Written by Paul Bruno
Imagine the world on the precipice of global darkness with evil marching forward undefeated. The forces of good stand drastically under equipped to meet the enemy with no apparent path to finding a weapon which will defeat the rampaging menace.
In desperation the noble warrior turns to a group of heroes completely unprepared to meet the challenge who nonetheless take up the fight. The perfect recipe for a Hollywood thriller, but in truth, this happened in the year 1940 in the United States of America.
What writer would not find this story jaw-dropping and inspirational which I most assuredly did when I first heard about how the first Jeeps came in to being in 1999.
The History Of Jeeps
The actual historical events began in the spring and summer of 1940 with the resounding defeats of the French army and British Expeditionary Force at the hands of modernized German troops, designed to take advantage of the latest advances in technology. These included mobile vehicles and tanks used in formation to blast through enemy lines, as well as combined ground and air tactics. The evacuation of the British from Dunkirk and the final defeat of their French allies in June 1940 left only a thin line of English fighter planes between that island nation and total defeat.
Meanwhile, leaders of the United States Army, decimated by demobilization after World War I and budget cuts during the Great Depression, knew they were completely unprepared for this new type of mobile warfare called “blitzkrieg,” a German term meaning “lightning war.”
Though experts in the U.S. Army had worked from the end of World War I to develop a combination light weapons carrier and command and reconnaissance vehicle, no perfect model had yet been developed by 1940. In June of that same year, the Army compiled a list of requirements for a revolutionary new truck to replace the mule as the Army’s primary method of moving troops and small payloads.
The Original Jeeps tells the story of the American Bantam Car Company, Willys Overland-Motors, Inc., and the Ford Motor Company, the three firms who dared to meet the challenge to build pilot models of this extraordinary new vehicle.
The efforts by these automotive pioneers represent an astounding story of grit, determination and never-say-die courage that inspires and ended in the creation of a legend: the Jeep.
My Writing Process
With the inspiration and idea to write a book on early Jeep history the writing process centered on finding enough historical documentation to tell the story of the first Jeeps in a comprehensive manner.
I overcame this by sheer determination, continuing to research at the National Archives until I came across the golden egg of early Jeep history—“FTC versus Willys-Overland Motors, Inc.”—the landmark Federal Trade Commission (FTC) case that took place between 1943 and 1948.
I had heard about the case and requested to review it while visiting the Archives in College Park, MD. As I began to look through the trial transcript and exhibits it dawned on me that it contained an immense time-capsule, a treasure trove of early Jeep history documentation. This included the first sketch of a Jeep type vehicle and American Bantam’s historic successful bid proposal, plus a huge amount of other historically significant documents.
I augmented the FTC case by more research and reading all the books I could find on early Jeep history. It also involved innumerable Internet searches and reaching out to individuals in Butler, PA, where the first Jeep came into being, to enlist their support. The key lesson to learn from my journey revolves around having a burning love for, as well as desire to tell the story, along with the persistence to continue to move forward, even when one appears to have reached a dead end.
With enough historical documentation the writing process revolved around organizing the documents, reading them to understand what happened and then write the story in a manner to honor what these individuals accomplished against the most immense odds.
The key decision revolved around using the FTC trial transcript as the foundation, let those who achieved greatness tell how they did it in their own words, supported by all the documentation and other evidence I had accumulated. Fortunately, I had a strong relationship with an independent publisher, Max Freedman Media, who loved the story as much as me, who worked closely with me to create a polished manuscript worthy of the story.
My Experiences from Idea to Publication
My experiences from idea to publication from my twenty plus years of researching and writing early Jeep history surmise into a set of lessons learned that include:
- Love Your Story – I fell in love with early Jeep history from the first time I heard about Bantam’s story, and that love affair continues to this day.
- Love of writing – I have loved writing since I penned my first play in 3rd grade, based upon Astronauts landing on the moon. If one doesn’t love to write, then it is unlikely one will become a great author.
- Persistence / Dedication – as related above I needed persistence to find the documentation to tell the early Jeep history story and then the dedication to go through the challenges of writing the book and having it published.
- All writing is rewriting – someone once said the first draft of anything is bad. Be prepared to write and then rewrite your work.
- Write in Many Forms – I have written business documents, technical writing, creative writing (screenplays) and historical writing. Writing in many forms stretches one’s skill set and provides the ability to mix and match the different forms. For example, I have had success injecting creativity into my business writing to make the topic more interesting to the reader.
The most important, love your story. Only a true love of the story will carry a writer through the inevitable ups and downs, roadblocks, obstacles, and challenges of the writing journey to the triumph of one’s writing published for others to read.
More from Paul Bruno:
The Original Jeeps (TOJ) website: http://www.originaljeeps.com/
Original Jeeps Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/The-Original-Jeeps-104448048045991
Original Jeeps Military Writers Society of America Page: https://www.mwsadispatches.com/library/2021/the-original-jeeps
Paul Bruno LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paulrbruno/
As FYI TOJ was a 2021 Bronze Medal Winner from both the Military Writers Society of America and Dan Poynter’s Global Ebook Awards.
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