I found the following clip on You Tube very interesting. During World War 2 the 3 big car assembly plants in the Hutt Valley (Ford Seaview, General Motors and Todd Motors) were involved in reconditioning combat damaged Jeeps, trucks and Weapons Carriers from the Pacific for return to service. I was aware that Bren Gun Carriers etc were locally produced, but I hadnt come across reference to this type of work before. It appears as though it was quite a significant operation - so much so that it actually replaced new vehicle deliveries at some point in time. What a pity that such industry is now long dead in NZ...
If it was supposed to be easy. everyone would be doing it...
Great little film! Of course this was the same scheme that was cancelled shortly after VJ-Day, which resulted in a large number of US Army vehicles being stranded in New Zealand in the Hutt Valley. These vehicles became the centre of a fairly large scandal in 1947 when the entire collection was sold to one tenderer by the War Assets Realization Board (WARB), a man called Gillies (or Gilies), proprietor of a large contracting firm in Oamaru. This caused a storm of complaints from other contractors, farmers, and commercial carrying firms up and down the country, as this was exactly what was NOT supposed to happen! For instance farmers, including returned servicemen were givn ample opportunity to be able to purchase at fairly low prices the Bren Gun Carriers which were also going on the market at about this time. I remember the large newspaper articles covering this (American surplus vehicles) scandal, which involved (from memory) about 1500 to 2500 vehicles. The descriptions of how they were stored roughly matches the scenes shown in the film, although most of the vehicles affected were not newly reconditioned ones, but ones that were still in unrestored condition, and therefore pretty rough. Jeeps had been dumped on the top of the larger trucks, and the difficulty of removing the jeeps from this situation seemed to be an almost insurmountable obstacle to progress! Even getting inspectors to survey the stacked vehicles seemed to be a major project, and was considered to be almsot a complete waste of time as these were REALLY rough vehicles. I gather that the Americans must have taken all their large forklifts back to the USA after the sudden cancellation of the programme. The programme as such was under the Mutual Aid (Lend-Lease) programme, or "Reverse Lend-Lease" to some, and in this case at least was a win-win situation. As pointed out in the film, the US Army got its reconditioned vehicles back more quicky and far more cheaply than would have been the case had they been returned to the mainland USA, and much shipping time saved as well - of course NZ rates of pay, etc., were considerably lower than rates in the USA. Fairly efficient production methods seem to have been in use, including powered wheel nuts tightening gizzmos, etc, although modern OSH inspectors would probably have screamed their heads off over the spray painting methods (were those painters deliberately using extravagantly flourishing sweeping motions for the cameraman? I reckon they were!) Also I found the presence of US Army personnel on the production line interesting, I presume these were the inspectors mentioned from time to time. Incidentally the fate of the stranded vehicles was settled in the post-war negotiations over the settling of the Lend-Lease accounts which resulted in the NZ Government becoming the new owner - the Americans certainly did not want these rusty wrecks back in THEIR country to queer the pitch for their manufacturers in the (hopefully) prosperous post-war period! David D
Dave H, This scheme was specifically for the major reconditioning of United States military vehicles - presume most were US Army, but possibly some USMC (all owned by Uncle Sam of course!) US pattern military vehicles on loan to RNZAF in forward area were still owned by Uncle Sam (NOT Lend-Lease supplied), and were therefore returned to the American motor pools who would recondition them locally, as these were generally not in close contact with the Japanese forces so were just plain "worn out". Many of those vehicles which turned up in NZ were badly treated during actual invasions and had been driven through sea water, others had battle damage or had been involved in quite serious accidents of various kinds. No doubt some of latter may have been written off in NZ as too damaged for repair. As with the American vehicles supplied to RNZAF in forward area, most of the RNZAF's marine craft in that area were supplied under similar arrangements - the RNZAF was responsible for their normal care and maintenance (including allocation of NZ serial numbers, RNZAF identification roundels, maintenance log books, etc.), but major work and decisions on writing them off was up to the local American supply officer and his technical people. The RNZAF also had a certain proportion of British-type vehicles at some of the Pacific bases, particularly in Fiji, Tonga, Espiritu Santo, etc in the earlier days, but many of these were returned to NZ when more suitable American military pattern vehicles became available. An interesting exception was a number of Marmon-Harrington (Ford-based) crash tenders (6-wheel drive?) purchased for NZ home use in 1940/41, some of which were shipped up to Fiji, and a few went even further north, to Bougainville, etc. Quite a lot of the equipment for the RNZAF sawmills at Guadalcanal, New Georgia and Los Negros was also supplied by the Americans from their local Motor Pools, but some of the saw milling equipment had originally been sourced from New Zealand and shipped up on American ships. However the bulldozers and "tip trucks" were generally on loan. Occasionally disputes arose over ownership of the "loan" equipment when an American unit would steal one of our Sawmill unit trucks when it was dark and spirit it away, but a replacement was usually available, at short notice if you were lucky. David D
Post by Dave Homewood on Jun 30, 2020 22:18:16 GMT 12
Here's a sort of related article:
JEEPS MADE OVER
WORK IN HUTT VALLEY
SERVICE IN PACIFIC WAR
The jeep is as much a part of modern warfare as the heaviest bombing aircraft, and, particularly in the Pacific war, many are wrecked. Enemy shellfire tears at them, they fall from wrecked landing barges into corroding sea water, and they crash while navigating narrow jungle trails at night. Each, however, represents an investment by Allied taxpayers, and as many as are not wrecked beyond repair—and a jeep takes a lot of wrecking—are shipped to base areas for reconditioning.
A motor works in the Hutt Valley is at present reconditioning 250 of them monthly for the American forces in the Pacific, and on urgent representations from Washington has aimed at a 500-a-month target in the near future. Already the battlefields of Saipan and the Philippines have seen them in action again. The men who drive them report that they are as good as new.
Members of the War Cabinet, led by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Sullivan), visited the Hutt Valley recently, and in a huge open yard saw hundreds of wrecked jeeps, ambulances, and other military vehicles shipped back from the Pacific fighting fronts and awaiting repair by New Zealand workmen. The American officer in charge of the vehicle rehabilitation programme, Colonel Daniel Sullivan, pointed out hundreds of jeeps, some of them corroded by sea water at the bitter Tarawa landing, others hit by enemy fire on other Pacific fighting fronts, some wrecked by careless driving or too-ambitious tasks. Alongside them was what appeared a new vehicle, completely reconditioned, clean and fresh in its characteristic dull paint, and waiting to go back to the fighting. A month ago it had been in the same condition as the others.
Well over 1300 vehicles have so far been reconditioned in two Hutt Valley factories, said Colonel Sullivan, and shortly similar work will commence in Auckland. In the Wellington area 5000 others are awaiting their turn for the thorough treatment that brings them back to new. In the works assembly line the vehicles are completely stripped down, and the parts get a bath in caustic. New Zealand factories make spare parts such as fenders and panels, which are ready as replacements if the originals are too badly damaged. Engine and chassis part company, each to be stripped, cleaned, and reconditioned. The body parts go for a 36-hour tour through the paint department for two coats of priming, one of paint, and three bakings. The parts emerging meet the reconditioned engines, and they are reunited on the final assembly line where they also get their new tyres and windshields. The last operation is a "fill-up" from a bowser at the end of the line. The jeep is driven away, ready for shipment.
Of course, not all wrecked jeeps come back. A preliminary survey assesses the cost of repairs, and about 300 dollars the job is not considered worth the shipping space, but a lot of repairing can be done for 300 dollars by a properly-equipped plant. Although the American forces in the Pacific have the man-power available on the spot for the job, they have not the repair shop facilities, and the trip to New Zealand and back is based on severe military logistics, not a sentimental regard for a wrecked vehicle. The shipping space, cost of material, and 200 hours of labour, which is the average time spent on a jeep, is well worth while from the viewpoint of military supply. So New Zealand makes another contribution to the Pacific war.
Interesting. Good for business trying to keep going in a wartime environment. And could be lucrative in some cases. Certainly the making of some companies who might not have survived. I wonder if any of the Jeeps ended up staying here?
In the late 1960s when based at Shelly Bay, I often went out to Seaview to look at the row upon row of GMC trucks that were in Gillies yard. Most were in a pretty bad state, but there were many that could have been restored. I regret that at the time I didn't have the funds or storage to get one of these vehicles (although Gillies was charging steep prices) for later restoration