Growing up in a career military family, Gables Resident John Henderson’s passion has always been military history. He and his wife, Carolyn, are from New Cumberland, PA. Through the years he collected countless artifacts and often participated in Civil War and World War II reenactments. As time went on, his focus became primarily World War II, he believes, to honor his father, a veteran of the war. (John and Carolyn’s son is also active duty in Germany.)
John says that one day he “got a real bug” and began searching for an authentic WWII military jeep. He succeeded in finding one that was being used as a farm vehicle, a Ford GPW WWII jeep with a production date of September 21, 1942. Although it was a little rough, it was restorable. “Perfect,” John describes.
He bought the jeep, lovingly restored it, and added authentic accessories, “to make it 1942 combat ready!” John explains. “When I got the jeep, it was an old, beat-up farm vehicle and had been converted to 12 volts. To get it back to 1942 US Army specifications, I put in a new wiring harness, converting the jeep back to its original 6-volt system.” He then replaced a blackout driving light that had been removed, installed a wire cutter, .30 caliber machine gun mount, front bumper towrope, canvas windshield cover, dashboard data plates, canvas water bucket, camo net, tire chains, and a siren, and he applied period-appropriate unit numbering and US Army markings. John also added a special touch, hand painting “Carolyn” on the side as WWII soldiers used to do. “They used to paint their sweeties’ name on the side of their jeeps, so I did that also,” he says, blushing.
You’ll see John riding around Willow Valley Communities in the jeep, sometimes alone, sometimes with Carolyn, or sometimes with a lucky friend. He’s always happy to oblige when asked for a ride. John also enjoys showing the jeep at car shows and WWII events, and his favorite experiences have been when he’s had the opportunity to take a WWII vet out for a ride in it. “It’s a true honor to do that,” he explains, adding that he believes it is cathartic. “The vets will often open up to me with memories and stories that they have never shared before.”
John is sometimes asked what the letters JEEP stand for, and he says there are several possible sources. “Some say it is short for ‘general purpose.’ Some think it came from a popular character in the Popeye cartoons.” But he adds with a laugh that he agrees with so many other restorers that JEEP means “just empty every pocket.”