“Jeep in the crate.” In our hobby, that one phrase causes more eyes to roll than Kelly’s Heroes’ Oddball declaring, “Always with the negative waves Moriarty, always with the negative waves.” Not being one to stir the negative waves, let me simply state, if WWII jeeps are still in the crate, they are sitting on the bottom of the Atlantic or Pacific.
Okay, okay, so the “jeep in a crate” is a bit of an urban legend. Yes, jeeps were shipped in crates. Yes, those crates were warehoused. And yes, even some of them may have been sold after the end of WWII. But mention that you heard about a secret warehouse stacked with endless rows of Willys MBs or Ford GPWs and you won’t get a diehard MV guy or a militaria collector to put down his McMuffin and look you in the eye. Most folks in the hobby recognize that the “jeep in a crate” is more myth than fact.
However, the 21st Century does offer a new version of this story—and this one is more reality than urban legend. For years, the U.S. military has been selling big trucks—2½-ton “deuces” and 5-ton cargo trucks—for a fraction of what the trucks originally cost. Today, someone wanting an “army truck” can search the government auctions and, for a couple of grand, come away with a heck of a deal.
For example, at a recent Government Liquidation auction, drivable 2½ ton M35 6x6 trucks sold for as little as $4,500. The U.S. government paid around $40,000 for each of these! Maybe a deuce is a bit bigger than a jeep, but that is a lot of truck for $4.5K.
All that said, don’t let me deter anyone from looking through those warehouses for crates of military surplus. It’s still out there. Jeff Shrader of Advance Guard Militaria just located a few crates of or WWI and WWII T-Handle shovels. Okay, maybe that isn’t the coolest thing, but man, just to find and open a box of material originally destined for Pershing’s doughboys had to be pretty darn exciting! Click over to Jeff’s site at www.advanceguardmilitaria.com and check them out in the “U.S. Militaria Early Through WWI” and "WWII" categories.
Keep opening those crates...if you find some goodies that have been forgotten to history, drop me an email. We all love those “jeep (or any other militaria) in a crate” stories!