Military Jeep Ambulances

From the Year of the Military Ambulance (2018), an overview
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by Steve Turchet

Military Vehicles Magazine declared last year (2018) to be the “Year of the Ambulance. So, it seems fitting to salute the many various types of jeep ambulances manufactured by Willys Overland and Kaiser Jeep that spanned the decades between WWII and the Vietnam War.

Although not originally designed or intended for use as an ambulance, the jeep’s small size, low profile, and capabilities in rough terrain made it an ideal vehicle for evacuating wounded soldiers from front-line combat areas. There were considerably more jeeps available than Dodge and International ambulances.

At first, jeeps were simply used “as-is” to evacuate wounded personnel with stretchers placed over the vehicles’ rear sections and hoods and secured as well as possible. Ambulatory patients sat wherever they could.

As WWII progressed on both the European and Pacific fronts, field modifications made for more comfortable placement and security of stretchers. On the Pacific front, the jeep’s capabilities as an ambulance were quickly recognized by the U.S. Marine Corps. The Marines issued a contract to the General Motors-Holden factory in Melbourne, Australia, to modify jeeps for ambulance use. Known today as “Holden Jeeps,” they were the first dedicated ambulance jeeps to be issued in large numbers.

Except for a few prototypes and foreign-built vehicles, the jeeps presented here comprise most of the known examples of ambulance jeeps to have served US forces.

 Although not originally designed or intended for use as an ambulance, the jeep’s small size, low profile, and capabilities in rough terrain made it an ideal vehicle for evacuating wounded soldiers from front-line combat areas. There were also considerably more jeeps than dedicated Dodge and International ambulances.

Although not originally designed or intended for use as an ambulance, the jeep’s small size, low profile, and capabilities in rough terrain made it an ideal vehicle for evacuating wounded soldiers from front-line combat areas. There were also considerably more jeeps than dedicated Dodge and International ambulances.

 At first, jeeps were simply used as-is to evacuate wounded personnel, with stretchers placed over the vehicles’ rear sections and hoods and secured as well as possible, and ambulatory patients sitting wherever they could. As WWII progressed on both the European and Pacific fronts, field modifications allowed more comfortable placement and security of stretchers.

At first, jeeps were simply used as-is to evacuate wounded personnel, with stretchers placed over the vehicles’ rear sections and hoods and secured as well as possible, and ambulatory patients sitting wherever they could. As WWII progressed on both the European and Pacific fronts, field modifications allowed more comfortable placement and security of stretchers.

 On the Pacific front, the jeep’s capabilities as an ambulance were quickly recognized by the U.S. Marine Corps. The General Motors-Holden factory in Melbourne, Australia, modified Marine jeeps for dedicated ambulance use. Today, these specialized ambulances are referred to as “Holden Jeeps.”

On the Pacific front, the jeep’s capabilities as an ambulance were quickly recognized by the U.S. Marine Corps. The General Motors-Holden factory in Melbourne, Australia, modified Marine jeeps for dedicated ambulance use. Today, these specialized ambulances are referred to as “Holden Jeeps.”

 Holden modifications to jeeps included a pipe and angle-iron framework to support a canvas enclosure and provide racks for two stretchers, as well as seating in the rear for two ambulatory patients. Access for the latter made a bit easier by the addition of a small door on the left side of the rear body panel. A compartment for medical supplies was built into the right body side and extended into the area which would normally be occupied by a jeep’s front seat passenger. The windshield frame was bent vertical to accommodate the new structure, and the spare wheel mounted on the hood.

Holden modifications to jeeps included a pipe and angle-iron framework to support a canvas enclosure and provide racks for two stretchers, as well as seating in the rear for two ambulatory patients. Access for the latter made a bit easier by the addition of a small door on the left side of the rear body panel. A compartment for medical supplies was built into the right body side and extended into the area which would normally be occupied by a jeep’s front seat passenger. The windshield frame was bent vertical to accommodate the new structure, and the spare wheel mounted on the hood.

 Holden jeep ambulances proved very successful during the Pacific Campaign, as evidenced by this unit landed on Iwo Jima.

Holden jeep ambulances proved very successful during the Pacific Campaign, as evidenced by this unit landed on Iwo Jima.

 Holden jeeps were also employed in the Korean Conflict. Note the small door on the left side of the rear body panel.

Holden jeeps were also employed in the Korean Conflict. Note the small door on the left side of the rear body panel.

 Willys Motors built several versions of a prototype “TUG” six-wheel-drive jeep during WWII, one of which was an ambulance model. Although they were well-designed vehicles, they were never put into mass production.

Willys Motors built several versions of a prototype “TUG” six-wheel-drive jeep during WWII, one of which was an ambulance model. Although they were well-designed vehicles, they were never put into mass production.

 Jeeps had proved themselves very capable ambulance vehicles during WWII. Therefore, the U.S. Military contracted Willys Motors to design dedicated ambulance models following WWII. Among the first prototypes was a long wheelbase M38.

Jeeps had proved themselves very capable ambulance vehicles during WWII. Therefore, the U.S. Military contracted Willys Motors to design dedicated ambulance models following WWII. Among the first prototypes was a long wheelbase M38.

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 One of the most widely recognized post-WWII jeep ambulances is the M170. This jeep was later offered on the civilian market as the CJ6.

One of the most widely recognized post-WWII jeep ambulances is the M170. This jeep was later offered on the civilian market as the CJ6.

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 Willys Motors offered this ambulance model to the U.S. Military in the early 1950s. Some may have been purchased for Stateside use.

Willys Motors offered this ambulance model to the U.S. Military in the early 1950s. Some may have been purchased for Stateside use.

 Willys Motors also offered their ambulance model to the civilian market.

Willys Motors also offered their ambulance model to the civilian market.

 The Willys CJ3B, went into production for the U.S. Military as the M606, some of which were modified as ambulances by extending the body in the rear, though retaining the same wheelbase as standard units, and installing stretcher racks. The Indian-built Mahindra CJ3B and CJ4 were also modified in this fashion, and all models served in the Vietnam War.

The Willys CJ3B, went into production for the U.S. Military as the M606, some of which were modified as ambulances by extending the body in the rear, though retaining the same wheelbase as standard units, and installing stretcher racks. The Indian-built Mahindra CJ3B and CJ4 were also modified in this fashion, and all models served in the Vietnam War.

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 Another of the most widely recognized jeep ambulances is the Kaiser M725, which served during the Vietnam and Cold Wars.

Another of the most widely recognized jeep ambulances is the Kaiser M725, which served during the Vietnam and Cold Wars.

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 Although technically not a jeep except by nickname, the ambulance variant of the M151 MUTT, is the M718. As with the M606 and Mahindra units, the M718’s body was extended in the rear while retaining the standard wheelbase, and stretcher racks installed. Note the original spare wheel mount still in place despite the body extension.

Although technically not a jeep except by nickname, the ambulance variant of the M151 MUTT, is the M718. As with the M606 and Mahindra units, the M718’s body was extended in the rear while retaining the standard wheelbase, and stretcher racks installed. Note the original spare wheel mount still in place despite the body extension.