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Military Traditions

May 11, 2021 By Fred Montonye

The General’s Jeep

As told to Fred Montanye by Ben Jarvis.

After its third patrol, Ben brought the submarine USS Baya alongside a sub tender in Subic Bay, the Philippines, in March 1945. It had sunk a number of enemy ships, but had also suffered extensive damage. For the standard two-week repair program, the crew was housed ashore for liberty and recreation.

The second day they were ashore Ben ran into an old friend from the Naval Academy, now a Marine major. He had come out of the hills to see if he could scrounge some Navy victuals to augment their K-rations. While there, Ben said he would like to acquire a Japanese sword. His friend invited him back to the front. Ben did not get back for four days, but he did get his sword.

Upon his return, his executive officer said four of the junior officers had hitched a ride to Manila, some 90 miles away. They were sightseeing there and had decided to go by the supreme commander’s headquarters, hoping to catch a glimpse of the general. When they were leaving, they saw a jeep with keys in the ignition. Solving their transportation problem, they drove off.

While driving back, they realized this jeep looked different. It was a lighter tan in a glossy finish, had no special markings identifying it, bright hardware work, and tufted leather upholstered seats.

Previously, Ben had been the executive officer on another submarine that had made several runs from Australia to the Philippines taking guns, supplies, and coast watchers. Ben’s contact at MacArthur’s headquarters there had been the assistant chief of staff for operational planning. Through some effort, Ben was able to make contact with this man, now a brigadier general on MacArthur’s staff, and told him the thieves were indeed part of his crew. They were confined to quarters and the jeep was safe in the area. The officers were told to return the jeep two days hence along with personal apologies.

Ben told them to shave, get haircuts, and wear starched uniforms and polished shoes. On reporting to MacArthur’s headquarters, they were kept standing at attention for some time, before being dismissed. Asked if they had transportation, they said no. A sergeant was told to provide them with a jeep and they were to take a personal letter back to Ben.

Ben read the letter. The general’s jeep had been declared surplus and it was now offered as the ship’s vehicle. At the end of the war, the submarine tender accepted custody of the jeep and transported it to San Francisco, where it was severely damaged in an attempt to tow a ten-ton truck over one of the hills. It took some doing to get it repaired, but the work was finally done by a Coast Guard shop. It was regularly used between Tiburon Mine Depot and Mare Island until Ben’s submarine was decommissioned. It is thought that the jeep ended up at Mare Island.

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