By Fred Bonisch
We hear it said that Americans have a love affair with our cars, trucks and motorcycles. But automobiles made recently are for the most part similar in shape and form, and thus lack the flair of older models. Real car enthusiasts naturally revert back to the vintage cars of earlier years.
Antique car shows continue to be part of the summer landscape and are well attended. With the cars of yesterday on display, we allow ourselves to be transported back to the days of rock ‘n’ roll, and of simpler times.
I recently stopped at a vintage car show on a warm summer evening. As I passed from car to car, each one summoned different memories from times past. While moving among the vehicles I spotted an old but well-preserved World War II jeep, with its original military color and markings and accessories.
I was immediately drawn to this almost out-of-place vehicle and soon felt myself overcome by memories from so many years ago.
I had first seen this exact type of vehicle as a young boy in Germany on May 5, 1945, just four days prior to the official end of World War II. It was a very important and anxious day when our north German town was first occupied by American Army troops. Although white sheets as a sign of surrender had been hung out of every attic window, there was also a somber feeling among the adults about what to expect from our approaching enemy.
At about 5 in the afternoon news spread of the approaching American convoy. My older brother and I had placed ourselves in a position from where we could oversee the town center but could also quickly withdraw should that become necessary.
I recall my own anxiety at the ever-increasing noise of the approaching convoy. The first vehicle entering the town center was the exact same type of jeep that I was now staring at that had led the American military convoy as it entered our town. I quickly realized that the loud noises we had heard were generated by the large tracks of the tank in the group.
With the convoy halted, the officer in charge exited the jeep and with several other soldiers on guard conversed with our mayor through an interpreter. Soon the public was advised of a curfew effective immediately until 7 the following morning.
While we were running back home, I briefly looked back at the town center and I noticed the large tank in the parked convoy was rotating its big gun turret, so we quickly ran into the house for safety. No shot was ever fired and our occupation occurred peacefully following that May day in 1945.
Now each of those moments from so long ago played out once again in my mind as I kept staring at the aged WWII vehicle. As our occupation occurred peacefully and orderly, so my memories of that day from so long ago were a peaceful and even a pleasant experience. I can’t recall how long I had been staring and circling the old jeep as I wanted to take in every detail of its simple yet functional makeup.
It caused me to think back about the days that followed the war and the extensive military movements that followed and how much I had come to like that simple military vehicle.
Although I never did get to own my WWII jeep, I enjoy those rare opportunities when I get to encounter them.
Fred Bonisch, of West Seneca, was a boy in Germany when World War II ended.