1953 Willys-Overland’s 50th anniversary The Willys-Overland Company, which brought America the Jeep, celebrated its golden anniversary. The original design for an all-terrain troop transport vehicle — featuring four-wheel drive, masked fender-mount headlights, and a rifle rack under the dash — was submitted to the US Armed Forces by the American Bantam Car Company in 1939. The Army loved Bantam’s design, but the production contract was ultimately given to Willys-Overland on the basis of its similar design and superior production capabilities. Mass production of the Willys Jeep began after the US declaration of war in 1941. By 1945, 600,000 Jeeps had rolled off the assembly lines and onto battlefields in Asia, Africa, and Europe. The name "Jeep" is supposedly derived from the Army’s request to car manufacturers to develop a "General Purpose" vehicle. "Gee Pee" turned to "Jeep" somewhere along the battle lines. The Willys Jeep became a cultural icon in the US during World War II, as images of G.I.s in Gee Pees liberating Europe saturated the newsreels in movie theaters across the country. Unlike the Hummer of recent years, the Jeep was not a symbol of technological superiority but rather of the courage of the American spirit, a symbol cartoonist Bill Mauldin captured when he drew a weeping soldier firing a bullet into his broken down Willys Jeep. In 1945, Willys-Overland introduced the first civilian Jeep vehicle, the CJ-2A.