Amphibious Jeeps: Ineffective Military Vehicle – Very Cool Personal Watercraft
Amphibious Jeeps Before Pearl Harbor
The effort to help the Allied war effort in the second world war led to a host of innovations in manufacturing and technology. One of the most interesting was the production of amphibious Jeeps. Even before Pearl Harbor, the US National Defense Research Committee had commissioned the Motor Transport Board to design and develop amphibious jeeps. The project was classified as “QMC-4 1/4 ton amphibian.”
Initial Design and Production
Once the U.S. entered WWII, the project ramped up quickly. There were 3 major players in the project to produce amphibious Jeeps. Military vehicle specialists Marmon-Herrington joined forces with Sparkman and Stephens, noted boat builders. The Ford Motor Company was onboard to offer design support and then to manufacture the amphibious jeeps. The project goal was to have a large fleet of amphibious jeeps in place for the first planned landing operation in the fall of 1942.
The standard design of the Ford and Willys Jeep models had been established, and Jeeps were in full-scale production. Sparkman and Stephens finished their hull design by August, 1941. Integrating the Jeep technology with the Sparkman and Stephens design took several more months, and prototypes suitable for testing on rivers were not available until February of 1942.
In that month, the first public trial of amphibious jeeps took place on the Huron River in Dearborn, Michigan, not far from the Ford Motor Company world headquarters. The trial was deemed successful, and only affirmed what had been demonstrated in more rigorous testing at the main design point in Hoboken, NJ. In April, after amphibious jeeps passed offshore testing, an order for 5,000 was placed with Ford because it had the production facilities to fulfill the order while also working to fulfill the order they had for Jeeps.
The Amphibious Jeep was built on the GPW chassis and the official name was finalized as the Ford GPA Amphibian. The amphibious jeeps were also known as Sea Jeeps or just Seeps. The first 5000 were turned out so quickly there was little time to find obvious design flaws and send feedback to Dearborn. Several flaws showed up soon after the initial 5000 were produced, however. The bottom line was that the amphibious Jeeps required a lot of maintenance, and worse, they were not very effective. There simply wasn’t a great demand for a troop carrier that could only handle 5 passengers. Amphibious Jeeps were slow and awkward on land and just weren’t large enough for effective use in open water.
Legacy of Amphibious Jeeps
Production of the Sea Jeep ended in June, 1943. It was obvious that these amphibious Jeeps were simply not useful enough to spend limited resources on. The final production total was 12,778 amphibious Jeeps. In terms of service during the second world war, the most important action amphibious Jeeps saw during the war was during the landing at Sicily in September, 1943. Most of the Seeps used in that landing ultimately passed into the hands of the Soviets.
In the grand scheme of the American war effort, amphibious Jeeps might be regarded as something of a failure. But that’s no matter. As a personal watercraft, amphibious Jeeps are one of the coolest that has ever been built!
image by AviatorDave