Original Source Documents:    January 2, 1941 - 'Chronology of the Quarter-ton Liaison Car Development' - Ingomar M. Oseth to Chief of Infantry    details
Contributor:    Robert A. Notman
Source:    Major General George A. Lynch Papers at MHI

Office of the Chief of Infantry
January 2, 1941.

MEMORANDUM FOR:  General Lynch.

SUBJECT:  Chronology of the 1/4-ton Liaison Car Development.

I was directed by Colonel Fales to furnish you with a chronological statement, with dates where possible, of the development of the "1/4-ton Liaison Car (Bantam)".  Exact dates are not all of record because most of the actions were informal, but the salient facts are as follows:

May 17-20, 1940, during a three-day meeting of the Quartermaster Technical Committee on Transportation held at Holabird QM Depot, it became apparent that the 1/2-ton Weapon Carrier would never be brought down to the weight and silhouette considered desirable by the Infantry.  This office had previously made informal but comprehensive studies of various types of small vehicles that might fill the needs of the Infantry on the battlefield. Among these were the "Benz Car", a very light Swiss vehicle, the "Howard Wiley Carrier", and many others.   The Infantry Board had also tested the original Bantam passenger car.  Some of these vehicles had the required light weight and low silhouette, but none of them had the required cross-country ability.  However the IV Section strongly favored further attempts to develop a suitable vehicle in this class, and Lieutenant Colonel W.F. Lee personally presented the matter to General Lynch who approved the principle of super-light,  cross-country car.

While the meetings of the Technical Committee were still in progress, Mr. Payne,  a representative of the American Bantam Company appeared and offered to place the facilities of the Bantam factory at the disposal of the War Department for the production of any type of car based on the "Bantam."  He was informed that the Bantam had been tried and found wanting, in sturdiness and cross-country ability, and that, to be of interest to the Infantry, such a vehicle must have four-wheel drive, and sufficient power and sturdiness to make it suitable as a "mount" for commanders and staffs, to take the place formerly occupied by the horse.  The Bantam Company, a couple of days later, stated that they could and would build the vehicle we wanted, based generally on the "Bantam" as to size.  The IV Section of the Chief of Infantry accordingly drew up characteristics and drafted a letter to the Adjutant General requesting the immediate initiation of the development.

The letter to the Adjutant General formally stated the needs of the Infantry, set up the desired characteristics, and requested that the proper agency "procure, without delay, a sufficient number to equip an infantry regiment for extended field tests."  The chief characteristics submitted were:

Maximum height:  36 inches

Maximum Weight (net):  1000 lbs.

Cross-country ability and grade ability at least equal to other standard vehicles.

Capacity:  at least two men, one machine-gun with accessories, and 3000 rounds of cal. .30 ammunition.

Four wheel drive.

Face-armor for the driver was also mentioned, principally for the purpose of making it a special vehicle and not subject to the many legal restrictions which hamper the development of vehicles procured by the Quartermaster Corps.

Amphibian characteristics were mentioned as a desirable development. 

Efforts to interest the other arms and branches were unsuccessful.  Mr. Payne, with the sole encouragement of the Chief of Infantry's Office, did important service in interesting the Chief of Staff's Office, and that of the Secretary of War.

The project was referred by the Adjutant General to the Chief of Ordnance on June 15, 1940, and, by him, to the Ordnance Technical Committee.

The action of the Ordnance Technical Committee (O.C.M. NO. 15895, 6-20-40) provided for a sub-committee to visit the American Bantam Company plant at Butler Pennsylvania, "for conference with the officials and engineers of the company in regard to the military characteristic and design of

1.  The Light Command and Reconnaissance Car,

2.  The Howie Weapons Carrier,

and to draw up military characteristic for both vehicles.  The sub-committee's report stated that it "desires that Major Howie be present at the plant in order that the design of the Howie Weapons Carrier can be considered at the same time."  The committee stated, in its report:  "The Light Command and Reconnaissance Car represents a new type of vehicle, the proposed military characteristics of which are stated by the Chief of Infantry in reference 1b.

"The sub-committee feels that these military characteristics are satisfactory in general but will give them further study at the conference to be held at the American Bantam Company's plant."

The Committee, including Lieutenant Colonel W.F. Lee, Chief of the A.E.F. Section of the Chief of Infantry's Office, visited the Bantam Plant on June 17, 1940.  Its report is incorporated in O.C. M. 15917, 6-27-40.

The Committee adopted the characteristics set up by the Chief of Infantry without substantial change, except, that the maximum weight, unloaded,  was raised to 1200 lbs.  The provisions for armor and amphibian characteristics were also deferred;  that seventy vehicles by built for test and that further development be charged to the Quartermaster General.  It also recommended that further development of the "Howie Weapons Carrier" be deferred pending the results of test of the Light Reconnaissance Car.

This report was approved and the project transferred to the Quartermaster General and referred to the Quartermaster Technical Committee.

The Quartermaster Sub-Committee on Transportation met in Washington about July 1, 1940, (Representatives of the Infantry and Cavalry only), and after discussion, approved the characteristics as stated above, and directed that representatives of the arms concerned go to Holabird Q.M. Depot to consider specifications and detailed body-layout.

A few days later,  a sub-committee consisting of Lieutenant Colonels W.F. Lee and I.M. Oseth of the Office of the Chief of Infantry, and Major Tompkins, of the Office Chief of Cavalry, went to Holabird and, with representatives of the Quartermaster General and of the American Bantam Company, agreed upon a specific layout for the body, as marked in chalk on the floor and based on a conventional bantam chassis; also tested the conventional Bantam car, with various loads and on various grades.  From such test, determined that:

The power plant was inadequate.

The wheels and tires were too small.

The frame was inadequate.

The Bantam representative then informed the committee that they already had a more powerful motor already developed and could install it without delay; also that they were prepared to correct the other faults and install a power-driven front axle.  The committee also agreed that, in order to allow for the installation of the larger motor and proper type of front axle, the following changes in characteristics would be necessary:

Increase the silhouette at the cowl from 36" to 40"

Increase the maximum weight to 1350 pounds.

The committee directed that a wooden "mock-up" of the body be constructed on the Bantam chassis, for the committee's approval on a subsequent visit.

Within the nest two or three days (about July 4 or 5) the sub-committee again met in Washington, and, in consultation with the representatives of the Bantam Company and technical personnel from Holabird, confirmed the above changes in characteristics, and approved salient points in the specifications.

The same sub-committee visited Holabird again (about July 5 or 6), examined the mock-up, made necessary changes, further considered and gave final approval to the specifications, and recommended that a pilot model by constructed without delay.

On July 9, 1940, in response to telegram from the Bantam Company and inquiry from the Quartermaster General, the Chief of Infantry advised the Quartermaster General that is was considered impossible to develop satisfactorily and obtain delivery of these vehicles in time for the August Maneuvers, and that undue haste might jeopardize the whole project; that October 15 was considered a satisfactory date for the delivery of the test lot to troops.

Pilot model was delivered to Holabird QM Depot about October 1, 1940.  Representatives of the Chief of Infantry examined it and witnessed its performance, which was eminently satisfactory.  The Commanding Officer, Holabird QM Depot, expressed himself as greatly pleased with its performance and said to Mr. Payne, representative of the Bantam Company:  "That is a surprisingly fine vehicle and the only thing I don't like is the fact that we didn't develop it here at Holabird."  He also, at the same time, informed the representative of the Chief of Infantry that he had interested some other manufacturers, Ford and the Willy-Overland Company, with a view to developing other sources.

A representative of the Willys-Overland Company was present, examined the Bantam pilot model closely and made copious notes.

On the same occasion, the Quartermaster General's representative was advised that the Chief of Infantry considered speed in adoption and procurement highly essential, and that he would agree to accept the engineering tests at Holabird in lieu of a service test by the Infantry Board in order to gain time.  He was also warned that the Chief of Infantry would not concur in any deferment or slowing down of procurement for the purpose of enabling Ford and Willys-Overland Companies to produce a pilot model, since to do so would involve unnecessary delay.

The pilot model was demonstrated at Fort Meyers on or about October 6, 1940 before the Chief of Infantry and various other chiefs of branches and general staff officers. 

October 22, 1940, tests at Holabird completed and this vehicle recommended for classification as "Required Type, Development Type, Service Test Type".  Procurement of 500 from each of Bantam Company, Ford Motor Company, and Willys-Overland Company, in addition to the 70 already authorized, recommended.  Infantry dissented on the ground that Ford and Willys-Overland had not submitted any pilot model for test, and recommended that the entire 1500 units be procured from Bantam, to secure uniformity and avoid delay.

October 29, 1940, The Adjutant General approved standardization and directed procurement of 1500 from Bantam Company with funds previously set up for motorcycles with side-cars.

The next several weeks were taken up with repeated protests and counter-proposals from the Quartermaster General, who insisted upon letting contracts to Ford and Willys-Overland.  It was also characterized by a number of proposals for changes in characteristics, the apparent purposes of which was to enable certain manufacturers to qualify with a vehicle which was substantially higher and heavier than desired.  Several communications from the Chief of Infantry were submitted during this period, resisting the changes proposed, and emphasizing the importance of decreasing rather than increasing weight and silhouette; also insisting that no vehicles be contracted for until a pilot model has been thoroughly tested and approved by using the arms.

November 27, 1940:  Test lot of 70 Bantam vehicles completed and shipped, of which 30 go to Infantry Board, 2 to 93rd AT Bn. at Fort Meade, and 2 to Holabird QM Depot, subject to call of the Chief of Infantry for test purposes.

Major G. M. Nelson and two enlisted instructors, Infantry School, sent to Bantam Plant to learn special maintenance of this vehicle for timely instruction of students.

To date (January 1, 1941) contracts have been let by Quartermaster General for 1500 units from Bantam Company and 1500 from Ford. Additional 1500 from Willys-Overland is contingent upon approval of pilot model.

Distribution, on the basis of a total of 4500, was recommended by the Chief of Infantry, to Infantry units as follows:

Per each Infantry Regiment, of 8 Triangular Divisions:

18, to replace 2/3 of allowance of motorcycles.

12, as unassigned vehicles for purely experimental use.

Per each R.A. Anti-Tank Battalion:

12 (experimental).

Per each Motorized Infantry Regiment (4th Division):

39, to replace all motorcycles with side-cars and motor tricycles.

Lieutenant Colonel, Infantry

Research Areas:

R-000098    1/2-ton Weapons Carrier (Marmon-Harrington) testing results
R-000104    93rd AT Bn. At Fort Meade Records
R-000056    American Bantam Car Company Procurement Records
R-000024    Bantam Pilot Model Demonstration Schedule
R-000050    Charles Harry Payne - Personal records
R-000052    Chief of Staff Records
R-000026    E. W. Fales - Personal records
R-000045    F. F. Tompkins - Personal records
R-000077    Ford Motor Company Procurement Records
R-000053    George A. Lynch - Personal records
R-000102    Imoger M. Oseth - Personal records
R-000100    Infantry Board Test of the Bantam
R-000033    Location of the Adjutant General Files
R-000030    Location of the Chief of Cavalry Files
R-000025    Location of the Chief of Infantry Files
R-000099    M. C. Wiley - Personal records
R-000105    Major G. M. Nelson - Personal records
R-000014    Major Howie - Personal records
R-000107    Motorized Infantry Regiment (4th Division) records
R-000046    Ordnance Committee Records
R-000096    Ordnance Sub-Committee on Automotive Equipment Records
R-000089    Quartermaster Corps Technical Committee Records
R-000106    R.A. Anti-Tank Battalion records
R-000103    Scheduled events for Fort Meyer, Virginia on October 6, 1940
R-000101    Secretary of War Records
R-000044    W. F. Lee - Personal records
R-000076    Willys-Overland Motors, Inc. Procurement Records

Persons Referenced:

P-000064    Fales, E. W.
P-000042    Lee, William F. - Colonel
P-000015    Lynch, George A. - Major General
P-000015    Lynch, George A. - Major General
P-000091    Nelson, G. M. - Major
P-000045    Oseth, Imoger M. - Colonel
P-000034    Payne, Charles Harry
P-000046    Tompkins, Frank - Major
P-000090    Wiley, M. C. - Master Sergeant

Topics Referenced:

T-000100    1/2-ton Weapons Carrier - Marmon-Harrington
T-000107    93rd AT Bn. at Fort Meade
T-000056    Adjutant General
T-000063    American Bantam Car Company
T-000004    Bantam, 1/4-Ton, 4 x 4, Pilot Model
T-000101    Benz car
T-000002    Butler, Pennsylvania
T-000065    Cavalry
T-000059    Chief of Infantry
T-000061    Chief of Ordnance
T-000051    Fall 1940 Maneuvers
T-000106    Ford Present at Bantam Pilot Model unveiling
T-000086    Fort Meyer
T-000067    Holabird Quartermaster Depot
T-000027    Howie Weapons Carrier
T-000058    Infantry
T-000014    Infantry Board
T-000089    Initial 500 and 1500 Follow-on Contract
T-000023    Jeep Specifications - Amphibian Characteristics
T-000020    Jeep Specifications - Armored Face Shield
T-000029    Jeep Specifications - Body of Rectangular Construction
T-000017    Jeep Specifications - Cross Country Capabilities
T-000034    Jeep Specifications - Engine Power
T-000022    Jeep Specifications - Four Wheel Drive
T-000104    Jeep Specifications - Frame
T-000018    Jeep Specifications - Gun Mount
T-000016    Jeep Specifications - Height
T-000019    Jeep Specifications - Seating Capacity
T-000102    Jeep Specifications - Sturdiness
T-000011    Jeep Specifications - Weight
T-000103    Jeep Specifications - Wheel Specifications
T-000026    June 19th meeting at American Bantam Car Company - Butler, PA
T-000099    May 17-20, 1940, meeting of the Quartermaster Technical Committee on Transportation held at Holabird QM Depot
T-000092    Motor Transport Sub-Committee - Quartermaster Corps Technical Committee
T-000109    Motorized Infantry Regiment (4th Division)
T-000025    Ordnance Technical Committee
T-000052    Quartermaster Corps
T-000062    Quartermaster General
T-000084    Quartermaster Technical Committee
T-000108    R.A. Anti-Tank Battalion
T-000054    Secretary of War
T-000105    Willys-Overland Present at Bantam Pilot Model unveiling
T-000049    motorcycle replacement
T-000050    tricycle
T-000007    vehicle testing

Have any another ideas on things to research on this document?  Email me at: (paisley@erols.com)

Willys-Overland Home     Early Jeep Documents Home    US Army    Infantry   

Copyright 2006 - Todd Paisley (paisley@erols.com)
Last updated 27 September 2006