Ford GTB (G-622) (Burma Jeep)
Cargo Hauler / Bomb Service Vehicle
It was the unsung vehicles such as the Ford Burma Jeep that helped to win World War 2 for the Allies.
Authored By: JR Potts, AUS 173d AB and Dan Alex | Last Edited:
Logistical vehicles have always proven the lifeblood of any far-ranging conflict and World War 2 was no different particularly in the campaigns of the Pacific which spanned thousands of miles over ocean and land. For the American military, the charge was in recapturing Burma from the Japanese and reclaiming vital passage to China. US Army General Joseph Stilwell had already defeated a Japanese attempt to capture northern Burma and it was in this territory that military engineers constructed the new "Ledo Road" which connected Ledo Assam, India to the old Burma Road at Kunming, Yunnan, China. The first 100 miles was underway by December of 1942 and consisted of a steep, narrow passage running from Ledo through the Pangsau Pass and down into Burma. The road ran alongside a mountain several thousand feet tall which required removal of 100,000 cubic feet of earth for every mile covered. All of this work was completed by 15,000 American soldiers and 35,0000 locals throughout the unrelenting Burmese temperatures which ranged into the 100s coupled with maximum humidity. With this much working against Allied forces, special trucks of a certain quality were called in for the task of hauling much-needed troops and supplies to far-off places, vehicles that could manage the unforgiving conditions of environment and temperature alike and help bring ultimate victory to the Allies over the Japanese. It was estimated that the "Ledo Road", upon its completion, would allow for upwards of 65,000 tons of supplies to reach allied forces in China. To this point, these forces relied heavily on supplies being flown into the region.
A state-side initiative gave rise to the famous "Burma Jeep", otherwise recognized as the "Ford GTB 1.5-ton truck" ("GTB-G622"), which deployed to the theater under the United States Navy and Marine Corps banners during World War 2. The vehicle was built from the outset with durable military-minded qualities that also exhibited the required maneuverability and a rather compact turn radius (32 feet). Originally, the GTB was developed for the US Army which, at the time, did not think highly of such a vehicle - it was Navy authorities who felt the vehicle could be of some use. The design was given a short wheelbase with a low profile that allowed for the moving of 3,000 pounds of cargo along her rear-set bed. The vehicle lacked any sort of conventional crew cabin with just a simple folding wind screen ahead of the two-man crew (driver and passenger). The nose of the vehicle was purposely short with the engine protruding into the cabin between the driver and passenger, the protrusion housed under a curved access panel. The driver's station was simplistic with a large, three-spoke steering wheel, minimal system dials and applicable handles and foot pedals. The passenger's seat faced the drier's position and folded for stowage. The powerplant of choice was a Ford Model G8T 4-cycle, 6-cylinder L-Head inline engine of 90 horsepower operating at 3,400rpm - allowing for a top road speed of 45 miles with a meager 9 miles per gallon rating. The unique grill pattern of the GTB made it instantly recognizable for its design utilized vertical running lines along the right portion with the remaining space reserved for an externally-accessed tool compartment. Rounded headlamps straddled either side of the grill. The front of the vehicle was protect by a large bumper assembly running the width of the truck. 20-inch road wheels were the standard fitting with a space traditionally holed out of the left side of the truck for a single spare. GTB trucks could also tow wheeled cargo trailers.
Dimensionally, the Ford GTB proved a larger vehicle than the world-renown JEEP or the 3/4-ton Dodge "Power Wagon" series but was of a much more compact size when compared to the war-winning "Deuce and- a-Half" transports. Nearly all GTB vehicles were affixed with an optional front-mounted winch (Braden or Gar Wood marks) with a 10,000lb rating. With excellent ground clearance, the GTB could manage water sources and depressions 25 inches deep. The open-air nature of the cockpit could be minimally protected against the elements by the raising of the forward windshield and erection of a canvas top. The rear area could be outfitted with folding seats for infantry and similarly see a canvas top erected for some protection against sun and rain. Unlike other transport and logistics vehicles in service with the US military during World War 2, the GTB series lacked any inherent self-defensive measures save the personal weapons carried by the crew and passengers (if any).
Wartime records show that Ford produced over 15,000 GTB-series trucks during their run and these were supplied through five variant types to all US services. The "GTB" represented the original cargo hauling truck designation while the US Navy recognized these as the "GTBA". The "GTBB, Wrecker" was a limited-run series which saw as little as 50 units manufactured. The "GTBS" was a US Navy mark intended for bomb service management and came complete with a heavy duty crane facility. The "GTBC" was nothing more than an improved form of the GTBS for the US Navy. All versions (save for the GTBS) arrived with 20-inch dual-rear road wheels and all GTB trucks were painted to the "Ocean Gray" US Navy specification. The GTB, GTBB, and GTBS were used by all services of the US military - US Army versions painted in the traditional "OD Green" while proving limited in overall numbers delivered when compared to USN/USMC numbers.
GTB vehicles proved the right truck for the mission at hand and thousands made the "one-way" journey into China as many were then handed over to Chinese allies once their mission was completed. The Ledo Road, officially opened in January of 1945, managed to bring 129,000 tons of supplies from India to awaiting elements in China. While airlifts proved drastically more effective to the road alternative in the long run, the road no less played its part in the conflict. By the end of the war, the situation had change so much so that the Ledo Road initiative became overshadowed by the airdrop/airlift campaigns.
Many GTBs survived World War 2 to see extended service lives in the upcoming Korean War (1950-1953). It was not until 1967 that final US Navy forms were categorized as surplus. Private collectors have since taken to restoring remaining GTBs as wartime classics while others fell to modifications as farm industry implements.