This is perhaps the most iconic American vehicle of all time. The light, 4 x 4 vehicle could travel highway speeds or bounce cross country quite easily. Well known for ruggedness and reliability, the Willys Jeep served a wide variety functions from the immediate pre-war period.
This particular subject was a ground control vehicle for the 91st Bomb Group in England. During the war years it was common for a busy air base to have the ground control function done from a mobile vehicle instead of the tower. This was considered desirable both to get the ground controllers out of the cab environment (leaving more room for the controllers dealing with airborne aircraft/formations), and because radios at this time were notoriously unreliable. The basic “Follow Me” jeep could direct ground traffic by example (!) when the aircraft had damaged radios (or didn’t have the right frequency dialed in).
Funny thing, as a tower controller myself, I have had to work from a truck on several occasions when power was out in the cab. A truck’s alternator is often far more reliable than commercial power for radios and air conditioning! So one thing jumps right out at me when I look at this jeep; that’s a big radio. Modern tunable radios are about 12″ x 12″ x 3″ and weigh maybe 5 lbs. That’s still sort of a brick, but the radio is ruggedized and has about a 10 mile range. Notice the monstrosity in the back of this Jeep! This is likely an SCR-522 or similar model. It may have the same sort of range as our more modern gear, but it is only tunable on four pre-designated frequencies. That would be enough for the home field aircraft; probably one frequency for tower, one for ground, one for weather, and maybe an emergency channel. The catch is that the airborne radios are certainly no bigger; which means each aircraft has four frequencies. In fact fighters often had two frequency radios. So the “Follow Me” sign may come in to play anytime an aircraft not based at the field drops by!
This little display is very personal to me. I can easily imagine working out in the elements all day long controlling ground traffic. If I’d been born 40 years earlier that little guy with the mic would be me. Okay, he’d need to be a little chubbier…
This was built from the Hasegawa kit.