The Mutual Assistance Program, created under the similarly named act, transferred millions of dollars worth of material, initially much of it WWII surplus, to allied nations from 1950 through 1967. Whereas Lend-Lease had required either the return of, or subsequent purchase (at heavily discounted prices) of materials that were loaned, through MAP ownership of the equipment was conveyed to recipient countries outright.
The restored Diamond T shown here became the property of the Norwegian government. Through the Mutual Assistance Program. The harsh weather conditions in Norway meant that, unlike typical U.S. military installations, the Norwegians kept their military vehicles indoors, leading to a remarkable state of preservation.
The Norwegians also typically made few modifications to the vehicles, the most common being the installation of a cable-controlled canvas winter curtain between the brush guard and radiator. Not surprisingly, the tires were replaced as need, which was most commonly due to age, rather than wear.
By the 1990s the Norwegians began selling the WWII vintage trucks at auction, along with large stocks of NOS parts. Due to the number of trucks being offered, and exorbitant price of gasoline in Europe, one of the factors that was considered by bidders when comparing trucks was the amount of fuel in the tanks of the vehicles!
One of the bidders buying many of Norwegian surplus trucks was Jaap de Groot, the Dutch industrialist. In 1948 he had founded a steel construction company, De Groot Staalconstructie, and one year later bought a U.S. Army surplus wrecker to use in the business. Through time the company evolved and grew, and the name had changed to Grootint, which in the 1960s began to specialize in large offshore platform construction projects of up to 10,000 tons.
Jaap de Groot retired 1988, but had not forgotten the role that surplus military vehicles played not only in the growth of his company, but also in the role of the Marshall plan in the reconstruction of the Netherlands. He began collecting military vehicles at this time and was in an excellent position when the Norwegians began to sell.
In 1989 de Groot formed Army Cars Holland BV. Army Cars acquired hundreds of the vehicles, which were stored indoors at their multi-level facility. These trucks were offered to collectors in conditions ranging from as found to fully reconditioned. Many of the WWII vehicles in collectors’ hands today passed through the Army Cars facility.
In 1997 de Groot opened the General George C. Marshall Ground Transportation Museum in Zwijndrecht, Holland. The museum was a tribute to General Marshall, and his plan that rebuilt a war-ravaged Europe.
As Jaap de Groot was creating Army Cars, Kevin Kronlund, an excavating contractor and farmer in Wisconsin, was buying a jeep at auction in 1982, unaware that it was a Korean-war era military jeep. Kevin’s interest in military history was inspired by his great uncle, Sammy Akey, who was killed serving on a destroyer in the Pacific in 1944, and his father, a tank commander in 724th Engineer Battalion of the Wisconsin National Guard in the 1950s.
Kevin also was involved with a historicaircraft group in Minnesota. It was through this group that Kevin met his future wife, Thea, who is Jaap de Groot’s daughter. “Collecting military vehicles to me is more about preserving history, and more importantly, it’s about honoring veterans,” said Kevin, who in time served on the Board of Directors of the Military Vehicle Preservation Association.
One of the vehicles that Kevin purchased from his father-in-law was the Diamond T featured in this item. The truck was shipped from Holland to Spooner, Wisconsin, arriving largely in the condition it was in when these photos were taken, but with the big Hercules ailing. Heavy military transport expert John Gott traveled from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin to help Kevin revive the engine.
Thereafter the truck was used in parades and other events honoring veterans, as well as making a showing at the annual Fall gatherings that Kevin and Thea would host in Spooner, which showcased not only their own 80-plus vehicle collection but also the vehicles of other collectors in the area. When not out on parade or at a show, the Kronlund collection, including the Diamond T, was stored indoors.
In April 2011, Japp de Groot passed away of natural causes in Holland. Tragically, less than a year later, on Feb. 8, 2012, Thea lost her husband as well when Kevin was killed in a farming accident.
In time, the Diamond T 6x6 came into the custody of John Bizal, a former medical equipment salesman turned military vehicle restoration parts specialist. John began the process of truly restoring the truck. He gave the brake system a complete overhaul, and replaced the wiring harness, instruments and seat cushions.
The truck continues its uncommon for military vehicles, yet fortuitous, life of being stored indoors, having a place of honor in John’s Pryor Lake, Minnesota business, Midwest Military. Surrounded by tons of new old stock surplus, as well as new reproduction parts, the truck seems to be in much the same surroundings it has had for almost 70 years.
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