Sometimes military markings on jeep vehicles can be difficult to understand and interpret. The purpose of this guide is to help you locate the relevant marks on your vintage military jeep. When you are an enthusiast interested in constructing reproductions or restorations, be aware of original designations and avoid buying a sandblaster or stencils during restoration because of their potential to disrupt the original designation. A collector can often determine the authenticity, history, and identification of a vehicle based on original markings found on it. To learn to do this for yourself, continue reading this guide on how to check the authenticity of military Jeep markings.
The AR 850-5 is the US Army’s official military document that details the requirements for identifying vehicles, gear, supplies, and apparel. This publication explains the basics of unit identification, but to understand fully, you should look at numerous photos. OD (olive drab) was the normal military vehicle color, and it was applied to military vehicles with a matte or lusterless finish. Blue-drab marks were used from late 1940 until February 1945. A military color scheme that uses these two colors would be difficult to detect from black-and-white images, making it difficult for the opposition to gather and identify military marks. The stockpiles of blue-drab paint were in use until they were completely gone, and the color of the marks was changed to plain white in February 1945.
The information in the abbreviations on the bumper must be read from left to right to be read accurately. On the left side of the bumper, there are markings designating the vehicle’s major command and immediate command, meaning their branch, corps, and division, and then their regiment and battalion. The right side had markings to indicate which unit the vehicle belonged to and the vehicle’s individual number as well. An often-found white five-point star usually had a diameter of approximately 3 to 4 inches and was typically situated approximately 3 to 4 inches off of the bumper. The five-pointed white star, the emblem of tactical units, was the official symbol of all cars and trucks designated for tactical use. The vehicle type dictates the star’s size, and it must have enough surface area to utilize the painted surface. The emblem was to be covered in matte olive-drab gasoline solvent paint when necessary for camouflage or hiding.
Jeeps always had the number ‘20’ at the beginning of their registration numbers, which meant they were reconnaissance vehicles, then the vehicle’s registration number. Before the launch of the fifth generation of Jeep vehicles, this was a five-digit number; afterward, the Jeep fleet had six digits. The vehicle’s hood or the back were marked with registration numbers in 3" numerals (where space permitted, of course). Sometimes, the vehicle would have to be “suppressed” in order to transport a radio, resulting in the registration number receiving an S (a dash preceding the number) as a suffix. The letters “USA” were painted above or before the number plate. Approximately 15 inches and 1½ inches from the cowl, a white five-point star was painted on the hood for visibility with the windshield in the upright or down position. Some stars had a simple, white five-point star shape, while others had a more complicated design, incorporating a fractured or solid circle. The fractured circle star is known as the “invasion star.”
Another white five-point star, about 6 inches in length, would have been set in the upper-rear quarter panel, but there was inconsistency in the placement of the rear vehicle markings on the vehicles. Many of these vehicles had no rear markings. The same designations as the front bumper may be utilized for adding marks on bumperettes.
Inside the window, on the dashboard, on the interior sides of the wheel well, under the fenders, or above the wheels, the Jeeps used in World War II often had “T.P.35” painted on them. The tire pressure is marked on the rims of the fenders just above wheels in post-war jeeps. This marker was only put up after the war. A war-era jeep is never explicitly labeled with this symbol.
In case you haven’t noticed, there are three metallic plates on the glove box door and on the dash on the passenger side. The serial number, Willys name, model, and delivery date should all be printed on the middle plate. A military Jeep is one with the model numbers MB or GPW, and a civilian Jeep is a CJ model. Take a look at the engine. To find the serial number, look for an indentation that looks like a rounded circle and is positioned beneath the cylinder head and right behind where the oil filter is contained. If needed, use a cleaning compound to remove grease or other grime. Grease and dirt might obscure the serial number. The location of the serial number on military Jeeps is roughly ½ to 2 inches wide on the flat part of the vehicle. It’s anywhere from ½ an inch to 4 inches wide on a civilian Jeep. Because of how difficult it would be to forge these, this is probably the most important thing to know when you want to check the authenticity of military Jeep markings.
Hopefully, now you have a basic understanding of what to look for in these markings and how to identify whether or not they are genuine. If the markings were obscured or erased over time, there is no way to retrieve the information. If so, you’ll want to apply the resources in this article to help choose which markings to apply on your Jeep. While you may not ever be able to confirm that your jeep was originally used during the era to which you are restoring it, you can take this information and make yourself an incredible replica, which is also of huge value and interest to collectors and hobbyists. If you find yourself excelling at recreating the look and feel of war-era Jeeps, you just may be able to help others out as well and make some money for yourself! While most enthusiasts would, of course, rather have the original with original parts and paint, there is a lot to be learned even from looking at a copy.
And if you’re looking to grab some parts for your own restoration, get in touch with us at Army Jeep Parts for your Kaiser Jeep parts needs!