A quick identifier of the 200 vehicles known as the “Holden Jeep” is the large medical equipment storage locker in the position normally occupied by a passenger’s seat.

A quick identifier of the 200 vehicles known as the “Holden Jeep” is the large medical equipment storage locker in the position normally occupied by a passenger’s seat. As originally conceived, the battlefield ambulance could accommodate Stokes baskets, but this improved design allowed litters to be carried as well. In this photo it is plainly evident from the paint what areas of the Jeep were modified during the conversion process. 

The door was cut in the rear of the Jeep—in this instance right through the embossed Willys name. No towing pintle is fitted in this photo—but every rear view of vehicles on the battlefield seen by the author shows a pintle in place.

The door was cut in the rear of the Jeep—in this instance right through the embossed Willys name. No towing pintle is fitted in this photo—but every rear view of vehicles on the battlefield seen by the author shows a pintle in place.

As the U.S. Marines began their painful trek across the Pacific, the need for a small, agile ambulance became apparent. The standard USMC ambulance of the day, the 1/2-ton International Harvester M-1-4, was too big, too slow and too scarce to support the upcoming leap-frog invasion strategy.

The Marines turned to General Motors-Holden in Australia for a solution based on the Jeep. Up until 1931, the firm had been independent and was known as “Holden’s Motor Body Builders” and supplied bodies for chassis of most Australian manufacturers. It was not until after WWII that Holden began producing complete automobiles.

It was this body building experience—and their presence in the theater of operation—that made the firm uniquely suited to perform these ambulance conversions. This work was carried out at Holden’s massive facility at Fishermen’s Bend, Melbourne, the same plant that produced a unique variant of the airborne CCKW. Though more properly termed a “battlefield ambulance,” the vehicles are universally known to enthusiasts as “Holden Jeeps.”

On this example, the lower racks have been cut into the rear of the body—but this was not universally the case with Holden Jeeps.

On this example, the lower racks have been cut into the rear of the body—but this was not universally the case with Holden Jeeps. 

Patients were loaded and unloaded by sliding the litter in to or out of the channels from the rear of the vehicle.

Patients were loaded and unloaded by sliding the litter in to or out of the channels from the rear of the vehicle. 

The glazing of the windscreen swung out and upwards, as did that of standard Jeeps. The windshield of the Holden Jeep could also still be lowered in the conventional way, though the spare tire limited its range of travel.

The glazing of the windscreen swung out and upwards, as did that of standard Jeeps. The windshield of the Holden Jeep could also still be lowered in the conventional way, though the spare tire limited its range of travel. 

This is the Holden Jeep in its original form. Faintly visible through the glass is a Stokes basket. Special canvas cab covers were created for the Holden Jeeps, which contributed to their boxy looks.

This is the Holden Jeep in its original form. Faintly visible through the glass is a Stokes basket. Special canvas cab covers were created for the Holden Jeeps, which contributed to their boxy looks. 

This camouflaged Holden Jeep is being towed backwards by an International TD-14 on Iwo Jima. Of special interest is the air intake extending through the hood and the continuation of camo onto the canvas.

This camouflaged Holden Jeep is being towed backwards by an International TD-14 on Iwo Jima. Of special interest is the air intake extending through the hood and the continuation of camo onto the canvas. 

Another photo from Iwo Jima, this time showing casualties being transported. Note the camouflage paint scheme. The Holden conversions and their crews performed admirably on Bougainville, Saipan, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and were employed again in the Korean War.

Another photo from Iwo Jima, this time showing casualties being transported. Note the camouflage paint scheme. The Holden conversions and their crews performed admirably on Bougainville, Saipan, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and were employed again in the Korean War. National Archives

Canvas ripped and sagging, windshield glazing gone, and fenders battered, this Holden Jeep shows the rigors of combat on Iwo Jima, where this photo was taken. Note the extended exhaust for fording, and the shrapnel-caused hole in the hood. National Archives

Canvas ripped and sagging, windshield glazing gone, and fenders battered, this Holden Jeep shows the rigors of combat on Iwo Jima, where this photo was taken. Note the extended exhaust for fording, and the shrapnel-caused hole in the hood. 

You may also enjoy:

*Military Ambulance of WWII

*Jeeps that served as military ambulances

*The WWII WC-54 Dodge Ambulance

*New book on US WWII Ambulances

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