LARAMIE, Wyo. - Spending his youth on a United States military base during the 1950's in Germany was all Bill Hansen, of Laramie, Wyo., would need to instill a lifetime appreciation of all things military, especially military vehicles.
In the aftermath of World War II, the young Hansen would spend his days crawling through bunkers, playing hide and seek throughout bombed out crater fields, and watching every make and model of wheeled or track machine used in battle drive through his neighborhood.
Now, nearly sixty years later, Hansen has teamed up with his son Tomas, also of Laramie, to recreate the jeep that his deceased father and former member of the Wyoming Army National Guard, Col. Louis A. Hansen, drove during much of his military career. The process created a lasting memory for the father-son team, as well as a quality recreation of the 1953 Willy's jeep the former guardsman used and loved.
Col. Hansen's career with the Wyoming Army National guard began in 1937, serving in the 115th Cavalry (Mechanized). There he would train at the former Pole Mountain Target and Maneuver Area east of Laramie, riding horses and practicing advanced cavalry techniques. With the onset of World War II, the elder Hansen found himself with his fellow soldiers aboard a transport ship in route to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Two days out to sea, the Japanese attacked the base, causing the ship to change course and return to port in California. Hansen was then issued a Harley Davidson motorcycle and would spend several years patrolling the west coast of the U.S. with the 115th, alert for potential enemy invasion.
After this duty came to an end, Hansen once again found himself aboard a troop transport ship, this time headed to the Pacific to train for an occupation army set to land on the island of Japan. The dropping of atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki would force a surrender of the Japanese, putting an end to Hansen's war.
He would again be called to duty several years later as the Korean conflict began to escalate. This would find the Wyoming guard member atop a rolling tank as the commander of the 141st Tank Battalion. Serving first at Fort Campbell for several years, then in Germany for four more, Hansen would spend seven years in garrison and in the field, much of that time driving his jeep to visit his troops and watch maneuvers.
It is this period that Hansen's son Bill and grandson Tom have captured with their project. The 1953 Willy's was purchased from a car dealership in Laramie in early 1980 and has spent nearly thirty years in service to the family. Bill Hansen says that the jeep has “driven over ever mountain and peak in the Laramie region in search of the best hunting and fishing in the area.”
It was just a few years ago that they made the decision to recreate the memory to honor Col. Hansen. Working with old family pictures, and members of the Wyoming National Guard, the two were able to accurately match serial numbers and stencils that would have been used on that period jeep.
“My father was a stern, but good hearted man” says Bill Hansen, “he was loved by all he worked with, and was always referred to as ‘The Colonel', by the men and women he worked with, both in the military and civilian world.”
The father and son plan on continuing the work they have done thus far on the jeep. Adding a functioning military radio, additional lighting and other projects are part of their dreams for the jeep. They also plan on driving the jeep in local parades and possibly taking the project on a longer road trip.
By U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Molineaux
Wyoming National Guard
Provided through DVIDS
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