the Wanderling

"Although a lot of people think it is a lot of horse manure, my dad actually bought the jeep after answering an ad similar to the one below. The ad offered surplus jeeps for $278.00. There were literally hundreds of scams around right after the war saying you could buy surplus jeeps from $50.00 and up and that's what most of them were, scams. However, after really looking into it he discovered he could actually purchase a brand new, or at least never used, World War II Jeep for $225.00 cash right off the docks in San Francisco, which in reality turned out to be not docks in San Francisco, but across the bay in the naval ship yards at Vallejo or Alameda. I know because I went with him."



Jeep in a Box. Jeep in a Crate. Surplus jeeps $50.00. Ads with similar and like leads appeared in any number of publications from Popular Mechanics to Boys Life to a variety of comic books starting right after World War II to right up to right now. Most of those ads offering "Jeeps for $50.00" or any other unrealistic low amount were for the most part scams. They may not have been out-and-out purebred lies, but were worded in such a way to trick or deceive the person sending in the money for the information that they, through the firm or outfit presenting the offer, could in fact from that source purchase a jeep. Such was not the case. If you read the ads carefully they are only offering information about other sources that sell military surplus items for the government. Where some of the catalog offering firms may have sold surplus items, jeeps were not among them. Although jeeps were often depicted among the graphics, most information in the ads that were jeep specific was in a special little bordered off section that reads, as found in the large ad below something like:


That is not to say surplus jeeps were not available for extremely low prices, it is just that the popular media ads were not the source directly making the jeeps available.(see) If you go back to the small print ad I've presented above right, the lines just underneath what I've presented in red and black above, reads, "Also listed are more than 1,000 places where you can see thousands of different surplus items and buy them right on the spot!" The words also listed and 1,000 places is the key. They list the places, not what is sold at those places other than surplus items. The color ad above left gives itself the name "Government Reprint Services" and offers a catalog for $4.00. The so-called catalog is actually either the printed free and sent out by the U.S. Printing Office catalog or a copied reprint by the firm. In either case it is being sold for $4.00 and only informs the prospective buyer where, when, and how to obtain the jeeps. They themselves, didn't sell them. And of course, the catalog is free to anybody through the government Printing Office anyway just for the asking.



"(My dad) discovered he could actually purchase a brand new, or at least never used, World War II Jeep for $225.00 cash right off the docks in San Francisco, which in reality turned out to be not docks in San Francisco, but across the bay in the naval ship yards at Vallejo or Alameda. I know because I went with him."


Throughout World War II my dad worked in the construction and repair of Liberty ships on Terminal Island in the Long Beach, San Pedro area and one thing he knew was dock and piers of shipyards. The day we went to some naval station shipping facility in the San Francisco bay area he took us through the maze-like docks as though he had been there a million times.[1]

On the docks or the land adjacent to the docks between the buildings and the open bay were literally hundreds and hundreds of jeeps lined up row after row along with other rows with all kinds of other military hardware and equipment. The jeeps themselves had been taken right off the factory assembly line to the docks months before for transshipment to the South Pacific just as the war ended and when I was there with my dad as a kid, all of them were still just sitting there gathering dust and getting flat tires. Others weren't even assembled, still in boxes or crates, tires and everything.

I don't recall anything specifically about the logistics of how or what my dad had to do to get the jeep or how he beat the system. I don't recall how long it took, how much paperwork he had to shuffle, or how the jeep was prepared so we could drive it home, only that it was and we did --- drive it home, that is. The one thing I do remember is that the man who sold my dad the jeep told him he couldn't pick it up until the next day because of some longshoreman rule. Like I said, my dad worked in the shipyards on Terminal Island during the war and knowing the ins-and-outs brought two longshoremen with him and the man who sold my dad the jeep gave it to him. The two longshoremen were provided by a longtime old friend of my stepmother named Johnny Roselli. Roselli, who I knew and had met through my Stepmother, but at the time actually knew nothing about, was a man of eminent persuasion and when the person in charge of the jeeps heard about it from the longshoremen I guess he thought letting my dad take the jeep was most likely the most expedient thing to do.


There has been some discrepancy regarding the "Jeep in a Box" or "Jeep in a Crate" graphic at the top of the page. Emailers have been saying that the graphic is a replica and not of real World War II origin because the jeep in the box is shown with a jeep can, i.e., jerrycan. The emailers contest that relative to U.S. use, jeep cans didn't come into service until later in the war. I would argue later in the war than what? Nowhere does a date come up in regards to having a jeep in a box, either early or late in the war. Actually, the whole thrust of what is presented here is about jeeps being or becoming surplus, which would indicate by it's very nature of being surplus would be after the war. So, other than to deflect or weaken the thesis, whether a jeep was in a box early or late in the war is not necessarily part of the equation. Besides, jeep cans only coming into use later in the war by the U.S. isn't correct anyway.

Admittedly the U.S. history on the use of jerrycans is unclear and sketchy at best, with no actual confirmed date. Richard M. Daniel, a retired commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve and a chemical engineer and highly knowledgeable regarding the history of jerrycans, says that in his research a written report he has seen and read states "A sample of the jerrycan was brought to the office of the Quartermaster General in the summer of 1940." However, how quick it was acted on is not known. The original reversed engineered test samples, which introduced a number of other ways of making them than the Germans did, was a total failure. For those who may be so interested, Daniel's complete article "The History of the Jerrycan" is linked below in PDF format.

On the above Willys Truck Unpacking and Assembly of Boxed Vehicle Instructions cover, no date is given. However, when the instruction manual is related in context, through research, etc., invariably it is associated with or referred to as "Willys MB Military Jeep Assembly Instructions 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 WWII," meaning that from the very start of the war in 1941 through to 1945, the manual was the go to manual when it came to assembling jeeps that came in a box or crate. At the bottom of page 6 of the instructions there is a picture of the fully assembled jeep, the picture being labeled Figure 5, ASSEMBLY PROCEDURE. It carries with it a series of numbers, 1 through 6, each pointing to different areas of assembly concern. In the written instructions, marked No. 5, fig 5, reads "Install spare fuel container bracket." Number 5, figure 5 clearly points to and shows where the jerrycan was carried and mounted, an area, that in most traditional circumstances, the jeep can was mounted, as so aptly depicted in the graphic below.

In Middle Tennessee, from June of 1941 starting under George S. Patton through to sometime in 1944 under others, some 800,000 U.S. troops had maneuvers in more than 2.25 million acres and 22 counties. During that period the troops were mostly divided into opposing Red and Blue Armies training in simulated, but realistic battles in preparation for real battles to come. So said, they used the same equipment, material, and vehicles they would use under actual battlefield conditions. In recent years a man by the name of Will Adams has been metal detecting several hundred acres of land that saw action during those Tennessee maneuvers in search of items lost, discarded, or intentionally buried by the military. Over the years Adams has found or discovered numerous items, but the one of interest to us here was an Army “Jerry Can” that he found buried 3 feet beneath the rocky soil.

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The top left graphic above shows the jerrycan Adams found buried marked with the letters "USA." The top right graphic shows the letters "QMC." The graphic on the bottom shows the can marked with NESCO and the numbers 20-5-41. USA means United States Army, QMC means Quartermaster Corps, NESCO is the name of the can's manufacturer, and 20-5-41 means 20 liters, 5 gallons, and the 41 means the year manufactured, in this case 1941. The U.S. didn't formally enter World War II until December 7, 1941, for all practical purposes being at the end of the year. Apparently they had already been making jerrycans, at least enough so in 1941 one could end up being misplaced, lost, or buried in the major Tennessee maneuver area without concern for it's overall worth or importance. The graphic below is one year later during maneuvers in Louisiana. Seems to be a tidy sum of jerrycans in use at the time there.


For the record, this page is not to provide a history of jeep cans or jerrycans, but to offer testimony to the fact of being able to buy a World War II jeep off the docks after the war cheap. Again, my dad did so, and did so for $225.00. I know because I was there and rode home in the jeep right after he bought it. Having done so, what it means is, that buying a jeep off the docks after the war cheap, would not have been a one-off just a sell one jeep only situation involving my dad and my dad only, then leaving all the rest to go. It had to be a thriving enterprise. All the logistics, paper work, infrastructure, and personnel must have been in place in some fashion for it to have happened for any number of people over and over, not just my dad. Remember, for those who may be so interested, "The History of the Jerrycan," in PDF, is linked below.

If you go back up the page to the full page Surplus Bargains ad that I state a similar ad offering a jeep at a good price set my dad off on his search for the jeep he eventually bought for $225.00, has within it's text not only jeeps for $278.00, but also airplanes for $159.00. The photograph below depicting a bright red and white P-40 Tomahawk sitting atop a gas station as more-or-less an advertising promotion was bought by the station owner right after the war for $150.00 in full operational condition. The P-40 stood on the roof of his station in Everett, Washington undisturbed for 40 years. That same plane ended up being "Old Exterminator," the P-40 Tomahawk of the World War II Flying Tiger ace Col. Robert L. Scott, Jr with 13 kills under his belt.

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As to the subject of donations, for those of you who may be interested in doing so as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.

Footnote [1]

I would be hard pressed to say I hung around docks or wharfs or shipyards a whole lot. I had however, been in and around docks and shipyards on-and-off over a several year period of time at a very young age because my father built and repaired Liberty ships on Terminal Island for the California Shipbuilding Corporation during World War II. Because of his job I was intermixed with docks and wharfs and such in those days. Terminal Island is a small plot of land wedged between San Pedro on the west and the city of Long Beach on the east separated and surrounded by what some people say might even be water. Although nowadays Terminal Island is more or less a smooth running part of the bigger Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach complex, during the war years, not just Terminal Island but the whole area from one end to the other was a smoky, oily, hodge-podge of overlapping docks, piers, barges, wharfs, and buildings, covered from one end to the other with cranes, railroad tracks and ships --- some of them even floating or seaworthy. So too, the cities of San Pedro on the west and Long Beach on the east that bordered up against the ports and shipyards were big time mostly Navy military towns with an almost anything goes attitude, with excessively over-inebriated sailors, G.I.s, and seamen staggering between one bar to the next all day and all night. Stereotype? World War II was a different time and place.

When I reached my early 20s I worked on a marlin boat owned by the multi-millionaire oil heir David Halliburton Sr.. The skipper went to his childhood home located practically right on top of Terminal Island to live out his final days after he found out he had cancer. During that time, even though I was no longer employed under him, nor would he be back, I would go by regularly to see him up until his death. While working on Halliburton's marlin boat the Twin Dolphin, in that the skipper had life-long deep connections in the area and knew the ins-and-outs of the harbor and shipyards intimately, although the boat was moored in Marina Del Rey, when parts were needed such as bilge pumps and such things he used to send me down into the bowels of the L.A. Harbor/Wilmington area to backstreet boat and ship repair shops to retrieve them. Often times the two of us would go together, and when we did it seems we always ended up in some dive of a dump and/or hanging out after hours in some scroungy closed up for the day boat repair shop drinking beer and bullcrapping late into the night. So too, I had gone down to the Federal prison on Terminal Island to visit the aforementioned Johnny Roselli, who had been transferred there just before his release on parole. One of those all night bullcrapping sessions with the skipper and the repair shop guys brought up a story from an old salt about a Japanese midget submarine off the coast of California and an atomic bomb intended for Los Angles.(see)

Back to my dad working in the shipyards during the war. One day on a rare day off he had some job related business he had to attend too that required a special trip to Terminal Island to deal with it. In those days gas rationing was nationwide and you just didn't go driving around for the heck of it. As a treat to my brothers and me, even though a good part of Terminal Island was under tight security and off limits, my dad tied his work related trip into taking the three of us kids to spend the remaining part of the day and into the night at a huge waterfront amusement park not much farther away in Long Beach called The Pike.

Throughout the war years the Pike was a wide-open Terry and the Pirates boardwalk like place with all kinds of rides, games, and a humungous roller coaster. No sooner had we arrived than my dad, who had been a one-time "carny" or barker, began meeting up with old friends, basically forgetting my brothers and me and why we were there.

Without permission or my dad noticing I slipped away, taking in all the glowing actions of the rides, games, and booths. It wasn't long before I passed a heavily made-up yet strikingly beautiful woman sitting on a stool along the midway who looked all the same as being a Hollywood version of a gypsy. She was basically staring straight ahead not really focusing on any of the goings on. After I passed I turned back to look at her over my shoulder and without moving her head I could see she had followed me with her eyes. As soon as we made eye contact she redirected her gaze. Then a man in well worn oversize brown suit with a vest and the jacket unbuttoned put his hand on my shoulder bending over to my height looking straight into my eyes. I tried to break loose from his grip but he just held tighter. "Like your fortune told, boy," he asked, adding that it would cost twenty five cents. Just then my dad stepped up with a couple of his new found friends and the man let loose, backing away saying he was just trying to make a living.

The woman dressed like a gypsy said to wait. The man looked at my dad to see if was OK to proceed, receiving a nod of approval. The man turned and asked if I had anything of value and I did, at least to me I did, something I carried with me everywhere I went as a kid, a Captain Midnight Code-O-Graph. With his back to the woman he took the decoder into his hand and put it to his forehead and asked a couple of simple questions then turned and handed the decoder to the woman. Before she could answer, as soon as her fingers touched the badge she slumped over and fell off the stool to the ground, the decoder falling to the ground as well, just beyond the reach of her outstretched arm.

The man in the brown suit assured my dad the woman falling off the stool wasn't part of the act as they tried to revive her. With the assist of another man who stepped forward from the crowd the woman was soon back on her stool albeit somewhat disheveled. During the assist the man from the crowd had also picked up the decoder. The woman softly requested the man, who by now was talking to my dad as they seemed to know each other from the shipyards, to hand her the decoder, which he did. While just barely touching her performer-like bright red lips to my forehead in a kiss-like manner the medium placed the decoder in the palm of my hand and gently folded my fingers closed over the top. Then, using each of her hands and fingers from both, she formed little circles putting them to her face around her eyes creating finger goggles, mimicking all the same as those worn by Captain Midnight in photos that came with the badge. Bringing both hands down from her face she put one hand on mine still holding the decoder while using her other hand to place the hand of the man that assisted her on top of them all and, speaking to me, said, "From man to boy to man, your future and past is already marked by what is held together here in our hands."




"Any mention by me of Terry and the Pirates is typically made to draw an analogy to whatever I am writing about and the exotic-like underbelly-type milieu, real or not, that exemplified the Asian atmosphere Terry and his companions, pirates or otherwise, operated in. I have always carried a certain fondness for that type of milieu and because of that fondness have been drawn to such odd-ball fictional characters and stories like Dan Duryea in China Smith and of course Terry and the Pirates as well as real life places such as Rangoon, Burma; Bangkok, Thailand; and Chiang Mai."


At the end of the summer of 1953, just as I was about to start the 10th grade or so, the August - September #6 issue of the comic book Mad came out. Inside #6 was a story, drawn by my all time favorite non-animator cartoonist Wallace Wood, that spoofed or satired big-time the long running comic strip Terry and the Pirates, with Wood in his spoofing, calling it Teddy and the Pirates.

Although I had followed Terry and the Pirates a good portion of my life, and knew how Milton Caniff, the artist-cartoonist of the strip, presented Terry's world that he and his so-called Pirates lived in, Wood's top-half opening drawing below, showing his version of an underbelly far east like milieu, real or not, that exemplified the Asian atmosphere along with the rest of the story hit me like a hammer, with me, the teenager that I was, sucking up his version as my version and as my version, the real version. Ten years later, thanks to Uncle Sam and his friendly Selective Service, found me in Rangoon, Saigon, and Chiang Mai, as well as other such places, even meeting Warlords. Those ten years after high school, especially in and where I traveled, having gone from a teenager to an almost mid-twenties GI, my vision not only didn't wane, but was bolstered and grew. Notice the tommy guns, stabbings, hand grenades and exotic women. So too in the second panel, i.e., lower left hand corner, the two crashed P-40 Flying Tigers.

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