snow banks across a couple of the roadways. Bradley informed me, “This truck will go over them!” Well, I wasn’t aggressive enough and got stuck!

Bradley assisted me in putting it in 4-wheel drive. We backed out, took another run at it and made it that time!

When it was time to head home, I rolled up to a stop sign where I recognized a very strange, surprised look from my husband when he drove by. He didn’t think I would venture out with the M715 on my own. That is the day it really did become my truck.

 

The engine and drive train are all original, still painted in olive drab, rather than fire engine red, as so many seem to have been repainted.

The engine and drive train are all original, still painted in olive drab, rather than fire engine red, as so many seem to have been repainted.

 

A LABOR OF LOVE

A little TLC, both mechanically and cosmetically, has made the truck an interesting part of history to own. I was fortunate to acquire it in good condition, but it did require some brake work, a carb rebuild, repair of a leaky rear main seal, and work on the clutch since the fording plug had been left in.

The engine and drive train are all original, and the paint still in olive drab, rather than fire engine red, as many have been repainted. Cleaning, masking, painting, and detailing the truck became a family project on several warm summer afternoons.

As a tribute to my brother in law who served in Vietnam, the bumper markings are painted like the vehicles of the Manchus of the 25th Infantry. Bradley has adorned it with various packs, a helmet, and web gear.

It has been an honor to haul veterans in our local Harvest Festival parade in October. We also enjoy evening outings on country roads watching for wildlife, especially deer. The troop seats add to the fun, since we can bring friends, family ranging from my 95-year-old grandmother to babies, and even the dogs.

Too many people? No problem, Jim always has his own an M35 2-1/2 ton with troop seats.

Many of these excursions involve a stop at the drive-in for ice cream or local restaurants for a meal. One day last summer, Jim and I pulled under the canopy at A&W. There were several Humvees and a National Guard unit filling their tanks from jerry cans (similar to mine) and taking a lunch break. Several of them were interested in the history of my truck. One jokingly asked if I was willing to trade vehicles, but I told him he may be in trouble not getting to Fort McCoy on time!

We have also camped and picnicked at a local campground by the Mississippi River with our HMVs. What fun it has been to share a part of history when people inquire about the M715. It usually is a springboard for them to share their stories. One veteran recalled, how on a chilly parade morning he used wool blankets in the field, just like the ones I had laid on the troop seats to keep them warm. My truck has hauled many loads of leaves, branches, and yard waste to the local compost site, or hauled firewood home for a campfire.

 

As a tribute to Charlene’s brother-in-law who served in Vietnam, she painted the bumper markings to represent a truck from his unit, the 25th Infantry. Her son Bradley has furnished it with various packs, a helmet, and web gear.

As a tribute to Charlene’s brother-in-law who served in Vietnam, she painted the bumper markings to represent a truck from his unit, the 25th Infantry. Her son Bradley has furnished it with various packs, a helmet, and web gear.

GOING TO THE SHOWS

My family has attended the Iola Military Vehicle Show in Wisconsin for many years, even before we owned military vehicles. When I got the M715, my first thought was to take it Iola. That has become a family tradition for us.

Our trip to Iola in 2013 turned into quite an adventure, actually. Our tow vehicle (a Chevy 3/4-ton Suburban) was packed. The M715 was full of gear and loaded on the trailer on the Wednesday night before the show.

I worked the night shift and came home in the morning. I had  planned on sleeping in the back of the Suburban while Jim drove. A couple of hours into the trip, I heard grumbling from the front seat as we rolled to a stop in a restaurant parking lot.

We had pulled a large hill south of Baraboo, Wisconsin, when we  spun a rod bearing in our tow vehicle! My first thought was, “Our vacation is over—how are we going to get all of this back home?”

Our kids, Bradley and Brittany, took a laptop across the road to pick up a WiFi signal, and the brainstorming began. Jim called a service center in our hometown and ordered a flatbed on its way. The kids helped look up a U-Haul nearby, but how were we going to pick it up?

Momma’s M715 on duty! We blocked the trailer, unloaded the M715, and drove through Baraboo to get the U-Haul. We must have resembled the Beverly Hillbillies, with all our gear and four people riding to get it.

While waiting for our hometown tow truck, we transferred the  gear and hooked the trailer to the U-Haul, reloaded the M715, and tied it down for the remaining trip to Iola. We had some strange looks from family and friends when we pulled into the Military Show with a U-Haul, but it was one of the most memorable weekends I’ve had.

What awesome memories I have of time spent with friends and family with the M715. I admit, I was proud of my truck that weekend. It is truly a “part of the family.”

Cleaning, masking, painting, and detailing the truck became a family project. The troop seats make parades and family drives possible!

Cleaning, masking, painting, and detailing the truck became a family project. The troop seats make parades and family drives possible!

 

 

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